Tuesday, May 31, 2022

I don't know that younger comics readers would even know of a time when Legion of Super-Heroes was even a reasonably-selling book, let alone the hotness. This issue may have been the peak, or close to it, and what the heck, He-Man probably didn't hurt either! From 1982, Legion of Super-Heroes #293, "Within the Darkness..." Written and plotted by Paul Levitz, plot and pencils by Keith Giffen, inks by Larry Mahlstedt.
This was part four of "the Great Darkness Saga," which might've been the Legion's longest story in its then-24 year history; and is still regarded as a high-water mark for the title. This issue has the big reveal of the bad guy behind everything, and he would make a big splash on the next issue's cover--and the covers for the trades seem to spoil it as well--but I'm not sure a lot of readers guessed it. The "Servants of Darkness," while including a simulacrum of Superboy, were shadowy versions of DC characters; the clues were there!
Calling Superboy back into active service, the Legion scores their first victory against the Servants; with Element Lad using Gold Kryptonite to depower the faux-Superboy, and Timber Wolf destroying it. But the Master has been more than a step ahead, swapping his own world, "so long dead and forgotten," with Daxam; bringing it under a yellow sun--and bringing more than three billion Kryptonian-level beings under his control! Using their newfound powers, the brainwashed-but-devoted Daxamites carve their world into the distinctive shape of their Master's head...
Also this issue: a 16-page Masters of the Universe preview, "Fate is the Killer" Written by Paul Kupperberg, pencils by Curt Swan, inks by Dave Hunt. And as long as we have Curt Swan, might as well get Superman in there, too! He-Man and all had earlier appeared in DC Comics Presents #47 with Supes as well. The faces will be familiar, but I don't think all of the MOTU mythology was nailed down yet; and He-Man throws a sword at Skeletor, which is probably more violence than would be allowed again for them for decades. In official media anyway; I suppose kids playing with them could do whatever they wanted, right? Read more!

Monday, May 30, 2022

The day before I picked up a ton of recent Shadow comics, somebody on Twitter pointed out Batman: Year One is all about Batman (and Gordon) trying to get their footing and figure out how things are going to work, while in the Shadow's Year One book, he pretty much has his game plan set by issue #2. The only notes were "maybe a cloak?" But, we'll be checking out a Shadow well further along in his career today: from 2014, the Shadow: Midnight in Moscow #4, story and art by Howard Chaykin.
Spoiler: the Shadow doesn't even get to Moscow until the tailend of this issue! This was set in December, 1959; and after almost two decades the Shadow was starting to lose some ground in his war on crime. But, after he stops a crime boss's gold heist, he finds mysteriously shrunken bars of gold, then the boss turns up alive later, but a few inches shorter? And while the Shadow himself is still inscrutable, his longtime companion Margo Lane wonders how long they could keep up the life: neither of them were getting any younger. Surprisingly, the Shadow may agree with her, and announces his retirement; which is more of an excuse for a trip than anything.
Chaykin has always had an eye for the past, but in a rather sullen way here: sure, the suits were nice, but New York sucks, London sucks, Paris sucks, Berlin sucks, and Moscow extra sucks. Rampant corruption, willful blindness, and bad food almost all the way down. The Shadown and Margo are one step behind a British agent and his Texan honeypot, who are blackmailing a nuclear scientist, but there may be more to them. Still, after the plot was wrapped up, the last two pages of the series surprised me, as cold even for the Shadow; although maybe fitting into what passes for 'continuity' for him. Read more!

Friday, May 27, 2022

Is it live, or is it Memorex?

