Author Archives: Todd

And Then I Read: THE COMPLETE PEANUTS 1991-92

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Images © Peanuts Worldwide LLC.

By the time of this collection, Charles Schulz had been doing the Peanuts strip for 40 years. Hard to imagine how he kept going, and unlike many of his contemporaries, he did the entire strip himself: writing, drawing, lettering and inking. Yes, the strips are simple, but grinding them out incessantly for that long would seem to be impossible without losing the charm and humor you began with. Somehow, Schulz defied the odds. The lines in these strips are a little shakier, a slightly lower percentage made me smile or chuckle, but on the whole, they’re still terrific, full of the dry wit and slapstick humor, the characters we all recognize in ourselves, the whimsy of a dog who can be anything, and much more. Yes, there are some subjects that don’t work for me, like Snoopy’s brother Spike trying to deny his loneliness in the desert with fake friends, but plenty more are familiar and still funny.

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I don’t think any new characters show up in this volume, and some are only in it very briefly, like Rerun and Pigpen, as well as the annoying girl sitting behind Linus in school. The tit-for-tat humor of these Snoopy and Linus strips had me laughing out loud. As Schulz headed into his fifth decade, he was still warmly entertaining, and this volume is well worth your time.

Recommended.

And Then I Read: THE ART OF NEIL GAIMAN by Hayley Campbell

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Images © Hayley Campbell and Neil Gaiman.

The newest hardcover about Neil is a coffee-table book of modest proportions for the genre: about 8 by 10 inches. At 320 pages with about half text and half photos, illustrations and documents, it’s full of information about Neil and his writing. After being given free rein in Neil’s archives, author Hayley Campbell does a fine job with the text, getting lots across in an entertaining way, not getting bogged down in detail, but not missing much of Mr. Gaiman’s large volume of work. And I bet looking through it all must make him tired, it would me! I think I learned the most about Neil’s early work before he got into comics, and about his movie work, some of which I hadn’t been aware of at all.

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I hope this won’t come across as snarky, but I found it amusing that there are lots of examples of Neil’s own handwriting, which I find hard to read. It made me glad we’ve nearly always worked together with him on keyboards. I imagine there are plenty of Neil fans who will have no trouble deciphering it.

Neil’s SANDMAN has been by far the most written about in other books, so the somewhat light coverage here is perfectly understandable. Hayley Campbell does consider Neil’s other comics work in more detail, and of course his novels, stories, poems, children’s books, audio recordings, TV and movie scripts, and more. Inevitably there will be a few things missed, or not discussed well enough for each reader’s satisfaction, and I had a few of those moments myself, but in all it’s a fine book, a great read, and an excellent record in both the visual and written sections. Well done.

Highly recommended.

And Then I Read: DOC SAVAGE 1

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Image © Conde Nast.

The concept of Doc Savage, the super-smart, super-strong, super-rich adventurer and his gang of odd but equally smart and talented sidekicks never worked for me in the comics versions I’ve read from Marvel and DC. I hasten to admit I haven’t sampled the original pulp adventures that spawned him either. In this effort, writer Chris Roberson gradually brought me around so that, by the end of the issue, I was involved and enjoying the main character. The plot involves some sort of invisible effect causing people in specific areas to act belligerent and crazy for a time, then all come to their senses at once, clearly under the influence of some outside force. Doc and his gang do a fine job of homing in on the problem and its source, but it takes courage to bring the perpetrator to justice. The art by Bilquis Evely did not impress me much, it has the uneven quality of an artist still finding his way with depictions of the human figure in the many different angles and situations required for comics. There are nice panels and pages, but others that pulled me out of the moment with dodgy anatomy or composition. In all, I enjoyed the issue and might read more in a collection, though I should add this issue is a complete story, a rarity in today’s comics.

Recommended.

Rereading: THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES

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First edition, above, I’m rereading this and all the Holmes stories on my phone when I have the odd moment. I first read some of them in my teens, and then I discovered The Annotated Sherlock Holmes in our local library, and devoured all the stories and novels over a summer, I think, probably in the late 1960s. It’s been long enough that I don’t remember any details about many of the stories, even though I watched the Jeremy Brett TV adaptations and loved them. Having them as a free download on my phone and iPad through iBooks has been a delightful bonus from Apple.

These stories pick up Holmes and Watson’s crime-solving career some years after he was apparently killed in the story, “The Final Problem.” That was Doyle’s attempt to kill off the characters he’d grown tired of writing about so he could concentrate on other books and characters. His audience badgered him for more, though. A few years after the death of Holmes, Doyle wrote the most famous Holmes novel, “The Hound of the Baskervilles,” though setting in before Holmes’ death, which rather than assuaging his audience made them even more vocal in asking for more. At last Doyle gave in, and in the first story here, “The Adventure of the Empty House,” Watson is astonished to find a living Holmes once more on his doorstep inviting him to participate in a new case. I’m not going to plot outline the stories in this book, you can find that HERE, but I certainly enjoyed these tales every bit as much as the earlier ones. True, there is some repetition of types of cases, but Doyle always makes them interesting, and in each story manages to add a few fascinating details about Holmes that we didn’t know before.

If you haven’t read the Sherlock Holmes stories, I envy you the experience. And with the short stories you can really start almost anywhere and have a great time. Recommended.