Thursday, April 28, 2016

The fourth wall was out for repairs this month.

The GCD doesn't usually editorialize or comment much on its vast array of covers, so when it refers to this issue as "very off-beat "breaking the 4th wall" issue" they aren't kidding! From 1991, Forgotten Realms #24, "Everybody Wants to Run the Realms" Story by Jeff Grubb, art by Rags Morales.

Morales is probably still best known for his art on Identity Crisis, but this series based on Advanced Dungeons & Dragons was far, far more charming and lighthearted; even though the characters occasionally went through hardships. Still, this issue divulges from the usual storyline, for a "behind the scenes" look. (Several years before "Behind the Music" or any of its spoofs!) Poking fun at everything from the usual AD&D tropes to the creative process to "continuity," but the characters were all well established enough at that point, that their voices carry through even out of their usual scene. This did come at a very odd time, though, since this was the second-to-last issue!

I actually think DC's AD&D titles sold pretty well, but something with the licensing? I wanna say TSR did their own comics for a bit--maybe they thought they could cut out the middleman? Didn't really take, but something a company almost has to try, right? Anyway, Humble Bundle had a batch of collected assorted Dungeons & Dragons issues; although that link today is My Little Pony comics; this issue's a treasure however you find it.

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Wednesday, April 27, 2016


"Remodel" sounds somewhat ominous here, doesn't it? Sometime later, we're probably going to check out a few Thundra appearances. In fact, she appears--in a mis-colored green outfit, at first--in one of the earlier comics I can remember reading! So, we just added a "Thundra" tag, there's a few, but I know she's appeared more than that! Read more!

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

If it makes you feel better, like 90% of these guys came back.

It's like the expression, "It's all over but the crying," in that we're just in time for the crying. The conclusion to 2001's Our Worlds at War, World's Finest: Our Worlds at War #1, "Finale" Written by Jeph Loeb, art by Mike Wieringo, Doug Mahnke, Phil Jimenez, Mark Buckingham, Bill Sienkiewicz, Yvel Guichet, Pascual Ferry, Todd Nauck, Duncan Rouleau, Ed McGuinness, and more.

The captions this issue are mostly from General Douglas MacArthur's farewell address on April 19, 1951. It may seem an odd choice, but figure it was intended to give weight to the sacrifices of those lost in the storyline. Superman tries to get Batman to come to the memorials, but he was still searching for the missing Young Justice team. At the chasm in the ocean where Atlantis had been, a statue of Aquaman is erected as memorial, warning sign, and beacon all in one. Both Aquaman and Atlantis were officially M.I.A. but hopes were not high. In mourning, Flash asks Tempest if he's going to be the new Aquaman (since Wally had himself moved up when his mentor died) and Wonder Woman implies Aquaman could get lucky if he somehow returns.

The surviving old-timers of the Justice Society miss their lost Wonder Woman, Hippolyta. In Arlington Cemetery, Amanda Waller quietly buries the fallen Frank Rock. (Maybe, unless she doesn't.) On WarWorld, Supes and Wonder Woman honor Maxima and the Others, while grousing over Maxima's people now following Mongal. (That's not a typo.)

At the memorial for Strange Visitor, the lone turnout angrily accuses them of not knowing how he feels, since they've never lost anyone: Superman and Wonder Woman roll their eyes so hard I can still hear it. On the moon, Red Tornado is giving Batman the bad news: Young Justice ended up on Apokolips, but the kids are back shortly thereafter, dirty and looking beat. An unshaven Batman just looks glad he won't have to put another Robin uniform case in the Batcave.

At the funeral for General Sam Lane, President Luthor gives Lois a completely unwanted kiss on the cheek; and Clark Kent ducks out so Superman can make an appearance. Later, Supes and Lois visit the ruined remains of the Kent family farm, where the Kents are presumed dead? As well as Topeka, KA, apparently. The Kents would be back, although I'm not sure Topeka would, or Pluto, which disappeared early on in the crossover. DC does this sometimes: Coast City or Metropolis might get destroyed and then rebuilt and it's a big deal; but a real city like Montevideo, Uruguay gets it for shock value and is never mentioned again!

