Sunday, May 31, 2009

"Would anybody like a sourball?"

As promised, here's the last of the posts bringing you some neat stuff I found in the pages of Castle of Frankenstein #12, which amped up the comics coverage in what had been a mostly film-oriented publication. Below is a longish 1967 interview with Stan Lee, in what proved to be the waning days of what we think of now as the classic Marvel period, with Lee scripting and Kirby/Ditko/Heck etc . on art. It's amusing how often Stan keeps getting interrupted by phone calls or Sol Brodsky. A lot of space is spent discussing the semi-animated Marvel Super-Heroes TV series, which had been airing in the year previous. Click to embiggen, hopefully big enough to read on your monitor:

ETA: Tom Spurgeon reminded me (thanks, Tom!) that I had meant to mention that this interview was conducted by Ted White. The ol' memory, she ain't what it used to be.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

There's something going on here...Mr. Jones.

I've got a few things in the pipeline, but haven't had a lot of time to get them written up- but as a sign that I'm not back on hiatus, here's a little visual that I put up on the ol' Tumblog (link at right) the other day, which reinforces my long held belief that Bob Oksner used the late Brian Jones of the Rolling Stones, at left, as the inspiration for Official JBS Mascot Super-Hip!, at right.

More later, hopefully.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009


Part of the problem with maintaining a comics/pop culture blog (and I insist that's what this is; I plan to start doing some more music and movie posts eventually), then taking an extended break, is that they still put out comics, and I still keep on picking them up- and pow! Before you know it, I have about a five foot high stack of stuff that I haven't written about at all. And this in mind- I stepped away for a while because reviewing comics had kinda become a chore, and I wanted a break. So what's a poor boy to do, but sing in a rock and roll band? Well, I won't become a Street Fighting Man, but I guess all I can do is do what I can, and I suppose that means that I'll try and knock out the odds-and-sods stuff I've read, then slowly try to get back on track with the regular ongoings that I peruse every two weeks. I may combine some titles, since I've gotten a couple of issues in a row since last I inflicted my opinions upon you. This could take a while, and will probably mean some long columns and some very short capsule reviews. So, tally ho, eh wot?

LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN: CENTURY: 1910: More coherent, and therefore more satisfying, than Black Dossier- but Moore indulges his love of Threepenny Opera to no great effect and once more gives us the onerous "rape-as-motivation-for-a-female-character" trope that endears him to so many, and that tarnishes a series (not to mention a very interesting character) that one suspects has lost the interest of its scripter. I still like the concept, Moore and his artistic collaborator Kevin O'Neill (I'm still not a fan of his style, but he's no less accomplished a storyteller) still have good chemistry, and I did enjoy the byplay between the holdovers Mina Harker and Allan Quartermain, as well as Orlando from Dossier and newcomers Raffles, the gentleman thief (whom I'd heard of) and John Carnacki (whom I hadn't). For the next chapter I hope the humor's a little less precious and forced, the multitudes of "clever" literary Easter eggs are a little more geared towards quality rather than quantity, and the fellows get back to giving us more of what was so enjoyable about this series in the first place. B+

THE ORIGINALS GN: Moore's old Watchmen collaborator Dave Gibbons takes the stage as a solo act in this hardcover original graphic novel that I initially passed on due to the cost when it came out back in 2005, but after finding it in my LCS's 75% off box during one of their sidewalk sales, I couldn't say no. It's a slick and streamlined amalgam of A Clockwork Orange, Absolute Beginners and West Side Story, with perhaps a dash of Quadrophenia for good measure, and as such it's not startlingly original storywise but Gibbons' solidly efficient art, all done in black and white and gray tones with just enough innovative costume design and effective storytelling choices to make this more memorable that it probably ought to be, gets it by. Not essential, but a good read just the same. B+

