Saturday, September 23, 2017

Captain Victory - All For One!

Let me close out my look at Jack Kirby's Captain Victory and The Galactic Rangers from Pacific Comics with a look at the exceedingly peculiar Captain Victory and the Galactic Rangers Special one and only. It's a odd story by any stretch and fitted within the broad cosmic confines of what had preceded in the comic, even more so.

The story begins aboard the Dreadnought: Tiger still waiting for a new engine (after losing its original to the Voice and his Wonder Warriors). To pass the time Egghead (sometimes called Mister Mind) has arranged elaborate trips into the past of the planet Earth using information he recorded while on the planet fighting the Insectons. Captain Victory, Major Klavus and Tarin the Tri-Command of the Tiger are suddenly swept up in this scheme and shunted into Paris of the historical past blended with the ficitonal works of both Alexander Dumas (The Three Musketeers) and Victor Hugo (The Hunchback of Notre Dame).

The find Egghead playing the role of Quasimodo, sort of, and quickly find themselves clothed and cast as the Three Musketeers. Plenty of action ensues as they seek to rescue a female Ranger who is being burned as a witch and stop a "Q-Bomb" which has been triggered inadverdantly. The of course save her and the misadventure comes to an abrupt halt when they shunted back to the Tiger with Egghead trying his best to rectify things.

Meanwhile the Q-Bomb having been transported into space explodes in a massive and colorful Kirby collage.

The Special also offers up some tasty Kirby pin-ups with insights into other aspects of the Ranger forces. Sadly these are glimpses of concepts we will never get a chance to see developed.  And with that Kirby says a fond farewell to his last great creation. He's not quite done with comics, but his later work will be almost exclusively with scripts written by others.

As for Captain Victory, he will return yet again, but more on that next time.

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Friday, September 22, 2017

Return Of The Deadman!

Deadman is among my favorite protagonists in all of comics. I came into possession of a few vintage issues  of Strange Adventures (back when they weren't so vintage) as a kid and absorbed them. Adams produced artwork unlike any seen in comics at the time, bristling with a dynamic realism which was both vivid and exciting. He elevated what fans expected from the comic book page and his work on Batman was revolutionary for that most-famous character. But it was on Deadman co-created by Arnold Drake and Carmine Infantino, where he got to play the most, becoming more and more the master of his own fate, even writing the last few issues of that all-too brief original run.

And now after all these decades he's set to do it again. Adams has been revisiting some of his old haunts and does so literally now that he's about give us six issues of a Deadman limited series which asks the age-old question which motivated the original series so effectively -- Who killed Boston Brand?

I'm signing up for this one. (Though I might well wait for the trade reprint.) Neal Adams is a once-in-a-generation talent, and while his skills have lost a bit of their polish, he's still got a game well above the majority of the youngsters who ply the trade today.

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Thursday, September 21, 2017

Tiny Wheels Of Justice!

What a strange, strange world we live in where such a comic book actually exists. I have no earthly idea what prompted Neal Adams to create the notorious Skateman but he did and then he used his sway with Pacific Comics to get them to publish it. I'm sure they were eager enough to put more Adams on the stands with their brand on it, but really.

Actually the story of Skateman is pretty straightforward if overwrought. He's has enough motivations for a good half dozen vigilantes but Adams keeps adding in the angst. Our hero is named Billy Moon and he's a nice enough fellow, motivated by a need to serve, he took martial arts lessons young and went to Vietnam. Saddened by what he saw he returned home and sought some release but found work difficult to keep until he became a roller derby wonder. But the suspicious death of his best friend Jack caused him to move away with his lovely girlfriend Angel who worked with migrant workers. But those migrant workers are being exploited by a motorcycle gang and Angel gets killed by them and all this might have something to do with Jack's death too, but that's left open.

He has been hanging out and helping a youngster named Paco who likes comics and inspired by those Billy becomes a roller-skate hero named...ta da..."Skateman". Skateman then takes off after the cycle gang and other villains and gains a small rep. But he gets his butt kicked as our story opens and we see him recuperating and remembering all of his origin while a new girl named Jill tends to his injuries. Then she gets kidnapped and he's off again to save her which of course he does as the story abruptly ends.

A lot of stuff is jammed into a short space and there's no small dose of action, so why don't folks like this book better. Well the premise is pretty lame, a guy uses roller skates to gain an edge on drug pushers and has a costume which would look lame at Halloween. "Skateman" is arguably the stupidest name in the annals of comics, though it's brutal directness is admirable in a strange way.

To my knowledge there's never been more Skateman adventures and after reading this story again after all these decades, I'm good with that. Looking at some prime Neal Adams art though is always nifty.

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Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Machine Man - Mister Monster!

While on hiatus the Machine Man series gets a boost by the lead character being featured in the pages of the hot Marvel comic The Incredible Hulk.

Beginning in issue #234 of the comic by Roger Stern and Sal Buscema we meet X-51, the robot known as Machine Man who comes into conflict with the Hulk. Both are manipulated into fighting by the gangsters known as "The Corporation".

We get a few issues of wall-to-wall slam bang action as Jadejaws and X-51 battle it out. They seem well matched at first but as happens most of the time the relentless assault of the Hulk begins to win the day and Machine Man suffers significant damage.

When the Hulk ends the melee by bringing down the skyscraper which houses The Corporation, the battle ends for him while Machine Man must be repaired. More on that when Machine Man's comic is revived with a new team.

