Thursday, 1 October 2020

DC Comics Cover Art by Nick Jones – Out Now!


I'm breaking my blogging silence (blame the pandemic for the lack of blog posts this year – it's as good an excuse as any... and it actually has been a tough year in some respects, as it has for many of us) to note that my new book, DC Comics Cover Art, is available now from all the usual places, published by DK. As the title suggests, it's a showcase of some of the best DC Comics covers of the past 80 or so years, selected by me (largely; a few other folk had input), with commentary also by me. Naturally I stuffed it full of as many of my favourite DC covers as I could, but that's not to say I wasn't also employing my critical faculties. Criteria for selection included bold, striking, or unusual designs; notable issues (i.e. first appearances, deaths and the like); unusual layouts and logo treatments, and of course just knockout art – all arranged under the recognised eras (Golden Age, Silver Age, and so on).


I think it's come together really nicely. I haven't seen a final printed copy yet*, but I did see layouts all the way through, and the juxtaposition of covers on spreads is very pleasing. As for the text, I worked hard to make it as informative and insightful as I could – a lot of research went into how and why covers were created – but how successful I was will, in the end, be determined by the reader. Obviously there are bigger things to worry about at the moment than a book about comic book covers, but maybe this book about comic book covers will bring some pleasure into someone's life. 


Incidentally, I'm working on a couple of other DC-related projects at the moment; still a little early to say anything more about them, but I should be able to share some info soon.

* Update 5/10/20: my author copies arrived today, and I'm delighted to report that the final printed book looks lovely.

Thursday, 6 February 2020

A Ripley's Game Reprise: 1974 US Knopf First Edition of Patricia Highsmith's Third Tom Ripley Novel

What scant posts there have been on here of late have been to do with comics – those are, after all, what have been preoccupying me both personally and professionally over the past year or so – but I have been picking up the odd book here and there too, and among those have been a number by another perennial preoccupation of mine, Patricia Highsmith. Just the other day I came into possession of this:


An American first edition of Ripley's Game, published by Knopf in 1974, dust jacket design by Janet Halverson (whose other jackets include the 1970 and 1978 US firsts of Graham Greene's Travels with My Aunt and The Human Factor, and the 1981 US first of Ross Thomas's The Mordida Man). You may recall... actually at this point I doubt anyone recalls anything I've written on Existential Ennui, but anyway: Ripley's Game, the third book in the Ripliad (soon to become a TV show, with Andrew Scott as Tom Ripley – intriguing and encouraging casting there), is not only my favourite Highsmith novel, but my favourite novel full stop, and it was the acquisition a 1974 Heinemann first a dozen years ago (in a long-since-vanished Cecil Court bookshop) that first got me into book collecting. As such, it's a totemic book for me.


I had my eye on a Knopf first six years ago, but it slipped through my fingers (as compensation I settled instead for a 1989 Heinemann Uniform Edition). The notion of getting my filthy mitts on a Knopf (ooer) has floated in and out of my head ever since then, but just the other day it seemed the fates had finally aligned when I was in Lewes's Bow Windows Bookshop and co-proprietor (and friend of mine) Ric mentioned he'd come into possession of one as part of a box of books – mostly crime fiction and spy fiction – he'd bought from a local. Or at least he thought he had: when we looked in said box, there was no sign of Ripley's Game. Bugger.

I'd pretty much resigned myself to the fact that once again the Knopf first had eluded my grasp when two days later Ric sent me a message saying he'd found it. And it turned out that not only was it a first edition (not a later printing – the Knopf edition went through a few), but it was once owned by local author John Pearson, he of James Bond: The Authorized Biography and The Life of Ian Fleming fame.


So I'm very happy with my copy (even though the dust jacket is a little battered: the sign of a well-read book, whether by Mr. Pearson or whoever it was Ric bought it off – and quite right too), not least because it affords me the opportunity to compare the US and UK first editions. The text in the Knopf edition, which was published in May of '74, a few months after the Heinemann edition, has been Americanised, or I suppose – depending on whether Highsmith, who was American, wrote the manuscript in American English – re-Americanised: within the first few sentences, there's a "parlor game" as opposed to "parlour game" in the Heinemann edition.


