Six Days of Stack Week – Part 3: Superprose

Settle into your throne of unread reading material and brace yourself for a vicarious papercut avalanche. The ticker-tape shame parade that is STACK WEEK–our annual celebration of procrastination and first world anxiety–steamrolls into day three! Ron and Jim have offered up their updates, but there are still literary summits yet to inspire vertigo and nose bleeds.  


 

For those steadfast Stack Attackers playing along at home, you may recall my ridonkulous video report from 2009. My wild and woolly stack reached critical mass long ago and has only grown in the time since my last confession. Between cheap scratch-and-dent sales at conventions to hand-me-downs from cousins, and just pure gluttony, I've accrued a big heap of unread comics. I'm thrilled by the prospect of reading just about all of these books, and I've even chipped away at the lineup I showcased last year, but like many comic readers, my eyes are bigger than my stomach. You gobble up one pixelated ghost and two more appear in its place. And it's downright haunting. 

I could try and rustle up an updated list replete with new additions and old hangers-on, but just because I'm feeling particularly guilty and even a little generous with my self deprecation, I'm actually going to present another stack entirely.

Yep, a second stack. 

Presented for your jeers and shunning: my comic-centric prose stack. A dusty knoll of novels, how-tos, and histories I'd like to call the Superprose.  

Fiction

 

 

The Last Days of Krypton by Kevin J. Anderson

There was a time when I devoured anything written by Kevin J. Anderson (including several kajillion Star Wars novels). These days, I think that spell's been broken. But when I spotted the cover to this book while on literary safari, I felt that old black magic. Next thing I knew, I was at the cash register, hopping from foot to foot. I'm a total nut for stories set on Krypton. I love the imagery. The mystery. That opening sequence with Jor-Brando in the motion picture is crystalline candy. That said, I was mightily disappointed with the writing quality of the first several pages and ended up putting this one down. The morbid curiosity lingers on though. 

Doc Savage #14: "The Man of Bronze" & "The Land of Terror" by Kenneth Robeson

I remember reading some Doc Savage pulp tales when I was really young, but I'm not sure where or in what form. An imprint called Nostalgia Ventures offers these prose adventures in trade-paperback-sized collections. Each book contains two complete stories with two columns of text per page and the occasional black and white illustration. You'll find similar volumes featuring The Shadow and other dime novel icons. Doc Savage is often called the first superhero, and soon he'll be taking names in Azzarello's First Wave comics for DC. 

A Gentleman's Game: A Queen & Country Novel by Greg Rucka 

I devoured the first two definitive editions of Greg Rucka's secret agent series, and am committed to finishing the rest. But that involves a tangent. I want to make sure and digest this meal in the right order, and that means reading the first novel next. 

Baltimore,: Or, The Steadfast Tin Soldier and the Vampire by Mike Mignola and Christopher Golden 

This has been sitting around for a while and I have no idea why. It's essentially a gothic horror story about a vampire hunter and it includes woodblock print-lookin' illustrations by Mike Mignola. It's gotta be a slam dunk. I'm dead-set on reading this in time for the arrival of a companion mini-series in comic form from Dark Horse. 


True Stories and How-tos

 

 

Schulz and Peanuts: A Biography by David Michaelis 

Good grief. This one's a beast. I've probably read the majority of this exhaustive biography since purchasing the original hardcover back in late 2007, but it remains an ongoing project. I even grabbed the audiobook during one of those free Audacity promotions in anticipation of a long train ride. Michaelis explores every facet in the life of Peanuts creator Charles Schulz, and while it's often dry, sometimes even downright depressing, I really cherish this book. I'm a lifelong Snoopy fanatic and newspaper strip reader. I still have that final Peanuts strip up on my cork board. This book incorporates individual Peanuts strips throughout the text, offering context by historical placement. It's a really thoughtful concept and makes the book a great unofficial companion to Fantagraphics' terrific Complete Peanuts collections

Tales to Astonish by Ronin Ro

This one's about Lee and Kirby in those early days of Marvel and Timely Comics. I'll be the first to admit that I'm still not completely fluent in comics history, especially in the case of Marvel. This book was also the subject of my all-time favorite iFanboy Mini

