Friday, August 31, 2012

Friday Night Fights--Freaky Friday Style!!

You know what we need more of for Friday Night Fights??

Body-switch fights!!!


This is kind of confusing, so follow closely: due to indecipherable magical shenanigans, Johnny Blaze's mind/astral self/whatever has been cast out of the Ghost Rider body, and placed in Doctor Strange's body!!

Meanwhile, inside the unnamed demon (they hadn't come up with this Zarathos stuff yet), Strange's astral self and the Dread Dormammu (as opposed to the Dredd Dormammu, and now I've got the best crossover in the history of man unfurling in my mind...) struggle for control of the body:

How's that working out for you, Johnny?

But the internal battle is distracting the demon a bit...



This one is for the ladies!!!


SOKK!!! Face of bone--meet fists of stone!!

Spacebooger can't help but picture this scene with Nic both roles!!

Roger McKenzie (script), Don Perlin (co-plot & art) and Bob Layton (inks) understand the appeal of a shirtless Dr. Strange in a mystical body-switch battle in Ghost Rider #31 (1978)

Now is the time for you to go and vote for me. Why? Come on--shirtless Doctor Strange!! Need I say more?? So go vote!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

They've Stolen My Life!!

You know, the more I see of Popeye's Pappy, the more stories I read with him...

The more certain I am that he is based on me.

TMI, right?

From this week's Popeye #4

Just when You Thought It Was Safe To Go Back Into The Comic Shop...

This ad appeared in a number of Marvel titles yesterday:

Come again?

Seriously, Marvel? The climax of AvX, the grand finale of the series "everything has been building to for ten years," the biggest event in the history of mankind...

...and the best you can do is crib the tagline from Highlander?

(Of course, they've already cribbed the plot from Highlander and Rising Stars, so why not, right?)

What's next? Will future Marvel events be advertised "In Space No One Can Here You Scream"??

Maybe "This Time It's Personal"?? "You'll Believe A Man Can Fly"?!? "Life Is Like A Box Of Chocolates"?!?

C'mon, Marvel...that's just plain embarrassing in its laziness.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Still, It *Was* Better Than A Jeff Dunham Show...


If there is one simple rule in the world of early-20th-century Bavarian puppet-making, it's this:

No, fool, you were warned not to, but you do it anyway? Are you mental?

So, there was nothing "ominous" about it before, when your great-grandfather hid it and left you warnings of a "horrible fate"...but NOW it's ominous?? Talk about closing the barn door after the horses get out...

Next: the truest caption ever...

That is an awesome sight, dude!

Oh, wait, the son actually fled rather than help his father out? He left him to die?!?


Sigh...if only he had listened...

Still, if it only took one old man to take it out, pretty ineffectual devil puppet!!

So remember, and remember well--when you've been warned not to put together the devil puppet...DON'T PUT TOGETHER THE DAMNED DEVIL PUPPET!!

And kids, listen to your great-grandparents superstitious warnings...or you'll die!!!!

From The Hand Of Fate #16 (1953)

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

One Year later, Stuck On Earth-Q

It strikes me, as we approach the final two single issues of the first year of the nu52 (both written by Geoff Johns, both late...maybe we should stop blaming the artists?), one thought strikes me: Geoff Johns is the last person who should be in charge of universe-building.

That's not to say he's a bad writer. And that's not an attack on any of his predilections for ultra-violence, overuse of splash pages, and glacially-paced stories. That's more a matter of taste, and it sure doesn't seem to stop his books from selling.

No, the problem is, Johns is the wrong person for universe-building because he seems not to care one whit for what's actually going on in the shared fictional universe. He's just not interested in the project.

And now that a second Justice League title, Justice League Of America (ooh, how creative) has been announced, this first anniversary is an appropriate time to look at how JL fails at its stated task.

When DC announced JL as the lead-off title of the nu52, they said it was going to be the lynchpin of the new, rebooted universe. Written by DC's Chief Creative Officer, and drawn by DC's Co-Publisher, it was widely expected that this book was going to be integral to the new post-Flushpoint DC Universe.

