Unsung heroes

The also-rans of comic book culture get a second chance, Puffin and more

Puffin By Design

Puffin Picture Books first appeared in 1940, thanks in part to a chance meeting between Penguin founder Allen Lane and the natural history book publisher, Noel Carrington, who was keen to produce a range of illustrated educational books for children. Unlike the familiar three-band covers that wrapped Penguin’s fiction, the hundreds of children’s titles initially produced in the Puffin series sought out individual identities, courtesy of a host of illustrators. These books were the “colourful outsiders”, as Phil Baines, author of Puffin By Design, puts it. What’s clear from his new study is that the high standards of the early books (with illustration and hand-lettering produced as a single design) have carried through Puffin’s 70 years: from John Stroud’s work (above) to Tove Jansson’s Moomins.

Penguin/Allen Lane; £20. penguin.co.uk

 

The Geometry of Pasta

With an estimated 300 different pasta shapes available, there’s a discerning art to selecting the best design for one’s particular sauce. The gourmands among you who appreciate this level of culinary detail will be pleased to know that chef Jacob Kenedy’s new book of pasta recipes has been produced with Caz Hildebrand of Here Design, whose illustrations run throughout. She cites Pellegrino Artusi’s Science in the Kitchen and the Art of Eating Well (1891), which made use of simple graphics, as a reference for her striking collection of geometric shapes that sit alongside some equally tasty words.

Boxtree; £14.99. panmacmillan.com

 

Man O’ Metal

Remember Man O’ Metal? No? The regular guy who, whenever heat touched his skin, was changed into a muscle-bound metallic superhuman? If that isn’t jogging any long-forgotten comics memories, then Art in Time: Unknown Comic Book Adventures 1940–1980 may be able to fill in the blanks. It’s a compendium of some of the characters that, despite originating from the pens of established comic artists, just never quite made it. HG Peter, the artist behind Man O’ Metal (page from 1942, shown above) went on to have much more success with Wonder Woman, for example. Author Dan Nadel makes a strong case for revisiting these strips, however, in a fantastic book of obscure gems – from Kona, Monarch of the Monster Isle to Johnny Dynamite – created by a handful of comic book legends.

Abrams; £25. abramsbooks.co.uk

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