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Dan Dare: The Phantom Fleet

September 10th, 2009 Posted by david brothers

I don’t have much experience with British boys’ comics. I’ve read a little 2000AD, but that’s where it stops. Dan Dare began appearing 30 plus years before the oldest issue of 2000AD I’ve ever read, so it’s clearly something different entirely.

Titan Books sent over Dan Dare: The Phantom Fleet and I checked it out. It’s a weird kind of sci-fi tale. It’s got spaceships, spacesuits, aliens, ray guns, and all of that, but it feels like a sci-fi book that isn’t. Dare and crew wear uniforms that are just like normal military uniforms, medals and badges and all. They parachute onto planets, go scuba diving, and other things I don’t really associate with spaceships. It’s “grounded sci-fi,” for lack of a better phrase.

The stories themselves are interesting. They’re two-page affairs from a weekly magazine, so each page has either a “Next week!” box or a story recap box. Despite that, though, the stories just get right into it. They flow from week to week pretty well, and it’s kind of neat to see how they used to do comics back in the day. I’ve seen creators gripe about how eight pages (or 22) is too little space to tell a full story. I can’t imagine what they’d say if you gave them two pages, other than “I quit.”

Dan Dare: The Phantom Fleet feels exactly like what it is: a post-World War II comic for young boys. The military comes off very glamorous and awesome, there’s not a lot of nuance, and there’s even a kid sidekick and funny animal. The art, though, is pretty great. It’s a bit higher quality than I would’ve expected for the time period, and the coloring when things go weird is awesome. It looks good, even though it’s 55 years old.

The Phantom Fleet was interesting stuff, particularly as an introduction to Dan Dare. Though I’m pretty far removed from his original context, I can see why he’s so well-regarded. Titan’s got a pretty aggressive reprint program for these books, as this is volume eleven. Check out the site and see what catches your fancy.

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Well, crap.

August 16th, 2009 Posted by Esther Inglis-Arkell

Solicit for the November issue of Titans under the cut:

Read the rest of this entry �

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Kirby & Simon’s Best

June 5th, 2009 Posted by david brothers

The Best of Simon and Kirby
Joe Simon & Jack Kirby, edited by Steve Saffel
240 pages, 9″x12 1/4″

Titan Books

I’m a Kirby fan.

It’s obvious if you know me, I think. I love the Captain America & the Falcon stuff he did, I love the New Gods, and I think that his character design is top notch. Of course, all of my favorite Kirby work was created after he’d become Jack “King” Kirby. This was late era Kirby, if you go by the length of his career.

Early Kirby, the raw stuff from the beginning of his career, is mostly a mystery to me. I have one of Marvel’s Visionaries hardcovers that collects a lot of it, like the Two-Gun Kid stuff, and it’s pretty fascinating. A lot of what made Kirby Kirby was there in the text, though in an unpolished form.

Titan Books recently released The Best of Simon and Kirby, a volume collecting a lot of those issues that I’ve never seen. I’ve got to say that they did a stellar job with it. It’s oversized (essentially a coffee table book), printed on non-glossy paper, and a real work of art. The extra size really lets you get into the art, which is part of the point of this book.

Joe Simon and Jack Kirby were a team for years, and worked in a variety of genres. This volume collects stories featuring superheroes, criminals, and (the deep, dark secret of Kirby & Simon) stories from the original romance book, Young Romance. I’d known that Kirby had a hand in popularizing romance comics, and it’s nice to finally get a chance to read them.

The Best of Simon and Kirby also reprints a couple of titles from DC and Marvel. Captain America, The Vision (the old one), Sandman, and a Boy Commandos tale wrap up the Big Two work in this book.

I really, really like this book. It’s a historical collection, but the way it’s presented is as more of a conversation piece. Each genre gets a chapter break in the form of a short essay that also doubles as a biography of the careers of each man. It’s conversational in tone, and detailed enough to educate you about a time you rarely hear about. It makes it easy to burn through the book, too, since it provides an easy stopping point for each genre. I spent a couple of days knocking out a series of stories before bed.

The most striking thing about this book, I think, is how un-Kirby a lot of it looks. The thick lines and insane layouts that dominated Kirby’s later work are present in the occasional story here, but most of the work isn’t as undeniably “Kirby” as, say, the Fourth World volumes. My first thought is to say that it was Joe Simon’s inking that makes it look so different, but something I keep forgetting is that a lot of these stories were over twenty years old before Kirby put pen to paper on Fantastic Four #1. Over the course of twenty or thirty years, anyone’s style would, and should, change around a little bit.

The Best of Simon and Kirby is forty bucks, which is a little pricey, but worth every penny to Kirby and Simon fans, or even people interested in comics history.

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Who Wants Free Watchmen Books?

March 27th, 2009 Posted by david brothers

These three books are sitting on my desk right now:

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For reference, they are Watchmen: Portraits, Watchmen: The Film Companion, and Watchmen: The Art of the Film.

They’re part of the Watchmen merch that came out prior to or at the same time as the film. I can attest to the fact that they’re awesome, particularly the portraits book. They’re enormous single page portraits of the cast and crew, and even a few props.

Anyway, I have these books, sent to me courtesy of Katherine at Titan Books, and I thought to myself… I should give these away. In fact, I can double it. I have two of each book. That’s six books total. I’m going to give away all six.

Here’s what you have to do. In the comments below, I want you to tell me what your favorite Alan Moore story is. Preferably, it will be a book that we can all pick up on Amazon or at our local book store. If it’s a single issue, tell us what collection it’s in. Here’s the rub, however: you need to tell me, over the course of around a paragraph, two if you’re really into it, why you love it so much.

Just for clarification, we’re talking books here. “Tom Strong” isn’t an answer, but “Tom Strong volume 1″ is, as long as you back it up. “League of Extraordinary Gentlemen #1″ isn’t an answer, but “LoEG v1, which includes #1,” is. Make sense?

I’m going to close off submissions on Wednesday, unless the thread dies off before then, and then I’m going to go through with my crack team of comics criticism scientists (read: me, myself, and I) and pick out the six best. Those six will get an email from me so that I can get their addresses and then I’m going to mail them a book. I get to pick the book, but all three are about equally awesome.

How’s that sound? Have at it.

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