Category Archives: Reviews

Google Play & Xicano Literature

There was a Google + post this morning by one of my social media friends, Elianna Murillo regarding Hispanic Heritage Month and Google Play’s Latino books on discount in celebration thereof.  Me being me, I was excited and clicked.  All of a sudden that excitement was replaced by anger.  Why was Sandra Cisnero’s House on Mango Street the only recognizable Chicano/a book on this list?  I grew up in the dawning of Xicano/a lit and I didn’t see ANY of my literary heroes.  Only one book of the many that inspired me, that showed me that I too could be an author, that my voice was important?  Hijole, el corraje!

I posted a reply asking why weren’t my authors listed.  I didn’t expect a reply and decided to rally myself for a fight.  I was going to round up and get some kind of a protest going..or something.  I am nothing, if not a peleoñera, except that I didn’t have to fight for it.  In an amazingly quick and responsive show of why Google is so darned scary successful, they listened.  Elianna replied to me within a half hour (seriously) with this…

Screen Shot 2013-10-13 at 11.45.05 AM


Skeptical, I went over to Google Play and typed in Ana Castillo. Wow! Then Lucha Corpi, Luis Alberto Urrea, Luis J. Rodriguez, Denise Chavez, etc. I kept pulling up pages and pages of beautiful Chicano literature. This is a treasure!

So though I rarely advertise on AmoXcalli and that is in fact, against my policy, head over to Google Play. If you can’t buy the books, please, please please Plus 1 them, post on your networks and share, share, share. We matter. Our books matter. This is our history, our culture and our heart. These are our heroes. Let’s let Google know we care about our authors and that we appreciate them listening and getting these books in.

Fred Patten Reviews Walking Your Octopus

Disclosure:  A free copy of this book was furnished by the publisher for review, but providing a copy did not guarantee a review. This information is provided per the regulations of the Federal Trade Commission.


Walking Your Octopus: A Guidebook to the Domesticated Cephalopod, by Brian Kesinger.  Illustrated.

Los Angeles, CA, Baby Tattoo Books, July 2013, hardcover $29.95 (unpaged [64 pages]).


This impishly hilarious book by a veteran Walt Disney artist and writer presents straightfaced advice to the well-bred Victorian lady who would have a pet octopus.  They are not for the average person, the author warns.  The cephalopod, be it an octopus, a squid, a cuttlefish, or a nautilus, is an intelligent and high-maintenance animal which needs considerable space and exercise.  Yet they learn tricks easily, and will reward the attentive mistress with loyalty and hours of entertainment.

Walking Your Octopus is a collection of full-color double-page spreads; the text on the left and the picture on the right, showing Miss Victoria Psismall and her pet land octopus Otto illustrating the text.  There are Victorian-setting drawings for choosing the right cephalopod, getting your octopus a toy that it will like, proper hygiene for your octopus, teaching your octopus tricks, and many more – over thirty of them.  My favorite is:  “Though certain octopuses have been bred to live on land, it is important for them to have a tether to their heritage.  Octopus females can lay upward to 200,000 eggs, so it is suggested that one find a stationery shop that will sell birthday cards in bulk.”

The book is in an unusual format, 13.8 inches long by 6.9 inches high, presenting long rather than high illustrations.  The artwork appears simple, but is full of detail; for example, in a montage of possible octopus toys, there is a Cthulhu jack-in-the-box.  The book features the art style that one might expect considering that the publicity says that Brian Kesinger has worked on Disney animated features for over sixteen years, contributing to Tarzan, Tangled, Wreck-It Ralph, and more.  He has also had paintings in gallery exhibits around the world.

It is clear that Miss Psismall and her octopus love each other.  Nevertheless, reading Walking Your Octopus will make you glad that land-going octopuses are only fictional.  Ask an aquarium employee about the intelligence of octopuses, which are constantly trying to escape, sometimes successfully, despite the fact that they cannot live outside salt water.

Buy where fine art and imaginative illustrated humor books are popular.



Fred Patten Reviews War Over Lemuria & The Man from Mars: Ray Palmer’s Amazing Pulp Journey


War over Lemuria: Richard Shaver, Ray Palmer and the Strangest Chapter of 1940s Science Fiction, by Richard Toronto.  Illustrated.  

