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review 2020-05-26 21:23
Legion of Super Heroes, Vol. 9
Legion of Super-Heroes Archives, Vol. 9 - Jim Shooter

This volume collects issues mostly from 1969, which was also the year that the Legion stories were pushed from the lead feature of Adventure comics to a second-stringer in Action comics.


The stories however...a lot seems to have happened in the volume I had to skip due to costs. Action-wise, certainly, but character development is happening and the stories are taking on more stakes. These issues are sharper and (relatively) heavier-hitting. This includes the first "drug" storyline printed in a comic book after the comics code authority banned the subject - writers got around the censors by making the story about "toxic fruit". That story, as well as an earlier one where a criminal apprehends mind drugs that were for United Planets study only featured great psychedelic art. These issues also see the beginning of new costumes, open romantic relationships and dating stories for legionnaires, and other signs that these babies are growing up!


The Legion very easily could have been cancelled after the switch in venue, but they carry on stronger than they ever were before. The only blah note was the constant referring to the women as "doll". The women have always been treated as equals in 'Legion' stories, and it doesn't go away, but I could really do without the late '60s lingo in the 31st century.


Legion of Super-Heroes


Next: 'Volume 10'


Previous: 'Volume 8'

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review 2020-05-24 22:01
The Face in the Frost by John Bellairs
The Face in the Frost - John Bellairs

'The Face in the Frost' is one of those books that, when finished, made me shrug, and think "Well, that happened." Except, this book refuses to go away. I finished it Friday night and scenes keep replaying in my head. I hadn't appreciated the book when I first read it in middle school - I wanted more of his juvenile mysteries, not a fantasy pastiche. Now, I know better. Bellairs had been inspired by 'The Lord of the Rings', but wanted more humanity in his characters, and less archetypes, and so created his Prospero (not that one) and Roger Bacon (maybe that one) to run around a version of late medieval England.


The plot is simple: Bacon comes to Prospero for help in locating a book. An evil wizard starts tracking their movements and the two realize there's evil afoot. The genuine horror elements clash with the light-hearted, anachronistic fantasy, which leaves a reader off guard. You don't know what to expect.


My opinion of this is improving the more I think about it, but for the most part this still reminds me of 'Three Hearts and Three Lions' and other early modern fantasies that almost captured something, but leaves most modern readers equally entertained and nonplussed.


Despite the critical success of this book, Bellairs turned away from fantasy to focus on his successful juvenile books. The book was included on the reading list in the back of one of the early 'Dungeons and Dragons' manuals, too, which is a fun future list for me to explore. There was an unfinished sequel posthumously published in the 'Magic Mirrors' anthology that I may have to track down now, and a prequel short story was finished, but is considered lost after the anthology it was submitted to was never published.

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review 2020-05-18 21:13
The Hardboiled Dicks, edited by Ron Goulart
The Hardboiled Dicks - Ron Goulart

This was a fantastic anthology of hard-boiled detective fiction from the pulp golden age. All eight stories feature a short paragraph introducing the author, their signature characters and the context of original publication. The end of the book has a brief reading list detailing full length novels and collections published that, at the time of this 1960s publication, could be found in remote lending libraries that didn't weed their collections too often. Ha!


These stories deserve a blow-by-blow account of highlights and misfires, but I didn't keep any notes while reading this one. 'China Man' had some racist elements in the underbelly of Manila, but Raoul Whitefield's Filipino private-eye was a refreshing change of pace nonetheless. There were a few other racist and sexist elements that cropped up in these stories, but nothing shocking or unexpected considering the genre.


This was a gag gift from a friend, but I enjoyed it very much. With the exception of 'China Man', the stories were set in the United States in L.A., New York, a mountain resort, Florida among others. The detectives were professional private eyes, gangsters, cab men and reporters. I suspect this is as good a survey of the genre as you're likely to find.

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review 2020-05-01 20:56
Barbie and the Ghost Town Mystery, Barbie #11 by Eleanor K. Woolvin
Barbie and the Ghost Town Mystery - Eleanor K. Woolvin

All the points awarded for being just absolutely crazy.


This is the last of the novels and anthologies Random House published for Mattel. To my knowledge no other full-length chapter book has been produced since. Subsequent books in the '70s, '80s and on have a shorter page count and are geared towards a younger audience. Is it because children cease playing with dolls at a younger age than they used to? It's too bad these stopped, because they were just starting to get REALLY interesting.