I may have bought this less on the name-brand strength of the story, than somebody on Twitter saluted the funny little alien monster in the corner box for this series. Still, it's a good one, if not what you think! From 1973, Worlds Unknown #3, "Farewell to the Master!" Adapted and edited by Roy Thomas, pencils by Ross Andru, inks by Wayne Howard, based on the story by Harry Bates. Cover by Rich Buckler, with John Romita alterations.
In Jeopardy format, category "Classic Sci-Fi Movies," "'Farewell to the Master' has been adapted in 1951 and 2008, but not under that title." I didn't know either, but you might after this: the Day the Earth Stood Still! I've probably seen the '51 version a dozen times...and seen bits of the '08 about the same even if I can't recall ever watching it at once. But, this version is more closely based on the original story by Harry Bates, as Roy Thomas explains in an editorial that really should'a come at the end of the story! For one thing, instead of "Gort," the robot's name is Gnut. Also, the humanoid visitor, Klaatu, is shot dead by a crazed lone gunman (cue conspiracy theories!) about five seconds after first showing his face.
Klaatu had seemed cool, and even the most warlike hawks would have to admit that kinda thing could make earth look pretty bad. He is buried nearby, by which I mean his body is put in a crystal coffin, which could be seen as just displaying it like a trophy and not an act of contrition; while the immobile Gnut and their ship has a museum built around it. But Gnut may not be as immobile as he seems, and that's the least of his secrets. Two reporters notice the robot may be moving very slowly, then encounter a sparrow, a gorilla, and two copies of the newsman that first broke the aliens-landing story: all of which lurch out of the spaceship, and die in short order. The robot is encased in solid "glasstek," which--surprise! Does nothing. Gnut visits Klaatu's coffin, but instead of recovering the body, only takes tapes of his landing declaration: "I am Klaatu...and this is Gnut."
Gnut's unbelievable technology--unbelievable in the sense that it might as well be shouting abracadaver and sacrificing a goat--is able to reconstitute a living creature from an audio recording. But, due to imperfections in the tapes, his test animals and Klaatu were all short-lived. The reporters promise to get the best possible version, the originals, to Gnut; and upon doing so say they hope the robot will tell its master how sorry they were about, y'know, the murder and all. Cue twist ending, which I won't spoil, but as Thomas mentions, is vastly different than the "misbegotten message" of the '51 movie; as well as a bit ominous. (Thomas also uses "misbegotten message" to describe the ending of 1957's the Incredible Shrinking Man; which surprised me a bit. The original story may have ended on a more secular note, though.) Anyway, in honor of the '51 movie, we were going to wrap up with some theremin music that reminds me of it: the classic "Humming" from Portishead...which doesn't actually feature 'thereman' but instead uses a monophonic synth. Well, still a great, great song; and maybe you've learned two things today!

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Thursday, May 26, 2022

Would "Dual Duel" have been a better title? Said duel didn't kill either one, so...

Another blast from the past, as we look at a comic from 1982 in a post I wrote in 2017! Warlord #60, "Death Dual!" Written by Mike Grell--or rather plotted by, uncredited script by Sharon Grell; pencils by Jan Duursema, inks by Mike DeCarlo. And that is "dual" and not "duel," although technically I guess either would work here.

Now, I've said before I have no intention of blogging every issue of Warlord, partially because there are some doldrums in the book's run. This was the conclusion of a four or so issue stretch with Travis playing Man in the Iron Mask, trapped in a dungeon and replaced by an actor. (A pretty good actor for a largely medieval society, but let that go!) It's part of a plot against Tara, queen of Shamballah; but oddly it's more political than usual: instead of having the impostor kill her, he's working with the "council of elders" to undermine her power and leave her a figurehead. Tara has noticed something wrong with the replacement Travis, but is also distracted yet comforted by her childhood sweetheart, the bard minstrel Graemore.

Travis does make a friend while chained up in a dungeon: the young thief Tinder, who is really Travis and Tara's son Joshua! He had been believed dead for some time, but still had the armband that proved he was their son: Travis's watch. Which he loses, when forced to flee during Travis's escape: his former boss, Darvin, ends up with the watch, but also realizes what it means even if Tinder doesn't. Not seeing that, Travis kills the guards, getting one to confess he was hired by councilman Praydor, then stomps into the palace looking for his double. Usually, this probably wouldn't have even been a fight, but Travis's stint in the dungeon has taken a lot out of him, and he's on the verge of losing when Tara finds them.

