Thursday, January 31, 2008

Snow Day, Stuck Day
Sorry for the full page scan on this one, but my scanner wasn't cooperating.
Only another few inches of snow today, but it was enough that I wasn't able to get either car out for a while. I usually drive my wife's Avenger, which is a bit better of an engine than I'm used to, and it's able to power it's way out of most spots; but I'm not used to driving like that, either. Anyway, I made it to work...eventually, then the Wife and the Kids and I had some fun in the snow this afternoon. Not a bad day, all told.

I had another comic in mind when I went down today, but this one's better: from the classic What If? #39, "What If Thor of Asgard had met Conan the Barbarian?" Written by Alan Zelenetz, pencils by Ron Wilson, inks by Danny Bulanadi. Probably the perfect comic for a twelve-year-old, I'm not sure where I got this issue, since I know I read another kid's copy after school first. Mine's pretty banged up, but still a favorite.

There were two or three--yeah, three, I'm just missing one--old What If? stories with Conan, including another great one where he fights Captain America. Years later, in the second series, there was a nowhere-near-as-good one with Conan versus Wolverine. Actually, it's just bad: everyone acts stupid as needed to move the plot forward, and Wolverine's crush on Jean Grey transfers over just fine to Red Sonja, which seems kind of trashy.

Is more snow coming? Damned if I know. I don't have a trick knee that acts up or anything. But more Snow Day Week tomorrow! Read more!

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Snow Day Week Continues: The X-Men Forge on into the Baleful Blizzard!
I can't help but think the artist and colorist are punching out early this week.
Today's Snow Day comic: Rom #18, "And a Child Shall Deceive Them!" Written by Bill Mantlo, art by Sal Buscema, inks by Milgrom and Giacoia. Guest starring the X-Men, who show up on the trail of a new mutant, which turns out to by the Dire Wraith-human crossbreed imaginatively named Hybrid.
That Hybrid, always with the smooth talk.
Hybrid is a pretty creepy design, and had some scary-ass powers. Not sure he ever appeared outside of Rom, though, but he should have. For good measure, while I'm not absolutely positive on the continuity, I reckon this is like Kitty Pryde's third time outside the mansion with the X-Men, and as usual for her, she's thrown in the deep end. Hybrid's a little more up front about his plans for Kitty than most, though.

More snow is coming in my area, so more Snow Day Week to come! Read more!
Punisher Armory, MAX vs. 616


This is probably one of those things that most comics bloggers are going to look down their noses at me for, but I really enjoyed Punisher Armory back in the day. If I'm not mistaken, the whole series was a tour de force for Eliot R. Brown, Marvel's go-to guy for diagrams of things that may or may not be there. Mr. Brown is currently behind the Marvel Atlas project.

The plot for this comic is directly from one of those Armory issues: a training game where the Punisher would put a bunch of random guns picked up from dead criminals onto a little lazy susan, spin it, then grab a gun and fire away. Back in the old issues, Frank always seemed to be getting into fixes that he would have to get out of with whatever was handy. The Marvel MAX Punisher with Garth Ennis writing doesn't seem to get in that kind of corner as often, and seems even moreso like a guy that would bring the right tool for a particular job. (Usually, anyway...)

Back in the regular Marvel Universe, though, you've got Punisher War Journal, which I've only read a couple times, but you've got Frank dressed up in a Captain America-style Punisher outfit and repeatedly asskicking the Rhino. I was thinking about the training game, because the Marvel U. is doubtless chock-full of great guns, but good luck trying to figure them out. Yeah, smarty, most of them are probably point-and-shoot, but how do you reload an A.I.M. issue blaster? Or one of those S.H.I.E.L.D. needle guns? And where do you buy...whatever goes in those?

I had been looking for my Armory issues, but haven't found them yet. Still, I remember the last page of the book was usually a little personal glimpse at Frank's life, like him remembering his family or talking about gun safety, or in one issue, reminiscing about a replica laser pistol from Lost in Space given to him by Microchip.

Of course, such glimpses of humanity are completely hidden in Punisher Max, which is just the stylistic choice Garth Ennis went with. And as such, I had a really, really hard time with the use of Microchip in the first Max arc. In fact, I almost dropped the book. I'm glad I didn't. Ennis starts his last Punisher storyline soon, and he will be missed there.

Oh, and the guns: Aside from the guns lying around, Frank shoots the Road Warrior's shotgun, then S-Mart Ash's from Army of Darkness.

Page two has more guns I don't completely remember, but Frank tries out a Quake rifle (maybe) and, as he mentions, Nick Fury's gun from his fellow Marvel Legend.

On page three, panel one is the infamous button applicator, packed with Dr. Hibbard of the Simpsons, from the episode Lost Our Lisa. Two is from a Masters of the Universe character, probably Man-E-Faces, I think. Three is from a another Quake figure...the female marine, maybe. Four is from some Power Rangers toy my Oldest son got long, long ago, and Five is Fry's from Futurama. Six is Madman's, from the recent Legendary Heroes figure.

Read more!

