Friday, June 30, 2023


I was in Montana last week, and managed to get most of the most recent Guardians wave half off, including Groot. I can't resist that, but I'm also far too soft-hearted to leave Cosmo missing any legs! Adam Warlock really should've come with Blurp, though. I might take the Youngest to go see Guardians 3 this weekend, but I'm definitely seeing the new Indiana Jones! Have a good weekend. Read more!

Thursday, June 29, 2023

"--YOU!" "HIM!" "WHO?"

Fred Hembeck, of course! This is an issue I've known of for years, but not sure I'd ever read until just now! From 1984, Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man #86, "Bugs!" Written by Bill Mantlo, pencils by Al Milgrom and Fred Hembeck, inks by Al Milgrom and Jim Mooney.
This was the (in)famous Assistant Editor's Month at Marvel, as the regular editors were all at San Diego Comic Con...for the whole month? Whatever. (We saw the Thing from that month some time back, and that's the only issue we've seen from then? Huh.) Assistant Bob DeNatale has a vision (not that one!) for this issue, and instead of usual artist (and Fanfare editor!) Al Milgrom, goes with...Fred Hembeck instead?! The first five pages are largely Al complaining about this, which is a sort of funny look at how the sausage gets made, but I'm not sure how well it went over at the time. It also might be twofold: plotwise, this one would've been a little thin otherwise; but the next issue was going to lay the melodrama on pretty thick, so they needed to have a funny one here.
The Human Fly was back in town, although he was losing the "Human" part and becoming more and more flylike, as in, eating a lot of rotting garbage. He knew it was gross, but couldn't stop himself; so it was time to seek vengeance on the archetects of his misfortune: Spider-Man and J.Jonah Jameson! JJJ had approached shady scientist Dr. Stillwell about creating a super-hero to rival Spidey; and kidnapper Rick Deacon volunteered for the job, to get back at Spidey. It didn't turn out the way he wanted, and he had since killed Stillwell (maybe?) and wanted the other two. Meanwhile, Spidey and the Black Cat are working through a bit of a rough spot--honestly, I feel like all we saw of their relationship was rough spots? Like any moment of them happy with each other wasn't dramatic enough and got cut. Spidey ends up taking her to the Daily Bugle, to show her where he works; which confuses her: why wouldn't he be Spider-Man full-time, 24-7? Why would you want anything else? Since Peter hadn't revealed his secret identity to her yet, she probably hasn't realized he's poor, either...
Luckily, the Fly buzzes past them, to attack JJJ. Seven page fight, with the Fly defeated in a brawl by the Bugle's printing press, as he refuses to give up a stolen cheese sandwich. Spidey tells off JJJ, to fix the Fly; I'm sure he spared no expense...I'm kidding, the Fly would get shot by Scourge in Amazing #276 two years later. Regular editor Danny Fingeroth returns at this point, and figures Jim Shooter is gonna lose it when this mess hits the stands, unless Al can pull their fat out of the fire by nailing the dismount: The Cat asks Spidey to take her home, back to his place, and instead of hearing "bow chicka wow wow" he has to have a massive internal debate. Overthinking is a killer; but he's right, it would be a problem. I don't know if Felicia thought he was going to look like Tom Selleck, but next month she acts like Peter looked like the Fly... Read more!

Wednesday, June 28, 2023

"Vieux Carre." does the Orb drink now? Or eat, or hear? Also, don't run out to your local bar and order a vieux carre, it's supposedly a somewhat difficult drink to mix. 

Marvel cosmology is weird, and nowhere near internally most concepts of heaven and hell. We're maybe swiping from Hellblazer a bit here, namely the "Dangerous Habits" storyline: the Punisher has sent a lot of sinners to Hell. Wouldn't Hell want him to keep killing, keep the supply line going? Moreover, Hell is seemingly all about torment, less for any sort of redemption then for its own sake, but having Frank down there feels like maybe it would be too much? Like Frank would take over from the devils, punishing the sinners...and himself. It's been a few years since I've read a Marvel book set in or mentioning their assorted Hells; it's a bit old-fashioned. (I'm personally agnostic sliding into godless more all the time, if that explains anything.)
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Tuesday, June 27, 2023

"Mom, can we have some Conan?" "We have Conan at home."

