[The opening portion of today's TOT and the reviews following it were written in June and originally published in my monthly "Tony's Tips: column for Comics Buyer's Guide #1657, cover-dated August, 2009]
"In summer, the song sings itself."
- William Carlos Williams, US poet (1883-1963)
School is just out for summer as I write this month's column, but, through the vagaries of the space-time continuum that is print publication, you're likely reading it at the end of summer. Makes me feel like a Time Lord.
If all went according to plan for the Isabella clan, we had a great summer. Sainted Wife Barb and I celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary in Chicago. We watched daughter Kelly and her travel softball team play a bunch of exciting games. Our son Eddie turned 21. We went to several high school graduation parties. We drove to North and/or South Carolina to spend a relaxing several days at the beach and/or beach house. If I seem vague on the latter, it's because I'm always the last one to know when and where we're going on vacation. My suggestions of San Diego, Great Britain, Japan, and Monster Island were all voted down.
If all went according to plan for me personally, I got started on a new book, wrote some comic-book scripts, and made considerable headway in organizing the accumulation of comics, books, and other items that has not been organized in well over a decade. I'll let you know how it all worked out in a couple of months, which is when you'll be buying multiple copies of 1000 Comic Books You Must Read for yourself and for every comics reader on your holiday gift list. Would a Time Lord lie to you?
For now, whenever now is for whoever is reading this column, let me recommend some other comics and books to you.
Joe Simon and Jack Kirby were comics pioneers. They could do it all and, more importantly, they did it all. They wrote terrific stories. They brought them to life with exciting, innovative art. They created great characters and crafted unforgettable tales in a dizzying array of genres. They made their "Simon and Kirby" brand one of the most respected in comic books with both their peers in that fledgling industry and with their readers.
Edited by Steve Saffel, The Best of Simon and Kirby [Titan Books; $39.95] gathers around 200 pages of amazing comics stories, wrapping them in an introduction by Simon with informative essays by Mark Evanier. It's a big beautiful "coffee table" book that could almost serve as a syllabus for a study of the American comic book in the 1940s and 1950s.
The Simon and Kirby heroes are represented by Captain America, the Vision, the Sandman, Fighting American, the Fly, Blue Bolt, the Boy Commandoes, the Kid Cowboys of Boys' Ranch, Bulls Eye, and two personal favorites of mine: the Hollywood-based, crime-busting and mystery-solving Stuntman, and the Runyon-esque "Duke of Broadway."
Also featured in the collection are remarkable stories of science fiction, war, romance, the American West, the supernatural, crime and comedy. Simon and Kirby were no specialists; they excelled at every kind of comic book they tackled.
The history of comics has never been as accessible to comic-book readers as it is today. The Best of Simon and Kirby is a stunning addition to that worthy field of study as well as a fantastically entertaining treasury of wonderful comics. It earns the full five out of five Tonys.
If writer James Robinson isn't a "dog person," he manages an incredible imitation of one in Superman: The Coming of Atlas [DC; $19.99]. Krypto, the Man of Steel's pet, prominently features in this hardcover collection of Superman #676-680 plus Jack Kirby's First Issue Special #1, and it's easily among the best presentations of the super-powered pooch ever.
The "A" story here is the attack on Superman by Atlas, whose solitary previous appearance was in a 1975 comic book; Atlas was one of several Kirby creations from the turbulent time that never made it to regular publication. The subsequent battle between the two powerhouses is action-packed, but Robinson makes room for good scenes with supporting players Lois Lane, Jimmy Olsen, Lana Lang, Hal Jordan, Zachary Zatara, and others. The mystery behind whoever orchestrated this battle is barely touched on, but I assume future issues will cover that and, hopefully, sooner rather than later. In my dotage, I no longer have patience for plot threads that go unresolved for months and years.
Don't read much into that. Robinson's writing is excellent on all counts. The Renato Guedes/Wilson Magalhaes art is lovely work. Robinson's nostalgia introductions are always enjoyable. Though it is far from his most notable work, the Kirby reprint still has an undeniable energy to it. All in all, considering that five comics would cost pretty much the same as this handsome-if-slim hardcover, this collection delivers really good bang for your doubtless hard-earned bucks.
I did not go to North Carolina with my family. I stayed home so I could surprise my wife by completing a household project. It took almost the entire week, but I cleared every last box of comic books, magazines, paperwork, and tapes out of our master bedroom. She was thrilled.
I started working on not one, but two books. Both are still in their early stages, but I should be able to devote more time to them between now and Mid-Ohio-Con.
I didn't do quite as well when it came to my comics writing, but I did ghost-write several weeks of a newspaper strip and do a good deal of preliminary work on a number of other comics projects. Once I'm further along on those projects, I'll commence looking for artists/partners on them.
The organization of my vast accumulation of stuff continues. The next phase involves removing between 50-100 boxes of comics and other items from my basement to my storage unit. This will give me room to start sorting the accumulation. During the sorting, I'll be deciding what I want to keep and what I want to try selling on eBay and elsewhere. I'll keep you posted.
Thanks for spending a part of your day with me. I'll be back tomorrow with more stuff.
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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