Saturday, June 29, 2019

I’m Still Here!

Things have been pretty slow here as it concerns review samples.

It’s a bit of a lull.

For some reason (or reasons), I haven't been receiving g a lot of review material.

Being as I am retired and on a fixed income I can’t afford to go out and buy a lot of stuff.  Once in a while yes.  Consistently-no.

There could (and probably is/are) a good reason(s) why companies and publishers have cut back on sending stuff.

Conventions, trade shows, personnel hiring and firings, budgetary concerns, the cost of product and postage, new limitations on how large a website’s or blog’s audience is, blocked e-mails, no review sample policy-the list is a long one.

Whatever the reason(s) my review postings have hit a bit of a dry spell.

But, never fear, things will pick up.  I’m sure of it.

So for now it’s post when I can and hope for the best.


Thursday, June 20, 2019

Marauder, Lightning, Consolidated, Thunderbolt, Mustang, Hellcat and Messerschmitt

Thanks to the generosity of Schiffer Publishing, I have been given the opportunity to review seven new books it its Legends Of Warfare Aviation series.

Schiffer has compiled an impressive library chronicling the importance and role these seven aircraft (six Allied and one Axis) that saw service during the turbulent years of World War II.

Of all the wars the United States has taken part in WWII has always fascinated me the most.

During WWII both the Axis and Allied forces produced some of the most innovative and destruction war machines for land, sea and air the world had ever seen in a relatively short period of time.

Without a doubt war is a horrible thing: pestilence, death and destruction are never good things.

Author David Doyle is to be commended and congratulated on researching and writing some outstanding books about six Allied aircraft.

Each book is jam-packed with archival and current photographs detailing every aspect of each aircraft.

From full exterior and interior shots and close-up examinations of each component including engines, pilot and crew locations, weapons and other aircraft accessories and equipment.

The aircraft are shown in still stationary shots, in hangers, on airstrips and aircraft carriers (when applicable), in flight, engaged in air and ground combat and even in crash and shot-down scenarios.

The F6F Hellcat (Grumman’s Ace Maker In World War II) distinguished itself as the backbone of the carrier-based aircraft against the Japanese.

Reliable, fast and deadly the Hellcat boasted a huge kill ratio made possible by its .50-caliber machine guns, bomb payload, and unequaled ground and air victories.  Appropriately named the Hellcat it sent many of the enemy to Hell’s fiery domain.

The book, like all the other books in the series, features a spot-gloss title block and a full-color, wraparound aircraft photo on heavy cover stock that contains slightly glossy pages that perfectly display all of the interior photos.

I especially like the current color photos that really spotlight the intricate details of each aircraft.

The P-51 Mustang, Vol. 1 (North America’s Mk. I, A, B, and C Models In World War II) showcases one of the most recognizable aircraft of WWII. 

Fast, high maneuverable and numerous in numbers, the Mustangs successfully fought the Axis forces from the beginning of the war to its end.

Look for exhaustive details about its construction, design and capabilities complemented with photographs.

One of the most deadly aircraft during the war was the P-47 Thunderbolt (Republic’s Mighty “Jug” In World War II).

With over 7,000 enemy aircraft destroyed by it the Thunderbolt also boasted an impressive destructive wave of trucks, tanks, train cars and locomotives. 

The single-engine fighter. Though small by fighter standards, was deadly, heavily armed and nimble and fast enough to avoid most enemy aircraft.

(The B-24G to B-24M Liberators in World War II)-Consolidated B-24, Vol. 2, was the world’s most-produced heavy bomber, multi-engine aircraft and most produced aircraft in the U.S. military of all time.

Close to 19,000 Liberators were produced.

Boasting nose and rear gun turrets, four engines, an upper fuselage gun turret and an impressive bomb carriage capability the Liberator is just as intimidating today as it was during the war.

Take a moment to inspect the interior equipment, instrumentation, crew locations and construction.

As beautifully designed, as it was deadly, the Liberator was the bomber workhorse of the Allied fighting force.

The twin-tail-fuselage P-38 Lighting, Vol. I (Lockheed's XP-38 to P-38H In World War) was responsible for escorting American bombers over Axis controlled Europe.

Known as the “Fork-tailed Devil: the P-38 Lighting lived up to its name: fast, deadly and able to strike anywhere and at anytime.

The single pilot escort aircraft packed a punch with its forward mounted machine guns and talent for striking fast, accurately and on target.

The B-26 Marauder (Martin’s Medium Bomber In World War II) may have been small by bomber standards but it was no less dangerous and deadly.

Front, rear, bottom and side gun emplacements made this fast and nimble bomber a threat in the air as well as on bombing runs.

The Marauder proudly boasted a low loss-rate and a payload twice as large as its Axis counterpart.

