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.

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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.

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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.

 

Book Spine Poetry

I’ve been playing with book spine poetry as I clean out my bookshelves.  I have the grandkids helping.  This is what we have so far…

Jasmine and Aiden’s collaborative effort about a fish looking for a new home:

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This is my short, but dark one:

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Something a little mystical:

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Get your Conquistadora mojo going:

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Pointing a finger

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Forensics

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Shannon Muir “Professional to Professional” – An Inside Look At Kobo User Experience

I got the opportunity to meet with James Wu, Director of User Experience – Devices for Kobo while at Book Expo America 2013 at the Javits Center. We talked about how Kobo develops its devices with consumers of content in mind. The goal at Kobo is to understand how to translate the user experience by more traditional means to a software experience.

Kobo was formed approximately five years ago from a traditional retailer and later broke away on its own. The original catalog ran around 400,000 titles and now is around 3.5 million. These title range from bestsellers to self-published authors. Kobo decided the best way to control the user experience for their consumers was to develop their own readers. The Kobo 1 was first followed by 5 others, of which the Aura is the newest. The idea is to leverage a technology called “e-ink,” that mimics as close as possible the quality of a printed page on an e-reader, to keep the “emphasis on the reader in mind” according to James.

Around 2011, Kobo identified the tablet space as the next place to go to build strong reader experiences. In 2011 the Vox was released, followed by the Arc. James explained that the Arc is a fully certified Android experience – but took to the next level what the reader would look for compared to most Android devices in that readers are not so app centric; they use their devices to read, watch movies, and more. James explained that readers are “more about content, not apps” and that they preferred “going through their tables to organize, collect and curate their content”. So in Arc, all this is surfaced by making apps secondary and allowing readers to “mix and match the content types in ways that make sense” to each one.

Aura is the top of the link e-ink reader, and again James explained Kobo looked to users in its development. 10,000 users were asked what they’d like and “bigger and better screen” came back as the near unanimous response. As a result, Kobo designed the Aura with what James described as the “first HD e-ink screen”. Overall, James explained, the faster pages and a brighter screen  lead to a “more immersive user experience”. How immersive the experience is also came into play for the design, where the back is molded after the idea of curved, folded paper much like an open book. Not only does this make it less device-like in appearance, James described the design as “more ergonomic” in nature. Since readers spend hours at a time doing this activity, “clarity and and feel becomes tremendously important” when considering design.

We also briefly discussed Glow, Kobo’s backlight tablet which James said was “competitive,” and also talked about how Kobo collaborates with Monotype on every model of the readers to get the optimum experience.

In summary, James said that “people who love to read also love to customize their reading experience” and being aware of that played at the heart of Kobo’s operations.

Thank you, James Wu, for giving readers a behind the scenes insight to Kobo’s approach to developing its e-readers for the content consuming audience.

 

 

Disclaimer: Even though I have books available on Kobo, I am not a direct user of any Kobo products or services at the time of this writing. No consideration was given to me by Kobo for this interview. This information is furnished by the requirements of the Federal Trade Commission.

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Grumpy Cat at BEA!

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Chronicle Books Encourages BEA Attendees to “Get Grumpy”

Media Star Grumpy Cat to Greet Visitors at Chronicle Booth #739

Book Expo America attendees will get a chance to meet Grumpy Cat, the Internet’s leading cat curmudgeon and first-time author during a photo-op scheduled on Friday, May 31st at 3:00pm. Grumpy Cat will likely find something unpleasant about the event that will promote her forthcoming book, Grumpy Cat: A Grumpy Book (October 2013), which features classic quips, snarky put-downs and lots of fun activities for Grumpy Cat’s many fans. The photo-op will take place at the Chronicle Books booth, located at space #739 on the lower level of the Javitz Center in New York City.

Grumpy Cat is a small cat with a big frown who has inspired a hugely popular meme. With a sour expression that could stop traffic, she has garnered over 300,000 fans on Facebook, more than 85,000 Twitter followers and was named the #1 Most Important Cat by Buzzfeed.

Chronicle Books will also produce a 2014 Grumpy Cat Wall Calendar, to ensure that no day goes by without the disapproval of Grumpy Cat.

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

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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”.

