Comic Books, Cartoons, Comic Strips

THE FLASH. “Pilot” (Season 1, Episode 1). The CW, 7 October 2014. Grant Gustin (Barry Allen / The Flash), Candice Patton (Iris West), Danielle Panabaker, Rick Cosnett, Carlos Valdes, Tom Cavanagh, Jesse L. Martin, John Wesley Shipp. Based on the character in DC Comics. Developed by Greg Berlanti & Andrew Kreisberg. David Nutter.

   One episode isn’t enough to say, but after watching this first one on DVD, I was more impressed than I expected to be. I enjoyed this one. It was done well, and I will be watching to see what comes next.

   If it devolves into a series of corny supervillains every week, that may end it for me, but at the moment, after stage one, there are a number of interesting plot threads this series has going for it already, and they were all crammed into one 45 minute episode. Amazing.

   To enumerate: The Flash, or rather Barry Allen, is the fastest man alive. As a young forensic crime scene assistant, he obtains this ability through an explosion of a particle accelerator at S.T.A.R. Labs, after awakening from a coma lasting nine months. (Any significance to that?)

   Some background: his father is in prison, having been convicted of killing his mother when he was a small boy. The father (John Wesley Shipp, the previous TV Flash) is innocent. Young Barry grew up with a police detective named Joe West and his daughter Iris. He may be in love with her now, but she now has a secret romance with her father’s partner on the police force.

   The head of S.T.A.R. Labs is in a wheelchair from the accident, but with two assistants he works with Barry, helping to gauge his powers, designing a suitable suit, and so on. Barry is determined to use his powers for good, which is a good thing, because other people affected by the accident have also become metahumans, and they have begun to use their powers in other ways, all bad.

   The special effects are terrific, and the acting on the part of the very young (mid-20s?) actors (or am I just old) is adequate, if not more. I admit the overall ambiance is comicky, but maybe that’s just me. There is a quick scene at the end which suggests that there are other secrets yet to be revealed. Tune in next week! I think I will. (The DVD set already paid for.)

Reviewed by DAVID VINEYARD:          

BLAKE AND MORTIMER: THE ANIMATED SERIES. Ellipse (France), 1997. 26 episodes, consisting of 13 two-part stories. Based on “Blake et Mortimer” created by E.P. Jacobs, with four original stories. Originally appeared in Tintin magazine in serial form.

    “Blake and Mortimer” is among the oldest and best loved comics in Europe, second only to Herge’s “Tintin” in longevity and popularity among adventure strips. Created by E. P. Jacobs, and drawn in the same simplified realistic style as the more famous “Tintin” (in Europe it is pronounced Tonton, and yes, Rin Tin Tin, discovered in WWI France, was originally Rin Ton Ton too) strip, it recounts the adventures of handsome blonde mustachioed Captain Francis Blake of British Intelligence and bearded red haired Scottish Professor Philip Mortimer (“By the arms of clan McGreggor!”), a pair of friends who find themselves battling scientific menaces somewhere between Professor Quatermass and James Bond while globe trotting from modern Egypt to the Middle Ages.

    Unlike Tintin, who debuted in the Thirties iu France, Blake and Mortimer appeared post-war in the bestselling Belgian magazine Tintin, named for Herge’s famous boy reporter. There they rivaled the magazine’s namesake in popular adventures, taking them around the world battling everything from mad scientists to aliens and from time travel to UFO’s.

    It was natural after the success of the animated adventures of Tintin, shown here on HBO, that Dargoud, Tintin’s publisher, would try to replicate the flagship titles success and so an animated series adapting the Blake and Mortimer albums was done with the same style and faithfulness as the Tintin series. If they aren’t quite up to the same quality it is only because Tintin is a work of genius that has managed to entertain children across the world for decades, and good as Jacobs work is, it is not quite in that class — few works of popular fiction are in terms of success or sales.

    Like “Tintin,” these were adapted in English, though as far as I know never shown in the American market, and until they showed up on YouTube unavailable to Region 1 DVD players. (I think one or two were available on VHS if you could find them.) Like “Tintin” they consist of half hour episodes, each album complete in two episodes. Though the books are known and loved around the world, they are still, a bit like “Tintin” itself despite the Spielberg film, not that well known in this country.

