Friday, December 23, 2011

Reprint This! Hot Wheels

Like so many titles I have previously discussed in this column, this one is likely stuck in licensing hell. DC got into the TV and Toy tie-ins during this era (see Captain Action and Bomba), but this one was a real standout. Hot Rod comics had been around forever, and were on the decline by the time the first issue of Hot Wheels hit newsstands. Still, it was a valuable property and DC knew exactly which creative teams to bring on board. Alex Toth had done plenty of work for Drag Cartoons and had a way with cars. They also made sure that they got some fantastic Adams/Giordano covers to help pump sales. Jack Keller and Ric Estrada, both strong auto-artists, also made contributions. Apparently, none of this worked as the series was short-lived. They can be found, but it may take you a while. I have been buying these off and on for years and I am still a two issues short of a complete run. I would love to have it all in one volume so that I could revel in the amazing artwork.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Trade Marks: Asterios Polyp

It is incredible to see what creators like David Mazzucchelli are trying to do with the art form. This feels like something a Saul Bellow or Richard Ford would create if they knew how to draw (my apologies to those gents if they do, indeed, draw well). This is the story of a rudderless man, reflecting on his life, or lack thereof. The balance between struggle between intellectual superiority and happiness is front and centre. Our hero is morally ambiguous at best, but we identify with him enough that the pathos is palpable. I must admit that there is a depth here that I may have missed. If I had more background in architecture and/or Greek mythology I may have gotten more out of it. In any case, the layers make it ripe for a revisit. My main complaint is at there is a certain emotional flatness to the characters in the story, although it may all be tied to the downside of apathy. It is a beautifully designed book, but I was quite happy to find it for half price. Solid stuff - just short of a masterpiece. Trade Mark: A-

Monday, December 19, 2011

Steve Ditko Cover of the Week: Daughters of Time

This, my friends, might be the most obscure Steve Ditko cover that I every discuss in this space. Daughters of Time was published in 1991 by 3-D Zone comics. Never heard of it? Neither had I until recently. I love Ditko and I love Kurt Schaffenberger, but this cover just does not work for me. I think it is a combination of the disorienting layout and the garish colours. As far I can recall, this is the only time these two artists collaborated. I'd love know if they worked together elsewhere, as they would be an interesting team. The GCD tells me that it's 100% Schaffenberger on the inside. $3.95 was pretty pricey back then, and I wonder if this book lived up to its price tag. The hunt begins, my curiosity cannot be sated until I own it.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Hidden Gems: Metal Men #21

Truth be told, this is actually a below average Metal Men book. We all know that their adventures tend to be quite silly, but silly can be fun. This is mostly dull. The main problem is that the Plastic Perils are not all that perilous. Before you think that I actually meant to slot this into the 'You've Been Warned' category, let me tell you why it is worth owning. What makes this issue special is that it features some brief, yet charming cameos by some of the DCU's biggest stars. Batman & Robin, Wonder Woman and the Flash all make appearances, declaring their admiration for the Metal Men and wishing they all had more time to hang out. This is a good one for fans of crossovers, as it serves as a good example of the powers that be at DC trying to shoehorn big name characters into lesser known titles.

Thursday, December 01, 2011


Dear friends and SOTI regulars. I am not dead. I have not lost my internet connection and I certainly have not lost my love of blogging. The company for whom I work has been involved in a major transaction and I (being the idiot who thought law school was a good idea) have been buried in a mountain of paperwork and an endless stream of emails since mid-August. I will return soon.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Trade Marks: Marvel - 1985

I picked this up knowing nothing about it, but have since learned that it was surrounded by a decent amount of hype. I do like Mark Millar's work, but I feel as though he can sometimes get tripped up by his own cleverness. We are deep in high concept, meta textual land here, as some sort of portal opens between the 'real' world and the Marvel Universe. The good news is that when it works, it is splendid. The brutality of the villains is on full display, and the sense of impending danger is really well portrayed. What does not work, however, are the characterizations of the 'real' people. The father and son protagonists are poorly fleshed out and the relationships are only dealt with at a superficial level. The artwork is strong at times, but the storytelling gets quite muddles in certain sequences. All in all, it is a gimmick book that falls far short of its intended target. Trade Mark: C

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Gil Kane Cover of the Month: Island of Doctor Moreau