Jefferson, NC, McFarland & Co., April 2013, trade paperback $45.00 (vi + 256 pages), Kindle $16.19.

Now It Can Be Told!?

When I was a teenager in the 1950s, I read a lot of science fiction – novels and short-story collections by Isaac Asimov, Ray Bradbury, Arthur C. Clarke, Robert A. Heinlein, and many others.  When I was in college in 1960, I discovered the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society and s-f fandom.  Many of the LASFS members had been s-f fans since the 1930s, and they told me about the history of s-f literature; personal information about the writers, the s-f magazines, and so on.  Most of this was related casually, yet there was one subject that still stirred high emotions:  editor Raymond A. Palmer and the major s-f magazine Amazing Stories from 1945 through 1949.  Palmer (or RAP and Rap as he was known) claimed that his most lurid s-f yarns were not fiction but were based on fact!  There really were dwarfs in underground caverns beaming evil rays at surface-dwelling humans that caused disease and wars.  Most s-f fans felt that this was just a cynical ploy to increase his magazine’s circulation, which it did; but at the cost of giving all s-f fans a reputation among the general public as credulous simpletons who believed in flying saucers and that Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon were real people.  Most s-f fans wrote thundering denunciations of RAP in their fanzines.  The LASFS had sent a letter signed by all the club’s members to the publishers of Amazing Stories threatening to boycott the magazine if RAP was not replaced as editor.  He finally was (actually, he resigned in 1949 when the publisher moved Amazing Stories’ editorial offices from Chicago to NYC), and went on to start his own minor magazines during the 1950s that were insignificant and largely ignored.

RAP and the s-f controversy of the late 1940s were never important beyond s-f circles, and are generally forgotten today – which makes it strange that two books about them have been published almost simultaneously:  War over Lemuria: Richard Shaver, Ray Palmer and the Strangest Chapter of 1940s Science Fiction, by Richard Toronto in April, and The Man From Mars: Ray Palmer’s Amazing Pulp Journey, by Fred Nadis in June.

Both cover the subject in rich detail, and know it thoroughly.  Both have interviewed Palmer’s closest associates still alive, and have gotten descriptions of RAP ranging from a charlatan and deliberate liar, to a misguided but true believer in what he was promoting.  Both quote from and analyze RAP’s statements in his own autobiography, Martian Diary (in The Secret World, by Ray Palmer and Richard Shaver; Amherst, WI, Amherst Press, 1975).  Toronto’s approach is slightly more scholarly, and his citations include his correspondence with the principals from the 1970s, showing his lifelong interest in the subject.  Nadis’ book is more popularized; it is described in its blurb as “The rollicking true story of the legendary writer and editor who ruled over America’s fantasy and supernatural pulp journals in the mid-twentieth century, and shaped today’s UFO and sci-fi cultures: Ray Palmer.”  Nadis apparently did not become interested in the subject until after RAP’s death, but he also interviewed RAP’s colleagues and his son, and studied RAP’s writings in s-f fan correspondence and fanzines of the 1930s in the collections of the Universities of California at Santa Barbara and Riverside, and numerous other universities and colleges that have extensive specialized holdings.  Both books have pages of notes, bibliographies, and indexes.

Raymond A. Palmer (1910-1977) was easy to document because he became an active, enthusiastic s-f fan when he was 16 years old in 1926, and began corresponding with other young fans.  RAP published some of the most widely-read s-f fanzines in the early 1930s, and his editorials, promotions of s-f, and thoughts are on record.  During the 1930s he was a leading s-f fan, and was dubbed “the Son of Science Fiction”.  When he became the editor of Amazing Stories for its new Ziff-Davis publishers in 1938, he was hailed as Fan Turns Professional – S-F Fan Makes Good.  However, by the mid-1940s Palmer had told the fans that one of his main duties as editor was to increase the circulation of Amazing Stories, and that the “educated s-f fan community” was only a small percentage of the pulp adventure magazine’s readership.