With Travis's .44 Automag on the pair, Tara tries to remember some of Travis's rambling about the surface world, since only he would know any of that, and asks who was "the King of Swing!" Travis quickly answers Benny Goodman, and nearly gets shot, since that's not how Tara remembers it!

Travis and Tara are reunited, although she does share a wistful glance with Graemore in the end. And a blacksmith fulfills another order for an iron mask, this one for the traitorous Praydor. At first that seemed wasteful, why not just put the one Travis had been wearing on him? But Travis's mask had large spikes that aided his escape; don't make that mistake again.

Also this issue: an Arion back-up feature, which ran from Warlord #55 through #62, then he got his own comic, which would run for almost three years. Not my favorite of back-ups: honestly, I'm not sure I've ever had more than a vague idea what was going on in it. Maybe if I read all the chapters I had in one sitting, instead of sporadically over years!
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Wednesday, May 25, 2022

"Cape bar."

I'm 90% sure Quasar and Moon Knight were never on the same mission as Avengers. The closest thing would probably be Infinity War, which would probably put them in Four Freedoms Plaza about the same time, but I don't think they're ever on panel together.

Also, it's probably too late since I'm at least a strip ahead, but I was trying to recall if Khonshu was for werewolves, or against. I was leaning for, but maybe not to the point that he would want his fist to turn into one. Who wants a hairy fist? ...ugh, that came out wrong.

In actual comics news, Nightcrawler's new book is out today, Legion of X #1...and I feel like Sat is actually more optimistic than I am at this point. There were some aspects of Way of X that I liked, but several others that I really didn't. That and I maintain Nightcrawler with a full beard just reeks of self-harm. In cheerier news, a more traditional looking Kurt is gonna be in the new Damage Control book, with Moon Knight, She-Hulk, and a bunch of others! That looks like a ton of fun and I heartily recommend hopping on that while you can. Read more!

Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Honestly, I'm not sure why they're yelling for his help, anyway.

The cover is a great one, and I think this series had a few in there; but it's the second of a three-parter, and the parts I recall were in the other two. It's also part of a crossover event I'm positive I've flipped through but am sure you could tell me anything was in it and I'd just have to trust you. From 2013, Thunderbolts #17, written by Charles Soule, art by Jefte Palo. Cover by Julian Totino Tedesco. 

The Thunderbolts at the time were a loose confederation, working under a system where they would take turns picking missions. When the Punisher gets to make a pick, he selects...some mobsters; which Deadpool calls the least surprising thing ever. But, Frank had picked the Paguro crime family, who were so behind the scenes he'd never been able to get at them. Unfortunately, the day of the mission coincides with Thanos's invasion of New York; but Frank isn't about to let a little thing like that hold them up. 

Red Leader was losing his intelligence, while Red Hulk is helping him not out of the kindness of his heart, but just to avoid losing a useful tool. Mercy had gone berserk, since the entire city maybe needed to be put out of its misery. Frank, Elektra, and Venom were murdering their way through the Paguros' goons; when they notice gas. While they don't know what it is, it's not hurting them, so they ignore it: Red Leader explains it's Terrigen Mist, and they also ignore it...even as it transforms some goons into Inhumans!

Meanwhile, having wandered off last issue, Deadpool is still looking for some pizza. Which he finally gets to, but the punchline has to wait until the next issue; and it's not bad. 
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Monday, May 23, 2022

