1.06.2014

SPACEHAWK by Basil Wolverton, a brilliant & otherworldly collection from Fantagraphics

I picked up this collection last year from Fantagraphics, and honestly, it is stunning. The colors and lines of Basil Wolverton's work -- on the cover alone -- are terrific. Once you dip into the pages and it is like exploring psychedelic space ways and far out locations. His spacecraft and machinations are creative and harken back to a time of science fiction comics that laid the ground work for so much that has come in later years.

The Fantagraphics collection, is massively oversize, I'm talking "artist edition" type size, and as much as I love to see all the detail and colors in this big size, it is somewhat unwieldy. After all, if I put every "coffee table book" I own on my actual coffee table, well that table would be stacked.

I would have personally enjoyed this book in a somewhat smaller "large" format, if that makes any sense. I'm not sure what the perfect size would have been but something a bit more handy. Something larger than normal comic book size, but not quite this big (actual dimensions of the book are over 9 x 12, with a neat flexi-paperback cover.)



Wolverton's Spacehawk is not as well known as his later work in MAD Magazine, but he was trying to break into syndicated comic strips back in the 1930s and 40s at the same time that Buck Rogers, and soon after, Flash Gordon made debuts. His timing wasn't as lucky, but he was eventually published and his legacy lives on, preserved in this prestige format collection. 

Later on, in the 40s, when editors forced his hero to come back to Earth to fight the Axis of Evil in World War II, Wolverton feared his strip would loose its strength and surely enough it was cancelled. I learned all of this from the introduction, written by Monte Wolverton, Basil's son, an accomplished editor, illustrator and writer himself.




Monte speaks with reverence of his father's work, and understandably so, as each lead-in illustration was masterfully crafted as depicted in my attempts to capture in photos.

Within the pages in each battle the 'hero from the void,' battles evil villains, obliterates aliens bent on destruction and travels to the far reaches of space in his spacecraft. He mercilessly handles out justice and is an unflawed heroic icon, clearly a product of the era, as Wolverton's son reflects in the Introduction.

This collection would make a wonderful gift for any fan of early sci-fi comics and science fiction. It is also available as a digital comic via the Comixology app (I downloaded the preview there, which led me to purchase the print edition.) Either way, it is a win.

Go get lost in space.



1.03.2014

Found Object: Rocks and Minerals, a Golden Press book from 1957

I found this Golden Nature Guide while running jewelry related errands with my wife in New Jersey a while back. I thought it was a neat little piece of publishing history. I immediately liked this miniature reference book, especially the jacket with the rock hammer, which reminded me of "The Shawshank Redemption," and if you've seen that great film, you'll know exactly why.



I also loved seeing the $1.25 retail price, a clear reflection of its publication year, 1957, when it was produced in the USA by Western Publishing Company, Inc., published by the Golden Press. For a little history on Golden Press, click here.


Filled with charming illustrations such as this one of a prospecting couple exploring subterranean rock structures, Rocks and Minerals, a Golden Nature Guide, was not just a flat reference book but more a piece of cultural history and reflected the era it was published. Within the small paperback, all 160 pages included great photos, classic illustration work and well researched information. 

Perhaps it is the fact that I work at DK which helps me appreciate the history of well done reference books these days.

Also, it could just be the rock hammer.