Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all of you. I hope that 2010 was a terrific year for you, and that 2011 proves to be even better. It's been a great year here in Toronto. My health is good, my family is happy and there's still plenty of good books sitting in my 'To Read' pile. The fact that I found Chip Kidd's book on the Big Red Cheese & Co. under the tree this morning leads me to think that next year will be a treat. I resolve to keep plowing ahead through the next year. So long as I can come up with ideas, I'll keep posting. Thanks for stopping by my little blog, and I wish you all a safe and enjoyable holiday. I'll be on break until the first week of January.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Comic Book Robot of the Month: The Thing Called Jeremy

It turns out that this is a bit of a bait and switch cover. Jeremy doesn't not actually look like the robot on the cover, nor the one on the splash page. I really just wanted to feature this one because it's from that short period in time when American Comics Group featured painted covers. They'll all quite attractive, but this Ogden Whitney gem really stands out for me. Technically speaking, Jeremy is really more of an android as he is creating to stand in as the adult son of his creator, Dr. Trimble. They've got something of a Pinocchio/Gepetto dynamic. Jeremy ultimately wants to become more human, and that's his undoing. To tell you the truth, there's not a whole lot of robotic action in this one, but I still love that cover.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Steve Ditko Cover of the Week: The Thing #17

Here's a very early example of Ditko's work. Published in 1954, it seems quite ahead of its time, and would not have been at all out of place as a black light poster hanging in some stoner's dorm room in 1973. I'm quite comfortable declaring Steve Ditko to be the King of the Wizards. I don't really think anyone does them better than Sturdy Steve. Ever heard of Dr. Strange? He's a Wizard. I find the amount of black used in these Charlton covers to be amazing. It really helps set the tone. I can't imagine that there are many copies of this books in high grade. People talk about Amazing Spider-Man #28, but how many Charlton horror books from the 50s managed to survive without white stress marks? We also get some terrific Ditko spider webs and his signature on a scrap of paper. Great stuff, all around!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

New Episode of Married With Clickers

Our second episode is now uploaded to our Podomatic Page and should also be available by searching the iTunes store. This week, Kat and I discuss a variety of recent viewings in the Film and TV world including Mad Men, Amazing Race, Hoarders, 2001: A Space Odyssey and The Freshman. We take a fairly in-depth look at the 1973 Clint Eastwood western High Plains Drifter. There's a lot to discuss here and, after a lot of head scratching, we've still only scratched the surface. I'm sure that papers have been written on the subject. So, take a listen and send us your thoughts via email or voicemail. Due to the holiday insanity, we will likely be on hiatus until the New Year.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Exit Stage Left: House of Mystery #321

Talk about the end of an era! More than 30 years and 3oo issues after it was opened, the House of Mystery closed its doors. Its main contemporary, House of Secrets, had been cancelled in 1978 and The Unexpected put out its final issue in 1982. I really like the topical Mike Kaluta cover. It may not be his best horror cover at DC, but it suits the occasion. While the stories in this issue are fine, it is the framing sequence written by the team of Dan Mishkin and Gary Cohn and drawn by Adrian Gonzalez. In this story, Cain is furious when he discovers that he receives a Notice of Eviction and Demolition. He storms the DC offices and gets argues his case to Karen Berger and Joe Orlando, but to no avail. Things get really crazy in the final few pages when a second Cain begins to narrate the story of the Cain we've been following (Cain Prime?). It's a head scratching, meta textual moment that likely inspired Grant Morrison. All in all, it is a fitting finale to a fine series.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Trade Marks: Coraline

Here's my history of Coraline: I read the book years ago and quite enjoyed it. I have not seen the movie, but look forward to it. I was always vaguely aware that it had been adapted into funnybook format at some point, but never really sought it out. Last week, I spotted it on the shelf at my local library (Yay! Free Comics!) and decided to take it home. The story is a terrific, as Gaimain is a master of setting setting and atmosphere. We're immediately endeared to the young girl all alone in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by people who call her Caroline. Gaiman is aiming for Baum/Carroll territory with this tale and, for the most part, I think he gets there. He has created a wonderful universe and an intriguing set of ground rules. My only real wish is that the characters featured in the bookend segments of the story had been better fleshed out, especially Coraline's real parents. P. Craig Russell was the perfect choice for this adaptation. I hadn't seen his work in years, and he still knows how to tell a story, and his character designs are incredible. I may just have to buy this one. Trade Mark: A-

