Thursday, April 30, 2015

Damn, "Canvas Battlefield" wouldn't be a bad blog name...

Sleestak of Lady, That's My Skull brought up this issue on Twitter in January, and it only took me the better part of three months to randomly stumble across it again: from 1982, Unknown Soldier #262, "Canvas Battlefield!" (Or, from the cover, "Death Paints a 'Canvas Battlefield!'" Written by Bob Haney, pencils by Dick Ayers, inks by Gerry Talaoc.

The basic plot is simple enough: A famous French painter, studiously neutral during World War II, agrees to paint Hitler's portrait; a ruse to get information on Germany's planned defenses against the upcoming D-Day invasion. Being a Bob Haney Unknown Soldier story, there's also the painter's collaborator brother, fake rubber-mask Nazi disguises, and an elaborate switch. And the whole scheme nearly tanks when the painter, disgusted over Hitler and "the sickening business of terrorizing a continent," gets carried away with his painting:

It's shorter than usual for a headline story, a mere eleven pages. Which is kind of a shame, since a lot of space on the cover goes to the other features this issue: a Balloon Buster story, that appears to be his side of the story from his appearance in Enemy Ace, and the return of Revolutionary War hero Tomahawk. Oddly, a deserter faces a firing squad in that story, just as a collaborator is nearly executed by the same in the first. I wouldn't have really thought anything of Tomahawk at the time, but he was a star back in the day, with 140 issues!

My "filing system" is generally neither: usually, I put random, non-sequential loose comics in a box, as many as the box can hold. The box is placed with others like it. Later, when I'm looking for something to read, I'll poke through any given box and pull out whatever grabs me at the moment. When needed, the books go back in another box. I don't file everything that way, and it is a bit of a pain when I've got a specific issue in mind (to the point that I usually have to restrain myself from going to a comic shop and buying another copy!) but it's how I enjoy reading them.

Oddly, I think when I picked up this issue, I got Unknown Soldier #217, where he tries to blow up Hitler with an undiscovered Rembrandt...

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Wednesday, April 29, 2015

"File Protection."

I know I read Amazing Spider-Man #1, but the Black Cat's heel-turn after getting roughed up and thrown in jail by the Superior doesn't really sit right with me. That and I'm pretty sure DC's Catwoman is in the middle of a cat-burglar turned crimelord storyline, too.

I haven't read Punisher's book in some time, probably since the end of Punisher MAX in 2012, and I wasn't even reading that regularly. I haven't heard good things about the most recent book, either; I also saw on Twitter a scene from a recent issue where a cop shoots a fleeing suspect in the back.
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Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Lot of deep cuts in this one, surprisingly.

Saturday's post was supposed to be today's, so I grabbed another comic off the pile next to my desk. I was expecting this issue to be complete out-of-continuity fluff; instead, it had a couple neat character moments and a ton of pre-Crisis continuity references! From 1979, Super Friends #17, "Trapped in Two Times!" Written by E. Nelson Bridwell (with thanks to Nick Pascale), pencils by Ramona Fradon, inks by Bob Smith.

I don't think the Wonder Twins, Zan and Jayna, ever appeared in regular DC books back then; but this issue is written like it's in continuity just like every other DC comic published in the last forty years. Professor Carter Nichols (first appearance, Batman #24, 1944!) was serving as the Twins' guardian, but when the Time Trapper sabotages his Time Ray, the Twins are lost in time! Wonder Woman mentions having faced the Time Trapper before, calling himself the Time Master: this may or may not be a reference to Wonder Woman #53. The Legion of Super-Heroes is mentioned as well, and Superman explains the Trapper is a Controller, which may or may not be accurate: at the very least, the Time Trapper would have been a renegade Controller. Wonder Woman contacts her mom, Hippolyte, and asks her to use the Amazons' Magic Sphere to find the Twins. Jayna is on Krypton, the day before it will explode; while Zan is on a water-planet in the future, about to be destroyed by the sun Neryla turning into a red giant!

