Friday, May 30, 2008

An email from DCBS tells me that I'm supposed to get a new comics box today! And it's supposed to contain the following:

HAWAIIAN DICK #4- Writer B. Clay Moore, in a Twitter post, says the color on this issue is the "best looking yet". Given how uniformly excellent the color has been on not only this, but the previous series as well, that's saying something.

CATWOMAN #79- I tried to tell you all, but it's too late. From now on, the Catwoman we get we deserve. Uh, make that YOU get. I'm done. Except in the unlikely event they carry on the reasonably intelligent and (mostly) non-exploitative direction instead of reverting to Balentism.

FINAL CRISIS #1- Even though I've happily ignored all the 52s and Countdowns and so on, I'm kinda looking forward to this- Morrison and J.G. Jones together is usually always a treat for the mind and the eye...and the pages I've seen so far bear this out.

ALL STAR SUPERMAN # 11- Even though (I think, anyway) this series has had its ups and downs, I'll miss Quitely's baggy pants Superman.

NUMBER OF THE BEAST #4- Sprouse art. Keep repeating after me- Sprouse art.

SCALPED #17- I'm looking forward to this one, too- the finale of the Dead Mothers arc. Should be powerful, as this series has never failed to be so far.

FABLES #73- More war stories, making me think DC cancelled Weird War too soon.

HELLBLAZER #244- Finale of last issue's Vatican-baiting episode.

NORTHLANDERS #6- Flashback is over, now back to bloody Viking-style business.

DAREDEVIL #107- Gloom, despair, and agony, o me/deep dark depression, excessive misery/if it weren't for bad luck, he'd have no luck at all/gloom, despair, and agony, o me. (You remember- Hee Haw? No?)

I'm also going to put a bid in on three more issues of Blue Beetle, to get me up to issue #18. Baby steps.

And lest I forget:

Ellis' Freakangels is slowly but surely becoming a fascinating read. He asked people to remind people, so here I am, doing my part. I might add this widget to the sidebar later, 'cos it looks cool.

RIP Harvey Korman.

I suppose the first time I was exposed to his talents was as a child watching The Flintstones, as his was the voice of the Great Gazoo- a little outer-space guy character which was brought in in the last year of that show by 60s space-craze crazy Hanna-Barbera, and divides Flintstones fans to this day. Me, I've always kinda liked him and Korman's voice was perfect in its smug, bemused tone.

First time I actually laid eyes on him and was aware of who he was was on the Carol Burnett Show, where he was part of a pretty good ensemble cast that included Tim Conway. My Mom and Dad liked that show- it wasn't always my kind of humor when I was a kid and teen, but sometimes it could be infectiously funny when they'd (intentionally or not) flub lines and try to crack each other up.

Really, though, when all is said and done, it was in Mel Brooks films, specifically Blazing Saddles, where Korman really shined...and that's where the above clip comes from. He also had roles in the so-so Hitchcock spoof High Anxiety and Dracula: Dead and Loving It, which I saw just the other night. For some reason, I was thinking he had already died since his appearances had been few and far between over the last 10 years or so, mostly voice work it seems, and IMDb lists only a few appearances in Carol Burnett reunion shows and such since 2001. It's funny- it's always seemed to me that he appeared in more films and TV shows than he actually did. What this means, I can't say.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

One of the reasons I became such a hard core MIKE KALUTA fan as a teenager was panels like the one above, from his Shadow #4 (1973). The Shadow book was where I first saw his work, and remains among my absolute favorite of that long-gone decade. The illustrious Mr. Door Tree over at Golden Age Comic Book Stories (in this case, Silver and/or Bronze? I never can remember where these Ages begin and end...) has posted the entirety of that issue via the original color keys- notes on which kinda obscure some detail but it's more than made up by being able to see the brush strokes of the colorist (Tatjana Wood, maybe, or Glynis Wein?).

This should take you to the first post; the way he posts these things forces him to distribute several scans over several posts, so I suggest just clicking on the header above to go to the most current post and work your way down. It's worth the trouble, in my opinion anyway 'cause I'm all about the classic Kaluta artwork. And on this particular story he gets assists from Berni Wrightson, Howard Chaykin and none other than THE Steve Hickman. I kid Mr Hickman; I remember his byline here and there but he didn't really establish his name like his colleagues did, at least in my orbit.

Monday, May 26, 2008


It's time once more for another Spinner Rack Junkie- that more-or-less ongoing and often overdue feature in which I write capsule reviews of various works of sequential fiction that I have perused in the interval since the last time I inflicted such reviews upon one and all, or to be specific, the period from approximately May 5 to May 23, some of which may even still be on sale at finer comics selling establishments worldwide if you're lucky. Or not, as the case may be.

100 BULLETS #91: Another well-done issue what will engage the already engaged, baffle the uninitiated, and even baffle the initiated upon occasion. I think I'll just cut and paste this review for the next 9 issues. B+

ABE SAPIEN: THE DROWNING #4: Odd that a series about a fish-man, that often takes place under water, can be so dry. This continues to move at a snail's pace, telling us stuff constantly, even as it fails to tell us what we want to know: what the heck is going on, exactly? Taken on a panel-by-panel basis, Jason Shawn Alexander's art features a grubby sort of dynamism, but overall still somehow seems lifeless and static. An exercise in contradiction, this one is. C+

THE BOYS #18: Not content with giving us Sean of the Dead's Simon Pegg as its central protagonist, Ennis and Robertson now proceed to give us zombie antics featuring same; fortunately, Garth is often at his best with the walking (or in this case, floating) dead (makes one wish and/or wonder what if he had come up with Walking Dead instead of Kirkman) and this is as entertaining as we've come to expect from this most rude of funnybooks. A-

