Monday, October 24, 2011

Number nine...number nine...

As of today, this blog has been in existence for nine years. Hard to believe. Like Sandy Denny once sang, "Who Knows Where the Time Goes".

I'm really sorry that I don't update it like I used to, but that's the way it is for me these days. I can't bring myself to delete it, so here it will stay, patiently awaiting me to write a little on it, for old times' sake, if nothing else.

Thanks to everyone who's ever read me here, or commented or both. Lots of love to you all.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Happy Birthday Jack Kirby.

About time I posted something here, eh? Well, it's for a good occasion, I think. Yesterday would have been the 94th birthday of the Once and Future King of Comics, Jack Kirby. I posted some things yesterday on Twitter and my Tumblr, and I thought it would be appropriate to read some of what I consider Kirby's best comics, his run on Fantastic Four. I found some scans (what- give Marvel some money? For KIRBY comics? What money are they giving his family?) and decided to spend some time yesterday afternoon rereading some of his early-mid 60's efforts, just when he and Stan Lee were coming into their own on the title, and including one of my all-time favorite comics, FF #35.

While it's pretty easy to pick holes in a lot of these stories, one thing is undeniable- the dynamism and imagination Kirby brought to the pages...from the gnarliest alien being to prosaic street scenes, he drew them with flair and commitment. Sometimes he wasn't served very well by the inkers they paired him with; Dick Ayers was good, and I rather like Chic Stone, who doesn't ignore Kirby's detailed backgrounds. George Bell neƩ Roussos, not so much- his crude line and blocky shapes didn't do Jack's pencils any favors.

I thought it might be fun, and take up a lot of space because I know my infrequent visitors are probably tired of looking at that Gene Colan remembrance, to post a page, chosen at random, some which brought back memories, from each of the comics I read yesterday afternoon. I'm inspired, of course, by Tom Spurgeon's wonderful tribute post, as well as the amazing stuff Bully puts up on a consistent basis.

Roussos inks many of the following pages; Ayers does the first few, and Stone ends the run. I hope you can dig these, and I hope they help get across some of what makes Kirby's art so special.

You may notice that I picked out several pages with Giant-Man in them. This is not coincidental; 5-year-old me insisted. Thanks for checking out my FF gallery, and of course, Hail to the King.

Sunday, July 03, 2011

Farewell to the Gentleman: Gene Colan, 1926-2011

I know, it seems like the only time I post here anymore is when someone notable dies...but I couldn't not mark the passing of the great Gene Colan, whose art I've loved for decades, especially when I was growing up in the 60's and 70's.

I won't try to eulogize him or write an obituary, because in the past couple of weeks there have been many, many wonderful posts doing just that, and far more eloquently than I could. That said, because of what Colan's art meant to me as a young comics reader and aspiring comic artist in those years, I wanted to write something...and I think what I'll do is post a few pages from some of my favorite Colan-drawn comics over the years, literally the first ones that came to mind when I read about his passing. They won't be the usual suspects, I don't least after the first few.

The first place I saw Colan's art was most likely on one of his Iron Man stories in Tales of Suspense, under his "Adam Austin" pseudonym, followed soon after by one of his Daredevil efforts. The looseness of his style was the first thing which caught my eye, especially in those days when perhaps only Neal Adams, then just starting out over at DC himself, was doing realism with a flourish- Colan's figure drawing and layout style was far looser, yet it was still grounded in the everyday world. Sometimes, especially in his 70's work, his figures always seemed to me to be dissipating into mist, as if the ink line was the only thing holding it together. I found it exciting and fascinating, but I could never ever draw like that, and believe you me I tried. I also noticed his stellar inkwash work in a few issues of Creepy and Eerie for Archie Goodwin; go here to read a favorite of mine from this period. The page above comes from Daredevil Annual #1, cover-dated September 1967; this one was Stan's attempt to follow the template he came up with for 1964's Amazing Spider-Man Annual #1, in which six of Spidey's most popular foes teamed up to battle him. Stan took Electro from the Sinister Six, and obviously 'Leckie neglected to realize that 1) Spidey's rogues gallery was far more deadly than DD's, and 2) it didn't work against Spider-Man, so why the heck did he think it would work here? Regardless, this was a fast-paced and fun tale which gave us DD fighting against each bad guy separately, as well as all together at the end, and a big part of the reason why was Colan's dynamic, kinetic art. I love how all hell breaks loose in that middle horizontal panel, as the "Emissaries of Evil" gang up on DD. This annual also sported a fun backfeature, which gave us a fly-on-the-wall look at a story conference with Lee and Colan...with a generous amount of whimsy to boot. One of the reasons why the whole Bullpen myth was so persuasive and enjoyable back then. You can read that story here.

