Sunday, March 22, 2015

You Never Know What You're Going to Find in An Old Issue of The New Adventures of Charlie Chan

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Thursday, March 19, 2015

Small Press Comics and Fanzines I've Read Recently, March 19, 2015

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Monday, March 16, 2015

Comics I've Read Recently March 16, 2015

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Sunday, March 1, 2015

Recently Read: The Morning Watch, by James Agee

The Morning Watch, more of a novella than a novel, was first published in 1951 and is a precursor to Agee's more mature and accomplished, though posthumous, A Death in the Family (one of the finest novels I've read).

Drawing upon his experiences as a boy attending the Saint Andrews School for Mountain Boys, run by Episcopal monks, The Morning Watch takes place over the course of about three hours, as Richard and his fellow students are awoken in the very early hours of Good Friday to pray at the chapel alter. Similar to novelist Nicholson Baker's later experiments in relating minute amounts of time, every minute of the time spent in chapel as experienced by Richard is described. A sensitive and earnest soul, twelve-year old Richard is torn between a passion for holiness and the contradictory self-centeredness he believes extreme piety must require. The characters and situations have all the subtle, carefully observed frailty and flawed humanity of a Rembrandt sketch.

A second section involves a delinquent walk to a lake. Here the symbolism employed uncharacteristically becomes somewhat heavy-handed, though no less compelling.

Agee's writing is as poetic and poignant as always. The length and reach of The Morning Watch is modest, though, and probably of most interest to those who have read Agee's more important work, particularly A Death in the Family.
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Saturday, February 28, 2015

Gordon Keith, Creator of Lazarus' Talking Tree

The creator of the talking tree at Lazarus has passed away. Gordon Keith, of Upper Arlington, born in 1924, also created the Street of Yesteryear at the old COSI, the outside nativity for State Auto and helped build the Tiki Gardens at Indian Rocks Beach, FL. Obituary in today's Dispatch.
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Recently Read: Supermen! The First Wave of Comic Book Heroes 1936-1941

For those curious about the earliest days of superhero comics, when creators had the freedom to go wherever their whims took them and the formulas for the genre hadn't yet been written in stone, Fantagraphics Books has published a handy and hefty sampler of the era.

Shot from the original comics (no computer coloring here), Supermen! covers the spectrum from very obscure (Rex Dexter of Mars, Fero, Planet Detective, Yarko the Great) to seminal early work by Jack Kirby, Basil Wolverton, Jack Cole, outsider Fletcher Hanks and more. Greg Sadowski's notes in the back of the book give great historical context; I learned a lot about the various competing and overlapping comics publishers and editors during this primordial period.

Reading Supermen! can actually become depressing because nearly every story contained in the book is more fun, and utilizes more imagination and whimsy, than any superhero comic book on sale today. Inside these pages you'll find pulp-colored dreams, crazy acts of violence (by the heroes!), hallucinogenic imagery, and the promise and fulfillment of illicit, bizarre thrills. As many in The Sex Pistols' audience went on to start their own groups, these stories must have spurred the creative imaginations of hundreds of future creators.

I cannot recommend this book highly enough; it needs to be on the shelves of anyone who reads any superhero comics, as it contains examples of the original formation of the genre. One small complaint: the credits for the book design, so essential for a finely packaged collection of graphics, is squirreled away in small print on the last page of the book. Not cool, Fantagraphics.

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Magazines I've Read Recently, February 28, 2015

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