Friday, October 29, 2021

This issue has a nice Halloween themed cover, but wasn't even the first time Green Lantern had used this title? Kyle used it in big face month back in '97! From 2016, Green Lanterns #8, "Family Matters part two: All Hallows' Eve" Written by Sam Humphries, art by Ed Benes. 

Simon Baz and Jessica Cruz are partners on the earth beat, which they aren't sure they're going to have much longer, since they just lost a Guardian of the Universe that showed up out of nowhere. Laters for that, though, it's trick-or-treating time! They're out with Simon's nephew, possibly to distract themselves from the pressure. Jessica is on the ball enough to notice eyes watching them--namely, a couple Dominators--but wonders if she's seeing things.
The Guardian, Rami, was the creator of the "Phantom Ring," which he claimed could accept any user and use more than just green energy. His invention is not greeted with acclaim and may have been a colossal mistake; I'm guessing because it didn't have any restrictions or safeguards to keep any jerkhole from using it, but maybe there's more to it. Baz and Cruz track him to a local clock tower, but he takes off again, since he thinks they could've been followed. (They are green, in multiple senses...) Snagged, Rami asks for a real Lantern, like Jordan. Or anyone else.
The Dominators attack, and nearly grab the ring; but Baz gets it clear, and Cruz wraps them up. Rami is still not super impressed, but explains the score with the Phantom Ring, which got him excommunicated from the other Guardians. (Considering it feels like they've been wiped out on multiple occasions, they may have done him a favor. Actually, this may explain any time in continuity when the Guardians were dead or gone and the rings still functioned a bit, because there's probably always a couple loose Guardians out there who were kicked out for putting ketchup on ham or something.) Rami has been trying for billions of years to destroy the ring so he could return, with no luck.
Simon tells Rami together they will keep the ring safe, but someone is coming for a van. (Matt Foley?) That doesn't seem that ominous, but he'll probably get it, at least for a while. Things usually have to go south, so they can get better; which is probably true of a lot of books, if not fiction in general...Happy Halloween, anyway!
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Thursday, October 28, 2021

80-Page Thursday: World's Finest Comics #249!

I'm really tempted to just post the cover from this one: whatever you imagine from it, is probably way better than the actual story! How do you have the "vampire of steel" and the Phantom Stranger and still drop the ball? From 1978, World's Finest Comics #249.
The only fun bit in "The Vampire of Steel!" is Superman repeatedly choosing to hang out, but seemingly decline to help Batman, based on his code to "never give super help to corporations or private persons--even friends!" The rest is squandered, like mythical undersea vampire creatures, a Jacques Cousteau-style undersea conservationist who you know is going to be the bad guy--he's named 'Kalamari,' for pete's sake. Batman is about as mysterious as a kid wearing his underroos and almost as effective, and the Phantom Stranger can apparently breathe and talk underwater, yet never visits Aquaman. Jerk. On to the next one! (Story by Bob Haney, pencils by Kurt Schaffenberger, inks by Tex Blaisdell.)
I thought we had blogged either the prior or next chapter of this Green Arrow/Black Canary serial, "Will the Costume Make the Hero?" Written by Gerry Conway, pencils by Trevor Von Eeden, inks by Vince Colletta. Ollie had been ruined financially by Deleon, who added insult to injury by buying his old mansion, then finding the Arrowcave, proving Ollie was...Batman? I think I missed one of Deleon's steps there, but he needs 'Batman' to defend him against Hellgrammite, who has Black Canary captured. She manages to shatter her prison, and beat down the bug baddies's men, but gets knocked out again. Hiding in the shadows, his beard anyway, Ollie makes a convincing Batman, until he goes into action: he has no idea what's in his utility belt, since it's not labeled, and gets tangled in the cape and falls over!
Knowing Deleon was probably going to go to Hellgrammite--part of his scam, supposedly giving old gangsters new lives--Ollie thinks his career is probably over, but Hellgrammite forces Canary to call him for help. Even webbed up, though, Canary is still fighting to free herself: she does like a challenge. Hellgrammite turns on his men and Deleon, intent on covering his tracks and stealing the Green Arrow's identity, but still dressed as Batman Ollie manages to stop him. Deleon was killed, and Canary wonders if Ollie couldn't get his money back, but he claims he doesn't need it, then acts a little too possessive with Canary and pushes her away. Did I say a little? He's being a jerk.
Next, the Creeper's World's Finest debut! I think he'd stick around maybe seven issues, but here in "Moon Lady and the Monster" Jack Ryder and his supporting cast are security for a network's Elvira-like horror host as she's stalked by an old partner. It's a bit of fun, but I don't think sticks the landing--I wanted Moon Lady to go on, but apparently the ratings got her.
Then, an unexpected lead (that's on the cover...) and an unexpected guest-star: Wonder Woman, with Sgt. Rock! With Rock hypnotized by Doctor Psycho! And aliens! The latter are 100% unneccessary, as I'd rather see Rock and WW kicking Psycho back and forth. I don't know if he very much resembles later versions of the character, though.
Seriously, they could beat on him for chapters, I'll allow it. Another DC Necronomicon, though. Read more!

