No prizes for guessing the theme that leapt (faster than a speeding bullet) off the new books shelf this week!  The rise of the graphic novel continues apace, but it’s good to look back at its forbears to see how resilient the comic book format has been over the last century, and how vibrant it remains today.

Superman archives volume one:  Jerry Siegel & Joe Shuster

DC Comics Inc., 1989

DC Comics Inc., 1989

I have to admit, old “Supes” is my favourite classic superhero, an essentially decent character just trying to do the right thing. But here in his initial appearances it’s really interesting to see how his two creators first envisaged him as a somewhat tougher character, never happier than when he’s bouncing a neighbourhood thug off a wall.

Prince Valiant by Harold Foster

Fantagraphics, 2009

Fantagraphics, 2009

Hal Foster was one of the most respected and loved illustrators of his day and his most famous creation, the newspaper-strip Prince Valiant, remains breathtakingly beautiful. Fantagraphic Books in Seattle are doing us all a favour with these large format reprints. And speaking of Prince Valiant, have you seen the 1954 movie with Robert Wagner? I just don’t understand why pageboy haircuts ever went out of fashion!

Robert Wagner

 Robert Wagner

Queer visitors from the marvelous land of Oz : the complete comic strip saga 1904-1905, featuring the complete Scarecrow & the Tinman by W.W. Denslow, and many other comic delights: edited by Peter Maresca

Sunday Press, 2009

Sunday Press, 2009

Going back even further are these charming newspaper-strip evocations of the wonderful world of L.Frank Baum’s Land of Oz; definitely pre-Judy Garland!

Encyclopedia of comic books and graphic novels edited by M. Keith Booker

Greenwood, 2010

Greenwood, 2010

I think that I must be a librarian, because I love encyclopedias like this.

All-star Superman written by Grant Morrison ; pencilled by Frank Quitely

DC Comics, 2007

DC Comics, 2007

Back to where we started, a fine example of how even the most classic comic book characters are being constantly revived and reimagined by new writers and artists. The artwork here by Scottish illustrator Frank Quitely is too lovely for words, and with writer Grant Morrison’s epic story arc, a comic book becomes a graphic novel. Go figure!

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