Tag Archive: Abrams Comicarts


Lifetime passes cover Better Place cover

Review by C.J. Bunce

From Abrams ComicArts and Top Shelf Productions, two new graphic novels are just the thing to help young people and senior citizens try to bridge the generation gap.  Both stories feature youth encountering, interacting, and understanding folks of their grandparents’ age–and vice versa.  From Abrams, Lifetime Passes follows an orphan named Jackie, who helps her aunt working in a senior housing center.  When a nearby Disney-like theme park offers a strange way to get tickets, she and her friends stumble into getting to know people at the senior center better.  From Top Shelf comes Better Place, following a boy named Dylan who just moved to a new house, with no friends, and a mother who doesn’t have time for him.  But his grandfather becomes his best friend, partnering with him to create a superhero duo–until his grandfather passes away.  In the spirit of Over the Moon, Soul, The Mitchells vs the Machines, and Ghost Tree, these new books Lifetime Passes and Better Place may have everyone begin to understand what it’s like to be in someone else’s shoes.

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MagicTheGatheringPlanesOfTheMultiverse_p009a X

Review by C.J. Bunce

On the heels of last year’s landmark book Magic: The Gathering: Rise of the Gatewatch–A Visual History (reviewed here), Wizards of the Coast and Abrams ComicArts have come together to give Magic: The Gathering trading card game players their next must-have guide, Magic: The Gathering: Planes of the Multiverse–A Visual History, a chronicle of the lore-defining events of the fantasy roleplaying multiverse.  In bookstores and at Amazon (here) this week, it’s the latest of Abrams’ high-end, full-color, hardcover books highlighting the artwork of the best-known trading card series.  It documents 28 years of select artwork, mythology, and lore behind Magic: The Gathering, the first-ever trading card game, following Visual Histories focusing on Rise of Gatewatch, Legends, and The Art of Magic: The Gathering–War of the Spark.

The book includes character histories and images of the actual cards–many reproduced for the first time outside the trading card.  As with Rise of the Gatewatch, readers will find their favorite card images, accompanied by detailed descriptions of the planes of the story’s Multiverse, its fantastical creatures, characters, and Planeswalkers, with a focus on the game’s locations and the characters that inhabit them.  Lore-defining events chronicled here will take fans of the game from the Phyrexian Invasion to the War of the Spark, and Planeswalkers beyond those included in the Rise of Gatewatch volume, like Karn, Narset, Vraska, Sorin Markov, and more.  The highlight for fans will be seeing cards they’ve never had in their hands before, but it will also be seeing the full artwork before it was cropped for the card.  And the handy size will fit easily into backpacks, to take along to gaming sessions.

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Here is a look at artwork imagery from Magic: The Gathering: Planes of the Multiverse–A Visual History, courtesy of Abrams ComicArts:

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Run book cover

Review by C.J. Bunce

“Everybody can read comics,” says civil rights leader, real-life superhero, and Congressman John Lewis describing “get out to vote” preparations for an Alabama county primary in May 1966 in his new, posthumously published book Run: Book One, the follow-up to the award-winning three-book series of graphic novels called March March was Congressman Lewis’s story of his journey–really America’s journey–toward enactment of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.  In Run: Book One Lewis continues the ongoing struggle for civil rights.  In comics form, the story is accessible to every audience, as the comics reader and comics convention guest knew well.

As students of American history may be aware, after every major historical success there is implementation, response, the aftermath.  Adults today can probably recall being taught about the Civil War in grade school, but how about the bitter struggles afterward during Reconstruction?  Similarly American History classes may have touched on the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s, but did you learn about the key players and struggles that followed to implement the Voting Rights Act?  Run begins that next chapter as Lewis prepares to run for government office, and the country and the movement tries to gain a footing and leadership to take the country forward–a compelling story every American of any age should read.

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Black Star banner

Review by C.J. Bunce

A new sci-fi graphic novel arrives from Megascope this week called Black Star, a new spin on the stranded space traveler trope. In Eric Anthony Glover’s debut story with artist Arielle Jovellanos, it’s also a play on the pursuing animal joke: “I don’t need to outrun the tiger, I just need to outrun you,” as two astronauts fight after a disaster in space to get back to their ship and leave the planet, when the ship only has room for one. It’s based on a screenplay by Glover, and that kind of preparation makes for a survival story with all the right action beats. Black Star arrives in comic shops and here at Amazon this week.
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Hardears banner

Review by C.J. Bunce

From a new comics imprint of Abrams ComicArts comes Hardears, an alternate fantasy world inspired by the Caribbean cultures of Barbados.  Barbados writer Nigel Lynch joins Barbados artist Matthew Clarke in the next alternate world.   It is too lazy to refer to Hardears as another take on the Wakanda of Black Panther (it’s actually more like Alan Moore’s Watchmen).  Hardears is worthy of a deeper analysis.

