Saturday, May 30, 2009





My Favorite Comic Book Cover Today #24 - For Lovers Only!

Here's a handsome Charlton cover by Joe Staton. I mentioned before, but I'll say it again. I love his stuff. This cover is a good reason why!
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Femme Noir - The Dark City Diaries!

I love this series.

To begin with I'm an absolute nut for Joe Staton. Ever since I stumbled across his work on E-Man for Charlton back in the 70's I've craved more of his stuff. His early Charlton work is a must-have for me when I find them, his covers especially. So when I chanced across a series online that he was illustrating I had to check it out. It was big time fun.

The series is written by Chris Mills, a name I've come across in other Indy comics and a name I've come to associate with stuff I like. The two of them produce a comic story that's got all that old-fashioned storytelling jazz I adore. It's grim but not necessarily gritty. It's dark but not necessarily gloomy. It's a ripe blend of fun and furious action. It's what DC's Spirit series should be, but sadly isn't.

And when I heard they were going to publish some of these on actual paper I was thrilled. The series did not disappoint. The stories were wide-ranging in contents and characters but nonetheless still obviously took place in a recognizable world. Whether fighting jungle girls or robot hoods "Blonde Justice" the knockout star of the series finds a way to give the adventure a clever and distinctive twist.

Whether you round up these stories in the original comics or get the new trade, I highly recommend this series. It's the most fun you can have currently reading comics...period. Like a wise man once opined...'nuff said.

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Friday, May 29, 2009

My Favorite Comic Book Cover Today #23 - Marvel Movie Premiere!

This one-shot movie adaptation is okay, but the cover by Nick Cardy is outstanding! The way the logo is cut into the landscape makes this one at once bizarre and compelling. Love Cardy, love this cover.

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Movies That Time Forgot!

What a curious collection of movies these are. I well remember Doug McClure (who I watched as Trampus on The Virginian for years) and how he suddenly became the go-to guy for Burroughs films in the 70's. While I love Tarzan and the Martian and Venus novels are very entertaining, I'll confess the sheer splendor of the notion of Pellucidar might be my fave ERB concept. I got this quartet of flicks on a pair of dvds and watched them that way.

The Land that Time Forgot and its sequel The People that Time Forgot are not set in Pellucidar but Caprona, ERB's beyond bizarre lost world where evolution is recapitulated each generation. It's a strange idea and very difficult to communicate in a flim, though the first movie does a reasonable job at trying. We've got the submarine, the WWI setting, and such before we get to the dinosaurs and cavemen, and frankly they spend perhaps too much time in that set-up, but once there the movie gets running and despite breaks in logic never slows down nor does it offer up a partiuclarly happy ending. The sequel is stranger still as it seems more a Robert E. Howard adventure than an ERB one, though the main influence seems to be Frank Frazetta. There are a number of stunning images (and babes) in this movie, though the story itself is pretty weak. The tale is far less dense and less compelling, though I give the visuals high marks.

At The Earth's Core is a cracking good flick, and never lets up. The red sky of Pellucidar is strange and gives the whole movie a definitely stagey but offbeat feel. The acting is pretty good in this one and the story of one man leading a revolt against the Mahars is pretty well handled. The monsters are unintentionally laughable in places but given the times these were made quite understandable. Peter Cushing is especially good in this one, giving Abner Perry a real crackpot but capable presentation. The War Gods of the Deep has nothing to do with ERB but is spun out of a Poe poem and offers up sea monsters and impossibly aged pirates pitted against a lost world beneath the waves off England. Vincent Price keeps this one out of the fire when he's on screen. He's always so magnificent in his presentations that he elevates even the most lackluster movies. The sets on this one are pretty good, though Tab Hunter is pretty dense for most of the movie. It doesn't make sense all the time, but it does offer up some compelling images here and there.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

My Favorite Comic Book Cover Today #22 - New Gods!

I still remember seeing the cover of New Gods #1 on the stands. It rocked my world. But what I didn't learn until recently is that New Gods #1 was considered for inclusion in the long run of Showcase comics. Showcase was the debut book at DC at the time. Characters like Creeper, Anthro, Hawk and Dove, Bat Lash, and many others had first appeared in those pages. So it wasn't all the illogical for New Gods to be considered for this treatment. But then another plan was developed for whatever reason and I'm glad it did. The number of the Showcase issue on the mock-up above is #94 and the series ended with #93. New Gods #1 is one of the most awesome comics ever produced, that's all.

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Jack Kirby's Fourth World Part 3 - Quiet Before The Storm!