B.P.R.D.: 1946 #5: Rousing finale to the best B.P.R.D. spinoff in ages, as Mignola and Dysart crank up the crazy, throwing in elements from all the way back to the early Hellboy days, and providing exciting, gripping action with just enough oddness to make it distinctive. And while I've seen and enjoyed Paul Azaceta's work in other places- his Talent for Boom! was very nicely done- he really has come into his own here, bringing his pseudo-realistic Mazzuchelli/J.P. Leon/Tommy Lee Edwards style to new levels of dynamism. For some reason, I'm especially drawn to his portrayal of Prof. Bruttenholm- he gives him a presence that he really hasn't had before, not even when Mignola drew him. This miniseries, despite being made up crazy-quilt fashion from a lot of internal Hellboy-saga components as well as a few external ones as well, was a success in every way, and I really hope they follow it up one of these days, with Dysart and Azaceta. A+

CASANOVA #14: Well, everything, or at least the most current storyline, gets resolved here in typically (and unsurprisingly) convoluted fashion in preparation for another extended hiatus. And that's fine with me. I've already put in more than my two cents' worth about this admittedly cost-efficient title in the last few months; however, I will make one more point before I'm done- and that is to ask Fraction to remember in the future that when anything is possible in a work of narrative fiction, then nothing matters. C+

JACK STAFF #16: Well, what do you know, another issue of Jack Staff! Gee, it's almost like it's coming out regularly or something! Anyway, another solid issue, with Grist still effortlessly pulling off daredevil storytelling stunts that lesser artists can't even conceive of. But- not that I'm complaining- much- but it sure seems like we've been dealing with this issue's two dueling plot threads: Bramble & Son vs. each other plus the mysterious man in the shadows that has apparently taken over as the elder Bramble, and Jack vs. Detective Maveryk and the Castletown police force, for a long time now. A bit of wheel-spinning, it seems. I especially wish he'd get around to the specifics of that Man in the Shadows guy and the threat he poses; it seems as if he's been lurking around since the first black and white series wrapped up. Regardless, this is still outstanding superheroics, and you should be reading. A-

NUMBER OF THE BEAST #3: Storywise, this nicks from not only The Matrix but also Grant Morrison's The Filth, giving us mutilated superpeople who are sharing a sort of virtual reality experience in which they're going about their superheroey doings...until something goes wrong. Not the freshest premise, but it's being set up fairly well- at least we're finally past the stage in which we're constantly explaining and introducing; I still wish I had an idea who most of these characters were/are, and if I'm supposed to know them. As usual, the main reason to continue to buy this is the excellent Chris Sprouse/Story artwork, always worth the price of admission. B

OMEGA THE UNKNOWN #8 With all due respect to the late Steve Gerber, this take on his creation is a lot more intricately plotted, dramatically deep, and just plain weird than anything I remember him doing, and what's more, Faryl Dalrymple is more imaginative in depicting these goings-on than the staid, conventional stylings of Jim Mooney could ever hope to be. Too often, we're presented with pointless, inferior revivals of well-regarded comics series of years past, just to keep the copyright current if nothing else. This is most definitely not the case here, and we should all consider ourselves fortunate that Marvel was willing to violate form in order to do so. A

Friday, May 23, 2008


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OK, I was rusty last week and posted my FNF in color. But, in this case at least, I will learn from my mistake ad come back in full effect and in glorious, TCM-approved black and white with UNCLE SAM, shown here doing what he did best back in the Forties, kicking Nazi scumbag ass. Love the third panel, in which he punches a guy through the wall of a shack!

By the great Lou Fine, courtesy of Mr. Door Tree at Golden Age Comic Book Stories.


This picture of Uncle Stan circa 1947 absolutely fills me with glee. Found via Pappy's.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Almost every weekend, Tom Spurgeon puts out an open call for submissions to his "Five for Friday" meme (for lack of a better term), and whenever reasonably intelligent answers occur to me, I participate. This past weekend's subject: "Name Five Archival/Translation Projects That Aren't Happening Right Now (As Far As You Know) That You'd Love To See."

As is always, it seems, the case, my responses (to me, anyway) left a lot to be desired after reading them on Sunday morning. There were more than a few titles I wish I'd thought of instead of what I submitted. And, as usual, I saw many, many responses from others that I wish I'd thought of. And specifically, given the nature of the topic, I kept wishing that I'd named my submissions something different. It's my nature to second-guess myself at all times, you see- I was just raised that way. Anyway.

My published responses:

THE COMPLETE VENUS. Of course, as you will remember from my Friday night post, I'm just goofy about Bill Everett's goddess of love. This collection would have the entire contents of all 19 issues of her own title, and I'd make room for her 70's comeback in Sub-Mariner #57.

THE JERRY GRANDENETTI CAREER OMNIBUS: Another problem I have when I contribute to FfF is that I always seem to reference the same old comics obsessions I have; Thriller, Adventures of Bob Hope, Venus, Grandenetti, etc.. It keeps me from submitting sometimes. But anyway, I envision this as a career retrospective of the man's work, spanning his Eisner Studio days as well as his 60's tenure at Warren and his 60's-70's DC efforts encompassing war comics, horror works and his brief spell on The Spectre (inked by Murphy Anderson). Heck, I'd even make room for his Prez or Green Team. Of course I would, I'm a fan. Anyway, I won't hold my breath waiting for this, he's hardly a household name.

THE COMPLETE BILL EVERETT IN THE 40's-50's Yeah, I know it would make the Venus collection unnecessary, because all of them (that he drew, I'm thinking Maneely probably did some too) would be here. But he did a lot of not only Sub-Mariner stories, but horror and fantasy work as well and if it's collected, I'm not aware of it.

THE COMPLETE MIGHTY ATOM AND THE PIXIES: I still have a yellowed, coverless copy of an issue of Mighty Atom, and I treasure it as I continue to cling to the rapidly fading bits of my childhood that I still possess. Anyway, this was a fun little fantasy about a Superman-type little guy who defended other little guys against evil bug guys and the like. It's had a checkered publishing history, and I sure wish they were all available in one place.

