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Nexus Graphica
by Rick Klaw

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Other Nexus Graphica Columns
For more information, you can try the following:
Superman: The High-Flying History of America's Most Enduring Hero
The Lovely Horrible Stuff
Jack Davis: Drawing American Pop Culture
The Comic Book History of Comics
The Incal: Classic Collection
Five Reviews in Search of a Column

Nothing but reviews this month, so let's get on with the show.  

 

 

 

Superman: The High-Flying History of America's Most Enduring Hero
Superman: The High-Flying History of America's Most Enduring Hero
by Larry Tye (Random House)

In his unique history of the iconic character, Larry Tye delivers an insightful biographical account from the perspective of the creators, publishers, and stars behind Superman. Beginning with Superman co-creator Jerry Siegel in Cleveland through the character's re-birth as part of DC's recent 52 remake, Tye analyzes and reveals many fascinating behind-the-scene aspects such as why Superman didn't fight oversees during World War II, the complex origins of kryptonite, and the stories behind the various radio, cartoon, television, and movie incarnations. The comprehensive volume includes numerous interviews and accounts, copious endnotes, and an all-too-short collection of images. The even-handed, thoughtful, and thorough accounting of the muddy and controversial relationship between Siegel and DC delivers one of the best explanations of the whole sordid affair. Though Tye's literary paint-by-numbers styling lacks any zing, he successfully maintains interest throughout the compulsive and highly recommended Superman: The High-Flying History of America's Most Enduring Hero.

The Lovely Horrible Stuff
The Lovely Horrible Stuff
by Eddie Campbell (Top Shelf)

Best known for his collaboration with Alan Moore on the extraordinary From Hell and his singular creations Alec and Deadface, Eddie Campbell chronicles his financial woes in the entertaining but flawed The Lovely Horrible Stuff. Like many creatives, the concepts of understanding, managing, and even earning money at times elude Campbell. Displaying his trademark wit and superior storytelling skills, Campbell explores a failed Alec sitcom, how producing a Batman comic forced him to incorporate, his struggles with his cantankerous father-in-law, and his journey to Yap, home of the world's largest currency. Sadly the narrative unlike most of Campbell's works often fails to engage, creating reader apathy. The terrible lettering further enhances the rift. Many of the poorly rendered captions must be re-read numerous times. Thankfully Campbell's unique talents salvage the tale. Relying on a combination of traditional cartooning, photo images, and intelligent use of color, he achieves an interesting but not great work.

Jack Davis: Drawing American Pop Culture
Jack Davis: Drawing American Pop Culture
(Fantagraphics)

Legendary EC, Mad, and movie poster artist Jack Davis finally gets his due in this gorgeous oversized career retrospective. After a forward/career overview by William Stout, the book reproduces Davis works in six sections: Early Years, Comics, Record Covers & Movie Posters, Gags & Illustrations, Time & TV Guide, and Advertising. Each promises a host of riches including numerous sketches, original art from several comics, and beautifully-crafted, forgotten, and fondly remembered art. The book concludes with a lengthy biography by Gary Groth and endnotes. Disappointedly, the endnotes do not include dates and publications for all the included art. Additionally, while one of the great cartoonists of the 20th century, the interesting aspects of Davis' fairly mundane life rest with his work. The book would have been better served with more reproductions and less biography. Still the extraordinary Jack Davis: Drawing American Pop Culture successfully reaffirms the artist's place within the upper echelon of pop culture craftsman.

The Comic Book History of Comics
The Comic Book History of Comics
Written by Fred Van Lente, Art by Ryan Dunlavey (IDW)

Fred Van Lente and Ryan Dunlavey, creators of the unexpected and exceptional Action Philosophers, return to the nonfiction comics realm with this hilarious and insightful history of their chosen medium. Much like in Philosophers, the duo effectively uses exaggeration and humor. Van Lente employees asides and one-liners. Dunlavey relies on the best techniques from cartoonist forebearers. Perhaps nothing benefits more from this style than the events involving EC. They manage to display M.C. Gaines as a visionary, victim, and buffoon, often all at the same time. Though not as thorough as other similar prose histories, The Comic Book History of Comics covers the highlights in an energetic and exciting fashion of the convoluted, chaotic, and often tortured history in a unique and informative manner.

The Incal: Classic Collection
The Incal: Classic Collection
Written by Alexandro Jodorowksy, Art by Mœbius (Humandoids)

The complete collection of the Jodorowsky/Mœbius classic recounts the extraordinary (mis)adventures of the inept private investigator John DiFool. He seemingly stumbles upon the Incal, an entity of immense power. Through bizarre and often metaphysical means, DiFool finds himself as the most important being in the universe. Jodorowsky and Mœbius include several fascinating companions as DiFool follows his unwanted destiny: Deepo, a sentient concrete bird; The Metabaron, the most powerful fighter in the universe; Solune, The Metabaron's son of questionable origin; Wolfhead, hellbent on revenge; Animah, the beautiful rat queen and possible Goddess; and Tanatah, Animah's sister and Queen of the Amoks. This unlikely team defends the universe from near destruction while ushering DiFool to his improbable, predetermined fate. The magnificent Incal, beautifully rendered by Mœbius and perfectly written by Jodorowksy, ranks among some of the finest graphic novels of all time. It should be required reading by all comics and science fiction fans.


Copyright © 2012 Rick Klaw

Professional reviewer, geek maven, and optimistic curmudgeon, Rick Klaw has supplied countless reviews, essays, and fiction for a variety of publications including The Austin Chronicle, The San Antonio Current, The Greenwood Encyclopedia of Science Fiction and Fantasy, Moving Pictures, RevolutionSF, Conversations With Texas Writers, Electric Velocipede, Cross Plains Universe, Steampunk, and The Steampunk Bible. Coming in March 2013 from Tachyon, he is editing The Apes of Wrath, a survey of apes in literature with contributions from Edgar Allan Poe, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Franz Kafka, Gustave Flaubert, Joe R. Lansdale, Pat Murphy, Leigh Kennedy, James P. Blaylock, Clark Ashton Smith, Karen Joy Fowler, Philip José Farmer, Robert E. Howard and others. Klaw can often be found pontificating on Twitter and over at The Geek Curmudgeon.


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