The saga continues.
Jimmy Olsen #136 & 137 - These issues really get us full force into the struggle between The Project and the Evil Factory. The Guardian helps Jimmy and the Newsboys to battle the giant Kryptonite-infused Jimmy from the Evil Factory, but it is a Micro-Paratrooper made in the image of Scrapper who does him in with sleep gas. These issues really open up the mystery quite a bit with lots of pages spent explaining just where we are and how the Project sits relative to the Zoomway and the Habitat and the other places. Darkseid takes a greater role, though still operating through his agents Mokkari and Simyan. They unleash the Four-Armed Terror, a monster based on human DNA upon the Project and Superman, The Guardian, and the Newsboys all find him impossible to deal with. The second issue ends with an army of these monstrosities awakening, seemingly set to overrun the Project. Oh and if Superman, Jimmy and the Hairies ain't getting stoned using the "Solar Phone" and four pages of collage greatness, I don't know what else it could be. It's pretty blunt, if you follow me.

Forever People #2 - The Forever People squat in this one, finding a place to live in some rundown and abandoned buildings. They meet a boy named Donnie and his uncle. The set up housekeeping, explain themselves a little bit, and basically establish their counter-culture approach to fighting evil, an evil expressed clearly in Darkseid and his agent Mantis, a humanoid bug who seems to be pretty dang powerful. Mantis is often referred to as being almost as powerful as Darkseid, and of all of Darkeid's agents seems the most independent. Mantis tears up the town but is sent packing back to his cocoon eventually by Infinity Man.

New Gods #2 - The calm before the storm is how I often think of this issue. Orion and the four humans he saved return from Apokolips to find Darkseid camped out in Dave Lincoln's apartment, there to taunt Orion. The other three people Orion saved are Claudia Shane, Harvey Lockman, and Victor Lanza. Orion fights Brola of the Stone Hand, defeats him and sends Darkseid and his henchman packing for the moment. He then explains to the humans (and the audience) the nature of the struggle the New Gods finds themselves in on Earth against Darkseid. There is lots of forshadowing as we get glimpses of Mantis, The Deep Six, and even a reference to the goings on in Jimmy Olsen by referencing the Outsiders and Habitat. Orion becomes aware of Desaad's attempt to use an advertising billboard to inflict fear, to churn up perhaps the Anti-Life Equation, and destroys the effort. This is one of my favorite episodes in the series, an informative but quiet build to the war.

Mister Miracle #2 - We learned more about Scott Free as he battles Granny Goodness and X-Pit. This is a pretty straightforward issue, as Scott builds a robotic "Follower" which looks like him and causes the enemy to constantly be confused. Oberon falls into Granny's malicious clutches and her agent Overlord who isn't all he's cracked up to be, but Scott races to the rescure breaking out his signature flying disks for the first time. The X-Pit is really a trap of the mind and Scott reveals that beating his opponent with his greater acuity. He leaves Granny fuming and takes the rescued Oberon away for a battle to come.

These issues are set up issues really. Quiet moments (relatively speaking in a Kirby comic) and the issues really where much of the background of the greater conflict comes into focus for the reader. Kirby had hit his audience with a lot of stuff, but here he begins to massage it a bit, getting the audience to find their way before everything kicked into a bit of a higher gear. All things are relative of course, and a "quiet" issue with Kirby is still more action-packed than most other books by most other talents. But after reading these issues, you really know these stories aren't like any you've come across before.

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Wednesday, May 27, 2009

My Favorite Comic Book Cover Today #21 - Bettie Page!

Here's a Dave Stevens cover clearly inspired by the classic Frank Frazetta Thun'da #1 cover. Bettie is being pawed at by some very nasty stereotypes for sure, but she looks so very very good. Sigh.

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The Sound Of Thun'da!

I had a real treat this morning and read the Fantagraphics comic Thun'da Tales #1 from 1987 which reprinted in color the entire comic contents of Thun'da #1 from Magazine Enterprises from the 1950's. This comic has the distinction of apparently being the only full-length comic book illustrated by Frank Frazetta. He is credited with creating Thun'da though the scripts are by Gardner Fox. Frazetta left the comic after a single issue because editorial demanded he move Thun'da from a savage "Lost World" filled with prehistoric beasts to the relatively mundane jungle of the then modern Congo. Instead of a Burroughsian fantasy hero in the mold of David Innes, they wanted yet another Tarzan knock-off. They got that in subsequent issues but illustrated by comics journeyman Bob Powell. Thun'da King of the Congo even went on to become a movie serial starring Buster Crabbe. But there was this one issue by Frazetta. And I read it this morning.

The first story is titled "King of the Lost Lands" and it tells of how during WWII Roger Drum an aviator crashes his supply plane inside the mysterious regions of Africa. He finds a "lost world" filled with beast men and dinosaurs. He battles furiously to survive but eventually goes native and is soon dubbed "Thun'da" by the Valley People and the beautiful Phra. Presumably the name is a result of the boom his gun made as he fired his last bullets to kill a giant snake. This is a rugged story told at a rapid clip and features some fantastic Frazetta imagery.

The second story is titled "The Monsters from the Mists!" and this one finds Thun'da fighting monkeymen who have tamed shaggy mammoths. Protecting the lovely Phra Thun'da battles against the apemen, killing thier leader and escaping their lair to lead a counter-attack using fire against the enemy by uniting the tribes of the valley.