THE ADVENTURES OF BOB HOPE COLLECTION: Of course, you all know how much I prattle on about the Super-Hip era, but I have read only a very select few non-Super Hip Bob Hope stories. I'd like to read more of them, and again, it would be nice to have a hardcover or softcover collection. Of course, DC may not even have the rights to publish them anymore for all I know- I'm sure the rights are with the Hope estate, but goodness only knows how much trouble it would be to secure all the necessary permissions. Oh well.

Now, there are a few titles which I thought of well after I had sent off my email, and here they be:

A collection of THE LIFE AND LOVES OF LISA ST. CLAIRE, which appeared in their Young Love comic in the early 70's. Just because I'd like to read it, and haven't had much luck finding old back issues.

Also, a collection of MILLIE THE MODEL would be kinda cool. Thing is, though, those romance comics (to me, anyway) start out as fun but get kinda monotonous the more I read. If this wasn't priced too high, I wouldn't mind having a MILLIE book.

COLLECTED TERMINAL CITY: A wonderful early Vertigo series that deserves it.

TOMAHAWK: A Showcase version would be OK, but I'd sure like to reread these in color. Actually, read for the first time- I'm not sure if I've ever read more than two or three issues of Tomahawk OR Son of Tomahawk. I'm sure concerns about the portrayal of Native Americans would be a problem, but I'd sure like to have the chance to read them at my leisure...the Revolutionary War setting sounds interesting, even though it did devolve into giant bow-and-arrow-wielding apes and Frankenstein's monster as a Ranger type stuff, as was DC's wont in the mid-late 60's.

SEA DEVILS: I'm not sure that I've ever read more than one or two of these; a great deal of them boast Russ Heath art, and you'd think that alone would get these collected. For that matter, how about a

COLLECTED RUSS HEATH! As Stan would say, 'nuff said. John Severin, too. And Marie. Jim Aparo! Hell, if you get me going I could probably name at least a dozen artists that deserve a collected volume of their work for various companies, or one, if getting the rights would be too hard.

SUGAR AND SPIKE: Why in God's name this comic hasn't been reprinted by now is surely one of life's great mysteries.

Hey, why not a SHOWCASE PRESENTS: SHOWCASE!? I know there might be a problem with the early, licensed issues like Doctor No, G.I. Joe and I-Spy, but heck- you could leave them out and still have some mighty fine stuff, including early Atom, Flash, Rip Hunter, Challengers of the Unknown, Metal Men...and that's not even getting into the later stuff like the Maniaks, Angel and the Ape, the Creeper, and Bat Lash!

For that matter, the same could be done for many of Marvel's 70's anthology books like MARVEL PREMIERE and MARVEL SPOTLIGHT. I'm thinking specifically of a way to get Steve Gerber and Roger Stern's GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY collected, plus a handful of projects that appeared in PREMIERE like Howard Chaykin's MONARK STARSTALKER and MARK OF KANE. Where else is that stuff gonna appear?

And while they're at it, I think it's high time Warren Ellis' HELLSTORM and DRUID got collected; either together or separately.

I wish that someone with a higher profile in the industry, a Fantagraphics or Top Shelf or AiT/PlanetLar (Hey Larry! Listen up!) would look in to bringing out a collected edition of John Findlay's amazing TEX ARCANA. Much of what appeared in Heavy Metal hasn't been reprinted, and ever since it stopped appearing in HM the dude's been plugging away posting new pages on his website (with no RSS feed, damn it) for several years now for no other apparent reason other than he wants to get the story out. I really think Tex is an overlooked masterpiece, and I wish more people were aware of it. And John, if you happen to read this, please revamp your website to make it easier to access newer pages, so I don't have to scroll through two dozen pages I've read already so I can read the one new one you've posted after a two month wait. Thanks!

As for other suggestions that caught my eye from other, more clever submittors:

From James Langdell, two really stood out: Marvel Essentials: NOT BRAND ECHH!
and Complete TROTS AND BONNIE. Love to see collections of both.

Evan Dorkin suggests a complete BARNABY by Crockett Johnson, which would certainly be interesting. I used to read Barnaby when I was a little kid, in My Weekly Reader books I think.

Lotta Lampoon readers out there, it seems, as Dan Steffan suggests a complete DIRTY DUCK, a wonderful idea that I wish I'd though of. I'd love to see Stephen DeStefano draw D-Duck, FWIW.

Casablanca Comics, as a collective, suggests another couple I wish I'd thought of: a CARtoons collection, as well as a FREAK BROTHERS omnibus. GREAT suggestions, esp. the CARtoons book. Add some CYCLEtoons as well!

Chris Keels has a wonderful idea: a collection of Mike Kaluta DC covers. Kaluta's done approximately one hundred billion covers for National since the 70's; this could be a big tome! But well worth it, I'm sure, even if it's limited to the last, say, 10 years.

Scott Cederlund chimes in witha collected HOT WHEELS from DC, by Alex Toth and others. LOVE to see it- back issues are hard to come by. Don't know if DC would have the rights to the name anymore, though!

William Burns' suggestion of a collected MEAT CAKE would be more appealing to me if I didn't already have all the back issues!

Chris Mautner's COMPLETE DICK BRIEFER'S FRANKENSTEIN is an excellent idea- I haven't read too many of those, and I'd love to read more!

Ed Brubaker's suggestions of separate volumes of Warren stories by Johnny Craig (oh, if only he'd lived to be able to do an issue of Brube's CATWOMAN or GOTHAM CENTRAL) and Toth is a great one. And, I might add, that Grandenetti chap should get collection #3.

"Chan" suggests JOHNNY HAZARD by the great Frank Robbins, which sounds good to me- again, I've only read a handful and would love to read more.

