Wednesday, September 30, 2009

You've Been Warned: Star Wars #22

I love Archie Goodwin, I really do. He's one of the greatest writers ever to work in funnybooks, but everyone has a bad day. I know that half the problem with the Star Wars series is that Marvel was so hamstrung by Lucasfilm's controls and restrictions that story arc options were limited. That being said, there's really no excuse for something this bad. Han and Chewie are stuck in some sort of virtual space royal rumble, while all of the other character engage in extremely dull and overly wordy dialogue. I'll also point an accusing finger at Carmine Infantino. This is pretty close to the nadir of his career, and his work is extremely ill-suite to this series. The action sequences are poorly designed. I think I could draw a better Wookie. There's a cliffhanger ending, but it did not resonate with me, as I was simply happy to be done with this one.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Back to eBay

Well, it looks like we need to get our chimney repaired. The problem with 100 year old houses is that the brick starts to show its age, putting the people, cars and pets below in peril. I'm heading back to eBay to try to raise some funds. I'm not normally the type to shill for my own stuff, but I will be selling off some stuff that may be of interest to readers of this blog. Things have been selling for a fraction of Guide, so it will likely all be quite affordable.

It will be a wide variety of stuff from the 50s through the 80s (I've already sold many of my true jewels, so this is more the 'quirky' stuff). There will be some Marvel and DC stuff, but also some Dell, Gold Key, Charlton and Tower for those folks with an eye for the unusual. My seller ID is sma12e - and I'll be throwing 10-20 books per week up there until mid-November or so. I haven't quite decided just what to sell, so I'll be spending some quality time re-reading some old favourites before setting them free.

Wolf Pack Covers

Here's another fun cover theme that has been used much more often than you might think. The earliest example I could find is Creig Flessel cover New Adventure Comics #23 from 1938. Here are a few more that followed its lead.

Fight Comics is a wonderful source for awesome covers, and the cover to Fight Comics #10 (October, 1940)is no exception. Here, the dreaded "Wolves of the Yukon" attack a young couple out for a romantic snowshoe. Luckily, they brought along some firearms. This cover is by Dan Zolnerowich, a name which is new to me but he seems quite capable of delivering an exciting Golden Age cover. I'm sure that this couple wished they'd trust their gut instincts and gone to Niagara Falls for their honeymoon.

Next up is the impeccable cover to House of Secrets #146 (June-July 1977) by the impeccable Gray Morrow. Now, I've probably said it a thousand times, but I loooooove Gray Morrow. He didn't do too many covers for DC in the 70s, and that's a real shame as he was at his artistic peak and they had many titles that would have been a great fit for his style. There are some really interesting color choices on this cover as well. This poor sap is having a rough day, as he is dealing not just with five hungry wolves but a bear trap and the ghost of a crazy recluse. Oh yeah, he's also dropped his shotgun.

LB Cole produced some amazing covers during his comic book career, but not many are as gorgeous (and as highly coveted) as the cover to Cat-Man Comics #31 (June, 1946). It is simply gorgeous, with a circle of wolves set against a the wonderful backdrop of falling snow and sheer blackness. This is a truly singular cover and has earned its place among the truly great covers of the 40s. I love how the wolves, as well as their trainer, are emerging from the darkness. I love the use of black, which was pretty rare back then. We feel as though we've just dropped into a truly perilous situation. How could anyone have passed it up back then? It's also got a Pieta vibe, so that an nice bonus.

You just had to know that Berni Wrightson would produce a wolfpack cover (although, these guys are leaning more towards the werewolf category), and he did a great one with the cover to Weird Mystery Tales #21 (August, 1975). I like this one because we're dealing with the anticipation of the attack, as our hero is steadying himself against the tree wondering how many hacks he'll get in before he's taken down. It is signed 'Wrightson '73), so I don't know if it was originally intended for a different book or series. I've seen that elsewhere with covers and splashes pages during this era at DC. My guess is that they were commissioning as much as possible from Wrightson, Kaluta et al. and using it when they could. Weird Mystery Tales is one of those nearly forgotten horror titles that was really quite strong.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Reprint This! Señorita Rio

