Saturday, June 30, 2018

From PulpWiki: my entry on STRANGE STORIES magazine

Strange Stories

A short-lived fantasy- and horror-fiction companion to Thrilling Wonder Stories and the rest of the Thrilling Group, it featured many of the same contributors as the other Better Publications magazines and Weird Tales. Despite publishing some interesting fiction, such as Manly Wade Wellman's "The Changeling" in the first issue, it is not well-remembered today.

1939 was a banner year for fantasy pulp; Street and Smith's Unknown (edited by John W. Campbell, Jr.), the fantasy/sf Munsey reprint magazine Famous Fantastic Mysteries (edited by Mary Gnaedinger, and soon to include notable new fiction along with reprints), and Ziff-Davis's (initially mostly science-fictional) Fantastic Adventures (edited by Ray Palmer) all joined Weird Tales (then in transition from the ailing Farnsworth Wright to Dorothy McIlwraith, who became officially the editor in 1940) on the newsstands, as did a new magazine from the Standard Magazines group (note the three corporate names; same people, who would also add the sf title Startling Stories the same year), the modestly-titled Strange Stories.

Edited anonymously by Mort Weisinger, SS featured a mix of fiction rather similar to that of Weird Tales, with a slightly less gothic sensibility than WT and lacking the heroic fantasy component stressed in the other magazines. In the first issue, February 1939, along with a long editorial column attributed to "Mephistopheles", there were stories by such WT and Thrilling Group veterans as Robert Bloch (two stories, one as by "Tarleton Fiske"), Henry Kuttner (two stories, one as by "Keith Hammond," which playfully drew not only on Lovecraftian Cthulhu Mythos motifs but specifically on Bloch's own contributions to that Mythos, notably the "forbidden" book The Mysteries of the Worm), Otis Adelbert Kline, Ralph Milne Farley, and collaborators August Derleth and Mark Schorer.

Wellman's "The Changeling" is perhaps the best-remembered story from that first issue, and one of the few from the magazine's run of thirteen bimonthly issues to be cited by historian Mike Ashley as rising above the general run of competence. 
The second issue. "Tally Mason" was August Derleth
Seabury Quinn, Eric Frank Russell, Leigh Brackett and E. Hoffmann Price were among the other notable contributors to the magazine; Ashley has noted that Weisinger's moving on from the Thrilling pulp line to edit Superman and other DC comics was coincident with, and probably resulted in, the folding of SS with the February 1941 issue.

Strange Stories, February 1939 
  • CoverRudolph Belarski 
  • Cover artist credit taken from Robinson, Weinberg and Broecker's Art of Imagination. Pulp Vault No. 14 credits it to Graves Gladney.
This 2006 entry can be seen in its native environs on PulpWiki here. Other 1939 first issues:

Friday, June 29, 2018

FFB: THE UNEXPECTED edited by Leo Margulies (Pyramid 1961); THE BEST FROM FANTASY AND SCIENCE FICTION 9th Series (aka FLOWERS FOR ALGERNON AND OTHER STORIES) edited by Robert P. Mills (Doubleday 1960)

In English, and probably in any language, the most consequential and certainly the most sustained fantasy-fiction magazines have been Weird Tales (or WT), running for 31 years in its first form and revived multiply since (the most recent revival having run for 26 years, if some of them very lean indeed) and The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction (F&SF), soon to enter its 7oth year of continuous publication. In the earliest 1960s, Robert P. Mills was editing F&SF (and therefore the annual best-of anthologies drawn from it), which had absorbed his magazine Venture Science Fiction shortly beforehand, and while publisher Joseph W. Ferman was the credited editor of Bestseller Mystery Magazine, the last remaining crime-fiction magazine at publisher Mercury Press after they sold Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine (where Mills had been Managing Editor since 1948) and Mercury Mystery had been folded, I suspect Mills had an editorial  hand in there, as well. Leo Margulies had purchased the assets of Short Stories, Inc., the publishers of Short Stories and the folded Weird Tales...Margulies continued to publish Short Stories for a while, and though his one consistent title in the last couple decades of his life was Mike Shayne Mystery Magazine,  he hoped to revive Weird Tales...and did so, for four issues in 1973-74. But in 1961, Margulies published two
anthologies drawn from Weird Tales, the first such to be published explicitly as anthologies from Weird Tales,  though they didn't advertise that fact on their covers: The Unexpected and The Ghoul Keepers, both almost exclusively drawn from the issues edited by Dorothy McIlwraith, who had edited both Short Stories and Weird Tales in the 1940s and '50s.  And so, today's books...the first of three  Robert Mills annual volumes from F&SF, and the first McIlwraith-issues volume (aside from Wellman's story) Margulies put together from WT...two impressive sets of contributors, and not a few notable stories between them...

