Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Art That Was Bad For Your Heart

When you get to be my age, you learn to love the unusual.

But I can't tell a lie--when I was a kid, Frank Robbins' art freaked me out!!

This come to mind because on Monday, I reprinted a few panels from an old Invaders story, and there were a couple of commenters who were surprised by the goofy angles and obtuse anatomy drawn therein.

Which made me realize that a lot of people out there today don't know Frank Robbins' work...which is a damn shame, and which I am to correct.

First a few more panels from that Invaders story:

It's like nothing you've seen before or since--it's insane!!

Now let's be clear--I'm most certainly not dissing on Robbins at all. The man was a great artist, a prodigy. He was winning art scholarships before he was 10. He's had his paintings featured in museum showings. He did tons of promotional and advertising work. He was working in comic books back in the Golden Age, and his syndicated newspaper adventure strip, Johnny Hazard, ran for 33 years.

So when I say his 1970s Marvel work was terrifically insane, I mean that with the highest regard and respect.

Click on this link for a look at some of his 1970s DC work--trust me, if you haven't seen it before, his Batman will freak you out, too.

Robbins started doing mostly Marvel work in the late 1970s, and is best known for his Invaders and Captain America and Human Fly work.

His work was pretty controversial among fans at the time. Fandom wasn't as organized back then, and there was no internet to ruin everything good about comics. But based on my anecdotal experiences, Robbins' was sort of the Rob Liefeld of his day, at least in the strength of the reactions (often polar opposite reactions) among readers. Love him or loathe him, and there was no in-between.

How to describe his work? I'm pretty illiterate when it comes to artistic talk...let's just say that, in my limited art vocabulary, he work always struck me as sort of a hybridization of Kirby and Colan, only with both hopped up on speed.

Every character in his books, in every panel, was constantly in tension, ready to explode, practically vibrating with an energy that leapt off the page and made your heart race like you'd just washed down 20 Pixie Stix with a couple of cans of Jolt. Check out some panels form What If #4 (1977):

Special fun: The original Human Torch fries Hitler:

Even the Watcher, just sitting there narrating, looks like he's ready to jump off the page and go 5 rounds with you:

His characters were human speed lines, always moving, even when just sitting still. Check out some Nomad action:

It's a style that is unlike anything that was going on in super-hero comics at the time, far cartoonier, far less concerned with formal anatomy--in many ways the antithesis of the modern "photorealistic" approach taken by many pencillers today.

But it's not that Robbins' didn't know or couldn't draw "normal" anatomy--look at his newspaper work. This was a choice, a style he wanted for the super-human action of super-hero books. Robbins' wasn't concerned with how "accurate" his style was; he was more concerned with the energy and emotion it conveyed, and in boosting the adrenaline with action ACTION ACTION.

Not to say that cartooniness meant no accurate anatomy--as far as I know, Frank Robbins was the only one to depict Captain America's package on page:

(Plus, just look at the way everyone on that splash is vibrating, even when standing still. Even comatose Falcon looks like he's going to jump up and smack someone!)

Plus, Robbins could give you a Cap ass-shot that would make Hal Jordan jealous:

Seriously--when you were an 11 year old kid in 1975, reading a Frank Robbins drawn book was like mainlining 8 or 10 Red Bulls--after the comics was done you were jittery and excited and disturbed and you weren't sure why.

So look up some 1975 Captain America (where all the Cap and Nomad panels are from) or almost any issue of the 1970s Invaders or those absolutely nutty Detective Comics Batman stories (which Robbins wrote, as well as drew). Just make sure you cut down on your daily caffeine intake first...

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

What If...Ma and Paw Kent Were Dickweeds?

I know my pal Siskoid dealt with this story earlier this year, but since I just found Adventure Into Fear #17 (1973) in the quarter bin, I do have to expand a tiny bit.

A scientist and his wife from the planet Dakkam are convinced that their sun is going to go nova [SPOILER ALERT: They were wrong!]. So they launch their infant child into space.
But here on Marvel Earth-616, things went a little bit differently:

D'oh!!! No kindly Kents in this universe!!

Then again, since we have yet to see even the tiniest glimpse of the Kents in the post-Flushpoint DC Universe, and we have yet to see much of nuSuperman as something other than a broody dingus, maybe the nu52 Kents were just as big a couple of dickweeds...

So what was satire in 1973 has become reality in 2011?? I report, you decide!!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Manic Monday Bonus--Don't leave Home Without It!!

So it's 1942, and the only surgeon in the entire universe who can save Toro's life is a Japanese-American doctor, who just happens to be locked up in an internment camp.

So how does a teenager in a domino mask--who, even if people recognize him, believe he's in Europe--convinced hardened Army types to let him in?

Wow. A close-up, please!

Just in case you thought the Avengers ID cards were cool, brother, they ain't nothing compared to the Invaders badge!!