Fiction House produced some amazing comic books back in the 40s and 50s, with several great ongoing strips. One of my favourites (from the little that I've seen) is Señorita Rio, which ran in Fight Comics. Our heroine is actress Rita Farrar, who worked as an agent for the U.S. government. I love a good spy book, and this one is full of intrigue and exotic locales. The scripts are pretty standard stuff, but the artwork is to die for. The page to the left was drawn by the great Bob Lubbers, but much of the run was drawn by the forgotten grand dame of the Golden Age: Lily Renee. AC Comics has reprinted some of the stories in recent years, but it would be wonderful to see them all collected in a single volume.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Trade Marks: Dropsie Avenue

Long time fans of Will Eisner know what to expect here, as this 1995 graphic novel showcases Eisner at his 'slice of life' best. I think it's as good a place as any for new readers to dip their toes into the Eisner pool. He is very skillful in his ability to portray sprawling history and societal change through the examination of the intimate conversations and interactions of a single street. So much is conveyed so much through these characters, but it is done so subtlety that it may take a while for the reader to realize that Dropsie Avenue represents the world as a whole. From era to era, from culture to culture, Eisner examines the human experience at the street level. We've seen him do this before - but this is up there with his very best work. The art is very strong, as Eisner knows how to keep the eye movie, which is especially challenging in this kind of action-free story. I've got the 2006 W.W. Norton paperback, and I much prefer this format to the larger books produced in the mid to late 90s. It does retain the introduction by Eisner to the 1995 edition. Trade Mark: A

Cheap Grapes: Grandes Serres Les Portes du Castelas Cotes du Rhone Blanc 2007

Yes, that name is a mouthful, but so is the wine. This is definitely the white wine of the year in my household. You certainly don't see whites from Cotes du Rhone every day, and certainly not such a great wine at such an affordable price ($14.95 CDN here in Ontario). This a a blend of five grapes, including including Roussanne and Mausanne, two local grapes. This leads to a variety of flavours, including two layers of fruitiness, beginning with a sweet nectarine and moving into a slightly citrusy pink grapefruit. There's also just a hint of that mineral taste that I admire in good whites . We bought a half dozen bottles of this one and have been enjoying it with all types of food, and even on its own. It has been selling briskly here, and I urge everyone to get their hands on some before its bone. Put some aside for next summer, as you won't likely find a comparable white at this price.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Single Issue Hall of Fame: Batman #185

This was the first 80-Page Giant that I ever bought. It would have been in 1980 or so, and I'll bet it didn't cost me more than a buck, as that's usually where I drew the line as a 8-year old. It was very early exposure to DC Silver Age stories. They were certainly unlike any I'd ever read, and this grouping of Robin-centric stories is particularly dramatic. The "Robin Dies at Dawn" story is truly one of the best Silver Age Batman stories and, although it has been collected elsewhere, it's great to see it in this format. All of the stories in this collection are wonderfully entertaining, and serve as a great example of the charm of the 50s and early 60s. "The Boy Wonder Confesses" and "Batman Jr." are two standouts that further explore the relationship between Batman and Robin. I don't think I've ever seen the phrase 'Personal Adventures' used on a superhero book. The other reason for tracking down a copy of this book is that it showcases Shelly Moldoff's talent as a storyteller, as he could make just about any premise work. A definite Hall of Famer.

Monday, September 21, 2009

4 Years of Seduction of the Indifferent

I realized that at some point over the weekend, this blog passed its 4th Anniversary. I can hardly believe it, as it seems like yesterday I registered with Blogger to get things rolling. What's changed over the 4 years? Nothing. You've probably noticed that this is the least visually dynamic blog out there. Why? Well I certainly don't have the time to do a big overhaul. Even if I did, I don't have any idea how to create one of those exciting blogsm, loaded with graphics and vidoes etc.... Anyhow, I just like to thank you all for frequenting this low tech corner of the Internet. Hopefully you still find my ramblings entertaining enough to forgive the relatively spartan surroundings.