The third story titled "When the Earth Shook" pits Thun'da and Phra alongside a sabretooth tiger named Sabre. Thun'da killed its parent and raises the beast as his companion. An earthquake opens the lost land up and a white hunter and his black bearers find their way into the valley. They take Thun'da captive and threaten him to help them find gold. But he escapes, raises the natives and fights back. The outsiders try to take their gold but another earthquake buries them and closes off the lost world. But now Thun'da, Phra and Sabre are outside in the Congo.

The fourth and final story "Gods of the Jungle" finds Thun'da operating in the Congo as yet another jungle hero. He battles against natives and white hunters, particularly two Soviet spies who use native superstition to build up a false monster-god. Thun'da reveals the deception and puts down this threat of the agitated and decived natives and the spies are turned over to the authorities. The last scene shows Thun'da, Phra and Sabre heading out into the veldt.

Outstanding stuff. It's a pity Frazetta couldn't do more and it's a pity his vision was snuffed out. I've read some of the Powell Thun'da stories in an AC reprint and they are fine but predictable and bland. Frazetta's Thun'da is dynamic and grim, if not always logical. Like the best of ERB, the Thun'da stories by Frazetta and Fox don't always makes complete sense, but they always carry you away.

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Tuesday, May 26, 2009

My Favorite Comic Book Cover Today #20 - Big Apple Comix!

One book I've long wanted to read was Big Apple Comix #1 (and only). That Wally Wood cover has snatched up my imagination each time my eyes get on it. It's provocative and screams for a story to be told. Alas no story correlates to this great image, but there are several tales of the seamy New York City of the 70's that the book is well worth reading and owning. First you have to understand this is a ground-level book, in fact an underground comic with all the brash and explicit spectacle you'd expect from such a comic but produced by mainstream talent. That's the real charm of this book.

It's produced by Flo Steinberg, she of the Marvelous Marvel Bullpen, and she's gotten together a who's who of that very Bullpen from the Bronze Age. There's artwork here by Marie Severin, Wally Wood, Herb Trimpe, Neal Adams, Larry Hama, Ralph Reese, Archie Goodwin, Al Williamson, Linda Fite, Mike Ploog, and Alan Weiss. The stories are gruff and often quite funny. There's a range of stuff from social commentary to nostalgic comedy. Some stories (the Severin one) have a Not Brand Echh/MAD feel. Some stories (the Neal Adams one) have a trendy National Lampoon feel. Some stories (the Al Williamson one) have a Pacific/Eclipse feel. Some stories (the Wood one and the Fite one and the Goodwin one) have a fully underground feel.

There's a real range of material here. My personal faves were the two pieces by Herb Trimpe. He produces a comic strip-style story of the King Kong story told from the point of view of one of the pilots who shot him off the Empire State Building and it's pretty funny. This one is inked by Wally Wood. And there's a charming sci-fi fable by Trimpe which shows his skills at this time to their fullest. Trimpe is an artist who gets not nearly enough credit for this storytelling and his artistry.

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The Phantom Serial!

Whew! What a ride that was.

The Phantom serial from Columbia is a rockem-sockem movie for sure. This 15-chapter play offers up a Phantom pretty close to the Lee Falk original. They play with the identity a bit though that is quickly abandoned after the first chapter, and we don't get to see Avenger. Devil is clearly a dog and not a wolf, but I'll allow for that.

I have no idea where this is set. The jungle of the Phantom here seems to be occupied by natives from central casting and not from any specific ethnic region. The animals range from crocodiles to lions to tigers to gorillas so that doesn't narrow it down. In point of fact this jungle seems just as fanciful as does the printed one elaborated over the years by Falk and his collaborators.

The plot is pretty simple. A professor played by Frank (Dr.Zarkhov) Shannon wants to find the lost city of Zoloz for purely scientific reasons. His daughter Diana (not Palmer) is along for the ride as well as her gold-digging boyfriend. The Phantom was going too but news of his father's death changes his plans and he becomes the new Phantom before our very eyes. His lack of experience is a plot element from time to time. Also on hand are treasure hunters and a gang of saboteurs who apparently already know where Zoloz is and plan a hidden airbase for the location so they try to stop the expedition. The uber-villain played by Kenneth MacDonald is called Dr.Brimmer and he's outstanding in the role, a slimy and cold character through and through.

There's lots of traps, some pretty illogical, but a good variety. The Phantom gets dropped into a tiger trap, a well, a bog, and gets blown up several times to boot. He always finds a way out of course. Tom Tyler as the Phantom is pretty good and this serial has some of the best fisticuffs of any Columbia serial I've seen. Tyler really knows how to perform an uppercut for the camera. They look dynamic and painful.

All in all this is a good serial. The dvd I watched also featured some images of classic comic book covers and photos from the production. Of particular note is a commentary by Max Allan Collins for Chapter 1. Chapter 11 has some new voices added because of damage to the print over time. It's a brief fix and doesn't hurt the flow of the story, though the voices do give the goings-on a bit of humor.

This is a great bit of entertainment. I highly recommend it.

