woodFor my money, there are only a handful of comic book artists that deserve the title of ‘master’. They are Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, and Wally Wood.

Wood’s art was always superb no matter if he were drawing a science fiction strip, a humor story or superheroes. Wood’s hyper-realism and mastery of the now lost art of zip-a-tone transfixed me as a kid and still does. After all these years, I can look at his art and STILL find something new to marvel at.

This collection brings together all of Wood’s stories from MAD issues #1-23 when MAD was virtually changing the comic landscape around it. The bulk of the stories are Wood’s satires on movies (“The Wild 1”), comic books (“Bat-boy and Rubin”) or comic strips (“Flesh Garden”) but there are a few other items included as well. I especially enjoyed the strip that compared what really happened in movies to how they were portrayed in movie posters.

Most of this material isn’t particularly rare, having been reprinted several times in different formats. This, however, is an inexpensive collection featuring bright, full color pages that are the same size as comics. If you bought these comics off the stands in the 1950s, this is how they would look.

Comic artists (and writers as well) would do well to study Wood who drew comics as if he had been born to do it and hated them with an almost equal passion.


As usual, the link to buy the book is here.

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#15–FRAMES by Loren Estleman

51szFAaxMRL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_After reading ALIVE! earlier this year, I decided to go back and start with Estleman’s first novel about Valentino, the film detective. It felt a little odd going back to the beginning of the series where Valentino first buys the run down movie theatre and first meets the CSI who would become his major love.

Overall, this is another good novel from Estleman with an interesting plot and characters. This time, Valentino believes that he has found the long lost complete version of silent movie classic, Greed. He also finds a skeleton in a hidden basement room of his new theatre. Estleman does a very good job in mixing the historical with the fictional to such a point that I was wishing that the story was real and that someone had found that still-missing complete cut.

If I have one complaint with the book, it is that the characters are constantly speaking in quick-witted wisecracks back and forth. ALL OF THEM. It’s like putting everyone from SEINFELD in a murder mystery. Still, an enjoyable and quick read and I am actually happy to learn that he has a new volume in this series out now. I’ll have to pick that one up as well.

The book can be ordered through Amazon here.

And, no, I get nothing from Amazon for directing people to those links. Not even a thank you. Damn you, Amazon.


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618W1tJHvhL._SX351_BO1,204,203,200_I love Evan Dorkin’s work. I’ll read literally anything by him and the comic series about the members of the Eltingville Comic Club have been some of his best work. The series is actually a scathing indictment about many of the problems, prejudices and sheer ugliness that can, and has, appeared in fandom. Dorkin’s pen is ruthless here drawing blood as he provokes laughs. The members of the club are all deplorable human beings and there is really little about them that is likeable but they are not meant to be people one would look up to or aspire to be like. They are meant to be warnings against the type of people that fandom often creates and nurtures.

This book collects all of the Eltingville strips including some I had never even seen before. In the last installments, Dorkin provides a ending to the strip and (at the moment) he has no plans on revisiting the characters which might be best. Not only would it be hard for Dorkin to top this work but there is little need to follow the characters any longer and the fact that they are still out there in the world is frightening enough.

Great art and biting satire. It’s everything we expect from Evan Dorkin and I’m glad that he never backed away from the material or tried to soften it.

The book was just released last month and is available here.


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#13–THE SCULPTOR by Scott McCloud

index 5Every so often I read a book or graphic novel that just blows me away so completely that, after finishing it, I am speechless.

THE SCULPTOR is one such book.

This is a graphic novel about a frustrated artist who makes a deal that he will “give his life for art” if he is given the ability to realize his art. That is the story on the surface but, like the art the sculptor creates, there are many layers beneath this Faustian tale. It is truly inspirational and truly heartbreaking. I cannot recommend this book enough.

Buy it here. Don’t argue. Just buy it.

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#12–THE SCARLET GOSPELS by Clive Barker

index 4It would be basically impossible to be a fan of weird literature from the 80s on and NOT be aware of Clive Barker. His ground-breaking collection, THE BOOKS OF BLOOD, set the standard for much of what was to follow. After his health crisis, and near death, it was worried that Barker would never write again but he proved everyone wrong with this novel that came out in 2015.

This is Barker’s self-proclaimed ‘last’ Pinhead story. The Cenobite’s hellish plans come to fruition as Harry D’Amour (Barker’s occult detective) and a small group of friends end up having to fight the Hell Priest or risk the extermination of life and reality itself.

I wish I had liked this book better. I was always more of a fan of D’Amour than Pinhead and there is a lot of D’Amour here but the novel doesn’t quite reach the heights of Barker’s early work. Some of the imagery is still powerful but, for me, the novel lost strength when it shifted to Hell.

