Tag Archive: Abrams Comicarts


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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Ten years after Return of the Jedi, Topps trading cards editor and writer Gary Gerani was tasked once again to meet fan demand for more Star Wars trading cards.  Many years before he would create photo cards for a new trilogy of prequels, he would team up with Lucasfilm’s Steve Sansweet to showcase Star Wars as interpreted by some of the best artists that contributed to the films or would re-imagine the “Star Wars Galaxy” in their own styles.

The three resulting trading card series have been released in the 2016 addition to Abrams ComicArts successful hardbound series featured here previously at borg.comStar Wars Galaxy: The Original Topps Trading Card Series includes the works of more than 170 artists in more than 200 card reproductions, plus commentary by Gerani and an afterword by notable poster artist Drew Struzan.  Unlike the prior volumes in the series, only the obverse image from the cards, which featured the artwork, is included.

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You’ll find an incredible array of imagery by a surprising combination of artists, including rare images you will have seen only if you collected the original cards.  So you’ll find the work of Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, Ralph McQuarrie, Moebius, Drew Struzan, Dave Dorman, Al Williamson, Howard Chaykin, Mike Grell, John Eaves, Mike Zeck, George Perez, Jim Starlin, Dave Stevens, Walter Simonson, Gene Colan, Rich Buckler, Bill Sienkiewicz, Mark Schultz, P. Craig Russell, Dave Gibbons, Sergio Aragones, Boris Vallejo, Charles Vess, and Gil Kane.

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The volume includes the entire run of portraits created for Star Wars Galaxy specifically for the Topps cards by Joseph Smith–the original art was later bought by George Lucas for his personal collection.

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The latest volume from the partnership of Abrams ComicArts and Topps Trading Cards as they document some of the greatest non-sports trading cards ever released is now available.  Star Wars: Return of the Jedi–The Original Topps Trading Card Series Volume Three reproduces–for the first time–all 220 cards and 55 stickers in a single deluxe hardcover volume.  And like the first two volumes in the series, it includes the image of the classic bubble gum stick inside the classic wax pack style cover jacket.

It’s the next book in the now long line of great trading card books from Abrams.  It includes four bonus trading cards made exclusively for this edition, including both title cards for the two Return of the Jedi card series, and is similar in design to the previous trading card reference books Bazooka Joe and His Gang reviewed here at borg.com, Mars Attacks 50th Anniversary Collection reviewed here, and Star Trek: The Original Topps Trading Card Series reviewed here.  Abrams ComicArts and Topps released the first compilation of Star Wars trading cards last December–Star Wars: The Original Topps Trading Card Series, Volume One, reviewed here at borg.com, and this April we reviewed the second volume, Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, The Original Topps Trading Card Series, Volume Two, here.

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Star Wars insider and trading card editor Gary Gerani returns to give fascinating insight and a behind-the-scenes look at Topps as it coordinated with Lucasfilm to create and market these licensed images.  Gerani was the original editor of the three Star Wars Topps series who worked with Lucasfilm to select the photographs for the card sets and wrote the card titles.

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Topps Empire Strikes Back Abrams

Coming next week is the latest volume from the partnership of Abrams ComicArts and Topps Trading Cards as they document some of the greatest non-sports trading cards ever released.  Complete with a photo of the famous stick of bubble gum on the cover, Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back–The Original Topps Trading Card Series Volume Two reproduces–for the first time–all 352 cards and 88 stickers in a single deluxe hardcover volume.

It’s the next book in the now long line of great trading card books from Abrams.  It includes four bonus trading cards made exclusively for this edition, and a wax pack-style book jacket like the similar excellent releases Bazooka Joe and His Gang reviewed here at borg.com, Mars Attacks 50th Anniversary Collection reviewed here, and Star Trek: The Original Topps Trading Card Series reviewed here.  Abrams ComicArts and Topps released the first compilation of Star Wars trading cards just last year–Star Wars: The Original Topps Trading Card Series, Volume One, reviewed here at borg.com.  An introduction and commentary throughout Volume Two is provided by Gary Gerani, the original editor of the Star Wars Topps series who worked with Lucasfilm to select the photographs for the sets and wrote the card titles for The Empire Strikes Back series, too.

