Wednesday, September 26, 2007

1970's Flashback: Luke Cage

Can you dig it?

Luke Cage [who later became known as Power Man] was created by writer Archie Goodwin and artist John Romita, Sr., he first appeared in Luke Cage, Hero for Hire #1 (June 1972). The streetwise young Cage was sent to prison for a crime that he didn’t commit. After his strict law-abiding father died thinking his son a criminal, Luke Cage underwent an experimental procedure that granted him titanium-hard skin and superstrength. Cleared of his crime, he became a “Hero for Hire,” although he was always forced by conscience not to take any money for his deeds.

Luke Cage was one of the first African-American superheroes to headline a comic book series, and therefore was a groundbreaking, but controversial hero. Being Marvel's entry into the 1970s blaxploitation trend, the character sported a stereotypically streetwise tongue, including his famous catch phrase "Sweet Christmas!"

Cage’s powers include: superhuman strength, stamina and durability, and an accelerated healing factor. Cage is also a skilled street fighter.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

1970's Flashback: The Shadow

"Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? The Shadow knows!"

The Shadow was created by Walter B. Gibson in 1931 with the first story entitled "The Living Shadow". One of the most famous of the pulp heroes of the 1930s and 1940s, The Shadow achieved even greater fame through a popular radio series where he was originally voiced by actor Orson Welles, The Shadow has been featured in comic books, television, and at least seven motion pictures. However, The Shadow is best regarded for its early radio years, in which pulp crime fiction received its most compelling broadcast interpretation.

The subject of this Flashback and the most acclaimed comic book depiction of the character was the 1970's The Shadow comic written by Denny O'Neil and drawn initially by Mike Kaluta (issues 1, 2, 3, 4 and 6), which was published by DC Comics. The O'Neal/Kaluta issues have been collected as The Private Files of The Shadow.

Moody, atmospheric and perfectly capturing the look and feel of the 1930's era, The Shadow was a high-water mark for 70's era comics. Issue 11, guest-starred another classic pulp-fiction character The Avenger (whose adventures also appeared from DC Comics for a brief period during the same decade).

Monday, September 24, 2007

The Bottom Line = Nexus

Nexus is a terrific comic by writer Mike Baron and artist Steve Rude about troubled intergalactic assassin Horatio Hellpop, who is driven to execute criminals by a higher power (and somewhat against his will).

The series first appeared in the late 1980's and has jumped from publisher to publisher over the intervening years. Nexus has been justifiably critically acclaimed and earned true cult status among many comics fans.

Now, after a decade long break, Nexus has recently returned with a new issue which was its 99th in chronological order. As of today, the comics world has been informed that the 100th issue will be delayed and resolicited for January 2008.

I'm so sorry, but that is BULLSHIT!

I've been a fan of this series from its inception and followed it on its bouncing ball trajectory existence. The Dude wants to pass off the delay as being due to his "perfectionism" , perhaps a better description would be lack of professionalism.

Steve Rude counts Jack Kirby as one of his artistic idols. Jack turned out tons of work over the course of his career and it was always entertaining. Don't get me wrong, I've met the Dude at cons, I think he's a nice guy, but he's no Jack Kirby and I'm done with Nexus. The latest issue just didn't grab me after the extended hiatus and this latest tactic has eroded my support for the team of Baron, Rude & Hellpop.
That's too,bad!

Friday, September 21, 2007

1970's Flashback: Doc Savage Magazine

Doc Savage was a a popular action hero whose adventures where originally published in pulp-digest format back in the 1930's, but Marvel Comics (capitalizing on Bantam Books popular paperbacks that were reprinting The Man of Bronze's old stories for a new generation) published an 8-issue standard-size comic book series in 1972 that also basically adapted several of Doc Savage's pulp adventures.

However after that short-lived series was cancelled, and in the wake of the George Pal motion picture Doc Savage starring former TV Tarzan Ron Ely, Marvel tried Doc out again - this time in their innovative black & white magazine line. Doc Savage (Vol. 2) began in 1975 by writer Doug Moench and artist Tony DeZuniga; although artists John Buscema, Marie Severin, Val Mayerick and Ernie Chan contributed some work.

This series was truly a tour-de-force effort, featuring all-new Doc stories that were done with a pulp flavor, yet still retained a very modern sensibility.