A good book but not a GREAT book. I am, however, curious what Barker will write next now that he’s put these ghosts from his past to a final rest.

You can order the book via Amazon here.



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#11–REVIVAL by Stephen King

index 3I think that I must have read a different REVIVAL book by Stephen King than other people did. I kept seeing rave after rave about this book and how Lovecraftian it was and that it was a great story. So I must be missing something here.

I didn’t find the story to necessarily be ‘Lovecraftian’ except for possibly the ending which seemed to go by far too quickly than the rest of the book. The story revolves around the relationship between two men through the decades. When they first meet, one is only a child and the other is a minister but tragedy and loss keep bringing them back into each others lives over the years until they reach a horrifying conclusion.

The book is, like so many King books, over 400 pages long. Now, I understand that he wrote it that long to cover the many years of the relationship and how they eventually come to the end but, honestly, it was hard for me to get through the first 250 pages as I kept waiting for some kind of payoff. I kept thinking, “If this weren’t King, would the author be able to get away with all this? Or would it have been edited away?”

It’s a good book and I liked it but I don’t think it was one of his best and am gobsmacked that so many people think it’s so great.

I’m not knocking King and have the highest respect for some of his work and for what he’s accomplished in the field. But sometimes I feel like reading King is like eating an entire bag of potato chips by yourself. You keep going, one after another, until you realize that the bag is empty and you ate all of the chips without having any memory of ever eating one.

You can get the book through Amazon here.

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#10–CARTER & LOVECRAFT by Jonathan Howard

I’m trying to catch up here so these next entries will be short and sweet.

index 2This is an interesting novel that plays a bit with the history of Lovecraft and his mythos. I enjoyed it overall but found the fact that some of the Providence geography was off to be somewhat annoying. I know, in one case, it was important for the story but when one lives right near Providence, it can be aggravating to see mistakes like this. The way it’s written leaves it open for a sequel which I would read. This was a curious blend of noir and Lovecraft and it worked rather well.

You can order the book via Amazon here.



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mistI’ve always loved ghost stories.

I’d been in the mood for one because, after all, it is the winter season when M. R. James used to chill his students with Christmas tales of ghosts. I’ve also been wanting to try my hand at the form so, having loved Hill’s THE WOMAN IN BLACK (the basis of the horror film with Daniel Radcliffe), I decided to give this one a try.

This is a traditional, Victorian ghost story with a mystery reaching through the ages to try and terrorize the present. A young man meets an older gentleman at a local club and recognizes him as a celebrated traveler and explorer. The old man gives him an old diary to read which tells the story of how, as a younger man, he had followed the path of an explorer idol to disastrous results.

Hill is a master at creating mood and tension and does so here as well. My only complaint might be that not enough is revealed but, after all, is it ever?

You can buy this book here.


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#8–ALIVE! by Loren Estleman

51ZbnBwFdoL._SX332_BO1,204,203,200_I discovered this book while browsing the Mystery section in my local library. It immediately caught my attention.

Valentino is something of a film detective. He works for the UCLA film history department and spends most of his time chasing down dusty old prints of forgotten movies. So when he hears that someone has a copy of Bela Lugosi’s original, INFAMOUS screen test as the monster in FRANKENSTEIN, he has to find it. What follows is a perilous adventure through some of the seedier parts of film collecting as well as gangsters, seductive dames and even Steampunks!

This was a great novel and fun to read. As a lifelong fan of the old Universal horror movies, it really added to my enjoyment how much Estleman referenced the movies as well as the many important books on the subject. This is actually the third in the series but I liked it so much that I’ll go back and read the other two!

You can buy a copy of this book here.


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#7–KRYPTONITE NEVERMORE by Dennis O’Neil, Curt Swan and Murphy Anderson

61yt8Mv-ZVL._SX333_BO1,204,203,200_It’s hard to overstate the importance of this book in the history of comics in general and Superman in particular.

By the 1970s, Superman had become rather stale. It wasn’t only his reputation as a ‘boy scout’ but also the fact that, through the years, he had become overwhelmingly powerful. So much so that the writers didn’t have any idea of what to do with him. This series of stories reinvented the character by not so much ‘rebooting’ but by ‘redefining’.

After a explosion accidentally makes all Kryptonite on Earth powerless to effect Superman, he appears to be stronger than ever. However, he discovers that his powers are being siphoned off by a mysterious duplicate of himself made out of sand. If the two meet, it would mean the end of life on Earth but how can Superman get his powers back otherwise? The solution led to a significantly less ‘mighty’ Superman and a series that has become a classic since its first publication back in 1971.

This edition reprints the iconic Neal Adams covers and it’s always a joy to see Curt Swan and Murphy Anderson artwork again. To me, they were THE Superman artists!

You can order this book here and you should. Right now.

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