Sunday, May 31, 2015

A Trimpe Gallery!

As I've said before, Herb Trimpe is a hero of mine. A comic book artist of high distinction who brought energy and emotion to his distinctive pages. Most closely identified with the Hulk, he was a mainstay at Marvel in the Bronze Age, the time when I was soaking up that fictional universe in all its glory. But Marvel, at least in this universe proved not to be so pleasant and Trimpe was pushed out of a business he'd given his all to for decades. He found a new path and inspired me all over again with his writings about his struggles and his work with the victims of 9-11. Herb Trimpe was a great artist, but he was a greater man.

Here are some Trimpe gems from across the decades. As you'd expect there is a heaping helping of Hulk. But as you might not expect there is a great deal more.

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Saturday, May 30, 2015

Tales To Astonish!

Ronin Ro's Tales to Astonish purports to be a biography of Jack Kirby, though admittedly the cover blurb does make some noise about Stan Lee and whatnot. I did learn some things about Jack "King" Kirby reading Ro's chronology of events from the earliest days in the slums of New York City to his days in the army overseas during World War II and right on through his time with Joe Simon and Stan Lee and beyond. Ro dutifully follows Kirby as his main thread, but sadly I don't somehow think Kirby was his main subject.

The early parts of the story seem to move swiftly as Kirby is quickly raised and takes his place among the multitude of young and mostly Jewish artists who were trying to crack into comic strips by way of the junk which were comic books. We race through his time with Joe Simon as the pair work in tandem to upgrade the superhero comic then invent the romance comic. We spend a moment with Kirby after his departure from Simon at DC when he was trying to navigate the politics of those offices and failed.

Which brought him ultimately to Marvel and into a long term partnership with Stan Lee. It's this subject which it seems Ro wanted to analyze and he does so with vast detail, if not always vast insight. We leave Kirby behind in his own journey for long stretches of time, as we follow Stan's story and the development of the Marvel mythos.

The story picks up steam for me personally when we finally get Jack to DC and the creation of the Fourth World materials, which of course were a reaction to his Marvel work and an evolution of it. This section of the book was the most enlightening for me and the most interesting as Ro looks at how the books of the Fourth World were rolled out and then quickly replaced, as he worked in an editorial environment which was at once supportive at first but seemed not to understand the nature of the talent they had employed.

We then travel back to Marvel and the saga begins to lose steam again as Kirby seems to be coming to the end of his truly creative career and comics seem to be losing interest in him. At most stops we find Kirby surrounded by lesser talents who don't get his work and either consider him too crass (DC) or too old (later Marvel).

I get the sense that Ro expected us as Kirby fans to be especially touched by the later years in the 80's when Kirby, largely retired from comics was brought back in a few times for particular reasons and was lauded and defended from many quarters as his just due was at long last given in the face of some mighty opposition from the edifice which has become Marvel. It seems a bit overwrought in the presentation as Ro seemed intent on presenting the saga in terms of the personal struggle between Kirby and Lee and how eventually they were able to make amends.

The dynamics of this duo are significant, but it wasn't alas what I expected as the focus of this story. I learned a great deal in Ro's workmanlike narrative, but I wish the insights into Kirby's inner self had been richer and that the attention paid to Stan had been reserved for a book about him.

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Friday, May 29, 2015

The Ectoplasmic Man!

The Ectoplasmic Man was one of the earliest in Titan Book's line of Sherlock Holmes pastiches. Written by Daniel Stashower, this novel was first released in the middle 80's.

I've put off reading it until now simply because I find myself somewhat bored by the shenanigans of the famous Harry Houdini. It was not always so, as I fondly remember a book I got in elementary school which detailed Houdini's life and I scoured it. But in more recent years I've seen so many TV specials on magic and Houdini that I've just grown somewhat tired of the subject. He was a fantastically conditioned athlete and he was a fantastically clever magician. There have been a few, but I don't doubt he captured the imagination like no one else before or since.

That said, this Sherlock Holmes story purports to be yet another discovered manuscript by the loquacious Dr.John Watson, who must be among the most prolific authors who never lived. It tells of a time late in the career of Sherlock Holmes when Houdini was touring Europe and found himself running afoul of the British government when some documents go missing. Given his highly publicized talent for defying locks he falls under suspicion by Inspector Lestrade and others and is thrown into the gaol. Bess Houdini implores Sherlock to take the case and he does for King and country and eventually for the benefit of the Houdinis themselves.

It's a slight mystery alas, as the solution seems a bit too obvious too soon. I expected a few more twists, but the revelations of some of the hijinks used to steal the documents are properly clever and tie nicely into the legend of Houdini.

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