Wednesday, May 19, 2010

En Vacances

I'm actually taking the family to Provence, not Paris - but I love this book and couldn't pass it up. I am computer-free for the next couple of weeks so you won't be seeing any new entries until June 7th at the earliest. Hopefully, I get a few moments to catch up on some reading during my trip, but my kids aren't exactly quiet. First vacation in ages, and I'm very excited. I shall return tanned, rested and rested - and possibly stinking of wine and cheese. À Bientôt.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Exit Stage Left: Captain America #454

Remember the mid-90s, when Marvel and DC decided to throw decades of continuity into a blender and produce countless relaunch milkshakes? While the new product was rarely as good as the original, the swansongs are often an interesting read. This story seems like it is straight out of the Silver Age (except for the 90s Imageish artwork and the overly gritty dialogue), with South East Asian labour camps and a motorcycle chase. The action is quite decent, but it is the relationship between Cap and Sharon Carter that I found most intriguing. Sharon has become an outlaw, fighting for freedom outside of S.H.I.E.L.D.'s parameters. She and Cap ultimately find have a meeting of the minds, and part with a renewed sense of mutual respect. It is a solid final issue and it does feel like closing of a long chapter, but it is still not enough to wipe the memory of Heroes Reborn from my mind.

Friday, May 14, 2010

You've Been Warned: Marvel Preview #13

The UFO Connection is a rather strange story about UFOs, time travel and a whiny girl named Sissie. David Anthony Kraft writes a ton of exposition and some terribly annoying dialogue between father and daughter. The moments of the father's near mentalAdd Image breakdown(s) are particularly over the top. The main story is divided into two halves with some text filler in between them. Often, the filler in these mags is quite amusing but for stories about UFO sightings and Illuminati, these are pretty boring. Herb Trimpe's pencils are decent, but I prefer the Klaus Janson inks than those of Pablo Marcos. Overall, the artwork is crowded out by the words. Normally I'm a fan of marvel black and white mags, but this isn't one of them. For completists only.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Trade Marks: Pyongyang

Guy Deslisle spent a couple of month's working for a French animation studio in North Korea's capital and all we got was this wonderful travelogue. Both Delisle's narrative and his artwork are straightforward and stripped of all but the essentials. This was an excellent approach. By taking a backseat to his surrounding, Delisle lets the lunacy of North Korea speaks for itself. This piece is at its best in its darkly humorous moments. Delisle is careful not to simply point and life at his subjects, ensuring that there is an underlying sense of pathos throughout the story. Some of what is revealed is simply jaw dropping, whereas other bits are more typical of life in any foreign land. I'll openly admit that Delisle is now responsible for approximately 80% of my knowledge about North Korea. The book is at its weakest when it began to spin its wheels a bit in the second half, making repeat visits to certain themes. but Delisle closing image, however, is very strong - leaving the reader both hopeful and depressed. Trade Mark: A-

Monday, May 10, 2010

Frank Frazetta: 1928-2010

Word spread quickly today that one of the great illustrators of the 20th Century had passed away. I'm far from a Frazetta expert, but it's impossible for anyone not to be a fan. In the realm of fantasy illustration, his work raised the bar to a level that few could match. Without Frazetta's powerful covers, I doubt that characters such as Conan and Tarzan would have maintained their popularity through the years. He infused an incredible sense of power into each of his pieces. He turned Conan into such a powershouse, that only Schwarzenegger could portray him. Aside from his comic book and paperback illustrations, he also did some terrific movie poster, including this poster for The Gauntlet. I like it because he's able to make Eastwood and Locke look like an urban version of John Carter and Dejah Thoris.

He did some of the finest work the comic book industry had ever seen. His Shining Knight, Buck Rogers and Thun'da work remain highly desirable to this day. He also played a large role in making the Warren magazines such a success. I'm not sure what we would have seen the great work by the likes of Boris Vallejo and Ken Kelly had Frazetta not been such an inspiration. I know that there has been some controversy within the Frazetta family over the last little while, but none of that should take away from the treasure trove of fanstic artwork produced by Frank. R.I.P. and thanks for everything!

Friday, May 07, 2010

Steve Ditko Cover of the Week: Strange Tales #146

How about this one? Can you believe that this was the first Dr. Strange solo cover? First, he took a back seat to the Human Torch, then to the duo of Johnny & Ben and finally to the gang from S.H.I.E.L.D. While this series has plenty of strong covers, I think they missed a great opportunity by not showcasing Ditko's powerful connection to Dr. Strange on more covers. I like to think that this cover was commissioned specifically because it was Ditko's swansong on the strip. In all likelihood, it was pure coincidence. What a great cover, though. I really think that a character as ethereal as Eternity could only have been designed by Ditko. A nice way to end a fabulous stint at Marvel, as his final Spidey cover is not one of my favourites.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Highlighting House Ads: Marvel 1979

Look at all of these wonderful books. I have a ton of comics from 1979, but somehow I don't own a single one of these books. How did that happen? I was young back then, and even something as inexpensive as $3.95 would have seemed outrageous to me. It's too bad that none of these ever ended up under my Christmas tree, though. I'd really love to have that Surfer book. I've admired it for ever, but have never come across a bargain copy. That boxed set of Origins and Son of Origins would be pretty sweet, too. I think Marvel has reprinted the How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way in recent years, as I believe I spotted it recently at an LCS. I don't know if 1979 has been remembered "for the greatest Art Classics ever" as the hyperbolic text claims, but it should features some pretty cool collections. The thing I love the most, is that Simon & Schuster picked up the postage. Where's my time machine?

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Reprint This! Dell's Universal Monsters

At some point in the early 60s, Dell acquired the license to publish comic books based on the Universal monsters. Some of these were adaptations of the films, while others were original stories. Most were reprinted at least once in the 60s (some in the Movie Classic series), but I don't believe that any of these have seen the light of day since then. Of course, these are now trapped in licensing purgatory, but wouldn't it be great if someone could convince Universal to allow them one more press run? All five books: Dracula, Frankenstein, the Mummy, the Wolfman and the Creature would result in one amazing TPB.

According to the GCD, the Frankenstein book is only loosely based on the first James Whale movie. With the Vic Prezio cover, and the promise of Bob Jenney art, I'd be happy if it adapted Frankenstein and the Monster From Hell. More Jenney art can be found in the Wolfman book, which is an original story. As far as I know, the Dracula book is not based on the Stoker book, nor the Tod Browning film. I'm not sure about the Mummy book (is this the rarest of them all?), but it features Jack Sparling artwork, and I bet he tackled this material quite nicely. I have read the Creature book, and it is an awesome adaptation of the film, with superb Jenney art. I'd like a volume in colour with nice reproductions of the covers, as they are fantastic. A couple are by Prezio, are the others by LB Cole? Dark Horse, this seems to be right up your alley. I'm on my virtual knees.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Gil Kane Cover of the Month: Sensation Mystery #115

The cover to Sensation Mystery #115 (May-June, 1953) first caught my eye back in the early 80s, when I saw it in the colour cover gallery of an Overstreet Price Guide. It is one of the most beautifully designed covers to any DC horror/mystery book. The 'stairway to nowhere' is the perfect hook for grabbing a young reader's attention. I love how the guy with the candelabra lets the woman go first down the stairs: "After you, my dear". The shadows on the stone wall are perfect. The GCD states that Frank Giacoia inked this one, and I can't argue with that. I certainly don't think that it was Joe Giella or Bernard Sachs, two men who worked on many of the Kane covers of the period. Although this was several years into Kane's career at DC, you can still see the Caniff school nfluence in his faces. I adore this cover, and would love to get my hands on a copy of the actual book.