Alan Kupperberg: 1953 to 2015

Comic book creator Alan Kupperberg passed away on July 16th at the age of 62.  I was fan of Kupperberg’s work, had met him at a few conventions, and was friends with him on Facebook.  I knew from his recent status updates on FB that he had been diagnosed with cancer several months ago.  Kupperberg had really been fighting his illness, and for a time it was hoped he would recover.  So it was unexpected and sad when his passing was announced by his brother, writer & editor Paul Kupperberg.

Like so many people who came to work in the comic book biz in the 1970s, Alan Kupperberg was very much a fan of the medium.  As he related in The Jack Kirby Collector #29 from TwoMorrows Publishing, in 1970 while still a teenager Kupperberg “was a regular pest – er – visitor to Marvel’s small, six room, dozen-person office” doing various odd jobs in the Bullpen.  A year later he was working in the production department of DC Comics, learning the intricacies of the business.  Kupperberg also worked at Atlas Comics during their very brief but still-memorable revival in the mid-1970s.

In the late 1970s Kupperberg was once again at Marvel.  Over the next decade he worked on numerous different series in a variety of capacities: writer, penciler, inker, letterer and colorist.  Kupperberg could do it all.

Invaders 37 cover

Kupperberg’s first ongoing assignment was the World War II superhero series The Invaders.  He came onboard as the new penciler with issue #29, cover-dated June 1978, replacing the outgoing Frank Robbins.  Kupperberg remained on The Invaders until the final issue, the double-sized #41 (Sept 1979) and he penciled the majority of those issues, working with both writer & editor Roy Thomas and writer Don Glut.

I imagine that The Invaders was not the easiest of series to pencil.  It was a team book set in the early 1940s.  This required Kupperberg to present clear storytelling so that the action was balanced between the numerous characters in action sequences.  He also had to render historically-accurate depictions of the people and the settings of the Second World War.  I think that he did very good work on the series, penciling some memorable, exciting stories written by Thomas and Glut.

Looking at Kupperberg’s time on The Invaders, one of the highlights is definitely issue #s 32-33, which had Hitler summoning Thor from Asgard and manipulating him into attacking the Soviet Union, bringing the thunder god into conflict with the Invaders.  Another noteworthy issue was the finale of the series, as The Invaders faced off against the so-called Super-Axis, a team of fascist supervillains.  Kupperberg, paired with inker Chic Stone, did very nice work on that climactic battle, helping Glut and Thomas to finish the series in style.  The issue concluded with a wonderful double page pin-up drawn by Kupperberg featuring every hero who had ever appeared in The Invaders.

Invaders 32 cover layouts and published

It was while penciling The Invaders that Kupperberg had an opportunity to collaborate with Jack Kirby.  He drew a rough layout for the cover to The Invaders #32.  The published cover artwork, based out his layout, was by the superstar team of Kirby & Joe Sinnott.

As Kupperberg recounted in The Jack Kirby Collector…

“I’d never been fond of drawing covers, but when I was asked to provide a cover layout or rough sketch for Invaders #32, I didn’t hesitate a tick – because it was for Jack.  I’d be interpreting Thor, Captain America, Namor and the Human Torch – for their artistic father!

“The Jack’s pencils arrived.  They blew my tender little mind – Kirby interpreting my interpretation of Kirby.”

Aside from The Invaders, Kupperberg never had a particularly long runs on any Marvel titles.  He was briefly the penciler of Thor and worked on several issues of What If.  Aside from that, Kupperberg was one of Marvel’s go-to guys for fill-in stories in the late 1970s to mid 80s.  He drew issues of Avengers, Captain America, Dazzler, Defenders, Amazing Spider-Man, Spectacular Spider-Man, Marvel Two-In-One, Moon Knight, Star Wars and Transformers.  In 1984 Kupperberg penciled a four issue Iceman miniseries written by J.M. DeMatteis.

Captain America 240 pg 11

As a fan of Captain America, I liked Kupperberg’s depiction of the character in The Invaders, Avengers, and Cap’s own book.  Kupperberg penciled a trio of fill-in stories for Captain America, which were in issue #s 240, 260 and 271.  The first of these, “Gang Wars,” is noteworthy for the collaboration between the two Kupperberg brothers.  Paul plotted the issue, Alan penciled & scripted it, and it was inked by the talented Don Perlin.  I think this was the only time that Alan and Paul worked together.

