Wednesday, December 21, 2011


Don’t get too excited.  This is just another of my “what I got from
the library” blogs.  But I’ve a perverse desire to see what today’s
headline does to my page views.

If you do a search on “sexy librarian,” you will find many photos
of quite fetching librarians.  I only mention this because I don’t
want any readers to be disappointed that my blog does not have such
photos.  Rest assured, photos are out there and easy to find..


First up is the second edition of Classics Illustrated: A Cultural
by William B. Jones, Jr. [McFarland & Company; $55] is one
wow of a book.  Like every kid of my generation, copies of Classics
passed through my hands on a regular basis.  While I’ve
no recollection of buying issues myself, save for an adaptation of
H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds, I’d occasionally receive issues from
adults who knew I liked comics and decided these had to be “safer”
than all other comics.  Except for maybe Treasure Chest, which was
distributed through Catholic schools. 

I would also get issues in trades with other kids.  A Jimmy Olsen
comic book wasn’t worth a Superman or Batman, but deals were often
sweetened with an issue or three of Classics Illustrated.  Probably
given to those kids by adults.

Jones is quite an archeologist.  He covers the creation and history
of Classics Illustrated in detail, but he makes it entertaining and
interesting.  Within a few chapters, I was sharing his fascination
with these high-minded comic books and wishing I could read all of
them.  A Classic Comics/Classic Illustrated series of collections
would be hard to resist. 

The 380-page hardcover is well worth its cover price.  It’s loaded
with information and illustrations examining the work of dozens of
Classics Illustrated artists.  I recommend it highly.

ISBN: 978-0-7864-3840-2


Al Jaffee’s Mad Life by Mary-Lou Weisman (!t Books; $27.99] is the
incredible biography of one of our greatest cartoonists...and it’s
copiously illustrated by the artist himself.  Unlike most books of
this nature, this one spends more time on its subject’s life before
he started creating comics than on his career in comics.  The right
choice, given the “mad” life that resulted in the comic genius that
is Al Jaffee.

Jaffee’s story is often so strange as to make a reader loudly gasp
in amazement.  Born in America, he was uprooted at age six by his
arguably insane mother, separated from his father, and taken with
his three brothers to Lithuania.  It was as if he was transported
back in time a century and to a land filled with peril for himself
and other Jews.  His life in America, then Lithuania, then America
again, then Lithuania again, and then back to the America where his
inventiveness and talent would make him a comics legend is equally
fascinating and heartbreaking.  The chapters on his comics career
are equally riveting.

Like Classics Illustrated: A Culture History, Al Jaffee’s Mad Life
is essential comics history.  And, also like that book, I’ve added
it to my Amazon Wish List.  Which is not so much a wish list as a
reminder of books I want for my personal library.

ISBN: 978-0-06-186448-3


I was disappointed in Locke & Key, Volume 2: Head Games by Joe Hill
and Gabriel Rodriguez [IDW; $19.99].  The three Locke kids continue
to deal with the horrors they know while other horrors loom large.
The first volume was much tighter.  This one read as if Hill were
just throwing elements into the fire to see if they would explode.
The writing and art are still good enough that I’ve requested the
next volume from my library.  I hope that one restores my interest
in the series.


It takes a while for popular movies to show up in my library holds,
but they do show up eventually.  I watched Friends With Benefits in
Blu-ray after a particularly challenging day.  It was a great way
to relieve stress, albeit not in the energetic manner of its stars,
Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis.

You probably know the plot from the commercials that ran during the
movie’s theatrical release.  Jamie (Kunis) and Dylan (Timberlake),
recovering from a series of bad romances, are the best of friends.
She is a New York City executive recruiter who recruited him from
a small Los Angeles Internet company to be the new art director for
GQ.  They decide to engage in a sexual relationship sans the usual
boyfriend/girlfriend stuff.  That they each have issues that have
torpedoed their romantic relationships in the past doesn’t seem to
be a problem with this new arrangement.  You don’t need to be any
kind of psychic to see where this will lead.

However, predictable as the outcome is from the start, the acting
and writing absolutely sell this movie.  Kunis and Timberlake are
believable and funny.  The dialogue is sharp and often very funny.
Supporting actors Woody Harrison, Richard Jenkins, and Jenna Elfman
are superb.  The movie runs 109 minutes, but it’s so good it never
seems to run that long. It’s definitely worth renting and probably
buying.  My wife and daughter watched it twice.


I’m reading The Best American Comics 2011 [Houghton Mifflin; $25]
as I wrap up today’s blog.  This is my yearly test of endurance as
I find each year’s volume to be increasingly cliquish.  The editors
and guest editors are hopelessly biased towards obscure alternative
comics and seemingly unmindful of the lack of craft exhibited in so
many of the works they select.  I’m 58 pages into the book and only
two of those pages have risen to the level of “best” of anything.
I would love to see a publisher and editors with a less incestuous
vision launch a yearly series in direct competition to this annual
comics colonoscopy.

Tomorrow’s my 60th birthday, but I’ll still be back with more stuff
to amuse, enrage, and inform you.  It’s how I roll.     

© 2011 Tony Isabella


  1. As a sexy librarian, I approve. :)

  2. Thanks for the kind words about my book, "Classics Illustrated: A Cultural History, Second Edition" (McFarland, 2011). I greatly appreciate your taking the time to read it and comment on it.

  3. FYI, the Best American Comics series doesn't have access to everything that deserves to be included. DC refused to allow Paul Pope's Batman: Year 100 to be excerpted a few years ago.

    (I've only read the 2008 edition, which I loved because it introduced me to Matt Groening's brilliant strips about his kids.)

    - Mike Hansen