Monday, November 28, 2022

There's no 'I' in team; but the waterboy doesn't get a ring, so...

This series only ran 25 issues, which I think barely scratched the surface of the available sci-fi stories DC had to reprint. From 1971, From Beyond the Unknown #14, and both the title and the stories should be read in the same tone as "Welcome! To the world of tomorrow!" was in Futurama.
The cover story, "The Human Pet of Gorilla Land!" gets a new cover, by Joe Kubert, but the story is from 1959's Strange Adventures #108, written by John Broome, pencils by Carmine Infantino, inks by Bernard Sachs. Two alien crooks, on the lam from a human space cop, convince another planet of telepathic giant apes that said cop was in fact the season's hottest pet! It takes a while for the cop to get the idea that he wasn't a pet across, possibly by a steadfast refusal to do anything entertaining. This would've been a pretty late gorilla cover from DC; were they out of vogue by 1971? Or did Planet of the Apes help keep them popular longer?
In "The Planet Nobody Wanted!" war had been outlawed on earth, which was now at peace. And overpopulated, so humanity was moving into space and shoving others off of their planets. Great. Sleazy captain Sleamer has found a good one, but the locals seem all-too-willing to let him have it. That doesn't stop him from trying to take it for himself; it goes about as well for him as you'd expect. (From 1953's Mystery In Space #13, written by Gardner Fox, art by Murphy Anderson and Sy Barry.)
"Raiders of the Waterless World!" is a bit of fun: during a space war, a gung-ho young pilot is relegated to cargo duty, lugging water to a garrison on a dry planet. But, when the planet is blockaded by the aliens, he decides he has to press on rather than let them die of thirst, but the only weapon he has is water...The pilot proves his mettle, but while he's rewarded in the end, they didn't exactly go all-out for him, either. (From 1959's Mystery in Space #59, written by John Broome, art by Gil Kane and Murphy Anderson. Which reminds me, I haven't started that Adam Strange Showcase yet...)
"Secret of the Dinosaur Skeleton!" was the cover story of 1962's Strange Adventures #138: the criminal Kandar, in suspended animation for 150 million years, is discovered, and starts using his mental powers to animate a brontosaurus skeleton to get ancient superweapons and take over the world. Luckily, his adversary Queen Oarda had also been in suspended animation, and tries to stop him. (Written by Gardner Fox, pencils by Gil Kane, inks by Joe Giella.)
Finally, in "I Delivered Mail From Mars!" a mailman realizes he's been delivering letters to a Martian, who was on self-imposed exile after being accused of art theft. When he receives word that his name had been cleared, he could return home, if he could only come up with the cash to buy some radium for his ship. But, his art won't sell, and he couldn't reveal himself as a Martian, even though the mailman found him out...luckily, the mailman had a stamp collector on his route, who coughs up for the Martian stamps! Silly. I did like the panel where the mailman apparently knows the street value of radium, off the top of his head. (From 1954's Strange Adventures #42, written by Otto Binder, pencils by Mort Drucker, inks by Joe Giella.) Read more!

Friday, November 25, 2022

Julia Carpenter may have wore it better; if we're honest.

