Archive for the ‘Reviews’


November 01, 2012 By: Andy Mansell Category: DISCUSS, Now Read This!, Reviews

The history of comics is brimming with mysteries and enigmas.  Did Alex Raymond kill himself? Why did DC cancel the Jack Kirby penned Fourth World series so early in its run? Is it really a true story that Gwen Stacy’s death got published because Stan Lee was out of the office for the month and couldn’t stop it ? Why did Jack Cole take his own life when he seemed to have everything he’d ever wanted?

We can speculate and wonder and gossip and even investigate these topics (and dozens more!) and that is part of the charm and excitement of any long history of any art form filled with quirky and talented individuals.
And there are few names in comics that are as enigmatic as the co-creator of Spider-man, Doctor Strange, Iron Man’s iconic orange and yellow armor, Captain Atom, The Question and The CreeperSteve Ditko
A new book has just been published by YoeBooks! entitled The Creativity of Steve Ditko and the book is a real treasure trove, but it doesn’t even begin to solve any of the mysteries surrounding this very private, very extraordinary man.


October 18, 2012 By: Seth Peagler Category: DISCUSS, Reviews

Trust me, I get it.  Money’s tight for a lot of us, and when you plop down $3.99 for a twenty page comic, you expect it to at least be worth the cost of admission.  It’s easy to buy a monthly title just because you always have.  It unconsciously becomes more about the routine than the book itself, and inevitably gets to be frustrating when you keep buying the book in spite of your waning interesting in it.  Some readers understandably turn to the act of “trade waiting,” or foregoing the purchase of a monthly title in favor of the more affordable trade paperback.  Still, the monthly comic book holds potential that isn’t always appreciated in these jaded times.  Here’s a brief look at what I think is one of the most underappreciated, innovative monthly comics on the stands today: Matt Kindt’s Mind Mgmt. (more…)



October 09, 2012 By: Andy Mansell Category: DISCUSS, Reviews, Where Do I Start?

For as long as I can remember, I’ve always loved a good spy story.  I grew up reading Robert Ludlum and watching James Bond.  To this day, 007 remains the measuring stick against which all other action heroes are compared.

Nothing beats a good spy plot and nothing is worse that a half-baked one.  This is true for novels, films and comics as well.

Three of the best comic strips currently being reprinted in collected editions involve super spies and for all Espionage fans–I am going to see if I can steer you all over to the comic strip section of the store and enter the world of double agents, action, global scale danger but above all else terrific art and exciting storytelling.

First up is the granddaddy of them all–James Bond.  Titan books has been publishing the entire run of James Bond comic strip–which ran in British newspapers from 1958 to 1984!!!  Originally adapted by Bond creator Ian Fleming and then handled by other writers including  noted novelist Martin Amis, the Bond strip focuses on the characters from the source material and captures the feel of the original novels.  There is less pyrotechnics and more tense drama.  The Cold War is still threatening to go hot any minute and James Bond is right there keeping the world safe with enough time left over to enjoy his cars, his women and his martinis. (Not necessarily in that order)  Although any of the volumes will do nicely– I highly recommend  Colonel Sun, Death Wing, Golden Ghost, The Man with the Golden Gun, Octopussy, Phoenix Project, Spy Who Loved Me and Trouble Spot . Each volume contains three or four complete and self-contained stories. So pick up any one.  You will end up buying them all and then you will find yourself reading the original novels as well. Great Stuff!

Now, across the pond here in America, the talented comic team of writer Archie Goodwin and artist Al Williamson were asked to breath new life into the long running daily comic strip Secret Agent X-9 which was created by the unlikely team of Dashiell (Sam Spade) Hammett and Alex (Flash Gordon) Raymond way back in 1934!.  Rechristened  Secret Agent Corrigan, Goodwin and Williamson did more than just invigorate the strip, they made it their own.  For over 12 years, from 1967 to 1980, they turned Secret Agent Corrigan into arguably the last great adventure comic strip published in the US.  The stories are fast paced, exciting, economical and intelligent.  The storytelling is clear and beautifully rendered.  Each daily strip contains panels which are never too busy that the art becomes a distraction. Any volume of the IDW published series will do the job, but I especially recommend Volumes 2, 3 and 4. Greater Stuff!


OK–Bond is a terrific read, and Corrigan is a true high-point in adventure strip history, but I saved the best Spy strip for last – Modesty Blaise.  Along with Steve Canyon and Johnny Hazard, Modesty Blaise is in my top three all-time favorite comic strips.  The plots are intelligent and exciting and above all–consistent. The strip ran in Britain for over 20 years and when the creator/writer Peter O’Donnell finally shut down his word processor, longtime fans were angry. In over 100 adventures, O’Donnell never repeated himself– and more importantly, the strip never “jumped the shark.” What really made Modesty Blaise hum was the relationship between the title heroine and her partner the very lethal Willie Garvin.  Their relationship was unlike any in fiction.  There was no sexual tension– instead their friendship was based on mutual admiration and respect.  And that respect was hard-earned. In these reprint books, the danger is real and the setting, tone and illustration are strictly for adults! Any volume will do the series justice, but Cry Wolf, Death Trap, Gallows Bird, Green-Eyed Monster, Sweet Caroline, Top Traitor, Black Pearl, Yellowstone Booty and Puppet Master are all essentials! Greatest stuff!!!