I had thought Superman had started wearing the black-replacing-yellow emblem after this, but hadn't by this issue.
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Monday, April 25, 2016

"One little trick" for conquering the Gauls...

I don't think G.I. Joe comics writer was a big fan of the character Serpentor--although, from that link, Hama may have suggested what his voice might be like. Serpentor was a clone, created with the DNA of some of history's greatest warriors; but Cobra may have forgotten some of those warriors were also the most ambitious men in history, and may not have been content to take orders from Cobra Commander...I believe Hama liked to keep one foot in the real world for the title, and Serpentor may have been a step too far. Which is a shame, since he's able to work wonders with him inside of five pages.

From 1987, G.I. Joe Yearbook #3, "My Dinner with Serpentor" Story by Larry Hama, pencils by Mike Zeck, inks by Dennis Janke. With the "Kitchen-Vipers" out with "Belgian Flu," cooking duties are being fielded by the Dreadnoks; which means dinner is chocolate donuts, grape soda, and microwave pizzas. The officious Dr. Mindbender is so shocked I'm surprised his monocle doesn't drop; but Serpentor is more than fine with it. In fact, it reminds him of a little story from 52 B.C. when the Roman army held siege the Gallic fortress of Alesia. Although he's not named here, Julius Caesar was the general, and worries the siege is taking too long and that his troops morale may start to slip. (I'm not sure how Cobra found his remains, but Caesar would certainly have been a candidate for use in creating Serpentor.) As a few of his troops eat their meager rations, a "signifier" demonstrates a little trick to make them more palatable:

Caesar has the trick spread around, but the tide nearly turns against him when the Gauls' relief army attacks the Romans' rear formation...and gets completely shut down. With the Gauls cut off, the Roman siege continues apace; and it's here that Dr. Mindbender calls no way.

Serpentor downplays it as "just a random memory," but now you know. I don't think Hama had the opportunity to do more of these, but I would've loved more five-page backups with Serpentor dropping the history. Most of it would probably be lies, but still.

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Friday, April 22, 2016

Probably the dumbest reason to start reading Deadpool, but it worked for me.

So, after several years at this apartment, I finally bought some shelves for the garage; and already it's making finding comics so much easier. Instead of box piled atop box atop box...well, some of those boxes are now on shelves, and there's enough room to stand in there. Why, I found my longbox of Deadpool comics! Although I'm short an issue or two, I read his first regular series, not quite from the beginning, but from issue #6. And I picked up that issue, because of the Vamp. (I'm sorry, the who?)

From 1997, Deadpool #6, "Man, Check Out the Head on That Chick!" "Headgames" by Joe Kelly, "Headaches" by "Head" McGuinness, "Headlines" by Norman Lee and Nathan Massengill. This was early on in Kelly's character-making run on the book, and Pool just wrapped a storyline with his persistent crush-object, X-Force's Siryn.

After a bit of b-ball with Blind Al (with Pool in a Scarlet Spider hoodie!) Pool heads down to the Hellhouse to take a gander at any merc work opening up. With his tech-support pal Weasel, they find a job offer two-fer: break a woman out of the asylum, then kill her. Either-or, or both.

Using his image inducer, and with Weasel pretending to be "convinced he's Ricki Lake!," Deadpool strolls into the asylum. After a few laughs with the inmates, Pool is interrupted by a pretty doctor...who calls him by name, even though he's disguised. It's the Vamp, who recognized Pool telepathically and clobbers him one. She says she was hired to make sure he fails at whatever he came to do, free the woman or kill her. (Meanwhile, three caption boxes debate what's going to happen, and they aren't Deadpool's: one has a sunny emblem, another a barb-wire knot, the third what might be a mask...)

By this point you have to be wondering, "Who is the Vamp? And who would care?" Good questions! The term 'vamp' is synonymous with femme fatale, and per Wikipedia, may be attributed to Rudyard Kipling, although it's just a shortening of the word vampire, used not-especially complimentary to describe a woman thought to figuratively suck the life out of a man. (And Kipling was quite probably super-racist, so him being anti-woman doesn't sound too unlikely to me either.) A character named "Vamp" would be expected to be sexy and know it, and know how to use it for what she wanted, and probably in a somewhat selfish way; so in retrospect it's a somewhat problematic name for a super-heroine. Or a super-villain, for that matter.