I love the fact that Marvel saw fit to use Kane as the go-to cover guy during the 1970s. This particular cover has all of the elements necessary to get a fanboy's attention. The floating heads of the Beast Men look terrific, and his character design for the creatures is spot on. Of course, Michael York looks a bit more buff, and Lancaster's Moreau even more menacing but I'll chalk that up to artistic license. It's a very powerful cover and, although I like Larry Hama's artwork, I really wish Gil Kane had be tasked with the interior pencils. If you want to hear me chat about the movie, check out my guest appearance on the Gentleman's Guide to Midnite Cinema:

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Single Issue Hall of Fame: Detective Comics #483

As we all know, Dollar Comics are awesome. This one, however, is one of the awesomest. First of all, there's a gorgeous two-panel cover by Jose Garcia-Lopez cover. The lead story, "The Curse of Crime Alley" is very strong, with artwork by the team of Don Newton and Dan Adkins. In fact, I like the artwork so much, that I have a page of it hanging in a frame on a wall in my TV room. There are a few more treats between the covers, including a Ditko drawn Demon story and a real Oddball classic entitled "Gotham's Great Kangaroo Race", with artwork by Dick Dillin and Frank McLaughlin. It must have been one of Dillin's final jobs. It is fitting that such the man who pencilled many a crazy Blackhawk and JLA story still got selected for the nutty stuff. Grab this book - you will love it.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

I Loves Me Some: Star Wars - Heir to the Empire

I grew up a Star Wars fan, but never really followed much of the expanded universe stuff. I did read the three Timothy Zahn books back in the 90s, when I was an undergrad and looking for a fun distraction. Now that my children are showing a real interested in the Star Wars films, I've been keeping my eye out for affordable comics books to give them when they reach the appropriate age. I had never read any of the comic adaptations of the Zahn trilogy, so I was happy to find these at less than a buck a book. The story remains quite strong, and I think Mike Baron's script gives it room to breathe. There are a lot of characters and subplots to fit in, and I think he did an admirable job. What really blew my mind, though, was the artwork by Olivier Vatine and Fred Blanchard. It is highly stylish and incredibly dynamic. Good stuff all around. Dark Horse was obviously very concerned into getting a high quality product into the hands of highly demanding readers.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Charlton Notebook: Charlie Chan #7

The mid-50s was an interesting time at Charlton. They had acquired a series of titles from various publishers and suddenly became something of a publishing empire. One of the 'new' titles at Charlton was Charlie Chan, which arrived via Prize/Crestwood, hence the Simon & Kirby house look to the book. This was the second Charlton issue of this short-lived series, and the final one to feature leftover inventory from Prize/Crestwood. I'm not entirely sure who did the artwork here, as I know that everyone from Dick Briefer to Manny Stallman worked on this series, and it has that over whelming Prize feel to it. The stories are fun, and pretty innovative. It is really too bad that the funnybook world has moved away from the mystery genre. Have a look at the Number One son, Jimmy's face on the cover (which is taken from an inside semi-splash) here. Doesn't it have a Gil Kane look to it?

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Add It To My Want List: Lone Ranger #24

Some of you may know that I am a pretty big Dell's Lone Ranger series. I started collecting issues with painted covers (blue shirts only please - had to draw the line somewhere) and have slowly amassed more than 50 of them. I have always known that Gold Key had a Lone Ranger series in the 70s, but always assumed that they were reprints. I scanned the GCD cover gallery and noticed some new images and I can only guess that these must have some new material. Even if they don't, those are still new covers so I want them. Badly. I will start my collection of these new covers with issue #24 because I absolutely adore the hot air balloon scene. I'm going to It is completely incongruous with a traditional Lone Ranger tale, but also perfectly in step with the fun tone of the series. I can only guess that George Wilson was responsible for this one, as he was the master of the painted cover at Gold Key during this period.

Friday, September 09, 2011

Steve Ditko Cover of the Week: Showcase #75

Every now and I like to return to a true Ditko classic an look at it with fresh eyes. The funny thing about Ditko's work on the Hawk and the Dove, two characters greatly associated with him, is that he only did three covers in all. There's a lot here that seems pretty offbeat for 1968. To begin with, the lay out (with the multiple panels and framing) is more akin to an anthology book from the 50s than a late 60s superhero book. While's Ditko's bird illustrations may not be 100% zoologically accurate, they are certainly intriguing and quite stirring. All of this is set against a stark, black background. There's so much going on here symbolically, that one almost doesn't notice Hank and Don Hall at the bottom corners, looking like Ditko's interpretation of what a typical Riverdale High student. Ditko's trying to say something important here and, for the most part, it works.