Using a pair of time-ships Superman built, the Friends split up: Wonder Woman, Batman and Robin to Krypton; Aquaman and Superman to Neryla. Even though Krypton only has an hour to live, at the time the people had outlawed space-travel, and weren't overly friendly. While Batman and Robin have to wear gravity boots to move in Krypton's heavier gravity, Wonder Woman's powers work fine, and she had learned enough Kryptonese to track Jayna down: she had been rescued by an actress, Lyla Ler-Rol. WW recognizes the name: Superman had traveled in time to Krypton before his birth, and met and fallen in love with Lyla! (Superman #141 from 1960! That one had probably been reprinted a few times, though.) How that would have come up in conversation, I'm not sure, but WW plans to take Lyla back to earth with them.

By now, the Kryptonian police are headed for the Super Friends' ship, since they were a little agitated the last alien visitor escaped with the help of Jor-El: a footnote explains "An obvious reference to Mon-El of the planet Daxam, who, after 1000 years in the Phantom Zone, became a member of the Legion of Super-Heroes." Obviously, everyone knows that...the cops straight-up attack, bent on destroying the spaceship, but Lyla sacrifices herself so they can get away.

Meanwhile, in the future, Superman and Aquaman find Zan, but their ship is attacked by a heavy water monster. Aquaman's telepathy drives it away, but he is contacted by Bahom, a member of the water-people trying to escape their doomed planet. The heroes help them open a portal to another dimension: Aquaman mentions experience in such because of his wife, Mera, who was from another dimension; while Supes had used devices like the Phantom Zone Projector before. Unfortunately, while the aliens were saved, the Friends' ship had been damaged, stranding them there. Superman uses the time controls to take them to the future, when the red giant would have collapsed into a white dwarf, giving Superman even more power--and powers to the others as well! (Supes mentions he knew that would happen since the same happened to Jimmy Olsen once.)

The Super Friends regroup back in 1978, planning to track down the Time Trapper. Since the Trapper might be prepared for traditional time-travel, Batman suggests Professor Nichols' hypnosis method, which Batman and Robin had used multiple times before...

It took me a few minutes to look some of this up; but tracking down those references would've meant finding those back issues and been much, much harder back in the day. Still, it adds a lot of background color to the book, and if sometime later you were reading a comic and saw a reference to the Time Trapper or getting super-powers under a blue star, you would feel like you were in the know. And I didn't think any of the references were absolutely vital, save for the basics like "Superman came from Krypton" and the like. Again, a surprisingly enjoyable little read.
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Monday, April 27, 2015

"Never let scoundrels dictate the terms of honor to you." Good advice.

Due to vacation, illness, and dental appointments; I haven't worked a full five-day work week for some time. Which means this week is going to suck so much. So, why not try to shore up my spirits with one of my favorite comics: X-Men Unlimited #49, written by Bill Willingham, art by Kelsey Shannon.

In New Mexico, a little girl named Sally is trapped in a cave collapse, and the X-Men send Cyclops and Nightcrawler to help with the rescue effort. The rocks are too unstable for Cyclops to blast through, but since the caves were well-mapped, Kurt is able to teleport in. There he discovers the cave-in was no accident, and the girl has been abducted by "another offshoot of one of the subterranean races, no doubt." Kind of like the guys that hang out with the Mole Man, but this batch seems more human. Kurt confronts them, and fights the lot of them, but takes a poison dart in the neck and is knocked out. (It didn't help that he may have been showboating a bit!) The leader, Tharkaris, wants Kurt's head on a pike...meanwhile, on the service, the 24-hour news cycle has turned to speculation that the cave-in may have been caused by the terrorist organization known as the X-Men, and that the little girl could be a mutant...

Kurt wakes up being attended to by a pretty cave girl, the leader's daughter. She explains they have to abduct a surface female every generation, "to keep our bloodlines strong." Or "to keep us from degenerating into small, trollish things" like a lot of the other subterranean types had, another points out. Although the leader wanted Kurt killed while he was unconscious, his men objected that would be dishonorable; so he agrees to kill Kurt in a duel instead. Kurt accepts, with the caveat that Sally be allowed to watch, so she'll know he died fighting for her, and he will get his "rightful warrior's place" in the afterlife. They buy it, and Kurt reassures Sally she'll be OK. The cave girl says that was mean, since there was no way he could win, but Kurt steals a kiss from her. Tharkaris is furious, and probably more so when Kurt merely teleports himself and Sally to safety!

