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Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Barks - Island in the Sky

Uncle Scrooge #29 - March 1960
W US 29-01

This 18-page story begins with the rather odd premise that Duckburg is the single city in its world with technological marvels, including flying cars and space travel, including space stations which transmit news and weather. Why you'd need such a capability when there's a single city that's hoarding this technology I don't know...

I'm not quite sure what the point of it only being Duckburg that has this technology is, since the story works the same without that little bit. Anyway, Scrooge decides that the perfect place to hide his money would be an asteroid, and takes the nephews out to find one in a second-hand rocket with the minimum of fuel he thinks he'll need to find such a place.

For some reason I can't resist posting panels about high fuel prices...

After various mishaps, they find an asteroid that has a lot of food and a nearby island with some aliens with minimal food, even less after Donald's rash actions scare off the birds that are the source of their eggs. In an atypical moment of generosity, Scrooge winds up helping them at quite a cost to himself. He got to be a softie when the '60s began.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Kirby Museum

If I may overlap weblogs for a second, on the off chance that anyone reads this and not the Kirby weblog (which the relative site statistics indicate is unlikely) I wanted to mention that this site is now active and gorgeous.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Plastic Man

I dunno about anyone else, but I think a Plastic Man story by Don Rosa could be pretty fun.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

THE QUESTION by O'Neil/Cowan #21 - #25

Continuing with THE QUESTION

#21, "Rejects", was the first issue of the series I ever picked up, so it would be a favourite just for that reason. It also has a great black&white cover by Cowan/Sienkiewicz which I think is the best of their collaborations. Dick Giordano is the guest inker this issue, which looked different. Good, but different.

This story continues the Junior Musto story from #6, starting with a flashback continuing the last scene from that issue, with some interesting bits about identity and the symbolic significance of Vic's mask. Then in the present, Junior steals a heart to give to his father for a transplant while Vic is sent to report on his high school reunion.

There are many brilliant bits in this issue, and I think I can call it my favourite issue overall.

#22 begins the long awaited polling day in "Election Day: The Fix". Malcolm Jones III joins as the regular inker, which looks really nice. It's hard to pick whether I liked Magyar or Jones better, partly because Cowan's pencilling style was also shifting around this point. Both were really good.

This is a very cynical storyline about voting irregularities, cover-ups, fixed voting machines, corrupt judges and all the rest. And for the action scenes, you have the Question fighting bikers, which is a lot of fun.

#23 is "Election Day: Welcome to Oz", and also has the final Cowan/Sienkiewicz cover. It starts with a history lesson on the first Hub City election, which not surprisingly ended in violence. Back in the present, the election continues with even more violence, an approaching storm and Vic facing a bit of a moral dilemma as he has to lie on the air to prevent more violence.

#24 concludes the storyline (in name, at least) with "Election Day: The Dark", more fun with bikers, including one odd scene of Vic almost being burned alive, and the storm hitting. Bit of an odd ending, didn't entirely work for me, but I remember the ending really catching me off guard.

#25 is "Skells", with the aftermath of the election and the storm and Vic's search for the former Mayor. I found this run of the book a bit weaker than the earlier stuff, but there were a few things I really liked in almost every issue. In this issue there was a really good bit with Vic talking about his growing anger and reversion to his earlier personality.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005


Thanks to some of the fastest turnaround time on a mail order I've ever seen, I now have a copy of Ivan Velez's TALES OF THE CLOSET v1, collecting the first three issues of the series originally published in 1987/88 in the first of four planned volumes (the last being an all-new conclusion to the story). I already knew that the comics were good, so now I can add that the production on the book is really sharp as well. Nice white paper as opposed to the newsprint of the originals more than makes up for the slight reduction in size (it's a large digest size, about the size of Tezuka's PHOENIX books from Viz).

Read more about the book in this earlier post. - Reviewers / store owners note the offer for a sample copy.

Order the book here if you want it now.

The book will also be offered in the September 2005 Previews if you prefer to get it from a comic store / mail order company. Page 314, order code SEP053064

You can check out some summaries/review of individual issues.

Just released is the first volume of Ivan Velez Jr.'s TALES OF THE CLOSET. Originally published (and unfinished) in nine issues from 1987 to 1993, it's now being re-released in four volumes from Velez's own Planet Bronx Productions, with the fourth volume set to contain the new conclusion of the story. It's a long time in coming, and sadly most of the issues it discusses are as relevant today as they were then.

"Once upon a time, in a high school in Queens..."

TALES OF THE CLOSET is the story of eight students in a New York high school, coming to terms with questions of their sexuality and the reactions of society to their identities. It has elements of soap opera and "afterschool special" (especially since one of the purposes it was created for originally was educational), but manages to transcend most of the flaws associated with those labels. While there are a few rough bits in the early going there's an earnestness and enthusiasm which carries it through, and it's great to see him improve by leaps and bounds with each issue.

