The Little Book of Vintage Sci-Fi is a collection 1940's and 1950's comic book covers, panels and ads assembled mostly in random fashion (with an eye toward the more amusingly salacious illustrations and dialogue) and reproduced on a miniature scale, mere inches in both width and height. If you've set foot in a bookstore, like, ever, you'll have surely spotted teensy-tiny books just like these, generally in the vicinity of the cash registers, as they are to bookstores what candy and gum are to grocery stores: cheaply-priced trifles designed to be purchased on impulse. And they're designed to fit perfectly in a typical shirt pocket.
Little if any of the material within these editions is presented in anything approaching its entirety or even in continuity (though some panels certainly are), nor is scholarly appreciation really the point beyond Tim Pilcher's brief introductions and backgrounders. The books in this series -- comprised of tiny tomes encompassing lurid, often hyperbolic material likewise culled from Horror, Sci-Fi, Combat, Romance and other comics of the golden age (much of it produced under the legendary aegis of EC Comics -- are best savored as entry-level novelty items, which is obviously the spirit in which they were produced. If you want to read complete stories, or learn the full-bodied history of this glorious period in American publishing, there are bountiful histories, biographies, trade paperback reprints, and coffee-table books that will introduce you to the form from almost every conceivable angle. These little amusements, on the other hand, are simply samplers of the era and its comic art, an era all too short-lived as the holier-than-thou Catholic Legion of Decency (sheeyeah, right!), the Comics Code Authority and their vile ilk largely succeeded in their mission to whitewash the fun out of America from the mid-1930's to the mid-1960's. Whenever someone who lived through this period laments how much "simpler" and "better" and more moral times were "back then" compared to today, you can rest assured they're remembering the rose-colored, corn-fed Andy Hardy version of America these organizations tried so desperately to make real in the face of all evidence of natural human behaviour to the contrary, and not the reality itself. Comic books like those feted in this collection were the sacrificial lambs on the altar of conservative delusion.
If you're an artist of designer of any kind (as I am), or in any way a fan of this pulpy greatness already in possession of the types of standard-size books mentioned above (as I am), then a set of these miniature quickies may still prove useful when you're looking for a quick shot of inspiration without fear of unintentionally devoting several hours to re-reading these lurid stories all over again simply because you cracked the cover of some hefty volume on your shelf and couldn't put it down.
For those interesting in building a complete set of nine, here's your links:
The Little Book of Vintage Sci-Fi
The Little Book of Vintage Romance
The Little Book of Vintage Combat
Little Book of Vintage Love
Little Book of Vintage Terror
The Little Book of Vintage Horror
The Little Book of Vintage Sauciness
The Little Book of Vintage Crime
Little Book of Vintage Space
And yes, you'll likely see this same review on many of those listings, but this little series deserves the attention.