Wednesday, October 31, 2007
Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight #41, January 1993.
(Okay, all you English majors can go ahead and take a breath: if "truthiness", than "Halloweeny-ness". Let. it. go.)
To celebrate All Hallows Eve, I thought I'd randomly dip through some of the titles I'm currently sorting from the Collection. Sure, The Spectre, or Sandman, or any one of DC/Vertigo's creepier titles might have offered some Halloween goodness, but those are already filed and would be more work than I've time for today.
Yah, Batman's an easy sell for this holiday with the whole Bat-motif he's got going on. But I was happy to find some Halloweeny-ness on some Wonder Woman and Superman issues, as well.
So, with no further adieu: a brief ragamuffin parade of Creepy Covers.
Wonder Woman (original series) #298, December 1982.
Superman: The Man of Steel #41, November 1994.
Detective Comics #662, Late June 1993.
Superman #66, April 1992.
Monday, October 29, 2007
Thursday, October 25, 2007
Another piece of the collection floated to the top recently: Birds of Prey #1, from 1996.
When I read "The Killing Joke" in 1988, I was a bit shocked by the Joker's attack on Barbara Gordon, as writer Alan Moore had meant me to be. At the time, she was a pretty stale character at best. Well-loved though Batgirl may have been, no writer had done anything interesting with her. Getting her elected to Congress was a bad move, as it is for most people, but only lasted for a term or two. The last thing we'd seen her do was to mourn the Supergirl that no one remembered.
And then, in series of panels, the Joker's bullets tore through her spine and ended that life. And for a long time, it didn't seem like we'd see her again. That Babs Gordon's useful life in the DCU was over. Oh, we of little faith.
(I read somewhere recently that Moore hadn't intended the KJ to stand firm within the continuity of the DCU, but they'd only just had the Crisis on Infinite Earths to weed down a healthy collection of "imaginary" tales...so DC accepted the decision to paralyze Barbara Gordon and moved on. And however incidentally, they set themselves up to eventually feature the story of a strong woman who overcomes great odds yadda yadda yadda...wow, positive role models for girls.)
I remember being intrigued by the mysterious Oracle, the anonymous computer entity which began selling information to Amanda Waller in the pages of Suicide Squad, and in other titles, too. It should've been no surprise that Babs had reinvented herself as the ultimate information specialist to the superheroes. It's perfect, and when she finally got her own series in 1996, well, the words "long-overdue" sprang to mind. I felt the same way about Babs' co-star in the series, adventurer Dinah Drake, the Black Canary.
As it turned out, that series was getting going at a time when comic purchases had to be trimmed, and I missed most of Barbara and Dinah's story, though I'm gradually enjoying it through trade paperback collections. I'm thrilled to see it's been such a good run.
Wednesday, October 24, 2007
Here's the book you really ought to be reading. Jaime Reyes is a teenager, and the third in a line of heroes to take the name Blue Beetle, from the blue scarab found years ago by the original, Dan Garrett. The scarab has fused with Jaime's spine and sprouts really cool armor, offering advice and weapons as needed.
But I could go on about his origin for hours, and really, you can find all that on Wikipedia. The hero's secret origin tale is a staple of comics, and so it'll always be there, but this series offers something else.
The extra good stuff in this series that makes the usual all the sweeter. Consider the unfamiliar setting of El Paso and Jaime's cast of supporting characters, his good friends and his family, all of whom know he's the Beetle, all of them trying to support him as he makes the hero's journey through the DC Universe.
And it's funny, too. (I love when they make Batman funny.)
I think what touches me the most is that, aside from Martha and Jon Kent, we have rarely seen supportive parents of teen superheroes in comic books. Here, Jaime's mom and dad have accepted the Blue Beetle as part of Jaime's life, and they're doing their best to cope with that, and fold it into their otherwise normal lives. The results are both funny and touching.
In the meantime, we're getting a great run of stories as we watch this new hero find his confidence and explore his very-bizarre world, all without forsaking the fun of being kids and palling around with good friends.
