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Tops: The Complete Collection of Charles Biro’s Visionary 1949 Comic Book Series

Fantagraphics

Michael T. Gilbert

Dec 06, 2022 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share


Michael T. Gilbert’s fascinating new tome tells the tragic tale of Tops, the ill-fated “adult magazine of dramatic picture stories.” In 1949, pioneering pulp comic writer/artist Charles Biro (Crime Does Not Pay) introduced a new type of comic book to the world, one that utilized the oversized tabloid magazine format. It would sit on newsstands next to glamorous publications like Life and Look and, hopefully, appeal to the same buyers. He wanted to tell more sophisticated genre stories that would keep readers who may have grown up in the 30s with early superheroes like Superman and Batman buying comics. It was a beautiful dream but, sadly, Tops only lasted for two issues.

This glorious, absolutely massive new book collects both of those issues as well as a ton of essays and bonus materials. One of the most exciting features is a side-by-side comparison between “The Closet” from Tops #1 and its source material, a story that Biro wrote then repurposed from publisher Leverett Gleason’s Daredevil #46. There’s also an excellent piece from Graphic Story Magazine’s Bill Spicer and a tantalizing nod by Ken Quattro to “the other adult comic,” Enchantment Visualettes (originally published in Italy as Grand Hôtel). And, the biographical end notes from Gilbert and Roger Hill do an excellent job of illustrating the profound impact the Tops creative team (Reed Crandall, Dan Barry, George Tuska) would go on to have on the industry after the book’s untimely demise.

Tops is a lovely testament to Biro’s doomed attempt to change the world of comics and is absolutely essential reading for fans of sequential art from this period. (www.fantagraphics.com)

Author rating: 9/10

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