One thing that Marvel got right most of the time was that when a series ended abruptly due to poor sales, the stories were almost always picked up somewhere in the larger Marvel Universe and given a proper send off. (Warlock, It, Woodgod) The Hulk was a common place for this to happen with Machine Man getting the help here to transition from the Kirby years to what was to come.

More on that next week.

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Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Dojo Classics - Edge Of Chaos!

Pacific Comics was one of the more interesting Indy publishers in the early days of the direct-sales market. One title the Pacific crew came up with was a potential opus by Gray Morrow called Edge of Chaos which has a pretty dandy high-concept.

A man named Eric Cleese ("Hercules" of course) is lost in the Bermuda Triangle and whisked into the ancient past (vague timeframe) by aliens who have been stranded on Earth and have become the basis for our mythological gods. He meets a beauty named Diona and accepts a mission to undo the harm the alien-gods have done so that the aliens can at last go home. He must battle a renegade alien named Moloch who mourns for his dead mate, and he does this with a couple of buddies he picks up in a local bar named Flan (a drunken fellow with a baboon face) and Slag (a neanderthal looking chap). As the first issue ends the trio ride off to complete their mission riding prehistoric beasts.

The final two issues of the run though fail to really follow through on the excellent set-up. In the second issue Eric and his buds fight the "Hill Hag" a sorceress and her monsters. They overcome her fairly readily, then in the next issue we have to see all this great landscape wrapped up as characters are eliminated and the status quo is transformed because the three-issue series is coming to an end. It's a pretty random and confusing conclusion with characters popping up faster than the reader can process them, though given the space crunch Morrow does okay I guess.

It's a disappointment because this series had great potential. A strength is the artwork of Morrow, a man who was unusually gifted at drawing lovely women in all manner of undress. A weakness is his writing. Many of the pages are overwritten, with words overcoming the pace of the story. There are instances where captions get lost on the page and the text almost contradicts what we're seeing on the page. This series seems to have fallen victim to some scheduling or contractual problem that made its conclusion rushed and ironically chaotic. It's a pity.

UPDATE: Gray Morrow's artwork continues to shine through the years. He was a singular talent who seemed unusually capable of rendering lovely, sexy, realistic women. (Not like the sex doll fantasies which pass for women in so many comics in recent years.)  His heroes were grounded in a base reality which added to the fantasy which always seemed to erupt.

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Monday, September 18, 2017

Get Your Tales In A Twist!

If there was ever a bit of visual irony in the back issue bins, it's when modern readers stumble across pretty much any issue of Twisted Tales from Pacific Comics. There's an image such as the one above by Rich Corben with the peculiar brand of "PC" in the corner. Whatever you might want to say about these "twisted tales" from the pen of Bruce Jones, one thing you won't say is that they are "Politically Correct" - a term blessedly unknown in the 80's.

Twisted Tales is the pretty much the brainchild of Bruce Jones, the writer of all the stories which are among the best Warren horror stories not written for the pages of Creepy and Eerie. Jones, who has had a long career writing comics specialized in horror and Twisted Tales was part of a little mini-house he operated within the confines of Pacific Comics. Twisted Tales had a sci-fi sister book called Alien Worlds, but it's TT that stands in my memory and it's because of these covers.

With talent like Rich Corben and Berni Wrightson it's no wonder the images still grab after so many decades. These men were the kings of horror  art in their generation.

They are joined on cover art duty by John Bolton, at the time an up and coming British artist making his bones on fantasy and such, but displaying a real flair for horror here.

Another artist brought over the pond was John Pound who had that old magic and fit in quite well.

Twisted Tales survived the demise of Pacific Comics and ended up  at Eclipse. (Didn't everyone end up at Eclipse  at one time or another? It feels like it.)

After ten harrowing issues the run comes to an end, but still thanks to the great printing and the pure punch of the imagery they still hold up. The interior art and stories were fantastic with talents like Alfredo Alcala, Mike Ploog, Rand Holmes, Doug Wildey, Brett Blevins, Butch Guice, Val Mayerik, Bill Wray and others even Jones himself who ain't a half-bad artist in his own right.

Vile stuff ! Really vile. Highly recommended.

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Sunday, September 17, 2017

Mystical Thinking!

Ms.Mystic has to be one of the most visually arresting characters ever concocted. Her form-fitting costume is festooned with zip-a-tone and which attracts the eye even more intensely to her lovely shape. It's a genius notion and Neal Adams was certainly a proper gent to have it.

She debuted in the third issue of Captain Victory and the Galactic Rangers and went to have a notable debut issue from Pacific Comics. This lovely lady is actually a mystical nigh mythic creature in tune with the needs of the planet Earth and seeks out and punishes those who harm the natural world or upset its balance. She's an Eco-warrior for certain and it's a great idea for a comic book.

But Neal Adams was as busy man and it's a year or more before we get a second issue. And sadly that second installment is also the last one for many  years.  So the notion the new series would be "bi-monthly" ad suggested was laughable.

Ms. Mystic returns when Neal Adams and his cohorts at Continuity Associates start their own comics company. Alongside other physically impressive heroes, Ms. Mystic sadly loses some of her special glamour in a comic book universe filled with pretty dames who kick ass and take names.

A recent issue of Back Issue magazine reminded me of the lovely Ms.Mystic and I think I have the first two Pacific Comics issues around here somewhere, though they elude my grasp at the moment.

Ms. Mystic might be just about ready for her comeback, or maybe her day is done. Hard to say, but I might check out a new installment by Neal Adams. He seems to be revisiting all his past glories in recent years.

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