Thursday, May 28, 2015

Listen to our Podcast and Help With Disaster Relief

Some of you may not know that my wife Kat and I do a movie podcast called Married With Clickers. Every May we focus exclusively on disaster movies for what we call ArMAYgeddon. To help relieve our guilt about laughing at people's cinematic misfortunate, we have decided to give 25 cents to the Red Cross's relief efforts in Nepal for every ArMAYgeddon episode downloaded this month.

There are five episodes this month, covering The Swarm, Titanic (1943), Meteor, The Day the Earth Caught Fire and San Francisco. If you download them all, you've help add $1.25 to the fund. We can be found by search for Married With Clickers on iTunes, as well as Stitcher radio. Episodes can be downloaded directly from our Libsyn site at the link below.

Steve Ditko Cover of the Week: Journey Into Mystery #58

Here is an interesting one. I really love this cover as it has the  amazing mixture of bright colours and stark grey that I have come to love about Atlas covers. I think this is a fairly early entry as far as Ditko cover assignments for Atlas are concerned, as this is early 1960.What makes it even more interesting is that Jack Kirby was the go-to cover artist on Journey Into Mystery and he even contributed the splash page for the RRO! story. In fact, that splash page as used as the cover for the UK reprint title Zombie. As I said, I really love this one, and I'm happy they chose Ditko for the job. There must be a number of covers out here with monsters clutching subway trains. Time for me to start looking around!

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Add It To My Want List: Batman - Mask of the Phantasm

How have I never bought this one? I'm a big fan of the movie, and even got the chance to take my son to see it on the big screen at the TIFF Lightbox a couple of years ago. I don't recall ever seeing this comic book on the racks but I was a poor undergrad student at the time so I may have passed on it for budgetary reasons. I've been buying everything touched by the great Mike Parobeck but somehow missed this one. I love his work on the Batman: The Animated Series comics so I have got to think that this one will be great, too. Now the trick is to keep my eyes open. Sometimes you can never find what you're actually looking for in those back issue bins. The search begins.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Happy Birthday Lee Elias

Today would have been Lee Elias' 95th birthday. My love for his work has grown by leaps and bounds over the years. I know that some folks do not share my views, but maybe they've only seen some rush jobs for Marvel in the mid-70s. I think that those stood out to readers of my generation because they were the exact opposite of Neal Adams. Take another look at those Human Fly comics. They are actually pretty fun, with a great sense of movement throughout. His horror covers are iconic and it is still difficult to this of a heroine as cool as The Black Cat. We miss you, sir!

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Charlton Notebook: Just Married #81

Here's a good example of the kind of entertaining romance book Charlton was able to produce in the early 70s. The cover is simply a collection of interior images, but it does a good job selling the reader on the contents. If you're like me, you think "I Married a Monster" is likely a story about an abusive husband. Nope, nothing that dramatic. It's a simple tale of a wife who is embarrassed by the fact that her husband's big acting gig is as a creature on a kids' TV show. "You Don't Own Me" had me scratching my head. It's the tale of a possessive husband who only acts in that way because he knows that the new man on the scene is 'bad news' as far as women, including his wife, are concerned. I'm still not clear on why he pushed his wife into the swimming pool at a party, though. The final story is a bit dull as it's nothing more than a couple eloping in Mexico. I did like the fact that the woman's name is Beatrice as that's my daughter's name. The artwork is serviceable but unspectacular. Don Perlin's work on the lead story is the strongest. If you see this one in a bargain bin, it's worth grabbing!

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Trade Marks: Black Beetle - No Way Out

This was a blind buy for me last year. It caught my eye, I did a quick flip through and the sheer pulpiness of it had me pulling out my wallet. I have now read it twice and I put the book down feeling very satisfied both time. Of course, this stuff is right up my alley as the character is some sort of Batman/Sandman hybrid. I know that there have been a ton of book in recent years trying to tap into the vein of pulp, but many fail. This one gets it right, and full credit goes to creator Francesco Francavilla. He finds the right balance between atmosphere, plot and action. His artwork and storytelling is also sublime. I do not read too many new comics, but I will be picking up the next volume and devouring it. This is a strong recommend for those of you looking to see something recent and decent. Trade Mark: A

