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The Reading Pile: November 22

It’s a sparse crowd this week, as we head for the holiday season, but here is what your humble bloggers are reading when we’re not baking pies and Googling for stuffing recipes:

Kate: I just picked up the first Kill Shakespeare trade paperback. I’ve been reading the series in a piecemeal fashion as each new issue was released, but I haven’t had a chance to sit down and read the first story arc in one sitting—something I wanted to do before diving into the seventh issue. (For those who haven’t been following the series, a new story line begins with issue seven.) The book looks terrific: the colors really pop off the page, and the appendix includes a bonus story based on Julius Caesar, a nice extra for Shakespeare buffs.

Also on my reading list is Superman vs. Muhammad Ali, a reprint of a 1978 “event” comic in which the Man of Steel teams up with the Heavyweight Champion of the World to beat back an alien invasion. It’s a tremendously silly comic, but one with a fascinating history: according to DC Comics publisher Jenette Kahn, boxing promoter Don King pitched the idea after seeing the media frenzy surrounding Marvel and DC’s historic 1976 collaboration Superman vs. The Amazing Spider-Man: The Battle of the Century. The comic took nearly two years to reach newsstands because of intellectual property issues stemming from the cover design, which featured likenesses of real people: Joe Namath, Raquel Welch, Jimmy Carter, Johnny Carson, the Jackson 5. A few people refused to grant DC permission to use their faces—George C. Scott among them—delaying production and forcing cover revisions. I’d say the wait was worth it, though: the final product turned out to be a big, delicious slice of cheese, filled with goofy yet earnest dialogue, several lengthy boxing matches, and a race of aliens named The Scrubb. My inner ten-year-old enjoyed it immensely, even though I’m not usually interested in Superman. I don’t know how well it will play with actual ten-year-olds, as a big part of the fun is seeing how writer Dennis O’Neil and artist Neal Adams translated Ali’s larger-than-life persona into a comic book character.

Brigid: The Robot City Adventures books look like something I would have read as a kid—the art has a real old-fashioned feel, and so do the stories—but the third and fourth books in the series just came out, and the humor and dialogue are as fresh as the look is nostalgic. The books stand on their own pretty well. The Indestructible Metal Men starts off with the sinking of a ship that is suspiciously like the Titanic, except that this ship has an inventor and his robots on board, and the robots try (unsuccessfully) to hold the ship together. After the ship sinks, one of them wanders aimlessly across the ocean floor until it ends up as a museum piece in Robot City. Sixty years later, another one is lifted from the sea by bad guys who want to take it apart and reverse-engineer it. Murder on the Robot City Express is sort of like Murder on the Orient Express if half the cast were robots (and the sinisterness was toned down to a kid-friendly level). The stories are imaginative and well written, and creator Paul Collicutt has created an interesting and suprisingly varied cast of robots as well as humans to populate his stories.

I know I’m jumping the season a bit with this, but IDW’s The Great Treasury of Christmas Stories, edited by Craig Yoe, was too good to hold off on until after Thanksgiving. The stories are all from the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s and feature such comics stars as Walt Kelly and John Stanley as well as relative unknowns who knew how to craft a cute tale. Most of the stories revolve around Santa rising to the challenge of getting the toys delivered, but the book also includes Classics-style versions of A Christmas Carol and the nativity. Big and colorful and packed with goodies, this book evokes the same delight I used to find when I found comics under the tree.

Brigid Alverson About Brigid Alverson

Brigid Alverson, the editor of the Good Comics for Kids blog, has been reading comics since she was 4. She has an MFA in printmaking and has worked as a book editor and a newspaper reporter; now she is assistant to the mayor of Melrose, Massachusetts. In addition to editing GC4K, she writes about comics and graphic novels at MangaBlog, SLJTeen, Publishers Weekly Comics World, Comic Book Resources, MTV Geek, and Good Brigid is married to a physicist and has two daughters in college, which is why she writes so much. She was a judge for the 2012 Eisner Awards.

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