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Sick day, snow day.
Now, try to strike an interesting pose, because you'll be next to impossible to move after this...
Ah, I don't know why I take sick days: with the kids and the wife all sick too, I swear it's more restful at work.

Be that as it may, here's today's Snow Day Week comic: from Thor #32 (volume 2), "Forever Kursed" Written by Dan Jurgens, pencils by Andy Kubert, inks by Scott Hanna and Jesse Delperdang. I bought this one mid-storyline, since it was a "100-page Monster" backed with reprints from Kirby, Buscema, and Simonson. Still, this page sums it up pretty quickly.

What I didn't like about this one is that Thor eventually trumps the Casket of Ancient Winters (again, from early on in Simonson's run) with the Gem of Infinite Suns. Which seems like both a cheat, and the sort of thing that probably should've come up in conversation the last time the Casket was used. Maybe with Surtur around, they didn't think it was wise to make things hotter.

Kurse makes a return appearance, again as the slave of Malekith. I like Kurse better--he's a bit one-dimensional, but has a great design. He also had a couple other names that I'm forgetting right now, but maybe next time.

New toy comic a little later, and more Snow Day Week tomorrow! Read more!

Monday, January 28, 2008

Snow Day
Not to scale. Or maybe it is, I don't know...
...for everyone except me, that is: schools and city hall closed, and my work decides to stay open. That's fair enough, considering we work across other time zones that probably don't have an extra foot or two of snow on the ground; except after the tedious drive in (after a lot of window scraping) the systems were down for a good chunk of the day.

So, there was overtime after my regular shift, and I stayed for an extra couple hours. The last hour of which, I did almost nothing, but between the snow shovelling, sickness, and running around getting dinner and everything, I'm just beat now.

Still, I feel like I've been dogging it lately, so for the rest of this week, a little blogging challenge to myself: every day, we'll run down to the basement, and pull a random comic with snow in it: snow falling, snowball fights, snow on the ground, one of about a dozen issues with the Casket of Ancient Winters, whatever I can find.

Yes, whenever I make a substantial archeological find, my first impulse...
Our first entrant: Avengers #187, "The Call of the Mountain Thing!" Plot by Mark Gruenwald and Steven Grant, written by David Michelinie, pencils by John Byrne, inks by Dan Green. Abandoning a crashing Quinjet, the Beast then proceeds to crash-land with a rocket-belt borrowed from Wonder Man. (If the Avengers had access to those, why didn't every non-flying member get one? The only explanation is that they had to be murder on the junk, and only Wonder Man was durable enough to stand it.)
is to try it on and tear around.
Beast finds the armor and atomic flying steed of a fallen Knight of Wundegore, and uses both to make a last minute save against the Chthon-possessed Scarlet Witch. The lance and steed I could see using, but I don't know if I'd immediately put on a dead animal-guy's clothes. Well, it does look cold out, so maybe.

Tomorrow: more snow! Probably figuratively and literally. Read more!

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Becalmed? Bestilled? Besmirched? One of those, maybe.

Weather-wise, it's like the doldrums here lately: calm, still, and clear. OK, I know the doldrums were warmer than six degrees, but the comparison's valid: there's no wind, the sky is a surprisingly inviting blue during the day, and nothing seems to be moving at all. (Oddly, as I look at the weather online right this second, it says it's six degrees out, but it lists the low as 11. Bwah?)

This is the time of year where if I could convince my family to either go along with it or join me, I would sleep an extra six hours a day. I'm sure there's lots of constructive things I could be doing, but it's cold and dry and a pain in the ass. The youngest has the croup or some generic kid ick, so I'm trying to avoid packing him up and dragging him around in this weather; thus, I haven't been to the comic shop in two weeks--a disturbingly long time for me.

Although it's been a bit, I think I only have four books in my box right now: Punisher, Fell, B.P.R.D. 1946, and possibly Dr. Sleepless. Think I missed an issue of that last one. I was also going to pick up Cable/Deadpool and Incredible Herc, and maybe that Marvel Adventures Spidey with Venom. There really is something to be said for those Marvel Adventures books, whether they're intended for kids or not: they're entertaining, they're done in one, they don't leave you feeling like you either have to read the last dozen issues or buy the next dozen to get the whole story.

In other news, the toy selection lately in this neck of the woods is nothing to write home about, but we will anyway. It's too cold to go anywhere, and then I get there and there's no restock--I have a Target gift card that I've earmarked for those DC Heroes figures I should've bought the one time I saw them, but they aren't back yet. Just a completely empty line of pegs.

And for no reason, I suddenly was stricken with an urge for Cyber Spider-Man. Image totally yanked from oafe.net, check out their review! Often, I buy comics in this same fashion: all of a sudden, even if the toy or the comic has been out forever, and I've known it's been out there, suddenly it'll finally strike me that hey, I should buy this. Right now. Unfortunately, eBay didn't come up with one right this second, which is kind of surprising. It's nowhere near as good a figure as the Mecha-Hulk, the one with the little Gremlin figure.

