Thursday, April 17, 2014

Hidden Gems: The All-New Batman: Brave and the Bold #14

I was plowing through a TPB of this newish B&B series I got for my kids and I was absolutely blown away by this particular issue. The original Brave and the Bold is my all-time favourite series and the animated series is pure gold. All members of my family love it. I have always liked the Ragman character and his interactions with Batman here are wonderful. This story centers around Chanukah and writer Sholly Fisch does a superb job of condensing the Chanukah story into a page or two - the perfect way to give a child an introduction to the history of the holiday. In the end, however, the story is about more than a local synagogue. It is about the importance of community and finding value in what is around you. It is a great message, delivered in a very subtle and heartfelt manner. The opening gag with the trio of colour-based foes isn't half bad, either. Don't mistake this for a kid's comic. It is one you will be happy to have in your collection.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Add It To My Want List: World Around Us #35

This is the penultimate issue to this rather intriguing published by Gilberton. I do not own a single issue of World Around Us, but I figure that this is a great place to start. Why? Well, it is about spies so that's pretty cool. It is about spies in 1961, so that's even cooler. What else? Well, how about 6 pages of artwork by the team of Jack Kirby and Dick Ayers? I have seen one sample from this book and, while it may not be the most dynamic art produced by that duo, it is still early 60s Kirby so I'm keen to own it. As a bonus, there's a lot of artwork by the great George Evans, who was near the height of his powers at this time. I also really dig the mixed media cover. All in all, there's more than enough here to get me salivating. If I ever spy a copy of it, I'll be sure to grab it.

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Gil Kane Cover of the Month: Sgt. Fury #100

If you look at Gil Kane's cover output throughout his career, you'll notice a relative dearth of covers from the war genre. That's not to say he could not produce a solid war cover, but the jobs tended to be assigned to the likes of Joe Kubert and John Severin. I would be interested to hear if Kane enjoyed war stuff or if his preference was to focus on superheroes and westerns. The cover to Sgt. Fury #100 is a terrific example of the inventiveness of Kane's cover design. It has a great 'split' design that we often see above and beneath the water's surface. This time, however, Kane is playing around with time. John Romita makes sure that ever fold in the clothing is accentuated. His inks work very well over Kane here and I'll be sure to keep my eye out for other GK/JR works to feature down the road.

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Kids' Corner: Sonic the Hedgehog Archives #0

Truth be told, the last video game I played with any regularity was Contra. I am by no means a gamer and tend to steer clear of any video game adaptations as they tend to be quite weak. I had heard, over the years, that the Sonic comic book was quite good and a 20+ year run for the ongoing series speaks to its popularity. My son is starting to become interested in video games and Sonic, so it seems like a good opportunity to take the comic book series out for a test drive. These early stories are written by Michael Gallagher and drawn by Scott Shaw! My son devoured this volume, and handed it over to me. What did I find? I found a main character who shared traits with Lee/Ditko's Spider-Man, adding clever quips throughout the action sequences. I found a well conceived universe, strong character designs and enough pop culture references to keep a parent happy. Sonic has a bit of attitude but it never gets rude or snarky. The package is great, as four issues are compiled at a decent price and its a good size for keeping on a bookshelf. All in all, it was a lot of fun and I look forward to reading future volumes with my kids.

Monday, April 07, 2014

You've Been Warned: Marvel Presents #8

If you have been reading this blog for a while, you will know that I have absolutely no problem with reprints. I want to read as many great comic stories as possible and, if a reprint is the most affordable way to accomplish that goal, so be it. Here's the thing, though. I absolutely hate the bait and switch. During the mid-70s, Marvel had a tough time getting their creators to hand in their work on time, hence the "Dreaded Deadline Doom". I understand. Things happen. What annoys me, however, is when Marvel decided to drop reprint material into the middle of an ongoing series with nary an announcement. If you were to buy this comic on the basis of the cover alone, you'd the that the Silver Surfer was making an appearance with the Guardians. In the future, no less. Cool. Well, that's not quite what happens. It fact, what you get is a lame framing sequence and a partial reprint from Silver Surfer #2. Huh? Would I have been happy with what I got for my three dimes back then? Probably not, especially since Fantasy Masterpieces was just a few years away. Honestly, I'd be fine if it said 'Reprinting a classic" or "An encore presentation", but this stuff really bugs me. I'll be featuring more of this on here down the road.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Exit Stage Left: Atom and Hawkman #45