You'll notice that at no point did I suggest a collected THRILLER, amazing restraint on my part I know. I'm always calling for that to happen. Thing is, though, is that I'm afraid that it will catch on and then we'll get a revival, that won't involve Fleming or Von Eeden, and will be tweaked beyond all recognition, a comics monkey's paw scenario for sure. But if I did, and repeat after me, it would have to be "numbers 1 through 8 and leave off 9-12."

Next time I play Five for Friday, I'll try to do mo' better.

Friday, May 16, 2008


Yes, it's the proud and long-overdue return to the JBS of FRIDAY NIGHT FIGHTS! Bahlactus sets 'em up for the Blogosphere on Friday nights, and it's up to us to knock 'em out of the ring. My scanner hasn't been up for quite some time now, so I haven't been participating. I couldn't stay out of the fray any longer, though, so I stole some pages from the most excellent Pappy's Golden Age Comics Blog, hope he doesn't mind.

Tonight's fracas involves my late Forties/early Fifties mythological inamorata, Venus, as she mixes it up with a few refugees from what would appear to be Walt Disney's abandoned version of Day of the Triffids. Believe me, the story's weirder than this looks, so why not go here and read it?

Art by the great Bill Everett, and story too probably.

Now, I haven't done the math so don't hold me to it, but it certainly seems to me that since Image and Paul Grist announced that they would be putting Jack Staff out on a monthly basis, we have seen as many issues in the last 12 months than we saw in 2005 and 2006 combined. And no matter what some might have you believe, this is a very good thing. "Fail" is such a harsh word.

Anyway, as you may have surmised by now, there's a new Jack on the rack this week (or perhaps it was last week- when you get your books bi-weekly you lose track). Here's the rest of what I'll be getting (hopefully) today:


THE BOYS #18: Hey! My first regular issue in almost a year!

CASANOVA #14: I wish I could see what others see in this series, which I somehow manage to enjoy even though I usually always find it needlessly convoluted and a little too in love with its own cleverness.

B.P.R.D.: 1946 #5: On the other hand, I have no trouble enjoying this, and it's looking like a sure-fire JBS Best of 2008.

100 BULLETS #91

And that's it! Unless I go down to my not-so-local comics shop in the next couple of days...

Thursday, May 15, 2008

(Image taken from here)

RIP WILL ELDER, one of the great EC artist/writers. Go here for his official website.

I'm not well-versed in all things EC; believe it or not, I wasn't alive when those legendary pamphlets were being published. But you have to try really hard to be a hardcore comics fan and not be aware of the legacy all these exemplary creators left, and I've had plenty of opportunities to read a great deal of that imprint's output. For my EC experience, read my review of Grant Geissman's Foul Play.

Elder was an integral part of Gaines' humor books such as Panic and Mad, and I loved his contributions in both. To see his pages, crammed full of puns and visual sight gags, is amazing- and amazingly funny- his was a lively imagination. When he left EC to work with Harvey Kurtzman on a number of projects, he maintained his high standard of work- I also used to enjoy reading his "Little Annie Fanny" features in Playboy, when I could sneak a copy as a teen or when I subscribed back in the 80's. It didn't have the anything-goes panache of his Mad/Panic style work, as I found out later, but it was great nonetheless. When all is said and done, I think I like his nutball take on "The Night Before Christmas" the best, but you really can't go wrong with just about anything he did.

Apparently he was in a nursing home and in ill health; his passing is no surprise but no less sad when one reflects on yet another titan who will entertain us no more.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

One of the most noteworthy stories from the last few days in the world of comics is that the great GENE COLAN is suffering from liver failure, and does not have adequate medical insurance to help meet his expenses. Writer Clifford Meth put out the word, and called for everyone all over the Blogosphere to send him cards, or post tributes on their own blogs, to try and help raise his spirits. I haven't gotten a card yet, but I realized that I had scans of at least three outstanding Colan-illustrated stories that he did for Warren magazines in the mid-60's, and I thought I'd post one of them to help draw attention to his situation, and also pay tribute to a man whose work has been absolutely essential- and who has worked on many seminal comics series in the last four decades, equally at home with the mundane and everyday as he is superheroes and the supernatural. The impression it has left on me alone, as I at first hoped to be a comics artist and later simply as someone who loved the medium, has been incalculable.

Anyway, I thought I'd try something new this time and since I recently set up a Flickr account, I thought I'd create a slideshow and post the pages there.

Click here to read "Fitting Punishment", which is admittedly a not-so-subtle EC-style tale by Archie Goodwin with a somewhat improbable ending...but Colan's wonderful atmosphere-enabling inkwash technique and his vertiginous, cut-and-paste-style page layouts make it something special. See if you agree. If this slideshow doesn't work properly, pages out of order, etc., please leave a comment and I'll just repost each page here.

ETA: I think I should make it a bit clearer that many efforts are underway to raise money to help the Colans in their time of need. I had hoped that those who would click on the links above would find their way to the proper venues to get information on how they can help...but I'm thinking I should just come right out and put it here. Loath as I am to link to Journalista, Deppey is spotlighting the information (I'm assuming) every day for the near future, so click here to get the info written in a more concise, informative, and entertaining fashion than I can manage, I'm sure. Basically, you can bid on eBay Colan art auctions, or send money directly to them via PayPal- their account is, and you'll probably want to put "donation" somewhere in the comments so it will be easier to find for them. This is probably what I'll do later on this week when I get paid.

It's time once more for another Spinner Rack Junkie- that more-or-less ongoing and often overdue feature in which I write capsule reviews of various works of sequential fiction that I have perused in the interval since the last time I inflicted such reviews upon one and all, or to be specific, the period from approximately April 21 to May 5, some of which may even still be on sale at finer comics selling establishments worldwide if you're lucky. Or not, as the case may be.

