PS Artbooks, $59.99

Reprinting Charlton’s The Thing #10-17 (Sep 52-Nov 54)

This book languished in my to-read pile for too long a time; I wish I had gotten to it sooner!

Not that the stories are anything to write home about. Charlton didn’t ape any other company’s style (like EC, for example), but they really had no style of their own, either. Charlton is infamous for having the lowest wages in the business, and clearly they were getting stories rejected by other publishers, banged out over a couple of beers or just whatever nonsense floated into the heads of whoever had sunk low enough to work for Charlton. Moments that should be suspenseful aren’t, endings that should be a surprise are obvious, stories that should be paced out for maximum drama drag until the last page where the characters do a data dump to explain what you just read. Awful stuff, really.

And the foreword, like most PS Artbooks forewords, was superfluous to me. Usually the forewords are written by some Brit I’ve never heard of waxing nostalgic about his childhood reading Dandy and Beano, which is about as interesting to me as, I’d guess, me describing my childhood reading Amazing Spider-Man and Green Lantern to some random Brit. This one’s a bit different, but no more useful to me, as it’s a reprint of a Lawrence Watt-Evans article for Comics Buyer’s Guide that I’ve already read. If you’ve never read it, though, you’ll glean some useful info.

The art, on the other hand, had some choice surprises. Issues #10-11 aren’t really worth comment, but with #12 Tony Tallarico and Dick Ayers come on board. Ayers is known for co-creating Ghost Rider (the Western one) and for years of service on Sgt. Fury and His Howling Commandoes, as well as being a mainstay in the Silver Age Marvel bullpen. He’s not quite up to his usual standards here, but the familiarity is comforting. Meanwhile, Tallarico will, here and there, suddenly look like Chic Stone to me. I don’t know why that is, and maybe it only looks that way to me, but I like both artists, so I’m happy.

A third big-name artist joins in that issue, too: Steve Ditko. This must have been the very beginning of his career, years before Spider-Man and Dr. Strange – heck, years before Amazing Adult Fantasy.  And at first it’s no great shakes. But Ditko draws two more stories for issue #13, four for issue #14 and five for issue #15 – and as his output increases you see the artist he would become emerging. Comparing his story in #13 to any story in the all-Ditko #15, you’d think there had been years of practice in between, not months!

And that alone makes this book worthwhile to me. A couple of these stories have already been reprinted in some of the Ditko art books of late, but not all of them, and certainly not bang-bang-bang one after another. That progression really is worth seeing.

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Until I read this I thought for sure Ben Grimm had adventures I'd never heard of :)

Maybe he did. What if rocks weren't the first form the cosmic rays turned him into and he's been other types of monsters before he turned into the orange brick wall we all know and love? The origin in FF#1 was a flashback, so who knows how long he was wandering around mutating before Reed summoned him to fight the Moleman?

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