Friday, December 31, 2010

The New Mutants

The issue pictured at left, The New Mutants #16 was my first issue of the first true spin-off of the X-Men franchise.  I found it on a spinner rack at a PA Laneco store, where I happened to buy a lot of my comics at the time.  Looking at the cover, and knowing my tastes at the time, it's easy to see what attracted me to it. 

First was the use of the word "mutants."  The X-Men were mutants, and I liked them, so it seemed a natural I would give this a try.  Then there were the characters.

Two animal-like creatures.  One guy who was all black with spots around him.  A guy with a jet pack.  A woman who looked like she was made of lava.  Kitty Pryde.  I'm sure my young mind asked, "What the hell is this?"  So I grabbed it, (most likely) paid for it, and marched my butt home to read it.

I was hooked. 

Eventually I got all the issues of the series.  Many were great (the Demon Bear saga artwork alone).  Some were horrible (Bird-Brain, or whatever the hell he was called, comes to mind).  The team dynamics were firmly in place by this issue, and while Pryde may have thought of the newbies as "X-Babies," it was clear these cats could hold their own.  In fact, the issue I first picked up featured a battle with the Hellfire Club's own young ones, and I seem to recall it being fairly brutal.

The series has been revamped a couple times since it first ended.  I don't think the revamps have ever been as good, however.  They lack a certain spark and freshness, which is kind of to be expected when you think about it.  When this title first came out, X-fever had not totally overtaken the industry yet, and the idea of a new group of mutants emerging as a powerhouse was a unique concept in the Marvel universe.  Their age guaranteed the problems would be different, and their lack of skill gave it the feeling that anything could happen at any time.  (Magneto taking over their training and introduction of Cable come to mind.)

If Marvel is intent upon dominating all media, as it seems to be, the concept of the New Mutants could make for a good television show or even a movie (if handled properly).  Not that I'd watch it, as I think most of the comic book properties that have floated over to TV and the silver screen have been lacking, but I think the teen and older child market would have a field day with it.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

One of My Cover Obsessions

Glowing skeletons or skeletons that were on fire have always managed to grab my attention.  This 1977 Amazing Spider-Man cover is just one example.  I loved this issue as a kid.  Dinosaur skeletons and Stegron?  Sign me the hell up.

The mid-to-late '70s covers for this series were always pretty good, but this one really stood out for me, and I wasn't a huge Spider-Man fan.

Another cover that had me grabbing the book is this one from Detective ComicsThis isn't a pure skeleton, but it is close enough.  Comparing the two shows some similar color themes and composition.  The hero, at the mercy of a fiery skeleton seems to be symbolic for the hero's death, which is always a way to catch a potential consumer's eye.  We all know it's a ploy, but you can't help but want to know what the hell is going on.

If you liked flaming skeletons, you couldn't help but be a fan of Ghost Rider.  A flaming skull.  A flaming motorcycle.  If you were male, that was damn cool.  (I imagine a few females liked it to.)  Johnny Blaze, the Ghost Rider from my youth, was motorcycle stunt rider (cool job) who turned into this flaming skull superhero (cool idea) and fought guys with like the one who had a giant eyeball for a head (not cool at all).

With Ghost Rider you no longer had to wait for your favorite cover to have a flaming skeleton character.  You got it every month in the form of Marvel's own supernatural hero.  Oddly enough, I was a huge Ghost Rider fan.

Most people remember whatever decade they got into comic books as being the best decade in the industry's history.  I got into them in the 1970s, though I would not call that the industry's best.  It was, however, the decade of some of the best freakin' covers.  These flaming skulls and skeletons are just a small part of it.  The covers were more dynamic than anything you see now even.  Don't believe it?  Look at the Ghost Rider cover to the right, and then compare it to the one from the 1990s below this.
It's a passable cover, but it lacks the dynamics of the three previous ones.  Yes, the concept is still kind of cool, but it doesn't scream, "Read me."

