Monday, May 22, 2017

100 Days Of The King - Day 2

This enigmatic watercolor from 1976 is one of three titled the "Tribes Trilogy" produced by Jack Kirby. According  to one source these three paintings depict what human culture might look like if man had lived alongside dinosaurs. The other two will appear in the following days. For more on a special opportunity to own all three check out this offer from the folks over at The Jack Kirby Museum.

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Buckler Down!

I was much saddened to read of the passing of Rich Buckler. Buckler and I started in comics at about the same time, he as a professional and me as a fan. It was clear from the very beginning that Buckler had consummate skills as an artist and that he had absorbed the lessons of many many comics by the great artists.

In this early days at Marvel, Buckler was called upon to use his skills at mimicry to offer up a style similar to John Buscema on The Avengers and to Jack Kirby on Fantastic Four. He also had a knack for making his artwork resemble that of Neal Adams and it was a somewhat fresh take on that style which cleaved most closely to what I assume was his own distinctive look which he broke out on his creation Deathlok the Demolisher.

Later in his career he became a go-to talent at DC Comics, doing many covers and interiors for the company on titles such as Justice League of America and All-Star Squadron and more. Buckler was the kind of talent you build a company around and that was just the idea he had when he was one of the mainstays in the Red Circle revival of the MLJ heroes in the early days of the Independent market during the 80's. Later he joined Roy Thomas again at Marvel on wonderful limited series which looked at the Human Torch and the Sub-Mariner.

One of my favorite characters from Buckler is "Demon Hunter", a character who first showed up at the short-lived Atlas-Seaboard and then in an independent form called "Bloodwing" and later still at Marvel but going by the name of "Devil-Slayer". Three names but a distinctive look and mission that clearly identified this peripatetic character as the same guy, a man who stood between this world and dark menacing supernatural one.

I got to meet Buckler once at a local convention. And while I have spent more time talking to someone in the checkout line at a grocery, I still remember my interaction with him. He seemed polite but somewhat weary, like a lot of the pros I met that day. Solid talents in their day who had seen the industry leave them behind a bit. As a guy who is closing in on retirement myself, I very much identify with that emotion. Rich Buckler struck me as a talent who was equal parts artist and craftsman, who hit his marks and produced quality work on a regular schedule, the ideal talent for the comics industry.

Here is a gallery of some of my favorite Buckler covers.

Rest in peace Mr. Buckler.

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Sunday, May 21, 2017

100 Days Of The King - Day 1

Today kicks off a new daily feature (hopefully) here at the Dojo. Don't expect a lot of gab in these "100 Days of The King" posts, but do expect to see some staggeringly exquisite Jack Kirby artwork as we march proudly to the "King's" one hundredth birthday exactly one hundred days from now. It begins here and now with this delightful self-portrait of Jack Kirby (with Vince Colletta inks) done as a lead in of sorts for the reprints which populated the "Fourth World" books when DC jumped to a twenty-five cent price for a while. Aside from some Cap stories in Fantasy Masterpieces these reprints were my first glimpse of vintage Simon and Kirby. Sandman, Manhunter, Newsboy Legion, and Boy Commandos -- all were fantastic!

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Galactus - Gods And Monsters!

The saga of Galactus, which to this point had almost exclusively been told within the pages of the Fantastic Four, switches over to the pages of Jack "King"Kirby's other opus, The Mighty Thor. At this point in the storytelling it seems clear that Kirby is telling the stories he wants to tell and getting into the saga of Galactus allows him to flesh out the World Eater within a context which will support such cosmic doings.

Thor is contacted by Tana Nile of the Colonizers of Rigel and goes with her to confront a threat to Ego, the sentient planet. Galactus has discovered Ego and despite the almost godly power of the living planet he plans to consume him to fulfill his insatiable hunger. Meanwhile the Recorder is dispatched from Asgard and finds common cause with Thor as they travel together from Rigel to the scene of the galactic conflict.

Ego and Galactus battle it out, each using the enormous power at their respective commands. The Recorder and Thor are lucky to survive the conflict as they deal with the refugees called the Wanderers, a weary race who have long traveled through space after Galactus destroyed their world.

Eventually Thor is able to use their technology combined with his own Uru hammer to create a force which so threatens Galactus that the Demi-God withdraws to preserve himself. Ego is spared and offers the Wanderers a new home.

The Recorder returns to the Colonizers of Rigel and Thor returns to Asgard, but there Odin is not done with Galactus.

He uses his great powers to reveal a devastated world and the desperate souls who attempt to protect it in its final moments as in the space above a cube opens and Galactus is revealed to the universe for the first time.

This glimpse into the origin of the World Eater is shown to empower Thor's mission to again confront Galactus, but that confrontation is forestalled when a threat to Sif on Earth is discovered. After some battles with the Greek god Pluto and the awesome Him, Thor will once again seek out Galactus to learn the rest of the story.

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Saturday, May 20, 2017

Galactus - Heraldry!

When the Silver Surfer is stranded on Earth after serving his master Galactus a second time, we get to see what he does in his very own series. This series though was not a Lee-Kirby production. Despite the evident fact that the Silver Surfer was completely the creation of Jack "King" Kirby, Stan Lee developed a proprietary interest in the character which would last for many years. For whatever reasons (Kirby's workload, Kirby's less sanguine attitude towards Marvel and Lee) the series was drawn by John Buscema. This was just one of the many slights Kirby felt toward the end of his famous tenure at Marvel.

