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Charlton Spotlight #5
posted May 23, 2007
Joe Gill, Steve Ditko, Jim Amash, Mark Burbey, Gene Phillips, Steve Skeates, Ron Frantz, Ramon Schenk, Howard Leroy Davis, Nicola Cuti, Dan Stevenson
Argo Press, magazine, 80 pages, Fall 2006, $7.95
Magazines like Michael Ambrose's Charlton Spotlight
serve a triple-tiered function in terms of journalistic inquiry. They fill in the blanks from long-forgotten nooks and crannies that can be found all over in the study of comics in the 20th Century. They widen the base of knowledge gathering so that more people get on the record about more events than if traditional magazines and fanzines were the only available outlet. Best of all, they allow for a counter-myth to the ingrained notion that the bulk of mainstream comics could be found first in DC Comics, then in Marvel Comics, and finally a contentious relationship between the two major corporations. It's because of magazines like this that we have a better and more complete view of the great, sloppy and periodically rich canvas that was North American comics production over the last 75 years.
With that in mind, it's hard to judge such publications according to a rigorous standard for excellence piece by piece. Because in part they're writing to the historical record, there are clunky pieces that might be at some future date valuable because they carry key bits of information. What can be said is which pieces stand out. In this issue, there's a fun interview by Jim Amash (known as the Barks-like "good interviewer" to some circles) of the writer Joe Gill. Amash doesn't have a focused aesthetic view with which he engages his subjects, but he's aces with the names and places and ebb and flow of personnel between companies back in the 1940s and 1950s. Gill is not only funny, and was not only a dozen or more places of interest in his long career, but he's brutally honest about his drinking: what it may have cost him, and the fun it provided up to a certain point. I also very much liked a piece by Gene Phillips on Steve Ditko's Blue Beetle
, a lively reading that concentrates on the blending on the great comic book artist's philosophical and dramatic interests.
Another thing that's nice about the last decade's growth in such magazine is that it's almost impossible to tell anyone they want a certain issue or, barring a rare editorial disaster, that they don't. This is the Joe Gill and Steve Ditko issue of Charlton Spotlight
and whether or not you want it is probably dependent on that description more than the execution.