FABLES #72: Mostly satisfying finale to the two-part Cinderella Bond story; it unfortunately whips out a plot contrivance at the end which just plain old seemed unlikely to me, but everything else worked pretty well, as far as I'm concerned. A-

THE IMMORTAL IRON FIST #14: Mostly satisfying grande finale to the big Hydra invasion of K'un-L'un story that's been building since #1, tempered somewhat by the knowledge that this is the last time we'll see Brubaker and Fraction's byline here, at least for the foreseeable future. Drawn by the usual assortment of (I guess) whoever happened to be on the editor's speed dial at the time: Tonci Zonjuic, Stefano Gaudiano, Kano, Clay Mann...a couple of which I've actually heard of. Of course, the art is up-and-down but mostly pretty good overall, at least not hindering the actual scripted stuff that punctuates all the all-out skull-busting, chest-punching, punch-kicking, etc. At first, I had thought I'd continue to buy this after Frubaker left, but now I don't think so. I'm content to have read the best Iron Fist storyline since the Claremont/Byrne late 70's days (and I'm not sure this isn't better than even that), and while the new guys might be great, there's no way they can top it. Of course, I've been known to be wrong before...let me know, wont'cha? A-

NORTHLANDERS #5: Hey, I like Sven's ex-girlfriend that he hooked up with in the big city...but too bad, she's fricking deceased now. Oh well. This issue's one big flashback, as we find out our "hero"'s backstory- but still don't get a good explanation as to why he felt like he had to give up everything he had worked for and had built up in his life to go back to the land of his birth and increase its body count. Yeah, I know, we're supposed to infer and read between the lines, something about self-respect or reclaiming birthrights or some such, but based on what his life was like before he left the first time, and how it was after he had made his name, so to speak, I'm thinking he seems to be smarter than to up and jam himself in a no-win situation. There's a subtle difference in Davide Gianfelice's art this time out, what it is is eluding me but I think his linework looks less fussed-over or something. Regardless, it's as solid as always- he's really proven to be a fine action illustrator with a keen eye for detail. B+

NUMBER OF THE BEAST #2: Better, but the constant exposition is still tiresome, and unlike Top 10, of which I'm reminded (and not favorably, I should add), we don't really get a good feel for what any of the multitude of characters are all about despite the fact that they're constantly trying to explain just that. Anyway, what gets this by is that writer does manage to get across the feeling of impending doom of this Rapture-like event on which the plot is apparently going to hang. So there's that, anyway. And of course, the art is real damn good. B-

THE SPIRIT #16: In which Hollywood vets Evanier and Aragones give us a pleasant little murder mystery slash movie-biz satire which, when viewed objectively, does a good job of approximating one of the more minor late-40's Eisner & Co. Spirit section
stories, and good for them. Paul Smith also brings an likeably cartoonish look to the art, which approximates Eisner & Co.'s more lighthearted efforts as well- you'd never know from Ploog's halfhearted turn which one of the two illustrators was an Eisner apprentice, now would you? All of which adds up to an approximately good comic book...but nowhere near a great one. And I don't think I can afford approximately good anymore. B-

WATER BABY: I'm generally of two minds about the work I've seen Ross Campbell do; I follow his LiveJournal page because he posts interesting art sometimes, and have skimmed through issues of Wet Moon upon occasion. Even though I do think he has a world of talent, there's just something about his voluptuous and bulbous figure drawings, usually all colored a whiter shade of pale with purple or light blue highlights that I find repulsive yet attractive like the rainbow colors on a fish that's been out in the sun too long, which is one reason why I never have actually bought an issue of Wet Moon, I suppose. In keeping with the stated Minx imprint goal of reaching out to young girls, our protagonist is "Brody", an obnoxious young lady of indeterminate age who encounters a shark while surfing and does not get the better of the meeting, losing a leg from the knee down. After she recovers and learns to adjust to life with a prosthetic limb (in what are arguably the most effective scenes in the story- I'm thinking it would have been better if we'd had more of this and less of what was to come) with the help of her longsuffering roommate and former lover Louisa, her lunkhead deadbeat boyfriend Jake moves in and makes such an ass of himself that they decide to load him up in a car and drive him back home to New York. Yeah, it's a stretch- if they have money to buy gas and drive up the East Coast, surely they'd have money for a bus ticket... Along the way, they pick up an other nubile young girl who takes a shine to Jake, and manages to get on everybody's nerves before the book finally grinds to a halt. I don't know, exactly, at who this is aimed; no one, except perhaps Louisa, is shown in a positive light at all and character development is kept to a minimum throughout. You'd think that recovering from a trauma like a shark attack and maiming and dealing with the aftermath would be enough for two graphic novels, but no, Brody recovers just fine except for having odd dreams about interacting with and morphing into ambulatory sharks, which seem to be there just because Campbell wanted to show how well he can do surrealism (I've seen better), and provide a poor substitute for insight...and everything gets shoved aside so we can have booger-eating, puking, arguments about Punk bands, heavy petting and road-trip misadventures. It's as if he started out wanting to do a 20-something male's idea of an R-rated fantasy version of Boys on the Side or Where the Boys Are '84, but got cold feet and delivered it at PG-13 instead. There aren't any lessons to be learned or insight to be gained; none of the characters are explored enough to let us know if we want to know them better or not, and what we do get to know certainly isn't appealing; none of them seem to be the age we're led to think they should be, and you really have to wonder what the thought processes are up at DC that would get something like this greenlighted in the first place. If they think teenage girls want to identify with or even read about Brody, well, maybe they might but I have my doubts- at least not in the numbers DC would like. Aah, maybe it's just an age thing, and I'm too old to appreciate what Campbell's trying to do and this will come to be regarded as a classic coming-of-age or boyfriend-dumping story. Who knows. Campbell is a fine, if idiosyncratic, illustrator, and it's far from hackwork, but this is seriously deficient in the story area and thus is a disappointment. Buy Bryan Lee O'Malley's Lost at Sea instead. C-

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Ladies and gentlemen, David LaFuente! When he was made aware of my previous post spotlighting his art blog, he whipped out this sketch of Archie legion-era fave Kinetix, and gave me a shoutout in the post. Needless to say, I am geeked.