You've Been Warned: DC Special Series #6

When will I learn? I've have been burned by issues from the main Secret Society of Super-Villains series, so why did I think this would be any different? This stuff should be right up my ally. A handful of my favourite heroes going up against some of my favourite villains (sorry, Angle Man). Perhaps it's a matter of too many cooks spoiling the broth. This issue is an absolute mess, with a very convoluted plot involving far too many moving parts. Gerry Conway's script feels like something salvage from Roy Thomas' wastepaper basket. The villains take the heroes down one by one, but rather than through brute force or intelligence, it is done using some sort of inter-dimensional mind control or something along those lines (honestly, I wasn't following). I am not generally a fan of Arvell Jones' artwork as I find his storytelling lacks fluidity and this is compounded by 8 or 9 splash pages throughout. I know that people love big splashes, but I find that they can kill momentum. As it comes from 1977, there are some cool ads but that's about it has going for it. Avoid.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

My Reading Pile: December 1978

I haven't done these in a while, but I've been reading and re-reading from this era a lot in the past couple of weeks so I thought I would see what I actually read back then as a 6 year old.

I don't recall how this Scooby-Doo issue came into my life, but I did end up reading quite a few of the Marvel/Hanna-Barbera books back then. I know that I had some Laff-A-Lympics, for sure. Scooby-Doo #8 is the only issue of the Marvel version of this series that I remember owning. I think that the Gold Key creative team of Evanier and Spiegle was still in place as Chase Craig remained as editor. I'm not sure what happened to these titles. Maybe the licensing got too pricey?

Godzilla #17 is what inspired meto revisit this month as someone posted the cover on an internet group and I dug out my old copy. How could I not have picked this up as a 6 year old. I was absolutely nuts for dinosaurs and Godzilla (I would soon be a proud owner of a Godzilla Shogun Warrior). This remains a very fun book as S.H.I.E.L.D. uses Pym particles to turn Godzilla into the cutest little thing that you ever did seen. Gabe learns that those teeth as still sharp, though.

Back in the olden days, kids like me learn about major events in Peter Parker's life through reprints such as Marvel Tales #98. I surely couldn't afford an original back then and there were no Essentials or Masterworks so I did a lot of Spidey reading via Marvel Tales. It was just fine to learn about Gwen's death a few years late as I was not exactly plugged into the fanboy network as a 6 year old.

If you know me at all, you'll know that Brave and the Bold is my all-time favourite series so you will usually see an issue during these entries. Brave and the Bold #145 remains near and dear to my heart as it introduced me to The Phantom Stranger and contained some of Jim Aparo's finest B&B artwork, in my humble opinion. It was also one of my first experience with a voodoo-based story. That kind of thing leaves an impression on a boy!

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Gil Kane Cover of the Month: Our Army At War #3

Close your eyes and think of all of those great war covers Kane did for DC in the 50s and 60s. Having a hard time picturing any, aren't you? Although I've read a biography of Kane, I cannot remember if it delved into which genre he preferred over others. For one reason or another, he did not get many assignments on war covers (although he'd contribute a number of Sgt. Fury covers for Marvel years later). While this particular cover, inked by Joe Giella, is absolutely fine, it does not pack the same impact as the covers done by war comic mainstays Irv Novick and Jerry Grandenetti back then. While there is a lot going on here, it somehow lacks excitement and seems like something you'd see on an generic comic of that era. If you look at the cover gallery for the first 50 or so issues of Our Army At War, you'll agree with me that Kane's entry was one of the weakest.

Reprint This! The Adventures of Alan Ladd

Remember the good old days when comics were often about real people? Or at least about the type of people that we, the public, thought they were? Neither do I. I'm too young that that stuff, but I have always been intrigued by them ever since I spotted them in the Cover Gallery section of the first Overstreet Guide I ever owned. I've also always been fascinated by Alan Ladd as he had an interesting life, both professionally and personally. This series featured Ladd in a variety of adventures, many of them drawn by the great Ruben Moreira. The likes of Curt Swan, Carmine Infantino and Nick Cardy also chipped in so it must be a treasure trove of fine art. Some sites that I have seen claim that these stories are in the public domain, and are likely available in downloadable format but I want a nice hardcover, with glossy pictures of Mr. Ladd throughout. Someone get on this, please!

