Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Conan The Mirage!

Berni Wrightson

Mirage Press put out a trio of exceedingly handsome Robert E. Howard related books which collected articles and suchlike from the fanzine Amra. There are laboriously detailed articles, speculations, opinions, sketches, and much more in these three tomes from Mirage Press.

George Barr

My local shop had all three gleaming from their shelves a few years ago, but I personally didn't have the scratch to buy them myself. A good friend made me a gift of two of the books - The Conan Swordbook and The Conan Grimoire.

Berni Wrightson

The third book, The Conan Reader was smaller than its mates and more expensive. That one either was left on the shelf. Apparently my buddy later bought it for himself. I found it sitting atop a stack of his books, looking somewhat abandoned. I asked if I could take it to read for a few days and he graciously agreed.

After checking out what was beneath the lush Berni Wrightson cover I knew I needed to make a stab a getting hold of this book, and so I finagled a trade with my buddy, using some Neal Adams X-Men material as bait. Now he's happy and I'm delirious. I never imagined I'd have one of these, let alone all three.

And to top it off, this copy of The Conan Reader sports what appears to be a signature from L.Sprague DeCamp, which likely explains why it was originally more expensive.

Needless to say these gems are now sitting atop my stack of bedside reading. I just like looking at them. I can't believe they're really there.

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Conan The Haymaker!

Here's a glimpse of the earliest comic book Conan in what amounts to an "outtake" from Conan the Barbarian #1.

Here's a link with some more detail, but essentially this seems to be an image from the debut Conan comic story "The Coming of Conan" by Barry Smith which was deemed to superhero-like for the pulp sword and sorcery hero. His punch to the jaw of the offending demon was seen as too much like Daredevil or Spidey and so was excised from the final comic.

It's cool to see it though.

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Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Sword's Edge!

This is a 1973 independent project I knew nothing about until I was researching Sanho Kim for the recent Yang Reports. These images rescued from an ebay listing for the book look utterly fascinating. Apparently this seems to be the first part of an epic tale, but it is the only chapter I've found any evidence of. This is first-rate Sanho Kim, in a somewhat more adult mode. Here's a review of the book. Beautiful, the kind of thing more than worthy of a reprint by someone somewhere. Here the Grand Comic Book Database gives more details about the book and confirms there was only this one volume.

UPDATE: I just ordered one of these. Hopefully it will show up in the next few weeks and I can offer up a fuller review.

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Turok By Any Other Name!

The revival of Turok Son of Stone by Valiant/Acclaim really triggered a renaissance with the character, not in the world of comics, but in gaming as well. It might not be the dour character we vintage fans admire, but the name is still out there.

A slightly different version of the name was used in the funny Dinosaurs for Hire parody seen above.

The recent "Dark Key" revision by Jim Shooter was pretty entertaining, though apparently production woes overcame the comic and a new artist had to be brought in half way through. The story was still pretty stable, but the change in art really hurt the flow of the tale unfortunately. The styles were not especially compatible.

They did produce some outstanding covers though.

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Monday, November 28, 2011

Stars In Space!

Here's an oddball Hanna-Barbera cover done over at Marvel Comics. This image of Yogi Bear, Huckleberry Hound, Captain Caveman, and the others tickled my memory.

This cover reminded me of this classic Justice League of America cover by Mike Sekowsky and Mike Esposito from long long ago.

What do you all think?

Given that longtime fanboy Mark Evanier is responsible for laying out this cover for artist Owen Fitzgerald, I'd suspect this sweet similarity is intentional.

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Number One Super Guy!

Charlton was the go-to comic book publisher for authentic martial arts action. Marvel showed up with Shang-Chi and Iron Fist and DC might've had Karate Kid for many years, but Charlton gave us Judomaster, Tiger, Thunderbolt, Yang, and Sun Yang. That's a pretty impressive list, but it's not a complete list.

There was also Hong Kong Phooey.

Hong Kong Phooey was one of the Hanna-Barbera licensed comics which Charlton produced in the 70's. The company had given us droves of Flintstone comics and other H-B stuff, but toward the end of the company's run with the animation giant, they offered up Hong Kong Phooey. Much of the artwork on the early issues was handled by Paul Fung Jr.

The series ran concurrently with Yang and House of Yang and even lasted a few months beyond the cancellation of those books. That makes Hong Kong Phooey, Charlton's last martial arts hero.

Here is a link with more details on Hong Kong Phooey. Here is a link to some full-fledged Hong Kong Phooey Charlton comics. And below is a cover gallery of Charlton's comic run.

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Sunday, November 27, 2011

The Rocketeer Treasury!

I bought the Rocketeer yet again. Why? Frankly I can't think of a good reason to spend hard-earned money getting a story I own several times already just because it's been blown up to gargantuan in-your-face treasury proportions.

Wait a minute. I take all that back.

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The Yang Reports Extra - After Yang!

Nick Cuti

The one man most closely associated with all the Yang stories is writer Joe Gill, and despite this, he is often overlooked as the focus in comics often shifts to the artwork. I'm guilty of that in these reports as well.

Joe Gill's name was so ubiquitous at Charlton that I assumed it was a house name and that one man could not possibly be responsible for all the scripts attributed to him. But I was very wrong, and Joe Gill is one of those workhorse talents who I most admire these days, a guy who shows up and gets the job done regardless of the circumstances. He was a far from a prima donna as it's possible to be.

