Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Happy Holidays

I'd like to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and all the best of the holiday season. Seduction of the Indifferent will be on vacation until the first week of the New Year. I've got to clear off my desk at work and after that, I'm family focused for 12 days. Work has been very busy lately, so I'm hoping to get some comic book reading in during my vacation - if my kids will allow it. I hope that everyone has a great time with their loved ones. See you all in 2010!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Add It To My Want List: Curse of the Weird #4

I only became aware of this series a couple of years ago, and I have never seen a copy of this a particular issues in my countless hours of dollar bin diving. What a treat! It features a reprint of Bill Everett's Zombie - a story which I first read as part of Tales of the Zombie #1. It also has Atlas era tales drawn by Basil Wolverton, Jack Davis and Steve Ditko. In particular, I love Davis' art for Marvel in the late 50s and even into the early 60s. In some ways it is a shame he didn't do more work for the Big Two, or even at Warren. I'm sure he was able to pick and choose whatever work suited him the best. If I could track down this book for a dollar, it would be such a bargain. I could live without the cover, though - as I really prefer the retro covers that were commissioned for the other issues of this series. If I had seen this on the racks back in '94, I would have pass on it based on this cover, not realizing that it contained pure gold inside..

Thursday, December 17, 2009

You've Been Warned: Dazzler #2

I wanted to like this book, as I sometimes feel sorry for Dazzler because she seemed dated before she was launched. She doesn't need my pity, however, as 90% of the Marvel Universe seems to be looking out for her. This one starts with a whole bunch of heroes getting ready to head to a disco to see Dazzler perform. Tom DeFalco inserts some lame humour that has aged terribly. Of course, a fight breaks out, with the heroes battling a horde of demons summoned by the Enchantress. The middle act is all Marvel fisticuffs with next to no originality. The final act has Dazzler heading to the west coast for an audition. Of course, she only gets to perform for the big producer because 30 superheroes smashed through his office window. I can't understand why all of these folks are so obsessed with Dazzler. They have only known her a few weeks. Weren't there any threats at all to the world that day? Did they think Stingray could handle it alone? Did they ever show up to support Simon Williams at an audition? I know it is all supposed to make me feel warm and fuzzy, but it has me rolling my eyes. Luckily, the series gets better.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Highlighting House Ads: Crimebuster's Paper Drive

Here's a great WW2 era ad featuring Crimebuster, the star of Lev Gleason's Boy Comics. I assume that CB (as he's known among his friends) takes the name of his comic book quite literally as he only seems to be addressing 'fellers'. I love the breaking of the fourth wall here, as CB's earnestly lectures the reader on the importance of paper. I never knew that 'most of the wood choppers' were off finding the war, and that was the key reason behind the paper shortage. You will note that CB never tells you to turn in your old comic books; just magazines, newspapers and such. They move on to pure scare tactics in the captions, stating that without more paper 'we won't have any more comic magazines'. Oh, the horror!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Comic Book Robot of the Month: The Robot Ruler

The robot as King/President/Ruler is a conceit we've seen throughout the history of comicdom, but it is a great one. My Greatest Adventure has always come across as the poor cousin of titles such as Strange Adventures and House of Secrets. Every now and then, I'll notice an issue of MGA that seems as good or even better than any other DC title. The story, Cure Our Robot Ruler - Or Die, may not be revolutionary, but it is quite entertaining. I don't know a thing about the interior artist; Paul Parker, but his work isn't bad - suffering only a bit from DC house blandness. This elegant cover, drawn by the great Lee Elias, immediately captures your attention. I think Elias' choice of perspective is what really makes it stand out, as well as the contrast between the metallic silver and regal red. As much as I love the Doom Patrol, it's kind of too bad that this series had to make room for it.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Hidden Gems: Giant Size Kid Colt #3

There are plenty of gems hidden in these Giant Size books, but I bring this one to your attention because it includes a story drawn by Reed Crandall. Sure, it is only 4 pages, but it is from 1956, when Crandall was still on the top of his game. Crandall is one of the all-time greats, and although he was still doing some new work in the early 70s, he had lost quite a bit of his touch and was out of the industry by 1974. His is a sad story, but his artwork should always be celebrated. The GCD states that there are two Crandall stories - but I think the other one they mention is Jack Keller. I don't have it in front of me right now, so I cannot confirm. It also includes a Joe Maneely story, a great Gil Kane cover and some Jack Keller goodness, if that's your cup of tea (I know it is mine). We're also in the 'Night Rider' era of the Ghost Rider's history, and this one has a new story. It isn't amazing, but any new western material is always welcome. It may take you a while to track down a copy of this one - but it will be worth it.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Charlton Notebook: Beyond the Grave #11

This title was part of the Charlton mini-explosion of the mid-70s, but went on hiatus for nearly 7 years before returning as a reprint title in 1983. I once figure out who drew this new cover, but the name escapes me right now. Overall, this is a pretty good package with 3 stories - the first 'Not for Sale' (originally from a 1975 issue of Ghostly Tales) is pencilled by Charles Nicholas. His work is made to look much more lush by Wayne Howard's inks. The middle tale ("The Cure") is an old Dr. Graves story drawn by Steve Ditko. The reproduction here is quite good, as the paper is of decent quality and the colors and inks are sharp. Finally, we've got a terrific werewolf-centric story from Haunted Love #5 with charming Joe Staton artwork, who includes a pretty racy bathtub scene. This is definitely an above average reprint book, so keeps your eyes peeled for a cheap copy.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Trade Marks: The Question - Epitath for a Hero

