The Book Is Not Dead

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Secret: A Fascinating Title, If You Don’t Mind the Wait

Featuring a puzzling world of murder and corporate espionage, one of the most fascinating books to come out last year was Secret from Image Comics. The brain child of writer Jonathan Hickman with art by Ryan Bodenheim, this unique book follows a seemingly unconnected series of events surrounding Grant Miller, an ex-intelligence operative working for a private security firm. There’s a murder in London, a break-in at a high-profile law firm, and an accountant giving away company secrets after being tortured during a home invasion. What does it all mean? Well, I don’t know. That’s the point. Just how these events intersect is the mystery of the book, as Miller navigates a quiet and subversive world of spy-games and murder, all pointing to a widespread global conspiracy of shadow governments and secret organizations.

SECRET1Sound good? It is. If you’re looking for something a little different, with a slick design and intriguing execution, I highly recommend this book. Fans of Hickman will appreciate its complexity, a fresh counterpart to the multifaceted and surreal alternative histories we’ve seen in the pages of Manhattan Projects and East of West. Fans who know Bodenheim’s work on Red Mass for Mars and Halcyon will love its sleek visual aesthetic, heightened by the captivating color choices of Michael Garland. But there’s a catch: There have only been three issues in the last year.

Beginning in April 2012, this peculiar mix of espionage fiction and corporate intrigue saw just two issues. By the end of the summer it went on a year-long hiatus due to a series of production snags. The book, which had gained quite a bit of buzz and critical interest, was considered abandoned by readers. In the meantime, Bodenheim seemed to vanish from comics, and Hickman continued with other projects, such as Manhattan Projects, East of West, God is Dead, and championing Thanos’ return to the main stage in Marvel Comics’ timeline-shattering Infinity event. In August, the long-awaited third issue of Secret finally hit the shelves, as Miller dealt with the fall-out of the London murders. While an intriguing issue that explores Miller’s complex web of professional and personal relationships, I can’t help but keep my expectations low, even as I hope for more from this strange little world Hickman has cooked up.SECRET2

However, as an original and innovative work of spy fiction, Secret does a have lot going for it. It’s a plot-driven title with a wealth of subtly, as Hickman delivers another slow burn in exploring the complex networks and associations that tether the key players. His principal characters quietly develop in the first three issues, illuminating the peculiar fishbowl they operate in through tense nonlinear flashbacks, tinged with contrasting degrees of violence. The scripting is slick and cool, with compelling dialogue and a sharpness of tone that keeps things from turning glib, alluding to deeper relationships than what are being shown on the page. Hickman, true to form, doesn’t give anything anyway, and instead leaves the reader to ponder. You might not know what’s going on, but you’re always left wanting more. This isn’t James Bond or Jason Bourne, or any other familiar spy tale, and the title is far better for it.

SECRET3The real draw of the book is its visual execution. Hickman, Bodenheim and Garland collaborate wonderfully together to create a unique and cohesive reading experience issue to issue, even with the interruptions. Bodenheim’s use of thick, emphatic lines bring us into settings that are at once familiar and unnatural: Offices, parks, cafes, places where characters meet in private to discuss the nature of their business. These environments are often empty but for the principal characters themselves, establishing palpable tension and loneliness that almost feels claustrophobic from panel to panel. The panel compositions and page layouts are often slightly unexpected at times, affording the reader varying perspectives and playing with the chronology of events in clever ways, linked together by evocative undercurrents brimming with well-developed tension.

This is made most effective with Gardener’s subtle, selective use of color. His muted green, brown and purple tones wash over grayscale scenes in a pulp-inspired haze, affecting a cold and distant tone that removes the reader from the act, relegated to the margins to simply guess what’s really going on. The austerity of tone is then completely abandoned as emotionally heightened moments run wild in vivid oranges and reds. Flashbacks are emphasized by the richness of blood or lipstick to highlight the visceral nature of memory, providing small slivers of insight into the minds of the internal lives of the characters. All of these elements, from scripting to artwork to color, come together in an innovative package that leaves you guessing long after you’re done.

So if you’re on the lookout for a fresh, sleek title with a rich narrative and engaging artwork, pick up Secret. This is a title that swings for the fences, even with the interruptions. I can’t guarantee this book will resume a consistent release schedule, but, when the work is this good, maybe it’s worth the wait?

Magen Cubed

Retro Comics: X-Men Unlimited #3, The Whispers Scream

To begin my first edition of Retro Comics, I decided to go back and look at the first comic book I ever read: X-Men Unlimited #3. First published as a double-sized quarterly between 1993 and 2003, X-Men Unlimited served as a short story anthology series in the X-Men universe. The series focused on small, self-contained one-shots between major monthly storylines and events, and provided a vehicle for lesser known writers and artists to work with these well-known franchise characters without impacting the rest of Marvel’s continuity. Issue #3, titled The Whispers Scream, was written by X-Force and Deadpool co-creator Fabien Nicieza and penciled by Mike McKone. It was released December 1993 with cover art by Bill Sienkiewicz.

This issue follows Maverick as he seeks the help of Wolverine in stopping Sabretooth. Following the death of his friend and partner Birdy at the hands of his son Graydon Creed, Sabretooth is on a vicious killing spree, murdering the members of an illicit trade operation that took place some years prior. When Wolverine proves too elusive to find, Maverick instead enlists the assistance of X-Men, to help him track Sabretooth to Japan for an encounter with the Silver Samurai. While this issue first presents itself as a straightforward chase story with Sabretooth as its antagonist, it quickly becomes an intriguing look into the mind of a murderer.

X-Men Unlimited

Sabretooth, who had previously relied on the telepathic influence of Birdy to quell his violent urges, is now at a total loss. Overcome by insanity, he begins searching for another telepath to pacify his broken mind. This opens the door to several fascinating questions of morality as Charles Xavier takes it upon himself to venture into the hellish landscape of Sabretooth’s memories. There he finds the source of Sabretooth’s cruelty: A childhood spent under the fist of his abusive father indoctrinated the young Victor Creed in an endless cycle of violence and pain. With Birdy’s help he was able to bury his guilt behind the trauma, and excuse his own savagery as a product of his father’s abuse. Determined to rehabilitate Sabretooth, Xavier agrees to house him at the school, entering into a tenuous pact to put an end to his violence and make him pay for his crimes.

