Category Archives: Marion’s Favorite Books

Marion’s favorite books that he has reviewed.

Wisdom From Kammbia Book Review 75: Invisible Men by Ken Quattro

Black History Month is in full swing and I have seen many social media posts recognizing the achievements of African Americans throughout the nation’s history.  However, I have always wanted to find out something that does not get much recognition or overlooked during this annual celebration in February. Invisible Men: The Trailblazing Black Artists of Comics by Ken Quattro is an outstanding example.

I have shared that my love of reading came from comic books as a teenager. The mixture of prose with art laid out in sequentially in a comic over the course 25-30 pages is an interesting and unique way of storytelling. The superhero genre has dominated the comic book field since the 1950s during its Silver Age. It seemed on the surface the comic book artists from that time were mostly white men.  However, I have learned there were a handful of black comic book artists working from the late 1940s through late 1950s.  These artists worked for a little pay but created a broader outlook for the industry on the whole and expanded it beyond superheroes.

Invisible Men profiled eighteen black comic artists and the path of their careers from the aforementioned time period.  Most of the artists grew up drawing as kids and trained as fine artists, but turned to comic book art to make a living. The author highlighted how the artists worked on comic books covering adventure, crime, horror, humor, and romance from a white perspective.

The most gifted of the artists was Clarence Matthew Baker. Baker was known his ability to draw beautiful women with accurate proportions and great detail.  His best known work was from a titled called Tiger Girl published in 1946 and Canteen Kate published in 1952.  Tiger Girl featured a heroine fighting in the jungles of Africa and Canteen Kate was another heroine story set during wartime with her giving the troops much-needed morale.  The stories were stereotypical and a product of its time.  However, Baker’s art stood out as exceptional and could have been published now.

Elmer Cecil Stoner was another artist that caught my attention. Stoner worked on comics like The Blue Beetle published in 1944, which had a superhero take on Hitler and fascism. He worked on a comic book called The Funnies published in 1940 and featured the superhero Phantasmo who looked like an early vision of Marvel’s The Giant Man.  Stoner was a part of the Harlem Renaissance and had connections with Langston Hughes, Duke Ellington, and Zora Neale Hurston.  It showed the comic book artists were not excluded from the wider artist community.

Quattro highlighted the effects of the Jim Crow laws had on these artists.  But, amid that inequality, the comic book industry provided an unlikely avenue for black artists to showcase their talents.  Also, Stan Lee (before he became recognized for his association with Marvel Comics) hired several of the artists to work on various titles for Atlas Comics.  Lee was a proponent for getting black artists work in the industry.

Invisible Men is a book that reveals a slice of American History I had no clue about until a week ago.  It shows the range of black people doing something that had been swept up by the annals of history. I highly recommend this book for comic book fans and historians and those who want to learn more about the nontraditional avenues black people inhabited in our nation.

 

Wisdom From Kammbia Book Review 73: The Dark Fantastic by Ebony Elizabeth Thomas

“The principles of the dark fantastic are so ingrained in our collective consciousness that when the expected pattern is subverted, most audiences cannot suspend disbelief. Readers and viewers complain that dark heroic protagonists are not likable. Critics observe that the characters, settings, circumstances, and resolutions are unbelievable. Agents regret that they just cannot connect with… Continue Reading

Wisdom From Kammbia Book Review 72: An American Marriage by Tayari Jones

  If your spouse was wrongly accused of rape and went to prison for five years but gets released, would you remain married? That was the question An American Marriage by Tayari Jones attempted to answer in her popular novel.  An American Marriage was selected for Oprah’s Book Club in 2018 and has been a… Continue Reading

Wisdom From Kammbia Book Review 69: Silver Surfer #1 (1968) by Stan Lee & John Buscema

As a teenager, I had a huge comic book collection.  It was mostly Marvel and DC Comics with a few independent comic book publishers like Image, Dark Horse, and Valiant Comics. I read Avengers, Green Lantern Mosaic, Green Arrow, The Spectre, Sandman, and Icon (from Milestone Comics) during that time.  The Silver Surfer (along with Icon)… Continue Reading

Wisdom From Kammbia Book Review 68: The Spy Who Came In From The Cold by John Le Carre

John Le Carre passed away earlier this month.  I posted on social media my respects and fondness for The Spy Who Came In From The Cold, the only Le Carre novel I had read. I was going to read A Perfect Spy in honor of his death.  However, I got about fifty pages into that… Continue Reading

Marion’s Favorites: Marion’s Favorite Reads of 2020

2020 is mercifully coming to a close, and it has been probably one of the most challenging years that I can remember.  A global pandemic.  A contentious American presidential election.  Big time celebrity deaths. So on and so on.  Reading has been choppy.  However, I read fifty books this year.  Here are my favorite reads… Continue Reading

Wisdom From Kammbia Book Review 63: The Practice by Seth Godin

Seth Godin is becoming one of my favorite public thinkers. I read his blog daily and listen to his podcast, Akimbo, as often I can.  Also, I have read several of his books like Tribes, Permission Marketing, and This Is Marketing.  He’s had a pulse on the business world for over three decades. His latest… Continue Reading

Wisdom From Kammbia Book Review 62: The Ancient Child by N. Scott Momaday

I have shared many times on this blog I read for story, characters, setting, and what an author is trying to say about life. Story is my reading language.  I don’t put down many books once I read them.  However, if there’s no story, I’m out as a reader.  I will admit that I don’t… Continue Reading

Wisdom From Kammbia Book Review 60: Shadowshaper by Daniel Jose Older

What if your family tried to keep their connection to a powerful magic away from you? What happens when you find out that your family is connected to that magic for years? Sierra Santiago learns about her family’s connection to a powerful magic in Shadowshaper by Daniel Jose Older, the first book of the Shadowshaper… Continue Reading

Wisdom From Kammbia Book Review 59: How To Be An Artist by Jerry Saltz

Podcasts have become my other favorite platform for content alongside books.  I can listen to a podcast on various subjects and the long form interview from 30 minutes up to 2 hours is an excellent way to go deep on a topic. The Dave Chang Show is one of my favorite podcasts and a regular… Continue Reading