Let’s take a quick look to see what’s arrived in the mail here at the Geek Compound.
The Beats: A Graphic History by Harvey Pekar, et al (writer) and Ed Piskor, et al (artist)
In The Beats: A Graphic History, those who were mad to live have come back to life through artwork as vibrant as the Beat movement itself. Told by the comic legend Harvey Pekar, his frequent artistic collaborator Ed Piskor, and a range of artists and writers, including the feminist comic creator Trina Robbins and the Mad magazine artist Peter Kuper, The Beats takes us on a wild tour of a generation that, in the face of mainstream American conformity and conservatism, became known for its determined uprootedness, aggressive addictions, and startling creativity and experimentation. What began among a small circle of friends in New York and San Francisco during the late 1940s and early 1950s laid the groundwork for a literary explosion, and this striking anthology captures the storied era in all its incarnations—from the Benzedrine-fueled antics of Kerouac, Ginsberg, and Burroughs to the painting sessions of Jay DeFeo’s disheveled studio, from the jazz hipsters to the beatnik chicks, from Chicago’s College of Complexes to San Francisco’s famed City Lights bookstore. Snapshots of lesser-known poets and writers sit alongside frank and compelling looks at the Beats’ most recognizable faces. What emerges is a brilliant collage of—and tribute to—a generation, in a form and style that is as original as its subject.
The Good Humor Man by Andrew Fox
A witty tribute to Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, this surreal, futuristic narrative explores the highly topical relationships between obesity, government health care, pop culture, and body image. In a world where chocolate is worth more than cocaine on the black market, government-sanctioned vigilantes known as Good Humor Men patrol the streets, seeking to immolate all fattening food products as illegal contraband and summarily cancel the health insurance of any offenders. An evil nutraceutical company controls the food market with products engineered to keep the population painfully thin, while a mysterious wasting plague threatens to starve humanity. An ex-plastic surgeon whose father performed a secret liposuction surgery on Elvis Presley may hold the key to humanity’s future. Incorporating a colorful cast of characters—a civil servant with questionable motives, an acquisitive assassin, a power-mad preacher evangelizing anorexia, a beautiful young woman addicted to liposuction, and a homicidal clone from an experiment gone terribly awry—this satirical romp asks the question Can Elvis save the world 64 years after his death?
Blazing Combat by Archie Goodwin & various artists
Written by Archie Goodwin and drawn by such luminaries as Frank Frazetta, Wally Wood, John Severin, Alex Toth, Al Williamson, Russ Heath, Reed Crandall, and Gene Colan, Blazing Combat was originally published by independent comics publisher James Warren in 1965 and ’66. Following in the tradition of Harvey Kurtzman’s Two-Fisted Tales and Frontline Combat, Goodwin’s stories reflected the human realities and personal costs of war rather than exploiting the clichés of the traditional men’s adventure genre. They were among the best comics stories about war ever published.
Blazing Combat ended after its fourth issue when military post exchanges refused to sell the title due to their perception that it was an anti-war comic. Their hostility was fueled by the depiction of the then-current Vietnam War, especially a story entitled “Landscape,” which follows the thoughts of a simple Vietnamese peasant rice-farmer who pays the ultimate price simply for living where he does — and which was considered anti-war agitprop by the more hawkish members of the business community.
Writer Archie Goodwin and the original publisher James Warren discuss the death of Blazing Combat and market censorship as well as the creative gestation of the series in exclusive interviews.