It's just I was thinking about another robot character, who's name I won't mention since I might use them in a comic later; and it just struck me that Cyber Spider-Man is like the Superman Robots, and Spidey totally needs one of those. Nevermind how. Spidey's robot wouldn't look or sound or act like Spidey, and might even have a big wind-up key sticking out of his back; yet everyone would still think Cyber's the real deal. There's precedent for that in the Marvel Universe: pretty sure there was a rampaging robot 'She-Hulk' that looked like, I don't know, an old Iron Man suit painted green and shoved in a ripped dress.

Anyhow, Cyber Spider-Man: if anyone has a line on one, or wants to trade or sell it, let me know. Possibly a more substantial post tomorrow, if I can shake off those doldrums then. Read more!

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Career Opportunities, Part 1

Our longest toy comic yet! Click on all pictures to enlarge.
We now join our regularly scheduled beating, already in progress.
I wish I had the production values for a blurry first panel there.
Bane usually has to pay for a girl to walk on his back like that.
Man, that's a lot of starch in that cape.
I tried to cram all the pages for this into one post, and ended up shrinking all the words on this page to a single line. Huh. Part two below, if I did this right! Read more!
Career Opportunities, part two
I didn't find an opening briefcase, I wanted a 'Pretty Woman' shot there.
The flickr page is so I can test the color...
"Career Opportunities, page 6"
Click to enlarge, and more comics here!


Wolvie's had other girl sidekicks, hasn't he?  I forget.
The 'New Mutants' are going to get more and more random as I beat this joke.
Khonshu panel on page six from Moon Knight #22, first series, the backup story "Moon over Alamein" Written by Alan Zelenetz, pencils by Greg La Rocque, inks by Joe Albelo. That was the best picture of the old statue out of a fistful of issues I grabbed the other day.

Trish from Devil May Cry takes the Marlene Alraune role, and Marlene predates Tomb Raider in hot gun-toting archeology by over a decade.

What was the main inspiration for this one? Would you believe geographical convenience? Since I had bought them on various lunch hours, Moon Knight, Batgirl, and Batman--yeah, and the Scarecrow and Bane, too--were all on my desk at work. Batgirl ended up placed more by MK, and since she couldn't lift her included 'Shadowtech' accessory, she held Moon Knight's staff...that sounded dirty. The rest wrote itself. (Incidentally, I hate the neck joint on that particular Batman.) I did borrow my son's Bane figure though, since mine came with his 'Osito' bear that's still rubberbanded to his arm.

I have at least two other Batgirl figures, and particularly like the Thrillkiller style one from DC Direct. But it's funnier, hopefully, with a tiny, rage-filled, new-animated style one. Let me know if it works, and check the "homemade posts" or "toys" label for old ones.

Also, while I do like the Marvel Legends Werewolf by Night, how cool would it be to have a crazy Bill Sienkiewicz style one? Ah, if only. Read more!

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Sometimes, silent panels might not be the best idea.
Even in context, it takes the next page to figure what's happening. Looks cool, though.
From "Gorilla Man" Originally from Men's Adventure #26 and reprinted in Chamber of Chills #23, art by Robert Sale?

Just a quick one today. It's that time of year where I work a bunch of overtime under the theory that I'll make some extra money for more comics and toys. To date, it's never worked out that way, and with the economy flaming out and spiralling in, I don't know if I see it happening this time either.

I did get out to look for the remaining DC Superheroes I hadn't picked up yet, and Target hadn't restocked them yet. I only bought two the first and only time I've seen them so far, and I'm hoping it doesn't bite me in the ass in finding Penquin, Red Tornado, and Batman. Whatever they're calling the retro-seventies style Batman, I forget.

I haven't seen Cloverfield yet, although I do want to. Although, my first thought from some of the reviews, was that it's only what, under eighty minutes? I'm not expecting a three-hour tour, but damn, do I get credit towards another movie? I've also managed to avoid seeing what the monster looks like yet, if there's even a good look to be had in the film. I do wonder if my wife will like it at all, if we end up going, since I have at least one friend that got a good dose of motion sickness there.

No!  No!  Not...the housing market!  No!
I mentioned a couple weeks back that I got a ton of old Marvel horror reprints. I'll be charitable and say, they aren't as good as EC Comics. The above panel is from "Where Lurks the Ghost!" Written by Stan Lee, art by Steve Ditko, and originally presented in Tales to Astonish #25. It's a little hackneyed: guy who doesn't believe in ghosts bets he can spend the night in a haunted house, where he runs into the old night watchman/caretaker. Guy spends the night peacefully, until the next morning when he boasts about his feat and his friends point out the night watchman died ten years ago. Yeah, that was probably an old story then, especially--
A sign showing where a mansion was?  Get used to that if the economy tanks.
since Stan had done that one before, in "I Was Locked in a Haunted House!" From Uncanny Tales #7, reprinted in Chamber of Chills #15, art by Joe Maneely. In this 1953 version, there's the added wrinkle of the house disappearing as well afterwards, which only works if you're new to the neighborhood or not very observant. It's not bad, but I have to admit, if I could get Ditko to re-draw one of my stories, why not? I'm not bagging on Stan, either--this is from the era when they figured the pool of comics readers turned over every so often, so this would be new to the new crop of readers.

