Friday, August 30, 2013

A definite improvement on that coat...

I know I read the 1986 Blue Beetle series more often then not when it came out, but I don't remember having the three issue Question story. And today, I just have the first one: Blue Beetle #5, "Ask the Right Question!" Written by Len Wein, pencils by Paris Cullins, inks by Bruce D. Patterson.

Vic Sage is investigating the new hero in Chicago, the Blue Beetle, when he's given a new assignment: look into a new surge of youth gangs. (This being an eighties DC comic, the "youth gangs" dress, look like, and even call themselves the Wild Ones: DC was not all about relevance at the time...) The gangs have backup, though, that they call Big M; who plans the jobs and backs them up with a rocket launcher. He even manages to to cover a getaway from the cops and Blue Beetle and his Bug airship. Mob boss Vincent Perignon is furious that the Wild Ones would hit one of his operations; and puts his son Richie on the job of stopping them.

Separately, Beetle and the Question track the Wild Ones to a junkyard; which leads to a fight, but the Big M covers the gang's escape again. The heroes plan to team up on the case, unaware they're being observed by Big M, who actually goes by the far worse name of the Muse. Who I'm pretty sure was the son, Richie; which makes it look like a good chunk of this issue is swiped from old Spider-Man stories; and there's a lot of pages devoted to subplots as well. There's two with Ted's terrible girlfriend Melody Case, and one for the cop that suspected Ted Kord in the disappearance of Dan Garrett, the original Blue Beetle: that one would go on for about a year.

The Question barely resembles the version that would be seen in his own series, but the basics are there. I'll probably have to keep an eye out for the next two issues...

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Thursday, August 29, 2013

80-Page Thursdays: Detective Comics #19!

A recent 80-pager, from DC's New 52: Detective Comics #19, featuring stories from John Layman and John Tynion IV, and art from Jason Fabok, Andy Clarke, Henrik Jonsson, Mikel Janin, Jason Masters, and more.

If Detective Comics had continued, uninterrupted by the New 52 reboot, this would've been the 900th issue. Cleverly, Layman's main story this issue is "The 900," named after a normally prosperous and safe neighborhood of Gotham City, tonight hit by a mysterious virus turning people into Man-Bats. As Batman tries to contain the outbreak, which he recognizes as similar to Talia al Ghul's soldiers; he's also dealing with the breakup of his family. Batgirl doesn't respond to Bats, but does help with the containment; while Nightwing just leaves town. Eventually, Batman discovers Patient Zero of the outbreak, the serial killer Zsasz, and stops him as Batwoman arrives with Drs. Kirk and Francine Langstrom. Kirk, of course, was the creator of the Man-Bat formula, which was stolen by Talia; but he still feels responsible. He injects himself with the serum, since by becoming a Man-Bat himself, he'll release a new pathogen that will cure the others. Francine is left alone as the Man-Bat flies off to parts unknown, and Zsasz is taken back to Arkham, but he admits he released the virus, on the behest of the Emperor Penguin. (The who? Having not read the book recently, I'm not familiar with "Ogilvy" at all.)

Also this issue: Francine plans to retrieve her husband, in a brief origin story for Man-Bat; the odd-looking Mr. Combustible leads a crime wave during the Man-Bat breakout for the Emperor Penguin; Bane plots against the Court of Owls and their Talons, since he sees them as an obstacle in taking Gotham; and some of the city's police discuss their positions on the Batman, some of which may have changed after the Man-Bat outbreak..

Not too bad of an issue, although I don't know if it's $7.99 worth: fortunately, I didn't pay anywhere near that! By that happenstance I hold so dear, found it for $1.99 at Hastings! For that price, pretty good!
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Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Constantine's looking for, um, "Holdin' Caulfield."

