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.

Friday, June 03, 2011

Single Issue Hall of Fame: Marvel Premiere #47

Now, this is how you re-boot a character! From Doll Man to the Atom, I've always like the notion of a shrinking super-hero. Maybe it's because I was hooked on Land of the Giants re-runs as a 5 year old. Scott Lang is a unique character as, aside from Luke Cage, there weren't that many ex-cons turned hero in the Marvel Universe. It was easy to empathize with him, mainly because of his relationship with his daughter. I give full credit for this characterization to David Michelinie, and this book proves that he is one of the greatest writers in comic book history. The art team of Byrne and Layton do terrific work here as well. This is a fine introduction to an interesting new character. It's too bad that no one ever figured out what to do with Mr. Lang. Personally, I think there was too much Hank Pym history with the Avengers for him to work there on a regular basis, but he would have fit in very nicely with the Defenders.