Monday, April 20, 2015

Hidden Gems: Marvel Super Action #4

Here's a bit of an oddball comic from Marvel in the late 70s. Right in the middle of a run of Captain America and Avengers reprints, Marvel decided to reach into the Timely/Atlas archives and pull out a couple of old Marvel Boy stories. The character had made a couple of appearances in Fantastic Four and also in What If...? but I don't believe there was any indication that he was being groomed for a series, or else they likely would have featured him in a try-out book such as Marvel Spotlight. Marvel Boy is an interesting character because, much like DC's Captain Comet, he was introduced during that awkward stage between the heyday of the Golden Age superhero and the Silver Age revitalization. The stories themselves are a bit hokey and the dialogue strains the limits of the word balloons, but it is very interesting as a historical artifact, especially the blend of sci-fi, super-heroics and espionage. As a bonus, the book features art by Bill Everett and Russ Heath, so that's not a bad problem to have. If you see this in a bargain bin, snag it as it will give you a taste of that era for a very small investment.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

R.I.P. Herb Trimpe

I learned this afternoon that Mr. Trimpe has passed away. From all accounts, he was a great human being. I was an admirer of his artwork and I've reworked a piece I wrote on him 7 or 8 years ago.

Herb Trimpe was a real Marvel mainstay for those of us who devoured comics in the Bronze Age. Although mostly associated with the Incredible Hulk, he could draw everything from westerns to monster books.  I’ve always admire his clean look which almost seemed to be the Marvel ‘house’ look because he worked on so many titles.

The strange thing is; I still think his best work was his first full length story – the “Phantom Eagle” from Marvel Super-Heroes #16. How many artists hit the ball completely out of the park on their first at-bat in the big leagues? Here are a couple of pages from that issue.

Trimpe also has a real knack for cover design – so many of his Hulk covers played with perspective to make them even more dynamic. Sometimes even just a slight tilting could bring a static image to life. Here’s my favorite of his Hulk covers (also used for a Power Records cover, IIRC) and one of his best western covers. It’s just dazzling – it’s really too bad that westerns went out of fashion because I truly believe that many artists excelled in that genre.

Trimpe definitely became the go-to guy at Marvel when they began licensing everything under the sun (see. Shogun Warriors, Godzilla and G.I. Joe to name but a few). Obviously Jim Shooter had faith in Trimpe, and put him on one high profile assignment after another. His versatility is indeed one of his real strengths as he really could do nice job on just about anything. You want a re-cap of Star Wars in a single page? Herb’s your man.

Like so many skilled Bronze Age artists, Trimpe seemed to fall off the radar screen at Marvel. Tastes change and it’s too bad that so many artists seem to be put out to pasture long before their time. He’s still doing work from time to time (I believe his did a recent BPRD issue for Dark Horse) For those looking to get a taste of Herb Trimpe at this best – I highly recommend tracking down that Phantom Eagle story, his work of the latter issues of Nick Fury and his take on Ant-Man in Marvel Feature. Frugal Hulk fans know that there’s a goldmine of fun Trimpe art in the Essentials volumes.

Rest in Peace, Herb. You will be missed. Thanks for the countless hours of entertainment.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Kids' Corner: The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl

Squirrel Girl. Who doesn't love her? With her powerful tail, 'can-do' spirit and overcaffeinated Steve Ditko eyes, she was a breath of fresh air when she first showed up in an Iron Man story. My kids both loved that book, especially the visual of Victor Von Doom being felled by an army of squirrels. Can a character with the potential to be a comical comic book footnote carry a series? Well, from the evidence that I have gathered from the first two issues, the answer is a resounding 'yes'. There is a lot of room in the field for a book that favours charm over grim and gritty, and this one got off to a solid start with some strong characterization, humour and some fun guest appearances (I'm looking at you Mr. The Hunter). The down side, however, is that the artwork is serviceable at best. The facial expresses are uniform throughout and the storytelling in the action sequences muddled (Exhibit A - the Iron Man armour bit). There's good potential here, though but I am not sure that my children are as keen on it as I am. The jokes seemed to be geared towards long-time funnybook fans and no young readers. A good comic can strike the right balance (see. Powerpuff Girls) and this one is not there (yet).

