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Charlton Spotlight #4
posted February 7, 2006
76 pages, Argo Press, $7.95
One of the little-discussed trends of the last ten years is the rise of the magazine-fanzine, these publications that contain the kind of fan writing -- both good and bad -- that you'd see in publications in the 1970s at the expense of any other kind of industry record. I would guess that perhaps Jack Kirby Collector
was the first one, but I don't know. At any rate, a flood of these magazines means you can walk into a lot of comic shops or any huge comics convention and buy written material dedicated to any of one or three or four score older comic book artists. I suppose someone out there reads all of them, but it's nice for the rest of us to know these publications exist when the need comes up in research. As much as the writing varies, if you're doing research on Atlas great Joe Maneely, you're probably grateful for a magazine that has like 10 articles in it about Joe Maneely.
The fourth volume of Charlton Spotlight
-- it's just a guess, but I'm supposing the publication in question focuses on the Charlton line of comic books -- takes on Pete Morisi. I knew very little ab out Pete Morisi going in, except that he signed his name in a little box as PAM to hide the fact he was moonlighting from a day job as a police officer. As far as cartoonist dayjobs go, that's a pretty cool one, and I bet someone out there has written a "he draws heroes/he was a hero" article for someplace like Comics Buyer's Guide
. Morisi sounds like a decent in the various profiles of him, including a longtime letter correspondent. He seems aware that his published work varies greatly: the best stuff reprinted here looks like Alex Toth with cartoony-stylized rather than illustration-stylized facial features. He also has a touching pride in the character he's best known for, Peter Cannon... Thunderbolt. There's sort of a musty basement feel to the entire enterprise, blending nostalgia with artistic appraisal in a way that makes little sense. But considering the comics industry's history of exploitation, self-hatred and shoddy business practices, it's hard to feel mean about people drawing attention to their favorites no matter what the initial impulse wriggles like when exposed to the sun.