Before the Amazing Spider-Man, before the mysterious Dr. Strange, before the black-and-white world of the Ayn Rand-inspired Mr. A, the legendary comic book artist Steve Ditko was conjuring all manners of horrors at his drawing table. In his first two years in the industry (1953 and 1954), Ditko drew tales of macabre suspense that were not yet hobbled by the imminent Comics Code Authority (adopted in Oct. 1954). These stories featured graphic bloodshed, dismemberment and blood-curdling acid baths as the ugly end to the lives of the dark and twisted inhabitants of Steve Ditko’s imagination.
Following up on Strange and Stranger: The World of Steve Ditko, Blake Bell’s 2008 best-selling critical retrospective of Ditko’s career, Strange Suspense: The Steve Ditko Archives Vol. 1 features, for the first time, spectacular full-color reprints of every story from those first two years of his career. Beginning with Ditko’s very first story to Ditko’s short stint in the Joe Simon/Jack Kirby studio, to Ditko’s eventual encampment at the Charlton Comics operation in 1954, readers will see the initial works of an artist already at a level of craftsmanship that exceeded most of his peers. The book also features editor Bell’s insightful introduction, providing historical background and speaking to Ditko's influence and his unique craft.
As great as the new cover for the forthcoming paperback edition of Strange Suspense: The Steve Ditko Archives Vol. 1 looks on screen, it looks even better in person as we ogle the advance copies fresh out of the box today. And, of course, the guts are still phenomenal, collecting Ditko's earliest pre-Code horror and suspense work, expertly restored in full lurid color, and compiled by acclaimed Ditko biographer Blake Bell.
If you missed out on the hardcover edition of this volume, be sure to snap up this version right away — you can reserve your copy, and read an excerpt with 3 full stories, right here!
At four volumes and counting, our Steve Ditko Archives series continues collecting the early work by this prolific comics legend, and now we go back to the beginning for a new paperback edition of the sold-out first volume, Strange Suspense. This is the earliest, pre-Code stuff, which means that it's the grisliest and most horrifying, just like you like it!
Our downloadable excerpt includes the Table of Contents and two complete short stories: "Library of Horror" ("Good heavens! I've trespassed into the beyond -- and there's no escape!") and "Die Laughing!" ("I-I'm clearing out! This joke of Chandler's is too grisly for my taste!"), plus one of Ditko's eye-popping covers. Pre-order your copy today for delivery in June.
Steve Ditko is such a great image-maker, it must be hard for our designers to choose artwork for the covers of our Steve Ditko Archives collections of his early, pre-Marvel work. With Volume 1, Strange Suspense, we got a chance to make a double dip from the deep Ditko inkwell for our new softcover reprint, coming this summer with this newly-designed cover. Behind you, lady!! Stay tuned for more sneak peeks. (Of course, if you don't want to wait to read this book, it's available digitally right now on comiXology.)
The most delicious 50% candy so let's eat our feelings of Online Commentaries and Diversions:
• Plug: The Advocate lists Julio's Day as great gift. "[Julio's Day] is a remarkable literary work that compresses 100 years into 100 pages and demonstrates how dramatically life changed for gay men between 1900 and 2000." –Jacob M, The Advocate
• Plug:The AV Club lists Julio's Day at #8 of the top 10 Graphic Novels and Art Comics of 2013. "Comic books have a unique way of evoking the passage of time within static images, and Gilbert Hernandez is a cartoonist that is keenly aware of how he can use the medium to manipulate that chronal flow." –Oliver Sava, The AV Club
• Review: Julio's Day on Comic Pusher "This is a fantastic book, yet another example of a master cartoonist at work, an excellent representative Gilbert Hernandez for those unfamiliar with him, and a fine addition to the library of those who have grown with his work over 30 years." -Jeffrey O. Gustafson, Comics Pusher
• Review:Maria M. by Gilbert Hernandez on Page 45: "Crime and punishment executed with rapidfire, bullet-point precision...The cartooning is, as ever, an immaculately clean and balanced black and white joy, the expressions are exquisite and the breasts, they are humungous." -SLH, Page 45
• Plug:Maria M. "More than 30 years into his career, there's no stopping Gilbert Hernandez..." -Tom Murphy, Broken Frontier
• Plug: GNR takes a look at Gilbert Hernandez's The Troublemakers: "I found the book to be engrossing, compelling, and a lot of fun for both noir and comics fans." -Sterg Botzakis, Graphic Novel Resources
