Under the Radar's 2020 Holiday Gift Guide Part 6: Books and Graphic Novels | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
Thursday, January 28th, 2021  

Under the Radar’s 2020 Holiday Gift Guide Part 6: Books and Graphic Novels

For Your Reading Pleasure Featuring Books for Film/TV Buffs, Music Fans, Kids, and More

Dec 20, 2020 By Mark Redfern Photography by Mark Redfern and Wendy Lynch Redfern
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Christmas might be almost upon us, but there’s still time to head out to your local bookstore (where it’s safe) or take advantage of two-day shipping online. For the sixth installment of our 2020 Holiday Gift Guide we present some good reads that might be worth giving or picking up for yourself in the after Christmas sales. It’s split into various parts and includes books for film/TV buffs, music fans, kids and parents, as well as graphic novels and cook books. Included are three books written by Under the Radar writers! 

Also check out the other parts of our 2020 Holiday Gift Guide: Part 1 on video games, Part 2 on drinking, Part 3 on table top and board games, Part 4 on collectibles, and Part 5 on toys.

Read on to read on. 

For the Film and TV Buffs: 

The Art of Star Wars: The Mandalorian (Season One) (Abrams)

RRP: $40.00

Author: Phil Szostak

At nearly 12-inches x 11-inches this handsome coffee table-sized book is a must-have for lovers of The Mandalorian, the intriguing, ongoing Star Wars spin-off TV series featuring a tough space-travelling mercenary tasked with returning an endearing Baby Yoda to his Jedi roots.

In its foreword Doug Chiang, the Academy Award-winning artist, author, and production designer responsible for many Star Wars productions, explains that the book is not just a compilation of beautiful artwork but also an explanation by the artists as to the stories that go with each concept.

The first chapter follows the show’s creator/executive producer Jon Favreau—the ace director of such classics as Elf and Iron Man as well as respected actor (Happy Hogan in the Spider-Man and Avengers films)—as he pitches the concept of The Mandalorian in 2017 to the Disney/Lucasfilm team that later produces the series. Then we follow the design concepts of the armor of the Mandalorian, who is never allowed to show his face to another human being, his Razor Crest space ship and other fantastic vehicles, the various human, alien, and droid friends and foes he encounters, and the fantastic setting they inhabit in the various worlds the Mandalorian and his infant charge, each with his own special skills, visit as they search for the home of the last remaining Jedi. By Mary Moore Mason (Buy it here.)

 

Batman: The Animated Series - The Phantom City Creative Collection (Insight Editions/Mondo/DC)

RRP: $60.00 

Author and Artist: Justin Erickson

A quick search on the internet for “the best superhero cartoons of all-time” and one show routinely tops each website’s list: Batman: The Animated Series. And for good reason. It was a pitch perfect adaptation of the source material, taking a serious approach to the Dark Knight in the aftermath of Tim Burton’s two Batman films, even using Danny Elfman’s film score as the opening titles music. The show also brought a 1940s film noir/pulp flavor to the proceedings—it’s in the architecture, cars, and fashions. Even though it was made in the 1990s, the TV screens within the show often feature black & white images. Batman: The Animated Series also found that rare ideal balance of being faithful enough to the comic books, while also appealing to kids. It was serious and sometimes dealt with weight psychological motivations, but not too violent as to turn away elementary aged kids. One such kid was Justin Erickson, who discovered Batman: The Animated Series when he was eight years old, when it first premiered in 1992 with “The Cat and the Claw,” an episode featuring Catwoman (although the Man-Bat featuring “On Leather Wings” was the first episode produced).  

Batman: The Animated Series remains Erickson’s favorite version of the Caped Crusader. As an adult he became an accomplished artist, founding Phantom City Creative in 2010 with Paige Reynolds and winning awards for creating original alternative movie and TV posters for Back to the Future, Jaws, Godzilla, Psycho, and many others. In 2013 Mondo asked Erickson to create a poster for the 20th anniversary of Batman: Mask of the Phantasm, a theatrical film extension of Batman: The Animated Series that hit big screens in 1993. The Mask of the Phantasm poster led to Erickson lovingly creating posters for individual episodes, in part as artwork for Mondo’s multi-volume vinyl release of the show’s soundtrack. Batman: The Animated Series - The Phantom City Creative Collection collects all the posters in a handsome hardcover book. Many of the posters are accompanied by commentary from Erickson. The book also features a forward from Paul Dini, co-creator of the show, as well as an interview with Erickson by Mondo cofounder Rob Jones. Any fan of Batman: The Animated Series will delight in Erickson’s beautiful designs and this wonderful book. By Mark Redfern (Buy it here.)