Wednesday, October 27, 2021


I found the Hot Wheels X-Jet over the weekend, which lead to this one, largely the airing of old grievances. 

After Kurt (and Kitty) were injured in the Mutant Massacre, the X-Men were supposedly killed in Dallas, in Uncanny #227. Kurt and Kitty aren't told they really survived for years, which leads to the formation of Excalibur. In Excalbur #10, Kurt steals the Blackbird, figuring he was the last surviving X-Man, so it was his as much as anyone's. He used to often be seen working on it, sometimes with Banshee? And I think he was the pilot fairly often, especially if Cyclops wasn't there. Anyway, Professor X--who I don't think Kurt and Kitty knew was alive either--stole the Blackbird back, in Uncanny #278! He easily could've called and asked for it, but narratively I don't think Claremont wanted to bring in Excalibur there, and deciding to do something the dickest way possible is on-brand for the Professor anyway. 

Sometime after that, did the jets transition from the SR-71-style Blackbird to the X-Jets from the animated series? (That link claims Nightcrawler still owns the plane!) I don't think they've been seen recently, but I imagine they're still around somewhere; although I know there's more than one and I don't think anyone maintains or takes care of them (except maybe Forge?) and they're basically magic now...
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Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Guest-starring Shako, the only bear on the CIA death list!

OK, so this doesn't really feature the 2000 AD bear (and you should stop reading this and read Tegan O'Neil's piece on Shako!) but today we've got another random DC horror book: from 1977, DC Special Series #7--Ghosts Special, featuring stories by Murray Boltinoff, Bob Haney, George Kashdan, Leo Dorfman, and others; and art by Artie Saaf, Jerry Grandenetti, Bill Payne, E. R. Cruz, and others.
I think editor/writer Murray Boltinoff's gimmick for Ghosts were that they were allegedly "true" ghost stories: the opening page mentions Timber Kate, a Nevada ghost story that would've been a little too much for a DC book. Vertigo, maybe...I don't think most of the stories were that researched, though. In Bob Haney's "Beware the Beggar's Feast!" a greedy young banker is told the story of Lady Glynda, the last wife of the Earl of Lochliamoor, most of whose internet footprint seems to be related to this comic, but not quite all! Glynda was attacked and maimed by the earl's hunting hounds, and he abandoned her; but she was saved by the "Moor People," societal outcasts. Still, the earl died in an 'accident' before he could change his will, so Glynda got everything, and she set aside a trust for a yearly feast for the Moor People and their descendents. The banker scoffs at paying out to the wretches, and tries to debunk Glynda's ghost story so he can keep the payout to himself: wanna guess how well that goes for him? (Somewhat disappointingly, the Moor People don't rend him limb from limb.)
"The Dark Wings of Death" is another story set during the London Blitz, with the added bonus of a young lieutenant's family coat-of-arms trying to kill him. "The Night the Totem's Spirit Talked" briefly features a polar bear, which is shot by an unscrupulous hunter, who then kills a witness, but is later brought to justice when he tries to shut up a totem pole. No, really, that's pretty accurate. 