Created by Roy Thomas, Don Glut, and John Buscema (wait, did Wikipedia just give creator credit to an inker?) the Vamp appeared in one of the earliest comics I remember reading: 1979's Captain America #229, "Traitors All About Me!" Written by Roger McKenzie, breakdowns by Sal Buscema, finishes by Don Perlin. Which of course wasn't in my longbox of Cap books, but from memory! Investigating the crime syndicate called the Corporation, in search of the missing Falcon; Captain America works with the Super-Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (We mentioned them some time back, when we saw the terrible second batch of them.) Marvel Man, who would go on to become Quasar! The Texas Twister! The rollerskating Blue Streak! And the Vamp! Blue Streak and Vamp were both more like the Super-Agents of the Corporation, both traitors. When Blue Streak was exposed, Vamp nearly beats him to death to shut him up.

The pissed-off Twister would quit in a huff, but Marvel Man and Vamp go with Cap to check out a lead on the Corporation's secret base, in Alcatraz. And we have that issue handy! Captain America #230, "Assault on Alcatraz!" Plot by Roger McKenzie, script by Roger Stern, breakdowns by Sal Buscema, finishes by Don Perlin. While Cap and company are on a boat in San Francisco bay, Bruce Banner and his friend Fred Sloan are captured by the Corporation, while one of its main agents has just faked his death: former senator Eugene K. Stivak, now merely "Kligger--the humble servant of Corporation-East." I don't know either, but his assistant and prisoner are both more notable: Moonstone, and long-time Hulk companion Jim Wilson!

At Alcatraz, after finding a suspicious armored door, a rather gung-ho Marvel Man blasts it open, and Cap yells at him for blowing the element of surprise. They find the Falcon, unconscious and chained to the sea-gates, where he would be drowned "at the flip of a switch," by Curtis Jackson, manager of the Corporation's west-coast enterprises. With Cap over a barrel, and Bruce Banner strapped to an "electro-sleep harness" Jackson makes his demands: "a former, ah, employee of ours," Jim Wilson. Then Kligger shows up, with Wilson, offering to trade him for Cap's death. Oh, and the Vamp was Kligger's spy, and lover, and that's not even her biggest secret.

Furious that half his team were traitors, Marvel Man strikes out, freeing Banner, who turns into the Hulk almost immediately. Even though there's a bunch of masked Corporation goons about, the confused Hulk knocks out Marvel Man, since he recognizes him as "not a Defender" from their try-out debacle. Even though Jim tries to convince him, the Hulk isn't that trustful of Cap either, and on the last two pages of this issue things really start happening: Jackson "plays his ace" and opens the sea-gates, with the waters coming up to Falcon's head pretty quickly. The Hulk grabs the distracted Cap in a bear hug and knocks him out. Kligger than gives Vamp her full power, and she turns into the monstrous Animus, and she--him? It? They? With Moonstone, they knock the Hulk out! And I'm not sure I had this issue in 1979, but I know I didn't get the conclusion for years! Not that any of it, or any Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe entries, made clear what the fudd was the deal with Vamp turning into Animus...

Many years later, the Vamp would fall victim to the super-villain murdering Scourge of the Underworld in Captain America #319. (Interestingly enough, Blue Streak would buy the farm just an issue prior!) But she was back in this Deadpool comic, so I was curious! And Pool reeled me in pretty quickly. Back to his story: Pool hits Vamp with a grenade, albeit one that wouldn't kill her, since he wanted some info, and she was kinda hot. Until she turns into the creepy, creepy, big-headed Animus! Animus zaps the confused Pool through a wall, where he meets his target: the inmate, Mary. She offers him the money in a Swiss account, but not to break her out, to kill her...before her other personalities take over.

