Archive for October, 2005

Happy Halloween!

October 31, 2005
I’m taking the day off from posting to enjoy Halloween with the kids. Have fun, everyone, be safe and try not to eat TOO much candy.

Ghost Rider #3 (1973)

October 30, 2005
Ghost Rider was the highest of high concepts for the 1970s. A motorcycle stunt rider who is possessed by the devil and forced to fight crime, huh? Just how many cliches does that grant plot contain? And yet the concept worked, and this comic ran for a long, long time.
 
Why did it run so long? It wasn’t the stories, it was the awesomely cool image of the Ghost Rider himself. Just look at the piece of art attached to this posting and tell me there’s not something immediately exciting about this character. Fucking a. The Ghost Rider kicked some serious supernatural ass.

Comiculture Anthology (2005)

October 29, 2005

I started reading this collection knowing nothing more than that silverbullet editor Keith Dallas really enjoyed this book. Dallas seems to have good taste, but I pride myself on my independence. I make up my own damn mind about what I like and what I don’t like, and I’m not going to rave over something my editor likes just to get on his good side (for one thing this is an unpaid gig anyway, so it’s not like being on his good side gains my extra cash).

But in this case Dallas and I are in total agreement. This is a great collection of stories.

The book grabbed me with its cover, of a lovestruck King Kong looking through then window of a highrise while a gorgeous woman lies in her bed, puppy at her side, reading comics. What a girl! She’s the girl of every fanboy’s dreams; Kong chose right. I chuckled, opened the cover, and found that the cover was part of a story, continued inside. I’ve never seen this idea before, for a cover to lead into a short little tale inside. It’s a very cute little twist-of-the-tail story, and really made me chuckle. It also put me in a great mood for what came next.

Comiculture contains seven long stories and three shorter ones, along with the cute cover yarn. Each one is different from the one before it. We get a travelogue from Kenya, a supernatural romance tale and a pirate yarn, among other stories. It’s such a treat to read a whole slew of stories from different genres in one convenient, high-quality collection. Each story is well-done and successful in achieving what the creators intended to do.

Take “Suffer the Salt,” the pirate story, written and illustrated by Chris Burnham. It tells the tale of a Christian pirate who is confronted by a heathen member of his crew. The crew member has gone native and worships the gods of the exotic islands that the pirates visit. As punishment, the man is punished with a keelhaul, an intensely frightening punishment that is discussed at great detail. The story is spooky and intriguing. Burham’s art is wonderfully moody and his writing is clear and moves quickly. I want to find more comics by him.

I also want to read more stories about the erstwhile and inept witches of Don Hudson’s “Love Works Its Magic.” This funny supernatural romance tale tells the story of three girls, high school losers, who want desperately to be witches. They’re so inept they might actually know what they’re doing. Hudson’s story is light and fun. His art, though, is what makes the story really special. It looks like nothing more than the work of Marvel Comics legend John Buscema inked by fellow legend Tom Palmer. The two men were a pair of master creators; to see artwork like theirs grace such a fun little story adds a whole extra level of interest to the tale.

Marie Javins presents a wonderful travelogue of her visit to Kenya. Javins left her job as an editor at Marvel to travel the world, and has the spirit of one who’s seen a lot of the planet and knows how to deal with places that are very different from American cities. Readers learn about Nairobi, or as it’s sometimes nicknamed, “Nairobbery” because everyone there seems to have a scam. In her four pages, Javins gives us readers a real feel for the place – she’s very talented at telling good stories and at helping readers to walk in her shoes. Hudson illustrates this story as well, with a looser, more cartoony style that takes the edge off of the story.

Jessica Wolk-Stanley’s “I Loved a Zombie” is, as the title suggests, an offbeat romance tale illustrated in a cute angular style reminiscent of Andi Watson’s comics.  This is a wonderfully fun little yarn, full of humor and a post-modern wink towards old-fashioned romance tales.

The only story I really didn’t care for in the collection was Buddy Scalera and Alan Evans’s fantasy adventure tale “Clarissa: Down the Rabbit Hole.” I have to admit I’m a little prejudiced against fantasy adventure tales with cute creatures and beautiful girls, and this story didn’t do anything to dissuade me from my judgment. That doesn’t mean than Scalera’s story is bad – it’s just fine for what it is – nor that Evans’s art is bad – he actually does a wonderful job with a story that begs for color – but the story just didn’t work for me.

Readers also get a spooky werewolf story from Don Hudson and Vince Evans; a cute take on elderly super-heroes by Alex Zamm and Graeme Callander, an intriguing two-pager, beautifully drawn, by Mark Cooper and Allen Gladfelter, and cute one-pagers by Kerry Callen and the ubiquitous Buccellato, respectively.