By now you've probably seen the news that Marvel is losing, or at least not renewing, the rights to Conan. Has it only been three years since he returned to the Marvel fold? And perhaps less output than I'd have expected, spread across 25 issues of his regular book, 12 of a sadly not black-and-white magazine sized Savage Sword, a surprising 2099 tie-in, King-Size Conan, and apparently to wrap up with 6 issues of King Conan. Oh, and a couple limited series, Serpent War and Battle for the Serpent Crown, and of course 29 issues of Savage Avengers, an Empyre tie-in, and an annual, and a new series that just came out last week! (Am I forgetting anything? Belit and Valeria both had limited series too.)
I suspected Marvel might lose the rights at some point! Although, there is the possibility that some agreement may be hammered out to keep Conan in Savage Avengers. But if you're an old-time Conan fan, you may remember the ad for the Hyborian War play-by-mail game that was on the back of a ton of Savage Swords. It may have been not unlike Risk, but if I recall the rules correctly (or, I could be thinking of some other game with Conan!) Conan was like a modifier for your armies: a good force with Conan was stronger, an already-strong force was almost unstoppable. If a Conan-backed army lost, usually due to being outnumbered, the army might be destroyed but Conan would survive, and could still prevent an advance? Conan was unkillable, at worst he could be forced to retreat; and if out of space to do so he would be randomly placed elsewhere on the map. Which kind of feels like Conan in comics; since it sounds like "Conan Properties International" is looking to maybe cut out the middleman and produce the comics themselves. (Off the top of my head, TSR tried that back in the day with their AD&D comics; taking the license back from DC. It didn't work out!)
To muddy up the waters some more: did you know in a good chunk of the world, Conan is public domain? Looks like Americans have to wait until 2032, according to this, but it would be somewhat difficult to pick up the character then, since you would only be able to reference the original Robert E. Howard stories and definitely not anything from Marvel, Dark Horse, the movies, the cartoon, the not-REH novels, the video games, the breakfast cereal...okay, Conan cereal sounds awful. Medallion pieces, marshmallow helmets and axes; "Crom doesn't care if you like it!" But that maybe explains today's book! From 2020, the Cimmerian: Red Nails #1, from the story by Robert E. Howard, adapted by Regis Hautiere, art by Olivier Vatine and Didier Cassegrain; reprinting 2018's French Conan le Cimmérien #7 - Les clous rouges.
Red Nails is a classic, and you can read the full novella at Project Gutenberg. The novella is also reprinted in the comic from Ablaze. They're a relatively new company, and I don't know much about them, except they've published eight Cimmerian mini-series based on REH stories, and recently a Belit and Valeria comic--I didn't hear great things about the latter, but I have enjoyed the Cimmerian ones I've read so far. Best guess, the stories were published in album format overseas, but broken up into single issues here. Like many comic companies these days, Ablaze does a ton of variant covers; mostly mash-ups of classic comics with Conan.

I'm mildly surprised I picked up this one, though: 1988's Conan Saga #9 collects and reprints Roy Thomas and Barry Windsor-Smith's "Red Nails" adaptation, and it's a classic. The art in Ablaze's version is good, but also distinctly European: the square word balloons! Those are for robots! (Actually, I think Busiek's Conan in Dark Horse comics had square balloons as well?) But while I have a smattering of knowledge about Conan and his comics history, I almost think there's enough material there for a book. On Twitter, Tegan has a throwaway insight while discussing the rights change:
Which is, of course, dead on: I've mentioned before how seemingly everyone in my small hometown read Conan. Often by stealing mine, sure, but...It's easy to sit here and armchair quarterback all this; like everything will be better for Conan fans, the larger comic marketplace, and society as a whole, if only some noble soul could get Savage Sword back on the newsstands and magazine racks. Easier said? Uh, yes: the issue next to me, from 1993, was cover price $2.25. Adjusted for inflation, $2.25 in 1992 is equal to $4.55 in 2022. Crom himself couldn't get a black-and-white comic printed with that price point; let alone a magazine. Even if it was straight reprints it couldn't be done. Could it? Price-point aside, I feel like the market could still be there.  

Another notion floating around Twitter: maybe Disney/Marvel wasn't the best fit for Conan. (I almost linked a tweet to that effect, but looked at the guy's other tweets and, uh, no. No thank you. Glad you dig Conan, but...) Disney almost certainly doesn't need that, and we all agree they own too much stuff as is. The argument is largely that Conan stories need more bloody violence and bare breasts than Marvel would be comfortable with; and I could see that...to a certain point. I paused to re-read a Savage Sword collection, that was suggestive, but far tamer than you would probably think. But still great!

