Pop Culture Gadabout
Wednesday, April 13, 2011
      ( 4/13/2011 06:36:00 AM ) Bill S.  

“MEDDLER, WE HAVE A LAW HERE SOMETHING DIFFERENT FROM WOMAN’S WHIM! The 20th volume in editor Tom Pomplun’s series of “Graphic Classics” collections, Western Classics (Eureka Productions) boasts the appearance of two long-established comics names. Al Feldstein, known for his years as the artist/writer/editor for EC and editorship of Mad magazine, is represented by a lovely color illo accompanying a piece by cowboy poet Arthur Chapman, while Dan Spiegle, who once drew the “Hopalong Cassidy” comic strip, makes a substantial showing with a 16-page adaptation of an early Hoppy short story.

If the presence of these two old pros serves to hint that the contents in the new graphic storytelling collection will be a trace more visually conservative than, say, some of the selections in Gothic Classics, that’s arguably in line with the material being adapted this time. Pomplun and collaborators are tackling some fairly straightforward tales of the American West, after all, not opening up the deranged nightmares of an E.A. Poe. That’s for the next “Graphics Classics” set.

The book opens with a retelling of Zane Grey’s Riders of the Purple Sage, a core genre work that remains the popular western writer’s best-selling book. As adapted by Pomplun and illustrator Cynthia Martin, the piece is a respectful take on this dense western work, though at times the multiple threads from the novel lead to some dialog-heavy pages. Scripter Pomplun downplays one of the novel’s most striking features -- its use of Mormons as story villains -- the theme is still there for those who know to look for it. If Martin’s renderings of the cast and setting may occasionally look a bit too pristine, it’s in keeping with the early 20th century novelist’s style.

A grittier, unshaven take on the genre can be found, surprisingly, in Tim LaSiuta and Dan Spiegle’s Hopalong Cassidy tale. For those who grew up on the clean-cut movie and TV versions of the character, this 1913 Clarence E. Mulford tale is a revelation: the original version of the character was rough-hewn and gimpy legged. Mulford’s “The Holdup” is a simple yarn about Hoppy and friends’ disruption of a train robber, but if the story is pretty basic, Spiegle’s art (which at times brought of memories of Jean Giraud’s magnificent Lieutenant Blueberry comics) is not. Ninety years old, and, damn, can that man draw.

If, to these eyes, these two pieces are the highlights in Western Classics, the rest of the contributions are engaging. Ben Avery and George Sellas’ take on one of Robert E. Howard’s comic westerns is breezily cartoony, in keeping with the original, while Trina Robbins and Arnold Arre’s remake of Gertrude Atherton’s “La Perdida” (as with “Purple Sage,” a tale centering on a young beauty being lusted after by an older man) benefits from a strikingly visualized conflagration finale. David Hontiveros and Reno Maniquis’ version of Bret Harte’s “The Right Eye of the Commander” comes across a bit text-heavy, but Maniquis’ art beautifully captures the story’s western gothic tone.

The book ends on two somewhat forlorn notes: “The Last Thundersong,” by John G. Neihart (adapted by Rod Lott and Ryan Huna Smith), where the author of Black Elk Speaks reflects on spiritual belief and the decimation of Native American culture, and Willa Cather’s “El Dorado” (Rich Rainey and John Findley) which charts the life and death of a Kansas wilderness town as seen by a stranded settler. A far cry from the more spirited genre works of Grey or Howard, but inarguably part of the American western experience. One of the consistent strengths of this series has been editor’s Pomplun’s ability to pull in both familiar and obscure works under each volume’s title theme -- and this entry is no exception. As with last year's Christmas Classics, Pomplun and his collaborators are playing at the top of their game.

(First published on Blogcritics.)


# |

Pop cultural criticism - plus the occasional egocentric socio/political commentary by Bill Sherman (popculturegadabout AT yahoo.com).