Issue #1's The Doom on Thunder Isle was particularly poignant in its treatment of one secondary characters fate. Despite the quality of this larger format offering, Doc Savage magazine was also cancelled with its eighth issue, but it was a terrific run while it lasted.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

1970's Flashback: Killraven

Killraven was first introduced in Marvel Comics "War of the Worlds" feature which ran in Amazing Adventures, starting with its 18th issue (May 1973), and continuing until the title ended [#39].

Writer Roy Thomas and artist Neal Adams created the first story (loosely based on H.G. Wells science-fiction classic), but others took over the book, with writer Don McGregor and artist P. Craig Russell handling more issues together than any other creative team.

Jonathan Raven, was an Earth man who was raised as a gladiator under Martian rule, and forced to fight against other humans for the Martians' amusement, under the name "Killraven". As punishment for trying to escape, he was handed over to a collaborating human-scientist named Whitman, for experimentation. Unknown to the Martians, Whitman was secretly working against his masters, and his "experiments" greatly enhanced Killraven's physical strength and endurance, and also gave him minor psychic powers to protect him from the Martians. After Killraven escaped for good, he dedicated himself to leading an active resistance and was quickly joined by a group of freedom fighters, who called themselves “The Freemen.”

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

1970's Flashback: Deathlok

Deathlok the Demolisher, a cyborg super-hero, created by artist Rich Buckler and writer Doug Moench, first appeared in Astonishing Tales #25 (Aug. 1974).

Colonel Luther Manning was a soldier from Detroit, Michigan who, after being horrifically injured, awakens physically tranformed into the experimental Deathlok-Cyborg in a post-apocalyptic future. There, Manning battles the evil corporate and military regimes that have taken over the United States, while simultaneously struggling not to lose his humanity. He encountered Spider-Man and Captain America in various time travel journeys, and eventually overthrew the megalomaniac who had taken over the country. Following a multi-issue run in Astonishing, Manning remained in his near-future alternate reality, searching for a purpose in life and unable to disconnect himself from the machine elements that were bonded to him.

Deathlok the Demolisher possesses super-human speed, strength and reflexes, an ability to repair bodily damage and due to his technological components he has the ability to track multiple objects, making him an effective killing machine.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

1970's Flashback: The Eternals

I told you that I'd be getting back to a Marvel Comics title this week!

Created by Jack Kirby, after he rebounded to the House of Ideas following his stint at the Distinguished Competition, The Eternals made their first appearance in July 1976. They are an offshoot of humanity created by the god-like, alien Celestials, and wage war against their counterparts, the Deviants.

The Eternals saga was thematically similar to Kirby's DC Comics epic The New Gods, but like that series, the Eternals was also eventually cancelled without resolving many of its plots, most particularly the Celestials' impending judgment over humanity. Kirby was at least partially inspired by Erich von Däniken's book Chariots of the Gods, a debunked 1968 non-fiction best-seller, which postulated that ancient aliens gave advanced knowledge to early humans, and were then worshipped as gods.

The Eternals were not originally intended to be part of the normal Marvel canon. However, in issue #15, they battle against an Incredible Hulk-robot (imbued with cosmic powers), and at a subsequent press conference held by New York police questions of whether or not "Doctor Doom and Thor are fighting too" ended that slant, fueling other Marvel Universe story lines that incorporated the series various characters.

Due to the cosmic energy that suffuses an Eternal's body and the nigh-unbreakable mental hold they hold over their bodily processes, the Eternals of Earth are effectively immortal. They live for millennia, do not fatigue from physical exertion, are immune to disease and poison, and unaffected by environmental extremes of cold, heat. Most cannot be injured by conventional weaponry, and even if they are, an Eternal can rapidly regenerate any damage as long as they're able to retain their mental hold over their bodies. The only way to permanently kill an Eternal is to inflict enough damage to spread a significant portion of their body over a wide area.

All Eternals are also superhumanly strong. The limits of their strength can be increased as a result of years of focusing some of their energy towards that purpose.
This same cosmic energy can be channeled for a number of
superhuman abilities. All Eternals can:
Project damaging blasts and/or blinding flashes of energy from their eyes and hands.
Fly (and levitate others.)
Read minds.
Generate illusions.
Teleport vast distances, though doing so leaves most Eternals momentarily fatigued or dazed.
Transmute objects, altering both their shape and composition. This ability is very taxing to most Eternals.

