Friday, November 30, 2007

A New Form of Chinese Water Torture Unveiled

Whenever China has any opportunity to instigate trouble, or to just be a 'thorn in the U.S. side', it takes that opportunity. So again demonstrating that it is the biggest, rogue power in the world, China has refused permission for a U.S. aircraft carrier and accompanying vessels to visit Hong Kong for a long-planned Thanksgiving holiday visit for "unspecified reasons", the U.S. State Department said on Wednesday. The USS Kitty Hawk group and its crew of 8,000 airmen and sailors had been expected in Hong Kong on Wednesday, but will now spend the holiday on the South China Sea. Hundred of relatives of crew members of the Kitty Hawk had flown to Hong Kong to celebrate Thanksgiving with them. Hong Kong, especially its Wanchai bar district, has been a regular port of call for U.S. sailors on "R & R" (rest and recuperation) since the Vietnam War.

While admittedly not as serious as China's attempt to poison the youth of America with lead contaminated toys and baby items, the Chinese continue to act more like a country at war with the U.S. than one at peace.

All of this comes in the wake of the U.S.A.’s discovery of tons of imported Chinese food items that were contaminated with pesticides, and literally tons of tainted pet food containing melamine, a chemical contained in plastics and fertilizers.

Not to mention, the Chinese government previously denying entry to port for a U.S. vessel seeking safe harbor from a dangerous sea-storm.

Well, that EARNS the China the “Bad Conduct” Award; henceforth known as the Chop-Chop in honor of a golden age great who’s not likely to be revived anytime soon - - - for obvious reasons.

Strangely appropriate for this situation though. Cover images [above;left] taken from Quality Comics Blackhawk #18 (Spring 1948), Blackhawk #22 (December 1948) and Blackhawk #31 (June 1950).

[Why the hell we continue to do business with certain countries is beyond me. I say declare a moratorium on all inbound Chinese goods for a year or two and see how they fare, temporarily, without our considerable financial assistance. And we could always seize any Chinese assets stateside as recompense for their “undeclared economic assault”.]

Profile Antics: Milo Manara

Maurilio (aka Milo) Manara is an Italian comic book creator (writer and artist), best known for his erotic approach to the medium. Some of his notable works include: The Adventures of Giuseppe Bergman, Butterscotch, Click & Indian Summer. Manara's works vary in their explicitness, but the general mood is playful rather than misogynistic. His skill in creating atmosphere, his obvious talent, and his occasional excursions into more "mainstream" stories, have helped to lend him an air of artistic respectability.

Curiously, Manara does not enjoy the popularity in his native Italy that exists in France, where he is considered one of the most important comics creators in the world.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

About Monkey Boy (his nickname; not mine)!

Frank Cho is one talented bastard. His syndicated Liberty Meadows comic strip (and later Image Comics title) is real a laugh riot with its anthropomorphic cast, smoking hot chicks & pop culture references. His artistic skills were bound to get the attention of the major comics publishers and Marvel Comics quickly won out, landing Mr. Cho for several prominent fill-in issues before he committed himself to the top-selling, Brian Bendis written, The Mighty Avengers.

If you haven't heard, the perpetually late series has ultimately lost Mr. Cho, as he has left the series after completing the 6th issue. Reportedly each issue was taking poor Frank about ten weeks to complete. What a whiner! I mean twenty-two pages of comics illustration averages out to only three pages a week at that rate.

Sadly, for our pal Frank, I can't imagine Jack Kirby, John Romita, Big John Buscema, Don Heck, Dick Ayers, Steve Ditko, Marie Severin, or anybody else from the former House of Ideas complaining too damn much about the generous amount of time Herr Cho was allotted to turn in his "heavy" workload. Frank's problem comes down to one simple thing. Overcommitment!

He put his own Liberty Meadows on hold to tackle his various Marvel stuff, but there never seemed to be a single week during his time on Mighty Avengers, where some new Cho-stuff wasn't solicited. Covers or t-shirts for convention programs, limited editions prints, uhm, Jungle Girl for another publisher [which truth be told, is nothing more than a rip-off of his own Marvel title, Shanna the She-Devil].

So, yes, I remain grudgingly a Frank Cho fan, but please - Frank - buddy - henceforth, how about a little .... FOCUS.

Only George Perez could maintain the kind of workload that you attempted, and he even injured himself doing it - albeit late in his career. You're still a young guy, dude!