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Trade Marks: Omega the Unknown - Classic

I was fortunate enough to find this collection in a 3 for $10 sale (yup, you read that right). I own more than half of the original series in floppies, but had somehow never gotten around to finishing a full run. The concept is quite intriguing and much of what Gerber, along with Mary Skrenes, was doing here was way ahead of its time. Unfortunately, it no longer seems all that fresh. In addition, the need to shoehorn it into the Marvel universe led to an awkward result. Jim Mooney's artwork is solid throughout. He is a terribly underrated storyteller. Gerber's treatment of youth violence may be a bit over the top, but he should be given credit for having the guts to kill off a child. The series had a lot of promise, and manage to rise above a lot of the mid-70s NYC dialogue, but the wrap up in The Defenders was far from satisfying, and gave me a bit of a headache. All in all, it is an enjoyable read, and is historically significant as it informs much of what would eventually become commonplace in funnybooks. This is an attractive trade, but only has the bare minimum in terms of extras. Trade Mark: B

Saturday, September 03, 2011

You've Been Warned: What If? (vol. 2) #37

I like Wolverine, I really do. Hell, my son's name is Logan. What I do not like, however, is the over saturation of the character that occurred in the early 90s. I really enjoyed the original run of What If? back when I was a kid, as most of the stories were wonderful tweaks to Marvel history. So, as a high school student, I was delighted to see that the concept had been relaunched. The problem wih this new incarnation was that it was followed all of the trends of the day. This particular issues springboards from What If? #24, from the previous year, which was not a terribly great story dealing with X-vampires. This one is far worse, as it is really just a series of battles and poor dialogue delivered on splash pages by yet another Liefeld clone, this one know as Marc Pacella. Forgive me if he's gone on to do wonderful things, but the artwork here is horrendous. With stories such as this, I cannot understand how this volume far outlasted its predecessor.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Memoirs of a Bronze Age Baby: Uncanny X-Men #128

Have I ever mentioned that this was my first X-Men comic book? Well, it was. I remember it being part of a 3-pack my parents bought for me at the airport. Apart from a non-costume reprint story from the Astonishing Spider-Man tabloid, this was my first exposure to Marvel's less than merry band of mutants. Even as a young lad, I think I knew that everything looked better inked by Terry Austin. I was really intrigued by the character design of Colossus. I was not buying comics with an overall game plan back then (I had just turned 7 years old), but I made sure that I got a copy of #129 when it was released. There really is something very special about this particular special about this era in X-Men history and I'm happy that I climbed aboard when I did. Strange to think that I was pretty much stopped reading it by #160. I probably felt I was getting too old for comics.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Comic Book Robot of the Month: Irona

Richie rich lived in a very interesting corner of the Harveyverse, surrounded by a number of interesting characters. One of the most colourful members of the supporting cast is Irona, his robot housekeeper. She did much more than merely vacuum the rich mansion, as her unique skill set made her part security detail and part detective. She appeared in well over 100 stories and was an integral part of the Rich household. Irona was also featured in two different Richie Rich animated series, circa 1980 and 1996, and made an appearance in the straight to video live action film Richie Rich's Christmas Wish. Not many comic book robots have achieved that level of multi-media success.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Listen to Married With Clickers

Ok, so I have not pimped our podcast in a while but the time has come to try to get some new listeners from you Seduction of the Indifferent readers. We've now go more than 30 episodes published, so there should be a movie for just about every taste. In recent weeks, we've discussed 28 Days Later, The Swimmer, The Outsiders, La Belle et La Bete and Death Wish. While my wife and I do it for fun (it is nice to share a hobby), it is always great to know that there are listeners out there and even better when a new listener comes aboard. Give us a listen, let us know what you think and maybe even what movies you'd like to hear us review down the line. All shows can be downloaded from iTunes (just search Married With Clickers in the iTunes store) our directly from our Libsyn site at

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Exit Stage Left: Adventure Comics #503

This one really saddens me. Adventure Comics was such a great series, and extremely important from a historical context. Sandman, Starman, Superboy, the Legion of Superheroes, Supergirl and the Spectre all called it home at one point or another. During the final few years, the series really struggled to find an identity, ultimately become a Digest sized reprint book. That's not to say they weren't quality reprints, but the writing really was on the wall. This issue features a variety of stories from 60s Legion material to a mid-70s Zatanna story to the first Guardian & Newsboy Legion appearance. Another highlight is the cover gallery, featuring three covers from the 1930s. I love the border on the front and back covers. Try to see if you can name all of the characters!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Gil Kane Cover of the Month: Strange Adventures #81

