Al Williamson · Bernie Krigstein · Frank Frazetta · Gahan Wilson · Heads Up! · Jack Davis · Joe Kubert

Heads Up: A selection of new books coming soon from Fantagraphics!

Every once in a while, I like to use the Amazon “Advanced Search” to find out what I have to look forward to in the coming months from my favourite publishers. Sometimes the information published in the Amazon catalogue is not precisely accurate. Sometimes a book will be credited to the wrong publisher. Often the books are listed without descriptions or cover images. Often the publication date that is listed turns out to be wildly optimistic. I think you get the picture. Anyway, today I was looking for forthcoming books available for pre-order from venerable comics publisher, Fantagraphics, and I just thought I’d share with you some of the titles that caught my eye. I don’t know if I will be willing or able to purchase all of these books if and when they finally are released, but they are all titles that I, and perhaps you, will definitely want to consider. So, without further ado, here’s my very tentative shopping list:

[NO IMAGE — that’s not an error; that’s my way of letting you know that there’s no image yet in the Amazon catalogue.]

Problematic: Selected Sketchbook Drawings 2004-2011 [Hardcover]
Jim Woodring (Author)

  • Hardcover: 300 pages
  • Publisher: Fantagraphics Books (October 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1606995944
  • ISBN-13: 978-1606995945

[NO DESCRIPTION — but it doesn’t matter; for me, it’s a must have!]


The Love and Rockets Reader: From Hoppers to Palomar [Paperback]
Marc Sobel (Author), Los Bros Hernandez (Illustrator)

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Fantagraphics Books (October 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1606995928
  • ISBN-13: 978-1606995921

[NO DESCRIPTION — I want to know what this is before I pre-order, but they’ve got my attention.]


The Love and Rockets Companion: 30 Years (and Counting)< [Paperback]
Neil Gaiman (Contributor), Marc Sobel (Editor), Kristy Valenti (Editor)

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Fantagraphics Books (September 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1606995790
  • ISBN-13: 978-1606995792

[NO DESCRIPTION — again, I want to know what’s in this!]

DAL TOKYO [Hardcover]
Gary Panter (Author, Artist)

  • Hardcover: 212 pages
  • Publisher: Fantagraphics Books; 1 edition (Jun 12 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1560978864
  • ISBN-13: 978-1560978862

Product Description

“Dal Tokyo was a monthly comic strip, drawn in Panter’s groundbreaking “ratty line,” about a future Mars that is terra-formed by Texan and Japanese workers. In 1983 the L.A. Reader published the first 63 strips. A few years later, the Japanese reggae magazine Riddim picked up the strip, and Panter continued the saga of Dal Tokyo in installments for over a decade.”

About the Author

“GARY PANTER (Brooklyn, New York) is the author of Jimbo in Purgatory and Jimbo’s Inferno.”

[There’s some of Panter’s work that I like and some that I don’t. Dal Tokyo, however, is one that I will definitely consider purchasing. I won’t pre-order, though.]


Love and Rockets: The Covers [Hardcover]
Los Bros Hernandez (Author)

  • Hardcover: 200 pages
  • Publisher: Fantagraphics Books (November 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1606995987
  • ISBN-13: 978-1606995983

[NO DESCRIPTION — but an easy decision: a must have!]


Weird Horrors & Daring Adventures [Hardcover]
Joe Kubert (Author), Bill Schelly (Editor)

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Fantagraphics Books (September 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1606995812
  • ISBN-13: 978-1606995815

[NO DESCRIPTION — but very tempting nonetheless!]


Messages in a Bottle: Comic Book Stories by B. Krigstein [Paperback]
B. (Bernard) Krigstein (Author), Greg Sadowski (Editor)

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Fantagraphics Books (March 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1606995804
  • ISBN-13: 978-1606995808

[NO DESCRIPTION — doesn’t matter, I want it!]


Gahan Wilson Sunday Comics [Hardcover]
Gahan Wilson (Author)

  • Hardcover: 184 pages
  • Publisher: Fantagraphics Books (February 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1606996126
  • ISBN-13: 978-1606996126

[NO DESCRIPTION — Do I need another collection of Wilson cartoons? Nope. Do I want another one? Yep. Will I be able to afford one? Time will tell.]


