White Collar – a Novel in Linocuts

By Giacomo Patri (Dover Comics & Graphic Novels)
ISBN: 978-0-486-80591-7

Win’s Christmas Gift Recommendation: An Epic Reminder that not everyone enjoys the same joys and benefits we do… 10/10

We tend to think of graphic novels as being a late 20th century phenomenon – and one that had to fight long and hard for legitimacy and a sense of worth – but as this stunning over-sized (286 x 218 mm) two-colour hardback reveals, the format was known much earlier in the century… and utilised for the most solemn and serious of purposes.

White Collar was created by jobbing illustrator, artist, educator and activist Giacomo Patri in 1937: encapsulating the tenor of the times as America endured the Great Depression with a view to inspiring his fellow creatives…

Unable to find a publisher for his shocking and controversial pictorial polemic, Patri and his wife Stella self-published their first edition, but happily found publishers for subsequent releases, if not the huge, hungry, underprivileged and angry audience it deserved…

Patri (1898-1978) was born in Italy but raised in America. Living in San Francisco from 1916 he overcame the handicap of polio and worked at many menial jobs until his interest in art carried him through the California School of Fine Arts. Thereafter he became an illustrator for the San Francisco Examiner, San Francisco Chronicle and other newspapers.

Patri had been interested in social justice and labour issues since the late 1920s and once the Depression struck those beliefs only crystallised. Manual or “blue collar” workers had long organised and unionised to secure their bargaining rights and fair wages and Patri saw that office workers like himself were as likely to need such power and autonomy too. This book was his way of convincing them…

A compelling Introduction by his descendents Tito Patri & Georges Rey offers context, historical background and technical information on the production of linocut art as well as revealing how the creation of such cheap, language-transcending visual tracts became a relatively common method of dissemination.

Also included is the story of the artist/author’s troubles during the repressive, red-baiting Joe McCarthy years and beyond…

Following the salutary lesson is the Original Introduction by fellow artistic agitator and creative pioneer Rockwell Kent before Patri senior’s endeavours to arouse his fellow illustrators and clerical staff unfold in 128 bold images of stark metaphor and rousing symbology: an astounding visual record and call to arms tracing one family’s struggle between 1929 and 1933, delivered with beguiling subtlety and shocking silent potency in plates of deepest black or startling orange.

The ‘Novel in Linocuts by Tito Patri’ is dedicated “To the great progressive Labor Movement, the Congress of Industrial Organisations” and remained both obscure and controversial for years not just for its left leaning content but due to its uncompromising depiction of the abortion catch-22: a truly heart-rending depiction of a family too poor to survive another mouth to feed but without the cash to pay a back street quack for an [illegal] termination…

Stirring, evocative and still movingly inspirational as the world staggers closer and closer to replicating those dark days of Haves, Have-Nots and Why-Should-I-Cares?; this magnificent rediscovery closes with a final assessment and plea from cartoonist, designer and contemporary activist Peter Kuper in his trenchant Afterword and the Original Epilogue by John L. Lewis…

Inventive, ferocious in its dramatic effects, instantly engaging and enraging, this is a book long overdue for revival and reassessment and one every callous “I’m All Right” Jackass and “Why Should I Pay For Your…” social misanthrope needs to see or be struck with…
© 1987 by Tamara Rey Patri. Introduction © 2016 by Tito Patri. Afterword © 2016 by Peter Kuper. All rights reserved.

Tarzan on Film

By Scott Tracy Griffin (Titan Books)
ISBN: 978-0-85768-568-1

Soon after the publication of Tarzan of the Apes in 1912, the character – thanks in no small part to Edgar Rice Burroughs’ acumen as a self-promoter – became a multi-media sensation and global star.

Many sequels followed; a comic strip arrived in 1929, followed by a radio show in 1932 and the Ape-Man inevitably carved out a solid slice of the comicbook market too once the industry was firmly established. However, the earliest and most effective promotional tool – one which took on a life of its own – was Tarzan’s frequent forays into the world of celluloid.

This impressive coffee-table art-book, released to coincide with the latest long-awaited movie, offers an eye-popping blend of intimate background, biographies and a critical overview, supplanted by hundreds of production stills, candid photos and – most welcome to art lovers – movie posters and promotional artwork from each theatre release.