HUNTRESS: YEAR ONE TPB: This one flew completely under my radar, not only the initial miniseries but this collection as well- but then again, I am not in the habit of picking up just any old Batman spinoff- until writer Ivory Madison, out of the blue, emailed me to inform that a copy of the trade was headed my way via, and then, well, what could I do? It would be churlish of me to ignore it...and its arrival unfortunately coincided with my little sabbatical, so it's taken me forever to getting around to reading and now commenting on it. So, for that I apologize, and I also am sorry to say that I wasn't all that impressed. A prose novelist, Madison keeps the dialogue down-to-earth, and good on her for it, even though she doesn't seem to be especially comfortable with the vagaries of scripting for comics; there's not a lot of snap in the captions and the flow is a bit sluggish. Madison gamely tries to provide depth and detail to her current canonical background, but utilizes recycled Godfatherisms (one can just smell the spaghetti sauce and hear the mandolins and accordions) and conflicted romance novel cliches, and the end result comes across like a made for the Lifetime Channel superhero action-movie: The Goddaughter Begins, or somesuch. And even then, I could take all this recycling and bosom-heaving a bit better if it were not illustrated by someone other than a bevy of generic DC Art Drones, who portray all these goings on in utterly generic modern-superhero-comics style without one iota of cleverness or originality. One problem as far as I'm concerned, I suppose, is that I have never at any point in the last 30 years been all that crazy about the Huntress character- I've always considered her origins jury-rigged and specious (she was originally the daughter of Catwoman and the Earth-2 Batman, ferchrissakes) and her very presence unnecessary and redundant. As a supposed avatar of feminism, she has rarely been portrayed as such, not when it's easier for artists to draw her in a variety of badass come-hither poses in her peekaboo cutout outfit. That's not so much in evidence here, for what that's worth- what little cheesecake the artists attempt barely registers since it's bland. I can recommend Huntress: Year One if you're a fan of the character, and aren't particularly picky about the art- it's very much on a par with the current Bat-output from DC, Morrison's indulgences aside. If this doesn't sound like you, you might want to take a pass or read a friend's copy. C+

ATOMIC ROBO AND THE DOGS OF WAR VOL. 2: It's official; after this and the first TPB, review here, I just don't get what people see in this. It seems like it's just made up of things the writers, and by extension internet tastemongers, think are cool- you know, giant robots, Nazis, that sort of thing (I'm surprised there are no sharks, ninjas or pirates, but it's early and there were a couple of giant sea monsters in the short stories in the back)- and they're presented in connect-the-dots fashion, with flat, unfunny (or not as funny as the scripter thinks, anyway) dialogue and a steadfast refusal to give us anything that even remotely resembles a satisfying payoff to the stories they set up. Sure, I get wanting to make the Robo a wisecracking, misunderstood action hero a la Hellboy, but having him stumble through every adventure, getting the hell beat out of him ceaselessly, and copping a lot of attitude for no real good reason gets awfully tiresome after a while. Mignola can get away with it because of his innovative storytelling style and his dry sense of humor, but Messrs. Cleavenger and Wegener are no Mike Mignola(s). While it at least, and thankfully so, moves along at a brisk clip, it never engages, and that's the kiss of death for this sort of entertainment. I don't think I'll invest any more of my time or money. C

OK, I meant to do more, and will eventually, but this will have to do for now. Cheers.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Memorial Day

Since I'm trying to get serious about this blogging thing again, here's another regular in the blogging arsenal: the holiday well-wishing post. For comics bloggers on Memorial Day, that usually means including a cover scan from a war-themed comic book. So here ya go.

Seriously, hope everyone out there has a safe and happy one, and I hope everyone will take a minute to pause and reflect on those who have not only served their country and gave their life in said service so you and I can remain free to buy comics and music and movies and so on and post comic book covers on our blogs, but also those who have meant something special to us all and who are no longer with us.

Cover by John Severin, in case you can't read the somewhat-blurry signature.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

"Great Tord! His beams are opening the path to Limbo!"

Continuing to mine the nostalgic mother lode that is Castle of Frankenstein #12, here is a collaboration by two gentlemen who would go on to help shape, for better or worse, the face of mainstream superhero comics for three decades. CoF devoted several pages in this issue to work by several then-unknowns; Frank (Dr. Strange) Brunner had a couple of two-tier Mad-style satire stories as well. This particular one, though, really amused me- it's very much in that Kirby cosmic-superguy vein (he and Lee had only in the previous year galvanized everyone with the introductions of the Inhumans, Galactus, the Silver Surfer and if memory serves, "Him", who was soon repurposed as Adam Warlock), filtered through the prism of Ditko-influenced weirdness...but it's the creators' names which surprised me, and you'll see what I mean when you click on the groovy splash page:

How about that? I bet it was quite a thrill for the young Messrs. Wein and Wolfman to get their work in print like this. I don't know who did what vis-a-vis art and script, nor do I know if this was their first published work.

More CoF later, including an interview with Stan Lee!

Saturday, May 23, 2009

"DETECTIVE COMICS 365 should be bought by no one over the age of seven..."

Come with me once more down Memory Lane, as I bring to you the Antediluvian Era of Comics.

