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by Wayne Markley
Since this blog is posted a few days before Christmas you still have time to run to your local comic store and pick up one or a lot more of these gift ideas. Or, if you are like me, Jewish, you have six days of Hanukkah left to get one of these gifts for that person who enjoys a good read. all of these are recent releases and while they may be available in retail stores, if you want to buy online I would suggest www.westfieldcomics.com, for great pricing and a very broad selection. I have tried to pick out a few books which I consider to be a very great package for the price and thus make a great gift and also consist of material I really took pleasure in reading and would recommend to a friend, such as the readers of this column.
Fantastic four by Waid & Wieringo
First off, I have raved non-stop about mark Waid’s current run on Daredevil, which I think is maybe the best comic marvel is currently publishing. I have found that a lot of people have forgotten that mark also had a great run of the fantastic Four, along with Mike Wieringo (and a few friends). marvel has recently collected all of Waid’s work on the fantastic four in four spiffy trade collections which have very great paper which really accent and showcase Wieringo’s beautiful art. I have recently just re-read the first sixty issues of the fantastic four and I am happy I did because it really gave me an appreciation of what Waid was doing with his run. It is evident that mark Waid was deeply influenced by Lee and Kirby’s run, and he takes their ideas and builds upon them, and tweaks and adds to the mythology to make an entertaining and fun comic. Also, as Waid does in Daredevil, he takes little things from the original comics and expands these little aspects of stories from forty years prior and makes them into major parts of the FF mythology. Plus, the stories with the Frightful four and Galactus alone make these collections worth reading.
Chuck Jones: The dream That never Was
Next is a special book from IDW all about a Chuck Jones project called Crawford, which is a project Jones spent years on. He was deeply devoted to this project in many ways and even developed it as a daily newspaper strip, which never got off the ground. This book is aptly named a The dream That never Was as Chuck Jones spent an massive amount of time working on this project and this book goes in depth into the creative process, as well as all the work and thought that went into the concept of Crawford. While a lot of people know Chuck Jones for his classic work on Bugs Bunny, how the Grinch Stole Christmas, road Runner, Marvin the Martian, and much more, this book shows just how creative and thoughtful Jones was. It is a fascinating insight into a creative genius and how he put his projects together. As a special bonus, this book collects the complete newspaper strip of Crawford, six month’s worth of strips, which alone are worth the price of the book. If the Crawford strip is not worth it to you, then the biographical background on Chuck Jones (which is nearly half the book) would make it worth your money. It makes a beautiful gift.
Frank Robins’ Johnny Hazard
This next book might come as a surprise for people who know me and know how much I complain about Frank Robbins work on Batman and for marvel in the 1970s (Invaders, etc.). Well, let me apologize. Hermes press has just released a very great collection of the first two years of the Johnny Hazard daily strips. Wow, can Robbins tell a story. The first thing that struck me was how much Robbins was influenced by Milt Caniff. reading these early strips it is nearly like checking out Caniff’s Terry and the Pirates. I have seen some of Robbins work on Scorchy Smith, which is good, (and if you can find it, you would be hard pressed to find a better book than Scorchy Smith and the Art of Noel Sickles. Noel Sickles was an incredible artist and storyteller), but by the time Robbin’s started Johnny Hazard, he had progressed as a storyteller by light years. From the opening strips where Johnny Hazard and his comrades are escaping a prisoner of war camp, to the last page of the last story, it is one non- stop adventure. I found I could not put the book down as I sat there reading page after page. It genuinely is a page turner. While Robbin’s art compares with Milt Caniff, his story telling is closer to Roy Crane in that the story grabs you and drags you along for a ride you will not soon forget. (This is a lot more than I can say for a lot of of the monthly comics I read).
Milo Manara is an incredible Italian artist who is best known for his drawings of women. and he does draw some amazingly beautiful women. Unfortunately, his highest profile work is X-Women. This was a full color one shot, and it was very pretty and it was competent, but it somehow lacked the appeal of his other work, nearly all of which was done in Europe. much of it was reprinted in the us over the years, and all a lot of all of it is now out of print. But, do not worry because Dark horse Comics has taken on the task of reprinting all of Milo Manara’s work in beautiful oversized hardcovers called the Manara Library. These books are a bit on the high side in terms of pricing, but they are worth every penny. The first volume reprints one of Manara’s epics with his frequent co-collaborator, Hugo Pratt, the designer of the fantastic (and once again rarely scene Corto Maltese). This first volume reprints Indian Summer, which is set in the American west and is an epic in every way, from the vastness of the story to the sensational appeal of the art. It was written by Pratt but Manara’s art takes a great story and makes it into a masterpiece. also included in this first volume is the story the Paper Man. nearly as a bonus, these stories are freshly translated by comic scholar and co-owner of Fantagraphics Books, Kim Thompson, and he does an incredible job. This is the first volume of a planned nine volume set collecting all of Manara’s work, and volume two will include collaboration with Hugo Pratt, El Gaucho. Alas, I do not know if these collections will include Marvel’s X-Women story. The first two volumes in this series are in full color, and my understanding is the stories will be in color or black and white depending on how they first appeared. As a side project Dark horse is going to also collect all of Manara’s adult only work, including the classics Click and Butterscotch. Manara is one of the masters of the comic art form that should have this lush treatment as his art is both breathtaking and beautiful.
These are just a few things I thought I would point out in case you were still trying to find a last minute gift this holiday season. I want to take a moment and thank everyone who reads this column twice a month and take the time to comment on it. I am consistently taken aback when someone comes up to me at the Westfield retail store and tells me they read this or that blog and then we have a long discussion, both pro and con, about what I have written. Or at times I have had people actually get a book because what they have read here. So, please let me say, thank you. I hope everyone has a joyous and delighted holiday season, no matter what they believe or celebrate. here is to 2012 being a great year for comics, comic book stores, and the world in general and for all of us. As always, these are my opinions and thoughts and they do not reflect the thoughts or opinions of Westfield or their employees. Thoughts, comments, review copies or hate mail can be sent to MFBWAY@AOL.COM.