Friday, November 29, 2013

Skeleton Hero Covers Pt. 2

Here are a few more.

Detective Comics #620 (Late August, 1990) was released right in the middle of a terrific era for the title. I was a huge fan of Breyfogle's artwork and it was one of my 'go to' titles during the last years of high school. Breyfogle was also a very inventive cover artists, playing around with layouts and design. This isn't his best work, but it is certainly far from bad. I do like the way his signature appeals to be nothing more than another crease in the cowl.

The second iteration of What If? never quite lived up to the quality of its predecessor. That said, I think the cover to What If #50 (June, 1993) is an appropriate cover design for the story, focusing on the inherent creepiness of an admantium skeletal structure. I don't know much about Armando Gil, but he seems to be very capable of delivering the kind of covers Marvel was known for in the early 90s. That's called damning with faint praise, kids.

Let's finish up with a cool one. The cover to Legion of Super-Heroes #47 (September, 1993) is pencilled by the great Stuart Immonen. His Skelegionnaires have been given a real zombie vibe. I love their posture. I also love the fact that the Invisible Kid's headband stayed on. Is that big skeleton Blok? Didn't he have a costume during this era?

Friday, November 22, 2013

Skeleton Hero Covers Pt. 1

You might be surprised to find out just how often this cover gag has been used, although it seems to have been more popular at DC.

Let's start with my favourite. The cover to Wonder Woman #298 (December, 1982) is quite stunning. It brings a House of Mystery/Secrets vibe to a superhero title. Frank Miller was a terrific cover artist, and did created some truly remarkable images for both Marvel and DC. I think Dick Giordano was a good inker for him and I wish they had worked together more often.

Flash #186 (March, 1968) is another great one. This is the kind of Silver Age cover that would have intrigued any 10 year old on the planet. Ross Andru pencilled a ton of great Flash covers over the years. His sense of design is terrific. For another, rather gruesome Flash skeleton cover check out Rich Buckler's cover to #258.

The wonderful Jonah Hex Spectacular told us how our favourite bounty hunter would spend his post-living years. In fact the GCD Indexer stated "Lots of loose plot ends left hanging, including the fact that Jonah's death has been written already." All of that said, I still really dig the cover to Jonah Hex #92 (August, 1985). I am not always a huge fan of Denys Cowan, but his stuff looks really good inked by Klaus Janson. This is a fitting image for the final issue of a series that saw a ton of Four Colour death.

Alas, poor Clone, I knew him well. Or at least I though I did. The never followed the whole revisit to the Clone Saga in the mid-90s, so I don't have a clue how things turned out. In any event, the cover to Sensational Spider-Man #2 (March, 1996) by Jurgens/Janson team is pretty terrific, especially when compared to the dreck Marvel was putting on shelves during that era. It is a single image. There are no ridiculous captions. There are no mutants. There are not pneumatic babes. How did this get back the editors?

I'll be sharing some more next week.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Highlighting House Ads: Superman 1957

Ones of the things that I enjoy about house ads is that they a truly a snapshot of a moment in time. Here's one that would have been published in late 1957. What we can tell from the ad is that the George Reeves TV show has not yet been cancelled  and that the Lois Lane comic has yet to his spinner racks. Both of those events would occur in 1958. A little more digging shows that the comics pictured here have a December, 1957 cover date. There's nothing all that special about the add, but I find the word 'Still' to comes across as a bit desperate. I also find it interesting that Superboy is not included in the ad, either in his eponymous series or Adventure Comics. It's funny how a simple little ad can get the gears of the brain rolling.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Happy Halloween

Nothing really to say today. Just wanted to put this pic up, as it always gets me in the Halloween mood.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Trade Marks: The Goon - Chinatown

I have read a number of Goon stories and, while I have always enjoyed Eric Powell's work on the series, I can't say that I ever loved it. This has changed with Chinatown. With this tale, Powell has found the right balance of action, humour and emotional impact. Much of this has to do with the flashbacks presented here, as they fill in certain gaps in the Goon's past and help the reader to better engage with him as a character. The character design is also very strong here, as Powell pays homage to Eisner by filtering both the good guys and the villains through a fun house mirror of sorts. I'm not sure if this is a great introduction to the character, but it is not a bad place to start and fans of pulpy action will find a lot to like. Trade Mark: A-

Friday, October 11, 2013

Add It to My Want List: Attack #48

While trying to sort out art credits for some recently purchased Charlton war comics I noticed this doozy on the Grand Comics Database. All Wally Wood art? A Jack Kirby cover? Count me in! There is some talk that one story is just Wood inking Bill Molno (likely, my least favourite Charlton artist), and I am guessing that much of the heavy lifting was by Wood's assistants, but I can live with that. This is the final issue, and you folks know that I love those. The thing is, sometimes these 80s Charlton books can be tricky to find, but the fun is in the hunt, isn't it?

