Tuesday, December 12, 2017

The Many Escapes Of Mister Miracle!

Since the fall of the Fourth World saga by Jack "King" Kirby, DC has seen fit to revive these vivid and compelling characters time and time again. Most recently, they have revived the "Super Escape Artist" yet again. I haven't sampled that comic, nor to be honest have I tried many of the revivals. But it speaks to the lasting power of Kirby's creations that they just won't go away, that they are seen as somehow still viable in a modern day.  Here are some glimpses of revivals past of Mister Miracle, who seems able to escape repeated cancellation with relative ease.

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Get Off My Porch #1 - Nothing For Money!

My advanced age is showing. Apparently now when the kids play Monopoly they don't use cash. No more nifty tray full of colorful faux money to fritter around with as the game of imaginary real estate domination trundles along. No, now you use a debit card and a little ATM to exchange money and maintain estimates of value.  For more check out this story.

Really !?!

I'm way too old. I'm going to lie down now and remember the golden days or yore when games were games and men were men. This has been the first in an irregular series from a grouchy old fart who at times finds the world around him bewildering and strange. More as it develops.

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Monday, December 11, 2017

King Strong!

I was tumbling around the vast terrain which is the internet and stumbled across the ad above. The vintage George Wilson artwork featuring "The Eighth Wonder of the World" for the vintage Gold Key adaptation from 1968, jumped out at me immediately. I don't know if the folks at Maxitile, a siding and roofing materials manufacturer knew of the origin of this artwork, but certainly the folks who made the ad knew. Here is where I found it.

I was immediately reminded how the mighty Kong has been used in ads through the decades, most famously in the Volkswagen commercial from the early 70's.

Poor Kong -- how far the mighty have fallen. Great artwork by Wilson though, even after all these years.

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Sunday, December 10, 2017

Challengers Of The Unknown - Year Two!

The Challengers of the Unknown got their own title, a successful couple of runs in Showcase to their credit. the powers that be at DC knew they had a winner. Four men living on borrowed time battling the weirdest menaces imaginable. Ace Morgan, the brave and bold test pilot; Rocky Davis, a brash boxing champ; Prof Haley, resourceful and savvy scientist; and Red Ryan, a cocky but capable daredevil. These four men along with late recruit June Walker, a notable scientist in her own right, confronted bizarre menaces from outer space, inner space, and the crime-rich streets of America and beyond. They are globe-trotters supreme, able to jet across the world to see what adventure was next on the roster.

In their debut issue the team confronts an evil scientist named Tagorian who has massive lab hidden in a mountain uses his equipment to snatch impossible creatures and machines from other dimensions. Then they find themselves captured by an enormous alien who turns out to be a kid looking for  some intriguing playthings. With the second issue June pretends to be a traitor to save the other Challengers from themselves as they face the threat of a weird beast from the depths of the Earth. Then they face another evil scientist, this named Mycroft who is able to conjure beasts from myth and the imagination to battle the team. In the third issue they battle against hoods who steal the magical mirror of Kregon the Sorcerer and face off against a magical giant and a magical giant bird. Then an experiment gone wrong exposes Rocky to deadly radiation in space that makes able to throw fire, frost, lightning, turn invisible, grow to great heights, and more. The fourth issue takes the team across time as the confront a villain named Tiko who has brought men from ancient Greece and Egypt to steal. The team travels to the ancient worlds of Greece and Egypt to find their foe and end up eventually in the far future of the year 3000. They barely escape but as always find a way to live longer on their borrowed time.

Most of these stories were written by Jack Kirby and feature the inks of Marvin Stein. The fourth issue introduces the sleek inks of Wally Wood and the Challs never looked better. If the stories feel familiar, it's because the Fantastic Four would have similar adventures. It's clear that Kirby had a great deal of input on the early FF stories as he cribs from himself regularly.

More to come next week as we wrap up with the third year of the Challengers, the final by Jack "King" Kirby.

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Saturday, December 9, 2017

Fantastic Four - Year Two!

The Fantastic Four begins its second year with the introduction of the most important characters in the series aside from the Fab 4 themselves. With the fourth issue the Marvel Universe re-introduces the second of the classic Golden Age heroes (the first being the revised Human Torch).

The Sub-Mariner is the same character who appeared in all those many stories in the 40's and 50's, just long-lived and having fallen into a bout of amnesia. In the FF he is set up as an antagonist and becomes an implacable enemy and sometimes ally in the early years. The decision to make the Sub-Mariner an opponent can be traced to his quixotic Golden Age days and allows him to become a semi-regular in the series for many months to come.

Also we meet Doctor Doom. Doom is the ultimate FF villain, the counterpart to the genius Reed Richards, the brilliant evil scientist wears mighty armor which makes him at once both a medieval villain and a modern menace. Before you know it, these two ultimate baddies are joining forces. Their alliance though is a tenuous one as Doom is all too ready to turn on his partner when the moment presents itself. Despite sending the Fab 4 into the depths of space, the villains fall short.

