Sunday, March 31, 2013

A Man-God Reborn!

Gil Kane and Dan Adkins

In 1972 Marvel was trying out all sorts of ideas to bring new readers to the fold. "The Second Marvel Age" was in full swing with Roy Thomas in the ascendency and poised to take over the whole shebang from Stan Lee who was on his way to Hollywood. Jack Kirby was gone to DC, but he was far from forgotten, so it was decided to take one of his last true creations, a product of wild genetics tinkering called simply "Him", and make something new in the pages of the appropriately titled Marvel Premiere. Inspired apparently by a recent viewing of the hit rock opera Jesus Christ Superstar, Roy concocted with frequent partner Gil Kane along with inker Dan Adkins to bring out something novel and potentially controversial.

Jack Kirby and Vince Colletta

"Him" had been lurking about the Marvel Universe for a short time since his creation in the pages of Fantastic Four. He showed up in a couple of rockem' sockem' issues of The Mighty Thor in Kirby's final year. Now he was poised for something else.


Another Kirby creation, the High Evolutionary was also available for further development.

Marie Severin

Last seen in a few issues of Tales to Astonish mixing it up with the Incredible Hulk, the Evolutionary was your typical "Man-who-would-play-God", and he indulges his fancies to manufacture not only his own people but this time he fabricates his own world.


That world was named "Counter-Earth". Unfortunately, the High Evolutionary misjudged circumstances and an earlier creation of his, the Man-Beast took it upon itself to invade and infest Counter-Earth, bringing to this attempt at a new Eden, something malignant and vile. Man-Wolf brought sin to Counter-Earth, and there could only be one response from the Evolutionary, one slim hope for the newly wrought denizens of Counter-Earth.


Resurrected from his cocoon again, Him became Adam Warlock, this time bestooned with new duds and gold gew-gaws. He took it upon himself to go to Counter-Earth and attempt to expunge the evil of the Man-Beast. He would play the hero, he would descend and become the savior of this new world.


Adam Warlock proved ultimately to be a reasonably successful and sturdy creation, his mission to save Counter-Earth proved difficult and cost Adam more than he suspected. But then, the job of "Savior" has always had a substantial cost and even more substantial payoff, as many of us remember this particular weekend. And by the way, for another and much more ferocious comic book take on these significant religious matters see this link.

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Saturday, March 30, 2013

Bygone Galactus!

Jack Kirby and Vince Colletta

Jack Kirby and George Klein


Jack Kirby and Vince Colletta
 

One upon a time the great Galactus was a truly awesome and fearsome character. As rendered by the late great Jack Kirby and voiced by Stan Lee, Galactus was aloof, dour, and terrifyingly single minded. He saw, he came, you died!

Jack Kirby and Joe Sinnott

But over the decades of course repeated visits with the Big "G" have inevitably diminished his place in the Marvel Universe. When once he was an awesome allegory of an Old Testament Jehovah,  he has become alas merely another in a catalog of cosmic creatures. It's sad there's nothing in the MU that's quite as scary as Galactus was once upon a time, with the possible exception of Joe Quesada.

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Friday, March 29, 2013

Terrors Of Transilvane!


This impressive cover for a 1979 Swedish comic reprinting some Fourth World Jimmy Olsen stories  immediately struck me as at once dramatic, familiar, and quite strange.

As it turns out, it's a blend of two vintage Jack Kirby covers from Kirby's epic run on the comic.  


The editors have plucked the dramatic Kirby and Neal Adams Superman figure from Jimmy Olsen #137, his fists clenched ready to face the on-coming "Four-Armed Terror", and combined it with other elements.


Specifically for those elements, they've also lifted the imposing figures of Count Dragorin and Lupek from Jimmy Olsen #143, putting those two figures behind the now seemingly unaware Kal-El.

It's actually a pretty good fitting actually. I for one like the somewhat better look you get at the Kirby and Mike Royer rendered Dragorin and Lupek, what with black lines of the fabricated cover.

Neat.

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Thursday, March 28, 2013

Guns And Ammo!


Guns are a big part of pulp fiction in general and to a lesser degreee comics, which geared for children initially often eschewed weapons. Doc Savage has a famous disdain for guns, and this attitude drifted into comic books by and large, most evidenced by Batman's ultimate refusal to carry a gun.

But that doesn't mean there are guns in comics and other things associated with them. So much so that even comic book logos are affected. Above is a cover for Sarge Steel  Special Agent and his signature Luger nestles smoking and doubtless warm against the "A" in the name.


On Charlton's Vengeance Squad, an automatic pistol emerges from the "V".


In this DC comic a colt pistol sort of floats over the logo "Top Gun" which includes also a target. More on that later.


Michael Mauser created in the pages of E-Man by Nicola Cuti and Joe Staton owes his very name to a specific gun and here we see it in proper noir shadow as part of the logo to a later Mauser collection from Apple Comics.


Not only guns, but bullets too get used as iconography for logos. The most pure example is appropriately enough the Bulletman comic book from Fawcett.


Later Charlton's GunmasterM book used the same technique to render the name of  his partner Bullet the Gun Boy.


Bullets are also used in silhouette such as above to encase Sgt.Stryer's name as part of his logo for the exceedingly short-lived Atlas-Seaboard comic.



Marvel pulls a simliar trick on this later issue of Mighty Marvel Western.


Of course with guns and bullets you need targets and those get used too. Most obviously on this DC Johnny Double comic.


