Saturday, August 1, 2015

Review- LEONARD STARR'S MARY PERKINS ON STAGE VOL. 6


LEONARD STARR'S MARY PERKINS ON STAGE VOL. 6 (Classic Comics Press, First Printing, 2009; Softcover)

Collects Mary Perkins On Stage strips originally published on March 10, 1963- October 11, 1964

Writer and Artist: Leonard Starr

Leonard Starr recently passed away, and the comic world barely seemed to notice. This saddens me, because that means that folks are oblivious to his genius. Luckily Classic Comics Press has rescued this strip from oblivion, collecting it in a series of affordable trade paperbacks. The entire series will be covered by fifteen books, with Volume 14 due soon and volume 15 due in early 2016.

This relationship between Mary Perkins and her husband, Pete Fletcher, is less of the focus than it has been in previous volumes. The characters and scenarios and their impact on the regular cast of characters was at the forefront this time out.

The first arc deals with Mary doing a movie with actor Joe Kulak, and there are actually two stories going on at once here. One is about Kulak and the temperamental car which is “the star” of the film. The car handles poorly for him and sometimes won't even start, while it behaves well for Mary's scenes. It's almost as if the car were alive, and while Starr doesn't tip his hand there are winks in that direction, such as the car grill and headlights almost looking like a face that seems to be smiling at times. To Starr's credit it is left up to the reader to decide. I grew up on Herbie the Love Bug, so you know which way I am leaning.

The other half of this arc is the affair between Kulak and Anya Bauer. Anya puts lubricant onto the breaks of the car, which makes Mary crash, horribly disfiguring her face. The ironic twist comes from the revelation of Anya's husband, Carlos, who turns out to be Mary's plastic surgeon. I won't go any farther into this, as the rest is all reveal. This all sounds like a soap opera, and while it sort of is, there is so much depth to the writing and artwork that it would be a disservice to paint it with that brush.



Others arcs include the return of reclusive actress Kristin Kara, Adam Budd reluctantly getting the keys to the throne from late actor Chappy, and the return of Johnny Q. Johnny Q's return is actually two arcs, the second one being among the weirdest yet in this series. Mary's purse gets stolen backstage and she gets captured by the unnamed “creature of the prop room”. Johnny Q ends up rescuing her, and the “creature” (really a weird old man) escapes into the subway.

The next arc in this book involves Mary returning to her hometown of Holmesfield to visit her old friend Christy Chalmers, a fellow actress who didn't pursue her dreams as Mary did. Unlike Mary, Christy has let herself go and is content to play bit parts in local theater. Her life is idyllic if routine, and it is this routine that has Mary pull a few favors to get her into the business. This almost ruins her marriage, but since Mary almost destroys her marriage Mary also sets things right.

The final arc in the book involves the ruthless Maynard King, his hired thug Kagle, and Kagle's daughter. Arcs like this show the emotional depth of Starr's writing. This entire book was a page turner. There were nights where I wouldn't pick it up because I usually lose time and sleep when I dive into this title. Starr was a genius as a writer and as an artist, and you owe it to yourself to check this stuff out. Step outside of your comic book comfort zone and check this out. You can thank me later.
Junk Food For Thought rating: 5 out of 5.

The OCD zone- Like most strip books, this is presented in landscape format. It takes some getting used to reading a book this wide, but the material more than makes up for it. Plus the artwork is much larger than it would be if they released it in a standard format book.
Linework restoration: Compiled from many sources such as original art, proofs, etc. The nipple line is removed and many of these strips are more complete than they were at the time of original publication. There are a handful of strips that don't look as sharp as others but by and large everything is crisp and clean.
The Sundays are presented here in black and white. They were originally printed in color.
Paper stock: Uncoated stock paper.
Binding: Perfect bound trade paperback.
Cardstock cover notes: Cardstock coating has a matte coating that is resistant to scuffing.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Review- WONDER WOMAN: THE TWELVE LABORS


WONDER WOMAN: THE TWELVE LABORS (DC, First Printing, 2012; Softcover)

Collects Wonder Woman #212-222 (cover dates July, 1974- March, 1976)
Writers: Martin Pasko, Elliot S. Maggin, Cary Bates, and Len Wein
Artists: Pencilers- Curt Swan, John Rosenberger, Irv Novick, Dick Dillin, Kurt Schaffenberger, Dick Giordano, and Jose Delbo; Inkers- Vince Colletta, Tex Blaisdell, Phil Zupa, Kurt Schaffenberger,and Dick Giordano

Coke Vs. Pepsi. GM Vs. Ford. Marvel Vs. DC. These were the battles that in my mind as a child there could only be one winner and one loser, seemingly oblivious to the concept that one could like both. I grew up a Marvel kid from 1979-on, snobbishly thumbing my nose up at anything published by the Distinguished Competition as automatically inferior. A friend of mine that I met in adulthood was the flipside, believing DC to be the way. I once thought that DC fans were like Jehovah's Witnesses, well-intentioned if misguided, but I have long since softened my stance.



That brings us to this book, an eleven issue beast of an arc that there is no way that Marvel would have attempted during this point in time. Wonder Woman was a role model for the girls who would grow up to become the feminists of the women's lib movement of the 1970s, and it makes perfect sense for them to give her a spin in the then-zeitgest. This touches on the late '60s reboot where Wonder Woman shed her costume and became more “now”, which was collected across four trades that I may actually get around to reading and review for you someday. It turns out that that Wonder Woman's memories were hidden by Queen Hippolyta so that she wouldn't remember being powerless in Man's World. This is what the kids call a “ret-con”.