Except, of course, the first 6 issues were going to be set five years in the past. Well, OK, fine. That seems a funny way to set up a new universe, but fine.

But as the title continued, the story and characters continued to be completely isolated from the rest of the nu52. I ask this only semi-rhetorically: has anything that has happened in the pages of Justice League been referred to in any of the solo titles of the teams' members? Or vice versa?

Don't get me wrong--I'm not talking about niggling miniscule continuity points like "how can Flash be in this story when in his own mag he's..." (Although, I must admit that I would really love to see Geoff Johns explain how Hal Jordan's current escapades in his own mag allow him time to participate in JL's adventures).

But somewhere, somehow, shouldn't there be some acknowledgement over how the heroes' experience with the JL impacts their lives, their own adventures? And, of course, vice versa? Some tiny sense that these are the same characters who are appearing in other DC titles? That this is a shared universe, and not loosely connected fan fictions?

Take, for example, Wonder Woman. In Justice League, Johns has given us a lot of hints and teases about how Steve Trevor met Diana, how they had a relationship but it failed, Etta Candy, etc. The only problem with that? Not one single syllable of that has appeared in Wonder Woman's own comic. Meanwhile, in her own comic, Diana has faced a year-long quest against (some of) the gods, discovered her origin was a lie, found out some unsavory truths about the Amazons, died, almost married Hades...and yet again, not one nano-particle of this was deemed worthy of mention in JL. It's as if they're supposed to be two different characters.

If it were just Wonder Woman, we could dismiss it as just another DC writer who didn't get Diana--hardly a unique problem. But it's all the other characters, too.

Superman and Batman surprise the rest of the JL by announcing that they've been working together on cases outside the League. Of course, not a scintilla of a hint of that in any of their books. In JL, Batman badmouths the JLI, and demands they be disbanded, while in JLI itself, Batman works with the team, praises them, encourages them, and even funds them! In his own mag, Flash has made discoveries about the nature of the Speed Force that might limit the use of his powers, and Barry Allen is believed dead; in JL, not a mention, as the character remains just a comic foil for Green Lantern. (And nothing the other way, either. As cops and the press in Central City rail against the Flash, not a line about his famous public allies also drawing ire...)

And speaking of Hal, JL has seen not a mention of Sinestro, or Hal's ring not being his own, or color wars, or...nope, Hal is just the team's mouthy clown boy, Hawkeye with a ring.

So when Johns says the new Kal-El/Wonder Woman hook-up will have "seismic" effects on rest of the DCU, based on what we've seen so far, it's 50/50 that the romance won't even be mentioned outside of Justice League, even in their own books.

In and of itself, none of this is wrong. If Johns and Jim Lee want to present the Justice League as some sort of ur-version of all of these heroes, not tied to anything else, that's fine. Grant Morrison did that, and yet, even though he's got a reputation of not playing well with others' continuities, he didn't ignore Electric Blue Superman, for example.

But the series was presented to the public as the focus of the all-new, all-different DCU, and even though two of the top dogs are in charge of the far, it bears so little resemblance to that universe it might as well be set on Earth-Q. There's zero evidence Johns & Lee have even read any of the other nu52 titles, or that they care about consistency in the universe.

Again, there's nothing inherently wrong with that--Justice League titles have often been not too tightly tied to the rest of the shared universe. It's just odd that DC's most popular writer, the one they promoted to push their universe, seems to be so little interested in that universe...

Now Johns is leaving Aquaman to write Justice League Of America. If things run to form, fans of Green Arrow, Katana, Martian Manhunter, the new Green Lantern, Stargirl, Vibe, Hawkman and Catwoman need not worry about missing anything that impacts their favorites characters--Johns will be writing different, Earth-Q versions of those characters.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Manic Monday Triple Overtime--Don't You Just Want To Punch This Guy?

The Phantom Stranger is one of my least favorite characters--smug, preachy, whiny, and either completely worthless in a conflict or deus-ex-machina-pull-a-rabbit-out-of-his-cape insanely powerful when the story called for it.