Yoda Topps card    ESB Topps title 2 card

Gerani recounts reading the script for Empire in advance of the release, and learning the real #1 secret that Lucasfilm was trying to keep under wraps.  And it wasn’t about Luke Skywalker’s parentage or a bounty hunter with little actual screentime.  Hint: It may be related to a certain spectacular new “muppet from space”.

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Star Wars The Original Topps Trading Card Series Volume One

Review by C.J. Bunce

Abrams ComicArts and Topps have released the first compilation ever of the original 1977 and 1978 Topps Star Wars trading cards–Star Wars: The Original Topps Trading Card Series, Volume One.  Reprinted in its entirety are all five series of cards in their original size.  The deluxe edition contains the fronts and reverses of all 330 cards and 55 stickers, including movie facts, story summaries, actor profiles, and puzzle cards featuring scenes from the one and only original Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope.  It seemed like every kid from 5 years old to high schoolers picked up at least a few sets of these back in the 1970s.  In years a galaxy far, far away from VHS tapes, DVDs, or Blu-rays, these cards were a fan’s only window into that world experienced in the theater.  With these trading cards you could refer over and over to key scenes, and use the images as resources to discuss film details with friends.

The book includes four bonus trading cards made exclusively for this edition, and a wax pack-style book jacket like the similar excellent releases Bazooka Joe and His Gang reviewed here at borg.com, Mars Attacks 50th Anniversary Collection reviewed here, and Star Trek: The Original Topps Trading Card Series reviewed here.  An introduction and commentary throughout the volume is provided by Gary Gerani, the original editor of the Star Wars Topps series who worked with Lucasfilm to select the photographs for the sets and wrote the card titles.  An afterword is provided by Robert Conte, discussing the well-known Wonder Bread Star Wars trading cards, also reprinted for the first time in this edition.

Ben with sabre    Kenobi Wonder Bread card

You might recall that Topps recently reintroduced an edition of Topps Star Wars cards in the style of the first edition of trading cards from 1977.  Those cards were released with images from all seven Star Wars films including preview cards for Star Wars: The Force Awakens, discussed here at borg.com.

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Mars Attacks 50th anniversary book

You’ve heard of Mars Attacks, but do you know the origin of Mars Attacks?  A 1950s serial?  A pulp magazine series?  Strangely enough, Mars Attacks was an idea created by Len Brown and Woody Gelman for a 1962 set of 54 Topps trading cards.  Those oversized-brain Martians first conquered Earth with a piece of pink bubble gum, and bridged sci-fi and horror like never before.  One of my favorite areas of collecting as a kid were trading cards, what collectors today categorize as “non-sports trading cards.”  I collected any card that came in a loaf of bread, cards that came on the backs of boxes of cereal, and cards given away at Burger King.

It’s not likely that many people actually got their hands on the 1962 of Topps trading cards, as explained in Mars Attacks 50th Anniversary Collection, the latest in Abrams Comicarts’ series of bubble gum-inspired books including Star Trek: The Original Topps Trading Card Series, and Bazooka Joe and His Gang 60th Anniversary Collection, both reviewed previously here at borg.com.  The original Topps card set was not well-received by parents and teachers because of its graphic depictions of burning bodies, exploding, mutilated, and sliced-up people and animals by the vile Martian invaders.  So the card set had a limited run.  The result is a collectible that would cost you $25,000 in order to acquire a complete card set.  Which makes this new book a great way to see what we missed.

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Creators Brown and Gelman were surprised by the backlash against the cards.  According to Brown, “Our Civil War set was just as gory as Mars Attacks.  I suspect because it was historical, people just felt that kids were learning, so the violence was okay.”  Brown, Gelman, and artist Norm Saunders were told to go back to the drawing board several times even before the series was released, to correct women who were too scantily dressed, and update skeletal remains with some flesh.

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