• Review: Best of 2013 on Comics Pusher "Obviously this was the year of Gilbert Hernandez…Gilbert filled the void of singular marquis comics with no less than five stunning works, collectively casting its own literary shadow for subsequent generations to wonder at. Someday you can tell your grandchildren that you were alive when the Hernandez Brothers were creating comics, and when Gilbert owned 2013." –Jeffrey O. Gustafson, Comics Pusher
• Review: Comic Book Bin looks at Love and Rockets: New Stories #6"Here, both [Jaime and Gilbert Hernandez] are like great athletes that use human growth hormone (HGH) to extend their peak performance into middle age. Los Bros. have found creative and artistic steroids, as they are producing Love and Rockets comics that are as good as they've ever been. Or maybe genius never gets old and keeps producing all-star work." –Leroy Douresseaux, Comic Book Bin
• Review: "Love and Rockets continues to be a vital and important ongoing document of two creators at the absolute height of their powers, and the only venue to read new material from Jaime. The brothers' respective works, their respective worlds, stand alone - but in Love and Rockets we get the privilege of experiencing jolts of both, alternating between brother and brother, between greatness and greatness." –Jeffrey O. Gustafson, Comic Pusher
• Plug:Love and Rockets Companion is examined on VICE "Love and Rockets is a great comic that has been around for 30 years now and the characters in the book have aged in time with us... This book's dust jacket, which unfolds into a family tree, will help sort you out if you're like me and can't keep the characters straight" -Nick Gazin, VICE
• Review: Grovel checks out Maria M. "Love and Rockets fans shouldn't be without this, but anyone else with an interest in sharp, sexy, violent but sophisticated stories can still enjoy it for what it is: a B-movie homage that takes the genre above and beyond our expectations." -Andy Shaw, Grovel
• Plug:The Omnivoracious lists Love and Rockets the series as part of the Lambda awards "These are life stories, told as life unfolds-with humor, heartbreak, and perseverance" –Alex Carr
• Plug: Paste lists The Love Bunglers on the Most Anticipated comics of 2014! "Any time a collection of Jaime Hernandez's Maggie (and/or Hopey) stories is published, it's cause for celebration." -Hillary Brown, Paste
• Review: Wandering Son 6 by Shimura Takako "in Wandering Son, Volume 6 so many parallels are made between Shuichi and Takatsuki's real life and the very deliberately crafted Romeo and Juliet production.... It may not be a particularly subtle narrative technique on Shimura's part, but it is a very effective one. The play echos their experiences, emphasizing specific aspects of their lives and relationships not only for the characters, but for the readers as well. Wandering Son continues to be an absolutely wonderful series." –Ash Brown, Experiments in Manga
• Plug:The Advocate lists the Wandering Son series "An amazing series, Wandering Son offers an unusual glimpse into the lives of gender-nonconforming kids. Suitable for readers 13 and older and engaging enough to keep readers of all ages impatiently awaiting next year's Volume 5."
• Review: The Chicago Tribune looks at Carl Barks' Donald Duck: Christmas on Bear Mountain. "Ridiculously, infuriatingly, this is the first time the work of America's finest cartoonist (his only real competition being George Herriman, Walt Kelly and Charles Schulz) has been reproduced with the care and splendor it deserves. Imagine if Duke Ellington's recordings were only now being properly remastered and collected." – Michael Robbins, The Chicago Tribune
• Review:Donald Duck: Christmas on Bear Mountain "Carl Barks is one of those truly perfect cartoonists. It feels so good to have these books with beautiful Fantagraphics quality production sitting on my shelf...You'll get sucked in." –Nick Gazin, VICE
• Review: SLJ onDonald Duck: Christmas on Bear Mountain"Barks's Disney comics were and are enormously well crafted and equally enormously entertaining, timeless comedy adventures that Fanta presents in such handsomely designed volumes that they make the perfect gift for just about any reader of comics." –J. Caleb Mozzocco, School Library Journal
• Review:Donald Duck: Christmas on Bear Mountain "Scrooge is a lot grouchier, bitter and ill tempered than his later incarnations and closer to the Dickens persona rather than Bark's character...whenever I bring up the subject of ducks with my comic book pals, they look at me a-scant but I highly recommend this fabulous collection from Fantagraphics that celebrates the life and prodigious body of work of the Dean of Duckdom, the irreplaceable Carl Barks." –Chris Marshall, Collected Comics Library