Depending on how you look at things, he was probably sorta kinda based (maybe) on The Mysterious Traveler, a character who originated as the omniscient narrator star of his self-titled 1943-1953 radio series. He had a one-shot comic published in 1948, and a digest-sized pulp magazine in 1951-52. Then Charlton published a comic from 1956-1959.

Phantom Stranger, meanwhile, had six issues in 1952, and then was revived by DC in 1969.

Obviously, they bear a lot of similarities, including dress, and occasional omniscient narrator over horror anthologies positions. Given the overlapping dates, it could be a Man-Thing/Swamp Thing situation.

Still, Mysterious Traveler was much less annoying, much more tolerable, and...

Never mind. I want to kick his smug ass, too.

From Tales Of The Mysterious Traveler #5 (1957)

Manic Monday Double Secret Bonus--New York? Sounds More like Los Angeles...

The Mysterious Traveler tells us all about New York City...

Wait just one darned second!! Rewind, Cambot:

"It is not strange even to see a hobo with his own servant"?!?

Dude, even hobo Namor didn't have his own servant!!

Still, there may be the potential for a new series here...Hobo Manservant!! See Jarvis care for Tony Stark one of the many times when he's in the gutter. See Alfred fetch tea for Bruce Wayne after Bane steals his fortune!! See Kato kick the crap out of some college kids who want to give a tough time to down-on-his-luck Britt Reid!!

Someone get on this idea immediately, please...

From Tales of The Mysterious Traveler #4 (1957)

Manic Monday Bonus--This Happens More Often Than You Might Think!

It never're busy doing scientific/magical experiments in your spooky castle, when:

This was the 1950s version of the Nigerian email scam, methinks...

From Monster #1 (1953)

Manic Moday--Comic Memes That Give snell High Blood Pressure

So, in Tales of The Mysterious Traveler #4 (1957), young Ainsworth has gone stir crazy at his posting in a "desolate weather station" near the North Pole.

Ainsworth cold cocks his admiral and deserts, but is blocked while fleeing by...

Well, he has to turn back, and...

Wait a minute...that's not how mirages work!!

So let's continue to Tales Of The Mysterious Traveler #5, wherein the evil Sultan of a tiny desert republic with no oil gets lost in the desert, and...


Stay tuned for more examples of "That's Not How Mirages Work" on "Comics That Give snell High Blood Pressure Theater"...

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Who's On First?

The next issue blurb at the end of Ghost Rider #16 (1976):

The sad fact is, given the state of Ghost Rider assignments in those days, I'm sure they actually didn't know.

Despite being mostly bi-monthly; despite trying to (gradually, eventually) tone down the supernatural (or at least satanic) elements; despite efforts to make him more of a super-hero, including having him join the Champions and having many a Marvel mainstay guest-star...despite all that, Marvel could not get a creative team to stick on this book to save their lives, at least for first few years. Creators changed so often on the title, it made a revolving door dizzy!

Our creative line-ups:

#1 Gary Friedrich and Tom Sutton
#2-#4 Friedrich and Jim actual regular team, perhaps?
#5 Marv Wolfman (plot) Doug Moench script and Mooney.
#6 Friedrich & Tony Isabella and Mooney
#7-#9 Isabella and Mooney. At last, stability!?!
#10 Lousy stinking reprint of Marvel Spotlight #5 (Friedrich and Ploog)
#11 Isabella and Sal Buscema
#12 Isabella & Frank Robbins, art by Frank Robbins
#13-#14 Isabella and George Tuska
#15 Isabella and Bob Brown
#16 Bill Mantlo and Tuska (this is where we came in!)
#17-#18 Isabella and Robbins
#19 Isabella ("with scripting assist by Jim Shooter") and Robbins
#20 Marv Wolfman and John Byrne (this was the second half of a crossover with Daredevil by the same team...)
#21 Marvel proudly announced the new "regular" team of Gerry Conway and Gil Kane
#22 Conway (plot) Don Glut (script) and Don Heck
#23 Conway (plot) Shooter (script) and Heck
#24-#25 Shooter and Heck
#26-#27 Shooter and Don Perlin

That's pretty impressive. 27 issues in, more than 4 years of publication, and never more than 3 issues by the same creative team? This makes the nu52 look stable. At times it looks as if Marvel was grabbing anybody walking through the Bullpen that day and making them do an issue. One has to wonder what the problem was...

