Monday, March 31, 2008

Somethings Missing: Letters Pages

So, you wanna write to your favorite comic book and tell 'em how much you love the latest interstellar adventure, or the visual-stylings of their hot new artist who just jumped on board, or how "Captain Whatever" is the greatest thing since sliced cheese, well Sonny-Jim, fire that bad boy off to ..... What's that you say?

No more letters pages!

You mean to tell me that the best that I can do is to soil myself by wading into the acidic environment of an Internet website & post on a blog? But, it tends to stink in those locales and I really don't wanna hurl profanity or insults at anybody (even them that dee-serve such). Darn it, yet another thing that's missing and now nostalgically-pined for by many of us who are aging somewhat gracefully in the four-color world of fandom.

Yeah, I know that there a exceptions, but that's why letters pages are listed in the 'Somethings Missing' files .... they used to be the rule. Now mind your P's & Q's (watch your grammar and your language) partner.

Legal "Action" ...

Incredible .... !

Last Wednesday, Judge Steven Larson of the United States District Court, Central District of California, made a historic ruling when he awarded Jerry Siegel’s heirs the copyright to the Superman material in Action Comics #1. The decision doesn’t resolve all the legal issues — the separate Superboy case, division of profits, etc. — but it does seem to put an end, of sorts, to a decades-long feud. The ruling is certain to be appealed by DC Comics owner, Time Warner.

This opinion doesn’t cover co-creator/artist Joe Schuster’s interests, which may be determined at a later date, but it is a major victory for the Siegel estate after 70 years.

There are many possibilities to be considered in the wake of this momentous courtroom drama, but in my opinion, the heirs of Superman's creators are at the very least, far more likely to reach a more lucrative financial arrangement with DC Comics following this decision - - - once the appeals run their course.

I hope that all comics fans join me in congratulating the Siegel's and hoping that this process can be culminated favorably as soon as possible.

Friday, March 28, 2008

"Gal" Friday! Kiran Chetry

CNN news anchor Kiran Chetry was born in Kathmandu, Nepal, where her parents met while serving in the Peace Corps. Her first name means "ray of light" in Sanskrit and Nepali.

In 2006, Kiran was ranked by Maxim Magazine's top ten list of TV's Sexiest News Anchors, as America's sexiest female anchor and the world's second sexiest female anchor. She and co-host John Roberts are featured on American Morning, each weekday on Ted Turner's Cable News Network.

Kiran is currently expecting her second child with husband, Chris Knowles. I definitely envy the guy!

Somethings Missing: Gutters!

The gutter is the space between borders, and no less an authority than comics theorist Scott McCloud (Understanding Comics, Reinventing Comics), has identified the gutter as one of the most important narrative tools in comics, invoking as it does a procedure McCloud defines as closure.
In the example [shown right], the gutter is the white bar space between the larger upper portion of the splash page and the smaller rectangular panel at the bottom. This lesser image effectively manages to complete the story action on the opening page of this comic book tale and also "invites" the reader to turn to the next page to find out what happens next.
These days gutters are few and far between, but for decades they were a vibrant, necessary & important part of graphic storytelling. Modern conceits have allowed the majority of working comic book artists to adopt the full page bleed where the art is allowed to run to the edge of each page, rather than having a white border around it. In the past, bleeds were occasionally used to create the illusion of space or to emphasize action, but they were hardly the norm for most of comics history - - - as they are now.
In my opinion, the rampant use of full page bleeds, allows mediocre artists to cheat.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

In Memorium: Richard Widmark

Actor Richard Widmark has passed away at the age of 93 after a long illness at his home in Connecticut. He created a sensation in his Academy Ward nominated debut role as crazed killer Tommy Udo, in the 1947 film "Kiss of Death". His roles ran the gamut from gritty, film noir crime thrillers to historical epics and numerous shoot-em-up westerns.

The phrase, 'They don't make 'em like they used to', comes to mind when considering Widmark's 60+ feature films. Privately an advocate of gun control, he was always tough, iconic and uniquely original in his portrayals of cops, gunfighters and loners.

