I'm now working my way through Paul Karasik's book of Fletcher Hanks comics I shall Destroy All The Civilized Planets. It is a mighty collection of 15 stories, and I can only hope it is so successful as to prompt a second volume. There are another 9 Fantomah stories, and I have no idea how many Stardust, and others still languishing unseen for so many years.
Before I get on to tackling the individual stories I'd just like to get a little picky about the format of the collection. I can understand why Karasik didn't want to burden the reader with lengthy discussion of the work, but I would have liked to see some kind of introduction that gave basic information about the comics that are being reprinted. As it is all we have is an undated listing of where each originally appeared (in the contents page) and that's it. Not even a bibliography to tell us how many more stories are out there.
And then the order of the comics selected seems entirely arbitary. Although the volume opens with the first Stardust story, the Fantomah episodes are run in practically reverse order, which is a shame as there is a clear evolution in style as they progress, and this can only be properly appreciated by flipping backward and forward in the volume.
As a Fantomah fan I would have liked to see her first published appearance, but it's not included here. It may be that Karasik was unable to obtain a copy of it for publication, but as there is no accompanying text of any kind, we don't know. I'd also like to know more about how the character was taken in such a different direction after the departure of Hanks, and ultimately retconned into an entirely different character, but that's a personal thing and hardly within the remit of this volume.
What we do get is an autobiographical 16 page strip at the end by Paul Karasik about how he found Hank's son and interviewed him. It's an odd choice for the presentation of an interview; turning it into a comic makes it feel like a dramatisation, and I'm left wondering how much of it was fictional. Information about Fletcher Hanks seems to take second place to the author's slice of life adventure, and although it does convey his excitement about meeting Fletcher Hanks Jr. you are left feeling that if it had been done as a straightforward text piece it would have run to rather less than a page.
None of which takes away from the achievement of getting this stuff in print at all, but if there is a second volume I'm hoping it will contain some factual information like a bibliography and publication dates. It needn't be lengthy or intrusive, but it would be a nice extra for those of us that are interested in that stuff.
Enough with the petty complaints. Next I'll get on to the actual stories.
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