What We’re Reading in September

Our critic reviews books about 60 years of The Hulk's adventures and an investigation into of what once was considered an extinct music format.

HulkcoverHulk: Grand Design
Jim Rugg
Marvel, $34.99

The history of the Marvel Comics Universe rolls directly through Pittsburgh. Three of our local cartoonists have been helming the ambitious Grand Design project for the venerable superhero factory, which attempts to distill decades of stories and continuity into easily digestible and highly entertaining reading experiences.

Ed Piskor kicked things off with “X-Men: Grand Design,” followed by Tom Scioli’s “Fantastic Four: Grand Design.” Now we have Jim Rugg’s gorgeous ode to the MCU’s jolly green giant, “Hulk: Grand Design.”

Rugg, an Eisner winner known for his indie books “Street Angel” and “Afrodisiac,” as well as the popular Cartoonist Kayfabe with Ed Piskor on YouTube, renders more than 60 years of the Hulk’s adventures with loving detail and obvious exuberance. Along the way, many things get smashed, villains are thwarted and gamma rays abound. This extra-large treasury edition includes personal notes by Rugg, a covers gallery and even some reprinted fan mail from old issues — written by some familiar names.

Mixtape Nostalgia

Mixtape Nostalgia: Culture, Memory, and Representation
Jehnie I. Burns
Lexington Books, $39.99

Earlier this year, Billboard Magazine reported something very surprising: sales of cassette tapes are on the rise. In 2022, sales of what once was considered an extinct music format were up 28%. It’s notable that three of the top 10 best-selling cassettes of the year were connected to the Marvel Comics movie franchise, “Guardians of the Galaxy,” and were conceptualized as mixtapes.

From movies to novels to fashion, the mixtape has become a kind of personal signifier. Point Park University professor Jehnie I. Burns is fascinated with the re-emergence of this outdated and distinctly analog bit of technology in today’s popular culture. She writes in her new book, “Mixtape Nostalgia: Culture, Memory, and Representation,” “I had to wonder why.

What about the mixtape has captured the imagination of the pop culture world that no longer owns, sells, or plays cassette tapes as a viable outlet for music?” Burns’ fun and informative book investigates how it all happened.

Categories: Arts & Entertainment