You've Been Warned: Green Arrow #8

I am not really thrilled with what DC has done with the New 52, but I will follow Oliver Queen just about anywhere so I scooped up a few discounted trades. Over time, I have learned that I am not a huge fan of Ann Nocenti's writing. I know that many fans love her work on Daredevil, but it never really did much for me at all. Nocenti is trying to do something great here, as she references both King Lear and Dr. Moreau in the same story arc. In the end, however, it fails to be anything more than a mindless punch up with poorly fleshed out characters - the new Ollie chief among them. The artwork is beyond atrocious, sacrificing storytelling for ridiculous poses. It represents just about everything I cannot stand about today's comics and it is such a shame that this has happened to a character with such a strong track record. Jeff Lemire has taken over the series, so I look forward to catching up with his work on it to help cleanse the palate.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Reprints This! Rima, the Jungle Girl

I know quite a number of people who are big fans of this short-lived DC title from the mid-70s, and it seems to be quite well regarded amongst critics so I am confused as to why it hasn't been collected in one format or another. That slim Bat Lash Showcase trade looked just fine to my eyes and is all we really need. The stories are entertaining and the artwork by the team of Joe Kubert and Nestor Redondo is unbelievable, ranking among the very best of the decade. It would also be fun to include the Classics Illustrated version of Green Mansions as well as the issue of Super Friends that featured an appearance by the Jungle Girl herself. Perhaps it would not be a best seller, but I am certain that there are thousands of fans out there who would like all the stories in one volume up on the bookshelf. It is a genre that is woefully under served in today's reprint market.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Gil Kane Cover of the Month: Wonder Woman #304

In 1983, Gil Kane drew six consecutive Wonder Woman covers, five of which I would describe as portraits. These has unique layouts and very creative designs, giving them a bit of a 'pop art' flavour. The cover to Wonder Woman #304 is my favourite of the bunch. The use of blue really accentuates the colours of Wonder Woman's costume in the foreground and gives a shadowy feel to the larger figure in the background. The heroic look to the smaller figure juxtaposes nicely against the warrior-like pose of the larger figure in the background. I like the way Kane snuck his initials into the empty space. This cover really shows the strength of Kane's sense of design.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Kids' Corner: Best of DC #4

I remembering reading an article about DC's Rudolph books a numbers of years go (perhaps it was in Comic Book Marketplace). This type of strip would not typically not appeal to me, but I am always intrigued by any book that has such a rabid following. It wasn't until I actually bought this digest recently that I realized that Sheldon Mayer was the brains behind these stories. They are fun and inventive with a good dose of humour. The artwork is attractive and clean and should appeal to children under 10. There is some silliness, but it never moves into 'stupid' territory and they general contain some subtle moral lessons for kids. The digest format is pretty great, but might not works so well for those planning on solving the puzzles. Some of the material here is reprinted, but a couple of stories are new and come from a planned, but never published tabloid edition. Good clean fun.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Single Issue Hall of Fame: Avengers #148

There were a lot of solid stories during the Serpent Crown saga, but this is the true stand out. While some might view it as a parody, I prefer to see it as Steve Engelhart's love letter to the JLA/JSA crossovers. Everything from the beautifully rendered splash page to the font used for the various character groupings is pure gold (or should I say silver?). The only thing that could have made it more authentic was if George Perez had tried to ape Dick Dillin or Mike Sekowsky. The irony is that George Perez would soon be working on actual JLA/JSA crossovers as a result of Dillin's untimely death. As a bonus, we also start to see some of the internal problems within the Squadron Supreme that would ultimately inform Mark Gruenwald's amazing series in the 80s. Oh yeah, Jack Kirby cover, too! This one is a real treat.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Exit Stage Left: Man From Atlantis #7