This comic, Target: The Corruptors from Dell uses a target too, blended in behind the title.


And finally we have the Atlas-Seaboard comic Targitt in which the name evokes both the character and the image itself. This one hearkens back to our gun theme too as there is a gun sight affixed to the top of the logo.

Guns and the paraphernalia associated with them are infused through out the pulp essence of comics.

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Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Ghostly Green!


Here's an exceedingly lurid Steve Ditko Cover for Charlton's Ghostly Haunts #25. The green on green really makes this exotic image pop. "Miasma"  is the word that comes to mind.


Here's the original Ditko artwork for this cover along with the cover copy ready for the printer.


And here's another scan of this cover in which the gree is muted. I prefer the more intense green cover myself. It lingers in the mind.

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Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Fangs For The Memories!


I spied this in-your-face cover for an upcoming AC Comics offering, one of their thirty dollar black and white reprint packages. This snarling furry mug by the great Steve Ditko is one of my favorite of his images. 


It was used originally for the debut issue of Mad Monsters from Charlton. What's got me curious is how AC got hold of it. I thought all the rights to this material had reverted to others long ago. Or is this material somehow in the public domain now. I know this kind of thing gets very complicated.

Nonetheless it's a great image!

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Monday, March 25, 2013

Creepy Old Ditko!


Late this summer there's a real treat in stores for all Ditko fans. Dark Horse is collecting in a very affordable package all of Steve Ditko's vintage work for Creepy and Eerie magazines. Creepy Presents Steve Dikto showcases simply outstanding stuff from what I've glimpsed in the past, but I've never seen it all.

This is Ditko's mature style in an arena in which he is relatively unencumbered. His work at Warren has a fantastic wash effect to make it more effective in glorious black and white, transforming this stuff  into some of the most handsome that Ditko ever created. With stories by master Archie Goodwin mostly, this is a collection I'm eager to get hold of.

Here is a neat web location with a detailed listing of Ditko's stories for Warren. And here is a link to a scan of the very first of Steve Ditko's Warrenverse stories.

They've got me looking forward to future collections for the work of Reed Crandall, Pat Boyette, Gray Morrow, Tom Sutton and others. 

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Sunday, March 24, 2013

Lois Lane's Fourth World!


When Jack Kirby arrived at DC after leaving his last post as top creative genius at Marvel, he quickly delivered an avalanche of new characters and titles. Those books became known as the "The Fourth World" as the unintended result of an ad which used the phrase to describe the four titles New Gods, Mister Miracle, Forever People and the existing comic Kirby had taken over Superman's Pal, Jimmy Olsen. Generally it took a while before Kirby's new ideas began to percolate through the broader DC Universe. But one place in which those ideas and characters did begin to appear almost immediately and with some regularity was in another of the Superman Family titles, Superman's Girl Friend Lois Lane.

Under the editorial guidance of E.Nelson Bridwell, Robert Kanigher assumed the writer's chair for the title and along with artist Werner Roth, most famous for his stint on Marvel's X-Men, and then-mainstay Jack Kirby inker Vince Colletta, Lois Lane became embroiled in several stories involving the wild denizens of the Fourth World.

The first of these tales was "The Dark Side of the Justice League!" which pitted the unsuspecting Lois against tiny clones of the JLofA produced at the Evil Factory, a foul genetics laboratory controlled by Darkseid agents Simyan and Mokkari introduced in the pages of Jimmy Olsen. Here are the first few pages of that ground-breaking adventure.






The next few issues of Lois Lane have little Fourth World influence, but issue #114 which focuses on Rose and The Thorn and their enemies The 100, does have the character Morgan Edge, the then new publisher of the Daily Planet who had been replaced by a clone and served Darkseid as a member of Inter-Gang.


In issue #115 though, the Fourth World influence is felt most strongly as Lois encounters new Kirby creation The Black Racer, who debuted in New Gods #3. This issue in fact was the Racer's second appearance overall. We get to see Willie Walker, the new Racer going about his new mission as messenger of death. Here are a few handsome sample pages.





The very next issue of Lois Lane has our heroine getting mixed up in some hijinks at Happy Land, the deadly amusement park created and managed by Darkseid henchman Desaad. Happy Land debuted in Forever People, but we get another solid look at its depravity in these pages. Darkseid himself even puts in an appearance. This is likely his first non-Kirby drawn appearance ever.





Issue #117 has little Fourth World influence, though again Morgan Edge remains as a character in the story.



It is in fact Morgan Edge's story which becomes the focus of issues #118 and #119 of Lois Lane, as we find out more about his replacement by a clone agent of Darkseid, and the real Morgan Edge escapes the Evil Factory and meets up with The Outsiders, a motley motorcycle gang introduced in Jimmy Olsen.




And that just about wraps up this offbeat unofficial fifth book in the Fourth World saga. Bridwell would soon be replaced as editor by Dorothy Woolfolk and Robert Kanigher  would go on to write other DC books. Lois Lane would return to adventures of a slightly more mundane type. But for a time though, Lois like her colleague Jimmy Olsen found herself embroiled in a crazy new universe, a brand new type of danger, a new and perilous world, a Fourth World.

I do want to point out that most of the covers during this run were by Dick Giordano, and are simply outstanding.

On a final note, it would be outstanding if DC would reprint these Lois stories in a trade so that Fourth World fans all over could readily enjoy them.

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