Keeping in mind I'm not a huge Swamp Thing or Hellblazer fan, I'm still 95% sure there's at least one story where Swamp Thing gives John marijuana. Something they probably couldn't get away with in the new 52 versions of the characters, yeah. Over at the Hurting, Tim O'Neil has a pretty good post about DC's current house style, where John Constantine and Captain Marvel can crossover, but the charm and innocence of "Shazam" and the dark humor and adult nature of Constantine have both been diluted. Which brings to mind the old saw about mixing ten gallons of ice cream and ten gallons of manure...well, not that either Captain Marvel or Hellblazer were manure by themselves, but maybe you get my point.

Oddly enough, as Tim also pointed out, the Masters of the Universe are going to be crossing over with the Justice League and Justice League Dark; and dear lord, they don't call themselves 'Justice League Dark' in-story, do they? Sounds like a bad M&M flavor. I usually give Keith Giffen a lot of rope, but the new 52 designs and unnecessary and terrible redesigns in the same vein for the He-Man characters...I don't know.

In other news, Masters of the Universe Classics Moss Man was a 2010 figure, that I just picked up at Big Lots recently; and he still has his pine-scent. Like, a lot. Super-piney.

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Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Cashing in on 1977.

Although I'd known of it for years, I never read Weirdworld until just recently. It's...passing strange, alright. From Marvel Premiere #38, "The Lord of Tyndall's Quest" Written by Doug Moench, art by Mike Ploog and Alex Nino.

It reads like you're coming in mid-quest, and yeah, after a little research, you are: this was the second published Weirdworld story. I had to look a little, the first was in Marvel Super Action #1, a black-and-white magazine with a Punisher cover--his fifth full appearance. And the first appearance of the Huntress Bobbi Morse, who would become Mockingbird; and a Howard Chaykin Dominic Fortune story! That sounds great, although Weirdworld seems an odd fit there. (This took me a while to search, since I thought there was a mistake somewhere: I have a pretty full collection of Marvel Super Action the regular comic, which was mostly classic Captain America and Avengers reprints, from back before they were easily available in trades!)

The elf Tyndall of Klarn is sent on a quest by the Dwarf-Elders of Weirdworld (because he's expendable and they don't like him) to rid the land of monsters by destroying the Heart of Evil. Instead of the Heart, though; Tyndall finds a mysterious egg, out of which hatches Velanna, an elf girl also of Klarn. Why and how she was in the egg is unrevealed: as far as she knows, she went to sleep and woke up in it. But Tyndall realizes the dwarves were trying to get rid of him, and joins Velanna on a journey to somewhere they wouldn't be hated.

While the pair are attacked by a swamp-serpent, the wizard Grithstane observes them with his magic mirror; and creates wax monsters to capture them, as he has another quest in mind for Tyndall. That's kind of a neat scene, actually. He wants Tyndall to slay a dragon and bring back the blood, which will restore Grithstane's youth: he had a captured elf girl of his own, but she couldn't stand the sight of him. Grithstane then tells Tyndall he'll send him to Klarn, which is a floating ring-shaped island in the sky--wait, if Tyndall and Velanna were from Klarn, shouldn't they have had maybe a vague idea where it was? And how did they get down from there? Grithstane magically launches Tyndall there on a small lump of ground, smashing him into the bottom of the floating island, and Tyndall has to dig his way to the top.

In short order, Tyndall finds a group of dwarves, who plan to sacrifice a "changer," another elf girl, to the dragon god. Tyndall is confused: is this is Klarn, and he's from Klarn, why don't they have pointed ears? Why are they sacrificing the girl who does? Tyndall fights them to save the girl, but the girl turns into a swamp-serpent! He's only saved by the arrival of the dragon, which kills the serpent; and Tyndall repays the dragon by killing it. "...can't just go around eating people," he supposes. The magic mirror returns Tyndall when he gets the blood, but he finds Grithstane's elf-girl was another swamp-serpent, that ate the unfortunate wizard.

Tyndall realizes his quest was for nothing, but Velanna takes it as a sign: there's no easy way to acceptance, and you can't stop hate by buying favors. And they're together, which is good enough for them.