Now you see what Willie Garvin sees!

So if you are a fan of spy fiction, these three titles really fit the bill.  Give any one a try–you will be back for more.  Like the owner of the Men’s Warehouse, I guarantee it.




October 03, 2012 By: Seth Peagler Category: DISCUSS, Reviews

Though I was among those who read Neil Gaiman’s Sandman in my high school and college days, I came to Sandman Mystery Theatre a little later.  Vertigo knowingly produced the Mystery title in hopes of not only capitalizing on the fame of Sandman, but also telling new stories about a preexisting property.  The Golden Age Sandman was a very ordinary man named Wesley Dodds, who inherited a fortune from his father and was also plagued by nightmares the way his father and forebears were.  Dodds had no superpowers, and his only real offensive weapon came in the form of a gas he’d use to render opponents incapaciatated.  The gas also acted as a truth serum of sorts, prompting confessions and admittances from crooks.  But other than the gas mask and gas gun, there was never much that separated Dodds from, say, The Crimson Avenger, The Green Hornet, The Shadow, or any similarly-clad avengers of the night.




September 28, 2012 By: Seth Peagler Category: DISCUSS, Reviews

We all have certain creators whose work we habitually return to that remind us why we love comics so much.  For me, Mike Mignola, Dave Stevens, Eddie Campbell and Jacques Tardi all fall into that category.  There is another name I need to add to that list – Chris Ware.  This one might surprise some of you, if for no other reason than the notoriously tedious nature of his storytelling.  It’s no secret that Ware’s books require some dedication from readers.  Still, it’s hard to deny the level of skill that Ware employs in his cartooning, and the equally astronomical level of respect he has for the craft and history of comics.  One of my personal highlights of attending last week’s Small Press Expo in Bethesda, Maryland was not only meet Ware and buy an advanced copy of his latest book, Building Stories, but to also attend a panel where he discussed his latest magnum opus at length.  Here are some initial thoughts following my first reading of Building Stories.

Walking through the halls of SPX with my new copy of Building Stories in tow, I felt not unlike I do whenever my wife wants to go to Ikea.  I usually end up carrying a box the size of a small table of something or other under my arm, and I know it’ll take some time to construct the piece, but it’ll end up being some form of functional furniture.  It’s really not until you crack Building Stories open that you really start to grasp the breadth of this project.  It’s a box full of various sized comics in numerous forms.  There are a few small folded strips, a larger hardcover (which reprints the original Building Stories found in Acme Novelty Library #18, a full newspaper full of comics, a folded game board complete with full diagrams of the building of the title, several large folded comics, and something that looks like a Golden Book that tells the building’s story in the building’s voice.  It’s even worth pointing out the beautiful design work on the box front and back.   I’m sure I left some items out, but needless to say it’s a lot of comics.  When we unpacked the box Sunday night, it took up the entirety of our king size bed.




September 20, 2012 By: Andy Mansell Category: DISCUSS, Feast Your Eyes, Reviews

When you think of the comic artists with the most recognizable drawing style, the usual suspects immediately come to mind–Jack Kirby, John Romita, Neal Adams,
But there is one artist who  is recognizable to almost every American (okay–of a certain age).
Now, when I was 10 years old I was a huge fan of MAD Magazine — it was the late 60s and arguably at it’s second creative peak.  I was beginning to identify (and quantify) different art styles.  That  year, my father took me to a revival of his favorite comedy It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World. I loved the movie. (a three hour comedy–why not??–give me a break– I was only 10)
The very next day, as I was still buzzing from that comedic onslaught, I spotted the ad for the movie in the local paper and I noticed the caricatures of all the comedians who appeared in the film and (gasp!) I recognized the artist.
It was Jack Davis from MAD.  This changed everything!!!  (Well, not really, but give me some artistic liscence here.)  Once I saw this poster, I began to notice Davis’ art everywhere–More movie ads, Album covers, Magazine covers, cartoon advertisements.
And this book–Jack Davis: Drawing American Pop Culture celebrates and showcases the drawings that made Jack Davis famous and even iconic to three generations of non-comic fans (civilians–bah!) who could recognize his art by sight but most certainly never knew his name.
And for over three decades, his art was everywhere–most notably– his regular gig as cover artist for TIME and TV Guide. This was during the years that they were the two best selling magazines in the world.  Millions enjoyed the Jack Davis drawings.
In addition to all the Jack Davis commercial art — the book includes a beautifully written and insightful biography by Fantagraphics Publisher Gary Groth–you may love him, you may hate him, but either way– he is a terrific writer who knows how to interview and his sentences just flow off the page. The book also includes testimonials from a number of iconic artists who laud Davis’ talent and influence.  My only caveat: The book is brimming with 200 large pages of Davis art and for $50.00, it is an ideal size and a reasonable price, but I came away from the book wanting more.  I would have loved to see more art from the MAD heydays like:
But the book could have doubled or tripled in size (and price).  What is included will certainly do–and do very well!!!
Now I know I’ve recommended a lot of high priced Comic Art Books, so the question you probably want answered is–how essential is Jack Davis: Drawing American Pop?
Simply put:  Heroes Aren’t Hard to Find is kind enough to loan me books so I can read, analyse, review and then return. Once I was finished with it, instead of returning Jack Davis: Drawing American Pop, I bought it.  I had to own it.  It is that good.
If the folks at IDW, Fantagraphics and other publishers continue to publish quality comic art books like this one –well, as Chief Brody might say–“We’re gonna need a bigger coffee table