If you haven't checked out his art blog lately, you should- he's posted some pages from his upcoming Hellcat series...
I don't really know what else to add to the almost universal praise I've seen all over not only the Blogosphere, but in "real" media as well, for IRON MAN. Practically everybody has responded very positively to its sharp mix of drama, politics, action-adventure and plain old geekery, and I certainly won't deviate from the throng this time.

For decades, I've lamented the scripting on the various attempts to bring superheroes to the big screen- too often, it seemed like the scriptwriters and filmmakers simply had no respect for the source material, thinking that they had to play it broadly, for laughs, or at least with a wink to the audience as if to say "Hey c'mon- we're not fanboy nerds...we couldn't possibly take this seriously, and we're sure you don't either". Thing is, though, as time went by more and more people- "fanboy nerds" in many cases- coming up through the ranks said- "Wait- we do take it seriously and we want to do it right!" The Spider-Man films were a step in the right direction, although as if to overcompensate for the lack of smirk we got a lot of sodden drama. The latest Batman film had a down-to-earth tone as well, although casting and scripting problems plagued it. The Ghost Rider film tried (a little too hard) to be a fast-paced trash-cinema romp, and almost succeeded, with a 60-40 stupid to cool ratio. Although the Fantastic Four and Superman films were steps backwards (although in my opinion the FF flicks had their moments), there was a sense that eventually, someone would get it right. Throw enough crap at the wall, and some of it's bound to stick eventually, no?

Against all odds, Iron Man is that film. It's got just about anything you could want in this sort of film- intelligent, spot-on casting, a script that is fast-paced, with a nice balance of drama and action, and just the right amount of humor to keep it from devolving into a Hulk-like torpor. There are even some subtle (and not-so) shots at the military-industrial complex, timely these days. Robert Downey, Jr. delivers his most memorable turn since Chaplin oh so long ago, able to veer from cynical to sarcastic to idealistic and sincere at the drop of a hat and dominating practically every scene he's in, but not to the detriment of the other actors, who get room to shine as well. I was afraid at first that he was going to be too glib, too shallow in his depiction of Tony Stark, but he soon got in a groove and stayed there for the duration. I'm fairly certain he won't get an Oscar nomination, but he sure as hell ought to be at least considered. Gwyneth Paltrow brings a lot of subtlety to a character which was never really developed all that much in the comics, or at least not when I've read them. I've not always liked her in films before (she was all wrong in Sky Captain, just to name one) but here she's a great foil for Downey's Stark. Jeff Bridges is solid as always in the role of the bad guy; he underplays so well that when he does finally snap at the end, it's surprising. Terrence Howard, normally a fine actor, isn't given much to do as Stark's military buddy Rhodey, but he does have a few nice scenes and a memorable line or two. Cast and script aside, you also can never underestimate the glamour and appeal of the tech- it's one of the reasons that last year's Transformers did so well, all the cool robots and how real effects technology can make them these days- it adds to the verisimilitude and convinces us that this world we're seeing can happen. I also appreciated the lack of turgid melodrama which many scriptwriters think they have to infuse scripts of this sort with- it practically ruined the last Spider-Man film, to name one example.

Of course, you probably know by now that you should sit through the (really long) credits to see the little fanboy-servicing coda at the end; it points to the direction that Marvel Films, if not necessarily the Iron Man franchise, might go. It also points out how much of a template the Millar/Hitch/Neary Ultimates series are for how the House that Jack Built wants their properties to be portrayed. And as someone who used to watch the old 60's semi-animated Marvel Super-Heroes cartoons back in the day, it was great to hear the swanky, ring-a-ding-ding IM theme song referenced not once, but twice.

Of course, I can nitpick; I thought the choice of comparatively recent, comics-wise anyway, Iron Man villain Obidiah Stane was an odd one. If I may slip into comics-geek talk for a minute, perhaps it's just that name that bugs me; it's as if Stane's creator Dennis O'Neil (who, to me, seemed to completely lose his mojo when he left DC for Marvel) was just trying to come up with names by looking through a list of some sort, and "Stane" was chosen because it's pronounced the same as "stain" and that word's connotation. I'd be willing to bet that there's no one in the world with that surname. Anyway, don't get me wrong, I suppose the writers thought they should go with as realistic a character as they could, to maintain the tone of the film. And believe me, I don't think the likes of the Unicorn or the Melter would have been a better choice. Bridges is able to invest him with enough charisma to make him work, because he's just that good, but the character is still lackluster, even in that Iron Monger armor. I'm betting that in a sequel, we could get a really nicely done Mandarin, especially if they refer to the recent Enter the Mandarin miniseries. I also have a hard time believing that as soon as Stark returned to civilization after escaping his captors, he wouldn't simply have the shrapnel removed rather than create a brand-new, upgraded power source for his chest device. And how deep exactly is that conduit that said device fits in? It looks deep enough to be sticking out his back, especially in the scenes in which he asks Pepper to adjust the wire down in there. But really, I find it hard to believe that the medical technology and surgeons someone like Stark would have access to couldn't remove that stuff and free him from having to wear that snazzy little night-light. Of course, that thing drives the plot, so we can't have that...but still. Obviously, I'm in the minority of people who even have a problem with this. Also, it's a bit of a stretch for me to believe that under those conditions (even though, I know, he had a lot of his tech there at that insurgent camp) Stark could rig a suit of armor that would be as impervious to harm as it is, achieve flight, and enable him to survive a drop of several hundred feet. Sure, sure, suspension of disbelief- and believe me, this film makes it easy.

I may nitpick, but really- none of this was a major detriment to my appreciation of this hugely enjoyable film. Who'da thunk that Iron Man, of all of Marvel's multitude of licensed properties, would get a showcase like this. Almost gives ya hope for Ant-Man, doesn't it?

