Friday, September 28, 2012

Gil Kane Cover of the Month: Batman #180

When you think classic Batman covers from the 1960s, my guess is that you are likely to think that they were all pencilled by Neal Adams, Carmine Infantino and perhaps Irv Novick. When you look through a cover gallery from either Batman or Detective Comics, you'll note that Gil Kane was actually responsible for a handful of the most memorable covers. This one is a particular favourite of mine, as I spotted it in a house ad during my early years of Silver Age collection (this would have been circa 1981) and decided that I absolutely must have a copy.  What caught my attention back then? Well, the exact same things that catch my attention today. First, check out Death-Man. The character design is awesome, even if the name is a bit generic. Second, I absolutely adore the driving rain. Sure, Eisner and Ditko are the masters of water, but Kane is not far behind. Finally, I just love the layout, as the prone Robin in the foreground, staring helplessly at the reader creates a real sense of panic. Gorgeous stuff.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Add It To My Want List: Four Color #1328

There is a lot of buried treasure hidden in the labyrinth known as Dell's Four Color series. Many terrific books can be found hidden in this rather confusing anthology series. Over the years, I've noticed that a lot of tremendous artists provided work for this series. Four Color #1328 is an adaptation of the film The Underwater City. Now, I haven't seen the film but I love any and all 50s and 60s comics that involve some form of self-contained underwater breathing apparatus (Sea Devils, The Frog Men etc...), so the subject matter is right up my alley. What really caught my attention however, is that this particular book is pencilled by Reed Crandall and inked by George Evans. I have only seen scans of a couple of pages, but watching those two masters work below the surface of the waves is more than enough incentive for me to keep my eyes peeled for this one.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Single Issue Hall of Fame: Lone Ranger Western Treasury #2

So, why would I nominate the second issue of Lone Ranger's Western Treasury into the Hall of Fame rather than the first volume? Or perhaps I should have considered the follow-up, Lone Ranger's Golden West #3. Well, to be perfectly honest, they all contain a number of excellent Lone Ranger stories (some even have solo Tonto and Silver stories) and have pages of neat facts about life in the wild west to help pad the page count to 'Dell Giant' levels. In addition, they all feature artwork by the master of deceptively simple storytelling, Tom Gill. What sets this one apart is the cover (and back cover). While I love the traditional painted covers used on the Lone Ranger series, I really, really dig the character design here. It recalls one of those great Little Golden Books like Seven Little Postmen or The Little Red Caboose. There's just a great, post-WW2 charm to that kind of artwork. The back cover shows the same map, but with lines indicating the "Famous Cattle Trails". Seriously, I am not making this up. You need a copy for your collection.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Memoirs of a Bronze Age Baby: Superman #291

This may have been the first comic book I ever owned. At the very least, it is the first one I remember owning. It was published just prior to my 3rd birthday, and I must have owned it for a while and then it vanished. For years, I only had the fuzziest memory of Superman and a brick wall. I only had only local shop for back issues, and I spend years in the early 80s searching through their bin looking for this cover, hoping that my memory had not betrayed me. It was not until several years later that I saw it again and had a 'eureka' moment. I can understand why my memory was fuzzy, as it is a typically loopy and forgettable Supes story about some hood temporarily gaining Kryptonian strength thanks to a watch. Still, it is nice to keep this in the collection as part of my personal comic book history as it helped make Curt Swan's Superman my Superman.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Roller Coaster Covers

When I thought of Roller Coaster covers, the first book that sprang to mind was Spidey Super Stories #38 (January, 1979). Why? Well, for starters, I owned this one as a kid. Why would I have bought it, as I was certainly reading 'regular' comics at this time? My guess is there is no way to withstand the pure charm of this Sal Buscema pencilled gem. I love how Spidey happily takes a back seat to a fearful Ben and Reed's giant hand. Who could possibly resist this cover?

Here's one that you may not have seen before. The Informer #4 (October, 1954) is the penultimate issue of this series from short-lived publisher Sterling. The GCD suggests that Art Saaf might have drawn this cover, but I am not so sure as his stuff usually seems a little bit more cartoony to me. In any event, it is a dynamic cover featuring a bag of cash, a mean left hook and a green suit that would make Gil Kane envious. I love this one.

I have owned a few of the Archie comics published by Spire Christian over the years, but have never laid my hands on a copy of Archie's Roller Coaster (1981). To be honest, I was surprised that these were still being published into the 80s. I do dig this cover though, as I think Al Hartley had a good eye for cover design, and I'd snatch this up if I ever saw it in a bargain bin as they are fascinating curios.

Batman has been featured on a number of Roller Coaster covers, in fact we'd seen a the Scarecrow on a a roller coaster just a couple of years prior, but this double Joker cover from Batman #286 (April, 1977). Why? Two words: Jim Aparo. Aparo is my all-time favourite Batman artist. In my opinion, no one draws the Joker as well as Aparo, he's part psycho, part showman - and this one deliver two of them.

Let's leave off with this little lovely from the team of Jack Kirby and Dick Ayers. Tales of Suspense #30 (June, 1962) hit spinner racks at the dawn of the Marvel Age, but it still has a very Atlas-era feel to it. I love that dark, rich grey that only Atlas seemed capable of producing. It created a very haunting (pun intended) atmosphere. I'm not one for being anal about perspective, but this would certainly seem to be the world's tallest roller coaster, if not structure.

I Loves Me Some Powerpuff Girls Digests

When the Powerpuff Girls hit the mainstream back in 1998, I did not pay much attention to their exploits. About a year ago, my household got hooked on the three little girls made of sugar, spice, everything nice and a dash of Chemical X. The thing is, while the PPG were everywhere 10 years ago, their stuff is not so easy to find these days. Luckily, DC released two volumes of PPG stories in the slim, undersized format. I believe these are still in print and, in not, at least fairly easy to find. These are the gems of my daughter's bookshelf, and I love reading with her as the stories are absolutely hilarious. In fact, my son can even be found giggling while reading these tiny masterpieces. Let's get more of these in print DC!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

You've Been Warned: Brave and the Bold #156

It is not often that I can find a flaw in my all-time favourite series, never mind an issue drawn by Don Newton, but this one stands out like a sore thumb. As a general rule, I am not a huge fan of sorcerer/magician heroes, but sometimes they can be a good fit with Batman (see Phantom Stranger in B&B #145). This particular issue has an overly convoluted plot involved a demonic possession centering on a wrongly accused man. At least, that's what I think was going on - the exposition came fast and furious. It all wraps up way too quickly and one wonders whether Doctor Fate could have handled it all alone. If you're like me and need a complete run of the Batman team-ups, you'll want this one, otherwise you can forget it.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Trade Marks: Enemy Ace - War Idyll

This is one that I have meant to read for quite some time. I have always loved Enemy Ace - as Kanigher and Kubert created one of the most interesting characters of the Silver. This slim volume introduces us to an elderly Hans Von Hammer, who sits down for a series of  interviews. This device allows the story to be told via flashback as the Hammer of Hell Reminisces on some notable episodes of the Great War. This is all filtered through and compared to his interviewer's experiences in Vietnam. I know that all of this was done with the intention of making a grand statement about the price of war through the 20th Century. Unfortunately, it actually comes across as another late 80s statement on the hopelessness of the Vietnam War, ultimately undermining the impact of the WW1 episodes in this tale. While it looks gorgeous, in the story end it trips on its own ambition. Trade Mark: B-