The Knopf has deckled edges, as is often the case with American editions, and a red-stained top block. I also rather like the jacket flap description of Tom Ripley as "energetic, amoral, overcivilized" and "undersensitized".


Now I suppose I'll have to write something abut the other Highsmith books I've picked up – especially as they're all signed.

Friday, 20 December 2019

A Big Long List of the Comics, Graphic Novels and Books I Read in 2019

I've barely had time to think over the past few months, let alone blog. Besides editing Star Trek Magazine – the next one, #74, is out in January – and related specials – a Star Trek: Voyager 25th anniversary one is out in February, followed by a Star Trek: Picard one in March – I've also written my fourth book (mostly; still a few bits to do in the new year). That will be out May 2020, and is about comic book covers. Doubtless I'll be banging on about that nearer the time, but the net result of all that is that I've been working flat out – hence the absence of posts here.


I have, however, been keeping track of what I've been reading – comics for the most part, plus a couple of science fiction novels. Next year I'd like to get back into prose fiction, but I've still got a fair way to go on Doug Moench, Don Newton, Gene Colan et al's Batman and Detective run (and have just unexpectedly secured the one issue I was missing, the elusive Batman #386, featuring the first apperance of Black Mask), plus sundry other back issues/rereads (Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo's Batman; Marv Wolfman and George Perez's New Teen Titans; Gerry Conway and George Perez's Justice League of America; Paul Levitz and Keith Giffen's Legion of Super-Heroes; Roy Thomas, Rich Buckler and Jerry Ordway's All-Star Squadron; J. M. DeMatteis and Mike Zeck's Captain America, and too many others to mention) – and that's without factoring in new comics. So we'll see if I manage to read any novels in the new year.

Anyway, here's what I read this year. Merry Christmas.

BOOKS
Gateway by Frederik Pohl (Del Rey, 1977)
Pushing Ice by Alastair Reynolds (Gollancz, 2005)
Watching the Watchmen by Dave Gibbons, Chip Kidd and Mike Essl (Titan, 2008)
The Art of Matt Wagner's Grendel by Matt Wagner et al (Dark Horse, 2007)
Kirby: King of Comics by Mark Evanier (Abrams, 2008)

