Wednesday, January 23, 2019
While I was researching The Phantom for some earlier posts, I rand across this Superman illustration by the late great Don Newton. Something about it tickled my consciousness. Aside from being a neatly crafted image featuring the Son of Krypton at his most majestic it reminded me of something I'd seen recently.
That something was Henry Cavill in his role of Superman. I've been most impressed by the DC movies of recent vintage and Man of Steel most of all. The notes were all there for a admittedly darker but still utterly fascinating of what it might be like if there really were a Superman. Recent reports say that despite gossip Cavill is not leaving the role, to which I say "Huzzah!"
Tuesday, January 22, 2019
I am a die-hard All-Winners Squad fan from the moment I ran across their second adventure reprinted in the pages of Marvel Super-Heroes. Timely Big Three of Human Torch, Sub-Mariner and Captain America to anchor a team of heroes back when such things were exceedingly rare indeed. Sadly the Squad only had a few missions, but those few left many a fanboy, like yours truly, hungry for more.
Bill Black must've been one of that number too. Here he recreates the work of Syd Shores from the cover of All-Winners Comics #21. It's a pleasure to see him not attempt to update the characters but attempt to truly represent what was on the newsstands so many decades before.
Monday, January 21, 2019
With that movie coming out and all, Marvel has seen fit to put out yet another version of The Death of Captain Marvel. This one not only includes the famous graphic novel and the key issues from late in the series when Nitro "kills" Captain Marvel and the Marvel Spotlight issues in which Mar-Vell discovers his fate, but reaches all the way back to the very beginning and puts together the very first Captain Marvel tale of how he first came down to Earth to be among man. And since I'm a total sucker for this period of Captain Marvel, I picked up this tome. But there's nothing new here for folks who already have these tales in the other tomes in which they have been printed. But it's nifty (for me anyways) to have this alpha and omega edtion of the Kree captain.
Sunday, January 20, 2019
The Phantom was created by Lee Falk in 1936 and became an exceedingly successful comic strip. It rumbled along for decades, gaining worldwide popularity, though for some reason rarely getting a steady bid in the comic book format. Then Gold Key got the nod and gave the Ghost Who Walks his own self-titled ongoing comic and it must have done okay, because later King Features had its own comic book version and when that enterprise sputtered the property came into the domain of the Charlton folks who continued the numbering which had been running through both the Gold Key and King runs. They assigned Jim Aparo to draw the book and it immediately gained a modern dynamic which many of the classic versions lacked. Aparo was eventually replaced by Charlton stalwart Pat Boyette who offered up a rather idiosyncratic version of the hero. I liked it, but then he was phased out and a more reliable classic look appeared. That held sway for a short time and then it happened.
Don Newton was a name known to many comic fans, an early attendee of the up and coming conventions, Newton was a major contributor to the fanzines of the day and he clearly had professional level skills. He'd been working at Charlton on some ghost stories here and there and then he was tapped to draw The Phantom. I remember picking up the comic, issue sixty-seven which featured a dramatic poster shot of the iconic hero with his sidekick Devil, and the story was brimming with atmosphere and rich with dark details. This was a different Phantom and I knew I liked it. I was not alone and the issues, though few they are, of the Newton run have been considered the gold standard for the strip since by many fans including yours truly.
Now Hermes has collected just those Don Newton issues together under one cover. It lovely stuff, showcasing the rough-hewn nature of Newton's take on the world, a world often with a film noir feel. The Phantom here is mysterious and agile and feels somehow more dangerous than any who has walked before. Here are the issues in this not-cheap hardback tome.
|(Don Newton cover only on this issue.)|
Saturday, January 19, 2019
I don't know if it was some sort of master plan but I doubt it. However the chips fell, Marvel, then called Timely has two of the most famous and successful Golden Age comic book superheros in the Human Torch (who wasn't "Human") and the Sub-Mariner (who wasn't always a "hero"). Now in this new series of trades dubbed "Decades" we get a nifty batch of Subby's and Torch's earliest squabbles.
The idea that they existed in the same universe likely rocked the world of more than a few fans at the time. We are so used to expansive and elaborate continuities these days that the raucous early days of comics have a refreshing atmosphere of pure creation. Eventually the two would become partners alongside Captain America, the Whizzer and Miss America as part of the All-Winners Squad, but in these early encounters they'd rather fight than switch. Almost all the work here is by the two creators of these characters -- Bill Everett and Carl Burgos, although there is one story drawn by the infamous "Unknown". This one is sheer fun.
