Essential Marvel Horror Vol. 2, published last summer and quite still possibly available in comics shops and bookstores even as I speak, reprints the Living Mummy stories I wrote in the 1970s. I have fond memories of that series, though, with the self-awareness that eventually comes with age, I now realize I wasn't up to my ambitions for the series.
Val Mayerik was the Living Mummy artist and he was one of the best of the young artists who entered comics back then. His style was more akin to Bernie Wrightson's than Jack Kirby's and, inspired by Wrightson's collaborations with Len Wein, my lofty goal was to turn this minor Marvel strip into "my Swamp Thing." I think the closest I came to realizing this goal was with a story involving a female Israeli soldier and an Egyptian tank, a story which, for deadline reasons, I asked Len to script. He did a great job, both scripting the story and showing me how far I had to go before I could hope to match his Swamp Thing work.
To my surprise and delight, I still get e-mails asking about two supporting players I created during my Living Mummy run. Based on Robert Redford and Paul Neuman and conceived shortly after I saw those two fine actors in The Sting, the Asp and Miles Oldman were professional thieves who'd met in prison and formed a familial bond. I never saw them as gay - such would not have occurred to me then - but they did clearly love one another. As a result, readers keep asking me if they were gay. I don't think they were, but, with that wisdom of age I mentioned earlier, I could have gone in that direction.
There are characters I've never had an interest in writing or, if I did write them, returning to write them again. But I think I might have one more Mummy story in me and, if I ever get to write it, I believe I could deliver a script worthy of Val Mayerik's art then and now. Hey, if Jim Shooter can return to write the Legion of Super-Heroes after more than three decades, and do a decent job of it, maybe anything is possible.
Aaron Lopresti's Fantastical Creatures Field Guide: How to Hunt Them Down and Draw Them Where They Live [$19.95] is the latest art book to arrive at Casa Isabella via the exceedingly good graces of Watson-Guptill Publications. This publisher has produces scores of "how to draw" books covering every aspect of comics art and every style of comics art. They haven't improved the artistic skills of your ham-handed reviewer one whit, but they are uniformly delightful to look at and read.
In this volume, veteran comics artist Lopresti concentrates on the hunting down of 45 different creatures from seven continents. He relates the frivolous history of these beasties and illustrates his humorous commentary with his wonderful paintings of them. Though his mini-histories aren't necessarily laugh out loud funny, all of them brought smiles to my face.
There's the Christmas Gremlin, who tangles up your holiday lights while they're in storage. From Venezuela, we meet the Sloth Toads and gaze upon their miniature entertainment centers. There's also the Pastry Elves of France, Europe's Drooling Wolfhounds, the Mummy Fish of Egypt, Australian Mud Slingers, Arctic Seal Sharks, and the Reluctant Yetis. More than once, I paused in my reading to think, "I'd love to write a story about that crazy critter!"
The book starts with a foreword by William Stout, one of the best artists in the fantasy biz, and concludes with a chapter in which Lopresti shows how he developed one of his creations. In between, as noted, there's much fun to be had.
ZERO: Burn your money before buying any comic receiving this rating. It doesn't *necessarily* mean there's absolutely nothing of value here - though it *could* - but whatever value it might possess shrinks into insignificance before its overall awfulness.
ONE: Buy something else. Maybe I found something which wasn't completely dreadful in the item, but not enough for me to recommend it when there are better comics available. I only want what's best for you, my children.
TWO: Basic judgment call. I found some value, but not enough to recommend it. My review should give you enough info to decide if you want to take a chance on it. Are you feeling lucky today, punk? Well, are you?
THREE: This denotes something I find perfectly respectable. There are better books out there, but I wouldn't regret buying this item. Based on my review, you should be able to determine if it's of interest to you. Let the Force guide you.
FOUR: I recommend anything earning this rating. Unless you don't like the genre, subject matter, or past work of the creators, I believe you'll enjoy this item. Isn't it uncanny how I can look right into your soul that way?
FIVE: Anything getting this rating is among the best comicdom has to offer. You should buy/read this, even if the genre/subject matter doesn't appeal to you. It's for your own good. Me, I live for comics and books this good...but not in a pathetic "Comic-Book Guy" sort of way.
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