Even though I was not even born until 1972, I somehow feel nostalgic for the fun, science fiction covers of the 1950s. I mean, can a cover really get any more fun that the cover to Strange Adventures #81 (June, 1957)? There seems to be a bit of prototyping (if that's not a word, it should be) with a neat hybrid of Green Lantern, the Atom and even the Trigger Twins. Out hero(es) even looks like a Ray Palmer/Hal Jordan love child. This is a beautifully designed cover, and luckily neither the dialogue nor the caption obscure the artwork too much. I'm particularly fond of the use of the edge of the bunk to help establish the perspective. Being a Kane cover, I half expected this prison to issue purple uniforms to its inmates.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Single Issue Hall of Fame: Incredible Hulk Annual #5

This book is an absolute must-have for fans of pre-Fantastic Four #1 Atlas monsters. For one reason or another, an unseen villain has decided to duplicate a selection of monsters that have been kept secret by the US government. The raison d'etre of these creatures is to take down old Green Skin. A few details are skipped over, like the indentity of the villain and the explanation of why he didn't just have them all attack the Hulk at the same time. It's really just an excuse for Chris Claremont to play around in a circa 1960 sandbox and that's more just fine with me. Of course, Jack Abel's inks don't do much for Sal Buscema's terrific pencils. There's one panel in which Hulk looks as though he was drawn by a 5 year old. It all ends rather abruptly, but so did Stan's old 6 pagers. Good stuff.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Hidden Gems: Legion of Super Heroes Annual #1

I really love the Legion, but I'm not one of those hardcore fans who knows the badge number of every single member of the Science Police. I'm also a bit fuzzy on post-1983 Legion stuff, so I always approach hoping that I won't come out the other side with a headache. I found this annual in a dollar bin, and could not resist the value I was getting on a 'pennies per page' basis. I had lowish expectations, but must admit that I was very pleasantly surprised to find a well told mystery tale that did not require an advanced degree in Legion Studies as it provides an accessible and intriguing look at the 31st century. The artwork is sharp throughout and, without spoiling too much, there's a really crafty tie-in to the DCU of the 20th century. It's a solid 'one and done' tale and that's one of the reasons I find myself seeking out Annuals from the 80s and 90s these days.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Reprint This! Nemesis

As I may have mentioned before, Brave and the Bold is my all-time favourite comic book title. The final 60 or so issues of this series were published during the peak of my childhood comic book reading. The thing is, I never really had much time for Nemesis. I didn't care for complex espionage stories and I felt that Dan Spiegle's artwork was downright ugly. Yes, I had a lot to learn. So, now I have come to love Spiegle and these kinds of stories. The problem is that I need to dig out my floppies and read these stories 8 pages at a time (save for the two team-ups with Batman). By my count, there is well over 200 pages of material here, and it would make for a terrific collection. Sadly, DC does not seem to realize that there is a market, albeit a limited one, for its non-superhero stories. Put Batman on the cover it you need to, but let's get this done!

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Steve Ditko Cover of the Week: Gorgo #2

We are in the thick of summer, and I have been spending very little time in front of my computer. That's the main reason we have not had a new Ditko cover on here in quite some time. As much as I love Charlton and Steve Ditko, I only seem to own one Gorgo comic book. I should really start to work on that. This cover has just about everything you could want in a Ditko cover: fighter jets, a giant monsters, NYC landmarks and loads of Ditko water. It's quite dynamic and I love how Gorgo absolutely dwarfs the UN Building. Kudos to the folks at Charlton for keeping the cover caption and dialogue-free. I find all of the movie studio stuff to be a bit intrusive, but at least there are two bystanders pointing to Gorgo and yelling something inane. Charlton can be admired for letting the picture do the talking. This is a very fun effort by Mr. Ditko, and I should get myself a copy.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Mount Rushmore Covers

Spy Smasher is one of the Golden Age heroes who had a tough time due to the end of WW2. After a brief revamp as Crime Smasher, he checked into the Home for Obscure Golden Age Heroes. There were some lovely covers during this title's short run, and the cover to Spy Smasher #5 (June 24, 1942) is no exception. The GCD suggests that it was by Gus Ricca, and I can't really argue with that but I'm open to hear other suggestions. The brushwork and colouring are sublime. Is this the earliest example of a Mt. Rushmore cover?

Truth be told, I've never owned nor read The Owl #2 (April, 1968) but, after seeing this cover, how can I not add it to my want list. Who are the Terror Twins? What are they doing with Lincoln's head? Where did they get those awesome gyro-bikes? I know that it was failed attempt to bring superhero comics to Gold Key by Jerry Siegel, but beyond that I don't know much else. Is this character even remotely connected to The Owl of the 40s? I see that Tom Gill, one of my all-time faves, provides the artwork so it can't be all bad.