Imagine the Internet OUTRAGE if this exchange occurred in a comic book today!

The JLA wants her to rejoin them, but Wonder Woman feels unsure of herself since she does not have all of her memories and decides to embark on “Twelve Labors” like Hercules to prove to herself that she is worthy. This book almost feels like a Justice League book, as they are featured in each issue with a different member stalking following her around and reporting their findings to the rest of the team in each issue.

My suspension of disbelief was pushed beyond the breaking point in three places. One: The fact that her Magic Lasso is elastic enough to stretch from the ground to the top of a skyscraper. If this were the case then how could it keep anyone captive? Two: Her Robot Plane (or Invisible Plane) which responds to mental waves. While not entirely without precedent in the Golden Age version of the character, something about it felt off. Three: Wonder Woman's seemingly intermittent ability to fly and/or glide on wind currents. It is this lack of consistency that cost DC early on in life for me.


This was a great read and a good time. If you are not a cynical bastard and like fun superhero comics you can't go wrong with this book...especially since it is now out of print. I enjoy the fact that it often takes so long for me to rotate books through my backlog that they are often out of print by the time that I get around to reading them. It is a scientific fact that out of print books are more enjoyable to read than in print books.
Junk Food For Thought rating: 4.5 out of 5.

The OCD zone- DC needs to get in the ring with Marvel and do more of these types of collections. Eleven consecutive issues clocking in at 232 pages. I would be all over a comprehensive line of trades that cover this kind of ground.
Linework and Color restoration: The integrity of the linework is incredible. No complaints there. The original color palette, while faithfully maintained, is marred by inauthentic gradient shade blends which have a harsh look to them. A softer, hand colored (on computer) approach would have made things perfect. The degree of cheesy, inauthentic blends vary from issue to issue, likely depending on who worked on it.
Paper stock: Typical toilet paper stock that DC uses in collections of vintage material. This stuff will brown and yellow over time and it feels cheap.
Binding: Perfect bound trade paperback.

Cardstock cover notes: Laminated cardstock.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Review- SWAMP THING VOL. 6: THE SUREEN


SWAMP THING VOL. 6: THE SUREEN (DC, First Printing, 2015; Softcover)

Collects Swamp Thing #28-34 and 12 pages from Aquaman #31 (cover dates April- October, 2014)
Writers: Charles Soule with Jeff Parker
Artists: Jesus Saiz and Javier Pina with Paul Pelletier and Sean Parsons
Colorists: Matthew Wilson with Rain Beredo

Wow, this flies in the face of modern comic book logic. Rather than have one arc stretched beyond it's logical conclusion to pad out a trade paperback, this book has several arcs under one roof. Lots of reading here, with the amount of story crammed into issue nearing pre-decompression levels. I like it.

Swamp Thing has killed The Parliament Of Trees, becoming the sole member of The Green. He is all and all is he...except for the two that he spared and made human, The Wolf and The Lady Weeds. These two are the last people he should have around him, but Swamp Thing, who is all plants, cannot see this forest for the trees.

The Sureen, a cult that serve The Green, arrive at the Swamp Thing's makeshift headquarters in a rotting plantation house. They offer him gifts, such as the ability to jump into a human being and be human again for a little while. They ask for a gift first, though: the hallucinogenic fruit produced by his body (as seen in the Alan Moore run). Like The Wolf and The Lady Weeds, not everything here is quite what it seems. Lots of political commentary about GMOs and Monsanto follow, and I always enjoy contemporary issues given wafer thin metaphors. Comics should be timely and timeless.

Capucine's origin is revealed and she gets plenty of “screen time” with a good dose of character development to boot. There is a lot of story crammed between these two covers, a real bang for your buck feeling going on here. Many times I read a modern book and it feels like a lot of empty calories, totally unsatisfying. This book was like a five course meal with an extra slice of cake after dessert.

The Aquaman issue is presented here in abridged form, with only the pages pertaining to Swamp Thing presented here. Since it is not advertised as collecting the entire issue I find this approach to be acceptable, especially when you consider that DC has already given you seven issues of Swamp Thing in this book at a MSRP of $16.99.


While the continuity for The New 52 is different than the Swamp Thing that I knew before, it is not so radically different from Alan Moore's reinterpretation that it feels alien or wrong to me. I will stick around with this title as long as it's good. Or has it been cancelled already? It's hard to keep all of these cancellations and reboots straight anymore.
Junk Food For Thought rating: 4.25 out of 5.

The OCD zone- I like how DC lists the creators for each issue at the “chapter break” page after the cover for the respective issue. This is something that tends to bother me about modern comics and their collected edition counterparts, since creator credits tend to be on a text recap page in the beginning of each issue which is omitted from the trades. While all collected editions list the creators in the table of contents it is not an issue to me unless there are multiple creative teams. Marvel always lists the issue number along with the cover in these books (since it has been industry standard for modern material since the early 2000s), something DC does not do. If they put the issue number along with the credits they would beat Marvel in this regard, at least pertaining to books with multiple creative times like this one has.
Paper stock: Glossy coated stock.
Binding: Perfect bound trade paperback.
Cardstock cover notes: Thick waxlike lamination.