Strange issue: since at first glance I thought this was the start of the story, it really reminded me of Wally Wood's "The King of the Ring" more than anything. And while I don't know if that was Moench and Ploog's intent, all the ads and blurbs I've seen for Weirdworld really hype it as in the same vein as Lord of the Rings; which makes me wonder why it was never collected and on the shelves to ride the coattails of the movies. May be a rights problem with the creators and Marvel, I don't know.
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Monday, August 26, 2013

Today, Black Canary works up a sweat...

...and the Atom leaves tiny footprints all over the Calculator, in two back-up stories from Detective Comics #463, "Crimes by Calculation." Written by Bob Rozakis, with art by Mike Grell and Terry Austin; and #464, "A Hot Time in Star City Tonight." Written by Bob and Laurie Rozakis, and art by Mike Grell and Terry Austin.

These two stories were the first in a serial with new villain the Calculator, who starts by fighting the Atom and killing a college professor who had developed an anti-earthquake device. Defeated by the Atom, the Calculator presses the star button on his chest keypad, which is teased as being important in future stories. The next issue, an escaped Calculator tries to use Black Canary's sonic scream to drive the temperature up to unbearable levels and drive the citizenry out. Canary beats him as well (apparently driving the local temperature to a balmy 526 degrees, according to a nearby bank thermometer) but the Calculator pushes star again, which he counts as a win while he's back in jail.

I don't have the next issues yet, but I guess the Calculator's plan somehow involved every time a hero beat him, he wouldn't be able to be beaten the same way again, or some such. Sadly, even though I think Gail Simone revamped him as an evil counterpart to Oracle, I don't think he's ever been popular enough to reprint anything of his.
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Saturday, August 24, 2013

"Super Vader."

I found my old Star Wars Force Battlers Darth Vader figure (Amazon here.) although I must have put his lightsaber and kickass Imperial symbol shield somewhere to keep them from getting squashed. Since I don't think they've even announced Vader in the Star Wars Black six-inch line, I wanted to see if how this Vader would look with the Luke figure. And he just towers over him.

I thought the neck seemed a little long as well, but I don't know. Still, the Force Battlers weren't realistic or super-articulated, they had a bit of an animated, almost anime style. I thought they were in the same spirit as the old Marvel comics: not screen-accurate necessarily, but dramatic.
OK, maybe a couple of feet in-scale of dramatic license, for these two figures to work together, but still fun. Now, if I could figure out where I put that Force Battler Chewbacca...

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Friday, August 23, 2013

Crab legs--ah! Or ew.

This is the second-to-last issue of Conan the Barbarian's surprisingly long stint as a pirate with Bêlit, the pirate queen. No spoiler, but it doesn't end well for her. Today, they fight crab-men, in Conan the Barbarian #99, "Devil-Crabs of the Dark Cliffs!" Written and edited by Roy Thomas, art by John Buscema and Ernie Chan, and adapted sorta from Robert E. Howard's non-Conan story "The People of the Black Coast."

Having recently lost a royal treasure, Bêlit is working her crew hard to make back that money. Conan realizes the men are on the verge of either exhaustion or mutiny, but he's been around long enough to know fortunes are to be won and lost: Bêlit just seems like she's being controlled by greed, and she's the captain. (I don't know if that was normal for her, or if they were just trying to foreshadow her fate.) When they come across a deserted Argossean ship, moored by a dark cliff, and find shredded bodies of sailors and mysterious Eastern treasure, Bêlit doesn't care about the mystery or the danger, only the possibility of more treasure, and they investigate. Which leads them to the crab-men.

A captured sailor fills them in: the crab-men seem to be telepathic, and lured the sailors there for some kind of lethal experiments. Oh, and the treasure, just because. Conan would not leave men to die that way, and Bêlit agrees to save them...and their treasure. The freed sailors don't make great time lugging treasure chests, and the crab-men give chase. Conan first has the idea to roll rocks down on them from the high ground in the cliffs, but then sees an opportunity: steam vents, heated from underground. To a crab-man, they're cooked.

Bêlit nearly keeps all the treasure, but seemingly on a whim elects to split it with the Argosseans. It may be far from a generous impulse, though: she knows if those sailors make it home, others will try their newly-discovered passage to the Eastern lands; which means more ships for her to loot...and mysteriously, Conan has a momentary weakness in the end, probably more foreshadowing.

