By Beau Smith

It’s been a busy Summer and Fall here at the ranch due to convention travel as well as writing deadlines. My Manly Recommendations have been piling up as have the emails from you, the readers, for more of them. As always, I aim to satisfy. I won’t waste anymore of your time with my bombastic Beau burps of burly bragging. Let’s get right to what I’m recommending for you to check out.

Busted Knuckles Manly Recommendations:

1000 Comic Books You MUST Read
Written By Tony Isabella
Krause Publications
272 Pages

I am blessed in the fact that I grew up when comic books were not readily available through direct market comic shops, conventions and the internet. Every time I wanted a comic book it was a hunt. You had no promise that your local drug store, supermarket or newsstand had the comic book you were looking for or ANY comic book for that matter. I say I was blessed because as I mentioned, it was a TRUE hunt. It made finding that special comic much more special.

Part of the hunt for me then was looking at various price guides that would print the covers to comic books that I lusted after. I used those as checklists for what I had found and Wanted Posters for what I was hunting for. With the recent release of 1000 Comic Books You Must Read by Tony Isabella, you now have that same checklist and stack of Wanted Posters.

Tony Isabella is the perfect person to list 1000 Comic Books That You Must Read, he is a writer of just about every noted comic book character from every major publisher including creating the great DC character Black Lighting. He has written novels, columns and was also Editor-In Chief of Marvel Comics at one time. Tony was one of the first generation of fans turned comic book pro along with Len Wein, Marv Wolfman and Gerry Conway. Like I said, Tony is one of the perfect people to write this book.

The book is fully illustrated with cover reprints of so many key issues that changed comics like Action Comics #1 and some that were just plain, flat out fun such as Skypilot the Fighting Missionary of the Far North #10. Each issue that Tony presents comes with a wonderful paragraph noting all the important information about the comic and Tony’s own comments on why you should read the mentioned issue. I have to say, Tony was dead on with each of his reasons for picking these comics. The book takes comics from decade to decade right up to present time. The variety is amazing and the quality of the publication it A-List all the way.

Of course everyone is going to have their own suggestions of what should or should not have been in this book, but you have to remember, anything this much fun demands other volumes. Besides, debating what should and shouldn’t be in the book is part of the magic that has kept us all reading comics for so very long. There are 1000 reasons why you should buy 1000 Comic Books You Must Read, perhaps more. Join me in the hunt to read ’em all.

Marvel Masterworks: Atlas Era Heroes Volume 3
The Sub-Mariner Issues #33 through #42
Bill Everett with Dick Ayers
Marvel Comics
262 Pages

I have waited so many years for this collection of Sub-Mariner stories by the man that created the character, Bill Everett. This wonderful collection of stories are THE best Sub-Mariner stories in the long history of the character (In my opinion). Namor goes from busting the heads of Nazis as he did in the 1940s to cracking the craniums of Commies in the 1950s. Namor doesn’t stop there, he also battles crooks, creeps, undersea bad guys, land pirates and romances some hot babes while he’s at it. The Sub-Mariner isn’t limited to Atlantis or New York City in these stories. We get to see Namor have adventures all over the world and in high fashion. By that I mean Bill Everett always showed the reader that Namor was a real clothes horse when he was walking on land. A more dapper dresser you won’t find.

You’ll also be pleasantly surprised to hear Namor not speak like he’s in a summer stock Shakespeare play. Namor talks like a young, hip, tough guy and shows why he has more testosterone than anyone on land or sea. The art will amaze you and the stories will entertain you. This is not a cheap book, but I promise you it’s worth every penny. You’ll be reading and re-reading this one for many years.

Captain Action: The Original Super-Hero Action Figure
Writer: Michael Eury
TwoMorrows Publishing
176 Pages

In 1966 things were different. The world of licensing was a little more flexible. Ideal Toys came out with a 12 inch action figure called Captain Action. It was like nothing the toy world had ever seen before. Not only was Captain Action his own man with a jaunty cap, ray gun and sword, but you could get different costumes, complete with face masks, accessories and turn him into other super-heroes such as Captain America, Aquaman, Spider-Man, Superman, The Phantom, Buck Rogers and even my favorite, Sgt Fury! DC Comics complimented this great action figure by coming out with a Captain Action Mini-series drawn by Wally Wood and Gil Kane.