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

You've Been Warned: Brave and the Bold #71

You'd think this one would appeal to me. It's from my all-time favourite series and stars my #1 and #3 favourite characters. The pair have certain had some good team-ups over the years, but this ain't one of them. The real culprit here is father time. This story has dated sooooo badly. The plot has a Native American angle, and from the moment Batman declares "Holy Peacepipes", you know you're not in for a very racially sensitive story. I actually like the pre-O'Neil/Adams goofy Green Arrow with the bolo arrows and such, but too much of this tale focuses on a convoluted contest and features one of the lamer villains to appear in this series: The Promoter. The whole thing, from Haney's cornball dialogue to George Papp's simplistic artwork, feels like it should have been published in 1957 rather than 1967. If you are trying to complete a B&B run like I did over 20+ years, you may need to buy this one. Otherwise, spend your money elsewhere.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Check out the Married With Clickers podcast

We finally got a new home computer (thanks to those who helped via my eBay sales) and my wife and I have launched a brand new podcast: Married With Clickers. The first show is now available for download (I'm still trying to sort out how to get it on iTunes etc...). You'll see that it's total Amateur Hour right now (or Amateur 43 Minutes to be precise), but we had fun and hope to improve. Our goal is to get a new episode up every 2 weeks for now. This week, we give some quick thoughts on some recent television episodes and a couple of movies, and end with a longer discussion of the 1963 film Charade. Please check it out and let us know what you think, in the kindest and most gentle way possible, of course.

I Loves Me Some: Y: the Last Man

I have been lucky enough to have a colleague with a big comic book budget. Over the last month or so, he has been providing me with a steady supply of Y: The Last Man Deluxe Edition hardcovers. So far, he's saved me over a hundred dollars. I had always heard great things about this series, but never got around to picking it up. In a way, I am glad I waited, as I have plowed through more than 45 issues in a very short span of time. I am not sure if I could have stuck with it month to month, as my patience isn't what it once was, and it was never very good. Churning through this story in a few sittings is likely the best way to read it. I can't wait to see how it all ends.

The premise is fantastic, and is executed very well by showing only tidbits of the catastrophe while avoiding a lot of potential for gore. I always appreciated this kind of restraint, as it allows your imagination to dream up various scenarios. Our sole male survivor, Yorick is a good protagonist as he bring some levity to a post- apocalyptic world. I have been reading (and watching) a lot of Walking Dead lately, so it is refreshing to read something with a lighter tone, although this is certainly not lacking in tension. Brian K. Vaughan and and Pia Guerra do a really good job of building a universe for Yorick and his companions. I also love the way they progress through the years by skipping whole chunks of the narrative. Sure, some of the tangents and subplots are a bit ridiculous but I can't really complain as the entire production requires the suspension of disbelief. I'm happy to do that.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Gil Kane Cover of the Month: Adventures of Rex the Wonder Dog #9

You are all probably aware that Gil Kane drew a number of amazing Rex, the Wonder Dog covers. They are just so much fun, and really harkens back to another era. This is one of my absolute favourites. There are no dinosaurs, no mushroom clouds and no toppling statues, so a beautifully conceived cover. I really love underwater covers (especially those featuring non-aquatic characters), as they are quite suspenseful. In the World War Two based story, Rex and his master, Major Dennis, are trying to hide from Japanese soldiers. Near the end of the story, they must hide in a stream as the soldiers walk by. It's never really explain why Rex needs to be muzzled (would he bark? breathe involuntarily?). Who knows? All I know is that Kane captured the mood perfectly, and made it nearly impossible for a young lad or lass to pass on this book back in 1953. A true classic.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Hidden Gems: Mister Miracle Special (1987)

First of all, let me state that I am actually not the biggest fan of Jack Kirby's Fourth World. For some reason, it just does not resonate with me. My favourite character from that Fourth World, however is Scott Free, aka Mister Miracle. This Special, released not long after the Crisis, kick started a bit of a renaissance for Scott, Barda and Oberon as they'd star in an ongoing Mister Miracle series as well as getting involved with the All-New, All-Fun, Justice League. This book features all of your favourites from Darkseid to Funky Flashman, and most of the action takes place in a circus setting in a fun story written by Mark Evanier. What's most notable about this book, however, is that it has 40 pages of gorgeous artwork by non other than Steve Rude. His work here is absolutely stupendous, so crisp and clean. It's obvious Rude likes a good circus-based adventure as he'd later explore than world in The Moth. I'm sure this one pops up in bargain bins from time to time, so keep you eyes peeled and get ready for a Rude awakening.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Charlton Notebook: Space Adventures #7