After returning Sally to her mother, Kurt is interviewed by the press, which he watches back at the X-Mansion with Sammy Pare. (The fish-boy kid from Chuck Austen's run, whom I think was killed off so no one had to think about that run again...) Kurt makes a mockery of the reporter, and explains to Sammy that the world won't accept them, until it becomes used to mutants, and that won't happen if they stay in hiding. And he didn't fight Tharkaris because he wasn't there for that, his mission was to rescue the little girl. He could always go give Tharkaris the what-for later..."no hurry though. Let him stew a bit."

The cover for this issue was used for the poster book that came with the Marvel Legends Nightcrawler: I really wish they had just included the whole issue, because Willingham gets Kurt's character better than any X-writer had in years. Good news, though: Willingham will revisit Nightcrawler in the upcoming Guardians Team-Up #6, featuring Kurt vs. Gamora in an intergalactic sword-fighting competition!

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Saturday, April 25, 2015

Sick as hell? Why not fly home?

It's not ebola in this story, but eh, close enough: "Deadly Peril at 20,000" from House of Mystery #284, story by
Carl Wessler, art by Jess Jodloman. Mr. and Mrs Logan are returning to the United States after a second honeymoon in Africa; and it's pretty obvious from the start Mr. Logan is fading fast. A doctor examining him realizes Mr. Logan has deadly "pneumonic plague," but the plane is already near the halfway point and can't divert back.

Mr. Logan dies, but when the doctor says his body will have to be disposed of to protect the other passengers, Mrs. Logan loses it and starts threatening people with a pair of scissors. (This comic's from 1980, I'm not sure anything had to be checked then.) The doctor and stewardess try to give Mrs. Logan a chance, but they have to blow a window and suck the Logans out of the plane. Harsh but fair. (I figure everyone on that plane would've been exposed by then, but the story writes it off as a happy ending.)

(EDIT: "Stay your hand!" was the "Slow your roll!" of its day...)

Also this issue: early Keith Giffen art, in "The King and the Dragon!" (Story by Bud Simons, inks by John Celardo.) A mad king sends knight after knight to their deaths, in the hopes of stealing the dragon Goldclaw's treasure horde; but Goldclaw may have a plan to stop the senseless slaughter so he can get some sleep...

This was closer to the end than the beginning of House of Mystery's thirty-plus year run, but they still had some issues to go.

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Friday, April 24, 2015

Sounds better than my résumé, anyway.

In this exciting issue of Daredevil, the Black Widow laments her lack of employable skills, that have led to her living in a Rolls-Royce with a large Russian man.

The Owl runs into the people he moved across the country to avoid.

Daredevil spends most of the issue with what appears to be a suitcase on his back, lugging around about a mile of coiled rope, and protects his secret identity with an even more worrying lie.

I'm shocked anyone let Matt Murdock go anywhere unattended, since he would usually return looking like he just walked into traffic. "We know you're blind, Matt, but...geez." From 1974, Daredevil #116, "Two Flew Over the Owl's Nest!" (Groan...) Written by Steve Gerber, art by Gene Colan. (Colan was back to fill in this issue, per the letters page, he was busy with Tomb of Dracula, Doctor Strange, and an issue of Son of Satan that may not have seen print until 1974's Marvel Spotlight #18!)

I'm only four episodes into Daredevil, since I'm trying to save it for when I'm on my silly exercise bike. It's so good, guys.
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Thursday, April 23, 2015

For people who think Mothra's scary. Or the moth from Silence of the Lambs...

There's an early episode of Spongebob Squarepants named "Wormy," in which a friendly worm turns into a harmless butterfly. By "harmless" I of course mean eye-meltingly terrifying.