“‘Taint the Meat…It’s the Humanity!” and Other Stories [Hardcover]
Jack Davis (Author), Al Feldstein (Author), Gary Groth (Editor)

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Fantagraphics Books (January 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1606995782
  • ISBN-13: 978-1606995785

[NO DESCRIPTION — but probably part of Fantagraphics’ new EC Comics Library, and therefore a must have!]

“50 Girls 50” and Other Stories [Hardcover]
Frank Frazetta (Author), Al Williamson (Author), Gary Groth (Editor)

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Fantagraphics Books (January 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1606995774
  • ISBN-13: 978-1606995778

[NO DESCRIPTION — again, if it’s part of the new EC Comics Library from Fantagraphics, it’s a must have!]

Notice that I haven’t linked to any of the books listed above at Amazon or any other bookseller. That’s deliberate on my part. I’m not trying to make money by enticing you to buy things via RCN. My sole interest is to promote the kind of books that I enjoy so that those books will sell more copies and (maybe) publishers will keep producing the kind of books that I enjoy.

Book/Magazine Covers (All) · Heads Up! · Illustration Art · Jack Davis · Look Here


Yesterday on the FLOG! Blog, Mike Baehr announced that Fantagraphics has pulled the first printing of Jack Davis: Drawing American Pop Culture — A Career Retrospective from (almost!) distribution and has gone back to press to correct a problem with the covers, which apparently were prone to warping. At the same time, the publisher has decided to replace the original cover in sepia (?) and orange with a less design-centric confection that gives pride of place to a cropped, colour version of Davis’s illustration from the first printing:

If you purchased a copy of the first printing of the book, you have several options: you can be happy with what you’ve got, you can exchange what you’ve got for a copy of the new printing, or you can keep what you’ve got and buy a copy of the new printing at a discount. Check out this post on the FLOG! Blog for the official details.

Jack Davis: Drawing American Pop Culture — A Career Retrospective was originally the subject of a “Heads Up” post here at RCN back on 08 November 2010. The cover image included with that post, however, was not the final cover of the first printing. This was:

It’s an interesting design, I guess, although I don’t think all of the elements are as readable as they should be. In an effort to diagnose the problem, I converted the cover to greyscale, and the result is instructive, I think:

Notice how the greenish colour on the lighted side of the forms in Davis’s illustration is pretty much the same value as the orange background. It’s that similarity of value, combined with a lack of any truly dark darks, that I think makes the details of the illustration so difficult to discern. Sure, the narrow range of values in the illustration makes the busy letter forms of the superimposed title more readable than they otherwise would be. Just look what happens, for instance, when I bump up the contrast on that greyscale image:

Setting aside the issue of the annoying visual artifacts that have emerged from my amateurish processing of the low-resolution colour JPEG of the original cover, I think it’s obvious that while the title in the above version of the cover has become more difficult to read, the illustration itself is now more easily decipherable and has a lot more pop!

But why mess around with the contrast at all when it would have been so much easier simply not to put really busy lettering over a really busy illustration?

I suppose the fundamental question for me is, what ought to be the main attraction on the cover a coffee-table book devoted to the art of Jack Davis: some old-timey title lettering or Jack Davis’s art? I think it should be the art. The designer, obviously, had a different idea. Until now, that is.


Here’s a really busy cover in which expert designer and all-round comics genius Harvey Kurtzman uses visual hierarchy and contrast to enable the viewer to take in the various elements, all of which are easily readable, in an orderly fashion, without any confusion as to what is most important, what is next most important, and so on, and so forth:


To me, Kurtzman and Davis’s cover stands head and shoulders above any of the designs I’ve seen for Jack Davis: Drawing American Pop Culture. But don’t be angry at me for pointing this out, Fantagraphics: I still do plan to buy the book.

P.S. If you work for Fantagraphics and you’re reading this, you ought to mention to the designer of Jack Davis: Drawing American Pop Culture that the blue background that represents the sky on the new cover ought to be visible through the structure of the telescopic fire-truck ladder at the top-centre of Davis’s illustration as well as through the spaces between the upper and lower wings of the biplane, etc. In the image currently featured on the FLOG! Blog, those spaces are white, which suggests to me that the background of the original illustration was also white, though I don’t know that for sure…

BELATED DOUBLE BONUS IMAGE (added 09 February 2013):

Here’s what the cover of the new improved version of Jack Davis: Drawing American Pop Culture actually looked like, when all was said and done:


Problems solved!

