Tuesday, December 30, 2008

"Return of Lady Blackhawk" from Blackhawk #140 (DC Comics)

"Return of Lady Blackhawk" (cont.)

Pappy's Golden Age Comics Blogzine (see the links section) inspired me to post another classic Blackhawk story to close out 2008, after he posted one the other day [here]. This adventure from Blackhawk #140, features the return of Zinda Blake aka Lady Blackhawk and her official induction into the team, with nice artwork by the great team of Dick Dillin & Chuck Cuidera.

Enjoy (and see you again next year) !

Double Review: Hulk #8 & Hulk #9 (Marvel Comics)

The one thing that I don't know about this title is whether or not it is the primary Hulk title these days at Marvel or simply just another book featuring the Jade Giant. Or Grey Giant.

Or "Rulk"! Yeah, I know, but just bear with me.

Jeph Loeb, Arthur Adams and Frank Cho pull out all of the stops on this three-parter (I missed the first part), but I am left wondering why the decision was made to release these issues as a split book. I believe that readers would have been better served by having a single Arthur Adams drawn issue and then a full Frank Cho drawn issue, but whaever.

What really got me interested in picking these babies up was the presence of so many cool 1970's guest stars. In the Adams illustrated sections, Hulk is joined by Ms. Marvel, Moon Knight and Brother Voodoo in a fight against a horde of Wendigos. The Cho pencilled sections feature She-Hulk leading a new lineup of Lady Liberators that includes Thundra, Valkyrie, Invisible Woman, Tigra, Storm, Hellcat, Black Widow and Spider-Woman in battle with the Red Hulk (aka "Rulk").

Now can someone explain to me just who and what this Rulk really is?

I DO wish that either Adams or Cho would continue on as regular artist on the title, but based on the solicitation for the next issue this trilogy was an extended fill-in by the two marquee artists.

Too bad! They were why I bought them in the first place, but I will console myself by seeking out the part that I missed. These issues were alot of fun and I recommend them to everyone that enjoys a little superhero action from a publisher that increasingly seems to have forgotten what that is all about.

Monday, December 29, 2008

"The Killer From Saturn" (Web Of Evil #3; courtesy of THOIA)

"The Killer From Saturn" (cont.)

This "killer" story from the March 1953 issue of Web of Evil #3 was forwarded my way by Karswell over at THOIA. The Horrors Of It All is running a spiffy "Sci-Fi Horrors Week", so to enjoy some really cool outer space (and other) hijinks's just zap on over to his blog.

Friday, December 26, 2008

"Gal" Friday! (In Memorium): Eartha Kitt

Singer and actress Eartha Kitt, who portrayed the second Catwoman on the classic Batman television series, passed away from colon cancer on Christmas Day at the age of 81.

She struck it big on Broadway, films and recorded many hit songs, including her perennial 1953 holiday favorite, Santa Baby. Ms. Kitt so impressed her lover, Charles Revson (pioneer of the Revlon cosmetic company), that he created a flaming red lipstick for her called Fire and Ice.

After she became a household name with her association with the Batman TV series in the 1960s, Eartha was effectively exiled from the United States following anti-war statements that she made during a White House lunch which upset First Lady Lady Bird Johnson. That incident put a hold on her career. Eartha had been born to a 14-year-old girl who was raped on a South Carolina cotton plantation and she was handed over to another family before being sent to live with an aunt in New York.

Condolences go out to her family, friends and fans.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

The Comic Book Catacombs 2008 "Ghoulie" Awards

I've been blogging from the Catacombs for more than a year now, and to celebrate I am starting a new year end tradition of singling out my own "favorites" of the past year. Posts, featurettes, reviews or other stuff that I posted during the calendar year of 2008, along with one special recognition for above and beyond the call of duty. We'll call these the "Ghoulie" Awards (and I hope that all of you truly appreciate me slipping on my Sunday Best for this portrait).

Best 2008 Classic Comics Story or Strip Nominees

"Crime Lab" Wanted #34 (Feb. 1951; Courtesy of THOIA)
"Riotmascope Presents "How To Marry A Billionaire!" (courtesy of THOIA)
Rulah, Jungle Goddess and "The Pigeons of Flame" (Fox Comics)
Rulah Jungle Goddess in "The Ghoul of Galhalla" (Fox Comics)
"Sandflower of Venus" (Ziff-Davis; courtesy of THOIA)

*Winner: "Sandflower of Venus"
Out of all the comics stories, that I posted this year, Sandflower was easily my absolute favorite of the bunch. Karswell from "The Horrors Of It All" blog, sent it my way after an appeal for more comics material and I was blown away from the first moment that I read it.