He was so fondly remembered for playing frontiersman Jim Bowie in the John Wayne directed film, "The Alamo"that along with his other movie westerns he earned a 2002 induction into the Western Performers Hall of Fame at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

Condolences go out to his family, friends and thousands of fans.

Somethings Missing: Sea-Monkeys

Sea Monkeys is the brand name for a hybrid-species of brine shrimp (a type of fairy shrimp which are not true shrimp). The term "Sea-Monkeys" is a trademark used to sell them as a novelty pet in comic books, etc., however brine shrimp originate in salt lakes and evaporation flats – not the sea.

The main characteristic that allowed un-hatched "Sea-Monkeys" to be cheaply packaged, shipped, and handled is that in easily prepared environments, they enter cryptobiosis, a natural state of suspended animation. When released into their aquarium they leave this state and smash through their inner shell walls. Sea-Monkeys can reproduce both sexually (requiring a male and a female) and asexually. When the eggs are produced, there are usually fewer males than females, probably because they are not essential for reproduction. Females stop reproducing with the males when the males are too few.

They were first bred at the New York Ocean Science Laboratories for their larger size and longer lifespan, making them more suitable as pets than the original breed of brine shrimp. Advertisements for Sea-Monkeys were widespread in comics in the 1970s, but the ads featuring drawings of smiling humanoid creatures, bore little resemblance to actual brine shrimp, so a disclaimer stated that, "Caricatures shown not intended to depict Artemia." Sea-Monkeys have a biological life cycle of one year, but thanks to their ability to enter cryptobiosis, a Sea-Monkey colony could sustain itself for two years.

A television program, The Amazing Live Sea Monkeys, based on the comic book advertisements of the 1970s, was produced in 1992.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Somethings Missing: Gags & Novelties Pages

More nostalgia from the 'Somethings Missing' files:

Ya' gotta remember all of those cool offerings that regularly lured the youth of America into sending off a few coins (or a buck or two) to score some really neat swag to fill the rest of your day - - - You know, when you weren't actually wasting time reading comics.

Magic Cards, Onion Gum, Monster-size Monster pin-ups, Silent Dog Whistles, Whoopee Cushions AND every kids dream .... X-Ray Specs. Comic books used to carry literally pages of this type of advertising and while I don't know of anyone who ever REALLY ordered any of these gags, it was comforting in a twisted-sorta-way to know that you too, could print your own pile of cash with a 'Jack Pot Bank' for less than two dollars.

I'm sure the revenue from these ads underwrote the cost of printing the comics - back in the day - but for some reason the publishers purged these somewhat lurid ads long ago. Sadly, somewhere along the way, when these old staples fell by the wayside, comic books stopped being considered magazines and picked up the all-too-weird designation of pamphlets.

Don't ask me to explain that?

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Somethings Missing: The World's Most Perfectly Developed Man

Comic books used to be considered merely "cheap" entertainment, but with most standard copies going for three bucks apiece, we can safely say that that claim is no longer really valid. For me, comics have always been primarily about "FUN," imagination and escapism. Still with my new comics purchases becoming fewer and farther between, I thought it might be prudent to look back at some of those elements that are no longer a routine part of today's funny books AND whose absence contribute to my nostalgia for simpler times. I'm gonna call this series, 'Somethings Missing.'

First up, let’s look back at a landmark advertising campaign which has been described as one of the most lasting and memorable ad campaigns of all time. For decades, if you grew up reading comic books, you were exposed to this familiar page in every issue.

Angelo Siciliano legally changed his name to “Charles Atlas” in 1922 (he later filed for and received trademark status for the name) after a friend told him that he resembled the statue of Atlas on top of a hotel in Coney Island. Atlas used his own system of “Dynamic-Tension” to build his body after he tried other systems of exercise and found out that they did not work for him. Atlas soon began advertising his program in comic books and his ad became iconic, presenting a scenario in which a boy is threatened on the beach by a sand-kicking bully while his date watches. Humiliated, he goes home and, after kicking over a chair and gambling on the results of a ten-cent stamp, subscribes to Atlas's "Dynamic-Tension" program. Later, the boy (now muscular) again goes to the beach and beats up the bully, becoming the "Hero of the Beach." Girls marvel at how big his muscles are, of course the famous ad is called "The Insult That Made A Man Out Of Mac."