I’m very happy to report that TwoMorrows Publishing has just come out with a wonderful book that enlightens you to the history of Captain Action from action figure to the action-packed comic book series of today from Moonstone Books. Writer Michael Eury does an incredible job putting all this history to the page. The book is filled with illustrations, photos and behind the scenes information on everything that is Captain Action. I’ve always said that TwoMorrows publishes the comic book history books for pop culture, this is just more proof that what I speak is the truth. If I were you I’d place this book on my Christmas wish list. By the way, I still have my original Captain Action figure complete with Sgt. Fury costume.

Ultimate Avengers
Issue #001
Written by: Mark Millar
Art by: Carlos Pacheco and Danny Miki
Marvel Comics

I’ve said many times that there is a place for all versions of mainstream super heroes. There should be a story universe for the traditional stuff that most of us grew up on and there should be one for new generations to enjoy and look back on one day with fond memories. My only condition is that both of these universes should be enjoyed by everyone and be compelling stories with interesting characters.

Mark Millar has proven time and time again that he can provide all of this. With Ultimate Avengers #001 he shows how this can work to near perfection. The story is paced like a great episode of TV’s 24. The dialogue is not overweight, everything that spills out of a character’s mouth counts. Nothing is wasted and even if you’ve never seen any of these characters before, you immediately feel that you know their personality from the way they talk and move.

Carlos Pacheco and Danny Miki fill every panel with cinematic excitement. The body language and expressions of each character tells you so much and enhances their words. The costume designs are the best I’ve seen for super heroes in a very long time.

The thing I’m really pleased with is the coloring by Justin Ponsor. He adds vibrant colors to everything without making the mistake that so many Marvel Comics have made in the last few years. That mistake is going for that dark, film mood that tends to muddy up and hide the line work of the art. That doesn’t happen in this book. Justin schools other colorists on how to do dynamic and eye popping without giving the reader eye-strain.

Oh, and did I mention there’s a story twist that hits you like a sledgehammer. I mean that in a very good way. I highly recommend that you start reading this series. It’s all kinds of right.

GrailPages: Original Comic Book Art and the Collectors
Written by: Steven Payne
TwoMorrows Publishing
128 pages

I’ve been collecting original comic book page art and sketches since the early 1980s. One of my very first original art deals was trading two Commodore 64 computers for a stash of comic book original art, sketches and cover proofs. That deal was the foundation to my collection. In that deal I got loads of Justice League Of America pages by Dick Dillin, Flash pages by Irv Novick, Batman pages by Bob Brown as well as various stuff by Dave Cockrum, Ernie Chan, Nick Cardy, and others. The very first page of original art that I ever bought was a page from World’s Finest #203 (1971) with art by Dick Dillin and Joe Giella. I bought it for $5.00. That’s right, $5.00! The dealer I bought it from was more than happy with that because as he put it “I can barely give away any of that 1970s DC art. Everyone wants Marvel stuff.” The page I bought has Superman and Aquaman in almost every panel. I love that piece.

Needless to say when I heard about Grailpages: Original Comic Book Art and the Collectors had been published by TwoMorrows, I knew It was a must for my reading shelf.

The book is a great read for anyone that loves comics, even if you’ve never bought one page of original art, you will find the history and information in this book amazing. There are tons of photos of incredible original art, discussion of key pages, interviews from pros and collectors and enough common sense information to get you started picking up some art for yourself.

I cannot recommend this book highly enough. It speaks to me on a lot of levels, as a writer, a reader an art collector and as someone that loves the history of comic books. In the early 1980’s through the 1990’s I was able to pick up original comic book art from the 1960’s-70’s anywhere from $20.00 to $50.00. I remember at Chicago Con in the late 8o’s I picked up the cover to The Flash #280 (Feb. 1980) by Ross Andru and inked by Dick Giordano for a mere $55.00!! Dick Giordano was there at the convention and I had him sign it for me. It was a great cover with both the Flash and Green Lantern. I owned that cover until just a couple of years ago. As some of you may learn, when you are strictly a freelancer like me, you sometimes experience lean times without much work, during one of my financial valleys I had to put that cover up for sale. It sold for $3500.00. I hated to part with it, but I did get to enjoy it for a couple of decades.

Sorry to ramble from the topic, again, you really should check out this book and add it to your reading list. At only $15.95 it’s a great deal.

Other books and series you should be reading:

Captain America: Reborn
Marvel Comics
Written by: Ed Brubaker
Illustrated by: Bryan Hitch & Butch Guice

The return of Steve Rogers with twists and turns you were not expecting. Eye-popping art. A manly read.

The Vigilante
DC Comics
Written by: Marv Wolfman
Illustrated by: Rick Leonardi & John Stanisci

This is one of THE best crime series in comics right now. It’s not getting the sales and respect it deserves. This is a smart reader’s crime story!