Best 2008 Featurette Nominees

75th Anniversary Salute to The Man of Bronze
All-New, All-Different X-Men, X-tra
Profile Antics: Colleen Doran
Profile Antics: Stephanie Gladden
Remember the "New" Teen Titans

*Winner: 75th Anniversary Salute to The Man of Bronze
I discovered Doc Savage as a young teenager when I first read The Lost Oasis, and it grabbed me in a very powerful way. So many comic book characters owe a huge debt of gratitude to Doc's creator, Lester Dent, whose pulp novel icon originated many genre staples that were later successfully aped by other - but Doc had often done it first.

Best ‘1970’s Flashback’ Nominees

Devil Dinosaur
The Hands of Shang Chi
Marvel Two-In-One
The Brute (Atlas/Seaboard Comics)
Sons of the Tiger

*Winner: The Hands of Shang Chi
The "Flashbacks" continue to be source of fun, and despite how many I've posted, there are many more to come AND some day, the Flashbacks WILL leap forward to the 1980's, probably the last decade where truly traditional comic books really did finally die off.

Best "Gal" Friday Nominees

Alice Goodwin
Amanda Seyfried
Manuela Arcuri
Marg Helgenberger
Vida Guerra

*Winner: Vida Guerra
The toughest category to whittle down by far, with strong honorable mentions going out to Michelle Ryan and Kelly Monaco (whose posted photos were really awesome), but who were not official "Gal" Friday's.

Best 2008 Movie Review Nominees

The Dark Knight
Hellboy II The Golden Army
Iron Man
Quantum of Solace

*Winner: Hellboy II The Golden Army
Not necessarily the best genre movie of the year, but simply the review that tickled me as I read back through my posted comments.

Worst 2008 Featurette Nominees

Captain’s Trading Post
NBC TV "Heroes" (just because the show itself went so far south)
Somethings Missing

*Loser/?: Captain’s Trading Post
My idea to reinvent a favorite past-time from my youth (swapping comics and stuff) failed to garner even a flicker of interest.


If you happened to notice all of the "Courtesy of THOIA" credits in the top category, then you will certainly understand why ye olde editor was able to easily select the winner of the Special Recognition Award. My pal, Karswell maintains one of the most interesting blogs on the web. You will find it in my links section as 'The Horrors Of It All'. If you've never visited there, then I highly encourage you to pop in immediately to enjoy his daily postings of classic golden & silver age horror-themed comics - plus other similar items of interest. His regular heads up announcements for pending monster-esque films on Turner Classic Movies (and other channels) alone is worth the price of admission (so to speak), and either way you will be glad that you stopped by his house. So, without further ado, let me say thanks and congratulations to Karswell by awarding him his very own "Ghoulie" for passing along his odds & ends comics stories for me to share with visitors here in the Catacombs. I appreciate it!

Special Achievement "Ghoulie"

*Winner: Steve Banes (aka Karswell)

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

White Christmas (1954)

Last night, as part of their '25 Days of Christmas' film festival, the ABC Family Channel ran "White Christmas" from 1954, featuring the Oscar-nominated songs of Irving Berlin and loads of terrific dance numbers. The perennial favorite stars Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney, Vera Ellen, Dean Jagger and Mary Wickes in the story of a top song-and-dance act (Crosby & Kaye), who after leaving the Army, meet a pair of beautiful sisters (Clooney & Ellen) who also have a song-and-dance act. When the boys follow the girls to a Vermont lodge to perform a Christmas show, they discover their former commander, General Waverly, is the lodge owner and he is having it rough keeping the inn going. A series of romantic mix-ups ensue as the performers try to help their old General.

"White Christmas" (yes, Crosby does perform his signature song) is one of the many holiday-themed films that I like to catch each year, and no matter how many times I've seen it, I always crack up during the big moment at the films climax, when Gen. Waverly (Jagger; pictured above left) is greeted by hundreds of soldiers from his old division, who've traveled from across the country on Christmas Eve to surprise him. Now, that's a real tear-jerker.

Seasons Greetings!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

1970's 'Holiday' Flashback: Marvel Treasury Edition

Remember those tabloid-sized collections of reprinted stories that came out back in the disco decade? Yeah, I thought so.