Widely used and respected the Marauder was designed with firepower and destructive capabilities unlike any other aircraft of the time.

As impressive as the Allied military forces were the Axis powers (specifically the German/Nazi) fighting machine was in some respects much more technologically advanced.

If not for the sheer number of the Allied forces and some serious military blunders and miscalculations on the part of Nazi-the tide of war could have very well been on the side of the Nazi and they would have won.

Author Ron MacKay examines one of the Nazi/Luftwaffe’s most nefarious aircraft: the Messerschmitt Bf 110 (The Luftwaffe’s Fighter-Destroyer In World War II).

The twin-engine fighter effectively warded off fighters as it accompanied bomber formations.

It also performed ground-attack duties, which it was perfectly suited for its weapons complement that included a heavy cannon and machine gun gallery.  It could also functioned as a night fighter.

The German’s were innovative and inspired aircraft designers.  The Bf 110 is a testament to their ingenuity.  Its stealth capabilities coupled with its night flight strike innovation made it a formidable foe against Allied forces.

All the books it the Legends Of Warfare Aviation series are filled with interesting historical accounts, detailed examinations of each aircraft, fascinating insights into the war as seen form both sides and ripe with compelling photographs that bring the war years to life.

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Captain Marvel

There has been a lot of talk about the SJW (Social Justice Warrior) (it can be a bit preachy) aspect of the new Marvel Studios/Disney film: Captain Marvel.

Most of it has to do with Captain Marvel herself.

Some people have complained that she is too arrogant, full of herself and rather haughty.

Come on people!  Captain Marvel is former fighter jet pilot Carol Danvers.  Carol is a top notch Top Gun who rivals and sometimes exceeds her male counterparts when it comes to flight, fight and tactical skills.

Give the lady her due!  She certainly shouldn’t be a timid, easily flustered or indecisive individual!

The film deals with origin of Captain Marvel: how she obtained her powers, her search for her human identity and her prowess as a Kree warrior.

Having obtained incredible power and trained as Kree warrior (kind of an intergalactic cop) Captain Marvel polices threats to the Kree and after returning to Earth-threat to humanity.

She reluctantly teams with a young Nick Fury to fight against the shape-changing alien Skrulls (Marvel Comics’ first cosmic enemy as seen in Fantastic Four #2) who threaten to take over the Earth and are the sworn enemies of the Kree.

Set in the 1990s the film follows Captain Marvel and Nick Fury as they scramble to save humanity when Earth is caught in the middle of a battle between the Kree and Skrulls.

You’re sure to love the 1990’s references and nostalgic moments as well as the wardrobes, vehicles, popular trends and other late 20th Century sights, sounds and social norms.

Besides some kick-butt action the film is packed with humor, some touching moments (especially when it concerns a certain cat named Goose and Carol’s friendship with her old fighter pal) and some starling revelations that tie-in to the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

There are a few surprising and unexpected moments (concerning the Skrulls and Carol’s transformation) and you sense a real sense of conflict as Carol Danvers struggles with her humanity and her loyalty to the Kree.

But, things are not always as they appear and that especially applies as to who are your enemies and who are your friends.

The Blu-ray/Digital Mode Combo Pack also includes featurettes on Nick Fury, the Skrulls and Kree, an audio commentary, deleted scenes, a gag reel, a Big Hero Moment and much more.

Monday, June 17, 2019

Wrinkles, Science, Brain and ABBA

If I were the suspicious type I would think these next five books from Carlton Books had a central theme: old age.

After all, I am in my late 60s and for some mysterious reason each book has something that pertains to growing old, being old and how to prevent brain loss, memory loss, simple lessons on how to do things and music from the past.

Hmmmm, come to think of it all of the books DO have a certain getting older connection.  None more so than the first two books on my review list.

Two new books from Carlton’s Wrinkles series proves that just because you’re getting l that doesn’t mean you’re getting more mature.

In the Bedside Companion older folk get some advice on how to get their forty winks.

Speaking from experience I can testify that getting a few extras minutes of sleep, a good night’s sleep and the occasional nap does wonders for you when you get a certain age.

Far from boring the book offers dream-inducing quotes, jokes and anecdotes that are guaranteed to result in a peaceful night’s sleep.

In a Plethora Of Puzzles oldsters challenge their brains with a wide variety of puzzles from easy to hard in a variety of formats.

Need a good swift kick in your over-the-hill gray matter?  Then this is the book for you!

Even old folks need nerdy solutions to life’s little problems.  Age does not guarantee an easy life-far from it.

In Science The Sh*t Out Of Life you can learn anything and everything from where to sit at the movies to how to sleep well.

It’s fun, colorful and extremely informative list of do and how-tos that help to make life’s little problems a little bit easier to take and solve.

Graham Jones’ Brain Teasers will tantalize and train your brain with 200 baffling puzzles-and they do mean baffle!