Some Eternals choose to focus on a particular power in order to increased their effectiveness with it.Sersi, for example, has developed the power of transmutation farther than any other Eternal. Additionally, some Eternals choose to focus their cosmic energies into other, non-standard abilities. Ikaris, for example, channels cosmic energy to greatly enhance his senses, while the Interloper uses his to generate fear in others, and Makkari uses his cosmic energies for superspeed.

Monday, September 17, 2007

From the Dust Bin: The Grim Reaper

This two page spread comes from Wonder Comics #13 and features Nedor Comics The Grim Reaper, who first appeared in Fighting Yank #7, Feb.1944, and then moved on to become the cover feature of Wonder Comics, beginning with #1 May, 1944. His origin story was told in Wonder Comics #2 and he continued until Wonder Comics #17; with a single additional appearance in America’s Biggest Comics Book #1.

Bill Norris didn’t have any super-powers, but he used guns and a short sword to battle against America’s war-time enemies, gangsters and other criminals.

1970's Flashback: Omac

I promise that we will get back to some Marvel Flashbacks this very week, but first lets take a quick look at Jack Kirby's One Man Army Corps.

The series Omac (Sept./Oct. 1974) is set in the near future of "the world that's coming", OMAC himself is corporate nobody Buddy Blank who is changed by an A.I. satellite named Brother Eye into the super-powered OMAC.
OMAC works for the Global Peace Agency, a group of faceless people who police the entire world using pacifistic weapons. The world power balance is too dangerous for large armies, so OMAC is used as the muscle for the Global Peace Agency. OMAC only lasted for eight issues before being summarily cancelled prior to the story lines completion. The original character has appeared infrequently since then, but a revised version is currently utilized in the DC Universe.

Friday, September 14, 2007

1970's Flashback: The New Gods

The lynch pin of Jack Kirby's magnum opus, Fourth World saga was DC Comics The New Gods #1 which appeared in February 1971. Encompassing The Forever People, Mister Miracle, and strangely enough Superman's Pal, Jimmy Olsen; The New Gods presented adventures of the warring citizens of the planets New Genesis and Apokolips who call themselves Gods and live outside of normal time and space in a realm called the Fourth World. These New Gods have evolved due to their close proximity to the Source (a primeval form of energy), believed to be one of the ultimate foundations of the universal expression of energy. Along with their superior technology, genetic stability and evolutionary perfection, the denizens of New Genesis and Apokolips are immortal, stronger, faster, and smarter than humans, despite their resemblance.

New Genesis and Apokolips were originally part of the same world [a planet called Urgrund] which was split apart millennia ago following the death of the old gods during Ragnarok. New Genesis is an idyllic world with unspoiled forests, mountains, and rivers which is governed by the benevolent Highfather, while Apokolips is a nightmarish, ruined dystopia filled with machinery and massive fire pits which is ruled by the tyrannic Darkseid.

The New Gods are vulnerable to an unknown substance called Radion whose effects are toxic in sustained amounts or after explosive exposure. The average New God can even be slain by an application of Radion from a blaster or bomb.

The most prominent character of the New Gods rather large cast was Orion, the second son of Darkseid and half brother of Kalibak whose fighting skill and stamina have earned him the nickname "The Dog of War". As the result of a treaty between the two worlds, Orion was raised as the son of Highfather, where he was taught to control his anger, not an easy task given that his heritage boiled with the rage of the brutal and merciless Darkseid. Learning how to control this dark nature consumed much of Orion's youth, but friends among the New Gods (such as Metron & Lightray) helped him redirect his anger and he became the most powerful warrior either world had ever known.

[There is even more Jack Kirby goodness to come, as a single week is insufficient to encompass the entirety of the King of Comics 1970's output. Up next: Omac!]

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Cat-Scratch Fever!

Julie Newmar! Lee Meriwether! Michelle Pfeiffer!

Um, Catwoman ... Catwoman ... Catwoman.

Oh, all right! Eartha Kitt! Catwoman.

Halle Berry starred in the motion picture Catwoman in 2004. That's absolutely the nicest thing that can be said about that film. In other words, if you can't say something nice - don't say anything at all.