Overall this is a solid and captivating story with some serious emotional punch. A lot of the strength lies in the writing, with some deft handling of the morally compromising situations presented here. At no point does Nicieza attempt to rationalize or excuse Sabretooth’s violence, and that works to his advantage. He appropriately paints the young Victor Creed as a victim of violence, who turned his cruelty outward rather than attempting to overcome his demons. Yes, Sabretooth is a product of brutality, but he chose to pursue this life, making him culpable for his actions. He is a wounded animal, but also an intelligent one as Xavier finds, and something about him is worth trying to redeem. This moral question of putting Sabretooth down like an animal or choosing to rehabilitate him is certainly interesting in the context of a superhero book, given the weight of his crimes and the full breadth of his violence.

No matter the strength of the script, however, it’s the artwork that really carries this book. McKone’s offers some strong art here, with several really engaging panels and dynamic page layouts peppered throughout. There’s a peculiar static quality to his lines that makes the book feel somehow quiet to me, perhaps even a little eerie. It reads like Xavier’s clinical detachment as he moves through Sabretooth’s memories, looking for answers, and perhaps it’s meant to. To put the reader in Xavier’s frame of mind as an unintended viewer looking in on Sabretooth’s madness. Whatever the reason, there’s just something about the ferociousness of McKone’s flat-nosed, dog-like Sabretooth that really sticks with me. It’s sinister and beastly without coming across as cheesy or overplayed, and helps to ground Sabretooth as a villain, albeit a much more complex one than we expected.

This issue is emblematic of 1990s comic books in a lot of ways. From the elaborate and often clunky costumes designs to the sometimes long-winded dialogue, complete with the almost perplexing accents from Rogue and Gambit, this book is quite the product of its time. Even for that, the story is striking with some truly memorable scenes. A nice balance of philosophical questioning and action-adventure storytelling, this is a favorite issue of mine with real staying power, even after twenty years.

Magen Cubed

The Fearless Defenders #7: The New Status Quo

FD1After the somewhat controversial end of this title’s inaugural arc, many readers were disappointed to see Annabelle Riggs die so soon. The character’s surprising death abruptly ended her role as a powerless but capable (and certainly fearless) Defender, as the team’s resident expert on Asgardian artifacts. Her sacrifice to stop Valkyrie’s killing spree (as Val’s alternate persona, the Doom Maiden Rage) caused serious rifts in this relatively new team, as Misty Knight lashed out at Valkyrie and their fellow Shield Maidens abandoned her as their leader. However, with the recent release of the much-anticipated #7, this title has lived up to its promise to begin an all-new arc, with some surprising plans for its principal characters.

Stephanie Hans takes up the artistic reins in this issue, stepping in for regular artist Will Sliney, as Annabelle deals with her new status as a member of the celebrated dead in Valhalla. Her particular station is at an old inn and tavern, filled with many great and boisterous warriors, all of whom Annabelle feels little kinship with. She doesn’t belong here but she’s resigned to her fate, content to have sacrificed herself to help Val return to her senses. Meanwhile, Val mounts a rescue effort and travels to Valhalla to resurrect Annabelle, making amends for stranding her there undeservedly. Her quest reunites her with Clea, the exiled sorceress Val helped hide from otherworldly threats, whose skills Val requires for this spell. Although Clea is pleased to see Val, she hesitant to use her magic to revive Annabelle, warning that the ritual comes at a great cost.

Determined, Val convinces Clea and brings her to see Annabelle at the inn. There Val and Annabelle try to FD2reconcile their thorny recent past, and Clea brings Annabelle back, but at a price: Val must sacrifice her life to restore Annabelle’s, and Annabelle is her new host. Their spirits tangled in the same body, Annabelle is the vehicle through which Val must navigate the mortal realm, switching back and forth between forms whenever the need arises for Val’s brute warrior strength. Changing things up for the team, this decision helps to mend the rift between Val and Misty, and allows Annabelle to fulfill her new role as Val’s earthly vessel. Val sacrificing herself for Annabelle, and Annabelle’s upgraded status as Val’s host, adds another layer of humor and interest to the team dynamics. While things seemed to be smoothed over between them, and Misty is likely on her way to forgiving Val for killing Annabelle in the first place, this opens the doors to new intrigue as the Defenders gear up to tackle Le Fay’s new team of Doom Maidens. New status quo, indeed.

A striking departure from Sliney’s regular pencils, Hans’ artwork steers this book in a gorgeous new direction in tone and presentation. Her vision of Valhalla is lush and fertile, with an ethereal quality that feels dreamy and fantastic but appropriately so, offset by the ugliness of the trolls Val and Clea face. The principle characters are gorgeously rendered with the help of strong panel compositions and soft, otherworldly color palettes. Her females are strong but still feminine, sacrificing little of their quirks or flaws to embody the strength and power that warriors like Val FD3represent. Gone is the serviceable but at times bland artwork we’ve seen from Sliney, upgraded to Hans’ decisive action sequences and evocative interior spaces, which keep the story balanced and well-paced. Overall, Hans strikes a good equilibrium of emotional weight and action-adventure, making for a highly engaging visual reading experience.

As for the writing, Bunn’s script this issue is straightforward but intriguing. The surprising reveal of Val’s updated backstory could have cheapened the character, but it continues to work here, especially in the face of recent developments. Although it was somewhat surprising to see Annabelle come back so quickly, after the pomp and circumstance surrounding her death, the decision for Val to immediately look for Annabelle is true to her character. Val’s resolve to make amends speaks to her need for redemption; not just for Annabelle’s death, but for the sense of loss and ineffectiveness she’s felt since the beginning of the series. She’s looking to restore her own honor by living up to Odin’s expectations, which she has previously failed to do. All of this feels very natural for her characterization, and further humanizes her, despite the many twists and turns she’s taken as of late.