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Monday, May 25, 2009

My Favorite Comic Book Cover Today #19 - Fighting Army!

Take some time today and remember.
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The Best Of Simon And Kirby!

I've been wanting this book since I first saw it, but the price kept me away. It was a just a hair above what I pop for a book when it's not an essential part of the collection. And it always seemed some back issues were more pressing. But yesterday I used a neat little coupon and picked this up from Borders for a very nice price indeed, nearly half-price. I feel better about life in general and I have a copy of this pretty neat collection.

I haven't plumbed its depths yet, but my first scans show a surprisingly wide array of Simon & Kirby material. There's stuff from Timely's Captain Ameria to National's Sandman and Boy Commandos to MLJ's The Fly to n many of the Crestwood stories. Blue Bolt is here, the guys from Boys Ranch are here, Bulls-Eye is here, Stuntman is here, and Fighting American is here. There is superhero action, romance, war, and horror. There's even some humor from Simon's Sick days.

This is a beautiful and broad collection. There appears to be little text setting up the stories, the stories are the feature here for sure. This is a neat addtion to the collection.

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Sunday, May 24, 2009

My Favorite Comic Book Cover Today #18 - Space Adventures!

This is an all-time fave cover. Rocke Mastroserio had a knack for finding that dramatic moment and he was really skillful in giving his characters poses and positions that locked your eyes on them. This is a classic example of his skills. This is one tough-as-nails spaceman, that's for sure.
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Buck Rogers The Serial!

I finished watching Buck Rogers the classic movie serial from Universal starring Larry "Buster"Crabbe. This movie was made during his classic run of Flash Gordon movies for the same studio and it fits right in among them. The pacing, the sense of derring-d0 all match perfectly the tone of the Flash Gordon movies. A few times you even expect to hear "Flash" come from someone's mouth.

But in a number of ways this movie is maybe superior to the Flash Gordon serials. While it doesn't have the sheer sense of awe of the first Gordon serial, it matches up very well against the later two. The pacing in this story is very well handled, with very few slow patches. The chapter lengths are about right for the stories told and you don't have long sections of endless corridor running which beef up weaker serials. The villains are less exotic but seem more competent making them more of a basic threat.

The real strength of this story though is the wide array of technical details it offers up. This movie features the sci-fi concepts of suspended animation and time travel, instant molecular transport, anti-gravity belts, interplanetary spacecraft, mind-control machinery, bullet mini-trains, alongside the obligatory rayguns and ray cannons. There's even some invisibility. Things never get dull and the different things make for a varied and somewhat unpredictable adventure (at least by serial standards). Heck Wilma Dearing even saves herself a time or two, not needing Buck to ride to the rescue. Heck a woman saving herself downright unique in the format, not to mention the boy sidekick Buddy who isn't really just an excuse but helps out Buck quite a bit himself. Rare indeed.

All in a dandy serial.

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Saturday, May 23, 2009

My Favorite Comic Book Cover Today #17- Star*Reach!

I found this very comic just the other day. I've long admired this Neal Adams image. It doesn't really have anything to do with the comics stories underneath, but it's gorgeous nonetheless. The Stephanie Starr story though is illustrated by Dick Giordano and it's equally lush and lovely, a great example of what Giordano was capable of doing in his prime.
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Yet Another Review Of Star Trek!

I went to see Star Trek yesterday. I liked it really well. Is it a perfect movie? Far from it, but it's a dang good movie with a brisk pace and some very good casting. The story is just complicated enough to hang in there for the duration, and the villains are dastardly looking enough for several films. The heroes are youthful and frankly seem way way too young for the duties which have fallen to them. That's the point I know. But I couldn't escape the feeling I was watching sidekicks.

There are some fall down funny sequences, especially when Pavel cannot make the computer understand his exotic speech pattern. The bit with Bones giving Kirk a disease was hilarious. Loved it all. The way these new guys got the voice patterns of the classic characters was fantastic at times, especially Bones.

But all that aside I did find the sense of threat minimal. Part of that has to do with emotion. Not enough time is spent establishing the villains and their motivations. I know the back story from the comics prequel, but I shouldn't have to bring that prior knowledge to this movie, the movie should do that work for me. The failure to make Nero a full-fledged character and not just a malevolent baddie cost the film some of its emotional depth, especially between Nero and Spock. The are two sides of the coin, but that isn't brought into focus the way it might've been.

And I know it's necessary for the story and I know it's a tradition with new versions of this franchise, but the use of Nimoy as Spock the Elder really didn't click for me. It undermined the freshness of this new...ahem...enterprise. And frankly the somewhat maudlin Spock that Nimoy has perfected seemed out of place in this new environment, perhaps that was intentional.

That said, the action is swift and relentless. The fight sequence atop the drill is outstanding, and the Enterprise never looked better to my eye. The veneer is all here, and I can see good things for the future. But next time I hope they slow it down just a smidge and ramp up the feeling.

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Friday, May 22, 2009

My Favorite Comic Book Cover Today #16 - Paragon Illustrated!

