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I Shall Destroy All The Civilized Planets! Paperback – June 20, 2007

39 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

One of the strangest cartoonists of American comics' Golden Age, Hanks had a short career—the 15 stories collected here were all published between 1939 and 1941—but the deranged, nightmarish vigor of his work has made it something of a cult item. Hanks created pulpy characters like Stardust the Super Wizard, the scientific marvel whose vast knowledge of all planets has made him the most remarkable person ever known and the jungle heroine Fantomah, whose face becomes a snarling skull when she uses her magic powers. The artist's manic obsessions turn up again and again: global-scale atrocities, miraculous rays and, most of all, poetically apt punishments. In a typical story, Master-Mind De Structo tries to suffocate America's heads of state with an oxygen-destroying ray, so Stardust turns him into a giant head, then hurls him into a space pocket of living death occupied by a headless headhunter. Hanks's artwork is crude and technically limited (each of his characters has exactly one, wildly caricatured, facial expression), but nearly every page has some image that sings out with deep, primal power. In an afterword, editor Paul Karasik explains how he tracked down Hanks's son and learned a bit more about the artist's sad life and death. (July)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Hanks, who plied his trade in the late 1930s and early 1940s, has been called the Ed Wood of comic books, but his narratives are far more bizarre than Wood's film scenarios, and his naive artwork resembles that of outsider artists like Henry Darger. His creations include jungle queen Fantomah, who morphs into an all-powerful, skull-faced avenger; he-man lumberjack Big Red McLane; and his chef d'oeuvre, Stardust, "master of space and interplanetary forces," a tiny-headed, barrel-chested, eight-foot superhero with limitless powers. Hanks definitely had a vision, albeit a loopy one. In every story here, justice is meted out in cruelly imaginative ways to "spies and grade-A racketeers," "a gigantic fifth column," and other miscreants. Stardust transforms them into icicles that melt away, or giant rats he then drowns. Hanks' crude but powerful draftsmanship makes such grisly executions laughably nightmarish. In a comics-format afterword as sensitive and nuanced as Hanks' work is harsh and blunt, compiler Karasik tracks down the fate of the elusive Hanks, who vanished from the scene after producing a handful of hauntingly demented works. Flagg, Gordon

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 124 pages
  • Publisher: Fantagraphics Books (June 20, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1560978392
  • ISBN-13: 978-1560978398
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 0.6 x 11 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (39 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #403,784 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

24 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Katie on July 28, 2007
Format: Paperback
by Glenn Phillips (Atlanta GA)

I've collected comic books for 50 years, and this was probably the most important collection of comics that I've ever read. The work of Hanks is surreal, crude yet beautiful (and impossible to take your eyes off), highly imaginative, and more importantly, it's a one-of-a-kind direct connection to a man's subconscious that exemplifies the power of the creative process.

What really put this book over the top for me, though, was the afterword by the book's editor, Paul Karasik, told as a 10-page graphic novel. In it, Karasik tracks down Hank's son and uncovers the disturbing story of Fletcher the man. This puts the violent and retributive nature of Hank's comics in an entirely different light, and is filled with surprises (including the fact that Hanks foreshadowed his own death in one of his stories, and the ultimately redemptive legacy that his son was able to wrestle from his upbringing).

For me, this book was an unforgettable journey into the world that lies just beyond the realm of imagination, yet is, nonetheless, forever linked to reality.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Lizard on April 26, 2010
Format: Paperback
Crudely drawn. Ineptly written. Insipidly plotted. To call the dialog "wooden" is an insult to plant life; to call the characters one dimensional is an insult to abstract geometric concepts.

You must buy this book. You MUST.

Fletcher Hanks was a drunken, wife-beating lout who created comic book characters of near-infinite power, who used it to concoct elaborate and complex punishments of grotesque criminals. His work exemplifies everything about the very earliest days of comics -- 100% undiluted power/revenge fantasies without a hint of internal consistency or deeper meaning. In an age when it takes 23 issues for the damn hero to have his origin story, and a near-encyclopedic set of historical cross references to even hope to understand why this guy in tights is beating up that other guy in tights, the sheer amount of... well, we can't really say "plot" or "story"... let's just say "stuff" compressed into 6 or 7 pages is simply astounding. To mangle language, this book is "un-put-downable". There is a transcendent ENERGY to Hanks' work which makes all issues of storytelling, talent, or the creator's execrable personality and habits irrelevant; this is art in its purest form, a direct link from random neuron firings in the id (yeah, I'm mixing biology and psychiatry, sue me) to the printed page, unimpeded by any internal censor, critic, or editor.

Buy it. Really.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Amazon fan on July 3, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Fletcher Hanks, pioneering comic artist, created the most surrealistic comic environments brimming with wonder and unspeakable evil at every page turn. His larger than life heroes, Fantomah (mysterious jungle woman), Stardust (omnipowerful wizard), Big Red McLane (two-fisted lumberjack), and Buzz Crandall (space ace), all rendered with slight heads and powerful bodies, use occult powers, super science or just a powerful right hook to banish the legions of offbeat and oddball villains -- with fatal results.

Hanks' rough-hued, boldly primitive artwork and "pre-comic code" visceral storytelling, makes this volume a must for anyone who enjoyed early comic collections like Dick Briefer's The Monster of Frankenstein or Art Out of Time: Unknown Comics Visionaries 1900-1969.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful By W. Hohauser on October 13, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Exceptionally strange, very crudely drawn comics from a time when crudely comics were the norm. It seems that Hanks would make only three drawings of his main characters and traced them over and over for his entire comic book career. Many other drawings seem to be traced photographs or stolen from other drawn art of the time. His stories have the same traced over and over quality. Hanks was obsessed with characters destroying New York City with squadrons of bombers flown by gangsters. New York gets it over and over. Most stories have the heroes figuring out the villian's homicidal plans by the third panel but allowing the horrible destruction happen regardless. Interestingly, most of the villains' plans involve extreme mass destruction and near total genocide. Stardust seems inspired by the awesome powers of comic book hero the Spectre but it's hard to tell which came first as no dates are given for the stories.

Between the crude drawing, the bizarre logic and the odd language you are transported into a world that crosses outsider art, a mental institution and that strange kid in high school who drew disturbing comics in the corner all day. If you are familiar with Rory Hayes of the 1960's underground scene, you'll have some sort of idea what's in these pages. The exceptional afterword fleshes out the world of Fletcher Hanks a little bit but believe me it doesn't make it any less disturbing.

A great item for the comic collector especially if they have a taste for some of the more extreme psychological comics that have been produced over the past 40 years. There are certainly a number of people I would never show this to.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By M. M. Smith on November 8, 2007
Format: Paperback
This is a long overdue collection of the most mystery of comic book creators. Not only are his drawings strange and weirdly naive but the story are simply out-of-this-world bizarre. Hanks style is immediate and wholly idyosyncratic on par with Wolverton for oddity and inventiveness. Fletcher and Basil are probably the lone standouts in the form. It wasnt until the underground movement began that we again see the clear awareness of artist manipulating the mark and structure of the medium in such interesting and individual ways.

Everytime I look at his work and read the stories I feel as though I am tapping into some primal awareness; some strange clarity of the world in absolutes. Having the original comics is best(I have accumulated only a few) having this book however is a rare gift-- share it with any who want to investigate genius. I only wish we knew more about him. Come check out the wonderous world of Fletcher Hanks.
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