Marvel Chronicle by Tom Defalco, Peter Sanderson, Tom Brevoort, and Matthew Manning

Again, a little history never killed anybody. Except for, ya know, everybody. As much as I love the Handbooks and Encyclopedias, I thought this was a really cool concept. Each double page layout represents a year in Marvel history, highlighting the biggest and most iconic developments in the ongoing saga of a publisher and its characters. This is one of those gorgeous coffee table volumes filled with artwork and trivia and character profiles. It also comes with a cool box-like case that was horrifically damaged in shipping. But the book's okay, and I've been leafing through it a lot lately, especially now that I'm working on those Tuesday Showdowns and am constantly in need of inspiration. 

Looking for Calvin & Hobbes: The Unconventional Story of Bill Watterson and His Revolutionary Comic Strip by Nevin Martell

Even beyond his status as one of the greatest newspaper cartoonists in the medium's long history, Watterson has to be the most compelling and enigmatic figure in his industry. He's the J.D. Salinger of the Sunday funnies, famously shunning the limelight ever since closing up shop on Calvin & Hobbes some 15 years ago. The only thing I know about him is that we don't know much and he seems to like it that way. Hell, I actually feel kind of guilty having picked this up now. 

The Ten Cent Plague: The Great Comic Book Scare and How it Changed America by David Hajdu

Here's another one I'm listening to on my iPod, albeit sporadically. I love the culture and color of early twentieth century Americana, and the controversy surrounding comics and censorship sits at the very heart of that story. There's a wealth of information in this book and it's almost overwhelming. I like to revisit it every few weeks while I'm out walking. It's fun to get swept up in all that history, chuckling at the hysterical cornball titles and characters that got lost in the march of time. 

Hergé: The Man Who Created Tintin by Pierre Assouline 

My first taste of international comics wasn't Japanese manga or even imports from the UK. It was that globe-trotting, overly earnest, often frustratingly racist, Belgian sensation Tintin. I discovered those big colorful comics at a book store called Rizzoli's in Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia. My parents took me on that same vacation every summer for something like 10 years. My first stop was always that book shop, and I'd race up to the children's section and find that spinner rack. These days, Tintin's adventures are anthologized in smaller and smaller hardcovers, but I always liked those oversized, kid-friendly editions with the gallery of all two-dozen covers in the series on the back (Berenstain Bears style). Georges Prosper Remi, the man known as Hergé, was another interesting character in the history of comics, and I'm excited to find out more about his life, his work, and its impact. 

How to Make Webcomics by Brad Guigar, Dave Kellet, Scott Kurtz, and Kris Straub

It's as if…it's as if I'm planning something…

 


Paul Montgomery has a problem, but so do you, you judging judgers!  Find him on Twitter or contact him at paul@ifanboy.com. 

Comments

  1. I got the complete Tintin collection from my fiancee early last year. Brought me back to my childhood. It’s surprising how un-PC those comics were in hindsight.

  2. Those Marvel Chronicles are really badly designed. I don’t know of a single instance in which they arrived undamaged.

  3. Paul, thank you so much for "listening" to audiobooks instead of "reading" them.  And thanks as well for bringing the Watterson bio to my attention.

    Apropos of almost nothing, every time I see a vehicle (usually a pickup) with a Calvin-pissing-on-something sticker on it, I want to put a rock through it’s windshield.

  4. I must be one of the lucky ones – my Marvel Chronicles arrived just fine. True, I (well, my wife) picked it up at a big box book store and not through the mail. I use books like this (the DC and Marvel history books from the early 2000s come to mind) more as time-killers, reading about whatever subject is on my mind at that moment, instead of sitting down and reading it like a book.

    I also listened to The Ten-Cent Plague and thought it was marvelous. The narrator just has this cool delivery that fits perfectly with the subject matter.

  5. @Paul: Just curious out of the monsterous stack from last year, what was your favorite read that you got to?

  6. @forestjwp – looking back, I’ve actually tackled a bunch of those. The standouts include most of those JSA titles, Locke & Key, Black Adam, and Queen and Country.