In a sense, Mills and McIlwraith were both "third editors" of their respective groundbreaking magazines ...Mills followed the four-year solo editorship of Anthony Boucher (legally William White, but known even to friends mostly as "Tony") and Boucher and J. Francis "Mick" McComas's founding stint as co-editors of the magazine for its first five years of publication (and several years of development before that). Mills had been managing editor since the launch in 1949, as well, but even with that and his excellent work at Venture, there was a certain amount of pressure in the new gig. If not nearly the audience resistance that Dororthy McIlwraith faced at Weird Tales, when she succeeded long-term second editor Farnsworth Wright (first editor Edwin Baird did little of note beyond get the magazine out for the first year, and publish WT's first "scandalous" and always most notorious story, "The Loved Dead" by C. M. Eddy, and first contributions by H. P. Lovecraft and Clark Ashton Smith). Wright's magazine had been a receptive market to Lovecraft, Smith, Robert E. Howard, August Derleth, Edmond Hamilton, Manly Wade Wellman, the magazine's most popular contributor Seabury Quinn, and such younger writers as Robert Bloch, Fritz Leiber, Catherine L. Moore, Henry Kuttner (these last two would soon marry and collaborate heavily and constantly), Carl Jacobi and Mary Elizabeth Counselman; he also favored purple prose and exoticism, and had some peculiar crotchets...he consistently rejected Leiber's "Fafhrd and Gray Mouser" sword and sorcery fantasies, which found their early home with Unknown Fantasy Fiction instead, as did "Smoke Ghost", Leiber's best early horror story. McIlwraith brought a greater modernism and broader appeal to the magazine, and published Ray Bradbury, Margaret St. Clair, Richard Matheson, Joseph Payne Brennan, Robert Heinlein, Theodore Sturgeon, Jim Kjelgaard (best remembered now as the author of Big Red and its sequels) and all the previously-mentioned contributors who were still willing and able to contribute, and reprinted some of the others' work...and was roundly condemned by such staunch fans of the Wright magazine as Donald Wollheim, who founded The Avon Fantasy Reader in part to publish something more reminiscent of what Wright's WT had been.
    The Best from Fantasy and Science Fiction: Ninth Series ed. Robert P. Mills (Doubleday LCC# 52-5510, 1960, $3.95, 264pp, hc)
    Also as Flowers for Algernon and Other Stories (Ace, 1966); British editions omit Feghoots [pun vignettes], Ace pb editions omit Feghoots and the poetry by Schenck, Buck, Belkin and Brode; retained are the Lewis, Aldiss and McClintic poems; Mills's headnotes also removed.
    • 7 · Introduction · Robert P. Mills · in
    • 9 · Flowers for Algernon · Daniel Keyes · nv F&SF Apr 1959
    • 41 · Me · Hilbert Schenck, Jr. · pm F&SF Aug 1959
    • 42 · A Different Purpose · Kem Bennett · ss F&SF Nov 1958
    • 62 · A Vampire’s Saga · Norman Belkin · pm F&SF May 1959
    • 63 · Ralph Wollstonecraft Hedge: A Memoir · Ron Goulart · vi F&SF May 1959
    • 67 · Sportsman’s Difficulity · Doris Pitkin Buck · pm F&SF Mar 1959
    • 68 · “All You Zombies—” · Robert A. Heinlein · ss F&SF Mar 1959
    • 81 · An Expostulation · C. S. Lewis · pm F&SF Jun 1959
    • 82 · Casey Agonistes · Richard M. McKenna · ss F&SF Sep 1958
    • 94 · Through Time and Space with Ferdinand Feghoot: XI · Grendel Briarton · vi F&SF Feb 1959
    • 95 · Eastward Ho! · William Tenn · ss F&SF Oct 1958
    • 113 · Through Time and Space with Ferdinand Feghoot: XIV · Grendel Briarton · vi F&SF May 1959
    • 114 · Soul Mate · Lee Sutton · ss F&SF Jun 1959
    • 130 · Call Me Mister · Anthony Brode · pm F&SF Feb 1959
    • 131 · What Rough Beast? · Damon Knight · nv F&SF Feb 1959
    • 156 · Classical Query Composed While Shampooing · Doris Pitkin Buck · pm F&SF Jul 1959
    • 157 · Far from Home · Walter S. Tevis · ss F&SF Dec 1958
    • 161 · Space Burial · Brian W. Aldiss · pm F&SF Jul 1959
    • 162 · Invasion of the Planet of Love · George P. Elliott · ss F&SF Jan 1959
    • 173 · Through Time and Space with Ferdinand Feghoot: X · Grendel Briarton · vi F&SF Jan 1959
    • 174 · Dagon · Avram Davidson · ss F&SF Oct 1959
    • 184 · Pact · Winston P. Sanders (Poul Anderson) · ss F&SF Aug 1959
    • 200 · To Give Them Beauty for Ashes · Winona McClintic · pm F&SF Sep 1959
    • 201 · No Matter Where You Go · Joel Townsley Rogers · nv F&SF Feb 1959
    • 222 · Through Time and Space with Ferdinand Feghoot: XII · Grendel Briarton · vi F&SF Mar 1959
    • 223 · The Willow Tree · Jane Rice · ss F&SF Feb 1959
    • 233 · Through Time and Space with Ferdinand Feghoot: XIII · Grendel Briarton · vi F&SF Apr 1959
    • 234 · The Pi Man · Alfred Bester · ss F&SF Oct 1959
    • 252 · The Man Who Lost the Sea · Theodore Sturgeon · ss F&SF Oct 1959
    • 264 · Through Time and Space with Ferdinand Feghoot: XV · Grendel Briarton · vi F&SF Jun 1959
The Ace paperback edition contents, as a result, under both titles:
The offerings in both books are impressive--check out these sets of contributors, and the most key stories in each, even in the pointlessly dressed-down Ace and UK editions of the Mills (though the Ace movie tie-in edition pictured at the top has the amusing distinction of seeming to have three titles). The WT volume surveys eleven stories from a dozen years of the magazine, with only the Wellman and Leiber stories likely to have been the purchases of Wright rather than McIlwraith; the F&SF volume surveys issues from 1958 and '59, with a number of stories almost certainly purchased by Boucher as editor. Margulies dedicates his book to Donald R. Bensen, the publisher's editor at Pyramid, and quite likely all but a collaborator in the editorial selections as well as clerical/rights work Margulies definitely credits him with: "To Don Bensen, without whom these stories were written, but without whom they would not be in this book"; on the first edition, back cover, "H. H. Holmes" (Boucher as book reviewer for The New York Herald-Tribune, while also reviewing as Boucher for the NY Times) has a praiseful pull-quote (in a sense praising his own work in part); Margulies would dedicated his next WT anthology (reviewed here soon) to Holmes/Boucher, "who asked for more"...Mills dedicates his volume to Boucher and McComas, "who are truly responsible for this book's existence...and to Anne, Alison and Freddie, who contribute so much to the editor's."