Then it's a trip into space again as the Fantastic Four are forced to help Kurrgo of Planet X. Their solution is rather genius, though Kurrgo doesn't fare so well. Mr. Fantastic dreams up a way to save the population of an entire planet, and even frustrate the schemes of their evil leader.

The Puppet Master is up next, and this villain seems a bit small time for the FF with his gleeful grin and radioactive clay which gives him control of others. But the addition of his niece, the lovely but blind Alicia Masters proves most significant in that Ben Grimm has at long last found someone who loves him as he is. The conflict in this heartwarming relationship is a real step in the true development of the characters.

After yet more battles with Sub-Mariner and Doctor Doom, the FF confront the Impossible Man, an alien who means no harm, but proves problematic as he lives up to his name with his erratic and visually exciting transformations. Mr.Fantastic might be the stretching hero of the Marvel Universe, but it takes the Impossible Man to really bring that classic Plastic Man magic to the fore.

The Marvel Universe really begins to gel as we get a whole story dedicated to the Fantastic Four and how they interact with their fans. The Fourth Wall gets pushed on a bit as both Stan Lee and Jack Kirby become characters in their own tales.

The year closes out with the first official crossover in the Marvel Universe as the FF investigate the mystery of the Incredible Hulk. It's a wonderful issue which brings together the two powerhouses of the MU, the Thing and the Hulk. That same month the FF guest-star in Amazing Spider-Man #1 to kick off the Web-Slinger's book. These interactions are the beginnings of a the Marvel Universe as something grander than a single book.

More to come next week as we enter year number three.

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Friday, December 8, 2017

It's Yet Another Miracle!

I bought Mister Miracle again! Let me explain.

I own it in the lovely original and was there to enjoy it as it landed onto the stands. I bought it again in the late 90's when finally DC reprinted the saga in lush black and white. I picked it up again when DC put the entire Fourth World saga out in chronological order in easy-to-read hardbacks. I shucked over good cash to buy certain issues yet again when IDW published the original pages of Kirby artwork in full-sized editions. And now I've plunked down good money to buy the story again in lovely softcover.

I don't relate all of that to brag, but to point out the extent of my compulsion about the Fourth World work of Jack "King" Kirby. I simply adore it and groaned for many years as DC made use of the characters but didn't really work hard to get the original material into the hands of fans. And now they have done with gusto. We have, with this trade a great well-priced collection for fans of Kirby's Great Escape Artist who is enjoying a moment of comic book glory in a new series. The new series doesn't interest me much right now, but if its existence prompted such a handsome collection I will welcome it.

Despite the bright pink spine, I have to admit that this format might be the most reader friendly version of the saga yet. All eightheen issues are here for your reading pleasure. So if you don't own the original Mister Miracle, this is a great chance. And if like me  you do, then what are you waiting for --there can never be too many miracles.

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Thursday, December 7, 2017

Who Says A Comic Book Has To Be Good??

One of the keys to Marvel's Silver Age success was the ability to make fun of themselves. The little company ballooned in popularity and became a true behemoth of a publisher by the Bronze Age, but the start was much more humble. From the get-go there was a connection made with the readers, who were treated with some measure of respect, if not deference. You got the impression from the comics and the supplementary pages that you were part of something bigger, no small inducement for a typical comic fan, probably an awkward and perhaps lonesome reader. The cliche of the comic book fan is somewhat old hat, but there's no doubt that it's the result of some truth.

Not Brand Echh was the book for the fanboy, an exquisite spoof in the successful style of MAD magazine which used as its foil the very company that published it. As the series continued it broadened its range of targets, but always the core to getting the jokes was a firm knowledge of the comic books that Marvel published. In fact the title of the comic was an inside joke all on its own, and likely incomprehensible to the casual newsstand reader.  NBE didn't last long but it made a huge impression on fans of a certain age.

From time to time Marvel has attempted to recapture that magic with reprints like Crazy and later the reasonably successful Crazy magazine, and even a contemporaneous comic titled Spoof!. Other titles have come and gone like Arrgh! and What The!?, some more successful than others. Now they've done it again with a fourteenth issue of the long defunct Not Brand Echh. 

Here are the deliriously antic covers of the first thirteen issues of the classic comic. The artwork is by Jack Kirby, Marie Severin and Tom Sutton among others.

Not Brand Echh has at long last been reprinted, but only in a hefty volume in the Masterworks series. At over sixty bucks it's likely a bargain true enough given today's prices, but I haven't yet popped for it. Maybe this is the holiday season for it to show up under my tree. The way things have unfolded in the last year, I can use some good laughs.

What prompts this post is the publication of a fourteenth issue. Sadly it's a weak addition to an historical series. No single artist in this new issue is remotely a match for Marie and no artist has the punch of a Sutton.  It was nice though to see Forbush Man get some attention after all these years.

Forbush Forever!

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