• Plug:Atomichearted Boy looks at The Treasury of Mini Comics, edited by Michael Dowers. "Mini comics are like the wild west of the comics world - in this lo-fi, DIY formate - it's anything - and everything - goes."–Benn Ray, Atomic Books
• Review:The Secret History of Marvel Comicsby Blake Bell and Doc Michael J Vassallo"…this book expands our understanding of the publishing industry context in which those comics were produced, and it gives us an unprecedented portfolio of non-comic book art from some notable comic book artists." -John Hilgart, The Comics Journal
• Review: "what's been unearthed here (much of it never reprinted) is both visually and historically stunning…The Secret History of Marvel Comics is a stunning book (in more ways than one) of beauties, beasts, and bombast, as well as a wonderfully askew look at the Precambrian Era of Marvel Comics." –KC Carlson, Comics Worth Reading
• Interview:Bomb Blog asks Stephen Dixon about His Wife Leaves Him: "Yes. I wanted most of the novel to be in his head. For this, he has to be lying back in bed with his room dark and his eyes closed, remembering things in their marriage. Of course, there is action in the dream. There's movement, I should say. It's a very interior novel." -Dixon
Review: David Evanier looks at His Wife Leaves Him and Stephen Dixon in general. "Stephen Dixon is, in my opinion, the best and most overlooked American Jewish fiction writer in the country. If I left out "Jewish," he would still be the best."–David Evanier, The Jewish Book Council
• Review:Publishers Weekly gives His Wife Leaves Him a starred review: "A peek into the private world of their marriage proves the novel to be more than the sum of its parts as the reader is granted a panoramic view of the evolution of two characters and their relationship."
• Interview: James Fleming writes a very nice intro to Dixon's His Wife Leaves Him and includes some email correspondence with him on Burrow Press. "How do I even begin to explain how Dixon--though we've never met in person and I've never taken a writing class with him--effectively taught me nearly everything I know about short-story and novel writing."
• Review:Goddamn This War! on FPI Best of 2013 list: "Tardi's burning rage at the injustice and immorality of what was done to so many is undimmed by the passing of time, and as we enter the centenary year of the start of that awful war this work becomes even more vital for readers." –Joe Gordon, Forbidden Planet International
• Review:Goddamn This War! "Jacques Tardi is a one of the most versatile cartoonists to ever lift a pencil...We descend into Hell with these soldiers, live their unbelievably intense live, and are inexorably and subtly changed by the experience. That is the power of great Art. That is the power of the great Jacques Tardi." –Jason Sacks, Comics Bulletin
• Plug:Goddamn This War! made Mark Burrier's Best of 2013 list. "Besides the meticulously-referenced artwork, Tardi painted these panels using inks and they are gorgeous...Kim Thompson did a bang up job translating this. The narrator is recounting what it was like during WWI and the tone holds up well to translation." -Mark Burrier
• Review:Ghost and Ruins by Ben Catmull on NY Journal of Books: "For those who like their horror with more then a hint of detached humor, Ghosts and Ruins is the perfect book to leave out at both Halloween and Christmas. These are wonderfully scary stories drawn and told with such beauty and wit you regret when they end. " –Mark Squirek, NY Journal of Books
• Review:Ghost and Ruins by Ben Catmull on Famous Monsters: "If Escher and Gorey met in Maurice Sendak's house and decided to riff on Junji Ito manga, you might have something similar to these pages…All fans of black and white horror movies owe it to themselves to hunt this down and subsequently cower under the covers like a kid in the cold." –Holly Interlandi, Famous Monsters
• Plug: "Ghost and Ruins will satisfy your craving for dark and creepy, yet beautiful drawings of - you got it - ghosts and ruins!" –Jade, Librarie D&Q
• Review: On Richard Sala's Violenzia "Sala takes the conventions of Golden Age comics like Dick Tracy and The Shadow and [modernizes] them for the digital era" –HTML Giant
• Review:Richard Sala's The Hidden. "There's no mistaking a panel of a Sala comic for a panel of anyone else's comic...it is probably his grandest and most epic in terms of scale, and it's full of suspense, mystery, horror, violence and a perhaps surprising amount of action..." –J. Caleb Mozzoccoo, Every Day is Like Wednesday
• Review: Katherine Whaley receives a Starred Reviewi n Publishers Weekly: "a parade of 20th century American philosophical fads, particularly those rooted in the entertainment business, pseudoscience, commercialized spiritualism, and general quackery. The story is earnestly told from Kate's wide-eyed perspective and achieves a tone that emphasizes the multifaceted nature of human experience."
