We’re going to look back at some of the books we’ve reviewed this year that would make great gifts, but we’re kicking off with a recommendation for two books, one of which was guest-reviewed by Mrs. PopCult, Melanie Larch, and one of which will also be reviewed by Mel next week:
Our first pick is a pair of novels aimed at readers aged 8-12 about Crime-fighting cats in Columbus. Written by musician and artist, Wolfgang Parker, these books chronicle the adventures of young Jonas Shurmann and his feline partners, CatBob, and Neil Higgins as they solve mysteries in the Clintonville area of Ohio’s Capitol City.
These books are loads of fun and you can read Mel’s review of The Dusenbury Curse next week in The PopCult Bookshelf. A portion of the profits from every new or digital sale of Crime Cats will go to the Crime Cats Relief Fund: a private charity that issues grants to help with medical care expenses for South Clintonville’s community cats.
Bobby London is a legendary Underground Cartoonist who’s famous for his work for The National Lampoon and Playboy Magazine, as well as being one of the infamous “Air Pirates” who were sued by Disney in the 1970s. In 1986 he was hired to take over the Popeye daily comic strip, and it was a match made in heaven.
London turned out to be the perfect choice whose writing and drawing style perfectly fit the character. London managed a perfect synthesis of Popeye’s three previous comic strip artists–E. C. Segar, Bud Sagendorff, and Bela Zaboly. He managed this while still retaining his own unique style. Six year into his run, after continued friction with King Features Syndicate, he was fired in the middle of a hilarious storyline where someone eavesdropping on Olive Oyl thinks that she’s planning an abortion.
These two volumes collect London’s entire run on the strip, including several weeks that were never published after he was fired. It’s a bit ironic that we’re just now getting to see about six week’s worth of strips that were “aborted” when he was fired. They wrap up the whole controversial storyline.
Weird Love: You Know You Want It
Who would’ve thought that a collection of old romance comics from decades ago would become the cult comic hit of the year in 2014? This book collects the first three issues of the Weird Love comic, edited by Craig Yoe and Clizia Gussoni. This book dredges up the best of the worst of romance comics which have fallen into the public domain. At one time, romance comics were among the best-sellers in the industry, but that time is long gone. The last of the mainstream romance comics fell by the wayside in the late 1970s, and the genre is pretty much forgotten now.
That’s what makes “Weird Love” such a treat. These are stories intended for young females. Many of the pre-date the comics code, so attempts to shock are plentiful. Many of the stories were cranked out by the same folks who were producing Z-Grade horror stories, and the tone of many of these stories is hilariously similar. The stories in “Weird Love” are like the best exploitation films. They try to shock, often failing in the most amusing manner. The unintentional humor, aided by the dated nature of the settings and dialogue, make “Weird Love” one of the funniest comic books on the market.
The Best of Comix Book
A collection of comic book stories from the strange moment when Marvel Comics and Underground Comix briefly got into bed together, The Best of Comix Book collects material from Comix Book, a newstand-distributed anthology that Marvel published in conjunction with Kitchen Sink Press in the 1970s.
It’s a real treat to have a well-made hardcover volume that brings us 150 pages of comix, plus over thirty pages of background information, including words from Stan Lee and Denis Kitchen (the original editor of the series and the publisher of Kitchen Sink), and an historical essay by James Vance.
This book prints almost half of what was contained in the original five issue run of the book, plus a couple of notable stories that didn’t make it into the original run of Comix Book. There is a story by Trina Robbins (“Wonder Person Gets Knocked Up”) that was intended for the first issue, but rejected by Marvel’s lawyers. We also get a ten-page story drawn by the great Alex Toth that was spiked by Stan Lee because he felt it was “too boring” and didn’t fit the tone of the book.
This is an instant primer on Underground Comix and a terrific collection of mostly unrestrained cartooning.
The classic Star Trek comic book that was, in the beginning, published while the show was still on the air retains the charm of Star Trek, The Original Series, and shows off how much quality storytelling you could actually pack into a comic book back before the current trend of “decompression” set in.
With scripts by Dick Wood and Len Wein, and art largely by Alberto Giolotti, these books hold up exceptionally well and have a sense of fun about them that is largely absent in today’s comics. Each volume reprints six issues of the Gold Key run of Star Trek in full color.
Pogo – The Complete Syndicated Comic Strips Vol. 3:
“Evidence to the Contrary”
It’s in this 368-page volume (featuring two years’ worth of Pogo strips) that we meet one of Walt Kelly’s boldest political caricatures. Folks across America had little trouble equating the insidious wildcat Simple J. Malarkey with the ascendant anti-Communist senator, Joseph McCarthy. The subject was sensitive enough that by the following year a Providence, Rhode Island newspaper threatened to drop the strip if Malarkey’s face were to appear in it again.
Kelly’s response? He had Malarkey appear again but put a bag over the character’s head for his next appearance. Ergo, his face did not appear. (Typical of Kelly’s layers of verbal wit, the character Malarkey was hiding from was a “Rhode Island Red” hen, referencing both the source of his need to conceal Malarkey and the underlying political controversy.) The entirety of these sequences can be found in this book.
A Weird-Oh World: The Art of Bill Campbell
This is not your conventional art book. Bill Campbell was a commercial artist in the classic sense. He began his career in the military during World War II. In fact, he was involved with The Manhatten project. After the war he found work with the Hawk Model Company, creating powerful box-top paintings that depicted the aircraft and other vehicles that kids could assemble from the kits contained within.
It was while doodling ideas on the side that he created the Weird-Ohs, grotesque trolls with vampire teeth, riding around in wild, cartoonish hot-rods. His creation of these iconic gross-out toys of the 60s predated Marx Toys’ Nutty Mads and Revell Models’ Big Daddy Roth Rat Fink kits. Weird-Ohs was the first, and Bill Campbell’s creations not only inspired competing toy and model kit lines, but also generations of kids who would grow up to create their own gross-out properties like Garbage Pail Kids, Mad Balls, Uglydolls and other things that delight kids and disgust parents.
Not merely an art book, A Weird-Oh World: The Art of Bill Campbell also includes a very well-written and research biography of Campbell by Mark Cantrell. Cantrell has assembled a massive amount of information, culled from personal interviews with Campbell as well as many other well-attributed sources. Cantrell has done an outstanding job telling the story of Bill Campbell’s life. Even without the art, this would be a fascinating read.
Thus concludes the book portion of the 2014 PopCult Gift Guide. Tomorrow The PopCulteer will present all the local gift ideas we can muster, and Saturday will see a late-evening post with our final installment–weird gifts.