The PopCult Bookshelf
It’s been a few months since we’ve checked in with our friends behind the Charlton Neo movement and they’ve got two great new print volumes currently available. In case you haven’t been reading PopCult for the last year and a half or so, the Charlton Neo movement is a revival of sorts of Charlton Comics, the loveable, perennial also-ran of the comic book world that published their last comic in 1986.
This revival all began with The Charlton Arrow, a Facebook page which became an anthology comic book, and now Charlton Neo has expanded into a full line of comic books including Westerns, Romance, Hot Rods, and other cool, less-explored comic book genres. You can help support Charlton Neo by contributing to their Patreon site, where for as little as one dollar a month you can gain access to Pix-C, a growing assortment of very high quality weekly web comics. But this week, we’re going to look at their two latest print releases.
The latest issue of The Charlton Arrow, the flagship title of the Charlton Neo movement, includes a terrific mix of great stories.
The book leads off with “Day of Decision,” a story that combines the stars of three Charlton humor strips, “Li’l Tomboy,” “Li’l Genius,” and “Rock and Rollo.” Believe it or not, this funny kids comic is actually filled with existential angst, kind of. We are then treated to a text story starring “Sue and Sally Smith, The Flying Nurses,” written by Larry Wilson with a really cool illustration by Mark Wheatley
Then we find a story starring “Digger” Graves, the son of Charlton’s horror host, Dr. Graves, who is working as a Paranormal P.I. This is a fun story by Paul Kupperberg, with great artwork by Andrew Mitchell. This is followed by part 3 of a vintage, unpublished Peacemaker story written by Joe Gill and drawn by Pat Boyette for Charlton back in 1967. That is followed by the hilarious “Stinky Skunk, Gunslinger,” a two page strip by Roger McKenzie and Matt Hansel that successfully combines Westerns with funny animal comics.
Taking a scholarly turn, we next have a text feature that looks at the history of Charlton’s Bobby Sherman comics.
After combining Westerns with funny animals, noted comics writer Roger McKenzie (Daredevil) combines Monster comics with World War II comics in the first chapter of “World War Dinosaur,” presented with lovely sepia tone artwork by Ruben Vera. This is a great taste of what promises to be a fun and exciting series.
Next up, we have “Re-Capture,” written and drawn by Mort Todd, which is a sequel to a fifty-one year old story from Charlton’s “Space War #26.” This is another fun blast from the past.
The book winds up with a classic Charlton style horror story called “Back Seat Terror.” The writer is Chuck Dixon, who you may know as the co-creator of the Batman villain, Bane and the artwork by Enrique Villagran terrifically conveys this moody little thriller.
As I have said repeatedly when writing about the Charlton Neo movement, these are the most fun comics being published today. Nothing can help you recapture the childhood joy of reading comics like spending an afternoon getting lost in this engrossing anthology. Unlike most mainstream comics today, which all basically seem like a homogenous blob of overwritten, formulaic painted super hero stories, The Charlton Arrow covers so many different genres that they even combine them in some of the stories.
You can’t go wrong with Steve Ditko. The man is one of the greatest comic book creators of all time, having co-created Spider-Man and Doctor Strange for Marvel as well as dozens of other characters on his own. Ditko has always been an independent-minded, idiosyncratic storyteller who has few peers in the business.
This book collects five stories that Ditko wrote and drew for Monsters Attack! magazine in 1989 and 1990. All are written and drawn by Ditko, who inks his own pencils in all but one story. That one story is inked by Mort Todd, who is the colorist and editor of this volume. If you were a fan of Ditko’s work for Charlton, then you should know what to expect.
The stories are a wonderful mix of science fiction inflected horror, with great twist endings and spectacular art.
If you were one of those kids who grew up reading Charlton’s “Mystery” titles like “The Many Ghosts of Dr. Graves,” “The Magazine Is HAUNTED,” and “Midnight Tales,” among others, you will love this book. If you read the stories when they were published in Monsters Attack!, now’s your chance to get them in color. They look fantastic.
There’s a hint of nostalgia about this book because you’re getting primo Steve Ditko working in a genre that has largely been forgotten by the comics industry and it’s perfect cloudy day reading for the Halloween season.
Both of these books are available through Amazon and at Mort Todd’s website (links are above, under each title) and by buying these you are supporting the Charlton Neo movement which, as I mentioned earlier, you can also support through their Patreon site. Charlton Neo has definitely put the fun back in comics, at least for this reader.