• Review: Barracuda in the Attic by Kipp Friedman on Boswell Book Company "Growing up as one of three sons of the writer Bruce J. Friedman, they had adventures many of us can't imagine... Kipp's upbringing does resonate with me more than just another New York story..." -Daniel Goldin
• Review: Willard Mullins' Golden Age of Baseball gets reviewed "Through the eyes of someone like Mullin, with his graceful portraits of folks like Babe Ruth and Stan Musial, the sport seems thousands of years old. An artifact. A time capsule… This is a beautiful-looking book, thorough and affectionate in its treatment of the cartoonist Willard Mullin and his coverage of the sport for which he is best known: baseball." -Tom Spurgeon, The Comics Journal
• Plug: "...we get to watch Charles M. Schulz's cast evolve, along with his simple yet lyrical line. [Peanuts Every Sunday] is a complement to Fantagraphics' continuing and indispensable 'Complete Peanuts' publishing project." -Dana Jennings, NY Times
• Plug: Westfield Comics on Peanuts Every Sunday. "If Peanuts Every Sunday isn't under your Christmas Tree this year, put aside some of your Holiday 'loot' (as early Schulz might say) to make sure you pick it up as soon as you can. You won't regret it. It's the kind of gift book I'd be getting for Grandma Lil, if she were still around" -KC Carlson, Westfield Comics
72-page black & white (with spot color) 6" x 9" softcover • $14.99 ISBN: 978-1-60699-734-5
A local medical expert and sheriff are summoned to investigate a strange sighting that sets the stage for Conor Stechschulte's debut graphic novella: a severed human head that still seems to be talking. We flash back to a pair of butchers who arrive at work one morning to find not only that there is no meat in their shop but also that they have forgotten completely how to do their job. As customers arrive, they are too fearful for their livelihood to admit their dilemma, leading to increasingly disastrous events. But what has caused their strange amnesia? This often hilarious, enigmatic, and uncomfortable book will establish Stechschulte as an exciting new talent.
240-page full-color 6.75" x 9.75" softcover • $28.99 ISBN: 978-1-60699-739-0
Before Spider-Man and Dr. Strange, the legendary comic book artist Steve Ditko was conjuring all manners of horrors at his drawing table. In his first two years in the industry (1953 and 1954), Ditko drew tales of macabre suspense that were not yet hobbled by the imminent Comics Code Authority (adopted in Oct. 1954). These stories featured graphic bloodshed, dismemberment, and blood-curdling acid baths as the ugly end to the lives of the dark and twisted inhabitants of Steve Ditko's imagination. Strange Suspense features spectacular full-color reprints of every story from those first two years of his career. Edited by Ditko expert Blake Bell. Now in paperback!
This week's comic shop shipment is slated to include the following new titles. Read on to see what comics-blog commentators and web-savvy comic shops are saying about them (more to be added as they appear), check out our previews at the links, and contact your local shop to confirm availability.
240-page full-color 7.25" x 10" hardcover • $39.99 ISBN: 978-1-60699-640-9
"I think [Ditko's] a foundational mainstream talent, and one of the interesting ones like Johnny Craig in that a lot of his influence is felt more directly in areas outside of conventional mainstream funnybooks. I could read him all day. And then the next day." –Tom Spurgeon, Comics Reporter
"Ditko's distinctly off-kilter drawings and boldly potent composition" and the "meticulous restoration means that the stories look far better here than they did upon their original appearances." –Gordon Flagg, Booklist Online
156-page black & white/color 8.5" x 11" softcover • $19.99 978-1-60699-683-6
"These are all must haves, and every positive vibe I emanated up the screen in the direction of Steve Ditko goes double for Mr. Crumb. This is pretty prime time material in terms of the material that made and kept him an icon in the 1970s, but then again, nearly all of these volumes has something. I admire Fantagraphics for their commitment to keep this material in print." –Tom Spurgeon, Comics Reporter
144-page black & white/color 8.5" x 11" softcover • $19.99 978-1-56097-076-7
"The Complete Crumb series is especially useful in reminding us that Crumb has continued to evolve through the sixties. His more recent work is quieter and more literary... The most recent installment, collecting material originally published in Weirdo magazine, contains some of Crumb's best work." –The National Post
“If you get a title that catches on, then add a few more, you’re in for a nice profit.”