If you want to give brain a major workout then tackle this book.  After a few pages your brain will throb, your memory will be challenged and your reasoning skills put to the test.

Talk about old times.  Way back in the 1970s there was a singing super group called ABBA consisting of two men and two women.

They were super popular and produced an impressive roster of number one hits.

ABBA The Stories Behind Every Song by Robert Scott, is a wonderful tribute to the group complete with archival photos and insider information,

Now, over 40 ears later they as a popular as ever and rightly so.  Their repertoire of sings is still relevant, catchy, fun to dance to and most of all fun to listen to.

Hailing from Sweden the group broke the international music scene barrier and became a world-wide hit loved by million.

The book is ABBA-solutely wonderful!

Friday, June 14, 2019

Dynamic Dames

I am delighted that the movies are now featuring strong, independent woman in more dynamic roles.

Perfect film examples are Wonder Woman, Captain Marvel, the upcoming Terminator reboot and a score of other comedic, action, drama and film genres.

And it’s not just young women.  Many ripe roles for older women are also becoming available and are shown and are highly successful.

It is true that women have always had roles in movies over the decades: key, but strong and pivotal roles were hard to come by.

In Dynamic Dames 50 Leading Ladies Who Made History, author Sloan De Forest and Running Press, trace the long and illustrious history of powerful women in films.

Julie Newmar (Catwoman) provides the foreword for this exciting new book that gives women their due credit in films.

Since the genesis of film all types of female role models are examined starting with Pre-Code Bad Girls then onto Reel Role Models, Big Bad Mamas, Fatal Femmes, Ladies Who Laugh, Women Of Mystery, Strong Survivors and ending up with Superheroines.

Along the way readers read about the actresses who portrayed the key roles, the films they starred in, behind-the-sense secrets, production notes and occurrences and much more are provided complemented with photographs.

It’s an amazing chronicle of the women who shaped an industry by the roles they played along with their own personal struggles, successes and the obstacles and opportunities they faced to make film history.

I Am Determined

I heard something interesting from the lady who stocks the books and magazines at Sam’s and Wal-Mart's.

It seems more and more people are starting to read--again.  From what the lady told me she has talked to a number of people (many parents) who are fed up with the whole e-book thing and social media snippet phenomenon.

People want a book in their hands, to flip through its pages that are actually printed on paper books and periodicals.  Coincidentally gamers are turning away from video games in droves and are starting to play more board and role-playing games.

From all appearances there is an electronic revolt going on.  I see it with comic books also.  Other than archive comic books that are too expensive for collectors to purchase comic book lovers are opting away from electronic versions.

Many comic book lovers are sticking with printed comic books (and abandoning the whole alternate cover fiasco) and trade paperback reprint collections.

I see a glimmer of hope.

I’ve also noticed that the proliferation of YouTube and other video reviews of toys, games, etc., has created a backlash of sorts.

While some of the sites deserve merit many of them are little more than fan boys who have terrible onscreen personalities, a lack of communication skills and know little about the books (especially older comic books) they ‘review’.

Many of the online sites are little more than ‘how much is it worth’ and ‘how to get rich off comic books, or other collectibles’.

Give me substance.  Give me content that teaches me something and where I actually learn something new.  Most sites do not offer anything of substance.

I’m encouraged.  I noticed n the last month or so that my blog, Facebook and Twitter sites are picking up steam and garnering more readers-especially my blog.

I’ve seen the readership almost triple and not just domestically but internationally as well.

I am determined to hound, cajole, insist and persuade publishers and manufacturers to provide more review samples on a consistent basis.

I strive to write clear, to-the-point, concise and entertaining reviews. 

I want my readers to learn something or at least spark in them the desire to do more research, read, voice their own opinion and communicate in writing or in person.

Ironically the whole social media phenomenon has had the opposite effect.

As smart phones, tablets and other electronic devices (along with the Internet) deluge consumers with trivia and an unending flow of worthless information, consumer social skills have suffered.

How many times have you gone to a restaurant or other gatherings of families and friends and noticed everyone is on their devices and are totally oblivious to those around them?

That’s outrageous, pitiful and most of all alarming!  Does no one speak person-to-person anymore?

I encourage, you, the consumer, to read reviews, buy a book and spend a few enjoyable hours engulfed in its pages, buy a product and form your own opinion and not that of mass media and most of all to ponder-to take the time to slow down, relax and think.

You might be surprised at what you discover.

Thursday, June 13, 2019

California, Knives and Marx

My wife, our kids and I have been out to California several times to visit my wife’s sister Linda who lives in the Sierra Nevada's.

It’s always a pleasant trip and we love spending time with her and the stay over in her yurt.