I've mentioned before that I've read a good amount of Marvel horror, a spot of EC's reprints, and almost none of DC or other companies output. How to remedy that...try hitting up The Horrors of It All, which has a bloody ton, as it were, of horror comics, news, and links to old public domain movies. Finally saw Dementia 13 over there the other day. Check it out, and there's a couple more new sites in the sidebar, too. I have to finish up on tomorrow's post, so check now! Read more!

Monday, January 21, 2008

Pre-emptively defending a character I'm about to mock later...

Shoot, it's Monday? Holiday or no, I guess I should get to writing here...I had something else planned for today too, but then I got to thinking about the homemade comic I've got ready for Wednesday (really need a better name for those) because I make fun of a character I really, really like: Marlene Alraune, from Moon Knight.

As quick as I can: Marlene's dad was the archeologist who discovered the statue of Khonshu, Egyptian god of vengeance (or justice, depending on when you ask). Her dad then got killed by the mercenary Bushman, who also killed fellow merc Marc Spector. Spector, however, was either not quite dead, or brought back to life by Khonshu, again depending on when you ask. Spector became Moon Knight, and started a long-term relationship with Marlene.

Now, Marlene may have started as a pretty traditional girlfriend character, she quickly became both more supportive and more helpful. Mary Jane Watson seems about as supportive as J.Jonah Jameson when compared to Marlene. For example, let's check out Moon Knight #10, first series, "Too Many Midnights" Written by Doug Moench, art by Bill Sienkiewicz. This was still pretty early in their run, but well on the right track.

Deep in the sewers of New York, Moon Knight has just beaten the glorified cat burglar the Midnight Man (no, not that one!) only to discover it was all a trap orchestrated by his first villain, Bushman. Bushman's already flooding the trap, has MK's butler Samuels hanging from a rope in the waterfall, and has smashed up the aforementioned statue of Khonshu.
Bushman's facial tattoos are pretty ahead of their time, since this is from 1981.
Bushman is working on the theory that by leaving Spector for dead in the desert, he created Moon Knight, at least as much as any stupid statue. It works pretty quickly: Marc had already lost his "extra strength," as Marlene mentions on the next page, so it probably didn't take much to shatter his remaining faith in Khonshu or himself.

While Marlene and Frenchie begin to search the sewers, the panicked Midnight Man threatens MK at gunpoint to find a way out of their trap. That at least wakes him up for a moment, and he pulls it together long enough to loosen bricks and pull the plug on the rising water.

The Midnight Man escapes first, leaving Moon Knight to rescue the bound Samuels. (Interestingly, I always thought of Samuels as just a butler, but I think in the recent Charlie Huston relaunch, he was a bit more Alfred-like, helping maintain some of the equipment.) They end up washed into the river, and Marlene and Frenchie find only his cloak.

Sitting in bed crying isn't something you see Marlene do much more of in this book.Although neither are badly hurt, Spector is losing it, clutching the head of Khonshu and babbling, and Samuels can't convince him that he's not a failure. Spector wanders off, and Samuels gets back home to tell Marlene the good news that her boyfriend's alive, but insane.

Marlene sets the rest of Moon Knight's informants to look for him, and they don't have as much luck as you'd expect in finding a lunatic in a silver costume talking to a statue's severed head. Bushman escalates his crimewave, spinning newspaper-style, as the city believes Moon Knight either dead or deserted.

Spector is finally found, after several days of not eating and complaining about his multiple personalities. Taken back to his mansion (or rather, Steven Grant's, his millionaire identity) he laments that Spector, Grant, Lockley, and Moon Knight were "a four-faced fake, like the four phases of the moon, and the phoney moon god, phoney Khonshu...a fake all along..."

Marlene then admits he's right. About Khonshu being a fake:
Spector's 'Whaaat!' is a little too comedic, but you get the point.
Revitalized, Spector costumes up again, and wraps up Bushman in about four pages.

In the end, Marc suspects Marlene may have tricked him: was the original statue destroyed, and she had a replica made afterwards? Or was this still the original statue? Marlene shrugs it off: if he really wanted to know, he could have it carbon-dated. Marc admits he doesn't really want to know.
Marlene is caring, beautiful, smart, and willing to lie to her man for his own good. Awesome.
Now, I'm a pretty staunch defender of the Spider-marriage, but try to imagine how this would've played out if Spidey lost his powers and his faith: I really can't picture Mary Jane going out of her way to get Peter back in action. In fact, I rather see her giving Pete the want ads and getting him settled into a nice day job somewhere instead. (To be fair, I do recall once or twice MJ looking for a lost Spidey, like during Kraven's Last Hunt.) But Marlene knows Moon Knight is not only doing good, it's what Spector needs to do, and she supports him on it.

Of course, since this is comics, Marlene ended up in her underwear a lot more often than Marc did, but that's another post. Read more!

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Like Gary Larson, you can file this under, 'it was late and I was tired.'