Monday, March 24, 2008

From The Dust Bin: The American Crusader

The American Crusader originally appeared in Thrilling Comics #19 (Better Publications, 1941), however as a public domain character he has been revived by several modern publishers including AC Comics, Alan Moore’s ABC Comics and Dynamite.

Professor Archibald (Archie) Masters, an astronomy professor at an unnamed university in the Eastern United States, created a device called an atom-smasher. When the experimental device went awry during a test, instead of killing him, the accident blasted him with radiation, which endowed him with the superhuman abilities of flight, superhuman strength, invulnerability to bullets, and electromagnetic pulse generation. He used these powers to fight crime as the American Crusader.

Prof. Masters had a secretary named Jane Peters (around whom he maintained a mousy persona) and a teen sidekick named Mickey Martin.

The Crusader appeared in the golden age titles: America's Best Comics 6 and Thrilling Comics 19-35, 37-39, 41.

Friday, March 21, 2008

1970's Flashback: Lilith, Daughter of Dracula

Lilith, the Daughter of Dracula, first appeared in Giant-Size Chillers #1 (June, 1974). Lilith is Dracula's child by his first wife Zofia; in a marriage forcibly arranged by his father. After Dracula's father died, he quickly renounced Zofia and forced her and their infant daughter to leave Castle Dracula so that he could marry the woman that he truly loved. Lilith was subsequently raised by Gypsies after her mother's sudden suicide. Lilith's foster-mother was the gypsy Gretchin. When Lilith was a still young girl, Dracula (now a vampire) attacked and murdered Gretchin's son Arni, enraging her into seeking revenge. She cast a spell upon Lilith to make her into a vampire, but one with rather different powers: Lilith did not fear holy symbols, and was not harmed by being out in the daylight. As part of her curse, she would haunt Dracula; forever opposing him, until Dracula was finally destroyed. Whenever Lilith was "killed", she would soon reappear by possessing the body of a woman who hated her own father and wished for his death; this granted Lilith the ability to shift forms (and clothing) between her own form and that of her new "hostess".

Lilith normally appeared as a tall, beautiful woman with long black hair and a family resemblance to Dracula, dressed in a skin-tight costume with a bat-like ornament in her hair. As a vampire, she could change into the physical forms of a wolf, a bat, or even mist, and she had limited control over weather, as well as the ability to command wolves, bats, and rats. Although she can drink blood, she is not dependent upon it for sustenance.

Lilith made memorable appearances in Tomb of Dracula, Dracula Lives, Marvel Preview #12 and has recently returned as a member of Nick Fury’s Howling Commandos.

"Gal" Friday is "Jackie Burkhart"?

Mila Kunis portrayed the role of spoiled little princess Jackie Burkhart for eight seasons on 'That '70's Show', but she has recently won the role of an assassin in the 2008 film adaptation of the video game Max Payne, also starring Mark Wahlberg.

She's cute & all, but what gets me is her longtime relationship with former child star Macaulay Culkin - - - weird.

Anyway this photo of Mila won me over this week for my "Gal" Friday pick, but I promise to feature the CNN news gal next week, that almost got the nod this time around.
Perhaps if young Mila had won similar outfits in Point Place, Wisconsin, she would definitely have edged out "Hot" Donna Pinciotti as the favorite babe of Eric Forman's little troupe on her sadly-ended sitcom.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

From The Dust Bin: Popeye

Popeye the Sailor is famous for appearing in comic strips, animated films, numerous TV shows and a live-action 1980 film (directed by Robert Altman & starring Robin Williams). He was created by Elzie Crisler Segar and made his first appearance in the daily King Features comic strip Thimble Theatre on January 17, 1929.

Segar's Thimble Theatre strip was actually in its tenth year when Popeye made his debut, but the character quickly became the main focus of the strip and Thimble Theatre became one of King Features' most popular strips during the 1930s. Thimble Theatre continued after Segar's death in 1938 by several writers and artists, including Segar's assistant Bud Sagendorf. The strip, retitled Popeye, continues to appear in first-run installments in select Sunday papers, now written and drawn by Hy Eisman.