OLD COMICS
Six from Sirius by Doug Moench and Paul Gulacy (Epic, 1984)
Six from Sirius 2 by Doug Moench and Paul Gulacy (Epic, 1985)
Rick Mason: The Agent by James D. Hudnall and John Ridgeway (Marvel, 1989)
Batman: Earth One Vol. 1 by Geoff Johns and Gary Frank (DC, 2012) (reread)
Batman: Earth One Vol. 2 by Geoff Johns and Gary Frank (DC, 2015)
Detective Comics #497–526 by Gerry Conway, Don Newton, Gene Colan et al (DC, 1980–83)
Batman #337–359 by Gerry Conway, Don Newton, Gene Colan et al (DC, 1980–83)
Detective Comics #527–539 by Doug Moench, Don Newton, Gene Colan et al (DC, 1983–84)
Batman #360–372 by Doug Moench, Don Newton, Gene Colan et al (DC, 1983–84)
Batman Annual #8 by Mike W. Barr and Trevor von Eeden (DC, 1982)
Batman: Son of the Demon by Mike W. Barr and Jerry Bingham (DC, 1987) (reread)
Planetary/Batman: Night on Earth by Warren Ellis and John Cassaday (WildStorm, 2003) (reread)
Star Trek: The Next Generation/X-Men: Second Contact by Dan Abnett, Ian Edginton and Cary Nord (Marvel, 1998)
Zero Hour: Crisis in Time by Dan Jurgens and Jerry Ordway (DC, 1994) (reread)
Batman: Brotherhood of the Bat by Doug Moench, Jim Aparo et al (DC Elseworlds, 1995)
Batman #300 by David V. Reed, Walt Simonson and Dick Giordano (DC, 1978)
Superman: Distant Fires by Howard Chaikin, Gil Kane and Kevin Nowlan (DC Elseworlds, 1998)
Batman: League of Batmen by Doug Moench, Mark Bright and Romeo Tanghal (DC Elseworlds, 2001)
Justice League: The Nail by Alan Davis and Mark Farmer (DC Elseworlds, 1998) (reread)
JLA: Destiny by John Arcudi and Tom Mandrake (DC Elseworlds, 2002)
Batman: Prelude to Knightfall by Doug Moench, Chuck Dixon, Graham Nolan et al (DC, 1993)
Batman: Knightfall Vol. 1 by Doug Moench, Chuck Dixon, Graham Nolan et al (DC, 1993)
Batman: Knightfall Vol. 2 by Doug Moench, Chuck Dixon, Graham Nolan et al (DC, 1994)
Gotham by Gaslight by Brian Augustyn, Mike Mignola and P. Craig Russell (DC, 1989) (reread)
Batman: Master of the Future by Brian Augustyn and Eduardo Barreto (DC Elsworlds, 1991)
Robin 3000 by Byron Preiss and P. Craig Russell (DC Elseworlds, 1992)
Batman/Houdini: The Devil's Workshop by Howard Chaykin, John Francis Moore and Mark Chiarello (DC Elseworlds, 1993)
Batman: In Darkest Knight by Mike W. Barr and Jerry Bingham (DC Elseworlds, 1994)
Wild Dog #1–4 by Max Collins and Terry Beatty (DC, 1987)
Underworld Unleashed by Mark Waid and Howard Porter (DC, 1995) (reread)
Justice League: Trinity War by Geoff Jones, Jeff Lemire, Ivan Reis et al (DC, 2013)
Forever Evil by Geoff Johns and David Finch (DC, 2013–14)
Batman (Vol. 2) #1–27 by Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo (DC, 2011–13)
The Hunter by Joe Sparrow (Nobrow, 2015)
Lost Property by Andy Poyiadgi (Nobrow, 2015)

