Halfway through The Ten-Cent Plague, David Hadju’s excellent account of the American comic book witch-hunts of the 1950’s, there is an anecdote concerning Will Eisner, creator of the hugely influential The Spirit and one of the industry’s elder statesmen. Eisner was at a cocktail party in New York in 1953, and after spending a pleasant evening chatting with one of the other guests, the conversation turned to careers. When asked what he did for a living Eisner replied “I write comic books” whereupon the guest walked away in disgust. For Eisner it was just one more insult to his chosen profession and even though he had already scaled back his involvement in the industry, he turned his back on mainstream comics and wouldn’t return for almost 30 years. Sadly Eisner’s experience was by no means unique and illustrates the level of condescension and mistrust directed towards those who had chosen to work in the filed of comics. Continue reading The Ten-Cent Plague by David Hajdu
A series looking at some of my favourite book covers
and cover artists.
#5 Michael Whelan’s John Carter paperback covers from 1979
1912 was a good year for Edgar Rice Burroughs. After several uneventful years eking out a living as a ranch hand and other low income jobs, he turned his hand to writing fiction and in the space of a year saw the publication of his two most famous creations. One, a British Lord raised by apes in the African jungle, would quickly become a global phenomenon. The other, a Virginian gentlemen who travels to Mars, would take a little longer to achieve public recognition. Continue reading Paperback covers #5: The Martian Tales of Edgar Rice Burroughs
In early 1938 Action Comics no. 1 was published and a new genre of entertainment was born – the comic book had arrived. Although comics, in one shape or another, had been around for over three years it took this comic to cement the industry and create the first superhero and an American icon: Superman. Written and drawn by two Cleveland youngsters, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, the comic was published by National Allied Publications (later DC Comics). Action Comics was an instant success: the first issue sold 130,000 copies and within three years Superman comics would be selling over 1.5 million copies a month. Continue reading Superman: The High-Flying History of America’s Most Enduring Hero by Larry Tye
A series looking at some of my favourite
book covers and cover artists.
#4 Robert McGinnis’ paperback covers from the ’60s and ’70s.
There’s something beguiling about Robert McGinnis’ women.
As they stare defiantly at you from one of his paintings they seem to share a collective, enigmatic look. Sometimes that look is beckoning, other times challenging. Often it’s dangerous. And although his women are sexual – at times overtly so – they are rarely submissive or meek. His women are not victims but rather willing participants in whatever sordid misdeeds are consummated under the covers (of the books, that is). Continue reading Paperback covers #4: Robert McGinnis
Jack Kirby. King Kirby. King.
It’s a testament to Jack Kirby‘s lasting legacy to the comic book industry that just the epitaph ‘King’ is enough to identify him and the kind of comic with which he is synonymous. Kirby’s influence on the medium cannot be understated – he was present at the birth of the comic book industry in 1938 (the Golden Age) and he was one of the prime architects at it’s rebirth in the early sixties (the Silver Age). In a career spanning over 40 years he almost single-handedly created the visual lexicon of the comics medium, imbuing it with a dynamism, excitement and energy not seen before and he was instrumental in transforming the funny books from throw away pulp reprints to an art form in it’s own right. There isn’t an artist or writer working in the field today who doesn’t owe him a debt of gratitude, whether they know so or not. Continue reading Kirby, King of Comics (2008)
A series looking at some of my favourite book covers and cover artists, mostly taken from my own collection.
#3 Bantam Books’ Star Trek adaptions of the late ’60 and early ’70s
In 1967 New York publisher Bantam Books, in an attempt to cash-in on the popularity of the TV series Star Trek, commissioned science fiction author James Blish to adapt the scripts for the show’s individual episodes into short prose stories that could then be compiled into paperback collections. Those collections went on to sell very well with several of the editions being reprinted over a dozen times. Continue reading Paperback covers #3: Bantam Books’ Star Trek adaptions
Corpse on the Imjin! And other stories by Harvey Kurtzman
When I first heard that Fantagraphics had acquired the rights to the EC Comics archive I was initially a little wary. Over the last few decades there have been several attempts to reprint the EC library in various different formats culminating with Gemstone Publishings short lived plan to reprint all the comics in their entirety, with each hardback volume containing 6 entire issues. This reprint series, which would have included all the classic EC titles – including Tales from the Crypt, Vault of Horror and Weird Science amongst others – stalled after only a dozen or so releases. Continue reading Corpse on the Imjin!
A series looking at some of my favourite book
covers and cover artists, mostly taken from my own collection.
#2 Frank Frazetta’s covers for the Robert E. Howards’ Conan novels published by Lancer in the 1960’s
Texan author Robert E. Howard’s first published Conan story appeared in the December 1932 issue of the pulp science fiction magazine Weird Tales. Howard, a prolific writer responsible for hundreds of short stories, had previously experienced minor success selling to the pulps but it was his creation of a Cimmerian barbarian that struck a cord with readers. Continue reading Paperback covers #2: Frank Frazetta
The first in a series looking at some of my favourite book covers and cover artists, mostly taken from my own collection.
#1 Chris Foss’ covers for the Isaac Asimov novels published by Panther Science Fiction, circa late 1970’s.
It will probably come as no surprise to visitors to this site that as a child my main literary interest lay with comics. Marvel comics were my main staple but DC, 2000AD or any of the cartoon weeklies (Buster, Cheeky, Whizzer and Chips, etc) were all fair game. It’s hardly surprising that with such a diet of fantasy, adventure and heroics I then graduated to myths and legends – the greek and norse myths being particular favourites – and after that I made the natural progression to Science Fiction and Fantasy. I dipped my toe into some of the greats, Clarke, Bradbury etc, but found them all a little dry and I eventually settled on the John Christopher Tripods novels and early David Eddings, to name a few. Continue reading Paperback covers #1: Chris Foss