    Titles like “The Mystery of the Great Pyramid,” “The Secret of Easter Island,” “The Yellow Mark,” “The Infernal Machine,” and “The Atlantis Enigma” give a fair idea of the material, which tends to be better written and developed in terms of character and plot than the average animated fare thanks to Jacob’s well done albums. The adventures, like “Tintin” before them, are faithful to the look and period of the original, and just about as perfect a translation from printed page to screen as you could ask for.

    Of course it all depends on your tolerance for animated adventure fare, but these are a classy production handsomely adapted and faithful to the entertaining originals in all ways. There are a handful of European animated series around well worth a look, including “Corto Maltese,” based on Hugo Pratt’s work about a Conradian early 20th century adventurer, “Belphegor: the Phantom of the Louvre” (which was originally a novel and source for several movies and television series in France), Henri Verne’s “Bob Moraine” (originally the hero of a series of juvenile novels Moraine has appeared in comics and both live action and two animated series and films), Leo Malet’s private eye “Nestor Burma” (live action films and television series, graphic albums and animation based on the design of Jacques Tardi though whether the series ever aired, I’m not certain), the laconic satiric cowboy “Lucky Luke” (who also appeared in two live action films with Terence Hill, and more recently Oscar winning Jean Dujardin), and “Valerian and Laureline,” an intelligent space opera series based on yet another long running popular comic creation. Not all of them are available in English or subtitled, but “Blake and Mortimer” is well worth the effort.     (*)

    Anyone who enjoyed the HBO “Tintin” episodes should at least check this series out. The same imagination and love of the material that marked those adaptations has been shown here.

(*)    Episodes of all those series mentioned save “Nestor Burma” can be found on YouTube, some in French, but a few in English dubbed versions.

Reviewed by DAVID VINEYARD:          

CORTO MALTESE AND THE GILDED HOUSE OF SAMARKAND. StudioCanal, France, animated film, 2002. Original title: Corto Maltese: La maison dorée de Samarkand. Based on the graphic novel by Hugo Pratt. Richard Berry as Corto Maltese (voice), Patrick Bouchitey as Raspoutine (voice), Catherine Jacob as Marianne (voice). Directors: Richard Danto & Liam Saury.

   Native: Ever since you whites came nothing has gone right for my people.

   Corto Maltese: Every race has its specialty. That’s what we do best.

— “The Ballad of the Salt Sea”

   Hugo Pratt is the Italian comic book industry, one of the most recognized and respected figures in Europe, and increasingly recognized here. He began his career with the super hero, the Ace of Spades and is best known for his long running western, Sgt. Kirk, about a white soldier living with the Indians and for Pyle, a war comic taken from the writings of Ernie Pyle. He is at once the Jack Kirby, Milton Caniff, Alex Raymond, and Harold Foster of the Italian comics.

   Like many comic book artists and writers around the world, his greatest influence was Milton Caniff, his Terry and the Pirates and Steve Canyon. You can see the artistic influence in his drawing style and brushwork, but also in his storytelling techniques, at once cinematic and picaresque. This is truest of his greatest creation, the soldier (or should that be sailor) of fortune and Seven League booted protagonist of his most famous works, Corto Maltese.

   But where Pat Ryan, Steve Canyon, Scorchy Smith, Smilin’ Jack, or even Frank Godwin’s Connie were straight shooting all-American heroes out of Hollywood central casting Corto Maltese is not.

   In Corto Maltese, Pratt combined his interest in history, exotic but realistic locations, and adventure with his mordant humor, deep suspicions about the West and his own country’s Imperial past in colonization (this runs deep in Italian popular literature predating Mussolini’s ambitions, dating at least to Emilio Salagari’s tales of Malay pirate and anti imperialist Sandokan), and a protagonist out of Joseph Conrad as much as Terry and the Pirates. Corto would be more comfortable in the company of Lord Jim, Nostromo, or Conrad’s Captain Marlow than Pat Ryan, Connie, or Flip Cochran, though he would not be misplaced with the Dragon Lady or Burma, or for that matter the Spirit’s Sand Saref and P’Gell. He trips over more femme fatales than Philip Marlowe.

   The closest thing I can find to compare this too would be Alvaro Mutis’s books Maqrol and The Adventures of Maqrol. There is no one in American or European comics or animation quite like Corto Maltese. He gives new meaning to unique.