Memoirs of a Bronze Age Baby: Ghost Rider #69

For some reason, Ghost Rider was one of my favourite comic book titles back in 1981 and 1982. I was picking it up as often as, if not more often than, the likes of Batman, Daredevil and Amazing Spider-Man. Looking back, I certainly can't say that these were great comics, but they were likely as good as Ghost Rider comics ever got. I think there was something about the carnival/circus setting that really appealed to me. It was a pretty unique backdrop in the comic book world. This issue starts off with pretty funny scene, where a traffic cop reconsiders his attempt to give Ghost Rider a speeding ticket. I think that this one always appealed to me, because it reminded me of the Killdozer cover I'd seen in old house ads. As it turns out, there's nothing mystical behind this menacing machine, just a belligerent drunk. This may have been the first time I'd ever seen a jealous man in a drunken rage in comics.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Highlighting House Ads: Power Man & Iron Fist

Marvel has always produced great comics, but I wouldn't say that the were always leaders in the realm of house ads. In the 60s, readers got a countless stream of unimaginative 'Another Marvel Masterpiece' ads, simply showing a couple of covers. I guess the books were just selling themselves back then. Over time, a few Marvel titles needed a bit of a boost and some minds came together with some creative and entertaining ads. Some, like this one for Power Man & Iron Fist, even served as proof of a sense of humor (shocking!). I absolutely adore this full-page that was all over the place in early '84, if memory serves. It actually gave a bit of personality to Danny Rand, and the artwork by Bill Sienkiewicz is beautiful. What a fun what to make people curious about this underappreciated series. This is one of Marvel's all-time greatest house ads.

Steve Ditko Cover of the Week: Strange Tales #117

OK, Ok, I know that this cover is mostly Jack Kirby, but if you look very closely at the Eel, you will notice that he was drawn by the wonderful Mr. Ditko. I have always suspected that it was a Ditko insertion, and was recently backed-up when I checked the GCD and saw that Nick Caputo had note the same. There are plenty of covers from the period with Ditko inking Kirby in a way that gives the cover a truly Ditkoesque feel, but that slippery Eel is 100% Ditko. I wonder what happened. I know that there's a story behind just about Silver Age cover, and since this one isn't exactly Amazing Fantasy #15, perhaps it has never been recounted. That's too bad, as I'm always interested in the anecdotes behind some of the little oddities of comic book history. So, why not truly a Ditko cover, Steve did just enough one this one for it to make the cut.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Exit Stage Left: All-Star Western #119

This was a fairly subdued swansong for a series that can trace its roots all the way back to All-Star Comics #1. There had been many, many changes over the years - including the major shift in genre that occurred with issue #58. The one thing that remained constant was that these issues were filled with entertaining stories and very strong artwork. This issue is no exception with Gil Kane pencilling the lead story and Carmine Infantino pencilling the always awesome Super Chief. Both stories were written by Gardner Fox, who is an underrated western writer (although Super Chief isn't really much of a western). This is the final of three appearances of Madame .44 in this title. Her relationship with Johnny Thunder had really given the strip a kick in the creative pants and it's a shame we didn't get to see a few more adventures. I understand that westerns were well past their prime at this stage, but I still always find it a bit sad to see this particular book. End of an era.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Add It To My Want List: Adventure Comics #493-497

I love digests. I love Alex Toth. Heck, I even love George Tuska. It wasn't until very recently that I realized that an extended origin story of the Challengers of the Unknown ran in the digest-sized Adventure Comics over 5 issues with Tuska art on the first two, and Toth on the final three. How did I not know this? I guess I've always seen the covers and just assumed they were 60s reprints. I own a ton of digests, but none from this little run. They have eluded me for far too long, and it's time for me to get serious about tracking them down. The dark lining to the silver cloud is that these are all written by Bob Rozakis, but Toth beggars can't be choosers. Aside from the Challs, I'm sure I'll love all the Legion, Marvel Family and other reprints scattered throughout.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Hidden Gems: Phoenix #3

Yes, believe it or not, there is a gem hidden behind this rather unattractive Frank Thorne cover (did someone else ink it to death?). The lead story isn't much to write home about (or to blog about, I guess) as it is a typically nutty Atlas-Seaboard tale involving some Yetis and Satan himself. I must admit to being strangely attracted to Sal Amendola's artwork. It's far from attractive, but at least he's not trying to simply ape the 'Marvel look' like so many other Atlas-Seaboard folks. The true gem here is the back-up story featuring the Dark Avenger, a bit of a Batman/Ragman/Hawk & Dove hybrid who is a bit of a trailblazer in the 'grim and gritty' movement. There's not too much new about the story, but certain dark elements make it seems as though it was published in the mid-80s rather than the mid-70s. The artwork by Pat Broderick and Terry Austin feels very fresh, and it's a shame we didn't get to see where this character was headed. Although it's far from perfect (John Albano's script it a bit wordy), this story stands out like a glimmering diamond in the pile of coal heaped on us by Atlas-Seaboard.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Charlton Notebook: Ghostly Tales #116