And about that [photo; above], Frank is lovingly caressing the mighty fine rear end of LianaK, a Canadian television entertainer who hosts the talk show, Ed's Night Party and travels to comic conventions in various costumes that show off her "assets." Lovely Liana Kerzner regularly posts on Frank's own Apes & Babes forum. Hell, I gotta say that for the lucky Mr. Cho, his getting to perform a pat down on the curvy cutie amounts to some seriously cool fringe benefits.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

1970's Flashback: The Joker

The Joker is a master criminal with a clown-like appearance, including bleached white skin, red lips, and green hair. Initially portrayed as a violent sociopath, who in his first several appearances, murdered close to three dozen people for his own amusement, the Joker, originally introduced in Batman #1 (1940), began to be written as a goofy trickster-thief. That characterization continued throughout the late 1950s and 1960s before the character was again depicted as a vicious killer, beginning in Batman #251, with "The Joker's Five Way Revenge", the Joker returns to his roots as a homicidal maniac who casually murders people on a whim, while enjoying battles of wits with Batman.

The Joker then received his own nine-issue series during the 1970s in which he faced off against a variety of superheroes and supervillains. Although he was the protagonist of the series, certain issues feature just as much murder as those in which he was the antagonist. Of the nine issues, he commits murder in seven.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007


Hiro continues the pursuit of his father's killer, while Claire deals with the aftermath of her father's death. After tracking down the woman in the company photo, Peter travels to Primatech Paper in Texas with his new friend to destroy the virus, which will kill 93% of the world's population in the future -- but not everything is what it seems. Niki returns to Micah with bad news. To right a wrong, Monica puts her abilities to the test, with tragic results. Meanwhile, Dr. Suresh continues his slide towards the dark side of the company by reviving Noah Bennett, using Claire's own blood and outside of New York, Maya must finally choose between Alejandro and Sylar.

Monday, November 26, 2007

1970's Flashback: The Beast

Created by writer Stan Lee and artist/co-writer Jack Kirby, the Beast first appeared in X-Men #1 (September 1963). As a mutant, Beast possesses superhuman physical strength and agility and oversized hands and feet, having an ape-like basis to his powers. Despite his savage appearance, he is a brilliant man of the arts and sciences; he is a world authority on biochemistry and genetics, the X-Men's medical doctor, and the science and mathematics instructor at the Xavier Institute (the X-Men's headquarters and school for young mutants). He is also a mutant political activist. Fighting his bestial instincts and fears of social rejection, Beast dedicates his physical and mental gifts to the creation of a better world for man and mutant. He also has a witty sense of humor.

During 1972, in Marvel's Amazing Adventures #11, Beast underwent a radical change in appearance, mutating into the familiar blue, furry creature that he has remained ever since. Having left the X-Men, Hank McCoy becomes a research scientist at the Brand Corporation, a genetics research facility. There Hank isolates a "hormonal extract" that allows anyone to become a mutant for a short period of time, and uses the mutagenic serum on himself to disguise his appearance while foiling an attempt to steal his research. However, he waits too long to reverse the process, leaving him permanently transformed. He has grown gray fur (which later turns blue) all over his body and acquired sharp ears, elongated canine teeth, claws, the ability to run on walls and ceilings like a spider, enhanced senses, an accelerated healing factor, and a feral side he struggles to control. He briefly joins the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants when Mastermind wipes out his memory, but quickly recovers. When the Beast was wounded, he was aided by Patsy Walker, and then reunited with his old girlfriend Vera Cantor. Back at Brand Laboratories, Hank discovers that his assistant/girlfriend Linda Donaldson is a Communist spy, and the confrontation, though heartbreaking, is inevitable. Over the next decade Beast would appear on the roster of several teams in titles ranging from Avengers to Defenders to X-Factor.

Trivia: TV's Frasier, Kelsey Grammer portrayed Hank McCoy, the Beast in the motion picture
X-Men: The Last Stand.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Classic Cuties: Lynda Carter

Former Miss World USA 1972, Lynda Carter's acting career did not really take off until she landed her starring role in the Wonder Woman television series. Her earnest performance endeared her to fans and critics and the series lasted for three seasons (1975-1979). Thirty years after taking on the role, Carter continues to be so closely identified with Wonder Woman, that it has proven difficult for producers to find a suitable candidate to play the character in subsequently aborted productions (work on the most recent attempt was announced in 2005; and is currently stalled by the Hollywood writers strike).

Still stunning at age 56, and after many years away from the spotlight, Lynda Carter returned to major feature film roles in 2005 with appearances in the big screen remake of The Dukes of Hazzard and as Principal Powers in Sky High. Carter has also appeared in an episode of Smallville this season.

Despite showing some skin in the 70's schlock, b-movie "Bobbie Jo and the Outlaw", it has always been disappointing [to me] that Lynda failed to pose for Playboy magazine.

I'm just saying!

Friday, November 23, 2007

In Memoriam: Gordon Scott & Herman Brix

I was reading through an obituary list of notable celebrities, sports figures, authors, statesmen, etc. today when I noticed that two famous movie Tarzan actors had passed away in 2007:

Gordon Scott (April 30) played Tarzan in five feature films, including two (Tarzan's Greatest Adventure & Tarzan the Magnificent) which are considered to be among the best Tarzan films ever made. He was 80 years old when he died from complications resulting from multiple heart surgeries. Scott was memorable for his muscular physique, probably the most buff guy to ever assay the role and for his string of Italian sword epics. Three of Scott's early tv Tarzan pilots were cobbled together into Tarzan and the Trappers in 1960.

