Monday, November 30, 2015

1980's Flashback: The Rocketeer

Pacific Presents #2 (Apr.1983)
The Rocketeer is a fictional character created by writer-illustrator Dave Stevens. The character first appeared as a backup feature in the Pacific Comics series Starslayer in 1982, and is an homage to Saturday matinee serial heroes of the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s.

The Rocketeer was the secret identity of Cliff Secord, a stunt pilot who discovered a mysterious jetpack that allowed him to fly. His adventures were set in Los Angeles and New York in 1938, and Stevens gave them a retro, nostalgic feel influenced by the King of the Rocket Men and Commando Cody movie serials (both from Republic Pictures), and pinup diva Bettie Page. The title also uses fictional pulp heroes of the period such as Doc Savage and The Shadow, plus real life horror film icon Rondo Hatton inspired one of the books notable villains.

Dave Stevens passed away in 2008 at the age of 52. I’m glad that I had a chance to meet him in person back in the early 1990s.

Friday, November 27, 2015


Hope everyone had a pleasant Thanksgiving, or in lieue of participating in the traditional holiday feast, a decent day off (or something)?
I've been playing Star Wars: Battlefront this week and since I celebrated my own feast a day early, to allow my grown children to spend time with their significant others and their families, for me yesterday was a marathon day of blasting enemies and/or getting the living hell blown out of myself in return. So far, I'm pretty happy with the new SW game and while there are umpteen dozen blogs, video chats and reviews by the usual assortment of egocentric gamer nerds slamming the new release from EA Games/DICE, to me there is really nothing wrong with turning off your brain for a while and simply immersing yourself in the world of Star Wars for some good old fashioned horde mode slaying. I do wish that some of their alien races were available earlier in the game, but most won't unlock until at least level 40 and I am currently only at level 22 (alas).

With the imminent release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens boasting record setting ticket pre-sales, this is another great way to pass the time and get in your Star Wars fix before December 18 lures you into the nearest movie theater. The Catacombs recommends Star Wars: Battlefront 2015 for everyone who wants to have a good time (and just ignore those dumb bigmouthed geeks who lost their fun gene about the time that someone opted to listen to their pitiful little complaints).

Friday, November 20, 2015

1970's Flashback: Giant-Size

1974 and 1975 saw Marvel Comics introduce their popular Giant-Size format where for $.35 (soon $.50) fans were treated to 52 pages of pure magic from the House of Ideas. Often these annual-sized volumes were filled with reprints, but many ran original stories expanded to take full advantage of the extra story pages. A small handful presented new characters and concepts, such as the retconned WWII team-up of The Invaders featuring Captain America and his sidekick Bucky, the original Human Torch and his partner Toro, and the Sub-Mariner. Another revealed the story behind the transformation of Greer Nelson, formerly known as The Cat, into her more familiar role as Tigra. I seem to recall one that revamped the old x-Men team into something all-new and all-different as well? There were several standalone one-shots focusing on a single hero like Thor, the Hulk, or Power Man and a select few ran for several issues such as those starring Conan, the Avengers or the Man-Thing. If you happen to find affordable copies at conventions in great shape, my suggestion is to snap them up and enjoy much more bang for your buck!

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

1980's Flashback: Xenozoic Tales

Mark Schultz celebrated series Xenozoic Tales is set in a post-apocalyptic future where Earth has been ravaged by pollution and natural disasters. Humanity has built vast underground cities in which they have lived for approximately 600 years. Upon emerging, they discovered that the world had been reclaimed by previously extinct lifeforms including dinosaurs. In this new 'Xenozoic' age, technology is extremely limited and those with mechanical skills command a great deal of respect and influence.

 The two main characters are mechanic Jack Tenrec and scientist (and love interest) Hannah Dundee. Tenrec operates a garage in which he restores cars, particularly Cadillacs. Given that the post-apocalyptic world no longer possesses the ability to refine oil, Jack modifies his cars to run on dinosaur guano. These cars, of course, are frequently chased by rampaging dinosaurs in pulp style action-adventure stories. Publication began in 1986 with a story in the comic anthology Death Rattle. This debut was shortly followed by Xenozoic Tales #1 in February 1987. The comic series ran for 14 issues from several publishers including Kitchen Sink Press, Marvel Comics and Dark Horse Publications.

The series proved moderately successful and under the title “Cadillacs and Dinosaurs”
spawned an animated TV series on the CBS Network, arcade games from Capcom and Sega, action figures, trading cards, candy bars, and a role-playing game. The title "Cadillacs and Dinosaurs" and likenesses of classic Cadillac automobiles were used with the consent of General Motors, who holds the phrase "Cadillacs and Dinosaurs" as a trademark and has licensed it for the comic, the videogame and the animated series.

Friday, October 30, 2015

1980's Flashback: Warp

I'm going to close out this months outer space theme with another oddity that sort of blends into Halloween in a minor way [*see below].