The above pics, top to bottom, are from Doctor Strange #'s 182 and 178.

Arguably, though, it was Colan's moving on to Doctor Strange, paired with Tom Palmer, who was generally agreed to be his best inker, which seemed to turn him loose and give him free rein to play around with page layout and further refine his storytelling style...which he later used to great effect on Tomb of Dracula, as well as his successful return to the character in the 70's. Colan's style, which was rooted in the newspaper strip/advertising realism tradition (but still was always quite loose, especially compared to the Caniffs, Crandalls and the like), took flight as he gave us page after page of vertiginous layouts and non-stop action; even when the Doctor and Clea had some quiet downtime things seemed to be bubbling under the surface. Below is a great example, and a page I love very much, from Doctor Strange #180; I first saw it on someone's blog right after his death was announced, but alas I failed to bookmark it and forget now where I saw it, otherwise I'd just link to it there. Apologies to the first poster.

By 1970, it seemed like Colan had drawn every Marvel character's comic at least once, except Spider-Man; I remember loving his stints on Captain America, Sub-Mariner and the Avengers as well. Trying to stay as busy as he could, and to keep the money flowing, he began to do a variety of short stints on various titles in Marvel's fractured, hectic 70's period, and all the while doing Tomb of Dracula. ToD was a high point not only for him, but also in comics in general, as was Howard the Duck, a series I was mostly indifferent to as a teen (though I liked Steve Gerber's other work in general); when rereading ToD now, Wolfman's prose often seems overheated (as did Thomas' on those Doctor Stranges), but there's no denying Colan's artistry. He was truly well suited for horror stories, which also was made manifest on a short stint doing Brother Voodoo in Strange Tales, and the story below, from which I've pulled a couple of pages:

Marvel Spotlight was one of Marvel's showcase titles at the time; and featured the Son of Satan character which was created by Gary Friedrich and first drawn by Herb Trimpe. By the time he got his own feature in Spotlight, Steve Gerber wrote and Jim Mooney drew the first few issues, but for whatever reason the artist moved on after #17 and Colan stepped in for #'s 18 and 19 to bridge the gap between him and Sal Buscema, who drew the series until it was granted its own title a few months later. Anyway, Gerber's obviously Exorcist-inspired story could not have found a better realizer than Colan; it was completely rooted in the mix of the mundane and the fantastic that was Colan's stock in trade. He made this two-parter sing (despite some rather unsympathetic inking by Frank Chiaramonte), alternating polite dinner parties and dining room conversations and literal hell-raising action as Daimon Hellstrom struggles to exorcise a demon that can leap from host to host. Gerber tied it up with a clever solution, and went on to write some very imaginative stories before he was done with the character. If not for this two-parter, though, chances are I might not ever have seen the potential for excellence in the Son of Satan; I was not particularly interested in him before I plucked these off the spinner rack, attracted by Colan's art. Daimon soon became a favorite of mine, mostly thanks to Gerber, though Colan's rendition was my gateway. As a matter of fact, the first issue of Howard the Duck that I bought was the one in which Daimon made a cameo appearance, partly because I was tickled to see Colan draw him again.

Gene never limited himself to just horror or superheroes, though; in 1974, he took another fill-in assignment on a series that I was already a rabid fan of: Don McGregor's War of the Worlds (featuring Killraven). Regular artist Herb Trimpe had moved on by issue 25; Rich Buckler and Klaus Janson had done that one. Colan came along next, and provided his usual sharply observed job on one of McGregor's more whimsical scripts:

On his travels across the country to the "Place of Yellow Stones", Killraven and his men, with the Martians' killer Skar in pursuit, happened upon Battle Creek, Michigan, and encountered the leader of the group of its surviving residents, led by Pstun-Rage the Vigilant, who all guarded a treasure at the cost of their lives, if necessary. The revelation at the end is one of the most bizarre endings that I can recall in a comic book from the Big Two that wasn't written by Weisinger or Bridwell. Inked by Dan Adkins, Colan navigated all the action-adventure, as well as the drama and humor, of McGregor's wordy script (that bottom page, in particular, was notorious, showcasing a narrative style that irritated many, but I love it) with aplomb, despite never having drawn any of the characters before. McGregor and Colan collaborated a few times after that in subsequent years, forming a sympathetic team on such fare as the neo-noir Nathaniel Dusk (which I think I should revisit someday) for DC, and Ragamuffins for Eclipse. This story above was the first thing I thought of when remembering Colan and his career's effect on my life; even though the series went on to hit some very high highs with Craig Russell, it will always be a fondly recalled story in one of my favorite comics series.