Compiled and written by author and historian Scott Tracy Griffin (Tarzan: The Centennial Celebration), the book catalogues the history of the filmic franchise by focusing on every film and each actor to play the Ape-Man and his mate Jane, as well as finding room to spotlight the most memorable villains, glamorous femme fatales, supporting characters and even that purely filmic innovation Cheetah.

Affording equal importance to the large and small screen iterations – live-action or animated – the history lesson begins after an Foreword from past-Tarzan Casper Van Dien and traces the iconic, world-famous Jungle Lord from Elmo Lincoln in 1918’s Tarzan of the Apes (one of the first six films ever to gross more than a million dollars) through to today’s The Legend of Tarzan, with Alexander Skarsgård delivering the “victory cry of the Great Bull-Ape”…

There’s even a tantalising section on the “Original Kids” CGI series Tarzan and Jane forthcoming from Netflix…

This magnificently monolithic epic (224 pages and 262 x 23 x 333 mm) hardback volume is liberally illustrated with photographic stills and promo art, and also includes examples of Bob Kline’s production art and storyboards, model sheets and stills from the glorious Filmation Tarzan, Lord of the Jungle Saturday morning cartoon show from 1976-1984.

For the technically-minded and those of a completist bent there’s also a full list of The Works of Edgar Rice Burroughs, including Tarzan Feature Films, Movie Serials, TV Movies and Series and thematically-linked Additional Films plus Acknowledgements and a copious catalogue of suggested Further Reading

It seems that whatever your vintage, there’s a nostalgia-drenched Tarzan waiting (mine is Ron Ely who starred as both TV and movie Man-Ape from 1966-1970) to spark old memories and foster fresh thrills and this is just the book to get those primal juices flowing.

Tarzan on Film is both intriguing and pretty: enticing and genuinely informative enough to keep any fan happy. If it’s not too soon for the “C” word it might well be this years first suggestion for giant-sized end-of year stocking-stuffer…
Tarzan ® & © 2016 Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc. All Rights Reserved. All images © 2016 Edgar Rice Burroughs Inc., Warner Bros, or Walt Disney Pictures. All Rights Reserved.

The Louvre Collection: Cruising Through the Louvre

By David Prudhomme translated by Joe Johnson (NBM ComicsLit/Louvre: Musée du Louvre Éditions)
ISBN: 978-1-56163-841-3

Some years ago the Louvre Museum in Paris began an intriguing and immensely rewarding collaboration with the world of comics, and their latest beguiling translated bande dessinée is now available in English, courtesy of those fine folks at NBM.

Cruising Through the Louvre is a multimedia paean to the art of drawing; a beautiful, oversized hardback graphic art narrative which follows the artist on a bewildering tour of the galleries as he searches for his beloved Jeanne.

As he searches for her, he realises that the pictures on the walls, the statues in the halls and the mementoes of world history all form a perfect sequential narrative like his own comics works.

…And then he grasps how the art and the observers are all locked in a mirror-clear relationship feeding off and entertaining each other…

Author/artist Davis Prudhomme was born in Tours in 1969 and, after studying at the École de l’Image in Angoulême, began his cartooning career with Ninon Secrète in 1992, collaborating with Patrick Cothias. Whilst producing that series he worked on solo projects ‘La Tour des Miracles’ (adapted from George Brassens’ book), ‘L’Oisiveraie’, ‘Voyage aux Pays des Serbes’ and ‘Port Nawak’.

Amongst his most notable award-winning efforts are La Marie en plastique, Rébétiko and this fabulous graphic rumination of the creation and situation of art, which first debuted in 2012 as La Traversée du Louvre.

The book in question, which manages to be beguiling, expansive and charmingly funny by turn, is produced in close collaboration with the forward-looking authorities of the Musée du Louvre, but this is no gosh-wow “Night-at-the-Museum” thinly-concealed catalogue of contents from a stuffy edifice of public culture. Rather, here is a sedately seductive, introspectively loving examination of the power of art and history to move the masses and especially the creatively inclined…

Supplementing the voyage of narrative interaction is a fact-packed data-file section detailing the accoutrements and educational and scientific achievements of the institution (how many other art museums have their own functioning particle accelerator?), subdivided into mind-boggling details about ‘The Building’, ‘The Works’, ‘The Visitors’ and ‘The Agents’, plus all the traditional Additional Information and dedication addenda you’d expect and hope to see.

