Lost Weekend in the Stacks
I never quite get caught up with the books around here.
I swear to God, they just show up and stick to us, like lint in a dryer. Review copies. Pull-list stuff. Research for things I’m writing. Friends giving us things. And so on. I think if you averaged it out, a new book arrives here every day of the year.
There’s always stacks of new arrivals waiting to be shelved, and there are even still a couple of boxes of books waiting for me to install the shelves that I intend to shelve them on.
Add in sixteen stacked longboxes of comics, and my office is always in that gray area between a library and something out of Hoarders.
Understand, I’m not complaining. Living in a home library, with every book and comic I ever wanted at my fingertips, was my childhood dream. I just had pictured it looking more like this…
And not, well, THIS.
(In my defense, the books on the floor WERE stacked neatly, until Maggie the Easter Kitty knocked them over in one of those inexplicable moments of feline madness where she was doing laps around the apartment trying to break some sort of land-speed record.)
Every so often I get an attack of conscience (or, more likely, we’re about to have a houseguest) and so I decide that it’s time to thin the herd. I add stuff to the Amazon storefront, I pack up boxes of leftover books and comics for various friends who’ve asked to be on our discard list, and so on and so on.
But something insidious always happens. I get lost in the books themselves. “Oh, wow, I forgot I had this.” It’s like finding a surprise gift. It always stops me; invariably, I take a minute to look at it and before I know it I’m sitting and reading.
Like when I was rooting around in the longboxes trying to take out all the JLA single issues I already had in paperback and finding the Incarnations mini-series.
This was a great little seven-issue series from John Ostrander and Val Semeiks back in 2001, a series of one-offs looking at different eras of the League.
No idea why it’s gone uncollected, especially in the current climate where other series that are not nearly this good get the deluxe hardcover treatment.
Or another obscure Justice League-related piece of awesome, The Justice Riders.
This was one of the very best of the DC Elseworlds prestige-format one-shots, from Chuck Dixon and J.H. Williams III.
The Justice League as a spaghetti western. That’s really all you need to know.
Another wonderful Elseworlds-type spaghetti western comic that more people should know about is actually from Marvel– A Man Named Frank, one of my favorite Punisher comics ever.
This time it’s the Punisher done as a spaghetti western, again written by Chuck Dixon and with breathtaking art from the late John Buscema. What else could you ask for? And why can’t we get more Chuck Dixon western comics dammit?
…see, that’s how it always happens. I find cool things and get distracted. Now instead of trying to organize things in here, I’m having this mental rant about how there should be more comics publishers telling Chuck Dixon to please write them some westerns.
So I try to get back to packing up some old Six Million Dollar Man books for Rin’s daughter Kerowyn (the good ones from Michael Jahn) and I stumble across another forgotten treasure; the series of Smallville prose novels from a decade ago or so.
Several comics people worked on them, among them Roger Stern and Alan Grant and Devin Grayson, and theirs were the ones I liked the best. The books were quite a bit better than the show, set in the early days when Clark was still in high school, and much more in the Superboy-without-the-suit tradition that I liked about the TV series in the first place.
Then there’s the review pile, which is getting big again. Titan Comics is putting Jack Katz’s First Kingdom back into print in stunning new hardcovers, and I’m once again stopped in my tracks because I have to sit and admire this first volume they sent me, Birth of Tundran.
I’ve wanted to read this for YEARS, and it’s hard to contain my glee at having it here in this beautiful oversized hardcover edition. It’s every bit as terrific as I’d always heard, and gorgeous just to look at, too.
Plus there’s lots of ancillary material, articles and interviews and sketchbook excerpts, all kinds of cool extras. Titan really excels at these historical archive hardcover comics collections and this is no exception.
They also sent along an interesting anthology of new stuff, Monster Massacre.
I rather like the book, but I have to admit the cover puts me off a bit. Let’s see if your eye is drawn to the same focal point in the composition that mine is. Julie took one look at it and said, “Ewww.”
Seriously, that’s not even sexy. There’s a feeling of discomfort about it, like she’s putting up a brave front over being constipated or something. I can hear Kelly Thompson’s head exploding from here. It’s a pity, because it’s actually a pretty cool book. A nice variety of styles and stories, from a Golden Age reprint from Simon and Kirby to a new El Zombo story from Dave Wilkins that includes guest appearances from Sharky and Mr. Monster. There’s also pin-up galleries of some nice stuff from Alex Horley and Steve White. (Horley should have got the cover assignment if they wanted monsters and babes, he’s got a real Frazetta/Corben good-girl-art thing going on.)
Probably my favorites of the lot were Deep Six, from Jerry Paris and Arthur Suydam, and also Ira Gershwin, Monster Puncher, by Andy Kuhn.
And I quite liked Pair of Rogues, a fun fantasy piece from Ron Marz and Tom Raney.
Really, it’s a great collection. I just wish they’d gone with a different cover.
So now I’ve lost most of the day to reading. But I at least got Kerowyn’s package put together and mailed, and I restacked a couple of piles.
…And literally as I typed this two more have arrived. UPS has dropped off two more books for review; they both look very cool and one of them’s the newest from Hard Case Crime!
Who am I kidding? At this rate I’ll never get this place organized… but I love it anyway. Even if it’s not a showplace, it’s still a home full of books and comics, and that’s where I always wanted to live.
And at least I got a column out of it.
See you next week.