I pick up some new thing in the script or art every time I pick it up, and it's a very smooth but dense read. I can never believe that the first issue is only 24 pages but somehow manages to introduce the eight main characters, with enough of their background and personality to get a handle on them, and several minor characters. By the last published issue there are a few dozen characters, and even ones you thought were minor background bits take on more significance, and that their own stories that impact on the main characters in unexpected ways. This is going to be best $8.50 you can spend on comics this year, and it'll only get better in later volumes. And the more of you who buy it the sooner I'll finally get to read the ending, so buy early, buy often.

Anyway, it's great to see one of my favourite obscure books finally get released in a permanent commercial format. Check it out if you get a chance, and you might agree.

My Collection - ICON [1993 Series]

Icon [1993 series]
42 issues [1993 - 1997]
1 - 42

On average probably the best of Milestone's titles, though initially I thought it was the weakest of their launch titles. It probably helped that it had the most consistent creative team, with Dwayne McDuffie and Mark Bright sticking around from the first issue to the last, with a minimum of fill-ins (only five issues aren't written by one of those two).

My initial interest in the Milestone line was that it was Denys Cowan's big project a few years after his work on THE QUESTION, which was a favourite. I wasn't at the time familiar with most of the other creators involved, but the characters looked good and the books were fairly inexpensive. While they had some rough spots, all of them were entertaining enough to keep picking up.

As I said, ICON was initially my least favourite of the books, although I did enjoy it. It took a while for it to get around to the point where we find out that the main character was the sidekick, Rocket, rather than the big guy with the cape. It gradually got better, pretty soon was my favourite of the books in the line (others of which got worse, but more on that later). I also thought that this book did the best job of integrating guest bits of the rest of the Milestone characters and handling the occasional crossovers.

Unfortunately later in the series there were a few scheduling problems, with long gaps between issues, and it was eventually cancelled in the middle of a storyline. I guess getting on to a decade later it's time to give up the hope that it'll ever be finished.

Still, despite the lack of an ending, well worth seeking out, and back issues are pretty affordable, as is the one collection of the first 8 issues.

Notable bits:

#13 is a guilty pleasure, but probably my favourite issue, featuring the debut of Buck Wild, Mercenary Man, an absurd but oddly endearing parody of 1970s "blaxploitation", one comic character in particular. He appeared a few more times (including uttering the immortal line "I refuse to be held down by the White Man's gravity"), up to his funeral in #30, a great finale.

#42 wisely took a break from the unfinished storyline to present another funeral for what became the final issue, and it's really a brilliant story, much better than it has a right to be. You'd think that injecting the unreality of a super-heroic universe into the real world concerns would cheapen it, but somehow it all comes together nicely here.

Doctor Who - "Sea Devils"

"Sea Devils", a Jon Pertwee episode with Jo Grant as the assistant, was unfortunately one of the weaker Pertwee episodes I've seen. A shame as it's the only one I have available from the library which features the original Master, who I remember always enjoying. He's mostly good in this one as well, but the overall story is a bit plodding, takes forever to get started and has a lot of dull bits between the few good scenes. I think part of the problem was that they had the co-operation of the British Navy in the making of this episode, which meant a lot of atypical for DW bits of location shots on the water and naval base, which didn't add much at all. This wasn't helped at all by the director doing a bunch of distracting visual tricks, quick cuts, sudden zooms and such, plus some weird sound effects.

A shame, as there is the hint of a good story in all of this, but it's not at all realized in the production.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

EC - Staired... in Horror (Ingels) Horror
art by Graham Ingels, story by Al Feldstein
Vault of Horror #23[#12] (1952)

A story hosted by the Old Witch, this story features a cold widow who had killed her husband, making it look like an accident, who has now put her sights on a rich widower she met at the cemetery. Ingels does a good job of making her look sexy but really cold (as well as fitting some poses under those heavy captions).

Of course the woman pushes her luck after the wedding when she tries to get her new husband to forget his late wife. And you know in an Ingels story that when you start off with two bodies in the grave they're not going to stay there. Great rotting bodies and moody graveyards in this one.

The Muppet Show - Mark Hamill / Star Wars cast (89)

Episode 89 - Mark Hamill / Star Wars cast

This fourth season episode was a favourite of mine from the original run, being a young fan of the first Star Wars movies but not having a chance to see them in theatres multiple times (this being the same reason I was a fan of the Star Wars movie adaptation from Marvel, despite the art in the first one). It was great to see this little bonus back then. Of course, a quarter century later, Star Wars stuff is available all over the place, and is a lot less special, what with the Dark Lord of the Sith trying to sell me chocolate. So while I still like this episode now, it's more for the Muppet stuff than the Star Wars stuff (and Yoda is my favourite part of the later Star Wars movies, too). The Star Wars stuff is still fun, Mark Hamill really hams it up as both Luke Skywalker and himself, exactly what the role calls for, and where else are you going to get Chewbacca in a dance number (well, I haven't seen the latest movie yet, and I wouldn't put it past Lucas).