By this 3rd trade, Dennis O'Neil and Denys Cowan are completely simpatico. They have really found their groove, and I found this volume to be even more consistently enjoyable than the previous two. While the story lines focus on mature material, there really isn't anything too exploitative or sensationalistic. It feels like a nice companion piece to other DC series of the time such as Green Arrow and Suicide Squad. Speaking of Green Arrow, Ollie makes a solid guest appearance here and it becomes apparent that The Question/Vic Sage is part of the DCU. That being said, O'Neil is creating a nice universe here, and the subplot surrounding the mayoral race helps bridge the issues together. I particularly loved the arc involved the paramilitary patriots. It seems to be somewhat prescient of some things we saw happen in the 90s. Overall, it's a very engaging read that holds up very well today. I still don't love Cowan's work, but I'm getting used to it. Trade Mark: B+

Monday, December 07, 2009

Exit Stage Left: Eerie #139

Eerie always seemed like the ugly stepsister to Creepy. Both Warren mags somehow chugged along until February of 1983, but for my money, Eerie #139 is the far superior finale. Why? Well, let's start with the cover. Kelly Freas painting an Gigereque Alien - does it get any better than that. Inside, instead of the expected collection of second-rate reprints that haunted so many Warren books throughout the 70s and early 80s, we've got a long (we're talking 40+ pages) adaptation of and AE Vogt story. This is a really nice change of pace from the short chapters of ongoing serials that were standard in the many b&w magazines of this period. There's a so-so 'Infinity Force' color insert at the back but it's nothing special. As Warren's bankruptcy didn't allow for much in the way of planning final issues - it appears to be blind luck that this one was the swansong. Compared to the last few years of poor quality books, Eerie went out with a bang and this one is worth picking up if you find it

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Memoirs of a Bronze Age Baby: Hercules (Modern) #11

Modern Comics were a funny thing, and confounded me when I was young. They seemed to be everywhere in the late 70s, and perhaps even into the early 80s. By 'everywhere', I mean the discount stores my mother used to drag me to in the east end of Toronto. Locals will remember names like Bi-Way and Bargain Harold's. These stores had out of date 3-packs and loads of Modern Comics. I had no knowledge of the pedigree of these books, so for all I knew Hercules and Peter Cannon, Thunderbolt were contemporary characters. This book really threw me for a loop, as I had never see anything quite like Sam Glanzman's artwork before (I don't think I'd seen any DC war books at that point, or at least couldn't spot the similarities). With hindsight, I can now appreciate that Glanzman was trying to give the book a very unique look and the characters look as though they've stepped right off a Grecian urn. I dig this stuff now (although I realize it's not for everyone), but I thought it was the absolute pits as an 8-year. I still kind of feel that way about the Sanho Kim drawn Thane of Bagarth back-up, though.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Steve Ditko Cover of the Week: Nukla #4

This is from the period where Ditko artwork was popping up everywhere, including ACG and Dell. Nukla was a short lived superhero title from Dell, and Ditko was brought in to draw the final issue, including the cover. I find the cover to be quite dynamic and nicely designed. Sal Trapani inked this one, and while I don't actually think he's the worst choice for Ditko inkers, he does seem to sap some of the Ditko energy out of the cover. The result is more of a toned down Ditko, much like what Ralph Reese did with Ditko's Magnus Robot Fighter in the early 90s. It's not bad, but I'd prefer it to be a little less clean looking. The word balloons are also a bit too intrusive and the garish color choices do not help. Overall, I like the overall design, and the figures but the final execution makes it feel too generic to be a great Diko cover.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Reprint This! Robin Hood Tales

Robin Hood Tales was one of the final series launched by Quality Comics in the mid-50s. The Robin Hood character was enjoying a renaissance of sorts, and a few publishers got in on the action. Even though it only ran 6 issue, the Quality series is notable because was drawn by Matt Baker. I believe all of the covers are by Baker and Chuck Cuidera, but as far as I can tell, all of the interior are pure Baker. That is pure heaven for fans of gorgeous comic book art, but the only problem is that the original back issues are very pricey, and that's only if you can find them. I don't believe that they have ever been reprinted, although I'd be thrilled if someone told me otherwise.

