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.
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.
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.
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.
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!