New material would also be featured in the over-sized format, but for the most part the treasury editions -- roughly 10 x 14 inch comics collections with cardboard covers -- represented older material. Both DC and Marvel produced similar volumes, but today we take a look back at Marvel's classic holiday offerings.

1974 brought us The Marvel Treasury Special, Giant Superhero Holiday Grab-Bag which reprinted "Have Yourself a Sandman Little Christmas!" from Marvel Team-Up #1 (March 1972) among other stories.

1975's Marvel Treasury Edition #8 Giant Superhero Holiday Grab-Bag treated us to "Twas the Night before Christmas" from Nick Fury, Agent of SHIELD #10 (May 1971) and "Jingle Bombs" from Luke Cage, Hero for Hire #7 (1972 series), plus even more tales.

and 1976's Marvel Treasury Edition #13 Giant Superhero Holiday Grab-Bag waxed nostalgic over such tales as "Once upon a Time -- the Ox!" from Daredevil #86 (April 1972) and still loads more holiday goodness.

A Christmas Carol (1843)

A Christmas Carol in Prose, Being a Ghost Story of Christmas by Charles Dickens, was first published in 1843 and was illustrated by John Leech. The story met with instant success, selling six thousand copies during the first week. Originally written as a potboiler to enable Dickens to pay off a debt, the tale has become one of the most popular and enduring stories of all time.

The story of Ebenezer Scrooge's transformation by the three Ghosts of Christmas (Ghost of Christmas Past, Ghost of Christmas Present, and Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come) has become a defining tale of Christmas, and since the blessed day is rapidly closing upon us, let’s take a fond look back at four illustrations from the original publication by famed caricaturist John Leech. The four plates show Marley’s Ghost, Fezziwig’s Ball, The Ghost of Christmas Present and The Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come.

Happy Holidays!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Profiling the Original Blue Beetle

The original Golden Age Blue Beetle was Dan Garret, the son of a police officer who was killed in the line of duty by a criminal. The Fox Feature Syndicate version of the character debuted in Mystery Men Comics #1 (Aug. 1939), with art by Charles Nicholas Wojtkowski (as Charles Nicholas) and began appearing in his own 60-issue series shortly thereafter; however, Holyoke also released some issues of the series during it’s slightly sporadic existence.

Rookie patrolman Garret donned a bulletproof costume (described as being made of a chain-mail which was "as thin and light as silk"), and temporarily gained superhuman strength from ingesting the mysterious vitamin 2-X.

The supporting cast remained fairly stable throughout this original run, and included Joan Mason, a crime reporter for the Daily Blade who would eventually star in her own backup series, and Mike Mannigan, Dan's Irish-stereotype partner on the police force. Dr. Franz, a local pharmacist (and inventor of the bulletproof suit and 2-X formula) played a prominent role in the first few issues of the run, but he was soon phased out.

A popular character of the Golden Age era, the Beetle also had a short-lived newspaper strip (drawn by the legendary Jack Kirby under a pseudonym), and a radio serial that ran for 48 thirteen-minute episodes. When super-heroes fell out of vogue in the late 1940s, Fox downplayed the Beetle's super-heroic angle (his superpowers were removed) and eventually relegated him to a hosting true crime stories within his own series before the book was cancelled.

The featured artwork is from DC Comics Secret Origins #2 (May 1986) by Gil Kane.

Santa Claus Funnies; 1942-1949 (Dell)

In remembrance of the holiday season, here is the cover gallery from Dell Comics classic eight year run of Santa Claus Funnies, by the late, great Walt Kelly (Pogo). Santa Claus Funnies continued annually for many years, but Kelly went on to even greater acclaim with his popular syndicated strip about a swamp dwelling opossum. Clockwise, from left to right: [top row] Santa Claus Funnies #1 (1942), Santa Claus Funnies #2 (1943), Four Color #61 (1944), Four Color #91 (1945), [bottom row] Four Color #128 (1946), Four Color #175 (1947), Four Color #205 (1948) & #254 (1949).

Friday, December 19, 2008

El Dorado by Edgar Allan Poe

Gaily bedight,
A gallant night
In sunshine and in shadow,
Had journeyed long,
Singing a song,
In search of El Dorado.

But he grew old --
This knight so bold --
And -- o'er his heart a shadow
Fell as he found
No spot of ground
That looked like El Dorado.

And, as his strength
Failed him at length,
He met a pilgrim shadow --
"Shadow," said he,
"Where can it be --
This land of El Dorado?"

