And Then I Read: VOYAGE NORTH by Julia Jones

Cover illustration by Claudia Myatt

This is the seventh and I think final book of the Strong Winds series, which I’ve been enjoying for over ten years. Julia Jones was inspired by the books of Arthur Ransome about children sailing and having adventures, but her books are very much of their own time. They are more complex than Ransome’s stories, and they include topics he wouldn’t have considered appropriate for children, like social inequity issues, racism, crime, and international politics. My only complaint has been that there often isn’t enough sailing in the series, but this final one has plenty, even if some of it is motor driven. Plenty of action and excitement, too, and loose threads from the other books are sewn up nicely.

Donny Walker has been living on the Suffolk coast of northeast England with his deaf mother Skye, and they’ve made many friends there, but the biggest mystery in Donny’s life is the identity and career of his father, who he never knew. At the end of the sixth book, “Pebble,” Donny is offered a chance to learn about his father from someone who knew him, the Russian oligarch Aradky Ivanov, if he will join the former Russian Admiral on his super-yacht, MV Raisa as it flees the English coast with an illegal radioactive cargo, heading North toward Finland. Donny agrees, leaving everyone he knows behind, and he’s soon wondering if he made the right decision. Ivanov is badly wounded and in need of medical care, but because of their cargo, no port will allow them to land. On board it’s just Captain George, Donny, and the possibly dying Ivanov until three stowaways surface. They are Russian teenagers Tatiana and Vasily and German AWOL soldier Luther, who hid on the boat to escape authorities. They consider themselves eco-terrorists, and planned to take over Raisa, but things don’t work out for them, and soon they are conscripted into the crew, forced to help keep the ship going and all of them alive. When it finally reaches a port that will accept them in Finland, even more trouble is in store for everyone. In this suspenseful story, twists and turns abound. There are kidnappings, a damaged sunken submarine with friends of Ivanov on board, fierce storms, frantic escapes on sea and land, political intrigue, surprising heroics, and some hair-raising sailing. Donny Walker eventually finds out much more about his father and family than he ever expected.

Recommended, but start with the first book of the series, I’ll list links to all of them.

The Salt-Stained Book by Julia Jones

A Ravelled Flag by Julia Jones

Ghosting Home by Julia Jones

The Lion of Sole Bay by Julia Jones

Black Waters by Julia Jones

Pebble by Julia Jones

Voyage North by Julia Jones

Paul Lauretta’s Comics Career 1937-40

From “The Federal Illustrator,” Summer 1939

Paolino “Paul” Joseph Lauretta was born Dec 28, 1917 in Lawrence, MA to a family of Italian immigrants. He attended Lawrence High School, where he was the staff artist for “The Lawrencian.” After graduation in 1934, he became the staff artist for a local paper, “The Lawrence Telegram.” Paul was an aspiring comics artist, and he created an exclusive comic strip for the paper, “Rocky Baird,” first strip seen above. I don’t have access to the newspaper, but a clipping from it I found says the strip began on Monday, June 29, 1935, and that it was to run daily. I don’t know how long it ran. The only reason we have this first strip is that it appeared in the Summer 1939 issue of a correspondence art school magazine, “The Federal Illustrator,” along with some brief information about Paul and his work. My friend and fellow comics historian Alex Jay uncovered the article, and has kindly allowed me to write about it.

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Rereading: THE WITCHES’ BRIDGE by Barbee Oliver Carleton

Cover illustration by Edward Gorey

Dan Pride has been raised in Europe, but the death of his parents brings him back to his family’s ancestral home in the marshes of coastal Massachusetts. The Pride home sits on an island in the marsh reached by two bridges. One includes the equally old Witches’ Bridge, named for Dan’s Puritan ancestor Samuel Pride, who was accused and executed as a witch. Samuel, like Dan, played the violin, and people of the area claim he haunts the island, and that his violin can still be heard when the fog rolls in from the ocean.

Dan hopes his uncle Julian will be a friend and welcome him, but Dan is met by the hired man Billy Ben, who is quick to fill Dan with the superstitions and fears of the locals. Uncle Julian proves a cold, sickly person who seems to have little understanding or friendliness for Dan, leaving him sad and fearful. Dan tries to help Billy Ben with chores, but doesn’t get on well with those. Then he meets a boy from a nearby cottage on the mainland, Pip, and they explore the marsh together. Dan is happy to have a friend, but later finds out that Pip might not really be the friend he seems, and feels alone again. A great mystery surrounds the death of Dan’s grandfather, who was planning to settle the family’s long feud with the Bishop family nearby when he was found dead near the Witches’ Bridge, without the briefcase he was bringing to the Bishops to close a deal on the purchase of a shipyard. Dan decides he must find out what really happened, and find the missing papers. He gets some help from a hermit living on his own small island and others, but he also finds many in the town against him, and soon Dan is also being accused of terrible things. How can he prove he’s innocent and solve the mystery?

I enjoyed reading this again, though this time I found it more melodramatic than I remembered, almost gothic in tone. I liked the characters and plot, the setting is well envisioned, and the mystery and its solution is satisfying, so in all, this book is recommended.

The Witches’ Bridge by Barbee Oliver Carleton

Incoming: DOOM PATROL BY GERARD WAY AND NICK DERINGTON: THE DELUXE EDITION

Images © DC Comics

Just arrived is this fancy oversized hardcover reprinting the 12-issue series I lettered as well as a second series I didn’t. I enjoyed working on it, I found the writing by Way and the art by Derington entertaining, and the characters and stories were fun and different, though clearly inspired by the earlier Doom Patrol work of Grant Morrison and company. Retail price is $49.99 in the U.S. It’s due in comics shops Feb 28. There’s an Amazon link below if you’d like to order it there.

Doom Patrol by Way and Derington Deluxe Edition

Most Cover Appearances of a Klein Logo

Logo design from my files, all images © the respective copyright holders.

Recently Anthony Tollin, who I worked with in the DC Production Department in the late 1970s-early 1980s, wrote to me on Facebook:

Hey, Todd, it occurs to me that your COMICS REVUE logo has probably appeared on more issues than any other logo you designed. It’s appeared on around 352 covers (290 regular issues, 80 double-issue covers plus two CR Annuals). Offhand, are there any other logos you designed that have appeared on more covers?

This is something I’ve noticed myself every five or ten years when I realize the magazine is still being published! It’s been rolling out regularly from Rick Norwood’s Manuscript Press since 1983 and has always been a hefty collection of comic strips, some reprinted from the glory days, some more recent.

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