There's a moment in Charlton history, right in the middle of the transition from old to new, when the comics seem to coexist in two different eras. Although this book was published in 1969, it seems to come from that period in 1966. At times it is still quite staid, but it also features some hard sci-fi and some fresh art talent. This book some interesting stories with intergalactic war, artificial intelligence and one with a twist ending featuring a peaceful Earth. It is a vast improvement on the early 60s books filled with Bill Molno artwork and lettering by A Machine. These are not the modern stories by Skeates and O'Neil drawn by the likes of Aparo and Ditko, but Pat Boyette and Dick Giordano give it a more updated look, and the subject matter is more sophisticated. The presence of Nicholas and Alascia, as well as some of the lettering, makes me feel as though some of these stories came from inventory. It just doesn't feel like 100% pure Charlton circa 1969.

Friday, December 03, 2010

Reprint This! Have Gun, Will Travel

Yet another title caught in licensing purgatory. There's a slim ray of hope, however, as we've seen more and more licensed stuff has been finding its way onto the shelves at comic book stores. This is a TV show that has maintained its popularity for 50 years, and can certainly be counted among the best remembered TV westerns of all-time. There's a lot to like about the comic book series as well. Including the three issues published as part of the Four Color anthology, the series lasted 14 issues, each of which features a Richard Boone as Paladin photo cover. The majority of the artwork was done by the great Alberto Giolitti, with the underappreciated Frank Bolle filling in on a few issues. As far as I can tell, the bulk of the stories were written by Paul S. Newman. Now, I'm not familiar enough with the TV show to know whether the stories were adapted from the screen but it doesn't really matter to me. I'd pay a pretty nice sum to get a a collection of Giolitti drawn western stories into my collection.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Steve Ditko Cover of the Week: Scary Tales #11

What I really like most about this cover is how the main figures are perfectly centaured. Bad puns aside, I must admit that this is not one of Sturdy Steve's better efforts of the 70s. Actually, it's not a true cover at all, as it is a retouched mirror image of the final panel of the 5-page story 'Unicorn'. A tree stump has been added and the rocky hill on which the unicorn stands has been expanded considerably, as the image really needed to be 'stretched' vertically to fit the dimensions of a cover. I'd love to see the original cover, as it would be a real mash-up of stats and ink. The concept is actually quite fun, and I really like the unicorn in the background, but the human portions of the centaurs are just too stiff looking, and the male's head is wicked small. Ditko's figures lost some of their fluidity from time to time, and it really grabs your attention in all the wrong ways.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Quick DVD Reviews

This was my second attempt to watch this film. The first time, my wife felt that the pizza she was eating and 'The Rules' segment didn't quite mix. We tried again on Halloween night, and it was a fun ride. Woody Harrelson is terrific, and the rest of the cast is very, very strong. That Breslin kid can really do no wrong. I must say that the 'big surprise' (I won't spoil it in case anyone has been in a cave longer than me) was probably the weakest part of the film for me. Overall, a really strong horror comedy - something that's tough to pull off. Grade: B+

Robin Hood
Lovely and Tedious. I wish there had been more focus on the Merry Men and the archery. When those elements were featured, I was totally sucked in. I wanted action and got some sort of political drama. I was also psyched to get my fill of Danny Huston, but he was hardly there and hidden behind a beard. Mark Strong continues to do his thing and he's referred to as 'the Andy Garcia guy' in our household. I swear, he's in 50% of the movies I watch lately. There's just not enough to keep a viewer engaged here, especially for well over two hours. Grade: C+

City Island
Speaking of that 'Andy Garcia guy'... I was very, very pleasantly surprised by the film. I wasn't sure what to expect other than it was some pseudo-indie focusing on a working class family in some exotic NYC locale. This film has a lot of heart, as well as a lot of laughs. Although there's a lot of yelling, it works much better in the quieter moments. Garcia, Marguiles and Watson are all terrific but Steve Strait really steals the show. An operatically ludicrous climax brings all of the elements together quite nicely. A very nice, little film. Grade: A-

Iron Man 2
As you may have guessed, I'm a big comic book fan. If you read my review from a couple of years ago, you'll know that I really loved the first one but this one really sucked. I had low expectations based on the stuff I'd heard. I was prepared for it to be dumber and louder, but I never expected to be bored. The fight at Tony's birthday party was an embarrassment for everyone involved. What does it say about the movie when I wish they'd spent more time on a the SHIELD agent played by Clark Gregg? Grade: C+