  7. @Dan: Picking it up at a store isn’t the same as getting it by mail. A store is going to get a big, tightly packed crate of books.

  8. I’m with you on the Krypton book. I managed to wade through the whole thing and I was really disappointed in it. It was very dry and lacking in any emotional depth. All of the characters seemed to be very 2-d. I would suggest moving on.

  9. I was a Doc Savage nut when I was younger and have many of the books. They are a little tough to read as a mature, sophisticated adult (ha!). Short, choppy, pulpy style peppered with Lester Dent’s (a.k.a. Kenneth Robeson) usage ticks. Doc is an important foundational character in the superhero genre and its fun to see him pop up from time to time, including Planetary and now DC’s First Wave. I’m still hoping for a movie, maybe in the visual style of Sky Captain and World of Tomorrow. Kudos for including Doc in your self-education.

  10. I’m sorry to say that I read The Last Days of Krypton.  I enjoyed some of Kevin J. Anderson’s Star Wars work, but Krypton was just about unreadable (in my humble opinion).  I second myrlyn314’s suggestion of moving on.  You cannot unread what you have read.

    A few of these sound VERY interesting (Baltimore, specifically).  Thank you for bringing them to my attention. 

  11. I also own The Last Days of Krypton and have also yet to make it all the way through. Loved the imagery and the sly Superman references though. Clearly done with lots of love and care.

  12. Ha, I never finished last days of krypton either. I’m glad my stack is only filled with comics and not any prose novels.

  13. The Queen and Country novels are so, so good.  You’ll love the one you got.  I know that Rucka recently mentioned that new one was coming this year, so I’m pretty damn excited.

  14. That Baltimore book looks great. Added it to my wishlist.

    I’ve had the Ten Cent Plague and How to Make Webcomics sitting on my stack for quite a long time. We should meet and read out loud chapters to each other. I’ll bring the blanket.

  15. what is this thing you call "prose"?

     Seriously, though – if there’s one thing I like reading as much as comics it’s ABOUT comics. I ipodded 10c plague, too. Very good insight into the golden age creators, and how popular comics were and how much they could piss people off. I found it actually hard to listen to since I’d get worked up everytime the "haters" were covered — just SO intolerant (not that the comics some of them aimed at weren’t objectionable, but still, burning books just never goes down right). 

    Want to check out Tales to Astonish, but haven’t yet. A GREAT book is Gerard Jones’ Men of Tomorrow, about Superman creators and early comicbook days — probably the best thing like that I’ve read

  16. "How to Make Webcomics" is fairly useful, but it depends what you are looking for. It’s definitely set up for "newspaper-style" strips. I’d love to hear how you get on with it!

    Also I’d love to see a webcomic from you, but that’s another thing! 

  17. At my work, Marvel Chronicles gets damaged…..a lot. Even in better packaging.

    Great choices though Paul. I definitely want to desperately read the Bill Watterson book. That sounded amazing in an….Esquire article I read a couple of months ago on it. When I get to work I will definitely order many copies. Herge sounds really good. Ashamed to admit it but, I think I’ve watched more Tintin cartoons then the actual comics.

  18. Baltimore is pretty dope.

  19. Oh man, If you do end up making a webcomic I would definitly read it!

  20. Ten Cent Plague is overrated; you’re better off just reading Gerard Jone’s Men of Tomorrow, which covers some of the same territory.  Hadjuou doesn’t seem to understand comics and their creators on the same level that Jones does; also Louis Menand’s take on the book in the New Yorker, that it was a highly simplistic reading of complicated issues, is kind of dead on.  

    Shulz is amazing, but you kind of have to get over the fact that this incredible, unique artist was kind of a boring guy who could be mildly assholic (he cheated on his wife with the girl playing Lcuy in You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown, a character based on a younger version of his wife).     

    Anyway, nice write up man. 

  21. In comparison to your stack from las year, it’s good to see this one is smaller :). A great varied list, interested to see your thoughts on a number of those.

  22. as for Last Days of Krypton…it was amazing!!