Sunday, September 27, 2015


PS Artbooks, a United Kingdom-based company, has been reprinting a vast assortment of public domain comics from the 1940s and 1950s in hardcover editions. Some of these volumes are excellent and others not so much. However, the collections are always interesting. Maybe I’m a comics history junkie, but I’ll always leap at the chance to read even lousy comics from those decades.

Growing up in the 1960s as a comics fiend, I never knew that these publishers, excellent and otherwise, even existed. When I learned of them, I never dreamed I’d have the opportunity to buy and read entire runs of such titles. Which brings us to Pre-Code Classics: Weird Tales of the Future [$47.99], which collects all eight issues of that science fiction and horror series.

Weird Tales of the Future was originally published by Stanley P. Morse, whose comics were published under several different company shell names. The quality of these comic books was never high, but some talented artists appear in them. Those artists include Basil Wolverton, Ross Andru, Mile Esposito and, on some covers, Bernard Baily.

Wolverton is the star of the title. His “Jumpin’ Jupiter” stories are clever and honestly funny. His serious stories have an insane quirkiness and a distant kinship to the underground comics of the late 1960s and early 1970s. As for the other stories, there isn’t a standout in the bunch. At best, they are journeyman space opera and horror tales.  

Ironically, these inferior tales had a life beyond their original publication. Many were reworked - with added gore and viscera - for 1970s black-and-white magazines like Tales from the Tomb. Side by side comparisons of such stories would be interesting.

Pre-Code Classics: Weird Tales of the Future is for comics history fanatics like me. Just don’t pay full price for it.

ISBN 978-1-84863-811-2


The Simpsons remains one of my favorite TV series. While not every one of each season’s 22 episodes hits the mark, the show amuses me far more often than not. The same can be said for Simpsons Comics [Bongo Comics; $2.99 per issue), its Bart Simpson spin-off series and its various one-shots and specials.

While recovering from extensive dental surgery, a recovery that is, sadly, still ongoing. I read Simpsons Comics #220-223. I liked them a lot. Even when the execution of the basic concepts didn’t quite come together, those concepts were inventive enough to maintain my interest in the issues.

Issue #220’s “Drinker, Failure, Bowler Spy” has Ned Flanders going to Moe’s in search of a social life and being so appalled by said drinking den of despair that he opens his own bar. It’s written by Max Davison with art by Nina Matsumoto (pencils) and Andrew Pepoy (inks).

Issue #221's “Yellow is the New Black” sends both Marge and Homer to the Springfield Women’s Correctional Facility.” The script is by Eric Rogers with art by Phil Ortiz (pencils) and Mike DeCarlo (inks).

Writer Ian Boothby delivers the best of this latest batch with “Now You Wiggum, Now Your Don’t” in issue #222. Homer bonds with Ralph Wiggum in a touching story drawn by Matsumoto and Pepoy.

Simpsons Comics #223 has the most inventive story with “The Book of Jobs” by Max Davison. Homer is discovered to be a sort of nexus of Springfield job creation with hilarious results. The art is by Rex Lindsey (pencils) and Dan Davis (inks).

Simpsons Comics delivers fun and good value in every issue. If you haven’t checked out the Bongo titles in a while, I recommend you do so soon.


I’m not big on sword-and-sorcery comic books, but I always like to have at least one ongoing series in the genre on my reading pile on account of I love variety. Of late, that series has been Conan the Avenger [Dark Horse; $3.50]. Writer Fred Van Lente usually delivers solid adventure tales with entertaining daring-do, comely wenches of sometimes suspect morality, sinister sorcerers and cool creepy creatures. Though, on rare occasion, Conan doesn’t seem quite right to me and though the visuals are sometimes uneven - I like Eduardo Francisco better than Brian Ching or Guiu Vilanova - I continue to enjoy this title. I’ll keep reading it.


The Valiant Universe is getting a little complicated for my taste - that’s true of most super-hero universes these days - but, between helpful “The Story So Far...” summaries on the inside front covers of most Valiant issues and the writers of the issues doing a good job bringing and keeping their readers in the loop, I seldom feel lost in the stories. Even so, my preference is for more narrowly-focused stories that show me an angle I haven’t seen in dozens of other super-hero comics. That’s the case with Dead Drop [$3.99 per issue], a four-issue series in which some extraordinary “ordinary” young people hold their own with the super-humans.

There’s an alien virus on the market. The organization running the super-heroes wants it. But it’s been stolen by a thief and passed along from place to place through a dead drops scattered throughout New York City. X-O Manowar and Archer are called in to retrieve the virus. Things don’t go as planned.

Writer Alex Kot keeps the scenario believable. There’s a good deal of humor in these issues. Seeing ordinary protagonists run circles around far more powerful opponents speaks to my soul. I’m not sure what further meaning this limited series will have in the Valiant Universe’s future, but it was an enjoyable tale. It didn’t deliver a complete sense of closure, but it did offer a satisfying ending. Increasingly, satisfying endings to stories are becoming a rarity from the big universe publishers.

Kudos to artist Adam Gorman whose lively storytelling and drawing tickled my fancy. Additional kudos to coloring Michael Spicer for doing what colorists are supposed to do, bring hue and mood to the story without overpowering it.

As I said, my personal reading tastes are moving away from the big universe comics. Still, I like the Valiant books enough that I am  kind of sort of collecting them with an eye towards getting myself completely up to speed on them in 2016.

That’s my Sunday with comic books. I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

© 2015 Tony Isabella

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