By Beau Smith
Tons Of TwoMorrows:
Last week was Jack Kirby’s 91st birthday. What better way to celebrate it than to pick yourself up a copy of the Jack Kirby Checklist Golden Edition from TwoMorrows Publishing. This is the most thorough listing of Jack Kirby’s work that I know of. It immediately got me going through my personal comic book collection looking for issues that I had forgotten. This book is a great tool because it’s in trade paperback form and is set up to guide you through Kirby work like no one has done before. It even cross-references reprints so you can find inexpensive ways to pick up on hard to find Kirby material. The book has a cover price of $14.95 and is on the shelves now.
Speaking of TwoMorrows Publishing, they’ve added another must-have to their line of Modern Masters with Modern Masters Volume 18: John Romita, Jr. This 128 page black and white volume is filled with incredible John Romita, Jr. art, sketches and interviews that canvases every important moment in Romita, Jr.’s career. George Khoury and Eric Nolen-Weathington do a bang up job in bringing this inside look at John Romita, Jr. This is a textbook for any aspiring or veteran artist as well as anyone that just flat out loves comics. It has a cover price of $14.95.
TwoMorrows Publishing has also released a must-have book that will thrill any reader/fan of DC Comics’s The Flash. The book is The Flash Companion by Keith Dallas as editor and he has corralled an impressive lineup of writers (like Jason Sacks-King Of The Northwest) to give you the histories of four heroes that have individually earned the right to be declared The Fastest Man Alive. That lineup includes Jay Garrick, Barry Allen, Wally West and Bart Allen. This book is filled with wonderful interviews, photos, art and articles dealing with the history of The Flash. There is also a very nice tribute to the talented Mike Wieringo. This book retails for $26.95. It will earn a place on your bookshelf for life.
Before we move on to some other items I thought you should be reminded to check out the bi-monthly offer from TwoMorrows called Back Issue. It is a great magazine that pays tribute and educates you on some of the greatest creators, characters and comic books that deserve the titles of Icon and legend. Editor and historian, Michael Eury never lets you down with his seamless themes that showcase some of comic’s greatest moments. Recently in issue #27, the theme was comic book royalty that put you in the court of Aquaman, Camelot 3000, The Sub-Mariner, Doctor Doom, The Black Panther and many more. With only a cover price of $6.95 you cannot go wrong. While you’re at it, check out TwoMorrows quarterly magazine dedicated to the art of creating comics in Rough Stuff. This is truly a text book and field manual to how to create comics. Interviews and tons of prelims, sketches, layouts, inking, everything connected to the art of drawing comic books. Just recently it featured such artists as Joe Jusko, Scott Williams, Mike Mayhew, Nick Cardy, Bruce Timm, Art Adams, George Perez, Ashley Wood and hundreds more. It only caries a cover price of $6.95 as well. If you figure what a new, single comic book costs, then I think you’ll come to understand what a real deal these books are.
Under The Radar
Underrated. That’s a word that should be used a lot in comic books. There are an awful lot of underrated writers, artists and characters out there. Check any of the online or print news sources about comic books and you’ll get the same old, same old. The usual suspects of the same characters, the same writers and the same interchangeable artists. There is a lot of Paris Hilton type of creators in our business, famous for being famous. You’ll also find there are quite a few that remain working through the editorial “good ol’ boy” network as well. With that said, there are some really good books that get shoved under the radar. One of those books is Number of the Beast from Wildstorm. It’s written by the much underrated Scott Beatty with art by the also underrated art team of Chris Sprouse and Karl Story.
Number of the Beast is the last part of a Wildstorm Trilogy, Armageddon and Revelations. Number of the Beast is by far the best of this threesome and the perfect way to wrap up a three-part saga. You don’t even have to read the other parts to “get” and enjoy what Number of the Beast is all about. This is a great 8 issue series that puts you in close with the characters and the situation. The dialogue and the pacing are perfectly matched with the art. This is what mainstream super hero comic books should and could be in today’s modern times. It respects the foundation that the Golden, Silver and Bronze Ages of comics were built on and it hones it’s sharpness from the cutting edge of today’s comics. This is Scott Beatty’s best work to date. Scott is a true comic book historian, with expert marks with the DC Universe. I believe that only Kurt Busiek and Mark Waid have more notches on their belts. Scott has studied the best and worked with the best. He’s a younger, less hairy and shorter version of Chuck Dixon, always good work and always ahead of time.