Why Berry (aided by the films director) felt the need to pattern herself after Eartha Kitt is beyond me. Kitt made only three appearances as Catwoman during the third season of televisions Batman series in the 1960's, while Newmar was shooting the western McKenna's Gold, and visually Berry's Catwoman had much more in common with Pfeiffer's ragamuffin take on the character anyway.

Had Halle really wanted to channel another black super heroine [she also appeared as the mutant Storm in the X-Men movies], then why didn't she & the producers just option another DC Comics property: The Vixen? That character was similar to Catwoman in many respects, was african-american and even wears a similar hairstyle to the one sported by Berry in her own ultimately poor Catwoman feature. Beats the hell out of me!

By the way, neither Pfeiffer or Kitt really suit my tastes as Selina Kyle/Catwoman, and although former Miss America Meriwether was truly lovely (she only made as single appearance as Catwoman; in the 1966 film that starred TVs Dynamic Duo Adam West & Burt Ward), Julie Newmar owns the role ..... hands down.

No sexier feline has ever squeezed into the skin-tight costume of Catwoman than Ms. Newmar. Now if only American Movie Classics would stop showing Halle Berry's Catwoman all the damn time.

1970's Flashback: Mister Miracle

Like the previously profiled Forever People, Mister Miracle (issue #1; April 1971) was one of four series in Jack Kirby's ambitious Fourth World saga. Supposedly, the character was inspired by the early illusionist career of noted comic book artist Jim Steranko.

Scott Free is the son of Izaya (Highfather of the New Gods), ruler of New Genesis and his wife Avia. As part of a diplomatic accord aimed at preventing a destructive war against the planet Apokolips, Highfather agreed to exchange heirs with the galactic tyrant Darkseid; the exchange guaranteed that neither side would attack the other and so Scott swapped places with Darkseid's second born son Orion. Scott was raised in one of Granny Goodness' infamous "Terror Orphanages" without any knowledge of his own heritage. Scott eventually rebelled against the totalitarian ideology of Apokolips, and suffered bouts of self-loathing due to his "inability" to fit in. He was later influenced by Metron to imagine a future beyond Darkseid. Scott joined with a small band of pupils who were secretly tutored by the rebel Himon, a New Genesian living on Apokolips. This was where he met fellow pupil Big Barda, who would later become his wife.

Eventually, Scott Free escaped Apokolips and fled to Earth. This escape, long anticipated and planned for by Darkseid, nullified the peace accord between Darkseid and Highfather and gave Darkseid the excuse he needed to revive the war with New Genesis. On Earth, Scott became the protégé of a circus escape artist, Thaddeus Brown, whose stage name was Mister Miracle. Brown was very impressed with Scott's skills (supplemented with various advanced technological devices he had taken from Apokolips). Scott befriended Brown's assistant, a dwarf named Oberon. When Thaddeus Brown was murdered, Scott Free assumed the heroic identity of Mister Miracle. Barda later followed Scott to Earth, and the two used their powers, equipment, and skills in the war against Darkseid. Eventually, Scott returned to Apokolips and won his freedom by legal means, through trial by combat.

Aided by magic-level technology and his own physical prowess, Scott Free/Mr. Miracle is an incredible escape-artist.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Review: Agents of Atlas

This review could have been passed off as another of my 1970's Flashbacks, because way back in June 1978 Marvel Comics published What If?#9, in which several heroes from unrelated stories they had previously released back when the company was called Atlas Comics [1950's] gathered to combat some Cold War villains (including an early incursion by alien Skrulls). Gorilla-Man, Marvel Boy, Venus and the Human Robot (currently referred to as M-11) all originally appeared in post WWII publications of Atlas/Marvel. Alongside retro hero 3-D Man [who had first debuted in Marvel Premiere #35-37; 1977] these oddball heroes were presented as an out-of-continuity group of 1950's Avengers.

Skipping ahead to October 2006, these characters were revived in a popular six issue mini-series set both in continuity AND in the present day Marvel Universe. With the exception of the absent 3-D Man, all of the above named characters returned, now joined by FBI agent Jimmy Woo and Sub-Mariner's Atlantean cousin, Namora.