We'll never see an era quite like the 1970s when it comes to comic covers again.  And while the concept is still being used, it lacks the excitement these covers had decades ago.  It's a shame, too, because if these covers still had the same visual punch, perhaps there'd be more readers today.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Secret Avengers Revisited

A few posts back I wrote about my disappointment with Marvel's new Secret Avengers title.  One of the things that bothered me, which I don't think I mentioned, was the Nick Fury character.  I couldn't understand why he was acting the way he was in the story as it seemed totally out of place.  Granted, I don't keep up with all the events in the Marvel universe, but it seemed odd.  Issue five cleared all that up and has redeemed the series for me.

Titled "The Secret Life of Max Fury," this stand-alone issue explains (maybe -- you know how these things go) just why Mr. Fury seemed to be acting out of character these past few issues.  In fact, the story goes back about ten years to explain these things.  And while it was no action-packed fisticuff orgy, it was a highly interesting story (which some totally fitting art by David Aja, who is fast becoming one of my favorites) of intrigue and suspense that sets the stage for future stories that seem like they could be incredibly promising.  At this point I'm glad I gave the book a chance, as I get the feeling I would be missing out on some prime Avengers stories had I dropped it.

Of course, everything could go wrong and writer Ed Brubaker could be replaced for some reason and all his storylines handed to an intern.  That would be disaster, but we all know things like that happen in the world of comics.  Hopefully, for the sake of this title's fans, that won't be the case here.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Cover Review: Peter Parker, The Spectacular Spider-Man #101

If you take out this comic's title, you are left with a simple, yet dynamic black and white cover that catches the eye and doesn't let go.

The covers for this series were typically full of action and usually centered on Spider-Man and whatever villain he faced that issued.  This cover goes the more artistic route, and in doing so may have attracted more glances than the other titles surrounding it on the rack at the time. 

The year was 1985, and John Byrne was the cover artist.  This is obviously before his artistry went totally south. 

If you're looking at the cover trying to figure out what doesn't look quite right, you wouldn't be alone.  At first you are taken in by the excellent lack of color, but the more you stare at it the more something seems off.  It's the buildings, and it's brilliant.

The layout of the buildings makes no rational sense.  If this were a photograph, it would be doctored, as there is no place where buildings would be laid out like this.  It's almost reminiscent of Germany's own Expressionist masterpiece The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari.

Byrne wasn't going for realism.  Here he was using pure art.  He was playing with the standard poses readers were used to seeing Spider-Man in, and then he used the black costume and made something that could easily grace a museum's wall.  Imagine if he had done the same thing in red and blue using Spider-Man's standard costume.  It would not have worked.

I've given Byrne plenty of flack in my writing, but I will admit that with this cover he shines.  Would it have made me pick up the book to read?  No, but it would've caught my eye, and it still does.  In a series that had few truly memorable covers or moments, this one stands out, and it's all due to Byrne.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Walking Dead on AMC

The Walking Dead television series has its Halloween debut on AMC.  As I'm sure most of you reading this know, it is based on an Image comic book series.

I've been asked by a hell of a lot of people if I am going to watch this.  The basic line of questioning goes something like this, "It's from a comic book.  It's got zombies.  You like both things.  You gonna watch?"

Probably not.

I never read the comic book despite the generally positive reviews.  I simply had no interest in it.  Mistake?  Maybe, but I'm still not going out of my way to get it.

I also don't watch a hell of a lot of episodic television.  I don't find myself having enough time to do that, and if I were going to, I would actually go to the source material first (in this case the comic or trade paperbacks).  It's not like it is impossible to find.  Don't misunderstand me -- I'm fairly sure the show will be worth watching.  I just don't plan on being one of the audience members.  If I come across it, I'll probably tune in, but I doubt I'll even have the television on at that time.

What I'd love to see is the people who are excited about the television series actually becoming comic book readers.  By all accounts (though not mine), the industry is dying.  That means all these incredible franchise ideas will have to come from elsewhere -- something Hollywood has never been really good at doing.  (Outside of the Star Trek and Star Wars franchises, I can't think of too many franchises that have solely been the creation of the movie/television industry.  James Bond came from books, as did Harry Potter.)

It seems doubtful that all these viewers will turn into readers, but if I were a comic book store or publisher (that means you, DC and Marvel) I'd be taking out ads in order to expose potentially new readers to what you have to offer. 

