Friday, January 28, 2011

You've Been Warned: Ghost Rider #71

Ok, so it should not come as a huge shock that I am not a big fan of this book. I think that I am on record as saying that the mid-90s was the nadir of creativity at Marvel. So, what was I doing reading this book? Well, a local used bookstore has these '5 for $1' bundles. You can really only see the two outer books, and the rest is a surprise. 9 times out of 10, they are pretty terrible but I like to hold out hope for those hidden gems. What can I expect for a couple of dimes? I have a bit of nostalgia for the Danny Blaze circus-era Ghost Rider, but absolutely nothing about this book appealed to me. The artwork is brutal, as it has an Image School dropout feel to it. The dialogue was weak and the action sequences were extremely convoluted. Danny Ketch is as unappealing a protagonist as I've encountered in the funnybook world. I can understand why Marvel parachuted Wolverine into this series every 3 or 4 issues. I very rarely throw out comic book, but this one has hopefully serves a higher purpose by being recycled.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Comic Book Robot of the Month: Subterranean Alient Robots

This robot, from an early Cave Carson adventure, is pretty indicative of why Marvel would ultimately surpass DC in terms of sales and creativity. It's not bad by mid-50s standards, but this was the early 60s and the design by veteran Bernard Baily is quite old fashioned. The 'bots being produced by Kirby, Ditko and Heck at the time were much more impressive. This one is pure MST3K material. As for its powers, they are quite nondescript. This robot, along with a few of his brethren, have been brought to Earth by aliens to help conquer mankind. They really don't do much except trample small buildings in a Godzillian manner. Sure, Andru & Esposito were pushing the robotic envelope with the Metal Men, but far too many DC robots of the 60s were like this one. Lame.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Married With Clickers: Episode 5 - Richard III (1995)

Hey folks - looking for something to help pass the commute or workday? Try out the podcast I've been doing with my wife. This time around, we tackle Richard III from 1995. Will Ian McKellen's bravura performance help bring some levity to our winter of discontent? Tune in to find out as we take on some stylish Shakespeare this week. Don't worry, this isn't the Shakespeare you took in school as it features both Magneto and Iron Man. We also discuss the return of Parks & Recreation and the Bachelor Season (?). In terms of movies, Ip Man, Triangle and Solitary Man get some quick coverage. We also cross the 1 hour mark this time around, as we have some excellent voicemails. Send in your comments to marriedwithclickers (at) or give us a shout at 206-338-7983 or 001-206-338-7983 (from the UK).

Steve Ditko Cover of the Week: Blue Beetle #2

While this may not be the most dynamic of Ditko's 'Action Heroes' era covers at Charlton, it contains some very interesting. To my eyes, it seems as though there was a conscious effort to mimic Marvel's covers. The split cover definitely has a Tales of Suspense and Tales to Astonish vibe to it. The image to the left could come straight out of a Hulk or Sub-Mariner story. The one on the right is reminiscent of an early Spider-Man cover; quite melodramatic in tone with identity and origin details to be revealed. I like the fact that two Beetles are together in the same image. My biggest complaint about the cover is the overall colour scheme. The yellows, reds and purples do not mesh together at all. I know that the top banner was crammed with Blue Beetle images in order to get attention on newsstands, but is it really far too busy. It is an interesting cover, but there are many superior ones from this time frame.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Charlton Notebook: The Phantom #42

For the most part, this is a pretty run of the mill Pat Boyette-era issue of The Phantom. The first story involves some elephant poachers. It isn't anything special, although there are some interesting layouts by Boyette. The middle story centres around a rich man rewarding the tribe that saved his life. There's a not so subtle 'too many trinkets spoil the natives' message in this one, and it's quite humorous in its misguided earnestness. The final story is the strongest, with The Phantom temporarily stuck in a Most Dangerous Game type scenario. I like Boyette's artwork, but I can certain understand why it is not universally loved. There are two gorgeous, uncredited, one-pager about exploring the west. Does anyone know who drew those? They have a bit of an Al Williamson feel to them.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Trade Marks: Diana Prince - Wonder Woman Vol. 1

For a long, long time it seemed that the entire Diana (Rigg) Prince era would remain a running joke amongst fanboys. I've owned a handful of these issues over the years, and always found them entertaining but never really appreciated what Denny O'Neil and Mike Sekowsky were trying to achieve with the character until I read the stories back to back to back. There are so many elements at play here, that it's hard not to think that the creators were just using the series as their personal laboratory. The thing is, most of their experiments work. From O'Neil insertion of pulpish elements, including a detective with a dead partner named Archie Miles (!) to Sekowsky taking advantage of his experience in romance comics during a fashion montage, they really played to their strengths. A lot of DC book had a different feel during these years, but this one certainly takes the cake. It's a fun romp, and Ching makes for a suitable partner, helping Diana see the world through a mortal's eyes. The locale changes keep things interesting as we travel to the Alps and London. We also see a wide variety of action ranging from back alley fights to a war of the Gods. Somehow, it all works and I think that much of it has to do with Sekowsky's masterful storytelling. I only wish there was an introduction explaining the impetus and reaction to the big change. Trade Mark: A-

