Billy Tucci’s A Child is Born – Suspended Animation Review

A Child is Born

Billy Tucci’s A Child is Born
Published by Apostle Arts, LLC (2011)
32 pages, $5.99
Review by Mark Allen

Despite the controversy which some have managed to build around the holiday, Christmas remains an important, cherished time for most people world-wide.  And one story from which the season will never be divested (nor should it), is that of the birth of Jesus, the Christ.  Now, families who treasure that annual retelling can have one of the most beautiful representations of it I have ever seen.  Whether they are comics fans or not, I believe most would appreciate A Child is Born, by Billi Tucci.

Tucci, a well-known comics artist with an ultra-realistic style, does what may be his best work ever on this ancient, yet still-timely tale of the birth of a Savior who offers hope for all the world.  Everything associated with the account is here: Mary and Joseph, the magi, the shepherds, Zechariah, Elizabeth, Simeon, angels and even the threatened monarch, King Herod.  This 32-page offering seems as complete as any such limited version can be, and could potentially become a treasured part of the celebration of Christmas, especially for families with small children.

Paul Mounts provides interior colors for Tucci’s pencils and inks, and Mark Sparacio finished the cover.  Each have helped deliver a quality to this comics work which is equally akin to high-quality art one would expect in a fine gift store.  Those who enjoy the work of such artisans as Warner Sallman, Akiane Kramarik, Greg Olsen, Simon Dewey, etc. will find plenty to be amazed by within these pages.
Billy Tucci’s A Child is Born is recommended to anyone who relates to the Christmas message of potential hope, peace and joy for all.  It contains the reason that Christmas is more than just another holiday, and is therefore ALSO recommended to those who desperately seek those qualities in their own lives.  Find it at www.achildisbornbook.com, your local comics shop, conventions, or online retailers and auctions.

And, Merry Christmas.

Justice League of America – Suspended Animation Review

Essential Fantastic Four Volume 5Justice League of America
Suspended Animation Review by
Mark Allen

In 1997, DC Comics’ Justice League of America rose to a status the property had not seen for several years, in a comics series entitled JLA.  The closest one could come to describing said status in one word might be “epic”.

Writer Grant Morrison and artist Howard Porter quickly became a fan-favorite combination, as they hit the ground running with a tale of alien super beings coming to earth to make it a utopia.  As they go about solving the world’s problems, their popularity with the masses increases, as the JLA begin to fade in the eyes of the public. Of course, as one would expect, this group of benevolent do-gooders is not all it’s cracked up to be. Things get larger-than-life from there.

The ambition of Morrison and Porter was evident from the beginning. They were not satisfied with just creating huge scenarios for the characters to be involved in, thus rising to the occasion.  Instead, they seemed to be tailoring the plots TO these heroes, who they already considered to be operating on a grand scale.  A great example of that would be an addition to the team roster early in the creators’ run: the angel Zauriel.  When the winged denizen of Heaven comes to earth, he’s pursued by an unfriendly angelic host.  Suffice it to say, the JLA does not shrink from the challenge. Like I said, “epic”.

Morrison’s plots were engaging from beginning to end, and his handling of the characters somehow managed to make them seem fresh, despite their long histories.  Combined with Porter’s realism-based artwork, the drama and scale of which have not been topped since, it produced reading and viewing material that is a must for any fan of superhero tales.
Issues 1 though 41 of JLA are recommended for teen and adult readers.  Several issues in that run were fill-ins, but also of high-quality. Find them at your local comics shop, and online retailers and auctions.  But, try your comics shop first.

Brian Kane’s Hal Foster

I was in my late twenties before I took a good look at Hal Foster’s Prince Valiant, despite being a fan of comic books and strips since childhood.  Maybe it came with the passage of time, and further education in the art form of comics, but a deep appreciation for his work eventually materialized.  And then solidified.  Then, marked me for life.  That’s why I’m so thankful for Brian M. Kane, and his book Hal Foster: Prince of Illustrators, Father of the Adventure Strip.

A carefully assembled examination of the professional and personal aspects of Foster’s life, Kane’s work doesn’t simply present historical facts pertaining to the business end of Prince Valiant.  It also gives a tender look into the creator’s role as husband, father, and friend, and shares a bit about how who Foster was affected the work he did.

Besides giving visual detail as to how the artist changed the adventure strip landscape when he took over the Tarzan strip, the book contains plenty of Hal Foster’s work related to Prince Valiant, including promotional and personal illustrations, as well as some of the best examples from his work as a commercial illustrator.  Kane does a wonderful job of letting the quality of Foster’s work vouch for the superiority of his skill.

Additionally, readers are treated to many photographs from throughout Foster’s life, including those relating to family, friends, work, and leisure.

One of the facets of this book I found most interesting was the collection of testimonials of professionals from the world of comic strips and comic books, pertaining to what Foster’s work meant to them.  There is always something inspirational and even touching about hearing some of the best in the field reminisce about one of the “greats” of the same profession.  The respect, admiration and wonder expressed by peers can help fans understand exactly what kind of talent they are privy to.  This fan is grateful.

Brian Kane’s Hal Foster is recommended to anyone who appreciates great comics art, or simply great art.  It’s also recommended to everyone else, so they can LEARN to appreciate it.

Mark Allen

Brian Kane’s Hal Foster