Too often we see the miserable, lonely "I have a secret" cliche in superheroes, especially the teen-angsty ones. Jaime Reyes is a breath of fresh air.
Go out and buy this comic! Add it to your pull lists, request the trades at your local Borders or Barnes and Noble!! Here is a great title which needs a nice long run.
Tuesday, October 23, 2007
Harken back with me once more to the steamy summer days of the Bicentennial and this comic, Four Star Spectacular #3, dated August 1976. FSS was another publication of the time, like DC Special and Showcase, which was retreading stories from the recent past (at least these days they make an attempt at re-writing, eh?). Included here are stories of Superboy and Green Lantern, but for our purposes this evening, we'll discuss only the Wonder Woman story.
This is another of those Robert Kanigher stories, from somewhere in 1958 or '59, with art by Ross Andru and Mike Esposito. Although the stories of the time are often a bit wonky one way or another, but I do enjoy the art. Diana--tho the styles of the years have changed--has always been a beautiful woman.
Too often, though, she seems to have forsaken the wisdom of Athena, as is the case here, when she foolishly accepts a wager with Steve. He proposes that, if Wonder Woman has to save him three times during the course of one day, then she has to marry him. (What the?! The "I'm such a doufus you have to marry me" thing never works...)
So, anyway, she accepts this dumb bet, and *big surprise*, she has to start rescuing Trevor, and each time he's gloating about their impending matrimony, and you know, you can really see Diana considering braining this mouthy bastard.
It doesn't take long as a reader to get tired of him, either. Really, why was she hanging around this self-important rube? I guess because he was the first Man she'd ever seen...and she imprinted on him like a duckling.
Although more likely she just realized from their first meeting in his crashing plane that here was a creature who was absolutely incapable of taking care of himself and so she'd better hang around and try to make sure that he didn't die.
Of course she saves him three times, but whew, they discover that it's actually been slightly more than the 24 hours designated in the terms of the bet, and so Diana remains a free...er, single...woman.
In re-reading this story, I began to think this matrimony business had been a real obsession with Steve Trevor, and looking back through a few other stories from that era, I quickly found two more examples to share.
Here, Wonder Woman's been defeated by a robotic version of herself, and so the world no longer needs her...and Steve wastes no time hearing wedding bells.
Or here, where poor Diana's had her secret identity exposed to all the world, including Trevor, and is he sympathetic? Of course not. His mind spins at the possibility, now that she's no longer effective as Wonder Woman, she's free to settle down with him. AGH!
It really becomes clear why it was such a good idea for them to finally kill off the obnoxious pretty boy.
Of course, they couldn't even do that right, bringing him back TWICE to mess with Diana's head before the Crisis rebooted her and Perez recast Steve Trevor as an older man, who actually had a little self-respect and heroism about him.
But these old stories? They're crazy-making, and if you read them long enough, then all of a sudden you're doing THIS sort of thing in response.
If anyone else would like to have a go, I've included a blank version here (click to enlarge and save, then paste your own dialogue atop the file and send it back to me!); what have YOU always wanted to hear Diana say to Steve Trevor?
Monday, October 22, 2007
I recently realized that because I've been saving the assorted Bat-related titles in my collection for the end of the sorting, it's been a while since there's been any Bat-love on this blog. Today, I thought I'd address that issue.
I've been reading the trades of 52, the groundbreaking weekly series from last year. What a great trip it's been. So many terrific characters, and high on that list for me is Batwoman. It's about time they reinvented the character; that she's a lesbian, too, is just gravy!
I think it's a shame that so much time has passed since the conclusion of 52 and to my knowledge (reading only trades, I rely on others reviews to keep me in the know) there's not yet been a scene in which Batman acknowledges she exists. True, he's had other things on his hands, and at least Nightwing has made the effort (though we can't rule out that being just the Grayson's fascination with redheads).