For one reason or another, the TV show ALF never did much for me back in the 80s. I do, however, get a good chuckle at many of the covers from this series. I am not sure what ALF was up to on his vacation featured in ALF Annual #1 (1988), but I'm certain that it is wonderfully rendered as Marvel saw fit to hire two of the greatest humour book artists of all-time (Dave Manak and Marie Severin) to provide the pencils and inks. According to the GCD, the High Evolutionary takes part in ALF's adventures herein. Consider my mind blown.

I've always loved the perspective on the cover to Incredible Hulk #239 (September, 1979). The bird's eye view is very unique, and the Hulk seems to be descending upon Mt. Rushmore at a fantastic rate of speed. One of my favourite things about the Hulk is his leaping ability, but it has been underutilized by many writers and artists. Milgrom does a nice job here, although his Presidents don't look 100% accurate. I do like the concerned look on General Washington's face, though.

Let's finish off with this gorgeous painted cover by Norman Mingo for Mad #31 (February, 1957). I've never been to Mt. Rushmore, but I imagine that it is sufficiently popular that you cannot simply hop out of your car for a picture. It blows my mind to look at the credits for old Mad magazines, as this issue has 10+ pages from both Wally Wood and Jack Davis and even has a couple of Basil Wolverton pages thrown in for good measure. Personally, I think Mr. Neuman looks right at home up there.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Quick DVD Reviews

The 400 Blows (1959)

One of the great things about Netflix is that they've got a decent selection of true classics, and when the movie is waiting for you with just the click of a button, there's not excuse not to expand your horizons. Sure, I knew all about The 400 Blows, and how important it was to the French New Wave and the evolution of film. Rarely have I ever felt the level of empathy as I felt for the character Antoine. Growing up is difficult, and Truffaut was able to capture a moment in a young boy's life that will ultimately be a major turning point, whether or not he realizes it at the time. It's an extremely intimate film, beautifully shot and the ambiguous ending leaves the viewer feeling the same degree of turmoil as Antoine. Grade: A

Nollywood Babylon (2008)

I've seen a lot of movies from a lot of different countries, but I've never seen anything from Nigeria. I'd heard bits and pieces about some of the movies coming out of Nollywood, so I tracked down this Canadian produced documentary on the Nigerian film industry. This film is a case of the subject matter being superior to the film itself, as not enough of the actual product is shown and too much time is spend on a single director. In addition, there's a tangential exploration of the role of the evangelical church in film production. No real conclusions were drawn and that appears to be a topic for another film. Overall, it's a good eye opener into another world of film making but it came up short. Grade: C+

The Big Combo (1955)

I had read about The Big Combo in Eddie Muller's Dark City: The Lost World of Noir and had really enjoyed Cry of the Hunted, another 50s film directed by Joseph H. Lewis. This is a rather bleak film from late in the noir cycle, quite vicious and pessimistic. Richard Conte is particularly strong as the menacing gangster who will kill his own men to keep from being captured. Look for Lee Van Cleef in a small role as one of a pair of purportedly gay hoods. The film is quite groundbreaking on a number of levels and very enjoyable. Grade: A-

Get Low (2010)

I had heard good things about Get this film, but really wasn't sure what it was all about. I thought it was going to be one of those quirky comedies about a small town eccentric. I was only partially right. It is a quirky comedy, but the humour is underscored by some thought provoking and emotional insight into growing old and dealing with our pasts. The cast is strong from top to bottom, and it was terrific to see Sissy Spacek onscreen once again. Duvall's speech at the end of the film is evidence of his masterful acting. It's a shame this one didn't garner much attention during the award season, but I guess that's always the way. Grade: B+

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Add It To My Want List: Secret Origins #21

To be perfectly honest, I'm interesting in adding every issue of Secret Origins that I don't already own to my want list but let's start with this one. When this series was first released, I ignored it completely as I assumed it was just a rehasing of origin stories that I'd heard a million times. Boy, was I wrong! This series includes some of the best stories published by DC in the 1980s. Just this week I learned about this issue with a Jonah Hex origin story. Not only that, but I learned that it is drawn by one of my all-time favourite artists: Gray Morrow. How have I not known this? That's what I love about collecting comic books - there's always some nice surprise around the corner. Oh, and the other story? It's drawn by Murphy Anderson, who is no slouch in the talent department. A book with art by two Hall of Famers and a nice JGL cover? The search begins immediately.

