Monday, December 31, 2012

Tuba Or Not Tuba!

The Tuba,or in some cases the Sousaphone, must be the funniest horn in all of comics. Its great size and its great sound make for some fantastic gags. Here's a gallery of some of the best I could find. It's traditional to make a great noise when bringing in the New Year, and these mighty instruments should serve well.

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Sunday, December 30, 2012

Code Breakers!

While I'm loathe to idolize Stan Lee as do many, I have to give "The Man" full credit for the trio of Spider-Man comics which examined the drug problem. Stan famously bucked the infamous Comics Code Authority and published three Amazing Spider-Man comics sans the nigh ubiquitous Code seal. Here's the story about how these comic books came to be.

The cover art by Gil Kane is among his finest for the company in his long tenure there. The drama drips off the page as the officers at once tend to the man on the ground and still target Spidey who is relegated to the background of this scene. The color is key to the effectiveness of this one. This is a scene about the larger world, not just the soap operatic domain of Peter Parker and his gang. Spidey moved into some tougher streets in this one.

As it turns out John Romita is responsible for having designed this cover. Nonetheless I give Kane credit for using his keen understanding of anatomy to give the cover an emotional impact not quite detected in Romita's more idealistic sketch which harbors a glint of action to come, a more typical cover focus.

Whatever the case, this is a true classic comic book. One of the few that lives up to its reputation.

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Calamity On Campus!

The infamous "Baby Boomers" arrived in college in the 60's and they were a group eager it seems to protest the injustices of the world and America. There were it should be noted plenty of  such injustices to target. But I've always been somewhat suspect of the purity of their motivations, since the war in Vietnam was the trigger for many to protest and their just suspicion of that war always seemed less about war in general than their fighting in that specific war in particular.

That notion seems somewhat vindicated since so many of the "Boomers" seem sufficiently indifferent to the wars of the modern era.  As someone on the edge of that group of generational locusts I've always traveled in their wake dealing with a life orchestrated to cater to them.

The Amazing Spider-Man cover above by John Romita from 1969 is a classic, capturing what must've seemed to be a zeitgeist traveling across the land, affecting Marvel's target audience especially. The causes indicated above seem less international though and much more domestic, a hodge-podge of protest rather.

Here's that image reprinted a few years later in 1974 already seeming somewhat quaint and dated.

By 1978 when Spider-Man Comics Weekly hit the stands the notion of campus protests were downright historical. The "Boomers" had by then moved on to budding careers and cocaine.

But as was often the case in Britain, this story was published in two parts creating a dilemma for what to do about a second cover. The solution was the "Calamity on Campus!" cover above featuring an unusually stiff Spidey being buffeted by what appear to be the same protesters.

They're not the same. They are instead these protesters from 1972 pelting Iron Man as he intrudes upon their political assembly, which appears to somewhat less than peaceful. This of course was in the shadow of the shootings at Kent State a few years before. It gives the scene a new gravity. Gil Kane's cover inked by John Romita is pretty dramatic I must say and the transition to a Spidey cover is done rather smoothly.

This cover proved quite memorable as can be seen by this Radioactive Man cover which at once lampoons and pays homage to the vintage comic scene.

Those hippies! Sheesh!

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Saturday, December 29, 2012

An Amazing Run!

Gil Kane 1971

John Romita 1980

Todd McFarlane 1988

Mark Bagley 1995

Scott Campbell 2003

Alex Ross 2009

Pretty Much Everyone 2013

Centennial issues used to be a big deal for me. When I was young and time passed much more slowly the milestones established for some series projected a venerable nature to some comics as opposed to many which never established themselves. It's remarkable which series never achieved one hundred issues. To see some which did check out this post from some time ago. The Amazing Spider-Man is one of those venerable series, now it's at an end. Or at least that's what you might believe if you just knew what the popular press is reporting.

The series does close with the current seven hundredth issue and it seems the status quo of the character is in some jeopardy, at least for the next several months as the iconic hero returns in a whole new comic with a whole new personality...literally. I don't follow the new Marvel much if at all (left pretty much around the time of the four hundredth issue though for some reason I did buy the five hundredth), but I have read around enough to discover what the big deal is with this one and it's not all that compelling I have to say. Intriguing in a nice vintage two-parter sort of way, but I cannot see how this concept can support the series for the next few years which I assume it must. But then that's why I left these books behind, so I'm not really a proper judge.

I will say the cover is intriguing, the collage of vintage Spidey artwork is a real feast.

Death to Spider-Man then; long may he spin.

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Friday, December 28, 2012

Tintin On The Move!

A highlight among my many splendid Christmas presents were the first two seasons of The Adventures of Tintin, the animated cartoon adaptation of the classic Herge' comic strip. I quickly ordered and have already received the third and final season.

With the recent film adaptation by Spielberg and Jackson (which I reviewed here) this 1990's cartoon was deemed sufficiently relevant to get a go at the modern American marketplace. I only got hold of the Tintin adventures a few years ago and gave them a read through, so all of this is neatly fresh to me still.

These cartoons adapt the classic stories in two-part segments for the most part and follow through on all the Tintin adventures save for the controversial ones in the Soviet Union and the Congo and the unfinished Alph-Art. Some changes were made for modern sensitivities, but by and large the essence of most of the tales is intact according to reports.

I'm eager to dive in.

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Thursday, December 27, 2012

Stern Wheeler!

Stern Wheeler is a comic strip created by the late great Jim Aparo and Ralph Kanna. As can be seen from this handsome Spotlight Comics one-shot cover gathering up his few adventures, Stern was a typically handsome Aparo hero accompanied here by his assistant Wally.  Here's some information on the character and here is more on their creation.

Here's a look at the color proof which served as the cover to this 1986 one-off small-press treat which publishes the first of two Stern Wheeler adventures. The second anticipated issue never reached the stands. If you find one of these, snap it up. They are usually quite inexpensive and very much worth the read.

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