This is one of only two 15 cent issues of the 'merged' series. If having two former headliners in a single mag was not enough to lure readers, DC commissioned a number of dramatic Joe Kubert covres. It would appear that none of this could save the series. The final issue is a rather typical, loopy science-fiction tale involving microscopic alines and brainwashing. This one ends in a very strange fashion, as Jean Loring appears to be brain damaged, believing herself to be Queen of the aliens. I'm not sure how, or if, this ever got resolved. I have a full run of the Atom series, including the three Showcase issues, and it is one of my favourite sections of my collection. I would be lying if I said I didn't feel a little sad whenever I spot this final issue.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Reprint This! Charlton's Wander

Wander was a very unique little strip, created by Denny O’Neil (as Sergius O’Shaugnessy) and Jim Aparo. Despite that pedigree, not too too many people are aware of its existence as it was buried as a back-up in Cheyenne Kid, perhaps the blandest of all Charlton westerns. Needless to say, Wander was infinitely more entertaining than its lead-in. Why should this one be reprinted? Well, it’s not every day that you get the opportunity to read an ongoing saga about and alien dressed as a cowboy. Did I mention that the alien spoke in pseudo-Shakespearean English? I really find early Aparo art to be quite fascinating, and I enjoy tracking his evolution as an artist. It would be a slim volume, but I would absolutely love to see all of the Wander stories collected in one place.

Please Support the Final Score DVD Release

I don't normally make too many requests on here or push too many side projects, but I would like to draw your attention to a very fun cause started by my good pals at the Gentleman's Guide to Midnite Cinema. They are working with a good friend in the Netherlands to release the 1986 action film Final Score on DVD. There are lots of terrific goodies being offered as prized over at their Indiegogo site.

I ask, as a personal favour, that you head over there to check out the campaign and consider donating whatever you can.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Single Issue Hall of Fame: Power Man & Iron Fist #75

I have likely mentioned it on here before, but it is worth reiterating that Power Man & Iron Fist was one of my favourite series as a child. It was just so different from many of the books I was reading back then. One of the strongest aspects of this series is the bond between Luke and Danny. That relationship is very nicely portrayed in the epic double-sized issue, as it features a nice mix of action and characterization. You get plenty of Danny coming to terms with his past, including a very effective retelling of his origin. There's plenty of humour with some 'fish out of water' bits as Luke does not adapt very smoothly to the customs of K'Un-Lun. On top of all that, there's a terrific Bob Larkin painted cover. Those covers were becoming a rarity in standard format books at Marvel during the early 80s. All in all, it is a solid milestone issue with a strong standalone story. What more could you want?

Monday, March 17, 2014

Hidden Gems: Countdown

Attention Robert Altman fans! Yes, Mr. Altman's work has been adapted for the Four Color world. It wasn't The Long Goodbye, nor Quintet but rather this nearly forgotten film starring a super young James Caan and Robert Duvall. It makes you wonder if Francis Ford Coppola was a fan. The film itself is perhaps the least Altmanesque of all Altman films but I have a soft spot for this type of story, and it translates very well to the printed page. Jack Sparling may not be Neal Adams, but I have always found him to be a decent storyteller and his does a good job with the likenesses of the cast members. If you know the film, you know the ending is quite suspenseful and the final few pages here are a real treat. This is a Silver Age (space) oddity that should be scooped up by fans of sci-fi films of the era.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Steve Ditko Cover of the Week: Ghostly Haunts #24

The reason I am posting a black and white image of the original art for this particular cover is because I think it looks so much than the final product from the press in Derby, CT. The garish colour choices made by the folks at Charlton stripped this image of much of its texture. For example, the tire treads are nowhere to be seen on the printed cover and the impact of the car crash is lessened. The choice to go with a day glo green for the ghosts makes him jump off the page. If you look at the fine pencils and ink, I think Ditko was looking for a more subtle look. It is quite a good cover, and is from a time when Ditko was still doing covers for Charlton.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Trade Marks: Bandette - Volume One: Presto!