When a series lasts a mere 7 issues, it is not a tragedy when it is cancelled but it is still fun to look at the contributing factors. I thought I had read somewhere that the MFA had his origins in Marvel's attempts to bring Namor to the small screen. My 30 seconds of internet research did not confirm that rumour, but I am certain I read it in a magazine such as Alter Ego or Back Issue. If it is indeed true, it would be quite ironic for Marvel to wind up publishing a series based on a character based on a Marvel character. The TV series was cancelled quite abruptly, which obviously left Marvel in the position of shuttering the series. The letters page from this issue is filled with readers wondering what Marvel will do now that the show is off the air. This issue also ends on one of the strangest cliffhanger I've ever witnessed (and that's saying a lot). Mark returns to find that the entire MFA team have mentally regressed to age 2. Behind this is a villain identified as 'Merry', who happens to be a dead ringer for Daredevil's foe the Jester. I have only read a few issues from the series but they were entertaining enough. Fans of Frank Robbins (especially Robbins inked by Springer) will have fun with it. Robbins haters may want to stay away.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Word Balloon Covers

Here's a type of cover you won't see very often, as it is not very easy to work the title into a word balloon. Let's look at a few examples:

The first one that comes to mind for me is Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man #59 (October, 1981) as I bought it off the spinner rack. While the character poses on the cover seem a bit awkward and the colour scheme is drab, the design and execution of the word balloon is brilliant. This is a perfect example of this type of cover. Also a good one for fans of the Gibbons fans out there. You are out there, aren't you?

I only saw the cover to Superman #11 (November, 1987) for the first time a few weeks ago and it made me smile. This is a terrific way to incorporate the Superman logo into a word balloon. I love the fact that the balloon cannot contain the logo. I also love that Lois is so triumphantly 80s. Great stuff, but I kind of wish they had a Mxyzptlk font to use for our little imp.

The cover to Weird Western Tales #44 (Jan-Feb, 1979) is in a bit of a grey area, as Scalphunter is not technically the name of the series. The thing is, this is my blog so I can make up the rules so I declare that this one qualifies. In any event, it is very inventive. It would also qualified as a 'hanging from the feet' cover and 'racist sheriff' cover.

Let's leave off with Archie... Archie Andrews. Where Are You? #3 (September, 1977). I could have chose a lot of covers from this series, as they used the Word Balloon technique for the first 20 issues. In fact, everyone from Veronica to Dilton asked this question on various covers. Does anyone know of the earliest example of this type of cover?

Thursday, September 05, 2013

Charlton Notebook: Attack #32

The history of Charlton's Attack is, like many things that came out of Derby, quite complicated. By my count, being various hiatuses and relaunches, there were five different versions of this series. This particular issue is from Attack's final incarnation. It was relaunched in 1979, a rather odd time for a new war book as the genre had started falling out of favour. This issue contains reprints from two separate issues of War Heroes from 1967. They are solid stories with some pretty nice artwork. I can't place the artist on the first story "Forced Landing" - it is really quite impressive with some lovely shadow work and some great underwater panels. The other two are also well paced and entertaining. For a dollar bin find, I was quite pleasantly surprised. I may be turning into a bit of a Charlton war fan.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Steve Ditko Cover of the Week: Amazing Spider-Man #30

It is incredible to think about how many iconic covers Ditko created during his time on Amazing Spider-Man. It is also incredible to think that he was capable of creating something so bland. I don't know what was going on and how this one got the stamp of approval. I have seen far better covers by Ditko that were rejected. I don't actually mind the use of Atlas-era grey, but there is simply too much of it. The layout is also problematic:  the main figures are so small and the spotlights seem a bit awkward for some reason I can quite put my finger on. I feel as though this is a so-so splash page they rushed to turn into
a cover. Honestly, I feel that it is among the worst covers Ditko ever drew. I am certain that there must be a story behind this one, does anyone know it?

My Reading Pile: February, 1993

I was 20 years old, trying to survive a frigid Montreal winter in my second year as an undergrad. I did not have a ton of money, but I still managed to get mys hands on a few funnybooks every month. Here's a scattering of what I bought that month.

