Once more to the well we go. Our last Gift Guide post this year brings you the most-highly recommended books from the last 12 months of The PopCult Bookshelf. These run the gamut from bios to graphic novels to books about the history of various pop culture thing-a-ma-bobs. You should try to find these locally, but at this late date you might have to resort to the Amazonian option.
Books About Music
The Beatle Who Vanished
by Jim Berkenstadt
Rock and Roll Detective Publishing
The Beatles are the most documented rock band in history. Thousands of books have been written about almost every aspect of the band-their music, the people, the mystique, and anybody even peripherally involved in the universe of The Beatles. It’s rare to find a new book that has anything approaching new material. Read the whole review.
My life with the Turtles, Flo & Eddie, and Frank Zappa, etc.
by Howard Kaylan with Jeff Tamarkin
Foreword by Penn Jillette
Shell Shocked is an amazing autobiography. Howard Kaylanhas had an incredible, almost “Zelig” like career, with almost fifty years in show business in one form or another. From being a teen pop sensation as the lead vocalist for The Turtles, to backing up musicians such as Frank Zappa, Marc Bolan, Alice Cooper, John Lennon, and Bruce Springsteen, to writing comedy, co-hosting a hit radio show, creating music for classic cartoons or writing science fiction, Kaylan has done it all. There’s a lot more to Shell Shocked than the story of the song, “Happy Together.” Read the whole review.
Comics About Cartoonists: The World’s Oddest Profession
edited and designed by Craig Yoe
Yoe Books/IDW Publishing
“Comics About Cartoonists” is an absolute treasure. A collection of comic strips, panels and stories about the people who draw comic strips, panels and stories. Loaded with some of the biggest names in the history of the cartooning world, this book is a massive, loving collection of “inside baseball” stories, in-jokes, self-mockery and even a little score-settling. Read the whole review.
The Amazing, Enlightening and Absolutely True Adventures of Katherine Whaley
As Told to and Illustrated by Kim Deitch
Billed as a new entry in Kim Deitch’s series of graphic novel alternate histories of early twentieth century showbiz, “The Amazing, Enlightening and Absolutely True Adventures of Katherine Whaley” is a tour de force of completely believable, yet outrageous, fiction.
Deitch weaves a story of a woman who associates herself with a mysterious eccentric and lives an extraordinary long life. As with much of his recent work, Deitch creates a completely believable universe that seamlessly weaves the threads of real life, early twentieth century showbiz with his own fictional creations. The end result is a rich tapestry which sucks you in and almost totally convinces you that these are true stories. Read the whole review.
by Gilbert Hernandez
Drawn & Quarterly
I’m already on record as being a huge fan of Gilbert Hernandez. I’ve been on board since the first Fantagraphics issue of Love and Rockets over thirty years ago. As one of “Los Bros. Hernandez,” Gilbert always seemed to be more prolific than his brothers, Mario and Jaime, and has produced work of an amazingly high quality on his own for three decades now.
Marble Season is unlike any of his previous work. This is a semi-autobiographical snapshot of what it was like growing up in a largely hispanic Southern California suburb in the 1960s. Being a kid in that era meant a steady diet of things like comic books, GI Joe, monster movies, Sea Hunt, Mars Attacks cards, and games like Marbles. With this work, Hernandez has dared to tell a story that isn’t epic. So much of his work has world-shattering or life-changing plot points. Marble Season does not. It’s a simple, months long slice-of-life showing kids in a neighborhood, facing everyday situations and just beginning to learn about the pitfalls of growing up. Read the whole review.
“Madwoman of the Sacred Heart”
by Alexandro Jodorowsky and Moebius
Imagine a wicked satire of philosphy academia with a lot of sex, violence, surreal psuedo-Christian imagery, geo-political intrigue, a dash of Carlos Castaneda-style mysticism plus a mid-life-crisis and wish fulfillment thrown into the mix. Welcome to the world of Alexandro Jodorowsky.
“Madwoman of the Sacred Heart,” written by Jodorwsky with art by the legendary, Moebius, collects and translates three graphic albums originally published in France in 1992, 1993 and 1998. This is a superb work. That it has a cinematic quality is no surprise, given the extensive film work of both Jodorowsky and Moebius, but the disparate elements that blend so seamlessly make most attempts at describing in sound like a train wreck. Read the whole review.
Jack Kirby, of course, is the legendary creator of Captain America (with Joe Simon), The Fantastic Four, The X Men, Thor, The Avengers and most of Marvel Comics (with Stan Lee) and The New Gods, Kamandi, The Demon, The Eternals and Devil Dinosaur. His work is historic and influential, and is the epitome of what an action-oriented comic book should be. Read the whole review
Creepy Presents Steve Ditko
by Steve Ditko and Archie Goodwin
Foreward by Mark Evanier
Dark Horse Books
If you are a fan of Steve Ditko, this book is a must-have. Creepy Presents Steve Ditko collects all of Ditko’s work for Warren Publishing. When Ditko walked away from Marvel Comics, his first stop was Warren, where, for Creepy and Eerie, he produced some of the finest art of his career.
Excited to be working with Archie Goodwin, one of the best writer/editors in the history of comics, and eager to experiment with new art techniques and styles while working in black and white for the first time, Ditko produced a striking and diverse collection of beatifully-illustrated stories in a very short time. Read the whole review.