Despite the troubling news that major cities in California are experiencing a homeless crisis and rising property and merchandise taxes and costs, California is still worth the trip if for nothing else than to see its amazingly diverse terrain.

California has it all with beaches, mountains, plains, deserts, rain-forests and so much more.

Schiffer Books and author and photographer David Skernick present the best of the best of wild California in a set of two books called Back Roads Of Northern California and Back Roads Of Southern California.

What better way to see California's flora, fauna and landscape close-up than with these two absolutely gorgeous pictorial guides!?

Between my family and I we’ve seen every part of California from its southern border to its northern tip.  We hope to go back again someday.

As much as I love guns and other civilian firearms and artillery there is something about knives that draws me to them.

Maybe it’s a primal urge to take on nature with only my wits, physical strength and the most primitive of weapons.

After all, man survived using knives long before firearms came around.

There is something beautiful about a well-crafted knife. From its handle to its single or double edge blade a knife is a perfectly balanced survival tool and weapon.

With a knife it is possible to survive almost anywhere.

In The Big Book Of Knives author Oliver Lang writes everything about mankind’s most important tool.

Every facet of knife-making is explained, how a blade is sharpened, how its blade is attacked to its handle, the different types of knives and their uses, their utilitarian use and how the modern knife has been transformed from a simple, sharp tool to a precision instrument.

Areas covered include sheaths, utility multi-tools, pocket knives, hunting knives, as weapons of war and protection, knives for the home and kitchen and there's even a section on the care and upkeep of a knife.

It comes as no surprise to me that most readers are not familiar with Marx Toys.

When I was young Marx Toys was one of the most popular and innovative toy manufacturers in the world.  Sadly the company is out of business.

In Marx Toys Robots, Space, Comic, Disney & TV Characters, by Maxine A. Pinsky, not only is a full color-photo catalog but includes values too.

Tin toys of every type are present be they small stagnant toys or wind-up toys that delighted kids years ago and collectors today.

I only wish I had the Marx Toys from when I was a kid.

What a delightful visual treat accompanied by in-depth text about each toy including the dates each was in production.

“Marx Toys ~ Have You All of Them?”

Dark Neostorm

Konami’s Dark Yu-Gi-Oh! Trading Card Game Neostorm Special Edition thunders into stores so you better grab all you can as fast as lightning!

Get ready to play come rain or high water in a brand new YGO Special Edition that brings a whole ‘new’ meaning to the word ‘storm‘.

Thunderation!  It’s time to play!

Each Dark Neostorm Special Edition contains:

3 Dark Neostorm Booster Packs
1 of 2 Super Rares
1 of 2 Super Rare preview Cards from the Rising Rampage Booster Set

Monday, June 10, 2019

We Are Here Forever and Manfried Saves The Day

What in the world!?  What exactly am I seeing?

I’ve always considered myself a lover of conventional comic strips and comic books.  Oh sure, some of them have odd and quirky characters and the art styles that range from ultra-realistic to minimalist.

But...the two new graphic novels I recently acquired, published by Quirk Books, have collectively boggled and befuddled my oh so traditional mind!

At first I was a little take back by the art and stories.  I was unprepared for the unusual art styles and decidedly unconventional stories.

But, the more I looked at and read them the more intrigued and captivated I was by them.

I mean, what’s not to be drawn to?

Manfried Saves The Day completely reverses the roles of man and his pet theme.

In a strange world when humanoid felines have humans as pets Manfried is a lazy, pampered and spoiled human pet.  Kind of a pink, hairless Garfield-only worse.

In Manfried Saves The Day, web comic creators Caitlin Major and Kelly Bastow continue their much-loved Manfried strip in a brand new graphic novel adventure.

In it Manfried must take first place in the Manflower Man Show if a local shelter can a have prayer of staying open.  If not, stray men will be forced on the street.  Any you know what that means!

Talk about a role reversal!

In Michelle Gish’s After You Are Gone We Are Here Forever graphic novel the Puramus are curious, emotional and complex, short, purple, blobby-body creatures that populate an Earth without people.

As they struggle to cope with their newfound emotions and tackle concepts like war, famine, hate and the like they begin to question their existence and to wonder where they came from.

Why is the human race gone?  When did it happen?  Where did the Puramus come from?  What is their purpose?  Are they doomed to follow the same destructive path as humans?

For a unique examination of the human condition using non-human creatures We Are Here Forever tackles the many strengths and weakness of the human species as experienced by a new race. 

Will they make the same mistakes as humans or rise above their pettiness and prejudices to become worthy successor to the human race?

Only time will tell.

Apocalypse, Green and Creatures

The end of the world!  The Zombie Apocalypse!  Global climate change!

It seems wherever you go nowadays that lots of people are in a panic about the possible end of the world.