In 1943, Amazing Stories got a long letter from a Richard S. Shaver, who claimed that he had found the alphabet of the lost civilization of Atlantis.  Palmer’s assistant threw it in the wastebasket; Palmer fished it out and printed it.  In correspondence, Palmer said that Shaver’s revelations were too dry for the magazine, and urged Shaver to rewrite them as adventure fiction.  Shaver’s first story, heavily revised by Palmer, was “I Remember Lemuria” in the March 1945 issue.  To quote Nadis, “After ‘I Remember Lemuria,’ more than twenty Shaver stories followed in the next four years.  Shaver’s pay increased from one cent a word to one and a half cents, and then to two cents a word.  But it is clear that many of his submissions underwent serious revisions.  In June 1944, a half year after the Mantong alphabet letter had been published, and while the Ziff-Davis crew was still working over Shaver’s raw submissions, he wrote to Rap, ‘Naturally I am overjoyed that you can use my stories and am sorry that they must be rewritten – but believe me I know why – for I have been through much and it is work for me to write.’” (p. 89)

It was later learned that “Shaver had spent up to eight years in a catatonic state in the state hospital in Ypsilanti, Michigan” (Nadis, p. 82)  As the Shaver stories progressed, RAP became more editorially emphatic that, while they might be fictionalized and dramatized, they were based upon prehistoric truth.  The s-f fan community became more strident in demanding Palmer’s head.  Fans who visited Amazing’s Chicago editorial offices while Shaver happened to be there reported that he seemed to be a sincere but harmless lunatic, while their kindest description of Palmer was that he was a flimflammer and hoaxer in the tradition of P.T. Barnum and 19th century medicine show barkers.

In June 1947, the first claim of a flying saucer sighting was made by Kenneth Arnold, a civilian pilot with no association with science fiction.  Further claims of U.S. government cover-ups soon built up a public conspiracy theory that was much more widespread than what was called “the Shaver Mystery” in Amazing Stories ever was.  In early July 1947 Palmer wrote to Arnold suggesting that they collaborate on an article or articles.  In Spring 1948 Palmer started his own magazine, Fate, devoted to examining “unexplained mysteries”.  When Ziff-Davis consolidated all its magazines in NYC in 1949, it was no hardship for Palmer to leave Amazing Stories and concentrate on his other interests, which focused increasingly on the occult such as the theories of Immanuel Velikovsky, Theosophy, and Hollow-Earthism.  Since these bore no connection to science fiction, the wrath of the s-f community died away.  In 1960 Julius Schwartz, a leading s-f fan of the 1930s and now an editor at DC Comics, named the secret identity of a new superhero, The Atom, Ray Palmer.  RAP was not amused, partially because The Atom’s superpower was to shrink to miniature size, and the real Ray Palmer, because of a childhood almost-fatal accident, was a hunchbacked 4’8” dwarf.

Both books continue the biographies of RAP and Richard Shaver to their deaths.  The two became close friends, and when the Palmers bought a large farm in rural Wisconsin, Palmer persuaded Shaver and his wife to come from Pennsylvania and become their neighbors.  Shaver took to listening to rocks and painting surrealistic canvases of his visions.  The art world didn’t care about his beliefs but liked his artistry.  Shaver became despondent over being appreciated for what he felt was the wrong reasons.  He allowed Palmer to publish his paintings as the covers on Palmer’s new magazines, edited from Palmer’s farmhouse.  Shaver died in November 1975, and Palmer in August 1977.

I always felt that the story of Ray Palmer and the Shaver Mystery deserved a larger and more permanent documentation than the gossip of now-elderly s-f fans; and here it is. Buy where there is any interest in the history of s-f literature, of popular fiction during the 1940s, or of the beginnings of flying saucer cultdom.


The Man From Mars: Ray Palmer’s Amazing Pulp Journey, by Fred Nadis.  Illustrated.

NYC, Jeremy P. Tarcher/Penguin, June 2013, hardcover $28.95 (xiii + 289 [+ 1] pages), Kindle $11.99.

The rollicking true story of the legendary writer and editor who ruled over America’s fantasy and supernatural pulp journals in the mid-twentieth century, and shaped today’s UFO and sci-fi cultures: Ray Palmer.