My editor was right about this book. Comiculture Anthology is a winner of a book. There are some wonderful and unique stories by some intriguing creators. After reading this book, I jumped online to order more comics by these creators. You can’t get a better endorsement than that.

 

Comet Tales #15 (2005)

October 27, 2005

Several years ago I sent one shiny new green American dollar to Jim Pack at the above address for a copy of his zine Comet Tales. I think I received back a copy of issue 8, or it might have been #9. It was a long time ago, and my memory isn’t as good as it once was. But I do remember that I haven’t sent another buck to Jim since. And Jim still send me his zine. He’s cool that way. Comet Tales is a labor of love, and Jim just wants folks to read his comics. So at his own expense, he sends copies of each issue to those of us lucky enough to have jumped on his zine. I’ve always really enjoyed the zine; no matter what Jim puts in it, the zine is all about what Jim wants to say. The real pleasure comes from watching Jim explore his creativity. Of course, it helps that he’s a pretty decent artist, too.

I enjoyed Comet Tales #15 just a little bit less than preceding issues. For one thing, there was no Vaughn Bode-inspired bar story; those always crack me up. I love the way he draws the bar chick, it reminds me of women I’ve always wanted to meet.

But this issue is still fun. The main story shows Major Revenge, the hero with ‘911’ on his full-face mask, and the commando squad TAPS, taking on terrorists who have brought an atomic bomb through the Mexican border. The story’s a light fun revenge yarn, similar in some ways to the anti-Nazi comics of the 1940s. It’s fun how Major Revenge’s identity is a secret; that’s something that’s made me pick up each issue with interest. And Jim’s art style is fun, especially for a fan artist. He’s good at using toning to give a sense of depth and energy, something many artists with professional credits don’t really understand.

Backing up that comic story is a five-page text story by Joseph Pack. Most issues of Comet Tales contain text stories, usually with humorous twists at the end. This story read a bit more straight than most stories. The twist ending in this one just seemed a bit more forced than in previous stories, I guess.

Don’t let this lukewarm review stop you from ordering this zine. Jim Pack is pouring his heart and soul into Comet Tales, and he wants to share. Isn’t that worth a buck?

Jim Pack
787 Bay Harbor
Maineville OH 45039

Sub-Mariner #50 (1972)

October 26, 2005
Bill Everett was a great Golden and Silver Age artist. It’s clear looking at this comic just how good Everett was at the end of his career, in the ’70s. This comic is bold and energetic, full of frenetic energy and excitement, as Everett pours a tremendous amount of effort into this comic.
 
It’s clear that Everett was fired up, returning to the character he had created in the late 1930s. His art has a tremendous amount of vitality to it – every panel seems to pulse with energy, and he’s terrific at depicting odd undersea characters and spaces. Everett was one of those artists whose work just got better and better through the years – he did some just stunning art in the ’70s.
 
The story is a bit wacky – there’s a giant crab that attacks Prince Namor, the Sub-Mariner, but who cares? The master was back in command. Unfortunately, his run didn’t last very long, but you take what you can get.
 
I’ve been racking my brain trying to think of another case where a writer/artist was employed by Marvel in the ’70s. Neal Adams wrote and drew a few ‘mystery’ stories in that era, but there I can’t think of another instance of another creator in that era who had this sort of freedom. In fact, I think that was part of why Frank Miller on Daredevil was so explosive – we hadn’t seen anyone with his freedom before.
 
I paid three bucks for this comic, the same price as a new comic costs today. It’s a no-brainer which is a better value.

Marvel Monsters: Devil Dinosaur #1 (2005)

October 25, 2005
Okay, so everyone knows that Jack Kirby was the King of Comics. The guy created or co-created almost every important character published by Marvel Comics, and that even includes the ever-amazing Spider-Man. But that was in the ’40s, ’50s and ’60s. By his late ’70s return to the House of Idea, the King had fallen off his throne a bit. One of the comics he created is the immortal Devil Dinosaur, a rather campy romp through pre-history, where a giant red dinosaur is pals with a caveboy named Moon Boy. Moon Boy. Not quite the same as Capatin America or Doctor Doom, is it?
 
Still, those comics have their goofy charm, and that’s probably part of why Devil Dinosaur is such a well-loved old series. Now, as part of their wacky October of Monster comics, Devil is back. And this time he’s fighting a cool, old-school Hulk at the behest of a couple of extraterrestrial meddlers.
 