I really appreciate what Bill Black has been able to do over the decades with his small independent publications. Femforce is indisputably a success, and his other stuff including the vintage reprints he's offered up in various formats helped fill a void in comics which for the most part only deals in superheroes. Of course Black has many a superhero himself. The earliest of AC material actually goes under the Paragon label, and some of it is crude, but the enthusiasm more than overcomes those weaknesses. Unfortunately in recent years the tendency for AC material to emphasize the salacious instead of the adventurous has made me back away from them. But this summer promises to be a good time for Femforce fans, so I might jump back on board. The cover above is by Steranko who did indeed do more than his share to help out the early Indy publishers. It's a striking image of an early version of Black's hero The Shade.
Here's a link to a Bill Black interview at Newsarama:
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Jack Kirby's Fourth World Part 2 - The Magic Of Kirby!

The first thing I've learned by cracking open and actually reading the Omnibus reprint editions, is that I've got the Kirby Fourth World comics arranged incorrectly in my boxes. I used the publication dates on the front cover, and apparently that's not reliable. It works with the core three titles, but Jimmy Olsen runs behind by at least a month (the book was published eight times a year I think and that's likely the reason).The goal was for a new Kirby book to hit the stands every three weeks.

Jimmy Olsen #135 introduces the Evil Factory run by Simyan and Mokkari, two of Kirby's funniest creations. They are an evil counterpart to The Project which Jimmy and Superman discover, along with the orignal Newsboy Legion who work there. Kirby's interest in genetics surfaces in his work over and over and is a key element of many of the Olsen tales. The Project is filled with "Olsens", and Jimmy seems okay with that. The Evil Factory responding to direct orders from Darkseid sends a Kryptonite-infused giant Jimmy to attack the Project and that knocks everyone for a loop. It's up to the Newsboy Legion and another freshly-made clone, The Golden Guardian to save the day.

Forever People #1 is an offbeat beginning. We get another kid gang, this one made up of Supertowners called Big Bear, Mark Moonrider, Vykin the Black, and Serfian who are riding their Super-Cycle through the Boom Tube to find Beautiful Dreamer who is held captive by Darkseid and his Inter-Gang minions. Clearly this story must take place before the events of the first Kirby Jimmy Olsen, because a photo of the Forever People gets to Jimmy who gets it to Clark who investigates as Superman. Superman seems fascinated by these super-teens and he's positively intent on seeing Supertown, a place it seems where he might find kindred souls. Kirby seems to be saying that Superman is lonely for his own kind. (Note: Is Superman getting high in this episode? It seems that way.) The FP invoke Infinity Man (with the magic word "Taaru" not "Shazam" but it seems the same) and Darkseid surrenders Dreamer and makes his exit. The five teens hop aboard the Super-Cycle and take off to continue the battle.

New Gods #1 is the beginning of the core story. We get some desperately needed backstory, learning for the first time of New Genesis (the "Supertown" of FP #1)and the fall of the Old Gods and the rise of the New Gods. We meet the brooding Orion, the ebulliant Lightray, the taciturn Metron, the calm and collected Highfather, and many more. The threat of Darkseid is defined as Orion goes to Apokalips to save four humans who are being held and probed for the Anti-Life Equation. Orion battles Kalibak, Para-Demons, rescues the humans and jumps to Earth with the four humans to face the threat of Darkseid. (This is the first of the Fourth World books I got hold of as a kid and it rocked my world for all time!)

Mister Miracle #1 introduces us to Thaddeus Brown, the first Mister Miracle, his assistant the dwarf Oberon, and Scott Free, the enigmatic young stranger who chances across a field test for one of Brown's dramatic escapes. An aging Brown is locked in a wager with Steel Hand, an Inter-Gang boss who is most willing to kill to win. Scott saves the old man a few times, but ultimately takes his place when Brown is murdered. Using items from his bag of tricks, Scott takes on the mantle of Mister Miracle but adds to it new and unusual technology. At this point in the story we don't know that this is the stuff of New Genesis and Apokalips, but it's clearly hinted at. This is the one book in which there is no evidence of Darkseid, or at least direct evidence.

With the debut of these books, the Fourth World is good and properly launched. The sense that we are getting a story which is set against a much deeper and broader tapestry is clear, especially in New Gods. What we have here is something novel for its time, an "epic", a sprawling tale that finds its threads cast far afield. It's not obvious at all to a casual reader at this point that these threads are all related. There's nothing to say that Scott Free is connected to Orion, and there's nothing to suggest that Darkseid is anything other than a tyrant seeking power.To push my analysis too far really, let me suggest that at their core each book is about a parituclar human characteristic. Jimmy Olsen is about curiosity, and how that quest for knowledge can have all sorts of good and bad consequences. The Forever People are about generosity, showing what man can do if he surrenders his own selfish goals for the good of the greater community. New Gods is about anger, and how the quest for self-understanding can allow us to conquer our demons. Mister Miracle is about the desire to escape the life we know, and to find meaning beyond the mundane. Obviously they are all about more than this, but each seems specific, but still part of a larger tapestry.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

My Favorite Comic Book Cover Today #15 - Aquaman!

