Tag Archives: comic books

Books Acquired Recently

It has been a good summer for book collecting, as the number of volumes on my “to read” shelf now is much larger than it was at the beginning of the summer. My latest batch comes mostly from a recent visit to the Strand, but I also received Lankevich’s and Lepore’s books as gifts from a friend, and bought Shawl and Campbell’s collection on amazon.com because Samuel R. Delany is one of my research interests.

Charyn, Jerome. Bitter Bronx: Thirteen Stories. New York: Liveright, 2015.

I have not encountered Charyn’s work before, but as a native of the Bronx I am always on the lookout for good fiction about it, and Bitter Bronx‘s blurb (well-written blurbs are so important, and so rare) makes it sound like the stories are well-rooted in their place, which is a literary theme I have been studying recently.

Clowes, Daniel. Ghost World. Seattle: Fantagraphics, 1998.

I have been wanting to read this graphic novel since I saw the film version, and have considered buying it on a number of occasions, but other books always took precedence. However, there was a stack of them at the Strand on one of the second floor tables at a discounted price ($13.49 as opposed to the $14.99 cover price), and I decided it was time.

cummings, e.e. Erotic Poems. Ed. George James Firmage. New York: Liveright, 2010.

I enjoy cummings’s work, in large part because of its frankness about the body, thus when I came across this slim volume it was too tempting to resist. It also includes some of cummings’s erotic drawings.

Lankevich, George J. New York City: A Short History. New York: New York UP, 2002.

Despite being a native of New York City and somewhat of a history buff I know relatively little about the city’s history. I am about two-thirds through the book and it is quite good thus far. It was first published in 1998 and then an expanded version was published in 2002 after 9/11. However, the pre-9/11 chapters were not revised, and there are several instances where other significant events in the city’s history happened on September 11 (laws being signed, and so on), and it is fascinating to read these passages that make no comment on how significant that date would later become. It is also interesting to wonder about the timing of these seemingly coincidental occurrences. It reminds me of the occult concept of ley lines. Are there such a thing as ley dates?

Lepore, Jill. The Secret History of Wonder Woman. New York: Vintage, 2015.

I enjoy Lepore’s writing for the New Yorker, and Wonder Woman is my favorite superhero, so I was quite excited to receive this book.

Palahniuk, Chuck. Beautiful You. 2014. New York: Anchor, 2015.

When Palahniuk is on, his fiction is brilliant, and when he is off, it is gimmicky and mediocre, so I’m always a little nervous to acquire one of his books, but the blurb on this one was intriguing enough (it is about sex toys) to convince me to buy it.

Shawl, Nisi, and Bill Campbell, eds. Stories for Chip: A Tribute to Samuel R. Delany. Greenbelt: Rosarium, 2015.

This festschrift for Delany includes both essays and fiction, which is an appropriate mixture considering the diversity of his own oeuvre.

Warner, Sylvia Townsend. Summer Will Show. 1936. New York: New York Review, 2009.

I have been wanting to read this novel since reading about it in a feminist literature course back in 2004, and have often searched for it in used bookstores to no avail. I happily discovered this NYRB edition on one of the fiction tables at the back of the Strand (I actually gasped aloud when I saw it). This is what I love about the Strand: while I always find excellent books that I wasn’t looking for, I always also seem to find a book that I am looking for in a way that feels like it was put right there for me to find it.

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Books Acquired Recently

Call, Lewis. BDSM in American Science Fiction and Fantasy. New York: Palgrave, 2013.

I was so excited when I found out about this book because it examines two of my research interests. There is a chapter on one of my favorite authors/research subjects, Samuel R. Delany, and another one on Wonder Woman, my favorite super hero. I remember seeing an exhibit of panels from Wonder Woman comics depicting bondage at the Museum of Sex in New York City in late 2002, and I look forward to reading Call’s analysis of this recurring theme.

Self, Will. Psychogeography: Disentangling the Modern Conundrum of Psyche and Place. New York: Bloomsbury, 2007.

The psychogeography project I did with my students this semester has ended, and it went quite well, well enough that I am going to do it again next year. Therefore I continue to look for resources for it, and this book is a part of that search.