My favourite scene in this one would be the backstage sequence where Luke switches with his "cousin Mark Hamill", who tries out for the show, doing some awful impressions of Kermit and Fozzie and even worse singing. I also liked Hamill's later gargling Gershwin with Angus McGonagle, the Argyle Gargoyle, just for Angus' name if nothing else. Scooter's big number with Electric Mayhem was good, too.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

My Collection - THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD [1955 Series]

The Brave and the Bold [1955 series]
43 issues [1974 - 1983]
112 - 117, 120, 123, 133, 148, 159 - 160, 162 - 163, 165 - 186, 188 - 190, 192 - 193, 197, 200

Long lived DC title which went through a lot of changes. Began as historical fantasy (including Robin Hood, the Viking Prince and the Silent Knight [heh, Silent Knight, I just got that]), then became a Showcase-style title to debut new concepts (including of course the JLA by Gardner Fox and Mike Sekowsky and some great Hawkman issues by Fox and Joe Kubert), then a super-hero team-up book, with Batman installed as the permanent lead star soon after until the end, when it was cancelled and replaced with BATMAN AND THE OUTSIDERS.

It was my favourite Batman title of the early 1980s, thanks largely to the Jim Aparo artwork in most issues, some great guest stars and the long running back-up series "Nemesis" from Cary Burkett and Dan Spiegle, a straight spy thriller without superhero overtones except the two full-issue crossovers with Batman (illustrated by Aparo). Unfortunately it had spottier distribution than the other Batman books, apparently, as I would miss about two issues a year. Didn't matter as much because there were few continued stories, although missing chapters of Nemesis was annoying.

Picked up a few back-issues in later years, mostly from the run when it was a 100-page giant with a lot of reprints. While I love the Aparo artwork in the lead stories of those issues, I never really got into Bob Haney's writing. I should probably look around and see if I can get a few of the later issues I'm missing at a reasonable price now, maybe sell some of the less memorable ones (if they'd reprint the Nemesis story I could get rid of a lot more).

A few favourites:

#159, Batman and Ra's Al Ghul by O'Neil and Aparo, I think one of the first times I read O'Neil's Batman, and an early favourite of mine.

#177 was one of Mike Barr's first issues, with Elongated Man, and his issues are usually worth reading.

#178, #181, #182, #197 are four issues written by Alan Brennert, about half his total comic book work I think, and are all great stories. #178, with the Creeper guest-starring, is probably the best of them.

#200 had a lot of fun stuff, with Dave Gibbons doing his best faux golden age style for part of a story that featured the Earth-2 Batman, plus an introduction to the Outsiders series that would replace this one. And Bat-Mite.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

TALES OF THE CLOSET by Velez released

Ivan Velez has released the first volume of the collections of his excellent TALES OF THE CLOSET comic, previously written about here.

More when I get my copy, but no need to wait, go and order it now, only $8.50, postage included.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Barks - Spending Money

Walt Disney's Comics and Stories #144 - September 1952
W WDC 144-01

This is among the first few Barks stories that I recall reading, a really good fairly early Scrooge story (published shortly after the definitive "Only a Poor Old Man" but before Scrooge has his own series), so the character is still only partially developed. He certainly wouldn't make mistakes like this soon after.

Yes, he hires Donald to spend the excess of cash that he has that won't fit in his money bin and keeps pouring in from businesses that he doesn't even know he owns. In retrospect, that bit sort of telegrams the ending, but it's still clever and has a lot of good gags along the way. I especially like the series of luxury Roadhog cars that Donald insists they buy along the way

Monday, August 15, 2005

My Collection - JACK KIRBY COLLECTOR [1994 Series]

Jack Kirby Collector [1994 series]
43 issues [1994 - 2005]
1 - 43

Not surprisingly, the bulk of anything I have to write about this on-going fanzine will appear on another weblog. It's been a constant delight for the last decade, and hopefully will continue to be fore quite a while longer. I think I first heard about it about a year after it started, back when it was mail-order only, and sent away for a complete set of back-issues and a subscription. A few issues after that it up-graded to a more deluxe format, with more pages and colour covers, and distribution to comic book stores, so after my sub ran out I started picking it up locally (where it would usually arrive earlier than my sub copies and was cheaper, given the extra to mail it to Canada). Of course it's kept evolving since then, and since #31 has been tabloid sized to show off Kirby's art that extra amount (although I wish they'd use the tabloid size more, especially the centerfold, which you'd think they'd use to show a page of Kirby at fully the size he drew it).