In the meantime, I'll continue to field the questions, reminding people of the television show's source material.  And that material is always going to be better than what can be shown on the screen.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap

Any good Garth Ennis tale (and by extension that includes artist Steve Dillon) will involve topics like honor, truth and justice ... along with a healthy dose of bullets to the head and jaws blown off.  Such is the nature of the 2003 Punisher story arc called "Brotherhood."

Originally presented in the Marvel Knights imprint of The Punisher, the three issue story is about cops gone bad, coke deals gone bad, priests gone bad, domestic violence (already bad) and how the world views someone based on the actions of a few bad apples.  Frank Castle (Punisher) has vowed to never cross the line and kill a cop, but the two cops he runs into push him to the very edge.  Their addictions have mired them in a world of wife beating, gambling and stealing evidence.  When Castle enters the picture, the cops' world is already spiraling out of control and people are dying.

Before this was a Max title, The Punisher had to watch the language and nudity (nobody really worried about the violence), so this isn't as nasty as it could be.  It still makes its point without the use of words you'd normally find in this sort of tale.  That is the mark of a good group of storytellers, which as we know from Preacher, is exactly what Ennis and Dillon are.

Marvel's 2003 universe is far different from the one of the past few years, and this was its darkest title at the time.  Oddly enough, it was also its most realistic.  If you take the Punisher out of the equation, most of what the creators did was from real life, whether it be drug deals or IRA terrorism.  It was a far cry from the X-Men or Spider-Man, and for that I appreciated it.

"Brotherhood" will never be considered a classic tale.  With Ennis and Dillon, everything they do is grand, but to standout at this point it really needs to be spectacular.  It will, however, be a prime example of a strong tale that will never age.  Someone reading this ten years from now will recognize the themes and issues at hand, and they will in no way be alien to the reader.  Try saying that about some of the other stories we've witnessed as of late.  You can't.  And three issues was all it took.  Concise, but with about three times the dialogue of your average current comic, and well-paced.  It may not be a classic, but it should be studied.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Steve Rude Selling Original Art to Avoid Home Foreclosure

I'm not a huge Steve Rude fan (Nexus), but will admit that he has a place in comics history.  Unfortunately, the banks don't respect that, and now, in an effort to keep his home he is selling his original art on eBay.  You can click here to see it.

I think original art is a good investment, but I only buy stuff from artists whom I happen to enjoy.  If you are a fan of Rude, I'd recommend at least checking this out.  In an age where people think artists deserve nothing for their trouble (with the concomitant outcomes when your revenue is taken away), giving something back is a great way to show your appreciation ... especially if it keeps someone from being homeless.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Wonder Woman Needs Your Help!

I'm not going to reprint my entire piece here, but Jennifer Wenger, an incredibly talented actress, is making a push for the role of Wonder Woman in the upcoming television series.  If you are at all interested, just click here to read the piece on my other blog. 

I posted the main piece there because, quite frankly, more people read that blog than they do this. 

Friday, August 13, 2010

The (Not So) Great and Secret Show

I was excited to put Secret Avengers on my subscription list.  I liked the idea of an Avengers team that went in to do the dirty work and stop problems before they happened.  I liked the team, as it has a few characters I really like (Moon Knight and Black Widow come to mind) and some I definitely enjoy (Beast, Valkyrie).  When I had the first two issues sent to me, I sat down and read them after letting them sit for about two weeks.

I was ... disappointed.

The story, which deals with a search for a new Serpent Crown, was lackluster at best.  The characterization was non-existent.  These could have been any characters, quite honestly.  It seemed like it was a thorough waste of potential and money, and I almost dropped it from my pull. Why waste the time?

Well, long story short, I have not dropped it yet.  I am going to give it a chance.  Sometimes it takes a few issues for a creative team to get into their rhythm.  My fear, however, is that this title will never realize its full potential.  By the second issue, when the team goes to Mars, I thought there could be possibilities ... and there were some ... but not enough.  What will the next few months bring?  I'm not sure, but if the writers don't let the characters shine (which should be anyone's reason for reading this), they will have a dead series on their hands, and they will be losing readers at a record pace ... myself included.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Brain Eaters

I will admit that the first thing that attracted me to iZombie (not the way the title is shown here) was the Mike Allred art.  I am a huge fan of his work and someday hope to own some original stuff.  A tale of a zombie girl who has to eat brains every thirty days or she goes all shambling, coupled with vampires and ghosts -- well, it can only be a good thing.