Anyway, here's one of the new Batwoman's first appearances. I look forward to hearing more (and eventually reading) about her role in the upcoming Gotham Underground, in which she appears on the cast list in solicitations from DC.
For perspective, I thought it'd be fun to compare our new daredoll (check out those boot heels!!) against the original(check out that Bat-purse!!), as seen here on the cover of Detective 233, dated July 1956.
I'm sorry to say I didn't actually learn of the original Batwoman until after she'd died at the hands of Ras Al Ghul's League of Assassins, although that happened right about the time I was really getting into comics.
Interesting to note that this new Batwoman has also already (at least apparently) been killed by someone from the League of Assassins...but I've got a feeling that's not going to stop her!
Sunday, October 21, 2007
Before heading off to other things on this sunny Sunday, I thought I'd share a few glimpses of the collection which have floated to the surface during the continuing organization.
First is this issue above. Although the cover title is "Firestorm the Nuclear Man", this is actually The Fury of Firestorm #54, from December of 1986. I've always been a fan of Firestorm--he was one of the first new heroes to show up on the scene once I'd really begun to explore the DC Multiverse, and he was the first new member to join the Justice League during my reading tenure. This is a fun, but silly, done-in-one issue in which Ronnie and the Professor (the two personalities fused together to form the Nuclear Man at the time) work together against a sort of punk-era Maestro named Trash, who's controlling young people with his mesmerizing music.
"We are such stuff as dreams are made on, and our little life rounded with a sleep."
Next up on the tour is The Sandman #75, from March 1996, the grand finale of Neil Gaiman's brilliant run on the series. This issue really deserves more attention than I'll give it here just now, due to the day's format, but it numbers among the finest in a run that was all top-notch.
In the early pages of Gaiman's masterful storyline, Dream of the Endless overhears a young Will Shakespeare telling Kit Marlowe that he'd "give anything to give men dreams that would live on long after I'm dead." and strikes a bargain with him: in exchange, the Bard will craft two plays during his career for Dream, commission works. The first we'd long ago seen, a gift to Titania of The Mid-Summernight's Dream, and in this issue, we see an aged Will write the last, The Tempest, as he reflects on his career and his life and eventually is brought to the Dreaming for a farewell visit with his patron.
Truly great stuff here!!
A few years earlier, Gaiman had ridden the success of The Sandman onto other projects, such as the four-issue miniseries, The Books of Magic (the cover of #4 presented here)in 1991. In the series, the "Trenchcoat Brigade" (The Phantom Stranger, John Constantine, Doctor Occult and Mister E) lead the young Tim Hunter on a tour of the magical world of the DC Universe, so that he may choose a way of magic or not.
Finally, with the recent return of Captain Carrot and his pals (please, DC, be sure to put this mini-series in trade!!) I'm happy to feature this fourth cover, of Captain Carrot and His Amazing Zoo Crew #7, as the Captain, Rubber Duck, Yankee Poodle, Alley Cat-abra, Fastbak and Pig Iron face the menace of Bow-zar the Barkbarian!! Woo hoo!!
Great news that they are "in continuity" now that there are 52 Universes to play with. Oh, please, oh please, let them all survive the Final Crisis!!
Saturday, October 20, 2007
First, another random discovery while making sense of the Collection: Freedom Fighters #5, cover dated December 1976. I don't think I bought this one off the racks, tho certainly the prominent display of Wonder Woman (hey, big surprise: she wasn't really dead!) suggests that as a possibility. I think rather this was one of a collection of issues I received in a trade with someone who preferred the Marvel issues in my collection which didn't really interest me.
In any case, it's a dramatic cover, but the story inside is a little wanting. Bob Rozakis gets the writing credits, and I really "knew" him better from his Answer Man column in the back of DC titles later in the seventies. You could write him your queries about continuity and such and he'd be glad to set you as straight as was possible. Of course, in those pre-Crisis days, the "imaginary story" possibility was thrown around a lot.