In 1933, Fleischer Studios adapted Popeye the Sailor into theatrical cartoon shorts for Paramount Pictures. The cartoons proved to be popular enough to continue production through 1957.

[The strip shown above is Popeye's 1st app. from 1929.]

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

In Memorium: Ivan Dixon

Actor, director and producer Ivan Dixon, best known for his role as Sgt. Kinchloe on the 1960s television series "Hogan's Heroes," has died in Charlotte, NC at the age of 76. Dixon passed away Sunday at Presbyterian Hospital following a hemorrhage and complications from kidney failure.

Dixon began his acting career on Broadway in plays including "The Cave Dwellers" and "A Raisin in the Sun." On film, he appeared in "Something of Value," "A Raisin in the Sun," "A Patch of Blue," "Nothing But a Man" and the 1970’s cult favorite "Car Wash."

But he was known primarily as Staff Sgt. James Kinchloe on "Hogan's Heroes," a WWII satire set in a German prisoner-of-war camp. Kinchloe,in charge of electronic communications, could mimic the voices of German officers on the radio or telephone. Dixon did have some personal issues with the somewhat stereotypical role, but he appeared in 145 episodes between 1965-1970 and it also launched him into directing.

Dixon earned an Emmy nomination for his performance in the CBS Playhouse special "The Final War of Olly Winter." He also directed hundreds of episodic TV shows, including "The Waltons," "The Rockford Files," "Magnum, P.I." and "In the Heat of the Night."

His honors include four NAACP Image Awards, the National Black Theatre Award and the Paul Robeson Pioneer Award from the Black American Cinema Society. He was a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the Directors Guild of America, the Screen Actors Guild of America and the Black Filmmakers Hall of Fame.

Friday, March 14, 2008

"Gal" Friday! Is a real Gal .....

Gal Gadot, former Miss Israel 2004, that is!

She was recently cast in the upcoming film sequel, The Fast And The Furious 4, alongside returning, original stars Vin Diesel, Paul Walker & Michelle Rodriguez.

I don't know if she can act, but I'm-a gonna watch that movie when it arrives and find out for myself - - - for two reasons.

My son has made me rewatch the first two Fast & Furious films many times over, they're a couple of his favorites, AND Gal is SO smoking hot that she makes me "ache" in a very comfortable way.

[But then, you knew that I was going to say something like that. Right?]

Thursday, March 13, 2008

1970's Flashback: Star-Lord

Star-Lord (Peter Quill) debuted in Marvel Preview #4 (January 1976) by writer Steve Englehart and artist Steve Gan, although the character underwent a slight “tweak” in issue #11, by writer Chris Claremont and artist John Byrne.

Peter Jason Quill was born February 4th, 1962, during an unusual astronomical phenomenon where Jupiter, Mars, the Sun, Mercury, Venus and the Moon aligned in formation. On the night of his birth, Peter's father angrily accused his wife of infidelity, as the baby resembled neither of them. He attempted to kill the infant with an axe, but was struck down by a heart attack, leaving the child to stare for over an hour into a starry sky.

The latter story (#11) confirmed that Peter's father was correct, as his true father was Jason of Spartax, the young son of a galactic Emperor who had acted as Star-Lord before him. Jason had crash-landed on Earth years before and fathered the child before repairing his ship and returning home in response to an urgent distress call. He had erased the memory of Peter’s mother upon leaving Earth, and returned only to find that she had married her childhood sweetheart, and thus chose not to interfere. It was revealed that the alien who murdered Meredith Quill was a reptilian bodyguard sent by Jason's uncle to wipe out young Peter, the heir to the Galactic Throne. Peter killed both the alien and the uncle who had intended to overthrow his father, but chose not to remain with his newfound parent, instead wandering the stars with his sentient star-craft called, Ship.
As Star-Lord, Peter Quill possesses augmented strength and resiliency and controls an "Element Gun", a special meta-pistol capable of conjuring one of the four elements. He is able to travel unaided through space with his face uncovered, indicating that he either does not need oxygen, or that he or his uniform generates its own oxygen. Peter is also psychically linked to his starship, which is a living entity.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

