Sunday, November 22, 2015

Review- RUSTY RILEY VOL. 1: DAILIES 1948-1949

RUSTY RILEY VOL. 1: DAILIES 1948-1949 (Classic Comics Press, First Printing, 2014; Hardcover)

Collects the Rusty Riley daily strip, originally published on January 26, 1948- November 29, 1949.

Writers: Rod Reed and Frank Godwin
Artist: Frank Godwin

Rusty Riley was something that I had never even heard of until this book was released. A long-forgotten strip by a criminally forgotten artist, it is a quaint snapshot of a bygone era. It was nostalgic even in it's day, as rural life was on the decline during the post-World War II housing boom. Rural communities became suburbs as city cores were filled to overflowing. The story hearkens back to a simpler time of rural life and horse farms, where we are introduced to orphan Rusty Riley.

The beginning of this strip feels like you have walked in late to a film, with Rusty thrust immediately into an altercation with Junior Norton, which sets off a chain of events that end up having him adopted by Mr. Miles due to his natural ability with his horse, Blaze. That race horse almost becomes the focal point in the strip, with all of the happenings sort of centering around him. The arc which stuck with me the most is the one where Tex, Rusty, and Patty are trying to outrace a snowstorm. I really had to stop and think about how hard life was in an era before salt trucks and snow plows out in the country. They had to put chains on their tires and the roads were blocked by huge snow drifts which came across the wide open fields. It was literally life and death out there back then, whereas now the “struggle” is standing in line at Kroger during a snowstorm when everyone is loading up on snacks.

The final arc in the book has a radically different tone, being more of an adventure than the quiet, subdued vibe of the earlier arcs. Rusty ends up stumbling onto a smuggling ring and things get interesting fast. This ends the book on a high note and I hope to someday see a Volume 2 as well as a Sundays collection. The Sunday strips are not collected here because they are a different story as well as a different format than the daily strips.

Godwin is an artistic genius. His style reminds of old wood cut drawings, super detailed with line atop of line providing more shade and depth than color could ever hope to do. His style changes throughout this book, with him taking some shortcuts toward the end. The strip ran until 1959, and I hope to ___ (deity of your choice) that someone can convince Charles Pelto to give another volume a go. I would guess that the best way to convince him would be for you to buy a copy of this book. I've done my part. Don't let this lost classic remain in the hands of collectors, squirreled away and not seeing the light of day. The best part of these collections is that they bring the expensive, the obscure, and the forgotten back into the public eye and allow newer generations of fans to discover them.
Junk Food For Thought rating: 4 out of 5.

The OCD zone- Like most strip books, this is presented in landscape format. It allows the artwork to be presented at a larger size than it would be in a standard book.
My only gripe with this book is that the strip for 12/21/1948 was omitted, with the strip from 12/22/1948 appearing twice. It would be nice if they posted the missing strip on their website so that you could print out a tip-in sheet.
Linework restoration: Excellent.
Paper stock: Medium weight uncoated stock, zero sheen under any light source.
Binding: Smyth sewn binding, lays flat.

Dustjacket and Hardback cover notes: Dustjacket has lamination on it, hardback has a standard paperwrap with the logo screen printed on the spine. 

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Review- The Peanuts Movie

The Peanuts Movie (20th Century Fox, 2015)

Like every kid that grew up in the '70s and '80s, I read the Peanuts strip in the newspaper and watched the animated specials on television. These characters were a beloved part of my childhood that I have been happy to share with my children. Heck, my obsession with buying collected editions of comic books can be directly linked to those old Peanuts paperbacks which reprinted the strips. I used to check those out of the library all of the time.

While the appearance of the characters has been slightly updated with a subtle CGI animation style, the integrity of the animated specials has been maintained in terms of pacing and scene changes. This was fine by me. My kids thought that this movie was “okay”, and that's my take on it, too. It didn't suck, but was it a story worthy of a big budget animated feature? No.

The why of that “No” is simple. The story is simply too thin. There are three narratives woven together here. The first is Charlie Brown's crush on the new neighbor who moved in across the street, The Little Red-Haired Girl. The second is the Snoopy/ Red Barron plot. The third is Charlie Brown's insecurities and his desire to be accepted by his peers for who he is. These three thin plotlines are padded out by an assortment of classic strip gags brought to life on the big screen. Do you remember the trailer for The Terrence And Philip film from South Park Movie: Bigger, Longer, And Uncut, where it states “contains 53% new material”? That is exactly how this movie felt. Of course a nostalgia trip like this warrants the familiar and the comfortable, but there was nothing new. This felt like a greatest hits. This wasn't a bad film by any stretch of the imagination, however. There is nothing in it that will offend anyone except for a few rants that I read online that the cast was not “diverse enough”, whatever that is supposed to mean. They are characters from a newspaper strip. If characters from a newspaper strip make you feel marginalized or offended then you are emotionally unstable.

The characterization is 100% faithful to the source material. The pacing and the edits adhere to the standards set in the original animated specials. The camera angle changes seem slow when compared to the ADD nanosecond camera angle changes found in today's CGI animated feature films. The makers of the film resisted the urge to update the characters and make them “edgy” or “now”. They also resisted inserting Baby Boomer friendly Classic Rock into the school dance, something that every Dreamworks animated feature does to win favor with people. Lastly, they also resisted product placement. This was an enjoyable enough family film.

Rant time! Moviegoing etiquette is dead and gone. There must have been a short bus field trip to the theatre on Sunday morning when I saw this. There were maybe two dozen people there, and this couple of women and their small child decide to sit right next to family, making my daughter uncomfortable enough to get up and move to the other side of us. This should have alerted me to move before the movie even began, but no.

