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. http://shop.ebay.ca/sma12e/m.html

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.