“No other field of endeavor is so populated with the get-rich-quick boys.” — Literary Digest
“[Martin Goodman] used to split my salary up into six different checks.”
“The guys who published were monsters.”
— Vince Fago, Timely Comics editor-in-chief
“We want plenty of sex, horror, and gore.” — Gene Fornshell, a Goodman editor
“I felt that we were a company of copycats.” — Stan Lee
Fans and the public have historically labored under three false impressions about Marvel Comics. First, that there actually was a comic book company named “Marvel” for its first 30 or so years. Second, that Goodman founded the company to produce comic books. And third, that star artists Steve Ditko and Jack Kirby — who famously quit the company in late 1965 and 1970 respectively — did so solely as a result of their clashes with editor Stan Lee.
All of those popular beliefs are factually incorrect. Martin Goodman formed the company that would one day become Marvel Comics in 1933 — six years earlier than is commonly supposed. And he formed it, really, to sell magazines. Cheap magazines. Cheap magazines printed on cheap paper. And “it” wasn’t just one company. Oh, and Ditko’s and Kirby’s beefs were more with Goodman than with Lee (more on that later).
Marvel Comics is home to such legendary super-heroes as Spider-Man, Hulk, Thor, Captain America, and Iron Man, all of whom have spun box office gold in the 21st century. But Marvel Comics has a secret history hidden in the shadows of these well-known franchises.
The Secret History of Marvel Comics digs back to the 1930s when Marvel Comics wasn’t just a comic-book producing company. Marvel Comics owner Martin Goodman had tentacles into a publishing world that might have made that era’s conservative American parents lynch him on his front porch. Marvel was but a small part of Goodman’s publishing empire, which had begun years before he published his first comic book. Goodman mostly published lurid and sensationalistic story books (known as “pulps”) and magazines, featuring sexually-charged detective and romance short fiction, and celebrity gossip scandal sheets. And artists like Jack Kirby, who was producing Captain America for eight-year-olds, were simultaneously dipping their toes in both ponds.
The Secret History of Marvel Comics tells this parallel story of 1930s/40s Marvel Comics sharing offices with those Goodman publications not quite fit for children. The book also features a comprehensive display of the artwork produced for Goodman’s other enterprises by Marvel Comics artists such as Jack Kirby and Joe Simon, Alex Schomburg, Bill Everett, Al Jaffee, and Dan DeCarlo, plus the very best pulp artists in the field, including Norman Saunders, John Walter Scott, Hans Wesso, L.F. Bjorklund, and Marvel Comics #1 cover artist Frank R. Paul. Goodman’s magazines also featured cover stories on celebrities such as Jackie Gleason, Elizabeth Taylor, Liberace, and Sophia Loren, as well as contributions from famous literary and social figures such as Isaac Asimov, Theodore Sturgeon, and L. Ron Hubbard.
These rare pieces of comic art, pulp and magazine history will open the door to Marvel Comics’ unseen history.
Five years before Steve Ditko began work on his now legendary co-creations for Marvel Comics, the Amazing Spider-Man and Doctor Strange, he was pro- ducing some of his best work in near anonymity for Charlton Comics. Like its predecessors, Impossible Tales: The Steve Ditko Archives Vol. 4 features over 200 meticulously restored full-color pages of Ditko in his early prime — stories that have never seen a proper reprinting until now, thrilling stories of suspense, mystery, haunted houses, and unsuspecting victims all delineated in Ditko’s wildly idiosyncratic, masterful style.
This fourth volume ranks as the best in the Steve Ditko Archives series to date thanks in large part to the inspiration Ditko took from comics derived from the classic host-narrated radio shows, which gave an extra oomph to his creepy yarns. Moreover, comics such as This Magazine Is Haunted and Tales of the Mysterious Traveler bore witness to a veritable explosion in Ditko’s ingenuity in terms of manipulating the traditional comic-book page layout. This new level of excellence also manifested itself in his work on other books, such as Mysteries of Unexplored Worlds, Out of This World, Strange Suspense Stories, and Unusual Tales, all of which are amply represented in this volume.
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