Robin Hood Tales was among the series purchased by deceased after Quality's departure from the comic book industry. Whereas they kept the same artistic team for Blackhawk (namely Dick Dillin and Chuck Cuidera), DC went with some in-house talent. Perhaps Matt Baker's page rates were too high, or perhaps he was happy to move on to other challenges. Irv Novick was on board for a number of the early stories, but the main team was Andru & Esposito, who were at the absolute peak of their powers. Bill Finger, Bob Haney and France Heron all contributed stories to this run. With a pedigree like that, I'm shocked DC hasn't seen fit to release a nice TPB of this book. Some of these stories were reprinted in DC Special, but that's not enough. If they are not going to do it, I wish they allow someone else to step in, as I'm certain a reasonably sized print run would sell through. There's a market for this kind of collection - I only wish DC would take more risks.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Single Issue Hall of Fame: Marvel Team-Up #119

The cover blurb states that this is the 'most moving, truly unique story of the year' and I can't disagree with that at all. The year was 1982, and aside from the Wolverine miniseries and perhaps some particularly poignant issues of New Teen Titans, many mainstream comic book titles were just spinning their wheels. With this story, J.M. DeMatteis proves that he is not only a master of mixing humour with action, but that he can add a dose of raw emotion to a funnybook in a subtle and moving way. The elderly don't often get face time in superhero books, by DeMatteis shifts the focus away from your every day MTU punch up towards on a couple of much more human story lines. The Gargoyle proves himself to be one of the most interesting and insightful citizens of the Marvel Universe. Much of the ‘action’ in this book is simply a conversation between Isaac (Gargoyle) and an elderly New Yorker who has had enough of the world’s ills. It is sappy, overly sentimental and absolutely perfect. If you haven't read this one, I urge you to track it down and read it with an open mind.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Marionette Covers

Bob Marley once begged his lover not to treat him 'like a puppet on a string', but that shouldn't be the case for comic book covers, as they make for an awesome design. Let's take a look at a few nice examples.

An earlier version of a Marionette cover is All-Star Comics #42 (Winter 1944-45). I know next to nothing about cover artist Joe Gallagher, but I do like his cover design, if not the final execution. There is a real air of mystery to this cover, and those giant hands appear to be something out of the Twilight Zone, or from the "Who Mourns for Adonais?" episode of Star Trek. I dig the figure work, but the faces are a bit sloppy for my tastes, and I think the cover would do with about half the question marks. The story, 'Plunder of the Psycho-Pirate' is one of my favourite JSA tales from this era.

Another early Marionette Cover is Bomber Comics #3 (fall, 1944), starring Kismet, Man of Fate and Wonder Boy (who?). I know absolutely nothing about Elliot Publishing, but I will say that this is a very attractive cover, although I can't quite place the artist. Does anyone have any ideas. There's a lot of other weird stuff going on here, including a ghost and an 'Ebony-type' character, named Sunshine. I believe this title reprinted a lot of Quality Comics stories, so maybe there is a connection to Busy Arnold. Apparently, these have also got Classic Comics ads in them. A true Golden Age oddity.

Much more mainstream is the cover to Star Spangled Comics #94 (July, 1949) from the Batman and Robin era of the title. It is drawn with great panache by the always under appreciated Jim Mooney. I love the fact that the puppeteer thug is so into his work that he has not noticed the approaching Dynamic Duo. I'm actually not sure what these guys are doing wrong - perhaps puppet shows were illegal in 1940s Gotham City. I also find it interesting that DC used the phrase 'Danger Trail' in reference to the Tomahawk strip. I wonder when that term was first used. I seem to recall DC having a Danger Trail ashcan predating the actual series. Does that ring a bell with anyone?

Here's my favourite of the bunch, Gene Colan's cover to Heart Throbs #96 (June-July, 1965). I like romance covers that play around with the power balance (or imbalance) of relationships, and this one is a great example. Many covers from this period in DC Romance history were taken from interior splashes. I have the next issue (#97) and the Colan cover is simply a reprint of a Colan splash page. My guess is that the interior story may be misattributed to Mike Sekowsky at the GCD. I certainly would love to get my hands on a copy of this book and see how to turn a man into an 'Obedient Puppet'.

Can I Take 'The Road'?

I've been reading a lot of press about the adaptation of Cormac McCarthy's The Road lately. I've never been one to shy away from challenging movies, but I'm not so sure I can take this one. I read the novel over a year ago, and I'm still haunted by it. I have never had such an emotional reaction to a book. It was as if I was punched in the stomach repeatedly. The sense of impending doom that McCarthy infused in those pages was almost too much for me to take. I had a lump in my throat the entire time, and my heart ached for the characters. It took me a little over two hours to read it, and it was both the shortest and longest two hours of my life. Maybe it would have been different if it came out before I was a father, who knows? All I know is that I was in tears throughout it, and I just don't know if I can see all of that portrayed on the screen. If you are in a Toronto movie theatre over the next few weeks and see a grown man blubbering away - it may very well be me.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Buster Bunny #11: A Pleasant Surprise

I must admit that I'm not the world's biggest fan of Funny Animal comics. Sure, I like Pogo and Daffy Duck, but the vast majority of funny animal comics just don't do it for me. A few years ago, I bought a big cheap lot of beat up Golden Age books on eBay, mainly because it include a Jann of the Jungle and a few IW/Super reprints. I finally got around to reading this issue of Buster Bunny from 1951 and I must say that I thoroughly entertained. I have no idea who provided the art, but it's got an Al Fago feel to it. The main story is very charming, as the mischievous bunnies break their father's television and spend the rest of the day trying to repair it before he finds out. This includes a visit to a television studio where they interrupt some live broadcasts. It's a fun way to get a behind the scenes look at early era television production. I was shocked by the length of the story, as it ran 16 pages, which seems a good deal longer than your run of the mill funny animal story. This one goes to show that it is best to keep an open mind, because you never know what will put a smile on your face.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Add It To My Want List: DC Special Series #3

I've walked by this book a million times. I've always thought it was just a collection of old Sgt. Rock stories. Great stories no doubt, but likely stuff I'd seen elsewhere as DC had the habit of reprinting the same stories over and over. Why didn't anyone tell me that this book contained an all-new (for 1977, I should say) story written by Bob Kanigher and drawn by none other than Doug Wildey? Why have you people been withholding this information from me? I try to be nice to you guys, and share in all of the great book I seen out there. Why couldn't one of you tell me hidden behind this solid, yet generic, Joe Kubert cover is 30 pages of Wildey magic. Wildey wasn't exactly doing a ton of comic book work at that time, so this is a real treat - especially since it is 30 pages. 30 pages! The mind boggles. End of accustory rant.

