Celebrating the Unpopular Arts

The Greg Hatcher Legacy Files #141: ‘Friday on the Shelf of Shame’

[These almost synced up, as Greg published this post on 7 May 2011, so almost exactly 13 years ago. I didn’t think about that, or maybe I would have published it this past Tuesday! As usual, that link doesn’t have images, so I had to take them from the CBR version, which only has one image when Greg might have posted 2, or 3, or even more, so that’s the way it is. The usual suspects comment, as usual! Enjoy!]

Full disclosure: “the Shame Shelf” isn’t actually my expression. I stole it from Betsy Bird, over at School Library Journal [Edit: sorry, dead link!], and she in turn got it from Jonathan Auxier.

Here is how Betsy defines it: “Do you have a shame shelf? Which is to say, a shelf of unread books that stare at you in the face, mocking your day-to-day activities until you finally cave and start reading them all at once like some kind of mad librarian? Me too.”

Yeah, me too, although it’s more of a shame nightstand. Mine looks like this …

You know what’s REALLY bad? There’s a dozen more on the floor propping those up.

Really though, that’s just life with the Hatchers. We acquire books, magazines and paper clutter of all shapes and sizes, constantly. Those books in the photo are just the pile of current frontrunners in Project Read The Damn Books Already, the ongoing effort here to keep up with acquisitions. There’s no actual shame involved.

In fact, there’s more of a quiet gloating. When I was a kid, my parents, who were very outdoorsy athletic sorts, would scold me for being such a voracious reader. It especially appalled them that I would spend all my money on books and comics. Part of it was that Mom thought comics were trashy, but there was a lot of scolding just for the act of reading. “Do you want to be just a bookworm?”

Well, yeah. Duh.

So today when I look at all the books around here, there’s always a fleeting moment of, Hey, Mom? Suck on this. That’s where the entertainment income goes. We even took special trips to buy some of these. What’s more, I get paid to read books and write stuff about it. How d’you like me now?

… Yeah, I’m kind of juvenile sometimes.

Anyway. Lord knows, there are lots of unread books around here that I’ve been meaning to get to for a WHILE now …

[Edit: Greg had three items here, but I can see only one …!]
Some are comics and some are prose.

[Edit: Ibid. Well, he only posted two items this time]
But the ones that shame me are the ones that I mean to mention in this space and I keep forgetting to do it. So, today, we clear a couple of entries off Hatcher’s Shame Shelf of Procrastinated Plugs.


The first one’s been out of print for a long time. The reason I wanted to spend a little time on it here is because it is the solution, of sorts, to a minor literary puzzle that I wondered about back in the early 1980s.

It began with one of the late Byron Press’ earliest efforts to sell the idea of comics-as-a-literary effort, Fiction Illustrated. [Edit: by the way, Edo did a nice post about Byron Priess and his publishing concerns here, with a lot of scans, some of which, I’m sure, were in Greg’s original post!]

Fiction Illustrated was intended to be a series of graphic novels, released quarterly. There were four of them in all, released between January of 1976 and January of 1977.

Sadly, the trouble with Fiction Illustrated, like many of the publishing experiments from Byron Press in the 1970s, is that no one was quite sure where the things should be sold or what kind of books they were. The first two were standard digests, like the Archie ones you see at a supermarket checkstand. Then Steranko’s Chandler was released simultaneously as both a digest and as a glossy magazine-sized trade paperback (for the staggering price of $4.95!!!) and finally the fourth, Son of Sherlock Holmes, was released only as a $4.95 trade paperback.

In the afterword to Son of Sherlock Holmes, Preiss teased the fifth Fiction Illustrated, a project called “Dragonworld,” written by Preiss and drawn by Jospeh Zucker. But it never appeared, because the series was canceled.

Well, that’s not quite true. It did appear, a couple of years later. Not as a graphic novel, though, but as a prose novel.

When I saw Dragonworld on bookshelves, I would glance through it and occasionally toy with buying it, but I never got around to it.

Took me a while to get to this one. Like …. uh … thirty years.

I never made the connection with Fiction Illustrated, though, until I acquired Son of Sherlock Holmes a couple of years ago. That tease in the afterword reawakened my interest, and you can find Dragonworld on Amazon for pretty cheap, so I went ahead and ordered one.

And you know, it was pretty good. I probably should have gotten to it sooner, especially since I’ve always liked Michael Reaves’ work.

That all happened in 2008, and I’ve been meaning to tell that story here since then. Probably should have gotten to that sooner, too. So that’s one for the shame shelf.


The one that is particularly shaming me at the moment is actually a book that was sent to me for review. Tom Pomplun has been really good about sending along each new volume of his Graphic Classics series as it comes out, and in addition to reviewing each one myself I always try to take them to Cartooning class and see what my seventh graders make of them, and whichever student writes a review gets to keep the book.

Well, Tom sent the latest one a few weeks ago and I’ve been putting off taking it to class.

Why? Because I’m a greedy pig. I can’t bear to part with this one.

Too AWESOME to give away.

Western Classics hits me right where I live.

Because, first of all, it’s a western comic.

Second, it’s a GREAT western comic.

The stories chosen for adaptation are all deserving of the name ‘classic’ — you’ve got Zane Grey’s “Riders of the Purple Sage” illustrated by Cynthia Martin, Robert E. Howard’s “Knife River Prodigal” adapted by Avery and Sellas, a Hopalong Cassidy story illustrated by Dan Spiegle (that’s an especially nice touch since Mr. Spiegle did the Hopalong Cassidy newspaper strip, back in the day) …

….they even lured Al Feldstein out of retirement to do a piece for this. It just rocked my socks from cover to cover.

So I put it off, thinking I’d pick another one up to take to class. And now we have the Olympia Comics Festival coming up, and the close of the school year, and well … we’re not going to have time to do the usual in-class review.

And I can’t bear to wait until next fall to tell you about how awesome this book is. You should go and get it now. I’ll get another copy myself between now and September, and we will get to the in-class review. I promise. He said shamefacedly.

But in the meantime, you should check it out. Because if you pass up something this cool, that would be a shame.


And that’s all I’ve got this time out. We may revisit the Shelf of Shame now and again, though, because there’s always new books coming in here, and I never seem to get caught up, so I imagine there will be further entries in the months to come.

See you next week.


  1. Edo Bosnar

    Oh, yeah. This is another one that had an impact on my wallet: the two Fiction Illustrated volumes I didn’t already have when he originally wrote this column, i.e., Schlomo Raven and Son of Sherlock Holmes, and Dragonworld. Well, the two Fiction Illustrateds were already on my radar, but that was the first time I had ever heard of Dragonworld – as noted in that post of mine that you linked (thanks, Greg!), I never even saw that on the bookstore shelves back in the day and had no idea of its existence. And as noted, it’s a pretty good book.

  2. Jeff Nettleton

    I had a bookcase of shame, for a while, before moving. 20 years of bookselling, with a 30% employee discount will do that to you. I got rid of stuff I knew I would never read; mostly classic literature that I thought I should read, but could never get past the first chapter or even start. I got on a kick of trying to read things I felt I should read, then woke up and decided to stick with the things I know I want to read. Hasn’t disappointed me since. Right now my unread pile is less than a dozen, so I’m doing good. I am also reading two books at a time, right now; one at lunch, at work, the other before going to bed, though I am making slow progress.

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