Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Something Inhuman This Way Comes!

Here's a surprising solicitation for this summer I stumbled across:

• Black Bolt, monarch of the Inhumans, wanders the streets of San Francisco — his memory stolen and his identity forgotten!
• Maximus the Mad has usurped the throne — and Medusa, Gorgon and Karnak are forced to flee the Inhumans’ hidden city!
• What strange new force has wiped Black Bolt’s mind?
• When he’s targeted by criminals, revolutionaries and the mutant called Magneto, will his fellow Inhumans find him in time?
• Guest-starring Thor and the Avengers!
• Collecting AMAZING ADVENTURES (1970) #5-10 and AVENGERS (1963) #95.
104 PGS./Rated T …$7.99"

This is a most curious reprint package. The Inhumans have a most curious publishing history and no small part of that was their stint as the front half of Amazing Adventures which was an early 70's attempt to recapture the magic of the classic split books of the Silver Age. It was somewhat successful, but eventually gave way as one feature, in this case the Inhumans eventually took over.

For a brief time the great Neal Adams drew the feature. Those adventures are the focus of this reprint as the story blends weirdly into the Kree-Skrull War being waged at that time in mighty pages of The Avengers. This skirmish informs our understanding of that greater conflict in a small way, and this collection will go nicely next to a gathering of that now famous Marvel epic.

Neal Adams gave way eventually on this saga handing the art chores to longtime DC pro Mike Sekowsky. Sekowsky did very little work for Marvel, this stuff along with a few issues of Super-Villain Team-Up as I recall. But with covers by the likes of Adams, John Buscema, and Gil Kane, the artwork on this storyline is impeccable. 

John Buscema and John Verpoorten

Neal Adams

Neal Adams

Neal Adams

John Buscema and Joe Sinnott

Gil Kane and Joe Sinnott

John Buscema and Tom Palmer

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Monday, April 29, 2013

Great Caesar's Cole!

One of the earliest comics I ever read was the Classics Illustrated adaptation of William Shakespeare's Julius Caesar. This was my first encounter with the great Roman general and my first encounter with the great English playwright.

I did not know that the cover for this epic retelling of Caesar's death was by the great L.B. Cole. Here's original artwork for this dynamic clash of Roman warriors.

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Sunday, April 28, 2013

An Apocalyptic Announcement!

It was with great pleasure that I read that Philip Jose Farmer's breathtaking "biography" of The Man of Bronze, the one and only Doc Savage will be reprinted this summer. Doc Savage: His Apocalyptic Life will first be a deluxe volume from Meteor House followed by a trade edition from Altus Press, the same folks who have been putting out the new Doc Savage adventures.

I first stumbled across this book, completely unaware of the conceit of Farmer's Wold-Newton universe back in the 70's. A copy of the Bantam edition of the book enthralled me, opening up the pulp universe in a peculiar but effective way. I still have and cherish that copy. At the time I knew precious little about The Man of Bronze. Nowadays, having read most of his adventures thanks to the great reprints from Anthony Tollin's Sanctum Books, I can enjoy this tome with new insights.

It will make a grand companion to the original Tarzan Alive "biography" currently available by Bison Books from University of Nebraska Press.

 A toast is indeed in order.

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Hand Of Hogarth!

It's clear that Burne Hogarth's Tarzan figure in the classic black and white panel inspired the cover for the Australian comic book cover starring ERB's Apeman. It's not a true swipe but clearly there's an attempt to pay homage to the master.

It's odd too to see Lord Greystoke swinging around the jungle in  his tighty whities. While that happened a few times in the novels, rarely is it depicted. 

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Saturday, April 27, 2013

King Solomon's Mines!

What an adventure! I at long last filled a chasm in my literary knowledge by finally reading H.Rider Haggard's King Solomon's Mines, the first novel featuring Alan Quatermain. I've wanted to read this novel in some sense for decades and after recently completing She, and finding it extremely entertaining I came at last to Haggard's even more famous novel. It was compelling. I was swept along as we meet Quatermain, not the man I expected, but an older brave but self-deprecating African hunter and adventurer possessed of a practical but nonetheless oddly Romantic worldview.

It is through Quatermain's wizened eyes that we meet Umbopa, the impressive native who has a secret of great import, and who joins a truly desperate safari bent on finding a the missing brother of  the equally impressive Sir Henry Curtis. Along for the ride is the delightful Captain Good, a displaced sailor of much mirth and good will. They search for lost children and lost lands and possibly even treasure following a suspect map into terrain renowned for killing anyone who braves it. The find a "lost civilization" ruled by a bloodthirsty tyrant and much valiant action ensues.

Haggard's writing snatched me by the throat and I read eager to round the next bend in the story as Quatermain and his mates search for all manner of things but find meaning in their lives most of all. It's easy to see why this story has been so remarkably successful. It's a rock solid entertainment with a potent message. After decades of reading and enjoying Edgar Rice Burroughs among others, I feel almost like an explorer who has at long last found the source of the great river.

But what's hard to fathom is why no good movie that I'm aware of has been made Haggard's story here. This is a thrill ride which demands a faithful adaptation to the big screen and frankly I've never run across a film version yet that didn't bore me senseless. One reason I've never gotten around to this book is that the movies I've chanced across seemed unimpressive.

Reading the novel makes me realize that the filmmakers in their "wisdom" seem to want to a film a story which is not here. They blend characters needlessly and transform Quatermain from complicated bitter man who finds hope into a youthful knuckle-headed hero from central casting. And they always have to stick a chick in the middle of the thing. The larger-than-life images painted by Haggard diminish on the big screen as no filmmaker can find actors impressive enough to represent them.