The newly christened Agents of Atlas, reform after having been disbanded following an event involving President Eisenhower in the 1950's. Gorilla-Man, now an agent of the super-spy agency called S.H.I.E.L.D., rescues his aged comrade Jimmy Woo, who was severely injured in a raid on the secretive Atlas Foundation. Gorilla-Man [the former Ken Hale] has recruited team-mates Marvel Boy and M-11 to aid him in restoring Woo to his younger self and they engage what might be their old nemesis the Yellow Claw.

Writer Jeff Parker, and artists Tomm Coker & Leonard Kirk recapture the magic of simpler times and take the reader on a wonderfully fun adventure that plays comfortably with characters and situations from the past, but set firmly within today's modern story structures. Check out Agents of Atlas which is available in a collected trade edition ... asap.

1970's Flashback: Kamandi

Post-apocalyptic futures were all the rage back in the 1970's, both in comics and movies with feature films like Logan's Run, Soylent Green, The Omega Man and several movie sequels to Planet of the Apes, just to name a few.

Jack Kirby crafted one of his most successful post-Marvel series by mining this genre, when he introduced Kamandi #1 in 1972. The Last Boy on Earth's world is set on a future Earth following an event known as "The Great Disaster", where humans are a persecuted minority in a world ruled by intelligent, highly evolved animals. The evolved animals who stand on their hind legs and have human-level intelligence and humanoid hands; include gorillas, tigers, dogs, lions, cheetahs, and other mammals. Some animals have not changed their physical appearance but are still intelligent and can speak; including snakes, dolphins and killer whales. Certain previously smaller animals have acquired gigantic size or been mutated in a variety of ways; such as insects and crabs. Horses have not been affected.

Although there are some exceptions, like Kamandi's mutant friend Ben Boxer, most humans in the series do not talk and are dependent upon the intelligent animals. The nature of the "Great Disaster" was never fully explained, but it "had something to do with radiation". In Kamandi # 16 an explanation is given for the talking animals. A gorilla doctor reads the diary of a dead human physician that was written at the time the Great Disaster occurred. As a battle rages between the gorilla and the tiger factions within the ruins of Washington D.C., the gorilla doctor reads about how Dr. Michael Grant invented a chemical called cortexin. The chemical apparently spilled into the water supply, and when the animals ingested it, it gave them greater intelligence. These effects have been passed down to the animals' descendants. Many of the original intelligent animals came from the Washington Zoo. The gorilla doctor successfully recreates this chemical. While he is dying he sees the same effects occur with the formerly animalistic humans; this implies that perhaps humans will someday regain their lost intelligence.

Jack Kirby remained with the series through issue #40, but Kamandi continued until issue #59 (two partially completed additional issues were collected later in DC's Cancelled Comic Cavalcade).

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

1970's Flashback: The Forever People

The Forever People are a group of adolescent heroes from the planet New Genesis (home of the New Gods; who well take a look at later on) and who oppose the evil Darkseid on our Earth. In addition to having their own individual powers, abilities and super-scientific equipment, the entire group can join together to become the powerful hero known as the Infinity-Man [by using a Mother Box] to handle particularly dangerous threats. The Forever People's method of transportation was a technological device called a "Super-Cycle."

Beautiful Dreamer - Dreamer has psionic powers, with which she can create illusions. She has also been able, like other New Gods, to sense fluctuations within the Source.

Big Bear - Big Bear has superhuman strength and can mentally alter the density of objects. In Forever People vol. 1, #7, he was shown to have been responsible for the historical event that led to the legend of King Arthur.

Mark Moonrider - In addition to his leadership skills, Mark also has a Megaton Touch, which allows him to shoot bolts of energy from his hands.

Serifan – Serifan is the youngest member of the group, and he has no super-powers, making him the most vulnerable. He dresses like a traditional cowboy and always carries "cosmic cartridges" for his six-shooters which possess numerous specific functions. Although all of the cartridges have never been catalogued, those seen in action have uses such as being able to generate an anti-gravitational force, create force-fields and tune the wielder into the "cosmic Harmony" that is linked to the Source.

Vykin – Vykin has magnetic powers which allow him to attract or repel objects of either iron or steel. He also has an innate talent with machines and electronics.