Bunn also does something very interesting with Val and Annabelle’s relationship in this issue. While far more FD4complicated than before, their dynamic remains refreshingly downplayed, and very much based on the mutual respect of comrades. Just what comes of their uncertain friendship, however, remains to be seen. Annabelle’s romantic interest in Val, as seen since the first issue, has not yet been fully addressed, and is likely to be further confused by recent events. It does say a lot about Val’s feelings for Annabelle in that she was so willing to sacrifice herself for her, which does open the door to some exploration on Val’s side of the relationship. As Val’s new host Annabelle has a lot to ponder, but her feelings for Val have been given the opportunity to further develop her character. All of this will be interesting to see in the future.

Overall this is a successful issue with some solid writing and stunning artwork. Big on promises, it lives up to nearly all of them, offering an intriguing new opportunity for this team to grow. Where this title goes from here is uncertain, but the foundations put in place make for some interesting possibilities.

Magen Cubed

Books We’ll Miss: Journey into Mystery

JiM1While the Marvel Universe is embroiled in its share of sweeping drama this year, from the reality-crushing consequences of the Infinity event to the mutant brawling going on in Battle of the Atom, something quite sad happened. In the fray of big budget movies and multi-title tie-ins, a little book slipped under the radar and ended a beautiful run after only ten issues. The fourth and final incarnation of Journey into Mystery, helmed by writer Kathryn Immonen and artist Valerio Schiti, recently wrapped up its last issue at #655, sailing off into that good night with little pomp and circumstance. Despite rave reviews and consistently excellent content, this little book that could just couldn’t live up to the hype of other, better selling titles. Although this book is gone, the adventures of Lady Sif, as well as the amazing efforts of Immonen and Schiti in bringing her to life, won’t soon be forgotten.

The original Journey into Mystery began its life as a horror-fantasy title leftover from Marvel’s predecessor Atlas Comics, carrying into two volumes that ran intermittently between the 1950s and 1970s. Focusing principally on the adventures of Thor, this title covered much of the mystical fantasy elements of the Marvel Universe, and over time served as an introduction for many other characters in the same vein. Taken over by Kieron Gillen and Doug Braithwaite after the events of the Siege series, the focus shifted to Loki from issues #622 to #645 for a run that was praised by both critics and fans. With issue #646, the title was relaunched to coincide with its rebranding under the Marvel NOW imprint, JiM2and Immonen stepped in to bring Lady Sif into the spotlight.

For ten issues, Sif led a dynamic cast of Marvel’s most well-known Asgardians into a world of magic, mystery, humor and action, expertly developed by Schiti’s skillful pencil work.  Sif, while a major supporting character in Thor’s title, is not quite so well-known beyond the pages of his companion’s book. This made it somewhat difficult to stir a strong sales base, as many mainstream readers just weren’t as familiar with Sif as they were other, better known Asgardians. Despite its short run, Journey into Mystery covered a lot of ground. From the depths of ancient ruins to New York City, deep space to children’s fairytales, this adventure title followed Sif’s character development with poignant resonance. While taking a few cues from Gillen’s run, Immonen made this series her own, putting a unique spin on the character and the tone of the book. Every adventure was well-framed by Immonen’s strong scripting and razor-sharp dialogue, offering equal measure of heartfelt introspection and witty banter to keep things fresh and fun. Even in keeping with the expectations set by her predecessors, this title was always uniquely Sif’s.

JiM3When we first encountered Sif, she was conflicted about her role as a warrior in what she saw as a culture in decline, as Asgardia turned its back on its once-proud past. We saw this reflection throughout the series, a question of purpose in uncertain times. With regular guest appearances from many big-name hitters in the Marvel stable, Sif was always busy and had a great cast to play off of, with much success. Through her perilous journeys, first as a wayward berserker then later as the warrior we know and love, we watched Sif grow and change, forging new relationships and strengthening old ones. Over the course of the title she came to terms with her place in a changing world, and accepted Asgardia’s new role in that world as well. Her journey wasn’t easy, and it certainly didn’t always paint her in a favorable light, but she was always fascinating, relatable, and engaging to read about.

The book’s biggest strength was its visual consistency, guided by Schiti’s amazing pencils and the stellar color work of Jordie Bellaire. Issue after issue, this title was a gem with its inventive page designs and panel compositions, serving as an evocative complement to Immonen’s scripting. Bursting with energy and emotion, Schiti carried every plot through to the end with dynamic action scenes and engaging character interactions, his pages rounded out by Bellaire’s distinctive color palettes and clever background development. This visual cohesion helped to make the book so enjoyable: not only did every component of this title work well, JiM4but they worked even better together.

While this book certainly wasn’t flawless, and did have a few fumbles as it sought its footing in the opening issues, it was a highly enjoyable addition to the Marvel pantheon. Immonen and Schiti told poignant stories, full of adventure and heart, intrigue and humor. Sif was a strong protagonist with a fun supporting cast and engrossing exploits, offering a consistently satisfying reading experience month after month. So while Sif may be shelved for now, she will not soon be forgotten by her readers and fans, who got to enjoy this little gem of a book for as long as it lasted.

Magen Cubed

The Marshall Islands and World War II

The Marshall Islands, an old German colony in the Pacific Ocean, were caught in the tag of the World War II as it was there where many air and naval operations took place between the Americans and the Japanese. Today, they are under the protection and care of the United States.

fig 17-

fig.1 The sets are wonderfully designed while covering all the aspects of the War

The thing that we would like to point out, from a philatelic point of view, is the fact that this inland complex has issues a great number of stamps with reference to World War II. From 1989 to 1998 there were about 230 stamps issued on the specific topic. Any collector wishing to start a thematic collection on World War II, it goes without saying that s/he will certainly find those islands of invaluable help. The sets are wonderfully designed while covering all the aspects of the War (fig. 1).



Stamps have been issues ranging not only from very important events but also covering battles of lesser significance such as the Warsaw battle and the Dieppe landing. The Katyn graves have not been forgotten either (fig. 2). All first-class leaders, generals and admirals of both sides, Allied and Japanese forces alike, are portrayed. Even Mark Clark, the well-known blunder-head of the Italian expedition, is also depicted.