Thursday, April 09, 2015

Highlighting House Ads: Atom 2

I've said it before and I'll said it again: I love the Atom! He's one of my all-time favourite heroes but he has never had what could be described as a top tier Rogues Gallery. To be honest, it's not even second tier. Chronos is his Joker. That's a bit sad. Chronos actually isn't a terrible villain, but his costume has always left a lot to be desired. Those pants!!! This is a fun ad, though as it introduces Chronos and his time-based powers. As much as I love the cover to Atom #2, it actually does not let the reader know anything about the villain. I'm always happy whenever I see bags with dollar signs on them! This is classic early 60s DC house advertising: super busy, a variety of fonts and tons of charm.

Wednesday, April 08, 2015

Crystal Ball Covers

If you read enough comics, you'll realize that crystal balls were used as a cover gimmick in many genres, over many decades. Let's take a look at a handful of them.

Let's start with Warlord #20 (April, 1979). Of all of the long-running DC series of the 70s and 80s, Warlord may be the one with which I am the least familiar. I have read a bunch, but it never really clicked with me. I should probably give it another chance. I like this Mike Grell cover a lot. He's crammed a lot onto the page, but it doesn't seem too busy. Great design. This was a favourite gimmick for the series as crystal balls were also featured on the covers of issue 16 and 63.

I am sure that somewhere along the way, I have declared myself to be a fan of John Force, Magic Agent. If I haven't, let me do it. now. The cover to Magic Agent #2 (March-April, 1962) is a great example of ACG charm. It's so clean, simple and innocent that it's hard to imagine that they were trying to compete with Marvel and DC. I love Kurt Schaffenberger, and he was a great fit on this type of series. It's too bad he didn't do the interior artwork but Paul Reinman is also underrated.

I cannot discuss crystal ball covers without including Mike Kaluta's awesome cover to House of Secrets #99 (August, 1972). It's obviously an homage to M.C. Escher's Hand With Reflective Sphere, a lithograph first printed in 1935. My guess is that this was on dorm rooms across America back in '72 and that Kaluta's cover resulted in a collective "Whoa - far out, man!". Great stuff and one of the most iconic covers from that series.

Let's visit the superhero genre, as countless heroes have appeared in crystal balls over the years, including the JLA (Justice League of America #21 and #29) and the Legion (LOSH #303). I'll go with Invaders #30 (March, 1979), though, as I actually had it as a kid. I'm not a huge fan of Alan Kupperberg but this cover is decent. I'm not sure that I'd want to be stuck in a confined space with someone called The Whizzer.

For my final selection, I am returning to the horror genre with the cover to The Witching Hour #77 (July, 1977). I am sure that we can all agree that the story title "Coffee, Tea... or Kill!" is awesome, but so is Luis Dominguez' cover. I've seen skeleton Doctors, Santas, Cabbies and Pilots but this is the first Skeleton Stewardess (sorry, Flight Attendant) that I've ever seen. Very patriotic witch, too.

That is just the tip of the iceberg. There are tons of great Crystal Ball Covers out there, so keep your eyes peeled.


Exit Stage Left: Creatures on the Loose #37

Who doesn't love Man-Wolf? Well, apparently not enough people back in 1975 as this series was put out to pasture. Over a 4 year period, COTL had played host not only to John Jameson but also to Gullivar Jones, Thongor and an assortment of Atlas-era reprints. Like many series, this one died mid-storyline. Can I be honest? In my opinion, the move towards inter-dimensional adventures and assorted gemstones didn't mesh too well with the Man-Wolf character and I think David Kraft was heading in the wrong direction. What we do get in this issue, which was relatively rare, is a one page editorial by Kraft explaining the reasons for the cancellation and a summary of where the story was heading. That's pretty cool. Ultimately, it was picked up 4 years later in the pages of Marvel Premiere. George Perez fans may want to check this one out, but I will say that the prior issues inked by Frank McLaughlin looked better than this one, which was by Fred Kida.