The first three issues from Vertigo have not disappointed me.  The art, as to be expected, is top notch.  The story has its humor, and it is something you can easily see being made into a television series, as is everything comic book related these days.  It's not the best series I've ever read, but it is holding my interest.

Zombies have been huge for the past couple of years.  There are too many titles to list, and the it seems like there are more being published each month.  It is -- no pun intended -- over kill.  At least it's not vampires, though.

I'm all for a good zombie tale.  I like my zombies slow and methodical.  With that in mind, it seems strange that I like this series.  The zombie is portrayed as a normal woman.  The horror is almost non-existent (as of the first three issues), and there is a little too much humor for my usual tastes.  Somehow, however, writer Chris Roberson makes it work.  He keeps me reading it despite it firmly falling into the land of things I don't normally like.

Time will tell if this will be a series worth watching or just another one taking up space.  (I have far too many of those for my liking.)  My guess is the former, but if I'm wrong I'll at least have some nice art to appreciate.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Giant Sharks, Mutated Animals and Dinosaurs

I am currently reading the (so far) wonderful Art in Time, which features reprints from comics the editor, Dan Nadel, finds to be interesting for one reason or another.  The stories aren't ones that have been reprinted often in the past, so reading them has been a rare treat.  One of the more pleasurable stories in the group has been from Kona issue three, and features Kona, the white-haired caveman, trying to find a solution to a very vexing problem.  He is in a cave with some travelers from the present time period (Sixties).  This cave is quickly filling with water.  The waters have some toxin in them that has caused the sharks in the water to grow bigger than the dinosaurs that populate the cave.  This, of course, spells trouble for Kona and his people.  He does remember, however, that there is a cave nearby that has been blocked off because the other side of it contains hideously mutated animals. 

You have to love these comic book premises.  Could a book throw in anymore of the kitchen sink?  Cavemen, dinosaurs, giant sharks, mutated animals (like giraffes with bull bodies or some such insanity).  When you think those kinds of storylines wouldn't fly today, remember that just recently the Uncanny X-Men has these weird alien predator things dropped onto their Utopia island by a wayward mutant in a plane.  Perhaps not as outlandish as what Kona faced, but the concept is the same.

Reading the old stories is a lot like watching old movies.  The dialogue sometimes doesn't sound right, and the ideas sometimes seem almost quaint, but you are witnessing a product from a bygone time.  They, quite honestly, don't make them like that anymore.  Is that a good or bad thing?  I don't know.   More people read comic books back in those days, and while few would argue about the quality of our stories today, where are the readers?  Perhaps they want those crazy stories from the days of yore where logic took a backseat to ... just about anything else.

Me?  I like both periods.  And to be frank, we wouldn't be where we are at today without those stories from decades ago.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

The Vampire Verses #2

CFD Visual Anarchy's The Vampire Verses issue 2 came out way back in 1996.  Its creators are the ever controversial Joe Monks and Hart D. Fisher.  Helping out here was also artist Frank Forte, Mike Bliss and Bob Murdock.  As to be expected with anything associated with Monks and Fisher, there is blood ... and bare breasts ... and bodies torn in half.  Throw in lots of cursing, sacrificed babies and threats of rape, and you have a comic that earns its mature readers label.

But is it any good?

If black and white art is something you run from, you will hate this.  The cover is the only bit of color.  If vampires who look like those kids in Twilight are your thing, you'll also hate this.  There are no cute teens in the stories presented here.  Just vampires, thugs, demons and razor blades run down tongues.  Obviously, it's not for the weak-of-heart ... and nor is it for discerning tastes.

The art is appropriate for the types of stories presented here.  The stories, however, are full of usual genre trappings you've come to expect, as well as cookie-cutter dialogue and characters.  It often seems that the only thing original here is the gleeful love of violence that permeates nearly every single scene.  (That said, the baby sacrifice is not exactly shown.  It seems that even these creators have limits.)  Heck, the text piece has a character named Lucien.  Have you ever read a good story with a character named Lucien?  Doubtful.