E.R. Cruz draws "Voice From the Grave," in which a noble trucker dies trying to save another, but may leave a CB message from beyond the grave for his wife. Lastly, "Night of the Vengeful Corpse," wherein two treasure hunters abandon a third to die, as he swears to come back and take them to the grave with him. Perhaps surprising no one, he does! This was a better-than-usual issue of Ghosts than some I've seen; maybe they saved the good ones for the special. Fun aside: Murray Boltinoff was the editor that passed on Nightcrawler for the Legion of Super-Heroes!
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Monday, October 25, 2021

It's a somewhat iconic cover, but what about the story?

Try the link first: from 1985, Detective Comics #546, "Hill's Descent" Written by Doug Moench, pencils by Gene Colan, inks by Bob Smith. 

Mayor Hill receives two gifts from his assistant Blevins, as he trashes his mansion office: one is Batman's glove, the other a lump on the head. All the better to sell his narrative: having already suspended James Gordon, he then claimed Batman had broken in to plant evidence and struck him when discovered, but Hill claims he got the glove in a struggle. Watching the televised announcement, Alfred indignantly notes it was a pretty thin frame-job, but Batman has to acknowledge some cops just don't like him. Cut to: some cops that don't like Batman.
One of those cops is of course then the first to see Batman, who had been on his way to see the recovering Gordon. (He had recently had a stroke, possibly the first health scare he would have over the years.) Batman tries to talk them out of it, but does have to slap four good cops down. For certain values of 'good': they aren't working for Hill or completely corrupt, but still mindlessly follow orders they have to know are wrong. Meanwhile, on a subplot page, a blind girl is starting to realize the 'Batman' she rescued is kind of a jerk: it's Anton Knight, the Night Slayer, who's all kinds of obscure now. More subplot: somehow Nocturna has gotten custody of Jason Todd, and she's a little hurt he doesn't act like her son. These early Jason Todd stories are kind of a mess, since he was entirely a Dick Grayson-knockoff then.
Batman gives Gordon a call from a phone booth to check in, while an assassin takes a shot at Harvey Bullock and misses. Harvey gets the killer, who takes a dive off the top of a building, but has had more than enough of Mayor Hill. Since he was still "assistant to the commish," Harvey is able to bulldoze his way into Hill's office, but not in time to hear Hill get a call from Blevins about the hit failing, and Hill orders an APB on Bullock for murder. Bullock angrily confronts Hill, possibly mad that he worked with him against Gordon: he had thought Jim was going soft, but admits "in his sleep, Gordon's a better cop than I'll ever be." Hill notes Bullock's already killed one man tonight, which makes it easier to shoot him in self-defense. (The layouts don't quite get the job down, half the panels look like Bullock should've seen Hill get the gun from his drawer.)
Is this the end of Harvey Bullock? It kind of feels like it, since the Batman story trails off after the shooting, and the rest of the issue was a Green Arrow story, with Ollie versus Vigilante Vengeance! Seriously, I thought it was Vigilante at first. ("Clash Reunion" Written by Joey Cavalieri, pencils by Jerome Moore, inks by Bruce D. Patterson.)
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Friday, October 22, 2021