Even more confused, Pool refuses to kill Mary, or let her kill herself, instead trying to save her from Animus. Mary still "dies," though, as her other two personalities silence her caption box. The barbed-wire voice seems to have taken her over, and she encourages Animus to "paint the walls red!" with Deadpool's blood. Luckily, Weasel arrives with their ride, smashing through a wall and Animus. The barbed-wire caption goes silent, as the masked voice now flirts with Deadpool...since she was none other than former Daredevil villain Typhoid Mary! That's one way to get over multiple-personality disorder...

The Vamp is basically the poster-girl for forgotten-and-rightfully-so super-villains; and while some may still recall Typhoid Mary, the odds of her getting on Netflix are pretty long. Although, from that panel above, I'm mildly surprised Marvel hasn't brought her back as a Harley Quinn type...Still, I probably bought my first issue of Deadpool more on the strength of the guest villains than anything. Although I did like that Scarlet Spider hoodie...that's due for a comeback, but it would probably take Pool to make that happen.
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Thursday, April 21, 2016

Somewhat perfunctory post.

I don't say this very often, but it's super-nice out right now. In the 80's, not a cloud in the sky. And next Friday I have a day off, and it'll probably be acid-hail, or cloudy with a 60% chance of Trump or something likewise terrible. Better enjoy it now, is what I'm getting at.

Today's scan is from 2006's Green Lantern Corps #4, "Unrelenting" Story and pencils by Dave Gibbons, inks by Michael Bair. Guy Gardner's attempt at a vacation is interrupted by the return of Bolphunga the Unrelenting; who seems to figure Guy will be easier to take down than Mogo. Meanwhile, other Lanterns have their own problems; like Soranik Natu, who has to tell a grieving mother her son died for the Corps; or Isamot Kol, who has to choose between his duty to the Corps and his somewhat unpleasant, possibly racist partner, or breeding. (Which sounds like a topic for some trashy daytime TV show: "I'm his partner, not his wingman!") I'm going to guess before looking it up: Isamot chose the Corps, then died in the background two events later...ooh, half right. Isamot was killed off in the movie, though.
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Wednesday, April 20, 2016


Tranya, of course, is yet another Star Trek reference: for Deadpool, he'd use the term to refer to any alien booze, space hooch, what have you.

Every time Lt. Spires has lines, I'm trying to channel a voice that sounds like Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart from Dr. Who. A bit officious at times, but not above using someone who can think outside the box...
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Tuesday, April 19, 2016

I think I still have an incomplete Imperiex figure...

Just added a tag for "Our Worlds at War," which does contain some posts only tangentially related to DC's 2001 crossover, since I haven't read anywhere near to the whole thing. Sadly, if it is remembered for anything, it's unfortunate timing, with the concluding chapters featuring scenes of terrible devastation and coming out right around 9/11/2001. It's also known for killing off a mess of characters that would return in relatively short order: Joe Kelly would get a JLA storyline out of bringing back Aquaman; but several allegedly dead characters like Guy Gardner or the Kents just returned with little acknowledgement of their "deaths."

Still, I picked up a couple back issues of OWaW, and do they hold up? Um...well; we'll start with Batman: Our Worlds at War #1, "Hidden Agenda" Written by Ed Brubaker, art by Stefano Gaudiano.

Bluntly? It's like, if the X-Files and Independence Day were set in the same universe, yet Mulder still couldn't prove the alien conspiracy. Seriously, I know some writers and fans have problems going too sci-fi with Batman, for fear of the stories going straight-up 1950's-style nonsense; but it's playing too coy. Just like JLApe or Day of Judgment, this is a Batman crossover that barely crosses over, sticking closer to the Batman end of things. If you're looking for Batman vs. alien invasion, keep walking.

The first four pages of the book are two construction workers commuting to their job site, and arguing who's the better billionaire, Bruce Wayne, or President Lex Luthor. (And with those three words, this book is dated as hell for some of you...) Actually, the fourth page doesn't really count, since it's the workers getting blown up when they get to work. Later, then-Commissioner Akins gives the case file to Batman, since the Feds made the GCPD back off.