Newsflash!  End-time panic is nothing new.  I remember when I was a kid it was the nuclear war threat, overpopulation, greenhouse gases, a shortage of food or a dozen other ways for the world (specifically people) to end.

Guess what?  It ain’t happened yet.  I’m not saying it won’t (as a Christian I know it will happen, but no one knows when).

In Apocalypse Then, written by Mike Bogue and published by McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers, readers are invited to travel back to the years 1951 to 1967 to witness American and Japanese Atomic Cinema.

Back then everything bad was blamed on the Atomic Bomb or Atomic Energy gone wrong.

Giant monsters, irradiated humans who either grew to enormous size or shrunk to sub-atomic scale, mutated giant insects; space invaders and other threats dominated the Silver Screen.

It seemed that everyone was Atomic Bomb crazy and terrified and the movies echoed that fear with invader, horrific monsters, Atomic War or any of a dozen other ways that splitting the atom could destroy mankind.

Discover all of the films that foretold of doom in this exciting new book, complete with vintage movie photos and art that examines the Atomic Age anxiety of that time.

Just to set the record straight Environmentalism has been around for decades.  It really got a push in the 1960s and has spread worldwide.

Some of it is disconcerting but much of it is pure panic quackery and hackery dreamed up by those that get anxiety attacks when a plant dies.

It’s more about politics than pollution.

Be that as it may environmental degradation was spotlighted in the movies long before most took notice.

Authors Sean Rhoads and Brooke McCorkle has investigated the early Japanese giant monster movies and discovered an interesting fact.

Most of them promoted a central theme-the wide-scale destruction of the environmental and ecological systems of the world.

That’s right!  Godzilla, Mothra, Gamera and all those other giant beasties of Japanese Cinema were not just creatures of destructions; they were the guardians of the Earth!

Mind blown!  Think about it, nuclear power, industrial pollution, man’s wide-scale destruction of the flora and fauna, water and air pollution, the destruction of the Ozone Layer-all of them were addressed in one form or another.

I can see it now, Godzilla as the new poster child of the environment.  A kind of lizard Smokey the Bear with the catchphrase, “Only you can prevent worldwide destruction!”

Check out Japan’s Green Monsters Environmental Commentary In Kaiju Cinema.

Let’s get back to giant insect, lizards, animals, etc.

Back in the days when movies were filled with films about Nature Turned Nasty it seems animals of all sorts were determined to make people pay for their misuse of atomic energy, nasty chemicals and the like.

In Creature Features author William Schoell lovingly looks back at such classic films as The Birds, The Blob, Them! and other low budget and blockbuster films where man’s fellow creatures decided they had had enough and it was time to pay the piper-big time!

Dismember, devour, dissolve, mince-it really didn’t make a difference on how humans were eliminated-they all made great cinema!

Honestly, who doesn’t like a good old-fashioned nature gone crazy film?

It was these films that made such classic movies as Jaws, Alien, Jurassic Park and modern films of like genre so popular.

Get ready for some human entrees and snacks in a book that proves that humans are part of the food chain.  

Saturday, June 8, 2019

Daredevil and Superman

The year was was 1980.  My wife and I had moved to Texas when I secured a job as an illustrator at a publishing firm.

My work consisted mainly of cartoons.  I loved it!

I’d always been a big fan of comic books and this was (or so I thought at the tie) my chance to strut my stuff and eventually transition to comic books.

Things didn’t work out that way but, while employed, my wife and I happened to stop by a local used bookstore.

There, on the floor by the cashier’s counter, was a box of used comic books.

I had gotten rid of my comic books a few years before I got married and only occasionally looked at them when I happened to pass by a comic book stand.

With little or no money, I never bought any.

Now that was gainfully employed I decided to peruse the box and maybe pick up a few titles.

The first issue I picked up was an early Frank Miller Daredevil comic book-just after he started both writing and drawing the series.

I was dumbfounded.  Who was this guy?  What had he done to Daredevil?

Sure Daredevil looked the same (more or less) but he was a lot tougher!

Instead of his Stan Lee/Gene Colan quips, overly-acrobatic gymnastics and verbal and physical jabs, this Daredevil was as tough-as-nails, brutal at times and his adversaries were killers, hitmen and the scum of the earth with little regard for life or the law.

The pages were orchestrated battles with plenty of film noir sequences, brutal fisticuffs and violence.

I loved it!  I immediately snatched up the dozen or so issues and bought them all.

Not long after that I persuaded my wife to visit a local comic book shop where I subscribed to Daredevil, The Uncanny X-Men (drawn by John Byrne) and George Perez’s The New Teen Titans.  My comic book addiction reasserted itself.

In Frank Miller’s Daredevil And The Ends Of Heroism, written by Paul Young and published by Rutgers University Press, readers are invited to explore the Miller Daredevil phenomenon is full.