Comanche Station
The final of the Budd Boetticher/Randolph Scott films. It's not as interesting as some of the earlier ones, but there's still a lot to like. Scott is stoic and likable as always, and Claude Akins is terrific as the charming villain. He has a wonderful screen presence and an amazing voice. There is also good good humor scattered throughout, which adds a little bit of charm. The action is counterbalanced by a powerful coda that tugs on your heart strings, which is somewhat appropriate as the curtain closes on this era of the Hollywood western. Grade: B

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Comic Book Robot of the Month: The Other Machine Man

Raise your hand if you think George Lucas might have had a subscription to Treasure Chest of Fun & Fact as a child? Anyone know if he went to Catholic School? Ok, Ok - I know that plenty of sci-fi comics and pulps also had cool robots that likely made their way into the Star Wars universe, but this thing really reminds me of a Scout Walker from Empire Strikes Back. It's funny to think that someone had the idea that our future would include a giant two-legged lumberjack robot, equipped with a machete and driven by a dog. Not only that, but it can also accommodate professorial koalas. GE certainly did bring good things to life. I've never actually read this book to know if there is even an accompanying story, but does there really need to be? Doesn't this picture really say it all? In the 50s and early 60s, we thought technology would take all of the hard work out of life. Just think, a man would never have to pick up an axe ever again. He'd just hand the keys over to his dog, and let the deforestation begin.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Chrysler Building Covers

The Chrysler Building is my favourite building in the world or, at the very least, my favourite 20th century building. In NYC, it is often overshadowed (literally and figuratively) by the Empire State Building. While the Empire State Building has King Kong and An Affair To Remember, the Chrysler Building has to settle for Q: The Winged Serpent. Comic book covers with Chrysler Building Covers are much less common than those with Empire State Building Covers, but they are out there. Here are some examples:

Probably the most famous Chrysler Building Cover wasn't even in the original run of covers. The cover to the initial Watchmen TPB featured the Chrysler Building, as seen through the Comedian's broken window. This cover was used for a while, but I think it was replaced by the Have a Nice Day cover at some point. I'll leave it to some Watchmen scholar to fill in the details as to which edition have what cover. I know we've got one of each in the SOTI household.

Keeping with the 'End Is Nigh' theme, check out this cover to Atomic War #1. What a warm and fuzzy book to bring home to your kids. Ace Periodicals had some pretty intense covers during the early 50s, but this one likely takes the cake. If you wanted to give your kids nightmares, just package this book together with a copy of Ace's World War III #1. I have no idea who drew this one, but the message was certainly delivered. As I understand the story revolves around the US military seeking vengeance for the destruction of New York, Chicago and Detroit. Fun.

The thing about Chrysler Building covers, is that many of them also qualify as Empire State Building Covers. Much like the Atomic War cover, Murphy Anderson's cover to Strange Adventures #13 also includes the Empire State Building. In fact, it has most of Manhattan's skyline is on display here including Yankee Stadium, the UN Building and the Statue of Liberty. You know, comic books were certainly New York-centric back in the day (still are, I guess), but can you blame them?

Here's my favourite Chrysler Building cover. There are quite a few reasons that I love the cover to Mighty Samson #18 it. First of all, the Chrysler Building is front and centre and not confined to a supporting role like on so many other covers. Secondly, I love painted covers and this one is gorgeous. I assume that it was painted by George Wilson, and he did a wonderful job here, especially with the vibrant covers. Finally, I love the use of the Chrysler Building in a post-apocalyptic world, the next logic step after the mid-apocalypse themes in the previous three covers. The vegetation climbing up the side is a very nice touch.

Finally, we come to Detective Comics #558. What? You ask. How can the Chrysler Building exist in Gotham City? Well, it's the DCU version of the art deco masterpiece known as the Ardeco Building (clever, huh?). In this tale, Julian Marsh plays the King Kong role, and the Ardeco Building fills in for the Empire State Building. I guess that makes Nocturna (or lack thereof) Fay Wray. Anyhow, none of these 'top of the building' stories ever end well as gravity always wins (Oops! Spoiler Alert). There are more Chrysler Buidling Covers out there folks, so keep you eyes peeled.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Exit Stage Left: New Defenders #152