This is another astounding and marvellously magical comics experience no art lover or devotee of the visual narrative medium can afford to miss…
© Futuropolis/Musée du Louvre Éditions 2012. © NBM 2016 for the English translation.

Secret Teachings of a Comic Book Master: the Art of Alfredo Alcala

By Heidi MacDonald & Phillip Dana Yeh with art by Alfredo Alcala (Dover Comics & Graphic Novels)
ISBN: 978-0-486-80041-7

Win’s Christmas Recommendation: A Perfect, Old-School Craft-Book Prezzie… 9/10

We haven’t covered a “How To” book for ages and this is one of the most intriguing and rewarding I’ve seen in many a year.

There is a host of books both academic and/or instructional designed to inculcate a love of comics whilst offering tips, secrets and an education in how to make your own sequential narratives.

There are others intended to foster and further the apparently innate and universal desire to simply make art and make it proficiently and well (see for example the superb and lengthy list of Dover Books on Art Instruction and Anatomy at the back of this particular tome).

There are, however, precious few that do it with as much style, enthusiasm or perspicacity as this latest re-release from the culture-preserving heroes at Dover.

As much biography and philosophical treatise on work-ethic as training manual, Secret Teachings of a Comic Book Master: the Art of Alfredo Alcala resurrects a slim and informative monochrome package from 1994 compiled from the thoughts and especially a vast selection of gorgeous illustrations and examples from one of the most influential and meritorious masters of illustration Comics ever produced.

Following an effusive ‘Introduction by Gil Kane’ and passionate exhortations in ‘A is For Alfredo – a Personal Reminiscence by Roy Thomas’ the real meat of this tome is presented in ‘On the Road with a Real Artist by Phil Yeh’ wherein scribes Heidi McDonald and Yeh repackage the wit, wisdom and sheer gracious enthusiasm of the man we in the English-speaking world think of mostly as a superb inker, but who was so much more.

Alfredo P. Alcala (1925-2000) was born in Talisay, Negros Occidental: part of the chain of islands known as the Philippines. He lived through the Japanese Occupation of WWII (playing a small part in their defeat) and the years following when America supervised the country. An obsessed autodidact and self-taught artistic prodigy, he held a number of creative jobs before joining the extremely popular Philippines “Komiks” industry in 1948.

A phenomenal talent – and lightning fast – he quickly rose to prominence and started his own publishing house. When his period adventure serial Ukala was made into a hugely successful movie he was already at the peak of his powers, but he followed that with the groundbreaking Sword-&-Sorcery series Voltar and became influential on the world stage.

At the beginning of the 1970s horror boom he moved with a number of other Filipino stars to America where their florid illustrative styles and broad genre experience defined the look of US comicbooks for a decade.

Although he was a superbly versatile draughtsman and storyteller, Alcala’s most beloved and well-known contributions were made during sustained runs as inker on Conan, Batman, Swamp Thing and others and, when the industry moved away from the Filipino style, he and his compatriots moved to California and began excelling in the voracious, talent-consuming animation business…

Taken from memories of shared train journeys, this section offers insights and anecdotes interspersed with Alfredo’s real Secret Teachings of How to be an Artist as recalled by fellow traveller and creative fellow spirit Phil Yeh, packed with illustrative examples from published comics as well as intimate sketches and studies from a man who simply never stopped drawing…

The remainder of this evocative bible from a sublimely classicist illustrator and self-made wonder breaks down into a potent series of tutorials beginning with ‘The Art of Observation’ which is neatly subdivided into helpful guides to ‘Discovering Your Style’, the proper use of the correct ‘Tools’, the crucial mastery of ‘Anatomy and Proportion’ and the truth about ‘Composition’, all thoroughly backed up and supported by examples from Alcala’s vast back catalogue.

