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Wednesday, July 26, 2006


Not Looking Forward To Licking Green Arrow's Backside?

Fortunately, the new DC superheroes stamps are self-adhesive.

Marvel is scheduled to get their own pane of stamps next year. So, the pointless diversion becomes guessing which 10 Marvel heroes, artists and representative issue numbers will make the cut. My guesses:

1) Spider-Man--Steve Ditko--Amazing Spider-Man #19 (w/Sandman)
2) The Hulk--Herb Trimpe--Incredible Hulk #105
3) Captain America--Simon & Kirby--Captain America #109 (1969)
4) The Thing--Jack Kirby--The Thing #6 (1983)
5) Wolverine--Jim Lee--Wolverine #2 (1982 mini-series)
6) Iron Man--Don Heck--Invincible Iron Man #47 (1972)
7) Storm--Dave Cockrum--Storm #6 (2006)
8) Thor--Walt Simonson--Journey Into Mystery #125
9) Daredevil—Gene Colan—Daredevil #27
10) The Human Torch—Dick Ayers—Fantastic Four #54

I figure that like DC, they'll stick to 1) single charactes, rather than teams, given the size of the stamps; 2) golden and silver age characters and artists, with the exceptions of Wolverine (for obvious reasons), and Storm, who is, Invisible Girl aside, the highest-profile female Marvel character; and 3) covers that are as clean and non-violent as possible--which is why I can't see an Elektra stamp.

Other speculation?

Monday, July 24, 2006


Return to Oz

I didn't attend Comic-Con in San Diego last weekend. This is too bad, because it's always a great excuse for me to visit fellow Mountain contributers Dave and Hilary (no, really! check the archives!). And now that they're new and improved with extra baby power, skipping the event was making me pretty blue.

The weekend was far from a wash, however. First, Dave was kind enough to chase my want list around the show, scoring me two issues of the sublime Haney/Aparo Brave and The Bold--I hereby request Dave to post a summary/commentary of the deeply wack B&B #98, especially considering that it's currently missing from H's index project at the Comic Treadmill. What's more, my family and I made the short trip down I-91 to the Eric Carle Museum in Amherst, MA for the new East Gallery exhibit "The Wonderful Art of Oz", presented on the occasion of the 150th anniversary of author L. Frank Baum's birth.

We've visited the museum a number of times; each has been worthwhile, including a presentation of pre- and post-revolution Russian children's book art, a collection of illustrations for Margaret Wise Brown stories, including Goodnight Moon--and there's always Eric Carle art on display in the West Gallery, from The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Very Lonely Firefly, etc. This time they've outdone themselves with one of the most impressive collections of illustration I've ever seen. My own sense of awe is rooted by having lived with many of these drawings for more than 30 years in book form; actually seeing the originals in person took my breath away.

The show is arranged, loosely, in the plot order of L. Frank Baum's original book, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Work from subsequent books and miscellany follows.

The first piece is a huge color lithograph circa 1900 produced to promote the book, featuring WW Denslow's famous title page drawing of the Scarecrow and Tin Woodman clasping hands. From there we see various examples of Denslow's inked production art, over graphite, including the copyright page, chapter headers and the wonderful two-page spread of the field mice drawing the sleeping Lion through the poppy field. Interspersed are more recent interpretations from Maurice Sendak, Chris Van Allsburg, Lisbeth Zwerger, Andy Warhol (a print of Edith Hamilton as the Wicked Witch which I last saw at the Warhol show in Brattleboro a year or two back) and others.

Following this strong start the show shifts gears, becoming a testament to the gorgeously fine linework and imagination of John R. Neil, who took over art duties with Baum's second Oz book, The Marvelous Land of Oz, and who continued on the series long after Baum's death in 1919. Neil's control of his brush is simply awesome: the strands of Dorothy's hair, the tatters of the Shaggy Man's clothes, the stitches holding together the irrepressible Patchwork Girl. The last is one of the show's centerpieces, in the form of the oversized original drawing for the wraparound cover of The Patchwork Girl of Oz, seventh book in the series. The image here really, really doesn't do it justice.

The exhibit wraps up with some items of special interest to me, sunday comic pages from the early 1900s, including a wordless Denslow page and an unpublished 1905 strip credited to Neil. I found this strip fascinating (assuming I remember the description correctly) for its inclusion of the Woozy, a very odd character (see image, desperately grasping tree) who first appeared in the books in 1913's Patchwork Girl. In the strip, featuring the Scarecrow, the Woozy appears to help bring to life a crabby pancake person who inexplicably floats through the air. Best exchange, filtered through my weak memory:

Scarecrow: You nearly scared me to death!

Pancake guy: Well, you scared me to life, so we're even!

All of this is topped off by the museum's great bookstore, containing an exhaustive selection (perhaps the wrong word, as it seems everything is accounted for) of children's picture books. The Oz island featured every single Oz book and Baum non-Oz title in print, as well as a few decidedly out-of-print items. The latter included a find that just about makes up for missing San Diego: a stock of the first four Eric Shanower Oz graphic novels--all signed by the artist. The clerk explained to me that the books (as well as items like the official Oz maps we bought for Abe) were provided by the International Wizard of Oz Club.

If you love children's books, if you're into American history, if you appreciate illustration, if you're anywhere near Western Massachusetts between now and the end of October, you owe it to yourself to see this exhibit.

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