Taking place in an alternate version of Barbados called Hardears (which seems to mean a particularly bad future ahead), this graphic novel is as unique as Frank Miller’s look at ancient Sparta in 300.  The artwork of this fantasy society has the flowy aura of P. Craig Russell’s interpretation of Wagner’s The Ring, and the mythology will spark curiosity like we saw in Paul Guinan’s Aztec Empire

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Review by C.J. Bunce

If you only know Alex Ross from his extensive work with the DC Comics superheroes, get ready for a great book of poster art featuring all-new paintings of the superheroes of the Marvel universe.  Bar none, Alex Ross is the creator whose coverage has received the most views and feedback in the past 10 years of borg (early on we looked at some of our most favorite of his artworks here and you can see all our coverage of his projects here).  You’ve probably already checked out Alex Ross’s previously reviewed art overview books Mythology: The DC Comics Art of Alex Ross, Rough Justice: The DC Comics Sketches of Alex Ross, and The Dynamite Art of Alex Ross.  Although Ross has created countless covers and projects like Marvels over the years, what you may not be aware of are full-figure, painted portrait, images of the Marvel Comics superheroes Ross installed last year in Marvel’s New York offices as a life-sized mural.  All 35 individual character posters used in the mural are now available in a giant-sized book, The Alex Ross Marvel Comics Poster Book, full of premium cardstock, ready-to-frame posters, including a 44″x16″ foldout of the entire connected image.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Wizards of the Coast and Abrams ComicArts have come together to give Magic the Gathering trading card game players something they haven’t seen before, a high-end art book visual history of the game.  It all begins with Magic the Gathering: Rise of the Gatewatch–A Visual History, the latest of Abrams’ books highlighting the artwork of the best-known trading card series.  More than 25 years ago Magic the Gathering became the first ever trading card game, and this volume looks back to the Planeswalkers.

The first superhero-esque team of Gatewatchers is all here like you’ve never seen them before: Jace Beleren–the telepath with a mysterious past, Ajani Goldmane–the ferocious leonine, Gideon Jura–the reformed criminal who became a protector of the meek, Kaya–the rogue dualist, Chandra Nalaar–the pyromancer, Nissa Revane–the elf warrior and protector of nature, Liliana Vess–the necromancer, Nicol Bolas–the oldest Planeswalker, and Teferi–the formidable mage.   The book includes character histories and images of the actual cards, but more than that you’ll find concept art, original artwork created for the game, packaging art, and images only available in exclusive releases in the past.  If you loved specific cards and always wanted to see larger looks at the card art, this is your chance.

Each character is represented in dozens of images in roughly 30-page feature sections for the six primary Gatewatch characters, beginning with over-sized images of the character cards, plus a large section of combined Gatewatch imagery.  The highlight for fans of the game will be seeing cards they’ve never had in their hands before, but it will also be seeing the full artwork before it was cropped for the card.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

A new edition of a book about the popularity of Fawcett Comics‘ original Captain Marvel, the world’s mightiest mortal–the superhero renamed Shazam and featured in a new movie this month starring Zachary Levi–will be the perfect trip through time for fans who have enjoyed the character in his many stories going back to his debut in 1939.  My personal favorite Captain Marvel stories can be found in the original Whiz Comics (all in the public domain and available to read online now here) and as drawn by Alex Ross in his landmark graphic novel with Mark Waid, Kingdom Come.  For the first time in a softcover edition, Chip Kidd’s Shazam: The Golden Age of the World’s Mightiest Mortal has been reprinted by Abrams ComicArts just in time for the release of the film, Shazam!

For those not in-the-know, this is the Captain Marvel who now goes by Shazam (the word that causes him to bring forth his powers)–the one owned by DC Comics today, and not the one owned by Marvel Comics and also in theaters now in the movie Captain Marvel (reviewed here at borg).  Shazam: The Golden Age of the World’s Mightiest Mortal is a historical work, and it doesn’t hesitate to use the name he’s always been known as by his fans.  As told by writer Chip Kidd, the Captain Marvel fan club had 400,000 people in it in its best year in the 1940s, and Fawcett projected 40 million followers of the character in books and film.  Captain Marvel books sold 1.3 million copies per month, not a common feat even today.  Does anything approach that kind of fan club status today?  At the height of the character it was more popular than Superman and Batman, and so of course the character had hundreds of tie-in products.

