I've said it before on this here blog thing, but I'm proud to say it again: we live in the Golden Age of comics reprint projects. From the incredible plethora of comic strip series out there now (Peanuts! Dick Tracy! Little Orphan Annie! On Stage! The Heart of Juliet Jones! Buck Rogers! And the coming soon Captain Easy, a revamped Prince Valiant, and Pogo!) to Dark Horse's Creepy and Eerie Archives, there are so many good--nay, GREAT--books out there right now, it makes my poor head swim.
Add to that list the two latest additions to my personal library, Fantagraphics reprinting of the "other" Warren publication from that company's own Golden Age, Blazing Combat, and Titan Books' The Best of Simon and Kirby.
Blazing Combat reprints all 4 issues of the ground-breaking war series published in magazine form in the mid-60s by James Warren. Edited and written almost entirely by the late Archie Goodwin, BC was the first war comics publication to protest the war in Viet Nam. It's stance made it unpopular with distributors and it ended up being held back from distribution, particularly to the military bases which still sold a lot of comics in that age. These are fascinating stories, and like their predecessors, Two-Fisted Tales and Frontline Combat, draw from the entire (sad) history of war. But also like those legendary EC comics, BC was drawn by some of the top talent in comics, and in stunning black and white to boot. Artists such as Joe Orlando, Gene Colan, John Severin, George Evans, Alex Toth, Reed Crandall, Russ Heath and more did some of their finest works for this short-lived (4 issues) publication. This new package from Fantagraphics Books is a handsome hardcover, edited by Gary Groth, with an introduction and interviews with Goodwin and Warren by Michael Catron. And as per usual with a lot of these great books currently on the market, the design work is A+, this time by Adam Grano.
The Best of Simon and Kirby, from Titan Books, is the first in a series of books reprinting the legendary comics pair's work. This is an authorized book, with someone (for once) actually paying the Kirby Estate and Joe Simon for the right to reprint this material. Titan, with editor Steve Saffel and with an intro by Simon himself (still plugging away well into his nineties), and introductory essays for each section by Kirby and comics expert Mark Evanier, this is a sumptuous package, in that large-size 9x12" art book format. You'll want to buy a new coffee table just to put this on. The reproduction is great, and the book is laid-out in a format showcases all the genre's S&K worked in during the Golden Age and up to the Marvel Age of Comics: Science Fiction, Crime, Superheroes, Western, and even Romance. In fact, Joe Simon and Jack Kirby pretty much invented romance comics. Upcoming books in the series include ones devoted to each specific genre, and I don't know that I'd buy them all, but this is an ambitious and well-conceived project, reprinting the work of two men who practically define comics as we know them today.