Another of my favorite Marvel stories that Kupperberg worked on was Avengers #205 (March 1981).  Kupperberg and inker Dan Green did excellent work on this issue.  The second chapter of a two-part story plotted by Bob Budiansky & scripted by David Michelinie, this issue saw the Avengers attempting to thwart a plot to conquer the world by the diabolical Yellow Claw.  The cover to this issue by Kupperberg & Green, featuring the Vision in fierce combat with the Claw, is really dynamic.  As the saying goes, they really don’t make ‘em like this anymore!

Avengers 205 cover

In the mid-1980s Kupperberg began doing work for DC Comics, as well.  He became the penciler of the offbeat Blue Devil series written by Dan Mishkin & Gary Cohen.  Kupperberg started on issue #12 (May 1985) and remained on the book until its conclusion with issue #30.  He also worked on Justice League of America and Firestorm.  Kupperberg’s guest pencils on All-Star Squadron #66 in Feb 1987 (the penultimate issue of the series) saw him briefly reunited with writer Roy Thomas, who had spent the last several years chronicling the adventures of DC’s superheroes during World War II.

Anyone who has ever met Alan Kupperberg or read an interview with him will definitely realize that he had an amazing and unconventional sense of humor.  That was certainly reflected in his comic book work.  He worked on a number of humorous, not to mention unusual, projects throughout his career.

Somehow or another Kupperberg became associated with not one but two evil clowns during his career.  The first of these was Obnoxio the Clown, created by Larry Hama in the pages of Crazy Magazine.  In early 1983 Obnoxio landed his very own one-shot.  Written, drawn, lettered and colored by Kupperberg with edits by Hama, this bizarre special had the cigar-chomping Obnoxio running rings around the X-Men, getting summoned for jury duty, answering fan mail and just acting as rude as possible.  All these years later I am still amazed that this issue got published!

Obnoxio the Clown pg 6

Kupperberg also illustrated the misadventures of Frenchy the Clown, the star of the “Evil Clown Comics” feature in National Lampoon.  Devised by writer / actor / comedian Nick Bakay, Frenchy was a violent foul-mouthed alcoholic womanizer in greasepaint.  Several years ago Kupperberg was working on reprinting the “Evil Clown Comics” stories in a collected edition, but unfortunately this didn’t come to fruition.

Doing much more family-friendly humor work, between 1988 and 1990 Kupperberg drew a number of all-new five-page Peter Porker, the Spectacular Spider-Ham stories that editor Jim Salicrup ran in the back of the Spider-Man reprint series Marvel Tales.  These were written by Michael Eury, Danny Fingeroth and Kupperberg himself, with Joe Albelo inking many of the installments.

One of my favorites of these Spider-Ham stories from Marvel Tales was his encounter with Frank Carple aka the Punfisher (obviously a fishy funny animal version of the Punisher).  Eury, Kupperberg & Albelo pitted the uneasy alliance of Spider-Ham and the Punfisher against the tentacle menace of Doctor Octopussycat!

Marvel Tales 215 pg 30

I highly recommend visiting the official Alan Kupperberg website which was set up by Daniel Best.  This fantastic site has numerous examples of Kupperberg’s art.  There are several articles wherein Best speaks with Kupperberg at length about his work.  It is an amazing resource.  Additionally, on his blog 20th Century Danny Boy, Best interviewed Kupperberg regarding the “Evil Clown Comics” stories.

As I mentioned before, I was fortunate enough to meet Kupperberg on a few occasions when he was a guest at comic book conventions.  He struck me as a genuinely nice guy.  I’m glad I was able to talk with him and obtain a couple of sketches by him.  I will certainly miss him, as will many other comic book fans who grew up reading his work.

Look out! Here comes Spider-Gwen!

A few months ago Marvel Comics published the epic “Spider-Verse” crossover masterminded by writer Dan Slott, which featured appearances by pretty much every single alternate reality version of Spider-Man ever conceived, as well as introducing numerous new incarnations.  The breakout star of “Spider-Verse” was Gwen Stacy as a new Spider-Woman, who fans took to calling “Spider-Gwen.”

