The PopCult Bookshelf

It’s capsule reviews time because your PopCulteer is juggling paying work with ArtWalk today, and isn’t able to go into great detail about anything. That’s also why there was no PopCult Toybox yesterday. You can expect bonus toy posts over the weekend. It’s been a really busy time here in the land of PopCult.

Luckily, we have two cool reprint volumes to tell you about. We must also butt into to tell you that your faithful blogger can be heard Thursday evening at 9 PM as a guest on Mark Wolfe’s “The Real” on New Appalachian Radio. It’s a fun, rambling conversation.

T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents Volume 5
by Steve Skeates, Wally Wood, Steve Ditko, Dan Adkins et al.
IDW Publishing
ISBN-13: 978-1631401824

51mM5m59x5LIDW is already up to Volume 5 in their reprinting of the classic, yet obscure, 1960s Superhero comic, T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents. This was a book that I loved as a kid. With top talent like Wally Wood, Steve Ditko, Dan Adkins and Gil Kane providing the art and scripts by Len Brown, Steve Skeates and others, T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents was a cool alternative to DC and Marvel. The unique packaging (each issue was giant-sized and sold for a quarter when other books were 12 cents) and irregular publishing schedule added to the mystique. The book spanned the 1960’s superhero boom, running from 1965 to 1969. It was an attempt by the paperback publisher, Tower, to break into comics.

I’ve written about T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents before here in PopCult. I told the story of how I was almost involved in a 1980s revival, and I was very enthusiastic about a DC Comics revival about five years ago. Since that time, DC has let their license of the characters pass on to IDW, who tried their own revival (currently on hiatus) and also their own reprints of the original comic books.

These reprints offer up a more affordable way to collect the series than DC’s Archive Editions from about ten years ago. And it’s also easier to read the softcover versions. This volume is going to be the next-to-last that collects the original comics. By this point in the run of the series (this volume collects three issues of T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents and one issue of Dynamo’s solo title), the stories were winding down, but they were still state-of-the-art for superhero comics in the late 60s.

These are fun comics with terrific art. So far the IDW volumes have simply followed the same model as DC’s Archive Editions, only without the text pieces. It remains to be seen if IDW will follow DC’s lead and explore the post-Tower Comics revivals in future volumes. Some of those comics have not been reprinted yet.

T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents was a great comic book of its time, and it’s good to see that it’s being kept in print.

Star Trek: Gold Key Archives Volume Three
written by Len Wein and Arnold Drake
art by Alberto Giolotti
IDW Publishing
ISBN-13: 978-1631402319

51iAIBs0KyLIt’s time for another hardcover collection of Gold Key’s Star Trek comic. This volume collects stories originally published in 1972 and 1973, and by this point the continuity quirks of the early issues had largely disappeared.

However, one quirk persisted. In four of the six issues collected in this book (which uses the original color schemes) all of the crew of the Enterprise wear green shirts, except for Mr. Spock, who retains his blue shirt. I can only assume that this was done to expediate the coloring process so that whoever colored the book didn’t have to try and remember who wore what colored shirt from panel to panel. Spock was the breakout character, so they kept his shirt recognizable.

I would also guess that after sixteen issues of this, Paramount told them to color the uniforms correctly, because they switch to normal with no explanation in issue #17.

The stories in this volume are pretty solid, and the art and layouts are great. Wein, by this point, was becoming a wunderkind in the business following his creation of Swamp Thing with Bernie Wrightson, and he eventually moved on to DC and Marvel full-time. Arnold Drake, a veteran comic book author (and creator of The Doom Patrol) took over and maintained a high level of storytelling. This volume reprints issues 13 through 18 of the original run of the comic book.

This is the first time that these stories have been collected in hardcover, and with IDW being in robust shape financially, it might be the first time that the entire run of Gold Key’s Star Trek comics is collected in print. It’s required reading for any longtime Trekkers.