From Invaders #26 (1978). And hey, Marvel, where the hell are the Essential Invaders collections?!?

Manic Monday--To Be Continued

Throughout the Silver Age, and even into the Bronze Age, the following (or variations thereof) appeared several times in every comic book:

Decades later, this puzzles me.

You never saw that in Golden Age books...but then again, those books rarely had stories interrupted by ads. Most books had multiple stories, and if there were interior ads, they appeared between stories.

So maybe, as longer stories became more common, and interior advertising became more prevalent, comic book companies feared that readers couldn't deal with a story being interrupted for an ad or two.

Did they really believe that, when a a couple of pages of advertising appeared, we would think the comic was over? "Well, that story was only 3 pages long, I guess...sure, it ended kind of abruptly, but there are commercials, so the whole thing must be over. The next 29 pages must all be ads and crap. Might as well stop reading here! Hell, might as well throw the comic away!!"

Fortunately, these little blurbs saved us that embarrassment. "Whoa--it says here the story is continued!! Who knew?? I guess I can keep turning the pages now!! Thank you, comic book makers, for enabling me to keep reading!!"

Seriously, they must have thought their readers were pretty dumb...

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Hal Jordan's Rules To Protect Your Secret Identity

Young Hal Jordan (no, not THAT Hal Jordan--this is his cousin) inherited the mantle of Air Wave from his father. But he's kinda of young to be a DC hero, so while spending some time in Coast City with his cousin, Hal Jordan (the Green Lantern) taught Hal Jordan (Air Wave) some rules on how to protect your secret identity.

[BTW, whichever idiot it was who decided it was cute to give Air Wave the same civilian name as Green Lantern: you're fired]

Now, asking Hal Jordan (Green Lantern) how to preserve your secret identity is akin to asking Donald Trump's advice on running for President--neither one has had much success in that area.

Anyway, Hal Jordan's (Green Lantern) rules on how to keep Hal Jordan's (Airwave) identity a secret:

Fair enough...especially if you're going to keep saying "Jeepers" every page, as you do in this story.

Hmmm, sound advice...

D'oh!! Now we'll never know where not to leave you're costume!!

Wow, elder Hal really has put a surprising amount of thought into this. I wonder if the JLA publishes a handbook or something...

Young Hal, most of us wouldn't need an actual "rule" telling us not to leave clues to our civilian ID at the scene of a battle. That one is pretty self evident, even to rookies...

Uhhhh....duh? (Although this could easily slip into the "talk like Hulk" rule, so you do have to be careful.

Anyway, going to live with a new set of cousins (because Green Lantern Hal doubtless didn't want some kid hanging around his crib, cramping his style, if you know what I mean), young Hal quickly gets a date with the hot number next door:

But of course, on the date he's called into action, and...

D'OH!!! Didn't Green Lantern warn you about the "don't wear distinctive cologne on a date" rule?!?

Probably not...elder Hal Jordan strikes me as someone who slathers on the Old Spice before hooking up with the ladies...

From Action Comics #488 (1978)

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Carol Ferris Is Easily Impressed

Carol Ferris--the groupie years:

Excited much?

"Oh, Hal, say it again, say it again!!"

PS I hope Sally P noticed the bonus Green Lantern butt shot by Dave Gibbons there...

From Green Lantern #175 (1984)

Friday, November 25, 2011

Friday Night Fights--Salt In TheWound Style!!

It's Friday Night Fights, it's a holiday weekend, and I've got Zelda to play, so let's cut to the chase, shall we?

Zsasz has escaped from Arkham, and Batgirl is hot to catch him. She finds his crib just as he's putting another notch in his...well, himself, over his last victim:

Barbara Gordon. Batgirl. Any questions?

Spacebooger would like to know where Zsasz got those funky glasses....

Kelley Puckett, Jim Balent and Rick Burchett show us why having plenty of condiments on hand is important in Batman: Batgirl #1 (1998). GIRLFRENZY!!

Now, it's time to go vote. Sure, you're busy digesting, and shopping, and watching football. But if managed to click here, you can manage another click or two to head over and vote for your favorite fight this week. OK?

Thursday, November 24, 2011

EU Crisis (Geographical, Not Monetary)

Because everybody wants to know where the fictional countries go:

Wait, wait...what about Slokovia? Or Symkaria, Silver Sable's homeland, which borders Latveria? Or...

Man, this fictional geography business is tough....

From Secret Avengers #19

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Call Me Old-Fashioned

Inside the front cover of his new comic Mudman (highly recommended, by the way), Paul Grist has some thoughts about individual, monthly comics, as opposed to trades.

As I (generally) agree with his points, and I'm ridiculously lazy, I thought I'd present a few paragraphs of that here:

As I said, I generally agree with Grist. For the most part, I prefer my comics as serials, not trades (or written for trades-paced serials).

So discuss.