"Over the Mountains
Of the Moon,
Down the Valley of the Shadow,
Ride, boldly ride,"
The shade replied --
"If you seek for El Dorado."
(Art by Edmund Dulac)

"Gal" Friday (In Memorium)! Majel Barrett-Roddenberry

Majel Barrett-Roddenberry, the wife of “Star Trek” creator Gene Roddenberry, has passed away at the age of 76 after a battle with leukemia.

In addition to her role as Nurse Christine Chapel on the original Star Trek series (she had also played the character of “Number One” in the unaired original pilot episode), her many genre credits included appearances in many of her late husbands projects such as STAR TREK: THE ANIMATED SERIES, PLANET EARTH, GENESIS II, SPECTRE, THE QUESTOR TAPES, STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION, STAR TREK's DEEP SPACE NINE & VOYAGER, and multiple TREK films - as well as providing the voice for the Enterprise computer throughout all of the TV shows and movies from the venerable sci-fi franchise.

Majel had apparently just completed her voiceover work (again as the voice of the Enterprise) in director J.J. Abrams’ reboot of “Star Trek,” due in theaters on May 8, 2009. Condolences go out to her family, friends and fans.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Unfinished Storylines: Youngblood: Bloodsport

2003: After shafting Kurt Busiek in an earlier attempt to relaunch his Youngblood characters, while at the same time trading upon some ideas left over from Alan Moore's earlier romp with the same concepts, Rob Liefeld tried - yet again - to reintroduce his former Image Comics series to a desperately deprived public.

"The long awaited, much anticipated next chapter in the carnage filled saga that is YOUNGBLOOD: BLOODSPORT! Written by MARK MILLAR. Shaft vs. Battlestone! Cougar vs. Doc Rocket! Sentinel vs. Die Hard! Suprema vs. Twilight! There can be only one as the fight for ultimate survival spills into the streets of Los Angeles! Who will reign supreme and lead the inter-dimensional squadron into the next era!"

Yeah, right!

Only one official issue managed to eke its way out into the world, though a second issue was cobbled together for a bootleg edition. Liefeld is an acquired taste, and despite his awkward artistic fumbling which often has characters mysteriously changing uniforms within the same battle sequences or romping about with multiple visible limbs or two left feet, for instance, he is at the very least .... interesting.

The same can't be said for this aborted Youngblood mini-series. Did anybody read this? Did it make any kind of sense?

I don't know, but I would be curious to find out if anyone out there can enlighten me.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

"The Lahassa, Where Life Is Cheap And Death Is Free" (Fox Comics)

This story doesn't feature our reigning jungle goddess (Rulah will be back soon), but it does have some nice Jack Kamen good girl artwork, a really big gorilla and ya' just gotta love that wonky title. This one is from Rulah Jungle Goddess #23 (February 1949).

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Heroes" "Dual"

The solicitation for this episode (12/15/2008): "Nathan and Peter face off after the battle with their father, and Nathan makes a move with far reaching consequences. Sylar takes Claire, Noah, Meredith and Angela hostage at Primatech, forcing them to make some desperate choices and the fates of several heroes may hang in the balance. Ando, Matt, and Daphne continue their quest to save Hiro, but Mohinder may hold the key to rescuing him in the past."

The fallout from this final episode of the "Villains" story arc has decided the fates of several members of the extended cast and it appears that a few of the bad guys may have fallen. Certainly fear-monger Knox is gone for good, and that poor Marine sergeant from last week didn't get to hang around after all, but others whose demise MAY have occurred include Flint, Meredith, Sylar and Arthur Petrelli. I say "may", because viewers have seen the see-saw effect from this show too many times before. Arthur didn't revive this week, but considering how resilient he proved to be, who knows, and as for Sylar, well, didn't they too conveniently float the possibility that Angela knew who his real parents actually were just as she was about to negotiate a truce with Gabriel/Sylar, only to have the lovely Claire really "stick it" in the exact spot of Sylar's brain where he - supposedly - can't recover from and .... well, you get the picture.

I was less than thrilled to see Mohinder walk away from his own heinous actions, now in the company of Tracy Strauss, who Nathan told to take a hike after she put the permanent kibosh on Knox. Dr. Suresh should have bitten the big one too, guys. There was no reasonable explanation for why Nathan wanted Tracy to leave either. Now that he is seemingly committed to facilitating Arthur's plan anyway, isn't that what Tracy was trying to help him pull off?