And it's interesting that he was writing the Freedom Fighters in light of that, because there seems to be a little bit of a continuity wonk going on here. It's hard to be sure exactly on which Earth (yes, there were many back then...)this story takes place...though the presence of Wonder Woman suggests Earth One or Two...probably One, owing to some minimal visual cues in the interior artwork of Ramona Fradon which suggest more present-day than historical context.
But since I've only got the single issue, I can't be sure where the story was supposed to be set. After all, by then, the Freedom Fighters would long ago have migrated to Earth X from Earth 2 to fight the Nazis...but I don't believe there ever was a Wonder Woman on that Earth, so perhaps they came to Earth 1...or maybe it was just a big goof. Whatevs, this was exactly the sort of compound confusion the Crisis was designed to fix.
(Shame, though, that Ray Thomas and the gang at All-Star Squadron worked so hard to tell that tale properly ten years later, only shortly before the Multiverse got the finger, making it all a little moot...)
Still, it was fun to find this issue so soon after having read the recent Uncle Sam and the Freedom Fighters miniseries trade. There's no doubt that the FF are in proper continuity now (tho thanks to the appetite of Mr. Mind/Evil Skeets, it sounds as though there are TWO sets of Freedom Fighters out there...)
and I surely enjoyed this series, and look forward to seeing where this group goes from here, now that they're getting another regular series and will be dealing with the seemingly ill-planned Amazons Attack aftermath.
The story in the mini gives Uncle Sam and the Gang (most of them killed in the opening pages of Infinite Crisis, to be re-invented here) some new relevance in our post-911, post-Bludhaven/Crisis world, as they join together to take on the dark forces of S.H.A.D.E. (Super Human Advance Defense Executive), a team of meta-humans authorized by the President of the US, who's now been replaced with some alien machine creature who's running the country into the ground. Oh, if only the troubles in the current Executive Office were so easily explained.
Still, it's a rollicking story through the fresh environments of New Earth, which for the purposes of this story have more similarities with our "real" world than we usually see. Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti have woven a tale to recreate these great heroes, in a way that manages to draw some sharp parallels to the troubles of this dimension that's entertaining, too. I have to admit I nearly stood up and cheered when the new Firebrand (he's okay, but he's no Danette Reilly!)says,
"The war is a big oil-sucking lie and people are dying by the truckload because of it. The whole world knows there were no warehouses packed with nuclear warheads, no underground vats of bio-toxins, no super-agents dropping from the sky like human bombs. Our nation is anesthetized and divided but somehow our leaders are not ashamed."
Yep, that pretty much sums it up, doesn't it? Sure I like my comics as Escapism the same as anyone, but its also nice to see some real world issues addressed from time to time, especially when we have so very many to spare. In fact, as we watch President Gonzo execute sacrifice innocent Americans in terrorist attacks to discredit meta-humans and begin to circle around the Constitution for the kill, having your president replaced by an alien/machine actually begins to seem one of the more reasonable explanations for the past six years in our world.
Daniel Acuna is the artist and his style seems to reflect well the dark and bright contrasts of this all-out fight to preserve the integrity of the United States.
Sunday, October 14, 2007
Well, as you can see, the sorting process is moving along well, as a result of a few minutes here, a half an hour there and the occasional multiple hour session. I've managed to sort the bulk of my comic collection into a dozen different longboxes. I've left the image large, so you can try to souse the logic behind why certain things are stored together...but to be honest, there's a randomness, too. Sometimes, it was just a matter of what run of titles happened to fit in the available space remaining.
But I tried to keep some thematic sense about things, too. Solo titles by characters from various Titans titles are grouped with those titles. Same with the various versions of the Justice League and their stars. Assorted Legion of Super Heroes titles are collected with related mini-series, and a few crossovers which threatened to impact timelines and/or The Future. Spooky titles like Spectre and the Demon got a box together. You get my drift.