The characters first appeared in their own title, The Forever People (Feb. 1971) which was a part of Jack Kirby’s Fourth World concept. The series lasted eleven issues, but ended on a cliffhanger. In the final issue, the young heroes summoned Infinity-Man, swapping places with him (by jointly touching the Mother Box and shouting “Tarru” - see above) on a distant planet named Adon. Infinity-Man was seemingly destroyed in combat with Devilance the Pursuer, leaving the Forever People stranded there.

Monday, September 10, 2007

1970's Flashback: The Demon

Hey everybody! It's Jack Kirby week, so each day we'll take a look at some very cool titles that the King introduced in the 1970's, starting with a run of classics made after his famous jump from Marvel to DC.

First up is The Demon who first appeared in Sept. 1972, shortly after Kirby's various Fourth World series were cancelled [more on those starting tomorrow]. Etrigan was originally summoned by the wizard Merlin as part of a last-ditch defense of Camelot against the evil witch, Morgana le Fay. When it became clear that the kingdom would fall regardless, Merlin sent the demon away and changed him into an immortal human named Jason Blood to wait until he was summoned.

"Change! Change, O form of man!Release the might from fleshy mire!Boil the blood in heart of fire!Gone! Gone! -- the form of man --Rise, the Demon Etrigan!!"

Centuries later, Jason was called to the crypt of Merlin and discovered a poem that could change him into Etrigan. Unfortunately, he was followed by the long-lived Morgana who lusts for Merlin's secrets. Etrigan/Blood later gained another enemy in Klarion the Witch Boy, a permanently prepubescent mage who creates trouble with his magic.

Etrigan, is an actual demon from Hell who, despite his violent tendencies, usually finds himself allied to the forces of good, primarily because of the alliances between certain heroes of the DC Universe and Jason Blood. Etrigan resembles a squat, muscular human with orange (or yellow) skin, horns, red eyes, and ears resembling bat wings. Jason Blood is a tall, suave man with dark hair and a lined face. The Demons powers include: super-human physical attributes, extrasensory powers, a regenerative healing factor, magical powers, precognition, telepathy,Immortality,and he can project flames of mystical hellfire.

Friday, September 7, 2007

1970's Flashback (Extra): Dave Cockrum & The Legion of Super-Heroes

Hard to believe that Dave Cockrum has been gone for almost a year now, but since it was announced on Newsarama today that legendary writer Jim Shooter will be returning to script new tales of DC Comics The Legion of Super-Heroes [a title that he first penned when he was a mere 14 years old], it got me reminiscing about old Dave and his spiffy 1970's run on Legion. Just prior to his historic work on Marvel Comics X-Men, Cockrum redesigned many of the staid costumes that the youthful Legionnaires had worn since their introduction in Adventure Comics #247 (April 1958).

Cockrum's work made such a splash that it is still being felt today, he even participated in a memorable homage to his Legion work at the "Distinguished Competition" by premiering the Shi'Ar Imperial Guard [a Legion knockoff] in his final issue of X-Men; before being replaced by John Byrne.
I'll happily go on record and state that I truly love Dave Cockrum's work whether it's his X-Men, Blackhawk, Avengers, Futurians or most specifically his wonderful Legion of Super-Heroes. I was most fortunate to see him on two separate occasions when he appeared at Heroescon in Charlotte, NC and prior to his untimely death last year. Dave Cockrum set the bar very high with his Legion stuff and nobody has ever come close to equalling it.

1970's Flashback: Shanna the She-Devil

Shanna the She-Devil was created by Carole Seuling, with Steve Gerber and George Tuska on art, she first appeared in Shanna the She-Devil #1 (Dec. 1972).

Shanna O'Hara was born in Africa to a diamond miner named Gerald O'Hara & his wife Patricia. She spent her childhood in the jungles of Zaire. When Shanna was six, her father accidentally killed her mother while hunting a rogue leopard. This traumatic incident led to Shanna's lifelong crusade against the use of firearms. Following her mothers death, Shanna moved to the United States and grew up to become an accomplished Olympic athlete, specializing in competitive swimming and track and field. She then became a licensed veterinarian.

Shanna began work as a zoologist and she raised many animals, including a female leopard named Julani, who was later killed by a zoo guard. This incident led Shanna to to take Julani's cubs, Ina and Biri, to the Dahomey Reserve in Africa.

