Friday, August 22, 2008

Steve Ditko Cover of the Week: Mysteries of Unexplored Worlds #4

Here's a nicely atmospheric entry from the late 50s. There are some aspects (especially that cat) that will carry through to Charlton covers in the 70s, but the dark hues are really a late 50s phenomenon for Ditko. I love how he signed his name as if it were the inscription on the bust, and we get a good look at a pre-Amazing Fantasy #15 spider-web. Some people may ignore post-Code horror books, but Ditko shows that you can grab the reader's attention without a severed head. I really dig the overall Archie Andrews meets Dorian Gray vibe here. A solid effort by Ditko here, as there are so many gems from this period at Charlton.
I off on vacation until Sept 2nd - see you all then.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

My 200th Blog Entry - Feedback Please

Well, it seems as though I'm up to my 200th blog entry.

Perhaps that's not many in nearly 3 years, but it feels like it to me. You may have noticed that I'm not exactly a 'daily blogger' kind of guy as life tends to get in the way and I really only want to post something when I feel as though it's somewhat interesting.

So, what I'd like to do is take a moment to pause and ask any of you regular readers out there (all 2 or 3 of you) to let me know what you think of the blog.

What do you like?
What don't you like?
What are you favourite features?
What could you live without?

Keep in mind, I am very low tech, so if you want a much splashier page with crazy graphics, that just ain't going to happen. It took me years (and some help from Mr. Keller) to figure out how to put things into categories.

So, be honest (but a bit gentle, too) as I'd love to hear what you folks think.


Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Single Issue Hall of Fame: Kamandi #16

I recently read through a stack of 20-30 issues of Kamandi. Looking back, it was a lot of fun but seems like a bit of a blur - just a lot of animals shouting at Kamandi. The one issues that truly stands out from the crowd is #16. It is a real departure from the rest of the series as Jack totally changes his approach to the narrative. We're given a detailed account, via the diary entries of a research scientist, of the final moments leading up to the Great Disaster. Sure, this is a high concept narrative technique that has been used a million times, but it really work here and is a nice break from the stream roller narrative that plows though the rest of this series. The story of how animals became intelligent is revealed in subtle and elegant way. This is a fun and kooky series, but this issue allows everyone to catch their collective breaths and look at Kamandi's world from a new perspective. It is a beautiful thing.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

3 Songs to Download for August

This month's theme is Power Pop. These are the kind of songs that should please just about any listener - with enough of a melody for true pop fans mix with sufficient musicianship to please your average Spin Subscriber.

Sparky's Dream - Teenage Fanclub
I have no idea what this song is about, but I love it. So many great bands emerge from the British Isles in the 90s, that some like Teenage Fanclub got lost in the mix and never quite received their due. This is a perfect little piece of power pop heaven - an exquisite interplay of guitar and vocals. Lovely stuff.

Someone Who's Cool - The Odds
Truth be told, I was never a fan of the vast majority of this Vancouver-based band's output, but this song was one of the finest to come out of Canada in the 90s. A perfect blend of guitar riffs with wonderfully turned phrases have made it a permanent resident on my iPod.

Wall Come Tumbling Down - Style Council
Remember this one? If not, you should get to know it. The Council had a wonderful pedigree but were a bit short-lived due to Paul Weller's ever changing muse. The somewhat topical lyrics are thankfully drowned out by the impressive horns and backing vocals. Do not waste another minute - download it now!

Monday, August 18, 2008

Human Target Covers

There's nothing quite as humiliating as being used for target practice. There are a ton of 'bondage cover' collectors out there, but I wondered how many focus on the 'human target' sub genre. There are many more of these covers than you might think. Let's look at a few:

Perhaps it's best to begin with the obvious. A character called Bullseye is most likely going to wind up on the wrong end of the bow and arrow from time to time. Kirby's great cover to Bullseye #3 is a real eye catcher. I've always found Bullseye's red costume to be a bit garish, but it works pretty well here. I just love the sheer variety of weaponry being tossed at the target. By my count, he's already had 9 attempts on his life. It's almost as if the bad guys are trying to miss. The fire in the foreground almost seems little putting salt on the wound.

After browsing through her cover gallery, it occurred to me that Wonder Woman has been the 'target' of more villains than just about any other hero. The cover to Wonder Woman #196 is one of my favourites because it is just sooooo over the top. Just how many times was Ms. Prince tied up in the early 70s? Although this Mike Sekowsky cover may not be as sought after as the later Russ Jones bondage covers, it may be the best human target cover I've ever encountered.

I don't own any Jerry Lewis comics, but if I did buy one, this would be it. This cover to Jerry Lewis #102 (by Neal Adams, no less) has so much going on that it makes me a bit dizzy. I may be dizzy, but Dr. Wertham is certainly spinning in his grave. Uncle Hal looks like he's auditioning for the 'Camp Cousellor from the Village People'. And with my jaded 21st century hindsight, the name 'Camp Wack a Boy' seems like a class action lawsuit waiting to happen. I'll just leave it at that.

There really is a Tomahawk cover for ever occasion, as proven by this Bob Brown cover to Tomahawk #97. It has a slightly different perspective than the other selections, but it really work here to help build the suspense. Folks, this here is pure DC Silver Age goodness - how could any kid pass up this book? I love 'target shooting' as plot device. I haven't seen it used this well since Errol Flynn was trying to impress Olivia de Havilland back in 1938.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Memoirs of a Bronze Age Baby: The Vision and Scarlet Witch (1982)

For some reason, the Vision always really appealed to me as a kid. He must have had other followers, as he was always pretty prominently featured in the Avengers, including a monthly presence in the top left corner of each cover. With hindsight, I find it odd that I liked him so much as he doesn't really have the heroic leadership of a Captain America or the hotheadedness of a Hawkeye. I guess it's because he is an outsider, trying to fit in with mankind. The fact that he married one of the hottest women in the Marvel Universe must have eased his pain somewhat. The Vision and Scarlet Witch miniseries kind of snuck up on me back in '82. For some reason, I was all wrapped up in the Contest of Champions around the same time. Boy, did I ever think that was great - just goes to show how our tastes can change over time. I think I missed the first issue entirely (having since picked up a copy), but that cover to issue #2 was a siren song I couldn't resist.

I like what Bill Mantlo was trying to do here: placing two characters whom we've rarely seen away from the battlefield into a domestic setting. Having a window in the private lives of a superhero was still pretty novel back then. Of course, life in small town New Jersey didn't stay quiet for long and we had a series of adventures involving mad scientists, bitter brothers and deadbeat dads. On the surface, it may seem like it was pretty typical superhero fare - but there's a thread of emotion that runs through the storyline and that's what I must have found uniquely engaging as a 10 year old. Wanda's attempts not to hurt the Whizzer's feelings really resonated with me, so did her shock at the sight of the Vision's withered arm. Particularly touching was Wonder Man's dedication to helping the Vision recover from his wounds, which buried the hatchet from Avengers #158.

As I say so many times, this certainly isn't Watchmen but it's pretty solid early 80s comics. Mantlo was a talented and versatile writer. The team of Leonardi and Rubinstein really worked well together - bringing out the human side of a synthezoid and a mutant. I recently found the mini in a bargain bin and read it again for the first time in two decades. It holds up pretty well. If you see it on the cheap - I recommend having a look.