Friday, May 09, 2008

BEHOLD! The slightly iconic and somewhat classic cover for Marvel Super-Heroes #20, which (if memory serves) was the first time one of Marvel's 60's badguys got a feature story and cover. Well, "Madame" Medusa was featured in #15, but by then she was more of an Inhuman and less one-quarter of the Frightful Four.

Something's bugging me about this cover, though, and I'll get to it in just a minute, after I set it up.

Someone over at scans_daily posted the story in its entirety this evening, giving me occasion to read it again for the first time in ages...probably since I first picked it up on the magazine rack at Caverna Drugs in Horse Cave when I was age 9 out of curiosity. Looking at it again, it's really not the best sort of showcase that Marvel's (arguably) premiere arch villain deserved. Written and penciled by Stan's bro Larry Lieber, with pencil assistance from longtime inker Frank Giacoia, and with inks credited to Vince (the Eraser) Colletta, it's a grubby-looking, episodic story which assays an attempt by B-list badguy Diablo to blackmail Doom into joining up with him to steal his time machine (under military guard) and, of course, conquer the world. It reads like Lieber's making it up as he goes along, and ends with a bit of a fizzle rather than a bang. I can see why I most likely skimmed over it when I was a lad and didn't buy. In fact, I don't think I've ever actually owned a copy.

Also somewhat interestingly, this was the last issue of this title to feature an all-new lead story; the title began as Fantasy Masterpieces, which featured mostly Golden Age and Atlas/Timely stuff, and for about a year served to showcase several second-string characters in the hopes one of them would stick like the Black Knight and Ka-Zar. The next issue, #21, began X-Men reprints, paired with Daredevil, then Iron Man and DD, then ended up being a vehicle to reprint Hulk and Sub-Mariner until it got cancelled in 1982.

OK, now that I've rambled a bit, here's my question. This cover. Who drew it? There's no credit on the cover itself; GCD info says it was Lieber and Giacoia. Thing is, it doesn't look like Lieber and Giacoia, especially when you compare it to the interior art. It's just too dynamic, too striking an image with its slightly receding, camera-on-the-floor perspective shot of Victor Von exulting in some sort of real or imagined triumph, his outstretched arms partially obscuring the logo- a lot more indicative of the type of covers that the innovators of the era there were doing, your Sterankos, Adamses and your Gene Colans. In fact, if you ask me, I think that's who did this cover in the first place- Colan. It's got his trademark fluid perspective and loosey-goosey rendering style, and all the celestial spheres and orbs remind me a lot of the types of covers he was providing for Doctor Strange at about that time. John Buscema is another suspect. Aaah, for all I know it may be Lieber, but...I just don't know.

Anyway, what do you think? Any comics historian-types out there that might have an educated guess?

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Holy crap, I haven't posted here since last Saturday!?!

So, I guess I should probably put something up here. Hm. Geez, y'know, a lot of the stuff I would have posted links to back, say, three years ago I wind up putting on Twitter, or in the Google Reader RSS feed thingy on the linkbar, which I'm sure you all have been checking out when something new pops up anyway, right? I sincerely hope so.

I suppose if I was reading more of the books others in the ol' CB are reading, yer Mighty/New/Borrowed/Blue Avengers, X-Men du jour, the multitudinous Iron Man spinoffs- figures; the one I liked nobody else read, Enter the Mandarin... and why would it have been such a bad thing if ol' Mandy had been the bad guy in the first one? As long as he's not given the Atlas comics Yellow Claw treatment? I digress. I'm reading and/or skimming a lot of comics blogs lately and finding myself not knowing/not caring about most of the titles they write about. Oh well. I'd have an opinion about that en EspaƱol issue of Blue Beetle, but I'm far from having read it, since I'm still stuck on #11.

Lately, I've also been hella-busy with any number of things both work-and-home-related, and as always that means that serious bloggery must be put on the back burner, and that includes the seriously-neglected Elton John blog and the LJ as well. I hope everyone understands. Probably won't be for long; I do plan on having some reviews done in the next few days, mostly of comics you probably read (or didn't read) two weeks ago, as well as the upcoming Minx GN by Ross Campbell, Water Baby, which I got the other day. I sure don't want anybody thinking I've retired again, either!

Anyway, in the interest of posting something/anything, Todd Rundgren reference there, I guess I'll put up a list of my DCBS order for this month. I'd put up my next bi-weekly shipment, but it won't be complete till Monday. Not exactly incisive Comics Journalism, I know, but it isn't like I'm gonna get linked to by Journalista or anything anyway- even when I write something of substance. So here ya go, and I'll have more eventually, pinky swear.

100 BULLETS #93
BOYS #20

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Looks like I've been tagged with a comics-related meme by young mahstah Rich Lovatt, so I'll put it here where I put most things comics-related. And it goes like this.

Post the questions below and three covers that answer to these questions; no need to comment unless you want to:

1) What was the first comic you remember reading?

Hey! I just wrote about this the other day! Oh well, here it is again:

2) What was the first comic that made you realize that you might be in this for the long haul?

This is a hard one to answer, really, because I don't really remember actually thinking "This is it- the one book (or series) that makes me want to read and collect comics for the rest of my life, or at least the foreseeable future" at any point. I know there was a time in the early-mid 80's that I was seriously considering stopping, because the number of regular titles I was buying had dwindled down to about four or five- but then I discovered books like Zot!, American: Flagg, Flaming Carrot, and Thriller, and my habit was renewed. However, to answer the question, after much deliberation I settled on the above, one issue out of the brief Thomas/Adams X-Men run...a run that I still like, even better than Claremont & Byrne's, and one of the first times I remember being extremely motivated to make sure I got the next issue when it came out. Typically, I cite the cover from #62, and as I recall I didn't get #63 until many years later, when I discovered the embryonic comics shops of Louisville and Nashville. The next issue of X-Men I got, actually, was #65. Weird, huh.

3) If you had to make a snap decision to take one comic or one comic run to a desert island, what would it be? Don't think too hard!

