Saturday, January 19, 2019

Fire Versus Water!

I don't know if it was some sort of master plan but I doubt it. However the chips fell, Marvel, then called Timely has two of the most famous and successful Golden Age comic book superheros in the Human Torch (who wasn't "Human") and the Sub-Mariner (who wasn't always a "hero"). Now in this new series of trades dubbed "Decades" we get a nifty batch of Subby's and Torch's earliest squabbles.

The idea that they existed in the same universe likely rocked the world of more than a few fans at the time. We are so used to expansive and elaborate continuities these days that the raucous early days of comics have a refreshing atmosphere of pure creation. Eventually the two would become partners alongside Captain America, the Whizzer and Miss America as part of the All-Winners Squad, but in these early encounters they'd rather fight than switch. Almost all the work here is by the two creators of these characters -- Bill Everett and Carl Burgos, although there is one story drawn by the infamous "Unknown". This one is sheer fun.

Here are the covers of the comics in the collection, though of course only the Sub-Mariner and Torch material is included.

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Friday, January 18, 2019

Conan The Believer!

I've waxed on before about how Conan the Barbarian #1 was a revelation for yours truly. I'd already drunk the Marvel kool-aid and was a "True Believer" and it's only right that now, several decades later I pick up yet another reprint of that significant book, this emblazoned with the "True Believers" brand.

Also on hand is the great story from Howard -- "The Tower of the Elephant", perhaps the single most elegant of the first Windsor-Smith era.

There's a hearty taste of Gil Kane who was set to take on the Cimmerian when Windsor-Smith left for a time.

But he returned to finish one more epic tale, though it's a bit ragged in places, and I wish they'd used the artwork originally intended for this particular comic -- a great way to correct a blunder from days gone by.

We get some dandy Neal Adams artwork, an artist whose ability to capture the real worked especially well in presenting a vivid landscape for the Cimmerian's adventures.

And so far it wraps up with some art from Conan's most important artist the late great John Buscema and the story with began a saga and introduced Belit. There are some more of these due next week, taking stories from the pages of Savage Tales and King Conan.  It's a fine way for Marvel to get their most successful licensed character back onto the stands. Of course all of these were written by the Rascally One himself, Roy "The Boy" Thomas.

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Thursday, January 17, 2019

The Kane Scrutiny!

This is just one of many visually provocative covers during this period of The Justice League of America. The League locked up in an asylum makes for a dramatic image and Neal Adams seems to have done a dandy job of capturing the manic moment. But wait a minute.

This unpublished version of the cover shows that Gil Kane had done a version of the exactly the same image. It's not uncommon to find alternate versions of these classic covers, but to find one which is so very similar in nearly all respects is strange indeed. The similarity is too striking for it to be explained by the notion that both artists were given the project simultaneously, but rather it seems clear that  editorial found something lacking in the Kane rendition. The only significant changes are the shifts in the heads of Batman and Flash, especially the latter. In the revised Adams version Flash and Hawkman seem to be exchanging looks filled with rage. Was that the point, to get that sense of anger more clearly on display?

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Wednesday, January 16, 2019

This Comic Will Make You Go ARRGH!

I was talking about PLOP the other day and someone mentioned Marvel's attempt at a weird humor comic at about the same time, a little pamphlet entitled ARRGH!. The comic lasted less than a half dozen issues but it gave us some interesting work, nearly all of it reprinted from other sources, albeit some of those sources being somewhat rare. The first issue offers up a ludicrous vampire tale from Bruce Jones, Mike Sekowsky and Tom Sutton and an offbeat tale from Sutton alone reprinted from The Monster Times alongside a reprint by Bill Everett from the 1950's Atlas Crazy comic book.

Under a fantastic Marie Severin cover the second issue offers up two new tales, one by Tom Sutton and another by Bruce Jones and Alfredo Alcala alongside another reprint from the 50's.

The third issue gives us an Alfredo Alcala cover and beneath that a Tom Sutton sequel to his Rat story from the debut. Also on had is Bigfoot story by Don Glut and Mike Sekowsky and Mike Vosburg. Another Crazy reprint rounds it out.

The fourth issue of ARRGH! showcases a classic spoof of The Night Stalker dubbed "The Night Gawker" by Bruce Jones, Jerry Grandenetti and Frank Springer. This is the highlight of the run for me. Two Atlas reprints fill up the balance of the comic. Here is a link to the full story of "The Night Gawker" -- love Grandenetti!

The fifth and final issue of AARGH! changes it up pretty robustly with three stories by the Ross Andru and Mike Esposito team reprinted from their self-published GET LOST comic from some years before. It was the only glimpse of that material I had for many years.

There was apparently \ supposed to be a sixth issue, also drawing upon the Andru and Esposito team material as the unpublished art above indicates. So ARRGH! was a hodge-podge but did get into a wider circulation some really offbeat humor with an weird and eerie twist.

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Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Comic Artist Rex!

I'm not really sure when I first grokked the greatness of comic book artist Neal Adams, but it might have been when I flipped a comic book page and beheld the maw above.

It was just a moment in a staggering Spectre story when time was tumbled and ancient beasts from the dim past were thrust into the modern day. It's a common enough trope in comics and other entertainments, but rarely have I seen it done with such absolute potency as in this double-page spread.

Here is the artwork in its published form, with colors and a bit more depth of shadow. It becomes even more powerful.

How this farm boy came to get his clutches on a comic book like The Spectre #5 is a bit of mystery, but there's no doubt that it made the great Neal Adams one of my absolute favorite artists. I'm of course far from alone in that opinion.

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Monday, January 14, 2019

The Draft Of Mystery!

This is the iconic cover by Joe Orlando which initiated DC's turn away from fun but admittedly sometimes frivolous superheroics and an attempt spurred by Orlando to give the Bronze Age comic book reader some truly scary tales. It initiated a wave of imitators at DC, Marvel and Charlton.

But apparently that image was not instantaneous. Here is a different, presumably earlier version of the vintage classic. They made the right choice, there is no doubt.

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Sunday, January 13, 2019

Look What Plopped Up!

Just ran across the ad below for an upcoming issue of MAD Magazine. I've been enjoying the rebooted MAD and I thrilled to get a little bonus when an issue will feature the complete debut issue of DC's infamous PLOP comic book.

I was lucky to get hold of PLOP #1 when it dropped all those decades ago and I picked up an issue here and there before it closed up shop with its twenty-fourth issue. The series was famously inspired by a story entitled "The Poster Plague" which Steve Skeates and Sergio Aragones were finally able get into an issue of  House of Mystery.  A story dubbed "The Gourmet" by Berni Wrightson from the debut issue even won an award. This is a series screaming out to be collected in proper fashion for a new generation of fans. I think much of the humor is timeless.

Here are the covers for the entire run, most by the deliriously entertaining Basil Wolverton, assisted a few times by Wally Wood. Later the comic adopted a more traditional cover scheme with artwork by Joe Orlando, Dave Manak and others. The comics themselves are filled up with great Sergio Aragones artwork as well stories by the likes of Bill Draut, Alfredo Alacala, and Berni Wrightson.

Tbe PLOP covers changed consideradly with the twentieth issue when the bizarre characters were replaced by panel gags. After one cover by a classic cartoonist the balance of the run were produced by Joe Orlando or Dave Manak or so combination. Doubtless this was done to help sales but it was sad to see the menagerie of oddballs stop.

Below is one unplublished cover by Basil Wolverton -- I assume for issue twenty.

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