Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Trade Marks: The Adventures of Nightwing and Flamebird

I saw this TPB deeply discounted and could not resist picking it up. I’ve owned a large stack of Superman Family books over the years, but only a couple ha d stories featuring the Kandorian duo. I can only assume that something in the current DCU inspired this book, as I can’t believe that it would otherwise have been put together. There is a single Silver Age story, and then we move into the back-up strip from Superman Family. Paul Kupperberg's scripts vary in quality, and it is tough to get much in the way of characterization in a mere 8 pages. Kandor appears to be on the brink of civil way throughout most of these tales, but this is never explored in much detail. Ken Landgraf's artwork improves as the volume progresses, but is never anything more than average. The final story was drawn by Marshall Rogers, who was not a great fit. Another problem with this type of collection is that sometimes you only get a fraction of a larger story arc. This occurs when parts of a larger Kandor-based story from Superman Family #188 are omitted, leaving the reader wondering what has transpired. Overall, it was a disappointment as I wish more Silver Age material had been included. It was fairly entertaining, but immediately forgettable. I cannot recommend this one unless you find it in a bargain bin. Trade Mark: C+

Monday, June 28, 2010

Gil Kane Cover of the Month: T.H.U.N.D.E.R Agents #14

I love finding non-DC and non-Marvel Gil Kane covers from the 1960s. There aren't that many of them and they show up in some pretty strange places (more on that in a later installment). Here's one that I have always loved. I'm not sure who came up with the design for the Raven, but I think that it is absolutely gorgeous, and informed later costumes such as the second version of the Falcon's costume as well as Star Lord. The snapshot of action is nice - I like the falling car, and the broken fence and our distressed damsel has a Peggy Lipton vibe. The only thing I'd change is the rather garish red background. Kane also provided the interior art for the Raven story. Kane's Raven is sleek and powerful, a real stark contrast to Manny Stallman's ball of energy. I don't mean to knock Stallman, as I really dig his work on this strip. This is about as iconic as a Tower Comics image can get, and it was re-used for the T.H.U.N.D.E.R Agents #19 mash-up cover.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

#1 - Top 12 Favorite Comic Book Short Stories

Is a Snerl Human? Adventure Comics #431 (January-February, 1974)
Sheldon Mayer & Alex Toth - 8 pages

My runaway choice for the #1 spot is what I consider to be one of the finest comic book tales of all time. "Is a Snerl Human?" by Sheldon Mayer and Alex Toth (a wonderful collaboration of legends) is the back-up story to Adventure Comics #431, a book best known for containing the initial installment of the wrathful Spectre stories. It's unbelievable how Mayer and Toth can comment on the impact of mankind's cruelty and bloodlust in so few pages. This story is both touching and terrifying. I've been reading Dr. Seuss' Sneetches to my kids a lot recently, and I look forward to reading this one with them some day. They are both timeless and impactful stories. To the best of my knowledge, this has never been reprinted. That is a real shame.

I highly recommend that you check our the threads at Classic Comics at CBR. There are lots of wonderful stories selected by a group of very wise and passionate posters. I know that I now have a lot of books to track down.


#2 - Top 12 Favorite Comic Book Short Stories

Once Upon a Time... Detective Comics #500 (March, 1981)
Len Wein and Walter Simonson

2 pages, 12 panels and 39 words. That is all you need to tell the perfect Batman story. It has drama. It has suspense. It has action. It even has a dash of romance. I was 9 years old when I picked up this fantastic book. The story resonated which me on visceral level back then, and it still does today.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

#3 - Top 12 Favorite Comics Book Short Stories

The Best of All Possible Worlds [Case 634] - The Many Ghost of Doctor Graves #5 (January, 1968)
Steve Skeates and Jim Aparo - 8 pages

Over the years, I've written countless posts about this brilliant story by the fantastic team of Aparo and Skeates. It goes meta long before it became fashionable, and I can only imagine that Grant Morrison must have read it as a child. Charlie Droople and his girlfriend Dorothy find themselves trapped within a comic book story. The thing is, one of them isn't all that bothered by the predicament. I'll let you guess which one. It's funny, mindbending and utterly charming.

Monday, June 21, 2010

#4 - Top 12 Favorite Comic Book Short Stories

Just Her Speed - Crime Suspenstories #27 (Feb-March, 1955)
Al Feldstein & Bernard Krigstein, 6 pages

I love, love, love Berni Krigstein. Perhaps Master Race or even Key Chain deserve recognition as his 'best' work, but we are talking favourites here, so I have got to go with this taut little piece of comic noir. This story about a very powerful woman, but she doesn't even appear until the very last panel. Krigstein's artwork is very strong here, with inventive layouts and a some terrific facial expressions. He's one of the true greats, and I'm surprised that this story isn't mentioned more as one of his best.