Quick DVD Reviews

Nosferatu (1979)
For our annual Halloween movie, I picked this 1979 Herzog/Kinski collaboration. I had seen it once as a kid, and only remembered certain images - country roads, long fingernails and rats. Lots and lots of rats. I was thrilled to revisit it, and was pleasantly surprised by the thoughtful pacing and the incredible score, particularly the use of Wagner's Das Rheingold. It's a very unusual film with some bewildering performances, but that really adds its charm. I found the response to the plague to be rather interesting in relation of recent H1N1 hysteria. Grade: A-

I Love You Man
In the top tier of Apatow inspired comedies. Paul Rudd does a pretty damn good straight man, and Jason Siegel is able to be wacky without crossing over into annoying. The difference for me between this and so many other 'dumb' comedies is that it has some heart. I'm sure that I would have found it even more enjoyable if I were a Rush fan. Grade: B+

The Walking Dead (1936)
One of Karloff's finest performances, as a man who has returned from the dead to seek revenge after being framed for murder. It is really just a collection of mildly violent set pieces, but it is quite enjoyable. There are some nice effects - with a man being stuck by a train as a real standout. I wondered why such a low budget B movie worked so well. A little research informed me that its was director was Michael Curtiz, the man behind several charming little films such as Casablanca, the Sea Hawk and Mildred Pierce. Grade: B

It failed to meet my already low expectations. I could not find a single thing to like about it. It is rotten on every level. It is everything that is wrong with superhero movies. Why couldn't they just have filmed the Claremont/Miller miniseries? They somehow managed to suck all of the charisma out of Hugh Jackman. Keep in mind, this is coming from a man who named his firstborn Logan. Grade: D-

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Hidden Gems: DC Special #5

If you consider yourself to be a Joe Kubert fan, you owe if to yourself to add a copy of DC Special #5 (December, 1969). First, you get an amazing cover: a self-portrait of the artist surrounded by many great DC characters. I love the fact that they are working away on a painting of Joe himself, and that Johnny Quick is inviting us all to join in. It is a essentially a collection of Sgt. Rock, Hawkman and Viking Prince reprints from books that would cost a pretty penny to track down. The true rarity here is 'Rider of the Winds' from Showcase #2, a book that may never be reprinted. The real treat here are the 5 pages dedicated to showing Joe at home, with all of the Kubert, including young Andy and Adam. It is very charming and a real novelty for any fan. A VG/F copy of this recently failed to sell on eBay for $4.99, so there are affordable copies out there.

Herbie - Fat & Furious this Week

The bills continue to pour in, and one look at my employer's financials tells me an annual bonus isn't on the horizon so more of my books are hitting the market. That's cool - as I'll have a lot of fun tracking them down in a few years time when my finances get back in shape. This week, I'm selling my Herbies - 10 of 'em. I love these books but someone else will, too. I'll be putting a handful of other ACG goodies up later today or tomorrow.

Monday, November 23, 2009

You've Been Warned: Strange Suspense Stories #5

This is a pretty link entry in an otherwise decent anthology series. The stories are adequate, if not exactly strange or suspenseful, but it is the lacklustre art that holds it back for me. There's no Ditko, no Aparo, no Boyette etc... It is simply the Charlton house look to the point where I cannot figure out who did what. The cover is also a yawner - simply recolour versions of interior splash pages. The lead story The $100 Bills is a story of an embezzler who should have been a bit nicer to the natives. It has a good EC feel to it, but lacks the bite and is terribly paced. The Magic Desk is weak right from the start, as the notion of a desk (substitute coat, armoire etc...) that grants riches only to take them away is an idea I've seen handled better elsewhere. It could have been a two-pager. I did like the art here though. The GCD states that it wall all Ernie Bache, and I'm not familiar enough with his pencils to argue otherwise. The less said about the finale, The Maestro's Voice, the better - it is the very weak story of the ghost of a vengeful opera. It is haunted by bland art (Nicholas & Alascia?) and ends with a lame attempt at humour. Overall I like this series, but this is one to avoid.

Friday, November 20, 2009

My Reading Pile: June, 1991 Pt. 2

I'd say that I was more of a 'DC Guy' at this stage. I'm a huge Batman fan, and there were plenty of high quality Bat-titles to go around. Still, I am ashamed to admit that I was not reading Doom Patrol, Swamp Thing, Sandman etc... (you get the idea).