I know I have Conan #100 somewhere...but without crab-men, perhaps it's not as memorable.

Fun fact: since I grew up in Montana, I've for years had a distrust of seafood; since it probably would've had to take a plane, a bus, and a cab to get to my plate.
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Thursday, August 22, 2013

80-Page Thursday: Countdown Special: Kamandi #1!

Today, another reprint tie-in to Countdown, but this time one I hadn't read at all, unlike the OMAC one we saw a while back: Countdown Special: Kamandi #1, reprinting three Jack Kirby classics. (With inks from Mike Royer and D. Bruce Berry.)

In "The Last Boy on Earth" the series is set up: named after the bunker complex 'Command D,' the young boy finds himself alone in a terrible world after his grandfather (retroactively revealed to be OMAC, which may or may not make a damn bit of sense...) is killed by a pack of scavenger wolf-men. With the exception of Kamandi, mankind appears to have fallen even below savagery, to the level of dumb animals; while animal-men talk, think, and fight in the ruins of man's world. (Not unlike Planet of the Apes, except other animals get in on the action.) Captured by tiger-men, Kamandi is about to detonate the nuclear warhead they worship when he's stopped by the kindly Dr. Canus, who introduces him to Ben Boxer, an intelligent human.

Some of Boxer's history is revealed in the next story, "Killer Germ." Boxer (and his friends Renzi and Steve) were mutated to survive the Great Disaster, gaining atomic powers, but strictly speaking weren't human anymore. Their NASA complex is destroyed this issue in an attack by bat-men and the deadly giant germ Morticoccus.

Next, in "The Legend!" after spying a flying figure, Kamandi and Ben meet a tribe of apes who worship an ancient artifact and have a series of tests to rediscover the 'Mighty One.' The tests are more like a competition, and Kamandi pushes Ben into trying out; even though one of the tests is to be launched by a catapult. The apes had not had a lot of luck yet with that one, but kept trying. They still had the Mighty One's uniform, and after winning it (after a fashion...) Ben decrees it should be held until that hero's return. (This story puts Kamandi in DC continuity, unless you argue the apes were worshiping a movie prop.)

Fun and fast moving, these are great stories. I'm mildly surprised DC hasn't tried for a stand-alone Kamandi movie. Step one: hire some Twilight-style teenage hunk that's willing to go shirtless the whole movie. Step two: Uh, special effects, or something. Step three: Profit! Seriously, it's like Kamandi was allergic to shirts or something.
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Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Luke and Icarius, BFF's.

Sometimes, the simple act of buying two figures on the same day is enough to link them in my mind. Like these two! The new Star Wars Black series Luke Skywalker and the 2011 Masters of the Universe Classics Icarius, or Flipshot.

Luke is in six-inch scale, but more normally proportioned than a super-hero action figure, so he seems more slight. And then compared to Icarius, who's on a He-Man style body, well...

I think Luke will probably be OK, though.

I'm pretty definitely going to cherry-pick on the Star Wars Black figures, but so far? Great! He's going to be a strong contender for figure of the year on a lot of people's lists, and while I don't know if Hasbro is going to get deep into the roster--like every creature in the cantina or anything--I think the 6-inch line is going to do well. I really want to dig up those old Force Battler figures I have, but I suspect the Chewbacca and the Darth Vader will just tower over this Luke. (I really like those figures, too.)

Bonus: that last picture, so Luke could be reasonably close to Adora's height: he's standing on my DVD remote.
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Tuesday, August 20, 2013

That Batman '66 figure set may not be worth it...

...without an Ambush Bug figure to go in the window. (Cover from 1990's Secret Origins #48 by Kevin Maguire and Al Gordon.)