NEW COMICS
Action Comics by Brian Michael Bendis, Patrick Gleason, Ryan Sook, Steve Epting et al (DC)
Batman by Tom King, Mikel Janin et al (DC)
Batman: Damned by Brian Azzarello and Lee Bermejo (DC)
Batman: Last Knight on Earth by Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo (DC)
Batman's Grave by Warren Ellis, Bryan Hitch and Kevin Nowlan (DC)
Batman/Superman by Joshua Williamson and David Marquez (DC)
Batman Who Laughs by Scott Snyder and Jock (DC)
Captain America by Ta-Nehisi Coates, Leinil Francis Yu et al (Marvel)
Criminal by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips (Image)
Curse Words by Charles Soule and Ryan Browne (Image)
DCeased by Tom Taylor and Trevor Hairsine (DC)
Detective Comics by Peter J. Tomasi, Brad Walker et al (DC)
Doomsday Clock by Geoff Johns and Gary Frank (DC)
Event Leviathan by Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev (DC)
Green Lantern by Grant Morrison and Liam Sharp (DC)
Green Lantern: Blackstars by Grant Morrison and Xermanico (DC)
Guardians of the Galaxy by Donny Cates and Geoff Shaw (Marvel)
Heroes in Crisis by Tom King and Clay Mann (DC)
House of X by Jonathan Hickman and Pepe Larz (Marvel)
Invaders by Chip Zdarsky, Carlos Magno and Butch Guice (Marvel)
Justice League by Scott Snyder et al (DC)
Lazarus Risen by Greg Rucka and Michael Lark (Image)
Legion of Super-Heroes by Brian Michael Bendis and Ryan Sook (DC)
Legion of Super-Heroes: Millennium by Brian Michael Bendis et al (DC)
Lois Lane by Greg Rucka and Mike Perkins (DC)
Powers of X by Jonathan Hickman and R. B. Silva (Marvel)
Man and Superman by Marv Wolfman and Claudio Castellini (DC)
Mysteries of Love in Space by various (DC)
Paper Girls by Brian K. Vaghan and Cliff Chiang
Punisher: Soviet by Garth Ennis and Jacen Burrows (Marvel)
Shazam! by Geoff Johns and Dale Eaglesham (DC)
Silver Surfer: Black by Donny Cates and Tradd Moore (Marvel)
Spider-Man: Full Circle by various (Marvel)
Superman by Brian Michael Bendis, Ivan Reis et al (DC)
Superman: Leviathan Rising by various (DC)
Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen by Matt Fraction and Steve Lieber (DC)
Superman: Year One by Frank Miller and John Romita Jr. (DC)
Trees: Three Fates by Warren Ellis and Jason Howard (Image)
Undiscovered Country by Scott Snyder, Charles Soule and Giuseppe Camuncoli (Image)
Walking Dead by Robert Kirkman and Charlie Adlard (Image)
War of the Realms by Jason Aaron and Russell Dauterman (Marvel)
X-Men by Jonathan Hickman and Leinil Francis Yu (Marvel)
Year of the Villain #1 by various (DC)
Black Adam: Year of the Villain by Paul Jenkins and Inaki Miranda (DC)
Black Mask: Year of the Villain by Tom Taylor and Cully Hamner (DC)
Joker: Year of the Villain by John Carpener, Anthony Burch and Philip Tan (DC)
Lex Luthor: Year of the Villain by Jason Latour and Bryan Hitch (DC)
Ocean Master: Year of the Villain by Dan Watters and Miguel Mendonca (DC)
Riddler: Year of the Villain by Mark Russell and Scott Godlewski (DC)
Sinestro: Year of the Villain by Mark Russell and Brandon Peterson (DC)
Young Justice by Brian Michael Bendis, Patrick Gleason et al (DC)

Thursday, 29 August 2019

(Mostly) 80s Comics Cavalcade: Brighton Comic Mart Bargain Bonanza


Back in July, over successive days one weekend, there were two distinct but related comic marts, both titled Comics And Beer, in two different Brighton pubs. One was in a couple of smallish rooms upstairs at the Haus on the Hill and consisted of boxes and piles of organiser The Reaper's (no, me either) own wares; the other was in a bigger area at the back of the North Laine Brewhouse and consisted of The Reaper's wares plus a selection of other dealers. I went to both and ended up with a sizeable pile of comics, most of them hailing from the 1980s, most for either 20p or 50p each. It was brilliant. Here's what I got.


A load of '80s indie comics: Mike Grell's Starslayer (Pacific Comics/First Comics, 1982 onwards), including the second issue, which features the first appearance of Dave Stevens' the Rocketeer (in a back-up strip); Mark Evanier's DNAgents (Eclipse Comics, 1983 on); Mike Grell's Jon Sable (First, 1983); Neal Adams' Ms. Mystic (Pacific, 1982); Bill Willingham's Elementals (Comico, 1985); and Mike Baron's Badger, including the Hexbreaker graphic novel (First, 1988).


Some Marvel and Epic stuff: Simon Furman and Bryan Hitch's Death's Head #1 (1988); Alan Davis's ClanDestine #1 (1994); and Steve Englehart and Steve Leialoha's Coyote #1–5 (plus #14).


A run of Roger Slifer and Keith Giffen's Omega Men (DC Comics, 1983 on), missing #1 (which I'd bought not long before anyway for 50p in Dave's Comics' bargain dump bins) and #3 (first appearance of Lobo, so no wonder I couldn't find it in the 20p boxes).


Some random DCs: Roy Thomas, Rich Buckler and Jerry Ordway's All-Star Squadron #1 and 13 (1981 on); Legion of Super-Heroes #259 (in which Superboy buggers off and lets the Legion have their own title at last) and 282 (1980/1981); Marv Wolfman and Gene Colan's Night Force #1 (1982); DC Comics Presents #36 (1981); Justice League of America Annual #1 (1983); Superman Special #1 (1983); and the New Teen Titans Drug Awareness Special (1983).