I'm a big fan of the Charlton Comics Group, but if someone were to based their opinion of the publisher on this book alone; I could understand if they were to simply shrug their shoulders and say 'meh'. Personally, I like picking these up because they are cheap and usually have at least one good story in them. The first story is a pretty bad effort by Joe Gill and Sanko Kim (also the cover artist). It involves the fallout from budgetary shortcuts at a nuclear facility. The premise isn't bad and the story might have worked if Kim’s monster didn’t look so stupid. Kim’s artwork really doesn’t do it for me, as he really seems to struggle with anatomy. I often roll my eyes when I open a Charlton book and find Kim artwork. The next story is much better. It's a clever Joe Gill/Charles Nicholas ‘what did you bring back from space?’ tale. It has a nice a silver age look to it, so much so that I was convinced it was a reprint but haven't been able to find the source material. The final story is the old ‘Stranger comes to town – could it be Satan?’ story – it features some pretty energetic Steve Ditko artwork. This one isn't bad, but I wouldn't go out of my way to track it down.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Comic Book Robot of the Month: G.I. Robot Joe

You may remember the G.I. Robot named J.A.K.E. from Weird War Tales in the late 70s and early 80s, but did you know that he had a predecessor? For 3 issues of Star Spangled War Stories (#101-#103), a Corporal named Mac was assigned a partner; a 'robot buddy' named Joe. For some reason, the team of 'Mac & Joe' didn't stick around like many of the other DC war groups. It's too bad, as it held a lot of promise and there weren't many comics with human/robot interaction in the early 60s. I guess the editors at DC felt that combination of dinosaurs, robots and Axis villains was simply too much of a good thing to cram into a single strip. Perhaps Joe has been retconned into the current DCU (I haven't done a panel by panel review of Crisis or Zero Hour to check), but otherwise it seems to me that Joe was the G.I. Robot that Time Forgot.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

You've Been Warned: Outlaw Kid #30

The story goes something like this: Of all the western reprints put out by Marvel in the early 70s, Outlaw Kid was the sales leader. Perhaps thinking that the sales figures had more to do with the character than the stellar Doug Wildey artwork, Marvel commissioned some new material for the series. The new stories were met with a lukewarm reception, and they reverted to the Wildey reprints. At the very tail end of the series, we got reprints of the new material. If it wasn't a success the first time around, one wonders why they even bothered. This is the final issue of the series, and it's a perfect storm of all that didn't work with the 70s material. Gary Friedrich's story of a Confederate hold-out train robber could actually work if the story wasn't full of holes and weak dialogue. There is a scene where Jack MacDaniels (aka the Last Rebel) may or may not have seen the Outlaw Kid unmasked himself. Regardless of what happened, a couple of pages later Lance Temple tells the convalescing Reb his story, punctuating it with 'and that's why I became the Outlaw Kid'. What? Did I miss something? Anyway, there a rather lame showdown towards the end, and I only have less than nice things to say about Dick Ayers' flat artwork here, which are not helped by Jack Abel's thin inks. It's really quite weak, especially when compared to the Wildey drawn stories. This was a great series, but this particular issue should be avoided.

Friday, September 04, 2009

Reprint This! Son of Tomahawk

Let's be clear: the entire Tomahawk series, including World's Finest appearances, should be reprinted. Since I probably won't live to see that happen, I'll settle for a nice, slim volume of Son of Tomahawk stories. Even though it represents a sort of coda for the long running series, it is actually a great place to start. Robert Kanigher had a brilliant idea by transporting the Tomahawkverse 20 years into the future, with stories now focused on Hawk, the son of the now grizzled Revolutionary War vet. It's a real change of pace from the earlier series, and the stories are uniformly strong.

Much like it did with Bat Lash and later with Jonah Hex, DC was trying to rejuvenate the western during this era. In the end, it turned out to be a bit of a failed experiment, with only Hex finding commercial success. That being said, these are interesting books worthy of reprinting. The Kubert covers are full of drama, and the Frank Thorne's interior artwork is a perfect fit for Kanigher's topical and occasionally preachy tales. It has become a mere footnote in the history of the DCU, but it is certainly worth preserving and getting into the hands of new readers. The originals are still worth owning, as the 52 pagers are full of tough to find reprints, but a new and glossy trade would look great on my bookshelf.