This would be one hell of a hard choice, indeed, and I suppose I have violated the spirit of this one by actually deliberating about it for a while. After considering such things as length of run, sentimental attachment, and of course entertainment value, I decided that I'd take the first 100 issues or so of Fantastic Four, plus Annuals. Many of my favorite comics runs only lasted less than a dozen issues in many cases, and if I'm gonna be stuck on an island for a while I want something that's gonna kill a little time! But since I am going to be on that theoretical desert island, I sure as hell don't want to be sitting there with thousands of dollars' worth of funnybooks, getting all sandy and scuffed up and wet with salt water. So what I'd take instead is the Essential Fantastic Four series, which would do nicely, I'd think. I'd miss the color, but hey- if I was stranded on a desert island, I'd think I'd have more pressing concerns!

Link to at least five other people to continue the meme - and they need to link back to your post when doing it.

I hate to tag people on these things, but since I'm trying to play it by the book, how about Angela, Scott, Teresa, Dave, and one more I'll name later.
Hey! It's FREE COMIC BOOK DAY today! So unless you're like me, too broke to make the 35 mile drive south to take the chance that they'll actually be giving away something I'm interested in, then get your collective asses to your local comics shop today, and help stimulate the economy in a miniscule fashion by buyig something from your retailer. And for the love of god, don't make these conversational faux pas.

While I'm thinking about it, I did get a free comic of sorts recently from an unnameable source: a PDF of DC's Angel and the Ape #4, from sometime in 1969. It was the first time I've had the opportunity to read this particular issue since 1987, when I sold my A&A run along with about 3/4 of my original collection, which, as I've related many times before, was a mistake I regret making to this day. Angel was, I always thought, anicely done series in that 1960's Jerry Lewis/Bob Hope DC humor-in-general style way, with stories written mostly by the late Arnold Drake and drawn by the also-late Bob Oksner, with inks by the equally-as-late-and-great Wally Wood. It was just one of those comics that got thrown out there on a wing and a prayer, as DC tried to find out exactly what would sell and what wouldn't, as Marvel was nipping at their heels in sales and popularity, especially among that puzzling breed known as "the Counterculture". Of course, one look at Zap Comics or Rip Off Comics would have clued them in, daddy-o, but apparently nobody up there then was ready for that. So, what we got from all those aforementioned DC efforts was warmed over TV sitcom-style humor, funnier in, say, 1964 than five years later. Think Beatles For Sale vs. Magical Mystery Tour. Anyway, when I looked at the cover, my now-attuned-to-the-PC-Aughts senses immediately set off a warning signal...and my fears were justified when I read the cover story, which ostensibly sets out to spoof Charlie Chan films and give us a little funny adventure in Chinatown, but holy crap- the blatantly racist and stereotyped cliches just flow, sometimes in every panel of every page. See for yourself, and if you're unusually sensitive to such things, you might not want to check them out:

No cliche left unturned- Chinese laundries, Dragon ladies, "hungry a hour later", l's pronounced like r' name it. This just blew my mind. And funny thing is, it didn't make an impression on me back in the early 80s, when I first read it (I only had a couple of issues when I was a kid in the late 60's). Now, while I deplore this sort of thing in general, I am smart enough, I think, to understand that this, like classic films you see on TCM or any WWII-era comics, are a product of the times in which they were written, and I seriously doubt that there was maliciousness behind a lot of it- especially in this case. You used to see this sort of thing in TV shows and films of that decade as well, before people finally started to make an outcry and be heard about it. I don't know for 100% sure who write this; I'm pretty sure Drake wrote most of these, but the Grand Comics Database curiously doesn't list a writer credit for this story, so it could have been anyone up there at the time. Even though this lead story is this way, the other stories in the book aren't anything like this- and the art is certainly outstanding in all of it.

And I certainly don't intend to offend anyone who might happen across this post; I'm just posting it here because I was so surprised by the casually racist humor that I felt like it would be an interesting topic on an obscure subject, kind of a museum piece, if you will.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Here in the waning hours of May 1st aka "May Day", I was finally getting around to getting through my Google Reader blog entries when I noticed that a great many fine people have been posting one of two things to commemorate the day- either classic art that stems from a more European tradition, or a series of comics covers that ties in with the more Soviet-style "International Workers Day" slant. In fact, I ran across another site besides Bully's that did the same thing, but I didn't bookmark it and I forgot where it was. Apologies, unremembered bloggish compatriot.

To be honest, I have never really heard of "May Day" actually being an real live holiday-type date; I was not aware of an "International Workers Day". That bears out what I've always asserted- I've led a sheltered life here in my 48 years on planet Earth, all of which spent dwelling in the secluded little cultural wasteland of rural Kentucky. Oh well, c'est la and all that.

Anyway, the upshot is, and the reason I'm posting as well, is that all these Russian-themed cover posts did cause one of the sluggish synapses in my widdle brain to fire up and issue forth a wonderment, as well as an observation: none of the commemorators on this fine day included a cover from one of the most thoroughly Russian comics series ever: THE WINTER MEN, an example of which is shown above. Which is also begging the question: WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON WITH THIS TROUBLED, ERRATICALLY PUBLISHED, AND AS-YET UNFINISHED SERIES? The most recent issue to date, #5, came out in NOVEMBER of 2006! Writer Brett Lewis, who has no Web presence that I can ascertain save his MySpace page, has been steadfastly quiet on the topic. Artist John Paul Leon, when interviewed sometime in early 2007, discussed it a bit and sounded like he was still working on it. So what's the dilly-o, the scoop, the four one one, the straight dope? Is this thing just sitting on a shelf somewhere while many other less deserving titles clog up comics shop shelves from sea to shining sea? Have Lewis and Leon simply up and ceased to work on it, leaving it in an Mary Celeste-like deserted state? I mean bozhe moi, even the final issue of The Atheist eventually came out!

Anyway, hope you had a nice May Day. TTFN.