 

The Cannon Film Guide – Volume 1: 1980-1984 (Bear Manor Media)

RRP: $35.99

Author: Austin Trunick

In the first of an eventual three volumes we are taken on a roller-coaster ride through the early years of 1980s Hollywood’s most prolific B-movie studio, The Cannon Group, founded by pioneering Israeli cousins Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus. 

Between 1980 and its demise in 1994 this enterprising, adventuresome group produced more than 200 films in genres ranging from musicals to sci-fi, comedy to horror, soft-core porno to fantasy; kicked off the Ninja film craze; were among the first to produce a breakdancing musical; and helped make film stars of such gritty action men as pistol-packing Charles Bronson and military arts experts Chuck Norris and Jean-Claude Van Damme. They also lured in such megastars as Sean Connery, Faye Dunaway, Robert Mitchum, and Vincent Price and such auteurs as John Cassavetes, Franco Zeffirelli, Jean-Luc Goddard and Robert Altman.

This volume—written by longtime Under the Radar Cinema Editor and writer—covers 40 films chronologically beginning with The Happy Hooker Goes to Hollywood, starring former Bond girl Martine Beswick and Adam West, best known as an early Batman, and ending with Missing in Action 2: The Beginning, starring former World War II hero and karate king Chuck Norris. Adding to the coverage are interviews with a number of their stars and along the way we encounter such one-offs as The Apple, a musical based upon the bible’s Adam and Eve story; Body and Soul, a boxing film including Muhammad Ali in the cast. Lady Chatterley’s Lover with the sex-starved heroine portrayed by Dutch soft-porno queen Sylvia Kristel; Hercules starring Lou Ferrigno, later to become The Incredible Hulk; and The Naked Face, in which Roger Moore attempts to shake off his James Bond image by playing a Chicago psychoanalyst. A great read; we can’t wait for volumes II and III. By Mary Moore Mason (Buy it here.)

Portraits from the Woods (Big Bald Gallery)

RRP: $75.00

Author: Norman Reedus

Besides the crossbow, it turns out The Walking Dead’s Daryl Dixon is also handy with a camera. Norman Reedus, who portrays Dixon on the popular series, is known for always having a camera on hand, which he puts through the paces for the photographs collected in Portraits from the Woods. The hardcover coffee table book has 144 pages of startling and visceral images captured not only on the set and behind-the-scenes of The Walking Dead, the location of which the book is named after, but also from Reedus’ life. Reedus says the book is like, “stepping in my own shoes, seen through my eyes with my sense of humor.” At times this can be gruesome, and at other times, deeply personal. A definite collector’s item for The Walking Dead fans, Portraits from the Woods is also a must-have for fans of photography. At double the price, the Special Collector’s Edition comes in a clothbound clamshell box that, in addition to the book, includes a signed archival photograph. Available exclusively on Reedus’ Big Bald Gallery site, all profits from sales of the book will be donated to the COVID-19 Response Fund. By Lily Moayeri (Buy it here.)

 

X-Men: The Art and Making of the Animated Series (Abrams)

RRP: $50.00 

Authors: Eric and Julia Lewald 

This tribute to Marvel’s “struggling family of mutants” is a biggie, both in terms of size (12-inches x 10-inches, 288 pages) and scope. We meet such members of the Marvel menagerie as Professor Xavier, creator of the X-Men team, Cyclops, Ice Man, the Angel, the Beast, Storm, Rogue, Gambit, Jubilee, Jean Grey, and the best-known of them, Wolverine, each with their own unique talent. 

We then learn that when the X-Men were first created by Jack Kirby and Stan Lee in 1963 they didn’t catch on as they were all young, nearly identical in dress, look, and sound. They became more appealing in the mid 1970s when they became more adult characters with different personalities and appearances but when the first effort was made to turn them into TV characters in the 1980s all three networks turned them down. It was not until the early 1990s when the fledgling FOX TV network took a risk on them that they became popular on the small screen. The lavishly illustrated book then gives details of how Marvel developed them into the successful animated series concluding with their legacy, and eventually helping lead to a successful film franchise. By Mary Moore Mason (Buy it here.)