One may also find: all the American and Japanese war ships, including the German



ones; most of the fighter aircraft which took part in World War II; military uniforms; even the surrender of Japan in 1945 (fig. 3).

There is no other country with so many issues in such a short spell of time covering the topic of World War II to that superlative extent. Perhaps the 230 stamps from Marshall Islands along with some more from the rest of the world, would be enough to satisfy the needs of a potential collector embarking on the theme of World War II.


KO for eCharta

Rafael the Italian painter through philately


Pic: 1: Federico da Montefeltro di Urbino

Raffaello Sanzio, or simply Raphael, was an Italian painter who was born in Urbino of the Montefeltro in 1483 (Picture 1), an important cultural center at the time.

Raphael, along with Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo, are regarded as the Great Masters of the later Renaissance, who have exerted a lasting influence on Western art. His father, also a painter, sent his son to be apprenticed to Perugino (Picture 2) where he quickly rose to teacher status himself.



Pic: 2: Leonardo da Vinci                                                 Michelangelo                                                Perugino


Pic. 3: Kolona’s Retample

One of his first surviving works is the Retample of Colona (Picture 3), an altar painting of 1502, situated in the New York Metropolitan Museum. This is a grand masterpiece with rich decor. The main piece is made of tempera wood and it measures 1.70 x 1.70 meters.

On the block of Turks and Caicos, we can see the Gavari Crucifixion also

Pic. 6: Mond or Gavari Crucifixion

Pic. 4: Mond or Gavari Crucifixion

known as the Crucifixion of Mond (Picture 4). Measuring 2.80 x 1.65 meters this is a 1503 work and is displayed in the London National Gallery. The painting is done in oil where the artist has started to establish his own style.

In 1503, having been influenced not only by Perugino but also by his own innovations, the young Raphael adroitly painted the Maria Conestabile (Picture 5). This is a small-size work, 18cm in diameter,

Pic.5: Contestabile

Pic.5: Contestabile

which was sold for 310,000 francs by his owner, Count Scipione Conestabile della Staffa, who found himself in a difficult financial situation, in 1869. Ever since the piece has belonged to the Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg in Russia.

The Coronation of Mary (Retample Oddi) (Picture 6) is an oil painting of 1502-04, measuring 2.67 x 1,63 meters and belongs to the Vatican. As an artistic style it belongs to the Perugino style. Mary and Christ flanked by cherubs appear to be in motion and are rendered very expressively. The classical spirit can be distinguished in the very small painting, 17×17 cm, known as “The Knight’s Dream” (Picture 6), made between 1504 and 1505, which is situated in London. The figures accompanying the sleeping youth are Virtue and Love and are made with both simplicity and clarity. Along the same dimensions and period (1504-05) as the “Knight’s Dream”, the “Three Graces” (Picture 6) are to be found in the Museum of Count in Chantilly. In this case the figures are three-dimensional with classical analogies symbolizing immortality. In the 15 cents of Lesotho we can see the “The Wedding Ceremony of Holy Mary” (1.74×1.21 meters): a work of 1504. This is about an artistic Renaissance masterpiece, with vigorous structure, which is the pride of the Brera Gallery in Milan. This is young Raphael’s distinguished piece of art with meticulous attention to its structure.


Pic.6: Retample Odd                     The Knight’s Dream                              The three Graces                     Virgin Mary’s Weddings

In the portrait of Elizabeth Gozzanca (Picture 7), 53×38 cm, produced in 1504, we can see the wife of the Count of Urbino, Guidobaldo, an educated and refined woman. The painting belongs to Uficci of Florence. The “Young Holy Mary”, Kaouper is displayed in Washington Museum (Picture 7). With dimensions of 60×40, made in 1505, the work still resounds Perugino along with the innovations of Raphael. The faces are gentle conveying a sense of intimacy to the observer. It was named after the Kaouper family who owned the piece for 130 years. The great Retample Ansidli (2.74×1.52 meters) was produced in 1505 (Picture 7) where one may notice the emotions depicted on the faces along with their three-dimensional version. It is situated in London. Its technique is exceptional. Under its Florence arch there is an interesting landscape in great detail in the background. From St. Lucia we may see the “Mary of the Meadows” (Picture 7) or Belvedere which measures 1.13 x 0.88 cm. It is a 1506 piece of art and is to be found in Vienna. Its composition comprises elements of Leonardo while this piece is an eternal prototype honoring Holy Mary.


Pic.7  Elizabetta Gontzanca           Young Madonna Kaouper                The Ansidei Retample                      Madonna di Belvedere

Around 1506, he created his self-portrait (47x33cm – Picture 8). This is situated in Ufficci gallery. This great painter reveals his melancholy while in his youth. In his “Madonna of the Great Duke”, 84×56 cm, (Picture 8), situated in Palazzo Pitti in Florence, a piece of 1506, we may distinguish the affectionate relationship between mother and child, as its name also denotes: due to the fact that its former owner, the Duke of Tuscany, Ferdinand III always used to carry the painting with him. “The Lady with the Unicorn” (65×51 cm) dates about the same period (Picture 8). It is part of the Borghese Gallery in Rome, while the unicorn acts as a symbol of purity. In 1506, he also created the “Holy Mary with the Goldfinch” held by two young children. The expressive figures, full of light, witness the influence of Leonardo. The painting belonged to the Nasi family until their house collapsed in 1547 and the crippled painting still survives. Today, it belongs to Ufficci Gallery.


