I’m afraid I won’t be doing my usual in-depth, over-intellectual funnybook reviews this week. Why? Well, for one thing, I’m on vacation, and just don’t have the discipline required to do all that. But for another… Sometimes it’s nice to just look at something pretty. And luckily, as it happens, I’ve recently come into possession of two books that fit the bill.
First up is a Spirit pop-up book.
This was apparently released five or six years ago, but I didn’t know it existed til recently. It’s out of print, near as I can tell, but thankfully we live in an age when such things are easily attainable via the interwebs. So I got my hands on one, and it’s really cool.
The Spirit (if there’s anyone reading this who doesn’t know) is the creation of Will Eisner, one of the most influential cartoonists in funnybook history. The strip ran not in a regular comic book, but in newspapers as a separate comic book supplement to the Sunday funnies. As the cover above may indicate, it was an atmospheric noir detective strip, famed for gripping drama and inventive, multi-layered page layouts. It’s those layouts that made me want to get a copy of this, and they translate well to pop-up book form:
NEAT. The book is an adaptation of one of the Spirit 8-pagers from the 1940s, featuring the first appearance of Sand Serif, femme fatale and Our Hero’s childhood sweetheart. The story unfolds (no pun intended) across multiple large pop-ups like the one above, and in smaller separate booklets and flaps arrayed around the pages. The translation of Eisner’s original flat pictures into 3-D is nicely-done. Here, for instance, is the above image as it looked in the original comic:
Wonderfully gruesome, and (though it’s a bit hard to see in my photograph) faithfully reproduced, floating corpse and all. The story’s a little complex, though, and the pop-up spreads don’t always make it entirely clear how they’re supposed to be read. That’s the case here:
You’re supposed to read across the top, pull the tab on the upper right, then come down to the flap on the bottom left, open it, move to the stairs, go to the flap on the right, open it, and wind up with the panels in the bottom right-hand corner. But when that staircase comes popping out into your face, it kind of steals the show, and proper eye flow is pretty much a lost cause.
But HOLY CRAP A STAIRCASE JUST UNFOLDED RIGHT INTO MY FREAKING FACE! And the pull tab shifted an image so that it flowed directly into another, connected image! And both the lower flaps had pop-up sections of their own! It’s so much fun that I don’t really care if it’s a little hard to follow. It’s pretty to look at, something worth owning just because it’s cool. All other considerations are secondary.
But I said I wasn’t going to do much reviewing. So here’s a couple more spreads for you to gawk at, without my annoying commentary getting in the way. I had some trouble getting these to photograph well, however, so I shamelessly stole these from other places around the web. Places that were smart enough to buy this thing when it came out. And also smart enough to edit their couches and coffee tables out of the pictures…
The other pretty thing I bought recently won’t be officially released until tomorrow. But I was given the opportunity to take a sneak peek at my copy for review purposes.
It’s the new Artist’s Edition of Jack Kirby’s Mister Miracle, reproducing the original art for issues 2-9 of the series at the size Kirby drew them. I hadn’t intended to buy this book, honestly. I like the Artist’s Editions, but there’s two problems with them: they’re crazy expensive, and they’re freaking huge. I have the Wally Wood book they did a few years back, and it’s also a thing of beauty. Something worth putting on display as an objet d’art in my home. But doing that takes up three-quarters of a book shelf, when I’m constantly fighting for shelf space (my library is, as you might guess, a bit overstuffed).
This one, though… Sigh. I just couldn’t pass it up. First of all, as you can kind of see from the cover, the whole book is designed to look like old circus posters. That’s even more apparent on the back cover…
…with its printed-on flaking and creases. If and when I put this thing on display, that’s the side I’ll be turning out for people to look at. The circus poster motif continues more obviously inside, though, on the title page…
Those look pretty great on the screen, but now imagine them reproduced at 12×17. Guh! That two-page spread is two feet across! Your eyes can’t even quite take it all in. Great googly-moogly that’s fun to look at. They’ve done cover mock-ups for each issue in this poster-art style, as well, I assume because they couldn’t get the original art for the actual covers. Which is a trifle disappointing, but if you’re going to be missing something that important, at least they did something cool to replace them.
But the real focus here is the art itself, Kirby’s original boards reproduced at full size. When I was looking at it, trying to decide if I was going to buy the thing, I thought the individual pages were nice…
…but it was the two-page spreads that really sold me.
Again, that’s TWO FEET ACROSS, with every detail of all that weird-ass Kirby machinery blown up all in your face and stuff. And that’s not even my favorite spread. It’s just the only one I could find on-line. Because the book itself is far too big for my scanner, and (as you can see above), my camera doesn’t take the greatest pictures.
One final note, and I’ll go. When I was flipping through this thing down at the funnybook store today, a buddy of mine who was looking over my shoulder pointed out something interesting: other than a few proofreader’s marks in blue pencil, these pages have very few production notes on them. That’s a marked change from Kirby’s Sixties pages, where he would make story, lettering, and inking notes, and sometimes even suggest dialogue. The difference in these Seventies pages can, however, be explained by the credit box:
There’s just two guys involved in the production of this whole comic. Well… Two guys, and Mark Evanier serving as proofreader. But, still. Kirby had tight control over these comics, and when you’re doing it all yourself… there’s no need to make notes.