Friday, July 22, 2011

You've Been Warned: Superman #337

This cover looks promising, doesn't it? Well, like so many of the 'bait & switch' covers produced at DC during the 70s, the interior tale comes nowhere near living up to that initial promise. Inside, things are a bit out of sorts in Metropolis. Clark Kent's behaviour is a bit odd, as he suddenly seems to have developed a backbone. One villain after another appears only to suddenly disappear. How can all of this be explained? Well, an inventive writer like Grant Morrison would have a field day with this type of concept. Unfortunately, it was up to Len Wein to hand in this uninspired script. Ready for the ending to be spoiled? It was all Don-El (who?), the head of Kandor's Superman Emergency Squad. Apparently, his subconscious jealousy of Superman led him to develop some form of mental illness wherein he ultimately posed as Superman. The only way to break this spell was for the real Superman to pose as a series of villains (using super speed to move from one to the other) until Don-El ultimately cracked. My head hurts after typing that. The concept of Kandor is fun, but it became such a lazy writing device, helping free anyone who had managed to write themselves into a corner. This is an example of DC shooting itself in the foot.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Gil Kane Cover of the Month: DC Comics Presents #62

This series features some of my favourite Gil Kane covers of the 80s, and this one is right up there with the best of them. Sure, it's very 'posed' and nowhere near naturalistic, but I like them like that when they involve Golden Age heroes as it is reminiscent of another era. In fact, this one brings to my one of my all-time favourite covers: Action Comics #52. It's highly symbolic as the entire world seems to be at stake as our heroes take on the Nazis. I find the placement of the heroes to be interesting, as Superman defers to Uncle Sam. For me, Gil Kane's Superman from this period always looks like Superboy (probably has something to do with all those Superboy covers). While this is a grand cover, it's the small touch of Uncle Sam rolling up his sleeve that really sells it for me. The interior artwork by Irv Novick and Dave Hunt is pretty top notch as well.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Exit State Left: Invaders #41

While the various late 70s implosions at DC are pretty well documented, change was also the norm at Marvel. Plenty of titles came to an end during this period, as Marvel was also looking for ways to boost sales. The Invaders was one of those title to face the axe, but at least it was sent off with a double sized issue, allowing certain story arcs to finish. For me, Roy Thomas' attempts to play around in the Golden Age sandbox produced mixed results, whether at DC or Marvel. Don Glut does an admirable job with this finale. While I think that Alan Kupperberg and Chic Stone are competent artists, I really prefer these WW2 set stories to be drawn by Frank Robbins or someone else from the Caniff school. That style of artwork tends to transport me back in time. Kupperberg did a nice job on the double spread pin-up that serves as a coda to this series. It's a shame that the phrase 'Verdammt Invaders' would not be heard again.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Singe Issue Hall of Fame: Eerie #7

Sure, there are plenty of Hall of Fame contenders from the early Warren years, but this one is perhaps the cream of the crop (aside from the untouchable Creepy #1). Reading through the credits alone is enough to give a comic book fan chills. We start with a gorgeous Frazetta painting. It's different from much of his work; darker and more subdued. I love it. Inside you'll find story after story written by the late, great Archie Goodwin. They are all strong but highlights for me include Witches' Tide with phenomenal work by the recently deceased Gene Colan. I'm also a fan of the black comedy masterpiece The Fly with superb grey tone work by Steve Ditko. Finally, special attention should be paid to The Defense Rests by Johnny Craig. It's a fine example of dialogue-free funnybook storytelling. A classic.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Memoirs of a Bronze Age Baby: All Out War #1

As far as I can piece together, this was the first war comic I ever owned. I was pretty keen on the whole Dollar Comic format and any #1 issue caught my eye as I was excited to get in on the ground floor. Looking back, the whole Viking Commando concept never appealed to me (still doesn't), but there were a few good stories in here. One tale began with a soldier taking a bullet through the head. That certainly got my attention as a 9 year old, and that one had the harshest ending I'd seen up until that point. There's also an interesting tale about African-Americans Air Force pilots, and some questions about the Haunted Tank's confederate flag. I was also very intrigued by Gunner, Sarge & Pooch. I know for a fact that I would not have liked the Force 3 story because of the Jerry Grandenetti artwork. What can I say? I was just a stupid kid.

Friday, July 08, 2011

Highlighting House Ads: Power Records DC Heroes

If you're at all like me, you were completely obsessed with those Books & Records set put out by Power Records in the 1970s. They were ad-free save for some super cool house ads. This one is taken from the back cover of the story entitles Robin Meets Man-Bat. To my eyes, the folks at Power Records had more faith in Metarmopho than did the powers that be at DC/National. Here, he's treated as an equal to DC's triumvirate. In the comic book world, he'd have to wait a few more years to even be considered as an Outsider. I find it very interesting how folks in other media thought Rex and Plas had quite a bit of potential. The same goes for Aquaman - he often seemed more successful on TV than he did in comic books. The design here is quite simple, but the beautifully symmetrical stretchers really catch your eye and help frame the image. Good stuff.