Things got considerably more stable after that. #28-#34 were all by Roger McKenzie and Perlin (with Perlin getting an occasional co-plot credit). #35 was a fill-in by Jim Starlin (featuring Johnny Blaze in a motorcycle race with Death, because, well, Starlin).

Then, finally, came the period of stability. Michael Fleischer and Perlin did #36-#60, except for a two-issue guest art appearance by Carmine Infantino. Fleischer continued writing through #66, with various guest artists. Then Roger Stern and JM Dematteis seemed to take turns, with DeMatteis finishing off Skull-Face's run in #81...Perlin and Bob Budiansky were artists for most of that period.

Why so much trouble in the early days, though? And, if was so tough to keep a team on-board, and the sales only justified bi-monthly, why did Marvel stick with the character for so long?

Sadly, there was no Twitter back then, so the stories and bitter recriminations aren't for public consumption. Perhaps no one could find a handle on the character, particularly given his explicit supernatural and religious origins. Perhaps there were massive behind-the-scenes battles with editorial that led to people being moved on and off the title.

Then again, Bill Mantlo had him fighting a shark (and rescued by dolphins!!) in #16, so someone knew what they were doing!!

Saturday, August 25, 2012


Back in April of 1987, there was a great disturbance in the Force, as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced:

What, the last issue of Betty And Veronica?? Ohs, nos, how can the Republic survive?

Unless, of course, by the "...Or Is It?" they mean...

Yup, the very next month, Betty And Veronica was reborn, with a brand new #1 issue. And the Republic survived.

I bring this up because lately I've seen much gnashing of teeth and angst over the fact that Marvel is "re-launching" a number of titles under the Marvel NOW! initiative, with lots and lots of "new" #1 issues.

Now, don't get me wrong--I think re-numbering most of your titles is silly, and annoying. But we also tend to forget--it's nothing new.

Most of our comic book issues numbers are just arbitrary, made up constructs, anyway. Remember, for example, that modern Captain America never started with a #1:

Yup, Cap started with #100, taking over the numbering from Tales Of Suspense. The Incredible Hulk? Started with number 1, cancelled after 6 issues, eventually started appearing in Tales To Astonish (#60), and took over the title with #102. Thor? Started in Journey Into Mystery #83, and just changed the title with issue #126.

So when all of those magazines celebrated huge "anniversary" numbers, it was kind of a lie, a ridiculous creative accounting trick. These guys never had originals #1s, but Marvel wanted round number anniversaries, and they were going to get them! Cap had never had 600 issues--they counted all the issues of Tales Of Suspense that came before Cap started appearing there? Ditto for Hulk #600 and Thor #600.

So the numbers folks are worried about resetting? They were never real to begin with.

There never really was a "golden age" of numbering. The fact that people were upset about the nu52 resetting Action and Detective to #1 shows that...because those were the only two titles in the industry that had never been reset. Everyone else? Long since past the point of no return.

How many volumes has Aquaman had? Green Lantern? Marvel's Heroes Reborn/Heroes Return/Heroes Warn Marvel Not To Do That Again?

Now, I'm on record that comic book issue numbers are not all that important, and in fact should be dropped. Let's face it, whatever problems the nu52 has (or Marvel NOW! will have), issue numbers as a factor are so low on the list, it's not funny.

Besides, we all need some perspective, because as I mentioned, numbering (and titles) in the industry have always been ridiculously arbitrary.

Example: in 1941, Ace Comics started Four Favorites as a super-hero title...

...before switching over to an all-humor format in 1947...

...but then for #33 they changed the name and title and format...

...but that was only for one issue, and then they sort of returned, with as new title, in #34...

...whilst Crime Must Pay The Penalty was reborn, and it's "first" issue was #2:

Trust me...that is one of the least complicated examples from the Golden Age. So the crying of Herc/Hulk or Thor/Journey Into Mystery? Brother, your great-grandparents wish they had it so good.

So a bunch of renumbering? Nothing new for the comics industry. Relax, and focus on the insides, not the numbers.