Friday, May 31, 2013

The Green Ghosts!

Here's a fun British comic cover featuring Space Ghost and his two teenage comrades Jan and Jayce along with the omnipresent Blip. Here they are referred collectively as "The Space Ghosts", not something I think they were ever called. I never really thought of this gaggle of characters as a team, but I suppose you could well do.

The oddest thing though about the cover image is that all of them are colored a rather ghastly green. It may be just a coloring error as other parts of the costumes seem off too, or maybe an attempt to enhance the name of "Ghost" by giving the characters a somewhat more gruesome appearance.

Whatever the case, the original figures were lifted from this Alex Toth original artwork done in preparation for the cartoon show.  They are referred to on this art as the "Space Ghost Group"  which makes them sound rather like an overly hip musical outfit.

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Thursday, May 30, 2013

Thy Eternal Summer Shall Not Fade!

School is out for summer! My students have graduated and have begun their adult lives either with more education or training or by dropping into the world of full time work. I feel pretty strong about this year's crop, a solid gang of kids who by and large are decent types. It has been a good year, my second in my new school, and I'm beginning to get my footing and develop a little bit, the necessary trust in my leadership to be truly and completely effective in such work.

As for me, I once again face a summer sans summer school, and frankly I'm growing to like having relatively lazy summer days to catch up on my reading. Between gigs selected by She-Who-Must-Be-Obeyed such as painting the garage and sprucing up the shrubs and flowers around the house, I'll hopefully have many hours on the cool porch reading some of the bounty of books I constantly bring into the house.

I am currently reading a gaggle of Sherlock Holmes pastiches which pit Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's great detective against Bram Stoker's dark creation Dracula. There seem to be a bunch of these and to that end I'm right now reading again for the first time in decades the original Stoker novel. You'll be seeing reports on these as I wrap them up. I've one upcoming on Sherlock's encounters with the infamous Sumatran rat. Also of course is the usual Doc Savage and Avenger pulp reading. There sure seems to be a lot of stuff on the latter hitting the shelves this summer.

On the comic book front there is E-Man and The Fightin' Five from Charlton I want to delve into again. And I just picked up a Wally Wood collection which looks quite choice. Add to that the Bernard Krigstein collection I got some weeks ago, and a copy of YOe Books Frankenstein and I have a  nice heap of comics to plow through. I keep meaning  to read through Jeff Smith's Bone sometime too. And there's always the utterly fantastic Popeye. 

But I don't want to over plan the reading schedule as likely I will veer off it as some new fascination takes hold. That's the beauty of summer, the sheer randomness and lack of proper order. Sure I've got a couple of books I need to read to prep for next year, but mostly I have a bunch of books I just want to read. And unlike Henry Bemis, I plan on holding fast to my precious glasses.

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Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The Enchanted Planet!

The charming 1959 Steve Ditko cover for Space Adventures #31 above is at once colorful and attractive. It's part of a typically busy Charlton design from the period and as it turns out the art work is cobbled together from two different pages in the story it promotes titled "The Enchanted Planet". The overall impression of the cover is greater than the sum of its parts. But what are those parts?

 The first panel of the first page supplies the action shot which adorns the central image of the  cover.

And the third panel of this second page supplies the head shot for the inset panel of our hero.

Here is the scene recolored for a more muted effect, minus our hero's commentary and  much of the advertising from a 1978 reprint Space War #29. To read the complete story see this link.

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Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Return To The First Kingdom!

Over a year ago in this post I sang the praises of Jack Katz's epic comic book series The First Kingdom and wished that some savvy company somewhere would reprint this languishing series. It has happened at long last. Titan Publishing has announced that they will offer up the whole of the Jack Katz epic saga in six volumes. Above and below is the cover art advertised for this production and here is a link with more details. And here is another with a look at Katz's dynamic work.

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Monday, May 27, 2013

Death Be Not Proud!

"Death, be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so;
For those whom thou think'st thou dost overthrow,
Die not, poor Death, nor yet canst thou kill me.
From rest and sleep, which but thy pictures be,
Much pleasure; then from thee much more must flow,
And soonest our best men with thee do go,
Rest of their bones, and soul's delivery.
Thou art slave to fate, chance, kings, and desperate men,
And dost with poison, war, and sickness dwell;
And poppy or charms can make us sleep as well
And better than thy stroke; why swell'st thou then?
One short sleep past, we wake eternally,
And death shall be no more; Death, thou shalt die."
by John Donne

For more on this awesome comic book written by Roy Thomas and drawn to perfection by John Buscema and George Klein, check out this link.

Have a pleasant Memorial Day.

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Sunday, May 26, 2013

The E-Man Cometh!

Yesterday was one of the more interesting and memorable days in my comic book collecting life. I'll get into more of that in later posts, but part of what made yesterday such a sweet day was the arrival in the daily post (bless the United Postal Service and Saturday delivery) of a spanking brand new edition of E-Man The Early Years from First Comics.