The first story in the Margulies, and the last (non-joke story) in the Mills are both by Theodore Sturgeon, the only writer shared by both books, and, till now not having read them within more than several years of each other, I'm struck by how even more similar they are than might be expected...yet the later story, "The Man Who Lost the Sea", is not in any way a retread (and is Sturgeon's one story included by Martha Foley in her annual Best American Short Stories volumes), a science fiction story that nonetheless does in its more non-linear way recapitulates several of the key aspects of the far more unnerving horror story "The Professor's Teddy-Bear".  Both stories deal rather directly with the notion of the boy being the father of the man, and of how the man, coming to understand the full import of his experience in the present, comes to a fuller understanding of the strangeness of his earlier experiences...whether in the context of dealing with a literal psychic vampire creature in the form of a young child's teddy bear, or in the understanding of the full import of early experiences of near-death in exploring new and dangerous environments, in the ocean and elsewhere. Sturgeon's literary grace and deftness in putting across sensory experience in fiction is on full display, as is his fascination with bits of arcane knowledge that he will use as another anchor, along with his exploration of the emotional states of his characters, and their legacies of trauma, in their usually extreme or at least very strange circumstances, to build his stories around. He wants to show you several kinds of wonders simultaneously, and in his many best stories, the integration of these desires is utterly effective. There's a reason he was Ray Bradbury's chiefest literary model, and such an inspiration and goad to writers ranging from Kurt Vonnegut to Judith Merril to Isaac Asimov. 