In Memorium: Dave Stevens

Well-respected artist, Dave Stevens has passed away at the age of 52 from complications of leukemia, which he had battled for many years. Stevens is best known for his creator-owned character, The Rocketeer, which was first published as a backup in Mike Grell’s Starslayer in 1982. Stevens’ unique art style was heavily influenced by pulp artists of the early part of the 20th century, but it merged the pulp sensibility with a modern sensibility. Stevens’ first professional comic work was inking over Russ Manning’s pencils for the daily Tarzan comic strip starting in 1975. Dave often worked on movie storyboards or animation, yet still provided popular covers in the 1980's for Comico’s Jonny Quest series and others. The Rocketeer originally appeared in small installments throughout 1982 to 1995, and was made into a film in 1991 by Walt Disney Pictures. The comic book version had caused a resurgence in 1950's pin-up queen Bettie Page.

As a big fan of his limited comics work, I feel very fortunate to have met Mr. Stevens once, when he took a break during the actual shooting of the Rocketeer film [ I believe in 1990] to appear at a Parts Unknown convention in Greensboro, North Carolina. I drove a long way to that weekend show, primarily to see Dave Stevens, even though the other guests weren't really nothing to sneeze at: Will Eisner, Murphy Anderson, Al Williamson, Marie Severin, Joe Orlando, etc. Quite a line-up!

Dave was cordial and well-worth the journey, I purchased one of his many fine prints, which I still have signed by him, and he generously drew a sketch for me of a little alien character, "Unk" from his Aurora short story in Pacific Comics anthology Alien Worlds. Sadly that piece was stolen from me in recent years.

Condolences go out to his family, close friends and hundreds of fans, who've lost this great talent and fine person.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

1970's Flashback: The Living Mummy

N'Kantu the Living Mummy first appeared in Supernatural Thrillers #5 (Aug. 1973), and was the lead feature in 10 out of 15 issues of that short-run series. He was created by Steve Gerber and Rich Buckler.

N'Kantu was born over three thousand years ago, son to Chief T'Chombi of the African tribe called the Swarili. When he turned 21 years old, N'Kantu had to endure the Test of the Lion, to prove himself worthy of being called a warrior and to eventually succeed his father as king. However, upon returning from the trial, N'Kantu discovered that his village had been ransacked and his tribe taken by Egyptians as slaves. N'Kantu fought to rescue his people, but he too was overwhelmed and captured.

The Swarili were taken to Egypt, and forced to work building monuments to the current Pharaoh, Aram-Set. Recognized as the strongest and most dangerous of the Swarili, N'Kantu was isolated and worked the hardest in an attempt to break his spirit, but at night he and the Swarili people plotted a rebellion; though unbeknownst to them their plotting was reported to Aram-Set and his chief priest, Nephrus. With the completion of the monument project, the Egyptians drove the slaves into its catacombs in preparation for their mass execution, but N'Kantu quickly signaled the revolt and the Swarili slaughtered their would-be executioners.

N'Kantu himself slew Aram-Set with a spear, and then turned to Nephrus; however the evil priest was prepared and he sprayed N'Kantu in the face with a mysterious paralyzing liquid. N'Kantu was bound onto a special altar, his body wrapped in papyrus and his blood was drained and replaced with an unknown alchemical preservative. N'Kantu, who was conscious throughout the entire ordeal, was then placed inside a stone sarcophagus

Thousands of years later, the paralyzing fluid finally wore off and N'Kantu escaped from his tomb. Deranged from being paralyzed in darkness for several millennia, he dug himself free and went on a rampage in Cairo, Egypt. He later recovered from his insanity and discovered Doctor Alexi Skarab, one of Nephrus' surviving descendants..

Monday, March 10, 2008

The Electra Woman and Dyna Girl .... that could'a been!

I had heard about this a few years ago, but never really thought much about it, however it seems that in the Fall of 2001, the WB network commissioned a pilot to be made of a new Electra Woman and Dyna Girl to be set in contemporary times. The concept first originated on the 1976 Sid & Marty Krofft Supershow segment of the same name, which followed the crime-fighting exploits of female caped crusader Electra Woman, and her teenage sidekick Dyna Girl. In each episode, the duo (who secretly worked as reporters for a magazine) would don skintight spandex (in a bright flash of light called an "Electra-Change") hop in their Electracar, and use an array of technically advanced gadgets to thwart an eclectic collection of super villains. They were assisted by Frank Heflin, a scientist at their "ElectraBase" who kept in contact with the pair through their "ElectraComs". The original version ran for only sixteen weeks and starred Deidre Hall as Electra Woman/Lori and Judy Strangis as Dyna Girl/Judy.