For Music Fans:

 

50 Rappers Who Changed the World (Hardie Grant Books)

RRP: $14.99

Author: Candace McDuffie

Although rap did not become prominent in the USA until the 1970s when it first appeared in New York City, this book explains it actually had been popular in West Africa for centuries in the form of stories told to the background of drum beats. In our own time it has reflected the suffering, inequities, and anger of the Black communities. In fact, the only white rapper featured in this 112-page, hard-cover book is Eminem, who not only won an Oscar for his original song “Lose Yourself” in the 75th annual Academy Awards but also starred in 8 Mile, a film about his life.

Each star is introduced in a double-page spread, the left side solely in text written by music journalist and Under the Radar writer Candace McDuffie and the right a portrait of the rapper by illustrator Michele Rosenthal. Thus we learn more about the life, time and accomplishments of the likes of Biggie, Snoop Dogg, Ice-T, and the Notorious B.I. G. In spite of the misogyny which has long been a point of conflict among rappers and their audiences, there are also numerous top female rappers such as MC Lyte, Lil’ Kim, Missy Elliott, and Queen Latifah—who moved on to have her own TV sitcom, daytime talk show, and to star in a number of films, winning Screen Actor Guild and Golden Globes awards and becoming the first rapper to host the Grammy awards. 

Of course she is not the only rapper to receive prominence outside their fields. Kendrick Lamar is a Pulitzer Prize-winning emcee who produced and curated the soundtrack to Marvel’s 2018 blockbuster film Black Panther; the late Tupac Shakur was an acclaimed poet, emcee and actor; and the controversial Kanye West not only married into the multi-faceted Kardashianclan but also ran for U.S. President in 2020. (Buy it here.) By Mary Moore Mason

 

Bowie: A Michael Allred Coloring Book (Insight Editions)

RRP: $15.99

Author and Artist: Michael Allred

There are few comic book artists whose work is as distinctive and recognizable as Michael Allred’s. Allred is perhaps best known as the creator of ‘90s comic Madman and co-creator with Chris Roberson of iZombie (which was later adapted into the CW TV series of the same name), but he’s also worked on more mainstream comics for DC and Marvel, still keeping his pop art style intact, and often working with his wife Laura Allred, who is his colorist. Michael Allred is also a musician (in the band The Gear) and a big-time music fan who often references famous musicians in his work. Earlier this year Michael Allred teamed up with writer Steve Horton to co-write and draw BOWIE: Stardust, Rayguns, & Moonage Daydreams, a biographical graphic novel charting David Bowie’s rise to fame. Bowie: A Michael Allred Coloring Book features black & white artwork from that graphic novel, minus Laura Allred’s glorious coloring and sometimes with empty speech bubbles, for fans to color and write in themselves. And it’s not just about the Thin White Duke or Ziggy Stardust, other notable people show up in its pages too, including Elton John, The Rolling Stones, Stevie Wonder, Barbra Streisand, Truman Capote, and even Salvador Dali. I’m not sure how many adult Bowie fans have time to sit around and fill in a coloring book, but then again it must be therapeutic for some and in the pandemic lockdown there’s not much else fun to do. By Mark Redfern (Buy it here.)  

 

On the Record: Music Journalists on Their Lives, Craft, and Careers (University of Massachusetts Press)

RRP: $22.95

Author: Mike Hilleary 

This is the ideal book for Under the Radar readers as it was written by one of Under the Radar’s regular contributors, Mike Hilleary, and includes numerous quotes from the magazine’s co-publishers Mark and Wendy Redfern as well as from another regular contributor Matt Fink. 

In each chapter the author presents a different topic and encourages his 52 selected writers, all prominent music journalists, to present their thoughts on the subject. They begin with a tribute to music as “one of the few art forms that includes itself in memory. You hear a song or you hear a record and somehow you are right back where you first heard it.”

The writers are then invited to discuss their introduction to music, what inspired them to go into music journalism, the challenge of interviewing top performers and criticizing their music; the relative merits of print and digital coverage, music journalism as a career. and what music does and why it matters. The music journalists include Rob Sheffield, Jessica Hopper, Ann Powers, Chuck Klosterman, Amanda Petrusich, Hanif Abdurraqib, Lindsay Zoladz, Jayson Greene, Jack Rabid, Josh Jackson, and many others.