Something else I ran across as I was exploring the World Wide Web was a site that offered downloads of scans of old issues of Castle of Frankenstein magazine, a New York-based publication which is remembered fondly by those of us old enough, and able to, remember it. Click on the previous link for more info, although I'm gonna hold forth about it anyway. An alternative to the Warren stable of magazines, specifically the venerated Famous Monsters of Filmland, it was written by fans for fans, and actually introduced a more mature approach, as well as serious criticism, into the mix- unlike FM, which afforded equal status and coverage to the likes of Plan 9 from Outer Space side by side with the genuine article, like Bride of Frankenstein, and was written in a more juvenile tone. Also unlike FM, CoF attempted to pay attention to the then-emerging 1960's comics scene, never more so than in the issue at left there, #12. By 1966, at age 6, I was a stone cold afecionado of FM, but was nuts about comics and monster/horror/sci-fi movies and TV, all the proper geek stuff, and I was always on the lookout for reading material related to same. One day, after a visit to the doctor (flu or something, I forget), while we were waiting for my prescription to be filled, I noticed the cover of #10 on the magazine stand because of the cover that featured the then-new TV version of the Green Hornet. Intrigued, I begged my Mom to add a whopping 35¢ to our bill and brought it home, devouring it in one sitting. I was especially fascinated by the "Frankenstein TV Movieguide", capsule reviews of genre films, unlike any I had seen before (and yes, I liked reading movie and TV reviews, even at age 7. I was a precocious child.). This style of reviewing things has stuck with me to this day, as anyone who's tried to make it through one of my Confessions of a Spinner Rack Junkie posts can attest. Unfortunately, news-and-magazine stand distribution was kinda spotty back in those days, at least in rural Kentucky; just because they had issue #1 of a publication, or even #10, didn't always guarantee the next one or two, even, in some cases issues would be available. Well, that applied to obscurities like CoF or some comics anyway. Anyway, because of this, I missed the above issue, #12, which I'm sure would have blown me away because of the amount of comic book coverage, something which you just didn't see back then. Wikipedia states, and I believe it to be true, that CoF was the first place outside of fanzines that comics criticism took place. Proof of this is below, in which a host of people (many of whom may be familiar to you) rate the then-current comics:

Also adjoining this neato keeno graph page was a round-table of capsule reviews, some of which were written by future Comics Buyers Guide editor/scribe Don Thompson. One comic which particularly drew Thompson's ire was this one:

Detective Comics #365, a book that I remember owning as a little shaver (and I still like that Infantino/Anderson cover quite a bit). Thompson, however, wasn't as kind as I:

DETECTIVE COMICS 365 should be bought by no one over the age of seven unless he is (a) mentally retarded or (b) devoted collector of horrible examples or (c) both. Difficult as it must have been to acheive, the publishers of the comic book have come up (or down) with a plot more ridiculous than the producers of the tv show have managed. The word for this isn’t camp, it’s another four-letter word beginning with c and ending with p - crap.

Gee, Don, don't hold back there! Anyway, this amused me, and I'm not trying to say Thompson was wrong- in fact, if it was like most mid-60's Batman stories, it probably was pretty lame.

More cool CoF stuff later, including a comics story by two fellows who would go on to much better things.

Friday, May 22, 2009

"When are you gonna get a REAL toy, like us?"

Back in the dim and distant days of the early 1970's, Marvel put out a number of reprint comics that featured its pre-Fantastic Four era giant monster, horror and science fiction tales, drawn by such luminaries as Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, Don Heck, and others with scripts by Stan Lee and his brother Larry Lieber, among others. I certainly bought my share of them (or had them bought for me, actually, but hey- they were only a quarter!), and it seems one of my favorites was the double-sized Fear, notable now for being the place where the Man-Thing, and eventually Howard the Duck, premiered when the middle of the decade rolled around and Adventures in... was added to the title. I hadn't realized what a regular buyer I was until I looked at the GCDb page for this title. One issue I remember particularly well was #3, cover dated March of 1971, which kicked off with the cover story, a rip-roaring yarn pencilled by Kirby and inked by Ditko, about a comic book artist who received the gift of paints that caused the painted subject to come to life. Anyway, nestled among the nine- count 'em, nine- short stories was one which made a strong impression on me, a heartwarming (and I say that without one iota of sarcasm) little tale about a young boy who wanted nothing more in the world than a toy soldier he saw in a shop window, and how hard he worked to get it, as well as the ridicule he endured from his so-called friends for his trouble. Written by Larry Lieber (uncredited, so it may be someone else) and drawn by Steve Ditko. Whilst trawling the Net a while back, I came upon a site which offered this issue for download, and decided to share it with you (somehow, I doubt it will be reprinted anytime soon). So check it out, and of course click to embiggen. "The Lifeless Man".

Now, if I could only run across the Ditko-illustrated tale about a fellow who likes practical jokes, until one day one backfires on him...but that will be for another day. More coming, including some neat old stuff from the pages of Castle of Frankenstein magazine...