Tagged: NBM

Mike Gold, Stripper – An Occasional Series

Wow, that sounds disgusting, doesn’t it? But as you might surmise from the accompanying artwork, those of us who are into newspaper comics strips are often called “strippers.” This is either self-deprecating or sophomoric. But there must be a lot of us, because there seems to be about a half-dozen high-quality reprint books being issued every month. Which means I am: a) happy, and b) broke.

In order to protect my ever-shrinking finances, I was going to pass over Titan Books’ Tarzan In The City of Gold, reprinting Burne Hogarth’s work from 1937 to 1940. This is because NBM reprinted all of Hogarth’s Sunday Tarzans (and the Hal Foster stuff that preceded it) back in 1994. I have those books, although I don’t fault Titan for putting the material back in print twenty years later. Besides, the NBM books were limited to 300 copies. But Titan fooled me and sent me a review copy, bless them. They truly understand the fanboy’s middle initials are “O.C.D.”

I’m glad they did. The book starts with Hogarth’s first effort, sort of mid-story although a thorough recap is provided. The reproduction is sharper, the volume is bigger, the cost is much lower, and the design is more attractive. The indicia says this is part of “The Complete Burne Hogarth Library,” which implies eventually they’ll be reprinting his short-lived, hard-to-find but even more amazing adventure series, Drago, as well as his even harder-to-find humor series Miracle Jones.

Tarzan has attracted the efforts of a great many of comics’ finest artists, including (in politically convenient alphabetical order) Neal Adams, John Buscema, Frank Frazetta, José Louis Garcia-Lopez, Mike Grell, Jeffrey Catherine Jones, Joe Jusko, Gil Kane, Joe Kubert, Roy G. Krenkel, Russ Manning, Grey Morrow, Boris Vallejo and Julie Bell, and Tom Yeates. That is breathtaking. That is amazing. That is adjective-defying. And, in many circles, Hogarth’s work is regarded as the best of the lot. Personally, I couldn’t make a choice if my life depended upon it.

Hogarth is properly regarded as a true master of the medium, and even though it reprints his earlier work, Tarzan In The City of Gold shows us how he earned that reputation. He revisited the property in 1972 with an original hardcover graphic novel (thereby stirring up the “who did the first graphic novel” debate decades later) adaptation of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ seminal Tarzan of the Apes. Four years later, Hogarth did a sequel adapting four of Burroughs’ prequel short stories published as Jungle Tales of Tarzan. Perhaps these titles will be part of this series as well.

Be warned. I’d kill for Drago.

Tarzan In The City of Gold by Burne Hogarth with Don Garden, Titan Books, 208 pages, $39.95 hardcover.

 

Review: ‘Monster Christmas’

Review: ‘Monster Christmas’

image CR Review: Monster Christmas
Creator: Lewis Trondheim
Publishing Information: Papercutz, hardcover, 32 pages, 2011, $9.99
Ordering Numbers: 9781597072885 (ISBN13)

CR received this holiday effort from NBM kids’ line Papercutz in late August, meaning that any number of North American writers-about-comics will have likely written a review between the time this was written (early September) and the date it was posted (early December). It’s hard for me to imagine it won’t be generally well-received, and that many of you out there reading it won’t have some sense of it by now. This is a funny, sweet and gently unhinged story about a pre-Christmas rolling encounter with monsters and Santa Claus by characters representing what seems to be the Trondheim family, told from the vantage point of their then (it was created in the late ’90s) young children.

Review: ‘Happy Hooligan’

Review: ‘Happy Hooligan’

Just prior to Comic-Con International, NBM’s David Seidman sent out a note suggesting to reviewers that their just-released Happy Hooligan comic strip collection had been overlooked. Gadzooks, I thought, he’s right and had them rush a copy over to be read. Having just finished the 112-page volume, I can say this early example of popular comic strip humor was undeservedly overlooked.

The better remembered characters from the comic strips have crowded the book shelves of late, from IDW’s exploding line to Fantagraphics beautiful year-by-year collections. Think of a character you grew up reading and odds are, there is a collection out there or one already announced.

