1954 and 1955 were tough years for the fledgling cartoonist: A life-threatening bout with tuberculosis sidelined him for almost a year, and his main client, Charlton Comics, suffered a devastating flood that forced it to shut its doors temporarily. Yet Ditko's enforced time off and subsequent need to seek out new clients (most particularly Marvel Comics, for whom he would go on to create Spider-Man), as well as his stubborn devotion to his craft, brought about an astonishing series of quantum leaps in his work — as displayed in this volume (following the best-selling Strange Suspense: The Steve Ditko Archives Vol. 1) of more than 200 pages' worth of never-before-collected horror and science-fiction stories from the early career of a comics great. Introduction by series editor Blake Bell.
Download an EXCLUSIVE 18-page PDF excerpt (8.5 MB) containing three thrilling tales!
• Review: "This week I read Unexplored Worlds, the second collection of pre-Spider-Man comics drawn by Steve Ditko. This handsomely designed volume mainly collects work Ditko did for Charlton, a mix of sci-fi, western and post-code horror stories. Ditko is in fine form here...; he seems more sure of himself here, full of verve, dramatic angles and odd hand gestures. In some stories, you can see the groundwork being laid down for what was to come in a few years — there’s a sequence where a guy travels to another dimension where you can see the beginnings of Dr. Strange." – Chris Mautner, Robot 6
• Review: "Each story is weird and wonderful in its own way, even when the writers and artists aren’t as skilled as others. Even better is a 32-page cover gallery in the middle, printed on glossy paper, each suitable for framing. I could stare at such covers all day. [Four Color Fear is an] excellent book..., expertly designed and popping with flaws-and-all color. At more than 300 pages..., [its] heft is welcome. For serious comics scholars or just those seeking a nostalgic kick, [it comes] highly recommended as [a] strong year’s-best contender..." – Rod Lott, Bookgasm
• Interview: At The Faster Times, Ryan Joe goes behind the scenes of Four Color Fear with the book's co-editor Greg Sadowski: "The quality of the writing was [the] number one [consideration] — each story had to be a compelling read. The art came second, though I think every story we chose has interesting art."
• Review: "Consider this a warning. If you fail to immediately purchase a copy of Destroy All Movies a swarm of post-apocalyptic punk rock bikers will kick your door down and ram their fists down your throat. [...] This is an exhaustive reference work that is every bit as brash and entertaining as its subject matter. It's well written, exhaustively researched and laid out in a gorgeous, colorful package that'll make it a coffee table discussion piece in geek homes around the globe." – Todd Brown, Twitch
• Interview: Joe Gross of the Austin American-Statesman, who says "Packed with stills from movies both cult and mainstream, filled with reviews of 1,100 films, and featuring interviews with crucial actors and directors, Destroy All Movies is everything one could hope for from a project this esoteric," talks to the book's editors, Zack Carlson and Bryan Connolly, who says: "It's not like a Leonard Maltin guide where you can just go down to the store and be like, 'Oh, I want this movie.' You're gonna really have to fight to find a lot of the stuff in there. Like some of it isn't even available in this country."
• Review: "I just sat down and re-read thru the new Love and Rockets issue. Shame on you, True Believer, if you haven’t already dog-eared this one. Please, please order this one today and thank me for urging you to do so. ... Jaime Hernandez has outdone himself. I mean, I’m a cynical super fan at times who often believes he’s 'seen it all' and then something like L ‘n R New Stories #3 comes out and just slays me." – Frank Santoro (who goes on to examine Jaime's panel layouts and compare L&R to Rocky and Bullwinkle), Comics Comics
• Interview: At The Daily Cross Hatch, Brian Heater's chat with Jaime Hernandez continues: "Maggie’s just got so much more going on than the other characters, for me. I like doing the other characters, but I’ll always go back to Maggie and the joy of creating her life. There’s just something about the character that I enjoy playing with and finding out where she’s going and who she is."
• Review: Did you think Sean T. Collins was going to omit Birdland in his "Love and Rocktober" series at Attentiondeficitdisorderly? "Doing a straight-up porn comic that borrows the Palomar-verse characters Fritz and Petra gives Beto the freedom to be as silly and utopian as he wants, something he couldn’t get away with in the naturalist, politically aware world of Palomar and Love and Rockets proper."
We're on our way to the Alternative Press Expo this weekend in San Francisco and we decided at the last minute to bring display-only copies of a few of our upcoming releases with us for lucky fans to peruse:
Unfortunately they won't be for sale at the show (and they're not available for pre-order here on our site just yet) but at least they'll be there for the looking!
