This is one of only two 15 cent issues of the 'merged' series. If having two former headliners in a single mag was not enough to lure readers, DC commissioned a number of dramatic Joe Kubert covres. It would appear that none of this could save the series. The final issue is a rather typical, loopy science-fiction tale involving microscopic alines and brainwashing. This one ends in a very strange fashion, as Jean Loring appears to be brain damaged, believing herself to be Queen of the aliens. I'm not sure how, or if, this ever got resolved. I have a full run of the Atom series, including the three Showcase issues, and it is one of my favourite sections of my collection. I would be lying if I said I didn't feel a little sad whenever I spot this final issue.
Wander was a very unique little strip, created by Denny O’Neil (as Sergius O’Shaugnessy) and Jim Aparo. Despite that pedigree, not too too many people are aware of its existence as it was buried as a back-up in Cheyenne Kid, perhaps the blandest of all Charlton westerns. Needless to say, Wander was infinitely more entertaining than its lead-in. Why should this one be reprinted? Well, it’s not every day that you get the opportunity to read an ongoing saga about and alien dressed as a cowboy. Did I mention that the alien spoke in pseudo-Shakespearean English? I really find early Aparo art to be quite fascinating, and I enjoy tracking his evolution as an artist. It would be a slim volume, but I would absolutely love to see all of the Wander stories collected in one place.
I don't normally make too many requests on here or push too many side projects, but I would like to draw your attention to a very fun cause started by my good pals at the Gentleman's Guide to Midnite Cinema. They are working with a good friend in the Netherlands to release the 1986 action film Final Score on DVD. There are lots of terrific goodies being offered as prized over at their Indiegogo site.
I ask, as a personal favour, that you head over there to check out the campaign and consider donating whatever you can.
I have likely mentioned it on here before, but it is worth reiterating that Power Man & Iron Fist was one of my favourite series as a child. It was just so different from many of the books I was reading back then. One of the strongest aspects of this series is the bond between Luke and Danny. That relationship is very nicely portrayed in the epic double-sized issue, as it features a nice mix of action and characterization. You get plenty of Danny coming to terms with his past, including a very effective retelling of his origin. There's plenty of humour with some 'fish out of water' bits as Luke does not adapt very smoothly to the customs of K'Un-Lun. On top of all that, there's a terrific Bob Larkin painted cover. Those covers were becoming a rarity in standard format books at Marvel during the early 80s. All in all, it is a solid milestone issue with a strong standalone story. What more could you want?
Attention Robert Altman fans! Yes, Mr. Altman's work has been adapted for the Four Color world. It wasn't The Long Goodbye, nor Quintet but rather this nearly forgotten film starring a super young James Caan and Robert Duvall. It makes you wonder if Francis Ford Coppola was a fan. The film itself is perhaps the least Altmanesque of all Altman films but I have a soft spot for this type of story, and it translates very well to the printed page. Jack Sparling may not be Neal Adams, but I have always found him to be a decent storyteller and his does a good job with the likenesses of the cast members. If you know the film, you know the ending is quite suspenseful and the final few pages here are a real treat. This is a Silver Age (space) oddity that should be scooped up by fans of sci-fi films of the era.
The reason I am posting a black and white image of the original art for this particular cover is because I think it looks so much than the final product from the press in Derby, CT. The garish colour choices made by the folks at Charlton stripped this image of much of its texture. For example, the tire treads are nowhere to be seen on the printed cover and the impact of the car crash is lessened. The choice to go with a day glo green for the ghosts makes him jump off the page. If you look at the fine pencils and ink, I think Ditko was looking for a more subtle look. It is quite a good cover, and is from a time when Ditko was still doing covers for Charlton.
