Tuesday, August 31, 2004

"It's Risky, But I Get My Laughs"

A lot of my August book money went toward comics, since Wizard World fell in the middle of the month--and may Stan Lee bless all of those fine retailers who had boxes and boxes of half-price trades this year. I don't have much to say about them that hasn't been covered in earlier posts, as I haven't read very many of them, but what I've looked over so far can be found below.

SAGA OF THE SWAMP THING, BOOK 1 by Alan Moore and Steve Bissette. I'm a big Alan Moore fan, but I've never picked up the Swamp Thing stuff. This volume collects the beginning of his run on the title and an introduction from Alan provides the backstory of the character so that no one is left out--I sure needed it, as my only other encounter with ST was the movie from the 80's and the week or so Adrian and I got a kick out of singing the theme song to the 90's cartoon ("Swamp Thing . . . You are amazing . . . Ohhhhh, Swamp Thing!"). The first few issues, where it is revealed that what we know about Swamp Thing isn't what we know at all and that the human Alec Holland did not become a plant-like creature at all, showcase mainstream horror comics at their finest. It is revealed that the Swamp Thing is actually a collection of plants, just like he looks, that has come to believe it was once human. It possesses the memories and emotions of Alec Holland and has even developed plant-like internal organs that serve no real purpose, except that the creature believes it needs them. The second storyline involves Swamp Thing's friend Abby and a demon that is living off of the fear running rampant in a home for troubled children. Aside from some amusing dialoge from Jack Kirby's Demon, there wasn't much from the second story that I enjoyed. It shows promise for the rest of Moore's run, however, and I'll keep an eye out for later volumes at next year's show.

THE COMPLETE PEANUTS 1950-1952, by Charles Schulz. I've been coveting this book since it first came out, and was lucky enough to snag a slightly-used copy for half-price at the show. I've been reading a few strips before bed ever since. The very first PEANUTS strip, from October 1950, is a perfect introduction to the next 50 years of strips. In a four panel sequence, two children sit on a step and watch as a smiling Charlie Brown approaches. "Well! Here comes ol' Charlie Brown!" the boy says. "Good ol' Charlie Brown . . . yes, sir!" he continues. "Good ol' Charlie Brown," he says, as Charlie passes. Then, with Charlie out of sight, the boy frowns angrily and says, "How I hate him!"

THE ESSENTIAL SPIDER-MAN, VOLUME 5, by Stan Lee, John Romita, Roy Thomas, Gil Kane, and more. This is the fifth volume in black and white reprints of Spider-Man's early adventures. I'm a Spider-Man nerd, and this is the most economically sound way for me to read the early issues. If you're not a fan, you probably won't dig it. If you are, you probably already know about this series.

I have a stuck of unread books from the show, including REINVENTING COMICS (finally), the first two volumes of CONAN reprints, OFFERED VOL. 2 (again, finally), and AGE OF BRONZE: SACRIFICE, the second volume of a series by Eric Shanower that is retelling the story of the Trojan War, and that has been going on since long before TROY rolled into theaters. Once I've read them, you'll be the first to know.

Otherwise, my book buying has been pretty conservative. I took a trip to Ohio for a weekend and picked up THE SUN ALSO RISES, easily one of the finest, saddes, most beautiful books I've ever read, and I've posted about it at length in a few entries previously. This set me on a Hemingway kick and I got going again on A FAREWELL TO ARMS, which I'd set aside previously when school reading got heavy last semester. I also picked up a few new (to me) Hemingway titles:

THE COMPLETE SHORT STORIES OF ERNEST HEMINGWAY, which collects the entirety of THE FIRST FORTY-NINE, as well as stories published subsequent to that collection and seven previoulsy unpublished stories. Mainly I've spent my time with "The Snows of Kilimanjaro," a story of a writer on safari in Africa with a woman he treats best when he's lying to her.

THE YOUNG HEMINGWAY, by Michael Reynolds, the first volume in his four (I think?) volume series telling the life of Ernest Hemingway. It's still early, but so far he's not trying to tell a day-by-day description of Hem's manly adventures as much as he is giving a broader sense of the Oak Park and Great War experiences that created the mindset the young adult Ernest ventured out into the world with. From a writer's perspective, it's interesting getting an objective look at how his mind and craft came together; from a reader's perspective, it's a shame that I've already figured out that he's not that admirable of a fella in a lot of ways. All the same, he is not, as one blogger would have you believe, "overrated."

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