Making her debut in Edge of Spider-Verse #2, this parallel universe revision of Gwen Stacy / Spider-Woman was quickly given an ongoing title once “Spider-Verse” wrapped up.  Spider-Gwen #1 hit the shelves a mere five months after Edge of Spider-Verse #2, and so far is selling at a brisk pace.

Spider-Gwen 1 cover

I think there is a very basic reason why Spider-Gwen is such a success, and it ties in with the history of the original version of the character.  Gwen Stacy first appeared in 1965 in Amazing Spider-Man #31 by Steve Ditko & Stan Lee.  Gwen was originally something of a haughty ice queen.  After Ditko departed the series, Lee and new penciler John Romita gradually transformed Gwen into a warmer, caring figure.  She became involved in a long-term relationship with Peter Parker.  All these years later many long-time readers regard Gwen as Spider-Man’s first true love.

Fast forward to 1973 and the tragic events of Amazing Spider-Man #121.  In a story by Gerry Conway, Gil Kane & John Romita,  Gwen Stacy was brutally murdered by Spider-Man’s arch-enemy the Green Goblin, thrown from the top of the Brooklyn Bridge.  In hindsight, Gwen’s death is probably the first prominent example of what two decades later would be referred to by Gail Simone as “women in refrigerators” syndrome.

Ever since then the character of Gwen Stacy has been defined primarily by her death, by the fact that she was killed by Norman Osborn in order to make Spider-Man suffer.  A version of Gwen introduced in Ultimate Spider-Man was eventually murdered by Carnage.  Gwen appeared in the two recent Amazing Spider-Man movies, played by actress Emma Stone.  And, yep, at the end of the second one, she gets killed by the Green Goblin.  No matter what reality Gwen popped up in she seemed to have a target painted on her back, and fans were left holding their breaths waiting for someone to inevitably pull the trigger.

So by introducing an alternate reality version of Gwen Stacy who is Spider-Woman, this horrible trend is finally turned completely around.  Instead of being a victim, Gwen is now a hero.

Of course, it’s not just the concept but the execution.  As I understand it, Slott initially thought up the idea of giving a parallel universe version of Gwen the spider-powers.  The actual development of the character fell to writer Jason Latour and artist Robbi Rodriguez, the latter of whom designed Spider-Woman’s distinctive costume.

Edge of Spider-Verse 2 pg 2 & 3 Spider-Gwen origin

I have to admit, when I first read Spider-Gwen #1-4 I was a bit lost.  I felt like I had come in on the second act.  So I went and finally purchased Edge of Spider-Verse #2, now on its fifth printing (I told you the character was hot).  Reading that and then re-reading those issues of Spider-Gwen, things did make more sense.

Admittedly the story in Edge of Spider-Verse #2 drops the readers right into the middle of things.  I imagine that when Latour wrote it he didn’t have any idea that Spider-Woman would be an instant hit.  So he set out to give readers a crash course on Gwen’s origin via a quick two-page flashback before showing us what she was up to, and then ending the issue with a hook leading into the rest of the “Spider-Verse” crossover.

In the Spider-Gwen reality of Earth-65 it was Gwen Stacy and not Peter Parker who got bit by a radioactive spider and gained super-powers.  Much like Peter did waaaay back in Amazing Fantasy #15, Gwen adopted a costumed identity in order to seek fame & fortune.

Peter, who was as much of a socially awkward nerd in this reality as he was on “mainstream” Earth-616, became a huge fan of Spider-Woman.  Tired of being bullied by his high school classmates, Peter decided he also wanted to be famous.  He developed what appeared to be a serum similar to the one that turned Curt Connors into the Lizard.  Transforming into a monster, Peter fought Spider-Woman, and during the battle was fatally wounded.  The dying Peter told Spider-Woman “I just… just… wanted to be special… like you.”  This left Gwen completely devastated, as she and Peter had been close friends.

The J. Jonah Jameson of this world, who much like his 616 counterpart never met a spider-themed vigilante who he didn’t hate, immediately began blaming Spider-Woman for Peter’s death.  His editorials in The Daily Bugle convinced the general public and the NYPD that Spider-Woman is a criminal.

In a crowning piece of irony, Jameson is the one who declares “Spider-Woman and those like her must learn that with their great power comes an even greater responsibility!”  It is an admonishment that Gwen takes to heart.  She sets aside her frivolous goals and vows to use her powers to help others, even if most people believe her to be a murderer.