I picked up the classic Aquaman cartoons just the other day and it got me to thinking about DC's underwater hero. This Nick Cardy cover is without doubt one of the best uses of a logo as an integral part of the whole image. Outstanding work!
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Pulp Wet Dreams - The Domino Lady!

I've only become aware of the Domino Lady recently, and it seems there's a small avalanche of material out on her in the last few years. Moonstone just released a short story collection in which she teams up with the Phantom among others and they have plans for more comics-related stuff. Steranko illustrated a neat collection of her original pulp stories several years ago. All this features a sexy and saucy woman who fights crime in a man's world, but it has its boundaries. In the early 90's Ron Wilbur did some comics for Eros Comics featuring the Domino Lady and those go a bit further, but still manage to evoke a strong classic pulp feel.

I just managed to find both three-issue runs of Domino Lady by Wilbur and reading them is a hoot. In the first series she runs afoul of big city thugs, mad scientists, exotic natives, and dinosaurs all within the confines of NYC. The story is brisk and Domino Lady spends most of it unclothed. But Wilbur handles the nudity and the meager sex scenes with wit and aplomb and they add to entertainment. It's not a case of the titillation getting in the way of the narrative, but Domino's blindness to her own nudity gives it a weird normality. Only when she actually starts to put clothes back on does she get modest and it's funny when it happens. Guys want to make it with her, but something always seems to interfere and that too is a running gag in the stories.

In the second trilogy she goes to Africa to battle Mussolini and rescue Hailie Selassie and she has the same clothing malfunctions and the same difficulty with finding some quiet time. She skins a big cat for its fur, but her Sheena-look doesn't last long either. It's this sense of humor and the fact that the plots are pure pulp adventures spritely paced that makes these comics work. The sex is a sidebar here, not a mainstay and you read the stories for their own merit. These aren't great comics by any stretch, but they are fun and offer up more than a smidge of pulpy goodness.

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Wednesday, May 20, 2009

My Favorite Comic Book Cover Today #14 - Comics Revue!

This recent issue of Comics Revue really caught my eye because of the lush rendering of Tarzan by Tom Yeates. Beautiful image!

The Return Of Tarzan By Kubert!

The Return of Tarzan is my favorite ERB novel. I recently read Tom Yeates adaptation of the story for Dark Horse. Now I've gotten around to the 70's adaptation by Joe Kubert, and I can state unequivocably that this is my favorite adaptation of any novel to comics form. Kubert at this time was the ideal talent to bring this story to comics, and these five issues are masterpieces.

The story of Tarzan is really the second half of his "origin". In it the man who came from the jungle and got himself "civilized" is taken by degrees steadily back to his jungle and to the savage heritage that defines him. We first meet Tarzan on the streets of Paris where he's drawn into the affairs of the Count and Countess De Coude and her villainous brother Nicholas Rokoff. Tarzan is a man of unflinching integrity and brave beyond reason. So he stands up to Rokoff repeatedly defeating his schemes to extort money from the couple. We see the veneer of Tarzan the civilized man shed away when he fights ferociously.

In the second installment Tarzan has a duel with Count De Coude but refuses to fire and finally the Count sees what a friend he has in Tarzan. He then makes him an agent of the French government and Tarzan goes to Algiers where he finds Rokoff again this time operating a spy ring. And again Tarzan stands up and fights for the French cause, but not before being sent to the desert to be murdered. He ends up with friendly Arab nomads and his trek back to a more savage state continues after a fight with a lion.

Tarzan finds himself aboard ship headed to southern Africa when he's knocked out by Rokoff and thrown overboard. Conincidentally he swims ashore at his old cabin and soon finds himself deep in jungle danger but soon finds himself celebrated by the Waziri. After killing a mad bull elephant which killed the Waziri chief , Tarzan is made chief of the Waziri himself. Meanwhile Jane Porter and her family and friends find themselves marooned on the same strip of land, but their suffering is great indeed because the treacherous Rokoff is among them.

Finally Tarzan as chief of the Warziri finds the City of Opar and the lovely La. She falls for him and hides him from the brutal men of Opar, but Tarzan escapes. He returns when he discovers that Jane has been captured by the Beast Men of Opar who were looking for him.

In the finale Tarzan saves Jane from Opar, finds spectacular treasure, and the truth about his heritage as Lord Greystoke is revealed and confirmed by a dying William Clayton. The story ends with Tarzan and Jane getting married and Rokoff being delivered into the hands of the authorities.
This is a pretty good rendition of the classic novel. Most of it is here, and especially the land of Opar is perfectly rendered. What I most admire about Kubert's adaptation is the way each issue seems to have its own tone as Tarzan moves deeper and deeper into his old way. Only the penultimate chapter ends on a real cliffhanger, but at that point in the story it's totally appropriate. These comics read well in one sitting or as individual installments, something most important to tales of this nature and sadly something missing from many modern comics.
Kubert's version of ERB's classic is the best I've seen.
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Tuesday, May 19, 2009

My Favorite Comic Book Cover Today #13- Weird Mystery Tales!

