A year ago I decided to start keeping track of the books I was reading. Since we quit blogging in November 2016, it really freed up time in the evenings for some leisurely reading. And as I got to forming that habit, I found that I'd missed regular reading - and particularly reading comics. Formerly, the comics I read were always blog-oriented. That's not a bad thing - I think our repository of reviews is a real treasure. But we're talking about me consuming 1-2 comics in a week over the 7+ years the BAB was active. However, that commitment had necessitated (at least, that's the story I'm telling) the acquisition of a massive amount of collected editions. At last count I have over 350 books on my shelves. For most of those books, they sat idle since arriving, waiting for a post idea or review to liberate them from their resting place. Once the blog shuttered, I felt able to crack open all of the books I'd amassed. If an evening goes the way I'd like, I'm on the couch or in the recliner with a tpb or hardcover, keeping an eye on some college sports or the Cubs. On a good night, I'll read 2-3 comics. I'd also add that the fact that our sons have been out of the house over the past few years has contributed to my disposable evening time. So you see how it's possible to rip through the amount of material I've read (see below).
Karen long ago said that we live in the golden age of reprints. She's not wrong. Just two weeks ago I finished the Batgirl Bronze Age Omnibus, collecting the character's early appearances in Detective Comics and Batman, up through the Batman Family years. Think about that... A 500-page hardcover devoted to mostly 8-10 page back-up stories, and featuring a C-list character. Karen was right!
You can count the Planet of the Apes B&W magazine strips among material I never expected to read. Thank goodness Boom Studios did what it took to put that mysterious content in my hot little hands. And if you've not seen these archive-like editions, you are missing out. The reproduction is outstanding - heavy stock, the same size as originally published, and wrapped by a sturdy hardcover. I have the first two volumes and intend to buy the next two. And speaking of those "damned, dirty apes", if you're into prose then you might like Tales from the Forbidden Zone. Karen and I both read it, and I can guarantee if we'd still been writing, you'd have seen our thoughts on it. Not every short story was a winner, but more often than not there was a smile and some thoughtful reflection before moving on to the next chapter. One story I'd mention specifically involved Taylor and Nova in a "What if Taylor had survived the nuke at the end of Beneath the Planet of the Apes?" Good stuff.
For our readers who've been with us for a few years, you'll recall that I have done contract work for the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum's education department. After spending 10 days each July in Washington, DC over the past seven summers, I am somewhat melancholy to report that I am not going back this year. However, my interest in the subject remains high, and you can see across my three reading logs that I've continued with my professional development by reading various selections in Holocaust witness and history. Two books I'd highlight to those interested: if you would be inclined to read a rather raw survivor testimony, told within months of liberation, then Five Chimneys is excellent. Certainly, it's a tough read, but very compelling throughout. If you want a concise history of some of the nuances of the event and era, then I heartily recommend Peter Hayes's very accessible Why? Explaining the Holocaust.
I didn't always care for the books I chose. Last summer I decided to give one of Edgar Rice Burroughs' last Tarzan novels a whirl. Tarzan and the Foreign Legion could best be avoided. In addition to Burroughs' formulaic storytelling, the racism that was so prevalent through the World War II era is off putting. I finished it, but can't say I bettered myself for the experience. Richard Wright's Come Together: Lennon & McCartney in the Seventies was OK, but the author's style was a little wonky; often he was repetitive. If he'd said one more time how much the four Beatles loved each other like brothers, I was going to scream. For funnybooks, I really liked the Essential Man-Thing once Gerber quit toying with the Nexus of Reality. I didn't care for that supernatural/occult stuff... which makes me wax hypocritical, as I absolutely loved the DC Comics Classics Library Roots of the Swamp Thing. I also found volume 2 of the Secret Society of Super-Villains disappointing as compared to my childhood memories. But overall, when you look at the almost-70 books on the lists, there were mostly hits among a few misses.
Shoot, why not toss you a good, better, best type of list?
Good: I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed the Aquaman trade "Death of a Prince". Outside of Super Friends, I had zero experience with DC's King of Atlantis. So I was interested at my growing enthusiasm as I waded through these Bronze Age reprints from Arthur Curry's days as a back-up feature in Adventure Comics. Solid art from Mike Grell and Jim Aparo, and a nicely done payoff at the end. Recommended.
Better: Beatles '66 by Steve Turner was wonderful. Turner begins his book in December of 1965, and then charts the careers and lives of the Fab Four month-by-month through December 1966. It's tough to say that the book "centers" on any one thing, as the last world tour, the decision to stop touring, increased drug use, the recording of Revolver, and the appearance of Yoko Ono all conspired to make the year of my birth a landmark era for the Beatles. Great book, and I'd read it again.
Best: I gave no thought to this whatsoever beyond my initial impression. It wasn't even close, or worthy of further consideration. The best thing I've read in the past 12-15 months was the Uncanny X-Men Omnibus, volume 1. The 800+ page heavyweight collects Giant-Size X-Men #1, and X-Men #s 94-131. Also included is the George Perez-drawn X-Men Annual #3. As most of you know, this title just kept picking up steam. Aside from the 2-3 filler issues (the Dreaded Deadline Doom), every issue was pulse pounding and senses shattering. You know what I'm saying!
As to my coming-up reading list, I've already pulled three hardcovers for immediate consumption: Batman Illustrated by Neal Adams, volume 1, Spider-Man Newspaper Strips, volume 1, and The Inhumans Marvel Masterworks, volume 2. Once school's out in a few days, I'll commence to also wading through a large stack of real books -- I need to finish Rep. John Lewis's (D-GA) memoir Walking with the Wind, and then I have a caboodle of additional Civil Rights books already purchased: The Autobiography of Malcolm X, The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr., and Unforgivable Blackness: The Rise and Fall of Jack Johnson. For lighter fare, my son gave me Tim Kurkjian's (ESPN baseball commentator) book, I'm Fascinated by Sacrifice Flies: Inside the Game We All Love and Keith Richards's autobiography, Life.