Edge of Spider-Verse 2 pg 18

Gwen’s task is made all the more difficult by the fact that the police officer leading the manhunt for her is none other than her father, Captain George Stacy.  This ends up placing Stacy in the crosshairs of the Kingpin, who has his own plans for Spider-Woman.  An assassin is dispatched to murder the police captain.  Spider-Woman saves her father’s life, but Stacy immediately turns around and tries to arrest her.  This forces Gwen to unmask, much to her father’s shock.  She attempts to explain her actions to her father:

“You’re a good cop, Dad. You put on that badge and carry that gun because you know if you don’t, someone who shouldn’t will.

“When I put this mask on, I only did it because it freed me from responsibility. I thought I was special. And Peter Parker died because he tried to follow my example. I have to take responsibility for that. To make his death mean something.

“This mask is my badge now. If I don’t define what it means, monsters like this will. This is where I’m needed most.”

I’m glad that Latour got the reveal of Gwen’s identity to her father out of the way early on.  He avoided having the clichéd set-up of an authority figure on a misguided mission to hunt down a misunderstood vigilante, not knowing that their target is a loved one.  That type of thing has been played out too many times in the past.

The Spider-Gwen series is very much concerned with Gwen’s efforts to make things right.  Beneath the flippant attitude and corny quips of Spider-Woman, she is in turmoil, still haunted by feelings of guilt over Peter’s death.  Her relationship with her father is severely strained, as she has forced him to choose between his responsibilities as a parent and his duty as a police officer.  She is very much the novice crime-fighter, making a number of serious mistakes.  Gwen also struggles to balance her two identities, to find a way to be both an ordinary teen and a super-hero.  Her friendships with the members of the band the Mary Janes is on the skids since she keeps flaking out on them due to her activities as Spider-Woman.

It’s interesting how similar yet how different the Spider-Gwen universe is from the “regular” Marvel universe.  The Kingpin and the Vulture are much like their 616 selves.  Matt Murdock is not Daredevil but he is still blind and possesses heightened senses.  However in this reality he works as the Kingpin’s lawyer and is totally corrupt.  Frank Castle is also a regular fixture, not as the Punisher, but as a member of the NYPD, albeit one who is nearly as ruthless as his vigilante counterpart.  Castle’s idea of “interrogating” a suspect is to beat him within an inch of his life.

Spider-Gwen 2 pg 3

Despite the often somber tone, Latour features a lot of humor in his stories.  Spider-Woman draws the Vulture out of hiding by spray painting insulting graffiti all about the city such as “Your nest is a hot mess” and “Death from a butt.”  In the second issue, after sustaining a concussion during her battle with the Vulture, Gwen begins hallucinating that her one-time ally Spider-Ham is following her around making smartass comments.

I did feel that these issues went by a bit too quickly.  At $3.99 each, it would be nice if they were somewhat more substantial reads.  But that’s hardly a complaint that I would direct solely at Latour.  It seems endemic of a good portion of the comic book biz: the more expensive single issues become, the shorter the time it takes to read them, or so it seems.

The artwork by Rodriguez on Spider-Gwen is amazing.  He gives this series a unique look and atmosphere.  Rodriguez’s illustration of the action sequences is dynamic, with extremely effective layouts & storytelling.  Likewise, he does solid work with the quieter character moments, as in issue #4 when May Parker talks to Gwen about what happened to Peter, and about her feelings concerning Spider-Woman.

Spider-Gwen 3 pg 10

Rico Renzi’s coloring on these issues certainly stands out.  He utilizes unusual, distinctive hues to create a palpable sense of atmosphere.  Renzi’s coloring very much complements Rodriguez’s artwork.

The design sense that Rodriguez demonstrates on his covers for Spider-Gwen is striking.  He creates very eye-catching, abstract compositions on each of them.

As with so many other comic books nowadays, Spider-Gwen is being released with numerous variant covers by a number of different artists.  For issue #4 I decided to mix things up a bit and buy one of those, the regularly-priced variant by Mark Brooks.  His portrait of Spider-Woman hanging out on the side of the George Washington Bridge is done a much more photo-realistic style than Rodriguez’s work.  I’ve recently seen Brooks’ work on a number of covers for Marvel titles.  He’s done quality work on these.

