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Headlines   2004 Review Index   Nov 11, 2004
Suspended Animation

Michael Vance

Mark Allen

Michael Vance Books

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A Short History of American Comics

     Andrew Smith is a syndicated columnist for Scripps Howard News Service. He writes about comics and comic-related media. He has also published an interesting and useful web page for those interested in a quick, clean rundown of the history of comics.

     Aptly entitled A Short History of American Comics, Smith (also known as "Captain Comics" - Why, Lord?) takes readers on a tour of the phenomenon, beginning with the Stone Age, believe it or not. Also included is a defense, of sorts, of his love of comics, for "the curious, the humorless or the ignorant."

     Some who are knowledgeable may question details and opinion, but all should agree that Smith has put together a fairly good starting place for those interested in the background of the industry. Check it out at

     Review by Mark Allen

The Steve Ditko Reader, Vol. 2

     Last year I reviewed the first volume of The Steve Ditko Reader (you really ought to read it), and am happy to do so for volume two, redundant though it may seem. It's worth it, however, to highlight the work of one of the most prolific individuals the comics industry has ever seen. The first volume having been partially concerned with history and background, volume two focuses completely on reproducing Ditko's comic work. An eclectic collection of mystery, horror, science fiction, crime, western, and, yes, even jungle tales awaits the wise and fortunate reader who chooses to delve into this work.

     Ditko's artistic style is timeless. No other artist, before or since, has surpassed his mastery for setting mood, or his knack for characterization. His creations are more than two-dimensional actors on a page; they reach, and grab, and pull the reader in. Quite impressive, especially considering most of these reprints are short stories.

     The Steve Ditko Reader, Vol. 2 is highly recommended for anyone who likes any kind of captivating reading, or original, eye-catching artwork. Believe me, there will be something in here, for you.

     The Steve Ditko Reader, Vol. 2, published by Pure Imagination Publishing, 160 pages, $25.00.

     Review by Mark Allen

Hydraulic Leg #1

     In theater, actors are encouraged to "break a leg" before going on stage. Hydraulic Leg is definitely broken. Wait a minute, Mr. Reviewer. Is that an endorsement or a criticism? It is both.

     Each art form has its strengths and weaknesses, and work in one does not always translate well into another. Hydraulic Leg is well-done animation not perfectly translated to the comic book page. The art in Hydraulic Leg is minimalist and therefore features few visual details. In fact, it is excellent minimalist art, dynamic and colorful, and breaks every leg and foot bone available. This style, however, is generally identified with TV cartoons for young children, but not many young children read comics. Not many adults watch television animation.

     The hero in this first issue is a young boy with a metallic leg that allows him to fly and do all sorts of nifty stuff. He reminds me of television's Astro-Boy, a Japanese inspired (produced?) television show from my boyhood. This hero has a partially robotic dog and a cute girlfriend. In general, he saves the day and a boy from thugs. Mighty Mouse also saves the day, and the subject of Hydraulic Leg will be most attractive to that audience, not to most adults. Comic book sales figures don't lie.

     Leg is well written with a minimum of dialog (like most animation) and characterization. Like a cartoon, the first issue takes about three minutes or less to consume. That means that, if Hydraulic Leg were a movie, it would cost you $90 to buy. So Hydraulic Leg is very well-written and drawn, but has shot itself in its expensive foot because it probably won't reach the audience it deserves. Nevertheless, I wish it the best.

     Hydraulic Leg #1/24pgs & $2.95 from Hydraulic Leg Inc/Michael Cassidy & Greg Furie, writers, Dan Schoening, penciller/sold in somics shops and at

      Review by Michael Vance - Vance has been nominated for the '04 SLF Fountain Award for Best Short Story. For info on his work, send a query to

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