Justice Society of America #8 - Ever since I was a little kid, I have been a big fan of the JSA. One of my main concerns coming out of Crisis was that DC would put the Earth-Two characters out to pasture. At times, it seems like that might actually happen but the early 90s revival gave me hope that there was a place in the DCU for Rex Tyler, Charles McNider and the rest of the gang. This is not a particularly notable issue but for the fact that, like all of them, it features amazing artwork by Mike Parobeck. It still makes me feel unbelievably sad that Parobeck passed away at such a young age.

Green Arrow: The Wonder Year #3 - As I may have mentioned a hundred times or so, I am a big Green Arrow fan. I could not get enough of the regular series, so it was a real treat to have some extra Ollie stories to read for a few months. This was Mike Grell's attempt at a Year One. While this was not at Miller's level, it is still a pretty solid read and Gray Morrow inking Grell's pencils is a sight to behold.

Flash #75 - I will fully admit that the whole Return of Barry Allen storyline had me hook, line and sinker. Like Wally, my jaw dropped when he showed up. It might have something to do with the fact that I grew up admiring Barry much in the same way Wally did. This was one of the first times I remember noting Mark Waid's name. Barry's erratic behaviour had me a bit worried but, like Wally, I was in deep denial. A fun, charming cover by Ty Templeton.

The Spectre #5 - I was a fan of this series from the get-go. Sure, the glow in the dark covers were cool, but what really got me was the characterization of The Spectre. John Ostrander took much of what was good about the Doug Moench series and added a whole new layer to it. The characters were more fully fleshed out and the storyline were much more memorable. All in all, it just resonated with me. This issue is a good example of the mixture of occult and crime fighting offered by the series.

The only thing I regret missing that month was the initial issue of Sandman Mystery Theatre. It would take me a few months to get caught up on that series, which was my favourite of the decade.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Hidden Gems: Shazam & Shazam Family Annual #1 (2002)

Wow, just typing 'Shazam Family' makes my skin crawl. It's the Marvel Family, dammit! Ok, deep breaths. Deep breaths. No one wants to read a rant about semantics. In the last decade, DC did a pretty good job producing these nice, albeit slim reprint volumes as a sort of retro 80-Page Giants. The problem I had with them is that I had read many of the Silver Age DC stories before and they carried a premium price tag ($9.99 in Canada). As we all know, deflation has a habit of kicking in after a few years and I'm seeing this at much more reasonable prices ($2.99) in back issue bins. This particular issue is pure Golden Age gold. It includes some pivotal tales from the heyday of the Marvels and provides a good sampling of the artists working for Fawcett at the time, including Mac Raboy, Marc Swayze and Bud Thompson. What I love the most is that DC saw fit to include the full Sivana Family story from Marvel Family #10. If you have already wanted to get a taste of the Big Red Cheese but did not want to shell out for originals or an Archives volume, this is a great option.  

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Add It To My Want List: DC Special Blue Ribbon Digest #17

I own a whole bunch of these digests from DC, but I have never have this one in my collection. It was never high on my list because I have always felt that Ghosts was the weakest of DC's horror titles. It was a pleasant surprise to discover that this particular issue mostly collects stories from House of Secrets & House of Mystery from 1969 through 1975, arguably the strongest era for those titles. Many of these are written by Jack Oleck, a very underrated horror writer. The 13 stories include artwork from the likes of Neal Adams, Wally Wood and Berni Wrightson. Of course, none of those gents can truly be appreciated in digest size, but there's a lot of greatness jammed into this tiny package. I haven't even mentioned the all-new Joe Kubert cover. It is gorgeous. I must have this. The hunt begins!

Monday, August 12, 2013

I Loves Me Some: Double Page Spread Podcast

I listen to a lot of podcasts. A lot of them. One of my biggest problems with comic book podcasts is that so many follow the same format: a bunch of guys talking about the latest 'flavour of the month' creator and making fun of Devil Dinosaur. Yes, I agree that the artist in question has some talent (although, his or her storytelling could be improved) and that Devil Dinosaur is a bit silly, but what else can you offer? Where is the insight? So many of these seem to be simply preaching to the fanboy choir. Us older, crustier funnybook fans demand a little more analysis and a broader range of topics. Let me tell you about Double Page Spread hosted by Wendi Freeman. Ms. Freeman's show is both fun and insightful. She has a great love for comics and their creators, and is able to critique in a snark-free manner. How refreshing. She gets some intriguing guests on her show and is terrific at moderating a round table discussion (I point you towards a lively chat about Lois Lane books on a recent Superman-themed episode). If you are looking for a comic book podcast that stands out from the crowd, I urge you to give this one a try.