Yup, I love Batman. Always have, always will. I particularly love Batman of this era. The late 80s and into the early 90s was a great time, as the stories were quite intense and Norm Breyfogle showed me that Jim Aparo wasn't the only Batman artist worth following. I remember thinking the 'new' Robin was a pretty big deal, as Tim Drake seemed so much more appealing than Jason Todd. It's hard to believe that he's been around nearly two decades now. I haven't held onto every book I bought back then, but I'm pretty sure I've still got all my Batmans and Detectives from this era.

Much like Batman, I was buying everything Justice League at the time. Much like the Avengers, I'd followed the JLA since I was a kid. Unlike the Avengers, however, the Justice League seemed to improve with age. There were so many great story lines at this stage (Break Downs was very impressive), and some great new characters (the whole General Glory bit really cracked me up). It was a great time for this team, and it's hard to believe how far it fell a few years later. That being said, I did actually once spend hard earned cash on a copy of Extreme Justice. Yikes!

If you were to ask me to name my favourite comic book series during my high school years, I'd answer Green Arrow without hesitation. From the Long Bow Hunter onwards, there was something about Ollie and Dinah's life in Seattle that really resonated with me. Keep in mind, this was still a few months before I heard 'Smells Like Teen Spirit' for the first time. It seemed fitting that Ollie's title would hit an anniversary right around my high school graduation as it gave us both a few more pages to contemplate our places in the world.

Legends of the Dark Knight was a real revelation to me. I realized that taking a bit more time to constructed a story and to place it at varying points in Batman's history made for some amazing comics. I was totally hooked (pun intended) by the 'Venom' storyline. I realize that it eventually led to all sorts of Bane-ality, but as a standalone story arc, it is still very strong. At this point in time, I had already read Dark Knight Returns and Killing Joke, and while I would never put this story up there with the former, it really isn't all that far behind the latter. It was just a great piece of storytelling, perfect for the mature high school graduate that I had become.

My Reading Pile: June, 1991 Pt. 1

Mike is indeed amazing - and his DC and (now) Marvel websites are a great resources. I thought I'd use his sites as a tool to figure out what I was reading in certain random months. June of 1991 was my final month of high school (we used to do grade 13 here in Ontario - don't ask). I would have finished my exams somewhere early in the month and attended graduation ceremonies towards the end of June. I actually had a lot of free time back then so I was reading a good number of comics, probably evenly split between the Big Two. Here's a sample of what I bought that month. You should see all of the great stuff I wasn't reading back then. How humiliatin'!

Avengers #335 - I was a huge Avengers fan as a kid, and I forgave them for a lot of trespasses over the years. It was still a monthly buy from the late 80s right into the early 90s. I can't say I was loving it, but it was comfort food and I'm sure I thought they were just fine at the time. Looking back at the cover, I must admit that I cannot remember a single thing about this storyline. I also realized that I had totally forgotten about Rage and the white version of the Vision. Not exactly the jewel of my collection. In fact, I'd be shocked if I still had my copy.

I was much, much more into Silver Surfer back then (even had a letter printed in issue #49). This was a heavenly time when Silver Surfer was published twice a month. I don't truly think I ever realized how lucky I was to have one of my favourite books hitting my LCS every other week. This was a particularly good stretch for this title, with Thanos fully out of control and various intergalactic guest stars popping up all over the place. This series provided a home for great characters like Firelord and Drax, as can be seen from the cover to Silver Surfer #52. I really think Ron Lim nailed the 'look' for this series. As much as I love Marshall Rogers, I really got into once Lim stepped on board.

Speaking of Thanos, the Infinity Gauntlet miniseries was well underway that month. At the time, I was totally wrapped up in it and I loved the fact that all of my favourite characters from the Surferverse were getting greater exposure in the larger MU. I just loved everything about this miniseries and could not wait for each issue to be published. I kind of miss that feeling of anticipation, as I generally don't pick up any new comics these days. I haven't revisited this one in 15 years, but I'm guessing that it won't be as good as I remember.

As I've mentioned before, I really dug Ghost Rider circa 1991. I have no idea why Marvel decided that a batch of those issues deserved the reprint treatment as The Original Ghost Rider Rides Again, but who was I to complain? I remember buying this book at a local convenience store (remember when they had comics?) and really feeling a sense of nostalgia. Is it health for an 18 year old feel nostalgic? Whatever the case, I enjoyed re-reading this one as much as any other 'new' book at the time. Great, great cover.

Next: my DC books from June, 1991
If you haven't checked out Mike's Marvel and DC sites - here are the links:

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Trade Marks: Nightwing - A Knight in Bludhaven

I had always heard great things about this series, but could never find cheap copies of the early issues (stupid speculators!). A few years back, I got my hands on this trade as part of a large TPB lot on eBay. I was thrilled to dive right in, and I have read it a second time since then. Conceptually, it's brilliant. Nightwing has always been a great character looking for a quest, and the creation of Bludhaven as his own personal stomping ground was pure genius. He can stay connected to the whole Bat family, while truly moving out on his own. Story wise, it is quite solid as Dixon knows how to blend the action and mystery elements in with some decent characterization. My only hang up was that his hoods were a bit generic and I felt that Dick's relationship with his landlady, Clancy, was handled awkwardly. I know that Scott McDaniel has his fans, but his highly stylized artwork is pretty hit and miss for me. Strangely, I fit that he is at his best in the quieter moments, but things gets a bit tough to decipher during the fights. He needs to improve the way he establishes the geography of a fight, so that the action can be more easily followed. Overall, it was very good but falls short of greatness. Trade Mark: B