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Hidden Gems: Logan's Run #6

Hats off to my good friend Mickey for reminding me about this particular hidden gem. The first five issues of the Logan's Run comic book series is a pretty solid adaptation of the film. With the sixth issue, however, an attempt was made to keep the momentum going. With a Paul Gulacy cover and Tom Sutton pencils inside, Marvel was certainly giving it the old college try. Sadly, the series would only last one more issue. There is a real surprise buried in the back of this book. It's a 5 page back-up featuring Thanos and Drax the Destroyer entitled "The Final Flower". You never know where Marvel is going to decide to drop an inventory tale. This one is drawn by Mike Zeck, and I would imagine it was some of his earliest work for Marvel. The story has been reprinted here and there, but having the original in your hands is a bit more satisfying.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Comic Book Robot of the Month: Spy-Bots

It looks like just another normal day at the offices of Galaxy Communications, or does it? My Best Friend, the Super Spy from Action Comics #449 is another one of those nutty mid-70s stories that try to cram as much as possible into 22 pages. After dealing with some freakish accidents, Superman is confronted by some powerful robots. When I say powerful, I mean powerful as they really give the Man of Steel a tough time as they can continue fighting post-dismemberment. What's worse is that it appears that almost everyone of Supes' friends is a robot in disguise (it's hard to type that without singing it). There's an Amazing Spider-Man #80 type twist here that is flubbed a bit, but it is a lot of fun to watch Superman karate chop Perry White and Steve Lombard in half.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Trade Marks: Man With No Name - Sinners & Saints

Full disclosure here folks; I picked up this book last week out of a bargain bin for $1.99 and that price point may cloud my judgment somewhat. I'm been quite delighted by the resurgence of the western genre but I must admit that some titles, such as Lone Ranger, have disappointed so my expectations were not high. Apparently, Dynamite is also trying to bring the Leone/Eastwood creation to the four color world. This story, involving some devious ex-soldiers and a monastery under siege, is nothing earth shattering but it is a nicely told tale with some decent surprises and strong characterizations. It is very reminiscent of 70s Jonah Hex. The dialogue in minimalist and sharp and the artwork is quite good, except for some storytelling issues in the action sequences. It is, however, quite a slim volume and a quick read, so I would have a hard time recommending it with a $20 price tag. Trade Mark: B-

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Steve Ditko Cover of the Week: Many Ghosts of Doctor Graves #35

I own a lot of 70s Charlton horror, but I do not own this one. I want to change that, as I absolutely adore this cover. I am not sure if it's one of those Covers-by-Paste-Ups that were assembled in the Charlton offices or an actual original cover. I'm leaning towards the latter with this one, but I can't say for sure. In any case, it's a great example of the unique approach that Charlton had with covers during this period. They were anxious to showcase Ditko's originality, rather than to try to get him to fit a mold. The design is simple, and yet the way Ditko plays with perspective really helps it stand out. I'm always a big fan of characters running 'off cover', and this one has them running in all directions. I particularly like the frightened look on the figure in the red hood. The only problem for me is the decision to place Graves' head and the caption right in the middle. It detracts from the overall impact.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Add It To My Want List: Superman #400

Let me first state that I have seen most, if not all, of this comic in digital format. Rather than sate my pirate desires, it has inspired me to track down a copy. To tell you the truth, I don't think I've ever even seen a copy of this book. I wasn't reading many comics in 1984, and I was never the biggest Superman fan so that would explain how it escaped my attention at the time. I'm certain that had I seen a copy, and had I read the list of contributors on the cover that I would have made it a valued part of my collection. I know that the story within has contributions from the likes of Frank Miller, Joe Orlando and the Rogers/Austin team. What really gets my attention, however, are the pin-ups contributed by so many Hall of Famers. You've got Jack Davis, Will Eisner, Leonard Starr, Jerry Robinson and even Steve Ditko. That's just scratching the surface, folks. Now you know why I must find a copy.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

I Loves Me Some Shazam!