Booster Gold
DC Comics
Written by: Dan Jurgens & Chuck Dixon
Illustrated by: Norm Rapmund, Rick Remender & Pat Olliffe

A truly realized character done with compelling story telling and boat loads of fun. The dialogue that each character and guest star spouts is always golden. Fun, witty and needs to be on your pull list.

G.I. Joe
IDW Publishing
Written by: Chuck Dixon
Illustrated by: Robert Atkins

Just saying G.I. Joe and Chuck Dixon in the same breath should tell you all you need to know about this fine action series. The art, the story and the characters are all seamless. You cannot go wrong with Dixon’s no-nonsense dialogue and character development. The art of Atkins is just what you are looking for in a story that has many layers and loads of action. IDW also has the best formatting and production vales in comics. G.I. Joe is the way you should read comics.

Jonah Hex
DC Comics
Written by: Justin Gray & Jimmy Palmiotti
Illustrated by: Rafa Garres, Jordi Bernet, David Michael Beck & Christiano Cucina

Jonah Hex is a textbook on how to write comics. Jimmy & Justin show everyone how to write stand alone stories with moving sub-plots even with alternating artists. That is truly a feat. No matter who is drawing the book it’s always great. This is one of the most underrated books out today.

Power Girl
DC Comics
Written by: Jimmy Palmiotti & Justin Gray
Illustrated by: Amanda Conner

Once again Palmiotti & Gray school the world on how to write really good comics. Power Girl is full of wit, action and near perfect story telling. If this book were a TV show it would work perfectly on the USA Network. It has all the action and humor of Burn Notice with the sexy style of In Plain Sight. Back in the 1990’s when artist Mitch Byrd left Guy Gardner — When I was writing it — Amanda was my first choice to take over the book. I begged DC to put her on as the artist. NOTE: Also check out Terra by the creative team of Palmiotti, Gray & Conner.

Wonder Woman
DC Comics
Written by: Gail Simone
Illustrated by: Aaron Lopresti, Matt Ryan & Bernard Chang

Gail Simone’s run is the first time I’ve been able to really read Wonder Woman in a very long time. Dialogue has always been what has attracted me to Gail’s writing and finally Wonder Woman has something to say. Gail is on her way to making Wonder Woman a likeable character, something Wonder Woman has needed for so very long. She’s always been a comic book icon and finally she’s getting a personality to match her status. I was lucky enough to work with Aaron Lopresti on issue #40 of Guy Gardner and he continues to be one of my favorites. The boy always had a knack for drawing stunning women and manly action.

Secret Six
DC Comics
Written by: Gail Simone
Illustrated by: Nicola Scott & Doug Hazlewood

Quirky, crazy and all out fun. That’s what you get when you turn Gail loose with characters of her own choosing. There’s nothing like getting a bunch of borderline bad guys together and making them do good. Catman and his group of almost-do-gooders are so enjoyable it should be against the law. (In most cases they are.) Secret Six is one of those books that I read and moan “I wish I had written that!” You will never be let down when you chuck down your $2.99 for this book. On art, Nicola Scott and Doug Hazlewood show how great art teams are forged. This book is clockwork, the fine Swiss kind with a touch of blue collar tossed in the works.

Beau’Wana Beast

In case you didn’t know, come December 9th, you will be rewarded with the return of the true Alpha Male super hero, B’Wana Beast!

In the DC Holiday Special 2009 I will be teaming up with my amigo Gary Kwapisz of Lost & Found fame to bring you a Christmas story you won’t soon forget or expect from me. I say that because it’s true. This action-packed story has all the staples of a Beau Smith “Fistacular”, but with a story surprise that you will never see coming. That’s all I’m gonna say at this point, but I will show you an advance art page from the story WITHOUT LETTERING so I won’t give anything away. All I will say is that B’Wana Beast will be fighting Somali Pirates for all the right reasons. The ordering number for the book is Oct09-0223. Tell your retailer to order it for you.

The Roundup

This week’s column has gone way over the word quota and I’m sure Busted Knuckles editor Jason Sacks’s eyeballs are bleeding right now. I promise that the Busted Knuckles Babe of the Week and The Busted Knuckles Manly Cover features will return next week.

Keep those emails coming in and spread the word to buy my comics. I don’t wanna have to sell off any more of my artwork!

Your amigo,

Beau Smith
The Flying Fist Ranch

Prove your manhood by visiting Beau at the Flying Fists Forum!

About The Author

Beau Smith

Beau Smith is a writer for Comics Bulletin