Next comes a most crucial treatise on the disciplines specific to graphic narrative entitled ‘Thinking About Comics’, again augmented with cogent and beautiful visual back-up and biographical minutiae from ‘Ukala’, ‘Conan’ and the superbly impressive historical commemoration The Gift.

This is followed by an in-depth 20-page reiteration of all that’s gone before, using Alcala’s groundbreaking Voltar as model and exemplar, complete with critical deconstruction by the master himself, and everything wraps up a with quick lesson on ‘Painting’, using one of Alcala’s own murals as the basis for a stringent and informative Q & A session.

This glorious paperback is aimed squarely at the progressing cartoonist, rather than total neophyte, and provides as much a philosophy of creativity as strict instruction, but the sheer profusion of Alcala’s magnificent monochrome will satisfy comics fans as well as budding artists and storytellers.

If you already have the urge to make pictures but want a little encouragement, this wonderful celebration will offer a steadying hand and all the support you could dream of.
© 2015 Dover Publications, Ltd. Introduction © 1994 Elain Kane. Introduction © 1994 Roy Thomas. Conan the Barbarian art © 1994 Marvel Entertainment Group. All rights reserved.

Secret Teachings of a Comic Book Master: the Art of Alfredo Alcala will be released November 27th 2015 and is available for pre-order now. Check out www.doverpublications.com, your internet retailer or local comic or bookshop.

The Legend of Korra: Book 4 – Balance – the Art of the Animated Series

By Michael Dante DiMartino, Bryan Konietzko & Joaquim Dos Santos (Dark Horse)
ISBN: 978-1-61655-687-7

Win’s Christmas Gift Recommendation: Astonishing Art Attack for Kids Of All Ages… 9/10

Autumn is officially here, and huge men from many countries are running about very genteelly trying to cripple each other, so it’s hard to escape the conclusion that the Holiday Season is inescapably close. And after all, Christmas films have been playing on Sky Movies since early March…

Seriously though, if you’re prudent, it is time to start looking at gifts for your loved ones – or even family – and here’s something that will delight aspiring artists and lovers of fantasy television: one of the most evocative animation art-books I’ve seen in many a year…

Always foremost amongst the fascinating publishing add-ons to accompany major motion picture releases or mega-successful TV cartoon shows are the supplemental “Art of…” compendiums, such as this tome dedicated to the spectacular manga-inspired Nickelodeon hit The Legend of Korra.

A magnificent and stupendously oversized (312 x 246 mm) full-colour luxury hardcover, this is actually the last of a quartet of books tracing the progress of the critically acclaimed, commercially triumphant series, which aired for 52 episodes between 2012 and 2014 in the USA, divided into four chapter-seasons or “Books”: Air, Spirits, Change and Balance.

The show has been likened to Game of Thrones but that’s just lazy pigeon-hole reviewing so don’t be put off. You don’t even need to be a fan of the show to enjoy the astounding, gloriously enticing and visually breathtaking example of the collaborative animators’ art gathered within, but in case you’re looking for a bit of context here’s a little background…

Devised by Bryan Konietzko & Michael Dante DiMartino, the series began life as a 12-part continuation of Avatar: the Last Airbender – albeit, set seventy years later – on a fantastic world redolent of the works of Hayao Miyazaki (Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, The Wind Rises), where certain momentous individuals are born with the power to manipulate the classic of Elements Earth, Air, Fire and Water.

All the eternal problems of greed, privation, venality and political ambition still plague the people though, and inevitably war and conquest are seen as the solution to obstacles by the worst humanity has to offer…

The series targeted older kids and was a huge hit, winning great approval for its frank treatment of real-world problems such as terrorism, dissent and socio-political unrest as well as for its forthright and groundbreaking treatment of race, gender and issues of sexual identity. It also looked stunning whilst doing it…

Dark Horse Editor Dave Marshall worked with DiMartino, Konietzko and Co-Executive Producer Joaquim Dos Santos to compile another eye-popping mix of production and concept art, storyboards, panoramic views, production sketches, designs, development art and models, a wealth of beautiful background paintings and a bountiful mass of model-sheets for each of the legion of characters which populated the show, all augmented with incisive commentary and colour from the creators, resulting in a splendid coffee-table chronicle which is utterly bewitching.