 Meet Ray Palmer. A hustler, a trickster, and a visionary. The hunchbacked Palmer, who stood at just over four feet tall, was nevertheless an indomitable force, the ruler of his own bizarre sector of the universe. Armed with only his typewriter, Palmer changed the world as we know it –  jumpstarting the flying saucer craze; frightening hundreds of thousands of Americans with “true” stories of evil denizens of inner earth; and reporting on cover-ups involving extraterrestrials, the paranormal, and secret government agencies.??As editor for the ground-breaking sci-fi magazine Amazing Stories and creator of publications such as Other Worlds, Imagination, Fate, Mystic, Search, Flying Saucers, Hidden World, and Space Age, Palmer pushed the limits and broke new ground in science fiction publishing in the 1940s and 1950s—and was reviled for it by purists who called him “the man who killed science fiction.”??In the first-ever biography devoted to the figure who molded modern geek culture, pulp scholar Fred Nadis paints a vivid portrait of Palmer—a brilliant, charming, and wildly willful iconoclast who helped ignite the UFO craze, convinced Americans of hidden worlds and government cover ups, and championed the occult and paranormal.??Palmer overcame serious physical handicaps to become the most significant editor during the “golden age” of pulp magazines; he rebelled in his own inimitable way against the bland suburban vision of the American Dream; he concocted new literary genres; and he molded our current conspiracy culture decades before The X-Files claimed that the truth was out there.

War over Lemuria: Richard Shaver, Ray Palmer and the Strangest Chapter of 1940s Science Fiction Paperback

by Richard Toronto

McFarland, April 25, 2013


Shaverology: A Shaver Mystery Home Companion Paperback

by Mr. Richard Toronto

Shavetron Press, August 29, 2013




Good Night Captain Mama


Good Night Captain Mama
Graciela Tiscareno-Sato (Author) , Linda Lens (Illustrator)
Publisher: Gracefully Global Group LLC; Bilingual edition (June 4, 2013)
ISBN-10: 0983476039
ISBN-13: 978-0983476030

I typically don’t review self-published books at all.  I have my reasons and the main one is that I’m just not keeping up with regular reviews like I used to.  To open myself up to a deluge of self-published or indie books is frankly something I can’t afford to do.  That said, I do make the occasional exception.  GOOD NIGHT CAPTAIN MAMA is one.

Why am I making an exception?  I’m doing this because I think this little gem is a very important book in a lot of ways.  I do have some critiques, but whatever the book’s problems it remains important.

GOOD NIGHT CAPTAIN MAMA is the story of a mother and child.  The mother is in the military and is explaining to the child what her various badges on her flight suit mean.  The mother is a Latina, a woman in a typically male industry and in a position of authority in what would also be a typical role that a man would fill.  That’s why the book is important.  Mama isn’t in the kitchen rolling out tortillas, or in the store shopping – it’s her son’s bedtime and instead of settling down for the night herself, she’s preparing to go on a mission.

So much of what we read and see about Latina women is stereotypical.  You’d think it was still the 1950s for how we are portrayed.  If we’re not cleaning a house, we’re either beauty queens or something a lot less savory.  I can’t remember a time where I’ve EVER read about a Latina Captain before.  That’s huge.  It shows Latino children that they can aspire to something more, be more.  Young women and girls will have role models that do more than shake their behinds and sing.

As mentioned above, I did have a few small problems with the book.  The author did a good job with description, but I would have liked to see more story and less show and tell.  It could have been absolutely riveting with a stronger story and I do think the author is capable of that.  She has a story to tell, a good one and she does it, though a little matter of fact and instructional.  I think given time, she will become more polished in her storytelling, more experienced and confident in her voice.  I’d love to see more Captain Mama stories in the future.  It would be a tremendous series and one of great value. I think our children need these books and Captain Mama is a wonderful character with tons of potential.

All in all, GOODNIGHT CAPTAIN MAMA is a must-have for any child, especially girls or children with parents in the military.  The book is bilingual (English and Spanish) with lovely illustrations and I think it should be in every library and school.