The author delves deeply into the life and work of Frank Miller, his influences, his vision of Daredevil and how he successfully re-engineered the Man Without Fear and his rogue’s gallery and supporting cast.

Full-color page and scene reproductions from Miller’s run on Daredevil are examined and the author fleshes out how Miller’s innovative layouts, story-telling techniques and unique take on the character changed the way superheroes were viewed.

Miller’s influence is felt even today as a whole new generation of artists and writers take what they’ve learned from Miller’s vision and transformed the comic book industry.

Superman: the granddaddy of comic book superheroes.

How is a character, created in the late 1930s, managed to stay so relevant and topical for going on 80 years?

Author Ian Gordon looks at Superman’s stellar career in his new book: The Persistence Of An American Icon Superman.

Like the Daredevil book the Superman Rutger’s book is part of its Comics Culture series that takes a serious look at the American comic book industry.

Aided by color photos of art spanning the decades the book delves into the enormous influence Superman has had on American society.

Films, comic books, toys, animation and practically every other form of merchandise tie-ins keep the character at the forefront of societal consciousness.

No other comic book character has the long, enduing and illustrious career as The Man Of Steel.

There have been some contentious times betwixt creators, publishers and other corporate types yet Superman has survived them all much as his character did from the destruction of his home planet Krypton in the comic books.

For a real insider look at what makes Superman tick be sure to pick up a copy of this book.  It looks like superman will be around for a very long, long time.

My Favorite Comic Books (Or How I Decided To Become An Artist/Graphic Designer)

I started reading comic books when I was five years old.  My favorites included Harvey Comics’ Casper, Little Lotta, Baby Huey,   Little Dot, Wendy The Good Little Witch, Casper, Spooky, Red Hot, Stumbo The Giant, Sad Sack and of course Richie Rich.

Other favorites included Little Archie, Sugar and Spike, Fox and Crow and a plethora of funny animal comic books including Donald Duck, Scrooge McDuck, Woody Woodpecker and various Warner Bros, Walter Lantz and Terry Toons cartoon characters.

As I grew older I gravitated toward superhero comic books.   I loved the stories and paid little attention to the artists who drew them.  That would come later.

Most of the titles were from DC Comics and included The Doom Patrol, Metamorpho, various war titles, Dial H for Hero, Superman, Batman, The Legion Of Superheroes,  The Flash, Green Lantern, The Atom, Martian Manhunter, Elongated Man, Adam Strange and The Justice League Of America.

When Marvel Comics hit it big I picked up most its titles and it was at this point that my interest in art began to form.  Marvel gave credit to each book’s artist and I took notice.

From that point on I made it my mission to study the art of various artists.

During the Silver, Bronze and Modern Ages I took note of particular titles that my favorite artists worked on.

Here’s a list:

Neal Adam: Deadman, Batman, Brave and The Bold, The Uncanny X-Men and The Avengers.

John Buscema: Namor The Submariner, The Avengers and The Silver Surfer.

Steve Ditko: The Amazing Spider-Man, The Creeper, Doctor Strange, Captain Atom, The Blue Beetle, The Question and Hawk and Dove.

Wally Wood: Thunder Agents, All of his EC Comics work and Daredevil.

Gene Colan: Daredevil, The Avengers, Doctor Strange and Dracula.

Jack Kirby: The Fantastic Four, Thor, Challengers Of The Unknown, The Uncanny X-Men, His DC Comics Fourth World Saga, Captain America and The Uncanny X-Men.

Jim Steranko: Nick Fury Agent Of S.H.I.E.L.D., Captain America and The Uncanny X-Men.

Bernie Wrightson: Swamp Thing and his Warren Magazine work.

Frank Brunner: Doctor Strange.

Mike Ploog: Werewolf By Night.

Jim Starlin:  Warlock, Captain Marvel, various Thanos series and Dreadstar.

George Perez: The Avengers, The New Teen Titans, The Fantastic Four, Wonder Woman, The Infinity Gauntlet and The Justice League Of America.

John Byrne: The Uncanny X-Men, The Fantastic Four, Wonder Woman, The Demon, OMAC, The Demon, The Next Men, The Doom Patrol, Generations, Superman and She Hulk.

Frank Miller: Daredevil, Ronin, The Dark Knight Returns and Sin City.

Other artists whose work I enjoy and who have contributed to various titles over the years but seldom stayed on a regular monthly title are: Arthur Adams, Jerry Ordway, Ivan Reis, Dave Gibbons, Alan Davis, Dave Stevens, Jim Lee, Brian Bolland, Frank Frazetta, Joe Kubert, Michael Golden, Mort Drucker, Jack Davis, Alex Toth and various others whom, at the moment, I can’t remember their names.

I’m sure I’ve overlooked favorites of other comic book collectors.  It’s all about personal taste.

