Saturday, November 21, 2009
Friday, November 20, 2009
As the 147th issue of Justice League of America begins, the JSA are guests aboard the League's satellite headquarters after having captured the Psycho Pirate, who fled to Earth-1 in an attempt to elude the Society, a story related in the JSA's own feature in the recently revived All-Star Comics. Just as the Earth-2 heroes are about to head back to their own dimension with their prisoner, Green Arrow, not wanting this reunion of the super-teams to end too soon, shoots the infamous boxing glove arrow at the controls of the dimensional transporter, shutting it down. As the machine needs an hour to warm up again, the Society members are forced to hang out for a while longer.
Now comes the creepy part.
One member of the JSA, Power Girl, seems delighted with the delay. She's hanging all over Earth-1's Man of Steel as she purrs, "I'm beginning to really like this place! It has a much nicer brand of Superman, y'know?" Kal-El is, understandably, a little uncomfortable with this, but offers to show her the JLA's trophy room anyway. As they head off, Black Canary snipes, "Incredible! And I used to call you a fast worker, Oliver!" Ollie's response is "*CHUCKLE* I guess they've got Women's Lib on Earth-Two, too, Pretty Bird!"
Thankfully, a giant disembodied mystical hand invades the satellite right at that moment and spirits members of both teams away through time to the 30th century..
Power Girl was essentially the Earth-2 analog of Supergirl. Like Supergirl, she was the cousin of that world's Superman, who was essentially the same person on Earth-2 as he was on Earth-1, unlike, say, the Flashes or Green Lanterns, who shared only their heroic name and super powers in common. In essence, she's coming on to her cousin.
Like I said: "icky"
The sexist language notwithstanding, Ollie's reaction is taking the whole "liberal" schtick a bit far. He might be OK with it, but even when I first read this as a kid, I found that whole sequence disturbing. Fortunately, it's only three panels long in a story spanning two double sized issues, and is thankfully not revisited.
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Wednesday, November 18, 2009
Just tonight, thanks to Mike Carroll, who brought this to our regular Wednesday night meeting of cartoonists, I read what just might be the quintessential Bronze Age comic: DC Super Stars #10, featuring Strange Sports Stories. In front of reprints of sports themed stories from Strange Adventures and Green Lantern, which has GL sparring with an alien boxer, the issues sports (pun fully intended) an all-new lead story entitled "The Great Super-Star Game," written by Bob Rozakis, with art by Dick Dillin and Frank McLaughlin, which tells the tale of a baseball game between teams consisting of super-heroes and super-villains.
By the eighth inning, the villains are behind, but Sportsmaster is determined to win, even if he has to cheat. Though both sides had agreed not to use their super powers, he encourages the villains to break the pact and use any means they have to in order to prevent the heroes from winning. Of course, with the villains using their powers, the heroes are free to use theirs as well, and ultimately, they emerge victorious. At one point, Green Arrow draws his fabled bow to shoot down a baseball that had been given wings by the Matter Master, thus preventing the villains from scoring a run--a sequence of panels that pretty much epitomizes the sheer brilliant goofiness of this entire story.
Now to save space, the story skips straight to the eighth inning, but, for those who really have to know, a text page gives a full play by play of the entire game. I can just imagine reading this aloud in the style of a real play by play announcer, and in fact, I did do my best Harry Carey impersonation on the first inning. HOLY COW!
Big thanks to Mike Carroll for sharing this with me. I may just have to track down a copy of this gem for myself, as it truly embodies just about everything that critics hate, and that I love about the comics of the Bronze Age.
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
Beyond reuniting the creative team, Stewart had other similarities to Howard. Both featured an talking animal struggling to get by in and understand the world of humans, as well as a strong vein of social satire informed by Gerber's somewhat skewed world view.