And that pretty much does it for show and tell with me and Mr. Colan; after Dracula folded and Jim Shooter ran him out of the House that Stan and Jack and Steve Built, I did go on to buy some of his 80's work at DC like the occasional Batman or the aforementioned Dusk (never was too interested in Night Force or his take on Wonder Woman), but with diminishing returns; the fizz had seemed to go out of the pop for me. I still liked seeing his work here and there, especially on his return to Daredevil in the 90's and the outstanding commissions he did via his website. The decision not to saddle him with an inker on his infrequent appearances (which dated back to Dusk and Ragamuffins, if I recall correctly), brought on by his increased reluctance to subject his vision to the tender mercies of other, perhaps lesser talents, wasn't to his advantage, either, at least when it came to printed comics...his very good penciled commissions were something else again. When his health issues came to light, I did the dutiful blogger thing by linking to the drive to get him some financial relief for health care; I also recall a cover gallery on his birthday a couple of years ago. See the tags at right to be taken to those blog posts.

His passing was not a surprise, even as much as it was for me when Jeffrey Jones met his maker several weeks ago. That doesn't make it any harder to process, though, at least in my solipsistic view. Each year, more and more comics legends form my formative years die, and as I said before, every time it happens a little bit of my childhood dies as well. He was truly one of the all-time greatest, and his influence and legacy is vast. Even though he wasn't such a big part of it for the last decade or so, he will be missed merely by not being around.

I will be forever grateful and proud that I was able to experience it first-hand the way I did. I'm sure his work will remain an inspiration to up-and-comers for decades to come.

There have been dozens of outstanding blog posts and obits commemorating Colan's passing; I encourage you to visit the usual suspects (Heidi, Tom, CSBG, Robot 6, Blog@), to find them. I was especially moved, though, by Blake Bell's reposting of interviews with Colan's late wife Adrienne on living with him throughout his career. Here's the posts tagged "Gene Colan", all three parts are there.

Sunday, June 05, 2011

What? No Dr. Goldfoot and the Girl Bombs?

Some people are just so clever and creative. It's sickening.

All seriousness aside, please click through and check out this awesome series of drawings of the late great Vincent Price, who would have turned 100 a few days ago, each on a post-it note and each featuring his likeness in most of his films and television appearances, by Zach Bellisimo. I like how Zach draws Price in each of his disguises in Theatre of Blood, to name one example, as well as including Vincent's animation voice work.

And yeah, I know- while there were two Dr. Goldfoot films, he pretty much looked the same in both of them. I was kinda hard up for a post title, OK?

Sunday, May 29, 2011

RIP Jeffrey Catherine Jones.

It was with a little surprise and a heavy heart that I read, first on Twitter then elsewhere as it was confirmed, that Jeffrey Catherine Jones passed away from, as Heidi MacDonald reported it, "complications from emphysema and bronchitis" at age 67 yesterday. Pardon me if I reminisce, OK?

The first place I saw Jones' work was probably in the 4th issue of The Monster Times; early on in that storied publication's history they were soliciting art and one-page stories from the likes of Berni Wrightson, Gray Morrow, Frank Brunner, and Jones. They would run them in the center spreads of the tabloid-style publication:

I suppose this would have been 1975-ish that I read it, though this story was dated 1971 and appeared in 1972. I didn't get my first issue of TMT until 1974, and I would have received this as part of a big package of Timeses that I spent about a summer's worth of allowance on. My memory being a bit fuzzy on some things, I don't recall when I saw my first issues of National Lampoon, in which Jones' excellent one-page strip Idyl ran. That most certainly would have been the second time I became aware of his work, I'm sure, unless I happened up on a friend's copy of NatLamp or perhaps stood at the magazine rack at the convenience store and read them as I was wont to do for a while (I was always nervous about asking my folks for money to buy a copy, or even to buy one with my own money and bring it home) before I started my TMT habit.

By the time I had reached 18, I had become aware of the amazing art book The Studio, which was also the name of both the location and the collective that Jones, Mike Kaluta, Berni Wrightson, and Barry Windsor-Smith had formed when they shared studio space in the 70's. Four artists whose work I admired above almost all others, together! I especially loved Kaluta and Wrightson, who had blown me away with their art on a number of projects, especially The Shadow and Swamp Thing, respectively, about five years earlier. Of course, Windsor-Smith's Conan was a favorite, as well as his later, ornate Pre-Raphaelite-influenced works, and then there was that Jones fella, who I remembered from Idyl and a bunch of paperback book covers. Believe me, I lived in that book for a long time, and copied and studied each page, back when I thought I could be an artist.

