Monday, September 24, 2018

Punishing Debut!


I have thoroughly enjoyed Marvel's True Believers comics, little cheap throwback comics from my heydays which in an instant transport me to sunnier days when comics were cheap (relatively) and for the most part fun, fun, fun. Comics have become mired in the goop of long-term planning and nothing happens which hasn't been schemed out months if not years in advance. But the thrill of comics of yore, but you never knew what the next month would bring, and a perfect example is The Punisher.


There was zero reason to think Amazing Spider-Man #129  would be any different than the issues before or after, solid comics by solid pros Gerry Conway and Ross Andru, a team which is to my way of thinking much underrated in their time on the Web-Spinner, but I digress.


The Punisher (designed by John Romita) literally appeared almost from nowhere and almost immediately struck a chord with comics readers looking for a wee bit more edge in their "heroes'. Wolverine would  likewise find purchase  after a random debut in the pages of the Hulk, and like the Punisher pointed the way to a more morally murky Marvel Universe. I don't necessarily approve, but there's no denying the impact.

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Sunday, September 23, 2018

Severin Package Part 3 - Not Brand Echh!


If "Mirthful" Marie Severin had never drawn anything but Not Brand Echh, she'd still be one of Marvel's most significant and important artists. While other "Bullpenners" contributed to the comic including such luminaries as Jack Kirby, Tom Sutton, Gene Colan, and such, the book's whole demeanor and feel was defined by Marie Severin's lively energetic renditions of the "Marble Comics" characters who populated the upstart pages of this self-deprecating rolling masterpiece.

Image result for marie severin not brand echh

More than anything else it was Not Brand Echh that made Marvel's talents different, not only a willingness to make fun of themselves, but actually an eagerness to find the absurdity in the comics they themselves produced and so put all of the effort into a more complete context. It was as far from stuffy as one could get. And leading the pack was Marie Severin, a masterful caricaturist who could nail not only the look but the feel of a person and imbue them with antic energy on the comic book page. These are Marie's real masterpieces, as loony as they are.

Here are her covers for the book, all of the run save for a couple.











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Saturday, September 22, 2018

Severin Package Part 2 - Prince Namor, The Sub-Mariner!


Leaving the Hulk in the capable hands of Herb Trimpe, Marie Severin turned her attentions to her next full-time assignment, the Hulk's former partner in the pages of Tales to Astonish, the Sub-Mariner.


In fact, Marie drew her first Subby cover when he and the Hulk faced off in the centennial issue of that run which then went on to become The Incredible Hulk. Following talents like Gene Colan and John Buscema, Marie Severin very quickly made Prince Namor her own. She brought energy and a fantastic sense of design to the undersea realm and her take on Subby is my favorite save for his creator Bill Everett's.



Marie drew the death of Dorma, Namor stranded on the surface, his first partnership with his future Defender allies the Hulk and Doctor Strange and much more. She gave us the Stalker from the Stars, a clash with Dragon Man, Orka the Human Killer Whale and the debut of Stingray some dandy Triton art. Her time on the Sub-Mariner was some of his best and though the title has never found the success it had in other eras, Marie Severin's Silver Age take is among the finest.

Here are her covers.












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Friday, September 21, 2018

Severin Package Part 1 - The Incredible Hulk!


The passing of Marie Severin was a blow. I've grown accustomed to the talents I grew up admiring and enjoying slipping off this mortal coil, all must we all, but Marie was different. She was one of those few artists who I imprinted on when I first discovered comic books. Among the earliest titles I fell in love with were Tales to Astonish and The Incredible Hulk. Marie was the artist when I showed up the rodeo, assisted by Herb Trimpe.


In those days, artists were much associated with the characters they drew, even if in some cases they didn't draw them for all that long. Marie Severin drew the Hulk for quite a while beginning  with the Tales to Astonish #93 when old Greenskin encountered the Silver Surfer. Marie might well have been the first artist other than Kirby to draw the Surfer. Then it went on for a while with Hulk battling for his life in outer space against the High Evolutionary (another Kirby character) , on Earth against the Lords of the Living Lightning (possibly my first comic book ever) and later in Asgard. Then Hulk got his own title and battled against the Space Parasite, the Rhino, the Missing Link and the Mandarin. Marie stepped away from the Hulk and handed it off to Herb Trimpe who drew the series for years to come, making the title one of Marvel's most consistent. But where did Marie go? More tomorrow.

Here are her covers.













More Marie All Weekend!

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Thursday, September 20, 2018

Space Stars In A Galaxy Far Far Away!


Star Wars changed the world, at least the the world of pop culture. Space opera was in and new movies about space sought to present a somewhat more "realistic" veneer as the space ships and such suddenly abandoned the sleek aspirational designs of decades past and looked more and more like utiltarian floating housing projects. One place this utter aesthetic transformation can be seen in in Space Stars from the folks at Hanna-Barbera. Seeing that suddenly outer space was in vogue again, the produced snatched up a few of their vintage properties from the 60's who operated in space and we new adventures of Space Ghost and The Herculoids.


To fill out this hour-long show we also get a new feature  called Teen Force which had three handsome adolescents who streak out of a black hole to fight interstellar crime, often at the  side of the aforementioned Space Ghost and Herculoids. Their nemesis is Uglor, a winged B.E.M of outer space villain who was soundly defeated time and time again. Also on board this showis Astro and the Space Mutts which tagged Astro of Jetson's fame, gave him a rudimentary power of speech and made him part of a trio of dogs who fight for justice alongside Space Ace, who looks for all the world like the late Burt Reynolds, porn mustache and all.


It's a hodge-podge of a show to be certain, but  diverting in its way. As  said the sleek Alec Toth designs of the earlier time were cast  aside and suddenly the Phantom Cruiser looked like it was a brace of  awkward panels and other space ships were equally convoluted in their designs. The battles for justice reflected the then current era of sensitivity to violence and so often Space Ghost and the Herculoids  were about saving folks as opposed to battling some arch villain. None of the classic villains from either series are seen. The Teen Force is okay but the costume designs are overwrought (precursors to the days of Image Comics) and their powers are somewhat incomprehensible at times. They are joined by a duo of comedy mugging midgets dubbed Plutem and Glax. The villain Uglor is interesting to me because he looks for all the world like he was designed by Don Heck. Jack Kirby is credited with designs on this series, but there is no evidence of Heck that I could find.



Fans of   the classic Space Ghost and Herculoids will want this one, as did I. for completion's sake, but alas these adventures don't hold up well in the lens of history.

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Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Go Speed Racer!


I've had the Speed Racer cartoons in the my stacks for many years. I watched some many moons ago when I first acquired them, but somehow never managed to get time to see them all. I have just done that and it's a good thing too. Speed Racer is a flavorful bit of late 60's entertainment, jaunty and energetic and surprisingly intriguing. The animation is fascinating in many ways, limited of course in some ways but with often lovely backgrounds that can dominate the action and mood of a scene. The stories are told with care and a great variety.


I thought of Hanna-Barbera's Jonny Quest as I watched episode after episode of Speed Racer this time. A young man (Speed/Jonny) mentored by an older much respected and accomplished older man (Racer X/Race Bannon) who operates in the larger world with his family along especially a bright accomplished father (Pops / Doctor Bannon). There are comedic antics at times (Spritle and Chim Chim/ Bandit) but they don't undermine the tension, or at least not always.


There are encounters with espionage and bizarre threats both on the track and off it. Now that I've at long last seen the Speed Racer cartoons in toto, I need to sit down and read the manga. Mach Go Go Go as it was originally known looks to be compelling as well in its own way.



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