Definitely a must-buy for those who want to learn more about the background, accomplishments and viewpoints of their favorite music journalists. (Buy it here.) By Mary Moore Mason

For the Kids:

 

Back to the Future DeLorean Book and 3D Wood Model (IncrediBuilds/Insight Editions)

RRP: $27.99

Author: Michael Klastorin with Randal Atamaniuk 

IncrediBuilds’ line of models includes Doc Brown’s DeLorean time machine from Back to the Future. It is an eco-friendly 3D wood model that requires no glue or tools. Instead you punch out the pieces and follow the very detailed instructions (there are 121 steps) to snap the laser-cut pieces together. If desired you can then paint the model. It comes with a 32-page book written by Michael Klastorin with Randal Atamaniuk, which is really excerpted from their 2015 book Back to the Future: The Ultimate Visual History, focusing mainly on sections from that book on the DeLorean. It details how writer/director Robert Zemeckis and writer/producer Bob Gale met at USC film school and eventually came up with the idea for Back to the Future when Gale was visiting home and while flipping through old high school photo albums of his parents wondered what it would be like to meet his parents when they were teenagers. In the earliest drafts of the script, the time machine was actually more of a refrigerator, until they changed it to being a car, quickly deciding on a DeLorean. The book includes early concept sketches for what the augmented DeLorean might look like, as well as storyboards for the original version of the film’s climax at a nuclear test site rather than at the clock tower and set photos featuring Eric Stoltz as Marty McFly before the role was recast with Michael J. Fox partway through production. There are also interviews with Zemeckis, Gale, and others involved in the film’s creation and the car’s iconic design. The model is recommended for ages 10+. By Mark Redfern (Buy it here.

 

Telling Time with Marty McFly (PlayPop/Insight Kids)

RRP: $9.99 

Program Developer: Kate B Jerome; Illustrator: Step Law

Who better to teach your child how to tell time than Back to the Future’s Marty McFly, who always had to keep his eye on the clock. Particularly when your young one is aided by a handy dial that will allow him or her to set the time when Marty should be off at school, having lunch, going to bed, or even walking the dog. And, of course, Doc Brown is there in the background to provide support. By Mary Moore Mason (Buy it here.

 

The Dark Crystal: Touch and Feel Book of Opposites (PlayPop/Insight Kids)

RRP: $9.99 

Program Developer: Kate B Jerome; Illustrator: Bill Robinson 

This literally is a feel good book, for within its 14 pages your young child will learn about such opposites as big and small and light and dark while feeling different surfaces: scratchy green wings for a high-flying Gelfling, a beige fake-fur patch for a small Fizzgig menaced by a large, evil Skeksis or, indeed, the slick, shiny crystals themselves, one a deep, dark purple and the other a light silver. By Mary Moore Mason (Buy it here.

 

DC Graphic Novels for Kids (DC)

RRP: $39.99 

Authors and Artists: Michael Northrop and Gustavo Duarte, Meg Cabot and Cara McGee, Kirk Scroggs, and Art Baltazar and Franco 

I speak from the experience of being the parent to a second grade daughter who loves Supergirl, Wonder Woman, Shazam, and many other DC superheroes when saying that DC Comics has done a fantastic job appealing to younger fans and are perhaps more successful in that pursuit than their chief rival Marvel. On the small screen, DC’s animated shows in the last three decades have generally been superior (especially the aforementioned Batman the Animated Series and related shows, as well as Teen Titans Go! and its big screen movie). Both incarnations of DC Superhero Girls and related toys have been a favorite of my daughter and some of her friends. In the realm of publishing, there have been a plethora of great kid-friendly books (such as the DC Super Pets titles), comic books, and graphic novels. DC Graphic Novels for Kids is a box set that collects four different graphic novels for budding comics fans: Black Canary: Ignite, Dear Justice League, The Secret Spiral of Swamp Kid, and Superman of Smallville.

The highly amusing Dear Justice League—written by Michael Northrop with art by Gustavo Duarte—features members of the iconic super team responding to emails from their young fans, basically displaying their humanity (even when the characters aren’t exactly human). Superman, for example, writes about getting a ticket for texting while flying. Wonder Woman writes about her childhood and whether or not she listened to her parents. Hawkgirl tells her fan about her pet hamster when asked what hawks eat.

Black Canary: Ignite comes from writer Meg Cabot (The Princess Diaries), making it her first graphic novel. It centers on a 13-year-old Dinah Lance (aka Black Canary), who is the singer in a band, and features art by Cara McGee. Kirk Scroggs wrote and drew The Secret Spiral of Swamp Kid, which is about a middle school aged version of Swamp Thing.

Superman of Smallville also features a 13-year-old version of a major hero, in this case Superman/Clark Kent, who still lives in Smallville, Kansas with his adoptive parents. Clark has promised his parents he’ll keep his powers secret, but circumstances make that difficult. Superman of Smallville comes from Eisner Award-winning creators Art Baltazar and Franco (who have collaborated many times before on kid-friendly DC comics, including Tiny Titans, Billy Batson and the Magic of Shazam!, and Superman Family Adventures). DC Graphic Novels for Kids should delight both young DC fans and their parents. By Mark Redfern (Buy it here.)