I'm not sure at what size butterflies would become horrifying to me. Any spider bigger than a dinner plate? Scary. A butterfly might have to be the size of a compact car before it reached the same level of disturbing. A butterfly the size of a man, possibly startling; a guy in a butterfly suit? Not so much. A guy in a butterfly suit with a gun? That's more confusing than anything.

I swear to god, I would love to read a comic where the night watchman actually took care of this himself: "Yeah, I was on my rounds, when this freak dressed up as a butterfly jumps out at me. So I pistol-whipped him a few, then called the cops. Yeah, I think 'jump out dressed as a butterfly' was his whole plan."

So, he can't fly in that suit, but he's swinging by a rope and shooting at Captain America in it? Well, it had the virtue of not having been tried before, at least. Although, I guess a lot of stuff may not have been tried yet, since this story first appeared in Captain America Comics #3 in 1941! "The Queer Case of the Murdering Butterfly and the Ancient Mummies," story by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby, art by Jack Kirby, inks by Reed Crandall. It was reprinted with some edits as "The Weird Case of the Plundering Butterfly and the Ancient Mummies!" in 1966's Fantasy Masterpieces #3.

Bonus: Cap talks some smack and hits a huge brute with a dinosaur tusk. Hey, pull a knife on Cap and see what happens...

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Wednesday, April 22, 2015

"Planet Debrief."

I love Star Trek so much, but it and a lot of sci-fi only pay a bit of lip service to the idea of germs, bacteria, viruses, whatever; cross-contaminating alien worlds. If you somehow visited an alien world without any animal life, you would probably contaminate it just by exhaling. Of course, that's assuming there was any oxygen, and you didn't have some sort of god-awful allergic reaction to any plant life there or anything.

They Might Be Giants did a song about a stowaway germ, that may have helped me come up with this one.

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Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Well, I guess they have to save something for the fourth season.

Arrow has continued to be a very entertaining show, even though I still think it's weird for a character who was at various times in his history, a knockoff or fanboy of Batman, to have so much success swiping from Batman. Of course, I think a huge amount of the show's success hinges on the casting of Stephen Amell, who seems so legitimately enthusiastic to have the role. Anyway, it's hard to fault them for appropriating Batman villains when Green Arrow's comic book rogues' gallery includes highlights like the Rainbow Archer and Auntie Gravity.

Swear to god, Auntie Gravity.

From 1980, World's Finest #261, "The Relativity of Auntie Gravity!" Written by Gerry Conway, pencils by Alex Saviuk, inks by Frank Chiaramonte. Pollution dumped in a local river inexplicably gives an old woman powers, and with her three hillbilly nephews, she soon begins a crime spree and takes the name...ugh...Auntie Gravity. As she moves up to the big time in Star City, Green Arrow and Black Canary are visiting a friend on the police force--a friend I'm not sure was seen before or since, since I don't think Ollie usually had the best relationship with the cops. Taking the call, Green Arrow gets knocked out when Auntie drops a potted plant on his head; then she decides to try to extort the city for their entire operating budget--per a newspaper headline, 55 million--by levitating city hall!

The cops try to grab Auntie at the ransom drop, but are no match for her powers. Neither are Arrow or Canary, although they beat up her nephews again; but as Auntie escapes by helicopter, her powers fail to stop Arrow from using a grappling hook arrow to come after them. Reasoning her powers don't work if she's not touching the ground, Auntie and her nephews land to face Green Arrow, and she sweeps him into a cyclone, so strong it forced the air out of his be continued!? Auntie Gravity gets a two-parter? Seriously?

Also this issue: "Showdown in Gotham City!" Written by Denny O'Neil, art by Rich Buckler and Dick Giordano. The Penguin claims to have discovered Butch Cassidy, who instead of dying in Bolivia or Spokane (?!) was kept in suspended animation in a cave. Batman calls Penguin out on that, on live TV, pointing out that's how Buck Rogers got to the 25th century in the old newspaper strip. Still, the story gets the attention of Terra-Man...y'know, I was going to give Terra-Man some grief, but after looking at the post-Crisis version, he seems a lot more charming. Still, making Superman villains is hard, guys. Anyway, there's mind-control umbrellas, a Superman vs. Batman shootout, and some fun Batman smack talk.

