Saturday, October 31, 2009

Look, Kids--Comics!!

Too many punchlines for this image, so I'll let you come up with your own:

Oh, all right, here's one: "Celebrate the Silver Age!! Coming soon to a JMS-written Brave & the Bold near you."

Happy Halloween.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Friday Night Fights--Machine Vs. Monster Style!!

The Hulk has been manipulated into beating the living crap out of Machine Man...and frankly, Machine Man is getting a little bit tired of it.

FACT: Sal Buscema always drew his heroes kicking so hard, the kickee's face disappeared. Even Hulk's.

FACT 2: Spacebooger can kick even harder.

FACT 3: This kickage was brought to you by Roger Stern, Sal Buscema and Mike Esposito in Incredible Hulk #236 (1979).

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Why Wendell Vaughn Changed His Name To Quasar

Back in the day, rookie S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Wendell Vaughn was given the quantum bands and uniform of the person everybody thought was the deceased 1950's hero Marvel Boy (it wasn't, he was The Crusader, an insane and surgically altered Uranian Eternal...sigh, retcons make everything so confusing...). He took the name Marvel Boy, and, since he was an actual grown-up, soon changed it to Marvel Man.

So why did he change it? Well, it started when the Hulk knocked him for a loop...

And he landed on his hinder several miles away...

...and the reception he got was...somewhat lacking:

That's right...people loitering in front of a comic book shop thought Marvel Man was a dopey name...even the hot chicks laughed at him. And if you're dissed by comics fans AND hot chicks, well, a new nom de guerre is called for.

So he promptly changed his name to Quasar. And that's why, to this day, even copyright conscious Marvel never has and never will publish a character with a dopey name like Marvel Man. It would just be too silly!!

Uhh...never mind.

Roger Stern, Sal Buscema and Chic Stone editorialize on superhero names in Incredible Hulk #233 (1979).

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Saw VII??

Get ready to recoil in fear...never have you seen such out and out terrifying images. Hide the children and brace yourself for this Halloween week shocker:

Aaaghhh....look at the unbridled fear on those faces!! The rigid bodies, obviously in pain!! What insane torture these poor youngsters must be going through!! Prepare to be scarified even further as we zoom in:

AAAIIIEEEEE!!! What pain!! What agony....

Oh, wait...they're supposed to be smiling? And happy??

Really?? And Joker venom's not involved?!?

You know, I was tempted to blame the grimaces of agony really uncomfortable looking smiles on the fact that Gary Frank is trying to (being made to?) draw Christopher Reeve's face on a teenager's body. But if that's true...

...than who's making him draw Saturn Girl with the face of Number 6 from Battlestar Galactica? Imra is a skin job??

Gary Frank, you really need to learn how to draw happy people...

(P.S. Dear Geoff Johns, if you're going to jump through ridiculous hoops to restore Superboy's original backstory AND restore the original Legion of Super-Heroes, than why in Rao's name do you dump the "fake initiation test" plot?? Why go to such lengths to restore the pre-Crisis status quo if you're just going to ignore what actually happened in the pre-Crisis status quo???)

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Ant, Or The Grasshopper??

A modest proposal:

Many of you out there aren't old enough to remember the concept of a "skip week."

You see, with 12 months--but 52 weeks--in a year, you've got 4 "extra" weeks in the year. And back in the day, when the Big Two were all there was, and they published fewer titles, and they cared about maintaining their schedules, they basically took those weeks off--"skip weeks"--in order to put out only 12 monthly issues per year, rather than 13. Nothing (well, virtually nothing) came out during those skip weeks. So, 4 times a year, no comics (although Marvel & DC didn't always use the same weeks as skip the blow was lessened).

In more recent times, though, "skip weeks" have become extinct, obsolete. More companies releasing stuff, the Big Two publishing far more titles and mini-series and specials, more and more books being late...there seems to be always enough to publish, eliminating the need for the dreaded skip weeks.

Ah, but this year, it's back. Due to the way the holidays fall, Diamond will not be shipping any books for December 30, the week between Xmas and New Years. No books. Nada.

Which is quite a pain in the hinder.. it's a week many people have off from work and pockets full of gift certificates, so it would seem to be a prime week for people to hit their local comic shoppes for new goodies. Sorry, not this year. No new books for you!!