Continue reading

BookExpo America’s Global Market Forum 2013 Highlights Mexico

Bringing the Growing Mexican Book Market to New York
BookExpo America’s Global Market Forum 2013 Highlights Mexico

Norwalk, CT, April 24, 2013: BEA officials have today announced that BEA’s annual Global Market Forum will focus on Mexico. The Global Market Forum, which honors countries from around the world by providing educational panels and cultural exchange opportunities, has become a cornerstone of BEA’s international outreach. Last year’s initiative, which focused on Russia, included a wide range of activities throughout New York City. BookExpo America is North America’s leading book industry event and will take place in New York City at the Jacob K. Javits Center, May 29 – June 1, 2013.

Mexico is a book market worth 10,084 million pesos ($830 million) in 2011, and it has grown 2.7 percent in volume and 13.2 percent in value since 2010. Mexico, the 13th largest economy of the world, with a growth in GDP of 5.5% in 2010, occupies a significant position among today’s emerging economies, and – not the least through the NAFTA agreement – is a privileged trading partner of the USA. 45 million people in the US speak Spanish as their first or second language.

When it comes to books and publishing, however, the picture is more complex. Continue reading

Ribbit!

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Ribbit!
Author:  Rodrigo Folgueria
Illustrator: Poly Bernatene
Age Range: 3 – 7 years
Hardcover: 32 pages
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers; Reprint edition (March 26, 2013)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0307981460
ISBN-13: 978-0307981462

This is one of the most charming books I’ve had the pleasure of reading in a while.  I fell in love the story of a pink pig who just wanted to make friends.  The illustrations on textured paper are big, colorful and comical.  Children, both in the age group it targets and a little older, will adore it.  The book shows that making friends isn’t always easy, but worth the trouble.  It also shows children that just because someone is different, that’s no reason to be suspicious of them.  Sometimes, people do just want to be your friend.  In a world gone a little mad lately, this simple message of friendship is very welcome and assuring.

The illustrations really are beautiful.  The expressive faces of pig and frogs are wonderful.  They say it all and the text/story provides a little extra detail.  The pig’s rather large face is completely lovable and cute.  I can see small children falling in love with it.  The text is wonderful too – it grows larger as the ribbits do and provides emphasis to the story.

When the pig ends up in a tree with lots of little bird friends my middle-grade grandchildren laughed aloud in pure enjoyment.

Lovely, charming and highly recommended.

Book Description from the publisher:

A group of frogs are living happily in a peaceful pond, until they discover a surprise visitor: a little pink pig. Sitting contentedly on a rock in the middle of their pond, the pig opens his mouth and says: RIBBIT! The frogs are bewildered at first, and then a bit annoyed—”What did that little pig just say?”, “Does he think he’s a frog?”, “Is he making fun of us?”

Soon the pig draws the attention of all the nearby animals; everyone is curious to know what he wants! After much guessing (and shouting) and a visit to the wise old beetle, the animals realize that perhaps the pig was not there to mock them after all—maybe he just wanted to make new friends!  But is it too late?  This is a warm, funny, and beautifully illustrated story of friendship, with boisterous RIBBIT!s throughout—perfect for reading aloud.

About the Author & Illustrator

RODRIGO FOLGUEIRA studied art at Buenos Aires National School of Fine Art and works as an author and illustrator, specializing in children’s books. He lives and works in Argentina.

POLY BERNATENE graduated from Buenos Aires Art School and has worked across many different genres including advertising, animation, and comic books. He has published more than 60 children’s books all over the world. He lives and works in Argentina.

E.L. Konigsburg, RIP

A great voice in Children’s Literature and two-time Newbery Award-winner E.L. Konisburg has died.   I found out on Facebook, via a post from Jane Yolen.

I loved her books.  For years, The View from Saturday was read, re-read and re-read yet again until it fell apart, then I’d run out and find a new one.  She touched my life and my heart with her books and she lives on in them.  My granddaughter now reads and re-reads From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler much as I did The View from Saturday.  I am positive, because her books are so enduring, that my granddaughter’s grandchildren will one day be lying in a window seat with a well-loved, almost falling apart book by Ms. Konisburg in their hands.

She will be greatly missed.

Her list of work is here on her author page at Simon and Schuster.

Her biography is here at Scholastic.

I am sure there will be a lot of blogs about her shortly and I’ll do my best to get the links all posted here.

In the meantime, read this great review from Elizabeth Lund done back in 2007.

NEW:  Bookshelves of Doom has a wonderful round up of links from blogs and news.  Do visit and read away.

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