Reprint This! Ziff-Davis Science-Fiction

Ziff-Davis comics featured some of the greatest covers of the Golden and Atom Ages. To be perfectly frank, the interior stories and artwork rarely lived up to the gloss promise of the painted covers. From what I have seen, the science fiction line was probably Ziff-Davis' strongest funnybook product. These titles, which include Space Patrol and Crusader From Mars, among others, rarely lasted more than a couple of issues. I know that some were been reprinted by Malibu in the 90s, but I think this is a great opportunity to gather them all together in a beautiful hardcover volume. These stories are drawn by the likes of Berni Krigstein, Murphy Anderson and Gene Colan. This is a treasure trove and it should not remain hidden any longer.

Trade Marks: Superman For All Seasons

As a fan of just about everything touched by Messrs. Loeb and Sale, I went into this with very high expectations. Generally speaking, many of my favourite Superman stories are Smallville focused. That is the strongest stuff here as the Kents are wonderfully fleshed out and Lana Lang and Pete Ross both have fine moments. When the action moves to Metropolis, however, things begin to take a turn for the worse. Luthor's motivations for empire buildings and his hatred for Supes are insufficiently explained and this undermines the impact of the moments in which they interact. The story is both small and large scale, which might have been biting off more than the creators could chew. It is still a solid book, with a wonderful atmosphere created by the artwork but it is a step down from the team's strongest work.
Trade Mark: B-

Friday, July 19, 2013

You've Been Warned: Defenders #101

Don't get me wrong, traditionally I am a defender of The Defenders. I just can't get behind this particular issue. In the early 80s, it seemed as though every Marvel writer (in this case J.M. DeMatteis) felt the need to write a 'stop and smell the roses' issue once a year. When these work, they can be quite touching. When they don't, they leave the reader with a saccharin aftertaste that can last for days. In this story, each and everyone of the Defenders feels the need to find their purpose in the world after the battle in the 100th issue. They all make their way out into the world with Doctor Strange and Clea awkwardly performing a tribal dance in Africa and the Devil Slayer criticizing the personal hygiene of a burnt out hippie. In the end, they all hang out on Doctor Strange's stoop feeling rejuvenated. It is all done in a very ham-fisted way. DeMatteis would cover similar ground in a much more elegant way in Marvel Team-Up #119. Avoid.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Single Issue Hall of Fame: Superman's Girl Friend Lois Lane #77

I love 80 Page Giants. You love 80 Page Giants. I think it's safe to say that we all love 80 Page Giants. They are all great, but can be quite pricey these days. A while back, I was able to get my hands on a copy of this issue for a few bucks and am very pleased with my investment. Silver Age Lois Lane stories are amongst the kookiest you can find and this volume provides a wonderful sampling of all the series had to offer. Highlights include her becoming a witch (not really), losing her mind (not really) and dying in an explosion only to haunt Superman as a spectral spirit (not really). You get the point. The real jaw dropper in here is not featured on the cover. Lois is hit with a growth ray which causes her to plump up quite remarkably. She gains so much weight that she must buy clothes at the 'Fat Girl's Shoppe'. I kid you not. Of course, she's not at all worried about her health, just about what Superman will think of her. As an aside, I really miss the old days of stories based on concealing secret identities. Sure, they may seem a bit silly by today's standards but it was always a fun plot device. This one is a blast all around, and you should definitely add it to your collection.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Highlighting House Ad: Ozma of Oz

For me, some of the most fascinating house ads are for projects that never came to fruition. I am a big fan of the two Treasury sized Oz books, as Baum's work is perfectly suited to an over sized Four Color treatment. As I understand, Marvel was under the false impression that Ozma was in the public domain and have Roy Thomas and Alfredo Alcala work on the adaptation. The whole thing was scrapped when it was revealed that there was indeed a rightsholder. I a
m not sure if the pages were all completed and, if so, where they are now. I'm certain Thomas would have covered this at some point in the pages of Alter Ego.

