Alter Ego #59

A book review article by: Jason Sacks
Roy Thomas's labor of love moves onward, exploring some obscure nooks and crannies of comics history and offering interviews with half-forgotten creators.

The highlight of this issue for me is an interview with Al Plastino, a longtime artist of Superman. I don't think I've ever seen an interview with Plastino, so it's really wonderful to get his insights into working for DC, and what it was like being a working artist for many years. Most intriguing to me are three sample Peanuts strips out of a year and a half that Plastino created while Charles Schulz was recovering from cardiac surgery. I never cease to be amazed by the versatility of the older cartoonists. Imagine drawing Superman and Charlie Brown in the same career, and fitting the house style for both. It's hard to imagine some more modern artists being able to do that.

I also enjoyed the rest of the issue: Russ Manning's sometimes very catty comments about other Tarzan artists, a look at the European comics that Superman co-creator Jerry Siegel wrote, interviews with longtime comic strip artist Fran Matera and an interview about his DC covers with Neal Adams, plus a visit with Golden Age great Shelly Moldoff and modern cartoonist Arthur Suydam.

That's a lot of content packed into 100 pages. If there's one complaint I would have about Alter Ego, it's that when the magazine doesn't explore a theme, its content seems to be almost too diverse. I would have loved, for instance, if the Plastino and Moldoff interviews, and Siegel article would have been combined into a special Superman issue, or the Matera interview be saved for an issue on Quality comics. In a way, Thomas's magazine feels a victim of its own success. It has such a diversity of quality content that Roy Thomas must sometimes feel like the little Dutch boy with his finger in the dike. What should trickle in, and when?

But it's hard to complain that we're getting too much comics history in each issue of this magazine. I'll happily take too much diverse content than get none at all, and Alter Ego is a real treat.

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