A bunch of Baxter-paper DCs: Mike W. Barr and Brian Bolland's Camelot 3000 (1982–1985); J. M. DeMatteis and Paris Cullins' Forever People (1988); and a few issues of Vigilante (1983 on).


More Baxter DCs, plus a couple of 1990s DCs: Pete Milligan, Brett Ewins and Steve Dillon's Skreemer (1989); Robert Loren Fleming and Trevor Von Eeden's Thriller (1983–1984 – I'd previously bagged #1 in Dave's dump bins); Don McGregor and Gene Colan's Nathaniel Dusk (1984–1985); Mark Waid and Howard Porter's Underworld Unleashed #1 (1995); and Batman: KnightGallery (1995), an Elseworlds one-shot by Doug Moench and lots of different artists.


A couple of Scott Snyder/Greg Capullo New 52 Batmans I was missing, and a run of Tom King et al Rebirth Batmans, mainly the rather nice Tim Sale cover variants.


And lastly, a run of #1–20 of Roy Thomas, Dann Thomas and Michael Bair's Young All-Stars (1987 on).


One of the dealers at the Sunday mart was the aforementioned Dave's Comics, whose bargain bins frequently produce fine 50p wares. Some of those I showcased in my previous 80s Comics Cavalcade post, but more recently I bagged the above. I was particularly pleased with the Mark Evanier/Steve Rude Mister Miracle Special (DC, 1987) and the complete Peacemaker miniseries (DC, 1988) by Paul Kupperberg and Tod Smith.

So those were my Bighton comic mart (and shop) bargains. Hmm. I should probably post something about some of my '80s comics eBay wins at some point as well, shouldn't I? Justice League of America and All-Star Squadron anyone...?

Monday, 22 July 2019

Star Trek Magazine #71: Picard, the Borg, Jeri Ryan and Jonathan Del Arco

Anyone with even half an eye on events at this past weekend's San Diego Comic-Con 2019 can't have failed to notice the revelations about the forthcoming Patrick Stewart-starring Star Trek: Picard. The biggest surprise at the Hall H panel on the Saturday was the announcement that both Jeri Ryan – Star Trek: Voyager's Seven of Nine – and Jonathan Del Arco – Star Trek: The Next Generation's Hugh Borg – will be making appearances in the show (as will Brent Spiner, Jonathan Frakes and Marina Sirtis, as Data, Riker and Troi respectively). So it would be remiss of me not to point out that both Ryan and Del Arco are interviewed in the current Star Trek Magazine, issue #71 (#198 in the UK) – a Borg 30th anniversary special, still on sale now.


Clearly I was exhibiting some form of precognition when I commissioned those interviews... and Ryan wasn't exactly fibbing when, in answer to the question would she ever return as Seven, she replied, "Never say never."


If you're interested in reading Ryan and Del Arco's thoughts on the Borg – or indeed former Star Trek executive producer Rick Berman's reminiscences about Borg creator Maurice Hurley (among many other Borg- and non-Borg-related Trek matters) – Star Trek Magazine #71 is available at newsagents, in specialist sci-fi and comic stores, or direct from Titan Magazines.

Friday, 12 July 2019

80s Comics Cavalcade Back Issue Bonanza: Captain America, New Teen Titans, Legion of Super-Heroes and More

I've documented most of the early–mid 1980s Gerry Conway/Doug Moench/Don Newton/Gene Colan et al Batman and Detective Comics, er, comics I've collected – in fact have pretty much finished collecting; just the elusive (and pricey) Batman #386 from Moench's run left to secure – since the start of the year, but I've been picking up lots of other 1980s comics besides – not to mention turning up ones I'd forgotten I even had...