Doctor Who: The Runaway TARDIS (Quirk Books)

RRP: $18.95

Author and Illustrator: Kim Smith

Are you a fan of The Doctor, the time- and space-travelling alien adventurer from the long-running BBC TV series Doctor Who, particularly in her current female form as the 13th Doctor (as played by Jodie Whittaker)? Do you have a young girl in your family or among your friends? Then this beautifully illustrated book is definitely for you! It comes from Kim Smith, adapting the work of current Doctor Who showrunner Chris Chibnall. For the last few years Smith has done all of Quirk’s PopClassics picture book adaptations of classic movies and TV shows, including Back to the Future, The X-Files, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Home Alone, E.T., and The Karate Kid and now she has turned her attention to everyone’s favorite Time Lord. 

In Doctor Who: The Runaway TARDIS young Lizzie, unhappy in her new school, runs away from home, stumbles upon the time- and space-travelling TARDIS, accidentally gums up its navigational system when she drops her peanut and jelly sandwich into its midst and then sets off on a whirlwind trip through space to exotic worlds with the 13th Doctor. By the time she returns to earth with a new alien buddy she has learned how to adapt to new places, new friends, and new situations. By Mary Moore Mason (Buy it here.)

 

Elf (Quirk Books)

RRP: $18.95

Author and Illustrator: Kim Smith

You won’t be able to resist this book if you loved Elf, the film starring a wacky, wonderful Will Ferrell as the orphaned baby, inadvertently carried to the North Pole in Santa’s sack, brought up by elves, and later to return to America, find his real father, and bring the true spirit of Christmas back to New York City.

Beautifully illustrated in full color (by Kim Smith, adapting the movie written by David Berenbaum and directed by Jon Favreau, it follows Buddy the Elf as he literally grows up and up and up amidst the tiny elves and sets off as an adult through the candy cane forest and past the gumdrop sea to find his Big Apple-based father, Walter, only to discover him to be a grumpy, workaholic on Santa’s “naughty list.”

Although initially rejected by his father, Buddy finds true love with Jovie, a fellow employee while working in Santa Land in a local department store, But can he rescue Santa when his sleigh crashes in Central Park? The perfect family Christmas gift! By Mary Moore Mason (Buy it here.)

The Peanuts Poster Collection (Abrams)

RRP: $18.99

Featuring the cartoons by Charles M. Schultz selected and designed by Chip Kidd and photographed by Geoff Spear

Have you or your children always wanted to have a poster of hapless but loveable little Charlie Brown, bossy Lucy, or adorable canine Snoopy on your wall? Then this book of 20 removable, frameable posters is for you.

Most of the 14x11 posters are in color but, for fun, you or your child could color in the nine ones which are black and white. There’s even a particularly seasonal one in full color showing Snoopy in a woolly Christmas hat seated on his doghouse, with reins linked to Woodstock, the bird, pretending to be a reindeer while Lucy and two other Peanuts characters sing Christmas carols at its base. By Mary Moore Mason (Buy it here.)

 

Wonder Woman: The Way of the Amazons (Insight Kids)

RRP: $19.99

Author: J E Bright; Illustrators: Anna Rudd and Steffi Walthall

This it the go-to book if you—of your children—have ever wondered about the origins of that DC Comic superstar Wonder Woman. It’s also timely as Wonder Woman: 1984, the sequel to the blockbuster film starring Gal Gadot, is scheduled for release in cinemas and on HBO Max on December 25.

Beautifully illustrated, the book whisks you off to the mystical island of Themyscira—there’s even a detailed map to provide authenticity. Home of the powerful all-female tribe of Amazons, it is also the birthplace of Princess Diana, the only daughter of Queen Hippolyta. After rescuing pilot Steve Trevor, injured when his plane crashes into the sea, she is tasked by her mother and other Amazons with returning with him on an exploratory mission to the World of Men. But first she must acquire the special skills and equipment required in her new role of Wonder Woman—all detailed in the book as is the fascinating mythological origin of the Amazons. 

Then we follow our heroine’s journey of discovery as disguised as Diana Prince she discovers both the good and evil aspects of the outside world she has now joined. Aspects she is destined to uphold or conquer when, as Wonder Woman, she joins Superman, Batman, Aquaman, and other members of The Justice League in their battles against such arch villains as The Cheetah, Doctor Psycho, and Giganta.