Tuesday, April 07, 2015

Single Issue Hall of Fame: Detective Comics #485

Let me change gears in terms of Batman books. I think we can all agree that Dollar Comics are awesome. There is usually a lot of great material to be found between the covers. This one, however, sits at the upper echelon, mainly due to the amazing list of creators involved. For Don Newton fans, there are no fewer than 31 pages of his artwork. The first 20 are in a great Batman tale which sets up Bronze Tiger as a very intriguing characters. He also pencils the Man-Bat story, a character he was born to draw. I have never been a huge Demon fan, but I love it when Steve Ditko is on board and Len Wein's story is entertaining. The final two stories are worth mentioning because I think they would be unfairly dismissed by many readers and critics. The Robin story is a fairly quaint tale written by Paul Kupperberg infused with a ton of charm by Kurt Schaffenberger in his quasi-retro style. As you may know, I am a huge fan of Don Heck - an artist I think is criminally underrated. He draws women so that they have a very feminine strength and is, therefore, a wonderful fit for Batgirl. This is a solid story. Finally, we get a terrific Dick Giordano pin-up you've probably seen before with Batgirl and Robin. It is just a slice of perfection circa 1979.

Thursday, April 02, 2015

You've Been Warned: Shadow of the Bat #19 and #20

I have been making my way through some of the Knightfall trades in recent weeks and this little arc is the absolute bottom of the barrel. A villain named the Tally Man is introduced - he's part Joker, part accountant. He's got a pretty strange modus operandi, and it never really made sense to me in terms of how it is executed (pun intended). His background is actually fairly intriguing but Vince Giarrano sloppy storytelling makes it very difficult to follow. Let's not even get into the action sequences. The scratchy, pseudo-abstract artwork gets in the way of the flow of things. All in all, it seems as though Alan Grant was trying to create a new villain by simply putting some grim and gritty ingredients in a blender. It did not work. The Jean-Paul Valley era Batman stories are an acquired taste at the best of times, but this one leaves a bitter aftertaste.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Happy Birthday José Luis García-López!

Mr. José Luis García-López celebrates his 67th Birthday today. If you're a comic book fan of my generation, it is impossible to not have been wowed by his artwork at some point. He is one of the top artists of his generation, with an incredible sense of design. He infused every assignment with a great deal of style. It is sometimes easy to take a creator like García-López for granted, as he was so prolific for such a long period of time. He played an important role during a tumultuous time at DC, helping maintain the overall 'look' of the DC universe and breathing some fresh air into some stale books. Happy Birthday!

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Charlton Notebook: Ghostly Tales #94

This is a pretty typical Charlton horror book from the early 70s - nothing groundbreaking but pretty solid. We start off with an actual Ditko cover. I say this as the was not simply a paste job from internal art, but an original piece. The story itself it drawn by Pete Morisi (P.A.M.). That story is about Russian werewolves and Morisi gives it a chilly atmosphere. The lead story is pretty silly, as a gang of hippies (or are they bikers?) squat in a haunted house. The ornery ghost forces them to get to work tidying up. Was this an anti-littering message? Who knows? My favourite story here is the middle chapter, involving a swamp creature chasing a cowardly soldier during the Vietnam war. It is drawn with gusto by Joe Staton. That makes this a 'must-have' for Muck Monster completists. The was reprint nearly a decade later with the cover image flipped, perhaps to make people think that it was brand new. I love that Charlton ingenuity!

Add It To My Want List: Disney's The Three Musketeers (1993)

I saw this silly Disney version of the Three Musketeers while backpacking through Turkey in 1994. It was sufficiently entertaining, but immediately forgettable. Back then, had I seen the two-issue series in a comic book shop, I would have turned up my nose at it. I have since learned that Dan Spiegle provided the art on both issues. He is a perfect fit for this type of genre and I am guessing (and hopeful) that this has an old-timey Dell/Gold Key feel to it. As I have gotten older, I have really grown to love the adventure genre so this is right up my alley. As an added bonus, Gray Morrow provides covers for both issues. The hunt begins.

Thursday, March 05, 2015

Hidden Gems: Wonder Woman 80 Page Giant Annual (2003)

Just over a decade ago, DC published a bunch of this sweet retro-comics filled with Golden and Silver Age goodness. I will admit that I was put off by the price tag at the time and admired them from a distance. The beauty of the back issue market is that, for most recent books, the prices will eventually come down. I picked this up for $1.99 and was delighted with it. It gives the reader a great sampling of two eras in Wonder Woman history: the lunacy of the Golden Age stuff from the minds of Martson and Peter and the charm of the Silver Age, featuring the inventive storytelling of Robert Kanigher and beautiful artwork from the Andru/Esposito team. This is a great way to get a sense of early Wonder Woman stories without having to spend a ton of money on Archive collections. I am now wondering if the all-star team of villains in the Villainy Incorporated story from 1948 represents one of the first super-villain team ups in DC history. If you ever stumble upon this while flipping through back issue bins, I recommend picking it up.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Happy Birthday Karen Berger!