I try to avoid buying books I already have (that's a damn lie, there's at least four others in the box from the last show!) but it's a damn good issue and one I was glad to read in hand rather than dig up! From 1988, Iron Man #228, "Stark Wars: Chapter 4, Who Guards the Guardsman?" Plot and script by David Michelinie, layouts by Mark D. Bright, plot and finishes by Bob Layton. Edited by Mark Gruenwald; which I mention because I wonder if he had any input.
"Need help--and shield. Can you supply?" That was the terse message Tony Stark received from Steve Rogers, the former Captain America, who returned his uniform and shield to the federal government. Tony is more than happy to help out his old friend, but has ulterior motives: he was tracking down and eliminating stolen armor technologies, and his next target was the Vault, since he had to take away the Guardsman technology. (Which wasn't originally his work, if you read deeply obscure old IM books.) Tony feels bad about this, but thinks gifting Steve a new shield will buy him off. Come on, that'd work on just about anybody else, but definitely not Steve.
En route to the Vault, at a truck stop (Chuck's! Which appears to be directly on the road very high up in the mountains.) Tony and Rhodey are having a pleasant breakfast, when Tony notices Steve is there giving him the stinkeye. He doesn't have any proof, but he knows Tony took out the Mandroids, and it's reasonable to suspect the Guardsmen could be next. After a literal staredown, Tony blinks, and heads change his plan, to a break-in.
Three days later, Electro is zapping up Denver, and gets captured by a squad of Guardsmen. As planned: 'Electro' is Rhodey in whiteface and a suit Tony knocked out to fake the villain's powers. The Vault's cage for Electro is too clever: it would knock out Electro's specific metabolism, but anyone else can walk through, and Rhodey does, lowering the Vault's defenses. In the silver armor, Tony flies in, with Cap in the black suit right behind. (Aside: I didn't scan in, but it feels like the Guardsmen spent a lot of time moving villains around in nets or sacks.)
Tony activates the Vault's gas defense, knocking out anyone not in a Guardsman suit, and Rhodey in a facemask. Cap realizes what's happening, and scrambles to try and get a gas mask. Only twelve Guardsman were usually suited up at a time, so Rhodey puts armor-wrecking negator packs on the suits in the locker room, but gets cornered by one ending his shift. Tony faces down four, and even that many aren't able to pose him any kind of threat.
Rhodey blows the locker room's armor recharger to get clear, while Tony tries to exploit a design flaw that he knew would probably have been fixed. Now facing seven, they're starting to pile on; while the still-awake (?) Mr. Hyde and Titania wonder if they'll be able to exploit these happenings. Rhodey drops an elevator on the Guardsman chasing him, while Tony outfights his until only one is left standing. Steve arrives in the nick, to place himself between Tony and the last Guardsman, claiming "it's vital to national security!" Whoa, settle down, Steve; that feels a bit much.
The Guardsmen only had 30 minutes of air, although I'm not sure it had been that long yet, and the last one is running out of air. (Presumably, the seals on the other suits open when the suits are negated...if Tony has negated them all at this point: some of those guys were knocked out, but maybe not negated.) The Guardsman, perhaps misguidedly on a tactical level, refuses to stand down and unmask; Steve is forced to unmask him to save his life, which leaves him wide open for an electrical shock from Tony. Perhaps barely conscious, Steve again stares down Tony, as he places the negator pack on the Guardsman, feeling their friendship may be gone forever. 

 The next issue box strongly suggests you read Cap #339 for the conclusion, but that's the Fall of the Mutants crossover. #340 is the conclusion, as Hyde and others break out: it's another good issue, but the Iron Man crew was top of their game here and the next one, which we mentioned before, Iron Man #229 vs. the Crimson Dynamo and Titanium Man! Another high point. And if you've forgotten, Cap would get another replacement shield in a couple issues, from the Black Panther! I don't know if Cap was closer to Tony and wanted to give him a shot first, or wanted to 'buy American,' as it were; or if he didn't want to ask T'Challa for a favor since he hadn't seen him in a bit.
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Thursday, October 21, 2021

80-Page Thursday: the House of Mystery #256!

We haven't seen an 80-pager since February's also-Halloween themed installment, but just in time for this week! From 1978, House of Mystery #256, featuring stories by Michael Fleisher, Paul Kupperberg, Jack C. Harris, and more; and art by Ernie Chan, Rubeny, Arthur Suydam, and more.
It feels like it's always Halloween at the House of Mystery, but it actually is tonight, and it's party time! Cain has a couple nice burns on his brother and hippie reporter Harvey H. Harvey--that sounds familiar somehow--but then has to tell stories to entertain his guests.
"Blood of the Vampire!" is a little gaslighting number, with a last-page twist that doesn't make any sense. "Perfect Poison" is a little better, as a dissatisfied wife plots to use voodoo poison on her herpetologist hubby. "Satan's Child" is both grotesque and minimalist, as a brutal swamp-dwelling miser abuses his wife for a son at all costs.
"Treats or Tricks" is more cheery, with Abel trying to guess the identity of some Halloween guests, featuring a cameo from editor Murray Boltinoff! In "Raise the Devil," two confidence men make their marks believe they've sold their souls to the devil, then clean out their material goods as they try to buy back their souls. Their comeuppance isn't from a dissatisfied customer, more like the better business bureau.
"Museum of Murder" starts with a wax museum, then swerves to a painter and his murderous works. Finally, "The Worm Turns!" tries to set up some EC-style revenge, as a grifter murders his bait-shop owning brother, but falls short. Little sparse this time around--I never expect the world from DC's horror books, but sometimes they still let you down. Read more!

