Friday, October 19, 2007

You've Been Warned: DC Comics Presents #32

Some childhood memories belong in the past. I spotted this book in the bargain bin, and I recognized it immediately. This cover really grabbed my attention back in the day. I couldn’t remember the story at all, and I can’t even tell you what happen to my copy. In fact, it might have been my sister’s copy because she did buy some Wonder Woman related stuff back then. Most of the kids on my street read comics circa 1980 and we passed them around from house to house, so it’s hard to know where any of them ended up. It should have ended up in the trash, and I don’t say that about many funnybooks.

To summarize, Eros is in love with Wonder Woman and when he is spurned he magically makes WW and Superman fall in love (yeah, like you needed to twist their arms) and hilarity ensues. Steve Trevor and Lois Lane both get treated like yesterday’s news for a while until Aphrodite sends our involuntary lovebirds to find a rare flower guarded by a Minotaur. If you’re confused, don’t worry – it’s better that way. All of this and we’ve got Colletta watering down Kurt Schaffenberger’s pencils to the point that they are not recognizable. Oh yeah, there’s a “Whatever Happened To?” back-up that makes the first story seems completely coherent. If you see this one for sale – walk, don’t run.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Skeleton Driver Covers

I’ve cast my eyes over countless comic book covers throughout that last 35 years and certain patterns have revealed themselves to me. This is how I came to have establish a series of comic book cover subgenres. One of my latest discoveries, and one of my favourites, are covers featuring a skeleton driving a vehicle. It’s such great gimmick, but also sufficiently strange, and I am a bit surprised to see how often it has been used.

Let’s start off with this classic Lee Elias cover from Witches Tales #20. Those of you who have read my on-line ramblings know that I never met an Elias cover that I didn’t like. This one may be the granddaddy of all Skeleton Driver covers. There are two things I really love about this cover: 1) the perspective is pretty original, as we only see the driver as a reflection in the windshield (does that make us the skeleton?) and 2) he’s wearing a fedora. Just because you’re a skeleton, doesn’t mean you can’t have a sense of style.

Mysterious Adventures was a short-lived title from a short-lived publisher (Story Comics) that featured skeletons on the majority of its covers. It was almost inevitable that they’d publish a Skeleton Driver cover, but they also made sure that the car on the cover to Mysterious Adventures #19 was packed with more skeletons than a politician’s closet. I am sure that this one freaked out a few parents back in the early 50s – but perhaps they should have noticed that it has a very strong anti-drunk driving message. Fairly novel for that era, I’d imagine.

With this cover from Beyond #3, we move the highways to the skyways. I’m not sure what discount airline these two guys work for, but I’m sure the passengers wish they’d gone with something more reputable. Although I know it’s not very realistic, I really like the green glow giving to these skeletons – this colour tone was used for many horror covers. Another wonderful thing about this cover is that this stewardess (sorry, flight attendant) is so unbelievably cheery that she isn’t at all fazed by the fact that skeletons are flying the plane.

Here's another one of my favourites, the cover to Beware #9. I've never found the stories from this series to be particularly compelling (or well drawn for that matter) but this cover is a true classic. Check out the ship's captain - from the off-kilter cap to the stylish scarf, this guy is one sartorially sophisticated skeleton. As far as horror covers go, this one is pretty dialogue heavy, but what is most impressive is that the male water skier can talk while holding the ski rope in his mouth. Unlike the skeletons driving cars or flying planes, it is not clear to me how this skeleton plans on killing his victims from a ski boat. Perhaps he's driving around and around in an attempt to form the ultimate circle of death.

Along with horror comics in general, Skeleton Driver covers made a comeback in the 70s. Marvel published many reprint books in the early part of the decade, many with titles 'borrowed' from other publishers, including Beware, which featured a Skelton Driver cover for its second issue. Here we see how women's lib has influenced the subgenre as our chaffeur is woman, potentially scorned (a later killed?) by a lover. She has decided to exact revenge by taking out (in both sense of the term) Mr. Farrand. I'm certain that this guy regrets two things - 1) Not going with eHarmony and 2) Not fastening his seat belt.

That's it for now. I know that there are plenty of other Skeleton Driver covers out there (Unexpected #155 and Haunted Thrills #13 come to mind). I'm sure that the majority of them come from the horror genre, but if you find any others from any genre, be sure to let me know.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Single Issue Hall of Fame: Jonah Hex Spectactular

OK - the full title is DC Special Series #16: Jonah Hex Spectacular but I know enough about marketing to understand that too many words spoil the title. Western comics were well on their way out in the late 70s, but this great book made sure that they went out in with a bang. This one is pretty much designed to be great. I don’t know how commercially successful the DC Dollar Comics experiment was in the long run, but they certainly produced some great books.

Before Elseworlds, before Armageddon 2001, before Dark Knight we start off with a wonderfully twisted tale ("The Last Bounty Hunter"), which explores Jonah Hex’s last days on Earth. We are at the turn of the century and Jonah is an old man struggling to adjust to the modern world. It’s a very strong story by Michael Fleisher with a rather ghoulish ending. What really made me fall in love with the story, however, was the Russ Heath artwork. It is simply gorgeous. I am sure that this story was fairly controversial back in the day as readers saw the future demise of a current, successful character. To me, it makes perfect sense. Jonah’s future is actually 1904 so readers in the late 70s should bloody well know that he wasn’t gonna live to celebrate the Bicentennial.

There are two other stories that round out this book. A strong Bat Lash tale, with our good friend Mr. Lash exploring the underbelly of late 19th Century San Francisco. It’s a strong and entertaining tale by O’Neill and Moliterni. The Scalphunter story is the only relatively weak spot in this book. It’s a fairly simple paint by numbers recounting of his early days with his tribe. I’ve always been intrigued by the Scalphunter character and have been looking for the definitive Scalphunter tale – this isn’t it. This last story prevents this from being a perfect comic – but it’s still a Single Issue Hall of Famer.