For installment thirteen of this series of favorite comic book covers, I offer up my all-time favorite Berni Wrightson image. This demon sitting on the chest of the fool who summoned him is iconic and actually scary. At a time when I wasn't buying much DC, let alone DC in genres other than superheroes, this cover jumped from the stands into my hands and burned a hole right through my imagination. And it's arguable that DC's 100-page spectaculars might just have been the most entertaining comics packages ever produced. It's too bad they didn't last. Awesome!
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Jack Kirby's Fourth World Part 1 - Kirby Is Here!

With this post I'm beginning a series of reviews of Jack "King" Kirby's masterpiece for DC, The Fourth World tetralogy. I'm planning to review it slowly, essentially a month of material at a time to savor the work, but also to approximate the way it was published and presented. With this post I already violated that plan somewhat by reading the first two installments of Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen, but they naturally read together.

The story jumpstarts pretty quickly. In very short order we find out that Morgan Edge, the new and mysterious owner of the venerable Daily Planet has sent Jimmy to find the new Newsboy Legion, and use the Whiz Wagon to penetrate the Wild Area and find The Mountain of Judgment. The Newsboys are the sons of the Golden Age Simon & Kirby creations of course with the addition of the extemely goofy Flippa Dippa, a black youngster with a penchant for scuba-diving. Clark Kent is concerned, expresses such to Morgan Edge, and we quickly find that Edge is a villain as he orders the murder of Kent. That doesn't go as expected and soon a redrawn Superman is soaring to Jimmy's rescue. The Jimmy he finds is a bit different though, more angry and seemingly resentful of Superman's interference in his job. The gang it seems have discovered The Outsiders, a high-tech dropout motorcycle gang ruled by a guy named Iron Face and his comragde Vudu. Jimmy takes him out with a single punch and finds himself leader of the pack. There is the introduction of the Habitat, a tree-city in which the Outsiders are squatting, and then before we can drink that in, the search for the Mountain of Judgment begings in earnest with the whole Outsider clan racing to find the mysterious object. Some fall by the wayside, but Jimmy and his compatriots find there way through hazards both physical and psychological to locate the "Moby Dick" they seek, the most outlandish RV of all time. It's run by the Hairies, a band of brilliant techies who it seems at this point are the ones who've built much of the Wild Area. The story ends with the first appearance anywhere of Darkseid who recieves a report from his agent Edge.

It's an effective and portentious beginning to the epic tale to come. It's amazing how much Kirby gets done in these first two issues. He effectively gives us a glimpse of the greater threat, but still imbues every character with a rich personality. Superman is something of an all-knowing stiff here, a powerful figure who does seem to rub Jimmy the wrong way. Jimmy here is a professional, but also a young man seeking both responsibility and acclaim for his actions.

The Outsiders are a fun bunch, blending strangely the cliches of 50's bikers and 60's hippies in one grand counter culture. Clearly Kirby is a man who has respect for the individual, but also a man who sees duty as paramount in a person's life. Jimmy is a protagonist who is faced with picking between these as he pursues his story. By the end, he learns that Edge is perhaps more danagerous than he expected, and that his pal Superman might know more than he's let on.

In any regard it puts Jimmy at once a reporter seeking the truth and a leader of the Newsboys and briefly the Outsiders, needing to know more than has been revealed.

Good stuff indeed. More to come.

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Monday, May 18, 2009

My Favorite Comic Book Cover Today #12 - The Spirit!

Everyone likes the Spirit, or did until the movie came out. Sheesh what a dud. I'm usually pretty forgiving of changes made to classic heroes for the big screen (or the small for that matter), and I've said nice things about Howard the Duck even. But The Spirit movie was something none of Will Eisner's great stories were...dull! That's unforgivable for entertainment. You can be weird, you can be offbeat, but you cannot ever by dull. Maybe next time.
That said, we still have the great Eisner stories to enjoy.
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Name That Monster!

Here's a fun reprint of vintage Charlton Gorgo comics material. But alas, the creature on the cover here ain't Gorgo, at least not anymore. The name used for the monster in the stories is "Kegor". Now I thought this was an inside joke (drinking game anyone?) until I looked up the word, and here's what I found:


So it's not just some made-up nonsense, but actually is a word having to do with aquatic animals. Someone was working harder on these old reprints than I thought.

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Sunday, May 17, 2009

My Favorite Comic Book Cover Today #11 - The Phantom!

I've not mentioned it yet here, but I love Lee Falk's The Phantom. I have since I first read the classic comic strip as a boy. I clipped and collected the Sundays and made little comic books from them. I bought when I could issues of the King comics series as well as the Charlton run. I've since followed the hero off and on through his incarnations at DC, Marvel, Wolf, and currently at Moonstone. He truly seems to be a hero who cannot die. Yesterday I found some Charlton issues I've been looking for. The most prized is issue #61 of the Charton run featuring a stunning cover by Jim Aparo.