Cretacious Sam
Originally uploaded by googum
Damn near got a little vest on him, too.

Anyway, I seem to be settling into a four day a week blogging schedule. I haven't had as much time as I would like to actually sit down and read comics, possibly because I keep playing with toys.

I'm hoping to get a new toy-comic posted every Wednesday until I burn out. I have three done, which gives me a little lead time. The other posts will be getting back into the back issue and quarter bins...as soon as I clear out some space.

This is based on the classic Nightcrawler #4 from Dave Cockrum, one of my favorite comics ever. The original is here, and I had wanted to do this for a while. Finding that hat took me a damn while, though.
Read more!

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Speedy's Intervention

The Speedy action figure is from the Teen Titans line from Bandai, was it? And Aqualad, Red X, and Speedy all got figures in that scale before Raven and Starfire...hell, did Raven and Starfire ever get 5-inch figures?

Obviously, Speedy sleeps in costume to be ready for action.  Or, he nodded off with an armload of smack as soon as he got home.  Either or.
Man, I am getting a lot of mileage out of that toy syringe.
Even a helpful Batman is kind of spooky-scary.
This one is inspired by one of Lorendiac's Lists over at CBR's Comics Should Be Good: Who Knows Batman is Bruce Wayne? In the DCU, sometimes it feels like just. About. Everybody.

There's a fair number on that list that learn the secret, then are promptly killed, usually in the same issue or storyline. Then there's several villains that learn it, then get mindwiped or placed in a position where they can't or won't use it. (R'as al Ghul is probably the main one there: I didn't read his recent crossover, but I'm pretty sure there's more damaging things he could do then just sending a bunch of ninjas over to Bruce Wayne's house.)

Then there's the heroes, wives, hangers-on, etc. There's probably some that he would just as soon not know--I don't think he would lose any sleep if Green Arrow, Hawkman, or Hal Jordan suddenly forgot. But then, I think there's probably a few--a very small number, I'd imagine--that he's actually OK with knowing. Maybe it's because he's taking an interest in their career or training; but maybe, just maybe, Batman needs a couple of kids to know Bruce Wayne is Batman and think he's cool. That's a side of Batman that Dick or Tim would never see: some dads are incredibly strict with their kids, yet polite and friendly and easy-going with their kids' friends. And why shouldn't they be? The dad doesn't have the same expectations for them.

Hmm, a lot of thought into some jokes with some toys. How about this: Speedy was, without question, the worst 'actor' I've worked with so far. Not a ton of range on his arms. The bed is two cheapo dollhouse beds shoved together the wrong way, and I wasted a ton of time looking for the lamp accessory from a Peter Parker Spider-Man movie figure. Thought it would pull the bedroom together a bit more, but oh well. Read more!

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

So, 'Speedy=Junkie' is still the key takeaway from this one.

I swear this just happened: I misdialed and got the Illinois Dyslexia Association, or some such. Now I'm worried.

A reprint cover, but nice.

Anyway, even though I love this cover something fierce, I don't have even a reprint version of this issue, although I have several of the ones before and after it. I'm not positive I've ever read it, for that matter. (Thus, cover yanked from GCD.) I have a vague feeling that I've read part of it, but that could have just been excerpts from a blog or something.

But by this point...I'm not sure I should read Green Lantern/Green Arrow #85. Let me explain in a roundabout manner: ever see the movie the Omega Man? It's generally reviled as not a very good adaptation of Richard Matheson's I Am Legend and Charlton Heston doesn't seem to mix well with the faux-blaxploitation feel of the movie, either. The thing is, it was one of those movies that I could never see: every time it was on, I'd miss half or more of it, or something would happen during it.

Finally in college, I rented the damn thing, unplugged the phone, waited for my roommate to go to work, and watched it. And was crushingly disappointed to realize I had only missed about five minutes total of the movie: I had convinced myself there was an extra reel of Heston machine-gunning down hooded zombies. Hell, I'd watch that if it was filmed today.

The Wife and I did something similiar with the movie Audition, which we heard great things about, it made that list, blah blah blah. It took us well over a year to get it, and it was...pretty scary, I guess. But maybe not as scary as what was in our heads. Lesson learned: sometimes, it's better to leave a legend be, and let your imagination carry the day.

Of course, I say all this, but if I found a copy or reprint of GL/GA #85 I'd so buy it. Maybe it would finally give me an appreciation for Speedy, since I'm not a big Teen Titans fan, and thus don't much care for him. (I did like the animated versions in both Teen Titans and Justice League Unlimited, though.) It's not a fair impression, but I can't shake the picture of Speedy as the Eddie Haskell of the DC Universe.

Why do I bring this up? And yes, I do have a Speedy action figure, but maybe not the one you would think...

Man, love that Neal Adam's cover. And the original issue is just about exactly as old as I am. Weird. Read more!

Monday, January 14, 2008


I probably should've set up a tag for it a while ago, but I have a lot of last issues, for a lot of books. Books cancelled before their time, books cancelled before another reboot, books cancelled because they never had a chance. Marc Spector: Moon Knight #60 feels like it was cancelled because the artist had better things to do..."The Final Phase" Written by Terry Kavanagh, art by Stephen Platt.

