Saturday, April 30, 2022

The Man Who Changed Comics!

Neal Adams has died. In many ways he illustrated my youth. He was crucial in changing the way comic books look and how the comic industry treat its talent, using his significant influence to bring about changed conditions on behalf of the generations which preceded him and those that came after.

Neal Adams was the rock star in comics when I first skated in for a look-see. He was a young yet mature talent, the beginning of a wave of talents who would soon enter the field and supplant the hoary veterans who had been manning the battlements of comics since the earliest days. The thing about Neal Adams is that he didn't draw comics like anyone else, his work was much more realistic in many ways, infused with a drama and depth of field which had not been the standard of a field which rewarded stalwart abstraction. Adams was an illustrator who turned to comics, but he did so with a dedication and a relish which made him a favorite of editors and fans. He broke at DC, doing a few things here and there on the outer edges and I first found him on Deadman in Strange Adventures, a weirdo comic if there ever was one. About this same time, he got a gig on Batman in The Brave and the Bold. I think the breakthrough for Adams for me was when gave us a new Green Arrow. Here was a hero who had been the very definition of bland for much of his days and now he was suddenly the interesting guy at the dance, dangerous and quixotic and draw very, very well. With Denny O'Neil as the writer Neal Adams had Ollie Queen hook up with another hero on the rocks named Hal Jordan (Green Lantern) and the duo changed comics pretty much. Next Adams took on the whole of the Bat-mythos and redefined the series which had struggled a bit since the wonderful TV show had mired it in a light-heartedness which was not really core to the character. Batman was fucking scary when Neal Adams drew him.  And like all great talents eventually Adams switched teams and joined Marvel for some highly memorable issues of The X-Men, The Avengers, and Amazing Adventures starring the Inhumans. By this time Neal Adams had a ticket to ride where he wished and he became one of the guys who kept telling us all that comics could be more. Turns out he was right.

Here are just a few covers by Adams which altered my world view. At the top of this post is the very first Adams cover I bought for myself. 

Rest in Peace Mr. Adams. 

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Land Of The Lost - The Movie!

I wrote the review below soon after the lamentable movie Land of the Lost was released in theaters way back in 2009. As you will see, I didn't much like the movie then. After taking a look at that old review, I'll give you my more modern opinion of this TV adaptation.  

Like many, I have an abiding affection for the original TV series. It was at once charming, smart, and compelling TV. The kids learned to act (a bit) before our very eyes, and the special effects were just good enough to keep it all buzzing. The first season is a wonder of intelligent design, a remarkable TV show that seemed to know where it was going. In the 70's a most novel notion. The second and third seasons lose a bit of the magic, especially the more fantasy-driven third season, but still the elusive charm clings. It doesn't cling to the modern movie remake. 

I finally got around to seeing at the discount cinema yesterday. My daughter and I went (she's an adult who hasn't seen a single episode, so you can imagine her confusion right away) and it began well enough. The problem is an obvious one. Will Farrell can be hilarious, but he's woefully miscast in this movie as Rick Marshall, a scientist belittled for his theories of time travel. A beautiful grad student named Holly comes to him and lures him to follow his dream and they meet a goof named Will and soon find themselves in the "Land of the Lost", a time garbage disposal of sorts that seems to be especially locked in on Earth. 

The science is garbled and difficult to decipher, so it fails on that front. The special effects are neatly done, though really great dinosaurs aren't the wonder to see they were even a decade ago. The Sleestak are fun though not as scary as I expected. All of that would be okay if the movie didn't just grind to a halt from time to time as Farrell does some of his shtick. This is truly a movie that fights itself. Maybe they needed a big Hollywood star to get it made. I understand that and all, but treating this stuff in parody doesn't really succeed. The fanboys like me see the stuff they need, but then see it handled quite roughly in places. The new viewers must be mystified. My daughter was. 

It's a movie that's neither fish nor fowl. It's a comedy that is sometimes funny, though often with unfortunate costs to the tone and feel of the adventure. And it's an adventure flick that lacks the most essential element of such tales, dramatic tension. There's really no sense of danger to lead characters, as they blunder around an illogical mishmash environment. Land of the Lost is a really disappointing movie, and it's no wonder that it bombed. Stay away, unless you're morbidly curious like me. 

That was then. What about now? 

My negative opinion has softened over the years. Watching this film again a few weeks ago, I was struck so much by my shock and dismay at it's approach to material I hold dear, but rather just how funny it was in many of its scenes. I'm still convinced that some scenes go too far, and those seem to be the ones in which the actors are let go to improvise, but the overall tone of humor is more comfortable to me. I detected more a sense of adventure that I'd recollected and that was heartening. It's still not the Land of the Lost movie I'd have made but it is one that has its redeeming aspects. Wouldn't mind one that tries it again sometime, without the gags. But I dobut that will ever be. 