Spider-Gwen 4 variant cover

While I was somewhat undecided after reading the first couple of issues of Spider-Gwen, the next two hooked my interest.  For the time being I think I’ll keep following this book and see where Latour & Rodriguez are going.

At the very least, with all the action taking place on “Earth-65” I hopefully won’t have to worry about Spider-Woman getting tied up in all the Secret Wars shenanigans currently occupying most of Marvel’s publishing line.  Ideally Gwen will be given the time to feature in several stories in her own reality, to stand on her own two feet, before once again crossing over into other realities.

Having said that, if and when Spider-Gwen does pay a visit to Earth-616, hopefully we will get to see her toss Norman Osborn off a bridge!

Comic book reviews: Spider-Man “Kraven’s Last Hunt”

Each month Midtown Comics has their Book of the Month meeting, where one or more people involved in the creation of a graphic novel or trade paperback discuss the background of that volume.  This month, the featured book was “Fearful Symmetry: Kraven’s Last Hunt,” which many consider to be one of the all time great Spider-Man stories.

“Kraven’s Last Hunt” was originally serialized across six issues during a two month period in 1987, appearing in the three ongoing titles: Web of Spider-Man #31-32, Amazing Spider-Man #293-294, and Spectacular Spider-Man #131-132.   It was written by J.M. DeMatteis, with artwork by Mike Zeck and Bob McLeod.  Coming in to Midtown Comics to discuss it was editor Jim Salicrup (currently doing excellent work as editor-in-chief of Papercutz).

Kraven1

“Kraven’s Last Hunt” deals with the relationship between Spider-Man and one of his old foes, Sergei Kravinoff, aka Kraven the Hunter.  It also examines the (at the time brand new) marriage between Spider-Man’s alter ego Peter Parker and his wife Mary Jane.

As the story opens, Kraven, who was born in the early 20th Century, is feeling the weight of age.  Although kept young and vigorous for decades by herbs and potions he discovered in Africa, Kraven now begins to suspect time is starting to catch up with him.  He is also dwelling on his long-dead parents, Russian aristocrats who fled to America in 1917.  And he has begun to obsess over his long string of defeats at the hands of Spider-Man.  Kraven comes to believe that no mere man could have bested him, that Spider-Man must be a dark spirit, the same spirit he now perceives as having toppled Czarist rule in his homeland.  Convinced that he will soon die, the Hunter is determined to best Spider-Man once and for all.

Ingesting strange drugs, Kraven goes on the prowl.  In the midst of a rainstorm, he ambushes Spider-Man, shooting him, seemingly killing him.  Burying his long-time foe, Kraven then takes on his costumed identity, to prove he is the better man, and begins a brutal crackdown on crime in New York.  When Kraven learns that the half-man, half-rat mutant named Vermin is on the loose in the city sewers, abducting & eating innocent people, he sees this as a further test.  Here is a foe that the real Spider-Man was never able to defeat on his own, one who he needed the assistance of Captain America to stop.  If Kraven alone can beat Vermin, he will then truly prove himself to be superior.

Kraven2

Spider-Man is, of course, not dead.  Kraven has actually drugged him, and buried him alive.  Under the earth in a coffin for two weeks, Peter Parker experiences horrific hallucinations.  Finally, he is able to claw his way out of the coffin and up through the ground, driven by love, by the desire to be reunited with his wife, Mary Jane.

J.M. DeMatteis crafted a truly disturbing, dark tale with “Kraven’s Last Hunt.”  In his introduction to the TPB, he explains the genesis of the story.  It’s interesting that this originally began life as a pitch for a miniseries exploring the relationship between Wonder Man and his brother the Grim Reaper, turning into an examination of the dynamic between Batman and the Joker, before eventually (after a few more evolutions) becoming the climax to Spider-Man and Kraven’s long-running rivalry.

“Fearful Symmetry” was originally commissioned by editor Jim Owsley, and then fell under the auspices of his successor on the Spider-Man titles, Salicrup.  Although he wanted to take the three books in a less dark, more “fun” direction than Owsley had, Salicrup says he saw the potential in the story.  Like DeMatteis, he recognized that it was a brilliant way to explore the romance of Peter and Mary Jane.