I never read a lot of the Marc Spector: Moon Knight, partly because it was just another book in the 90's glut, and like Nick Fury this book was nowhere near as good as past versions. Still, I had wanted to read this issue for a while, since Moon Knight dies and stays dead for a few years from here, and because I remembered Wizard back in the day, when it was acceptable to read it, hyping up artist Stephen Platt as the next big thing. And I can see why: some of his shots are very dynamic, McFarlane-esque, except without Todd's charm, design sense, or readability. I think, probably like some other bloggers, that I'm a little uncomfortable criticizing art; in that it's not like I could do any better. True, but...
I swear, I was scanning this, and my nine year old said he liked it. He knew it was ugly, but something about it grabbed him.
This book is a mess. Granted, I haven't read all the previous issues, and have no idea who the Hellbent or Cadre or whoever are (and I don't think they ever appeared again) or what's the deal with Spectorcorp (and it's subsidiary, Phalkoncorp) and I don't care.

The only supporting cast Moon Knight really needs (besides his alternate identities like Jake Lockley), are Frenchie and Marlene; who are both there but both almost unrecognizable. Frenchie's never referred to as such, his proper name Jean-Paul is used instead, and he's apparently developed super-powers as part of yet another hidden enclave of super-powered loons. For good measure, he spends the issue in Professor X's floating wheelchair. And yet, there were fans that pitched a bloody fit when he was revealed to be gay, even though there wasn't a lot to support that in the early issues. Yeah, like the 'Bloodline Agenda' was telegraphed from issue one.

Marlene is there, just drawn really, really badly.
Is that a Liefeld swipe? Naaah...maybe?
I should mention that I've seen better art since from Platt, but at the time I believe he was hustling his way through this to go do Prophet or something for Image.

After Moon Knight's death this issue, Doug Moench would bring him back a few years later. I'm not sure, but I think Moench passed his death off as a dream. I'd have to re-read it, nice Tommy Edwards art on it as well. But, if a comic is bad enough, the fans will accept any explanation to get back to good stories...

Tim O'Neil had a pretty good write-up a while back on the Essential Moon Knight, and that reminds me: he's got a book out, and it's worth checking out to see if it's for you. I'm not sure how I feel about it yet, but the preview is compelling.

I'm dogging it today: the Oldest and I have been playing the classic Marvel Super Heroes PS1 game. Love it. Borrowed it from my brother-in-law, and I'm gonna have a hard time giving it back... Read more!

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Thirteen things you probably won't see in Batman comics anymore, ever.

Recently, a friend gave me a box of comics he hadn't been able to unload at a garage sale, since he knew I'd give 'em a good home. And of course I will, since there's no way I could give up a copy of Batman #315, "Danger on the Wing!" Seriously. If I had five copies and you had none, I'd still have to really, really think about it. It's a problem. (Written by Len Wein, art by Irv Novick and Frank McLaughlin.)

Anyway, this box had some recent Winick issues, a couple All-Star Batman and Robin the Boy Wonder, and I think most of the Joker: Last Laugh limited from a few years back, yet I kept coming back to Batman #315. I think it's because there's so much in this comic that we just don't see from Batman anymore. It's a 1979 issue, but it might as well be 1949 for as much relevance it has. Let's count off some things that are no longer welcome in Batman comics:

1. From the splash page, the overwrought narration makes a little simile that Batman is like a protective parent to Gotham; then flips it: Batman is a child of the violence of Gotham. Yeah, currently I don't think anything about Batman is allowed to be childlike, or compared to a child; for fear that adult readers will suddenly realize it's kind of dumb for a grown man to dress up like a bat to avenge his parents' deaths. (One of the Batman/Punisher crossovers had the Joker pointing out that Batman was obviously traumatized as a kid, since he was trying to deal with crime like a kid; while the Punisher was as an adult, and solved problems with guns. It made Batman seem like a wounded little man-child, which he probably is; while making the Punisher seem hardcore and not at all psychotic. God, I probably paid five bucks for both parts of that crossover. I'm sure the thought of those comics will keep me warm in my old age.)

It's like they built a slum for Kandor.2. Huh. The splash page looked like just a dramatic image of Batman looming over the city, symbolically. In a tiny panel on page 2, we realize Batman's looming over a bottled model of Gotham City. Little models and/or giant replicas of things aren't as welcome anymore, although it's one of those things that would be unbelievably weak if say, Winick tried it, but Grant Morrison could make it sing.

3. Batman faces a generic thug with "nunchaku." What's the accepted spelling on those now? Nunchuks? They were probably big five years before this issue hit the stands, now only popular with children destined for chipped teeth. Bats gets steamed since he's been threatened with them twice in one month...by that logic, he should be homicidally enraged by guns, or even squirting flowers.

