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Weekly Book Buzz: Alter Ego’s Centennial Edition

We Review The 100th Edition of the venerable fanzine

By Tim Janson     April 04, 2011

Alter Ego Centennial Edition
© TwoMorrows Publishing


Very happy this week to present a review of Alter Ego Centennial Edition. Alter Ego is the longest running fanzine devoted to comic books now in its 50th year and helmed by all-time great comic book writer, Roy Thomas. I’ve probably read more stories written by Roy Thomas than any other comic book writer except for maybe Stan Lee. I’ve been fortunate to develop a friendship with him and am happy to present a review of this landmark book. 
Sword of the Gods: Forgotten Realms: Abyssal Plague, Book II Bruce R. Cordell [Wizards of the Coast]
What you don’t know will kill you...Demascus awakens surrounded by corpses, at a shrine littered with traces of demonic rituals, with no memory of his past. But the Firestorm Cabal remembers him—and the demon who leads them seems to have a personal vendetta against him. Dodging knives, uncovering clues left by his past life, and dueling demons, Demascus must figure out who he is, what battles he is fighting, and who is hunting him before one of them catches up with him.
The Shining City: Book Three of the Warriors of Estavia Fiona Patton [DAW]
With the three children of prophecy-the seers Spar and Graize, and the warrior Brax-now grown, and the young God Hisar ready to stake his claim to a place in the pantheon of Anavatan, a time of chaos and change is fast approaching. For only if sworn enemies Spar and Graize can come together as Hisar's priests will the God stand any chance of surviving the coming battles with both the hungry spirits seeking to devour him, and the war with the mortal invasion fleet, which is even now sailing for Anavatan.
Magic on the Hunt (Allie Beckstrom, Book 6) Devon Monk [Roc]
In the secret lockup of the Authority, the council that decides what can and can't be done with magic, an undead magic user has possessed one of the prisoners. He wants his freedom-and then some. Now Allie Beckstrom and her lover, Zayvion, are the first line of defense against the chaos he's about to unleash on the city of Portland ...
Among Thieves: A Tale of the Kin Douglas Hulick [Roc]
Drothe has been a member of the Kin for years, rubbing elbows with thieves and murderers in the employ of a crime lord while smuggling relics on the side. But when an ancient book falls into his hands, Drothe finds himself in possession of a relic capable of bringing down emperors-a relic everyone in the underworld would kill to obtain.
Thief-Taker's Apprentice Stephen Deas [Gollancz]
Berren has lived in the city all his life. He has made his way as a thief, paying a little of what he earns to the Fagin like master of their band. But there is a twist to this tale of a thief. One day Berren goes to watch an execution of three thieves. He watches as the thief-taker takes his reward and decides to try and steal the prize. He fails. The young thief is taken. But the thief-taker spots something in Berren. And the boy reminds him of someone as well. Berren becomes his apprentice. And is introduced to a world of shadows, deceit and corruption behind the streets he thought he knew. Full of richly observed life in a teeming fantasy city, a hectic progression of fights, flights and fancies and charting the fall of a boy into the dark world of political plotting and murder this marks the beginning of a new fantasy series for all lovers of fantasy - from fans of Kristin Cashore to Brent Weeks.
The Dragon's Path (The Dagger and the Coin) Daniel Abraham [Orbit]
All paths lead to war...Marcus' hero days are behind him. He knows too well that even the smallest war still means somebody's death. When his men are impressed into a doomed army, staying out of a battle he wants no part of requires some unorthodox steps.  Cithrin is an orphan, ward of a banking house. Her job is to smuggle a nation's wealth across a war zone, hiding the gold from both sides. She knows the secret life of commerce like a second language, but the strategies of trade will not defend her from swords.
Geder, sole scion of a noble house, has more interest in philosophy than in swordplay. A poor excuse for a soldier, he is a pawn in these games. No one can predict what he will become.  Falling pebbles can start a landslide. A spat between the Free Cities and the Severed Throne is spiraling out of control. A new player rises from the depths of history, fanning the flames that will sweep the entire region onto The Dragon's Path-the path to war.
Element Zero (REVIVORS) James Knapp [Tor]
Technologically reanimated corpses are frontline soldiers engaged in a neverending war. Agent Nico Wachalowski uncovered a conspiracy that allowed Samuel Fawkes, the scientist who created them, to control them beyond the grave. And now Fawkes has infected untold thousands with new technology, creating an undetectable army that will obey his every command-a living army that just might represent the future of humanity...
The Arctic Marauder Jacques Tardi [Fantagraphics]
