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Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Ghost/Hellboy Special #1 - From 1999

24 pages, priced at $2.50, from Dark Horse Comics. Written by Mike Mignola, art by Scott Benefiel. Sold in comics shops and by mail.

"A hundred years of mob war over gambling, prostitution, drugs, whatever. A century of thugs killing each other in the street with way too many innocent people getting caught in the middle. Where does all that blood go?"

It goes into the premise of the Ghost/Hellboy Special, and this comic kicks. Violently.

It kicks the city of Arcadia to its knees. Ghost is slain and raining death on the thugs of Arcadia. Hellboy is hunting Ghost for the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense, and for the added sales from two popular characters in one title.

The result is a dark, violent tale of shadows.

Undeniably, some will find its violence excessive, either ignoring or overlooking its proper purpose in a story, forgetting that even the Bible is violent. The Bible correctly paints violence as ugly sin, and its only justified use as defense.

Unquestionably, some will find the writing exceptional. Ugly, hard, cold, it sets the tone both for the decadence of Arcadia and its citizens. Tight, fast and pointed, it turns the second rate character of Ghost into a first rate player by making her The Shadow (another famous vigilante), in a dress.

Unequivocally, the art is outstanding. Its balance of action and a claustrophobic fatalism is intriguing. It knows when to visually talk and when to say nothing in background detail. It implies more violence than is actually shown.

Undisputable, this violence is acceptable, and the Ghost/Hellboy Special is highly recommended for unabashed comics fans.

Reviewed by Michael Vance

Comics Legend Hank Ketcham - From 1999

Everyone knows Dennis the Menace, that mischievous five-year-old who has become an international symbol of boy-ness. But what do you know about Hank Ketcham?

Born in 1920, Ketcham is the cartoonist and papa of Dennis The Menace, one of the most popular comic strips in history. Beyond the adventures of that little blond whirlwind Ketcham has worked as an animator with Walter Lantz (Woody Woodpecker, etc.). with Walt Disney (on Pinocchio. Fantasia, and Donald Duck), and won the Reuben Award and Bill de Beck Award in 1952. Ketcham has also done magazine advertisements, and his Dennis is the mascot of a fast food restaurant chain, and the subject of games and toys.

Dennis the Menace began publication in 1951 as a single panel feature about family life in America. Ketcham's simple, clean art brought success to some of the best realized characters in comics, endearing Dennis and Margaret in the hearts of millions of readers worldwide. The secret to that success may also lie in the strip's premise: everyone has known and loved a five-year-old boy.

Many paperback book editions of Dennis the Menace have been published, and Dennis has appeared as a live action and animated TV series, and in several movies.

Comic books include. Dennis (Standard/Pines, Halden, Fawcett publishers,1953-'79); Dennis Giants (Standard/Pines, Halden, Fawcett, 1955--'69); Dennis (Marvel Comics, 1981-'82); Dennis and his Dog Ruff (Halden/Fawcett, 196l); Dennis and His Friends (Fawcett, 1969-'80); Dennis and His Pal Joey (Fawcett, 1961): Dennis and the Bible Kids (Word 1977); Dennis Big Bonus Series (Fawcett, 1980); Dennis Bonus Magazine (Fawcett, 1980), Dennis Comics Digest (Marvel, 1982); Dennis Fun Book (Fawcett 1960); Dennis Fun Fest Series (Halden, Fawcett 1980); Dennis: Pocket Full Of Fun (Fawcett, 1969-'80); Dennis Television Special (Fawcett 1961-'62); and Dennis Triple Feature (Fawcett, 1961). Dennis: His First 10 Years, a trade paperback, was published by Abbeville Press.

Some older comics are expensive and difficult to locate. Price guides or comics dealers help. Comics shops, conventions, mail order companies and trade journals are best sources.

Michael Vance