When this was first published it had a $2.95 cover price.  The cover alone probably sold quite a few people on it.  Today I suspect it is in the dollar boxes at best (if retailers aren't too timid to carry it).

In 2001, Asylum Press was re-releasing the 12 issues of this maxi-series.  If you go to the website you will find some of the original issues still for sale, though this issue has sold out for some reason.  It should be noted, too, that as of this writing, eBay had several issues of the series up for grabs.  Whether or not there are any takers remained to be seen.

Vampires are hot right now.  In 1996 they weren't nearly as universal in their appeal.  It wasn't exactly a guaranteed sale to do this type of comic, so the creators deserve some credit.  Unfortunately, they took what could have been a stand-out series and made it almost a replica of all that has come before it ... only with more gore and boobs.  That may work as a distraction, but as a story device it falls awfully short.

Perhaps people should stick with Twilight.  At least that has werewolves.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

He's Dead, Jim

It is no longer news.  Nighcrawler is dead.  (Well, as dead as dead can be in the comic book world.)  I have some mixed feelings about this.

As of late, Uncanny X-Men, the only X title I keep up on, has had this feeling of dread hanging over it like diseased mistletoe.  Ever since Scarlet Witch uttered those infamous words that wiped out most of the mutants, things have been tense for the ones who remained alive.  The phrase "kill or be killed" has never felt more real.

There were going to be casualties.  There always are.  The X titles are not immune to it.  The X-Men have died individually and in groups.  They usually come back.  In time, Nightcrawler will be back, too.  Nobody stays dead for long.

Nightcrawler has always been my favorite mutant.  Honestly, it had everything to do with his look at first.  The visual appeal of the character got me into him.  As I read stories with him in it, I grew even fonder of him.  His first limited series in the 1980s was utter crap.  It captured his freewheeling attitude, but boy did it suck.  It was actually fairly embarrassing.   At least at the time Uncanny didn't suck, too.

About the only writer whom I felt ever really had a good grasp of the character was Chris Claremont.  It seemed like over the years other writers have shown an appreciation for him, but rarely seemed to get him right.  Of all the mutants on that core team, he was the one who had the best outlook on life, but who also hid great pain.  He was the optimist, but held onto that glimmer of realism if only to never forget how bad people could be.

And now he's dead ... for now ... for right now.

Yeah, his death means something in the comic, but it strikes me as hollow.  It's not that I expected it (I've been expecting it for years, and then kind of thought it would never happen).  It is because I just didn't expect to feel so unmoved by it.

Nightcrawler will be back.  There will be controversy.  There will be celebration.  But for comics it will be business as usual ... and then he'll be killed again.

It's never the ones you hate, is it?

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Cover Review: Satanika #11

I've never been a fan of this series, but I have usually enjoyed the covers.  This one, for issue eleven, is, quite simply, boring.

Jason Blood is the artist, and his artwork here looks like something you would find in his high school chemistry notebook.  It tells you nothing about the comic, the character or the story, and nothing screams, "Read me!"  In fact, the only new reader I can see picking this up is the one who is interested in naked demon chicks.

Unfortunately, the naked demon chick pictured here lacks any kind of erotic appeal, and she sure as hell doesn't appear to be "evil."  The guy behind her looks a little more threatening ... in a He-Man villain sort of way.

I've seen more of Blood's artwork and remain unimpressed by what I've witnessed.  This cover being no exception.  Lackluster in art style and even color, it summons not demons, but boredom.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Atlantis Attacks Nonsense

Uncanny X-Men.  Annual.  Prophetic number 13.  It's an "Atlantis Attacks" crossover, as all the annuals were that year.  This one, as you can see by the cover, pitted the X-Men against the Serpent Society (cool) and Mr. Jip (not cool).  As you can see from the cover, it was a crappy story.

Marvel did these events in its annuals for a couple of years.  I can't remember really liking any all that much.  Most of the ones I read (and I only read the ones that ran in books I normally read) felt forced.  If you wanted to read the entire storyline you had to buy 14 issues.  Granted, that doesn't seem like a big deal now, but in 1989 that meant something.  That was a commitment. 

