Thursday, February 28, 2013

The Big Leagues!


I've been waiting for this one for a long time now. When DC began its Showcase reprint program some years ago now, they eventually reprinted the earliest issues of the Justice League of America. That was fantastic, great tales by Gardner Fox and exotically fascinating artwork by Mike Sekowsky. After some volumes that gave way to the stalwart artist Dick Dillin who in tandem with writers Fox, Denny O'Neil, Robert Kanigher, and Mike Friedrich carried the adventures of the League into the Bronze Age proper. Then came Len Wein and the series seemed to noticeably shift gears.

The artwork too ticked up as Dick Giordano stepped in as inker, taking the place of Sid Greene's bright sheen and Joe Giella's calm gloss. Giordano gave Dillin's work a crisp edge it has been missing and for a time the JLofA was the best drawn comic on the rack. The inking of Giordano gave way to his Charlton mate Frank McLaughlin, with barely a shift in clarity and the series found its artistic center for the next several years.

The stories in this volume span three years and three team ups with the Justice Society of America,  from the era of the crushing oil embargo to the celebration of the two hundredth anniversary of the United States itself. We encounter the death of heroes, the return of superstars, the crushing secret of the Sandman, the arrival of the Freedom Fighters, the marriage of Adam Strange, and the villainy of Cary Bates.

The covers themselves are enticing, little mysteries, puzzles and enigmas which demand an answer, which if found inside the comic only. These covers by Nick Cardy, Dick Giordano, Ernie, Chan, and Mike Grell demand attention and compel purchase.

It's unfortunate, but understandable why the full contents of the 100-page issues are not included, but these were among DC's very best. These time capsules offered a trove of fantastic reading at times in this young man's life when escape and diversion were essential. 

By the end of this run of Justice League stories, my favorites by far as if you couldn't tell, Gerry Conway has written a few stories, a hint of what is to come when he eventually becomes the long-standing scribe of the League a few years later. The League was published bimonthly through much of this period and that made for some really crisp and efficient storytelling. There's a lot discover underneath this awesome Nick Cardy image.

Recommended with the highest possible accolades. In the immortal words of "King" Kirby, don't ask, just buy it.

Here's a cover gallery.

Nick Cardy

Nick Cardy

Nick Cardy

Nick Cardy

Nick Cardy

Nick Cardy

Nick Cardy

Nick Cardy

Nick Cardy

Nick Cardy

Mike Grell

Dick Giordano

Dick Giordano

Ernie Chan

Ernie Chan

Mike Grell

Ernie Chan

Ernie Chan

Ernie Chan

Ernie Chan

Dick Giordano

Ernie Chan

Ernie Chan

Ernie Chan

Ernie Chan

Ernie Chan

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Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Phantom Physique!


The Phantom's great run of Silver and Bronze Age comics began at Gold Key under the exciting cover above by George Wilson. Below is a look at the inside front cover, presumably by interior artist Bill Lignante.


It successfully and impressively presents The Phantom's classic origin and premise in a mighty few words.  The Phantom looks quite dramatic posed heroically, then I noticed something wasn't quite right.


The proportions on this figure are wildly off. The figure above the belt seems much larger than the figure below the belt. To put it bluntly, the Ghost Who Walks must do so on my spindly legs if this image is to be believed. Chalk it up to the traditional speed of production of the classic American comic book I guess.

To get a longer look at Lignante's work in this issue check out this link for the whole story.

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Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Phantom Harveys!


The 1950's were tough times for comics. For the famous team of Simon and Kirby, a relatively tough period followed the failure of their attempt at their own comics brand. The team, which had persisted since the early days of the Golden Age finally broke up and Jack Kirby was working for both DC and Atlas/Marvel on his own. Joe Simon was casting about working as an editor and whatnot. The run of Phantom stories in the early Harvey comic Harvey Hits, seems to be a series in which the art is open to considerable dispute. Joe Simon is credited with the artwork to the cover of the debut issue.


Here's the original artwork for that action-filled cover. Frankly I see more than a whisper of Jack Kirby in the horse figure, but no one seems to credit him with this work.



Here is the signed hectic splash page by Joe Simon for that very first issue.


The next Phantom adventure in the series features this cover and some want to attribute it to Jack Kirby. Frankly I see less Kirby in this one than I do the first issue, though the framing of the cover does suggest him. The figure work seems less Kirbyesque and more Simonized to me.


Here's the original artwork for that cover. It is dramatic.


While the Grand Comic Book Database credits the cover of  Harvey Hits #12 to Al Avison, other sources suggest this is also a Joe Simon effort. The small attacking figure sure looks like Simon to me. Some say Kirby had a hand in this one, but I don't see much to suggest it.

Al Avison is credited with most of the remaining Harvey Hits Phantom covers which appeared regularly thoughout the remainder of the run. Here's a cover gallery.


The perspective in this one is all over the place, but it still commands attention.


Once again the perspective is more than a bit wonky.


Nice image, though Devil looks rather like a kitten facing off against the lion.


Dramatic, and focused, a more successful image for sure.


This one is a champ,  a dandy and nigh iconic image of the Ghost Who Walks. I won't quibble aobut the arms. Outstanding!

And while it's arguable whether "King" Kirby had anything to do with the covers above, there's no denying his hand in this action-filled image developed for a never-to-be Phantom cartoon series. I wish I could find a better scan of this, but so be it.


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Monday, February 25, 2013

Phantom Cruiser!


Here's a nifty toy. Hot Wheels has apparently come out with a Popular Culture line of cars featuring a gaggle of the King Features characters, the Phantom not least among them. Here's a glimpse.


They look pretty cool actually. I love this kind of kitchsy crossover. But I have to say that I pretty sure they picked the wrong car for the Ghost Who Walks. Instead of the 1965 Volkswagen Fastback...


...it for sure should've been a Roll Royce Phantom Drophead Coupe.


Can't you just see Devil's head hanging over the passenger side in the breeze as Kit Walker rolls down the expressway behind the wheel of this purple beauty.

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Sunday, February 24, 2013

Phantom Phrenzy!


When Hermes Press after much ballyhoo finally launched their Phantom comic strip reprints, I gleefully picked up the first volume. It solid and the comics were outstanding. I'd have like a bit more density on the pages but the strips were very easy to read.


I then went ahead and picked up the second volume too. It was much the same. The earliest work by Lee Falk and artist Ray Moore on these early Phantoms has a raw energy that's fascinating. It's easy to see why this earliest of superheroes caught on.


Then for whatever reason, I did not pick up the third volume. My attention shifted or something, but I let it slip and slip. I'd think from time to time I needed to get it, but somehow I never did. Always there was another priority somehow. Then I saw the other day that prices on these earliest volumes were shooting through the roof. I realized that I needed to act fast, I'd soon be unable to get hold of one. My local store has had one for some time, so I went and...ahem...happily paid full price, since the alternative seemed so much more painful.



On returning home, I then ordered the fourth volume as well as the first of the Sunday comics volumes. With luck they should be on my doorstep early this week. I've got a lot of grand Phantom adventure to enjoy it seems. The other volumes coming later this  year (two more have been solicited) catch me up, at least on the comic stirps.





Since I own so many of the comic books, I've not yet picked up the volumes collecting up the Gold Key, King, and Charlton runs of the character. I need to correct that oversight. Alas the life of a comics fan is not an easy one, either we hanker for gems we'll never see or we are awash with jewels we can barely afford to take hold of. Sigh.

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