It’s a fun little comic book, with a fun story by Tom Snegosi, and co-writing and art by the wonderful Eric Powell of Goon fame. This is wacky stuff, with lots of fun images of the dumb, old Hulk and a cute twist ending. Powell’s art is great, as expected, and I just love the way he draws the Hulk. I can’t tell you this comic is worth it’s $4 cover price, but it’s definitely worth the $2 I paid for it.
 
Almost better than the lead story is the reprint backup, a great monster yarn called "I Was A Slave of the Living Hulk", by the classic Lee/Kirby team. This is actually a surprisingly decent story about an extraterrestrial criminal, the mostrous orange Xemnu (I always love those old monster names) who somehow enslaves the Earth under his dominion. Don’t mess with Xemnu, he’s the living Hulk. The Lee story is wonderfully light, and the Jack Kirby art is as classic as can be.
 
So the question is, which is better, the new story or the old story? Classic Kirby or cool new Powell? Sincere goofiness or post-modern irony? I gotta say, no matter how fun the lead story is – and it’s a damn fine story – the King will always be the King to me.

Marvel Presents: Bloodstone #2 (1975)

October 24, 2005

Who is Ulysses Bloodstone and why should you care?

Well, he’s a nobody and you really shouldn’t care. And that’s why it’s such fun being a fan of Bronze Age Marvel Comics.

Marvel in the ’70s was full of all kinds of series dedicated to the theory that "if we throw enough things at the wall, maybe some of them will stick." So readers got Black Goliath and the Champions and the Red Wolf and Combat Kelly and the brilliant Omega the Unknown, short-lived and mainly forgotten series of their era. Some characters, like Tigra and Iron Fist and Howard the Duck would become relatively prominent members of the Marvel Universe; others, like Mordred the Mystic and the Scarecrow and this comic’s hero, Bloodstone, would become amazing obscurities.

Bloodstone and Mordred appeared for short two-issue stints in the sister titles Marvel Chillers and Marvel Presents before turning the comics over to their planned residents, Tigra and the Guardians of the Galaxy. It shows my true geekiness to say that I’ve wondered for years why in the hell Marvel didn’t just decide to wait till Tigra’s and the GOG’s series were ready before launcing the series, but apparently Marvel decided to launch these series as anthology before they had stories for the main characters lined up. I love Marvel of the ’70s: everything was seat of the pants in that era. It was a very weird and unpredictible time. According to the text page (remember text pages?), Bloodstone was a series that was intended to appear in the monster comic Where Monsters Dwell, but the stories were cancelled before Bloodstone ever appeared. WMD (funny double-meaning to that abbreviation now, huh?) was just a monster comic that reprinted crap late ’50s and early ’60s monster comics. At one time, they were going to do new stories in the monster anthologies, but the editors changed their mind, probably to save money. Thankfully, then, for Marvel, Bloodstone was ready and waiting when editor-in-chief Marv Wolfman realized that Guardians of the Galaxy wasn’t ready.

Honestly, though, this comic is no diamond in the rough. Bloodstone’s origin is revealed in this issue and it’s not exactly memorable. 10,000 years ago a blonde caveman wanders into a cave in which an odd Lovecraftian monster lives. I love the monster’s name, Ullux’yl Kwan T’ae’sny. That’s maybe the most inspired thing about the comic. Ully grafts a giant red gem to Ulysses’s chest, a gem which gives him immortalty and some sort of connexion to magick in the universe. Umm, then the caveman lives to fhe 1970s and puts on a safari outfit and fights evil. That’s pretty much it.

Yeah, Bloodstone kinda sucked, but in the next issue another great Steve Gerber strip, the Guardians of the Galaxy premiered. Remind me to tell you sometime about Starhawk, who was both male and female at the same time. It’s great comics. Unlike this comic.

Seattle Comicard Convention: 10/23/05

October 23, 2005
The Seattle Comicard Convention keeps marching on, more and more pathetic each time it’s run.
 
The Comicard convention is a one-day comics show that a guy named Steve Miner has had in Seattle for many years. These shows used to happen five or six times per year, but lately they’ve happened once or twice per year. At their peak, which happened as the comics market was peaking, these were fun events, with lots of dealers and interesting guests. Miner broiught Bernie Wrightson, Len Wein and Al Feldstein to Seattle to appear at these shows, and the show spread across five or six rooms at Seattle Center.
 
Today’s show is a new nadir. There were no guests to speak of, and for the first time, the show was only in two rooms – neither of which seemed very full of conventioneers.
 