Monday, January 17, 2011

Memoirs of a Bronze Age Baby: Spidey Super Stories #43

When I was a child, I didn't really understand the difference between Spidey Super Stories and the other Spider-Man titles. I knew that it had the Electric Company logo and that it was ad-free, but I was young enough when I was reading them (6 or 7), that I never fully clued into the fact that they were out-of-continuity books designed for younger readers. I would have been nearly 7 when I got my hands on this book, and I'm 99% sure that it was my first exposure to Daredevil. I was hooked. From the one-page, black and white origin story to the rather fun story involving the Ringmaster, something about Matt Murdock just clicked with me and I've been a fan ever since. There's also a fun Iron Man team-up against the Metal Master. Win Mortimer's artwork is incredibly appealing, and he remains one of the most underappreciated artists of all-time. I've been scooping up back-issues of this series for my own kids to read. I still haven't tracked down a copy of this one. I'm sure I tossed mine at some point in the 80s, when I thought it was a 'kiddie' comic.

Married With Clickers: Episode 4 - Runaway Train

Hello SOTI friends. If you haven't had the chance to listen to the podcast I've started with my wife, this might be the week to clim aboard. For this episode, we take a look at the frosty 1985 thriller Runaway Train. Did it run away with our hearts? Tune in to find out. We also take quick looks at the following recent watches: The Warriors, Notorious, On Dangerous Ground, Nighthawks, The Woman in the Window, Code of Silence, Inception and The Town. Man, it's been a busy 2011 thus far! Please send us your thoughts at marriediwthclickers (at) or give us a shout at (206) 338-0793 and from the UK at (001) (206) 338-0793.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Quick Book Reviews

Shiloh - Shelby Foote
Although I'm probably a few re-enactments short of being a true Civil War buff, I've always been fascinated by the the War Between the States. I became ware of Shelby Foote via the Ken Burns documentary, but somehow never got around to reading any of his work. I really enjoyed this one, although it did not engage me on the level of a Killer Angels. At first, I was a bit thrown off by the moving narrative, but I got into the groove after a way. He is a talented writer, and brings a very unique style to the conflict. Let me put it this way: If you hate Faulkner, you may want to pass on this book. My wife and I visited the Shiloh Military Park a few years back, and I am actually quite glad that I read the book after having travelled some of those roads.

The Sign of the Four - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
I'm not sure where this one ranks among Holmes aficionados, but I liked it quite a bit less than A Study in Scarlet. I cannot quite put my finger on the precise reasons, but I think it may have something to do with the fact that this one actually appeared to feature a bit less actual detective work. The plot line is typical Victoria era 'mystery from a colonial outpost' and some disbelief certainly must be suspended, but that's all in good fun. I think I left feeling a little cold by the boat chase sequence, as well as by the flashback sequence towards the end. Good, but not great. I look forward to reading more Holmes adventures.

Freedom - Jonathan Franzen
Let me get this out of the way. I haven't read The Corrections, so I am not in a position to compare and contrast the two books. I've now got a copy of The Corrections, and I'm 80 pages in. What I can say with great certainty is that Franzen is a terrific writer with a good handle on dialogue. He also excels at establishing a setting, and creating a believable world. On the other hand, his characterizations come up short, and this prevented me from being fully invested in the lives of the various members and associates of the Berglund family. I found myself not caring if any of them ever found happiness. Perhaps that was the intent of the author, but I only wish he could have chopped off 250 pages so that I didn't feel as though I was spinning my wheels for eternity.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Gil Kane Cover of the Month: Atom #4

This may not be one of the most iconic Atom covers by Kane, but it has always been one of my personal favourites. One of the key aspects of The Atom's aesthetic appeal is how the little guy looks while in motion. The multi-panel cover of Mr. Palmer bouncing off the eraser is a real treat. DC didn't do too many of these multi-panel covers during the 1960s, so it is quite unique. Like many covers, I really wish that they had cut down on the dialogue, as the verbose thought balloons detract from the overall impact of the cover. I think it would have been great it he said "One", "Two", "Three", "Boom" or something along those lines. I put together a complete run of Atom books quite a few year ago, and the are truly a sight to behold when you lay that all out in a row.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Add It To My Want List: Ringo Kid #12

First of all, I need this book because it is a 52-pager, published during that month in which Marvel pulled the old Rope-a-dope on DC with their temporary price hike. This issue has four stories drawn by Joe Maneely, and that's just the beginning. There are also Paul Reinman and Don Heck drawn tales from a time when both those gentlemen were at the peak of their powers. The really intriguing thing about this book, however, is a Joe Kubert story from 1955. Do you have any idea how few stories Kubert has drawn for Marvel during the course of his career? No? Well, neither do I but I wouldn't be shocked if it was fewer than 15. All of that and a wonderful John Severin cover. Must have it! Must have it now!