With the possible exception of an issue or two of the Madness--because Kelley Jones, c'mon--I didn't buy any of Venom's solo comics in the 90's. At least not off the racks; I swear I have a pile of them from the quarter bins somewhere, which probably included this issue but since we saw another one in the bins, well...from 1995, Venom: Sinner Takes All #2, "Redeemable Upon Request" Written by Larry Hama, pencils by Greg Luzniak, inks by Scott Koblish.
We hit the ground running here, as the Sin-Eater is threatening the hospitalized Ann Weying, and seems to know she was Venom's ex-wife! Still, she was a lawyer and had to go: one barrel of the traditional shotgun goes to Ann, but Venom blocks it; the other shot at the excessively Irish Chief Reilly, who is saved by his vest. Rather than use his suicide vest, the Sin-Eater escapes; then Reilly opts to let Venom escape, with Ann: police custody had done a piss-poor job of protecting her, he had to admit. Ann is mildly sketched out by Eddie in the full Venom mask, but also had severe injuries: after Eddie gets her to his underground hideout, first he tries to use the symbiote to help her, but he may need the symbiote to join with her completely.
Meanwhile, the cops had a suspect for the new Sin-Eater, a somewhat lippy homeless religious zealot; but the mother of one of his victims guns him down while in custody. Except, the gear they found with him wasn't his, and the prints match a Gulf War vet: he had switched bags with the zealot at the homeless shelter. And Venom's secret hideout is not-that-secret, as a couple of thugs aren't thrilled to find "Fabio" there--Eddie really could've used a haircut. Luckily for him, Ann was ready to save him--as the Bride of Venom! I don't know why she immediately goes to the brain-eating: I honestly thought that was a bit of smack-talk that got taken too seriously, but maybe brains am good food! Also this issue: a back-up feature with the Jury; armored vigilantes from another Venom mini. They break into a South American prison to bust out a prisoner...to put him on their own trial, since he was the Tarantula!

The original Sin-Eater story was a favorite--I liked that way more than about any Venom story I can think of off the top of my head. I want to say Ann was introduced in the aforementioned Venom: the Madness, but she feels a little more Team Venom here. I don't know if this costume looks better on a woman though; the green drool undercuts it a bit.
Read more!

Thursday, November 24, 2022

80-Page Thursdays: DC Special Series #5!