#5 - Top 12 Favorite Comic Book Short Stories

There's No Hope in Crime Alley - Detective Comics #457 (March, 1976)
Denny O'Neil and Dick Giordano - 12 pages

What more can really be said about this story? It is certainly one of the most iconic Batman tales of all-time. It is dramatic, exciting, touching and manages to end on a happy, even funny, note. O'Neil and Giordano were working in perfect harmony here. For me, the highlights are the terrific single page origin and the conversation between Batman and Leslie Thompkins. She manages to bring out the humanity in Bruce, and that is really the key to Batman for me. It's important for there to be a heart underneath the grim & gritty exterior. I was surprised that this one came in at 12 pages, but I am delighted to be able to include it here.

#6 - Top 12 Favorite Comic Book Short Stories

Who Toys With Terror - Weird Tales of the Macabre #2 (March, 1975)
George Kashdan & John Severin - 8 pages

I'm quite surprised by how many horror stories are on my list, but I guess they fit nicely into the short story format. Atlas-Seaboard published a lot of crap during the mid 70s, but this is one of their great hidden gems. The story centres aroudn a boy who loves his Aurora Model Monsters. His uncle does not like the toys, and is plotting against the young lad. In the end, the toys reciprocate his love very nicely. Kashdan never wrote a story this fun during his tenure at DC. The real highlight, however, is John Severin's amazing artwork. This is as good as it gets folks. It's too bad that this story wasn't published by one of the Big Two as it would have been reprinted a million times by now.

Friday, June 18, 2010

#7 - Top 12 Favorite Comic Book Short Stories

Telescope - Tales from the Crypt #45 (Dec-Jan, 1955)
Carl Wessler & Jack Davis, 7 pages

This is the only EC horror story in my top 12 (although a few have an EC vibe, and I have one EC noir/crime tale). It's a fun little story about a shipwreck survivor's search for a meal. The problem is, a rat also survived and has the same idea. It's a fairly typical EC yarn, with plenty of black humour and a very nice pay-off. It is elevated to classic status by the brilliant Jack Davis artwork (he also supplied the cover). He is a true master of the artform, and I am always surprised when his name isn't included in lists of all-time greats. This one puts a smile on my face each and every time I read it.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

#8 - Top 12 Favorite Comic Book Short Stories

The Case of the Smeary Mirror - Little Lulu #142 (April, 1960)
John Stanley & Irving Tripp, 5 pages

As I've noted elsewhere, I was a latecomer to the genius of Little Lulu and company. This was the first 'Tubby as the Spider' story I ever read, and it still delights me to no end. I just love Tubby's wacky logic and his determination to pin everything on Lulu's Dad.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

#9 - Top 12 Favorite Comic Book Short Stories

The Missing Link - Tales of Suspense #31 (July, 1962)
Stan Lee and Steve Ditko - 5 pages

Stan Lee and Steve Ditko collaborated on so many short morality plays that it's difficult to pick just one. For my money, "The Missing Link" is one of the best. It also happens to be the first one I ever remember reading. It originally appearing in Tales of Suspense #31, but I discovered it via a copy of Where Monsters Dwell #36, which I picked up from my local shop's 10 cent rack 30 years ago. It was this story that helped me make the connection that this was the guy who drew Shade, Captain Universe and so many of great stories I'd read. The story is a simple one; it involves a man allegedly from Earth's past who may just be able to warn mankind about its future. Stan Lee's twist ending pays homage to both EC and Rod Serling.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

#10 - Top 12 Favorite Comic Book Short Stories

The Cask of Amontillado - Creepy #6 (December, 1965)
Adapted by Archie Goodwin & Reed Crandall- 8 pages

I was a huge Poe fan as an adolescent, so I was delighted when I later discovered the Poe adaptations scattered throughout various Warren magazine. Being buried alive is certainly a terrifying concept, but the thought of being slowly 'bricked in' really rattles me. Reed Crandall's artwork is simply gorgeous, and Goodwin is able to make Poe's prose more accessible for a 20th century crowd. He does, however, append an ECish epilogue that really doesn't do much for the story, and is the culprit for this one not being higher up my list. This was has been reprinted a few times in later mags.

#11 - Top 12 Favorite Comic Book Short Stories

People In Glass Houses Shouldn't Hurt Hulks! - Incredible Hulk #262 (August, 1981)
Bill Mantlo & Sal Buscema - 10 pages

One of two great stories from one of my all-time favourite comic books. As it was the lead, I was convinced it would surpass our 12 page limit. Lucky day. This one haunted me the entire summer of '82. Bruce Banner washes up on a beach in Malibu and is taken in by a benefactor with a sinister secret. This one plays out like a really good Twilight Zone episode. I found the whole concept to be truly horrifying. Sal Buscema did an amazing job of conveying the look of terror on the faces of the 'statues'. The one in the pool really freaked me out. I think this one messed up my ability to trust beautiful women.