On Sale Now!
Measure by Measure:

A Romantic Romp with the Fat and Fabulous
By Rebecca Fox & William Sherman

(Available through Amazon)

Measure by Measure Web Page

Ask for These Fine Cultural Blogs & Journals by Name!

aaronneathery.com News
Aaron Neathery

American Sideshow Blow-Off
Marc Hartzman

Arf Lovers
Craig Yoe

Sean T. Collins

Barbers Blog
Wilson Barbers

The Bastard Machine
Tim Goodman

The Beat
Heidi MacDonald

Kevin Church

Big Fat Blog
Paul McAleer

Big Mouth Types Again
Evan Dorkin

Laura "Tegan" Gjovaag

Blog This, Pal!
Gordon Dymowski

Rod Lott

Cartoon Brew
Amid Amidi & Jerry Beck

Cartoon Web Log!
Daryl Cagle

Clea's Cave
Juana Moore-Overmyer

Collected Editions

The Comics Curmudgeon
Josh Fruhlinger

The Comics Reporter
Tom Spurgeon

Christopher Butcher

Comics Waiting Room
Marc Mason

Comics Worth Reading
Johanna Draper Carlson

a dragon dancing with the Buddha
Ben Varkentine


Electromatic Radio
Matt Appleyard Aaron Neathery


Eye of the Goof
Mr. Bali Hai

Fred Sez
Fred Hembeck

Greenbriar Picture Shows
John McElwee

The Groovy Age of Horror
Curt Purcell

The Hooded Utilitarian
Noah Berlatsky

Hooray for Captain Spaulding
Daniel Frank

The Horn Section

The House Next Door
Matt Zoller Seitz

Howling Curmudgeons
Greg Morrow & Friends

The Hurting
Tim O'Neil

I Am A Child of Television
Brent McKee

I Am NOT the Beastmaster
Marc Singer

In Sequence
Teresa Ortega

Innocent Bystander
Gary Sassaman

Irresponsible Pictures

Jog - The Blog
Joe McCulloch

The Johnny Bacardi Show
David Allen Jones

Dirk Deppey

King's Chronicles
Paul Dini

Let's You And Him Fight
One of the Jones Boys

Mah Two Cents
Tony Collett


Michael's Movie Palace

Nat's TV
Nat Gertler

Ned Sonntag


News from ME
Mark Evanier

No Rock&Roll Fun
Simon B

Omega Channel
Matt Bradshaw

Pen-Elayne on the Web
Elayne Riggs

Peter David

Dorian White

Progressive Ruin
Mike Sterling

Punk Rock Graffiti
Cindy Johnson & Autumn Meredith

Revoltin' Developments
Ken Cuperus

Marc Bernardin

Matt Hinrichs

Self-Styled Siren

Spatula Forum
Nik Dirga

Tales from the Longbox
Chris Mosby


The Third Banana
Aaron Neathery & Friends

Thrilling Days of Yesteryear
Ivan G. Shreve, Jr.

Toner Mishap
B2 et al

Trusty Plinko Stick
Bill Doughty

TV Barn
Aaron Barnhart et al

Unqualified Offerings
Jim Henley

Various And Sundry
Augie De Blieck

Video WatchBlog
Tim Lucas

When Fangirls Attack
Kalinara & Ragnell

X-Ray Spex
Will Pfeifer

Yet Another Comics Blog
Dave Carter

A Brief Political Disclaimer:

If this blog does not discuss a specific political issue or event, it is not because this writer finds said event politically inconvenient to acknowledge - it's simply because he's scatterbrained and irresponsible.

My Token List of Poli-Blogs:

Roy Edroso


Jane Hamsher

James Wolcott

Lance Mannion

The Moderate Voice
Joe Gandelman


Amanda Marcotte & Friends

The Sideshow
Avedon Carol

Skippy, the Bush Kangaroo

Talking Points Memo
Joshua Micah Marshall

This Modern World
Tom Tomorrow

Welcome to Shakesville
Melissa McEwan & Friends

Blogcritics: news and reviews
Site Feed

Powered by Blogger

    follow me on Twitter