Monday, May 31, 2010

Memorial Day!

"Dirge for Two Veterans"
from Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman


The last sunbeam
Lightly falls from the finish’d Sabbath,
On the pavement here—and there beyond, it is looking,
Down a new-made double grave.


Lo! the moon ascending!
Up from the east, the silvery round moon;
Beautiful over the house tops, ghastly phantom moon;
Immense and silent moon.


I see a sad procession,
And I hear the sound of coming full-key’d bugles;
All the channels of the city streets they’re flooding,
As with voices and with tears.


I hear the great drums pounding,
And the small drums steady whirring;
And every blow of the great convulsive drums,
Strikes me through and through.


For the son is brought with the father;
In the foremost ranks of the fierce assault they fell;
Two veterans, son and father, dropt together,
And the double grave awaits them.


Now nearer blow the bugles,
And the drums strike more convulsive;
And the day-light o’er the pavement quite has faded,
And the strong dead-march enwraps me.


In the eastern sky up-buoying,
The sorrowful vast phantom moves illumin’d;
(’Tis some mother’s large, transparent face,
In heaven brighter growing.)


O strong dead-march, you please me!
O moon immense, with your silvery face you soothe me!
O my soldiers twain! O my veterans, passing to burial!
What I have I also give you.


The moon gives you light,
And the bugles and the drums give you music;
And my heart, O my soldiers, my veterans,
My heart gives you love.

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Return To The Planet Of The Apes!

I crushed through the entire animated series yesterday. This is one smart cartoon. I wrote about it here many months ago when I first purchased it. And finally I've gotten around to watching them all.

Planet of the Apes defined science fiction in the 70's until Star Wars came along. Apocalyptic visions of man's bleak future were commonplace, and POTA was arguably the best of the bunch. I've really gotten more respect for the movies as the years have gone by. I was knocked out as a kid by the original, but the increasingly shoddy nature of the sequels (as the production money dwindled) made me cool to them. I've changed that opinion in recent years, finding more direct connection to POTA's satire.

That said, I've never seen the cartoon all the way through. The stories are set on an ape world unlike any seen in the movies or the live-action TV show. This is an ape culture which is thoroughly modern with city streets, mass communication, motorized vehicles, and the like. No horses here, just lots of rich satire.

The story is familiar. Three astronauts, this time allowing the woman to survive, land on the Planet of the Apes and do the usual trek across the barren waste before finding apekind. The woman gets lost early, but she returns half way through the series. Cornelius and Kira are on board as is Dr.Zaius. But none of these apes seem to have met Charlton Heston or anyone looking like him.

This cartoon was designed by Doug Wildey and it has his textured look. The animation itself is pretty primitive, but the backgrounds are lush and beautiful. As the series developed a greater range of artwork was used allowing for more of a distinctive quality.

The series though is smart for one simple reason, the episodes connect. What happens in one carries through into another. There are glitches of course, but by and large this is an unfolding saga and the things the characters do seem to matter during the course of later events.

This is a smart and clever cartoon. The story moves and we reach a point of equilibrium by the end of the last episode. And while they for sure could've used a a few more to close things down a bit, the story doesn't end abruptly and the way forward for all the characters seems mostly positive.

Nice stuff. Get this one if you can find it.

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Presidential Duplicates!

I respect Barack Obama. I think he's a cerebral fellow who actually thinks before he talks, though admittedly he lacks the common touch a bit. But he beats some of the sidewinders we've had in recent decades.

That said, I think he looks amazingly like "Flippa Dippa", Jack Kirby's unfortunate addition to the Newsboy Legion when he revived them during his Jimmy Olsen stint. I think it a good thing that Kirby added some ethnic diversity to the Legion, and I understand that scuba diving is happily not a cliche for the African-American community. But the name is painful.

Still I think he looks like Barack Obama. What say you all?

And while we're on the subject, it was noted that Gabby used to look like Richard Milhous Nixon in his original incarnation.

But was changed during the revival to avoid the similarity be a point of contention.

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Sunday, May 30, 2010

This One Is A Kull!

Dark Horse has done a pretty dang good job collecting up Marvel's REH material. The run of Conan trades has been pretty awesome and now that the series is into issues I didn't get off the stands, I have beautiful "new" John Buscema artwork to look forward to a few times a year.

One of the runs I yearned for them to get to was the King Kull material. The first volume featured great comics by Marie and John Severin, even if the reproduction was a bit muddy in places. The second volume caps off that classic run and gives us the lush revision by Mike Ploog. It's a shame Ploog couldn't do more of these, as issue eleven of the newly dubbed "Kull the Destroyer" is as good as S&S comics get. But with the very next issue, the inking by Sal Buscema while perfectly fine lacked the luster of the earlier installment and things go downhill from there.

Ploog and Steve Englehart left the book after a handful of issues and are replaced by Doug Moench, Ed Hannigan and the great Alfredo Alcala. But while all of those talents are great in other times and places, the final result here looks rushed and muddled. It doesn't help that there is a two-year break in the run between issues fifteen and sixteen. Kull had some B&W adventures in between there and they are key to understanding the subsequent stuff. It's not included though there are some obligatory explanations.

Marvel apparently thought that the failure of Kull was due to his being a King, as they cast him down off the throne and make him a wannabe again. This served to make him more like Conan, but it sadly also took away much that made him distinctive. In the later issues of this run, it might as well be Conan in the mix as the distinctive personality of Kull, reflective and less reflexively violent is gone.

It's a shame, but I'm still glad this material is finding a new audience. I just hope that audience is a forgiving one.

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It sure seemed that once upon a time you could sell a comic book about horses...just about horses.

And even a mule.

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Saturday, May 29, 2010

King Gong Meets Shoeshine Boy!

I love comics that riff on the classic images from pop culture and one of the most common themes is the classic King Kong. Here's one from the Underdog series from Gold Key.

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Diff'rent & Very Cracked Strokes!

I'm reading that Gary Coleman has passed away. It's a shame, but I confess to having little nostalgia for Diff'rent Strokes much at all, or Mr.Coleman's role in it. It was pretty much a lame show at the time, bizarre in its weekly presentation of two young black kids trying to fit into a mostly white world.

Here though is a blast from the past. I found these John Severin originals for the Cracked magazine satire of the show. As with most of the mostly vapid material on televison at the time, the spoofs are more vital than the source.

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Agents Of SWIPE!

I've opined on this blog before that I think the Tony Tallarico cover below was inspired by the much more famous Jim Steranko SHIELD cover above.

The SHIELD cover is a classic, so much so that it's been swiped numerous times.

The last one I found online, and it's a beaut. Actually I suppose these aren't swipes, but rather true homages as I doubt the creators don't imagine their target audience is unaware of the original.

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Friday, May 28, 2010

Don Sherwood RIP

Just read on Mark Evanier's site that Don Sherwood, longtime comics artist passed away a few months ago. Here's a link to Mark's comments about Mr.Sherwood. And here's a link to a blog with a substantial article on Sherwood and also the Creepy #1 story which very likely is about him. I mostly remember his work from a fun issue of The Phantom, and some covers here and there for the Derby publisher. He also had a stint on Charlton's Partridge Family comic.

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