Book Review: ‘The Joy of Joe: Memories of America’s Movable Fighting Man from Today’s Grown-Up Kids’

This pretty short book is a collection of a few dozen essays written by some fairly notable people, about their childhood love of G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero.

Some essays are about the old ’60s toys but most are about the ’80s version of G.I. Joe and all of it’s forms: toys, comics and the cartoon.

Fabian Nicieza even contributed to the book, which was cool as I’ve been a big fan of his comic book writing since the early ’90s.

This obviously won’t mean much to non-G.I. Joe fans but for those of us who have a love of the franchise, it was really nice reading about how passionate these writers are about the toyline and everything that came with it.

In the end, it’s just nice being reminded from time to time that you’re not alone in your love of something that feels long gone, that will probably never be the same, even after several attempts at resurrection.

Rating: 6.5/10

Book Review: ‘The Legion of Regrettable Supervillains: Oddball Criminals from Comic Book History’ by Jon Morris

I wanted something lighthearted and fun to read in regards to comic book history. Well, this was exactly that.

This is a good collection of info on a lot of the lowest tier villains throughout comic book history. This goes all the way back to the golden age and works forward through time.

This was a nice, amusing read with a lot of entries featuring dozens of weird baddies. However, my only real complaint is that I wish it had more info on a lot of these characters.

Granted, I understand that many of these were one-off, failed villains, but as you get to the more modern ones, several villains there have had longer, richer histories and it would’ve been cool to have seen more on that.

This isn’t a must own, as almost all of this info exists for free online and these chapters read more like quick Wikipedia articles but for just a few bucks on Kindle, I certainly felt like I got my money’s worth.

There are also other installments that focus on lame heroes and goofy sidekicks.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: the other books in this series. There’s one about heroes and one about sidekicks.

Book Review: ‘Opening Wednesday at a Theater or Drive-In Near You: The Shadow Cinema of the American ’70s’ by Charles Taylor

What I love about books like this, is that it doesn’t matter how far I’ve gone down the rabbit hole of film history, I always learn about something new that I’ve never seen or heard of. This solid book about ’70s non-mainstream cinema provided me with a lot of cool motion pictures worth checking out.

Additionally, this was well written and not a single page was wasted.

Charles Taylor has a real passion for this stuff and it shows. He delves deep into all the movies he chose to talk about and gives the story behind their creation a lot of depth and context.

The end result is that he sells these pictures to you and makes you want to see them. That is, assuming you’re into these types of films but if you’ve gone out and bought this book, why wouldn’t you be?

Point being, Taylor really did his homework and he accomplished what he set out to do with this book, which is to get those reading it to have a passion for checking out these movies.

This was a really cool read and I’m glad that I checked it out. I kind of hope there is a second volume, at some point, as there are so many worthwhile films from this era that need a broader spotlight and should be on other film lovers’ radar.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: any of Joe Bob Briggs’ books about movies, as well as Celluloid Mavericks and Sleazoid Express.

Book Review: ‘Ebert’s Essentials: 27 Movies From the Dark Side’ by Roger Ebert

It’s been awhile since I’ve read anything by Roger Ebert but growing up in the ’80s, he was my favorite critic, right alongside Gene Siskel, who co-hosted Siskel & Ebert with him.

I recently bought an Amazon Fire Tablet, so while I was perusing the books they have on movies, I came across this title, which is Ebert discussing 27 of his favorite noir pictures, whether they be classic film-noir, more modern neo-noir or other pictures that were strongly influenced by the noir style.

Ultimately, this was a heck of a fun read. I love Ebert’s way with words and how he is able to describe a film, as well as the ins and outs of its development and overall execution.

Ebert loved movies and its incredibly apparent when reading books like this, which focuses on a specific style of film and its cultural impact on the film medium as a whole. But his passion really comes through and he’s a fabulous guide.

With this book, he goes through each of the 27 films featured with a fine tooth comb. He also presented me with several I didn’t know about or hadn’t seen, especially in regards to his foreign film selections that fit the noir template.

Film-noiristas should really dig this book, as should fans of Roger Ebert.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: any of Roger Ebert’s other books, especially his Essentials series.

Book Review: ‘Watchmen and Philosophy: A Rorschach Test’ Edited by Mark D. White

There are philosophy books for just about every major pop culture franchise or major property out there. I do really like reading them though, as it gives some interesting insight and depth to characters and story. Sometimes these sort of books are filled with a lot of drivel but that doesn’t mean that they’re not entertaining in their own way.

This one seemed low on drivel and really got to the core of a lot of the characters within the Watchmen story. What makes this really interesting, is that the Watchmen universe has expanded since this book came out. We now have prequel comics, sequel comics, a movie, an upcoming television show and probably new stories with these character for years to come.

What makes this cool is that there’s a lot of good analysis in the book that can be applied to the characters when observed in these new stories and through different mediums.

I wouldn’t call this book a “must own” or anything but I’ve always enjoyed philosophy and I certainly love Watchmen.

This is just one of dozens (maybe hundreds) of books like this but it is well organized, well edited and none of it seemed like filler.

I found this to be easy to digest and an enjoyable read.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: other books about philosophy and pop culture franchises, as well as the original Watchmen comic.

Book Review: ‘Comic Wars: How Two Tycoons Battled Over the Marvel Comics Empire–And Both Lost’ by Dan Raviv

Comic Wars was a pretty interesting read, as I’ve always liked books about business and corporate histories. What made it even more interesting was that it covered a really dark time in the history of Marvel Comics.

The gist of this tale is told around Marvel Entertainment’s bankruptcy near the turn of the century. It goes through all of the steps, bad business decisions and market changes that led to shit figuratively hitting the fan at the “House of Ideas”.

Being that I was a huge fan of Marvel’s toyline done by Toy Biz, I found all that stuff really interesting. Also, this was cool to read because when Marvel really started to suffer, I was actually at a place in my life where I wasn’t reading comics very often and I had no idea that the industry, as a whole, was struggling. As far as I knew, everything was still booming and it wasn’t until a few years later when Marvel started selling off the film rights of their flagship characters that I saw the writing on the wall.

This book is thorough, captivating and damn informative.

This would actually be a great documentary if someone decided to adapt this true tale into a film with interviews featuring all the key players in the story.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: other books about the comic industry from the last few decades.

Book Review: ‘Excelsior!: The Amazing Life of Stan Lee’ by Stan Lee and George Mair

With Stan Lee passing away recently, I wanted to finally read his autobiography, as I’ve had it for quite some time.

Overall, this was a good and informative read. The highlight is reading Stan’s stories, told in his own words.

The only real negative about this book is that it had a co-writer. While that’s okay and most autobiographies have co-writers, I didn’t like the style in which it was done.

There would be long sections written by Stan, himself, and then long sections spliced in by the other writer, George Mair, in an effort to add more context. I certainly appreciate the extra clarity but it made this a disjointed read.

When I read Don Cherry’s biography, I loved that it was Don Cherry speaking to me as Don Cherry. It was tightened up or edited to come off as cleaner and more academic, it felt as if the entire book was the man talking to me. I heard Cherry’s voice in my head, which made it a really fun experience. I had that same experience here, as I read Stan’s words, but it was always broken up.

I don’t want to sound like I’m hating on the book, as it is a must read for fans of Stan. It is his life’s story, it covers a lot of ground but I feel like it could have been presented better.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: other comic industry biographies but most notably, “Kirby: King of Comics” by Mark Evanier.