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Monday, April 20, 2015

An excuse to bring out that "War on Thera" joke again.

One of my favorite pieces of blog-type writing ever is from over at Jake Hates Everything, "U.S. Foreign Policy as Explained by Resident Evil 4." Generally speaking, if you have a rocket launcher with unlimited ammunition, yeah, you're going to try to use that to solve all your problems. So, today's book takes a look at two video game cliches--that this comic predates! Playing a level again with a better weapon, and your princess is in another castle. From 1981, Warlord #42, "War" Story and art by Mike Grell.

In the hidden world of Skartaris, the golden city of Shamballah is under siege. Travis Morgan explains to his companion Shakira that the Shamballans' enemy, the Therans, saw the Shamballans as "an inferior race, to be subjugated and enslaved." The Shamballans fought back for their freedom; and Travis either really believes in the unalienable rights of all men, or really gets off on the thrill of battle. He plans on fighting his way, through the Therans surrounding the city, to get back to Tara. Shakira is positive this is suicide--even if he got through, they'd still be surrounded--and refuses to watch him die.

On horseback, Travis tears through the Therans--he had the magic Hellfire Sword, a .44 Automag, and a big black horse--but is set back when his horse hits a gopher hole. Battered, he's barely able to escape; worse, the Hellfire Sword was developing a form of bloodlust. Travis passes out after pulling an arrow out of his shoulder, and in a subplot, Travis's daughter Jennifer is shipwrecked after leaving and ends up back in Skartaris...which, ominously, is described as "her nightmare just beginning" as she's rescued by a man reporting to an unseen master. Shortly thereafter, Shakira returns to the passed-out Travis, with a gift: a laser rifle from an Atlantean armory they visited a previous issue. Now upgraded, Travis is able to fight his way to the city...only to find Tara wasn't there, she had been captured by the Therans!

Shoot, I need to see if I have the next few issues: I know I've blogged #48 (where the big bad "Master" is revealed) and #46 already, but those might be the only other ones I had before #50.
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Friday, April 17, 2015

Forty-eight "When Titans Clash" entries in the GCD; I can't say this is the best one.

Long Island is on the verge of being floated out to sea, in the hopes of being conquered and made a sovereign nation; but the Teen Titans still have time for a slapping match. From 1977, Teen Titans #52, "When Titans Clash!" Written by Bob Rozakis, pencils by Don Heck, inks by Bob Smith.

Facing the villains Captain Calamity and Mr. Esper, we have not one but two teams of Titans: a deep roster, but this predates popular members like Cyborg, Starfire, and Raven. Robin's team featured standards like Kid Flash, Wonder Girl, Speedy, and Aqualad; along with newcomers Bumblebee, the Mal Duncan Guardian, and Harlequin, the "Joker's Daughter." (I don't know much about her, except that she almost definitely wasn't.) The second team's biggest name was probably Beast Boy, or Hawk and Dove; but also included Golden Eagle (not Hawkman), Lilith, Gnarkk (a defrosted caveman type?) and Bat-Girl. That's Bat-Girl with a hyphen, Bette (or Betty) Kane; who would be overshadowed by the Barbara Gordon Batgirl, yet DC still tries to shoehorn her into continuity here and there.

Esper had been stealing power from Lilith for his crimes, like moving Long Island. Wonder Girl stops the teams from fighting, and later knocks out Lilith, severing Esper's link to her. As Aqualad uses whales to move Long Island back where it belongs (even though he only showed up this issue planning on quitting) Robin, Harlequin, and Bat-Girl beat Captain Calamity, and discover he and Mr. Esper were one in the same. In the denouement, Robin explains Esper was probably "a product of Lilith's mental energy," but he doesn't seem to be especially interested in the case after putting him in jail.

Losing a bet, Robin springs for dinner and a picture of the combined Titans, although he may have just wanted one of himself, Bat-Girl, and Wonder Girl...

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