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Exit Stage Left: Marvel Team-Up #150

For me, this book represents the end of an era (although I wasn't even reading comics at the time). Team up books represented a huge chunk of my childhood comic book reading. Between 1978 and 1983, I read a ton of MTU, Marvel Two-in-One, Brave and the Bold and DC Comics Presents. By the time Marvel Team-Up #150 hit the shelves at the tail end of 1984, it was the last one standing. This great series was cancelled in order to make room for the less than great Web of Spider-Man, but at least they gave it a double-sized issue as a swansong. It's a pretty fun story, with Juggernaut sharing some of his power with Black Tom Cassidy. Sure, the fight sequence are overly long, but the characterizations are strong and Spidey's humor is intact. I've never been a big fan of the Barry Windsor-Smith cover, though, as it isn't consistent with the overall tone of this series. Like Joni said: you don't know what you've 'til it's gone.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Steve Ditko Cover of the Week: Scary Tales #18

Here's a weird one. I do not actually own a copy of this, but it always struck me as particularly odd and out of step with the times. I was intrigued and did a little digging. I discovered that this issue contained a story entitled 3-D Disaster of Doom from This Magazine is Haunted #17 (May, 1954). I had a feeling that this cover might have its origins with that story. Thanks to the Internet, I found out that I was correct. The image on this cover is taken from the bottom left quarter of the title page of the reprinted story. If I actually own this issue of Scary Tales, I would have save a lot of time and effort tracking down that info, but where's the fun in that? It's quite the story and I'll likely write a piece on it eventually. Charlton was really king of recycling, and while I'm sure fans at the time thought very little of them for doing it so often, I am glad that they were able to turn such an odd image into a comic book cover.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Highlighting House Ads: Atlas-Seaboard Magazines

While Atlas-Seaboard may not have had all that many great comics, they certainly had some cool house ads. Here's a small one that ran as a half-page ad, trumpeting the company's line of black and white magazines. This simply designed, yet effective ad by Ernie Colon showcases three titles, one of which you may not recognize. I assume that at some point, it was decided that Tales of the Sorceress would work better simply as Devilina. I'm sure there's an interesting back story there, as is usually the case with Atlas-Seaboard. This one also ran in some of the color comics at the time. It's too bad they couldn't find room for either Gothic Romances or Movie Monsters in the ad.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Terror at the Drawing Board Covers

I've always liked this cover gimmick and if I had more time and money, I think I'd like to track down a complete set. In some cases, they break the fourth wall, while in other cases they simply add to the feeling of suspense.

Let's start with the most well known example. Brave and Bold #124 is a standout issue from a standout series. Artist Jim Aparo got the enviable task of doing a self-portrait on a comic book cover. This story is about as off the wall as Bob Haney ever got (and that's saying quite a lot). Haney, Aparo and editor Murray Boltinoff all play a role in this story that really has to be read to be believed. Bob Haney certainly paved the way for the likes of Grant Morrison. Like all Aparo covers, it is beautifully designed and executed. Even the fake cover he's drawing on this cover is top notch. If you don't own this book, do yourself a favour and track it down.

Next up is the rather notorious cover to Punch Comics #9, published by Harry 'A' Chesler in July of 1944. Chesler comics often featured incredible covers and less than incredible interiors and although I've never read this book, I can only assume it fits the mold. Paul Gattuso did many of the covers for this series, but I don't think this is his work. Anyone know for sure? The fact that this artist was killed might explain why this title never had issues #3 through #8 and had a hiatus of more than two years. It would be particularly cool if the cast of murderers on the cover were featured in this stories within. This cover is a beautiful and gory mess.

Every since I was a child, I have admired the cover to Tales of the Unexpected #1 from February-March, 1956. I believe that it was featured in the cover gallery of the first Overstreet Guide I ever owned (circa 1983) and it has always stuck in my head. This one features the 'creation come to life' angle, as the artist is confronted with a full colour version of his winged demon. I'm not sure exactly why a green guy with angel wings in purple pajamas constitutes a 'Dragon Man', but who am I to argue with the logic of DC in the 50s. Bill Ely isn't exactly a name you hear very often when great artists are mentioned, but he did a very nice job here on this Code-friendly classic cover.

Another subcategory of the Terror at the Drawing Board genre are those covers with a voyeuristic feel. Dick Giordano's cover for Unusual Tales #13 (September, 1958) is a perfect example. This one has a very creepy vibe to it, as an alien creature peers at the artist through a skylight. This design conveys a real sense of vulnerability - one of the keys to making horror/suspense work in my opinion. I'm not sure if this alien is the creation of the artist, or whether he doing sketches based on reports or sightings. This one is subtle, yet very effective. It was re-used 25 years later for Scary Tales #41, although I much prefer the original colouring job.