So, Ando is now counted among the super-powered crowd? We'll have to wait and see if his abilities can somehow revive Hiro's own Arthur Petrelli-stolen talents in the next story arc which is to be called "Fugitives", but it was very convenient for Peter to use the formula to get his powers back, and to have the fluid from a different vat cure Mohinder. Also, based on the teaser at the end, America has apparently elected its first Klingon to the White House.

Monday, December 15, 2008

I will NOT be seeing "The Spirit" this Christmas (and neither should you)

I just finished reading a hilarious & revealing early review of "The Spirit" which will open in movie theaters around Christmas. I had already committed myself to not seeing this flick, as every trailer that I've seen pretty much revealed that it wasn't Will Eisner's classic character brought to life on the big screen.

Read this review and be forewarned http://www.aintitcool.com/node/39450

You will laugh (or cry) if you are a fan of either The Spirit or Will Eisner! And ... you will probably want to join me in lynching Frank Miller (he is the butt monkey whose picture is floating over there on the right hand side of this post).

Up yours, Miller! The only point made by the reviewer in his dissection of your stupid-looking film with which I disagree, is that YOU are at fault for making this turkey (and for being you). Based on every available promo for this film, you either hated the original premise, concept and characters that were a part of Eisner's classic Spirit strip OR you truly think that comic book fans are among the most incredibly stupid people on the planet.

Here's a clue for ya'. You've forgotten that you are a major fanboy yourself, and as you continue to spend the cash that you receive for your earlier comics work, take heart in the fact that you successfully scammed a major studio out of a bucketful of money to churn out this piece of pablum. I wonder if Robert Osborne can edit you out of your recent co-hosting gig on Turner Classic Movies?

Friday, December 12, 2008

Review: Guardians of the Galaxy #7 (Marvel Comics)

Since issues of the two mini-series that I am currently picking up seem to require more "cooking" time (Marvel Comics The Twelve and DC Comics Final Crisis: Legion of 3 Worlds), I have found myself in need of a comics fix at the moment.

My last review of Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy series indicated that I was a bit flustered with the direction that the book had suddenly taken (thanks to "Secret Invasion") and I was no longer planning on following the title. Abnett, Lanning, Pelletier and company are still around though, and ..... well .... What do you do when you need something to read, but nothing else on the stands is floating your boat?

The answer is you cave and schlep back to the store and grudgingly buy the next issue. Irritated or not! Blame Marvel.com and their multi-page preview of the latest Guardians (issue #7) that showed the entire membership of the original Guardians in some spiffy action sequences. That kind of marketing is tailor-made for an "old school" fan like me and I must admit that it really worked. Darn it.

Of course, a stickler could have simply flipped through the actual issue at the local comics shop and seen that the featured cameo of original Guardians Charlie-27, Martinex, Yondu, Major Vance Astro and Starhawk didn’t really extend throughout the remainder of issue #7, and then possibly passed on actually purchasing the book, but I went ahead and took the plunge.

The rest of this issue reveals that after discovering Star-Lord’s manipulation, the bulk of the team have quit and dispersed throughout the universe. Rocket Raccoon has pulled together another unit of Guardians comprised of Major Victory (Vance Astro/?), Bug (from The Micronauts), Mantis (promoted to active membership) and Groot (a big tree-looking-thingie) to handle a crisis in a nearby star system which may or may not be caused by original Guardians foes, the Badoon.

Warlock and Gamora (now recovered from her horrific injuries) have resumed their campaign against the Universal Church of Truth and is it me, or does this plotline seem to foreshadow a potential reveal that Adam Warlock may not be who he appears to be? Remember that an earlier issue showed another cocoon sequestered within the Church’s headquarters. Can you say "Magus"? Drax and Quasar are off on another jaunt which seems to suggest that Drax’s supposedly deceased daughter, Moondragon, may still be kicking around. Time will tell! As for Star-Lord, he has somehow ended up as the whipping boy of a well known baddie from the Negative Zone. As cool this villains’ appearance is, it may also tie into yet another impending mega-crossover from the House of Ideas (War of the Kings) and that’s exactly where Marvel almost lost me last month. Sheesh!

"Gal" Friday (In Memorium)! Bettie Page

Sad news today that classic 1950's pin-up queen Bettie Page (who achieved even more genre immortality with her inclusion in Dave Stevens [also gone this very year] 1980's comic book, The Rocketeer) has passed away at the age of 85. So, Bettie trumps today's planned pick (but we will see her next week). Let's also take a moment to remember some other folks that we lost this year:

Hollywood lost many actors of note in 2008, including: Heath Ledger, Paul Newman, Charlton Heston, Roy Scheider, Barry Morse, Cyd Charisse, Richard Widmark, Suzanne Pleshette, Hazel Court & John Phillip Law.