Although, whereas Howard was a displaced refugee from a world of talking ducks, Stewart came to be as a result of the manipulation of human and rodent DNA by a brilliant but socially inept geneticist, who commits suicide after Stewart's creation. Stewart is taken in by a sympathetic human woman who feeds him, clothes him and puts him to work on her ranch until an attempt on her daughter's life by a disco dancing zombie, under the control of an ex-boyfriend turned self-help guru, leads to Stewart becoming the daughter's bodyguard. It is truly as bizarre as it sounds. Unfettered by editorial restrictions or the Comics Code(Stewart's first words are "What the fuck?"), Gerber let his imagination run wild, creating a range of bizarre would be assassins, all satirizing a then current trend, and Gerber's powers of observation and biting wit are as sharp as ever as he dissects the zeitgeist of the dawning decade of the 1980's.
It pretty much goes without saying that the art in this book is beautiful, as you can see from the example to your left. Colan's art is always gorgeous and Tom Palmer is one of the best inkers in the history of comics. He could probably even make Rob Liefeld's pencils look good. Together, both here and on their other collaborations such as Tomb of Dracula, Colan and Palmer produce an absolutely stunning product. One of Colan's forte's is drawing beautiful woman, and Gerber, both here and previously on HTD, wisely takes advantage of that by hooking his protagonist up with attractive female companions.
The book's fatal flaw is that it's too short. Forty-eight pages was alot back then, to be sure, before graphic novels were common and when regular monthly comics contained a paltry seventeen story pages, but this story really could have benefited from maybe fifteen or twenty more. The real problem is the pacing. Gerber spends most of the book introducing the characters and setting up the situation, leaving only the last ten pages for a somewhat rushed conclusion. Perhaps if he'd had a few extra pages, or if this had been the first issue of an ongoing or even a limited series, Stewart the Rat might have developed into one of Gerber's finest works, as there are a lot of good concepts and characters here just begging to be fleshed out. As it is, however, STR is merely a failed attempt to make lightning strike twice and a minor footnote in the history of comics and the careers of its creators.
Monday, November 16, 2009
My upcoming trip to Cleveland for Genghis Con has got to thinking of an earlier journey to that area, my first, in 1976. My family lived in Linesville, Pennsylvania, a comatose little town in the Northwestern corner of the state near the border with Ohio. When it came time for my father to trade in his 1968 Chrysler Newport for a brand new Chrysler Newport, he, for reasons that were never made clear to me, went to a dealership in Euclid. Perhaps that's where he'd purchased the first Newport. I honestly don't know, and, sadly, can't ask him, since he died in 1979. Anyway, one day Dad packed the entire family; himself, mom, my brother and three sisters and me, into the old Newport to drive to Euclid to buy a new car. Before getting underway in earnest, we stopped at the drugstore in Linesville, where we kids were allowed to pick out a comic book to read during the trip. The ones that I remember are my older sisters choice of Isis #2, based on the live action Saturday morning kid's show then airing on CBS, and my own purchase of Batman #280, featuring a story entitled "The Only Crime In Town" written by David V. Reed and drawn by Ernie Chua and Frank Giacoia. It's the memory of that family outing, plus the fact that this was the first Batman comic I ever actually owned, that make this issue one of my favorites.
That's not to say that the story itself isn't good. It is, in fact, a very clever little mystery tale concerning a plot to steal a collection of rare gold coins.
The next morning, the Gotham papers are full of news of the curfew, and that night, a coin dealer who's in town for a numismatics convention is robbed in his suite at the Gotham Plaza hotel during the curfew hour. The next night, Batman is tipped off to another crime that's slated to pulled during the curfew. The victim is another coin dealer. Batman captures the crooks, ties them up in a closet with the loot, and tells the press that they got away. You see, he figures that the purpose of pulling the jobs during curfew was to get publicity, so he lets it appear that the second crime succeeded so that he can find out why. Batman has also noted that among the list provided by the victim of what was supposedly stolen are extremely rare coins from the "Leopold Saxony Collection," yet those coins are not among the the loot Batman recovered, and several coins from that same collection were also "stolen" in the first robbery.