Here are the covers of the comics in the collection, though of course only the Sub-Mariner and Torch material is included.
Friday, January 18, 2019
I've waxed on before about how Conan the Barbarian #1 was a revelation for yours truly. I'd already drunk the Marvel kool-aid and was a "True Believer" and it's only right that now, several decades later I pick up yet another reprint of that significant book, this emblazoned with the "True Believers" brand.
Also on hand is the great story from Howard -- "The Tower of the Elephant", perhaps the single most elegant of the first Windsor-Smith era.
There's a hearty taste of Gil Kane who was set to take on the Cimmerian when Windsor-Smith left for a time.
But he returned to finish one more epic tale, though it's a bit ragged in places, and I wish they'd used the artwork originally intended for this particular comic -- a great way to correct a blunder from days gone by.
We get some dandy Neal Adams artwork, an artist whose ability to capture the real worked especially well in presenting a vivid landscape for the Cimmerian's adventures.
And so far it wraps up with some art from Conan's most important artist the late great John Buscema and the story with began a saga and introduced Belit. There are some more of these due next week, taking stories from the pages of Savage Tales and King Conan. It's a fine way for Marvel to get their most successful licensed character back onto the stands. Of course all of these were written by the Rascally One himself, Roy "The Boy" Thomas.
Thursday, January 17, 2019
This is just one of many visually provocative covers during this period of The Justice League of America. The League locked up in an asylum makes for a dramatic image and Neal Adams seems to have done a dandy job of capturing the manic moment. But wait a minute.
This unpublished version of the cover shows that Gil Kane had done a version of the exactly the same image. It's not uncommon to find alternate versions of these classic covers, but to find one which is so very similar in nearly all respects is strange indeed. The similarity is too striking for it to be explained by the notion that both artists were given the project simultaneously, but rather it seems clear that editorial found something lacking in the Kane rendition. The only significant changes are the shifts in the heads of Batman and Flash, especially the latter. In the revised Adams version Flash and Hawkman seem to be exchanging looks filled with rage. Was that the point, to get that sense of anger more clearly on display?
Wednesday, January 16, 2019
I was talking about PLOP the other day and someone mentioned Marvel's attempt at a weird humor comic at about the same time, a little pamphlet entitled ARRGH!. The comic lasted less than a half dozen issues but it gave us some interesting work, nearly all of it reprinted from other sources, albeit some of those sources being somewhat rare. The first issue offers up a ludicrous vampire tale from Bruce Jones, Mike Sekowsky and Tom Sutton and an offbeat tale from Sutton alone reprinted from The Monster Times alongside a reprint by Bill Everett from the 1950's Atlas Crazy comic book.
Under a fantastic Marie Severin cover the second issue offers up two new tales, one by Tom Sutton and another by Bruce Jones and Alfredo Alcala alongside another reprint from the 50's.
The third issue gives us an Alfredo Alcala cover and beneath that a Tom Sutton sequel to his Rat story from the debut. Also on had is Bigfoot story by Don Glut and Mike Sekowsky and Mike Vosburg. Another Crazy reprint rounds it out.
The fourth issue of ARRGH! showcases a classic spoof of The Night Stalker dubbed "The Night Gawker" by Bruce Jones, Jerry Grandenetti and Frank Springer. This is the highlight of the run for me. Two Atlas reprints fill up the balance of the comic. Here is a link to the full story of "The Night Gawker" -- love Grandenetti!
The fifth and final issue of AARGH! changes it up pretty robustly with three stories by the Ross Andru and Mike Esposito team reprinted from their self-published GET LOST comic from some years before. It was the only glimpse of that material I had for many years.
There was apparently \ supposed to be a sixth issue, also drawing upon the Andru and Esposito team material as the unpublished art above indicates. So ARRGH! was a hodge-podge but did get into a wider circulation some really offbeat humor with an weird and eerie twist.
Tuesday, January 15, 2019
I'm not really sure when I first grokked the greatness of comic book artist Neal Adams, but it might have been when I flipped a comic book page and beheld the maw above.
It was just a moment in a staggering Spectre story when time was tumbled and ancient beasts from the dim past were thrust into the modern day. It's a common enough trope in comics and other entertainments, but rarely have I seen it done with such absolute potency as in this double-page spread.
Here is the artwork in its published form, with colors and a bit more depth of shadow. It becomes even more powerful.
How this farm boy came to get his clutches on a comic book like The Spectre #5 is a bit of mystery, but there's no doubt that it made the great Neal Adams one of my absolute favorite artists. I'm of course far from alone in that opinion.