In its ongoing quest to showcase the wide range of Jacques Tardi’s bibliography, Fantagraphics reaches all the way back to one of his earliest, and most distinctive graphic novels: A satirical, Jules Vernes-esque “retro-sci-fi” yarn executed on scratchboard in a stunningly detailed faux-woodcut style perfectly chosen to render the Edwardian-era mechanical marvels on display. Created in 1972, The Arctic Marauder is a downright prescient example of proto-“steampunk” science fiction — or perhaps more accurately, and to coin a spinoff genre, “icepunk.”
In 1899, “L’Anjou,” a ship navigating the Arctic Ocean from Murmansk, Russia, to Le Havre, France comes across a stunning sight: A ghostly, abandoned vessel perched high atop an iceberg. But exploring this strange apparition is the last thing the sailors will ever do, as their own ship is soon dispatched to Davy Jones’ locker via a mysterious explosion.
Enter Jérôme Plumier, whose search for his missing uncle, the inventor Louis-Ferdinand Chapoutier, brings him into contact with the sinister, frigid forces behind this — and soon he too is headed towards the North Pole, where he will content with mad scientists, monsters of the deep, and futuristic submarines and flying machines. Told with brio in hilarious slabs of vintage purple prose, The Arctic Marauder works both as ripping good adventure story and parody of same, and, predating as it does the later and not dissimilar Adèle Blanc-Sec series, is a keystone in Tardi’s oeuvre in his fantastical mode. 64 pages of black-and-white comics.
Alien in the Family Gini Koch [DAW]
Super-Being Exterminator Kitty Katt and the Alpha Centaurian she loves, Jeff Martini, should be finalizing their wedding plans. But that was before she discovers Jeff is in line to become Emperor back on his home world. Kitty knows she is everything a royal family wouldn't approve of, and is bracing herself for the worst. As it turns out, the royal family is just the beginning. Especially when extraterrestrial Amazonian terrorists are determined to start and end Kitty and Jeff's nuptial festivities with a bang.
Alter Ego Centennial Roy Thomas (Twomorrows Publishing)
Alter Ego Centennial is a new 160 page book and the 100th issue of Thomas’ long-running fanzine, now in its 50th year of publication. For a fanzine to be around 50 years is simply incredible. Sure there have been long periods, particularly during the years that Roy Thomas was a full-time writer and editor at Marvel and DC but it’s still a remarkable accomplishment. Began in 1961 by the late Jerry Bails as the first fanzine solely devoted to superhero comics, Thomas soon joined as writer, editor…even artist. The Zine was re-launched at TwoMorrows who specializes in books on comic books. 
If you’ve ever read an issue of Alter Ego, Thomas’ lifelong love of comics is immediately evident. He grew up reading the Golden Age adventures of the Justice Society of America in All-Star Comics and it was the revival of costumed heroes in the late 1950s that led to Thomas writing letters to DC legends like editor Julius Schwartz and writer Gardner Fox. Thomas’ letter to Fox eventually put him in touch with Bails and the rest, as they say, is history. And when it comes to the history of comic books, few are as qualified to speak on the subject as Roy Thomas. Thomas became the first person to become editor-in-chief at Marvel Comics other than Stan Lee and was responsible for bringing Conan to comics and starting the careers of many young writers and artists in the 1970s.
While much of Thomas career at Marvel has been recalled numerous times, his years at DC were not as well documented…until now. Thomas sat down with interviewer extraordinaire Jim Amash, to share his experiences at DC in an interview that makes up about a third of the book. Roy discusses his departure from Marvel…yet another casualty of the Jim Shooter Reign of Terror…Making the move to DC after 15 years at Marvel was a landmark decision. At DC he created what he notes as his favorite series to write, The All-Star Squadron. This was his chance to write about the JSA, the heroes he grew up on. Roy relates the ups and downs of the series and how the epic limited series Crisis on Infinite Earths hindered his ability to use many of the characters he’d been assured that he could continue to use.
Roy also talks about giving a young Todd McFarlane his start in comics as artist on Infinity Inc., and how DC allowed the talented young artist to simply walk away to Marvel to become a major star. It’s an outstanding interview that lifts the veil on the kind of political battles that take place in the industry. Also included is a 1965 article Thomas wrote on the creation of Alter Ego but with all new annotations that let Roy reflect back on what he wrote over 40 years ago. The Centennial also reprints that very first issue of Alter Ego from 1961; tributes to Roy and Alter Ego from some of the giants in the comic profession including Stan Lee; Michael T. Gilbert’s article on the great era of fanzines, and much more.
The Alter Ego Centennial edition is truly what comic fandom is all about…It’s not about Comic Con panels and dressing up in silly costumes, it’s about discussion and ideas and getting together with other people to talk comics. Thanks Roy! Here’s to another 100 issues! Grade A+


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