Or, as the cover puts it, Superman Spectacular! From 1977, "The Second Coming of Superman!" Written by Cary Bates, with an assist from Marin Pasko, based on an idea by John Lamartine; pencils by Curt Swan, inks by Vince Colletta.
The cover says it's an 80-pager, but the title page puts the lie to that immediately, describing it as "an all-new, 63-page epic starring the amazing Man of Steel!" Which might've been the longest single-issue Superman story to date, but it goes in a more unusual direction than the cover--featuring Brainiac and Luthor congratulating each other over Superman's body--would lead you to believe. It's Superman Day in Metropolis, and the usual supporting cast--Lois, Jimmy, Perry, Steve Lombard and Morgan Edge--are part of the parade, having made bets on what Clark's lame excuse for no-showing would be. But, there's a strange visitor to the city: an alien girl, with unusual eyes, and a somewhat familiar-looking S-shaped necklace, which glows as the big man approaches. While Superman races through the sun on his return flight to earth, an earthquake strikes, knocking the head off a massive Superman statue, which nearly crushes some onlookers. Supes arrives in the nick, launching the head of the statue into the ocean--where it lands near Lori Lemaris's Atlantis, which donated it to the surface!
As Lois and everyone chat with Superman--and badmouth Clark a bit--the strange girl feels they aren't showing the proper deference, and uses some invisible power to force them to kneel. We then see, in flashback to the previous day, the Atlanteans sending the Superman statue, as a small UFO passes by, with a pilot with unusual eyes, who is giddy that "the sacred scriptures" were coming to pass. He lands at an island in the Pacific, Quorxa, an alien city protected by a "vibratory shroud" making it invisible. Although, they had a recent visitor, that they were keeping under lock and key...They also had some unusual weather problems, which I wonder if they weren't caused by the vibratory shroud, since "thunder-bomb storms" don't sound normal. Also somewhat abnormal: the giant grotesque Superman effigy "Sonzrr" that protects the city. When the alien pilot delivers his news, he feels they had been worshipping a fraud; but the girl is a true believer: Sonzrr was an idol, in their savior's likeness. Not a true believer: Quorxa's visitor, none other than Lex Luthor! With a teleporting device microscopically implanted in his head, Lex helps himself to their "grkom," or "bible," then heads out to find a translator...
The Quorxans had been on earth over a hundred million years ago, and so was Superman--on a time-travelling visit, anyway. He investigates a mysterious "water-volcano", that was launching millions of tons of material into space, then generates a colossal monster, while draining his power! The psuedo-science explanation involves ectoplasm and prana, so it's more suspect than usual; but Superman had to let himself by swallowed by the monster created from his own imagination so he could re-absorb his own life-essence. Sure. Two Quorxans had witnessed the whole thing, which inexplicably left their people immortal, which led over the centuries, "fascination became infatuation! Puzzlement became blind faith!" Brainiac translates the grkom for a bemused Luthor, who has discovered the ore expelled by the water-volcano was what changed the Quorxans, but could be of a different use for them.
Disguised as a human, the alien girl follows Clark around, wondering why the savior would change clothes and hang around the humans, but they had a version of "the Lord works in mysterious ways" too, and she was open enough to accept humans as his children as much as the Quorxans were. On the other hand, when Steve Lombard tries to splash Clark from his new sports car; that sacrilege will not stand, and she launches him nearly into space! Superman has to make a difficult rescue, which involves saving a popped hot air balloon on the way; but Steve is left sunburned like a lobster. The alien girl realizes she might've gone too far; but then gets a message from home: a Quorxan had died, and others were sick. They need Sonzrr, so Ryla introduces herself, which involves a giant glowing 'S.' Superman has to duck out at super-speed, grab her, and heat-vision the 'S,' before she outs him as Clark. She isn't sure why her god doesn't recognize her, and Superman is quick to tell her, he wasn't a god. But, being Superman, he was still willing to help, so Ryla uses her tech to send them tunnelling at incredible speed through the earth! (Which had caused the earthquake earlier when she arrived!)
The weakened and desperate Quorxans beg 'Sonzrr' to save them, holding up their little glowing crucifix-like 'S's, while Superman tries to figure out what they were on about, but is interrupted by the return of the water-volcano. Concentrating against ectoplasmic drain, Superman thinks he can wrap it up easily enough, but catches a little chin-music first: a Lex Luthor power-glove punch, followed by Brainiac's force field protecting the water-volcano. Oh, and they had set up a jammer, so the ectoplasmic drain was in full effect! The Quorxans watch with a mixture of dread, rapture, and confusion; as the volcano spits chunks of that ore on their island, rejuvenating them. But Superman has a battle on three fronts, since if the water-volcano continued, it could hollow out earth completely...!
After bouncing some rocks off Brainiac into Luthor, the power-drain on Superman becomes critical, and he loses even flight. As Brainiac holds him up by the cape, Luthor blasts Superman with his power glove, launching him to the shores of Quorxa. They then turn off the water-volcano, a good 15 seconds before it would've damaged the planet beyond repair: their science had figured that one out beforehand. But Luthor is then surprised by a mysterious, glowing device; that seems to have absorbed a lot of power...The Quorxans lament the death of their god, as they receive a final, bad sign: their glowing 'S's, have all gone black. Meanwhile, the Luthor/Brainiac team has hit one of their trademark rough patches, as Brainiac has Lex in a headlock, and was going to use the energy siphoned from Superman, to power his shrinking ray: he would now have the power to shrink entire worlds for study. (What Brainiac was trying to discover or learn from shrunken worlds is unclear, although he apparently gets a kick out of it as well.)
The Quorxans had returned to their city, leaving only Ryla mourning over the fallen Superman. But he wasn't quite done yet: he had realized their 'S's had been draining his power already, and had to reabsorb it, which is why they had gone black. He also had been able to hear Brainiac boasting to Lex, and was able to rally enough to beat the shrinking ray into space and retake his power from that, then lay down a mighty thumping on them. Witnessed only by Ryla, who writes a new book of the Quorxans' scripture...