Life was never really fair to the Defenders. First of all, they were the Marvel Universe's first and only 'non-team', a niche market that never really gained traction. Secondly, through their early days, they played second fiddle to the Fantastic Four and Avengers, and became even less relevant when the X-Men got good. That's too bad, because there were plenty of good Defenders stories and the team consisted of some interesting characters (Gargoyle remains a favourite of mine). The final indignity forced upon the Defenders was that their final issue was tied into the Secret Wars II storyline. For those of you who aren't familiar with that particular miniseries, it was the nadir of comic books in the 80s. This story is a real mess, with page after page of nonsensical dialogue. You know you're in for a rough ride when the Interloper plays the pivotal role in the story. Nothing was working here - even Don Perlin's normally staid but reliable artwork is well below his standard. To make matters worse, it's Double-Sized! Nice Frank Cirocco cover, though.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

A Vote That Will Actually Make a Difference

The lovely couple pictured here has quite a story. Matt and Liz took care of the 'in sickness and in health' part of marriage vows before actually tying the knot. Matt was suffering from renal failure, and Liz stepped up to the plate and gave him one of her kidneys. The most I've ever done for my wife is let her use my toothbrush. As a result of these health issues, they have suffered financially and have signed up for a contest to win a dream wedding. I only know them through the interwebs - various forums and such (isn't that the way these days?), but I wish I knew more people like this in real life. I would consider it a personal favour if you would take the time to register via this link and vote for this deserving couple as often as you can for the remainder of the month.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Single Issue Hall of Fame: Space Ghost (1987)

I was not reading too many comics when Comico first opened up shop, and I now realize that I missed a whole lot of greatness. Their Jonny Quest series is one of my all-time favourites, and I had no idea that they'd produced a Space Ghost book until a fine friend of mine from Kansas City sent a copy my way a while back. What a gorgeous book! It was printed on exceptional paper, and the colours look absolutely stunning. I imagine people felt some of sticker shock when they saw the $3.95 price tag back in 1987. It is worth it, though, as you get 43 pages of Steve Rude channeling Alex Toth. The story, by Rude and Mark Evanier, is a lot of fun as Space Ghost and crew must face the Hanna-Barbera equivalent of the Sinister Six. Evanier's experience in television is obvious here, as the story bounces along at a nice pace. It is a fun and unique book for its era, and about as far from the world of Watchmen and Dark Knight Returns as you can get. Sometimes, that's just what the doctor ordered.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Highlighting House Ads: Ripley's Believe It Or Not (1979)

This ad has always given me the creeps. It may be the disembodied eyeball and it may be the disembodied teeth, but I truly think the creepiest thing about this image is the disembodied hair. So weird! I bought a lot of Gold Keys back in 1979, as I think they were widely available in 3-packs. I really dug Star Trek, Twilight Zone and UFO and Outer Space, but I also wound up with a lot of funny animal books by virtue of those packs. This ad is a slightly revised version of the cover to Ripley's Believe It Or Not #38 (February, 1973). I can understand why they decided to stick with this image, as it has a better shock value than many of the other covers from this series, which often featured Victorian-era ghosts whom were often more elegant than eerie. What surprises me the most is that this ad ran in every Gold Key title. I was recently flipping through an old Daffy Duck book with my 3-year old daughter and we stumbled upon this image. I'm sure that I've scarred her for life.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Horror and Robots on eBay This Week

Well, my home computer has officially died. I'm hoping to find a new one under the tree on Christmas Day, but for now I can only sell what I've already scanned and sent to my work computer. I've got a batch of nice Bronze Age Marvel horror books up for auction, some in lots with very low starting prices. I also have a sharp early Conan and early Kull and a handful of great Magnus, Robot Fighter issues. Sure, it's a real mix of books - but that's precisely what my collection looks like. I may put up a couple of Harvey Giants from the 60s if I can track down my scans. Some good, cheap reads and these will be my final auctions until 2011. I always get a kick of selling books to like minded comic book lovers.