Somehow, this feels like Marvel was trying to get away with something, but I'm not sure how, or why. From 1976, the Incredible Hulk #201, "The Sword and the Sorcerer!" Written by Len Wein, breakdowns by Sal Buscema, finishes by Joe Staton. This was six years before the unrelated and vastly entertaining, not very good, movie of the same name; but I don't know if there was a larger plan involved here, since Conan was very much a de facto Marvel character at this point. In the Mighty Marvel Checklist this issue, alongside the cover for this issue is Conan the Barbarian #65. (Which we saw some time back, featuring "The Secret of Skull River!" since they missed the deadline!) So why is the Hulk facing off against store-brand barbarian Kronak? Doc Samson had shrunk the Hulk last issue, to save Major Talbot's life; but old man wizard Shamu-Shan was also trying to summon a champion, to save his people from mean usurper king Kronak. The Hulk doesn't care, until a sad little girl laments the Hulk probably wasn't strong enough to beat Kronak anyway, and by Crom, ol' Jade-Jaws isn't going to let that stand!
The court wizard gases the Hulk, turning him back to Banner, so he decides to take the "pale pink changeling" to see the king for laughs. Even when he gets thrown in the arena to face Kronak in combat, Bruce tries to discourage everyone from making him mad, which doesn't go over especially well. He of course Hulks out, forcing Kronak to use "the sacred Ruby of Shadows" to summon a demon for Hulk to beat on. With Kronak on the ropes, the peasants rise up; and the Hulk throws him to the crowd, who tear him apart. The Hulk isn't sure what to do next, but then inexplicably continues shrinking...which would get him to his long-lost love Jarella, next month! I'm sure that'll end well.
Maybe Len Wein just didn't like Conan...It's a pretty accurate, and well researched, pastiche though. Because the world is what it is now, I'm looking at this maybe more suspiciously than it deserves; like it was a test case to try and knockoff Conan, as opposed to just an off-the-cuff plot to fill an issue.
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Monday, June 26, 2023

See, I knew that was just supposed to be smack talk!

If you've ever had the inescapable craving for something sweet or salty, I suspect this is something like that. Except for, no zombies! Well, maybe some figurative ones, but...From 1996, Venom: the Hunger #1, "The Hunger" Written by Len Kaminski, pencils by Ted Halsted, inks by Scott Koblish.
Eddie Brock doesn't seem to be in the best place this issue--literally, he was living in the sewers like an uncommon turtle. He also seemed to have lost all patience with people, seeing everyone around him as basically subhuman scum. He Venom's up and nearly tears into some punk kids at the theatre, barely stopping himself from really hurting them. Later, he tries to enjoy a Twinkie, but it tastes rotten to him. (A Marvel character turning on Twinkies!? He's gone too far this time...) He seemed to have a hankering for something, but couldn't quite nail it down: Eddie says it's on the tip of his tongue, but considering the size of Venom's tongue does that narrow it down any?
Venom picks a fight at a dive bar, where the local thugs seem to have no fear of "long-underwear types." Then, after a pleasant Venom Fan Art Page, with submissions from kids, Venom...literally eats a thug's brains! Eddie is aghast, describing it as a joke he'd threatened to do many times, but never meant to actually carry out. We then hear his side of a sort-of conversation with the symbiote, who seemingly claimed to need the brains, "like a vitamin deficiency." Eddie refuses, and the two separate, leaving Eddie naked and curled up into the fetal position in a dingy alley. And this was the first of a four-issue stint, so it was probably gonna get worse from there.
The Venom movie has a bit of brain-eating, largely as a joke: the horribleness of it is largely brushed off. I may have to see how the rest of this one goes, although I swear I had a big box of assorted Venom miniseries floating around somewhere. The odds that I have another copy of this are better than even...I also think "The Hunger" was used as a title for a Venom story again later; like with Humberto Ramos? Yep! Read more!

Friday, June 23, 2023

President of whatever, Zaphod Beeblebrox couldn't pull off that outfit.