Comedians that we'll miss include: Bernie Mac, George Carlin, Harvey Korman & Dick Martin, plus animators Bill Melendez (A Charlie Brown Christmas) and Ollie Johnston (one of Disney's famed "Nine Old Men", who worked on Snow White & Bambi), director Sydney Pollack, sci-fi author Arthur C. Clarke, country singer Jerry Reed, special effects whiz Stan Winston and Dungeons and Dragons co-creator Gary Gygax.

Last, but not least, this year the comic book industry lost Steve Gerber (Howard the Duck), the aforementioned Dave Stevens (The Rocketeer), Jim Mooney (Supergirl), Will Elder (Mad magazine), Creig Flessel (golden age Sandman & Shining Knight), Jack Kamen (EC Comics & Rulah Jungle Goddess for Fox Comics) and Michael Turner (Witchblade & Fathom).

They will all be sorely missed!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

1970's Flashback: Combat Kelly and the Deadly Dozen

This short-lived series, like the earlier Captain Savage and His Leatherneck Raiders (later renamed "Battlefield Raiders"), spun off of Marvel Comics more successful war title, Sgt. Fury and His Howling Commandos. Obviously, this book patterned itself after the popular 1967 film, The Dirty Dozen starring Lee Marvin.

The Deadly Dozen (like the movie bunch) was a group of hardened convicts who volunteered for combat duty in exchange for pardons. The Dozen were: Larry "Hillbilly" Wagner, a Southern country singer who carried his guitar into battle (apparently to serenade the enemy with it); Jake Jensen, a middle-aged African-American pickpocket; Howard Shigeta, a Japanese-American; Emory "Snake-Eye" Simpson, a self-serving sleaze and not to be trusted; Donald Sample, a lock-pick & spy who was serving time for theft of valuable US government papers; Michael "Bullseye" Miller, an African-American mechanic & sharpshooter; Roland "Ace" Hamilton, a psychotic "pretty-boy" and bloodthirsty knife-fighter who was also from a wealthy, upper-class family; Jack "Mad-Dog" Martin, a pilot; Doc Watson, a middle-aged 19-year veteran of the Army; Ralph "Hoss" Cosgrove, an uncooperative tough guy ex-wrestler who served under Cpl. Dugan (see below), but not under Kelly, and Laurie Livingston, a British woman.

Kelly himself was Corporal Michael Lee "Combat" Kelly, a red-haired Irishman from Boston with a great deal of similarity to Nick Fury, although Kelly is younger and clean-shaven. Kelly had been "fightin' and killin' all his life", before being tapped by Capt. "Happy" Sam Sawyer to lead the Dozen. Kelly had a short, but successful career as a heavyweight boxer before being drafted, but one thing had led to another and he'd killed a man with his bare hands. He was "drafted" from the military prison where Capt. Sawyer had found him.

The Dozen were originally led by Cpl. Timothy "Dum-Dum" Dugan, who led the unit for only one issue [Sgt. Fury #98; May 1972] before Kelly was given command of the group, thus allowing Dugan to return to the Howling Commandos. Likewise, the Deadly Dozen had other Howler's on assignment for short periods; Dino Manelli & Percy Pinkerton of the Howling Commandos both served with the Dozen, as did Jay Little Bear, the bow-wielding Native American member from Captain Savage and His Leatherneck Raiders who was doing time on a "bum rap."

The Deadly Dozen worked alongside the Howling Commandos for two issues, and then continued on their own for seven more issues. By the end of the series all of the Dozen were dead, Miller & Wagner were killed in combat in issue #4, Martin sacrificed his life for the team in issue #6, Laurie (who by this time had become Kelly's lover) was crippled by a Nazi's surgical experiment in the final issue, during which the rest of the group was also killed, Kelly then resigned from the Army to help care for Laurie.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

1970's Flashback: Cancelled Comic Cavalcade

Cancelled Comic Cavalcade was published in-house by DC Comics (in very limited quantity) following the infamous "DC Implosion" in 1978. The two issues that were produced feature new material that was originally intended for series that were abruptly cancelled. Because of its scarcity and its significance to the history of DC Comics, original copies are highly sought after by collectors, and it has been widely bootlegged.