As is all-too-often the case, this boils down to how things were magical and special when I was first reading the book; so obviously it should stay that way forever. There's little point in worrying about Conan; I'm pretty sure he's going to land on his feet. That's a dangerous assumption, I suppose: the license-holders for Tarzan or the Lone Ranger probably thought that gold mine would never go dry. Or, they could decide they have enough material built up they could just reprint it forever and no longer really need to make anything new. But even if Conan never got another comic; well, my collection is nowhere near complete. 
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Friday, May 20, 2022

I've seen this in Bond films a ton of times--or maybe I've just watched the Man with the Golden Gun a hundred times--where the experienced spy, like Bond, is saddled with a pretty yet incompetent or inexperienced partner. This might be the first time that it occurs to me, that may be on purpose, and the rookie may be a sacrifice, meant to be seen! From 1979, G.I. Combat #216, "The Rookie Spy" Written by Evan Douglas, art by E.R. Cruz. 

This was another OSS story with the bald, pipe-smoking Control; moving spies around the board like chessmen. An agent dies in a bell tower, but had managed to hide information prior. Control sends pro Larry and rookie Janis to go get it, despite Larry's protests. Janis argues she must be competent or she wouldn't be there. Uh, yeah, sure...Control knows what he's doing, sending her to possibly get caught and pull attention from Larry so he can complete the mission. Maybe she's not good, though: Janis blows their cover at lunch, ordering water instead of wine. Larry is injured in the ensuing shoot-out, and has to hideout in a haystack while Janis has to complete the mission instead. Larry also reminds her to remember the signal...
Janis gets the info out of the bell tower, but was spotted, and forced to lead two soldiers back to Larry, where they gun down the haystack. Luckily, since Janis had given the signal, Larry knew something was up, and hid in a different haystack, and kills the Nazis. You did give the signal, didn't you; one ring all's cool, more if there was trouble? Um, no, those rings were just from when the Nazis shot at Janis. Well, sometimes lucky is good.
Lastly this issue, a third Haunted Tank story: I'm only scanning the above panel, since a variation thereof appears every story: "Jeb's talking to that ghost again." "He's crazy." "But he's kept us alive so far." "Yes." If you ever feel like you have the same conversations over and over again, there you go. "The Front is Where You Stand!" Written by Robert Kanigher, art by Sam Glanzman. I may have seen this one before in DC's war books: the Tank is completely out of ammo, but an infantry captain turns over his prisoners to them: 100 Nazis! They have to bluster their way through getting them to the stockade.
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Thursday, May 19, 2022

I never noticed, I was distracted by the leggy blonde.