Warp #1 (Mar.1983)
“Warp!” was originally a science-fiction play created at Chicago in 1971 co-authored by *Stuart Gordon. Gordon later became a film director, writer and producer of popular genre fare such as Re-Animator, From Beyond, Castle Freak, and Dagon, as well as acclaimed episodes from Showtime’s Masters of Horror anthology series. His science fiction films: Robot Jox (1990), and Fortress (1992) have both become cult classics and he co-created Honey, I Shrunk the Kids for Disney Studios.

First Comics published a comic-book version of Warp, which ran 19 issues between March 1983 and February 1985. While other creators eventually worked on the title, the trippiest stuff features in the first nine issues illustrated by Frank Brunner.  David Carson, an everyday bank teller, learns that he is Lord Cumulus, "avenger of the universe". Suddenly transported from an annual employee-awards dinner to the mystical realm Fen-Ra, he finds himself battling for the destiny of the universe against antagonist Prince Chaos. In this world, he encounters the sage Lugulbanda who sends him on his quest aided by the leather-clad Amazon warrior Sargon. They battle Valaria the insect sorceress and Chaos' henchman, the purple ape Symax.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

1980's Flashback: Nexus

Introduced in 1981, Nexus is a combination of the superhero and science fiction genres, set 500 years in the future. The series created by writer Mike Baron and artist Steve Rude has been published by Capital Comics, First Comics, Dark Horse Comics and Rude Dude publications.

Nexus #25 (Oct.1986)
Calling himself Nexus, Horatio Hellpop received vast powers from an alien entity called the Merk to seek out and kill a certain quantity of human mass murderers per "cycle". When a target has been selected, Nexus experiences strong headaches and maddeningly anguishing dreams (whose extremely intense episodes caused physical injuries to Hellpop's body that emulated the dream violence) of his target's victims until he did his duty. Horatio was reluctant to act as the Merk's enforcement tool, but continued seeking out mass murderers to maintain his power and his sanity so that he could defend his homeworld, the lunar refuge of Ylum (a shortening of the word "asylum," thus pronounced "eye-lum"). As Horatio grew up, the Merk first influenced him through apparently imaginary friends named Alph and Beta. However, when Horatio's mother died (becoming lost in the tunnels of the planet), Horatio blamed them for her death and killed them in the first use of his power. Shortly afterward, Horatio began to dream about his father's crimes, causing himself inescapable torment. In this agony, Alph and Beta mysteriously appeared to reveal the duties of Nexus necessary to end the ordeal: the execution of his own father. With considerable personal agony (and unaware that his father was already on the verge of suicide), Horatio carried out the execution.

Monday, October 26, 2015

"All-New, All-Different?"

Marvel Comics is currently utilizing the above header in their latest attempt to force their intellectual properties into something that an aging fanboy (and willing sychophants) will accept for another quarter of a year before they shift things around yet again.

Of course that wording was originally used back in the late bronze age for the classic revamp of the popular Uncanny X-Men by Len Wein, Chris Claremont, Dave Cockrum, John Byrne and many other talented creators. I miss those guys, both the creators and the recognizable team members. At this point, I would be more than willing to sacrifice everything that came later just to get this line-up [pictured, with art by Alex Ross] back in the saddle!!

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Asheville Comic Expo (October 24, 2015)

I spent a nice day in Asheville, North Carolina yesterday scoping out the tattoo shops for the best price on a combined design of two images that I'm finally committing to soon, and since the Asheville Comic Expo event was underway; I decided to check that out while I was in town. Among the guests of this small venue one day affair were the legendary artists Mike Grell and Steve "The Dude" Rude. I had seen each man before, but it had been a while, so I picked up a few signatures on a couple of items and also treated myself to a small stack of bronze age gems (and trust me the photos do them no justice; I pinched these images off of the Grand Comics Database). My own hastily acquired copies of Fantastic Four #118, 125 & 128 are spiffy near mint marvels with crisp white pages and the Skull the Slayer #1 looks brand new. The pair of Warlock [7 &8] issues are equally awesome! Thanks to Dave Shankle, who always manages to cut a me sweet deal on things that I horde. I also ate way to much at Early Girl Eatery and Farm Burger, plus drank copious amounts of Turkish tea at Dobra Tea with my daughter, since it's one of her favorite places in town. I much preferred the double-decker coffee bus that we hit while waiting on our brunch reservation at the former restaurant (but all the food joints were great)!