And Daniel Keyes. "Flowers for Algernon" is, rather obviously, the most famous story in the F&SF volume as things were in 1966, and still, along with Walter Miller's "A Canticle for Leibowitz" and Stephen King's "The Gunslinger", still among the more famous stories the magazine has published so far. It, and Robert Heinlein's "'All You Zombies-'" and perhaps still Richard McKenna's first story, "Casey Agonistes", are probably the most widely-read stories in Mills's anthology ...the Heinlein a key late short story in his career, and also a further mining of a key trope for him, notably less emotionally explored in his earlier story "By His Bootstraps", involving a very peculiar sort of time paradox and its results, and the McKenna a very powerful yet gentle sort of horror/fantasy, though McKenna's early death didn't allow him to capitalize much on the enormous popular success of his first and only fully-finished novel The Sand Pebbles, an autobiographical recent-historical story dealing in part with his experiences in East Asia as a seaman in the years before WW2.  Likewise, Walter Tevis, more widely known (or at least his novels are, as sources for films) for The Hustler and its sequel The Color of Money (you might think of Paul Newman), and The Man Who Fell to Earth (and David Bowie), has a particularly charming and resonant vignette, "Far From Home", for which he also titled his one powerful collection of short fiction. But "Flowers for Algernon," the tale of a mentally challenged man who undergoes an experimental medical procedure which makes of him a genius, and the joys and dangers this offers him emotionally and otherwise, is a story which has a visceral appeal particularly to the kind of person drawn to science fiction, but which also has almost as strong a hold on less sf-prone readers, particularly as delicately but straightforwardly told, in the form of diary entries by the protagonist Charly, about his experiences and those of the lab mouse Algernon who has also undergone an earlier test of the procedure.

Among the familiar stories (at least since their early reprint in the Margulies book)  in The Unexpected are Fredric Brown's "Come and Go Mad", Fritz Leiber's "The Automatic Pistol" and Manly Wade Wellman's "The Valley Was Still", an historical fantasy set during the waning days of the US Civil War, later adapted, with a slightly heavy hand but still effectively, for an episode of  the first version of the tv series The Twilight Zone, "Still Valley"; such stories as Margaret St. Clair's "Mrs. Hawk" and Ray Bradbury's "The Handler" (not to be confused with Damon Knight story of the same title) in the WT book, and Alfred Bester's "The Pi Man", "William Tenn"'s "Eastward Ho!", Knight's "What Rough Beast" and Avram Davidson's "Dagon" in the Mills book are all very good examples of what their authors could do, if not the first stories one might think of from them or the magazines, and the other stories in the books are at least more than simply worth preserving, in 1960 and '61 when these books were first issued, and today--and the openness of Dorothy McIlwraith and Robert Mills to writers whom one might not think of as "typical" for their magazines, such as Frederik Pohl and Isaac Asimov in WT, or George P. Elliott (who was, like John Ciardi and others, a lifelong enthusiast of and occasional contributor to fantastic literature, as well as Barry Malzberg's mentor of sorts in the latter's university career) and Joel Townsley Rogers in F&SF, are on display here as well. I suspect I'll have more to say about them, soon.

For more of today's books, please see Patti Abbott's blog.

Below, earlier-edition covers for the Mills volumes--Doubleday rarely did better than providing merely functional at best covers for the hardcover editions of the series over the decades, and the UK reprint isn't notably better in this case--and the full view of the second-edition package of the Margulies...Pyramid had adopted a sort of semi-uniform "look" for its anthologies drawn from fantasy magazines that the newer covers was certainly easier to read while browsing a paperback rack, if less splashily colorful.

Photo by Bill Crider

Thursday, June 28, 2018

June's Underappreciated Music: the links and more

The usually monthly assembly of undervalued and often nearly "lost" music, or simply music the blogger in question wants to remind you reader/listeners of...

Remembering Harlan Ellison, who died today. Among the things he introduced me to through his writing is the Louisville Orchestra First Edition Recordings seies. 1934-2018

And "splatterpunk" Steve Soto of the Adolescents and other notable bands (August 23, 1963 – June 27, 2018)

And wishing a quick recovery for Jerry House.