It's the first issue with the Legion sharing cover billing! It's the return of our boy T-Wolf! It's pretty much the usual nonsense! From 1973, "Timber Wolf: Dead Hero, Live Executioner!" Written by Cary Bates, art by Dave Cockrum.
On a pleasant 20th century afternoon in Smallville, Clark is sitting under the apple tree with Lana Lang, who wonders why he's never tried to kiss her. Cue the Legion signal, and Clark has to use heat vision to drop an apple on her head to give her a severe concussion harmlessly knock her out so he can race to the 30th century, where he's surprised to see a ghost: Timber Wolf, who had been believed dead since...just now? I don't think the events referenced appeared before, but six months prior Superboy and T-Wolf had been pursuing an "astral vulture" when a planetoid exploded: Superboy's invulnerability saved him, but T-Wolf was presumed dead, until he showed up on earth again the other day. Better wheel his statue out of the memorial! (They mention deceased members Ferro Lad and Erg-1, one of whom would also later return...)
Mon-El was keeping tabs on Timber Wolf, even watching him sleep; since he figured somebody couldn't disappear for six months without some effects. Sure enough, when the President of Earth shows up to give him a medal, T-Wolf turns on him, intent on murder! Supes and Mon stretch Superboy's cape, so T-Wolf can't throw the President away, and then catch him. Brainiac 5 runs him through the "mento-rehabilitation" machine to clear up any brainwashing, and T-Wolf remembers something: he had been saved, by a towering figure who blew up the planetoid in the first place but pulled him into another dimension. T-Wolf is cured, but later that night is roaming Legion headquarters, and sets their self-destruct mechanism! Saturn Girl senses what's up, but before she can do anything is shot by the newly arriving villain: Tyr! Hey, he's gotten action figures a couple times, but they were regular sized, and here Tyr seems twice as tall as a regular human!
Tyr has just enough time before the headquarters explodes to explain his scheme: a "double-brainwashing" of Timber Wolf. His assassination of the president was never meant to succeed, but to get him in position for sabotage. Still, Tyr's shot at Saturn Girl also hit T-Wolf, shocking him back to normal: he throws Tyr into a generator, shocking him, then switches off the self-destruct in the nick of time. But, while Tyr was captured, his cybernetic gun-hand was not: it escapes, and was orbiting earth, the whole world in its sights...
Also this issue: "The Slay-Away Plan" Written by Cary Bates, pencils by Bob Brown, inks by Murphy Anderson. At a dedication ceremony for a collection of art treasures gathered by Superboy, a visiting speaker peps up a boring speech by shooting an audience member! He makes a daring, pre-planned escape; which Clark can't do anything about, since Lana refuses to let him run away like a coward as usual. Lana and Clark realize, they didn't recognize the victim; and even stranger, the arriving EMT's don't seem to be actually treating the victim, just hustling him out of there. Clark can see, the "victim" wasn't even injured, but can't get away from Lana to investigate, since she borrows a motorcycle for them to give chase!
The ambulance goes to an abandoned barn, and the "victim" gets out, and Clark can see the EMT's, the victim, and the "killer" playing cards! Lana doesn't have x-ray vision, though, so she tries to sneak up to get a look, but gets grabbed; which gives Superboy the chance to show up and catch them all. Lana had it figured out, though: the alleged killer's bullet had a homing device in it, so when Superboy took the treasures for safe-keeping, they could find them later. Superboy tells Lana he already took Clark home, and Lana's furious at that "mama's boy." All's well, I guess? 

Also, this particular copy bears the stamp of Armchair Family Bookstore in Portland; maybe I'll get there someday!
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Thursday, June 22, 2023

If you ever have trouble with a positive self-image, consider this guy:

Since I bought well over a hundred comics at the last con alone, it's weird for me to remember when I was young and didn't get comics every single week. Moreover, even a big-name like Spider-Man I wasn't getting to read with any regularity, and was rarely exposed to a big-name villain! Electro was probably the biggest name Spider-Man villain I saw for years. My earliest Spidey comics had guys like Equinox, Fusion, Jigsaw, or this guy: from 1979, Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man #35, "Labyrinth!" Written by Tony Isabella, pencils by Lee Elias, inks by Mike Esposito.
This issue features the return of Mindworm, an obscure villain that had faced Spidey maybe once before, five years prior in Amazing #138. He was a mutant, with an unusually large head, and somewhat unfortunate mental powers: he had accidentally killed his mom by draining her mental energy, which caused his dad to kill himself. It's probably not even fair to call him a villain: he had been draining energy from people but not killing them, but maybe wasn't prepared for Peter Parker's drama. Spidey had given him a pretty good shot to the head, which interfered with his powers, so he wasn't getting the energy he needed and was wasting away, but eventually pulled himself out of it...but for what? He wasn't exactly blending into polite society, and seemingly having little else to do, sought revenge on ol' Web-head.
Spidey gets thrown into the proverbial labyrinth, along with Mindworm's pretty doctor, and some giant rats. The doctor realizes those were manifestations of Mindworm's childhood fears, after a rat attack. (It's super-weird that two of the few comics I read back then were issues of Spider-Man with a child getting bitten by a rat as a plot point!) Mindworm presents himself, as a very EC Comics-looking blob; which the doctor explains is his feeling of alienation from humanity. During the ensuing fight, Spidey brings up his parents, which dredges up that trauma, forcing him to deal with it. "Spidey" tells the doctor he's defeated his foe...but his mask is torn, revealing Mindworm beneath!
Luckily, it's all a dream...or is it? Peter isn't sure, so the next morning he swings over to the hospital to see, and finds a sedate Mindworm being treated by a nurse, the doctor from his dream. Telepathically, Mindworm explains how Spidey and the nurse helped him work through a lot of his problems there, and he had realized the old Spidey mantra, with great power, etc. A happy ending...that would be wiped out some years later, when he'd be a homeless mental patient killed off in Spectacular #22, in a stretch of comics I vaguely remember as being largely gloomy. I also seem to recall Mindworm showing up, more than once, in crowd scenes with guys like Kangaroo, like in Tangled Web #6--it was weird to see him there; like seeing a face from childhood again, and not being sure why. Read more!

