Suspended Animation

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The Art of John Romita
The Art of John Romita - photo courtesy of Mile High ComicsAs a fan of comics, and a student of the history of the medium, books about it's creators are always a draw for me. Additionally, I believe the argument can be made that they can hold great interest for any pop culture enthusiast. With that in mind, let me introduce you to The Art of John Romita.

If you've read few comics in your life, you're probably clueless as to Romita's identity. John Romita is one of the most influential artists whose work ever graced a comics page. Taking over The Amazing Spider-Man from the character's co-creator and original artist, Steve Ditko in 1966, Romita quickly infused the title with his own charming, "clean-cut" style. In his stride on the title, he gave Spider-Man, as well as his alter-ego, Peter Parker, what some fans still consider the classic look of the character.

Romita has accomplished a great deal more, however, than his landmark work on one of Marvel's most well-known and beloved titles. His influence was felt as far back as the Golden Age of comics, and is still being felt today. Having put his artistic mark on suspense, sci-fi, crime, western and romance tales, this publication, which is basically a book-length interview with Romita, himself, maps out that impressive career.

Probably one of the most interesting things about Romita brought to light by the book is his humility. Here is a man who literally helped shape superhero comics, yet has not become conceited or high-minded. After decades in the business, he is still sometimes hesitant and doubtful in his own incredible ability. This reviewer, however, is not. Nor am I doubtful that readers will enjoy this informative work, which also happens to be chock-full of wonderful artwork, and even contains Romita's favorite Spider-Man story that he and Stan Lee ever produced. It is highly recommended.

The Art of John Romita, published by Marvel Comics, hardback, 96 pages, $34.95. Find it at comics shops, online retailers and online auctions.

Review by Mark Allen

David's Mighty Men #1
David's Mighty Men ComicI've said it before and I'll say it again: I like well-done treatments of Biblical- and/or Biblically-related material in comics. And, folks, there are precious few out there. I've now added one more to the list, however, called David's Mighty Men.

D.M.M. is Biblically-related, as it places established Biblical individuals in fictional adventures. This particular volume features David, Shammah, Eleazar and Josheb Basshebeth (or "Adino") in two different adventures, "Trust" and "The Giant Mole Hill." Written and illustrated by Javier Saltares, this is no great work in theology, nor is it meant to be. Rather, it's an entertaining romp filled with plenty of action and adventure by a creator who has respect for the source material. Saltares takes plenty of creative license in fleshing out three characters about which the Bible shares very little, and he proves his considerable talent in doing so. They are as diverse as they are interesting, convincing as they are well-crafted. What steals the show, however, is Saltares' art. Dynamic and action-oriented, his work clearly sporting a Manga influence, the characters fairly leap off the page in a highly-stylized and wonderfully expressive manner. And, while I generally hope for storytelling and characterization to be the driving force of a comic or graphic novel, I still love great art work. Besides, despite Javier's considerable talent at the drawing board, given time, I could easily imagine these characters stealing the show no matter how they were drawn, or by whom.

Well-versed fans will recognize Saltares' name, as he has done work for comics companies Marvel, D.C. and Dark Horse. He knows what he's doing, and he does it well.

David's Mighty Men is sometimes dramatic, sometimes humorous and always fun. How can you go wrong? It's recommended for all ages, and for Sunday school teachers to place on the bookshelves for their students.

David's Mighty Men #1, published by Cross Culture Entertainment, 64 pages, $4.99. Find it at, comic shops, and online retailers and auctions.

Review by Mark Allen

Robotika #1
RoboticaAn opening caption reads: "With technology advancing at an exponential rate, man's never ending quest for perfection reached dizzying new heights."

That's not really true.

"While geneticists enhanced humans in previously undreamt of ways, other scientists focused on machines, raising them to a near human level."


What they actually got in Robotika was neither human machines nor enhanced humans. They got nightmares in a fast-paced, intriguing new comic book series from cartoonist Alex Sheikman and crew. And those organic and non-organic altered and unaltered beings are at war.

There's nothing new in that interesting premise. Weird thingies have been at war since the science-fiction genre began more than one hundred years ago. What is new is a fascinating mix of prose and art styles. Robotika is a well-written and drawn, wild romp through a futuristic world of meddling scientists, bizarre creatures, and battling Samaria.

Ray guns and swords. Beautiful women and ugly things. Cool.

But there is a wee bitty problem.

The dialogue is occasionally stilted, as when the mad scientist raises a vial and says: "After so many aborted attempts and distortions of my dream, I have finally created… PERFECTION!!"

I'm sure you hear that around the office often.

And then someone got the clever idea of printing some of the dialogue in vertical rows. It is completely illegible.

Like me, you'll probably skip over the vertical dialogue.

Here is a rule for all fiction. Don't make your readers work to understand what you are doing. That work shatters the suspension of disbelief and weakens or even destroys a story.

Weakened by this mistake, but in no way destroyed, Robotika is still recommended. It contains fantasy violence, muted nudity (I commend the restraint), and no profanity.

Robotika #1/25 pgs. & $3.95 from Archaia Studios Press/mature readers/ sold at & comics shops.

Review by Michael Vance

CanonThe theme of this quarterly short story anthology featuring the work of SCAD (?) students and faculty is everything nautical. That means art and story focus on lighthouses, sailors, pirates, boats and such. As is true with every anthology, its quality is uneven, but Canon is thoroughly entertaining.

The students are probably young; some of the stories lack the polish of professional work and were most likely created by pre-teen and teenaged kids. These pieces, while entertaining, are simply not enough to recommend Canon. But there is exceptional talent in the issue; it is from its publisher, writer and artist Dove Hargue.

Dove's minimalistic style will remind some readers of the work of master cartoonist Alex Toth. As with Toth, only what is really needed to forward the story and characters is drawn into each panel.

His characters are individually distinctive, his visual storytelling is engrossing, and he has a particular talent with the ink washes that add different shades of gray to black and white art.

Of his two stories in Canon, "The Keeper's Carol" is a murder mystery of sorts, and "Nemo" (chapter 14) is a new adventure of Jules Vern's famous submarine captain. Both tales will leave you wanting more.

Dove is a talent worth watching as his mastery of the medium matures, and Canon is recommended for readers of all ages. Dove McHargue is a member of the Oklahoma Cartoonists Museum.

Canon (Winter 2006)/40 pgs. and $3.00 from PicSure Press/various artists and writers/sold at comics shops and

Review by Michael Vance

Noble Boy

MINIVIEW: Noble Boy [Red Windows] If you yearn for what looks like a children's book printed on thick slabs of cardboard, but isn't, that takes 60 seconds to read for $12.95, that offers bad poetry, no story, and excellent, animation inspired art, this homage to animator Maurice Noble is for you,  bud.

Review by Michael Vance


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