Herman Brix (February 24) was an Olympic shot-putting medalist who played Tarzan in 1935. Brix was edged out of the role by Johnny Weissmuller (who soon became a major star), after being injured in another film. Burroughs Enterprises later cast Brix as Tarzan in their independently produced The New Adventures of Tarzan & Tarzan and the Green Goddess. Brix portrayal of the ape man is the only time that the character was accurately depicted in film. His Tarzan was a mannered, cultured, soft-spoken, well-educated English lord who spoke several languages and didn't grunt. Brix later used the name "Bruce Bennett" for many of his other film appearances. He was 100 years old when he died from complications following a broken hip.

At the Movies ..... Enchanted

Enchanted is a new Disney Studios release that uses live action, traditional animation, and CGI film techniques to tell the story of Giselle (Amy Adams) who lives in the blissfully animated world of Andalasia, where magical beings frolic freely and musical interludes punctuate every interaction. Though Giselle is currently engaged to the handsome, valiant (and bumbling) Prince Edward (James Marsden), her fate takes a turn for the worse when his evil stepmother, Queen Narissa (Susan Sarandon), throws her through a magic portal, apparently to her doom. But Giselle's plunge into darkness actually lands her in a strange new world - unforgiving New York City. As the cruelty of this new place wears down the fairy-tale idealism of the once carefree princess, the frightened Giselle soon finds herself falling for a friendly, flawed, and soon-to-be-engaged divorce lawyer Rob Philip (Patrick Dempsey), whose blend of compassion and street smarts help her survive and build a happy life in a harsh, cynical, and jaded town. While Rob is initially a difficult host, he and his 6-year-old daughter Morgan (Rachel Covey) also begin to be won over by the strange beauty's charms.

The movie is very well cast and features tons of "Easter Egg-style" script references, visual nods and cameos by some previous Disney princesses and others; although you wouldn't recognize most of them from their voiceover work on such animated classics as The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast or Pocahontas. [Google the trivia aspects of the movie for this info.] Amy Adams really breathes life into Giselle and totally sells the notion that a fairy tale cartoon princess could exist in the real world. You'll want to meet Giselle and become caught up in her innocent point of view. Each of the other actors adds something wonderful to the film and Patrick Dempsey rises above his 'Grey's Anatomy Dr. McDreamy' status with a nice turn as the jaded Rob, who eventually softens enough to accept the world of possibility that Giselle opens for him.

See this movie with your family or loved one and you'll find yourself ... Enchanted, for real!

From the Dust Bin: Suicide Squad

Spinning out of the Legends crossover, mini-series of the time, writer John Ostrander revamped an old DC Comics back-up feature when he launched his long-running Suicide Squad series (66 issues) in 1987. However, instead of the previous four member team of government operatives, which was headed up by WWII veteran Rick Flag, the new Squad was comprised almost entirely of super-villains who were promised amnesty in return for covertly taking on dangerous (or even fatal) assignments on behalf of the U.S. government. Think Mission:Impossible for the superhero set! The series ended in 1992.

Suicide Squad was later re-launched with a similar premise in 2001 by the team of Peter Tomasi (editor) Keith Giffen (Script), Paco Medina (Pencils), Joe Sanchez (Inks), John Kalisz (Colors), Bill Oakley (Letters). This second volume managed to last only a single year (12 issues), but with respect to the first series, this version was much more to my personal tastes. Keith Giffen deployed his trademark tongue-in-cheek humor throughout the run and standout artist Paco Medina has been the only illustrator to make me enjoy any manga/anime-styled flavorings in traditional comics. Sadly the series never clicked with fans and the book ended with a terrific cliffhanger. Squad controllers Frank Rock and Bulldozer (purportedly the former Easy Co. vets of WWII) were revealed as ….. well, let’s just say they weren’t actually who they had been made out to be. I don’t know if this aspect was ever picked up in another title for a resolution. The title had really lived up to its name as the body count was exceptionally high. Recruits Big Sir, Bolt, Clock King, Cluemaster, Eliza, Havana, Larvanaut, Modem, Multi-Man, Putty and Reactron all perished during various Squad missions, leaving only Blackstarr, Deadshot, Killer Frost & Major Disaster still standing at the conclusion of the run.

Proving that you can't keep a cool idea down for long, John Ostrander is now back with yet another new limited series, Suicide Squad: Raise the Flag, which seems to be nothing more than a rehash of certain elements from his first series and which were also factored into latter parts of the Giffen/Medina volume. Nothing is really new enough here to make me recommend the book to anyone, but to each his own.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving!