Somewhere, sometime – no idea where or when but it must have been a good few years before this latest collecting frenzy – I'd somehow conspired to collect (or rather re-collect; I originally had them back in the 1980s) a good number of J. M. DeMatteis and Mike Zeck's Captain America comics (plus the preceding short stint by Roger Stern and John Byrne). With my fervour for '80s comics reinflamed this year, it seemed the right time to collect the post-Zeck DeMatteis Caps as well, which I duly did at a London comic mart, with a couple of stray issues from Dave's Comics in Brighton.


To those I added a run of late-1980s Mark Gruenwald/Kieron Dwyer Caps, which I came across at the Lewes Book Fair. I've not read those ones before, so I'm interested to find out what they're like.


Something I have read before, in large part, is George Perez and Marv Wolfman's New Teen Titans, and again in Brighton, in the basement of the ramshackle, aptly-named Raining Books (previously Rainbow Books) on Trafalgar Street I found a stack of cheap copies from early in the run. Courtesy of Dave's Comics I filled in some gaps, and then on eBay I secured a run of issues #3–15...


...plus key issues DC Comics Presents #26 – which has a 16-page New Teen Titans insert, the first appearance of the team – and Tales of the Teen Titans #44, which is the first appearance of former Robin, Dick Grayson, as Nightwing (long one of my favourite comics characters).


Then in Scorch Comics in Eastbourne, for just a tenner, I scored the first issue of the series:


(plus some Mike W. Barr/Alan Davis Detectives, and a couple of post-Moench Batman issues), meaning I now have a near-complete run of #1–50 (missing just #2, the pricey first appearance of Deathstroke).


Once again from Dave's in Brighton, I bought a run of Paul Levitz and Keith Giffen's Legion of Super-Heroes – some from the 50p dump bins, some from the general back issue bins – including the celebrated "Great Darkness Saga" – plus most of the Legends-tie-in Cosmic Boy miniseries...


...the sole remaining issue of which I subsequently picked up in 30th Century Comics in Putney, along with the first four Legion Annuals. While I was there, I also bought the issues I was missing from Steve Engelhart and Joe Staton's Millennium miniseries, some of which I'd already found in those aforementioned Dave's Comics 50p dump bins....


....alongside all manner of other 50p comics: Robert Loren Fleming and Trevor Von Eeden's Thriller #1; Cary Bates, Gene Colan and Klaus Janson's Silverblade #1...


...all four issues of Max Collins and Terry Beatty's Wild Dog miniseries; the first three issues of Jim Starlin and Berni Brighton's The Weird miniseries...


Roger Slifer and Keith Giffen's Omega Men #1; Mike W. Barr and Jim Aparo's Outsiders #1; Gerard Jones and Mike Parobeck's El Diablo #1; plus a late-1990s JLA in Crisis Secret Files and Origins.


Further afield, in the Cartoon Shop in Basildon, I came across a cheap set of the first 13 issues of Roy Thomas and Jerry Ordway's Infinity, Inc...


...which was handy, because I've also been collecting the "Ultra War" storyline from Roy Thomas and Jerry Ordway's All-Star Squadron, which features the first appearance of Infinity, Inc.


And, inevitably, there have been more issues of Batman and Detective, too – from Mega City Comics (Brian Augustyn and Mike Mignola's Gotham by Gaslight, the first Elseworlds title), 30th Century Comics (Batman #307, the first appearance of Lucius Fox), Gosh! Comics (Detective #575, the first part of "Batman: Year Two", which completes my run of Barr/Davis Detectives), Dave's Comics, and Scorch Comics (where I also scored DC's two-issue Christmas with the Super-Heroes, the second issue of which features stories by Paul Chadwick, Eric Shanower and Colleen Doran) – not least, and returning to my earlier comment about turning up comics I'd forgotten I had, these:


Batman #408–410 by Max Allan Collins, Chris Warner, Ross Andru and Dave Cockrum (in which, post-Crisis on Infinite Earths, Jason Todd, the second Robin, is reimagined as a juvenile delinquent rather than a circus acrobat – comics, eh?), which I came across in the loft whilst hunting for something else, and which I have no idea where (or when) they came from. A turn up for the (comic) books indeed.