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Friday, April 29, 2022

The Eternal Lover!

This Edgar Rice Burroughs story is marketed as The Eternal Savage these days but its original title was The Eternal Lover and I frankly prefer that, though I admit I might not have bought under that title years ago. I only now just got around to reading it under the name The Eternal Savage and Nu of the Neocene. It's the story of a caveman named "Nu the Son of Nu" and comes from a tribe of prehistoric "Cliff Dwellers" and ends up in the modern world (more or less) on the estate of one Lord Greystoke. Yep, that's right this is a story which has continuity with ERB's most famous character of all Tarzan of the Apes. 

Nu is out hunting one fine prehistoric day for the head of a sabre-tooth tiger and is successful, but an earthquake causes him to be buried alive and by means unexplained become transported to the twentieth century on the grand estate of Lord Greystoke. He is confused by his new surroundings and even more confused when he spies a lovely young woman named Victoria Custer from Nebraska who is visiting the Greystokes with her brother after events in ERB's The Mad King. She is his lost love Nat-ul reincarnated. For her part, she dreams of a lusty ancient lover who just happens to look just like Nu.

After much folderal with wolfhounds, frustrated modern beaus, and some Arab slavers the couple are hooked up in the original cave when another earthquake erupts. In part two of this tale we along with Nu are transported back to the Stone Age where he pursues his lost love Nat-ul when a tribe of Boat Builders hold her captive. 

It's a vintage ERB yarn with mighty-muscled heroics and fantastic coincidences but true to his style it never lags. After the two are again reunited another earthquake strikes destroying much of the world that Nu knew and a deadly secret is uncovered by Victoria Custer.  

The thing about ERB tales is the sheer propulsion of the storytelling. In grand pulp style he never allows the story to slow much, nor does he allow it to overleap necessary details. After casting about for many years in many trades we are all immensely lucky that the natural storyteller Burroughs at last found his calling. This story, his tenth overall to see publication is a delightful example of his pulse-pounding art. For continuity buffs it falls between The Return of Tarzan and The Beasts of Tarzan and features the first appearance of baby Korak. I was also struck by how much the general scenario of the last half of the story set in the prehistoric era reminded me of movies like One Million B.C. Coincidence? I wonder. 

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Thursday, April 28, 2022

The War That Time Forgot!

The War that Time Forgot was revived by writer Bruce Jones as a limited series in 2007. I well remember being attracted to this series at the time, lured in by the spectacular Neal Adams cover the debut issue, but I was ending my new comic book collecting for the most part back then and I let it go. But I always wanted to read it but alas it's only ever been collected in two rather slim volumes and the price is not necessarily nice. But thanks to online sources I got them somewhat cheaper than cover and gave them a read. Sadly as with most modern comics it didn't take all that long. The artwork for the first eight issues is by the team of Al Barrionuevo and Jimmy Palmiotti. The ninth is by Scott Kolins and the tenth and eleventh issues are by Graham Nolan and inker Dan Green. Barrionauevo returns for the finale with inks by Green. The art is solid but not spectacular. 

The premise is at once simple and complex. Warriors from across time are gathered together on a volcanic island teeming with all sorts of dinosaurs for reasons unknown to them. Being military folk they arrange themselves by rank and we end up with two forces at odds with one another. One group of more recent people on one side and on the other more ancient warriors. Among the time-lost characters are Enemy Ace, Golden Gladiator, Viking Prince, Firehair, G.I. Robot, and Tomahawk. There are others such as our main character Lt. Carson a U.S. pilot from just before the attack on Pearl Harbor. There is also a dame in a silver suit who seems to be from the future who is an enigma for much of the story. Personally I'd have loved to see more with the more famous characters but Jones I guess realized he could do little to advance their story arcs, so Carson and Vietnam vet called Jarhead and his wife Trang, along with a U.S. Iraq war pilot and a Japanese WWII ear pilot get much attention. A Colonel Jape proves to be as close to a villain as the series presents. There are lots of twists and turns, but in the final analysis I cannot recommend this one due to its prohibitive price for just too little story. 

There are some knockout covers as can be seen in the gallery below.  

(Neal Adams)

(Brian Bolland)

(Mark Schultz)

(Russ Heath)

(Walt Simonson)

(Mike Kaluta)

(Kevin Nowlan)

(Josh Middleton)

(Jose Ladronn)


(Jeff Darrow)

(Howard Porter)

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