An unmissable Christmas gift for every would-be Wonder Woman. By Mary Moore Mason (Buy it here.) 

For the Graphic Novel/Comic Book Lovers:

 

The Complete Hate (Fantagraphics)

RRP: $119.99 

Author and Artist: Peter Bagge

Fantagraphics has released a gorgeous boxed set of the entirety of Peter Bagge’s Hate—three volumes and 30 years of comics to enjoy. For those perhaps unfamiliar with what many regard as an essential alternative comic from the ’90s, Hate follows the escapades of Buddy Bradley, whose slacker tendencies are only overshadowed by his odd fits of rage, horniness, helplessness, and, occasionally, ambition. Buddy, in fact, is at his funniest when raging; his opinionated rants may not always be justified, but watching Buddy cut some poser to the quick is a nearly unparalleled joy. And Bagge’s loopy, distinctive, sometimes disturbing (and sometimes kind of Muppet-y) art is half the joy, and is naturally the perfect vehicle for his biting humor. By Jeremy Nissen (Buy it here.)

 

The Complete Works of Fante Bukowski (Fantagraphics)

RRP: $39.99 

Author and Artist: Noah Van Sciver

Immerse yourself in the tried-and-true world of a struggling white male writer. But while this station in life is fraught, real-life comic book author and artist, Noah Van Sciver, handles the subject matter with care, humor, and aplomb. The insults and joke-butts are spread about and fall both on the protagonist’s head and those around him. Speaking of the protagonist, the struggling white male writer in question is named Fante Bukowski (no relation). He is a bumbling, hopeful, inspiration-lacking individual in need of some good luck and a good look inward. The myth is that the epiphany is outside ourselves, that the spark is just beyond our reach. One need just observe Fante Bukowski for clues in this excellent comic book-style work to ascertain this truth. By Jake Uitti (Buy it here.)

 

Flapper Queens: Women Cartoonists of the Jazz Age (Fantagraphics)

RRP: $34.99

Author: Trina Robbins

Put together by Trina Robbins—a skilled cartoonist who in the 1980s was the first woman to draw a Wonder Woman comic book—this opulently illustrated 158-page coffee table book follows the evolvement of American women through their depiction in cartoons drawn by women from the beginning of the 1920s jazz age to its demise with the 1929 Wall Street crash followed by the Great Depression. 

Particular attention is paid to Nell Brinkley, whose career not only launches but provides the finale to the book. She was one of the first female cartoonists to depict the independent young “flappers” (a name originally referring to young wild ducks learning to fly) who kicked over the traces of the cosseted—or should we say corseted—Edwardian era, bobbed their hair, shortened their skirts, did the Charleston, and ignored Prohibition to drink and party with the boys. And she was also to predict as early as 1925 that Americans would discover that “life was no longer an endless booze-filled party.” Hence the cartoons at the end of the book showing young professional women with more sedate pageboy hair styles and less flamboyant attire going out to work and learning to adapt to a more balanced form of domestic life.

Appearing in such publications as The American Weekly, the style was quite different from the cartoons of today. No speech balloons came out of the mouths of such party girl heroines as Prudence Prim, Flossie, Sunny Sue, and Gloriette or from their numerous beaus. Instead they are accompanied by snippets of rhyming poetry. And only occasionally did they appear to aspire to anything professional, the exception being Dimples’ Day Dream in which wide-eyed, blonde Dimples imagines a future when she might end up being a mayor, governor, or “what a whopping wow! Why not even be President?”

Whereas Brinkley’s cartoons are all in flamboyant color those of Eleanor Schorer, who introduces balloon dialogue, and Edith Stevens are in black and white and have more of an edge. For instance, in one of her Boston Post cartoons Stevens compares the romanticized way men want to see women and the unflattering way they see them when the vote.

Ethel Hays’ full-page Cleveland Press tales are not only in vivid color but tell such tongue-in-cheek tales as Cinderella in Modern Clothes and Flapper Philosophy, and Fay King’s Denver Post black and white strip cartoons were largely autobiographical, with the creator depicted as a thin, big-nosed, big-footed creature, reminiscent of Olive Oyl in the later Popeye cartoons. Virginia Huget, on the other hand, got her first newspaper assignment drawing cartoons inspired by the 1925 Anita Loos book Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, later made into a Broadway play and a film starring Marilyn Monroe. Her full-color, full-page creations appeared in such publications as The Indianapolis Sunday Star and The Philadelphia Inquirer and also in a series of advertisements for Lux soap: “Never risk cosmetic skin...use Lux Toilet Soap!”