Chris Sprouse has always been one of my favorite artists. He is a master storyteller and always gives your eyes the best path to follow. He makes bad writers look good and great writers solid gold. Inker/artist, Karl Story is any artist’s dream to work with. He is dead solid perfect and as dependable as death and taxes. He and Sprouse are one of the perfect team-ups in comics. Riding along with them you will never take any wrong turns. Top these guys off with one of the best and most underrated editors in comics, Ben Abernathy and you have what mainstream super hero comics should aspire to be. High praise? Yeah, you could say that, but I mean it. How can you go wrong in a story where one of the bad guys is a creep named the StinkBug? On the good guy side you have a super heroine named Neandra that would give Wonder Woman a run for her bracelets?if she were a Cave Woman. Neandra’s dialogue is nothing but fun and she gets more than her share of great lines. The super hero team of the Paladins is my new favorites. These guys give you everything you used to get with The Avengers, The Fantastic Four and The JLA only the expiration date hasn’t gone bad. It’s all done without some un-American writer perving up everything and using the American flag to wipe themselves with. There are no heavy blocks of unwanted and unneeded text. There aren’t any two ton word balloons. This stuff is as close to seamless as you’ll get. I think you’ll find yourself asking “How did I not hear about this before?” There’s action, humor and loads of drama. The artwork is just amazing with its superb story telling. Plus?.some surprise twists that you never see coming, but glad they did. Get on board for this one, kids. You’ll be so happy you did.
Tough As Press-On Nails:
If you like crime stories and Will Eisner’s The Spirit, then you need to check out a really cool comic book series by Chris Mills and Joe Staton called Femme Noir: The Dark City Diaries from Ape Entertainment. Here is another case of an underrated writer and artist. Chris Mills is a dedicated writer of great crime and noir material. If you’re gonna read a genre book then why not read one down by an expert? Joe Staton is really an art legend in comics. There are very few books he hasn’t laid his pencils on and Femme Noir may be his best work to date. I must also give high raves to inker Horacio Ottolini and perfect colors by Melissa Kaercher. Like Number of the Beast, here is a book with a dream team working on it. Femme Noir: The Dark City Diaries is a four issue series with a cover price of $3.95.
Spooks: Omega Team created by by Ryan Schifrin. Written by Ryan Schifrin and Larry Hama. GREAT pencils by Adam Archer and colors by Jonny Rench. Spooks: Omega Team is published by Devil’s Due Publishing. You’ve seen the basics of this story before, a paranormal team of elite special ops that hunt down paranormal bad guys. What you haven’t seen before is a whole new twist on this story line and done with incredible art that is nothing short of an eye orgy. I’ve gotta be honest with you, I’ve never been that impressed with other Devil’s Due action books. They always hit me as weaker knock off of what has come before, but Spooks: Omega Team is a real fun turn of a much done genre. I like the characters and the personality that comes out of their mouths and I REALLY love the art by Adam Archer. I have to say, if anyone else had don the art this book might’ve fallen down a few notches. Given the team here, it’s a home run.
Busted Knuckles Babe of the Week: Joey Martin
Co-Owner of Marcy Jo’s Diner
As one-half of the husband/wife country music duo Joey+Rory, Joey Martin is featured on the new CMT/American Idol tv show “Can You Duet”, Joey has a voice that is reminiscent of a modern-day Emmylou Harris and a style that’s been compared to a female George Strait. She is what she is and that’s talented and very attractive in a non-phony way unlike so many of the “gone Hollywood” country singers of today. Along with her husband Rory, they make some really fine country music that’s real and not over washed in the country music pop cycle. She also runs a very cool little country diner with her sister. You cannot beat that?she can cook as well as look good and sing!
Busted Knuckles Manly Cover of the Week: Creature Commandos #3
Art by Scot Eaton
Continuing with my Underrated Theme this week, I can’t let the Busted Knuckles Manly Cover of the Week go by without picking Creatures Commandos #3 by Scot “I’m Juggernaut, Bitch” Eaton. Creature Commandos was a 12 issue series from DC Comics back in 2000 that was full throttle comic book fun. Tim Truman wrote it and Scot Eaton drew it. It was super solid and hugely entertaining. It was a pitch perfect tale of monster testosterone. During my last convention check, I found that you can pick this series up pretty cheap if you take the time to look. You will not be sorry.
College football has begun. The NFL season is right around the corner. Last weekend I was at the season opener between Marshall University and Illinois State. I’m happy to report that the Marshall Thundering Herd won and that it was a wonderful sunny afternoon to do so. I tailgated with friends and family so you know I was fed well. I’m hoping for the best for my Chicago Bears. I think that this season we might surprise some critics that already have my Bears dwelling in the cellar of the North Division. My prediction is that the division is up for grabs this year. I sure hope I’m right. I’d love to rub it in the faces of my amigos, Dan Jurgens, Tom Lyle and Roger Ash
Time to sign off for this week. I could’ve gone on and on with more reviews and pop culture suggestions, but there just wasn’t enough room. I’ll try and hit more of them in the weeks to come. Keep all those emails and packages coming this way. I can’t promise to review everything, but I appreciate you taking the time to enlighten me.
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