This year (as always) I am "thankful" for Denise, Ashley, Ian, Stacy, Bandit, David, Joanna, Olivia, Jack, Gracie, Sam, Mom, Dad, Grandma, Grandpa, and the entire extended clan on both sides of the aisle, Gary, Josh, James, Harrison, J.D., Serena, another David, John, Steve, Richard, Stephen, Mary, Cathy, and the extensive network of acquaintances at work, my old service buddies & all the super-fine chicks populating the planet.

Eat well, but not too much, folks!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Fun with Greg Horn!

Marvel has solicited orders for Ms. Marvel Vol. 4: Monster Smash HC (or hard cover to you neophytes) for February 2008, featuring a spiffy cover by superstar artist Greg Horn and done in his signature fully painted style.

Three different eras for Carol Danvers are represented on the cover, although they are all jumbled together. This is the fun part!

I quickly cut and pasted the trio of images into their appropriate costume order and made a choose-it-yourself poster for Carol fans.
I prefer the first Ms. Marvel uniform [above; left] from the original 1970's series over her second and more familiar suit (above; middle) the third outfit (above; right) is from her time as "Binary" in X-Men.
Which is your favorite?

1970's Flashback: Black Lightning

Black Lightning was the first black superhero that starred in his own DC Comics series. He debuted in Black Lightning #1 (April 1977), by Tony Isabella and Trevor Von Eeden. The series was cancelled (with #11) in 1978 as part of a general large-scale pruning of the company's superhero titles known as the DC Implosion (which also cancelled the pending debut of Vixen, which would have been DC's first title starring a black female superhero).

A gold medal-winning Olympic decathlete, Jefferson Pierce returned to his old neighborhood (the notorious Suicide Slum in the proud city of Metropolis) to become a high school teacher. Appalled by the violence he saw, Pierce tried to intervene on behalf of his students, but quickly learned that "the 100", the local criminal organization, objected violently to any such interference. Peter Gambi, a family friend and tailor, designed the costume and electronic power belt of Black Lightning. Pierce donned a mask, an Afro wig, a hip way of talking, and Gambi's outfit to become Black Lightning, defender of the poor and underprivileged. Black Lightning's belt was later destroyed while he was imprisoned by his enemies, but Pierce discovered that he had internalized the electrical power and no longer needed the belt.

Black Lightning played a major role in the first Batman and the Outsiders series and is currently a member of the Justice League of America.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

1970's Flashback: Justice, Inc. (& The Avenger)

Justice, Inc. was published by DC Comics in (May–June 1975) and lasted until issue #4. This series adapted the eponymous novel and then the all-too-brief series continued with original stories which featured the Avenger (and his group of assistants) battling against criminal threats which took place during the same pulp era that the original Avenger novels were released. Joe Kubert drew the cover for the premiere issue. Dennis O'Neill and Al McWillams turned in a superlative first issue, which every fan of the character should seek out, but Jack Kirby provided the artwork for issues #2–4.
Warner Paperback Library had begun reprinting the original pulp magazine stories in 1972, and near the end of the series newer novels featuring the characters were issued. The Avenger is actually Richard Henry Benson, a globe trotting adventurer who decided to settle down and raise a family. In his first adventure, Benson's plans for a peaceful life are shattered when his wife and young daughter are killed by a criminal conspiracy. The shock of this loss has a bizarre effect on Benson. His hair and the skin of his face turn white, and the flesh of his face became malleable, like clay. Towards the end of the original series, the author was directed to eliminate Benson's facial affliction in the hopes of keeping the dwindling audience for the magazine.

Benson vows to avenge himself on the villains, and to fight for all those who have suffered at the hands of criminals. His strange facial condition is actually an advantage for he can sculpt his face into a likeness of any person. With skin and hair dyes, and colored contact lenses, Benson becomes the world's greatest master of disguise, within limits.
Like Doc Savage, Benson relies on a variety of special gadgets to help him overcome criminals. These include knockout gas bombs, miniature radios, and his special pistol "Mike" and throwing knife "Ike". Benson's trick was to shoot someone so that his bullet just touched their heads and knocked them out.

During the course of the series, Benson also gathers a number of assistants to help him in his adventures. These are all people who have suffered loss because of criminals, and who have various specialized skills: Fergus MacMurdie (known as "Mac") is a stereotypical Scotsman who is also a gifted pharmacist and chemist. His family was killed by racketeers, leaving Mac embittered and vengeful.
Algernon Heathcote Smith (known as "Smitty") is a gigantic man of incredible strength. Smitty looks slow and stupid but he is actually a genius with electronics. He was framed for a crime he did not commit.
Nellie Gray is a beautiful, delicate-looking young woman who is actually an expert at jujitsu and other martial arts. Her archaeologist father was killed by criminals for a treasure he had found.
Josh and Rosabel Newton are an African American couple whose employers were killed by criminals. They often go undercover as domestic servants, making use of the stereotypes of the time to hide their investigative abilities. The Avenger series is notable its presentation of minorities. Many of the pulp magazines of the time are well known for racist stereotypes but Josh and Rosabel are always presented as brave, intelligent people of good character.
Cole Wilson joins the group near the end of the series. He is much less distinctive than Benson's other assistants and has a light hearted manner that contrasts the Avenger's serious tone.