   The stories take place in the early Twentieth Century between the turn of the century and the 1920‘s encompassing the First World War, the Russo Japanese War, the massacre at Musa Dagh, the Irish troubles and countless other adventures in Southern Europe, Arabia, Africa, Russia, Manchuria, Ireland, and all points exotic, often told in relation to a search for treasure (Alexander’s gold, El Dorado, …).

   Along the way Corto meets historical figures like T. E. Lawrence, Jack London, Mustapha Kemal, Enver Pasha, and his mad friend, Rasputin. Not to mention mysterious women ranging from orphans to seers from witches to murderous actresses to the queen of fairyland — as well as her husband Oberon, Puck, Merlin, and a talking raven. Things can easily get dreamlike and surreal in Corto’s fevered backwaters and he is always meeting mysterious women who don’t seem to be entirely of this world, however earthy their attractions.

   He also runs into a wide range of natives, some good, some noble, some evil, some angry, in short, humans, not stereotypes.

   Tall and dark in a peaked cap with Elvis side burns, and wearing the uniform of a ships captain of the era and with an earring in one ear, Maltese’s adventures are best read in the rich detailed color editions with Pratt’s otherworldly water colors. Not that the black and white isn’t just as startling. The animated series follows the rich water color look of Pratt’s work with extremely effective beauty. It is easily the most beautiful animated series I have ever seen.

   The animated series has so far stayed close to Pratt in style and color scheme, and while the animation is limited, it is also rich and eye catching. I’m not sure I have seen anything quite like it outside of a feature film.

   The Gilded House in Samarkand refers to a Turkish prison in Samarkand where Corto’s friend Rasputin is held. Gilded, because the only escape is through the Golden Dreams of opium enhanced sleep, well, for anyone but Rasp (Corto’s nickname for Rasputin).

   And yes, Corto Maltese is the type of hero whose best friend is Rasputin, the mad monk.

   You should know dreams play a great role in Corto Maltese’s adventures, fevered, drugged, from concussions, mushrooms; the mystery of the series tropical and other exotic locations are always part of the story.

   T. E. Lawrence’s “Beware of those who dream in the daytime, for they will make their dreams come true,” might almost be an epigraph for all of Corto Maltese’s adventures.

   In Samarkand, Corto is in Rhodes on the trail of the lost treasure of Alexander, stolen from Persia and Cyrus the Great. He is already in trouble as the story begins, mistaken for the traitorous Turk Chevet who is part of the Turkish schemes of Kemal and Enver Pasha to re unite Turkey after its collapse following allying itself with Germany in the first war. Not only do the Turks think he is Chevet, so do the Armenians seeking revenge against Chevet and Enver Pasha who was responsible for the Turkish genocide against the Armenians.

   After stealing a map and evading both sides and the police Corto sails east for Samarkand to free his friend Rasputin and seek the treasure, but not before a seeress named Cassandra predicts a curious and enigmatic future for him.

   Along the way he picks up an odd lot including a murderous sexually precocious actress who he rescues from the Turks in Tarsus, and is paid to escort a young Armenian girl. He will have a fevered opium dream he shares with his mad murderous friend Rasputin across great distances, hide out with whirling dervishes, get caught between the Russians and Turks at war in Samarkand, witness the death of Enver Pasha, dance in the streets with Rasputin, and in the cold heights of Kafiristan reach the cave where the treasure allegedly waits haven see the treacherous Chevet fall to the Russians like his master.

   If you get the idea this is not a Saturday morning animated series and Corto Maltese is neither Terry and the Pirates or Indiana Jones, you are right.

   Rasputin (having just escaped death with Corto at the hands of Chevet and Enver Pasha and dancing in the streets of Samarkand): Are we mad?

   Corto: No, just happy, I think.

   At times surreal, fevered, enigmatic, beautiful to look at, poetically written, maddening, and exciting, the Corto Maltese films are unlike any other animated series you have ever seen or likely will ever see. I’m not sure it is for everyone. It certainly isn’t Disney, but it isn’t Ralph Bakshi either. It is intelligent, intriguing, demanding, and enigmatic, like its laconic hero, and you may not be quite ready for animated characters with this much depth or animated stories this complex or ambiguous.