Since I didn't read every issue, and I haven't revisited what I did read since it came out, my memory of the "event" is a bit hazy.  I seem to recall that it had very little to do with Atlantis attacking, but did involve Set and the Serpent Crown.  It also reeked of gimmick, which annoyed me then as much as it does now.  Something of this nature begs to have the big guns like the X-Men and Avengers involved, so it made sense for this to cross over into those annuals.  When it was in the Daredevil annual, however, was when the stench of exploitive gimmick really assaulted the senses.  Daredevil.  Really?

Annuals are rare things these days.  I used to look forward to them.  When Marvel started doing crossovers amongst them all is when my interest started to wane.  For some reason it made them feel less special.  I'm sure Marvel wanted the exact opposite effect, but it failed as a company to do that. 

At least the title-wide crossovers now, while still gimmicks, are more entertaining.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Cover Review: The Eternals #14

Jack Kirby strikes again!  For a man I didn't appreciate as a kid (mainly because his art freaked me out), I definitely appreciate him now.  This is not, obviously, his best cover, but it works.

The Eternals was a weird series, and I never picked it up, but seeing the Hulk on the cover would have caused a curious Hulk fan to at least page through this.  It also has all the Kirby standards, which definitely doesn't hurt.

The first thing that catches the eye is the imposing figure of a red-clad man flying off the cover courtesy of the Hulk.  A cover that shows off action like this begs to be investigated regardless of whether or not you know who the characters are.  There are no word balloons.  There is a cover blurb, however, which pretty much details the cover with one exception -- this is a "cosmic powered" Hulk.  Attention grabbed; curiosity peaked.  Mission accomplished.

Cover artists of today could take more than a few lessons from Kirby.  He did every cover as if his career depended on it.  You can argue about whether they all worked, but you can't argue with the creativity put into them.  He knew what worked, and used it.  Perhaps if more artists followed his lead sales would be better these days.  Then again, Kirby was one of a kind ...

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Band of the Hand

If you are a regular reader of Daredevil you know that he now leads The Hand, that group of ninjas who have run roughshod over the lives of Elektra, Wolverine, and others.  It is a plot development not without controversy, but I applaud it.

One of the reasons I have stuck with this title since the 1970s (and there are a lot of bad issues between then and now) is because it never really seems static and has had a sense that anything can happen (especially since the late '80s).  As of late he has had his identity outed, been jailed, and has (once again) gone off the deep end.  Now this.

Obviously there is a plan for ol' Hornhead.  He hasn't, as some people have said, "gone criminal."  He is, however, dancing on that razor's edge, and that's what makes the series exciting.  If you want a safe read where you are hardly ever challenged on what you can expect from a superhero comic, you can read any number of titles.  Daredevil has never been about conventions.

This plot twist could very well fail in an awful way.  If that happens, it will be a shame, but the title will live on.  There have been other plot lines that have fallen flat in their execution (Mike Murdock, working for S.H.I.E.L.D, etc.), but that's the joy of reading a title that is not one of Marvel's flagships.  It can be tweaked.  It leaves room for experimentation.  That will inevitably lead to some failures, but it will also produce incredible stories.

Only time will tell what this storyline turns out to be, but I'm betting that before it is over many of the critics will change their minds.  And if I'm wrong?  Eventually there will be a new writer who will bring new problems to Daredevil's life, and if the past few years are any indication -- it could be a very wild ride.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Enemy Mine

I just got done reading Enemy of the State Volume 1 by Mark Millar and John Romita, Jr..  I read the issues when they originally came out (who hasn't?), but this was the first time I read it since then.  It actually holds up well, and reading it in trade paperback format actually made it a better.  It was also nice to see Romita, Jr. back to drawing Daredevil again, and it made me realize just how much I enjoy his art.

A few friends I know think that Romita, Jr.'s work is too square looking.  I admit that I can kind of see that, but I would argue that his art fits the hero genre quite well.  His Ultron, Wolverine and Elektra all look deadly, which is more than I can say for some artists who have worked on those characters.