Trivia: Paul Ernst wrote most of the original Avenger stories under the Street and Smith pseudonym "Kenneth Robeson" which was also used by the publisher for their Doc Savage stories that were primarily written by author Lester Dent. Ron Goulart wrote the 12 new Avenger novels that were published by Warner Paperback Library.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Love & Rockets ..... annually henceforth!

Fantagraphics has announced that Los Bros Hernandez (Jaime, Gilbert & Mario) will not release the planned 21st issue of their critical and cult favorite series [currently in its second iteration] Love and Rockets. Instead, following an extended hiatus, the 3rd volume of this award winning comic will premiere at next years Comicon International in San Diego and then fly back into comics shops in August 2008 as a 100 page annual tome priced at $14.99.

Fans of this stellar slice of life series, with a touch of the surreal, will have to endure the long wait, but it is certainly nice to know that the creators aren't throwing in the towel. Fantagraphics publisher Gary Groth mentioned that this effort will help place the book more securely into the book trade outlets, where the collected Love & Rockets volumes have already made serious inroads.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

1970's Flashback: Tigra

Tigra (Greer Grant) was originally introduced as the non-super powered crime fighter The Cat in Claws of the Cat #1 (Nov. 1972), she was co-created by writers Roy Thomas & Linda Fite, and artist Marie Severin. The Cat mutated into the superpowered were-woman Tigra in Giant-Size Creatures #1 (July 1974), by writer Tony Isabella and Don Perlin.

The Claws of the Cat was released as one of a trio of Marvel Comics specifically aimed at a female audience, along with Night Nurse and Shanna the She-Devil. The series only last four issues, and each had a different art team. Marie Severin was paired with acclaimed artist Wally Wood as inker for the premiere issue, followed by Severin and inker Jim Mooney on issue #2; then newcomer Paty Greer co-penciling with 1940s legend Bill Everett (who also inked) in issue #3; and finally Jim Starlin & Alan Weiss co-penciling the finale, with Frank McLaughlin inking.

The Cat next appeared in Marvel Team-Up #8 (April 1973), but the character was then totally revamped as the super-powered, part-animal Tigra in a two-part story in Giant-Size Creatures #1 (July 1974) and Werewolf by Night #20 (Aug. 1974). Tigra went on to guest-star often throughout the Marvel Universe and later made her solo debut in a 15-page story in the black-and-white magazine Monsters Unleashed #10 (Feb. 1975). This was followed by a brief run in the series Marvel Chillers #3-7 (Feb.-Oct. 1976), and a single appearance in Marvel Premiere #42 (June 1978). She has been a long-time member of the superhero-team, The Avengers.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

1970's Flashback: Freedom Fighters

The Freedom Fighters was a DC Comics team made up of characters acquired from the defunct golden age company Quality Comics. Uncle Sam, Black Condor, Doll Man, Human Bomb, Phantom Lady and the Ray were first revived in Justice League of America #'s 107 & 108 (October and December 1973) which was one of the popular Justice League of America/Justice Society of America annual team-ups, written by Len Wein and drawn by Dick Dillin. Their own ongoing series premiered with Freedom Fighters #1 (April 1976), written by Gerry Conway and Martin Pasko, and drawn by Rik Estrada. The series lasted for only fifteen issues. Another former Quality hero, Firebrand was added to the team ranks during the run of the series.

The concept has been revisited again in the wake of the original groups slaughter by various super-villains in the Infinite Crisis mini-series, with poorly updated, darker versions of the team taking over the roles of the "much better" golden age icons.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Classic Cuties: Ella Raines

After being discovered at the University of Washington by famed director Howard Hawks, Ella Raines made her film debut in Corvette K-225 in 1943. Some of her other notable films include Phantom Lady, Hail the Conquering Hero, Tall in the Saddle, Enter Arsene Lupin and The Suspect (all 1944), The Senator Was Indiscreet (1947), The Walking Hills, Impact, and A Dangerous Profession (all 1949) and her final film The Man in the Road (1957). She starred in her own television series Janet Dean, Registered Nurse which ran for 39 episodes in 1954. Ella Raines married the famous American fighter pilot Robin Olds in 1947.

Ella made a single tv appearance after her retirement, on the detective series Matt Houston in 1984. She died from throat cancer in Sherman Oaks, California in 1988.