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Gil Kane Cover of the Month: Mystery in Space #50

I am a big fan of purple suits on Gil Kane characters and I guess that it only makes sense that those are packed in purple luggage. This is a pretty typical, crazy cover to DC's flagship science fiction anthology series with a train racing away from Earth. I wonder just how many DC covers from the 50s featured the Earth? This is a wonderfully designed cover with a terrific sense of perspective using the train cars. I love how Kane does French cuffs on the conductor. This may not be an iconic Kane cover, but it has all of the elements that made his covers so compelling.

Monday, July 08, 2013

Hidden Gems: Marvel Super Special #29

Sometimes a little research can go a long way. Had I looked into this one more carefully, I would have bought it years ago. For some reason, I had always assumed this was an adaptation of the Christopher Lambert starring movie (or even worse, the Miles O'Keeffe starring one!). I was wrong, so very wrong. This fine magazine contains a wonderful adaptation of the first half of the initial ERB book. Like any sane person, I'm a big Mark Evanier and Dan Spiegle team, but had no idea that they had worked on this. As far as adaptations go, it is quite faithful and Spiegle excels at mutinous seamen and angry apes. I have the magazine edition, but it was also published as a two-part standard sized micro series. Does anyone know the story behind this book? Was it an aborted start to the start of something larger? I have a feeling that's there is more to the story.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Steve Ditko Cover of the Week: Mysteries of Unexplored Worlds #19

Steve Ditko drew a lot of very 'busy', multi-panel covers for Charlton's Mysteries of Unexplored Worlds but this one may be my favourite. If you can mange to look beyond the giant logo and the intrusive sweepstakes advertising along the bottom, you will note some very atmospheric underwater artwork. Ditko and water have always worked for me. While Charlton was often guilty of choosing rather garish colour palettes, this one is not too bad at all. I particularly like the green and yellow hues at bottom left, and the shadowy figures in the panel above. I have owned some books from this series, but never this one. The more I look at this issue, the more I want to get my hands on it.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Add It To My Want List: Western Kid #4

I am a real sucker for Atlas-era westerns and have owned a ton of them over the years. Sadly, most of those were sold on eBay years ago to help pay to keep my house standing (I kept my Outlaw Kids!). I am actually not a huge fan of the Western Kid character. He always came across as the blandest of the 1950s group of 'Kids'. I like John Romita a lot, but he certainly became a more dynamic artist through the 60s adn 70s. Bill Everett, on the other hand, was a master from Day One and this particular issue includes an Everett-drawn tale from Quick-Trigger Western #14 (September, 1956). From what I have seen, Quick-Trigger might have been the strongest of the Atlas western anthologies and can be quite pricey these days. By tracking down this one, I can enjoy some of that 50s western magic for a fraction of the price.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Kids' Corner: Franklin Richards: Son of a Genius - Not So Secret Invasion

Full disclosure, I am not a fan of Franklin Richards. When I say that, I am referencing the 'Connecticut Years' during John Byrne's run when Franklin was just an accessory and was always playing with Secret Wars toys wearing that annoying 4½ shirt. This Franklin Richards, however, is an entirely different story. In this series, Franklin is a mischievous little guy, getting into all sorts of trouble despite the best efforts of his robo-nanny, H.E.R.B.I.E. Yes, that H.E.R.B.I.E! I read somewhere that there's a real Calvin & Hobbes vibe here, and I certainly won't disagree. The adventures are fun, and the two leads have great chemistry. Kids will love the silliness, but their parents will be rewarded with references to the larger Marvel Universe. How could you possibly pass up the chance too see a mini-Doom or even a time displaced, 8-year old Reed Richards develop a crush on his eventual wife. Great stuff!

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Hidden Gems: Marvel Classic Comics #8

Marvel's attempts at a Classics Illustrated knock-off was pretty hit and miss. The first batch of these were mostly, if not all, reprints of adaptations produced by Vincent Fago for Pendulum Press. While the covers are generally quite strong, the interior artwork and the awkward word balloons made for a bait and switch experience. This adaptation of Moby Dick, however, is an exception. I read the novel for the first time earlier this year and am happy to report that this telling manages to capture all of Melville's exciting atmosphere. Much of the credit goes to Alex Nino's pencils, which are perfectly suited to this kind of tale. The integration of the words are also done in a unique and seamless manner. Compare this to the Dracula issue and you'll see what I mean. This is certainly one of the best issues of this series that I've read, and fans of the book will find it to be a nice companion piece. Oh yeah, the Gil Kane cover is all kinds of awesome, isn't it?