"Big" John Buscema would become Kirby's replacement as Marvel's high-profile go-to artist when the King left a few years later. And his Silver Surfer is a wonderful variation on a theme, and to my eye a superior one to that of Kirby. Whereas Kirby gave the Surfer a shiny magnificence, Buscema chose to make him more nimble and this more agile sleeker Surfer actually fits the name better to my mind. Galactus only figures in one issue of the eighteen issue run. In the giant-size debut issue we get a look at the origin of the Surfer and learn his real name for the first time.

We meet the Surfer as flies across the Earth encountering humanity in all its myriad forms, sadly most of those violent and self-destructive. He escapes to the Himilayas where he discovers a lost city and there he muses about his own past. The planet Zenn-La was a technological paradise but citizen Norrin-Rad was disappointed that this people seemed to have lost the drive and ambition which brought about the wonders they reveled in every day. He is a brooding man who is less than fully appreciative of the love of the beautiful Shalla-Bal. The arrival of a mysterious ship throws the placid society into chaos and when it is revealed that Galactus has come to Zenn-La even their greatest weapon is no match for his power.

Desperate to save his people, Norrin-Rad gets a ship and confronts Galactus and makes a bargain that he will serve as his herald if the World Eater will spare Zenn-La. Galactus agrees and transforms Norrin-Rad into the Silver Surfer imbuing him with the power cosmic and gifting him his mighty board. The Surfer says farewell to Shalla-Bal and begins his long service to Galactus, a service which led him eventually to the Earth and his current fate.

Also in this dynamite debut issue is a story by Stan Lee and Gene Colan which tells again the origin of the mighty Watcher. This late Silver Age refreshing of the story of the Watchers and how they learned the error of carelessly empowering other species and how they chose their destiny of merely recording the events of the cosmos is a humdinger. The tie between the Watcher and Galactus is to some degree reinforced yet again.

The Silver Surfer's first series is ultimately a critical success but eventually falls victim to poor sales and is cancelled. Oddly Jack Kirby was asked to step in at the last minute to attempt a reboot in the last issue but that doesn't seem to have moved the needle. Soon Kirby is gone to DC and Stan determines that only he will write Silver Surfer stories from that point on. Sometimes the Surfer shows up in other comics as part of a team, but Stan's prohibition does mean that the Silver Surfer will have to wait a long time to get another shot at his own run.

But before all of that Stan and Jack tells us the origin of Galactus himself. That begins next time.

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Friday, May 19, 2017

A Day In The Anti-Life - Sow What!

I think the old proverb goes something like this -- "For they have sown the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind." That's how I see the spectacular week-long debacle which passes for modern Washington politics in these United States. It's been evident for a very long time that our current "so-called" President is not up to the task he so voraciously sought all last year. He has neither the training, the temperament, nor the inclination to improve his deficiencies which might suggest he is someone a citizen can put their trust in. He has his fans, but so what. He's spectacularly wrong, and relative popularity, though persistantly measured is no balm for that absolute assessment of utter failure.  

It seems that at long last the "Deciever-in-Chief" has finally committed such woeful acts that even the myopic and sluggish Congress is beginning to rouse. I have always argued the vile nature of Trump is the result of Republican politics as they have been played for several decades now,  The Republicans have won the day, but the week eludes them as they realize that their leader might not be stable enough to stay round long enough to put his signature to the reactionary laws they are attempting to push through. They have eaten a lot of manure in order to keep sufficient order to get their miserly legislative way, but now they realize that history is looking on with a baleful eye.

I read that our "so-called" President is getting more and more paranoid, screaming at the TV he watches way too much during the day and night instead of confronting the tough issues he brags about solving for the American people. Well tough amigo, he wanted this gig and now he has it. Grow the hell up and be a man and do the job. The country needs a president, not a whiner who seems to think that everyone lives to make his life a little easier. He must quit bitching so much about "witch hunts" and  own misfortunes as he imagines them, and just lead.

Now that the investigation has become more formalized with the announcement of a special counsel, I hpe this thing can recede a little -- it needs to for all our sakes. But I don't hold my breath.

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Thursday, May 18, 2017

The Marvels Project!

I am very very late to this party, but that doesn't mean I didn't enjoy it when I finally arrived. The Marvels Project by Ed Brubaker and Steve Epting is a really good story and I'm glad I finally got hold of a copy of it to enjoy. Brubaker is a writer who has a strong reputation, though I confess I've read very little of his work since I abandoned most of Marvel before he became a fixture there, but Steve Epting is an artist I've admired since his very first stint on The Avengers way back in the 90's. Epting's artwork then was a powerful antidote to the clumsy nonsense which dominated the field at the time and he's only ever gotten better over the years. Now since this is a limited series from 2009 I have no idea what if anything is left of these continuity details, but I've always rather enjoyed WWII stories and this one is well above average.

We have here the story of one of Marvel's most overlooked champions, The Angel. Not the X-Man, but the original Angel, a crime fighter from Marvel's earliest days who charged into battle against crime sans any discernible superpowers. What have here is a look behind the scenes of the beginnings of the Timely heroes from a point of view which has some insights but also a very potent everyman perspective which adds a fresh aspect to tales we've seen many many times.

We get to experience, as if for the first time in many ways. the stories of how the Human Torch is created and how he finds a role in society, how the Sub-Mariner wages his war against humanity before finding the true enemy, how Captain America is born and begins his fight against the Nazis. We also meet many of Timely's lesser heroes such as Phantom Bullet, Ferret, and one I was totally unaware of named John Steele. The latter was apparently made into a big deal in the modern Marvel Universe by Brubaker, though I've never read any of those stories.

All in all a great little story and when I found this trade for a mere five bucks, I figured the gamble was worth the chance. I was right and now at long last I've caught up a bit.

Below are some of the covers for this series, which for the most part I have to say are pretty unremarkable. The final one, a wraparound by Alan Davis is easily the best of the lot.

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