Barbie and her family are spending a winter holiday with friends in California. They have plans to fly home to Willows for Christmas eve, but Mr. Roberts had business things to do and nicely invited his family along. The Murchisons have two boys: 18-year-old, beefy, goatee'd Pete who loves science and 14-year-old Larry whose characterization is that he's a boy.


At a backyard barbeque, Skipper and Barbie are challenged by the brothers on their ability to survive in the wilderness and are jokingly invited on a camping trip in the desert. The girls call their bluff and set out to the Mojave desert with them the next morning.


There's car trouble on a back road, but fortunately a town is just in site on the horizon. The four make the journey and discover its a ghost town.


They are then shot at. A prospector out of central casting is mighty suspicious of these suburban kids and their undoubted lust for his gold. They are rescued by a mute Hispanic boy, who leads them to an idyllic pueblo 'castle' built by an older couple.


The older couple, the Bonesteels, welcome the children, but they have no telehone and it seems like their car is out of order, too! Coincidence? Barbie and Skipper are stuck and risk missing their flight home for Christmas, which devastates Skipper.


This book is very hard to find and over 50 years old, but is so bonkers I don't want to spoil it for anyone who might get their hands on it. Things get really weird, but somehow it all works out in the end with a little help from guns, a mule named Mirabel, a cigar store Indian, and dress-up. There's a real mystery here and moments of real danger for Barbie, Skipper and their friends.



Skipper wears 'Day at the Fair' #1911, which included a miniature Barbie doll! Barbie is in the classic early outfit 'Sweater Girl' #976, complete with accessories. The necklace is not Mattel, but was issued by Cleinman and Sons as part of a matching set of jewelry for Barbie and owner and advertised in Christmas catalogs in the early '60s.


Barbie Random House Novels


Previous: 'Barbie's Candy-Striped Summer'

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review 2020-04-30 20:31
Barbie in Television, Barbie #8 by Marianne Duest
Barbie in Television - Marianne Duest,Robert Patterson

Willows High is abuzz with the news: Juniors and Seniors can take a month of school to get a job! Of course, there are stipulations. One must have at least a B average and agree to write a report about their experience.


Barbie's well-connected parents know a couple in Florida who would only be too happy to host Barbie for the month and can pull strings at a television station down there. Barbie is also excited, because there's an exotic animal preserve where Midge could get work as well!


'Barbie in Television' follows the typical format for these books: Barbie gets spectacular opportunity, travels to an exciting location, crushes the opportunity like a boss and dates cute boy. I was hoping that the tease at the start of the book meant that Midge got to have some fun as well, but no dice. It turns out Midge was so focused on cheer-leading in the fall she let her grades slip and doesn't quite make it to the B+ her parents require, so she is denied permission to go on the trip.


Duest at least has Midge call Barbie out on her privilege: pointing out Barbie's internship in New York and being a cover girl for a teen magazine for God's sakes, but, Midge is forced to grin and bear it and be left behind in Willows with Ken and the rest. She also has to admit that its her own fault for trying to have everything the way Barbie does.


Carefree, Barbie is free to make new friends. Her companions are a Brazilian exchange student, Blanquita, who helps Barbie with her elocution and a hotshot baseball rookie, Danny Folger, who's on the cusp of going pro with the "Green Socks"


Barbie stands up to some serious toxic masculine behavior here, ignoring bad pickup lines and unapologeticly doing her job. She, of course, fixes him later, but we'll take the small victories the writers inserted into these books. Another highlight is working woman Pat Larkin, the station's program director who works full time and counts on her husband to take the roast out of the freezer.


Other than Midge's disappointment, the real reason this book gets a heavy star reduction is a "romantic" legend of a Native American warrior falling so in love with the daughter of a Spanish conquistador that after her death she is taken out into the bay and the warrior, plus 50-100 other braves sink their canoes and kill themselves so they can guard her resting place in the afterlife. This legend is the basis of an exciting festival and parade in the Florida town that Barbie visits and is the focus of her teen journalism. Is this based on reality? Because, wow, that's horrible. It certainly sounds like something midcentury America would celebrate.


Other key plot points involve a haunted ruin of a hotel and a mysterious hobo whose house Barbie and Blanquita break into.



Two versions of 'Casuals' #782 from 1961-1964. The striped shirt is a later version. They're missing small gold car keys and I left off their red hats to show off their glorious, reflocked hair. Jon filled in the bald spots and followed the original pattern so they look mint!


Barbie Random House Novels:


Next: 'Barbie, Midge and Ken'


Previous: 'Barbie's Secret'

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