Each artist I’ve listed helped me to develop my own style and inspired me to do my best.  I’ve been fortunate enough to meet a few in person.

I’ve loved comic books all of my life and I see no reason why that love will ever fade.

I’ve often had people kid with me and tell me, “They’re gong to bury you in a comic book long box when you die.”

You know, that may not be such a bad idea after all.

Thursday, June 6, 2019

Tesla, Alice, Espionage, Cults and Nether

What one man is the most responsible for the electrical grid that supplies Alternating Current to every home, business and government around the world?

If you said Thomas Edison you would be wrong.

While Edison did promote the grid and was responsible for its growth, he did not originate Alternating Current.

In fact Edison envisioned a world powered by Direct Current. 

When he realized that Tesla’s Alternating Current was much more efficient and innovative he effectively destroyed Tesla’s chances at success.  It’s ugly, but true.

Nikola Tesla invented Alternating Current and it was only because of his bad business decisions and Edison’s intervention that he is not touted as the innovator, genius and visionary that he so richly deserves.

Tesla started out a poor Croatian immigrant who at a very early age exhibited his remarkable genius.

Tesla’s genius when it came to electricity and engineering was second to none.

His visionary insights into the future saw a world with free broadcast electricity using the Earth itself as a conductor, incredible strides in electrical vehicles and uses and much more.

Tesla; The Man, The Inventor, And The Age Of Electricity, written by Dr. Richard Gunderman and published by Carlton Books looks into the life of Tesla, his victories, his failures and his life so full of potential relegated to the backseat and eventual destitution.

Who better to tackle a puzzle than Lewis Carroll’s Alice?

After all she did tumble down a rabbit hole, solve all sorts of unusual puzzles and riddles and managed to escape the Wonderland madness.

In Alice In Puzzleland, authors R. W. Galland and Jason Ward put Alice through her paces in a wonderful new book of mind-bending puzzles and riddles that will make the Mad Hatter even madder than he already is.

Fall down, down through the die-cut keyhole where a Wonderland of puzzles and riddles await.

Beautifully illustrated, using vintage clipart and original Alice drawing, the book is a real brainteaser that would make the Cheshire Cat proud.

The world of espionage and spying is glamorized in novels, movies and TV.

But the real world of espionage is anything but glamorous and filled with gorgeous women, elegant social affair, fast cars and clever gimmicks.

While elements of each exist to a small degree in espionage the real world of spies, international intrigue and counter intelligent is filled with danger, blood, guts and sweat.

Few hours are spent at casinos or sipping expensive wine and eating gourmet food.

In The History Of Espionage: The Secret World of Spycraft, Sabotage And Post-Truth Propaganda, author Ernest Volkman blows the lid off the myth of the super-spy and the exotic world of espionage.

Readers are given a front row seat to the long and dangerous theater that is espionage, starting in ancient times.

Learn all about the grim, dingy and dangerous world of espionage with all its pitfalls, characters and the specter of death that pervades every moment.

Weapons, techniques, codes and more are examined up until the modern digital age.

What is it about Cults that so captivate human curiosity? 

Why are so many people caught up in their lies, misconceptions and often-fatal conclusions?

In The History Of Cults From Satanic Sects To The Manson Family, author Robert Schroeder examines what makes cults click.

Learn how cults form, the charismatic leaders who enthrall and often entrap followers, their rituals, rules, punishments and extreme rhetoric.

It is no surprise many cults glean their members of cash and possessions, make promises they cannot keep and deceive countless thousands.

The book identifies past and current cults, their modes of operation and how they entrap people, deceive many and ultimately destroy the lives of those foolish enough to believe their lies.

The book focuses in on cult leaders, cult practices and is supplemented with photos and art.

I am a big fan of the Stranger Things TV series.  Puzzles From The Nether offers a frightening addictive puzzle adventure inspired by the world of Stranger Things by author Jason Ward.

Readers must decipher messages from the other side and by solve puzzles in order to escape.

Filled with colorful illustrations, photos and quirky facts and insights the book brings the world of Stranger Things up close and personal.

Greetings From Lincoln Highway

Americans (and many around the world) are fascinated by the United States highways-especially the older ones.

In Greetings From The Lincoln Highway, author Brian Butko and Globe Pequot Press, invite readers on a road trip celebration of America’s First coast-to-coast highway.

I absolutely love learning about the history of America's highways and byways.

For the first time in American history the Lincoln Highway allowed motorists to make a complete trip across the U.S.

Better yet it offered scenic wonders. Accommodations, quirky and unusual rest stops, stores, attractions and historical sites.

From start to finish the book is jam-packed with current photographs, maps and vintage art and photos that illustrate the history of the Lincoln Highway.