Shortly after starting the case, Batman discovers the Feds are trying to cover up a crashed spaceship in downtown Gotham. Which rrrrreally strikes me as something Batman would'a noticed: in 2001, this was Batman at his ├╝ber-competent best; before mindwipe nonsense in Identity Crisis or building Brother Eye or whatever. I honestly think, the way Bats was written then, a crashing spaceship would've set off the seismographs in the Batcave or something, and Bats would've been there quicker than a pizza delivery. (This was post-No Man's Land, there's no way Batman wouldn't have seismographs!)

I'm not even sure why Luthor is bothering to cover up the aliens, for that matter: it's traditional, sure; but the general populace of the DC Universe had to be pretty aware of aliens. It may be in the hopes of salvaging something useful from the crashes, but figure Luthor probably could make more political hay from hyping up the "alien menace" that may or may not exist...

Moving on: Batman maintains he could jump into the Feds' investigation without them even seeing him, but that Luthor would know...somehow. That's not super-clear, but Bats decides to go to a Luthor reception to get some info. Bruce and Lucius Fox chat before Luthor's speech, and while they agree Luthor's a tool, Lucius wonders if it's a good idea to make an enemy out of him. For his part, Luthor makes a fear mongering speech about terror that I'm legitimately surprised predates 9/11; that also serves as a barely-veiled threat towards Bruce and Lucius. After the speech, Bruce roofies an attending NASA scientist, to pump him for information about the crash. (With a magic drug that the scientist won't remember later.)

Breaking into the crash site, Batman eavesdrops on Luthor and his men removing an alien corpse from the crash--the third such alien crash in as many weeks; all of them seemingly fleeing in blind terror from something. Luthor also mentions "the Metropolis project," which I thought was going to be Cadmus. Batman then knocks out one of Luthor's generals in his home, to steal more info, to give to Oracle, who surprisingly can't get much. Heading to Metropolis, Batman sees Talia, who was at the time working for Luthor; she sees him as well and leaves an ID card for him. In disguise, Batman finds surveillance on the short-term Superman supporting character Strange Visitor, as well as meta-human experiments, and notes for something called the Doomsday Contingency.

The next day, Batman confronts Luthor at the White House: while Batman knows everything, his proof is dicey at best, and Luthor's already had the general killed and framed as a scapegoat. Finally, Bruce Wayne visits his newspaper, the Daily Planet, to give some information to Clark Kent...

I didn't like this one as much as I thought I was going to, but it's not unreadable. It is a snapshot of some old DC continuity that was really of its time, though.
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Monday, April 18, 2016

Whitman collected four Gold Key Star Trek issues in "Dynabrite Comics." We checked out the prior one some time back, and today we've got Star Trek: the Choice. "The Choice" is a bonkers number with a Captain Kirk and Enterprise invading from the universe prior to the big bang, a void where thought can power a starship, and the question of free will in the universe. Instead, we're checking out "The Evictors" from Star Trek #41, written by Arnold Drake, art by Alden McWilliams.

The Enterprise is visiting the planet Nraka, which is "celebrating its 10,000th year of recorded history." An impressive feat, which the people credit to the prophet Zotar. And why not? Zotar was pretty great, having been both a military leader and a man of peace, inventor of the written word, mathematics, and music. Spock describes him as "in your earth terms, Zotar was Moses, Caesar, Einstein, and Paul Bunyan--combined!" Good guy, despite apparently not having a nose. During the presentation, the word "sanoora" is shown carved on a stone: apparently the first word Zotar wrote, but the meaning of which was lost in time. Which makes suprising the sudden arrival of an alien ship, the Sanoora, captained by an alien that looked like Zotar called Inoduku.

While the Nrakans go crazy over what they think is the return of their savior, Inoduku instead tells them yeah, they're going to have to go. This planet had been their home first, half-a-million years ago. They had built a mighty civilization, but an astronomer saw a rogue star approaching, that would destroy 342 years. Plenty of time to prepare, which the Sanooran people did, although they did have to leave behind their criminals, insane, assorted undesirables. They had wandered ever since, but were over that, and wanted their planet back. The Sanoorans will give their ships to the Nrakans, but they gotta go.