Comic Book History
Sean Howe has crafted a meticulous and fascinating history of one of the most powerful forces in Pop Culture, Marvel Comics. In “Marvel Comics The Untold Story,” Howe goes back to the 1930s and traces the origins of the company that would become Marvel. We learn about the superhero boomed during World War II. Then Howe guides us through the lean years of the 1950s to the glory days of the Jack Kirby/Stan Lee collaborations of the 1960s, the influx of wild young talent in the 1970s and the corporate machinations and comedies of error that almost sank Marvel in the 1980s and early 90s. The book ends with Marvel’s acquisition by Disney in 2009, and the detail is phenomenal. Read the whole review
Rack Toys: Cheap, Crazed Playthings
by Brian Heiler
ISBN 13: 978-0-99169-220-C
I love this book.
Let me explain. I am a toy collector. For my entire life, I have been attracted to the bright, shiny plastic objects in their colorful packages. I have a particular fondness for rack toys, the kinds of cheap-o toys that you find in drug stores, groceries and other odd places. I enjoy the mystery of the obscure manufacturers, the bizarre television tie-ins and the charm of the cheapness.
Basically, this book had me at the title. Read the whole review.
Mars Attacks is familiar to most folks today as the 1996 Tim Burton movie, but long before it was a movie, Mars Attacks was a legendary gore-fest of a trading card set. Released in 1962, this beautifully lurid B-Movie on cardboard thrilled kids and disgusted adults with its retelling of “The War of the Worlds” only with Earth getting hammered a bit more by bug-eyed little green Martians. Banned on schoolyards, it became the stuff of legend, and is one of the most sought-after non-sport trading card lines of all time.Read the whole review
I have to start this review off with a disclaimer: I am a huge fan ofMitch O’Connell. We palled around a bit at a couple of comic book conventions in the 1980s, when I was editing CODA, and we reconnected years later via MySpace and became online buddies. Mitch was the first guest artist featured in Monday Morning Art here in PopCult, and I have paid real cash money for his artwork. Plus he has the decency to be slightly older than I am.
So this is going to be a very complimentary review. Read the whole review.
Spümcø Comic Book is a most unusual collection. First of all, it collects two of the terrific oversized comic books that John Kricfalusi produced during the post-Ren and Stimpy era in the mid 1990s. These are great comic books with work by Kricfalusi, Jim Smith, Vincent Waller, Mike Fontanelli, Shane Glines and Rich Pursel, and they are ridiculously valuable due to low availability. Read the whole review.
The Adventure Time Encyclopaedia
written by Martin Olsen
Adventure Time has been a favorite of PopCult since its debut just a few years ago. What seems like the goofy, innocent adventures of a boy and his magic dog in a world of whimsical candy characters has turned out to be a pretty subversive post-apocalyptic, surreal serial adventure filled with complex relationships and loaded with cutting-edge humor, social satire and characters who are more realistically deliniated than those on most live-action television shows. Pendleton Ward has created what may be the most intricate, well-thought-out show in decades.
A book was a no-brainer, since Adventure Time is also one of the highest-rated shows on basic cable. Luckily, they didn’t just rush out a quick cash-in. The Adventure Time Encyclopaedia is an epic guide to the Land of Ooo (the Earth, one thousand years after a nuclear war) and is a must-have for any fan of the show. Read the whole review.
Reverent collections of gut-bustingly funny comic strips done in extremely poor taste are few and far between, but when the planets align and such a collection presents itself, one can only “ohh” and “ah” over it and treat it as the special treasure that it is. “Ray and Joe: The Story of a Man and His Dead Friend” collects several years worth of comic strips that Charles Rodrigues produced for The National Lampoon from the late 1970s to the mid-1980s. They are over-the-top with envelope-pushing bad taste and are characterized by Rodrigues’ deceptively grotesque cartooning and evil plotting.
They are, in short, brilliant. Sick, maybe, but still brilliant. Read the whole review.
The British Invasion
Nemesis The Warlock
by Pat Mills and Kevin O’Neill
with Jesus Redondo
This book is a collection of a wonderfully-twisted comic book series that originated in the legendary British weekly comic, “2000 A.D.” You may know that “2000 A.D.” was also the home of Judge Dredd as well as a variety of other cool sci-fi comic strips.
“Nemesis The Warlock” always stood out a bit from the rest of the 2000 A.D. strips. First of all, there’s the art. This is the early work of Kevin O’Neill, who went on to do “Marshall Law” with Pat Mills, and “League of Extraordinary Gentlemen” with Alan Moore. O’Neill’s style has been called “grotesque,” but I don’t think that’s a fair label. This is some beautiful work. It’s definitely unconventional. I suppose one might see artwork like this if the legendary Phillipino comics artist Alex Nino had ever been inked by the even more legendary American cartoonist Basil Wolverton. Read the whole review.
This handsome volume from Dark Horse collects almost all of the works done in collaboration by Peter Milligan and Brendan McCarthy. Those two were at the forefront of the “British Invasion” of comic book creators in the 1980s, and this collection shows why. No other creative team has so thoroughly blended the punk rock ethos with surrealistic psychedlica as Milligan and McCarthy. Read the whole review.
With that, we finally wrap up the 2013 PopCult Gift Guide. If you still don’t have any idea what to give people for Christmas, we can’t help you.