Even if you have no interest in this female-focused, niche market history of cartooning, the wealth of 1920s fashions depicted in its illustrations would make the book the ideal present for someone interested in the subject. By Mary Moore Mason (Buy it here.)

 

Marvel Comics Mini-Books Collectible Boxed Set: A History and Facsimiles of Marvel’s Smallest Comic Books (Abrams)

RRP: $29.99

Author: Mark Evanier

This nifty box-set of seven mini-books covers selected adventures of Captain America, The Mighty Thor, The Amazing Spider-Man, The Incredible Hulk, Sgt Nick Furry, and Millie the Model. The origins of the mini-books are explained in the introductory volume by Mark Evanier—they were first produced in 1966 and distributed nationwide through vending machines. The Guinness Book of World Records certified them as the world’s smallest comic books.

At the time, they were about the size of a postage stamp with lettering tinier than that on the bottom line of an eye chart. Examples are provided in the following pages with each character given a double-page spread of 25 cartoons. Larger illustrations of the same stories follow in the six volumes dedicated to each of the cartoon characters.

So you can discover how Captain America and Sgt Nick Furry fought against dastardly foreign spies in World War II, the pitfalls of Spider-Man and the Hulk, Thor’s challenge to rescue magical ravens from a fiery tongued monster and how pretty, blonde Millie the Model rose to the challenge when a rival tricked her into dying her hair blue. You even get snippets of valuable advice from Millie (“Always have good posture”) and the Hulk (“Avoid Gamma Rays!”) By Mary Moore Mason (Buy it here.)

 

Post-Apocalypto (Fantagraphics)

RRP: $29.99 

Author: Kyle Gass; Artist: Jack Black

You might not expect to open a beautiful hardcover book to immediately find rudimentary drawings composed by the members of the comedic rock ‘n’ roll band Tenacious D. But then again, the surprises don’t end there in this adventure. Jump into a 1950’s fridge to survive a nuclear holocaust in order to later save the world. Ride high (ahem) with the charming duo as they tangle with hate groups, presidents (past and present), two-headed dogs and creatures of all kinds (like a cyclops octopus). The book toes the line between mindless entertainment and social commentary and reflects Tenacious D’s signature bent toward euphoria and a keen sense for what’s good and true. By Jake Uitti (Buy it here.)

Resist, Revolt, Rebel (DC)

RRP: $49.99

Authors and Artists: Laura Myrade and Steve Pugh, Mariko Tamaki and Steve Pugh, Danielle Paige and Stephen Byrne

Resist, Revolt, Rebel is a box set of three New York Times bestseller young adult novels featuring those kick-ass heroines, Catwoman, Harley Quinn and Princess Mera.

The fantastic feline you meet in Under the Moon: A Catwoman Tale, written by Laura Myrade and illustrated by Steve Pugh, is far from the masked, black leather-encased temptress you meet in the Hollywood films. She is instead young Selina, escaping from a brutal stepfather and irresponsible mother to gradually find the meaning of love and responsibility through her friendship with another much younger, vulnerable girl. Along the way, she develops a tentative friendship with Bruce Wayne, later to be known as Batman, and learns the survival and martial skills she needs to become Catwoman. 

In Harley Quinn: Breaking Glass, written by Mariko Tamaki and also illustrated by Steve Pugh, young Harleen Quinzel (later to become Harley Quinn), also has a disruptive back history. Her father was shot dead when she was four and when her mother takes a job on a cruise liner she is sent as a teenager to Gotham City to live with her granny, unaware that the old lady had died. Instead her apartment is now occupied by a kindly, gay cross-dressing performer named Mama who becomes her surrogate parent.

Loveable but irresponsibly impulsive Harley then becomes friends with impressive fellow high school student, Ivy. A dedicated social activist, Ivy is determined to save their community from the ravages of greedy property developers (and of course one day will become Poison Ivy). However she also falls into the clutches of a destructive, masked man known as the Joker. Tricked by him into participating in an act that will threaten both the lives and property of Ivy and Mama, their family and friends.

Mera Tidebreaker by Danielle Paige with illustrations by Stephen Byrne introduces you to Princess Mera, the rebellious, flame-haired daughter of the king of the underwater kingdom of Xebel, long subjugated by the rival kingdom of Atlantis. The only solution Mera decides is to seek out and assassinate Prince Arthur, the land-based son and heir to the king of Atlantis (and future Aquaman).

