Author Archives: Todd

And Then I Read: AQUAMAN AND THE OTHERS 7

AquaOthers7Image © DC Comics, Inc.

This title is headed into an espionage thriller, dealing with foes that are ex-KGB with powers. It’s an action-filled plot with lots of twists and turns, but I find it a little hard to see what Aquaman is doing here. In fact, he’s not here much, just doing a fly-in rescue. The previous storyline had Atlantis connections, this one seems rooted in Tom Cruise blockbuster territory, and not much water in sight. The writing and art are fine, but no one stands out in the rest of the team, there are no personalities to draw me in and get me involved. Having read this a few weeks ago, I now find it hard to remember the storyline, not a good sign.

Mildly recommended.

And Then I Read: SWAMP THING 36

ST36Image © DC Comics, Inc.

Machine intelligence. It seems almost as natural an enemy to The Green and its avatar, Swamp Thing as The Rot. The opening salvo with Swamp Thing aflame even threatens his new allies in The Green, Jonah and Capucine, but the machines still have a lot to learn about Alec Holland. Unfortunately, they’re fast learners. Alec pays a visit to the avatar of The Rot, another old ally, for some touching moments, while the machines go about choosing their own avatar from among many familiar candidates. A good issue, I’m continuing to enjoy writer Charles Soule and artist Jesus Saiz’ work on this title. It keeps going in interesting and surprising places.

Recommended.

And Then I Read: LITTLE NEMO, DREAM ANOTHER DREAM

NemoCoverI worked on this huge book, that’s my logo on the cover, and I lettered about a dozen of the more than 140 pages of comics inside, so I am not an unbiased reader, but I find it a remarkable achievement both artistically and conceptually. Even Leo, above, finds it worthy of an action pose! Measuring 16 by 21 inches, each page is the size that the original “Little Nemo in Slumberland” Sunday comic strips ran when Winsor McCay was producing them early in the 20th century. Many people feel that McCay achieved a pinnacle of visual comics art that has not been equalled since, but Locust Moon Books invited dozens of their favorite artists to try.

NemoSpreadWhile each artist did something relating to the original comic strip, the approaches are as varied as the individual imaginations of all those creators, and it’s remarkable how little similarity there is among them as far as the actual content. Yes, many did artistic homages to McCay’s own Nemo style, but equally as many went their own ways. A few artists used more than one page to tell their tale, but most used a single large page. You can call it a themed anthology, but the experience is a bit more like walking through an art gallery, as the entries are so different, yet contain a common theme. The ones I liked best told an actual story in panels, often numbered sequentially as McCay did, but even there the creators were very clever and playful, with some leading the reading in very unexpected directions. There are many artists represented I know nothing about, but also quite a few I recognized, including a few friends I wasn’t expecting, always a nice thing. The printing and production is stellar, and on a personal note, I have to say I’ve never seen a logo of mine reproduced as large as it is inside this volume. The entire reading experience brings out the child in me, the book is so large, it made me feel small again, in a good way.

If you’ve seen any of the books put out by The Sunday Press, it’s a very similar format, but this is the first book I’ve seen using it for new material. And what truly wonderful material it is!

Highly recommended.

Remembering Mrs. Helen Thompson

Thompson1961Mrs. Helen Thompson, center, with students, in a photo from The Somerset Hills Exponent, May 25, 1961.

I’ve written about my favorite teacher from the Bedminster Township grade school twice before, a little in my article on our school newspaper and magazine, which she ran, and more in my article on the school itself. Mrs. Thompson taught English to my brothers and I in grades 6-8, and we all worked on the school publications doing art and, in my case, writing stories. I remember her as smart, entertaining in class, and very encouraging to me as a young artist and writer. Others remember that she was also a heavy smoker, and I’ve long wondered about how that might have affected her career and life. New information has come to light recently, so I thought I’d share it here.

While I spent lots of time with Mrs. Thompson in and after class, I knew nothing about her personal life except what little ran in the 1965 graduation issue of The Bed-Post, as part of a guessing-game called “Spotlight on People.” Mrs. Thompson was the subject of this entry:

ThompsonSpotlightWhile I saw Mrs. Thompson occasionally when I had moved on to High School in Bernardsville, NJ (when my school bus would stop at the Bedminster School to pick up more students), I lost touch with her at some point in that time. Recently my youngest brother Russ found some copies of the school publications from his grades 6-8 in 1968-70, and entries there filled in some of the gaps in my knowledge. from The Bedminster Tribune of Oct. 27, 1969:

ThompsonBestWishesAs you can see, Mrs. Thompson was out sick in the fall of 1969. I have no information on what the illness may have been, but I suspect that she did not return to the school. In the Spring, 1970 issue of The Bed-Post, this editorial by Ellen Burden appeared:

ThompsonDedicAs you might guess, Mrs. Thompson had passed away before the issue saw print, and with help from Patricia Bankowski, I now have her obituary from March 19, 1970:

Helen Thompson Obit 03191970I may have heard about this from my parents at the time, but if so, I had forgotten it, so it’s good to have that long-lingering question of what happened to Mrs. Thompson answered. The issue of The Bed-Post this appeared has replaced Mrs. Thompson’s long-standing credit as Advisor with “Acting Advisor: Mrs. Stout,” and the following year the Advisor credit went to a new English teacher at the school, Mr. Melovitz.

As noted in the obituary, Mrs. Thompson had no children. Her husband, J. Miller Thompson continued to live in Bedminster, and died in 1992 after remarrying a Mary E. Nevius, who died in 2000.

 

And Then I Read: 75 YEARS OF MARVEL

75YearsCoverImages © Marvel.

Took me a while, but I’ve read it. Or at least as much as I wanted to. This gigantic book is meant as an overview and retrospective of the comics publisher now known as Marvel, previously as Timely, Atlas, and many other lesser-known imprints. As such, it’s about half pictures, but even so, there’s lots of text. I read the first two sections covering 1939 to 1961 the most thoroughly, as it’s the period I knew the least about. I was buying and reading Marvel comics from that point on, and had a chance to catch up with a lot of the issues I missed later, so the period from 1962 to about 1990 was a fun reminiscence of things I was mostly familiar with. From 1991 to the present my Marvel reading has declined steadily, so those sections didn’t mean as much to me, and I generally skimmed.

Roy Thomas has done a fine job with the text, but it’s such a large subject that often he was only able to briefly mention some titles and creators that stood out from the crowd, especially when the output of the company began to grow in the mid-70s. And it’s an official company history, so anything that might make the corporation look bad was glossed over or ignored, but since the emphasis is on the books and the creators rather than company politics and business deals, I didn’t mind that. And there’s always Sean Howe’s “The Secret History of Marvel Comics” if you’re interested in that side of things.

75YearsPages

The art is glorious, lots of larger-than-life reproductions of covers and story pages. To make layouts work, other elements were sometimes a bit too small, but I understand they did the best they could without making the book twice as thick. In all, it’s a fine book, if difficult to lift and read. I’m kind of glad to be done! I imagine I’ll be going back to it for reference in future.

Recommended.