Upon returning to Africa, Shanna became more attuned to nature, by patrolling the jungle and living freely in the wildlands. She began wearing nothing else but Julani's fur pelt, to help with the raising of the cubs. In the jungle, Shanna became more at home with herself and her native element, all the while protecting the Dahomey Reserve from poachers as Shanna the She-Devil.
[Inset panel by Tony DeZuniga.]
Next: A full week of Jack Kirby Flashbacks.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

1970's Flashback: The Warlord

DC Comics The Warlord was a sword and sorcery series, created by Mike Grell, that debuted in First Issue Special #8, (November 1975) before moving into its own title.

The title of The Warlord comes from the book’s lead character, Travis Morgan, who was given the name during the first few issues as he fought for the freedom of the underground world of Skartaris.

Vietnam veteran & SR-71 pilot Col. Travis Morgan passed through a hole in the earth's crust while flying over the north pole and landed in the hidden realm of Skartaris, a place where dinosaurs roamed and all manner of fantastic peoples and creatures existed. Travis Morgan became the Warlord as he fought villains such as the evil sorcerer Deimos as well as various tyrant kings. He was joined in this endeavor by scantily-dressed female barbarian Tara (who eventually became his wife) and gained various sidekicks including Machiste, Shakira, and his magic-wielding daughter Jennifer Morgan (who also came from the modern world).

A new Warlord series began in 2006 and attempted to reboot the series premise, but it was not a popular or critical success. This version was cancelled after ten issues.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

From the Dust Bin: Supermouse

October 1942 proved to be an auspicious month for rodents, as two separate characters calling themselves "Supermouse" appeared, although Standard Comics version was first out of the pack. Paul Terry opted to change his mouse's moniker [after four animated shorts had already been produced] rather than promote someone else's character, so his newly named Mighty Mouse went on to cartoon glory.
Supermouse (aka The Big Cheese) was first introduced in Coo Coo Comics #1. Supermouse was created by noted cartoonist Kin Platt. Together these two equally appealing mice became the first two ongoing funny animal superheroes. Although they may have started under the same name, they were two entirely different characters.

Soupie (as he was often called) had a wife named Mabel and a nephew named Roscoe. His arch-enemy was Terrible Tom, a cat. He got his super powers by eating super cheese (which was made from the milk of a super cow); and quite a few stories, especially in the early days, revolved around others either depriving him of his stash or making use of it themselves.

Supermouse went on to become one of the most successful funny animal superheroes ever to come out of comic books. By the time that Coo Coo Comics fell by the wayside in the early 50's, Soupie had gotten his own self-titled comic where he continued until 1958. It ended only when the company itself (which had published as Standard, Better, Nedor and several others names over the years) finally folded. Now somewhat forgotten, Supermouse definitely earned a permanent place in comics history.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Review: Terra Obscura

Alan Moore will reportedly leave the world of comics behind upon publication of his final League of Extraordinary Gentlemen volume, "The Black Dossier" later this year. Mr. Moore has been widely [and deservedly] hailed as a modern comics master for his superlative writing on such diverse fare as Miracle Man, Swamp Thing, V For Vendetta, Supreme, several notable Superman stories, the above mentioned League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and of course Watchmen. Moore even managed to spawn his own line of comics under the banner of America's Best Comics (lifted from the 1940's Nedor Comics title). Promethea, Top 10, Tomorrow Stories, etc. all earned high praise from Mr. Moore's large fan base, but in his Tom Strong title, Moore again borrowed from the old Nedor company by re-introducing their popular WWII heroes (now in the public domain; and thus free for the taking) to a new generation of readers.
In Tom Strong #11 (Jan. 2001) Moore revealed the location of a parallel Earth, identical to ours but located on the other side of the universe, where the Nedor characters lived, including an analog to Strong himself - Tom Strange (originally known as Doc Strange in the golden age). Tom Strong freed the heroes from decades of suspended animation and together they defeated the alien who had entrapped them. Following this successful relaunch, Moore crafted two separate 6-issue miniseries that continued the tale of these heroes on "Terra Obscura"; as their Earth was known. Co-written by Peter Hogan and wonderfully illustrated by Yanick Paquette, with Karl Story, the 2003 & 2004 series presented new tales of Black Terror, Fighting Yank, Pyroman, Miss Masque and others. My only quibble with these stories [and Moore himself] was in how quickly so many of these classic mystery men were "dispensed" with throughout the 12 issues (now available in trade paperback editions). Some questionable lifestyle choices were foisted on a couple of these venerable characters as well. Still, a terrific reading experience awaits any fan of golden age heroes, pulp-style storytelling, or superheroic adventures in the collected volumes of Terra Obscura.
(Above) The Grim Reaper dies in Terra Obscura (Vol. I) #1.