Trade Marks: Wimbledon Green

I waited years and years to read this book. Upon its initial release, I recall it receiving nearly universal praise, even in Canadian newspapers that don't tend to pay much attention to the funnybook world. Seth's stuff is seen as hip, fun and intellectual. That said, it came with a pretty hefty price tag and I passed. I recently picked up a remaindered copy for $9.99 and was happy to finally dive into it. While I would not say that I was hugely disappointed, I can honestly say that I do not understand the hype. It's a fine collection of vignettes interwoven to tell the story of the greatest comic book collector in the world. There is a plenty of alluding to fanatical fans of Golden Age books and the lengths they will go to add to and defend their collections. The problem is that none of the characters are very well fleshed out and the story seems to go in circles most of the time. I understand that it is not a straight narrative, and is merely trying to shine a light of certain characters but it essentially trips over its own cleverness. It is also written about such a small segment of a very isolated and insular community that I fear it will only appeal to those very same people. I certainly didn't hate it, but I felt as though I was at an arm's length from the book and its characters. I just couldn't shake that sense of detachment. If someone lends you a copy, check it out but I truly think your money can be spent on other books. Trade Mark: C+

Friday, June 14, 2013

Exit Stage Left: Daredevil Comics #134

This little gem from 1956 is the final issue to a title with a long, strange history. To think that it all began with Daredevil battling Hitler, and somehow continued through the years, surviving the premature exits of the chief villain and even the title character. Hitler was gone in 1945, the Claw was killed that same year and Daredevil vacated the premises in 1950. Still, this title kept rolling along. The main story in this issue has the Little Wise Guys mistakenly thinking that some police trainees are up to no good. Ultimately, they help a rather bumbling candidate pass the test. It’s typical post-Code fun – but not exactly a battle against Hitler. Much has been said about the impact of the Comics Code Authority on EC, but it could be argued that Gleason was hit even harder. They relied heavily on their crime comics but their one-time ‘superhero’ books such as this title and Boy Comics, stayed on the racks much longer than most would realize. In the end, they departed with far less fanfare than that which announced their arrival. This is a tough book to track down but a nice piece for your historical oddity shortbox.

You've Been Warned: Fantastic Four Annual #18

Hey folks, do you remember the star spanning Kree/Skrull War? Remember how generations of Krees and Skrulls fought each other in a never ending battle for galactic supremacy. Well, did you ever wish that the whole thing could be wrapped up in a lame, 3-page pseudo fight? Did you always hope that The Watcher would essentially declare the war to be a tie and simply state that it was now over. If so, this is the book for you! Seriously, I know that Annuals were typically a place to stuff as many ideas as possible, but this is ridiculous. We've already got another typical Marvel Universe wedding disrupted by party crashers. In this one, it is Black Bolt and Medusa tying the knot. I get the feeling someone at Marvel realized that they had never been married. That oversight was explained with the 'Inhumans just take a long time to wed' argument. We've seen the whole wedding chaos thing a million times and there's nothing new here, and the fact that a whole Kree/Skrull subplot was dropped in reeks of desperation. I have no idea how long the war remained 'over', but I am not sure I really care. I am certain that it is considered blasphemous to diss anything from the John Byrne era on Fanastic Four, but this one stinks. Decline this wedding invitation.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

My Reading Pile: August, 1979

I'm returning to these posts about what I read during any given month at various junctures in my life. This time around, I am looking at comics that would have been on spinner racks in August, 1979. I would have been two months shy of my 7th birthday. Again, I must give kudos to the Amazing Mike and his Newsstand:

I have always loved Mysterio and I have to think it has to do with the fact that I read so many great Mysterio comics as a kid. He was also featured in the 60s cartoon, which was in heavy rerun rotation in Toronto at the time. Amazing Spider-Man #198 still holds up today, with a ton of good background on the 2nd Mysterio and very solid work by the Buscema/Mooney team. Great cover, great book.