Pic.8: Self Portrait              Madonna of the Grand Duke             Woman with the Unicorn               Madonna with the Goldfinch

In this Bulgarian stamp we notice the markedly rich bourgeois man, Agnolo Doni (65×45 cm – Picture 9), work of 1506-07, found in Palazzo Pitti. The all-pervasive, intelligent look of Doni, who had the rare opportunity for his name to be recorded in history because of that painting, dominates, while we are not in position to know about the actual ownership of many other surviving works of art of that period. The “Fair Gardener” (1.22 x 0.80 cm – Picture 9) comes from Canada , now part of the Louvre Museum, is a work of 1507: a simple composition, on surface, but with particular attention to the third dimension. The moving “Sepulchral Lamentation” (1.84×1.76cm – Picture 9) by Retample Baglioni was created in 1507. The painting secretly bears the message of the Resurrection and was stolen in 1608 by Schipio Borghrse from Perugia, where it previously belonged. Ever since it has been part of the Borghese Gallery, in Rome. The “Dumb” (Picture 9), work of 1507- 08, belongs to the Museum of Urbino and has been influenced by Leonardo. Her perfectly oval face emerges from the dark background and is staring at the observer. This is considered as a great portrayal achievement by Raphael.


Pic.9: Aniolo Doni               The Beatiful Gardener            Pieta Borghese or Baglioni                  The Mute

From Hungary we may see the portrait of a man of 1508 (Picture 10). This is in the Budapest Museum and the unknown youth has a lively look while there is a wonderful Tuscany landscape spreading in the background. During the same year (1508), Raphael is called by the Pope, Julius II, in the Vatican and embarks on the renowned frescoes within the Papal palace. In the Vatican block, we can see “The Dispute over the Sacraments” fresco of 1508-09 (Picture 10) with enormous dimensions, as its base measures 7.70 meters. Among the individuals discussing the Truth of Christ real figures have been included. This technique has undoubtedly earned the favor of many an admirer. “The School of Athens” (Picture 10), work of 1509, is one of the most well-known frescoes around the world. It is a masterpiece both in terms of its conception and execution. Among the figures presented one may recognize Sodoma, Brabande, Leonardo, Michelangelo and other famous figures of the time. This is his best creation. In 1510 the “Cardinal’s Portrait” was created (Picture 10), which belongs to the Prado Museum in Madrid. The name of the figure illustrated remains unknown but this unofficial work is full of the social and existential dignity of the person depicted.


Pic.10: Portrait of a Young Man                          La Disputa                                 The School of Athens                      Cardinal’s Portrait

The creation of the “Mary of the Duke of Alba” or “The Holy Mary of the Dawn” emerging from the morning light in the landscape (Picture 11) goes back to 1511. This is a well-wrought round painting – 95 cm in diameter – that is distinguished by its fluidity in its composition and an almost invisible circular rhythm. It belonged to Hermitage, but in 1930 a great number of masterpieces were secretly sold under the blessings of Stalin. Thus 21 pieces reached the hands of the American tycoon Andrew Mellon who in his turn offered them to Washington Museum. “Madonna Alba” was one of them. It is worth noting that the Russians needed the money in order to buy tractors! The portrait of Tomasso (Fedra) Inghirami (Picture 11) was made in 1511-12 and is situated in Palazzo Pitti. Here Raphael succeeded in incorporating a kind of internal energy in his work along with an ethical force while, at the same time, he was not dealing with a beautiful model: in fact the model suffered from strabismus. Surely, Inghirami being a great intellectual, deserved that. The postcard (Picture 11) presents the portrait of Pope Julius II, Raphael’s patron. The power of his personality can be seen along with some degree of fatigue. This painting (1.08×0.080 meters) enjoyed such a success that the Popes who followed demanded to be depicted in the same manner. The piece belongs to the London National Gallery. On the Gibraltar postage stamp (Picture 11), work of 1511-12, we may see “Madonna Folignio”. The commissioner is shown on his knees in the foreground. The work is renowned for its artistic landscape by Raphael.


Pic.11: Madonna of the Duke of Alba          Tomasso (Fedra) Inghirami             Pope Julius II                  Madonna of Folignio

The great fresco of Galatia was made in 1512 (2.95×2.25cm – Picture 12) in the villa of Farnesina in Rome. Agostino Chiggi, a very rich banker, was the owner of the place. The sense of movement, beauty and sensuality that are part of this fresco point to the fact that Raphael’s art had no limits regardless of the theme, being it religious or mythical, as in our case. The Holy Mary is depicted as lively and beautiful in the Holy Mary of Saint Sistine of Dresden or, better known, as “Madonna Sistine” of 1513 ( 2.65×1.96 meters – Picture 12). It is almost certain that his lover, Fornarina, posed as a model for the Holy Mary. On the left, there is the face of Julius II replacing that of Saint Sistine. The angels (Picture 12) in the foreground are universally known as they have been used in various different decor including any other conceivable artwork such as tapestries and Christmas tissues. The round picture of Holy Mary of 1513-14 (Picture 12 – 71cm in diameter) with the armchair comes from Lesotho and is to be found in Palazzo Pitti. This a well-known work of art distinguished by its movement, tenderness and power of expression.


Pic.12: Fresco “Galatia”         Madonna of the Chapel                              Angels of Madonna’s                          Madonna of the Armchair

In 1514, Raphael was appointed as the architect of Saint Peter’s Basilica in Rome (Picture 13), as Brabande, who had offered so much to that artistic workshop had died (Picture 13). Baltassare Castiglione (Picture 13 – 0.82×0.67 cm), both an ambassador and an author, became one of the themes of Raphael in 1515. This is part of the Louvre Museum in Paris. Here the artist created an exceptional, psychological portrait. This painting is characterized by its simplicity along with its very expressive face revealing its inner world. The composition is full of serenity, culture and nobility. “La Velata” (Picture 13 – 0.82×0.60 cm), situated in Palazzo Pitti and painted in 1516, is a woman richly dressed and is allegedly the painter’s lover. The arrow that is covering her contributed to the very name of the painting. Raphael rendered her as an individual belonging to high society by stressing her delicate features.


