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BEST CRIME COMICS

A Review By: Diana Green, University Of Florida

Diana Green teaches at the University of Florida where she is including Best Crime Comics as a required textbook in her upcoming course on Comics History.

I added Best Crime Comics to my Comics History class text list sight unseen, then picked up a copy yesterday at my local shop and have been enjoying it immensely. Yesterday was a big day at the comic store, including new issues of some of my favorite titles and the long-awaited reprint of Journey, but in the midst of my score, Best Crime Comics is the book I’m going back to again and again.

As a Krigstein fan, I’m especially keen on that odd Dell story. And pre-trend Johnny Craig EC, and the odd one-off Gaiman story - I thought I knew most of Gaiman’s oeuvre, but this one took me by surprise. Nice to see some of Jack Cole’s crime stuff in here, too. Seeing Kane and Torpedo is a breath of fresh air in the somewhat barren current comics scene. And Ms. Tree and P’Gell… nice to see the ladies represented as more than the worn tropes of noir Black Widow clichĂ©. This is a delightful and well-chosen collection.

I do have a couple minor quibbles. I’d prefer some later X-9 stuff. It would be nice to have an excerpt from Volcanic Revolver. In the best of all worlds, where we didn’t need to wrestle with copyright and trademark, the book would include some early Dick Tracy and some trend-era EC stuff. The printing is a bit off in some of the older work, most noticeably the Mike Hammer strips. A color section, like the bit in Best War Comics, might have been nice. Also, unless I missed something, there’s no work by women in this collection. Granted, there’s not much in this genre by women, but a Lily Renee story or Collen Doran’s Fortune’s Friends (excerpted) would have been tasty.

But these relatively insignificant plaints don’t negate the pleasure in this anthology. It epitomizes crime comics, and recognizes work from all eras and most corners of the world. I love it. I think my students will as well.

Paul Gravett replies:
Thanks Diana, really appreciate your inclusion of Best Crime Comics in your course and your praise and helpful suggestions. Frankly, re the reproduction on the Mike Hammer pages, Peter Stanbury put in overtime to improve them - all we had to go from were loans of colour-separation films and this remains a huge improvement on the previous reprinting by Ken Pierce in 1985 where the blotchiness and filling-in are considerably worse. And yes, I would have liked to have included some women contributors - maybe if there’s a chance to do a second volume.

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