Patti Abbott: Music and more

Brian Arnold: Summer Songs

Jayme Lynn Blaschke: Friday Night Videos

Paul D. Brazill: A Song for Saturday

Jim Cameron: Rein de Graaff and Gigi Gryce: Blue Lights and
The Holy Modal Rounders: "Hesitation Blues" (also a Jerry House selection this month)

Sean Coleman: Bee Gees: Trafalgar

Rick Covert: Otis Rush: "I Can't Quit You, Baby"

David Cramner: Duke Ellington Orchestra: "Take the 'A' Train"

Garret Ehrle: The Warning: "Enter Sandman" and...

Doc Watson and Bill Monroe at the White House, 1980

Cynthia Fairweather: High Lonesome: The Story of Bluegrass Music (excerpt)

Jeff Gemmill: Top 5s; The Essentials: Maria McKee; The Bangles; Mazzy Star: Still

Keiko Hassler: Tim McGraw and Faith Hill: "Shotgun Rider"

Jerry House: Hymn Time; Music from the Past and
Mendelssohn's Concerto in E Minor:  This was the first 12-inch 33 1/3 rpm LP issued (by Columbia Records) on this day in 1948.  It was a recording of the New York Philharmonic conducted by Bruno Walter with Nathan Milstein on the violin.  Take a listen.

George Kelley: Various Artists: Just the Two of Us; Jan Swofford: Language of the Spirit: An Introduction to Classical Music

Kate Laity: Song for a Saturday

Steve Lewis: Music I'm Listening To

Barry Malzberg: J. S. Bach: Magnificat hr-Sinfonieorchester ∙ Chœur du Concert D’Astrée ∙ Emmanuelle Haïm, and

Looking Glass: "Brandy"

Todd Mason: Saturday Music Club: mostly vocal and keyboard jazz on video: Toshiko Akiyoshi, Blossom Dearie, Aretha Franklin, Thelonious Monk, Randy Weston, Lenny Bruce with Cannonball Adderley, Bill Evans, Philly Joe Jones and others; Teo Macero with the Prestige Jazz Quartet
Becky O'Brien: James Horner; Troysongs from Dumbo and Peter Pan

Joe Megalos: The Raymond Scott Project

Laura Nakatsuka: Blue Heron: "Fors seullement" by Johannes Ockeghem. Laura notes: A good remedy for anyone who imagines that before Bach there was nothing but Gregorian chant.

Andrew Olney: Wendell Harrison: "Peace of Mind" and

Wooden Shjips: "Red Line"

Lawrence Person: Shoegazer Sunday

James Reasoner: Middle of the Night Music

Charlie Ricci: Joan Osborne: Breakfast in Bed

Rebecca Roanhorse: soundtrack that enabled writing Trail of Lightning (full Spotify playlist)

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Saturday Music Club: mostly jazz, a lot of keyboards, some singing...

Teo Macero and the Prestige Jazz Quartet: "Just Spring"

Randy Weston: "African Village/Bedford Stuyvesant"

Blossom Dearie Trio and Quartet: "I Wish You Love"; "Bag's Groove" 

Aretha Franklin Band: "Won't Be Long"

Toshiko Akiyoshi: "The Village"

Toshiko Akiyoshi 2007 interview:

from the same interview: on being a Japanese jazz artist

Toshiko Akiyoshi Jazz Orchestra: "Drum Conference"

Thelonious Monk: "Don't Blame Me"

Lenny Bruce's tv series pilot The World of Lenny Bruce 

Friday, June 22, 2018

FFB: ESQUIRE'S WORLD OF HUMOR edited by Lewis W. Gillenson (Esquire/Harper & Row, 1964); TRUMP: THE COMPLETE COLLECTION (ESSENTIAL KURTZMAN, V. 2) edited by Denis Kitchen (Dark Horse, 2016); THE BEST AMERICAN COMICS 2015 edited by Jonathan Lethem and Bill Kartalopoulos (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2015)