Escaping her would-be suitor, Larken, who is also tasked with killing Arthur, Mera contrives to have herself rescued by Arthur at Amnesty Bay, where he and his father live incognito. To her surprise, she finds both of them kind, hospitable and far from threatening, and she must decide whether to side with Arthur, her own father, or to seek is to make peace between the two warlike kingdoms. Things look promising but at what price to Mera? Read on. By Mary Moore Mason (Buy it here.)

For the Toy Collector:

 

Micro But Many: An Unofficial Micro Machines Collection (Bitmap Books)

RRP: $40.00

Author: Sam Dyer

Remember Micro Machines? Of course you do. The line of roughly 1:150 scale toy vehicles debuted in the late 1980s with a marketing blitz of unforgettable commercials narrated by record-setting motor-mouth John Moschitta Jr. This art book from Bitmap Books—makers of, hands down, many of the best-looking video game books we’ve ever seen—chronicles the rise, fall, and rise again of the toy line in pictorial format. The ultra-magnified photographs give us a look at one of the best Micro Machines collections on the planet, with views we’ve never been able to appreciate this closely, alongside histories of the many, many, many automobiles and other machines they modeled over the decades. Also included are interviews with toy designers, marketers, and other execs who were responsible for the line. Whether or not you were a big fan of these tiny cars and play sets as a kid, Micro But Many is an attractive book for the coffee table of any toy history fan. By Austin Trunick (Buy it here.) 

For the Cookers:

Back to the Future: The Official Hill Valley Cookbook (Insight Editions)

RRP: $29.99 

Recipes: Matt Robicello; Author: Allison Robicello; Photos: Ted Thomas

This is the book for you if you want to know what’s cooking in Hill Valley, home to Marty McFly, Doc Brown, and the rest of that time-shifting Back to the Future gang. Among the 65 zany recipes from the past, present, and future are the McFly Family Table Tuna Noodle Casserole, George McFly’s Blob from Outer Space (a rather alarming jiggly green gelatin and pineapple concoction), Quiche Lorraine, the namesake treat dedicated to Marty’s mum, and Doc Brown’s Time-Altering Chicken Pot Pie.

Biff’s Bananas Foster is a surprisingly sweet treat from such a sour character as Biff Tannen, and oddly enough there is not a single namesake recipe for Marty himself although he certainly would endorse the Hoverboard Cookies recipe.

The actually quite-enticing recipes are grouped by the periods covered by the Back to the Future film trilogy: 1985, 1955, 2015, and 1885 (the latter with an emphasis on Old West fare) with each section including an intro not only to its food trends but also to historic high points. They are accompanied by photos of film settings and of some of the dishes on offer as well as by some illustrations inspired by the films. Also included are a list of necessary cooking utensils and ingredients—not surprisingly the latter includes such unusual items as edible gold leaf and pignoli  (pine nuts to the likes of you and me). By Mary Moore Mason (Buy it here.)

Marvel Eat the Universe: The Official Cookbook (Insight Editions)

RRP: $29.99

Author: Justin Warner

Have you ever wondered what Captain America eats when he’s off-duty from saving the world? The tempting treats of that trickster Loki, the exotic preferences of the Black Panther, or what  Wolverine tucks into once he retracts those lethal claws?

Well, now all can be revealed. The Captain just loves beef tongue terrine; Loki is such a world traveller that his preference is kroppkakor, Swedish potato dumplings filled with sweet bacon and onions; Black Panther also has exotic tastes—a spicy goat brochette with isombe, a mixture of such ingredients as eggplant, bell pepper, cassava leaves, and, I’m not kidding, peanut butter; and Wolverine, inspired by his adventures in New Orleans, goes for a Bayou Boil including crab meat, crawfish, sausage, and corn.

And that’s not to forget Iron Man’s love of a Lobster Corn Dog; Thor’s preference for Meat Mjolnir featuring a “tomahawk steak” plus mashed potatoes enhanced with fish roe, or the Hulk’s Paillard Arrabiata (boneless, skinless chicken breasts covered with a green spinach and parsley sauce) accompanied by purple smashed potatoes. (Get it: his color scheme is green and purple!)

We could go on and on as there are almost as many recipes (and more) as there are Marvel super heroes and villains but suffice it to say that the recipe sections are divided into various types of meat and seafood as well as into desserts—how could you resist Spider-Man’s NYC Cheesecake?—and vegetarian options, including Black Widow’s Charred Beet Borscht. It’s also enhanced by appealing photos of the recipes and illustrations of the various characters they honor. By Mary Moore Mason (Buy it here.)

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