When this volume was first announced two years ago, I immediately ordered a copy. I never got it. For whatever reason it never arrived and my attempts to contact First Comics failed to connect. After a time, I wrote it all up to a whomping big case of "Caveat Emptor" and went on with my life. But I still yearned for a copy of this seemingly quite handsome volume which collected up the Charlton E-Man stories by Nicola Cuti and Joe Staton. I'd read raves about this volume, seen it in pictures online and craved one of my very own. A few months ago I posted on a few Charlton related websites my desire and asked for advice on how to best get hold of a copy, assuming  all along I'd have to pay again. I was willing and downright eager if it meant getting a copy of this book.

Then last weekend out of the blue I receive an e-mail from Jeremy Cote, the "Director of Professional Relations for First Comics" indicating he'd read one of my posts mentioning my dilemma and he offered up not only an apology but offered to personally send the volume to me. I gleefully took him up on his offer and yesterday it arrived, along with a nifty First Comics t-shirt. So after two years my payment is redeemed and First Comics has a fan for life.

The volume offers up the lush artwork by Joe Staton in a condition heretofore unseen. I've read the first two stories for the umpteenth time and they are glorious with all new color. In fact the color work in this collection is especially keen.

Below is a gallery of what is contained in the volume, at least the covers, and you'll notice that issue three is shown after issue four. That's intentional and reflects the care with which the reprint is assembled. Issue three of E-Man was done before a paper shortage caused cessation of publication and before they could relaunch the infamous Energy Crisis of the middle 70's prompted Cuti and Staton to substitute a newer story about that, leaving the original third issue to become fourth. By that time Staton's art had changed pretty dramatically. In this volume the original order of production is maintained.

Also there are glimpses of two alternate covers, one for the debut issue and another for issue three which I've never seen. And I'm someone who has been gathering up E-Man material for decades. So there are pleasant surprises here for all fans. I cannot recommend this volume enough. Get one. It's difficult though as right now First is only selling this volume at conventions.

E-Man is a refreshing hero who almost always has a smile on his face. Now I do too.  Thanks Nick. Thanks Joe. And by all means thanks Jeremy.

(Issue #4 precedes #3 in the reprint.)

Also included in this volume are the covers Joe Staton prepared for First Comics when they reprinted the Charlton stories in the 80's. These reprints also contained at least one unpublished story which is also included in the volume.

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Saturday, May 25, 2013

Price Guide Peek-A-Boob!

Bill Ward's way with drawing curvaceous women is unmatched in the comic book world. His bodacious and bosomy babes are immediately recognizable and on this early Overstreet Price Guide cover, they are very much in audacious evidence. Below is a wonderful behind-the-scenes look at his creative process as it shows this memorable cover in the midst of being created.

I noticed all the girls stay in their relative places and Sheena is the comic book babe who gets added. It's fantastic to get a look at these works-in-progress, something we will never get a chance to see with modern artists who logically but sadly use computers. The old world though offers us these treasures still.

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Friday, May 24, 2013

Fearsome Changes!

During the Bronze Age, Marvel was more than eager to reprint much if not all of its bizarre material from its pre-superhero days. So comics like Where Monsters Dwell and Where Creatures Roam became common exhibits on the local spinner rack. My favorite of these was the giant-sized Fear. The potent punch of that title worked for me. Fear was straightforward, though admittedly you felt relatively little "fear" when actually reading these fun-loving monster tales of yore.

What is fun still is to compare the covers. Take a close gander at the cover of Fear #1 above and compare it to its source, the cover of Tales to Astonish #11 by Jack Kirby and Dick Ayers. You'll see a lot of changes made by Marvel's correction and color guru Marie Severin. She's taken the already antic image by Kirby and added several more little men menaced by the power of the oozing "Monstrom". Why they felt this need to spruce up the cover is anyone's guess, but it does add a small measure of added chaos to an already hectic scene.

Fear would endure as a totally awesome twenty-five center for six issues before reverting to regular size and then with its eleventh issue changed its cover name to "Adventures In Fear". That issue also saw the debut of a regular feature dubbed "Man-Thing" and the book took off, lasting for several years becoming the home for Morbius the Living Vampire for much of that time.

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Thursday, May 23, 2013

The Most Ekscellent Steranko!

I knew when I saw this Yugoslavian comic book Eks Almanah cover it rang a bell. It's a heavily reworked rendition of "Jaunty" Jim Steranko's classic poster for F.O.O.M. (Friends Of Old Marvel), the short-lived fan club for the House of Ideas.