November Art Ephemera

Friday, November 9, 2007

New Comic Review: New Avengers: Illuminati #5

This mini-series was probably the best thing to come out of all the Initiative books that in turn had already spun out of Marvel's Civil War event. For those who may have passed on these five issues, the simple version is that way back during the Kree-Skrull War, several major players of the Marvel Universe quietly came together as a group known as the Illuminati to monitor and influence potentially catastrophic situations (and persons). The members were Black Bolt of the Inhumans, Doctor Strange Master of the Mystic Arts, Iron Man of the Avengers, Mister Fantastic of the Fantastic Four, Professor Xavier of the X-Men and Namor the Sub-Mariner. Not a group to be sneezed at by any means!
Throughout the mini-series we've been treated to the Illuminati's early warning to the Skrull Empire (back to this in a minute) in the wake of the aforementioned Kree-Skrull War, their encounter with the Beyonder from Secret Wars, their recovery of the powerful Infinity Gems, etc. The final issue follows up on recent events within the Marvel Universe, from the discovery that Earths superhuman community has been infiltrated by Skrulls, who are perpetrating a massive invasion of the planet, to Captain America's death and the fallout from World War Hulk.
Just as in the New Avengers title, where Elektra was found to be a Skrull, yet another stunning "reveal" occurs in this issue. Jim Cheung's art has been a real highlight of the series and Brian Michael Bendis finally makes good on most of what he's been teasing about over the last couple of years.
Pick it up. You'll be glad that you did.

Star Trek XI casts Capt. Pike & Spock's Mother!

51-year-old Canadian actor Bruce Greenwood ("John From Cincinnati") has been cast as Captain Christopher Pike in J.J. Abrams upcoming Star Trek XI!

Christopher Pike, captained the Enterprise before James T. Kirk. The character was featured in the original series episode "The Menagerie", which actually incorporated the previously unaired 1st pilot that had starred Jeffrey Hunter as Pike. Due to crippling injuries suffered in a Delta Ray exposure/accident, Pike remained on the forbidden planet of Talos IV, where he was taken by former crewmate Mr. Spock. There he could experience the illusion of an active life under the care of its mentally advanced inhabitants.

Winona Ryder (Bram Stoker's Dracula, The Age of Innocence) has also joined the cast of 'Lost' creator JJ Abrams' 'Star Trek' movie, and will play Spock's human mother, Amanda Grayson.

The film, which stars Leonard Nimoy, Eric Bana, Chris Pine, Karl Urban and Simon Pegg, tells the story of the early years of the crew of the Starship Enterprise. 'Heroes' star Zachary Quinto will play the young Spock in the film. The new 'Star Trek' film began shooting this week and is due out at Christmas 2008.
Rachel Nichols (Alias) too, will board the starship Enterprise. News broke last week that Nichols was joining the cast of the uber-secretive project. Current speculation is leaning towards her portraying Yeoman Janice Rand.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Albus Dumbledore is GAY?

Last month in front of a full house of hardcore Harry Potter fans at Carnegie Hall in New York, British author J.K. Rowling, sitting on the stage on a red velvet and carved wood throne, read from her seventh and final book, "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows," then took select questions. One young fan asked whether Albus Dumbledore, headmaster of the series Hogwarts School of Wizardry and Witchcraft, had ever loved anyone. Rowling smiled. "Dumbledore is gay, actually," replied Rowling as the audience erupted in surprise. She added that, [in her mind] , Dumbledore had an unrequited love affair with Gellert Grindelwald, Voldemort's predecessor who appears in flashback during the seventh book. After several minutes of prolonged shouting and clapping from astonished fans, Rowling added. "I would have told you earlier if I knew it would make you so happy."

But that's the point, Ms. Rowling. You didn't tell us earlier!

In no way, shape or form, throughout seven wildly successful & popular novels, is it EVER stated or implied that the benevolent headmaster (& mentor) to Harry Potter, well ..... swings that way. This seems like nothing more than a stunt that was perpetrated by Rowling, in response to some unreported criticism about the absence of homosexual characters in her Potter stories; which for the most part, were effectively as diverse a cross section of races, beings, etc. as one could find in pop fiction.

I do NOT doubt that Rowling envisioned dear Albus that way all along, but she chose not to depict this aspect of the character in her Potterverse and doing so in this manner seems TACKY. It doesn't really add anything to the books and since the media has been so ardently trumpeting this aspect, frankly it comes across as a bit lurid and creepy. Living in the "Bible Belt" of the Southern United States, I was curious about the "smearing" of the Harry Potter books upon their initial publication, by zealous evangelicals and religious right puritans who denounced the books for espousing witchcraft and mysticism, so I read them in tandem with my oldest daughter (pictured; and now in college) as each one was released.

Suffice to say that the naysayers were completely off base with their stupid theories and they pretty much missed out on a great adventure epic that at its heart, was about family, friendship and the heroic lengths one person will reach to protect same. So, per Ms. Rowling, Albus Dumbledore is gay (yay). I however, prefer the novels without this tacked on implication; or in other words, how they were written in the first place.

