Thursday, December 31, 2020

The Final Chapter 2020!

Thanks to Stan and Steve for teaching many of us how to withstand life's travails. Let's see that one more time please. 

 'Nuff Said! 

Rip Off

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Some Friendly Neighborhood Pin-Ups!

Marvel Masterworks Pin-Ups is one of my absolute favorite Yoe Books. It gathers between its pages most if not all of superhero pin-up pages which appeared in Marvel's comics over the course of about two decades or so beginning with the very first Fab 4 pin-ups from Fantastic Four #2 and ending with John Byrne's pin-ups for Fantastic Four Special Edition from 1984. In between there are scuds of images of both heroes and villains by the likes of Kirby,  John Buscema, Gene Colan, Dicky Ayers, Don Heck, Larry Lieber, John Romita, Bill Everett, and Barry (Not-Yet-Windsor) Smith. Most of them are by the "King", but coming in second is "Sturdy" Steve Ditko. Below I've gathered his Spidey images from the book. 

The oddball grace of Ditko's early version of Spidey is neatly showcases in this image  Amazing Spider-Man #3. 

It is a more muscular Spider we see here from the first Amazing Spider-Man Annual

This pin-up from Amazing Spider-Man #20  has always been a favorite of mine as it shows Peter Parker, a figure no less important to the success of the early Spidey stories.  

This a grand image from Amazing  Spider-Man #21, which of course served as the cover this Yoe collection. The way the light frames Spidey is outstanding. 

And this image from Amazing Spider-Man #23  might well be my favorite of the lot. There's not only the entirety of the Spider-verse cast represented with headshots, but we have a very mysterious and threatening image of Spider-Man himself. He's become so common that it's easy to forget that Spider-Man would be downright scary if you met him in one of those dim Ditko alleys. 

Rip Off

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Fourth World Fifty!

I've written many times about the impact Jack "King" Kirby's  "Fourth World" books made on me when I was a young man on the verge of becoming full-fledged teenager. Now it turns out it's been fifty years since those impactful comic books Jimmy Olsen, Forever People, New Gods and Mister Miracle burst out of the "Boom Tube" and onto the newsstands. I can still remember seeing the debut issue of New Gods on the stand at a drug store which is long gone in my old hometown which has itself fallen into disrepair. I've lots of things planned in my imagination for this blog in the next year, but one thing for certain is that I will be taking yet another of my annual revisits to New Genesis and Apokolips and all points between, and by that of course I mean Earth itself.  Every time I read them again I learn more about their world and more about mine. I learn more about the people of those faraway climes and most importantly I learn more about the world in which I live and more about myself to boot. Aside from a minor excursion into weed a time or two in college, I've never partaken of drugs. I've altered my consciousness with drink a time or two or three, but for the most part I've lived a pretty much totally sober life by society's standards. When I need to readjust the molecules of my mind I just dig out my vintage Kirby comics and snap through the "Boom Tube" of my imagination to altered realities of a most pleasant kind. I highly recommend it. 

Rip Off

Monday, December 28, 2020

Is That A Dalek In Your Pocket?

Like lots of folks I'm a fan of Doctor Who. Now truth told I'm a fan of the classic series and while I find virtue in the newer stuff I've discovered it sort of wears me out with attempts to heart-wrenching and poignant a little overwhelming at times when I just want some good old science fiction adventure. But I know I can be cranky about such things. One of the better Doctor Who shows I've seen in recent years was An Adventure in Time and Space which tells a almost certainly romanticized tale of how the show came to be and how William Hartnell (performed wonderfully by David Bradley) came to play the first Doctor. In that show I met Verity Lambert for the first time and learned of her significant role in launching the series. Without that special I don't think I'd have understood the picture above of Lambert embracing a Dalek, the genocidal alien cyborgs that made the show a hit. 

And then I found another one with Jill Curzon lovingly astride a Dalek. She was Peter Cushing's niece in the 1966 theatrical Doctor Who movie Dalek's Invasion of Earth 2150. I just got to see relatively recently and liked it quite a lot, much more than the first of Cushing's Doctor Who movies. I find I like the Doctor on Earth which is why Jon Pertwee is arguably my favorite Doctor. 

And then I was reminded me of another Dalek image, this one with Katy Manning ("Jo Grant" the spicy assistant to Jon Pertwee's Third Doctor) embracing one of the machines in a decided state of undress. (Those are nice boots you have to admit.) I assume now that this image, aside from being provocative as it showcases a former Companion in the all-together, is an homage to the original Lambert and Curzon photos. Either that or pictures of handsome women clutching alien death machines is a British thing I'm not yet fully cognizant of. 