The Quorxans were never seen again after this one, but they weren't even the only invisible city on pre-Crisis earth, were they? Gorilla City, Paradise Island, Nanda Parbat...there's probably a half-dozen more. Also, I didn't immediately recognize it from the cover, but I'd read this one before, in the Best of DC #59 digest, which has a cover playing up Sonzrr and the god angle. That one also features "Let My People Grow!" So I had read this one years ago, which might explain why I'm fine with it, even if I find the Christ-imagery in the later Superman movies incredibly heavy-handed.
Read more!

Wednesday, November 23, 2022

"Sentient."

At least part of this strip is from me playing Contest of Champions for years: the characters are classed out, and each class has an advantage over another. Mystic over Cosmic, Science over Mystic, Skill over Science, Mutant over Skill, and Tech over Mutant. A side effect of this is that a lot of characters you wouldn't think of as having a problem with mutants, have the advantage fighting them, like Iron Man or War Machine. I currently use Punisher 2099 a lot, for fighting mutants. Makes me feel like the Mutant/Tech conflict is almost engrained. 

While the real answer is, "as many as the plot needs," I wonder how many Sentinels could reasonably be produced, and how quickly; versus how quickly mutants can resurrect their numbers up. Both sides could be doing more, honestly; but Marvel still hedges a bit that the world wouldn't get real fascist against mutants real quick.

Kurt isn't as mad at Bastion as you might expect, because he doesn't consider Bastion to be anything more than a murdery chatbot, not capable of actual feelings or even thoughts. 
Read more!

Tuesday, November 22, 2022

I recently picked up Essential Moon Knight volumes 1 and 2 from Comic Book Relief: I probably could've bought those some time ago, but held off since I thought I had most if not all those issues. But, sometimes it's nice to have them handy, isn't it? And since the TV show, cheap back issues are drying up; although a reader copy of this one fell into my lap: from 1981, Moon Knight #14, "Stained Glass Scarlet" Written by Doug Moench, art by Bill Sienkiewicz.
In an abandoned church in the Bronx, the lovely "Stained Glass" Scarlet lives, or at least broods; with only her cat Gummitch for company. (Gummitch is such an unusual name I had to look it up, it was from Fritz Lieber's cat stories; he was better known for Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser.) While she seems to have chess and astronomy as hobbies, she also seems haunted by her past, and almost to be waiting for something. Meanwhile, at scenic Grace Mansion, Steven Grant is enjoying an evening in with Marlene; that gets too heavy when she plays "In My Life" on the piano: it would have been less than a year since Lennon had been shot. Unable to keep playing, Marlene asks Steven to turn on the radio, and gets the same news Scarlet was listening to intently: escaped murderer Joe "Mad Dog" Fasinera was on a killing spree, which seems to hit her pretty hard. "Mad Dog" was trying to make up for time he lost in stir, but placated his crew with the promise of collecting his father's money. Both Moon Knight and Scarlet go into action, with Moon Knight wrapping up the crew. Scarlet had told them to tell Joe, what he was looking for was in the church, but Moon Knight arrives instead, to hear her story: as a child, she had wanted to be an actress, or a nun. She would become the latter, then realized it was only an act, then became involved with a repentant-seeming mobster. Despite having a child with him, she couldn't redeem the mobster completely, and he would later be gunned down after a robbery, with the cash never found. Her son Joe went "Mad Dog" shortly thereafter, and was given life for his own murders.
Scarlet seems determined to try and save Joe, although she seems to have a realistic expectation of success, as in none. Joe demands the missing cash, which Scarlet didn't have, and Moon Knight smacks him down but then catches lead from Joe's hold-out piece. Scarlet puts him down, and as he falls, he pulls the bell rope, knocking the cash out of it. Scarlet walks away, telling Moon Knight his costume notwithstanding, "things are never black and white!"
Current Moon Knight writer Jed MacKay recently put a very different spin on Scarlet in Moon Knight #8, but I was surprised she didn't have a crossbow this issue. I would've guessed she had one from the start! Also, I think more sadness would be piled onto Scarlet's backstory later, but I think after Moench and Sienkiewicz. Read more!