1970's Flashback: The Man Called Nova

Richard Rider was chosen at random by the alien Rhomann Dey, last surviving Nova Centurion of the planet Xandar's elite Nova Corps, to inherit his power and succeed him in the rank of Nova Prime following the destruction of his world by the intergalactic pirate Zorr. Having been mortally wounded in the battle that tore Xandar apart, Dey succeeded in tracking Zorr to Earth, but he was unable to exact vengeance due to the extent of his injuries. At death's door, Dey had little choice but to transfer his power to an unsuspecting human on the planet below, praying that whomever he found would take up his cause. In becoming a reluctant member of the Nova Corps (Xandar's intergalactic police force), Richard Rider gained enhanced strength, flight, injury resistance, and a uniform with life support. The character was originally created by Marv Wolfman and John Buscema in Nova #1, 1976, however the series lasted only 25 issues. Big John's brother, Sal Buscema, provided the bulk of the terrific interior art on the series after John pencilled the first issue.

Nova has been revived several times over the years and the character is currently a major player in Marvels Annihilation crossover event.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007


Ghost Whisperer is a tv fantasy-thriller that premiered on CBS in 2005. The series was created by John Gray. It stars Jennifer Love Hewitt, David Conrad, and Camryn Manheim. Ghost Whisperer airs on Friday nights at 8/7c.
The title is a reference to lead character Melinda Gordon (portrayed by Jennifer Love Hewitt) who lives in the fictional town of Grandview, along with her husband Jim, and has the ability to see and communicate with the dead. Although initially the show seemed somewhat akin to such prior series as Highway to Heaven & Touched By An Angel, whose premise had supernatural characters aiding the living. Ghost Whisperer pulled a reversal on this theme and has Melinda Gordon assisting lost or confused spirits in the afterlife in “crossing over” to an eternal existence. No surprise when you consider that actual spirit communicator James Van Praagh is a co-executive producer on the series.

During its second season, the show took a darker turn by establishing an opposing evil force that attempts to prevent Hewitt’s character from fulfilling her other worldly calling. If you haven’t seen the show, it is definitely worth a look and maybe you’ll find something that will entertain you. And now for a brief word about Jennifer Love Hewitt …. HOT-AS-A-PISTOL! If Jennifer suffered from loose morals and poor taste; then buddy, I’d be in life Flynn. Sadly, the universe hasn’t seen fit to throw the two of us together. I am sure our love would be one for the ages, or that's my story and I'm sticking to it!

The Rock opts for Black Adam!

Wrestler-turned-actor Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson has decided that he would be better off playing the villainous Black Adam, if the supposed movie version of golden age great (and current DC Comics staple) Captain Marvel (Shazam!) ever gets off the ground. A recent internet fan poll offering a choice between hero or villain heavily "suggested" that fans preferred Johnson as Adam. The Rock was under consideration for both roles.

In Memoriam: Paul Norris

Aquaman co-creator Paul Norris has passed away at age 93. Norris, who had been hospitalized after a series of strokes, also wrote and drew the Brick Bradford comic strip for 35 years.
A native of Greenville, Ohio, Norris worked after college as an illustrator and cartoonist for the Dayton Daily News, but he moved to New York in 1940, where he got a job at Prize Publications, creating the comics ‘Power Nelson, Futureman’ and ‘Yank and Doodle’ before being hired by DC Comics. There, in 1941, he launched Aquaman with editor-writer Mort Weisinger.
Norris worked on several King Features comic strips, including Flash Gordon, Secret Agent X-9 and Jungle Jim. In 1952, he took over Brick Bradford, and wrote and drew the strip until it ended in 1987.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Creator profile: Matt Baker

Clarence Matthew Baker (1921 - 1959) was a comic book artist best remembered for the costumed crime-fighter Phantom Lady and as the medium's first known African-American artist; he was active as early as the 1930s-40s Golden Age of comic books. Baker penciled what is arguably the first graphic novel, St. John Publications' digest-sized "picture novel" It Rhymes with Lust (1950). His speciality was drawing "good girl art", a comics sub-genre for which his available work is in high demand with collectors. Baker's career was launched at the Iger Studio, one of many 1940s "packagers" who provided outsourced comics on demand for eager publishers entering the new medium. Through Iger, Baker produced work for various publishers including St. John, Fiction House, Fox, and Quality Comics.

The Phantom Lady (created by Arthur Peddy in 1941) was a Quality Comics feature supplied by the Iger Studio. After Quality dropped her feature in Police Comics, Iger supplied her to Fox Comics, which had also requested a sexy costumed adventuress. Matt Baker redesigned the character into her best-known incarnation, and she debuted in Fox's Phantom Lady #13 (Aug. 1947), the premiere issue after taking over the numbering of the canceled comic Wotalife. Baker's Phantom Lady also appeared as a backup feature in All Top Comics #9-16.
His other notable work includes military-humor title Canteen Kate, Tales of The Mysterious Traveler; the feature "Sky Girl" in Fiction House's Jumbo Comics, the jungle adventures of "Tiger Girl"; "Flamingo", "South Sea Girl", "Glory Forbes", "Kayo Kirby"; and "Risks Unlimited". He also produced Flamingo [above, right] as a syndicated comic strip from 1952 through 1954.