(There have been rumors online that Diamond will ship Blackest Night #6 the week of 12/23, but "ask" retailers not to put it out for sale until 12/30, so there would be a "big" new title to draw people into the stores. A noble idea, if true, but it seems destined for failure, as once one store breaks the embargo--even accidentally--the floodgates will be open.)

So here is my modest proposal: Save one comic a week.

Counting tomorrow, there are 9 Wednesdays before the dreaded skip week. So, if you set aside just one of your purchased new comics each week between now and then, you'll have a stack of 9 new, unread comics to read that holiday week. A little nest egg to soften the blow from the dreaded skip week. Delay the self-gratification, and set aside a little Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanzaa present for yourself.

Of course, every person will doubtless choose a different comic to save for themselves each week...which means that any and every comic over the next 9 weeks will be unread by someone out there. So, in order to avoid spoilers, no one should comment on any new comics, or write any reviews, or kvetch about anything Bendis has done, until December 30th. Total new comic blackout in the blogosphere...just write about old comics, or Smallville, or Rickroll folks for the next nine weeks. Anything except new comics, because if we do write about new comics, we'll be spoiling someone's Christmas!! new comic per week, set it aside. Together, we can take the skip out of skip week!!

[Editor's note: Due to a necessary impurity in his brain, snell has no intention of going along with this mad scheme. He talks ant, but man, he's 100% grasshopper...]

Monday, October 26, 2009

Manic Monday--The Savage Curtain

Gentleman and ladies--presenting the world's first ever comic book adaptation of the classic Star Trek episode, The Savage Curtain:

Oh. No it's not. Sorry.

But you can see my confusion, as the splash page seems to promise us Abraham Lincoln vs. Genghis Khan, as we have rival armies of famous dead people in a zombie battle of good versus evil.

Sadly, this is just one of those darned symbolic splash pages, and a number of those pictured heroes and villains never actually appear in the story. Fortunately, we get one of those panels that can only appear in a Kid Eternity story: Will Rogers vs. Torquemada:

The Spanish Inquisition never expected Will Rogers!!

You know what's especially cool? Master Man works for Satan, and can summon evil dead dudes from Hell, and wears a skull on his chest...but just in case we weren't sure that he was evil...

...they had to show him smoking a cigarette. Evil bastard!!

Oh, and Master Man's magic word to summon people is "Stygia."

Originally from Kid Eternity #15 (1949), as reprinted in Wanted, The World's Most Dangerous Villains #4 (1972).

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Play Ball!!

As the World Series approaches, we should probably remind ourselves why Two-Face should never be allowed to play center field:

Similarly, we should acknowledge that Poison Ivy definitely should be allowed to play second base:

OK, so whom are the Arkhamites playing in softball?

You see, after Bane destroyed Arkham Asylum, they had to keep the inmates in Blackgate prison, and the two populations weren't getting along, and...oh, it made a lot more sense back in Showcase '94 #4, by Alan Grant and Tim Sale. And they really should have used that in the video game...

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Oh, THAT Silver Age...

Yesterday at DC's The Source blog, Joey Cavalieri was singing the praises of J. Michael Straczynski's run on The Brave And The Bold. In doing so, he writes:

If you love these Silver Age characters, JMS will remind you why you do! If you never did, or you’ve never heard of them, these new stories will show you why people still talk about them…and why they endure!

Well, sure. I was glad to be reminded that I loved Dial H for Hero because Robby Reed would be a total coward and deliberately allow someone else to die in his place. A true Silver Age story would never have a hero figure out how to "cheat" fate, or, you know, act like a hero.

And hey, we all fondly remember that we loved Blackhawk so much for all the stories that never, ever even show a single drawing of a plane, let alone showing any flying or feats of daring-do.

And of course, Barry Allen's Flash endured because of all the stories where he wasn't able to run at all, and instead moped around about whether it was right to pick up a gun and kill people. Because Silver Age Barry Allen never, ever used super-speed tricks to incapacitate villains, and allied soldiers only killed Nazis, never took them prisoner after rendering them unconscious.

(Uhhh...and how is Barry Allen operating in WWII Europe without falling under the influence of the Spear of Destiny?? Just asking...)

Yup, JMS has really captured the essence of the Silver Age, all was all dour, depressing, navel-gazing!! How foolish of me to forget...

One thing they do get right: by showing the Flash running and the Blackhawks flying, this cover fits very well in the Silver Age tradition of DC covers blatantly lying about what happens on the inside...