But, the real pioneering strips such as Hooligan have been left behind. Under their Forever Nuts banner, NBM and Editor Jeffrey Lindenblatt seek to fix that, first with Mutt & Jeff and now Happy Hooligan. When a strip endures for 32 years, especially from that first era, it clearly spoke to an audience. Created by illustrator turned cartoonist Frederick Burr Opper, the strip followed a fairly strict formula but never ceased to be entertaining or inventive.

Back then, as explored in Cole Johnson’s closing essay, each strip had a gimmick and stuck with it. In this case, Hooligan, usually accompanied by his brothers, Gloomy Gus and Montmerency, saw something amiss, try to correct it and in so doing wind up causing trouble and usually being punched or jailed for his efforts.  Week after week this went on and the theme rarely varied until the strip was in its second decade. In six evenly constructed panels, Opper set things up and had them pay off in a breezy way while each panel was filled with business. Usually, Gus would see trouble coming and warn the reader, a role that was later filled his Happy’s three nephews (an idea lifted later by others, notably Carl Barks), and we never learned which brother was the father.

Opper would take his time with the strip’s stories, sending the trio of siblings to visit the world but just sailing from New York took months. In each country, Opper used cultural elements for his humor and invariably, the trouble would have him bashed and jailed as the international cast of gendarmes, cops, and other law enforcement types protected their people.

Later, Happy took on various jobs so the setting for the chaos altered but the gags rarely did.

Allan Holtz’s informative introduction gives us a look at Opper’s career and establishes why Hooligan and Opper succeeded. While producing the Sunday page, Opper through the years also wrote and drew accompanying features, totaling fourteen other strips until he put his brush down in 1932 when his eyesight failed him. During this career, he gave us a memorable character in Hooligan but also the immortal Alphonse and Gaston. It was Opper who began heavily using word balloons to convey dialogue as opposed to narrative surrounding the drawings.

Given the sameness of the strips to today’s readers, NBM wisely did not go the comprehensive route, but instead offers up a sampling of strips from 1902-1913, scanning the originals in their 2- and 4-color splendor. The book presents the strips horizontal, as intended, and the reproduction is solid. At $25, it’s a little pricey but the overall package and historic importance makes it worth a look.

Cartoonists Blog at NBM

Cartoonists Blog at NBM

NBM Publishing has just launched a blog by many of its star cartoonists.  The bloggers will include Rick Geary, Rall, Neil Kleid (Brownsville), Dirk Schwieger (Moresukine), Naomi Nowak (Unholy Kinship), Jesse Lonergan (Flower and Fade), and David Axe (War Fix).

The blog contains fresh comics and commentary from the artists.  In addition, the blog will replace NBM’s present news page and will announce NBM publications, author appearances, and other news.

"I’d like to think that for the first time anywhere we really are creating a community with this blog instead of just the editors informing their readers,” NBM publisher Terry Nantier said in a release. “Each artist has direct access to posting entries on this blog. You can RSS a specific artist and talk with one or with all and the artists between themselves as if on a panel at a con! Our readers will be able to see snippets of our authors’ new works as they’re coming along. This is the true NBM community coming to our site, and I’m quite excited about it!"

The new works that the artists and writers are previewing on the blog include:

To the Heights of the Golden Age, Jesse Lonergan’s memoir of life in the bizarre dictatorship of Turkmenistan.

• Naomi Nowak’s eerie graphic novel Graylight.

• Neil Kleid and artist Nicolas Cinquegrani’s The Big Kahn. Kleid says, “It’s the story of what happens when a New Jersey rabbi dies and at the funeral, his family and congregation of forty years discover that he’s been conning them: he isn’t even Jewish.”

Blogging is nothing new to NBM.  The company has published collections of comics blogs such as Trondheim’s Little Nothings and Schwieger’s Moresukine.  NBM has even run selections from these blogs on its website.

The new blog is part of a tradition of innovation dating back to 1976, when NBM (under the name Flying Buttress) became the first American house to publish an ongoing line of graphic novels.