Monday, November 21, 2022

This issue wasn't mint, but neither were the issues referenced within by the end of it.

I was setting up another sheet of miniature comics and added the cover of today's book, so I was thrilled to find a quarter-bin copy a couple days later at the toy show! From 1978, Sgt. Rock #317, "Hell's Oven" Written by Bob Kanigher, pencils by Dick Ayers, inks by Romeo Tanghal.
Easy Company has a new crop of "green apples," fresh, untested rookies, and Rock is not too sure about them. Namely, because he catches them reading comic books! After Rock blows up a Nazi armored truck with a hand grenade, the rookies are impressed, but Superman could've tore the sides off of it, or Wonder Woman could've bounced the bullets off her bracelets...man, tough crowd. Still, the rookies have guts, even if they have read too many comics, and Rock is there to set them straight. He finally takes the comics away from them, to prevent any more half-baked ideas, but then a sniper's bullet is deflected, by his ID bracelet!
The Joe Kubert cover makes it seem like this one's going to be more of a downer; it's a relatively cheery little yarn. And all the comic readers make it out OK, out of this one at least.
Read more!

Friday, November 18, 2022

How did I get so many damn comics at the toy show?

It only took about an hour to blow through my budget at the recent little toy show, and while I did grab a couple figures--including two Supermen!--I bought another ton of dollar comics. Including this one, which I had seen the homage to in Deadpool Team-Up #883, but maybe not the original! From 1971, Superman #240, "To Save a Superman" Written by Denny O'Neal, pencils by Curt Swan, inks by Dick Giordano.
With Superman's powers weakened, he's still able to save a young mom and two kids from a skyscraper fire; but the building's owner demands he try to save the building as well. No dice, and the Planet's headline the next day was "Superman Fails!" This encourages crime, in the form of the "Anti-Superman Gang," who decide now is the time for bold action. Superman seems to be doing a lot of walking around here, but after getting taunted by some construction workers, he wonders if those "ingrates" have forgotten all the good he did. Hearing a bank robbery, he considers letting "the smug citizens...solve their own problems!" but relents and leaps into action. He's slower, though, and catches not one, but three cannon shells!
Superman recalls the mysterious double that drained his powers, and throws the vault door at the gang, capturing most of them and recovering the cash. Still, he feels he's "growing puny!" But, there might be help: from the pages of Wonder Woman, I-Ching meets Clark Kent at the Planet. He knows Clark is Superman, because of...inscrutable Orientalism, that's why. Still, an office boy/spy notices the meeting, and makes a call to the mob; which tells him to follow "Charlie Chan." That night, at I-Ching's, he has Clark change to Superman, then tries treating him by "liberating his essence," which seems like letting his soul out of his body. I-Ching is supposed to sound sage and wizened, but his plan strikes me as straight-up Dr. Nick.
But, the goons arrive and overpower I-Ching, then one is brave enough to pistolwhip the unconscious Supes. Which actually bruises him, but does bring him back to his body. Now powerless, Superman still fights, since he won't let them kill I-Ching, and his invulnerable suit still offers him a little protection. He rallies to defeat the goons, and considers it "his greatest victory!" But were his powers gone for good...?
This was the sixth chapter of what would later be collected as Kryptonite Nevermore: it ran from #233 to #242, although it appeared to miss a couple months. A nuclear accident had turned all the Kryptonite on earth into iron--and by this point in the series, there had been a lot of Kryptonite on earth--but a weird sand duplicate of Superman had appeared, and his powers had been affected. A lot of touches feel like they were inspired by Marvel books, too: his public opinion problem seems very familiar. Also, I need a new copy of the Walt Simonson Superman Special from 1992, a quick version of that storyline. Probably without I-Ching, if I recall. Read more!