Does anyone give up anymore? Or does even the gimpiest thug try to fight it out?4. On the roof, a thug somehow managed to fold a set of blueprints into a kite, then send it on it's way to Kite-Man before being captured by Batman. (Admittedly, it appears he brought the tail and remote control frame in for it.) Origami-Man surrenders without a fight, presumably unwilling to risk harming his expert hands. But do you see that anymore? Or does Batman have to punch-out, gas, drug, club, chase down, and/or possibly tase every single thug now? I miss seeing the occasional chicken thug, who would throw up his hands like he just didn't care at the first sight of Batman, electing instead to keep his teeth.
The next time you even see someone twice on your way to work, they're obviously after you.
5. Subplot pages! Lucius Fox is worried about his relationship with his son and his son's bad crowd, when he realizes he's being followed again. So he does what anyone would do: Puts his stalker in a headlock, that's what! Hell, yeah. Lucius does get a judo flip for his trouble, but he's pretty game for a middle-aged executive type. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I'm pretty sure Lucius has got more love from the movie and the new cartoon than he has in the last umpteen years in the comics. Also, I just realized Robbie Robertson over in Amazing Spider-Man had almost the exact same subplot about his son.

6. The subplot pages mention an airline's payroll coming into Gotham, so of course on the next page it's due to be robbed. Comics aren't getting any more subtle, but in this age of decompression, there's usually at least a couple more pages between introduction of the Macguffin and the theft attempt. Kite-Man uses a series of fireworks kites as a distraction so his crew can walk in the front door. So, if you're going to commit any kind of crime in Gotham, I would suggest leaving a kite or a riddle or a 22-cent stamp or something at the scene. While Batman hunts down the usual suspects, you should have plenty of time to flee town.

Wait, background checks aren't OK? God, I'm glad I'm not dating anymore.7. Bruce has a lunch date with Selina Kyle, the reformed pre-Crisis non-prostitute Catwoman. She's figured out Bruce had a background check run on her, pretty innovative for 1979, although I'm not sure why since he would've known anything the cops knew about her. Selina throws a drink in his face and splits. It's really more a sign of the times than anything, but the book seemed to be laboring under the misconception that Selina, trying to go straight, would be having trouble getting a job, a boyfriend, etc. It doesn't help that both she and Bruce are drawn with some of the worst civilian clothes ever.

Well, technically, it's not your job either, Bats...8. I like this late-model Batmobile, a slight update of the classic TV show style. Nowadays, Batman has to drive some kind of tank/SUV thing. I miss the sportier models that didn't take up three lanes on the highway.

9. The airline's apparently paying off it's employees in small untraceable bills, as opposed to, I don't know, checks or something. Reminds me of a Blue Devil issue where the Trickster tries to rob a bank in midair, only to be shown later the money being moved separately by armored car.

10. Kite-man gases the payroll guards, with one of them exclaiming "Nerve gas!" Which only knocks the guards out, as opposed to paralysis or vomiting and death. This is why he never got a return engagement: a triple-digit body count is practically mandatory for Batman's rouges' gallery. Oh, well, that and the kites, I guess.

Man, the narration is breaking its legs trying to sell you Kite-Man.11. Batman goes after Kite-man with a bat-shaped glider, as opposed to the Bat-plane, Bat-copter, that whirly-bat thing he used to unfold out of the Batmobile...ah, the whirly-bat. It's like Iron Man's roller skates: when you see them, you have a pretty good idea when that comic came out. They're also so dated and cheesy and fun, that it'll never come back again.

12. Knowing Kite-man is a better hang-glider than he is, Batman takes precautions. Now, while Batman's planning has reached megalomaniac levels in the last several years, it is currently unacceptable for Batman to admit not being the be-all end-all best at everything he does, has done, or will do. Even kite flying. There's just something unwholesome about flying a kite at night.
In a modern comic, Batman would've foiled Kite-man's scheme with a Wayne Industries hyperlight kevlar-weave superconductive...throw in at least three more science words there, glider, beating him at his own game and then pummelling him before poor Kitey has a chance to even start crying. Sort of like Richie Rich, Batman solves his problems by throwing money at them while making you feel like dirt.

13. The next issue box...do Batman comics even have those anymore? Do any comics?...hypes up next month's return of Robin. Fair enough. And the "incredible menace of Crazy Quilt!" Well, good luck with that.

Different times, different times. I understand Kite-Man was killed and possibly eaten in one of the big event books or One Year Later or somewhere, which is as unnecessary as killing off the Ten-Eyed Man or the Bug-Eyed Bandit. No emotional involvement, not enough name recognition to mean anything to the readers, except as a trivia question. I like the idea of Kite-Man as a point man for really specialized criminals, and that anyone in Gotham that becomes the best at something is going to try and use it for crime. Best croquet player? Get a costume! Win a lot of eBay auctions? Mask up!

Also, I'm positive it's terrible, but there's a note in this issue about Kite-Man fighting Hawkman. Now, that would've been well before his current "Conan-with-wings" turn, but it would still take some guts to fight Hawkman--a guy with an anti-gravity belt, really--when all you've got is a hang-glider. Oh, and a bunch of crappy kite gimmicks. Never mind. Read more!