Today's book might actually be worth a few bucks, but luckily this copy isn't slabbed or minty-fresh or anything. Plus, I probably have another around somewhere...from 1984, Crystar #8, "Anniversary" Written by Jo Duffy, pencils by Ricardo Villamonte, inks by Dave Simons.
Crystar and his crew are supposed to be pitching the Council of Order on joining their cause, but the prince is a bit dour today. After a little prodding, he tells the story to his friends that weren't present for all of it: long before the civil war against his brother Moltar, during the first Chaos War, it was time for a ball. It was an attempt to keep morale up and celebrate their little victories; but they receive word their man Koth had been wounded in a distant province. Koth was a noted "reckless cynic," but had recently married Ranilla, a scholarly and refined woman: few could see how that happened, but to those few their love was obvious. Crystar and Moltar, possibly because they wanted the chance to be heroes, talk themselves into going to help: they'd be jerks if they didn't, right? Joined by another of their 'captains,' Heyatt; they take off on dragons to save the day.
But, in leaving the city, the princes have left the protection of the wizard Ogeode, and are now open to attack by the Chaos wizard, Zardeth. The princes face off against his monster--who appears to have a big honking crystal on his chest that reminds me of the Bloodstone--and lose a dragon; but manage to get to the village and see Koth and Ranilla. Ranilla has deduced that Zardeth may have perverted nice, pure crystal to make a Chaos monster; and Crystar proposes the men perform a pincer move to try and hit the stone. They don't quite get to the creature, before Zardeth sends Chaos demons to destroy the village. Koth takes half the men back, but arrives too late to save Ranilla, who implores him to keep living and playing his little flute; which he's seen doing more than once already in the series.
Crystar and Moltar try to take the creature, and both are swatted down: this being pre-betrayal, Moltar even puts himself in harm's way to save his brother. Heyatt strolls right in, and takes down the monster in a cakewalk...then catches a spear in the back from a dying demon. The scene then cuts to Moltar, now a lava man, telling his men the same story, and how this anniversary was a day of mourning. How he tells that story, where Chaos is responsible for everything terrible that happens, while he and his boys were now on Team Chaos, I don't know. Why is this worth anything? It's not a bad little comic for a toy tie-in, true; but the real draw is the Michael Golden cover...which, in the background, features the skull Danzig would swipe for the cover of his first album! I was momentarily at a loss why I knew "Mother" by heart but didn't recognize anything else; MTV's Headbangers' Ball, duhr. That smidgen of notoriety is the only reason this issue could be a find for you: I had just seen a higher-grade copy at the comic shop a couple days before picking this up. Also, searching briefly, no one really knows why Marvel didn't come after Glenn for a piece of those sweet, sweet t-shirt sales; nor is it likely Golden saw dime one of that money, either. Although, I think you could a few years ago pick up a Golden shirt at SDCC: they really oughta get those into Hot Topics. Read more!

Wednesday, May 18, 2022


Tigra has guessed who called Quasar on his Avengers ID--we know who likes to abuse his! But which one are we getting...? Read more!

Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Looking at his past outfits, yeah, maybe costume design wasn't a speciality.

Sometimes a hero's costume almost has an origin of its own; other times the hero just has one, done deal. Today's series seems to be backfilling this costume's backstory, but it also makes Hawkeye seem about as sharp as a brick arrow: from 2011, Widowmaker #1-4, #1 and #3 written by Jim McCann, pencils by David Lopez, inks by Alvaro Lopez; #2 and 4 written by Duane Swierczynski, pencils by Manuel Garcia, inks by Lorenzo Ruggiero and (#2) Javier Bergantiño.
I don't know why this series was split the way it was; I'm not sure it works. Hawkeye and Mockingbird are investigating a leaked "kill list" leading to murdered deep cover former S.H.I.E.L.D. agents: I don't think the spy agency was still active, but the agents may have continued their work. Following a tip to Russia, they are joined by Dominic Fortune--described as "seemingly ageless soldier for hire," although I'm not sure he's the original. He has a bit of a dirtbag moustache going now...And of course, the Black Widow shows up, since there are a mess of bodies at a Red Room training facility. The Widow is a step ahead of Clint and Bobbi: the kill list was absolutely a trap for them. Reviewing the Red Room footage, the murderers appear to be Japanese ultra-nationalists Dark Ocean Society, who haven't been seen for years, since their boss was killed.
The investigation is interrupted by the arrival of (some of) the Soviet Super-Soldiers: not the best looking Crimson Dynamo suit. They overpower our heroes, since they're also after Dark Ocean, and their leader...Ronin!
Unsure if that was brought up in the early stories, when Ronin's identity was unknown; or the several people that wore it before today's wearer: "Great suit! Nice lines. It previously belonged to the Japanese Jason Voorhees, but I'm sure that's not problematic at all." That link will also tell you who's the bad guy here; I always forget his real name, or that he's alive, since he wasn't for a long time. His plan wasn't great either. The covers for the series are also split, between Jae Lee and Phil Noto; and they're probably the best part.   Read more!