Review :: Leaping Tall Buildings: The Origins of American Comics

September 03, 2012 By: Andy Mansell Category: DISCUSS, Reviews

This is for all of you out there in Heroesland who were unfamiliar with Joe Kubert and did not understand the importance of his his place in comic’s history or the importance of his (and other’s) stature in the history of our beloved medium. There is nothing to be ashamed of–comics has a long rich history and it is hard to get involved in comics’ past when the present is moving so quickly toward the future.
Now, I love comic books and there is only one thing I love more than Comic Books (besides my wife, daughter, and  those fresh Harris Teeter donuts with the sprinkles) and that is Books about Comics. I am a Comic Lit junkie and I try to read every book that gets published about Comic History and Comics Analysis.  And there is a lot out there.  Some of it is OK, some of it is good and some of it is great.  Most books are for the experienced Comic Enthusiast but  sometimes a book is published for fans who are new to our rich history. And Leaping Tall Buildings: The Origins of American Comics by writer Christopher Irving and photographer Seth Kushner is an ideal place for the initiate to annoint themselves in the rich history of Comic book past. In all honesty, the book is really a Photography Portrait album peppered with quite a few fascinating quotes from the creators themselves.


August 27, 2012 By: Justin Crouse Category: DISCUSS, Opinion, Reviews

What makes a good comic book is up for debate. Content-wise, there is no real consensus to be polled. But if the prevailing business model at the Big Two is any indication, good comic books come from the Big Event. There’s a definite thrill to seeing our humble little industry mentioned in grown up newspapers when editors pull stunts like guest-starring the President, but the constant barrage of reboot and crossover can also grow tiresome and desensitizing. It can leave an audience a little cold, especially after the initial buzz of the press release.
It almost goes without saying that no event straddled the gulf between content and concept quite like DC’s Before Watchmen. When the project was announced, the Interwebs lit up with endless flame wars about the merits of such an undertaking. The lines were drawn with a clarity and conviction that was palpable, even for the obsessive comic book fan. Now that DC has completed the roll-out last week with the first issue of Dr. Manhattan, here’s a bucket list of how the books measure up to their source material. (Note: the following views are the author’s own and do not represent Heroes Aren’t Hard to Find, Inc. or any of its affiliates – ed.)
Click through for Justin’s Before Watchmen Report Card!


August 23, 2012 By: Seth Peagler Category: DISCUSS, Reviews

Every few years Paul Chadwick puts out a new Concrete story or series through Dark Horse Comics.  It’s one of those books that seems to slip past readers’ periphery in spite of the copious amounts of critical praise it’s received over the years.  Bottom line, Concrete is a book that has maintained relevance over its 25 year history, and the new Three Uneasy Pieces one shot is a fine place to start if you’ve at all been curious about the character.

First things first, I should point out that this new one shot isn’t really brand new, but collects three short stories as they appeared in the recent relaunch of Dark Horse Presents.  That title has been consistently good since the relaunch, but if you’re among those who don’t like putting down $8 a month for a new anthology, this gives you a chance to read the latest Concrete stories for the low price of $2.99.

So what’s the appeal of Concrete?  Imagine if a more philosophical version of Ben Grimm went out to space and was transformed into The Thing, only to return to a completely normal Earth with nary a costumed hero or villain in sight.  How would he make sense of his new body and life?  How would he spend his time and energy?  One of the consistently pleasing aspects of Concrete is how Chadwick allows the character to experience the mundane in spite of his lumbering new physique.  It’s a book that relishes quiet moments and isn’t afraid to feature the lead character awash in reflection.



NOW READ THIS! :: Age of Bronze by Eric Shanower

August 16, 2012 By: Andy Mansell Category: DISCUSS, Now Read This!, Reviews

I know, I know– there are just not enough hours in the day.  I know, I know, it is difficult to stay on budget with so many quality comic products released each and every week.  I know, I know… you have a stack of comics next to your bed/favorite chair/comfy couch that is this high and growing… the last thing you need is for some wise guy like myself insisting you add another book to the pile.