This review is part of the Condor Book Tour with the following participating blogs:

?    Mon July 1st NW Prime Radio Live Interview at 11am Pacific!
?    Tues July 2 Knitting and Sundries
?    Wed July 3 Latina Book Club
?    Thurs July 4 Mommy Maestra & NBC Latino
?    Fri July 5 Amoxcalli
?    *Mamiverse publish date TBD

You can purchase CAPTAIN MAMA on

Suggested hashtag: #captmama

About the Author

This book was inspired by a conversation the author had with her son the night before a Veterans Day event at his preschool. As Graciela donned her uniform, her son entered the room on his way to bed when he spotted her in her “costume.” His curiosity and the questions he asked led Graciela to write the first draft of the manuscript that same night.

Graciela Tiscareño-Sato is a graduate of the University of California at Berkeley. She completed the Aerospace Studies program as an AFROTC (Air Force Reserve Officer Training Program) scholarship cadet while earning her degree in Architecture and Environmental Design. During her active duty career in the U.S. Air Force, she deployed to four continents and dozens of countries as aircrew member, instructor and contingency planning officer. Flying many combat sorties over Southern Iraq in the NO FLY Zone after Operation Desert Storm earned her crew the prestigious Air Medal on her first deployment. She served with a NATO Battle staff in Vicenza, Italy, as a military liaison officer at the U.S. Embassy in Quito, Ecuador and much more. She earned a Master degree in International Management from the School of Global Commerce at Whitworth University in Spokane, Washington before leaving active service.

After an international marketing management career with Siemens, she created her global marketing and publishing firm, Gracefully Global Group, LLC. In November 2010, she received “Entrepreneur of the Year” honors at the LATINAStyle Magazine Gala in Washington D.C. Graciela actively mentors students who need education and career roadmaps, a central focus of her four-time award-winning book, Latinnovating. She is a sought-after keynote speaker, workshop leader (personal branding for military veterans) and lecturer in classrooms, business schools, corporate events and conferences around the nation. Graciela and her family live in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Fred Patten Reviews The Alluring Art of Margaret Brundage

Disclosure:  A free copy of this book was furnished by the publisher for review, but providing a copy did not guarantee a review. This information is provided per the regulations of the Federal Trade Commission.


The Alluring Art of Margaret Brundage: Queen of Pulp Pin-Up Art

Authors:  Stephen D. Korshak and J. David Spurlock

Publisher:  Vanguard Productions

ISBN-10:  1-9343-3150-3

ISBN-13:  978-1-9343-3150-7


From about the 1910s through the 1940s, one of the main forms of popular entertainment was the pulp fiction magazines, so-called because they were printed on cheap pulp paper with gaudy, lurid covers.  There were adventure-fiction pulps, Western pulps, jungle-adventure pulps, historical-adventure pulps, science-fiction pulps, air-ace pulps, pirate-adventure pulps, detective pulps, horror pulps, women’s romance pulps, and many others.  There were artists who specialized in painting pulp magazine covers, such as J. Allen St. John for the Tarzan stories by Edgar Rice Burroughs.

During the 1930s, one of the standout pulps on the newsstand was Weird Tales, “The Unique Magazine”.  Weird Tales specialized in publishing science-fiction and horror with a fantasy bent, such as the exploits of psychic detective Jules de Grandin by Seabury Quinn.  Most of Weird Tales’ stories are forgotten today, but the magazine was notable for publishing most of the stories of H. P. Lovecraft, the Conan stories of Robert E. Howard, and the early short stories of Ray Bradbury, Henry Kuttner, Clark Ashton Smith, and Robert Bloch (one of whose stories, “A Sorcerer Runs for Sheriff”, WT September 1941, pretty well sums up Weird Tales’ editorial policy).

But what made Weird Tales stand out among all the other pulps were its covers by Margaret Brundage.  From September 1932 through October 1938, almost every monthly issue of Weird Tales featured a Brundage pastel chalk painting of a scantily-clad or completely nude damsel in distress being menaced by slavering werewolves, sinister Oriental master criminals, or a cruelly gloating whip- or knout-wielding dominatrix.  Sometimes the nude damsel was offering love to a statue of a pagan god.  At a time when pulp covers often came under cries for censorship for lewdness, Brundage seemed to have an instinct for just how far she could go and keep within the borders of good taste.  I started collecting pulp magazines in the 1960s when they were long-gone except for the used-magazine shops, but fans of the pulps were still talking about the issues of Weird Tales with Margaret Brundage’s covers.  She is one of the few artists whose cover on a magazine alone could raise that magazine’s price.