Like just about anyone on the planet, I wish DC was able to call its book Captain Marvel. The whole Shazam! thing is very difficult to explain to non-comic book fans. That being said, it was great that DC resurrected the Big Red Cheese in the 1970s, and I grab books from this series whenever I see them in bargain bins. The 100 Page Spectaculars are a treasure trove of Fawcett goodness, anchored by a new tale. Shazam! #15 is a perfect example. The lead story will give continuity freaks a headache as Lex Luthor is transported to Earth-F (did the Fawcett City universe ever get a proper name?). Zoologists may also be disturbed by the interpretation of a hammerhead shark here. The reprints are good ones, collected from a variety of titles and E. Nelson Bridwell’s passion for the material is obvious from the features, especially the two pages devoted to Captain Marvel’s travels through America.

Unfortunately, the 100-Page era was relatively short-lived, but there are still plenty of great issues to devour. Shazam! #30 is another of my favourites. Have you ever noticed how many issues from this series featured Superman on the cover? He doesn’t actually appear in this story, but it is jam-packed with Marvels, included the rarely seen Lt. Marvels. The Big Red Cheese has his hands full with the mythical steelworker Joe Magarac. I never thought I’d see the work ‘jackass’ in a Captain Marvel story, but even that’s in here. After getting some advice from Atlas and some support from Team Marvel, Cap is able to disguise himself as a steel covered Superman and track down Sivana. It’s nutty but tons of fun. There are many, many good stories in this series, and I look forward to sharing them with my kids.

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Gil Kane Cover of the Month: Green Lantern #71

We all know that this title experienced a real paradigm shift (sorry, I've got to use that Poli-Sci degree once a year) with the 76th issue. Green Lantern fans will have noted a subtle change that occurred prior to the reboot by the Adams/O'Neil team. For a dozen or so issues leading up the the passing of the torch, the series evolved into something very different than what it had been in the early 60s. The tone was much darker, as evidenced by many of Gil Kane's covers during the period, with this cover serving as a prime example. Compare and contrast this to any come from the first 50 issues of the series. It's quite a departure. Kane was inking himself on most, if not all, of these covers and the move away from Anderson and Greene allowed for a bit more grittiness. I will likely feature more covers from this period, as I find them to be fascinating.

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

You've Been Warned: Justice League Adventures #1

Wow, was this ever a strange way to launch a whole new series directed at kids! Let me state that I have been quite impressed with the Justice League Unlimited TV series, as well as the ongoing series that was tied into that series. As I understand, this series is linked to the predecessor of the JLU. I have kids, I was once a kid and I love comics so I like to think that I have a pretty good idea of how and why certain comics work for kids. They have to be engaging, fun and full of excitement. Normally, Ty Templeton can bring that to a series. He has written countless stories that work perfectly as material for both adults and kids. This is not one of them. The story, involving a alien terrorist plot, was extremely convoluted and it was not helped by the exposition via the alien's broken English. I can't imagine anyone under the age of 14 being able to follow it. I did like the Min S. Ku artwork, but the storyline was just way too messy for me to recommend. I don't look forward to reading this book to my kids one day.

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Angry Clock Covers

Time stands still for no man, and sometimes it even attacks him. Here are a selection of covers featuring time pieces with bad attitudes.

Angry Clock Covers have their origins in the Golden Age, with an early example being this cover to More Fun Comics #113 (August, 1946). Genius Jones uses this rather impressive cuckoo clock to his advantage. This lovely cover was drawn by Stan Kaye, who was always able to bring a simple, yet attractive sense of design to his work. Compared to the other covers featured below, this one has a real sense of innocence.

A few years later, Irv Novick drew this fantastic cover to Wonder Woman #46 (March-April, 1951). On this cover, Wonder Woman is surrounded by a variety of wall clocks, all set at a different time for no apparent reason. Unfortunately, the story does not involve any menacing clocks, but has to do with memory loss and a race against time. There have been plenty of trippy Wonder Woman covers over the years, but this has to be in the all-time Top 10.

Still with DC, here's a Dali inspired cover to Star Spangled Comics #79 (April, 1948), pencilled by the underappreciated Jim Mooney. Robin's solo adventures during the late Golden Age were all but forgotten, until receiving some attention over the last decade or so. His arch nemesis during this period was a villain known as the Clock, so many of the covers and stories have a time-based theme. I love this cover, as it is just so 'out there'.

Speaking of 'out there', let's finish our travel through time with a stop in the 1970s. I will assume that the cover to Twilight Zone #70 (May, 1976) was painted by the great George Wilson, as he was responsible for the vast majority of Western's painted covers during this era. The face looks a bit different than your typical Wilson face, but I am no expert. The story entitled "The Tyranny of Time" features artwork by a young Joe Luis Garcia-Lopez.