Hard to pick out any favourites, since it's all so good. The best part of the magazine is of course the Kirby artwork, especially the stuff they're able to reproduce from high quality copies of the pencils or from original art with Kirby's margin notes attached. And when the pages are from otherwise unpublished stories (such as 1970s stuff like the unused Dingbats, In the Days of the Mob and True Divorce / Soul Love stuff at DC) that's an extra treat. Unfortunately, copyright reasons prevent them from running too many complete stories from those, so you often have to hunt between issues to get most of the pages from some stories. For the past few issues they've been running some very nicely restored versions of some 1950s S&K stories complete, which has been a welcome addition.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

More modern politics from Kelly

Another great bit from Walt Kelly in 1956, showing that in fifty years all they've done is get closer to the parody.

I hope the rumours that Fantagraphics is going to re-start their Pogo reprints in a format similar to the Peanuts and Gasoline Alley reprints of the last year are true (after the last series didn't even manage to get past the point that the 1980s Fireside books had reprinted). Some Walt Kelly work in print is always a good thing.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Doctor Who - "The Five Doctors"

The latest WHO tape I got from the library is "The Five Doctors", a bit of a stunt production from the 20th anniversary of the show, gathering all five actors who played the lead character. Well, all except the first (who was dead and therefore replaced by a passable alternate actor) and the longest-lasting (who apparently just didn't want to participate and was represented by some unused footage and "caught in a temporal hoo-ha" mumbo-jumbo). Also a lot of the supporting characters and villains from through the years.

I have a bit of an odd history with this one as I'd never seen it before, but I did used to own the novelization, the only DW book I've ever owned (I did read a lot of other ones that my library had back then). It's the kind of story concept you really like when you're 13, I guess. I thought it was a pretty good read, although pretty slight, as all the DW books were.

It was interesting to finally see the second Doctor, who I liked quite a bit in here. I'll have to see if I can get a few of his episodes at a reasonable price since he's the one my library is otherwise lacking in.

Fun stuff, though pretty disjointed, as you'd expect given the production requirements of having to bend the story this way and that based on who was available. The overall story was serviceable, it did the job of getting everyone together, and there were a lot of cute character bits throughout. I thought it was a bit of a shame that there were only a few scenes with multiple Doctors on screen together, as their interactions were the most entertaining bits, but too much of that would have been overkill, so they were probably wise to keep it to a minimum. Well worth watching, and certainly more entertaining than anything I've seen from the original series from a few seasons before this up to the end.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

EC - Ghost Ship (Feldstein)

Ghost Ship
by Al Feldstein
Crypt of Terror, The #19[#3] (1950)

Some early New Trend from Feldstein, not really the most effective. It's one of the stories that has a full page splash of the host completely unrelated to the story, which is never a good thing. The story is about a couple who crash land a plane on the ocean and come across an old abandoned pirate ship. Fortunately, they find that a succession of leaders on the ship have kept a detailed log which chronicles the fate of the ship, which turns out to be a phantom ship which the couple just manage to escape from.

Not a great story, but I did like some of the artwork of the pirate ship and crew. However, it looks a bit odd with the bright colouring on the reprint I have. It's like all these dark scenes set in the middle of the day with perfect blue oceans and clear skies.

Ditko's Machine Man

One of two unused Ditko cover designs for MACHINE MAN that appeared in THE COMIC READER #176, this one on the backcover.

The Muppet Show - Edgar Bergen (31)

Apparently the DVD of the first season of the Muppet Show is out now. I still haven't decided which season I'll pick up first, but I'm leaning towards getting a later one first, although hopefully I'll get them all eventually. There's a good overview of the set on Muppet Central, which also details the songs they had to cut for the sake of music rights.

For now, going over the stuff I already have on tape, I'll start with a favourite from the second season:

Episode 31 - Edgar Bergen

(fortunately people over at Muppet Central have already done the hard work of doing a complete episode run-down with screen captures, so I'll just go over my own impressions quickly)

Of course this was going to be a special episode, Bergen and his act being a big part of defining puppetry for the previous generation. It doesn't disappoint, with all of the Bergen related sections of the show being very funny (including, although he doesn't appear in it, Fozzie Bear's attempt at ventriloquism, a perfect example of Fozzie's "not quite getting the point" charm. "He won't talk to me!"). Bergen and his characters played off the regular cast nicely, I thought, with just the right combination of snide (from Charlie McCarthy) and affection.