Comics · Jack Davis · Look Here · Original art vs. printed page

Look Here: “Cigar Store Indian, 1957,” by Jack Davis

Here’s a JPEG of Jack Davis’s original artwork for “Cigar Store Indian, 1957” (with the note “HUMBUG #3” at the top), along with a scan of the piece as it was printed in Humbug #4:


What is immediately evident when one compares the two images above is how much detail was “lost in translation” from the original artwork to the printed page. In the original, Davis’s precisely crosshatched shadows are alive with atmosphere and reflected light. In the reproduction, however, the ink has sunk into the cheap paper to such an extent that Davis’s linework is made to appear a lot more heavy handed that it really is, with carefully designed tonal values congealing at the darker end of the scale into unintended masses of inky blackness. The loss of crucial detail is nowhere more obvious than on the plinth of the statue, which actually contains a lot more text — text that is integral to the joke that the drawing is intended to convey — than was visible to the readers of Humbug (see above), or even to the readers of the two-volume, slip-cased Humbug reconstruction that was published by Fantagraphics Books in 2009. However, unlike the fine folks at Fantagraphics, who clearly didn’t have the original artwork for “Cigar Store Indian, 1957,” on hand when they produced their magnificent tribute to the genius of Harvey Kurtzman and his co-conspirators at Humbug, Kurtzman and Davis would have been painfully aware what sort of damage the dodgy reproduction of Humbug #4 had inflicted on the gag on page three.

UPDATE (16 March 2011):

In an interview with Jeffrey H. Wasserman published in the fanzine Inside Comics #2 (Summer 1974), Kurtzman explained how Humbug came into being and why, in his view, the project was fatally flawed from the first:

KURTZMAN: HUMBUG was a very sentimental undertaking. We all sat around the day after TRUMP was dropped… wondering whether to slash our wrists. Arnold Roth was the only one who kept his head about him. I was sitting with Jack Davis and Al Jaffee and Harry Chester and Arnold was the only one who could think constructively. He went down and got some booze. And in our subsequent drunken state, we decided to carry on and we came out with HUMBUG.

WASSERMAN: TRUMP was a super-slick effort, obviously intended to be well-financed. But HUMBUG was different. It retailed for 15 cents and…

KURTZMAN: HUMBUG was an attempt to work with 15 cents and publish a sensitive cartoon satire magazine. It was a disaster because it wasn’t a realistic effort at all. It totally ignored fundamental business sense. We were carried away by our talent and camaraderie and went ahead with HUMBUG anyway. But I think we turned out some of the most charming stuff that’s ever been done. The format was just so bad. It was like a fart in the wind.

It was a teeny-tiny book in black and white. It had nothing going for it except talent — at least that’s what we told ourselves. We were satisfied with that, but it wasn’t nearly enough.

You can read the entire interview here.

Heads Up! · Homer and Jethro · Jack Davis


If the online catalogue at is to be believed, Fantagraphics plans to publish a coffee-table book devoted to the work of legendary cartoonist and workaholic, Jack Davis, in August of 2011. Here are the product details:

Jack Davis: Drawing American Pop Culture: A Career Retrospective [Hardcover]

Jack Davis (Author)

# Hardcover: 192 pages
# Publisher: Fantagraphics Books (August 2011)
# Language: English
# ISBN-10: 1606994476
# ISBN-13: 978-1606994474

I think the first time I ever saw a piece of art by Jack Davis was on the cover of Homer and Jethro’s great album of satirical songs, Life Can Be Miserable, produced by Chet Atkins, which my dad had in his record collection when I was a little kid. Here’s a scan of the copy of Life Can Be Miserable that I bought for my own record collection a few years ago:


Now THAT, my friends, is a great album cover!


Four more Jack Davis album covers, laboriously but lovingly scanned by me, the day after yesterday, from my very own record collection:





I know what you’re thinking, and I wholeheartedly agree: those Homer and Jethro albums are in great condition!


Four Color Shadows: Return of the Boise Kid – Jack Davis – 1959