Memoirs of a Bronze Age Baby: Shogun Warrios #2

When I was a kid, I loved the Shogun Warriors. I don't remember ever asking for them specifically as gifts, but I had a collection of 3 ( Great Mazinga, Dragun and yes, Godzilla). I certainly took them for granted at the time, not realizing that I'd never see toys quite this cool again. I only had one other friend with these toys, and he lived 5 hours away in Michigan. I never owned the first issue of this series, but I certainly had this one. I always wondered why my Shogun Warriors never ended up in the comic. It was 25 years later that I learned Marvel's license limited them to the three featured here. To be honest, I think most of the convoluted plot went way over my head (still does). I did love the whole underground bunker, as designed by Herb Trimpe, as well as the 'testing sequence' which really was just an advertisement for the toys. It all seemed so exotic to me. Looking back I can really see the influence Kirby had on Trimpe, especially the one page splash of Lord Maur-kon, but at the time it was just all good eye candy for a 6-year old boy.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Add It To My Want List: Lassie (1978)

For quite a while now, I've been collecting issues from the Dell/Gold Key Lassie series. This title ran for 70 issues, stretched out over nearly two decades. I'm probably only a quarter of the way to completing my run, as various comic book purchasing moratoriums have slowed my progress. What I have read thus far, however, has been incredibly entertaining. The roster of artists on this title is remarkable as it includes luminaries such as Ralph Mayo, Jerry Robinson, Matt Baker and Dan Spiegle. I recently became aware of this 224 page volume published by Golden in 1978. Although I am not certain of its specific contents, I have read that it features a wide variety of stories from different eras in the title's history. On the other hand, I seem to remember reading about a slim volume that collected all of the Matter Baker issues (I think there were three). Could this be that book? Regardless of specifics, I want this book!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Quick DVD Reviews

The Losers
This movie is big, dumb and loud but I had a lot of fun. I had never read the comic book (my Losers are the WW2-based from the 70s nicely drawn by John Severin), but I had no idea what to expect. I really think that Jeffrey Dean Morgan has enough charisma to be a leading man and it was great to see Jason Patric hamming it up. I must day that I didn't feel that neither Zoe Saldana nor Chris Evans brought much to the table. It was instantly forgettable, but it was a fun ride. Grade: B-

Shutter Island
This one, one the other hand, disappointed me quite a bit. I actually like Leo. I don’t know why, but I’m usually ‘with him’ in most movies, even in lesser movies like Blood Diamond. He's become a decent everyman. The story here is just too loopy, and I’m rarely a fan of the unreliable narrator, as it makes me feel detached from the plot. I do dig Mark Ruffalo, though, and he works well as a moral compass. There were also some decent set pieces, but it really didn’t feel like a Scorcese movie. It was a paint by numbers thriller that never quite thrilled me. Grade: B-

The Cynic, the Rat and the Fist
This one came highly recommended, and I was anxious to see some more Euro Crime after having so much fun with Rome Armed to the Teeth. Maurizio Merli can't really be accused of having too much range as an actor, but as a 'lead with the first' kind of cop, he's terrific. In fact, his punches are so powerful that people seem to be flying away even before he lands them. This is a fun romp, but Thomas Milian and John Saxon are both given short shrift in terms of screen time, and it feels like a bit of a missed opportunity. Grade: B

Kick Ass
This one exceeded my expectations by quite a bit. As you likely know, I am a big superhero guy, but even I'm getting burnt out on this kind of movie. I went into it thinking it would be another ironic 'deconstructing the superhero' kind of movie. The cast is quite strong, I think Aaron Johnson has a nice career in front of him. Nicholas Cage was actually just fine. There are some good laughs and some really over the top action sequences with terrific choreography. Everyone seemed to be in on the joke, as this movie didn't take itself too seriously. Good stuff. Grade: B+

They Met in Bombay
TCM screened this Clark Cable/Rosalind Russel film from 1941 a couple of months ago. I thought I was in for a fun diamond heist flick with some witty back and forth dialogue between the leads. That's part of it, but when Gable is forced to go into disguised as a Canadian soldier, it actually turns into a war-time melodrama. I can't think of another film with such an incredible tonal shift. Cable is as charming as every, but Russell seemed a half-step behind throughout the film. It's not really notable on any level, except perhaps for Peter Lorre fans. He makes an all too brief appearance as a Chinese (yes, complete with terrible eye make-up) ship's captain.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Hidden Gems: Ms. Tree #36

Fans of pre-Code crime books and/or pulpy private eyes are likely already aware of this book. For those of you looking for something different the next time you are perusing the bins at a convention, keep an eye out for this book. On its own, Ms. Tree is an excellent series and can often be found for relative peanuts. Beginning with this issue, this series began featuring reprints of the terrific Johnny Dynamite strip, initially published by Comic Media in the early 50s. This is comic noir at its finest, with superbly rendered stories by Pete Morisi. This issue actually a contemporary (and retired, but not retiring) Johnny Dynamite in the within Ms. Tree story "When Dynamite Explodes", along with a Johnny Dynamite reprint. Now that's what I call a back-up feature! The Johnny Dynamite reprints would run throughout the remainder of Ms. Tree's time at Renegade Press. The original Comic Media (and later Charlton) books are very pricey to track down, so this is an affordable way to get your fix of the Wild Man from Chicago!