The next day, Bruce Wayne consults with lovely blonde numismatics expert Nola Roberts, and learns the history of the collection, as well as the fact that the remaining coins are owned by a collector who lives in Gotham. That night, the owner of the remaining coins, rightly assuming that he's the next target of the robbers, hires an armored car to transport them to safekeeping. The robbers, however, plan to hijack the truck, take the drivers place and take delivery of the coins themselves, but are stopped by the Batman. As the stunned victim looks on, Batman reveals the identity of the robbers and the secret behind the "crime curfew".
This story was also one of my first exposures to the "dark avenger of the night" Batman that had been re-introduced in the comics a few years earlier by Denny O'Neil and Neal Adams, though Reed's version of the Caped Crusader was not as grim as that of other writers. Still, it was a far cry from the campy humor of the 60s Batman live action show and the harmless goof in a Batman suit who hung out with the Super Friends in their early Saturday morning adventures
Friday, November 13, 2009
Comic Show Features the Unknown Work of Local Graphic Storytellers
For 70 years the part of the country known as the “rust belt” has provided the world with an incredible abundance of creative talent in the art of telling stories with pictures. This form of communication has reached its pinnacle of popularity in the form of the beloved comic book. Many of the biggest names in comics today hail from the
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
Unfortunately, the mini-series did not spawn a regular series right away. There was a follow-up mini-series, V:The Final Battle, in which most of the plotlines were wrapped up and the alien invaders repelled, and then there was a regular series, lasting only one season, in which the Visitors returned. By the time the regular series debuted, the allegorical subtext had gotten lost somewhere along the way and V had devolved into a standard Earth vs. the invaders saga, such as we'd seen dozens of times since H.G. Wells created the template with War of the Worlds.
Last week, the Visitors returned yet again, in a all-new V, airing on ABC.
It's...okay. It's early yet, though. The aliens have just landed, and most of humanity still thinks they are benevelent, though a resistance is forming. If there's any allegory here, it's has either yet to emerge, or it's very subtle. So far the new V seems to be another one of those Earth vs. the invaders rehashes I decried above. Still, it's a fairly well done one, and one that is very much in the vein of other recent hits such as Lost and Heroes, with multiple characters and crisscrossing plot lines intersecting and diverging several times each episode.
While I like the idea, new to this version of V, that the aliens have been amongst us for years, posing as humans and paving the way for the day when they would invade full force, I don't like that all of Earth's problems of the last few years, such as war, terrorism and economic insecurity, have been fomented by the Visitors. It's too easy, and it lets the human race off the hook. We don't need aliens, the human race has made a royal mess of things without any outside help. The original did not let humans off the hook, instead showing them complicit in their own subjugation.
As I said, it's early, as I write this the second episode has just begun, and I'll reserve a final judgment and stick with it for a few more episodes.
The new version does have one advantage over its predecessor. Anna, the new Supreme Commander of the Visitor Armada, is a lot hotter than the original's Diana.
Monday, November 9, 2009
Friday, November 6, 2009
Do you care?
Not one damn bit.
Now let it be known throughout the land that I absolutely love Keith Giffen. I love the Bug, I adore Justice League International. I'm really digging the new Doom Patrol series, especially the Metal Men backup feature. Hell, I even liked Trencher.
But Ambush Bug: Year None #7 is a sad waste of paper.
This issue epitomizes everything that's wrong with the mini-series as a whole:
It was late.
It makes absolutely no freaking sense, even for an Ambush Bug story
And worst of all...especially for Ambush Bug...
It's NOT FUNNY. (I laughed a couple of times while reading this issue the first time, but I was drunk at the time.)
If you love the Bug, go pick up the recent Showcase Presents volume collecting all previous appearances of Irwin Schwab and try your hardest to pretend that this latest travesty never happened.