Pic.13: St. Peter and Bramante                                                     Baltassare Castiglione                             La Velata

In 1516, he also painted Cardinal Bernando Dovicci di Bibiena (Picture 14). He was a powerful man, who had a tendency towards a luxurious way of life including art and the authorship of comedies rather than religion. The new Pope, Leo X and Raphael’s patron was painted along with his nephews in 1518 (Picture 14). The painting belongs to Galleria Ufficci and measures 1.55×1.19 meters. It has a stately appearance with expensive material and objects interspersed within its magnificent figures. All three figures in the painting belong to the Medici family. The “Fornarina” of Palazzo Barberini (Picture 14), work of 1518-1519, shows Raphael’s lover, whom Chiggi had brought with him in his house (Farnesina-Galatia) so that the painter could spend some time with her, in order to help the artist finish his frescoes as there had already been a great delay due to his uncontrollable passion for her. His last work is the oblong “Transfiguration” (Picture 14 – 4.05×0.78 meters). This masterpiece of 1518-1520, which can be found in the Vatican, is full of movement along with warm and bright colors while it conveys the message of Resurrection through the light enveloping Christ. This painting was placed next to his coffin during his funeral, in 1520, at the age of only 38.


Pic.14: Cardinal Bibiena                        Pope Leon X                             Fornarina                          The Transformation

For more than 500 years, his Madonnas, along with those of Leonardo, have become eternal prototypes of beauty and have exerted a great influence on other artists as they bordered on perfection. He did not get on well with Michelangelo, however, there was always mutual respect in terms of artistic recognition. Almost all Raphael’s works bear the names of their previous owners or their depicted themes. The names do help towards the recognition and differentiation among his Madonnas: Alba Colona Sixtina and so on.


The Greek stamp dedicated to Aristotle

Postage stamps with Raphael have been issued by many countries around the globe with the exception of, mainly, Arabic ones. Only one postage stamp was dedicated to Raphael, in Greece, in 1978, without bearing his name on it! The stamp is actually dedicated to Aristotle!

The greatness of his name within the artistic pantheon is beyond dispute. He has left us with a wealth of extraordinary pieces, all done within his brief lifespan, escorted by his ingenious ideas that reveal themselves through his creations.

I hope you enjoy this artistic journey through philately. Rafael was one of the greatest artists of all times. The little paper stamps tribune him as much as they can. And they can do it … a lot!

KO for eCharta

Politicians who died violently; through …stamps!

In this post we are referring in politicians who did not die by a natural death or illness, but we did try to find politicians that they die by violent acts such as murder or fatal injuries as plane crash, terrorist attacks or from the hangings and other similar episodes. We cannot fit all those politicians who ended their lives in such manners, but we are sure that friends collectors, if they are interested they will find out more of these incidents. Many of these stamps you can probably find them under Stamps Category in eCharta.

LinkAbraham Lincoln was born in 1809 and he became the 16th U.S. president. He started his life very poor and became a lawyer. He started the American Civil War in 1861-1865, to empower black people and not break apart a united America. The United States, owe to him their character today. On the evening of April 14, 1865, John Booth, shot him in the gallery of the Ford Theater in Washington. Lincoln died the next day at the nearby hospital.

Ioannis Capodistrias, born in Corfu and he was a descendant of an aristocratic family. He kapodistriasrarely trained with a high level of education for that time and reached up to become Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Tsar in Russia. Switzerland owes the independence of its territories to him. However they have been no dedicated a single stamp. He was invited in Greece for Governor, but the known interests of the rich Koundouriotis family of Hydra and the ambitiousness of Mavromichalis family destroyed him. He was very powerful politician and he never dropped by anything from his main beliefs. So, inevitably, he was murdered by Mavromichalis family in Nafplion on September 27, 1831.


John Fitzgerald Kennedy was born in 1917 and he was the 35th U.S. president. He came from a very wealthy family of politicians and he was the most beloved president. Since 1947 onwards, he did not lose any election. He became an MP, Senator and finally the youngest U.S. president in 1961. He failed in the Bay of Pigs Invasion, but he succeeded in many other cases, such as missile crisis in Cuba. On November 22, 1963, he was assassinated in Dallas, Texas, from sniper, in his open car, in front of his wife.

Robert Francis Kennedy was born in 1925 and he was the brother of John Fitzgerald. He serviced White House from many places: as Senate, as Prosecutor and Governor and as Minister of Justice with excellent intuitions, even in the very sensitive issue of the era, the apartheid. In 1968, he was ready to become the new U.S. president, but after a speech at the Hotel AMBASSADOR of Los Angeles, was killed by a Palestinian fugitive.


Benito Mussolini was born in Predappio, Italy in 1883. It was the first known fascist in Europe, known as “Il Duce». He started his career as a teacher and journalist and imposed strictly in politics. He got involved his country in World War II, which almost devastated it. The dictator was executed by partisans near Como, at the end of the war in 1945.

Adolf Hitler was born in 1889 in Braunau am Inn, in Austria-Hungary. The famous Nazi leader and German Chancellor, who led the world in the Second World War, had in his mind the welfare of his country at the cost of the misery of others. When the Allies invaded Germany and the Russians were approaching the Chancellery in Berlin on April 30, 1945, Hitler committed suicide in his secret sanctuary.

Kranidiotis John Kranidiotis was born in 1947, a native of Cyprus political family. He serviced in many government offices with PASOK political party, in the Foreign Ministry, reaching the position of Deputy Minister. During an official trip to Romania, the plane suffered serious damage and without crashing, Kranidiotis killed with his son Nicholas, in the airspace of Romania in 1999.

Saddam Hussein was born in 1937 and served as President-dictator of Iraq. Hussein He had an adventurous life, with many attempts for murder, imprisonments and unlawful acts. He was the president who made the war with Iran in 1980 when he was a “friend” of the Americans. In 1990, making the mistake to occupy Kuwait, thus declaring his opposition to his previous “friends”, he was arrested and hanged at the end of December 2006.

Garfield James Abraham Garfield was born in 1931 and he was the 20th U.S. president. Guyton shot him on July 2, 1881. He had only four months as a President. After 80 days that he was in intensive care in a hospital, finally on September 19, 1881, succumbed to his wounds.

William McKinley was born in 1943 and he was the 25th U.S. president (1897-McKinley 1901). He made war with Spain in the Cuban island and annexed as “new states” of the U.S. Puerto Rico and Guam. On September 6, 1901, he was shot by anarchist and died of his wounds.