Still remaining in the project (and make no mistake, it's a pretty vast chunk of the collection) are titles featuring both Superman and Batman and their costars. At the moment, I'm guessing another four or five boxes may do the trick. We'll see.
Meanwhile, I also stumbled across this issue of Whiz Comics 102, dated October 1948. It's possibly the oldest book in the entire collection, something I stumbled across at a flea market a number of years back.
The cover, featuring Captain Marvel facing off against the Dangerous Dollar is a classic piece of late Golden Age magic. How cool and surreal it might've been if Cap had actually been going up against an animated, human-sized dollar bill...but I suppose they might've gotten letters from the folks over at Dick Tracy for that kind of frivolity.
Inside, Billy Batson finds a dollar that the breeze carries to his feet, and he is quickly set upon by assorted gangsters looking to reclaim it. Of course he says the magic word ("SHAZAM!") and makes short work of these thugs, but then recognizes the mystery at hand, and before long figures out that one of these gangsters has hidden a considerable sum of loot, and the directions for finding said cache are coded onto the face of the bill.
Now, for ten cents, you got an awful lot of comic back then. In addition to this Shazam tale, there's also a post-war adventure of Commando Yank (yawn), an old West adventure of the Golden Arrow (double-yawn), four pages of inanity from Colonel Corn and Korny Kobb (puns too dreadful to mention, as their names suggest) and a seven page tale of Ibis the Invincible being turned into a bat.
You know, in light of all that (even for a dime)it's no wonder Fawcett Comics went out of business.
Tuesday, October 9, 2007
The image above is Showcase #97, a pre-Crisis title that showed Power Girl emerging as a solo hero in her own right.
Spent today in the basement, moving forward on the organization process of the collection. I seem to have passed the halfway mark, as there are more comics properly long-boxed than not at this point. Still the Batman and Superman titles alone will probably take up four more boxes just by their lonesome.
Having spent the day in the company of assorted musty and moldy old boxes (who nonetheless have done a good job of protecting the collection through a variety of varying-quality storage situations), I have a bit of a headache and I'm not really feeling up to a full review of any random issues...I thought I would share some scenes of the work in progress, and some of my discoveries.
And then there's this finale image from Legends #6. This was the first crossover event post-Crisis, and I remember it was a bit of a relief to see all the major players on the same page together again! It was the start of Bad Costume Time for Black Canary (pictured here between Wonder Woman, Batman and Captain Marvel...and due to some poor perspective, appearing to be about ten years old...).
Now this I was particularly happy to find: The Question #1, and Blue Beetle #5. Both of these guys were new to me as the dust settled from the Crisis on Infinite Earths, and while I waited for the start of things like George Perez' Wonder Woman or John Byrne's Superman...these titles began first, and introduced me to heroes of the former Charlton comics, who'd recently been "folded" into the DC Universe.
Blue Beetle quickly took the comedy route in the pages of Justice League, but The Question, man, Vic Sage or Charlie, he was the real deal. I wish that I could take the time to re-read all those stories now that I've got them all in one place, and in the right order...but other things beckon just now, and so I'll have to wait.
I just this weekend read 52 Volume 3, the trade of last year's brilliant weekly series. What a great story (or collection of them, really...) they tell. I found this shortly after reading Vic's death scene in those pages. So sad to see him go, but--unlike so many vocal internet fans (is there another kind?)--I'm really kind of grooving on the idea of Renee Montoya taking up the dermaskin mask and seeking some answers.
As for Blue Beetle, well, Ted Kord was also sadly lost to us recently in the lead-up to Infinite Crisis...and his loss was a big one, too. However, I also highly approve of Jamie Reyes adventures as the all-new and different Blue Beetle; the latest trade of that title is actually sitting high on my reading pile at the moment and I look forward to diving in.
Saturday, October 6, 2007
While doing a bit of late-night blogsurfing last night (if you have a blogger account, check your dashboard for the new BlogPlay feature, which scrolls through the newest photos uploaded to peoples' blogs! It's brilliant!!!), I discovered this breath-taking image by Tuan Hoang, who describes himself as an environmental and concept artist.