   There are episodes available on YouTube in English — only half hour episodes though. The original Italian episodes offer full stories, or there are French language episodes of complete titles in multiple parts with English subtitles. Unless your Italian is good I recommend the latter, though you might want to dip your toes in with the English language episodes. Among the full serials available are The Gilded House in Samarkand, The Ballad of the Salt Sea, The Celtics, Under the Capricorn Sign, and Corto in Siberia (each runs about eighty minutes total). Whether they are available on DVD or not I don’t know, but they are certainly worth the effort to at least get a taste.

   Saturday morning was never like this.

   For that matter, nothing on American television and few movies were ever like this.

Reviewed by DAVID VINEYARD:         


THE EXTRAORDINARY ADVENTURES OF ADELE BLANC-SEC. 2010. First released in France as Les aventures extraordinaires d’Adèle Blanc-Sec. Louise Bourgon. Mathieu Amalric, Gilles Lellouche, Jean-Paul Rouve, Jacky Necessian, Philip Nahon, Nicolas Giraud, Laure de Clermont. Written and directed by Luc Beeson, based on the comic albums by Jacques Tardi.

   Cartoonist Jacques Tardi is likely best known at this site for his iconic adaptation of Leo Malet’s hardboiled sleuth Nestor Burma to graphic form, but long before that he put pencil to paper to record the adventures of Mam’zelle Adele Blanc-Sec. early 20th century reporter, adventuress, and proto feminist extraordinaire.

   And like the dry white wine she is named for Adele has snap and bite, a tall red haired lovely dreadnought ploughing all before her beneath her wake. She’s a lady on a mission, and nothing and no one will distract her.

   Droll is the best way to describe this charming film which you may compare to The Assassination Bureau and Dinner for Adele (Nick Carter in Prague), two other charming forays in the early 20th century as seen through its popular literature and rose- colored glasses.

   Bear with me as I try to describe the plot, though it is no easy task. In Paris Professor Esperandieu (Jacky Necessian) is experimenting with his power to project his mind when he awakens a pterodactyl in an egg in a museum in Paris. The new born escapes and promptly tries to eat the newly named Foreign Minister, who dies with his showgirl mistress in the Seine when his car is attacked.


   Across town Inspector Caponi (Gilles Lellouche) is assigned to the case of the Minister and the pterodactyl and young scientist Zborowsky (Nicolas Giraud), who has a crush on reporter and author of Le Monstre du Glaces, Adele Blanc-Sec, and his mentor Professor Menard (Phillipe Nahon) have discovered their pterodactyl egg has hatched, a fact they would just as soon not share with Caponi so they put him onto Esperandieu as an expert in the Jurassic era.

   Adele is busy in Egypt where she is stealing the mummy of Rameses II’s physician Patmosis despite double crossing native partners and her ruthless nemesis Professor Dieulveult (Mathieu Amaric). She won’t be deterred though, her sister Agathe needs care only the physician Patmosis can provide, and she is determined to return to Paris with his body where Esperandieu will awaken him to cure Agathe.


   Adele outwits her greedy partners and escapes Dieulveult with the mummy in spectacular manner while piloting his coffin down the Nile.

   Back in Paris as Adele is returning home with Patmosis, the government has summoned big game hunter Saint Hubert (Jean-Paul Rouve) to dispatch the pterodactyl and Esperandieu has been arrested and is about to be executed for his role in the minister’s death.

   Still with me?

   Now Adele has to rescue Esperandieu, awaken Patmosis, and save Agathe, who has a hat pin skewering her head and is in a trance-like state, thanks to a particularly savage return by Adele in a heated tennis game five years earlier.


   While Saint Hubert and a reluctant and hungry Caponi seek the pterodactyl, Zoborowski lures the pterodactyl back to the museum, and a frustrated Adele attempts time after time to help Esperandieu escape.

   One false move or note, and this kind of froth can fall completely apart, but writer director Luc Beeson (The Professional, La Femme Nikita, The Fifth Element among others) keeps it moving like a clockwork and gets more than able support from his flawless cast, including his lead, Louise Bourgon — the image of Tardi’s Adele, if even more formidable.

   And if she can’t rescue Esperandieu any other way she will break him out with the help of the pterodactyl as she rides it across the Paris skyline.


   Even awakening Patmosis turns out to be less than helpful when it turns out he is nuclear physicist and not a physician, but a tour of Rameses II’s mummy and his court is at the Louvre, and the power Esperandieu used to revive Patmosis before he died (he was psychically linked to the pterodactyl who suffered a fatal wound from Saint Hubert) may have awakened Rameses and his court including the physician.