Friday, January 07, 2011

Giant Cat Covers

To be perfectly accurate, sometimes it's a matter of a person shrinking and the cat remaining the same size, but you get the general idea. Giant cats make for great cover subjects. Here are a few prime examples:

Let's begin with the cover to Atom #21 (Oct-Nov, 1965) by Gil Kane and Murphy Anderson. From angry birds to wristwatches, Ray Palmer faced plenty of daunting foes during the 60s but none was quite as menacing as this sharp clawed ginger cat. Gil Kane gives the kitty a demonic face. I really find that the Atom's costume looks quite strange without that belt. It's really too bad that 'Flake Off' never really made its way into lexicon.

Next up is a rare cover from the a post-Code Ajax-Farrell series. Strange #2 (June, 1957) is not a book with which I aim terribly familiar. I've only owned a handful of A-F books over the years, and I've always had a tough time placing their artists, as I know much of it came from the Iger studio but I haven't a clue who worked their at this time. All I know is that this is one weird looking cat. It is quite poorly rendered, but I must admit that there is something hypnotizing about those giant yellow eyes.

When I was a kid, nothing freaked me out more than re-runs of Land of the Giants. I don't think I've seen any episode for 30+ years, but I remember the sense of tension I always felt while watching it. I'm guessing that it doesn't hold up all that well, so I may just leave it as a memory. I have never owned an issue of this series, but since the Bails Who's Who tells me that it features Tom Gill artwork, I sure really get my hands on them. The cover to Land of the Giants #3 (March, 1969) features another ill tempered ginger cat. What's with them? Why can't they just chill out like Rhubarb, the Millionaire Cat?

The cover to Detective Comics #311 (January, 1963) is a bit different, as it features a giant mechanical cat. The New Look Batman isn't that far around the corner and the days of him fighting cats, whether they be Catwoman trained or jungle denizens, were nearly over. The GCD currently has this credited as a Dillin/Moldoff collaboration, but I don't quite buy it. Anyone have a definitive answer?

I'll sign off with the terrific cover to Adventures Into the Unknown #135 (September, 1962). I really like how this cat is mostly a silhouette, with just the single paw smashing through the glass. Also, it's only described as a 'thing' and it actually looks part-werewolf, but let's assume for the time being that it is actually a cat. As each year passes, my love for Ogden Whitney grows stronger.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Single Issue Hall of Fame: Super DC Giant #27

One of my favourite comics as a child remains one of my favourite comics to this day. I'm not the world's biggest Ernie Chan fan, but I have always loved this multi-paneled cover. I also really dig the cover logo (designed by ???), as it is very creative. It is certain to grab the attention of anyone with even the faintest interest in UFOs. This is a great sampler of the fun sci-fi stories cranked out by Otto Binder and Gardner Fox for Strange Adventures during the late 50s and early 60s. The artwork is phenomenal, and the reproduction quality is very good. The lead story with terrific artwork by Russ Heath really leaps off the page. You can see the beads of sweat on the astronauts brow. One of the real highlights here is the chance to see a couple of pencilling jobs by the underappreciated Sid Greene. If you're like me, you are more familiar with his work as an inker, but "The Man Who Grew Wings" and "The Riddle of Spaceman X" show that he was also an effective storyteller. It's great stuff all around, and a fine selection to the Hall of Fame.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Hidden Gems: Jack Kirby's Green Arrow

This volume is a bit too slim to review as a Trade Paperback, so I thought it fit in best as a Hidden Gem. Back in 2001, DC put out this inexpensive ($5.95) collection of Jack Kirby's little seen work 8 Green Arrow stories that originally appeared as back-ups in Adventure Comics and World's Finest in the late 50s. It features a terrific Mark Evanier penned introduction in which we learn that even the King himself had a tough time finding enough work to keep himself busy. This stuff is about as far from The Longbow Hunters as you can get, but it's a lot of fun as you get to see Green Arrows from around the world (as well as from another world), a mechanical octopus and an one of those islands populated by out of touch Japanese soldiers. I actually received my copy of this book from one-time Green Arrow artist Alex Saviuk, who was kind enough to slip it in with a package of artwork I'd purchased from him. If you like Kirby's work on those early Challengers of the Unknown stories, you will likely enjoy this book. It's also a much more affordable way of reading them than tracking down those original issues.

Monday, January 03, 2011

Married With Clickers: Episode 3 - Pretty in Pink

This week, we try to fight off the cold chill of winter with the warm glow of nostaliga by taking a look at Pretty in Pink (1986). Our views on the film have changed throughout the year, but what do we think of it today? We also have a quick look at some recent DVD viewings: The A-Team, Best Worst Movie, the Kids Are Alright, Salt and The Other Guys. Yup, we`re now only 6 months behind the times! Send us your thoughts and comments to marriedwithclickers (at) We now have a Voicemail Line - so call us (from Canada and US) at (206) 338-0793 and from the UK at (001) (206) 338-0793. This was a feedback free episode, and it made us sad.