The film starts, and now it is time for them to talk. Did you know that movies are interactive experiences with call and response audience participation? Neither did I, but their idiot kid kept parroting whatever was said on the screen while the idiot women were laughing and encouraging this moronic behavior. Best of all, they took a picture of their kid...during the film...WITH THE FLASH ON. It is sad that there are people in this world that cannot have kids while these genetic misfits were able to breed. These people are seriously detrimental to the gene pool and lower mankind's chance for survival in the event of a catastrophe. Their complete lack of etiquette, lack of consideration for their fellow moviegoers, and utter lack of social skills make me sad that oxygen is wasted on lifeforms like this, and are a great example of why people don't go out to movies like they used to. Why would anyone leave their house and spend money only to be annoyed by morons like this?
Junk Food For Thought rating: 3 out of 5. 

Sunday, November 15, 2015


ACG COLLECTED WORKS: OUT OF THE NIGHT VOL. 3 (PS Artbooks, First Printing, 2013; Hardcover)

Collects Out of the Night #13-17 (cover dates March- November, 1954)

Writer: Richard Hughes

Artists: Ken Bald, Bob Forgione, Harry Lazarus, George Klein, Art Gates, Dick Beck, Robert McCarty, Ed Good, Ken Landau, Sam Citron, Sheldon Moldoff, Lin Streeter, Milt Knoff, and John Belfi

This title became very, very good at the end, as they ramped up the shock/twist ending elements to better compete with EC. The Senate Subcommittee hearings on the effects of comic books on juvenile delinquency were well under way at this time, possibly adding fuel to the fire. Maybe the writing was on the wall so everyone went balls out before the hammer dropped. I don't know. There are certainly many comics historians out there who could present better theories than I can, I am just giving you my two cents.

Stories like #13's The Screaming Skulls! have that EC preachy aspect to it, using Horror to demonstrate the outcome of greed. That same issue's From The Bottom Of The Well is awesome, as there is no happy ending to be found. Many of the recurring themes of the era are present here: werewolves, zombies, vampires, etc.

A page from The Screaming Skulls!

#14's Out Of The Screen deals with the then-new fad of 3D movies. That same issue's Big Kill! is a story told so many times that I couldn't hope to pinpoint where it originally came from. Hunter mercilessly hunts game with a local tribe guiding him, man does something to piss off the spirit of the land, tribe warns him to change his wicked ways, ends up being turned into game by said spirit of the land, and gets hunted and killed by other hunters. Rinse. Repeat. The story is beautifully illustrated by Sam Citron, so it is a delight to the eyes if overly familiar storywise.

The vampire in issue 15's The Vampire's Vow bears a resemblance to Marvel's Morbius The Living Vampire, who wouldn't appear in 1971. I wonder if this was a subconscious influence or merely a coincidence. Roy Thomas is a known lifelong comic reader and collector, so it is not out of the realm of possibility that he owned this comic when he was a teenager. That same issue's The Little Furry Things! is the most disturbing story in the entire book. Great stuff there.

#16's The Tunnel! has artwork by the godlike Ken Landau. His work is very detailed and photo realistic, my favorite. I did some research on him, and he later went to work for Hanna Barbara, which is pretty cool. The most bizarre story in the entire book is issue 17's The Professor And The Pixie! It is a lighthearted, whimsical romance tale that feels like a precursor to Bewitched. Indeed, the end of the story seems like the beginning of a series. There also seems to be a Venus (Atlas Comics from the '50s) vibe to it, especially in the artwork department. The story art is uncredited in the book, but whoever it was tried to do their best Jack Kamen or Matt Baker. Part of me wonders if one of them was moonlighting. Maybe one of their helpers/inkers took the reigns here tried to do emulate their style. Sadly, many of these mysteries will never be solved, as most of these guys are dead and gone.

A page from The Tunnel!

The writing and artwork are all top notch here, and one can only wonder how far and how high the artform would have progressed if not for the implementation of the Comics Code Authority. And now for a slight rant...

I refuse to call the Comics Code Authority censorship. See, I have argued with many Millennial/ Social Justice Warrior (SJW) types online, and they claim that every time that they get butthurt and into an online uproar which causes a comics cover to be changed, that this not censorship. They claim that only the Government can censor things. Okay then, using their logic (and I use the word very loosely when pertaining to SJWs), comic books have never been censored. The CCA was a voluntary body formed by the industry, not the Government. Distributors refused to carry comics without the CCA, but that's not censorship by their definition, either. Isn't rewriting history fun, kids? Censorship used to come from outside, from the establishment. In 2015 it comes from the people who supposedly love what they are trying to kill, all in the name of “being on the right side of history”. Pro tip, kids: There is no right side of history. History always has, and always will, be written by the victors. Put that in your tumblr and smoke it in your eCigarette.
Junk Food For Thought rating: 4.75 out of 5.

The OCD zone- I enjoy huffing these Chinese made books. PS Artbooks smell the best. Whenever I crack one open I sit there and snort it...Oh yeah, that's the stuff. I theorize that their delectable aroma comes from the stew of lead paint chips, asbestos, and mercury from recalled thermometers combined with the blood, sweat, and tears of the Chinese children working in the sweatshop that makes these books.
Linework and Color restoration: PS Artbooks use raw scans, meaning that all of the printing imperfections of the original comic books are present, such as line bleed and off register printing. This is a warts and all approach that some fans prefer. I can see the benefits and drawbacks to this method.
That said, these are very good scans. PS has a hit and miss record with scanning, but this volume looks very good overall.
Paper stock: Uncoated bright white stock.
Binding: Smyth sewn binding. Lays mostly flat.
Hardback cover notes: No dustjacket. Image printed on casewrap with matte finish and spot varnish.