Rip Off 

Sunday, December 27, 2020

The Sunday Funnies - Sam's Strip!

Sam's Strip by the team of Mort Walker and Jerry Dumas hit the newspaper funny pages in late 1961 and held onto a birth there for just a couple of years. It was a comic strip loved by cartoonists and some editors across the nation, but never by a significant number of the reading public to make it a going concern long term. What makes it funny is inside information about the construction of comics themselves and the devices and gimmicks which are used to compose and communicate through that form. Sam is the titular star and he occupies a comic strip which serves often as his workplace and features file drawers and closets filled with word balloons, speed lines, and other accoutrement necessary "talk" comic. There is a wild full-blown absence of a fourth wall and in fact such a screen between reader and character would murder the premise. 

As part of the conceit other comic strip characters are often featured in the strip, some current, but mostly vintage characters from years and strips gone by. Krazy Kat and Ignatz are frequent guest stars for instance. Other styles are even used such as the time the strip rented space to an adventure comic and the other time when Prince Valiant showed up.  My favorite vintage intruder is the hobo masterpiece Happy Hooligan who keeps trying to slither into the strip and who is usually rebuffed by an intemperate Sam. Eventually he caves in to Happy's relentless efforts. 

Sam is assisted by a nameless large-nosed office mate who gets off some of the best gags of the series. That character wouldn't get a name until years later when the material was retooled into the strip Sam and Silo. Walker and Dumas have a lot of fun in this strip and it shows through. Dumas is often a character and his drawing is the focus of many of the strips. There is also a very specific interest in modern world events and since we're dealing with the early 60's some of the jokes fall flat without some historical knowledge of the era. In the Fantagraphics volume which collects the complete run, there are notes by both Walker and Dumas to assist with some of those references to history as well as some of the more obscure comic strip references as well. 

This is a nifty light read. The cartooning style is open and energetic and Dumas is able to ape the styles of other artists with generally sufficient skill to get the job done. It's an older volume but highly recommended for fair money. 

Rip Off

Saturday, December 26, 2020

Archie's Madhouse!

 Archie's Madhouse is my favorite Archie title hands down. This ultra-weird little comic hit the racks in 1959 when it was a commonplace to do satire in comics and magazines. MAD had shown the way and an cascade of imitators followed in its wake. Archie's Madhouse is one of those but with a singular twist that it made use of the existing Archie cast to do the spoofing. 

I'm not certain, but aside from Lil' Archie this may be the first time the denizens of Riverdale were taken out of their characters fit for a new fashion. The 60's would see a bunch of this type of thing with Captain Pureheart and the Man from RIVERDALE and such like. The comic was typically divided into sections and Craig Yoe's reprint tome follows suit as will I in this brief review. 

First up is the "Teen-Age Section". This features of course the Riverdale gang doing things they probably wouldn't or couldn't do in "real" Archie stories. Along with them there are Chester and Lester, the latter a literally block-headed dope and the former a hipster man of the ladies. My favorite gag might have been Ronald the Rubber Boy who eats too much bubble gum and like Ralph Dibney starts to stretch all over the place until fate rubs him out. 

The second category is the "Monster Section" in which we are treated to the debut story starring the teen-age witch herself Sabrina. I prefer this earliest Sabrina design. Nifty story called "Dr. Syklops" which takes a shot at yarns in which mad scientists shrinks people -- a blend of Dr.Cyclops and The Puppet People with a dash of The Incredible Shrinking Man. There's a visit to M.I.T., the Monster Institute of Transylvania. And a great little yarn about Frankenstein's Monster as a hippie. 

With over half the book done we get the "Way-Out Section". My favorite story in this part is "The History of the Comic Book", and it might well be the biggest laugh I had reading the book. There's a strange story about a mermaid looking for love, but mostly it's some nifty if sometimes outdated gags. 

The "Outer-Space Section" checks in at the fourth spot. Here we have some twists on the classic space-age stories which filled comics of the time, some of them exceedingly well crafted in a style less comedic than the general style for an Archie Comic. On the other side we meet "The Blips", aliens who live among us even as we speak. 

The fifth and final category is the "Good-Guy Section" starring Captain Sprocket.  We have two Sprocket stories here, one in which we gets some cameos from Fly-Man, The Shield, and The Comet of MLJ Comics fame. Another hero named Blue Beam gets a nifty fun story. 