Friday, November 05, 2010

Trade Marks: Zorro (2008) Vol. 1

I am a pretty big Zorro fan, and the collection of Alex Toth's Zorro stories for Dell is one of my all-time favourite books. I must admit to being very intrigued a few years back, when I heard that Isabel Allende was writing novel starring Zorro. I quite liked that book, but I would not go so far as to say that I loved it. When I spotted this volume is a bargain bin for $6, I could not pass it up. Overall, I would say that Matt Wagner did a good job adapting Allende's work. It is a solid updating of the character and, and Wagner shows restraint by not tearing everything apart by introducing an overly 'grim and gritty' version of the character. He seems to understand that Zorro's fundamental appeal is the mixture of action, charm and humour. The artwork by Francesco Francavilla is about as far from Toth as you can get, but it is still quite appealing with excellent storytelling and action sequences. That being said, this volume is enjoyable yet disposable. I had a fun ride, but there is really nothing that sets it apart from the pack. It's an above average action tale, nothing more and nothing less. Trade Mark: B

Miracle Week on eBay

I'm selling off my Miracleman books on eBay this week. Most of them are in very sweet high grade. It's not the full run, but it is a good start with plenty of the tougher to find issues. I also have an interesting stack of Silver Age books up there. These are all fun books with low starting bids. I've even uploaded a couple of Golden Age oddities - one from 1942. Hopefully you will find something you like.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Reprint This! Buccaneers

I love pirates. You love pirates. Kids love pirates. Why aren't there more comic books about pirates and life on the sea. Once upon a time there were a number of titles filled with sea faring tales. One of the most successful was Quality Comics' Buccaneers. This series took over the numbering from Kid Eternity and ran for 9 issues. The lead character is the Errol Flynn inspired Captain Daring, a man who is apparently afraid of one one thing: shirts. Much of the artwork is provided by Reed Crandall, at the top of his game. Bill Ward and Doll-Man artist Al Bryant also contributed to the series. Israel Waldman obviously thought there was something to this series, as issues #20 and #23 were resuscitated for the IW/Super series Buccaneer in 1958 and #21 was reprinted in 1963 as Buccaneers. Original copies fetch insane prices, so there's obviously interest in the series to this day. I've only seen a copy or two in electronic format, and it has made me hungry for more. Someone please get me a nice TPB right away.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Steve Ditko Cover of the Week: Amazing Spider-Man Annual #1

Here's one of the big ones from Ditko's superhero stint at Marvel in the 60s. When I think of Ditko's great Spidey covers, I often forget about the two terrific annual covers he drew prior to his departure. This one is truly iconic, with the introduction of the Sinister Six. We all know that Stan went a bit overboard with the alliteration, but it fits perfectly with this team's name. What I find to be truly remarkable, it how many members of Spidey's Rogues Gallery were created in such a short period of time. The addition of the Lizard, the Green Goblin and the Chameleon could have increased it to the Nefarious Nine, and the Scorpion and Molten Man were just around the corner. Designing this type of cover can be tricky, as each character needs to play a defined role. Ditko does quite a good job, but some of the poses are a bit awkward and but I do feel as though a more dramatic layout was possible. John Romita's cover to the treasury-sized Marvel Special Edition #1 remains the gold standard in my mind.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Comic Book Robot of the Month: Walaba, the Giant Robot

I am not exactly the biggest Space Ranger fan, but I like a good interplanetary adventure as much as the next person. In this tale from Tales of the Unexpected #68, Space Ranger is hot on the tail of a villain when he is captured by a powerful giant robot. Space Ranger plays possum for a while, but cannot escape a series of elaborate booby traps. It turns out that the robot, named Walaba, had captured Space Ranger by mistake. The nefarious Drecker was he intended target, as Drecker had stolen weapons from Walaba's master.