In 1978, in response to inflation, DC increased cover prices from 35 cents to 50 cents, but the publisher also substantially increased the number of story pages in each issue. This was promoted — along with the launch of many new series — as the "DC Explosion". However, Warner Publishing (which had purchased DC two years earlier) responded to the resulting poor sales figures (which were worsened in part by bad weather and shipping delays from the previous winter) by instructing DC to immediately cut their output to only twenty titles of 32 pages each, priced at 40 cents. Industry pundits immediately dubbed this the "DC Implosion".

The abrupt cancellation of so many titles left a substantial amount of finished and incomplete material that would not be published. Ostensibly to secure the company's copyright in the material, internal DC staff members "published" some of these stories along with other inventoried stories in two volumes on the office photocopier. A total of 35 copies of each volume were produced, and distributed to the creators of the material, to the U.S. copyright office, and to Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide as proof of their existence. The title is in homage to DCs 1940s anthology series Comic Cavalcade. Although color covers were created, the interior pages (having been reproduced on a photocopier in the days prior to widespread use of color photocopy technology) were black and white. The first issue carried a cover price of only 10 cents and the second carried a cover price of $1, but this was in jest, as the books were never actually "sold".

Cancelled Comics Cavalcade #1 contained the following material: Black Lightning #12 (later printed in World's Finest Comics #260), the cover to Black Lightning #13, Claw the Unconquered #13 & #14, The Deserter #1, Doorway to Nightmare #6 (later printed in The Unexpected), Firestorm #6 (later adapted as back-up stories in The Flash) and The Green Team: Boy Millionaires #2 & #3.

Cancelled Comics Cavalcade #2 contained the following material: Kamandi #60 & #61 (the OMAC back-up strip would later appear in Warlord #37 & 38), Prez #5, Shade, the Changing Man #9 (The Odd Man back-up story would later appear in Detective Comics #487), Showcase #105 (featuring Deadman, later mostly printed in Adventure Comics #464), Showcase #106 (featuring The Creeper), Secret Society of Super-Villains #16 & #17, Steel #6 (later reprinted with edits in All-Star Squadron), The Vixen #1 and covers for Army at War #2, Battle Classics #3, Demand Classics #1 & #2, Mister Miracle #26, Ragman #6, Weird Mystery Tales #25 & #26, and Western Classics #1 & #2.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Reviews: Angel: After the Fall #14, Spike: After the Fall #4 & Broken Trinity #3


What do they know?

Well, if the whole point of critiquing a comic book, a novel, a film or an episodic TV series is to, perhaps, warn somebody not to waste valuable minutes or hours of their lives on crummy entertainment, then critics certainly perform a necessary service, but do remember that opinions are like @$$holes; and everybody has one.

I just looked through a small stack of a buddy’s recent comic book purchases and I was less than enamored of several titles therein. IDW released Spike: After The Fall #4 in October and Angel: After The Fall #14 in November 2008. Spike #4 is written by Brian Lynch and illustrated by Franco Urru & Angel #14 is written by Lynch, with artwork by Stephen Mooney (and Angel’s original creator, Joss Whedon also helps out with the plot).

Stephen Mooney at least manages to produce identifiable likenesses of the original Angel television series actors, but Franco Urru needs to focus more on this crucial aspect, since I assume the target audience is largely built upon fans of the former TV show. That’s not to say that the artwork is particularly well done in either case. I have absolutely no idea what the criteria for hiring these guys may have been, but based on what’s on display within these two issues, the bar wasn’t set very high at all.

I really can’t comment on the writing, as there was nothing about either book that made me want to read them (and I had enjoyed both Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel on TV). IDW Publishing is also apparently one of those companies who routinely dress up their obviously poorer comics fare by using higher grades of interior paper and heavier cover stock at a price of $3.99 a copy. Um, why? Newsprint would be so much cheaper, and possibly better for their bottom line, and I’ve just got to say that this stuff does not deserve anything better. These books are crap, no, make that CRAP. Why anybody would burn their hard-earned dollars for this kind of dreck is beyond me. Obviously Angel: After The Fall has survived on the stands for more than a year, but my recommendation is to give these books a wide pass.


Things didn’t get any better with Top Cow/Image’s Broken Trinity #3 (also released in November). The cover blurb says that this issue is "the fatal conclusion" to this crossover mini-series which weaved together characters from Witchblade and The Darkness, but even the presence of established comic’s writer Ron Marz didn’t prompt me to dig into this story. The artwork by Stjepan Sejic and Phil Hester, visually seems to tie into the IDW books, but that is not a complement!