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Two More Tarzans!

I spent a great afternoon relaxing and watching two Tarzan features from the 30's.

The first was Tarzan the Fearless starring serial superhero Buster Crabbe. Despite the charm of Crabbe and the beauty of his blonde co-star the movie is a bit listless in places. That's doubtless because it's a cobbled together flick from the full 12-chapter serial which seems to be a lost movie. There's likely little a seasoned watcher cannot gather from the pieces remaining, but the movie is filled with odd moments. In this one Tarzan helps an old scientist who is researching the lost people of Zar. He gets kidnapped by them just as his daughter and her boyfriend and two villains show up to see him. Tarzan gets mixed up with them mostly attracted by the lovely woman who likes to swim with crocodiles. There are several moments of confusion and some lion fighting, but it all comes eventually down to rescuing the father and the girl rejecting her trusting boyfriend (poor guy really gets screwed in this story) and she stays with Tarzan and her father. Crabbe hardly speaks, but his charm shines through as well as his sculpted body since he's hardly wearing anything at all.

The other Tarzan flick was Tarzan's Revenge and I have little recommend about this movie. It's got some fun side characters presented by professionals, but the leads are hopeless amateurs and it shows time after time. Tarzan here is played by Glenn Morris an Olympic star with no other movie credits and who apparently left acting after this awful effort. He's got a body, but his charm is completely absent. His lady in this is Elanor Holm a swimming star who is left to carry the movie despite her inexperience and she trudges on but is not up to it I'm afraid. They muddle around in this one despite setting up a villain early in the flick, but who doesn't return until the last ten minutes or so. There is much bouncing through the trees, swimming in the rivers, and whatnot, but overall this one is slow. The action when it does erupt at the end isn't half bad with a pretty good battle on a rope bridge, but when Tarzan invades the hidden castle it's like he's on the set of a Busby Berkley production or something and doesn't sell at all. The title doesn't seem to mean anything at all, unless it's that this Tarzan gets the girl despite being shot by the foppish boyfriend.

These are diverting and worth the very small money you might pay to see them, but only for Tarzan completists.

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Saturday, May 16, 2009

My Favorite Comic Book Cover Today #10 - Tarzan of the Apes!

This was a big deal book for me. This comic book adaptation of Edgar Rice Burrough's first Tarzan novel might well be my first time experiencing the story. It would be a few years before I read the original novels. The sleek mastery of Russ Manning is on full-display in this brisk re-telling of the classic adventure romance. Mo Gollub is the artist responsible for this evocative cover. Later Gold Key would devote more issues to the ERB adaptations, but this debut only got one issue to cover the story. It worked for me then, and it still does today.
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The New Adventures Of Tarzan!

I wrapped up this serial yesterday evening. I was anxious to get into this full-length tale of Tarzan by his creator Edgar Rice Burroughs. I've long read that Herman Brix was arguably the most accurate Tarzan on screen, and while from the stills and things I'd seen he sure looked the part, it wasn't until he spoke in normal unbroken English that I'd tend to agree. While Ron Ely is my favorite Tarzan, I must say that Brix does a magnificent job portraying the Ape Man, though his acting is suspect he's very earnest about the whole thing. He's perfect physically and apparently did many of his own stunts in this movie, and it shows. The stunts are pretty good too, especially a fight with a lion. It's clearly not Brix in this scene but it's the most rugged such scene I've encountered, it really looked like the lion was trying to gnaw on the guy. Brix jumping around in the trees is really convincing. Great stuff.

This serial is pretty basic actually in terms of plot. There's an idol that holds the secret to riches and a formula for a ghastly explosive. It's hidden in the Guatemalan jungle and Tarzan and his allies Major Martling and Ulla Vale along with some guy named George for comedy relief go to Guatamala to get this "Green Goddess" and to rescue Paul D'Arnot, Tarzan's friend. They do the latter pretty quickly but keeping hold of the statue is tougher and despite its pretty hefty mass and weight the thing gets hauled all over the place by both sides. There's savage ancient culture that wants to sacrifice someone every few chapters and some spies who serve as nice villains for the piece. It's not a perfect story, but it's a pretty good one, and has that solid Tarzan feel to it. That's doubtless because of ERB's direct input in this production.

The big drawback on this is the sound which on my DVD was pretty terrible in places, but it's not like this is Shakespeare, so missing a line here and there is not so critical. Apparently the sound of the movie was bad from the get-go and there's even an apology in the print to say it was the environment of shooting. The action is on display and there's lots of it. The music is often absent from this story, and when there is music it's often a series of peculiar tones which get more effective as the story unfolds. The climax on the story is stupendous, but the final chapter is an odd one, and that's all I'll say.

If you like Tarzan at all, you'll probably like this story and for the cheap prices this can be had at, it's a bargain regardless. Highly recommended.

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