Part of this might be that we finally have a big annual convention, the Emerald City Convention, every year. Emerald City has become a big two-day convention, filling one of the big convention halls in Seattle, and has become a regional event. Apparently also there will be a new small show in January at a local mall; hopefully this will pick up some of the slack. But it’s sad to see an institution fall by the wayside.
 
Even all that said, I picked up a nice stack of 25 comics. I haven’t read any yet, but why not some comments about each of the comics? Some might get reviewed on this blog in the future.
 
Marvel Monsters: Devil Dinosaur I almost bought this for cover price, so I was happy to get it for two bucks. Looks wacky.
 
Prize Comics Western #72 from 1948. Bought it for $4.25; this is now the oldest comic in my collection.
 
Red Circle Sorcery # 5, 10, 11: Lots of nice Gray Morrow art in this old ’70s horror anthology.
 
Ghost Rider #3: the ’70s series. First issue of GR I’ve had in a long time.
 
Giant-Size X-Men #3: new art by Neal Adams, and cost a buck.
Two Gun Kid #93: Nice John Severin cover.
 
Sub-Mariner #71: A bad comic, but it fills a little gap in my collection
 
Sub-Mariner #50: I was just reading about Bill Everett’s ’70s stuff, and this has that work.
 
Spectre #2: Nice classic ’60s Neal Adams art.
 
Snarf #10: Nice early ’80s humor comic.
 
Plastic Man #14: I just wrote about this series the other day.
 
Marvel Presents: Bloodstone #2: What can I say, I was in the mood for some cheezy Bronze Age Marvels.
 
The Hawk & the Dove #1: Great Steve Ditko art and story
 
Fantastic Four #61, 67, 68, 74: Yeah, great Lee/Kirby FF.
 
Daredevil #163, 165, 177: Closing in on my complete run of Miller DDs.
 
Dream Police #1: I love getting $4 cover comics for .50
 
That’s it. Any opinions from any of you on these purchases?

Stray Bullets #39 (2005)

October 22, 2005
This series just keeps rolling along, issue after issue, consistently terrific.
 
Lately, issues rotate between true crime-oriented stories and bizarre light fantasy stories. This issue is one of the latter, and might be the most bizarre story that’s appeared recently. On the first page we see Amy Racecar and her pal William wearing samurai garb in what we’re told is "Japan, nineteenth century, the Meiji Period." So what’s the big item inpanel three on page one? Amy and William’s car. From there we follow our two erstwile heroes as they arrive in a medieval Japanese village in the midst of a war between two warlords. As you might imagine, this isn’t exactly the most realistic battle. Amy tries to install herself as a revolutionary leader, while at the same time, her evil twin, armless and legless, fights to help her.
 
This isn’t the most inviting of issues for readers who might want to jump aboard this series, and yet at the same time it is. A reader with an open mind, who enjoys the kind of random chaos and silliness of this story, might really enjoy it. Not too many comics, no matter the series, are as fun and light and interesting as this story, and Lapham’s art is sterling as ever. On the other hand, any readers not already keyed to the unique style and energy of this comic may find it baffling in the extreme. There also is quite a bit of carnage in the story, so readers with weak stomachs may not apply.
 
For me? I loved it. But I love strange, silly comics.

Plastic Man #18 (2005)

October 21, 2005
Sometimes this comic has a habit of dragging. But not this issue. It’s chock full of funny scenes and clever lines, and, amazingly, the thing is full of plot. Plastic Man has been broken into a million pieces by the evil villain Ray El Ray. Can Plastic Man’s pal Woozy Winks get defeat Ray El Ray (well, yes, but it’s funny and you have to see it), get Plas back together (well, Woozy does have the superpower of flab) and get him to Tibet (he does, only to be confronted with a villain who will shock you. Well, he shocked me anyway)? Of course, this is a super-hero comic. By the way, the villain revealed on the last page is one I never expected to see in this series. Seeing him here was a real shock. It seems this book does have a connection to the Infinite Crisis.
 
Meanwhile, readers meet two competing Spectres, whose arguments with each other are hysterical ("You automatically reject my ideas!" "You never listen to me!") and see much teeth-gnashing over the upcoming crisis ("Woozy, things are changing in Our Universe. People are dying violently. Superheroes™ are crying."). Plus there’s a giant spider. Who could ask for more?
 
Yeah, it’s another wonderful issue of Kyle Baker’s Plastic Man. This is a wild and wooly comic book, a ridiculous amount of fun for three bucks, and it’s even in continuity. I realize that almost nobody is reading this comic, and it’s cancelled after two more issues, but you’re missing a damn funny series if you’re not picking this one up.