I would have LIKED to have found some redeeming aspect of any one of these books to mute my criticisms, but even alternate covers (in the case of IDW) didn’t merit such an effort.

One of my 2009 New Year’s Eve resolutions will be a heartfelt prayer that the dwindling comic book fan base will stop buying this kind of poorly realized shit. It’s so representative of why the industry continues to fade away. For Pete’s sake people, please quit wasting your good money on utter crap like this!

Monday, December 8, 2008

Enter .... The Squadron Sinister

One of my favorite Marvel Universe concepts was introduced back in the waning days of the silver age when Roy Thomas debuted a team of villains within the pages of the mighty Avengers that were villainous pastiches of the DC Comics super-group, the Justice League of America.

The Squadron Sinister were created by Thomas and first appeared in Avengers #70 (Nov. 1969). They were assembled by the cosmic entity known as the Grandmaster to act as pawns in battle with champions chosen by the time-traveling Kang the Conqueror; the superheroic team the Avengers. The Grandmaster created four villains (Nighthawk, Doctor Spectrum, Hyperion, and the Whizzer), to face Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, and Goliath. The four then battled the Avengers, but all were defeated and discarded by the Grandmaster after he left Earth.

The Squadron Sinister was reunited several years later, when Hyperion encountered the alien Nebulon. Hyperion had been miniaturized and imprisoned in a glass sphere by Thor in their earlier conflict. Hyperion promised the alien the planet Earth in exchange for his freedom. The Squadron then created a giant laser cannon in the Arctic and planned to melt the polar ice caps, thereby covering the Earth's surface in water. Only Nighthawk had reservations and after trying in vain to contact the Avengers, (Nebulon had rendered the Squadron Sinister invisible and intangible while in the presence of the Avengers), he located the Defenders, who agreed to help Nighthawk and they all teleported back to the Arctic.

Comprised of Doctor Strange, the Hulk, Sub-Mariner, and Valkyrie, the Defenders battled against the Squadron and defeated them. Nebulon was overwhelmed by sheer force of numbers, and at the last moment reverted into his true alien form and teleported away with Hyperion, Dr. Spectrum, and the Whizzer. Nighthawk opted to remain behind with the Defenders and ultimately joined the team. One year later, Nebulon returned the Squadron Sinister to Earth in possession of a new energy-draining weapon, with which the Squadron Sinister planned once again to conquer the world and they also found themselves battling the Defenders yet again. Despite an initial victory, the Squadron was soon defeated by the Defenders and the Avenger Yellowjacket.

Several years later, the disbanded Squadron members were contacted individually by the Avengers, who were seeking assistance in freeing their fellow member the Wasp, who had become bonded to the original Dr. Spectrum's Power Prism. Billy Roberts (the second Dr. Spectrum) tricked the Avengers and reclaimed the Prism, but he was defeated in battle.

The team then vanished into obscurity for several years. During this time, Hyperion battled Thor and the Thing, and traveled with the female warrior Thundra to the alternate-universe Earth of the heroic Squadron Supreme, where he impersonated that teams version of Hyperion for several weeks before he eventually died in battle. The Whizzer returned to a life of crime, but wishing to cut his affiliation with the Squadron Sinister, he adopted the alias of Speed Demon along with a new costume. Speed Demon briefly joined the super-villain team the Sinister Syndicate, before reforming and being recruited to join the superhero team the Thunderbolts.

Soon after this the Grandmaster reappeared and reunited the Squadron Sinister with an apparently resurrected Hyperion and an all-new Dr. Spectrum (Alice Nugent, a former lab assistant of Henry Pym). The group tried to coerce Speed Demon and Nighthawk into joining, but both were initially reluctant. Ironically, the New Thunderbolts themselves were responsible for the pair rejoining the Squadron Sinister. Speed Demon was ejected from the New Thunderbolts for committing a series of robberies, while Nighthawk (who had recently begun working with the team) quit in protest after Baron Zemo rejoined and he learned that he was being used simply to finance their activities. Courtesy of a phenomenon known as the Wellspring of Power - an inter-dimensional source of superhuman abilities - the Grandmaster increased the Squadron Sinister's powers and they battled against the New Thunderbolts, as Baron Zemo also wished to control the Wellspring. Zemo managed to defeat the Grandmaster, but in the ensuing chaos the Squadron Sinister scattered and escaped.