I've had the pleasure of have some instant message exchanges with Romita, Jr. in the past, and he came across as a very nice guy who was happy to discuss comics and his work.  I don't claim a friendship with the man or anything, and I doubt he even remembers those chats (as I'm sure he's engaged in thousands of those with fans), but it meant something to me.  Art is a skill I don't have but desperately wish I did, and when I come across an artist I like, I tend to have a lot of respect for them.

Romita, Jr. is one of those artists.  His father, a comics legend, isn't bad, either, but Romita, Jr., I have to say, has a style all his own that stands out in an art form where imitation is far too often the norm.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

West Coast Avengers -- Why?

I have every single issue of this series, including the limited series that preceded it.  The West Coast Avengers was, and I can't believe I'm going to say this, hot for a time.

I can't remember why.

The line-up was pretty good.  Iron Man, Hawkeye, Tigra, Wonder Man and others made for a good core group.  If I recall correctly, however, the stories were often less-than-ideal.  In fact, some were downright horrible.  (As an aside, the entire "No more mutants" had its start in the pages of WCA.)

I remember wanting to read the series because of Iron Man and Hawkeye, two characters I enjoyed in The Avengers.  Tigra was a nice addition, too, because the writers actually portrayed her as she should be.  Once I actually read it, however, I started thinking, "Well, maybe the next issue will be better." 

The series could have been worse.  (Heck, it could have been Dazzler.)  It should have been better, though.  It had all the trappings of a good series, it had some good talent (John Byrne was on it before he totally sucked), and some passable art.  It squandered all that, though, and attacked readers to crap like Master Pandemonium and Firebird. 


Marvel, in the mid-Eighties, was enjoying quite a bit of popularity, and it tried its hands with some new ideas.  Some were horrible.  Some were pretty good.  Some, like WCA, were misfires.  WCA had enough potential and popularity, however, to last until 1994.  I can only attribute that to idiots like me who kept giving it second chances (and third and fourth ones, too).

Looking back on the series now, I can't help but think it's like the old television shows I used to dig, but now, when looking back, I can't figure out why I ever watched them in the first place.  Some still hold up, but aren't nearly as good as my memories make them out to be.  Some seem like they were never good in the first place, but I never realized it until much later.  WCA falls into the former category, as I'm sure I'd still enjoy some of the issues, but the majority of them would make me wish I never bought any issues in the first place.  I still think the idea has merit and could've worked.  Unfortunately, the team and the book was treated as second tier goods.  The heroes fought moronic villains, and at the end of the day the clout the Avengers name has in comic book history was tarnished by the series. 

One thing I can say about the series that is in its favor is that it never felt like a cash-in on that Avengers name.  I believed the creators were trying to do something new, something to set it apart from the main series.  It never felt exploitive, like all those X-Men spin-offs, and it never read like the core title with different characters.  In the end, though, it just wasn't worthy of that Avengers title.  The Avengers had tales that were epic in scope (most of the time).  They were, after all, Earth's mightiest heroes.  The West Coast Avengers, which had some tales that were pseudo epics, was not the Earth's mightiest heroes. 

At least we got a decent Scarlet Witch story out of it years later.  

Sunday, February 7, 2010


In the first paragraph of the last post, "none" should be "known."  For some reason I cannot edit it.  Stupid Vodka and mescaline.

The Joke's on You, Jack

Few comic book villains are as none by the non-comic book reading public as the Joker.  Granted, he's never been my favorite villain, but when he's done well (think Alan Moore's The Killing Joke) he's incredible.  Unfortunately, like a lot of popular characters, he is often overused (though nowhere near as much as Wolverine) and often poorly written. 

Frank Miller's done the character justice, as have a few others.  Without the Joker, Batman wouldn't be nearly as effective a hero.  The Joker is his polar opposite.  While Daredevil has the Kingpin, those two characters work because they are both very similar to one another.  Joker and Batman is a totally different story.

Decades ago the Joker had his own comic book series.  It lasted about nine issues if memory serves me correctly, and seemed like an odd idea for a series.  I have an issue or two somewhere and will someday collect them all.  He's not my favorite character, but I will admit to taking some pleasure in reading his exploits.  There's something very refreshing about an off-kilter psychopath in make-up.  Sort of like a less sinister Rush Limbaugh or something.

