It’s Halloween and time for shivers of excitement. Ghouls, ghosts, goblins, witches and their black cats, bats flying and skeletons dancing in graveyards–Trick or Treat?
Comic books are filled with superheroes fighting monsters and dark forces and pulp fiction has more than its share of heroes and damsels in distress in all kinds of noir situations. To celebrate Halloween here are some of my favorite real life heroes and their contributions to the genre.
What would Halloween be without bats flying around so its perfect to talk about the great Superhero Batman. From the very beginning he had a dark side to him that was different from that of Superman. Superman suffered early childhood tragedy and carries that within but there is something dark and brooding about Batman that is eternally attractive. My favorite Batman, Michael Uslan, the producer of the Batman films has written a wonderful biography entitled The Boy Who Loved Batman found here at Amazon.
It’s not only a good read but a beautifully designed book as well. Besides the biographical elements of the story there are all kinds of extras–great photos, sidebars with comic book history–not surprising as Michael is the first person to teach comic book history at the university level. He has the chops of a good comic book historian since he’s been collecting and reading comics almost his entire life and all of us who toil in that realm have been fortunate to access his generosity.
Another thing I love about the way the book is designed is its interactive nature. You don’t have to start at the beginning if you’re a mavericky type. It’s one of those very tempting books that you can’t resist flipping around and going back and forth to things because there is so much to check out. I also appreciated the highly amusing grown-up tone of the book. Michael doesn’t mince words about his experiences in Hollywood and the book is worth its weight in gold for anyone who has stars in their eyes in that department. Having said that, The Boy Who Loved Batman is full of the positive energy and enthusiasm that Michael emanates. You’ll get a fascinating picture of how the Batman movies came to be and how they’ve evolved. It’s much more than a simple biography of Michael’s life but an inspiring book for anyone who dreams large.
If you’re in Manhattan on December 7th you can go to the terrific Mid-Town Comics store at 7 pm and get Michael to sign your book!
Speaking of dreams, another one of my favorite guys is launching his dreams and I’m a big fan. It might seem strange to those who carry on the old Marvel vs DC scenario (which at best is pretty non-existent) that I would champion Marvel in any way. So be it. Last year Jason Goodman, grandson of Martin Goodman, founder of Marvel Comics and I were introduced to one another via email. We began a lively correspondence and I learned about Jason’s dream of reviving Atlas Comics which his grandfather started after Marvel. Jason sent me some of the first comics among them Grim Ghost and since I am also a big fan of Tony Isabella’s I’d love to talk about Jason’s work and Grim Ghost in particular for our Trick or Treat.
Besides being an incredibly nice guy, I think Jason is a super hero for his foray into publishing. Like all the best of the comic book pioneers he has a vision and he’s making it happen. Both our grandfathers would be proud of him! We finally met at New York Comic Con this year and you can see how much we like one another. Check out all the new Atlas titles and learn more about what Jason is doing here.
Grim Ghost is scary but in the best kind of comic book way. What I like about the Grim Ghost revival is that the story line is easy to follow and intriguing. It’s mysterious but you don’t feel left out or lost because you haven’t been reading it for the last 50 years. Stephen Susco and Tony Isabella are the writers. Tony wrote for the original Grim Ghost so it really helps the continuity here and if you don’t know Tony’s writing you’re in for a treat as he is a fun and adventurous writer.
The art work is enticing and draws you into the story. Kelley Jones, the artist is known for his love of horror so it’s a perfect fit. What I particularly like about Kelley’s artwork is that it is not overdrawn like so many of today’s comics which can make one dizzy. I haven’t read all six issues yet but the covers for #5 and #6 are calling me to find out more! This is a perfect Halloween Treat. Scare yourself in the best way!
Finally, if you really want to scare yourself you need to read John Locke’s wonderful reprints of the pulp Ghost Stories. John is a tremendous pulp historian. He never met an obscure clue he couldn’t resist tracking down. He’s also a very clean writer and his facts move the story along. John’s dry martini wit adds to the pleasure of reading the history of these pulp magazines as well as the rather interesting life of the publisher, Bernarr Macfadden, a health nut who made his money from True Story and the entire True Story genre. What is important about the history of these pulps is the clear connection between popular culture today with vampires and zombies, et al and the public interest in what was referred to as “the occult” in the popular fiction of the early pulps.
The other aspect of John’s pulp histories that I enjoy is the way he makes the entire period come alive with all the historical nuances. You get a real sense of the writers, editors and publishers and the kinds of lives they led. If you love old movies and history of the 1920′s, 30′s and 40′s you’ll love any of John’s books which you can find here. I managed to scare myself nicely with the stories that were chosen for this two volume set. Well, okay some of them are amusing as well but I was forewarned about a few and thus being a serious scaredy cat steered clear. For those of you unafraid to follow The Dark Knight or Grim Ghost into hell you’re welcome to the entirety.
Have fun! Boo!!!