R.I.P. ‘Confessions of a Cereal Eater’ Writer Rob Maisch

R.I.P. ‘Confessions of a Cereal Eater’ Writer Rob Maisch

Illustrator and ComicMix pal Bo Hampton recently passed along the following thoughts on this week’s death of Rob Maisch, the celebrated author of Confessions of a Cereal Eater:

Rob Maisch, the extraordinary raconteur who wrote 1995’s Harvey and Eisner nominated "Confessions of a Cereal Eater," published by NBM and illustrated by Rob’s friends, Bo Hampton and Scott Hampton, Rand Holmes and Sandy Plunkett, died this week unexpectedly of cardiac problems in Copley, Ohio.

According to his long-time friends, the Hamptons, his hilarious stories, energetic teasing, and love of life will keep him vividly alive for them forever.

 

Dick Ayers Reveals More!

Dick Ayers Reveals More!

Weekend ComicMix Radio continues our look at the career of Dick Ayers and how a simple coincidence brought him to the office of Stan Lee and made him part of the birth of the Marvel Age Of Comics. Plus we toss out a few trick-less treats like:

• A new and VERY limited Lone Ranger comic book

• NBM and Lewis Trondheim turn a blog into a graphic novel

• How you can win prizes by playing the online "bidding game"

And much more including a look back at a year when one of the bigger songs featured a shout out to Kelly Bundy. Stop drooling at the art and Press The Button!

GRAPHIC NOVEL REVIEW: Some Greasy Kids Stuff

GRAPHIC NOVEL REVIEW: Some Greasy Kids Stuff

 

 

Today I’ve got three books that either are for kids or look like they should be, so, if any of you are allergic to greasy kids stuff, just move on to the next post.

Dinosaurs Across America is the new book by Phil Yeh, who has spent the last two decades promoting literacy and art across the world in various ways, including lots of comics. In fact, this book was originally a black-and-white comic that was sold at various Yeh events. It’s a quick look at all fifty states in the US, with a concentration on quick facts and learning all of the capitals. One of Yeh’s recurring characters, Patrick Rabbit, has been suckered, and a group of dinosaurs (also recurring Yeh characters) set him straight on the real facts. There’s no real story here, but it’s a great book for kids interested in state capitals or geography in general. (Or even for kids who aren’t interested in that, but need to learn some of it.)

 

 

Korgi, Book 1 is the first in what’s planned to be a series of all-ages wordless comics stories. It’s by Christian Slade, and seems to be his first major comics work. It’s cute and fun and adventurous by turns, though the wordlessness doesn’t always help with a fantasy story like this. (The dogs, such as Korgi, are obvious Special somehow, but it’s hard to convey the specifics of something like that without words.) This is perhaps pitched a bit older than Andy Runton’s Owly books – also wordless comics stories from Top Shelf for all ages – simply because there’s more action and suspense in Korgi. (There’s certainly nothing here I’d worry about giving to my six-year-old.) Slade uses a lot of scribbly lines for shading and tones, and – especially after reading James Sturm’s America recently – that looks a bit amateur to me. Slade is very good at it, but it does leave an impression of lots and lots of little lines all over the page; it would be interesting to see him use other ways of showing tone and shading, and concentrate on drawing just a few, bolder, stronger lines. Or maybe not; he gets some great effects with his many lines, creating clouds and rocks and monsters that come to vivid life on the page.

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MARTHA THOMASES: Gotta Serve Somebody

MARTHA THOMASES: Gotta Serve Somebody

This past month has been a very busy one for me. I’ve been out of town three times, twice on business, and I’ve attended two trade shows and three comics conventions. It’s a lot of time to be thrust into crowds of people, whether waiting at an airport, a synagogue, a taxi line or a display booth.

This past month has exposed me to a variety of interpretations to the phrase, “customer service.”

I first started to think about this nearly 20 years ago, when I saw a presentation by Peter Glen, the author of It’s Not My Department: How to Get the Service You Want, Exactly the Way You Want It. At the time, I was working in the special events department for a large retailer, and we were just starting to feel the first effects of Wal-Mart and other discount stores. According to Glen, the way to compete was not by cutting prices, but by offering more service.

He doesn’t just mean stores need to hire more sales assistants. He means the customer must be treated with respect, as if her time has value, and her needs are important. Customer service includes displays that feature all available sizes, quality merchandise that doesn’t break, and efficient check-out. This shows the customer that the merchant understands her, and provides the best value.