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Fantastic Fill-In
This whole sequence is based on a throwaway comment by Chris Sims (of Invincible Super-Blog fame) on the upcoming Mark Millar/Bryan Hitch Fantastic Four, to the effect of "for Fantastic Four to be Marvel’s flagship title, it really oughtta be on the stands more than three times a year." While I agree, I'm probably even less hopeful for the best than he is, especially since I dropped eight bucks on the last two issues of the Unfunnies, at a rate of about $2.16 per minute of reading them.

Anyway, I took the whole thing as Ben and Johnny are gonna have a lot of free time on their hands...

I think I've made Johnny a hair dumber than usual.  Or is that more dumb?  I never remember.
In his head, Ben has an entire fantasy draft of FF replacements.  He's not going to get stuck with the wrestler Ms. Marvel and Crystal again.
Seriously, if FF runs late, and a Franklin special and Power Pack appearance coincide, he could have more comics out than them.
And Spidey and Power Pack laughed and laughed...
Was Namorita the Torch's last girlfriend to last more than an issue?
Still, all sarcasm aside, here's hoping it's good. And there is something to be said for not having the same rotation of villains all the time. We'll see. Read more!

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Aside from 'blow up lab tech,' I'm not sure what that experiment was for.
It's a little bit funny: I first saw the ads for the Steel Claw in Quality/Fleetway Judge Dredd reprints, around 1986 or so. While I was interested, I never saw the book, until a visit to a comic shop in Vegas when I got married, in 2003. And if I had given it any thought at all, I would've surmised those stories were reprints from 2000 AD, when in fact they were even older. Wikipedia had the breakdown of the Claw's publishing history, which was far more extensive than I would have thought. I was also surprised at the notion of the Steel Claw's international appeal; since I had only heard of it once, I had no idea. I also didn't know he appeared in the Alan Moore plotted Albion. Huh.

There is a good hook to it, as it were: Lab assistant Lewis Randell (Louis Crandell in the originals) has an artificial hand, the titular Steel Claw, as the result of a lab accident. This alone would be about four issues in modern comics, but it thankfully it's done by the first page here. Caught in another accident, Randell gains the power of invisibility, with two catches: he has to 'charge' the invisibility with an electrical shock, which doesn't affect him adversely; and the Claw itself remains visible. Although he doesn't seem all that stable before the accident either, Randell has what would be later charitably be called a psychotic break, and decides to use his newfound power for world domination. Pretty ambitious for a guy that's just mostly invisible.
There had to be easier ways to do that, but he was insane.
Most of Randell's plans involve blackmail, such as him invisibly sabotaging stuff, then sending demands. Either because of the nature of his powers--Randell has to physically be there to cause the damage, then leave himself time to bail out--or because the future direction of the strip was already known, most of the trouble he causes doesn't do a lot of harm: usually, a quick-witted person at the scene puts the brakes on before anyone gets hurt. It builds up to the nuclear blackmail of New York City, and the army in place to try and stop the Claw from escaping before it blows.

Since he's the villain, Randell shouldn't be a heroic figure, especially since he's a bit of a loon for this sequence. But you can see why the Steel Claw became so popular: it's a straightforward adventure strip, immediate and exciting. The Claw's powers give out at the worst times, and it's a chess match between him and his old boss with a literal bomb ticking in the background.

After a brief coda with the mob trying to recruit the Claw, Randell is cured of his criminal insanity. He tries to return to a normal life, only to be framed by a mad scientist who had turned himself into a Mr. Hyde-style apeman. And painted his hand silver. Look, at the time, it probably wasn't much of a leap in logic to think maybe the guy that used to turn invisible might've mutated or something; and the authorities would doubtless have said guy that also threatened to blow up New York high on their list of suspects for anything.

By the fourth reprint issue, Randell is a secret agent, though investigator might be a better term--even invisible, "former nuclear blackmailer" is going to give him a higher Q rating than James Bond or Nick Fury put together. He's a superhero without a costume, though I understand he'd eventually end up with one; and the Claw itself can now be operated by remote control. Somehow. "Remote control" could probably have been replaced with "psychic link" without damaging any credibility there.

The Steel Claw's overseas popularity reminds me of another personal favorite, the Go Nagai giant robot cartoon Grandizer, which was Grendizer in the original, and known in various countries as Goldorak and Goldrake. It's barely a footnote here, yet it was quite successful elsewhere in the world. And both seem ripe for an update: both series were entertaining, remembered fondly, yet without the baggage of years of continuity and minutiae-obsessed fans. While it might be a little effects-heavy, I could absolutely picture a successful Steel Claw TV show. You could get a season or two alone out of his villainous days, and I like and identify a bit with the framing sequences' portrayal of Randell as an older gentleman a bit embarrassed by the excesses of his youth.

Of course, like Steve Austin, Ashley Williams, and Luke Skywalker, the Steel Claw is another fictional amputee with a prosthesis that seemed way better than the original hand. Even with all the medical advances since, it still doesn't work like that. Disappointing, that. Reprinted in the Steel Claw #1, script by H. Ken Bulmer, art by Jesus Blasco. Read more!