The 2001 version written in the form of a cynical parody of both the original show [which had also playfully lampooned the same genre] and superheroes in general, was set 25 years after the original series ended, with a retired Electra Woman brought back into action by an old fan of hers who then ended up becoming the new Dyna Girl. This pilot presented Electra Woman as a disillusioned and bitter, sexually promiscuous alcoholic, much in contrast to the character's original saccharine portrayal. The new pilot also explained that Electra Woman had been married and divorced, with her unseen husband having left her for the original Dyna Girl. Although the pilot was actually shot, the series was not picked up by the network. The new pilot starred Markie Post as Electra Woman and Anne Stedman as Dyna Girl.

It's really too bad that this one never got a shot, because although the pilot needed a few kinks worked out, it is really not too bad - - - as far as these things go. Markie Post's more adult take on the character was hilarious, fetching and perhaps unintentionally nostalgic and Anne Stedman infused a perky, quirky air into her role as well.

When you get a chance go to You Tube and check out the episode which is broken into two short parts.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Point to Ponder, Pilgrim

Just one of the burning questions that NONE of the political frontrunners for the American presidency seems ready, willing or able to answer, but it really needs to be addressed - - - while there is still time!

Friday, March 7, 2008

Review: The Twelve # 3

Marvel Comics The Twelve #3 continues J.M. Straczynski & Chris Weston's entertaining tale of a dozen World War II mystery men who've been revived in the modern world, after spending six decades in Nazi-induced suspended animation. So far the series has been a smash success, selling out each issue immediately upon release.

One fourth of the way through the year-long mini-series, we are still being brought up to speed on the individual characters themselves; and where they stand in regards to the world that has passed them by. Despite the cover (which showcases the Fiery Mask), Mr. E really gets the spotlight moment this time out, as we learn of the lengths to which Victor Jay went in his previous life to disguise who he really was [in more ways than one] and how this former conceit comes back to bite him on the arse in the here-and-now. We are also treated to a few pages of the Fiery Mask's origin, which despite being somewhat "wonky" is really an awful lot of fun; just look at those cool Weston zombies in the golden age flashback panels. Awesome stuff!

It is increasingly looking like the murderer of one of the Twelve is most likely another one of their number (the Laughing Mask does seems a bit off of his rocker in a rather quick glimpse), but who it actually is, and why, is a story for another day.

* Highly recommended.

"Gal" Friday! Captain Schoolgirl

I swiped this photo from blogzarro (who declared the sweet Captain to be a "Geek Honey" of the Month) and so have decided to also make "Captain Schoolgirl" my first official "Gal" Friday featurette.
If the young lady's Myspace page is accurate, she's a an 18 year old comic book fan who apparently does her own comic book adventures and even appears "in character" at conventions [like the upcoming New York Comicon].
The intrepid student heroine claims to battle against school bullies, unruly jocks, corrupt teachers & principals and her arch nemesis, a psycho-cheerleader called The Squealer.
All I can say is, that any fetching fantasy female who flashes such phenomenal cleavage gets my attention and is a fantastic first feature for Friday's "Gal".

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Review: Project Superpowers #1

Project Superpowers #1 is a huge step down artwise from the "0" issue that preceded it. Gone are artists Stephen Sadowski & Doug Klauba and in their wake we are treated to Carlos Paul, who is slated to be on hand for the entire introductory arc (seven issues). And "color artist" Debora Carita. Not promising at all. I really don't like to criticize artists who are just trying to make a living, but for a book that is touted in the issue as the "flagship" title of the Dynamite line, this is an amateurish effort .... at best.

I guess they spent most of their cash on Alex Ross, who provides some spiffy covers to sucker in the unwary purchaser. Don't get me wrong, I love these golden age characters, and writer Jim Krueger and Ross have posited an interesting premise here to explain the return of the WWII contingent, but low-balling on the art side truly hurts this project - - - mightily.