Sadat Muhammad Anwar al Sadat was born in 1918 and he was an officer and president of Egypt. He was with Nasser, at the coup of 1952 and when Nasser died, he became the next president of Egypt. In 1973 he made the Yom Kippur war with Israel, which brought his country in a very difficult position. Later, he made peace and he awarded the appropriate Nobel Prize. Peace was not a forgiveness for Muslim extremists and they killed him during a parade in 1981.

Giacomo Matteotti was born in 1885 and he was an Italian socialist leader. In 1924 he daredmatteotti to denounce the fascist Mussolini’s terror of the people and in a few days, on 10 June of that year, six fascists killed him and buried him. In the great crisis that followed, Mussolini continued to irritate, saying that he was the one which assassinated Matteotti. Mussolini’s government was shaken, but he remained in power with the known later consequences.

dollfussThe Austrian politician Engelbert Dollfuss was born in 1892 and he became Chancellor in 1932. He was opposed in the union of Austria with Nazi Germany, where he paid dearly after he was assassinated in 1934 in the same Chancellery Building of Austria by Nazis.

The Chilean Marxist Salvador Allende was born in 1908 and he was a doctor. He became Allendepresident of Chile and clashed openly with the U.S. policy of nationalization and his ideas. Thus, in a coup, the Pinochet junta, killed him on September 11, 1973 in the presidential palace in Santiago, after strong resistance.

MountbattenLuis Francis Albert Victor Nicholas Maountmpanten, Prince of Maountmpanten, British politician and naval leader, a relative of the English Royal Family, was born in 1900 in Windsor. He became the last Regent of India, and became Viscount in 1946, Earl in 1947 and Admiral in 1956. He played an important role in the independence of India but when installed as a Governor of Ireland, was murdered by the IRA in 1979.

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, with the common name Mahatma (the man Gandhiwith the great soul) was born in Porbandar, India in 1896. He is the liberator of the Indian nation from the English with his method, without violence but endless struggles. He was assassinated by Hindu fanatic on January 31, 1948. The British honoured the great personality, issuing stamps. It should be noted that, Indira Gandhi, had no affinity with him.
Indira GhandhiIndira Gandhi was born in 1917 in India and served as Prime Minister from 1966 to 1977 and from 1980 to 1984. She was the daughter of Prime Minister Nehru Jawaharlal. She was gunned down by her own Sikh bodyguards in New Delhi in 1984.
Rajiv Ratna Gandhi was born in Bombay in 1944.

rajiv GandhiHe was the son of Indira and grandson of Nehru. He became Prime Minister of India in 1984 following the murder of his mother until 1989. He was generally conciliatory, but was assassinated by suicide bomber in 1991 belonging in Tamil (LTTE).

Olof PalmeThe Swedish Prime Minister from 1969 to 1976 and from 1982 to 1986, Olof Sven Palme was born in Stockholm in 1927. He was peace lover and socialist. Security had never been a major issue, and Olof Palme could often be seen without any bodyguard protection. The night of his murder was one such occasion. Walking home from a cinema with his wife Lisbet Palme on the central Stockholm street Sveavägen, close to midnight on February 28, 1986, the couple was attacked by an assassin. Palme was fatally shot in the back at close range.

The Mexican politician Francisco Madero was born in Parras de la Fuente in 1873. He maderoled the Democratic Movement and he was a strong supporter of the poor farmers. He succeeded Porphyry Diaz and became President of Mexico in 1911. He assassinated by the coup of General Huerta in February 1913 in Mexico City.

HammarskjoldThe twice UN Secretary General Swedish, Dag Hammarskjold, economist and politician, son of a Prime Minister, was born in 1905 and became Finance Minister in his country. He commanded the UN, very robust in many crises. While he was conducting peace process in Katanga of Congo, was killed in a plane crash near Ndola in Northern Rhodesia in 1961.

Patrick Emery Lumumba was born in the Belgian Congo in 1925. He was a nationalist leader Lumumbaand became the first Prime Minister of his country. He wanted a united Africa without European colonization. On December 2, 1960 he was arrested by Kasa-Vubu and murdered in Katanga of Congo on January 17, 1961.

Zaures The French politician and orator, Jean Zaures was born in 1859. He was the founder of the French Socialist Party and tried to avert the risk of First World War between France and Germany but he was murdered by nationalists in Paris in 1914.

The astronomer and politician Milan Rastislav Štefánik was born in 1880. In collaboration Štefánik with Masaryk founded Czechoslovakia. He killed in a plane crash in May 1919. The same fate had Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk, who served as first President of Czechoslovakia. On March 10, 1948, was found dead beneath a window of the Foreign Ministry Building.


And the list goes on and on.

I’m sure that the collectors that decide to start such thematic gathering they’ll find a lot more and interesting material. Enjoy!

James Long for eCharta

Napoleon the Great through postage stamps


figure 1

Very rarely has the title “Great” been conferred on anyone throughout the course of history. There has always been some reason for those bearing it and who rightly deserve it: Alexander the Great, Charlemagne, Peter the Great, Catherine the Great and so on.

figure 2

figure 2

Napoleon the Great was a military genius and he would have been

figure 3

figure 3

considered even greater if Alexander the Great had not been born, who was the only general never to have been defeated in battle. Napoleon was born in Corsica (Figures 1,2) in 1769 and became an artillery officer. This, in the long term, proved to be one of his strong points. After the turmoil of the French Revolution, he had a rapid progress, starting with the Italian Expedition (1796) as a commander in chief. He won a personal victory at the battle of Arcole (Figure 3).

He defeated the Mameluks during the Expedition in Egypt, in 1798, while the scientists that escorted him laid the foundations of Egyptology (Fig. 4). However, the sea battle of Abukir, where Nelson was involved, (Fig. 5) blocked his advancement. Napoleon became Consul in 1799 and Life Consul in 1802. The battles that he personally took part always crowned France with success. However, the great victory in Marengo, in 1800, was brought by Desaix (Fig. 6).