Happy Birthday to the woman who saved comics! Ok, ok, that may be Stan Lee-level hyperbole, but there's certainly a kernel of truth to it. Think for a moment how much Karen Berger did to steer comics through the 1980s and into the 1990s. The bar was raised substantially during her tenure at DC, to the point where she was given the keys to the Vertigo kingdom. It's impossible to overstate the role she played in shaping comics into the sophisticated medium they have become. How many titles that are now regarded as classics may have never existed had she not been in the editor's chair? It's impossible to say, but I would not want to live in a world without Sandman Mystery Theatre.

Single Issue Hall of Fame: World's Finest #113

Back when I was actively collecting Golden and Silver Age books, this one became somewhat of a holy grail. For a long time, I had owned a beautiful copy of World's Finest #123, featuring the second team-up of Bat-Mite and Mr. Mxyzptlk and I became obsessed with getting my hands on this particular issue. This was long before everything was available via reprint and it actually took me quite a while to find a nice, yet affordable copy. Was it worth the effort? I certainly think so. To see the two imps interact for the first time is a real treat. The come across as a bickering old couple, nad it's a hoot. That said, if you don't think the Silver Age can be charming, it may not be for you. The Swan penciled cover is pretty great, and Dick Sprang penciled the story itself. The real bonus here are the two back-up stories. The Green Arrow tale features the introduction of Miss Arrowette. She was always just an interesting footnote in Silver Age history but has become more important in recent years. I'm not much of a Tommy Tomorrow fan, but this particular tale is fun as he encounters his younger self. I think that all of these stories have been reprinted elsewhere, but it is still nice to have them all in one spot.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Exit Stage Left: Sea Devils #35

As a concept, the Sea Devils made a lot of sense circa 1960. Other scuba-related books were on spinner racks such as Dell's The Frogmen and the tie-in to the Sea Hunt series. As the decade progressed, the comic book landscape shifted. Superheroes were back in a big way and universe-building was underway at both DC and Marvel. Dane Dorrance and his team never really fit into the DCU all that well. They still managed to chug along, with Bob Haney telling self-contained underwater (pun intended) tales in typical loopy yet entertaining Bob Haney fashion. This issue was par for the course, with alien creatures arriving via an inter-dimensional portal in the ocean. In this case, however, after winning the battle, the good guys simply swam off into the sunset, not to be seen again until Showcase #100.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Steve Ditko Cover of the Week: Ghostly Haunts #25

Here's a pretty cool Ditko cover that is absolutely ruined by the coloring job. I understand that Charlton wanted its books to stand out of the racks, but this garish green was a bad decision. Ditko has never been one for highly detailed artwork but we still want to be able to see what he has drawn. I'm not sure whether or not this is a paste job based on interior images, but I actually really like the layout. There is a lot to absorb, much of it quite sinister. I've written about my love for Ditko Water before, but now I feel as though I should focus on Ditko Flowers. They are so simple and yet so effective. Overall, this is a subpar Charlton cover due to the color work. Too bad.

Memoirs of a Bronze Age Baby: Wulf the Barbarian #1

I have likely mentioned the 10 cent rack at my local comic book store when I was a kid. Circa 1979 or 1980, my LCS had a rack at its front door that featured comics that had obviously not been great sellers. This included titles such as Devil Dinosaur and Yang. The  rack was also packed with Atlas-Seaboard books. I was far too young to understand the differences between various publishers and certainly did not know the sordid history of Atlas Seaboard. I let covers inform my purchases, and what a cover this was! I still think it looks great to this day and I understand why my 7 year old self slapped down a dime for it. As far as Atlas-Seaboard books go, this one is very solid. There's nothing terribly original considering it was a common genre at the time, but the origin story is engaging and the art by the team of Larry Hama and Klaus Janson is often spectacular. Over the years, I've picked up nearly every Atlas-Seaboard book published and this remains in the top tier.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Gil Kane Cover of the Month: The Atom #24

Here's a body horror cover that the likes of David Cronenberg would love. Gardner Fox had a background in science-fiction and it showed in so many of the stories he wrote for DC. Sometimes the concept was better than the final product and the cover is a great way of conveying the concept. This one is fantastic as we get all sorts of texture - from the leaves to the colours above and below the water level. Murphy Anderson was the right inker for this jump as Kane's inking was a bit too fine for a job like this and Sid Greene might have made it look a bit flat. All in all, it's a good as it got for Kane on this title. Shear genius!