Joker has already cemented his place in comic book history.  There's no doubt he deserves his spot, too.  Years from now, if our culture continues upon this path, the Joker will still be around, and he won't have changed much.  There's no need to upgrade a character that works so well from the start.  (Yes, he has changed a bit since his inception, but the course he's been on for quite some time now is the one he'll be staying on as far as I can see.)  That's what makes a character like him timeless and a character like, say, Darkhawk a toss-off to be used sparingly at best.

Now if Alan Moore would agree to do a Joker series, I'd be getting that every month without question.  Until then, however, I'll take the good stories when they come up and ignore the vast majority of them out of fear they'll be exactly as exploitative as I know they will be.  

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Steve Ditko Killed Indiana Jones

When Marvel's The Further Adventures of Indiana Jones came out,  I was thrilled.  I was a huge fan of the movies, and now there was a comic book.

It wasn't very good.

It wasn't horrible, but the comics lacked the energy of the movies.  Some things just don't translate to other mediums well.  This was one of those things.

I stuck with the book, but when artist Steve Ditko took over, I found myself reading it simply to ride it out until the end.  Ditko's art, which was passable in his younger years, destroyed what little life was left in the book.
Look at it.  That's one of the better pages. 

Ditko's art was ... freaky.  Eyes were too wide.  People were in strange poses.  Nothing looked right.  His run lasted less than 10 issues if I remember correctly, but one issue was too much.

Dark Horse picked up the license years later, but my view of the comic was so skewed that I pretty much stayed away from it.  People told me it was a fine read, but the horror that was Ditko burned itself into my psyche, and there was no way I was going to destroy the Indie comic memory even more.  Hell, if the Dark Horse comics were bad it could ruin my movie and novel memories, too, through some sort of weird cultural spillover.

So now I stay away from all Indiana Jones comic books.  It's necessary in order to keep my sanity.  And as for Steve Ditko ... I don't want to say he was on some sort of future recall diet drug that caused hallucinations, but Jesus his art was bad.     

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Cover Review: ACG's Halloween Horror

You have to hand it to ACG: This cover is creepy.

ACG's Halloween Horror
came out in 1998, though this cover reminds me of something from the late 1960s or '70s. The witch-like person, possible Klansmen, and a cowering captive/cave dweller/hobo practically demand you read this issue. Hell, if I would've have seen it on the rack I would have got it instead of whatever other garbage I was reading at the time.

As most of my readers and friends (not a big crossover group) know, I'm a big horror fan. Horror comics are part of that. Essential to the horror comic reading experience is the cover. Most of my cover reviews rip apart a cover for failing to do its job (get a reader to pick up the issue). ACG hits it out of the ballpark here. This cover is, quite frankly, disturbing. Though it looks like an old block print, the inclusion of the Klan-like element makes it a bit more modern, but also lends it a hint of discomfort (much like that infamous EC cover). I don't know if the Klan is involved in the story, but the picture is enough to case the association.


Saturday, January 9, 2010

Tales of Terror: The Fate of EC Archives

Gemstone, as many know, is no longer putting out the incredible EC Archives. All hope is not lost, though, as Russ Cochran's latest newsletter, which details a brush with death, states that while a new publisher has yet to be picked, he is confident it will happen soon. God, I hope so.

The EC Archives line was set to be the best thing to happen to comics since Jim Shooter left Marvel. They were going to be the definitive reprints of some the most influential comic books of all time. George Lucas, Steven Spielberg, Stephen King, George Romero and many others got inspiration from these fantastic and sordid tales. To have the series just disappear would be a crime of the highest degree.

I have very few of the original issues, as my budget doesn't allow me to collect them on an easy basis, so the series was my way of getting to read all those stories at a decent price. There was care given to the art and coloring, and the introductions were fascinating. Hell, those stories stand the test of time and many can still be considered edgy today.

I would hope Dark Horse would get the license, as I know that company will probably do a fine job with it. Here's to hoping. And if it falls through ... well, I can always hope to win the lottery.