   All she has to do is break into the Louvre with Agathe in a wheelchair and Patmosis re-animated mummy in a bowler hat and suit.

   This clever and playful film walks a fine line between farce and fantastic adventure , by turns dime novel, silent serial, and gentle satire without ever murdering the delicate mood that calls for with a false move or step. Bourgon, in particular, as our heroine manages a fine balance between outspoken modern woman, brilliant adventuress, and vulnerable sister who only wants to atone for her mistake.


   This won’t be for everyone, but if you enjoyed The Assassination Bureau, Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines, The Great Race, or Dinner with Adele, you will likely be delighted by this one.

   And there is one joke, as dry as Adele’s name, that is worth the whole film when the awakened Rameses, admiring the courtyard of the Louvre notes it could use a pyramid.

   Now why didn’t the French think of that?

   The film ends on a perfect note as the lovestruck Zoborowski meets the revived Agathe and finds a new romance, and an exhausted Adele prepares to sail on a well deserved vacation — pursued by Dieulveult’s assassins — as her ship — the Titanic — sails …

   Granted the CGI is a bit rocky here and there though more realistic would likely have ruined the look and character of the film. The special effects aren’t there to take away from the story anyway, but only to enhance it. Whatever else, this film, dedicated to Tardi, is tribute to his talent as artist and storyteller.

   I warn you though, I haven’t done it justice, I don’t think any review could.


DAN SLOTT (writer) and JUAN BOBILLO & MERCELO SOSA (artists) – “Dead Certain.” She-Hulk: Marvel Comics, Number 3, July 2004.

   You may or may not keep up with comic books, but no, they’re not 10 cents any more. (The price of this one is $2.99, but as a back issue, which by the time you read this, as late as it will surely be, I am sure you will be able to find a copy for far less than that.)


   And the vast majority of most comic books run in long continued stories (“arcs”), which means that if you pick one up a random, it will be part two of six, and you won’t have a clue about what’s going on.

   This particular issue, though, is a rarity – a story told all in one issue (but with lots of personal interplay going on, adding to the characterization, but not harmful to the plot to any discernible degree if you skip over it).

   I’ll assume that everyone is familiar, to some degree or another, with The Incredible Hulk – the much longer-running comic book series which was the basis of a television series some years ago and then, much more recently, a semi-disaster of a full treatment movie overladen with special effects.

   This latest version of the She-Hulk book series comic bis but another in Marvel Comics’ long line of efforts to siphon off some of the male Hulk’s popularity by creating a successful female counterpart – and no, I’m not going to get into all of the other attempts.

   Suffice it to say, perhaps that I believe that She-Hulk’s alter ego has always been Jen Walters, who may or may not has always been a top-notch lawyer in her real life, but who has the ability to transform herself into a seven foot tall green-skinned amazonian super-hero. Unlike the Hulk, whose intelligence (and skin color) seems to vary at the whim of the writer at the time, She-Hulk seems to be as intelligent as Jen Walters, but (naturally) much more powerful.


   Um, I seem to have lost some readers who have gone on the next review. If you’re still with me, I’ll speed things up a little, but a little background would seem to be useful in the context of why I’m even telling you about this particular issue.

   After aircraft engineer Bailey Briggs is brutally murdered – by trapping him in a wind tunnel with one of his test engines still running – the chief witness against the defendant at the subsequent trail is – the ghost of Bailey Briggs. I’ll repeat that. His ghost. I believe this may be a first – one for the books, you might say – but if you can say otherwise and prove me wrong, I’d certainly like to know about it.

   An interesting twist is that Jen Walters, working for the defense, does not believe Bailey Briggs’ ghost – and yes, the judge rules that precedent has been established for such a turn of events, at least in the Marvel Universe – but why would a dead man lie?

   With She-Hulk’s assistance in carrying out the investigation, a most satisfactory answer to that question is obtained, and you’ll have to read the story for yourself to discover what it is. Neatly done, it is.

PostScript:   In terms of the artwork, Jen Walters and She-Hulk are drawn more baby-faced in appearance than appeals to me, but in their own stylish way, the pair of artists responsible for this issue (pencils and inks) carry off their half of the story-telling with nearly as much aplomb as the gentleman who wrote the words.