Of the non-guest scenes, I thought the rendition of "Time In a Bottle" (with an old scientist gradually getting younger) was really good, both with the visuals and how the voice kept changing and getting clearer. It's easy to forget how good the Muppet people (I think it was Henson in this case) are at acting, managing subtle inflections like that while singing in a made-up voice. Pigs in Space was pretty good, too, although like most of the regular skits I like it in small doses at best. Not quite sure I understand chickens singing "Baby Face"

Monday, August 08, 2005

Movies - HARVEY (1950)

Directed by Henry Koster
Written by Mary Chase and Oscar Brodney

HARVEY was one of my first favourite classic movies, ever since I saw it on TV as a kid (along with a few other James Stewart movies and some Marx Brothers), and every time I've seen it since. Used to have a copy of the original Mary Chase play as well, but I can't find it right now, unfortunately. It's a very faithful adaptation, of course (with several of the stars having done stage versions), mostly just re-staged to allow for the extra settings available on the screen version, but I remember a few things I wanted to re-check after re-watching the movie. Fortunately my library system does have a copy of it, so I'll have to check it out.

I heard this voice say "Good evening, Mr. Dowd". Well, I turned around and here was this big six-foot rabbit leaning up against a lamppost. I thought nothing of that because when you've lived in a town as long as I've lived in this one you get used to the fact that everybody knows your name.

A big part of the charm of the movie is Stewart's portrayal of Elwood P. Dowd, one of the great characters of movie history. Perfectly written, just a great storytelling character for the monologues and also nicely plays off the other characters with his disarmingly non-conventional style, Stewart catches all the little ticks perfectly. However, there are a lot of scenes without Stewart, and those are just as good, especially anything with Elwood's sister Veta (played by Josephine Hull, who deservingly won an Academy Award for it). The weakest part was probably anything dealing with the Doctor Sanderson / Nurse Kelly romance whenever Elwood wasn't directly involved, which always feels a lot to me like the romance sub-plots that populated (and dragged down) the Marx Brothers movies.

Years ago my mother used to say to me, she'd say, "In this world, Elwood, you must be" - she always called me Elwood - "In this world, you must be oh-so-smart or oh-so-pleasant." Well, for years I was smart. I recommend pleasant. And you may quote me.

One thing I always wondered about was the decision to make it explicit, in a few minor scenes, that Harvey really does exist. I'm not entirely certain it wouldn't have been a better movie without those scenes, although one of them ("How are you Mr. Wilson? Who in the encyclopedia wants to know?") is a favourite of mine. Interestingly in the production notes section of the DVD it mentions that Chase wanted to actually show Harvey in the final scene, but they decided against it. Good call.

I also always wondered about the fact that Elwood seems to be unaware that other people can't see Harvey. I can accept a giant magic rabbit, but if we're going to accept that Elwood is not insane then it brings up the question of why he's oblivious to the fact that Harvey is invisible to everyone else. Not that that really bugs me, and I do like that the script seems to be consistent in never giving even a hint that Elwood knows no-one else can see Harvey.

Anyway, always good to watch an old favourite that holds up even better than when I first saw it.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

My Collection - HELLBLAZER [1988 Series]

Hellblazer [1988 series]
43 issues [1988 - 2000]
10 - 40, 49, 56, 62 - 63, 70 - 71, 84 - 88, 151

HELLBLAZER is the still-running DC/Vertigo series starring John Constantine, the character created by, I think the official line is, John Totleben, Steve Bissette, Alan Moore, Rick Veitch, Jamie Delano and John Ridgway, spinning out from his introductory stories in SWAMP THING (first as a random background bit drawn by Bissette and Totleben and later as an actual character).

I started buying the book around #23, after I started reading SWAMP THING and picked up a few of his earlier stories. Read it through Jamie Delano's original run, and kept with it through most of the Garth Ennis run, which I found to be inconsistent at best (but really good when it was good, which kept me going), and finally dropped it. I've tried it a few times since then, but have rarely been that impressed, although I did like Delano's one-shot (#84) and Eddie Campbell's brief run (#85 - #88). Used to have a lot more issues, but I got rid of all but a few of the Ennis issues and most of the later stuff (not sure why I still have #151).

For back-issues, I picked up a few back then, but I found them kind of hard to find and overpriced. I did have the #1 and #2 for a while, but eventually they came out with the ORIGINAL SINS collection of the first nine, so I could get rid of those. For the longest time I hoped they would come up with a follow-up, but they never did, so I finally picked up everything back to #10 when I found them at a fair price.

Lots of good stuff in there, though it's been a while and there's a lot of long-running stuff so I don't really remember individual issues of the Delano run as much as overall impressions. I did like the issues drawn by Mark Buckingham and Sean Phillips a lot, although to my mind none of the regular artists ever quite matched John Ridgway's work. Two issues drawn by Dave McKean, #27 (written by Neil Gaiman) and #40 (written by Delano) are notable, as are those drawn by David Lloyd, although the writing on those wasn't as good.