Walaba is a terrific robot and I really like Bob Brown's design. He has that slightly bulky early Silver Age look to him, taken straight out of the movies. In the end, we get one of those 'Robots with a Heart of Gold' moments, as Walaba steps in front of a ray gun blast to save Space Ranger. I was kind of hoping for a Farewell to the Master type twist at some point, but it wasn't meant to be. Arnold Drake avoids a tragic ending in this story, as it is discovered that Walaba can be repaired. I don't always love a happy ending, but Walaba is indeed worth saving.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

You've Been Warned: Daredevil #222

You know, I love Daredevil. Really, I do but somehow, this is the fourth issue of Daredevil that I've warned you about. What can I say? When the series is good, it's amazing. When it's bad, however, it is pretty brutal. The plot here is quite silly, beginning with a plane crash in the swamps of New Jersey. Daredevil and Natasha bump into each other in said swamp, as they are searching for someone and something, respectively, that that was aboard the plane. That's all fine and dandy, but O'Neil takes this way too far by making New Jersey seems as dangerous as the Amazon rain forest. A snake appears, and it is the size of a python. As far as I know, NJ has two types of venomous snake and both are rare, if not endangered. To make matters worse, it becomes apparent that O'Neil had recently sat through a Deliverance/Hills Have Eyes/Southern Comfort movie marathon. Where Manhattanites really that afraid to take the wrong exit off the turnpike? Even David Mazzucchelli turns in a sub par performance here. It's like an Assistant Editor's Month book, but I think all of the humour was completely unintentional. Ultimately, it's more offensive to New Jersey than anything on Jersey Shore.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

R.I.P. Mike Esposito

I was saddened to hear that we'd lost another classic comic creators. Long-time artist, Mike Esposito passed away at age 83. I feel badly not raving about his work but, for me, he usually fell into the 'solid, dependable but not amazing 'category. The only time I felt that he was truly great was when teamed with his lifelong friend Ross Andru. While I liked his work for Marvel as Mickey Demeo in the 60s was good, and that collaborations with others through the 70s and 80s was professional, it always lacked the magic of the Andru/Esposito team. I really do not like the word synergy, but there really is no better way to described their mixture of talents. They infused each page, and especially covers, with an incredible amount of life. Alongside Andru, Esposito could tackle genres ranging from war to humour. I also have a lot of respect for he and Andru for their trailblazing attempts at self-publishing, both with MikeRoss and Klevart. In case you don't know, the image to the right is from Sea Devils #13, a terrific early 'meta' story. I think that I'll go home and read some Metal Men books tonight. Rest in Peace Mr. Esposito and say "Hi' to Ross for me.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Charlton Notebook: Black Fury #54

A few weeks back, I won an auction for a stack of Black Fury comics from the 60s, including this issue from September, 1965. If you've read enough interviews with classic comic artists, you'll have noticed that many of them tried to steer clear of western books due to the relative difficulty of drawing horses. I imagine that drawing a series with a horse as the star would have driven some artists mad. Black Fury is one of a number of classic comic series featuring a horse as protagonist. This is a pretty standard issue, with simple and enjoyable stories of Black Fury fighting other horses to remain King of the Ramada in one story, while protecting a palomino from rustlers in another. The best story here, A Friend in Need, involves Black Fury paying back a family who had earlier rescued him from drowning. Rocco 'Rocke' Mastroserio is a great fit for this series, as he draws horses beautifully. The Nicholas/Alascia stories are a real step down in quality as far as a I am concerned. Overall, it is good fun and avalaible for relative peanuts.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Love and War on eBay

I'm still looking to save up for a new computer one comic book at a time. I just loaded more than 20 auctions onto eBay today. It's an eclectic mix of Romance and War books from a variety of publishers from 1949 to 1968. Although I'm always a bit sad when it comes to letting go of some old friends, I am comforted by the knowledge that they always find good homes. I'm starting to run out of stuff to sell, so this is probably a good time to get some deals. They all have very low starting bids and I'm hoping that you folks might see something you like on there.

Highlighting House Ads: DC's 1975 Adventure Line

Was this DC's greatest house ad of the 70s? It's one of the first one I remember, and it still intrigues me to this day. I don't think I had ever seen so many characters crammed onto a single page. I am not sure how for how long this ad ran, but I it showed up in quite a few of the earliest books I remember owning. I know that it was supposed to be announcing the short-live Adventure Line, but I was just as intrigued by the other image. I had never seen Deadman before, and he really stood out from the other heroes. I was not familiar with the Mystery characters, but they certainly disturb my young mind. I became quite familiar with the Adventure Line characters at a early age because these books were regular habitu├ęs of my local comic shop's 10 cent rack, as well as the comic box in my grade school's rainy day room. This ad made me very curious about the Avenger and the Stalker, and those remain my two favourite titles from this fun line of comics.