Quick DVD Reviews

I had heard good things about this one, but I had concerns that it would be too cute and weird for me. Thankfully, I was wrong. It is earnest without being overbearing and both leads are very compelling. The songs are quite terrific and having a peek at the struggling class of the Celtic Tiger is quite novel. It comes across as a less cartoony version of The Commitments. Grade: B+

The Wackness
Much like Once, I had initial apprehensions regarding this movie. Was it just going to be another fairly charming, yet meandering pseudo-indie film? In some ways it was, but in other ways it totally sucked me in. There a whole rhythm to the film that really intrigued me. The young male lead (Josh Peck) quietly builds himself into a very sympathetic character. Ben Kingsley manages to stay a couple of levels below hamminess with a very fun performance. This one is definitely worth checking out. Grade: B+

American Gangster
This was a real disappointment for me. It’s a long, meandering mess. I fell that at least 20 minutes could have been trimmed. I watched the theatrical cut and check the running time constantly. I can’t possibly imagine sitting through the Director’s cut. Both leads are fine, but the whole movie feels like a middle act. Ridley Scott set out to make his Goodfellas or Godfather, but came home with a Blow (another film that didn’t work for me). Grade: C+

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Steve Ditko Cover of the Week: Space War #29

This cover is a reworked splash page from one of the late 50s stories reprinted within. It was also used as the cover to Space Adventures #31, but I much prefer it here. Ditko's signature was repositioned and the image was increase a bit at the bottom. I actually really like the way it was recoloured, as it comes across as very vivid. Almost every colour has been changed, or at the very least, a new shade was select and it is a vast improvement. There are certain aspects of this particular image that have a Pete Morisi vibe to them. Perhaps it is because so man figures are in profile, or perhaps it's the dark, dark brown of the creatures' fur that almost comes across like that heavy Morisi black. In the original image, it's a much lighter shade of brown and the actual strands of fur are much more visible. That it loss with the darkening, but for me, it comes across as much intense. Overall, I really like the way it is laid out, and the main figure's heroic pose is quite dynamic. As an aside, is anyone familiar with the lead story 'Underground War'. The artwork is signed 'A. Elias', and I've got to think it is a clever nom de plume and I don't think it's a reprint as the artwork is very contemporary. Does anyone have any info on that story?

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Tarzan Original Art

As per Gary's request in the comments to my Tarzan post below, here's the double page spread that I mentioned. I got this one 5 years ago through Heritage Auctions, and I think it went for something like $120, which I though was a pretty good price for such an impressive, splash-life piece. I've sold a lot of my original artwork over the years, but I can't see myself selling this one. P. Craig Russell really adds a lot to Sal's pencils. They may for quite a nice team and it's a shame the series ended at this point, but at least it ended with a bang.

Single Issue Hall of Fame: World's Finest #245

OK, now this is one you should all track down. First, we get a very nice Neal Adams cover featuring half the Martian army. As you may know, Martian Manhunter was pretty much adrift in the DCU throughout much of the 70s, so any appearance is welcome. The story is a pretty entertaining Bob Haney yarn with very nice Swanderson artwork. The Green Arrow and Black Canary stories actually form a decent two-parter written by Conway with artwork by Nasser(Netzer) and Austin artwork. Whatever happened to old Ursus? For my money, the final two stories are what really set this issue apart from the rest. There's a terrific Vigilante story with stunning Gray Morrow artwork (I really wish they'd collect all of his 70s Vig stories). Finally, we get one of those awesome WW2 era Wonder Woman stories. I love this story, and I really wish Jim Sherman had been given more Wonder Woman work as he was a natural. There is a sequence where she's playing possum and taken into a Nazi fortress that is absolutely stunning. Find this one and buy it!

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Highlighting House Ads: Captain Flash #3

I'm sure that you know about DC's Big Five war books, and the fact that Fiction House trumpeted its 'Big 6 of Comics' in house ads for years. But did you know that Sterling Comics had its own 'Big 3'? Yup, even before any sales figures trickled in, Sterling decided it was a good idea to join the big boys on the bandwagon and push its family of titles. The only real catch was that both Surprise Adventures and After Dark were finished after their 3rd issues, and Captain Flash only did one better. You'll see a lot of hyperbole in house ads, but this may be the most ambitious one I've ever seen. While Sterling claimed to have packed a punch, it appears that it was more apt at leading with its jaw.