• Review: "Oh, the things men do to torture themselves. [Catalog No. 439:] Burlesque Paraphernalia and Side Degree Specialties and Costumes is an amazing flashback to a time before the Internet, television, radio, movies and pretty much every other form of entertainment. [...] This book is chock full of some of the funniest and most sadistic devices ever dreamed up by the human mind. It’s almost as if the guy from the Saw movies had wanted to get laughs instead of frights — and fans of current outrage cinema may be happily startled to find something actually called 'The Human Centipede' in its pages." – Siobhan Greene, Fangoria
• Review: "It's an odd little notion, the idea that you've lived a better, fuller life for having killed people. That's probably a somewhat unfair aspect of Drew Weing's good-natured, lushly drawn storybook (that's the term the comic practically demands I use) Set to Sea — a tale of a big lummox of a poet whose lackluster verses about life on the open sea are given new verve when he's shanghai'd into service on an actual ship — for me to seize on. After all, Weing's bigfooted style and inviting rather than intimidating illustrative chops place him squarely in the adventure-comics tradition of Carl Barks and Jeff Smith." – Sean T. Collins, Attentiondeficitdisorderly
• Review: "Freed from the burden of making a 'serious' work, Anderson delves into some grim and gritty pulp material, and you can feel his relish and delight coming off the page. [Sand & Fury: A Scream Queen Adventure] basically deals with the story of a murdered woman who comes back from the dead as a banshee and eventually seeks revenge against her killer, who in turn may be a supernatural demon himself. It sounds like a Jim Balent comic, but Anderson creates a lovely noir atmosphere here, full of blood, sex and other nasty goings-on that never once becomes camp. It’s a nice, effective little horror comic." – Chris Mautner, Robot 6
• Plug:The Venture Bros. co-creator Jackson Publick writes: "Venture alumnus, super-pal and yiddish-loving Italian-American Stephen DeStefano premiered his new graphic novel, Lucky in Love at the San Diego Comic Con, and I was fortunate enough to snag a copy. Now it's your turn. Go buy one."
• Interview:Graphic NYC 's Christopher Irving talks to Michael Kupperman. Irving on Tales Designed to Thrizzle: "Toss comic book art from the '40s and '50s into a blender with the dirty brand of humor that runs rampant in underground comics, and give it the pacing and spontaneity of skit comedy, and you get Kupperman’s distinctive Tales Designed to Thrizzle. Kupperman’s slick art has the polish and stiffness of old advertising art, creating a posed disconnect that adds a layer of absurdism to his offbeat stories." Sample Kupperman quote: "What I’m doing is more along the lines of sketch comedy. I grew up with Monty Python and SCTV, and those shows had a profound influence on me, through the writing and tone. My comic is humor for childish adults. I think I’m actually going to start putting that on the cover. It’s stuff that makes me laugh and part of my working method is to make stuff that will make others laugh as well."
• Profile: "One hundred-plus years after the newspaper comic strip was born in San Francisco, a reader might well ask: Who was the greatest comic artist of all time? Some scholars say the question was settled in 1924 by New York arts critic Gilbert Seldes, whose book on the American cultural scene, The 7 Lively Arts, devoted an entire chapter to a reclusive cartoonist in the Hollywood Hills named George Herriman and his avant-garde comic strip, Krazy Kat." – Anthony Mostrom, The Los Angeles Times (via The Comics Reporter)
• Profile: Katharine Zarrella of Interview magazine talks to Robert Pollard about his collage art and current exhibit thereof in New York City: "A handful of ex-bandmates are on Pollard's guest list, but what do they think of his artwork? 'It seems a lot of them dig it. I think secretly, and sometimes openly, my peers respect the insanity.'"
• Profile: "One of the most serious gaps that this blog has not yet filled is as follows: having been scandalously silent of the great art of Drew Friedman, one of the most popular and recognizable contemporary American illustrators, a genius capable of combining, with previously unpublished results, a technique of hyper-realistic depiction with the strong sense of the grotesque that characterizes the creative temperament." – Lucca Boschi, Il Sole 24 Ore (translated from Italian)
• Events: At AOL's TV Squad, Aaron Broverman recaps Blake Bell's presentation "Steve Ditko & Bill Everett: Spider-Man, Sub-Mariner, Daredevil & Beyond" at Fan Expo in Toronto, "a panel I expect will be one of the hidden gems of the weekend"
"On Friday, August 27, 2010, come to the Toronto Fan Expo (running from Friday to Sunday) and see my slideshow entitled "Steve Ditko and Bill Everett: Spider-Man, Sub-Mariner, Daredevil & Beyond." The hour-long presentation begins at 5pm in Room 103A and features tons of imagery and commentary related to my two new books Fire and Water: Bill Everett, the Sub-Mariner and the Birth of Marvel Comics (out in Sep.) and Unexplored Worlds: The Steve Ditko Archives Vol. 2 (out in Oct)."
Blake will also be tabling at the show — click over for more info.