As Salicrup explains it, although “Kraven’s Last Hunt” superficially resembles the “grim and gritty” comic books coming to the forefront in the mid-1980s, it really did not fall into that category.  It was actually the act of dropping the character of Spider-Man into a story along the lines of Watchmen or Dark Knight Returns and seeing what happens.  And what occurred was Spider-Man stayed true to himself.  Peter wasn’t driven by revenge to dig his way out of his grave, but by love for his wife.  As Salicrup observes, it is a scene that very much parallels the classic Amazing Spider-Man #33 by Steve Ditko & Stan Lee, when Spider-Man, trapped under a mountain of wrecked machinery, struggles to lift it up, knowing that he is the only one who can bring a life-saving serum to Aunt May, who lies dying.

Despite his traumatic experiences and the temptation to kill Kraven, Spider-Man does not emerge swearing to wreck brutal vengeance, but wishing to bring his foe to justice.  Finally, when Spider-Man himself must stop Vermin, an opponent Kraven defeated by brute force, the web-slinger does not descend to the level of the Hunter.  Instead, he tries to reach out to Vermin with empathy & understanding, and to use intelligence to outwit him.

Kraven4

DeMatteis does a superb job scripting Kraven.  As someone who did not start reading comic books until the 1980s, I am not especially familiar with most of the character’s earlier stories.  As I understand it, even though he was created by Ditko and Lee, he was never considered a major Spider-Man villain, and as time went on, with subsequent appearances over the next two decades, he became something of B-list character.

DeMatteis himself admits that he was never a fan of Kraven, and that it was in his unexplored Russian heritage that the writer saw potential.  The Kraven in “Fearful Symmetry” is a troubled, dangerous individual, teetering between nobility and insanity.  In this six part tale, DeMatteis takes what was formerly a one-note character and remakes him into an intriguing, tragic, formidable opponent.

The artwork by Mike Zeck & Bob McLeod is absolutely magnificent.  I have been a huge fan of Zeck since he penciled Captain America in the early 1980s, paired up with, of course, DeMatteis as writer.  “Kraven’s Last Hunt” is a stunning reunion for the two of them, and Zeck does some of the best work of his career.  His layouts & storytelling are extremely dramatic.  The inking by McLeod really provides the artwork with a palpable atmosphere of shadows and looming darkness.

I also want to point out the contributions of letter Rick Parker.  Comic book lettering is an extremely underrated art, even more so than inking.  I’m a fan of such professionals as Janice Chiang, John Workman, and Tom Orzechowski, all of whom do wonderful work putting down dialogue and narration.  Parker is also an excellent letterer, and on “Kraven’s Last Hunt” he really emphasizes the dramatic beats and emphasis of DeMatteis’ scripting.

Credit also has to go to Salicrup for the idea to run “Kraven’s Last Hunt” during a two month period through all three titles, rather than having it serialized as a six-part story in Spectacular Spider-Man, as was the original plan.  Nowadays this is an extremely common practice, but back in 1987 it was exceedingly rare.  Salicrup’s canny rationale was that if Spider-Man is buried alive in Spectacular while he’s off fighting someone like Doctor Octopus in the pages of Amazing, it would significantly cut down on the dramatic tension.  Also, the two month schedule really helped maintain momentum that might have been lost over a half year.

(Incidentally, flipping back through many of the Marvel comic books that I read and enjoyed in the 1980s, I see a significant number of them were edited by Salicrup.  He seems to have had a real talent for getting the best work out of the creators working under him.)

My one disappointment was that this TPB did not also include the 1992 sequel “Soul of the Hunter,” also by the team of DeMatteis, Zeck & McLeod.  That special examined the consequences of Kraven choosing to take his own life at the end of “Fearful Symmetry,” as well as the lingering feelings Spider-Man has for what he went through.  It was an extremely good story.  Next time I’m over at my parents’ house, I want to dig it out of the box it’s buried in and read it once again.

Kraven3

Oh, yes, for the completists out there, you will also want to track down a copy of issue #3 of Marvel’s humor title What The–?!  Featuring a tale of Peter Porker, the Spectacular Spider-Ham titled “Raven’s Last Hunt,” this oddball comic is topped off with a cover by Zeck & McLeod spoofing their original image for Amazing Spider-Man #294.

Arachnid pigs aside, “Kraven’s Last Hunt” is certainly a classic story, featuring brilliant work by an extremely talented creative team.  If you have not already read it, I highly recommend picking up a copy of the collected edition.  It is well worth a look.