Markley’s Fevered Brain: Hardcovers are Heavy


Wayne Markley

Wayne Markley


by Wayne Markley

With this blog I am going to review four hardcover books, two of which make a good weapon as they are so heavy and large. What all four of these books have in common is they are historical in nature although all of them are filled with comic book stories or art as well as text pieces on the history of the subject or about the creator. Three of the books are about specific artists, all of whom I love, even though their styles are 180 degrees apart. The fourth book is the first in a new series of books by the comic historian Craig Yoe. All four of these books are well worth their price and I would gladly give any of them to any comics fan as a gift as even if they are not a fan of the creators or of Marvel. These books are so good they would enthrall any comic fan.

First off we have two books by the master of the absurd, Basil Wolverton. I first discovered Basil Wolverton in the early 1970s in a DC Comic called Plop. (Well worth trying to find if you are a comic fan, Plop was filled with art by Wally Wood, Berni Wrightson and many others and the first twenty issues or so had Wolverton covers). I am so glad that now, many years later, I am able to go back and learn about his early years and see the early work by Wolverton, who was so unique in comic book history.

Brain Bats of Venus: Life and Comics of Basil Wolverton

Brain Bats of Venus: Life and Comics of Basil Wolverton


Brain Bats of Venus: Life and Comics of Basil Wolverton is volume two (1942-1952) of Greg Sadowski biography of the amazingly unique and talented Basil Wolverton. As with the first volume, this is a full color hardcover that has over 400 pages of text and stories. This is not just a prose biography as it is packed with illustrations and complete stories by Wolverton. In addition to all of the art there are numerous letters between Wolverton and his editors, excerpts from his personal diaries, and so much work that has never before been published. These correspondences between Wolverton and his editors show what an interesting process it is between the creative and the commercial (editors trying to get a certain type of story or guide the creative in a certain direction). While Wolverton’s art style was fairly unique and likely not for everyone, as it is the polar opposite from Roy Krenkel’s work below, but to me it is just as interesting in a different way. What Wolverton has in common with Krenkel is his amazing ability to draw a world, or even a character, that seems perfect for the environment it is placed in. While Krenkel’s illustrations favor a realistic bent, Wolverton is almost 100% opposite as he often goes towards the surreal and absurd. I really enjoy these books because not only do I get to see all sorts of classic Wolverton illustrations I have never seen (material other than his two most famous creations, Spacehawk and Powerhouse Pepper), but I also get all sorts of insight into his relationship with his editors and publishers which I always find fascinating. Overall this book is just as good, if not better than, the first volume as by this point Wolverton has found his groove and his work is just amazing. As with all of the books in this blog it is a must have.

Creeping Death From Neptune: Life and Comics of Basil Wolverton

Creeping Death From Neptune: Life and Comics of Basil Wolverton


Creeping Death From Neptune: Life and Comics of Basil Wolverton is the first volume in Greg Sadowski’s biography of Basil Wolverton. This book covers his works from the earliest days through 1941. As with the second volume, this book is a seamless mix of biography with art, complete stories, and various items from the Wolverton’s effects, including writings, letters, doodles and so much more. While not as polished all of the stories here are pure Wolverton (and there are very few like him, perhaps Jim Woodring is the closest?). At almost 300 pages this volume is smaller than volume two but it is just as beautiful and informative. A color oversized hardcover book also from Fantagraphics.

Roy G. Krenkel: Father of Heroic Fantasy - A Centennial Celebration

Roy G. Krenkel: Father of Heroic Fantasy – A Centennial Celebration


Roy G. Krenkel: Father of Heroic Fantasy – A Centennial Celebration. Roy Krenkel may be the greatest artist that most of you have never heard of. He was a master illustrator and a major influence on Frank Frazetta, Al Williamson, Mike Kaluta, Jeff Jones, Wally Wood, and so many others. Krenkel did not do a huge amount of comics, and the ones he’s most famous for were for EC Comics. He was not as famous as many of his followers as he did not like to do a story by himself and often did art in conjunction with other artists, and then often did the backgrounds and not the main figures. This is a shame as his own illustrations are amazing. This book is a true showcase as to how talented Krenkel was as it features over 300 pages of amazing illustrations, everything from paperback book covers (which he was most famous for, particularly his covers to the Ace Edgar Rice Burroughs paperbacks) to a variety of short stories in comics for such titles as Marvel Tales, Adventures to the Unknown, and Forbidden Worlds (and post EC he did some work for Warren Publishing). Since he never did an ongoing character he never got the attention that most creators got, except among his artistic peers. Krenkel was trained under Burne Hogarth but his work more closely resembles his influences Franklin Booth and J. Allen St John. His work ranges from his classic images of Tarzan to some stunning alien landscapes. Then there is his figure drawing….wow. This book offers a wide selection of all of his drawings focusing on a work that has never before been published. I have been a huge fan of his work since I first discovered the Ace Tarzan books and I thought I had seen most of his work, but this book proved me wrong as there is so much I have never seen, but it did remind me what an amazing talent he was. Plus this book is 9.4” x 13.3”, a very large format that allows plenty of room to show the beauty of Krenkel’s work. This book belongs in the collection of any fan of classic art. From IDW.

Marvel Masterwork: Pin-Ups HC

Marvel Masterwork: Pin-Ups HC


Marvel Masterwork Pin-Ups HC is the first book of a line of books from Craig Yoe for IDW Publishing featuring various aspects of Marvel Comics history, under a license from Marvel. This first volume is a true classic as it collects all (I think) of the Mighty Marvel Pin-Ups that were so prevalent in Marvel Comics in the 1960s, and predominately in the Annuals. Plus there are pin-ups from later periods, with John Byrne’s homages to the ‘60s pin-ups standing out. These pin-ups were one page images, generally by the regular artist of the character, with some snappy quote by Stan Lee. These were in the vein of the Hollywood 8 x 10 glossy photos that were so popular through the ‘70s. (And I suspect the idea was taken from Archie Comics who had been doing this pin-up concept for years). These are all 9” x 12” and are in full color. In some cases they have reproduced the original black and white side by side with the color printed versions from the original books. These pin ups range from the traditional Fantastic Four group shot to the semi-bios of villains that appeared in the pages of the early Fantastic Four, Avengers, Daredevil, Spider-Man and other annuals. Within these 120 pages you will find art by Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, Wally Wood, Bill Everett, Barry Windsor-Smith, Gene Colan, John Byrne, Steranko and many others. As a kid these pin-ups were often the favorite part of the comics and to have all of them in one place in such a nice package it a real treat. A must for any longtime Marvel fan, or any comic fan for that matter!

That is it for this time. Four amazing books that make perfect holiday gifts for any comic book or art fan. Two from Fantagraphics and two from IDW. These books would also be perfect for any comic book historian. While the two Wolverton books are worlds apart from the Krenkel collection and the Marvel Pin-Ups, they are just as entertaining and, as I would with all four books, I would highly recommend them all.

I would love to hear your feedback about these books. Or any other books you have read and really enjoyed, be they like these four or even just your monthly reading. I can be reached at MFBWAY@AOL.COM or on Facebook at Wayne Markley. All of the words and thoughts here are mine and do not reflect the thoughts or opinions of Westfield Comics or their employees. As always…

Thank you.