Wednesday, October 20, 2021


My grandkids are currently in daycare, and now consistently have the daycare crud little kids get. It's not a 24-7 runny nose, but it's close; and I feel like I've had it for ever too. Between that and some mandatory overtime we've got a short one this week. I still have one week saved, but am having a hard time getting ahead.
We've seen Nightcrawler teleport the head off of a robot more than once, but I was thinking of this old Overpower card: I never played it, but had some of the cards. I misremembered that head as being more Ultron-like: it's got the can opener mouth, but lacks the distinctive antennae. And this newest Marvel Legends version nails both! Read more!

Tuesday, October 19, 2021

He was based in Montana? I call shenanigans, nothing has ever happened there...

I don't even know if Hasbro is doing more Legendary Riders figures, but I had been hoping for western themed ones, with horses. There's probably a dozen reasons not to do the Ghost Night Phantom Rider, though. Ghost Rider #50, "Manitou's Anger...Tarantula's Sting!" Written by Michael Fleisher, art by Don Perlin.
Last month, the Ghost Rider was caught in a dam explosion, and the ensuing floodwaters would wipe out a Commanche burial ground and a small town. It doesn't wash away Johnny Blaze, as he's confronted by a medicine woman, who seems to dial from old to young as she sends him back to western times, where Johnny promptly catches two arrows from the local tribe. For the first of multiple times this issue, Johnny uses his surprisingly effective stuntman training, to dismount a Commanche and then try to escape on his horse, but gets trapped in a box canyon. He is saved by the sudden appearance, as if from nowhere, of the Night Rider--that's kind of his gimmick, sure, but what was he doing out there? We then get a recap and possibly modernization (slightly, if so) of Carter Slade's origin: shot by outlaws and left for dead, saved by a medicine man who had a vision of a shooting star, that he used to trick out Carter as a masked hero. While Johnny recuperates, Carter leans into his cover story, that there's no such thing as the Night Rider, it was your imagination.
Later, when Johnny is well enough to visit the local cafe, Carter starts to ask about his odd clothes--mislettered as old there! But they're interrupted by the Tarantula and his gang blowing up the bank! (An unplanned theme this week!) The Tarantula looks like another Marvel western character, the Black Rider, except with a spider on his hat and a cat-of-nine-tails whip. Oh, and a Mexican accent that strikes me as phony. Johnny uses that stuntman training to rescue a child from a burning building in ludicriously acrobatic fashion: maybe he trained with Cirque de whatever, too.
Together Night Rider and Ghost Rider stop Tarantula, which includes foiling his on-the-fly kidnapping attempt of an Indian girl--the medicine woman from before, when she was young. Johnny warns her and the Commanche medicine man, that in a hundred years or so, some jerks were going to blow up a dam; they remedy that by sending Johnny back just before the explosion, so the Ghost Rider can stop it and hellfire-blast the perps. This is probably a time paradox, but they had magic and the Great Spirit on their side, so it's probably not jacking up the timeline.
Not only has "Phantom Rider" gone through a few names--first to differentiate him from the more popular Ghost Rider, then after somebody realized 'Night Rider' could have a very negative association in some parts of the country. No, not the one from Mad Max, that was Australia, I swear...The Phantom Rider legacy was also badly bemirched by the later version, Carter's brother Lincoln, who sexually assaulted Mockingbird There's been another Phantom Rider since, but like Hank Pym slapping Janet, the stain has stuck. Oh, and while the later versions of the Rider were more closely associated with the Initiative team for Texas, the Rangers; the original was based out of Bison Bend, Montana! Both it and the dam in this book seem to have been drawn with absolutely no reference to anything actually in Montana, a state that's only in the Marvel Database as it refers to the lariat-wielding member of the Enforcers. (He worked his way up to being the Kingpin's right hand man? I again call shenanigans.) And now I just killed a bunch of time reading about Montana's Initiative team, Freedom Force? Neat they had a seemingly reformed Equinox, since I've been a fan forever, but that's a secondhand name... Read more!

