Thursday, November 15, 2018
When Steve Ditko left the halls of Marvel to pursue his singular path in the comic book business, he landed at Charlton. Actually he hardly left the little Derby company which offered him a great deal of work throughout his career. What he brought to Charlton after the his departure from Spider-Man was another buggy hero, a revised version of the venerable Blue Beetle. And the Ted Kord version has pretty much stuck and become arguably the most successful of the Action Heroes after landing at DC during the Crisis on Infinite Earths.
Now that does not mean I have no regard for the earlier Dan Garrett version of the hero that Charlton offered, I do indeed.
But there's no denying despite some strengths of simplicity in the earlier look, that the design of the Ditko version of the Blue Beetle is among the finest ever rendered in the history of comic books. It is simply and outstanding look.
Wednesday, November 14, 2018
It took me quite a few years to grok the greatness of The Spirit, the magnificent comic noir hero created by the late great Will Eisner. Eisner's work on The Spirit was mostly unavailable when I first dawdled into the comics world, save for the Undergrounds, a few Harvey comics, and a single story in the pages of The Great Comic Book Heroes, a story which left me somewhat cold.
Later when I was able to see prime Eisner artwork in the pages of the Warren's reprint magazine, I fell head-over-heels in love with the character and the world in which he operated. It was simply fascinating evocative, rich with characters, and truly at times funny.
I followed The Spirit around to Kitchen Sink and have put together a pretty complete collection of those comics over the decades. When DC started their archives volumes I was just not able to participate and regret it mightily. I'd love to have all twenty-six tomes in my library, handy to read and savor. And I still might try to get them -- the Spirit is worth the effort.
Tuesday, November 13, 2018
The Spectre is one of the few comic book characters who is truly scary. Created by Superman's daddy Jerry Siegel and artist Bernard Bailey in the Golden Age, a time when "heroes" were free to kill and maim in the name of "justice", the Spectre is an angry ghost who takes on crime with a literal vengeance.
Though steps were taken soon after his creation in the pages of More Fun Comics to soften him and make him fit for company of other heroes such as in the pages of All-Star with the budding Justice Society, the Spectre has always been mostly apart.
I knew of the character from his Silver Age series in which Neal Adams kicked up a storm with his amazingly realistic take on the comic book universe, a style well suited to the quasi-horror of the Spectre. I liked it, it was not like any other hero I'd seen and later when the Spectre was...ahem...revived in the pages of Adventure Comics by the talents of writer Michael Fleisher and artist Jim Aparo, the Spectre became a rock-solid favorite. The comic was scary and gruesome and weirdly fascinating. It was one of the great runs of the Bronze Age.
Monday, November 12, 2018
BIIIRRRRDMAN!!! That cry still rings in the corridors of my memory and the wings of my imagination. Birdman, one of the vintage Hanna-Barbera heroes created during their heyday following the success of Space Ghost. He was yet another great hero designed by Alex Toth.
We learned very little about Birdman from the cartoon save that he had a winged companion named Avenger and later a metal-winged partner dubbed Birdboy. He answered to a mysterious boss named Falcon 7 who sent Birdman on his missions. He was based in a volcano, a detail I absolutely loved. I ignore that abomination called "Harvey Birdman". That's for others.
Birdman made a few comic book appearances over the years in comics from Gold Key and later Archie, but it was not until the last few years when in the pages of Future Quest at DC that we learned the real secrets of Birdman. It's been brilliant finding out all these unknowns and I hope for more. I waited fifty years the first time, I can wait a little longer.
Sunday, November 11, 2018
For Veteran's Day I'm reaching back and picking Marvel's Phantom Eagle as my Favorite Hero of the Day. It's pure happen chance that I picked up Marvel Super-Heroes #16 featuring the one and pretty much only solo appearance of "the Pulse-Poundng Phantom Eagle". He was an American of German heritage and who feared for his faimly who was doing his best under disguise to bring the German menace during World War I to an end. What makes the Phantom Eagle fly is the exquisite artwork of the late Herb Trimpe, an artist ideally suited for the task. Trimpe was in addition to being one of Marvel's most trustworthy and reliable talents, a flyer of just the kinds of planes featured in this comic.
I've remarked here before how I was able to get signatures on my copy of MSH #16 and an original drawing of Phantom Eagle some years ago at a convention by Trimpe. He seemed well pleased to be drawing something other than the Hulk or Wolverine and even took a moment to share the drawing with the writer of the comic Gary Friedrich who was also in attendance at the convention. With both men gone now, it is an even more precious treasure in my collection.
Here is some of the original artwork from that story from so many years ago.
Saturday, November 10, 2018
The THUNDER Agents from Tower Comics were a nifty blast of quality and not least among their number was NoMan. NoMan captures the imagination in a host of ways. He is the invisible agent thanks to the technology of the cloak he wears. But beyond that which makes him like his fellow agents Dynamo, Menthor and Lightning, NoMan is different because he's only technically human.
The fact that NoMan is actually Anthony Dunn, or more properly the consciousness of Dunn an old man which can move between myriad android bodies which give him great vitality and strength. When one body falls, there's another to shift to and NoMan lives again. Great high concept!
There were a bevy of android characters around at the time with Red Tornado at DC and Vision at Marvel. But of the lot, it's NoMan who most captures my fancy.
Friday, November 9, 2018
When I showed up to read comics, the Martian Manhunter had largely vanished. His series in House of Mystery had ended and his membership in the Justice League had largely lapsed as he'd returned to Mars. It seemed that DC thought him too silly for the times which demanded they thought a realism that simply didn't adhere to J'onn J'onz.
But I kept finding old issues of JLofA and I found that the stories with Martian Manhunter really grabbed me, and oddly I liked his simple look. He was Superman without the glamour or baggage and was often used in just that fashion.
Many years later I found the original stories and fell in love with the character even more. Eventually he returned to Earth and to the League and became for a time an integral part of it. He's gone through lots of transformations, but though it all he's been a hero.