I was utterly fascinated with Jones' signature; that single letter "J", curved with the line across the top, and fitting stylishly within a loose square, looked as cool as anything I'd ever seen before. Yeah, bet your ass I copied it; after all, we did share a name. Eventually, I at least dropped the loose square, though to this day I really emphasize the J when I sign my infrequent doodles.

One of Jones' contributions was perhaps my favorite piece from any of the artists, the beguiling "In a Sheltered Corner":

I wish I had a dollar for every time I sat down with a piece of paper and attempted to draw that face, with those lips.

I mean, geez, look at these guys:

Jones is second from left. They looked just like rock stars- rock stars that could generate art masterpieces. That was exactly what I wanted to be at age 18. Exactly.

Anyway, after that, I kinda lost track of Jones and his work. While he appeared in Heavy Metal in the 80's (with a new Idyl-ish feature called I'm Age) I'd see it here and there with less frequency as the decades went by; I just assumed (as one, well, me anyway in those pre-Internet times when the goings and comings of the art/writing heroes was more difficult to keep up with) that he had found regular illustration and painting gigs in places that I didn't see. Of course, I read about his gender issues and his eventual 1998 hormone replacement therapy sessions; several years later (now I had the Internet, y'see) I read about her awful financial issues. Eventually, these seemed to get worked out, and I was proud to cite Jones among my Facebook friends; she posted an always-welcome stream of artworks both old and new. Eventually health issues became too much for her, and now she's gone.

I suppose that's just part of the price one pays for living on; one will see his or her heroes and people he or she admires pass away before them, even people who one still imagines, in their heart of hearts, to be still young and still strong and vital. Even though recent pics told another story, in my mind's eye I saw Jones and her work in the same way that I did at age 16, in 1976, and it saddens me no end to see people who I looked up to like that get old and die. Pushes me, slowly, another foot towards the grave myself.

All that's over now for Jones, and I'll be eternally grateful for the magnificent art. May she rest in peace, and I hope she's found a measure of happiness wherever she is.

Credit where credit is due dept: I got most of the scans I posted here from these fine websites. Please visit them as often as you can, they're good people.

ETA: Not long after I posted this, Tom Spurgeon posted his outstanding obit. Go check it out.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Where the hell am I, anyway?

I'm still alive, and I do intend to take up blogging here again eventually. There just aren't enough hours in the day and enough energy to pursue it like I feel it ought to be pursued, it seems. But I do miss the days when I'd post several times a week, and keep thinking about a way to get back to stay tuned.

In the meantime, I'm still reviewing comics over at, Tumblring and Twittering like mad, and even post the occasional item of interest over on Facebook, if you're desperate enough for my company to befriend me there.

Look for a post that I'm sorry I have to write later this evening, then stay tuned- keep me in your Google Reader feeds, whatever you do to follow blogs...and who knows? I may be back sooner rather than later.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Introductions are in order.

No, I'm not introducing anyone or anything. In this past Friday's "Five for Friday" feature, Tom Spurgeon asked his readers to provide, and I quote, "Five of Your Favorite Comics/GN Introductions". Well, sometimes I'm pretty hit and miss with Tom's FFFs; occasionally I'll immediately think of more than five of the given topic, and sometimes it's a real struggle to come up with anything even close to that number. Sometimes, I can't think of anything at all, and I don't participate. That was the situation this week.

Now, when it comes to text introductions to graphic novels and collections, generally, if I read them at all, they don't really stick with me. More often as not, it's just a friend, collaborator, inspiration, or acquaintance of the writer and/or artist, paying back a favor or gladhanding a little. Sometimes I wonder if someone like Walter Cronkite himself could even be bothered writing an introduction to a Peanuts collection; bet a nickel that he had an assistant do it as a favor to ol' Chuck Schulz. For the life of me, I couldn't think of any forewords/introductions that I thought were remarkable enough to come out of hiding in the vast, cobweb-bedecked, shuttered up and boarded-doored archive of my mind.

So, the next thing I thought of were actual intros in the comics themselves; one which occurred to me was those long-winded speeches that the Phantom Stranger, the Rod Serling of Comics, would give before the lead stories in his 70's comic. They fit the character, and Len Wein in particular excelled at it. And then I thought of one other example: the introduction slash infodump that Jim Starlin gave us in Strange Tales #178, via a character named "Sphinxor from the Star System Pegasus", when he relaunched the Adam Warlock character and began that memorable, and short, run of stories back in the mid-70s...and enraptured young David Jones of Horse Cave, KY in the process.