Wednesday, June 21, 2023

"Booster Seat."

I haven't had a chance to flip through it yet, but I know I got one random issue of the last Gerber Howard mini-series, from 2002 with the Glenn Fabry covers and Howard as a mouse or rat. It also looks like he goes to Hell in the last issue, which means he might get some of what Satana goes off on next time...Howard's look changes, seemingly randomly, at the whims of God, the multiverse, and/or lawyers. Not much he can do about it, so he doesn't dwell on it.
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Tuesday, June 20, 2023

I'm guessing he was the biggest fan of Iron Man's old skates. Somebody had to be.

I was thinking of this storyline the other day; and then happened into another copy of this issue: from 1986, Captain America #318, "Justice is Served!" Written by Mark Gruenwald, rough pencils by Paul Neary, finishes by Dennis Janke.
I don't know why the Marvel Database uses their "real" names, but his is used multiple times in the opening here: Roland Burroughs, better known as Death Adder. He was one of the creepier of the Serpent Squad and later joined the Serpent Society, and was the final hitter in one of their early successes, the assassination of MODOK. Today, he's ransoming Society washout Princess Python back to the Circus of Crime, when his serpent saucer is shot down and crashes into a tenement; which seems like it should attract more attention then it does. Adder was mute, an accident from when he was given gills, but was usually able to get his point across: he stashes the Princess, then hails a cab...and is promptly shot, another victim of the latex-mask wearing Scourge. (While it looks cool, nowadays you probably can't leave the masks behind like that; they're probably full of DNA!)
The next day, at Avengers Mansion, Captain America is moving in; although he tells current team chairwoman Wasp he probably wouldn't be around much. He planned on travelling the county, answering calls to his hotline, and helping where needed. He was going by van; and while Cap bought American, he does have it tricked out by Wakandans! Elsewhere, a nondescript car approaches a run-down looking bar; but it's nicer on the inside: the Bar With No Name, a hotspot for super-villains to drink, meet, and network. A lippy redhead stops in for a beer, and the bartender advises he might want a word with another patron: former Iron Man baddie Firebrand. Firebrand has a collection of newspaper clippings with murdered super-villains, and knows something is up, so he's trying to round up a group to find and kill the killer. The redhead, Blue Streak, claims he isn't a joiner and brushes him off.
Blue Streak? We've at least mentioned him before: along with fellow traitor the Vamp, he was part of the Super-Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. He appeared in Cap #229, which was part of a Whitman three-pack back in the day, and one of my first comics! He has a string of bad luck here, though: while he's able to run a cop off the road, later at a rest stop he's recognized by the plainclothes Cap. He tries for his laser and manages to blow up his own car, so he changes into his roller-skating gear; which likewise gives Cap time to suit up. With his shield, Cap clips one of Blue Streak's jets, so he wasn't able to escape at full speed, and Cap gives chase on the motorcycle he kept in his van. Fleeing on a curvy mountain road, he leaves tacks to try and stop Cap, and nearly gets him.
Coming around a corner, Cap finds a bent guardrail and a skate. Over the side, Cap can see Blue Streak's helmet, and climbs down to see if there was anything he could do. But, that was a trick: Blue Streak had left his skate and tossed his helmet. Unfortunately, Cap had taken the key to his motorcycle, so he couldn't just steal it and escape, but a passing truck offers him a lift...and promptly shoots him, Scourge again! "Justice is served, Blue Streak."  (How the truck got there is a bit of a mystery, since Blue Streak had left tacks all over the road.)

Like a bunch of Scourge's victims, Blue Streak was later brought back to life by the Hood...and then, like a bunch of Scourge's victims, killed again. His costume may have been passed on to someone else since; although I'd think twice. Seems unlucky.
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