I am generally reluctant to take on new superhero titles for two reasons. First, most of the 'new' heroes I encounter tend to be based on recycled concepts. The second problem is that many books are so darned serious. Don't get me wrong, I love the Dark Knight Returns as much as anyone, but it seems as though many creators are trying to pay homage to Frank Miller. Enter Bandette, a high spirited young cat burglar who lends a helping had to the local gendarmerie. This is no origin story, as we're plunked into the middle of Bandette's day to day adventures. Writer Paul Tobin does a nice job mixing action with humour but it is Colleen Coover's wonderfully retro artwork that won me over, especially the way she makes the streets of Paris an important character. While it may be a little light on dramatic tension, if you are looking for a fun and charming series, this may be the ticket. Extras include a fascinating look at Coover's process from sketch to finished page. Trade Mark: A-
While we are on the subject of Wanted posters, I think I should mention this great house ad from 1987. I absolutely adore this series and this was a terrific way to announces its arrival. I recently watched an episode of Justice League Unlimited with Deadshot, Captain Boomerang and crew and it made me want to dig out my back issues and revisit the entire run. This was a very exciting era for DC comics, and the concept for Suicide Squad was absolutely brilliant. So is this house ad.
Here's a theme that pops up more often than you might think. While we all know Uncanny X-Men #141, let's take a look at a few other prime examples.
Flash #156 (November, 1965) was one of the first Silver Age books I ever owned. How could I pass it up? When I first started flipping through back issue bins as a young lad, many Flash covers jumped out at me. This is a true classic and really sums up all of the fun and melodrama of DC in the mid-60s. Don't worry fans, he didn't really betray the world. It was all a misunderstanding.
There are a number of western comic books that feature a wanted poster, with Showcase #76 being the most iconic. I chose, however, to highlight the cover to Western Comics #44 (March-April, 1954) because I rarely get to talk about Pow-Wow Smith. This is one fine looking cover, pencilled by Carmine Infantino and inked by Sy Barry. I love how he's worth 100 times more dead than alive.
It is interesting that no matter what theme I choose for these features, there is usually at least one Wonder Woman cover that fits the bill. The cover to Wonder Woman #108 (August, 1959) is a Andru & Esposito classic. It also has a slightly washed look to it, so I suspect that Jack Adler was involved. I have a feeling that I may have seen this on a T-Shirt once. If I am wrong about that, it should be on a T-shirt! George Perez's cover to Wonder Woman #57 is another good example.
Jim Aparo's cover to Brave and the Bold #161 (April, 1980) is the third time Aparo featured a wanted poster for this series. The other two don't quite qualify as, while they featured Batman's teammate for the story, the posters were of The Joker and Ra's Al Ghul, respectively. This cover also features the 'empty costume' theme, something I will be tackling down the road.
Let's leave off with a personal favourite of mine, Star Wars #7 (January, 1978). I vividly remember a house ad featuring this cover and being very anxious to get my hands on it. It was the first 'new' Star Wars story as the adaptation of the first film had wrapped up with the previous issue. It's a stylish Gil Kane pencilled effort, very much in line with the western covers he was doing for Marvel in the 70s. Did they ever refer to their blasters as Laser-Guns anywhere else? I find that rather amusing.
This is one of the very few titles published by DC in the 1970s of which I do not own a single copy. To be honest, I don't recall ever seeing it in back issue bins and it has been completely off my radar. I'm always interested in finding affordable copies of stories from the 50s and 60s, so I recently turned my attention to Four-Star Battle Tales. This anthology reprints selected stories spanning nearly two decades. The fifth and final issue is the one that triggered the most drool from yours truly. There are three stories contained between the covers, all from the 1950s. Check out the three artists: Russ Heath, Mort Drucker and the one and only Bernie Krigstein. Wow! I need this one sooooo badly!
Gil Kane excelled at drawing swords. He also excelled at drawing serpents. These were two of the key reasons he was an excellent choice for Conan the Barbarian covers. In fact, if you scan the cover gallery for any Marvel sword and sorcery series from the 70s, you're likely to spot at least one Kane cover.This is a particularly good one, as I have always been a fan of covers that use a 'Through the Looking Glass' gimmick. This one is actually a collaboration between Gil Kane and Ralph Reese. Reese provided the layout and inks, while the finished pencils were provided by Kane. I like their work as a team quite a bit, and my only real complaint about this cover is the choice of colours for the background, as contrast between the grey and the yellow does not help the image jump off the page. I also question the colour choice for evil sorcerer figure, as he fades a bit too much into the background. Overall, it is a decent final product but not top tier as far as Bronze Age Kane covers go.