Finally, we've got the Gil Kane pencilled cover to Big Town #19 (January-February, 1953). I love this one because it is so ludicrous. What kind of a thug can't even come up with his own plan to kill Wilson? Why would these guys want to leave a paper trail of cartoons? You've got to think that Haney had this one in mind when he came up with Brave and Bold #124. I've only ever owned one issue from this series, but I'd certainly pick up more if the price was right as the covers totally suck me in. The 'Cartoon Crimes' story is apparently drawn by Manny Stallman, so that really seals the deal for me. I need this book.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Comic Book Robot of the Month: Mister Machine

Many of you likely know that Machine Man got his start in the 2001: A Space Odyssey series as Mister Machine. What you may not know, if you have read those original issues, is just how much he's changed over the years. In the beginning, X-51 (as he was originally known) was a extremely violent creation seeking vengeance and freedom. He spends a great deal of time spouting the absolutes of Kirbyspeak, blasting an U.S. military personnel that stands in his way. Aside from getting his hands back on his 'face', he really wasn't all that concerned with finding his humanity - he just wanted to escape. Although I've always loved Machine Man's costume, I really dig his 'skinless' design - as he looks very menacing. While the comic book world had certainly seen defiant robots before, none has ever gone so far as to rip off Sidney Poitier as the X-51 does when he says "If by some chance, we should ever meet again - call me Mister. Mister Machine if you like, but don't smile when you say it". Killer design + clunky dialogue = Classic Kirby.

Cheap Rawhide Kid and 99 cent Legion This Week

My 'Keep My House From Falling Down' sale continues at eBay. This week, I've got a huge stack of Rawhide Kids up for sale as well as some other 60s westerns - all quite solid, some very nice. I'm a big fan of the RK series and there are often some real gems hidden in the back-ups. I've also got a group of Adventure Comics featuring the Legion in varying grade, but they start at 99 cents (with one exception).

This stuff is all near and dear to my heart - but I've read 'em a million times and figure I'll buy them again in the future when my finances straighten out. I'll have some high grade Marvel Bronze (loads of Avengers and some Spideys) coming up soon.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Memoirs of a Bronze Age Baby: Human Fly #12

I know that I've mentioned the 10 cent rack at my childhood LCS before. It was where I spent a lot of my allowance money circa 1980. That rack provide me with the first taste of Atlas-Seaboard books, Devil Dinosaur and Claw the Unconquered. Human Fly was also a regular denizen of the 10 cent rack. I think this was the first issue of Human Fly that I ever read. At the time, it was unlike anything I'd ever read and after flipping through it last night, that statement still holds true. This may be the most 'well intentioned' comic book series ever produced by Marvel. Looking back at it as an example of pure fromage, it is hard to believe the level of earnestness infused in these book. This issue recounts how Arnie came to join the Human Fly team. It's quite well told tale written by Bill Mantlo, and I like the Elias-Springer art team. I especially like the full page splash near the end where Arnie and the Fly manoeuvre in midair, as Elias certain knows how to lay out an action sequence. If I had to use one word to described this issue, if not the entire series it would be 'dorky', but sometimes I like dorks.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Trade Marks: Tarzan, the Joe Kubert Years Vol. 1

Since I already own a good chunk of the original issues (thanks in large part to a certain Minnesotan), I really didn't need this book. When I saw the first three volume at a deeeep discount, however, I knew that I just could not pass up the opportunity to get these stories in such an attractive package. I love Tarzan, but it is nothing like Joe Kubert's love for Tarzan. Kubert's love for ERB's most famous creation is obvious from the artwork, as he creates a lush world that is both beautiful and menacing. His love is made even more clear by his introduction, as he retells how thrilled he was when Carmine Infantino gave him the assignment. Now, I'm a really, really big fan of Russ Manning's work on the Gold Key Tarzan, but this stuff looks amazing. Kubert takes his time retelling the origin story, and it feels like a great serial (although I'm not in love with the framing sequences). There are a couple of weaker entries. I felt that issue #211 had an overly long fight and escape sequence and not enough characterization, especially the villainous. I knew something was different with the art. There is more depth to the inks, giv it a more 'classic' feel. I was not surprised when I found that some Burne Hogarth artwork had been worked into the story. #214 was also so-so, as it is based on one of Burroughs' sillier short stories "The Nightmare". It is really not much more than a bad trip after Tarzan ate some rotten buffalo meat. Even the weak stuff is quite solid due to the artwork. It is a nice package and I'm pretty happy with the colors. Trade Mark: A-

Thursday, November 05, 2009

You've Been Warned: DC Special #27

As you may have figured out by now - I can often find the silver lining in many a dark and cloudy comic book. I just cannot bring myself to say nice things about DC Special #27. It is another one of Bob Rozakis' completely incomprehensible stories. As far as I can tell, a meteor is responsible for creating certain holes in time. On other hand, perhaps Chronos is behind it all - it was all a bit tough to sort out. Tommy Tomorrow is sucked backwards in time to one of the 'zoic' or 'aceous' periods filled with dinosaurs. Dinosaurs are also popping up in the present day and Captain Comet (who for some reason was hanging out with Hawkman on the JLA satellite) decides to get involved. All of this time-crunching brings to mind Zero Hour, and that's never a good thing. A T-Rex stands too close to the magical meteor and 'evolves' into a humanoid of sorts (complete with unitard). Huh? Somehow, it is all sorted out in the end, but I was left scratching my head. The script is just a mess and Rozakis uses that lame 'Dear Reader' voice in captions. Rich Buckler's page layouts do not help matters in the least, as his attempts at ambitious design only muddy the waters. I do like Joe Rubinstein's inks, though - so that's a plus. This is a series of hits and misses. File this one under 'miss'.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Add It To My Want List: House of Mystery #252