Gill worked steadily at Charlton after the Yang books folded, ending his career with the Derby publisher and going into semi-retirement after the company finally folded for good in 1986. He worked on a few things here and there over the years for ACE Comics and DC Comics, but oddly his final credit is as a colorist for an independent comic title "Ebony Warrior".

Joe Gill passed away in 2006.

Warren Sattler is the guy who drew more Yang stories (both in Yang and House of Yang) than any other artist. He is also one of those talents who Charlton seemed to attract, a distinctive stylist who likely did not possess the style then common in most comics produced by Marvel and DC. He continued to work for Charlton after the Yang books ended, drawing some more Billy the Kid stories, but then he seemed to leave the company at about the same time as they stopped producing artwork in house so much and began to rely on outside groups like those run by Gray Morrow and Pat Boyette.

All the time he worked for Charlton, Sattler was working for National Lampoon on various projects in their magazine. He even produced a few covers for them.

But his real career after Yang was as a ghost comic strip artist, working on Gil Thorp, Slylock Fox,and Bringing Up Father and other comic strips for years after. You don't get the recognition and awards for doing that kind of work, but you get the respect of fans who know what it takes to produce such high quality work for so many years.

Sattler also at some point produced a musical album. Here's a link to get a look and a listen to this Renaissance talent.

Sanho Kim only drew four issues of House of Yang, but his name is forever associated with the project as his Wrong Country was the original lost project intended to be Yang.

Kim left Charlton after his fourth House of Yang story and headed to Marvel Comics where he produced a few stories, most notably the first chapter of "Swordquest" in Deadly Hands of Kung Fu. But Tony DeZuniga took over that series after Sanho's departure, for whatever reason.

Earl Norem

While his name was lost to comics fans for many years, he continued to work.

Sanho Kim finds his greatest success by digging back into his Korean roots and has been recognized as a major figure in Korean cultural research for his trilogy The History of the Korean Empire.

All three of these talents had and have remarkable careers, and such an assembly of talent suggests why the Yang books, as derivative as they might've been, resonate so strongly with fans so many years later.

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Saturday, November 26, 2011

The Yang Reports #19

Warren Sattler

House of Yang Volume 2, Number 6 is dated June, 1976 and was published by Charlton Publications Inc. The editor is George Wildman. The action-filled cover is painted by Warren Sattler, and Warren Sattler also stepped up and did the artwork on the inside of this comic. Joe Gill wrote the story as always. Here is what else was on the newsstands when this final issue of House of Yang arrived on the stands. Note that the price jumped to thirty cents this month.

"The Shogun of Karu Island" begins when Sun Yang's ship is battling a typhoon and wrecks on the breakers of Karu Island. The survivors get ashore and are immediately taken prisoner by the Japanese warriors in service to the Samurai lord Jimurai. The Samurai warrior Yatsu is in charge of the prisoners. Sun Yang joins the many other slaves who have been captured over the years and they are made to work for their Japanese masters. Prince Yoku of the Japanese royal house is due to arrive anytime and Jimurai wishes to prepare, so he and his daughter do just that. When the Prince does arrive in a great ship, an entertainment is planned with Sun Yang battling Yatsu as the main event. Jimuarai's daughter goes to see Sun Yang and expresses her regret, but Sun Yang says for her to not shed tears for him. The battle begins and Sun Yang at first plays possum, but then reveals his considerable skill and goes toe to toe with the Samurai ultimately defeating him and using the fire from a broken lantern to distract for his escape. He heads to the slave houses and frees his fellow prisoners. They sneak to the Prince's ship and swiftly take the unsuspecting guards down and take control of the ship. As they move out into the open sea, free men at last, the two Samurai, Yatsu and Jimurai take dramatic steps to regain their lost honor and the two men commit ritual suicide next to one another. The final panel shows the ship heading into the rising sun and announces that this is "The End!"

"House of Yang" offers up two letters from a couple of fans remarking on the second issue of the comic. One letter is extremely nitpicky about perceived errors in the artwork and the other is quite pleased with it. The editors defend Sanho Kim's work as stylistic and praise him robustly as uniquely qualified to undertake the artwork on such a project.

This story was reprinted by Australian publisher Gredown in 1976.

This is the last story of the Yang universe that has ever been published. There was some hint in the regular Yang series that Yang himself was headed back to Shanghai for a reunion with his cousin Sun Yang, but alas it will never be. Sun Yang heads home at the end of this story but as far as we know, Yang is not there to greet him.

It's interesting that Joe Gill, the writer for all the Yang stories is joined by Warren Sattler, the artist on the main Yang comic for this final story of the House of Yang. Sattler's style is appealing and warm, and while not much like Sanho Kim's still tells a period story quite successfully. There are signs in this one that it was produced somewhat swiftly, so Sattler is to given some slack for that.

The end of the runs of both Yang and House of Yang really end a period of creativity at Charlton under George Wildman's tenure. The following month will see, apart from the ghost books and the other genre titles only licensed material from Charlton. The "superhero" movement which sparked both Yang and E-Man has run its course. The talent at Charlton will focus their efforts on licenses for Six-Million Dollar Man, Space:1999, Bionic Woman, Emergency, and such for the next year or so.

Sadly, the final days of Charlton were on the way. Though the company would linger for another decade, it can be argued that the saga of the House of Yang (as related in both Yang and House of Yang) was a worthy addition to Charlton's martial arts heritage and the last great original story in the Charlton universe.

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