I am generally reluctant to take on new superhero titles for two reasons. First, most of the 'new' heroes I encounter tend to be based on recycled concepts. The second problem is that many books are so darned serious. Don't get me wrong, I love the Dark Knight Returns as much as anyone, but it seems as though many creators are trying to pay homage to Frank Miller. Enter Bandette, a high spirited young cat burglar who lends a helping had to the local gendarmerie. This is no origin story, as we're plunked into the middle of Bandette's day to day adventures. Writer Paul Tobin does a nice job mixing action with humour but it is Colleen Coover's wonderfully retro artwork that won me over, especially the way she makes the streets of Paris an important character. While it may be a little light on dramatic tension, if you are looking for a fun and charming series, this may be the ticket. Extras include a fascinating look at Coover's process from sketch to finished page. Trade Mark: A-

Friday, March 07, 2014

Highlighting House Ads: Suicide Squad - 1987

While we are on the subject of Wanted posters, I think I should mention this great house ad from 1987. I absolutely adore this series and this was a terrific way to announces its arrival. I recently watched an episode of Justice League Unlimited with Deadshot, Captain Boomerang and crew and it made me want to dig out my back issues and revisit the entire run. This was a very exciting era for DC comics, and the concept for Suicide Squad was absolutely brilliant. So is this house ad.

Hero Wanted Covers

Here's a theme that pops up more often than you might think. While we all know Uncanny X-Men #141, let's take a look at a few other prime examples.

Flash #156 (November, 1965) was one of the first Silver Age books I ever owned. How could I pass it up? When I first started flipping through back issue bins as a young lad, many Flash covers jumped out at me. This is a true classic and really sums up all of the fun and melodrama of DC in the mid-60s. Don't worry fans, he didn't really betray the world. It was all a misunderstanding.

There are a number of western comic books that feature a wanted poster, with Showcase #76 being the most iconic. I chose, however, to highlight the cover to Western Comics #44 (March-April, 1954) because I rarely get to talk about Pow-Wow Smith. This is one fine looking cover, pencilled by Carmine Infantino and inked by Sy Barry. I love how he's worth 100 times more dead than alive. 

It is interesting that no matter what theme I choose for these features, there is usually at least one Wonder Woman cover that fits the bill. The cover to Wonder Woman #108 (August, 1959) is a Andru & Esposito classic. It also has a slightly washed look to it, so I suspect that Jack Adler was involved. I have a feeling that I may have seen this on a T-Shirt once. If I am wrong about that, it should be on a T-shirt! George Perez's cover to Wonder Woman #57 is another good example.

Jim Aparo's cover to Brave and the Bold #161 (April, 1980) is the third time Aparo featured a wanted poster for this series. The other two don't quite qualify as, while they featured Batman's teammate for the story, the posters were of The Joker and Ra's Al Ghul, respectively. This cover also features the 'empty costume' theme, something I will be tackling down the road.

Let's leave off with a personal favourite of mine, Star Wars #7 (January, 1978). I vividly remember a house ad featuring this cover and being very anxious to get my hands on it. It was the first 'new' Star Wars story as the adaptation of the first film had wrapped up with the previous issue. It's a stylish Gil Kane pencilled effort, very much in line with the western covers he was doing for Marvel in the 70s. Did they ever refer to their blasters as Laser-Guns anywhere else? I find that rather amusing.

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Add It to My Want List: Four-Star Battle Tales #5

This is one of the very few titles published by DC in the 1970s of which I do not own a single copy. To be honest, I don't recall ever seeing it in back issue bins and it has been completely off my radar. I'm always interested in finding affordable copies of stories from the 50s and 60s, so I recently turned my attention to Four-Star Battle Tales. This anthology reprints selected stories spanning nearly two decades. The fifth and final issue is the one that triggered the most drool from yours truly. There are three stories contained between the covers, all from the 1950s. Check out the three artists: Russ Heath, Mort Drucker and the one and only Bernie Krigstein. Wow! I need this one sooooo badly!