After Introductions from DiMartino, Konietzko & Dos Santos, the book cleverly divides into thirteen chapters, offering all those aforementioned construction-elements on an episode-by-episode basis. Thus ‘Chapter 1: After All These Years’ and ‘Chapter 2: Korra Alone’ display the characters and settings at the starting point whilst succeeding instalments ‘The Coronation ’, ‘The Calling’, ‘Enemy at the Gates’, ‘Battle of Zaofu’, ‘Reunion’, ‘Beyond the Wilds’, ‘Operation Beifong’, ‘Kuvira’s Gambit’, ‘Day of the Colossus’ and the apocalyptic ‘Chapter 12: The Last Stand’ disclose the changes and developments in the cartoon cast and scenarios necessitated by the meticulously unfolding epic in a manner which is both captivating and revelatory.

The fantastic feast for the eyes then concludes with a selection of ‘Ancillary Art’ featuring character illustrations, poster art, unused roughs, book cover sketches, faux “photo-booth snapshots”, promo art, blog illustrations and prints from the series’ tribute art shows.

This is an awesome book that will certainly inspire artistically-inclined youngsters, and bereft fans of the broadcast iteration of The Legend of Korra can console themselves with the fact that Dark Horse are going to continue the adventure in comicbook form just as they have so successfully done with defunct shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel and Firefly.
© 2015 Viacom International Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Adventure Time: The Original Cartoon Title Cards Seasons 3 & 4

By various (Titan Books)
ISBN: 978-1-78329-896-9

Just in case you’re unfamiliar with the Cartoon Network show this book celebrates, Adventure Time is set in a post-apocalyptic future about a thousand years after the “Great Mushroom War”. In the crazily magical Land of Ooo a bizarre coterie of life-forms live their strange lives and a human boy and his shapeshifting dog are having a grand old time…

The series is multi-award-winning and an absolute paragon of meticulous yet inspired creativity. Populated with an astoundingly bizarre cast which includes notional heroes Jake and Finn, regal Princess Bubblegum, Marceline the Vampire Queen, elephantine Treetrunks, the Earl of Lemongrab, gabby Lumpy Space Princess, BMO, Neptr, Agent Princess, Susan Strong, dour penguin Gunter and cool, cruel antagonist the Ice King, every aspect of each episodes is planned in the most minute detail, even to the so-briefly-glimpsed introductory images which depict each story’s individual designation.

Those “Title Cards” are just one more opportunity for the in-house creative wizards to push boundaries and their own artistic envelopes and have been celebrated with their own glitzy eye-popping albums. This sublimely surreal second selection – gathering the incredible, gone-in-a-second scenes in a more lasting and luxurious setting – features bold, bizarre and beautiful breaks in narrative from the third and fourth season conceived and crafted by Natasha Allegri, Gunnar Gilmore, Tom Herpich, Nick Jennings, Andy Ristaino, Rebecca Sugar, Pendleton Ward and Michelle Xin, each visual accompanied by behind-the scenes notes, preliminary sketches and commentary by the individual illustrator.

Presented in a stunning, sturdily oversized (295 x 232 mm) full-colour hardback the otherworldly wonders are preceded by an excitable Introduction and rapturous Resumés of the Artists involved, before the 42 individual episode cards with evocative legends such as ‘Conquest of Cuteness’, ‘Memory of a Memory’, ‘Fionna and Cake’, ‘Beautopia’, ‘Dad’s Dungeon’, ‘You Made Me’ and ‘Reign of Gunters’ beguile, bedazzle and bewilder with seductively teasing terms any and every lover of weirdness and wild all-ages escapism.

Strangely addictive, madly absurd and sweet as cartoon candy, this is a treat for young and old alike. Adventure Time, Cartoon Network, the logos and all related characters and elements are ™ and © Cartoon Network (S15). All rights reserved.

Adventure Time: The Original Cartoon Title Cards Seasons 3 & 4 will be released on August 4th 2015 and is available for pre-order now.

Flawed Dogs – The Year-End Leftovers at the Piddleton “Last-Chance” Dog Pound

By Berkeley Breathed (Little, Brown & Co.)
ISBN: 978-0-316-71359-7

After an all-too-brief and glittering career as a syndicated strip cartoonist and socio-political commentator (so often the very same hallowed function) Berkeley Breathed retired his deadline-crushing Bloom County and Outland strips to become a writer and illustrator of children’s books.