I understand that his art has a polarizing effect on people, but I happen to be a big fan of Frank Robbins. It has recently come to my attention that during the middle of all of his super hero kookiness at Marvel during the late 70s, Robbins contributed an 8-page story to this issue of House of Mystery. As much as I love Robbins, I do think he is better suited to 'non-cape & tights' genres, so I'd love to see what he was able to do with this story, written by Arnold Drake. Beyond that story, we all know that Dollar Comics are awesome and this one includes may of my favourite creators of the era. There are stories by the likes of Dave Michelinie and Jack Oleck and a slew of terrific artists including Alfredo Alcala, Frank Redondo, Don Perlin and Alex Nino. I'll be keeping my eyes peeled for a cheap copy of this one. Oh yeah - Neal Adams cover!

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Hidden Gems: Lemonade Kid #1

Bill Black and AC Comics have reprinted so many comics over the years that it can be a bit tough distinguishing the Golden Age 'greats' from the Golden Age 'so-sos'. Let me assure you that this one belongs in the former category and not the latter. I have developed a lot of love for Bob Powell in recent years, and he's in his prime here. Powell and scripter Gardner Fox made for quite the team. Two of the stories here star the Lemonade Kid; a great strip that ran in Bobby Benson's B-Bar-B Riders in the early 50s. The pages are alive with action and great characters. The cover is taken from the interior splash page from B-Bar-B #4, rather than the cover from that issue. This issue also includes a Red Hawk story from the very under appreciated Straight Arrow series. I found this in a dollar bin and it was a great way to get a taste for what Magazine Enterprises was doing in the western genre during the 50s. Bob Powell died at too young an age, but it's nice that his legacy lives on in an affordable package.

Is This Jack Nicholson?

Lots of Hollywood start appeared on romance covers during the late 40s and 50s. Many of them were noted on the cover, but from time to time I see romance covers featuring generic models that look eerily like people who would go on to achieve fame. I was flipping through an old issue of Comic Book Marketplace, and read a great article by Michelle Nolan about the indica confusion in the final two issues of Ace's Love Experiences. The article featured the cover to Love Experiences #38, and I was taken aback by the male actor. By my math, Nicholson would have been 19 years old in 1956 and just getting his start in Hollywood (I think he has at least two credits in that year) so its plausible that he was doing this type of modelling work as well. The model looks older than 19, and I haven't seen anything of Nicholson from that year, but my guy reaction is that it is him. What do you think?

Monday, November 02, 2009

Reprint This! Ragman

Ragman was one of DC's more interesting superhero experiments of the Bronze Age. The title's timing, however, was terrible as it was cancelled (or imploded) after a mere 5 issues. Is that enough for a TPB? I don't see why not, especially if you add his other two pre-Crisis appearances from the final issue of Batman Family and his resurrection several years later for Brave and the Bold #196. Robert Kanigher did some of his best 70s work here, as there is some nice sophistication to the characters and the overall concept is quite unique. Rory Regan is a very sympathetic character and he must have been one of the first superheroes that was also Vietnam vet. There are some nice smaller stories set within the larger plot line and it all works quite nicely. It's not perfect, and elements are a tad dated but the 'message' is about as subtle as you get from the 70s. Joe Kubert's work with the Redondo studio is top notch, and a nicely package TPB would make it a must buy, even though back issues are still a relative bargain. Was Ragman #6 ever produced? I believe only the cover made it to Cancelled Comics Cavalcade.

Friday, October 30, 2009

I Loves Me Some: Worlds Unknown

I'm not exactly a sci-fi geek, and I'm far too young to have been influenced by the pulps so perhaps I am not the target audience for this Marvel series. That being said, I still enjoy the balance of it and appreciate what they were trying to accomplish. It's almost a Classics Illustrated for sci-fi nuts. Obviously, both Roy Thomas and Gerry Conway have a lot of love for the great science fiction writers of the 20th century and seem thrilled to be able to adapt many of their favourite tales for the Four Color world. I find myself particularly interested in the accompanying text articles, where the authors discuss issues such as their relationship to the source material or how they went about securing the rights. Many of these issues also feature 3 to 5 page back-ups from the Atlas era; a real added bonus.

I particularly enjoyed Roy Thomas' take on Farewell to the Master, the story that became The Day the Earth Stood Still. Thomas explains that he wanted to stick close to the original story to the point of assigning Ross Andru the pencilling chores as he'd never seen the movie. Another interesting issue is Conway's take on Arena by Frederic Brown. It is much more sophisticated than most of what was coming out from DC and Marvel at time. Some of the weaker entries, such as The Black Destroyer in issue #5, still have their moments. Even the Golden Voyage of Sinbad adaptation that runs through the final two issues is a fun read. Sadly, there are no Atlas back-ups in those issues. Since licensing headaches will prevent these books from ever being reprinted, I suggest you try to find some cheap copies and give them a try. They aren't perfect, but they are certainly offbeat and serve as a link to the heyday of sci-fi pulps.