“Value?” you say. “How can you say value is important when you first said stores shouldn’t compete on price alone?” Well, I’m glad you asked. Would you rather shop at Wal-Mart, where costs are kept so low that they won’t hire a security guard to patrol their notoriously dangerous parking lots, or at another store where the management demonstrates a concern for your safety? Would you rather by a cheap coffee-maker (or other small appliance) that you need to replace every year, or a good one that lasts a decade or more?

As a comics reader, would you rather buy a comic that has a cover that’s teasing or unclear, or would prefer one that clearly represents the story inside?

When I worked at DC Comics, I was astounded at how obscure some of the covers for the trade paperback collections could be. “Where’s the title?” I’d ask. “How can I tell who wrote and drew the story?” Often, this information would be on the back of the books, invisible to the customer looking at the display. “It doesn’t matter,” I was told. “By the time the book is racked, we’ve already been paid for it.”

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MARTHA THOMASES: Daddy’s Home

MARTHA THOMASES: Daddy’s Home

My husband really liked the column I did on Mothers’ Day (Brilliant Disguise #4). My stepmother also liked it. As a result, I feel a huge amount of pressure this week, as Fathers’ Day approaches.

Perhaps this is as it should be. Fathers, at least in literature, exert pressure. So do mothers, but fathers are much more stern about it, and send out much more of a mixed message. Zeus’ father ate him, for crying out loud. Jesus’ father sent him to die for our sins. Lear punished the only daughter who dared to tell him the truth. Jor-El proved his love by sending his son a universe away.

Fathers are stern. Fathers are cruel but fair. Fathers are distant. Tony Soprano? Please. Even today, on television, the best father, on Everybody Hates Chris, proves his love by working so many jobs he’s only home long enough to sleep and offer a bit of advice, if he’s lucky. In comics, the kindly fathers (or father figures) of Ben Parker and Thomas Wayne are all dead, inspiration only or motive for revenge. Jonathan Kent is the exception that proves the rule, depending on which continuity you’re in.

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MARTHA THOMASES: Gangster of Love

MARTHA THOMASES: Gangster of Love

This may come as something of a shock, but tomorrow night is the last episode of The Sopranos.

Now, I’m not the world’s most dedicated fan. I came late to the party, not tuning in regularly until the second season. I tend to be suspicious of critical darlings, afraid they might be uplifting and good for me, or depressing and bleak. However, in this case, my husband and my son were both enthusiastic, I recognized the name of creator David Chase from The Rockford Files, and so, one night, I didn’t get out of my chair when the distinctive theme song came on.

It would be nice if I could say that I was hooked on the brilliant acting, the profound scripts, even the incredibly realistic portrait of middle-class values in New Jersey. That would be a lie. I tuned in to watch Michael Imperioli, because I thought he was really cute.

Over the years, though, I got sucked in. Watching these characters week in and week out (not counting the breaks that lasted over a year) helped me to identify with them. No, I’m not part of organized crime, but I, too, tend to offer my loved ones food when they come to tell me about their problems. I’m not a hired killer, but I’ve been angry enough to want to take someone out to the woods and leave them there.

Serial fiction, like soap opera, comics and Harry Potter books, are especially good at enmeshing the audience with the cast of characters. What The Sopranos has done so well with the form is to take people who are evil, who kill and steal, and make them so mundanely human.

When I read a Superman comic every week, I feel like I’m spending time with a friend I’ve known since I was five years old. He’s in the media in a major media market, probably knows a bunch of the same people I know. Bruce Wayne has a penthouse in midtown, and is a big part of the city’s party circuit, a beat I’ve covered. The Legion of Super-Heroes is like a big dorm, and I lived in dormitories through high school and college.

So, even extremely unrealistic comic book characters present no challenge to me. I can bond with them no matter how inane nor how two-dimensional the writing. Even though they have super-powers (or at least super-human self-discipline), I can find things in common that make it possible for me to relate to them.

But Tony Soprano? He lives in (gasp!) New Jersey! He works in a strip club. Both of those things put me off, even before we get to the guns and the beatings. Carmella wears a lot of make-up, has lunch with her lady friends a lot, and seems to care about jewelry. These are not qualities common to my friends or me. How do I relate?

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