Taking a look at the original below, it's interesting to see h ow the figures have been altered. The Hulk has white hair and an odd bracelet, the Surfer has a nifty belt and an "S" on his board, the Vision appears to wear his heart on his chest, the Black Widow gets a mask, the Angel gets a star, DD gets buccaneer boots, the Torch gets a t-shirt,  Shellhead is orange and green, the Thing gets glasses, Mr.Fantastic is part of the "Fantastic Three",  Thor's hammer is rounded, and Cap looks for all the world like his Marble counterpart "Charlie America". Black Bolt gets bounced entirely to fit in a second Spidey.

It's almost like one of those find-the-differences cartoons you see so often in magazines and newspapers. Why they felt the need to make these changes is anyone's guess, but curious ones they are indeed.

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Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Song And Dance Team!

Here are a couple of very curious covers from Belgium. On both we see the world's finest team of Superman and Batman in what seem peculiar poses. In the first cover they appear for the all world to be singing as if they were in some Broadway spectacle of some sort. In the second image they sort of look like they are both coming down from the gas after visiting the dentist; they seem a bit too gleeful for no apparent reason. Maybe they're doing the Watusi, or is it the "Bat-tusi"?

On the original DC covers we get the full context of the figures. Here in this  cover by Neal Adams, we learn Batman and Superman are under threat and are singing for their lives, not for mere nickles on the "Great White Way".

And on this classic cover by Ross Andru and Mike Esposito, we see the great duo are merely exorting their arch enemies to off one another.

As strange and potentially out of character as both these covers are, without the context they are merely confusing.

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Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Papa Popeye?

What exactly is going on the cover of this Danish comic?  Skipper Skraek featured among many other things, the adventures of Popeye and the gang from Thimble Theater. Olive's knitted something which she seems to want to present to Popeye who seems typically oblivious, and the presence of a rabbit, the very symbol of fertility  make me wonder if this cover is announcing the impending birth of a little Sailor Man. Probably not, but it did cross my mind.

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Monday, May 20, 2013

The Cinema Of Solomon!

I was very pleased to learn that at long last Solomon Kane, the feature-length movie starring James Purefoy as Robert E. Howard's sword-slinging Puritan pulp hero will hit these shores. Anchor Bay will finally make this movie available in these United States, where it has long been available in Europe and other points of the globe.

Why this flick never got a proper release here, the homeland of Howard is mystifying, as I've already seen enough in the trailer to let me know this is at the very minimum a credible adaptation of Howard's dour hero and most likely a very exciting presentation. Anyway, at long last this July I should be able to enjoy this screen version of one of my favorite pulp characters.  To tide us over, here are some of the dandy posters for the flick.

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Sunday, May 19, 2013

Star Trek - Return To The Light!

With this weekend being absorbed by the new Star Trek movie by J.J.Abrams and friends, it's got me in a Trek state of mind. Let me say right now, that I like nearly all that has been produced (that I've seen) associated with the Trek series over the decades. But for me, the original series both on screen and in print overshadows all other versions in spite of their many virtues.

Star Trek was once upon a time, a distant beacon in a science fiction universe very sparsely populated. It flickered briefly on television, then went out. But fans persisted and it revived in cartoon form and in print until finally thanks to the success of Star Wars it was given a new lease and capitalized mightily. The movies followed, then a gaggle of new variations, each with virtues and flaws, but somehow none was able to capture that nutty magic the first version had tapped into. They'd get close, but they'd always fall short.

James Blish is one of the great science fiction writers but these days he's mostly known I suspect for his work on Star Trek as he diligently adapted the television series episodes to short story form. In those ancient pre-VHS, pre-DVD days such items were treasures, hard copy renditions of images all too ephemeral. Blish locked it down.

Blish even created if not the first Star Trek original novel, then arguably the most famous with Spock Must Die!.

The first Star Trek novel is the Whitman juvenile Mission to Horatius by Mack Reynolds and is one gem here I don't have, but really want. I read there's a facsimile version, and I need to get a copy.

And then there was Gold Key which adapted the series into comic book form with varying degrees of success. But certainly they found that the comic book fans did abide and the series ran through most of the 70's, pretty much until Gold Key itself succumbed. Star Trek would go on to be published in comic book form by Marvel, DC, and many others, but those Gold Key stories have a naive charm modern renditions cannot possess.  I read a bunch of these vintage gems relatively recently in Checker's reprint series.

And then there's this. I found eleven of the twelve Star Trek  Fotonovels at my new favorite store Half-Price Books some few months ago. They are in remarkably fine shape and I think with all this "Star Trekkery" in the air, it might be a good weekend to break them out and give them a thorough reading. Of course I'll go see the new movie of course, eventually, but right now the true Trek calls.

Sadly I'm missing the final volume adapting "Amok Time", one of the great episodes.

I might even break out the old Star Fleet Technical Manuel I have around here somewhere to properly hone my mind for a session of classic Trek.

Go boldly friends!

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