The colors [ by Ms. Carita] don't really improve the terribly weak pencils of Mr. Paul, in fact the effect generated by her contribution casts all of the pages in something of a washed out look. This for $3.50 a copy. I mean, damn, for that kind of cover price, I expect a professional looking comic book from a seasoned illustrator. Not the journeyman efforts of a couple of newbies who are breaking in. Dynamite is not doing their audience any favors here. Interesting premise aside, I can't recommend Project Superpowers based on the first issue.

And that's too bad!

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Hammer Time! Catching up with Thor

Thor was noble and self-assured (though sometimes to the point of arrogance), so to teach his son humility, Odin placed Thor (without his memories of godhood) into the body and memories of an existing, partially disabled human medical student, Donald Blake. After becoming a doctor, Blake later discovered Thor's disguised hammer and learned to change back and forth into the Thunder God. The real Donald Blake's persona remained elsewhere until many years later, after Odin became satisfied with Thor's humility and he lifted the spell, thereby removing the need for a mortal alter ego. The mortal experience, however, shaped Thor into an honorable and courteous individual, who was loyal to all comrades.

After a long career as a heroic Earth champion, Thor reluctantly assumed the throne of Asgard, and suffered the nightmarish timeline that resulted from those years. Thor ultimately confronted the Norns (Fates), thus breaking the Ragnarok cycle, and then entered a stasis known as "the sleep of the gods." With his fate unknown to his fellow Avengers, Thor was believed to be missing in action for an extended time.

In the wake of the “Civil War”, a mysterious man revealed to be Donald Blake touched the hammer Mjolnir, and was transported into the void where Thor had been in hibernation. Blake explained that when Odin originally removed the Donald Blake persona from Thor, Blake was transported into the void where Thor had endured his “sleep of the gods”, and Blake was returned to New York City when Thor had broken the Ragnarok cycle. Blake convinced Thor to wield Mjolnir once more and return to Earth, renewing the dual identity with Blake. Blake also revealed that Thor's fellow Asgardians were not dead, but only hidden on Earth.

Thor rebuilt Asgard in Oklahoma [Okay, that parts just stupid] and after paying for the land with Asgardian treasure, went in search of his fellow Asgardians. Thor also learned of the events of the superhero-registration "Civil War" and was mightily angered that Tony Stark (Iron Man) had waged war on those heroes who had been their friends, and he was also angered that Stark and others had used his DNA to create the Thor Clone without his knowledge or permission. Thor defeated Iron Man in their confrontation, and stated that he would respond with even greater aggression unless he was left in peace. Seeking a compromise, Stark rationalized that since Asgard might be considered a foreign embassy, with diplomatic immunity granted to its inhabitants. Thor deemed this solution acceptable, and allowed Stark to leave, but not before warning him that matters between them were far from settled.

Monday, March 3, 2008

1970's Flashback: Modred the Mystic

Modred the Mystic first appeared in Marvel Chillers #1. The character was created by Bill Mantlo, Yong Montano and Marv Wolfman.

Modred was originally a magician in the 6th century who had learned magic from the wizard Gervasse. Modred was engaged to Gervasse's daughter, Julia, and was set to become the apprentice of the wizard Merlin. However, Merlin had been replaced by an imposter (who would later go by the names of the Mad Merlin, the Maha Yogi, and Merlin Demonspawn), and Modred and Gervasse knew that this "Merlin" needed to be stopped. In order to gain the necessary power for this feat, Modred sought out the Darkhold (the book of black magic created by the Elder God Chthon). The Other, an emissary of Chthon, offered Modred great power at the cost of his soul. Initially Modred refused, but the Other mystically targeted Julia; and in order to protect her, Modred offered himself up to Chthon. His soul was subsequently corrupted, and Gervasse placed him in suspended animation, where he lay for centuries.

Modred was awakened in the modern day by Janet Lyton and Grant Whitaker, who led him to London. There, he was shot by the police and then attacked by the Other, which he defeated. Modred has alternated between being an anti-hero and a super-villain ever since.