Anthologies of humor remain a tricky thing. In 1964, Lewis W. Gillenson, former editor of Coronet and about to begin his career, in 1966 as VP and Editor-in-Chief at Grosset and Dunlap, as boss editor at a number of different publishing houses before his death in 1992, was allowed to survey the backfiles of Esquire, a magazine which had, like The New Yorker before it, established itself with the aim of at least secondarily being a home for humor and wit, while in its case being a handsome, sophisticated magazine for men. Esquire staffer David Newman was tasked with writing the chapter introductions and running commentary through the book, so that Gillenson was not required (or perhaps was not trusted) to explain why his selections were so much more redolent of Coronet than what we might've expected from a selection from Esquire...
You might think, given that Harold Hayes's editorship had already made its mark with the magazine by 1965, revivifying it from the relatively anodyne magazine it had managed to become in the mid '50s, as former staffer and Esquire fanboy Hugh Hefner pushed the Esquire model further into a would-be hip but earnest salaciousness with his new magazine, that a coffee-table book devoted to Esquire's thirty years of often very impressive publication might dig heavily into the contributions of the likes of Dorothy Parker, Ring Lardner, and all the old crowd that might've had stronger ties to other magazines, such as James Thurber and H. L. Mencken, as well as the new lions such as Dan Greenburg and at least some of the New Journalism finding a supportive nursery in the magazine...but, instead, you get a Whole Lot of David Newman. Most of it not bad, but also not all that compelling. Even given he was about to co-script Bonnie and Clyde with fellow Esquire staffer Robert Benton.

And when you don't get David Newman, who with Benton also manage to cough up a rather remarkably fogeyish parody of Mad magazine as it was ca. 1964 , less than ingeniously titled Bad, much of the point of which being how nihilistic as well as gauche the rather restrained and bland Mad of that era was. There are single pieces each from Parker and Lardner and Thurber and Jules Feiffer and Ed Fisher and Jessica Mitford and Philip Roth and Harvey Kurtzman and David Levine and Mencken (and George Jean Nathan profiling Mencken) and  Terry Southern's minor classic "Twirling at Ole Miss" ...the major intrusion of what Esquire was becoming famous for in the pages...even Newman, as original writer of the Hayes-commissioned (and apparently a Harvard Lampoon concept in the Hayes years there) "Dubious Achievement Awards" beginning in 1962, is not represented by any of those then-available pieces...and not by any means because excessively topical pieces have been eschewed. And the selection of single-panel cartoons at the back of the book is somewhat surprisingly Off, as well, most of them feeling like New Yorker rejects of the time, though Gahan Wilson's sole representative work is unsurprisingly a highlight. Gloria Steinem, from about the period she was assistant editor of Kurtzman's Help! magazine (where she was succeeded by Terry Gilliam, before it folded and he draft-dodged to England) does contribute some wit to the "service" article for university freshmen, "The Student Prince", in collaboration with Benton, who is also overrepresented.

I hope to provide an index to this one soon, as no one else online seems to have done so.
But before Kurtzman was to begin editing Help! at the penny-pinching Warren Publications, or going broke after self-funding Humbug with his fellow staffers, but not long after leaving Mad when William Gaines wouldn't allow him partial ownership of the newly reformatted magazine, he was able to produce two 1957 issues (and get started on a never-released third) of Trump, a magazine which had no relation to our current lampoon of a U.S. president. Lavishly funded by Kurtzman fan and not-quite-pro-level cartoonist Hugh Hefner (someone's joke was that Trump had an unlimited budget, but still managed to exceed it), Trump strove to be adult in ways that Mad had never quite allowed itself to be, and was the first project where Kurtzman was able to work extensively with such similar spirits as Arnold Roth (one of the partners in the immediate successor Humbug)...published on slick paper in full color, and costing a somewhat prohibitive 50c a copy, the simple freedom to do what they wanted often seemed to work against the perfectionist Kurtzman...the two issues were published several months apart, in what was meant to be a bimonthly to start. Not having the impetus to produce more work more regularly also perhaps resulted in the feeling most readers get that the magazine didn't get to shake itself down, to find a firm footing in what it was hoping to achieve, compared to the other Kurtzman magazines...but this lavishly produced facsimile volume, featuring the two issues, some of the roughs and first drafts of material from them and the prospective third issue, and commentary by project editor Dennis Kitchen and others is a handsome and valuable book...but not one, as one moves from piece to piece in the archive here, very often compellingly funny, even when achingly well-done.  A brief piece from Playboy hyping the new magazine is excerpted rather than run in full, which seems odd, given the Playboy branding (perhaps meant to diffuse the damage to the Trump title by 2016); Hefner's publishing company was running into some financial pushback by the time of Trump's second issue, and perhaps Hefner was also not too pleased by sales reports, but, as everyone notes, he did donate what had been Trump's rented office space in New York to  Kurtzman and company for use till the lease ran out as homebase for the slightly more durable Humbug...

