Monday, July 09, 2007

Rarebit Dreams Do Come True...
Heeeeeeeeeeey, It's Monday!

If you missed my weekend posts, check 'em out -- my complete DVD review of Warner's new Camp Cult Classics Volume 1, with particular attention to The Giant Behemoth, is now complete and online, below -- Friday, Saturday and Sunday. You looking to piss away some office time and learn about stop-motion dino and monster movies, Willis O'Brien and Ray Harryhausen, The Beast and The Behemoth, look no further! The long overdue Part Two of my dino comic essay on "The War That Time Forgot" is coming up next week.

Speaking of beloved Ray Harryhausen movies of my youth,
  • Tim Lucas at Video Watchblog just posted the sad news of Kerwin Mathews -- Sinbad himself, Jack the Giant Killer, Hammer Films vet (The Pirates of Blood River, Maniac) and so much more -- passing away on July 5th at age 81.

  • Fred Saberhagen, author of the Berserker stories and novels, also passed away last week; I'll be writing about his work, and my odd career twist related to those novels, at a later date.

  • I'd also like to bring this remarkable July 3rd MSNBC Keith Olbermann commentary to your attention, if you missed it (or the link on my Saturday post).
  • It's going to be a hot week in Washington, and I intended to blather about that at some point this week, but I'll spare you that potential Monday rant -- click this link, and keep your eyes and ears open this week.

  • Instead, I've another amazing limited edition comics volume to bring to your attention, then I'm off to work.

    It's the year for remarkable self-published books: if you want it done right, sometimes you just have to do everything yourself.

    I've been touting the soon-to-ship Mario Bava biography and overview Mario Bava: All the Colors of the Dark by my longtime friend Tim Lucas for over a year now, and will be writing more about that as soon as my copies arrive, which will be soon.

    As I've mentioned before, Tim and I first met via our mutual love for Bava's films, when I wrote to him care of Fangoria upon publication of his article on Bava for that venerable newsstand horror zine. Many years later, Tim has at last self-published his definitive Bava biography, and I couldn't be happier for him!

  • Tim and Donna just posted video of their opening the first box of copies -- the first two copies, ever -- here, at their Bava book blog, where you can also find out all you need to know, savor preview pages, and place your order.

  • My hearty congrats to Tim and Donna, and I can't wait to hold that tome on my own lap and savor it!

    (Also -- cherished amigo G. Michael Dobbs -- Mike Dobbs, aka 'Dobbster' to those who fear him -- has his new book coming up, too, which I'll write more about here soon; it's not self-published, but it's likewise eagerly anticipated.

    Escape! How Animation Broke into the Mainstream in the 1990s will be out later this summer from BearManor Media, collecting the best of Mike's excellent animation articles from Animato! and Mike's own self-published zine Animation Planet, including interviews with voice actors, animators, etc., all revised and updated.

    The book sports a corker of a cover by Mark Martin, which you an see here; publisher links and ordering info to follow!).

  • In November of 2005, I praised (and interviewed) comics historian and archivist Peter Maresca for his exquisite self-published collection of Winsor McCay Little Nemo in Slumberland strips, Winsor McCay’s Little Nemo in Slumberland: So Many Splendid Sundays! (here's the link, folks, to revisit that post).

  • Peter's exquisite restoration and publication -- the book reproduced McCay's glorious ull-color Sunday pages at their full size, over 21" x 16"! -- was a revelation, his book an essential addition to any comics library.
  • (Here's my original review of Peter's book, FYI; scroll down to the last paragraphs of this archived rant.)

  • I'm overjoyed to announce there is now available a limited edition companion volume of Winsor McCay's classic Dream of a Rarebit Fiend comic strip!

    Dr. Ulrich Merkl of Germany has taken it upon himself to lovingly archive, restore, collect and publish a definitive new book of Winsor McCay cartoon strips, the complete Dream of a Rarebit Fiend. Allow me to quote fellow comics and stop-motion animation scholar/fan Miron Mercury, who first brought Dr. Merkl's project to my attention last year: "He took the risk of publishing the book, limited to 1,000 copies, himself. He has restored each image to day of publication quality instead of reprinting the strips from microfilm or other low quality sources (as the Checker Company recently did). The volume comes with a DVD filled with twice the material of the book (and the book's text as a searchable MSWORD file)."

    Now, there have been many Rarebit Fiend collections, the most recent the Checker Company hardcover collection Miron mentions above. I have 'em all, as each features strips the others do not -- but they're patchwork creations, sans any reference to dates of original publication or any coherent chronology. None have noted the remarkable innovations McCay introduced; as I've noted (since 1989) in my "Journeys into Fear: An Illustrated History of Horror Comics" slide lecture, McCay's Dream strip introduced many motifs, narratives and remarkably nightmarish panelogical inventions that echo through many media. The Dream strip in which the rarebit-soused dreamer sees his death, funeral and burial -- presented by McCay entirely from the dreamer's point of view! -- was imitated by Danish filmmaker Carl Dreyer (in the celebrated premature burial coma-dream of the nominal hero of Vampyr, 1931), Johnny Craig in EC Comics, and Alfred Hitchcock (in "Breakdown," one the episodes of Alfred Hitchock Presents the maestro directed himself), among others.

    Dr. Merkl's Dream of the Rarebit Fiend collects, for the first time ever, the complete nine year (1904 - 1913) run of this still remarkably inventive, truly adult cartoon strip.

    Here's the vital statistics, via the press release Dr. Merkl has circulated:

    "The 821 cartoon strips have been carefully restored to their day of publication clarity and are printed at original newspaper size and format. Dr. Ulrich Merkl of Germany is the author of this privately published volume which is limited to one-thousand (1,000) copies. This book is unavailable through bookstores or comic shops, it must be ordered from the author's web site. The book's fair price is $114 US (89 euros) plus shipping. 464 pages featuring 1010 illustrations, 17 by 12 inches, 9.5 pounds.

    Accompanying the fabulous oversized volume is a free DVD containing twice the images and text material of the printed book. High resolution scans of all 821 known Rarebit episodes, a 600 page Microsoft WORD file with a catalogue raisonne of all the episodes containing a vast array of additional information about the individual episodes, the complete printed text of the book which can be searched by keywords and the only known fragments of a vivid animated film by McCay.

    This publication is of the first quality. The images and cartoons have been carefully restored. This is not a book of disappointing reprints from microfilm or earlier source books."

  • There's only one place to order your copy -- now! -- and that's here, at Dr. Merkl's website. Note he is generously offering discounts for bulk purchases (two or more), so find someone to order with you!

  • More on this book, and a short interview with Dr. Merkl about his project, later this weekend. But don't wait -- order your copy ASAP, before they're gone!

    It's the first day of the Center for Cartoon Studies summer "Creating Comics" workshop, and I'm teaching this week's session with James Sturm (today) and Robyn Chapman (all week). Our new interns Jon, Ellie and Simon (who attended the summer workshop session last year as a student -- welcome back, Simon!) have been working hard this past week with Robyn to get everything ready, and today's the day.

    Have a great Monday, one and all, and see you in the funnies!

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