Friday, October 23, 2009

Friday Night Fights--Anbo-Jytsu Style!!

In the future, you see, sports will be really crazy. And not just Rollerball-crazy:

Aeroball, brought to by England, inventor of such exciting sports Ummm, snooker? Action-packed golf!! All supplanted in 2050 by...Aeroball!!

And today is the Big Game!! That's right, it's the Harlem Heroes vs. the Greek City Gladiators in the preliminary round of the World Aeroball Championship!!
And how does your typical Aeroball game go?? A little something like this:

Seriously, any sport that features 80mph kung fu drop kicks is all right with me, and all right with Spacebooger, too!!

From 2000 A.D. #1 (1977), written by Tom Tully and Pat Mills, drawn by Dave Gibbons.

BONUS: Why are "future sports" on sci-fi comics/shows always so lame? For anyone who wants to see the true sport of the future, and "the ultimate evolution of the martial arts," view below...

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Civics Lesson

From this week's Dork Avengers #10:


A) There's this little thing called separation of powers, and it would be a congressional committee that controls funding. Unless, of course, Norman Osborn has disbanded congress or something.

B) Even if some executive department "committee" controlled the funding for paramilitary organizations like H.A.M.M.E.R., you wouldn't think the secretary of state would be the one to control it...much more likely to be the defense secretary or the director of NSA, right? H.A.M.M.E.R. is hardly a diplomatic agency...

C) If, as Spider-Man tells us, Obama is president, than shouldn't the secretary of state be a "she," and not a "he?" Or is Obama not actually canon? Or did the Earth-616 Obama choose someone else?

Of course, knowing the Marvel universe these days, Phillip Masters or the Purple Man or the Ringmaster is secretary of state these days, and Osborn means it very literally when he says he "controls" the committee...Hey, in a world where the Red Skull can become U.S. defense secretary (Dell Rusk...grrrr), or Tony Stark, I guess anything is possible.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

JLA #102 Has Bugged Me For 35 Years

As you may have been able to tell from my recent run of posts, I stumbled upon a quarter bin treasure trove of Silver Age DC last week. And amongst the things I found was this:

Justice League Of America #102 (1972) was one of the first comics I ever read. It wasn't belonged to my neighbor. This was before I was into buying new comics...we would just go over to each others' crib and read the others comics obtained from Grandma, garage sales, or who knows where. (Note: this usually took place at his house, because his family had cable, whereas mine did not)

And for some reason, his copy of JLA #102 was one I re-read every single time. Something about it just fascinated the heck out of young snell. And something about the story bugged the living heck out of me.

It probably wasn't the ideal starting place for someone unversed in DC Silver Age. It was the third part of a three-parter; it starred the Justice League (them I knew from the cartoon!), the Justice Society (who dat?), AND the Seven Soldiers Of Victory (tawubba who?). It involved dozens of characters I'd never heard of, had a mostly incomprehensible plot if you hadn't read the previous 2 issues (and probably still would have been incomprehensible, even if I had read them), multiple earths, time travel, the lamest villain ever, the resolution of the story taking place entirely off-screen, two heroes dying (although one of them got better 3 issues later...)...People who say modern comics are too complex to be welcoming to new readers should go back and read this issue...

The background of the story was all told (in the other issues) in flashback: Evil villain Iron Hand, arch-enemy of the Seven Soldiers, created the Nebula Man to attack them. They managed to defeat him, but at the costs of one of their lives, and the rest were scattered through space and time (The preceding has been wiped out/altered both by Crisis I and Grant Morrison's Seven Soldiers) .

Meanwhile, Iron Hand managed to use some of the leftover "nebuloid energy" to create a...well, a giant hand that was going to crush Earth-2:

So the JLA and the JLA had to break up into smaller teams and go cavorting through time to find the Seven Six Soldiers, so they can rebuild the weapon that destroyed the Nebula Man, and use it to take out the giant hand.

I told you it was complicated. But that's not what bugged me for 35 years.

When Green Arrow, Black Canary, and Johnny Thunder go back to the Old West to rescue Vigilante, I received my first exposure snell's Third Law Of Comic Writing:

The more powerful your character, the STUPIDER the obstacles you have to create to keep him from being solving the dilemma in one panel. See any season of Heroes for further details.