Eisner - A Day at the Beach

A Day at the Beach
The Spirit Section #428
August 8, 1948

The Spirit in battle with a killer shark. That's a great image (and one Eisner recreated in the 1980s for the reprint of this story). It gets even better later, as the Spirit has an amusing battle with an octopus (not the Octopus, an octopus). Just part of the summertime fun in this light installment of the weekly adventures, where the gang all go to the beach, and PS falls into a hole and is followed by the Spirit into an underwater kingdom ruled by a Dolan like-a-look.

A very odd story in the Spirit run, not one of the great stories but an interesting change of pace, and as pointed out in the reprint a change of Eisner to pay a bit of homage to some of his early illustration influences with the underwater stuff. I also like the little touches like the Spirit wearing sunglasses over his mask and Dolan smoking a pipe underwater.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Stuff of Interest - October 2005

Mythadventures rule in JACK KIRBY COLLECTOR #44, focusing on KIRBY'’S MYTHOLOGICAL CHARACTERS, including THE DEMON, THOR, ATLAS, ETERNALS, and others! There'’s a rare interview with KIRBY, never-seen by most comics enthusiasts! MARK EVANIER answers Frequently Asked Questions about Jack in his regular column, while our other regular columnists give their take on all things Kirby! There'’s also two Kirby pencil art galleries; one of THE DEMON, and another featuring some of his other classic mythological characters (both at whopping TABLOID SIZE)! Just in time for Halloween, there's a never-reprinted BLACK MAGIC story from the 1950s! Also, we present an interview with Kirby Award winner and family friend DAVID SCHWARTZ (with tons of little known anecdotes and info about Jack and Roz), a new Kirby Demon cover inked by MATT WAGNER, and more!

Should be another winner, with a good variety of eras and the usual features. Looking forward to the BLACK MAGIC story most.

With his father's words, "Don't be a Jew gangster," still ringing in his head, a young man finds himself doing just that, as no other path in life opens for him. In New York City, criminals rule, getting everything they want no matter what the price, or who pays it.

With the same intensity and detail that he put into Yossel, Kubert recreates a time when even the most innocent person was caught up in the dark underbelly of society.

New Joe Kubert is always noteworthy. I might wait for the softcover on this (softcover of YOSSEL is also solicited this month). Or I might not.

For a generation of comic-book readers, Jim Aparo is considered the greatest Batman artist of them all. Aparo together with Batman, made a team worthy of the title, The Brave and the Bold. But while the Batman team-up book was where fans could most commonly find Aparo'’s work, he first made his name on such series as Aquaman, the controversial Spectre, and the mysterious Phantom Stranger, and is considered by many to be the definitive artist for each. Now, Scott Beatty along with Eric Nolen-Weathington turn the Bat Signal onto the life and work of one of comics'’ finest: Jim Aparo. From his time in the world of advertising art, through the heyday of the '’70s, and beyond the death of Robin, Aparo'’s career is finally given the attention it so richly deserves. The book is lavishly illustrated with Aparo'’s work -— including many rare and previously-unpublished pieces. Introduction by award-winning comic book artist, Alan Davis!

It's a shame that Aparo won't be around to see the actual book, but obviously he was aware it was in production so had some sort of evidence of his influence in his final days. That's a nice thought. Should be a good looking book.

Mike Baron and Steve Rude
216pg, b&w & FC
On the distant moon of Ylum, an enigmatic man is plagued by nightmares. He is forced to dream of the past. He dreams of real-life butchers and tyrants, and what they have done.

And then he finds them, and kills them.

The year is 2841, and this man is Nexus, a godlike figure who acts as judge, jury, and executioner for the vile criminals who appear in his dreams. He claims to kill in self-defense, but why? Where do the visions come from, and where did he get his powers? Though a hero to many, does he have any real moral code? These are but some of the questions that reporter Sundra Peale hopes to have answered. Collecting Nexus #1-3 (Vol. 1., black and white) and Nexus #1-4 (Vol. 2, full color), from Capital Comics.

I'm a big fan of Rude's work on this stuff, but this is kind of overpriced for my interest. I wish that they had a separate book for the B&W magazine run, as I haven't been able to find those and would have been happy to pay $25 - $30 for a handsome hardcover of those.

World-renowned storyteller Stan Sakai treats his readers to an all-out samurai brawl in this issue of Usagi Yojimbo! Fans of the rabbit ronin are well accustomed to Sakai's deft hand with dynamic fight scenes, and this issue gives him plenty to work with-Usagi and Tomoe, captured and forced to work in Lord Sanada's illegal gold mine, lead a slave revolt! But they face Tomoe's murderous cousin, Noriko "the blood princess,"and with her a horde of Sanada's deadly samurai. To make matters worse, the slaves only have shovels and hoes in their battle against lethal steel swords! And in the ensuing chaos, someone will be trapped inside the mine ... find out who in part six of "The Treasure of the Mother of Mountains"!