Haggard's story is grander than Hollywood can reckon. It's a pity.

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The Boston Bombers!

I'd never heard of The Boston Bombers , a Caliber Comics limited series from 1990 until I stumbled across these cover images the other day. It seems a worthy enough premise. (I'm sure it's coming to the attention to a lot of folks who have no interest in comic books these days.) In an alternate future in which the Roman Empire did not fall an all-woman commando team fights against oppression. I wouldn't mind reading this Ron Fortier written series someday. It has been collected under the Redbud label.

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Friday, April 26, 2013

The Coles Of Gladstone!

L. B. Cole's artwork is vivid and memorable. His comic book covers are rich with color and radiate excitement and a sense of pulp adventure. Gladstone Comics, then publishers of mostly Disney comics wanted to push into other areas and created the Hamilton Magazine brand. Dick Tracy was another Gladstone character, at the time also a Disney project starring Warren Beatty. Gladstone/Hamilton produced several Dick Tracy books including this one-shot Dick Tracy Magazine featuring an L.B. Cole cover.

It's an offbeat but typically memorable rendition of Chester Gould's great comic strip detective, especially his highly detailed clenched fists.

Also on the Hamilton roster were a trio of horror magazines which tried pretty successfully to evoke a vintage E.C. Comics feel. Dread of Night was one of these magazines.

This cadaverous cover art is reported to be Leonard Brandt Cole's final comic cover art. Typically both eye-popping and eye-catching, the art reveals more and more detail as you continue to grok it. I especially like the frog which counterpoints and  even appears to be mocking the emerging grave dweller. It's a doozy!

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Thursday, April 25, 2013

A Valiant Assembly!

Here's a gorgeous illustration produced for the 75th anniversary of the strip by Gary Gianni,until recently the regular artist on the classic comic strip Prince Valiant. Gianni and writer Mark Schultz  took over the strip when John Cullen Murphy, the longtime successor to Valiant creator Hal Foster retired in 2004, becoming only the third regular artist on the strip during its venerable run.

If you'll take a close look at the drawing above, you'll notice a few specific interlopers in the halls of Camelot.

Standing next to Merlin are John Cullen Murphy, his signature mustache and goatee intact and  Hal Foster too, his clean-shaven mug in evidence.

It's what makes a strip like Prince Valiant so precious, not just that it's a profound presentation of a quasi-historical era filled with heroism but that it has a respected proud history of its own as a great American creation. Salute to Prince Valiant and its creator Hal Foster and the man who shepherded the strip for so many decades, John Cullen Murphy.

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Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The Prince Of Dell!

Bob Fujitani

I'm unaware if the Prince Valiant stories produced for Dell Comics during the 1950's in the wake of the movie adaptation of Hal Foster's classic comic strip have ever been collect, but seeing some of Bob Fujitani's artwork on this project, they certainly should be. He and Paul S. Newman concocted stories adapting and extending the story of the film. The striking image of Val above by Fujitani served as the back cover of Four Color Comics #719 in the middle of the run. Below is a gallery of the striking and memorable covers produced from 1954 to 1958 for this seven issue series.

Four Color #567 June 1954 - Photo of Robert Wagner

Four Color #650 September 1955 - Unknown

Four Color #699 April 1956 - Franco Picchioni

Four Color #719 August 1956 - Sam Savitt

Four Color #788 April 1957 - Mo Gollub

Four Color #849 December 1957 - Unknown

Four Color #900 May 1958 - George Wilson

Here is a link to the story "The Island of Thunder"  from the last Dell issue by Newman and Fujitani. Enjoy!

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Tuesday, April 23, 2013

A Valiant Book Collection!

Hal Foster's Prince Valiant has proven over the decades to be a sturdy and popular adventure comic strip across the world.  So prevalent was the strip, a weekly visitor in many if not most homes, that in the early 50's Hasting House adapted the story of Valiant and his friends into lavishly illustrated children's books. Hal Foster's wonderful artwork became blended with text by Max Trell and later by James Flowers. Nostalgia Press reprinted some of these volumes in the 60's. 

I'm lucky now to own most of these handsome volumes. My local store got in an incomplete collection (missing the second volume) some months ago and I've been looking at them glowingly since. The price asked was very fair, but not insubstantial. I picked up the first volume, an example of the Nostalgia Press reprint because it was a bit cheaper and because I didn't want to let all of these slip through my fingers. It's beautiful.

Using some accumulated store credit, I was able to finally bring home the remaining five volumes. I wanted to wait and try to get a bit more credit accrued, but I became fearful the volumes would disappear before that ideal situation presented itself. Now my mission is to find the elusive second volume. These are very pretty books, all but one with  slipcover and blessed with some of Foster's most attractive work throughout.

Here is a lovely non-English website featuring the volumes. Here is a link which gives a good peek inside the first volume. Below is a look at the other covers in this charming series.

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Monday, April 22, 2013

Eks Marks The Swipe!

The cover above was produced by  Dečje Novine, a defunct Serbian publisher in what was once Yugoslavia. This particular issue of Eks Almanah features two characters who looked very familar indeed. Of course Spider-Man is recognizable in this pose lifted from John Romita Sr.'s classic 1980's poster. They even kept the logo. The other unknown figure takes his pose from this iconic late 60's cover of Captain America by Jack Kirby inked by Frank Giacoia. It too was once upon a time used as a poster from Marvelmania in the 70's.

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