He lost none of his perception, wit or imagination, and actually got better as a sequential artist. He never completely abandoned his entrancing cast of characters and always maintained the gently excoriating, crusading passion and inherent bittersweet invective which underscored those earlier narratives.

An adventurous – if accident-prone – man with a big heart and love of animals, in 2003 Breathed crafted a stunningly moving, achingly heartbreaking and darkly hilarious painted hardback picture-book which presented itself as a brochure of no-hope pooches (and their former owners) being offered one final chance to escape the needle at a Podunk animal shelter deep in the wilds of Vermont…

The Piddleton “Last-Chance” Dog Pound is the place other institutions send all the dogs who have failed to find homes anywhere else, but even it has space limitations. The tireless organiser of the annual push to re-home all these one-of-a-kind, misunderstood mutts is Miss Heidy Strüdleberg; a former President of the American Kennel Club and prominent dog show judge who had a close encounter with a three-legged Dachshund that changed her life forever.

Rejecting that unforgiving and artificially idealised society, she resolved to strike a blow against a world that shuns the flawed and only has time for perfection. And here you can see in all their homely glory a host of uniquely lovable last-chancers like Bipsie, Noodles, Titus and Sam the Lion, all accompanied by pictorial examples of how they achieved their current sorry states with pungently potent verses of doggerel describing their meagre blandishments…

The success of this book led to notional sequel/prequel Flawed Dogs: The Shocking Raid on Westminster and Heidy’s tale will be seen as a forthcoming major motion picture…

Less a story than a crushingly captivating cartoon catechism for canine deliverance, delivered in sharp and lyrical rhyme, this is a book to trigger consciences and promote (considered) dog adoption which will make a grown man howl and children sit up and beg. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll think hard before going online and adopting a pet that needs a home…
© 2003 Berkeley Breathed. All rights reserved.

Street View

By Pascal Rabaté translated by Terry Nantier (NBM/ComicsLit)
ISBN: 978-1-56163-908-3

Whilst everyone else you know is risking life and limb at the post-Christmas sales (or carpal tunnel syndrome by buying online) here’s a splendid little graphic confection to add to your own shopping list.

French bande dessinée creator (Exode, Ibicus, Les Petits Ruisseaux) and filmmaker (Wandering Streams, Du goudron et des plumes) Pascal Rabaté was born in August 1961 in Tours. Raised in Langeais, he studied printmaking at l’École des Beaux-Arts d’Angers in the 1980s before he began selling comics tales in 1989.

Always experimental, his works ran against contemporary trends as he moved towards a personal kind of Expressionism. His four-volume Tolstoy graphic adaptation Ibicus garnered awards and critical acclaim and cemented his reputation amongst the leading lights of French comics.

In 2013 he crafted a novel and sublimely witty tribute to Alfred Hitchcock (specifically Rear Window) entitled Fenêtre sur rue (Matinées), Fenêtre sur rue (Soirées) which is now available to English speakers. To be honest there’s only a tantalising, scene-setting introductory paragraph to anglicise… everything else is this confection is a wry witty pictorial progression of timeless pantomime and voyeuristic intrigue…

Street View (Mornings) is an “accordion book”: there is no spine holding individual pages together, but rather ten “widescreen” tableaux, run together as one continuous (neatly folded) Mise-en-scène scroll, depicting intimate and personal events as one morning passes on an ordinary street.

The scenario depicts two shops with upstairs apartments, a small house and a low-rise block of flats through certain times of day, with seventeen glass storefronts, doors and windows all affording sneaky peeks at folks living their lives in what they think is perfect privacy…

With the reader as silent witness, all their stories unfold before our sensation-hungry eyes: single viewpoint vignettes of frustration, love, betrayal, family crisis, outrageous humour, petty vindictiveness, idiocy, vanity, bad behaviour, drastic change and maybe even murder…

Street View (Evenings) is the flipside of the scroll, revealing for the dedicated viewer the freedom and license which grips all those isolated participants when they think themselves fully cloaked by darkness (if not drapes and curtains) …

This thrilling, funny – and yes, little bit creepy – intoxicating ensemble piece is a superb example of how pure graphic storytelling can beguile, inform and entertain: transcending barriers of language and custom with slickly effective imagery and primal narrative. It’s also one hell of a damn fine read and you simply must see it…

© 2013 Edition Soleil/Rabaté. © 2014 NBM for the English translation.

