Opus Nine:

1.  Name Dropping & Tale Bearing (9/22)

2.  Toth in Truth (9/22)

3.  Manning Tarzan (9/22)

1. Name Dropping & Tale Bearing.  The second volume of Zits is out,
Growth Spurt, and the title surely tells a tale: the strip by Jim
Borgman and Jerry Scott is collecting client papers faster than any
strip in recent memory.  Perhaps faster than any strip ever: it's in
750 papers, and its only two years old.   One of the reasons for the
astonishing growth in circulation is doubtless the demographic to
which the strip is pitched.  It's about a teenager, but the strip
aims at the parents of teenagers, exhibiting this strange fauna in
ways that parents of the breed recognize from personal experience.
Borgman and Scott picked up category awards at the Reuben Dinner for
"Best Comic Strip of the Year" (it sez here).  And they richly
deserve the recognition.  As I've said before in this space, they're
producing one of the very few comic strips that adventurously
exploits the very nature of the medium.  It's also well drawn.  If
you want to see how well--and how the duo plumbs the potential of the
medium--pick up your copy of Growth Spurt (Andrews McMeel, $9.95).
     And while you're at it, grab a copy of Dog's Best Friend, the second
reprint volume of Mark O'Hare's Citizen Dog strip (Andrews McMeel,
$9.95 again).  Fergus and his hapless owner Mel are still going at
it.  Witnessing the flowering of the relationship between this
unlikely couple is one of the pleasures of reading the strip.  Fergus
is a little brighter than Mel, but not much.  Both are innocents
abroad in the land.  And they turn their discoveries into contests at
every turn, each striving for superiority over the other.  O'Hare's
sense of humor is wonderfully fey, and his drawing style (yes, this
is another strip that is actually drawn, tovarich) displays his
apprenticeship in animation as well as a deft brush.
     Ty Templeton tells us that the issue in hand, No. 14 of the Batman
Gotham Adventures series, is his last, for the time being.  No. 14 is
a nifty romp with Harley Quinn, Batgirl, and Robin as well as Batman
himself.  And the page layouts are varied enough that I wonder if
Templeton didn't rough them out as he wrote the story.  Meanwhile,
I've decided that the appeal in this "Adventures" series of
characters like Harley Quinn and Batgirl stems in part from their
curvaceous rendering and in part from masks.  Those masks cover the
upper halves of their faces but effectively highlight their eyes,
making those orbs visually important, and that adds a captivating
dimension to the pictures.
     Speaking of the "Adventures" style, we have Batman: Animated
(paperback, 144 9x12" pages; $25), a lavishly illustrated and
produced "history" of the animated cartoon series with text by Paul
Dini and Chip Kidd and an introduction by Bruce Timm in which he
reveals that the essential design for the innovative appearance of
Batman and the rest of the series he dashed off in "about an hour."
Fascinating as all the discussion about the animation of the
character will be to real animation buffs, I bought the book because
of the drawings--character designs, storyboard sketches, and the
like, all in the now-celebrated "adventures" style.  This is a
symphonic style in its commanding simplicity, and as much as I like
the animated cartoons for their storytelling flair and panache, the
static drawings in that style are, to me, a manifestation of
perfection in line and composition.  Besides that, though, there's
lots of color throughout this book, all on slick paper, and a few
double-truck fold-outs, too.  A visual joy.

return to top of page

2. Toth in Truth.  Just when you think you have all of the Alex Toth
books worth having, along comes another one more delicious than the
last.  Manuel Auad's Toth: Black & White (paperback, 220 9x12" pages;
$24.95) is a marvel and a wonder.  This book includes, for example,
the absolutely stunning 1981 tribute to Wally Wood and Russ Manning
called simply "Taps."  A whimsical exercise in black and white and
movement, it depicts the dance of an abstracted character.  That's
all.  And then there's a reprise of that celebrated "Bravo for
Adventure" dreamstory doing homage to Roy Crane and Milton Caniff and
adventure in comics.  The short section of sketches and finished art
on "Les Femmes" is better than the whole book put out on Toth's women
by Glamour a year or so ago.  And there are pages and pages of
pin-ups-- the art for covers of various kinds and drawings made for
friends.  And a couple of these include Toth's take on Caniff's
Dragon Lady, and one of those is worth the whole price of the book.
Everywhere, Toth's masterful control and restraint in line and solid
     One of the early sections of pin-ups and cover art is called
"Heroes," and on one of those pages, Toth letters the following: "A
toast--to true blue, ethical, dashing, funloving, fairplaying,
handsome, stylish, sentimental, romantic HEROES of the news,
histories, fables, novels, plays, movies and radio serials, comic
strips and comic books of my youth--may they once again, in spirit
and substance, reclaim their popular stature and celebration!  We do,
sorely, need them."

return to top of page

3. Manning Tarzan.  In somewhat the same tidy, adult-like format as
the imported Bonelli books, Dark Horse has reprinted Russ Manning's
comic book adaptation of four of the Burroughs' Tarzan tomes: Tarzan
of the Apes, The Return of Tarzan, The Beasts of Tarzan, and The Son
of Tarzan.  Now, these are 23-page comic book stories, aristotle: so
there's a good bit of the novels that's been left aside in the
adaptations.  But the reason you want this book (paperback, 104 6x8"
pages in color; $12.95) is Manning's drawing, not Burroughs'
tale-telling.  Crisp, clean art; flowing flexible linework.
Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful.  Vintage Manning.  
     The color work by Jason Hvam is superb: deliciously muted.  And the
books are also lovingly designed to evoke the jungle locale by Lia
     Finally, the editors meticulously tell us where all the stories
originally appeared--in Tarzan Nos. 155-158, with occasional
decorative spots lifted from Nos. 154-156.
     This sort of caring production deserves support.  And there's yet
another Manning Tarzan reprint project from Dark Horse--The Land that
Time Forgot & the Pool of Time; same size, same format, same price.
If you want to see Manning's graceful art, this is the time to get
your checkbook out.

return to top of page

Return to Archive Index
return to archive main page

To find out about Harv's books, click here.

send e-mail to R.C. Harvey
art of the comic book - art of the funnies - reviews - order form - main page