Facts and fun-filled anecdotes recall the early years of the highway, its many stopover points and the people and times that make up the long history of the highway.

Nostalgia reigns as readers travel down Memory Lane, indulge in some good old-fashioned Americana and relive the past.

What a joy to read and imagine traveling down the highway past farms, villages, cities, historical sites and nature’s wonders and meeting the people, visiting the places and remembering the good old days.

The book also offers a modern day take on the many sites still in existence, great places to visit and of course the great people who you’ll meet along the way.

The Words Between Us

Secrets-everyone has secrets.

But when is secret is revealed that involves a horrible truth and is hidden by a fabricated identity and lies--trouble is sure to follow

That‘s the situation used bookstore owner Robin Windsor finds herself in.

Over the years she assumed different identities, kept to herself and preferred the company of books to people.

What friends she does have are few and far between.

She lives a quiet, reclusive life surrounded by her literary gallery of fictional characters, her parrot The Professor and two loyal friends who share her secret.

Running from her past, despite the fact that she had nothing to do with her parents’ crimes, Robin is haunted by their actions and hides from those who want to expose her.

One day a package arrives at her door.

Within it is a copy of The Catcher On The Rye: the very first book Peter Flynt: a boy she met in high school, gave her.  He also betrayed her trust-a betrayal she has never got over.

But why and what has the book to do with her past?  Some other books they shared begin to arrive.

Does their arrival foretell impending doom?  Will her long held secret be revealed?

That’s just a few of the questions she needs answered in the brand new thriller:
The Words Between Us, by author Erin Bartels and published by Baker Publishing Group/Revell.

The Words Between Us is a taught thriller that strings the reader along in a sequence of slow and methodical moments that culminate in a rush to an unexpected revelation.

The characters are well fleshed out and totally unique.  The author does an excellent job of defining each person’s individual personality, none more so than

You feel as if you know the people.  There is an air of familiarity about them.

From the quiet, secretive, yet compassionate Robin to her more boisterous, sometimes outrageous friends and associates, each is unique.

You really feel the turmoil Robin is caught up in and the torment she has endured over the years.

I especially like the references to God and faith.  I was pleased to read that the author hails from my home state of Michigan and resides not too far from my hometown of Milford.

The book is a great read and fans of mysteries and thrillers are sure to enjoy every page.

Saturday, June 1, 2019

YouTube Clueless

I like YouTube-at least the videos that actually teach something.  To me YouTube (the sites I watch) is like watching PBS online.  I actually learn something.

However...many of the ‘so-called’ informational sites are exercises in self-gratification and promotion.

Too often when I watch YouTube channels that purport to review comic books, toys, etc., they are little more than ‘look what I have’ or ‘I got this and you don’t’ exercises in ego-stroking. 

For example-comic book collector sites.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve watched individuals ‘report’ on ‘hot’ vintage comic books and never delve into the past or significance of said books.

Often the reviews cover recent releases that are reportedly hot and worth money.

Here’s a tip:  if the book states on its cover or is promoted by its publishers as collectible and valuable-it’s not.

Truthfully, most variant cover and recently published comic books (there are a few exceptions) will wind up not being worth the money they originally sold for.

Think about it.  Why would a comic book be worth more simply because it has a different cover?  Shouldn’t the value of the book be because of its scarcity (the ENTIRE book’s scarcity), significant event in the book or a first appearance?

As an example: the first appearances of Deadpool and Cable.  When these books initially came out they were printed in the hundreds of thousands.  The same goes for the first appearance of Venom.

There is no way these books should be worth the money demanded by sellers.  Talk about a rip off!

Have you ever listened to some of these so-called ‘comic book experts’? 
Do they not do their research!  Honestly, some of the stuff they say.  I absolutely cringe.

The same goes for many of the toy review sites.  Sure they show off the toys but very few (and I mean VERY few) sites actually take the time to really examine a toy.  I’m talking about commenting on the packaging, construction of the toy, details, color, articulation and the like.

Most are ‘Gosh, golly, this toy is cool!’

I want some meat and bones when it comes to reviews-not fluff and filler.

Some YouTube sites are little more than men acting likes boys exploring rides, attractions and travel locations-again with little content.

Many offer the opportunity for ‘travel reviewers’ to talk to the camera and feed their own egos.

Frankly I’m getting sick of the whole mess.

There are some legitimate and informative sites on YouTube.  Especially when they pertain to home, auto or other repairs or product quality or history, science or educational subjects.

Unfortunately YouTube, like so many social media sites, is being hijacked by individuals who have nothing better to do than post stupid, egocentric or absolutely worthless videos.

Is it any wonder that people’s attention spans are minimal, reading has all but disappeared and self-gratification is at an all-time high?

YouTube is lauded as a great communication vehicle.  The trouble is there are a bunch of idiots behind the wheel!