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Happy Birthday Curt Swan!

Today would have been Curt Swan's 95th Birthday. Like anyone of my generation or the generation before me, Curt Swan was THE Superman artist. Long before I looked at creator credits, I knew that this was precisely how Superman was supposed to look. He was square jawed and impossibly handsome and yet still somewhat human and approachable. Coincidentally, Swan was shared all of those attributes with his Man of Steel. His artwork was never flashy as his strengths were as a storyteller, helping to sell some unbelievable yarns through the decades. Swan made Superman likable and, as a result, most people liked Swan. His ability to convey emotion, through both facial expression and posture, was without peer. There is a reason so many people see Swan as THE Superman artist. He took what Shuster and Boring had done, refined it and created a brand new template. He is missed.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

You've Been Warned: Rocket Raccoon Mini-Series (1985)

I can already imagine the boos and hisses as I type. I know that this is likely a much beloved project, but hear me out. Like everyone else on the planet, I dig Rocket Raccoon. I also happen to love the work of Bill Mantlo and Mike Mignola. As such, it seemed as though this would be a good fit for me. What went wrong? It is difficult for me to put a finger on it, but I think that there was simply too much going on. Too many visual gags, too many characters, too convoluted a plot and too many literary and cinematic references. As such, it comes across as more of an experiment than a comic book story. I get what Mantlo was trying to do here and I picked up on most, if not all, of what he was referencing but the strange brew of Lewis Carroll, Walt Kelly and Steve Gerber playing in a sandbox filled with toys from Dune, Star Wars and One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest left me with a bitter aftertaste. Abstract satirical humour can work great but, for me, it is better in smaller doses. I love most of Steve Gerber's work, but I feel as though he helped create a shift in funnybook writing that could really go off the rails. Full accolades to Mr. Mignola, though - this stuff looks great. Overall, not for me.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Add It To My Want List: Secret Origins #14

I've been re-reading my stack of Suicide Squad comics in recent days. I'm loving it, of course as Ostrander and company fused a great concept with a superb cast of characters. Many of those early issues reference both Legends and Secret Origins #14. Legends, I've read. Secret Origins #14? Nope. Now, I feel as though there's a gaping hole in my funnybook collection. I thought I had the Suicide Squad covered, but I'm missing a vital link in the chain. Now, it's a matter of haunting various comic shops until I get my hands on a copy. There are certainly worse ways to spend my time!

Wednesday, February 04, 2015

Charlton Notebook: The Phantom #36

I have written about this era of The Phantom on here before and have declared myself to be a fan. I re-read this particular issue and found myself transformed back to the dangerous jungles where ivory smugglers and diamond thieves lurk around every corner. This particular issue features two strong Phantom stories. I would have initially assumed these were scripted by Steve Skeates, who often collaborated with Jim Aparo, but the GCD states that Skeates has informed them that he was not involved with this one. I really love Aparo's artwork on this series, in particular the way he manages to give Devil such a strong personality. I wish he'd had the chance to work on Dell's
Lassie series. As an added bonus, there's a 4-page non-Phantom Ditko story in here. Not amazing Ditko, but Ditko all the same.

Tuesday, February 03, 2015

Trade Marks: I... Vampire!

Back in 2008, I wrote a 'Reprint This!' feature suggesting to the brain trust at DC that the I... Vampire story arc from House of Mystery would make for a fine TPB. A few years later, my prayers were answered and this handsome volume popped up in comic book shops. It's terrific to have all of these stories in one place, as it helps the reader get a better sense of the common thread linking the chapters. That said, some tales within the larger structure are stronger than others and they can come across as a bit repetitive when read altogether. I am a huge fan of Tom Sutton's artwork and it is very nicely reproduced here. I was very happy to see that they chose to included the story from The Brave and Bold #195. It may not fit perfectly with the other Andrew Bennett tales, but I am not going to complain about some nice Aparo artwork. I do wish that some additional materials were included, perhaps some sketches, rejected covers or even a Who's Who entry. Overall, it is a solid collection but falls short of upper tier material. Trade Mark: B+