But, alas, I could think of no others, and that's why you won't see Johnny Bacardi among this week's participants. But, thought I, perhaps I could share that Starlin-written and illustrated intro with all of you. And that's just what I'm gonna do. Below, from Strange Tales #178, cover dated February of 1975, the first (and only, I guess) appearance of Sphinxor, and a nifty recap of the Adam Warlock story to that point.

Now that's an introduction. Amiwrong?

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

"Let's just say that me and Super-Hip, we go back."

Above is a page from dead-comic-walking Doom Patrol #20. The Patrol, due to the machinations of the powers that be at Oolong Island, their former base, as well as the hissable Thayer Jost aka Mr. Somebody, have been evicted from their home.

They need transportation back to civilization, and Cliff Steele calls in a favor. And as you can see above, that favor is none other than JBS mascot Tadwallader Jutefruice, aka Super-Hip! You know, the fellow flying in the header at the top of this very blog.

Since this is such a momentous occasion, merely the first in-continuity appearance of Tad's alter-ego since, appropriately enough, the Mento-Elastigirl wedding in the later days of the first DP series, and I wanted to share it so much with everyone...well, I couldn't wait to get the comic and scan it, or download it, so I ganked it from CBR's preview, where I read it first. You all probably know how much I'm in the tank for this comic in the first place...and dropping Super-Hip, even older, fat Elvis-style Super-Hip...well, I for one was completely geeked by it.

Best of all, since Giffen is doing some of the best writing of his career right now, and dare I say in particular on this comic- he has done an unsurprisingly great job of reintroducing him. Many writers, especially those who perpetuate the sour tone that has become de rigeur at DC these days, would have made him a pathetic figure. Pill junkie, perhaps. What if it had been James Robinson? J.T. Krul? Shudder. But Giffen gives us an older Tad, like I said Fat Elvis or Wayne Newton style, living large in Vegas- perfectly logical and very gratifying for someone like me, who loves the character mostly because, well, I thought he was really neat and cool back in 1966.

My friend Jason (@jason1749) Last Name Unknown on Twitter said "Jeez, Giffen's writing that book directly at you now, isn't he?" and given that the sales figures for DP are so low, that may be true- I may be the only one still reading at this point!

Regardless, I thought that this was just far-out, fab, gear and groovy and wanted to share.

Oh, and DC? I beg of you- next time you need cannon fodder for your big multi-issue line-wide crossover doom-and-gloom event, please forget Giffen has done this, OK? Thanks.

Sunday, March 06, 2011

Happy Birthday Will Eisner.

Today would have been the late Will Eisner's birthday. Here's a page from 1946.

Google paid tribute today by creating this swell graphic; go here and click on the Spirit's mask.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Dwayne McDuffie, RIP

Multiple sources around the Net have reported that Dwayne McDuffie has shockingly passed on. I say shockingly because no one seems to have even been aware that he might have been ill- he has been active in his writing career, both in comics and in animation, right up until now. No cause of death has been reported as of this writing.

I won't try to BS you and tell you that I've been a lifelong fan of his or anything- I can only think of one series I've read regularly that he scripted. Back in 1993, when my then-11-year-old son wanted me to start getting him comics to read on my weekly Wednesday run, some of the titles he liked were DC's teen heroes- Robin, Impulse, Superboy. One other that caught his eye was the series above, Static. Now, since I was as much a comics geek back then as I ever was, I read not only the titles I bought, but the titles I bought for him (he liked X-Men, Spawn, Gen13, and other hot books back then too- I didn't read them often) as well, and I enjoyed Static. McDuffie only scripted the first four issues, along with the mysterious Robert L. Washington III, but was instrumental in creating the character with artist J.P. Leon, the first place I saw his soon-to-be excellent work as well. He was a driving force behind the whole Milestone imprint company published by DC which was designed to spotlight minority characters. Many years later, I found myself addicted to the animated TV series Justice League Unlimited, as far as I'm concerned one of the high-mark programs of its kind- he was its story editor and a producer, and also scripted many of its best episodes. I may have to go back and look up some of the other comics work he's done, such as the late 80's Marvel series Damage Control and his troubled stint on Justice League of America. He seemed to be a talent whose best work was still ahead of him, whether it was in animation or comics.

Reaction all over the Web has been heartfelt and overwhelmingly sad- he seemed to have been well-liked by everyone whose lives and careers he touched. I never had the pleasure of interacting with him online, but I can see his obvious talent and importance in the industry, and he will be missed by all who care about comics. I just thought I should write a few lines.