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

4.7 out of 5 stars 40 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)
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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: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (40 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #262,662 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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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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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Of the two volumes that collect the works of Fletcher Hanks, I personally like this volume more because it collects more what I would say are the stranger stories of the two volumes. Both volumes have great stuff, and the other volume has more pages, but some of the material found in the other volume is blandly bad and not so entertaining in it's awfulness.

Almost every story from the earliest years of the golden age of superhero comic books are predictable and formulaic, usually to the point of putting your average adult to sleep, BUT THEN there is Fletcher Hanks who is so astonishingly horrible that he creates paradoxically entertaining stories. What really distinguishes Fletcher Hanks creations is that he is genuinely inventive, yet his creations are so ridiculous, poorly drawn, and lacking reason or aptitude that they become an odd sort of bizarre spectacle, often bordering on pure nonsense. His drawing is terrible, being completely without correct proportion or perspective. His stories are equally if not more terrible as they use hokey ideas and concepts that try to smoosh together silly science-ish sounding inventions that have no basis of fact or even logical application.

This is the kind of crap that we connoisseurs of "bad" pop culture live for. I think part of the enjoyment is trying to figure out what in the world Mr. Hanks was trying to accomplish and how he felt about his work. Keep in mind that Fletcher was a falling down drunk and a bastard to his family of the worst sort (this is according to his own son!), so it's hard to say how coherently aware he was of what his creations meant in the bigger picture. But the absurdity of these stories is somewhat equally balanced with how humorously weird they are.
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