The Alluring Art of Margaret Brundage: Queen of Pulp Pin-Up Art is an “everything you want to know” book about Brundage and her work.  What makes this a must-have for most connoisseurs of fantasy art is the life-sized (9” x 12”) reproductions in full color on glossy paper of all of her magazine covers.  Most pulp and s-f fans did not realize that she also painted covers for other magazines.  This book includes them, plus several of Brundage’s non-cover paintings, some from long after her magazine period.

But wait!  There’s more!  This book also includes two complete biographies of Brundage, including interviews given to fans who tracked her down in the 1960s shortly before her death.  There is a biography emphasizing her life and art (she was a high-school classmate of Walt Disney, and they remained on good albeit distant terms throughout their lives), and a biography emphasizing her participation and leadership in Chicago’s radical left-wing movement in the late 1920s, including her activism for the Industrial Workers of the World and other labor and bohemian movements, and her unsatisfactory marriage to labor activist “Slim” Brundage.  It was her determination to stay in Chicago that was responsible, after her husband’s desertion of her and their infant son, for her to look for commercial art work in that city.  Weird Tales was one of the few magazines whose editorial offices were in Chicago.  It was Weird Tales’ sale to a New York publisher in 1938 and the relocation of its editorial offices to NYC that was responsible for Brundage leaving WT.  The new publisher wanted a cover artist who lived in NYC, and Brundage refused to leave Chicago.

The Alluring Art of Margaret Brundage: Queen of Pulp Pin-Up Art is a 164-page book containing 74 magazine cover reproductions in full-size of mint-condition copies, plus ten reproductions of cover paintings from the original art (without the cover lettering) – the only cover originals that still exist after eighty years, because pastel chalk art smears easily.  The book also includes a plethora of posters, photographs, business cards, handbills, and other ephemera from the 1920s I.W.W. and the Dill Pickle Club, a bohemian social group in which Brundage was a leader.

Buy where there is any interest in lavish art books, in popular art or fantasy magazine art of the 1930s, in Margaret Brundage in particular, or the radical left-wing social movement of the 1920s and 1930s.

This book is reviewed from the $24.95 trade paperback edition.  There are also a $39.95 hardcover edition with a different cover; and a $69.95 de luxe slipcased edition with a third cover and a 16-page art folio that is not included in the other editions.


Fred Patten Reviews The Best of Alter Ego, Volume 2

Disclosure:  A free copy of this book was furnished by the publisher for review, but providing a copy did not guarantee a review. This information is provided per the regulations of the Federal Trade Commission.

AE49 Trial Cover.qxd

The Best of Alter Ego, volume 2

Editors:  Roy Thomas and Bill Schelly

Publisher:  TwoMorrows Publishing

ISBN-10:  1-6054-9048-2

ISBN-13:  978-1-6054-9048-9


“This sequel to Alter Ego: The Best of the Legendary Comics Fanzine presents more fantastic features from the fabled mag begun in 1961 by Jerry Bails & Roy Thomas-covering undiscovered gems from all 11 original issues published between 1961 and 1978!” (back-cover blurb)


Comic book fandom was invented in the early 1960s.  There had been sporadic articles on one or another science-fiction newspaper comic strip like “Buck Rogers” or on individual comic books like “Captain Marvel” in s-f fanzines during the 1940s and 1950s, but they were limited to what the fan-author – usually an enthusiastic teenager — could deduce from the issues in his collection.  Starting with Dick and Pat Lupoff’s fanzine “Xero” in 1960-1963, some of the most knowledgeable comic-book enthusiasts at the time were asked to write, not just nostalgia pieces on their favorite comic books, but well-researched articles on their publication history.  This was to have been a dignified epitaph to a colorful but short-lived portion of popular culture.