New Usagi, always good.

by Dave Gibbons
Lel and Bok, two best friends,— want nothing more than to join the Originals, the top gang on the streets. Through them, they'll meet the high-speed world of hover scooters, all-night clubs, and, for Lel, the girl of his dreams in particular. But with the fast life comes tough foes, and tribal loyalty will teach them the unforgettable meaning of unforgivable loss.

Looked like a decent book but not worth the hardcover price. Might pick up this softcover version.

Written by Jerry Siegel, Bill Finger, Don Cameron and others
Art by Joe Shuster, Wayne Boring, Jack Burnley and others
Cover by Shuster
The latest in DC's decade-by-decade celebration of the best stories featuring the Man of Steel collects stories from ACTION COMICS #1, 2, 14, 23, 64, 93, 107, SUPERMAN #1, 23, 40, 53, 58, 61, SUPERBOY #5, the Superman daily newspaper strip, Look magazine and WORLD'S FINEST COMICS #37, covering his 1938 debut through the 1940s!

I've enjoyed the previous volumes in this series, and always like a look at the early Superman stories.

Written by Bob Haney and Gardner Fox
Art by Ramona Fradon, Jack Sparling, Mike Sekowsky and others
Cover by Sal Trapani
This massive black-and-white volume collects all Metamorpho'’s Silver Age adventures, from THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD #57-58, 66, 68, METAMORPHO #1-17, and JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #42! Guest-starring Batman, the Justice League of America, the Metal Men and more!

Wow, what an awful choice for the cover image. Is that just because the "Element Girl" appeared in SANDMAN? Anway, haven't read much of this, but for the price I'm looking forward to it, and it's good to see they've included those various guest-shot stories so it's just about every 1960s Metamorpho story.

by Jack Cole
Another amazing volume of peak-period Plastic Man stories by Cole at his zany best! This volume collects PLASTIC MAN #7-8 and Plastic Man'’s adventures from POLICE COMICS #66-71. Plas and Woozy travel way out West, meet Stretcho the India Rubber Man, visit Hollywood, tail a homicidal hat and more!

On the other hand, that's a great looking cover. I don't really like the DC Archives cover design, I think the best thing I've ever said about it is that it doesn't suck as much as some of Marvel's Masterworks designs, but this is a great use of the original art with this design.

Not sure I'll pick this up right away, but maybe eventually (I've got the first four volumes and like those). I will say at this point they've gotten more than enough restored material for an affordable BEST OF COLE'S PLASTIC MAN volume. Three or four from each volume as a sample, giving a good overview of Cole's long run.


Marvel doing four one-shots featuring some of their old monsters in new stories, plus Kirby reprint back-up in each issue. I might take a look at them, the new material looks like it might be fun, and worth picking up separatel or when they're collected a few months later.

EC - The Vamp! (Craig/Davis)

The Vamp!
art by Johnny Craig & Jack Davis, story by Johnny Craig
Haunt of Fear #10 (1951)

Rather unusual story for EC, with Craig doing pencils on the first four pages, Davis doing the next three, and Davis inking the whole thing. Not sure why, if this was a deadline thing or what, but see here.

It's an odd effect, with the first half very much looking like a looser and more organic version of Craig's usual work, and suddenly much more like Davis, but a bit restrained (presumably trying to keep the art consistent) on the last few pages. Probably not intentional, but it did fit the story which had a lot more action that fit the Davis artwork in the second half.

Pretty standard vampire story, with the requisite beautiful women as a couple go on a European vacation and the husband is seduced by a woman who turns out to be one of the undead. Not a great story, but there are some very nice bits of art throughout.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Barks - The Hypno-Gun

Walt Disney's Comics and Stories #145 - October 1952
W WDC 145-01

More classic Barks fun, this time a Donald Duck story featuring Uncle Scrooge in a supporting role. The nephews play with a toy "hypno-gun", which Donald, in his infinite gullibility, thinks is real and far too dangerous for kids. On his way to throw it out his greed proves even greater than his gullibility, and he tries to use it go get money from Uncle Scrooge, with predictable results.

Donald goes out doing some bill collecting for Scrooge, with a lot more hypnotic episodes. Lots of neat stuff from Barks in this one, I especially liked how it shows off his skills with facial expressions for the Ducks, with a lot of emotions, plus Donald acting like a gopher and a gorilla, really developing them well from their animation roots.

