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The Mammoth Book of Best Crime Comics Paperback – August 12, 2008

4 out of 5 stars 10 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

This big volume, the third in the series, is an incredible value with a very high gem-to-dud ratio. Mickey Spillane's Mike Hammer: Dark City run of Sunday paper serials is presented in its original turn-the-book-sideways glory; Jack Kirby's The Money-Making Machine Swindlers is a retro blast, complete with cautionary monologue from the femme fatale. An opportunity is missed with the selection made to represent Will Eisner's The Spirit; the story chosen is tame and insubstantial. But there are a few standouts that make this book a strong buy candidate even for people who don't normally go in for noir: Max Allan Collins's Ms. Tree taking maternity leave; a lengthy continuity from Dashiell Hammett's newspaper strip Secret Agent X-9, with art by the great Alex Raymond; and most spectacular of all, an utterly odd story (author unknown) of a blind painter, set in the realm of Ed McBain's 87th Precinct. This wide-ranging collection is high on both visual appeal and entertainment value. (Aug.)
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From Booklist

Once one of the medium’s most popular genres, crime comics all but vanished after implementation of the censorious Comics Code in 1954. But as comics expert Gravett shows in this massive black-and-white compendium, many foremost comics talents continued turning out tales of miscreants and murderers. The generous page count allows Gravett to include not only the expected choices, such as Dashiell Hammett’s 1930s newspaper strip Secret Agent X-9 and Will Eisner’s masked crime fighter the Spirit, but also any number of gratifying surprises. The genre’s heyday is represented by such leading figures as Joe Simon and Jack Kirby, Plastic Man creator Jack Cole, and masterful innovator Alex Toth, as well as two stories written by Mickey Spillane, whose career started in comics. The most unexpected entries are two written by superstar scripter Alan Moore, one by Sandman writer Neil Gaiman, and one starring underground artist Charles Burns’ masked wrestler–private dick El Borbah. In-the-know aficionados will prize a true rarity, Bernie Krigstein’s last hurrah before leaving comics for the fine arts, an adaptation of TV’s 87th Precinct. --Gordon Flagg

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Product Details

  • Series: Mammoth Book of
  • Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Running Press; First Edition edition (August 12, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0762433949
  • ISBN-13: 978-0762433940
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.7 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.9 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,299,763 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is the third Mammoth comics volumes--the first two focusing on war & horror. Both of those earlier volumes were hampered, although not crippled, by the refusals of EC, DC, Marvel/Atlas & Warren to allow reprints of their stories (although Warren tales did appear in the War volume). However this volume focuses on crime, a genre neither DC or Marvel/Atlas did much of importance with, Warren only produced a few stories in (although they tended to be of quite high quality) and, in fact, an EC story does appear here.

With almost the entire field to choose from the quality of this volume is very high with an excellent 1934 Dashiell Hammett/Alex Raymond tale from Secret Agent X-9; two stories from Bernie Krigstein (including the very strange 'Blind Man's Bluff' which was his swansong to comics); obscure but high quality Alan Moore & Neil Gaiman tales (including Moore's epilogue to his graphic novel 'From Hell'); a great Max Collins/Terry Beatty Ms. Tree tale, a fine Johnny Craig story from EC, Jack Cole's classic 'Murder, Morphine And Me!', a fine Joe Simon/Jack Kirby bunko tale, some decent Euro crime tales making their North American debuts, Will Eisner's Spirit (although one might quibble why 'The Portier Fortune'--a good but not great Spirit tale appears, when such genuine noir greats like 'Black Alley', 'Ten Minutes' or 'Fox At Bay' were passed by), Jordi Bernet with a Torpedo tale, an Alex Toth classic, Charles Burns' El Boro and much, much more. In fact, the quality of this book is so high while the price is so low that it may well be the best comic anthology of the year for your dollar.
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Format: Paperback
Since reading Mike Benton's fascinating Illustrated History of Crime Comics, I've been interested in the genre. It predates horror comics by more than a decade, and crime comics were a huge hit with adults in the 40s. In terms of era, form and content, they fit neatly between the hardboiled pulp magazines and novels, and film noir.

This Mammoth Book collection has plenty of pre-50s stuff, including the amazingly hard hitting Secret Agent X-9 newspaper strip from the 30s. There's also a cool Johnny Craig story from Crime Suspenstories-- my favorite EC title! Frank Miller talks about Craig's work a good deal in the Sin City commentary.

It's also wonderful to finally have high quality reproductions of the original inks of Jack Cole's "Murder, Morphine and Me," and Alex Toth's "The Crushed Gardenia," and Bernie Krigstein's "Lilly-White Joe"-- all real classics. I also loved Krigstein's solid adaptation of the bizarro 87th Precinct story "Blind Man's Bluff".

Even the newer stuff I've never heard of is worth reading. And it's all great reference material. I wish this was a huge coffee table hardback, but then it would've probably cost seventy-five bucks! I hope there's a part two, because I know the source material's hardly been exhausted. One example that comes to mind is the terrific Joe Lansdale/Bruce Timm team-up "Red Romance".
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Format: Paperback
An Eisner Spirit classic, A Torpedo classic, a huge chunk of Hammett and Raymond's Secret Agent X-9 comic strip, El Boro short, Miss Tree story, This book is a classic "mixtape" of someone's most favorite crime comics ever! I was SO enthralled by this collection that I ordered all of the other Mammoth Comic collections, but sincerely, this Crime Comics volume is a great collection and a high example of some of the best quality and entertainment that comics have to give. Easily a bargain at TWICE the listed price!
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Format: Paperback
It's too bad one reviewer had to more or less dump on this great graphic novel-type compendium of crime comics based upon their use of the word "best" in the title, since I think most understand that that one word has been used to death when listing everything from comics to records, entertainers to sports personalities or beer to pretzels - and everything in between. In the final analysis, it is, after all, nothing more than the personal opinion of the creator of the list or collection, and so there will always be countering opinions tossed out.

Compiler Paul Gravett could just as easily left it out, but since it's there let's examine an esteemed opinion of Mr. Gravett himself by no less than The Times Of London which, according to an entry at the front of the book, regards him as "the greatest historian of the comics and graphic novel form in this country ..." and goes on to describe him as a writer, lecturer and broadcaster about international comics and director of the Comics festival of London's Institute of Contemporary Arts." Good enough for me, and as Mr. Gravett says "this book is dedicated to the unknown writers and artists of these comics, who despite much research have evaded recognition, may they be remembered, and rediscovered, very soon." He then goes on to contribute a 4 page Introduction titled "Every Shade Of Noir" in which he gives an overview of the history of the crime comic and some of the main personalities of such and their creators. Fascinating stuff.
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