Friday, October 23, 2015

In Memorium: Murphy Anderson

The legendary Murphy Anderson (and native North Carolina resident) has passed away at the age of 89, although few details have been made available. Mr. Anderson had declined appearances due to failing health for some time now. His impact on the world of comics can not be understated. As part of the classic "Swanderson" art team alongside the late Curt Swan, Superman soared to lofty heights in the minds of many old school fans. His lengthy list of credits include: Action Comics; The Atom and Hawkman; The Brave and the Bold; The Flash; Girls' Love Stories, Green Lantern; House of Secrets; Korak; My Greatest Adventure; The Spectre, Strange Adventures, The Witching Hour;  and World's Finest Comics. His career stretched from the golden age into the rise of the comic book specialty shops in the 1980s. Everyone who had the chance to meet him knew that he was a true Southern Gentleman and one of the best representatives of the industry who every walked a convention hall. He was one of the first artists that I ever met, and I am damned glad to have had an opportunity to thank him for thrilling me with his wonderful artwork during my childhood. I still rate his efforts as some of the best visuals in the business, either solo or as part of several classic art teams. The Catacombs extends its sincerest condolences to his family, friends and fans. They just don't make them like Murphy Anderson anymore!

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

1970's Flashback: Planet of the Apes

At the height of its cinematic popularity, Marvel Comics released a number of titles and series based upon Planet of the Apes (the longest lasting published under their black & white Curtis Magazines format), which ran for twenty-nine issues from 1974 to 1977. Besides adaptations of all five original films, the magazine featured original Apes stories written by Doug Moench and Gerry Conway and artwork from Mike Esposito, Mike Ploog, George Tuska, and many others. Articles about the making of the five movies and the short-lived spin-off Planet of the Apes television series were a mainstay.

During 1975, Marvel also released “Adventures on the Planet of the Apes” which offered fully colorized versions of their adaptations of the first two films in five or six issue arcs running for a total of 11 issues. The stories from the U.S. editions were also edited and released under the Marvel UK banner for a weekly title lasting 123 issues from 1974 to 1977.
Planet of the Apes #1 (Aug.1974)

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

1970's Flashback: The Guardians of the Galaxy

Marvel Super-Heroes #18 (Jan. 1969)
The original Guardians of the Galaxy first appeared in Marvel Super-Heroes #18 (Jan. 1969), written by Arnold Drake and penciled by Gene Colan.  Despite that standalone tale, most of the published adventures that set them on the path to later cinematic glory were released in the bronze age in such series as Marvel Two-In-One #4–5 (July–Sept. 1974), Astonishing Tales (April 1975), and Giant Size Defenders #5 and Defenders#26–29 (July–Nov. 1975). In each case, other heroes such as Captain America, the Thing, and the Defenders aid them in their war against the alien Badoon. The Guardians next received their own featured series running through Marvel Presents #3–12 (Feb. 1976 – Aug. 1977). This was followed by another round of guest appearances in Thor Annual #6 (1977), The Avengers #167–177 (Jan.–Nov. 1978) and #181 (March 1979), Ms. Marvel #23, Marvel Team-Up #86 (Oct. 1979), and Marvel Two-in-One #61-#63 & #69 (Nov. 1980).

For all intents and purposes that signaled the end of the inaugural team as well received reboots in the 1990’s (which ran for 62 issues and again in 2008) both reimagined the characters and concept beyond the intrepid band of freedom fighters who comprised the founders: Major Vance Astro, Yondu Udonta, Martinex and Charlie-27 (later joined by the fire-haired Mercurian Nikki and the combined being called Starhawk). The blockbuster 2014 Marvel Studios film [based upon the 2008 comic book series] depicted another team comprised of different Marvel universe characters, with only a cameo version of Yondu presents.

Original Guardians by Alex Ross

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

1970's Flashback: Cerebus

Cerebus created by Canadian writer-artist Dave Sim published from December 1977 until March 2004, is a title that can’t be easily summed up. Beginning as a parody of sword and sorcery comics, it later moved into seemingly any topic that Sim wished to explore: power and politics, religion and spirituality, gender issues, and more over the course of a 300-issue, 6000 story-page series.

The series stands out for its experimentation in form and content, and for the dexterity of its artwork, especially after background artist Gerhard joined in with the 65th issue. However as the series progressed, it increasingly became a platform for Sim's controversial beliefs.  Sim was a frequent marijuana user, began using LSD, taking the drug with such frequency that he was eventually hospitalized. He eventually cut all ties with his family and virtually all of his industry colleagues apart from Gerhard in order to finish the work. He has had very public fallings-out with some of his peers. Sim became a believer in God while gathering research material for "Rick's Story". However, rather than following any established religion, Sim follows his own personal belief system cobbled together from elements of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam; all of which impacted Cerebus in his final story arcs, segments of which are extremely misogynistic towards women.
Starting with the acclaimed “High Society” storyline, the series became divided into self-contained "novels", which form parts of the overall story. The ten "novels" of the series have been collected in 16 books, known as "Cerebus phonebooks" for their resemblance to telephone directories. He had originally angered many retailers who felt that their support had been instrumental in his series' success in an industry generally indifferent to small publishers — by offering the first printings of the phonebooks via mail order only (a highly lucrative decision that paid off well for Sim).