Seriously, the hiccups?? That prevent him from saying two syllables--when he clearly CAN say that much already?? Because a dude with a magic genie who can do anything should have had everything wrapped up in the first issue, so how do you prevent that? Give him the hiccups. Sheesh...Still, that's not the thing that's been bugging me for 35 years.

The second example of snell's Third Law is when Aquaman, Green Lantern and Wildcat go to caveman times to rescue The Star-Spangled Kid:

Ah, of course, yellow fog. The greatest of the Green Lanterns, wielder of the "most powerful weapon in the universe," and he's beaten by moisture in the air. Still, that's not the thing that's been bugging me for 35 years.

Bonus: Wildcat beating the crap out of a 10-foot tall caveman:

No wonder I thought this was a cool story...

When Flash, Zatanna and Red Tornado end up in ancient Greece hunting for Speedy, Circe the sorceress puts a crimp in their plans:

OK, that's really cool, too--especially when Circe commands them to battle to the death:

Man, a half-snail guy and a half-mole dude having a super-speed slap wonder I love comics.

OK, enough dilly-dallying. It's time to get to the thing that's bothered me for 35 years. After all of the Seven Soldiers are all rescued (it was Crimson Avenger's sidekick Wing who died; as we was not an "official" member of the Seven, and a minority character to boot, he was expendable, I guess...), it's time to build our super-weapon and imbue it "with the awesome energies of the universe!"

But, there's one little hitch:

Upon which announcement, our heroes squabble over who can make the run, with rebuttals on why they wouldn't survive.

Hmmm, OK, I suppose "the awesome energies of the universe" might include some magic in there, so Superman would be vulnerable. It's kind of silly, but hey, snell's Third Law and all. Who else we got?!?

The Green Lanterns both volunteer:

And now here's the part that has bothered me for 35 years:

Green Arrow, what the HELL are you talking about?? Are you threatening to shoot Hal and Alan if they go?

(By the way, it's nice to see that Ollie was 30 years ahead of Batman in the "developing weapons to take down my fellow heroes" planning...)

The Nebula-Rod isn't yellow, and it isn't made of wood...neither is the giant hand that's but moments away from squishing how is your little observation at all relevant, unless you're planning to shoot them. Why? WTF?!?!

I tried...and tried...and tried to wrap my little 8-year old mind around that panel. It looks like the GLs could survive...why prevent them?? Why???

I know Ollie's "characterization" is those days of JLA was just to have him reflexively oppose anything anyone ever said (which, to me, made him intensely unlikeable) was that the deal, that to anybody who volunteered, he'd say "I have an arrow made of kryptonite and hiccup powder--a combination of both your weaknesses!"???

Was he (irrationally) determined to keep them from risking their lives? Why? Was he willing to let Earth-2 die just to keep them from dying??!? I don't get it!!!!

Seriously, that one panel has been stuck in my craw for decades now. Damn you, Len Wein, damn you!!!!! Why is Green Arrow threatening the Lanterns?!?!?!?!?!?!?!

Oh, yeah, the plot...while the heroes were busy disqualifying each other from being heroic, Red Tornado took the Nebula-Rod and sacrificed himself to save everybody. Off-screen. The End. (Except, of course, he would be back in three issues. And destroyed again. And again. And again...)

So no lesson or moral here. Just an off-hand odd comic book bit that still hurts my brain three and a half decades later.

Oh, there is one lesson, I guess: never turn your back on Green Arrow!!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Early Release Program

You ever wonder why comic book prisons are such a revolving door for evildoers?

Maybe, just maybe, it's because the wardens are stupider than Jupiter:

Yes, you're going to let Toyman make toys. That'll work out just fine...what could possibly go wrong?

Seriously, how does this warden keep his job?

I'll bet he let Sam Scudder work with mirrors in his cell, too....

DC Special #14 (1971), reprinting Superman #47 (1947).

Monday, October 19, 2009

Manic Monday--Hal Jordan Mark II

I hate it when I'm right.

From a post back in July:
Anyway, I note that, despite transforming himself into the Monarch, murdering hundreds of heroes across the multiverse, conquering dozens of worlds and killing millions, and wiping the entire population of Earth-51's universe (not just the Earth--THE ENTIRE UNIVERSE), Captain Atom is now apparently back. As a good guy. With no explanation, no punishment, no guilt or remorse. Once again DC would have it that one of their heroes can be a genocidal monster, but it's OK if they had their fingers crossed. DC--where the only difference between good and ultimate evil apparently is just how you feel when you roll out of bed that day. End of rant.