I haven't seen the Batman '66 Batman and Robin wall climb set, or the Batmobile; but I did watch the video reviews over at Pixel Dan's. (I don't usually watch video reviews, but saw these over at It's All True and had a minute at home.) Best guess: the set and the Batmobile are OK, if not pretty good figures, perhaps a bit overpriced since Mattel knows they can get a bit more for this license; but a lot of fans are still going to be disappointed because they've been waiting decades for toys of this Batman, and they're mass-market good, not like Hot Toys good. I'm still looking forward to them, though; but I don't think Batman and Robin will be as good as another highly anticipated figure I got last week, that we'll see tomorrow...

Oh, and if you see Secret Origins #48, grab it. Keith Giffen and Robert Fleming's Ambush Bug 'origin' would be worth it alone, but there's also Stanley and His Monster, Rex the Wonder Dog, and the Trigger Twins! The series was winding down at this point--can't have Batman's origin every month--so they seemed to take the opportunity to use characters that were a little less mainstream.

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Monday, August 19, 2013

Aliens vs. Ninjas vs. Sound Engineers. Wait a second...

I picked this series up for a buck an issue, but I may have been thinking of another one when I did: from 1994, Aliens: Music of the Spears, written by Chet Williamson, pencils by Tim Hamilton, inks by Timothy Bradstreet.

The series opens with a team of ninjas attacking a secure corporate facility, in a curious act of industrial espionage, to harvest an Alien facehugger egg. It's part of a convoluted plan that leads back to frustrated musician Damon Eddington, who wants the sound of an Alien for his compositions. His employer at Synsound backs Damon's request for his own ulterior motives, namely getting back at a rival corporation's executive that stole his boss's mistress. Damon records every note he can, from the Alien embryo bursting from the chest of a deluded cultist, to the Alien stalking and killing the homeless victims fed to it; but he hasn't quite found the perfect sound yet, nor are the egg's former owners finished looking for it...

As mentioned on previous Aliens posts, this story is set further on in timeline than seen in the movies: by this point, while the Aliens (or Xenomorphs or whatever) are by no means domesticated, they are on occasion harvested for the Alien Queen's royal jelly, which has different effects depending on how it's processed, or the whims of the writer. This time, it's the people's drug of choice, apparently more common and easier to get than any other. The humans have also figured out that the Aliens aren't all one big happy hive, either: a harnessed warrior called "Ol' Blue" is pressed into service as a bloodhound, but hates any hive not his own.

Not my favorite Aliens story, but certainly not unreadable either, if you're a fan who's read a few. This series is very much about sound, though; and that may or may not work for you: I often think comics about music work about as well as, I don't know, songs about fuzziness or something. But again, if you've followed Aliens for a probably can hear it, can't you?
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Friday, August 16, 2013

"Just add aliens" isn't the worst plotting advice ever, I guess...

My girlfriend and I watch Falling Skies together--in fact, it's one of the few shows we do watch together. But as of yet, we haven't watched the third season finale that aired a week or two back, for reasons that are somewhat unclear to me. "Once we watch it, it's over!" was one answer. The other being, she may be worried that Falling Skies season finales have traditionally been a little weak. The first year ends with the new alien overlords revealed, and Noah Wyle's character surrenders to them...the why of the latter I don't recall, except that they needed a cliffhanger to go out on. Year two, new aliens show up, and they turn out to be fighting the earlier alien overlords. Her money seems to be on more aliens showing up, quite possibly out of nowhere in particular. Just like in today's book!

From 1992, Excalibur #47, "Come One and All to the Ugly Bug-Eyed Monster Ball" Story and art by Alan Davis, inks by Mark Farmer. Davis is more well known as an artist, but is not too shabby a writer, either: his first eight issues writing and drawing Excalibur wrapped a ton of loose ends and red herrings (his own and other writers) from the entire run of the book to date.

More and more mysterious occurrences and alien arrivals keep piling up in the basement of the team's lighthouse, opening this issue with the newly arrived Cerise fighting Nightcrawler's N-Men. (The N-Men are the aliens formerly known as the Technet, an amusingly slapstick batch of mercenaries currently exiled on earth and trained by Nightcrawler to keep them out of trouble.) After their Marvel-misunderstanding rumble wraps up, yet another team of aliens arrive, to offer the N-Men a contract, and after some negotiation they accept. A selling point in that negotiation may have been that the aliens' psychic member has an alarming prediction:

Also this issue: on Otherworld, Captain Britain gets a recap of most of the series to date, along with the Excalibur special that didn't really add up in continuity. Love this run: just read the first eight again the other day, and wish I'd the time for the rest.