Black Light: The World of L.B. Cole

By Leonard Brandt Cole with an introduction by Bill Schelly (Fantagraphics Books)
ISBN: 978-1-60699-762-8

The early days of the American comicbook industry were a whirlwind of spectacular exuberance and the front covers of the gaudy pamphlets that endlessly proliferated were all crafted to scream “Buy Me! Buy Me!” from within a sea of similar sights.

As such, that first visual contact was crucial to success and one of the greatest artists ever to mesmerise kids out of their hard-earned dimes was Leonard Brandt Cole (28th August 1918 – December 5th 1995) who had a master designer’s knack for combining captivating ideas and imagery with eye-popping style and technique.

Although he also illustrated quite a few interior strips (for Holyoke, Ajax, Farrel and Gilberton), Cole’s true gift and passion was devising attention-grabbing cover images rendered in what he called “poster colors”.

Whether on Horror, Superhero, Science Fiction, Sports, Humour, Crime, War, Western, Rugged Adventure, Jungle, Romance or Funny Animal titles, his stellar, absorbing art was instantly recognisable and in great part is what defines the Golden Age of Comics for us today…

His influence doesn’t end there, however. A shrewd businessman and editor, Cole started his own studio-shop to manufacture stories for assorted companies and parlayed it into publishing company (initially by buying existing properties from client Novelty Press in 1949) and then diversifying through his Star Comics line into genre novels, prose-pulps, puzzle-books and general magazine periodicals.

Frequently he would combine his electric primary colours over a black background adding instant extra punch to his renditions of masked champions, soaring spaceships, macabre monsters and a legion of damsels in love or distress…

Before joining the nascent comics industry in the early 1940s, Cole’s background was in science and printing. He studied veterinary science (he held a doctorate in Anatomy and Physiology from the University of Berlin) but was working as a lithographic Art Director when he made the seemingly sideways transition into illustration and comics.

Incredibly this colossal (272 pages, at 337x235mm), durably Flexibound compendium is his first major retrospective, bringing together a multitude of his most impressive works in one immense, colourful and informative volume

The astounding career of a comicbook Renaissance man is covered in fascinating detail in ‘Comics by Design – the Weird Worlds of L.B. Cole’ by pre-eminent historian of the medium Bill Schelly, whose appreciation ‘Fever Dreams in Four-Color Form’ is followed by his erudite biography and timeline of the artist, divided into four discrete periods.

Each section is augmented by photos, covers, original artwork and even comics extracts – ranging from panels and splash pages to complete stories (such as Paul Revere Jr.) – covered in lavish detail in ‘Into Comics’ and ‘Cole as Publisher’ whilst ‘Out of Comics’ focuses on his later move into commercial art, education and illustration.

In the 1980s Cole was “rediscovered” by comics fandom and achieved minor celebrity status through appearances at conventions. ‘Art Among the Junk’ covers this period up until his death when he began recreating his iconic covers as privately commissioned paintings for modern collectors.

The true wonder of this glorious phantasmagorical collection follows in ‘The Comics Covers of L.B. Cole’ which showcases long runs of the artist’s stunning covers – nearly 350 eye-popping poster images – from such evocative titles as 4Most, All-Famous Police Cases, Blue Bolt, Captain Aero, Cat-Man Comics, Classics Illustrated, Contact Comics, Confessions of Love, Criminals on the Run, Dick Tracy, Flight Comics, Frisky Animals, Ghostly Weird Stories, Killers, Jeep Comics, Mask, Popular Teen-Agers, Power Comics, Ship Ahoy, Shocking Mystery Cases, Spook, Sport Thrills, Startling Terror Tales, Suspense Comics, Target Comics, Terrors of the Jungle, Top Love, Toy Town, Western Crime Cases, White Rider and Super Horse and many more…