– May 2004

Reviewed by JONATHAN LEWIS:         


J. MICHAEL STRACZYNSKI – The Twilight Zone, Volume 1 #1: The Way Out. Dynamite Entertainment, comic book, 2014. Illustrated by Guiu Vilanova. Colored by Vinicius Andrade. Lettered by Rob Steen. Main cover by Francesco Franvavilla.

   Carol Kramer Serling, widow of the late Rod Serling, remarked in a 1987 interview that, for the legendary creator of The Twilight Zone, “the ultimate obscenity is not caring, not doing something about what you feel, not feeling! Just drawing back and drawing in; becoming narcissistic.” In many ways, that very spirit of refusing to turn away from perceived social injustice animates the narrative in the brilliantly executed first issue of J. Michael Stracyznski’s The Twilight Zone comic book series (2014).

   The tall, muscular, and blonde-haired Trevor Richman wears a suit and tie, works in New York finance, and cheats on his blonde-haired girlfriend, Natalie Kyle, with the dark-haired Sandra. He is about to be indicted for white-collar criminal offenses. Knowing it’s only amount of time before the FBI catches up with him, Richman seeks the services of the mysterious, gray-bearded Martin Wylde, whose firm developed a nanotechnology pill which, if ingested, transforms so completely that they assume complete new identities, complete with new blood type, eye color, and fingerprints.

   Richman takes the pills and transforms into a new man — literally. Thomas Riley (same initials!) has dark hair — similar to Sandra and unlike Natalie. When Richman/Riley goes in for a cleaning appointment, the dentist tells him that his jaw is changing on its own and that he basically appears to have a new dental profile.

   Riley, unlike his former self as Richman, does not wear a tie; instead, he wears jeans. Although, suffice it to say, he didn’t need to take a pill to do either of those things. Riley, it would seem, still has Richman’s personality and memories, leading the reader to believe that the change, dramatic as it was, was merely physical.


   Even a casual reader would notice the strong political subtext in “The Way Out.” Cheating Wall Street bankers, like Richman, are villainous. Wylde’s clients, we learn, are tyrants and dictators, war criminals, torturers, and … “a growing number of people from the financial services industry.”

   And one can almost hear echoes of Serling, known for introducing the theme of racial equality into his work, in Richman/Riley’s response to an African-American, a patron of a coffee shop, who wants white collar criminals in jail: “The legal system doesn’t work the same way for people at the top as it does for — well, for everyone else, for the people with power, for the people who matter…there’s always a way out.”


   Vilanova and Andrade’s visual rendering of the patron’s face, ostensibly reacting to Richman/Riley’s over-the-top statement, is stunning. Still, one wonders whether the characters deliberately refer to the “FEC” and the “Federal Exchange Commission” or whether this was an oversight on the part of the author who should have written “SEC” and “Securities and Exchange Commission” instead. (The FEC is the Federal Election Commission, not really relevant to this story.)

   Unlike far too many comic books appearing on the shelves these days, the first issue of The Twilight Zone is well written, deals with serious subject matter, and contains artwork and coloring that works exceptionally well with the story. There were a couple instances, however, where I had to double check whether I understood correctly which character was which. But those moments were few and far between.

   In conclusion, Stracyznski, who wrote for the 1985 television reboot of The Twilight Zone has written the type of story one could easily imagine appearing the television show bearing its name. A tale, it should be noted, which with a dramatic cliffhanger — one I certainly didn’t see coming. I’m planning on going to the comic book store later this week and purchasing the next few issues in the series. I want to know how it all turns out.


MAX ALLAN COLLINS - A Killing in Comics

MAX ALLAN COLLINS – A Killing in Comics. Berkley, trade paperback, May 2007. Illustrations by Terry Beatty.

   Another of Collins’ historical crime novels, this one is set in New York in 1948 in the world of comic book publishing. As usual, Collins has researched the period and subject (giving particular credit to Gerald Jones’ Men of Tomorrow).

   A number of pioneers in the field are present in disguise, with Superman and his creators Joe Siegel and Jerry Schuster recast as Wonder Guy and Harry Spiegel and Moe Shulman. The narrator is Jack Starr, stepson of Maggie Starr, who’s running Jack’s late father’s newspaper syndicate, distributor of the Wonder Guy strip. When a rival publisher is murdered, Jack conducts an unofficial investigation, with the author vividly evoking the colorful world of the comics and their creators.

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