Nobody realized it at the time, but this was just the period when what is now called “the Silver Age of comic books” was starting.  DC Comics reinvented costumed superheroes with the revived “The Flash” in 1959, and Marvel started “the Marvel Age of Superheroes” in 1961.  “Xero” became the new model for comic-book scholarship.  Suddenly every young fan who could get access to a mimeograph or a spirit duplicator was starting a fanzine that was not only devoted to his favorite costumed hero, but that included reports of visits to the DC or Marvel publication office, interviews with comic-book writers and artists, and the fan’s (and his friends’) amateur comic-book stories.  Most of these fanzines lasted less than a dozen issues and were very amateurish, but, boy, were they enthusiastic!


“Alter Ego”, started in 1961, was one of the first and best of these, and after fifty years it is still going, as a professional full-color magazine today.  Where other fanzines were discontinued when their teenaged editors grew tired of them, “Alter Ego” was passed along to new editors, ending up with issue #7 in 1964 in the hands of Roy Thomas.  Thomas, a fresh college graduate and beginning high-school English teacher, parlayed his editorship of “Alter Ego” into a professional job at Marvel Comics a year later as editor Stan Lee’s assistant.  Full-time work in the comic-book industry left Thomas with no time to continue his hobby, so “Alter Ego” became more and more erratic and finally went on hiatus in 1978.  He revived it over twenty years later in 1999, and it has been published bi-monthly ever since.


“The Best of Alter Ego, volume 2” is a $19.95 160-page trade paperback collection from the original 1961-1978 issues of the magazine, combined with Thomas’ detailed history of its start up to its long hiatus.  Frankly, the book is most worthwhile as a piece of fannish nostalgia, and as an inspiration to today’s teens of what can be done as an amateur in a given field.  Thomas and co-editor Schelly have produced a scrapbook of photographs of the leading comic-book fans of the 1960s; some complete, amateurishly written & drawn superhero adventures; and documentation of the activities of comic-book fandom in the 1960s, like “The Academy of Comic-Book Arts and Sciences presents:  The Alley Awards for 1962.”  (The Alley Awards, named for the comic-strip character Alley Oop, were a short-lived award voted on by comics fans and given to the professional creators.)  Most of the “fact” articles herein, such as “‘Merciful Minerva’: The Story of Wonder Woman” by Jerry Bails (1961) have long ago been supplanted by better-written articles by other writers; in many cases during the last twenty years by whole books by professional authors with the publisher’s complete archives to draw upon.


But, as they say, This Is Where It All Started.  It is arguable that if it were not for the pioneering fanzines of the 1960s, there would not be a scholarly historiography of the comic-book industry today.  The fans of the 1960s onward interviewed many of the professional editors, writers, and artists while they were still alive; and when those publishers were clearing out old files, they gave them to fans whom they knew wanted them instead of throwing them in the trash.  Among the book’s contents are an unsold “Tor” newspaper strip proposal by professional Joe Kubert, and a 1977 interview with French artist Jean “Moebius” Giraud.  Some of the new material in this book includes friendly letters from those editors in reply to their fans, showing that the wise editors of the 1960s encouraged their fan base instead of brushing them off; and articles for the 2010s reader to explain what a mimeograph or a spirit duplicator was.


Full disclosure:  I am one of the fans included in this book, with an article on the Mexican s-f comic books of the mid-1960s that was my first “professional” writing credit.


Buy where there is interest in comic books, or the beginnings of comic-book/costumed superhero fandom, or in the popular culture of the 1960s.


Phantasmagoria; Collected Essays on the Nature of Fantasy and Horror Literature


Phantasmagoria; Collected Essays on the Nature of Fantasy and Horror Literature
Author Roger C. Schlobin
Publisher: CreateSpace
ISBN-10: 1-4819-4608-0
ISBN-13: 978-1-4819-4608-7

Dr. Roger C. Schlobin is a retired Professor Emeritus of Purdue Universty, among other credits. He has written six scholarly works and edited over fifty, including “The Literature of Fantasy: a Comprehensive, Annotated Bibliography of Modern Fantasy Fiction” (1979). The essays in this self-published collection span over thirty years of his career. “The original purpose of this collection”, he says in the Preface, “was to publish it with a prestigious university press as a study of the invaluable place that secondary, archetypal characters hold in literature. However, teaching four classes of first-year writing a semester stalled my research in 2006. The working bibliography is published here in an appendix for someone, hopefully, to build upon. Then, retirement and back surgery made the tedious steps of publishing with a university press superfluous.”