The pictorial feast doesn’t end there though as ‘Further Works’ gathers a host of his non-comics covers including books such as The Greatest Prison Breaks of All Time, Murders I’ve Seen, Raging Passions and Love Hungry, as well as magazine covers for joke periodicals like Wit and Wisdom, Sporting Dogs and World Rod and Gun. Gentleman’s publications and “sweat mags” such as Man’s True Action, Man’s Daring Adventures and Epic (Stories of True Action) also feature: all augmented with articles, working sketches and original drawings and paintings. There’s even a selection of his superb animal studies and anatomical and medical textbook illustrations, plus private commissions, recreations and unpublished or unfinished works…

Black Light is a vast and stunning treasury of fantastic imagery from a bygone age by a master of visual communication that no fan of popular art could fail to appreciate, but for comics lovers it’s something else too: a seductive gateway to astounding worlds of imagination and breathless nostalgia impossible to resist.
Black Light: The World of L.B. Cole © 2015 Fantagraphics Books. All comics, artwork, photos, illustrations and intellectual properties © 2015 the respective copyright holder. All rights reserved.

The Squickerwonkers volume 1

By Evangeline Lilly & Johnny Fraser-Allen (Titan Books)
ISBN: 978-1-78329-545-6

Win’s Christmas Gift Recommendation: Beguiling fun for kids of all ages… 9/10

In the good old days children used to be exposed to literature both entertaining and at the same time morally edifying. Generally that meant frontloading wonderful tales of adventure and imagination with scarcely concealed threats of dire retribution for acts of rebellion of minor malfeasance – and a good thing too, say I.

Coming from that first generation of kids who grew up watching Doctor Who from behind the sofa, we all know the value of thrills, chills and spectacle safely experienced from a base of comfortable security. The stuff we read – such as the unexpurgated Fairytales of the Brothers Grimm – gave us all a thorough grounding in wonder and responsibility and a deep loathing of sanitised modern pablum masquerading as entertainment for youngsters.

Happily, recent times have thrown up an increasing number of tomes for tots that tantalisingly re-embrace the wild, dark and deliciously dangerous realms of fantasy and wonder and such is definitely the case with this delirious original comic romp from actress and author Evangeline Lilly (Lost, The Hobbit, The Hurt Locker).

Delivered in vivacious, vivid verse, this splendid picture book is astoundingly and lavishly illustrated by Johnny Fraser-Allen (senior sculptor and conceptual designer at WETA Workshop with works like The Hobbit trilogy, Narnia Chronicles and Spielberg’s Tintin to his credit): an introductory bestiary to a band of particularly peculiar creatures with their own rigorously enforced code of conduct…

Simply stuffed to overflowing with utterly entrancing painterly images of the rough-carved and close-cut cast, the rhythmic revelations commence following a glowing and emphatic Introduction from Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens, after which the curtain rises on obnoxiously tantrum-addicted little Selma, supercilious scion of the Rin-Run Royals.

On this occasion the haughty tyke pokes her over-privileged nose into a fascinating travelling circus wagon and encounters a family of eerie animated puppets and macabre marionettes who are uniformly unimpressed by her credentials and uncouth demands to see the incredible “Squickershow”…

Taking umbrage at her boorish manners the dauntingly garish Papa the Proud parades his bizarre band of brothers and sisters before “inviting” Selma to join their creepy capering crowd. Her tantrums are all to no avail and soon she is literally enchanted to become just one of the gang…

As well as the laconic epic of leery limericks and arcane etchings, this stunning book also includes luxurious biographies of the creative crew involved and ends with a fabulous no-strings attached feature giving each of The Squickerwonkers their moment in the limelight.

The roguish retinue of delightful dummies includes the aforementioned Papa the Proud, Mama the Mean, Gilligan the Guilty, Meghan the Mute, Greer the Greedy, Gillis the Gluttonous, Sparky the Spectacle, Lorna the Lazy, Andy the Arrogant and, making her travelling stage puppet show debut, Selma the Spoiled

Clearly conceived with one wise eye towards an animated feature in the future, this slim cautionary comedy of manners highlights a coterie of unsettling stars in a rousing fable your kids will want to read over and over again. And so will you.
© 2013 Evangeline Lilly.