All in all a fun package. There was some hint that Yoe might be doing subsequent volumes, but this one has been out a while and I've seen nothing to indicate more are coming. I'll try not to be too blue though with what I have. 

Rip Off

Friday, December 25, 2020

In The Blacklight Of The Day

This country and the world is about to shuffle off the hate-filled leadership of a man from an olden time, a man ruled by bitter old-fashioned ideas about ethnicity and race. I choose this remarkable day to be hopeful and I am looking forward to a time of better and more civil conversations, tempered with a mutual respect for the ideas, experiences, and fundamental humanity of others. I might be foolish to imagine that the nation and the world will reset so quickly, but I wish it to be so and today I extend an offer to you to join me in my hope for a kinder and gentler world. I of course am not the only one to hope for such, not now and not in the past. Here is a sermon by Martin Luther King Jr. that says it all so much better than I am able to. I am always struck when I listen or read his words at the way he is able to conjoin the immediate concerns of a particular time decades gone with ongoing concerns of a future he would not live to see. 

Be safe out there amigos. As Red Green so wisely says "We're all in this together." 

Rip Off

Thursday, December 24, 2020

Heroes From The Heavens - And The Omega!

And of course to finish off the list of world-saving heroes from the heavens we have to give a nod to the little guy the day is all about. Seen here in his guise of Son-O-God c0-created by Sean Kelly and Neal Adams for National Lampoon, the redeemer himself is no slouch. He's supposed to come back to Earth one day, some say sooner than later. I just hope we are wise enough to let him cross the border when he does. I fear we are not. 

Here's a more respectful rendition of the nativity by Tex Blaisdell for a 1947 issue of Treasure Chest.

And here's the scene as rendered by Prince Valiant artist Hal Foster. To see the full 1947 story check out this heaven-sent link

Wherever you are and whatever you believe have a safe and enjoyable time. Merry Christmas, Happy Hannukah, and Happy Holidays to one and all! 

Rip Off

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Heroes From The Heavens - The Alpha!

As many of us begin to celebrate the descent of one supernatural, super-powered individual to this humble Earth, I thought it might nifty to look at some of the comic book characters who have come to this wee planet of ours from heavens above. And I begin at the beginning with the "Man of Tomorrow", the "Man of Steel", the ultimate superhero, Clark Kent's other side -- the famous Superman. Superman's story is akin to that of Moses really and that makes total sense since he is the brainchild of two Jewish creators -- Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster. This son of Krypton is going to be on any list like this and many more besides. 

A more infamous alien become hero is Vampirella, the brainchild of Forry Ackerman, James Warren and Tom Sutton. Underneath this luscious Frank Frazetta cover a true darling cavorts on the distant planet of Draculon and by the end of the yarn she's here on Earth and eager for a snack. Watch your back. 

The Kaiju-fighting Ultraman is an alien too, When he landed on Earth in a bit of a lopsided state he found it prudent to bond with an Earthling and between the two of them they made for a enormous and enormously successful superhero, one for the glass teat primarily but not just there as some few comics over the decades have shown. 

Hawkman and his bestie Hawkgirl/Hawkwoman are aliens part of the time. In the Golden Age he was an ancient Egyptian, but in the sizzling sci-fi days of the DC revival he and his mate hailed from the distant planet of Thanagar. They were cops there and kept up their practice when they settled here on Earth. The backstory of Hawkman is constantly changing and I quit trying to keep up about thirty years ago or more. 

Beta Ray Bill has always been a different kind of alien hero, a horse-faced hero of a different color you might say. Walt Simonson made him up to fill in for Thor for a short time, but he's proven so popular he's stayed around all these many years still. 

When it came to the Legion of Superheroes I had a bushel of candidates for the list so I just included them all. This future micro-army of heroes protects a broad span of space and come from even farther worlds. My favorite of the bunch and one of the most alien looking is Chameleon Boy. Love those antennae. 

Marvel had a bit of a stealth hit on their hands when they picked up the license for the toy ROM . The toy was of little interest to me, but comic book featuring this knight from the far reaches of space here to evil insidious Dire Wraiths caught my fancy and no small part due to the artwork by the likes of Sal Buscema and later Steve Ditko. This Bill Mantlo scripted book was a winner when no one expected even a contender. 

Just where New Genesis and Apokolips are is kind of fuzzy, but to get from there to here you need the Boom Tube (most of the time), and when Darkseid started looking for the Anti-Life Equation the warriors of  New Genesis such as Orion and Lightray came to Earth to stand between us and the devil himself. Jack Kirby had a plan and it's a shame that DC cut it short. 