Don't worry, Keith. I still love you.
However, you can bet that if there is an afterlife, longtime Superman editor Mort Weisinger is pretty happy.
Over the past few years, a new generation of superstar writers and artists have been systematically undoing the changes to the legend of Superman made by John Byrne and Marv Wolfman in the wake of Crisis On Infinite Earths and bringing back many of the Weisinger era concepts once abandoned and dismissed as "silly". Now, one of those writers, Geoff Johns, along with artists Gary Frank and Jon Sibal, are carving these retcons in stone as the official continuity in a six issue mini-series called Superman: Secret Origin.
In the second issue, we see Clark going into action as "Superboy," and witness his first meeting with representatives of the 31st centuries Legion of Super-Heroes. Later in the issue, another Kryptonian spaceship lands in Smallville, this one carrying the Kryptonian puppy Krypto. Another recently restored element of the pre-COIE Supes bio is the idea that Clark and Lex Luthor had known each other as teens in Smallville, and the issue ends with Lex, having just murdered his father, preparing to leave behind small town life and head out for the "City of Tomorrow," Metropolis.
One thing that Byrne established that remains in the new telling is the reversal of the pre-Crisis Clark/Superman dynamic. Before Man of Steel, the Superman persona was treated as the real identity and Clark Kent as the disuise. This is epitomized by the phrase from opening of TV's The Adventures of Superman, "...who disguised as Clark Kent," and by the fact that when, in Alan Moore's elegy for the Weisinger era Superman, "Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?" Superman's secret identity is revealed to the world, it is the Kent persona he abandons to become Superman full time. Byrne established that while Kal-El may have been born on Krypton, his upbringing on Earth has conditioned him to think and feel as a human being, thus Superman is a disguise to protect Clark Kent's privacy. Whereas Byrne tells us this in one of Superman's thought balloons, Johns shows us through the fact that Secret Origin is one of the few retellings of Superman's origins that begins on Earth rather than Krypton.
One of the first things that struck me as I looked at the art, especially in the first issue, is the influence of the Superman movies on the look of Superman's world. The brief glimpses of Krypton we get are of a world of gleaming crystalline structures and when Jor-El appears, he is clad in his Marlon Brando hand-me-down toga, complete with "S" shield crest. There's probably a big Smallville influence as well, but I don't watch that show, so I can't really tell you.
As for the art, I've always liked Gary Frank's art going back to his days on The Incredible Hulk, but here something about it seems a little off. The figures are a little stiff and mannequin-like. I'll blame it on the inker.
For fans of Superman, this is obviously a must have mini-series. After all, as the saying goes, you can't tell the players without a program, and this is the program. Still in all, I'd recommend giving it a pass until the trade comes out. You know the story, so the appeal of this mini-series is how it's told, and you can probably appreciate that better when you read the whole thing at once.
Thursday, November 5, 2009
This year, however, that day fell on the same weekend as Mid-Ohio Con here in the city of Columbus, Ohio, where I live and blog, so most local cartoonists were there. Thus, the local cartoonists group known as Sunday Comix sponsored their own 24HCD, held this past weekend at the Crimson Cup coffee house in the Clintonville neighborhood.
One of the reasons I haven't posted anything here for a couple of days is that I'm still kind of wiped out from staying up all Saturday night doing my second 24 Hour Comic.
We started out with eight people gathered around 4 tables drawing, but by the following morning only three hardy souls, myself, SPACE promoter Bob Corby, and Jonathon Riddle, remained to see the challenge through to the end.
As soon as I get my comic scanned, I plan on posting it on my ComicSpace site, and I'll post a link here. I've also decided that while the comic has the makings of a good story, I'm really going to treat it as a first draft and rewrite and redraw it at some point in the future. I'd like to have that ready for SPACE, but I'm not promising anything.
I'm now ready to go back to writing about comics as if I know what I'm talking about.