Monday, September 3, 2007

From the Dust Bin: Dick Devens, King of Futuria

Like my earlier look back at obscure Nedor property [Jill Trent], this science fiction adventurer managed only a handful of appearances before being relegated to the dust bin of comics history. Dick Devens (aka King of Futuria) was featured in Mystery Comics #4 (1944) and also ran in Wonder Comics 11-14 (all in 1947).

I can't tell you much about the character, but the strip apparently featured strong good-girl artwork throughout its brief life. I've searched for more information on this anthology strip, but all that I've managed to locate is this splash page.

1970's Flashback: Son of Satan

The Son of Satan first appeared in Ghost Rider #1 (September 1973), and was then featured in the "Marvel Spotlight" series issues #12–24; before moving on to his own short-lived Son of Satan series.

Daimon Hellstrom was the son of a demon (which called itself Satan) and a mortal woman. Daimon and his sister, Satana, were trained by their father in the art of magic, tapping into the power granted them by their dark heritage. However, while Satana embraced her heritage, Daimon struggled to cling to his humanity. When their mother discovered what her husband really was, she was driven insane. Daimon and Satana were separated and placed in different homes after his mother was institutionalized and his father vanished back to Hell. Daimon grew up in an orphanage, never hearing a word from his father or sister. He became a professor of anthropology at a prestigious university. He then set himself up as an occult investigator and defender of humanity, battling dark arcane forces—primarily those of his father—under the name of the "Son of Satan".
His supernatural powers included; Dark magic,fire projection,the ability to heal others & peak human physical capabilities.

1970's Flashback: Ghost Rider

Ghost Rider first appeared in Marvel Spotlight #5 (Aug. 1972). He was created by Gary Friedrich and Mike Ploog.

Johnny Blaze was a daredevil stunt-motorcyclist who spent his early years in the Quentin Carnival where his parents appeared in a stunt show with star Craig "Crash" Simpson.
Blaze’s mother abandoned the family when he was young and his father later died in a stunt, Johnny was then adopted by Crash and Mona Simpson. Crash soon became a father figure to Blaze, and upon learning of Crash's life-threatening cancer, Johnny despondently turned to the occult for answers. His arcane studies led him to a spell which supposedly could summon the devil himself, although Johnny was unaware that he had actually summoned the demon, Mephisto. Desperate to save his adoptive-father, Blaze sold his soul to Mephisto in return for Crash's cancer to be cured.

Crash Simpson's cancer was cured, but he was killed in a stunt-gone-bad; trying to jump over 22 cars. Mephisto was stymied in his attempt to claim Johnny’s soul, when Roxanne Simpson [Crash’s daughter] proclaimed her love for him. However, Blaze was unaware that Mephisto had bonded him with the demon Zarathos as an act of revenge for not being able to obtain Johnny's soul for himself. Johnny transformed into Ghost Rider, a leather-clad skeleton, his head cloaked in a sheath of flame, the night after Crash's death. While Johnny still had his soul, he was forced to punish the wicked upon Mephisto's demands whenever needed.

Blaze became a supernatural bounty hunter for Mephisto. Whenever he was in the presence of evil he would transform into the Ghost Rider, to exact the devil's revenge, returning the evil to Hell. Blaze was not completely lost in the transformation however, and would also help the innocent when they were in danger. His supernatural powers included; Super-human strength,invulnerability to heat and flame,an ability to project both regular and ethereal flames,the ability to travel between interdimensional realms and along any surface,he wields a magical chain & rides a flaming motorcycle, and he has a powerful "Penance Stare" which withers the souls of his victims.
Ghost Rider was made into a 2007 film starring Nicholas Cage as Johnny Blaze.