As I have likely mentioned a million times on here, Justice League of America was one of my 'go to' books for years. From the house ads I'd seen, this storyline seemed to be so earth shattering. In reality, the outcome in Justice League of America #172 did not blow my mind. The question I was asking wasn't really 'Who Killed Mr. Terrific?' but rather 'Who the heck is Mr. Terrific?'. In the end, the story didn't have much punch, but I'm still a sucker for JLA/JSA crossovers.

UFO & Outer Space #23 would have been at the top of my reading pile that month, as I absolutely loved that series. The covers were usually fantastic and the stories was all very intriguing and sent a shiver up my spine. The Reader's Reports were such an innocent and charming way of presenting these stories. I'd like to find out where the stories came from. Actual letters? Tabloid mags? Or just made up by the writers? I still feel very nostalgic about the old Gold Key gems.

Must like the JLA, I could not live without the Avengers as a kid. Avengers #189 features one of those super dramatic covers that I loved so much, the cover to #181 being an all-time favourite. Who is in? Who is out? I loved that stuff. I also loved the Hawkeye being mad at the Falcon angle that played out over the entire year. This one is almost a Haweye solo book, and that's just fine by me.

Cool books I totally missed the boat on that month include Daredevil #161 and Iron Man #128. Oops.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Single Issue Hall of Fame: Power of Shazam #8

The 90s are not fondly remembered by many comic book fans. It was a time of garish artwork and headache inducing 'events'. That said,  I was hooked on many titles during the decade. The Power of Shazam was a great series, with a nostalgic, but fresh atmosphere. The 8th issue is a treasure trove for fans of the Golden Age as it is almost a Fawcett City All-Star Game. We meet Bullet Man, Minute Man and Spy Smasher and get to see Freddie Freeman first cry 'Captain Marvel!'. On the bad guy side of the ledger, we see Theo Adam, Captain Nazi and even Hitler's skeleton. There's a cool call back to the old Unknown Soldier series (a favourite of mine) and even some Curt Swan pencils. What else could fans of classic comics ask for? How about a great Jerry Ordway cover that seems to straddles the eras? This is a good one, and a nice addition to the 90s wing of the Hall of Fame.

Friday, June 07, 2013

Gil Kane Cover of the Month: Creatures of the Loose #31

Kane did a lot of great covers for Marvel in the 1970s, but you need to look to some second tier titles to find some of the very best. Let me start off by saying that I'm not in love with the inking here. The GCD credits both Frank Giacoia and Mike Esposito, so that might explain why it seems to be a bit of a mess. What I am in love with, however, is the perspective chosen for this cover. What a great design! It gives it such a wonderful horror movie vibe. Was that 'Beast' font ever used for the X-Men's Beast? I know it is not the one from his run in Amazing Adventures, but it seems familiar.

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

Trade Marks: The Original Clone Saga

This is one big book, coming in at nearly 500 pages. It also has a hefty price tag and I likely would have passed had I not found it for $20. I was not reading Spidey books during the whole Ben Reilly/Scarlet Spider era, but I was intrigued to revisit some of these older stories to see how the origins of the whole saga. As a child, I had read many of the individual stories through a combination of Amazing Spider-Man and reprints in Marvel Tales. For some reason, the Jackal always freaked me out when I was young. He came across as wild and insane and reminded me a bit of Gollum from the Bashki animated movie. Some of my earliest comic book memories involve the Jackal. Getting back to this volume - the storyline goes on and on and includes just about every story with a tenuous link to the Clone story. Some are more engaging than others, and I began to lose interest as we moved into the 80s and early 90s and became more focused on Carrion and Hobgoblin. I'm a pretty big Sal Buscema apologist, but some of those later issues looked quite terrible. Let's blame the inkers, shall we? All in all, the artwork is beautifully reproduced and the stories are mostly enjoyable. Most importantly, it reminded me of a few things. First, nobody draws NYC streetscapes like Ross Andru. Spider-Man and Andru-drawn buildings go together like webbing and a flagpole. Secondly, the Tarantula was an awesome villain. There's a reason many of my favourite Spidey stories featured this sharp-toed foe. It is worth adding to your bookshelf if you can find it at a reduced price, but far from essential. Trade Mark: B-