After so many victorious battles and with ingenious, though hard, political maneuvers he was crowned as an Emperor in 1804 at Nontre Dame in Paris along with the Empress Josephina (Fig. 7).

figure 7

figure 7

In 1807, he suffers defeat, once more by Nelson, at the naval battle of Trafalgar (Fig. 8). France lost its domination of sea routes for ever. Nevertheless, Napoleon triumphed in Austerlitz (Pic. 9) against the Austrians and the Russians and seized Vienna. The battle of Austerlitz is still being taught, today, in the most important military academies. His Field Marshals grasped many victories and enjoyed a great deal of honor and distinction such example are Lahn (Fig. 10) and Bernadotte who, in a twist of luck, was called to stand at his coronation ceremony as a king of Sweden. The present kings of Sweden are his descendants (Figure 11).


From then on, Napoleon acted as he pleased. He invaded countries, seized small states and offered them to his allies, won battles, in some cases he was curbed, he abducted the Pope, Spain was ceded to his brother Joseph, Naples to Mira and proclaimed his sister, Paullina, queen: nepotism in its full scale.


After a series of blunders, the fatal one loomed in the background: the Russian Expedition (Fig.12) of Alexander I (Fig.13) in 1812. As Napoleon was the only general to invade Moscow, his retreat led to his crushing defeat. Despite his victory in the battle of Leipzig, he lost his last one in Waterloo in 1815 as he was unable to meet his enemies individually: a thing that he had always practiced in the past. While he was engaged in a battle with Wellington (Fig.14) the first Prussians under Blucher made their appearance (Fig.15). The chief of staff of one Blucher’s army corps was the renowned Claousewitz (Fig.16). His minister of foreign affairs was Talleyrand (Fig.17): a decadent, avaricious individual who, on the other hand, was the best diplomat ever to be brought up to surface in France! The battle was lost, the curtain fell and Napoleon found himself exiled by the British on the island of St Helena until the end of his life (Fig.18). He died in 1821.

1919Stamps with Napoleon (Pictures 19-26), as it is easily understood, are not to be found in countries which suffered his invasions such as Spain, England, Germany and Russia. Sets about the great general, apart from France which has been glorified as much as ever, were issued by the French Colonies, mainly in 1968, in 32 values. Those large-shaped, wonderful stamps complete the puzzle of the “Napoleon Phenomenon”: an atheist, authoritarian, materialistic and conceited individual who attributed a cosmopolitan air to his state and laid the foundations for modern France.

Even today, we use such terms as “Napoleonic Maneuver, Napoleonic Campaign” but mainly “Napoleonic Era” as this period between 1800-1815 is frequently called. All this surely justify the term: “Great”.

Many of these stamps are on sale on eCharta stamps page right now. Enjoy this thematic, topical Napoleonic collection!

Jimmy Long for eCharta

Comic List Last Week – Jun.23.13- Preview

Its back my weekly  preview list of comics that I read and liked although this time there are a couple that I did not like so much. Here it is starting with my least favorite pick…

Thunderbolts v2 011-000Thunderbolts #11 by Daniel Way and Phil Noto: I usually try to find the best in a comic and share it but sadly this issue did disappoint me, left me with the worst of impressions. The conclusion of a story-line which was closed in a rush, with no meaning or any specific consequence and plot-lines just left dangling. I love all these “heroes” who are featured in this comic but they are so much out of character. Liking the roster is not enough to continue reading it though. I’ll just give it one last chance to see if the new creative team will freshen it up and give it an edge that it’s supposed to have.

Uncanny Avengers by Rick Remender and Daniel Acuna: It’s quickly Uncanny Avengers 009-000becoming one of my favorite reads. The art is excellent and the story is consistently becoming better each issue.  More accurately the character interaction and how the plots strengthen with actual twists and turmoil’s for this specific team are quite intriguing. There is continuous conflict between the X-Men and the Avengers and each part has its right and wrongs whenever they debate a situation. A very cool comic and a promising one. There is Kang, Immortus, Apocalypse Twins, X-Men & Avengers all in one comic what more can you ask?

Cable and X-Force 010-000Cable & X-Force # 10 by Dennis Hopeless and Salvador Larocca: Nothing special in this issue which doesn’t mean that the story was not good. We see the Uncanny Avengers pursue and attack X-Force just as they about to go on separate missions to deal with multiple future disasters. The fun part is that Blaquesmith returns and in the most unexpected ways. I like this title not only because the art is superb or that the story is good and intriguing it’s also the original X-Force team with a couple of pretty cool new addition Forge and Dr Nemesis! I really like it and I will continue to read it as a long time fan.

Venom #36 by Cullen Bunn and Pepe Larraz: What I like about Venom Venom-036-(2013)-(Digital)-(Nahga-Empire)-01is that even if they decide to rip the symbiote out of Flash Thompson he has become a very developed character that can easily now hold his own title with another superhero persona. I have seen in each issue the inner workings and demons of Flashes mind and Cullen Bunn continues to add more layers to this. In this issue Flash deals with a new crime lord who seems to be a lot more ruthless than what he expected. The art by Larraz is very nice, I like it plus the cover by Shalvey and Bellaire is amazing.

Constantine 004 (2013) (Digital) (Darkness-Empire) 001Constantine #4 by Ray Fawkes, Jeff Lemire and Fabiano Neves: To be honest I expected more from this issue but I believe it serves its purpose. It’s a standalone issue where Constantine decides to take a day off. He fights a mage crime lord and finds that Sargon is still keeping an on him. In a way issue 4 works as a prologue to the upcoming crossover between Justice League and Justice League Dark. A nice issue but not enough.

Half Past Danger #2 (of 6) by Stephen Mooney and Jordie Bellaire: ThisHalf-Past-Danger-02-(of-06)-(2013)-(Digital)-(Nahga-Empire)-01 comic book can easily be compared to a movie and not because of its story but mostly for the dialogue and the structure of how the story unfolds. Issue #2 continues to be as interesting as the first one with its character interaction and art, the simple things like expressions accompanied by body language has won me over. It’s also fast paced but not rushed, Simon Mooney moves the story forward with action but with the necessary time to build his heroes and the plots. I’m not saying more about the story you should read it it’s a great comic.

Keep on reading comics!


Con Barbatsis for eCharta