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Comic Book Robot of the Month: Mordillo's Assassin

Some people love a man in uniform. Me? I love a robot in a trench coat. It is truly an iconic look. Bynocki may be a more infamous robo-foe for Shang-Chi, but this assassin robot sent to London to take out Reston while repeating the phrased "Mr. Reston, I presume" is pretty cool. The Kane cover may be a bit misleading as the robo-action is wrapped up in the first few pages. That said, it is a pretty good fight as Shang-Chi ultimately turns the robot's weapons against itself. Ultimately, the issue is much more focused on espionage and detective work but a great cold opening with a neat looking robot is a smart way to kick off a storyline.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Reprint This! Bobby Benson B-Bar-B Riders

First, let's acknowledge the fact that Stan Lee was not the only person in love with alliteration. This name of this series has never easily rolled off my tongue (nor my keyboard). This is a terrific series. I was getting close to a full run until I needed some money and changed gears and sold them all. The Riders are based on a radio serial and their adventures are pretty typical for the era - think post-WW2 Boy Commandos on the frontier. For lovers of Bob Powell artwork, this is heaven. His stuff looks amazing here, serving as evidence that he is a true master. You also get terrific features such as The Lemonade Kid and Ghost Rider, with some early Dick Ayers art. I know that many of these stories have been reprinted a various points by AC Comics but it would be tremendous to see them all collected in a single volume.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Happy Birthday Frank Miller

Today is Frank Miller's Birthday. I don't want to get into his health, his politics, his opinions or his Spirit movie. If you've read this blog for a while, you know that I'm a huge fan of Miller's run on Daredevil as well as much of his 80s work. Not so much the later stuff like 300 and Sin City, but let's stay positive. What I want to remind everyone about today is that Frank Miller was an amazing cover artist. He has a wonderful sense of design and drama as evidenced by two of my favourite covers from childhood: Spectacular Spider-Man #52 and Power Man and Iron Fist #67, both of which have been featured here before. Here's a cool and unique cover that you may never have seen. It is from one of the final issues of the early 80s Superboy series that never really seemed to find its groove.

Single Issue Hall of Fame: Adventure Comics #425

This issue is like being overwhelmed by the choices on a menu at a great restaurant. It is unbelievable that editor Joe Orlando was able to bring this much talent together and squeeze them into a mere a 26 pages. Let's start with the Mike Kaluta cover. It's a wonderful blend of pulp and fantasy and would have definitely stood out as being unique on spinner racks back in late 1972. I met Mr. Kaluta 15 or so years ago and asked him to sign my copy - so it now has two signatures. His signature is one of my favourites. The cover is inspired by the lead story, drawn by the great Alex Toth. It's a great revenge tale with a truly nasty ending. I note that it was written by Lynn Marron. I don't know anything about her other than a small handful of horror credits for DC and Warren. There's a neat two-pager with a Hitler angle
by Frank Redondo. Gil Kane fans will be interested to hear that he also wrote his fantasy tale here and it has a slight Blackmark vibe. Finally, the issue launches the Captain Fear storyline by Robert Kanigher and Alex Nino, a serial that seems to harken back to newspaper strips while also being ahead of its time. This is a true Hall of Famer.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Happy Birthday Sal Buscema

Sal Buscema celebrates his 79th Birthday today. If anything can convince me to put my work aside for a while and blog again, it's the opportunity to talk about Our Pal Sal. As I understand, not everyone has always been enamored with Sal's work. During the 70s, whether the likes of Neal Adams, Jim Starlin and Frank Brunner were trying to expand our collective minds, artists like Sal Buscema simply got to work cranking out great stories and turning them in on time. Several years ago, I had a wonderful email exchange with Steve Engelhart in which he praised Sal as a wonderful collaborator.

When I close my eyes and think of comic book images from my formative funnybook years (let's say 1976 to 1983), I am amazed by how many of those got their start at Sal Buscema's drawing board. From Cap's shield crushing him (thanks to Graviton) in Avengers #158 to the truly eerie 'glass men' from Incredible Hulk #262. That image of the swimmer still creeps me out. How about that Spectacular Spider-Man #1 cover? There's a reason we all picked that one up, right? It grabs your attention. Here's to Sal Buscema.! I wish you the happiest of Birthdays!