These essays have been published previously in such scholarly reviews and books as “Survey of Modern Fantasy Literature”, “J. R. R. Tolkien and His Literary Resonances: Views of Middle-earth”, and “The Celebration of the Fantastic: Selected Papers from the Tenth International Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts”. Sample titles are “The Irrelevancy of Setting”, “Prototypic Horror: The Book of Job”, and “In Search of Solitude: The Fascination with Evil”.

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Comics About Cartoonists: Stories About the World’s Oddest Profession



Comics About Cartoonists: Stories About the World’s Oddest Profession
Editor:  Craig Yoe
Publisher:  IDW Publishing
Language:  English
ISBN-10:  1-613-77346-3
ISBN-13:  978-1-613-77346-8

This is indeed an odd tome.  It is a 229-page anthology of newspaper and comic book cartoonists drawing about their profession.  Not “how to draw” lessons, either.  Editor Yoe has combed the archives of old newspapers and comic books from roughly 1910 to 1960 and found “funny drawings” in which the cartoonists (sometimes working with scripts by others) have depicted stories about the cartooning profession.  The reprinted newspaper strips are usually in black-&-white as they were published; the comic-book reprints are in full, garish color.

Many of the comic-book stories are about cartoonists who draw themselves into their own stories.  These range from realistic art – the “Inky” Wells cartoonist who falls in love with his model, from a 1955 romance comic, looks just like comic-book artist Jack Kirby, whose photograph is well-known – to the fanciful – surely funny-animal cartoonist Al Stahl (1958), who draws himself falling asleep at his drawing board and falls into his world of talking rabbits and policeman lions, did not really look like something out of a carnival funhouse’s distorted mirror.  Most of the comic-book stories are six or eight pages.  Famous newspaper cartoonists Milton Caniff (“Terry and the Pirates”; “Steve Canyon”) and Chester Gould (“Dick Tracy”) are present in one-page promo autobiographies in which they have drawn themselves in the style of their heroes.  Bud Fisher (“Mutt and Jeff, 1919) draws himself getting contradictory demands from his editors for six panels (“More Republican jokes; No, more Democratic jokes; Ridicule the Bolsheviks; Lay off the Russians); in the seventh panel he commits suicide. Continue reading

Scholastic Discover More: World War II


Scholastic Discover More: World War II
Author: Sean Callery
Publisher: Scholastic Reference (March 1, 2013)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0545479754
ISBN-13: 978-0545479752

I’m quickly learning to love the Scholastic Discover More series of books. The grandchildren love them and for me, they are a wealth of information.

In World War II, a visual history of the world’s darkest days, there are plenty of full color photographs, as well as some stunning black and whites and infographic type pages laid out in a way that is appealing to most children. Also provided is a free digital companion book that kids and parents can access either on Mac or PC through Scholastic’s Discover More website. Continue reading

The Originals


The Originals
Author: Cat Patrick
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers (May 7, 2013)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0316219436
ISBN-13: 978-0316219433

Trust Cat Patrick to write something wild and crazy, told in the most normal of voices.  I first came into contact with her work when I read Revived and was completely blown away.  When I saw The Originals, I knew I just had to read it.  I wasn’t disappointed.  The Originals tells the story of three sisters who are not triplets…they are clones.  Because their scientist/geneticist mother is on the lam and the FBI is searching for girls of their age masquerading as triplets, they are forced to live a sort of half-life; rather a third of a life.  Each girl takes a part of the day and has to be careful in how they wear their hair, clothes, etc.  One heads to school in the morning, then rushes home at lunch to switch.  The third sister takes over the evening.  Occasionally, they switch to accommodate illness or other issues.  Needless to say, it’s kind of nuts, but they take it in stride. Continue reading