Readers will marvel over a reprint of the entire story from Captain Marvel Adventures, Issue #1–created by two then unknowns: Jack Kirby and Joe Simon, and reprints of several colorful covers from Whiz Comics, Captain Marvel, Captain Marvel, Jr., Mary Marvel Comics, WOW Comics, Master Comics, America’s Greatest Comics, Spy Smasher, and even Hoppy, the Marvel Bunny, plus pages of scans of original comic pages from ex-Fawcett staff.

The book uses photographs from a collection of some of the scarcest superhero collectibles known, including images of books, toys, and paper ephemera for Captain Marvel and the entire Marvel Family–superhero kids like Billy Batson–the boy who turns into Captain Marvel–and his friends who use the Shazam powers but remain as kids.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Previously only available in a hardcover edition, the definitive look at one of the earliest and most successful comic strips and its creator arrives this week for the comic’s 90th anniversary.  The writer-artist is the late Belgian visionary Georges Remi, who went by his initials R.G., pronounced Hergé, his famous character a young reporter, adventurer, and detective named Tintin, and the book is Tintin: The Art of Hergé.  If you’re lucky, you’ve already seen Steven Spielberg’s ground-breaking 2011 animated movie The Adventures of Tintin, the culmination of decades of popularity of a boy and his dog Snowy who influenced and entertained millions of readers across the globe.  In the 1920s Hergé had the idea of making low-cost movies on paper, and the result was a comic strip stuffed with visual action that propelled the adventure forward like images pulled from a reel of film.  Tintin: The Art of Herge is available for pre-order here at Amazon today only and arrives in stores tomorrow.

Hergé and Tintin’s stories are intertwined with living history.  Sometimes Hergé would be on the right side and other times he wouldn’t.  But according to the book Tintin would inspire generations to take on investigative, daring, and spirited careers, and photographs show the kind of fandom in the 1920s that wouldn’t be a regular occurrence for pop culture icons until the likes of Elvis and The Beatles.  Readers will see photographs of Hergé from his early days as a boy scout publication artist, and trace the development of his boy hero–a direct ancestor of the animated tales of shows like Jonny Quest–full of a well-established supporting slate of characters that would become archetypes in their own right, like the clumsy and inseparable duo Thomson and Thompson, and Tintin’s odd choice for a sidekick, Captain Haddock.  Hergé built his fantasy universe atop the real world and real places, including cutting edge science in his story and art–research and realism factored into his stories.  When Tintin goes to the moon 12 years before the real moon shot, his rocket is based on aerospace engineer and space architect Wernher von Braun’s early designs.

Tintin: The Art of Hergé, written and produced by Michel Daubert and the Hergé Museum in Belgium and first published in hardcover in 2013, covers the artist, his life, his famous characters and books, the artist’s influences, the comic’s influences on others, and the modern museum that commemorates the artist’s works and impact.  At 480 pages this is the most exhaustive work on the artist and his comics.  The finest component is perhaps the depth of original sketches and complete strips reproduced spanning the 1920s to the 1980s, all pulled from the Museum’s archives.  The Museum itself, which honors the artist and his works with interpretations of his work by modern artists influenced by Hergé, is showcased in a chapter of the book, along with photographs and interviews.

Here is a preview of the book courtesy of Abrams ComicArts:

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Gary Gerani, Topps editor for hundreds of classic trading card series returns with a new book in Abrams ComicArts’ unprecedented series of hardcover books recounting the  classic Topps “non-sports” trading cards.  This time Gerani looks at the entire collection of Planet of the Apes images featured throughout three series chronicled on cardboard by Topps in Planet of the Apes: The Original Topps Trading Card Series.

In nearly 500 pages Gerani includes the fronts and backs of all 44 cards from the original 1969 Topps set documenting the original film starring Charlton Heston, all 66 cards based on the 1975 television series (featuring Roddy McDowell and Star Trek’s Mark Lenard), and all 90 base cards, 10 sticker cards, and 44 chase cards from the 2001 reboot film directed by Tim Burton and starring Mark Wahlberg.  If you’re a Planet of the Apes fan, a fan of either of these incarnations of the several adaptations of Pierre Boulle’s 1963 science fiction novel Monkey Planet, or a POTA completist, you’ll learn something new about the franchise now spanning nearly five decades.

    

Although you’ll get exactly what you’d expect–full color images of the fronts and backs of the cards, Abrams’ trademark bubble gum cover and wax pack wrapper jacket, and promotional images–the real insight is found in Gerani’s knowledge as a Topps and Hollywood insider.  Working directly on the second and third series and working with the creators of the original series, Gerani provides an understanding of the business of designing a trading card series, the challenges (like celebrity image licensing restrictions), and high points (like finding that perfect image for a card that fans will love).  Many cards use photos taken on the shooting set, so they give different vantage points to the actors and sets than found in the films.

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