Saturday, May 28, 2011 page for Steve Ditko Archives v3

Fantagraphics is the publisher for all my books and they've just created a couple of pages on the website related to all my Steve Ditko books. Check out the Steve Ditko Archives series page, which has links to all three of my Ditko books, as well as the new Mysterious Traveler: Steve Ditko Archives v3 page. This is where you'll be able to pre-order the book from Fantagraphics, as well as get access to reviews, videos, and all sorts of other exclusives. You can also join my Steve Ditko Archives Facebook Page for all sorts of content related to the series, and follow me on where I'll update even more minutia about my work on volume 3. I'm off now to organize the Table of Contents. Twitter updates to follow!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Bookgasm reviews of my 3 Ditko books

Yesterday, we cracked the news re: the title and cover image for my next next book ('cause I still have Amazing Mysteries: The Bill Everett Archives v1 on its way in September), Mysterious Traveler: The Steve Ditko Archives v3 that will be coming out in November.

In the meantime, Rod Lott welcomed the news yesterday with his review of my Unexplored Worlds: The Steve Ditko Archives v2. "As always, Fantagraphics’ top-notch presentation makes the publisher the go-to stop for comics preservation."

The review also links to his review of my Strange Suspense: The Steve Ditko Archives v1 - "it’s assembled by Blake Bell, who wrote the terrific Ditko bio 'Strange and Stranger' in 2008" - as well as his review of the aforementioned Ditko biography/art book o' mine, Strange and Stranger: The World of Steve Ditko - "it’s one of the year’s finest nonfiction works on the comics industry."

Remember, you can join my newly-created Steve Ditko Archives Facebook Page for updates on volume 3 in the series, or follow my Twitter feed at @blake_bell.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Steve Ditko Archives v3 cover and title revealed!

What could top the first two volumes of my Steve Ditko Archives series (v1 = Strange Suspense; v2 = Unexplored Worlds)? Volume 3, of course! Preparation has begun in earnest for my next book, due out in November of this year from Fantagraphics, entitled Mysterious Traveler: The Steve Ditko Archives v3 (click on the cover image to your left for a closer look).

Steve Ditko didn't just bring to life the Amazing Spider-Man, Dr. Strange, Mr. A, and the Creeper. His career began almost 10 years before the birth of Spider-Man, and the Steve Ditko Archives series reprints his 1950s work in chronological order for the first time ever.

You can follow updates on the new volume at the newly-created Steve Ditko Archives Facebook Page (with information about the contents and how to order for all the volumes in the series) and you can also follow along on my @blake_bell Twitter Feed.

Mysterious Traveler: The Steve Ditko Archives v3 features over 210 full-color pages of Ditko in his early prime. What makes this volume of The Steve Ditko Archives so noteworthy, and what makes Steve Ditko a giant in the industry, is that he was producing his best work to date, and of his career, at a time when few would have been paying attention.

Picking up where volume two left off, in 1957, the shy Johnstown, Pennsylvanian artist that came to New York City in 1950 (toiling away for three years before he was published) was fully ensconced at Charlton Comics. What makes this volume so special is that meteoric improvement in Ditko’s work as he toils in obscurity for a company that treated their comic books like toilet paper for their more profitable magazine and song books. Such is the irony of one of the great living artists of the 20th century – working with stories churned out for an audience of children, Ditko produced the highest quality material in the industry with no editorial oversight at an amazing pace (all the stories within were produced in 1957 alone).

Another reason this volume ranks as the most superior in the Archives series to date is the inspiration Ditko took from comics related to old radio shows and that had hosts who narrated the tales. Comics like Tales of The Mysterious Traveler and This Magazine is Haunted saw an explosion in Ditko’s ingenuity with manipulating the traditional comic-book page layout. This filtered over to his work on other books like Mysteries of Unexplored Worlds, Out of This World, Strange Suspense Stories, and Unusual Tales marking this third volume as the best example yet of the Steve Ditko that would later craft with Stan Lee at Marvel Comics in the 1960s.

Friday, May 6, 2011

I'll be signing at TCAF on Saturday at 12:30-1:30pm

I'll be doing a signing at the Toronto Comic Arts Festival which runs this Saturday (May 7) and Sunday (May 8) at the Toronto Reference Library (789 Yonge St. - just above Bloor St.). I'll be at the Fantagraphics booth (tables #162-163) from 12:30-1:30pm, so please stop by with your copies of my I Have To Live With This Guy!, Stranger & Stranger: The World of Steve Ditko, Strange Suspense: The Steve Ditko Archives v1Fire & Water (My Bill Everett biography/art book), Unknown Worlds: The Steve Ditko Archives v2 or any other books that I've contributed to for Marvel or DC Comics. Click HERE to read the announcement on the Fantagraphics website, which includes the hours and location of the Fantagraphics  booth. I'll be snagging the new books by Chester Brown and Adrian Tomine for sure.