Spock theorizes that the Nrakans are descendants of the Sanoorans, who both survived and mutated after the radiation from the rouge star. While Mr. Scott and the councilor's daughter are on the run from the rioting, panicked Nrakans; Nrakan fighters try and fail to battle the Sanoorans. While Spock cautions neutrality, Kirk has a hard time not telling the Nrakan councilor to fight for their planet. Then, Spock seemingly reverses his decision and re-arms the Nrakan fighters with effective weapons, and the Sanoorans are driven away. Still, Spock later explores an ancient Nrakan ruin, and finds artifacts suggesting the Sanoorans may not have been lying...

Like a lot of these old Gold Key stories, it feels like this was maybe just a few drafts away from being really good. The second chapter is called "The War that Captain Kirk Made!" which is overselling it a bit; and Spock's reversal seems to come when the Enterprise is barely endangered. Still, I'm almost positive that most of this idea was used in later Star Trek stories; in fact it seems pretty close to the fourth season Next Generation episode "Devil's Due."
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Friday, April 15, 2016

A Hitler cold-open? This Superboy comic's not playing.

I would not have expected to see Hitler in a Superboy comic, so perhaps it's a good thing that I found a coverless copy! Today, we stretch the sliding timeline well past the breaking point, as Hitler plots against Superboy, pre-World War II! From 1970, Superboy #168, "Leave Us...or We Perish!" Story by Frank Robbins, pencils by Bob Brown, inks by Murphy Anderson. I'm missing the Neal Adams cover, but still readable; although all the scans are out of whack.

Let's see: the cover caption says it's the 1930's, and a newspaper headline proclaims "Chamberlain Back from Munich!" and misquotes "Peace in Our Time" there to boot. That places this story just after September 30, 1938. And Superboy is described as "the mighty teen guardian," so he had to be 13 in 1938? Which would make Superman 45 in 1970, which wasn't the case even if he acted like that a lot. Often, DC would use Earth-1/Earth-2 or imaginary stories for this kind of story, but not this time around.

The Nazis begin their plan "Mission: Liquidate" by blowing up Smallville's power station, then spray-painting a message for Superboy: "Superboy-Get out of this world or Smallville will be totally destroyed in 24 hours" Unsurprisingly, the citizens of Smallville, who have been saved by the Teen of Steel literally hundreds of times...turn on Superboy in the space of a page turn. A shaken Superboy is unsure what to do, even as he runs across more warnings: he feels like flying away would be like a coward, but inevitably someone would get hurt if the townspeople riot. Fortunately, Chief Parker--the pretty rock-solid face of law and order in Superboy comics--shuts down the potential rioters with some stern words. And a shotgun.

Still, Parker has to give Superboy the bad news, that the town council has declared an emergency meeting; and as typical for this kind of comic, have voted for Superboy to leave Smallville, and earth, forever. Which seems like a lot of power for a town council to have, plus they make Superboy cry. Meanwhile, Ma and Pa Kent lament not even having the chance to say goodbye to their boy. Pa excuses himself from Ma to go check out their store, make sure it hadn't been looted; but instead follows some workmen heading into the sewers. Pa finds Nazi land mines throughout the sewers, their follow-up to their threat; but is shot dead before he can warn Superboy!

Meanwhile, in space, Superboy is looking for any alien threat that could destroy Smallville; but using his x-ray vision back on the town he finds Pa dead in the sewers, and the mines set to destroy Smallville if Nazi radar picks him up re-entering earth's atmosphere. Instead, using his heat vision, Superboy blows a water main, flooding the sewers, saturating the explosives, and forcing the Nazis to the surface. The townspeople of course accept their hero again once they realize they aren't going to blow up, and he collects the body of Pa...

...or rather, the Pa Kent robot Superboy built to scout around for him! He had called the real Pa, and had him send the robot instead of coming himself. Which is a load: Superboy doesn't act like just a robot died the whole time; but he probably would've heat-visioned all of Germany to the ground if Pa had died. Superboy also feels like Hitler is underestimating the real obstacle to overcoming America; namely regular people. I don't know if he's including the people of Smallville that turn on a dime in that. Moreover, I'm not sure how many Nazi collaborators and Fifth Columnists there really were in America before WWII, but there couldn't possibly be as many as in comics.
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