There wasn't much context, leaving me free to imagine that Tuan is another brilliant painter who's painting visions of the future, just as Isaac Mendez was last season on "HEROES". And then I remembered that Sylar killed Mr. Is-aac last year, which makes me a little sad.
Still, I wanted to share Tuan's image here, so you will hopefully find it and surf over for a look at some of his other work, which is equally stunning, including a recently-added photo of something that looks like one of those Martian invasion vehicles in action.
Thursday, October 4, 2007
Oh, it's fun what you can find in the news! For example, this story in which scientists claim to have discovered the formation of a "new Earth". It so closely follows the theme of Real Life (so-called) becoming more like Comics (see my post of April 24th) that I have to believe that these astronomers and such are fans of DC.
What they mean, of course, is that they believe they have found the formation of a possible earth-like planet. But what if it did turn out to be a parallel of ours, just out of whack in the timeline. How bizarre the world is.
To be fair, though, I'm glad people are spending some time looking for other planets that might be like Earth out there. The way things are going, we may need to find a new one sometime soon. What if the "Great Disaster" is global warming?
More likely, I'm inclined to believe its got something to do with the recent revival of the Anti-Monitor, of all people. As always, I'm following the progress in my favorite titles via la Internet, lying in wait for the eventual release of the trades. And you know, Countdown is really starting to pick up the pace as far as the story goes...though it does seem to have spawned an almost unseemly amount of crossover/spin-offs.
I'm choosing to have some faith that eventually as this continues to unfold and mesh with other supposedly stand-alone stories like The Sinestro Corps War and such (for the record, I'm terribly sorry the Amazons Attacked. That does seem like a big gaffe. But sadly, not to be expected in the history of our Amazon's treatment at the hands of the comic creators of Man's World.)as it all builds toward the (oh, dare we hope...) Final Crisis in 2008.
Admittedly, this is a little on the gratuitous side...but I just love this Countdown cover art. (And I'm surprised Sally hasn't addressed it in more detail over at Green Lantern Butts, but then again, it might've been amongst the scans lost in the Great Housekeeping Disaster, too, so we shan't mention it again.)
Not only does it ensure that Kyle seems to have come out on the far side of Parallax okay, but its one of the great images of him. Of course, I'm also amused (as others online are, too) that everyone else seems to be checking out Kyle's goods in this particular shot.
Of the three onlookers, only Donna probably knows what she's really looking at...but doesn't Jason Todd seem kind of surprisingly interested? I'm just saying, it adds another layer of subtext/plot to this whole business of his crushing on Donna. I'm not sure it will do us any good to act surprised when one of the Dark Knight's former teen sidekicks turns out to be at least bisexual.
Of course, Bob's a monitor, so there's no telling what he's seen.
Monday, October 1, 2007
With recent news of a possible move coming down the road for us, I was able to spend some time this weekend down in the basement, sorting through the collection, dividing things down into individual categories.
This time out, as you can see, various versions of The Flash were sorted into their own box. You can see above some of the collection highlights, Flash #350, featuring the conclusion (almost) of the Barry Allen story...and also Flash #1, when Wally West picked up the crimson mantle.
They are joined in a box with assorted issues of Firestorm, Hawkman(and Hawkworld!), and most naturally, Impulse (we bow our heads and remember Bart). Yes, it's sort of a random grouping, but Firestorm was featured in a back-up of Barry's title back in the 80s.
Most other titles have now been sorted into individual (if not yet chronological) stacks, with the big exception being about four cartons of assorted titles all related to either Batman or Superman. I know...odd that I didn't sort them out first...but their titles are so numerous, it seemed wise to work into their stuff.
Will need to make another longbox run to Newbury Comics soon, as I've filled the nine boxes so far, and will likely need another five or so for the rest. Good lord, what a collection. But at least stored this way, it will be easier to tote when the time comes to re-settle somewhere.