AGE OF BRONZE by Eric Shanower

by Eric Shanower

Back in 1998, when Eric Shanower started his series chronicling the history of the Trojan War, I took a look but decided not to follow the book. I liked Shanower's work in general, and the look of this book in particular, but I thought it read a bit slow and would read better as a collection. Also, at the time, there were a number of ambitious comic book projects that I started reading and which seemed to fall victim to market conditions within a few issues, and expected AGE OF BRONZE to follow that example.

I'm glad to say I was right about how it reads in collections and wrong about how long it would last. Shanower has managed to get two full books of material finished and released (collecting the first 19 issues), and while there are five more books to go, realistically at least 15 years, I wouldn't bet against him at this point. I read the two books over the past week, and was really impressed.

As mentioned above, this is Shanower's detailed retelling of the events of the Trojan War in Greek myth. He's decided to take the angle of ignoring the traditional role of the gods in the story (with the exception of having some of the prophecies that informed certain actions still existing, although sometimes represented as self-serving frauds, and the key judgment of Paris sequence being a dream). It can be a bit of an odd read at times, as my knowledge of the traditional Greek myths is a bit of a hodge-podge, coming from some children's books I read long ago (where they generally took out any of the violent and sexual stuff, which doesn't leave much) and comics by Jack Kirby, Eddie Campbell and George Perez, where the emphasis was of course always on the gods and with a super-hero filter. This seems to be a much more satisfying version than any of those, with human motivations, plotting and foibles more than making up for the lack of gods.

Of course Shanower's art was great, I expected that from some of his previous work, but this was a leap beyond anything he did before, beautifully rendered and researched figures and costumes and backgrounds. You can tell there's a lot of passion behind what he's doing, creating a fully consistent and realistic world for the characters to act in, and you can also tell he's inspired by some fine comic illustrators of the past in doing so.

It was good to see the writing up to the same level. While I thought the first few issues were a little slow, Shanower quickly got up to speed. He's taking the long way around in telling this story, and there are a lot of characters, each who have to have their motivations and inter-relationships explained, so this is far more complex than the usual "Paris kidnapped Helen, so the Greeks built a big horse" version of the Trojan war. The first issue only gets up to the initial gathering of the "thousand ships", and the second not much further by the usual quick re-tellings, to the first real launching against Troy, but that's several years, and he really makes you feel those years, and within that he tells a lot of small stories, fleshes out a lot of characters and makes the story come alive. It's a very dense read, and it rewards paying close attention (fortunately each volume has a map at the front and a glossary of names and family trees for the two main groups for easy reference. I found myself going to those a lot).

Well worth picking up the two current volumes of this, and I look forward to reading the full seven volumes when it's completed however many years from now.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

My Collection - POWER PACK [1984 Series]

Power Pack [1984 series]
43 issues [1984 - 1989]
1 - 40, 47 - 48, 50

POWER PACK was a Fairly long-running child super-hero book from Marvel, created by Louise Simonson and June Brigman, featuring the four young Power siblings who gain super-powers (and a ship) from an alien horse and use them in a variety of adventures, including many battles against the lizard-like alien Snarks. It lasted to #62, and has been revived a few times since.

I didn't start reading the book until around the time that it was cancelled, when I heard some good things about the early run from some people (and heard the actual issues being released then weren't so good). Back issues were pretty cheap, so I picked up the first half-dozen, liked them, and kept going forward. Got as far as #40, at that point it wasnt quite as good, and I couldn't find some of the following issues as easily or cheaply, and Brigman wasn't drawing any more and Simonson was only occasionally writing, so I didn't make too much of an effort to pick them up. I suppose at some point I'll pick up the seven issues I need to have it complete up to #50 and maybe a few after (looking at the credits on the GCD it looks like I can go up to #55 safely). While the issues in that run aren't as good as the early stuff, they seem pretty good on an objective measure.

Surprisingly, one of the things I liked most about the book was its frequent use of the rest of the Marvel universe in the stories. Normally a series with a unique voice is ruined by excessive guest-stars and crossovers, but in this series there was a great sense of wonder about the kids discovering their powers and the greater super-hero world around them that it opened up. Simonson also showed more of an understanding of the fundamentals of the Marvel universe than most writers, and it was great to get her take on characters like Spider-Man, if only for a few pages at a time. I also thought the addition of Franklin Richards as a recurring cast member was inspired. A few times the guests were tied in to other storylines I know (or care) nothing about, but Simonson did a better than average job of not letting that get in the way of the main story.

Recommended issues, anything from the first dozen issues. A great origin story to open, some Spider-Man, Dragon-Man, great art by Brigman with a few solid fill-ins by Brent Anderson. Doubt we'll ever see it, but that would make a nice solid 300-page collection or two digest sized volumes.
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