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Thursday, August 15, 2013

"Lost Face."

The other day, my girlfriend got me the Masters of the Universe Classics Faceless One figure. (She wanted to get me a figure for my birthday, so I said "that one!" Thanks sweetie!) And I picked up two others (that I won't name here yet...) at Big Lots, a discount chain that picked up some of Mattel's unsold backstock in that line. Which is either just Mattel clearing out some stuff, or a slap in the face to customers asked to subscribe to the line at $24 or so, plus shipping, a figure. Depending on who you ask...

It's probably not a big conspiracy on Mattel's part or anything, but they made a bit of a choice, to ask customers to front the money via subscriptions, to continue the line. They've done the same with their DC Universe Signature Collection or however they bill it now, and their Watchmen line. Even though I pick up a figure here or there (mostly through eBay...) I do not subscribe, mostly because I just want the figures I want, not necessarily all of them. Of course I say that, then grab every ten dollar figure I can lay hands on...

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Wednesday, August 14, 2013


If you ever read Mark Gruenwald's old Captain America serial Streets of Poison, Bullseye guest-stars; and starts his appearance in a cell. Since he was able to turn anything into a deadly thrown weapon, even items like pens or paperclips or orange seeds, Bullseye was not allowed solid food, toilet paper rolls, utensils, or a bunk or toilet. His food was dispensed into a recessed bowl on the floor, his toilet was basically a hole, I'm not sure he was given as much as a blanket or a pillow...and yet Bullseye still escapes, because Bullseye is scary effective and surprisingly clever. Still, before he does, Gruenwald mentions the ACLU protesting his conditions, which would be cruel and unusual for anyone else, but weren't quite good enough to keep him in...

When I got the Batcave a couple weeks ago, this came to mind.

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Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Michael Golden, John Buscema, Klaus Janson, and Bill Sienkiewicz; all on the same book.

And yet I still don't think it was ever a big seller, but not for lack of trying!

Since every so often I pull a random issue of Kull out of the quarter bins, hey, here's another with a strong creative lineup: from 1984, Marvel's Kull the Conqueror #6, "Goblin Moon" Written by Alan Zelenetz, pencils by John Buscema, inks and colors by Klaus Janson.

This struck me as a somewhat more fanciful story for this run, until I remembered the zombies and flying bull from a few issues prior. Brule the Spear-slayer is charged with guarding a nobleman's daughter, but they're on the verge of being caught out-of-doors on the "Goblin Moon." Kull hears the story from several sources, of how the goblins rise on this night and offer anyone unwise or unwary enough to be out their hearts' desire, at the cost of their soul. (My heart's desire was not to lose my soul, so I don't know how they'd work that out...) Even though Kull is a barbarian, he seems to take the goblins less seriously than the "civilized" folk and would probably write the whole thing off as superstitious nonsense; but he goes to look for Brule while everyone else apparently stays home and hides under the bed.

Of course the goblins do turn out to be real, quickly tempting the nobleman's daughter with eternal beauty, then turning her into a soulless zombie-like shell. Brule resists them, until he's tempted by a shiny new spear to kill the goblins with. ("Ha! Now I'll--oh, wait...") Kull finds the entranced pair before the goblins take them back to their Tower of Madness, and although he's tempted with "wisdom and empire" he still manages to fight the goblins until the sun comes up and drives them away. Neither Brule nor the nobleman's daughter remember anything, so Kull is left with no witnesses to the existence of goblins. Which he didn't really need, everyone believed in them already, but it would've been something.

Michael Golden did the cover for this issue, but there is also a teaser for the next issue by Bill Sienkiewicz:

I don't think Sienkiewicz did anything else for the next issue, but that's a nice piece there.
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