My Bill Everett book nominated for an Eisner Award

I’ve been so busy working on my next book, Amazing Mysteries: The Bill Everett Archives v1, and beginning work on the third volume of The Steve Ditko Archives that I haven’t even had the time to acknowledge here that my Bill Everett biography/art book from 2010, Fire & Water, received an Eisner Awards nomination for Best Comics-Related Book. The Eisners are the comic-book version of the Oscars/Academy Awards, named after Will Eisner, one of the comics medium pioneers who created The Spirit newspaper strip back in 1940 and is considered the “Godfather of the Graphic Novel”. It’s his seminal book A Contract With God that many point to as the tipping point for a change in the delivery model for sequential art from “floppies” towards the graphic novel format that dominates today.

10 years ago, at the 2001 San Diego Comicon (my first convention outside of Canada), I attended the Eisner Awards and it’s a moment I’ve never forgotten. Why? Well, the event was the culmination of being submersed in the “Comicon Experience” (back when the emphasis on comics was much stronger). My first article had been published at the show (on Steve Ditko in Comic Book Artist) and I had already been “star struck” from meeting many of the artists and writers I had admired for the first time, attending panels, and also buying more comics than I could likely afford. And, a few weeks before on July 4th, I had launched the official (yep, Steve Ditko had sanctioned it) web site for Ditko and his co-publishers to sell their wares on the Internet and get their message out. That attracted some professional ears, leading to my first meeting with my soon-to-be-(co)publisher, Gary Groth (of Fantagraphics), as well as Mike Catron (who had co-founded The Comics Journal with Gary back in the day) who I helped with some filming of the various panels.

But it was at the Eisner Awards where I sat and watched Jill Thompson win everything and she ran up to the stage effervescently to great cheering and I thought to myself, “I’d give my teeth to be a part of this industry.” Dave Sim’s “you’ve got 2000 bad pages in you, so get them out first” words rang in my ears, so I knew my entry into the industry likely wasn’t going to come producing comic books but instead through the documentation of their history and in showcasing the careers of the creators within.

At that ceremony, the sense of appreciation for the effort and sheer force of will and determination that it takes to produce quality work in the comic-book medium was palpable. I grew up having such an appreciation for the medium and those who toiled in it that, on this night, that feeling of wanting to be a part of the industry was probably what remains as the most salient emotion from my Comicon Experience.

That night would also launch my book-writing career. Mike Catron grabbed me after the Eisners was over and introduced me around to every luminary he knew and, as I watched the patient spouses of these creators tell their tall tales, I came up with the idea for my first book, I Have To Live With This Guy! (thinking that these women must know the real story of these creators who work in such solitary confines) and sold it to TwoMorrows the next morning. Thirteen months later, I was holding a volume in my hands featuring in-depth interviews with Will and Ann Eisner, as well as Stan and Joanie Lee, Alan Moore and Melinda Gebbie, Howard Cruse and Ed Sebarbaum, and on the list went on.

So, to see a book on Bill Everett receive recognition at the Eisners is a satisfying signpost in my journey as a writer in this industry. Everett passed away before I was even three years old, but I hope his family – who were instrumental in making the book more than just a nice picture book – appreciate the recognition too.

Click HERE to see the full list of Eisner 2011 nominees. The Awards are held in conjunction with the San Diego Comicon this July (the awards show itself on Fri Jul 22). The other nominees are a daunting group:
  • Doonesbury and the Art of G. B. Trudeau, by Brian Walker (Yale University Press)
  • Fire and Water: Bill Everett, the Sub-Mariner, and the Birth of Marvel Comics, by Blake Bell (Fantagraphics)
  • The Oddly Compelling Art of Denis Kitchen, by Denis Kitchen and Charles Brownstein, edited by John Lind and Diana Schutz (Dark Horse Books)
  • Shazam! The Golden Age of the World's Mightiest Mortal, by Chip Kidd and Geoff Spear (Abrams Comicarts)
  • 75 Years of DC Comics: The Art of Modern Mythmaking, by Paul Levitz (TASCHEN)
Thank you to the Eisners nominating committee, to Fantagraphics for publishing the book, and to the Everett family for all they offered to make it a worthy work.