While Jonathan Lethem is a frequently brilliant writer, and a lifelong enthusiast of comics (he draws as well as writes his very funny comic strip of an introduction to this tenth annual volume, having just, as he notes, published his first scripts in professional comics), he (as he might insist, himself) was perhaps the least qualified guest editor the series had up to that point, and further admits that he's been particularly unengaged with "mainstream" or large-publisher, narrative-driven, mostly superhero-featuring they, and most of the kinds of comics those publishers will also offer, including crime-fiction and horror comics, are largely missing from this volume. And while that in itself isn't crippling...there's a lot of good work done in other modes in the comics field, and most of that in more need of exposure than the large publishers' work, for the most part...the heavy reliance in this volume on excerpts from graphic novels and other longer works, and almost no complete works as presented, makes for a less satisfying experience, if, again, a set of valuable pointers.  And leading off with Roz Chast and Jules Feiffer does tend to set the bar high, even for such fellow veterans as Peter Bagge. 

Unlike the first two volumes above, not everything here strives at all for humor, but much of it does, and much of that succeeds...rather better than the cover image, as cute a notion as it is (Raymond Pettibon's Ignatz Mouse drawing on the back cover is rather better)...

From WorldCat:

The Best American Comics 2015

Editor:Jonathan Lethem
Publisher:Boston : Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2015.

Mom and dad. 

Can't we talk about something more pleasant? (excerpt) / Roz Chast ; 
Kill my mother (excerpt) / Jules Feiffer 

Superheroes détourned.
Theth (excerpt) / Josh Bayer ; 
Sadistic comics / R. Sikoryak ; Mathilde's story / Diane Obomsawin ; 
Blane throttle (excerpt) / Ben Duncan 

The wrenchies (excerpt) / Farel Dalrymple ; 
Prometheus / Anders Nilsen ; 
Palm ash / Julia Gfrörer ; 
The good witch, 1947 / Megan Kelso 

No tears, no sorrow / Eleanor Davis ; 
Pretty smart / Andy Burkholder ; 
The Colombia diaries, Sept 14-16 (excerpt) / Gabrielle Bell 

You might even hang them on your wall. 
No title (I was fumbling), no title (the credits rolled), and no title (as we can) / Raymond Pettibon ; 
Lâcher de chiens / Henriette Valium ; 
Pythagoras / Ron Regé, Jr. ; 
76 manifestations of American Destiny (exerpt) / David Sandlin ; 
Cretin keep on creep'n creek / Mat Brinkman ; 
briefly, before dawn / Rosaire Appel 

Biopics and historical fictions. 
selections from Hip hop family tree / Ed Piskor ; 
Woman rebel : the Margaret Sanger story (excerpt) / Peter Bagge ; 
The Great War (excerpt) / Joe Sacco 

Working the cute nerve. 
Fran (excerpt) / Jim Woodring ; 
Little Tommy lost : book one (excerpt) / Cole Closser ; 
Mimi and the wolves (excerpt) / Alabaster ; 
Pockets of temporal disruptions (excerpt) from Safari honeymoon / Jesse Jacobs ; 
Misliving amended / Adam Buttrick 

Raging her-moans. 
My year of unreasonable grief (part four) (excerpt) from Lena Finkle's magic barrel / Anya Ulinich ; 
Someone please have sex with me / Gina Wynbrandt ; 
After school (excerpt) from Unloveable, vol.3 / Esther Pearl Watson 

The way we live now. 
Informanics (exerpt) / Matthew Thurber ; 
Cross delivery, Screw style, How did you get in the hole?, The pen, and We can't sleep from The hole / Noel Freibert ; 
Comets comets / Blaise Larmee ; 
Crime chime noir / A. Degen

No class (excerpt) from School spirits / Anya Davidson ; 
Net gain, Swiping at branches, and The perfect match / Kevin Hooyman ; Behold the sexy man! from Well come / Erik Nebel.

***For more of today's books, please see Patti Abbott's blog...

Panel dedicated to Trump at the 2016 New York Comic Con. From left to right: John Lind, Denis Kitchen, Arnold Roth, Al Jaffee and moderator Bill Kartalopoulos.