Monday, October 18, 2021

Today we've got an issue I know I had read, but not sure I'd ever owned. Also, it was annoying since I had pulled the rest of "Rocky Grimm, Space Ranger" from the quarterbins but not this one. From 1985, the Thing #22, "To All Things an Ending" Script by John Byrne, breakdowns by Ron Wilson, embellishment by Joe Sinnott.

The cover proclaims "The Final Chapter of Rocky Grimm, Space Ranger!" Also known as Ben's stay on Battleworld post-Secret Wars. (The original, back when that meant something...) And when Ben looks this chipper, but we still have a chapter to go, you know things are going to get rocky. (If I had more readers, I'd hear the boo's for that line from space.) A human Ben, still wearing his wrestler-like singlet, finally returns to Alicia with flowers and candy. He is not greeted warmly, as Alicia proclaims "(ordinary) men are a dime a dozen!" and that she loved the Thing. Even without the slightly distorted visuals, this is obviously Ben's nightmare: Alicia has never responded to Ben like that, no matter how much he's feared it happening.

As the Thing, he wakes up in a stone ring like a gladiatorial arena, faced off with a hooded figure who recaps some of Ben's problems before he's going to be destroyed. Ben thinks it's Reed Richards, since he's gotten into his head, but it's really the human Ben Grimm. Battleworld apparently responded to desire at this point, since the Beyonder had created it to study the concept alien to him, and created another Ben Grimm in response to Ben's frankly convoluted and conflicting subconsious wishes. Alt-Ben wanted to stay the human version of themselves, but while "Rocky Grimm" was having adventures on the other side of the planet, he often changed into the Thing to save himself, and Alt-Ben felt that as "(sacrificing) another tiny scrap of your true self." Alt-Ben also finds the severed head of Ultron, and puts into motion the killer robot's return. (Shouldn't the rest of Ultron be around there somewhere?)

With a suit of armor, sword, and frankly out-of-character ponytail, Alt-Ben declares "Long live Ben Grimm! Death to the Thing!" The Thing is less than impressed: he's heard all that super-villain balloon juice before, and also knows Ben Grimm never had the Thing's fighting chops. He does have the sinking feeling destroying his duplicate would leave him stuck as the Thing forever--again? That trick never works! Tarianna, warrior-woman love interest (and imaginary girl) tries to free herself; while elsewhere Ultron has built a massive robot army, and made a little flag with his face on it! I wish Marvel Legends would give us more weird accessories like that...

Alt-Ben slaps the Thing around a bit, claiming the right to live as a human being, but before the final deathblow Tarianna stabs him in the back. As he dies, most everything on Battleworld starts to fade away: Alt-Ben and his arena, Tarianna, Ultron's army, and even Ultron's body, leaving him a severed head again. Ben has what should be a tearful goodbye with Tarianna, but is instead a lengthy monologue about how maybe he'd always been able to change back into Ben Grimm, but subconsciously blocked it because he was afraid Alicia wouldn't love him unless he was the Thing. Moot point, since Tarianna had "killed" the Ben Grimm inside him, leaving him the Thing forever. (Moot moot point, since as we'd see the next issue, Alicia had not exactly just been waiting for him...)

Pacing around the now-empty Battleworld, Ben ponders that Tarianna was created from his thoughts, so by transference he somehow wanted to stay the Thing. Finding Ultron's head, Ben gathers up his litter, and says his goodbyes and transports home. Finally completely empty, the Battleworld breaks up.

A little maudlin this issue, but the next one would be outright grim; setting up Ben not rejoining the Fantastic Four right away. Read more!