#12 - Top 12 Favorite Comic Book Short Stories

Over at Classic Comics at Comic Book Resources (where I serve as humble moderator), we're discussing our favorite self contained short stories (between 2 and 12 pages). I thought I would re-post my selections here. I encourage everyone to check out the threads and if you aren't already a member - register and join the discussion. Here's a link: ttp://forums.comicbookresources.com/forumdisplay.php?f=17

The Little Town of Resistance - Blackhawk #271 (July, 1984)
Mark Evanier & Joe Staton - 6 pages

As much as I adore the team of Mark Evanier and Dan Spiegle on the lead stories in this series, I really get a kick out of the shorter Blackhawk Detached Service Diary stories. My personal favourite is this 6-pager about a stubbornly brave French village that, ultimately, cannot quite live to its name. It's a nice little philosophical piece by Evanier, with lovely and understated artwork by Joe Staton. In fact, I like it so much that I tracked down the final page which is framed and hanging on a wall in my house.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Fake Book Covers

Here's an interesting design for comic book covers that has popped up every now and then over the decades. Let's take a look at a few examples.

Comics Novel #1 (1947) featuring the superbly named Anarcho, Dictator of Death, is one of the most interesting Golden Age comics books I've ever encountered. To be clear, I have never actually seen a copy but I do recall reading about it back in Comic Book Marketplace in a Pat Calhoun article. It was written by the great Otto Binder and is an early example of a villain taking the starring role. Underappreciated Golden Age artist provided this wonderfully designed cover and all of the interior artwork.

A few years later, Fox published A Feature Presentation #5 (1950), which was the only issue of the series. Fox later put out an adaptation of Moby Dick under a similar title. To be perfectly honest, I don't know the first thing about this particular comic book, but I really do love how the price has been slashed down from $1 to a mere dime. Those folks at Fox certainly were generous. If it is likely most Fox books I've seen, the interior artwork/story won't live up to the cover. Good concept, though.

Simon and Kirby got in the game with the cover to In Love #1 (September, 1954). Again, like the two earlier examples, they are really pitching the fact that it is a book length novel, and that is perhaps why they've decided to disguise it as a hardcover book. It a nicely designed piece by Kirby, and the second issue also has a similar look. I don't think that Kirby ever did another one like these. Boy, would ever loved to see all of the Mainline output collected in one volume.

Our Army at War #148 (November, 1964), featured a fake book cover by Joe Kubert. This was the second chapter of a two parter, as the previous issue also has this type of cover. There are some really interesting cover designs on this series, and these two are no exception. The story was reprinted in Sgt. Rock Special #4, but they declined to commission a cover in this vein. That's too bad.

The terrific cover to Tomb of Dracula #56 (May, 1977) by Gene Colan & Tom Palmer is a perfect fit for the storyline. The enthusiastic Harold H. Harold has penned a book on every one's favourite vampire (remember, these are the pre-Team Edward days), so it is a great opportunity to revive the 'fake book' cover. I wonder what ever happened to Harold. Did he ever return to the Marvel Universe?

So, there's a bunch of them to track down. I can think of a few others (including the three Wonder Woman covers from the early 80s and some of the Fast Fiction covers), but they never really caught on.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

I Read Something New: Doc Savage #1

As you may have guessed, I don't read too many recent comics. When I see something up my alley - I will give it a shot. I was able to pick up this book at half-price, and the combination of Doc Savage and the Avenger was something I could not pass up. Sadly, my hopes for a great revival were immediately dashed. The lead story was all over the place. I've never been a fan of Howard Porter's art, but his storytelling is particularly poor here. Several narrative hiccups forced me to re-read pages in an attempt to understand the flow of the story. For anyone who has read it - what was that bit about "This is what you've decided to be scared of?" after Renny appears? All in all, it was a mess. I much preferred the Justice Inc. back-up feature, both in terms of writing and artwork. Scott Hampton's artwork has that photo-realistic vibe, and it works quite well here. We are sucked into the story immediately, and it ends with a nice cliffhanger. Not bad for 10 pages, but not enough to get me to pick up issue #2. Grade: C-

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Who Drew this Story from Young Love #59?

I'm back from my vacation with a question about a story from 1967; "The Truth About Men" from Young Love #59. I love the artwork on this story, it is just so stunningly beautiful and moves seamlessly from panel to panel. I'm normally pretty good when it comes to spotting artists, but I start to second guess myself when it comes to DC Romance (unless it's Colan or Sekowsky). Can someone help me out here? Ms. Nodell?