Space Ghost's name says it all. He's from space or at least operates there. DC Comics gave him an origin which works perfectly fine but it's enough for me to know that this most powerful space hero is out there. He has only come to Earth I think in the more recent DC stories of the "Future Quest" brand. 

Adam Strange is a space hero who comes to Earth for a simple reason -- he's from here. Like some kind of interstellar commuter he'd catch the Zeta-Beam to the planet Rann to get some private time with his honey and future wife Alanna and typically face some bizarre menace or other. Then he's headed back here to rest up and look forward to the next adventure. 

Captain Mar-Vell was a Kree who didn't agree with his government's plans for the backwater planet called Earth. A reluctant warrior in the time of Vietnam, he tried to do his duty while at the same time saving us all from the predations of Colonel Yon-Rogg, Ronan the Accuser and at various time the Supreme Intelligence too. Finally he got cosmic and became a proper guardian before his untimely death. 

The last E-Man story has been written. The death of the great Nick Cuti means that Joe Staton has retired the character. But in his heyday Alec Tronn was a naive creature of pure energy who settled on Earth to defeat the Brain from Sirius, help Mickey Mauser with a mean-and-dirty case now and again and find some good classic romance with his bodacious honey Nova Kane. 

Coming to Earth in a most dramatic fashion, as herald for the decidedly deadly Galactus makes the Silver Surfer a high profile alien in this category for sure. When Galactus punished him and made stay here is angst was rich and vibrant and at times overwhelming. But he's feee now I guess to soar the space ways. The Surfer's sufferings as written by Stan Lee and drawn by John Buscema evoked the humble suffering of another wafarer from beyond. More on that later. 

Come back tomorrow for "Heroes from the Heavens - The Omega!"

Rip Off

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Alice In Comicland!

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and its sequel Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There are easily together one of the greatest influences on modern culture of any works from the 19th Century. Published in 1865 and 1871 respectively, both novels were written by Charles Lutwidge Dodgson under his famous pen name of Lewis Carrol. Imagery and aspects of the two works are constantly being referenced time and again all across our culture have been for over one hundred and fifty years. Details of the works are so ingrained that people make reference to them and don't even really know they are doing so, not unlike Shakespeare. These stories have entered the genetic code of  society and are impossible excise, even if such a dreadful idea did occur to anyone. 

The two novels are highly visual and were illustrated originally by Sir John Tenniel, at the time a cartoonist for Punch magazine. With such a beginning it's no small wonder that these stories are ripe for adaptation in many a comic strip and comic book. The impact in film has been immense too, as without Alice Walt Disney might never have had the opportunity to make Mickey. There are more film and cartoon adaptations than I can muster the strength to list, but just to name a few there is Disney's later 50's cartoon version which offer versions of Carrol's character as strong in American society as Tenniel's. 

Craig Yoe's collection is pretty impressive, though it does allow a few rather lengthy adaptations to dominate the somewhat slender page count. This book could've have been half again the size and it would've been ideal. There are versions of the story here in which Alice (or a version of her) encounter the likes of the Man from Krypton and the teen from Riverdale. There are stories here by fantastic artists  such as Walt Kelly, Alex Toth, Jack Davis, Dan DeCarlo, Dave Berg, and Joe Shuster. 

Below are a few links to some of the more fascinating versions of Alice in this book such as two which showcase the character in vintage 50's horror tales and one a utterly riotous parody of the story. 

In this issue of the Ziff-Davis comic simply titled Alice (one of only two) she solves the flying saucer mystery among other things. To read it go here. 

Alex Toth does his usual outstanding artistic job on a very scary version of the Alice adventures, the story was tucked away nonchalantly in an issue of Standard's Lost Worlds. To read it go here. 

Charlton got into the act with another horror version of Alice in Wonderland which was done for the final issue of The Thing. To read it go here. 

Jack Davis knocks it out of the park with a delightful and raucous satire of the Alice doings in the pages of MAD. In this one Davis actually makes use of Tenniel's original drawings to give the story are real bizarre feeling of legitimacy. To read this masterpiece go here. 

There are many more images and stories in this tome, one purporting to tell the true story of how they came to be written and others adding whole worlds to Alice's misadventures. She even meets another 19th Century icon in the aptly named Alice in Wonderland meets Santa Claus (If you notice is the  rendition of Alice which is peeking out from behind the curtain on the cover of the Yoe collection.) Which reminds me to say have a Merry Christmas one and all. 

Rip Off