Well, in last week's Action Comics #882, Captain Atom started to remember some of the events of his time as Monarch. And his reaction?

"I guess what I truly am is a good man who's done bad things."

Sure. A good man who murdered quadrillions of people, but good nonetheless. He wanted to destroy the entire multiverse, he killed hundreds of heroes. He made Darkseid look like an amateur, but he's just a "good man who's done bad things."

What a load of horse hockey.

Next month, no doubt we'll find that Atom was possessed by the color mauve, or some such tripe. And he'll go back to being a hero, and join the Justice League, and no one will ever say, "Hey, didn't you murder all 51 of the other Captain Atoms? What was up with that?"

DC: where great power means NO responsibility whatsoever.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Cartoony Is Bad In A Comic Book??

So we know that Silver Age DC really hated their readers. But you know who else they hated? Their artists.

Remember, this is the same company that was eager to bring over Jack Kirby, but then insisted on having some other artist redraw Superman's face in The King's comics. Heaven forbid he get too far "off model."

But I never suspected it could get this bad.

From Four Star Spectacular #1 (1976):

What, you're's just an adventure of the Golden Age Flash. Ah, but wait for the inevitable zoom-in:

"Too far below modern standards to reprint that tale as it was."

What. The. Hell.

At least it's an anonymous insult, as editor E. Nelson Bridwell doesn't even bother to mention the poor, sub-standard artist. Nope, we'll just say that whoever drew this story originally for All-Flash #22 (1946) apparently couldn't hack it as an artist in the unassailable creative peaks of DC 1976. In a word, sucky.

Now, in fairness, in that issue's text piece, the justification is phrased ever-so-slightly less callously: "...the original art for the story was rather simple and cartoony --not at all suitable for today's comic audience." Yeah, because in 1976, the comics audience was soooo sophisticated, they would spit upon simple and cartoony art...

Well, look...we've all seen the quality of some of the Golden Age reprints DC was putting out in the 1970s. It seems to me that an awful lot of it was "cartoony" or "simplistic." So why suddenly try this here?

For the record, the artist in question was Martin Naydel (some online sources confuse him with Martin Nodell, the artist who created the Golden Age Green Lantern, but he was a different person). The majority of his career seems to have been spent on humor books, or funny animal books, or one-pager and half-pager joke strips in other comics. But roughly from 1944-1947, we was the regular artist on Flash, All-Flash, and All-Star (starring the Justice Society).

I don't have access to any of his interior art, [UPDATE: Booksteve did have access to some of Naydel's interior art, and has posted a side-by-side comparison] but his a sampling of his covers from back in the day (hat tip to the GCD):

Cartoony? Sure. Other than that, it's hard to tell from covers alone. But certainly, the work he did on those covers sure doesn't seem so terribly "below modern standards" or "not suitable for today's audience." Far from "simple," I see some fairly complex work (for covers) and a lot of influence on later artists.

The beauty part was, Bridwell did this again a few months later, having another "young artist" redraw another of Naydel's stories from All-Flash #22, this time in DC Super-Stars #5 (1976).

So the question is, what the hell? Was DC so intent on a particular "house style" that they found anything the least bit different or individualistic or "cartoony" to be objectionable, even when reprinting classic stories? Or was it just Bridwell?

Or, perhaps, was it just an attempt to see if they could get away with using young (i.e. low-paid) artists and a script they already owned to churn out cheap "new" stories? In the text-piece, Bridwell does refer to the issue as a "new concept in presentation of classic comic-mag adventures." Maybe there was some masterplan to "rejuvenate" DC's back library with new, "modern" artwork to entice readers.

Of course, none of that required publicly dissing Martin Naydel, did it? That was a pretty classless move. Re-doing the art might have been an interesting experiment, but taking pot-shots at the original artist was clearly unnecessary and mean-spirited.

And now, 30+ years later, times have changed, and DC loves to reprint original Golden Age stories, warts and all. And there is a much greater tolerance of "cartoony," individualistic art. There's a huge market for the stuff, so I guess "today's comic audience" isn't as discerning as Bridwell's 1976 readers.

On the bright side, maybe in 2039, DC will reprint some recent JLA stories, but with the art redrawn, because Ed Benes will be "too far below modern standards."