Both books were acquired from amazon.com’s network of independent sellers.

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Books Acquired Recently

Delany, Samuel R. The Mad Man. New York: Kasak, 1994.

I found this copy of the first edition of The Mad Man, one of my favorite Delany novels, online in good condition and for a good price from one of amazon.com’s independent sellers, so I decided to buy it. The second edition, published in 2002, is substantially revised, and is the one I reference in my work on Delany, thus I bought the first edition more as a piece of Delany memorabilia than as reading material.

Reimer, Al. Mennonite Literary Voices: Past and Present. North Newton: Bethel College, 1993.

I have been looking for a copy of this book on and off for over a decade, and finally found a copy surface on abebooks.com from a bookstore in Winnipeg. It is one of the early pieces of criticism on Mennonite literature, and I’ve been wanting to read it since taking a course in Mennonite literature in 2001.

Starlin, Jim, et al. Infinity Gauntlet. 1991. New York: Marvel, 2011.

This was a pure nostalgia purchase from amazon.com. I read the Infinity Gauntlet miniseries as a junior high schooler when it first came out, and recently had a conversation about it with a friend that inspired me to seek it out again.

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An Ode to Advertisements in Old Comic Books

I’ve been reading some older comic books lately, and I’m struck by how a large part of the aesthetic pleasure which results from this activity comes from the advertisements sprinkled throughout the books and on their back covers. In other words, the activity is more about re-experiencing material culture to create pleasant nostalgia than it is about revisiting my favorite super heroes. Here are some examples:

Defenders advertisement

This is a great page of ads from The Defenders #53!  It’s colorful, the range of fonts make it visually interesting, and it is also a fascinating artifact of the time when comic book dealing was becoming big business. There’s also the obligatory strength-training ad.

Here’s the back cover ad from the same issue:

Dr. J ad

Who doesn’t love a cartoon version of Dr. J? Are you a nerdy, 98-pound weakling type who needs the strength training offered earlier, or an athlete who likes to shoot hoops with his friends after school? Comic books bring both types together, just like a print version of The Breakfast Club.

But Marvel did not have a monopoly on great ads. Here’s a fantastic Bubble Yum ad from Tales of the New Teen Titans #4, complete with instructions for a magic trick:

Bubble Yum

And here’s an excellent Dungeons & Dragons ad from the back cover:

Dungeons & Dragons ad

The ads are light-hearted, meant for children, unlike those in comic books today. For instance, in the X-Men issue I wrote about in my previous post, there was a car ad and an insurance ad inside the book, and a motorcycle ad on the back cover (though I must note that the insurance ad was written in comic form like the Dungeons & Dragons ad above). Obviously the target audience for comic books has shifted in the past twenty years from younger teenagers to adults who grew up with comics and still read them (this shift has almost exactly coincided with my own maturing–I was the target audience in 1992 and I am still [or, perhaps, am once again?] the target audience today), but I think something is lost in the more expensive, high-gloss comics of today. The books themselves feel sterilized and are unpleasant to hold. The artwork is beautiful, but the objects that contain it are not.

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Astonishing X-Men 50–The Gay Proposal Issue

I just finished reading Astonishing X-Men 50, which, along with issue 51 that comes out next month, includes the first same-sex proposal/marriage in comic book history. Of course it is ridiculous that these two issues have caused such controversy in the media in the past few weeks, first, because it is another case of the media being sensationalistic, and second (and most importantly), because people who are still against “gay marriage” are bigots, plain and simple. Unfortunately, the U.S.A. is still a ridiculous, homophobic society, though, so kudos to Marvel for taking a public stand on the correct, humane side of the argument.

The way Northstar’s proposal to his non-superhero boyfriend Kyle is written is a beautiful political statement because it is not flashy, it just happens (and Kyle says no! It will be interesting to see how issue 51 fits both his change-of-heart and the wedding in.). There is nothing to set it apart as “weird” or “special.” It just happens. This is the kind of inclusiveness that it is necessary for society to show to LGBT persons. The pro-gay marriage movement is not calling for special privileges, it is simply calling for equal rights.

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