• Review: "Strange and Stranger: The World of Steve Ditko by Blake Bell... [is] fantastic! ... It’s part biography, part art book - an amazing recap of Steve Ditko’s entire career in comics, from the early days with Charlton to the present. ... It’s also one of the best designed books I’ve read recently, including lots of rare pencil pages, out-of-print rarities, and full color scans on virtually every page. There’s a lot more to Steve Ditko than just Doctor Strange and Spider-Man." – Marc Sobel, Comic Book Galaxy
• Review: "Vitally, Anderson draws an earthy King, one who likes soul food and soulful women, but who is also capable of inspiring and challenging oratory, theological radicalism and courageous leadership, even when faced with fists, firebombs, and F.B.I. persecution. Anderson reminds one of U.S. poet Walt Whitman: He keeps publishing the same book, in different editions. But what a book!" – George Elliott Clarke, The Halifax Herald
• Review: "This is a very strange comic... You Are There works best as an absurdist critique of society and politics. ... The absurdity of Forest's script is brought to amazing life... It's a tremendous work of art, heightening the weirdness of the narrative very well. ... I would recommend You Are There because it's a thoughtful look at the pressure of conformity and what drives a man mad. ... Tardi is fantastic and makes the book even wackier, which isn't a bad thing." – Greg Burgas, Comic Book Resources
• Review: "It is hard to convey how much of the joy of Unlovable comes not only from the wandering plotline (if there is any in this book) but also from the accompanying visuals. Tammy's attentions, interests and emotions are all scattered. The author's style of drawing lends to the feeling of chaos and scatteredness; the reader senses it in the erratic lines and messy fonts of various sizes. An erratic view of an erratic time of life." – Julia Eussen, AnnArbor.com
• Review: "Johnny Ryan’sPrison Pit is something I keep coming back to — and not just because it’s the only comic book I’ve ever seen that can actively liven up a party. It’s a hilarious, visceral and quick read... for really dumb fun, this is pretty much unbeatable. I’ve considered that maybe the fun isn’t as dumb — that maybe Cannibal Fuckface’s journey through the wastes of the prison pit are a Bunyan-style metaphor for, I don’t know, man coming to terms with the restrictions of modern life, but then I remember it’s a comic that features the term 'burnt jizz,' and I stop thinking and laugh." – David Uzumeri, Robot 6
• Review: "I'd ignored Hal Foster's knights-and-adventure strip until Fantagraphics remastered, recolored and repackaged the first two years of [Prince] Valiant (1937-38) into one of the loveliest reprint volumes of 2009. I became a Foster fan immediately, and bought Brian Kane's Definitive Prince Valiant Companion to learn more about Foster and the other talents (John Cullen Murphy, Gary Gianni and Mark Schultz) who'd worked on the comic during its 70+ years." – Craig Fischer, Thought Balloonists; the remainder of Fischer's take on the Companion is mixed-to-unfavorable, but we still recommend checking it out for his insights and some additional commentary he brings to the table
• List: For Library Journal, Tom Batten recommends a handful of recent "Classic Graphic Novels," including The Left Bank Gang by Jason: "Supporting his highly imaginative and quirky storytelling, Jason's deceptively simple cartooning carries a great deal of intensity in each line."
• Review: "Winning a coveted Jury prize at the 2010 Angouleme festival, Dungeon Quest succeeds on so many levels: the art and character design are superb, the dialogue is acerbic yet measured, the page construction has a flow to it that verges on perfection, the meter of the storytelling is spot-on, and, most importantly, it’s actually really funny. ... As the first volume in a series projected to last for a good few books yet, readers are advised to party-up with the cast of Dungeon Quest immediately." – Martin Steenton, Avoid the Future
• Review: "The series only lasted four issues, but it is among the high points of 1960s comics, and this handsome collection is one of the most welcome reprint volumes of the last few years. ... Blazing Combat showed comics readers the gritty downside of war..." – Robert Martin, The Comics Journal
• Review: "...[S]ome books just leave a reviewer pointing and jabbering, unable to coherently explain what he's just been through or to find any words that will adequately explain what he has seen.The Squirrel Machine is a book of [this] kind... Reading The Squirrel Machine is very much like watching some German Expressionist movie: it's a series of alternately wondrous and appalling scenes, clearly connected by some kind of logic, the true meaning of which resolutely remains beyond the knowledge of the viewer." – Andrew Wheeler, The Antick Musings of G.B.H. Hornswoggler, Gent.
• Plug: The fine folks at Librairie D&Q say "Now in store is this little jewel just published by Fantagraphics Books. On top of being a well-researched collection of underground mini-comix of the 1980's, this book compiles pages and pages of interviews and commentary on the creative, edgy, weird and free-spirited post-Crumb scene. While it may not necessarily represent the global landscape of underground comix in the 80's (one could argue it needs more wemin-ahtists, for example), Newave! is definitely a praise-worthy sampler of work most often hidden in the shadows of the underground comix movement of the late 1960s and early 1970s."
• Plug: Roberto C. Madruga of Evolve Happy on Luba by Gilbert Hernandez: "The story is Hernandez at his best and the artwork is simplistically gorgeous."
• Plugs: The latest Robot 6 "What Are You Reading?" roundup includes several Fantagraphics mentions, and guest contributor Ng Suat Tong on the black & white Prince Valiant Vol. 1: 1937-1938 from Libri Impressi, available in the U.S. exclusively from us: "The new Fantagraphics and Portugese books are the only way one should read Foster's masterwork."