He really hit his stride drawing romance titles prolifically for St. John Publications in the 1950’s. Love Romances, My Own Romance, and Teen-Age Romance; and Wartime Romances. His untimely passing in 1959 cut short what might have been a very lucrative period for Baker as the silver age of comics was really getting underway.

Monday, November 5, 2007

1970's Flashback: The Secret Society of Super-Villains

The Secret Society of Super-Villains #1 was published in May, 1976. It is the precursor of such contemporary spins on villainous teams like the modern version of the Suicide Squad, and the Society that is currently forming around Lex Luthor in DC's Justice League of America title.

Originally organized by Darkseid, the Secret Society of Super-Villains (who operated out of the Sinister Citadel) was plagued by internal power struggles. Lex Luthor, the Wizard, and Funky Flashman all jockeyed for control of the powerful team; heroes Manhunter and Captain Comet, on the other hand, sought to divert the villains' evil ways into a more positive channel by infiltrating the group to usurp its leadership. After such dissembling caused some initial confusion over the true purpose of the team, the SSoSV fully dedicated itself to evil and found a primary nemesis in Captain Comet. After the "bad guys" discovered the true identity of their alien benefactor, they rebelled against Darkseid. To quash the uprising, Darkseid dispatched Mantis and Kalibak. At the conclusion of the battle ,Manhunter sacrificed himself to stop Darkseid. Following this action, the entire team splintered, with Luthor and Flashman heading up competing groups of villains. However, it was the Wizard who proved to be the most successful, by stealing leadership away from Flashman's group and creating the definitive incarnation of the SSoSV.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Creator Profile: Ernie Chan

Ernesto "Ernie" Chan (born 1940) is a noted Filipino comic book artist. For several years, he was forced to work under the name "Ernie Chua" as that name had been mistakenly entered on his immigration documents, but he was later credited under his actual given name. Chan is particularly known for his classic work on the Marvel Comics version of Conan the Barbarian, although he has also worked for other publishers such as DC Comics. Chan studied with the great John Buscema, and often worked with him as the inker on Conan during the 1970s. He also inked the art of Buscema's younger brother Sal on The Incredible Hulk.

Later, Ernie himself pencilled several issues of Conan, and also for Marvel Comics he worked on Doctor Strange, Kull the Destroyer in 1977 and Power Man in the 1980s. For DC Comics, he later drew the sword & sorcery series Claw the Unconquered. Chan was also a regular cover artist.
Ernie Chan was a reliable artistic presence, whose work often appeared in one-shots or fill-in issues in lieu of the regular art team, or during transitions of creative personnel on select titles. He dutifully applied the lessons that he had learned from "Big John" Buscema, yet he channeled his own unique twist on the characters on which he worked. As one of several Filipino artists who successfully broke into the American comics market in the 70's, Chan made a name for himself that stands out from many of of his peers. He's been retired since 2002.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

1970's Flashback: Isis

And you thought that Lynda Carter's Wonder Woman was the only "hottie" superheroine from the disco decade. Actress Joanna Cameron was equally appealing in the Saturday morning live-action kids show - The Secrets of Isis - which was broadcast by CBS for a single year, running from September 1975 to October 1976.

Thousands of years ago, Egyptian Queen Hatchupset was given an amulet by her Royal Wizard. This amulet empowered the queen with the powers of the goddess Isis; to command the elements of sky and earth. Flash forward to present time (1970's that is) young science teacher Andrea Thomas found this lost amulet while on an archaeological dig. She found that she was heir to the "Secrets of Isis." By bearing the necklace that had the amulet, and calling out the phrase "OH MIGHTY ISIS" Andrea was transformed into Isis. As Isis, she could "soar as the falcon soars, run with the speed of gazelles, and command all the elements of sky and earth." In order to invoke her powers, she had to recite incantations. Her most famous incantation - "Oh zephyr winds which blow on high, lift me now so I can fly" - assisted her in taking flight. She also had control of animals, fire, water, etc. Her powers were usually used to help teach young people she came in contact with, a moral lesson. Her associates, Rick Mason, Cindy Lee, Dr. Barnes, and later, Rennie Carroll, were oblivious to her dual identity. Isis was seen as the female counterpart to Shazam (Captain Marvel) and they had a few crossover episodes to each other's shows.

Isis' first appearance in comics was in Shazam! #25 (Sept-Oct. 1976). She later received her own TV tie-in book the following month, the series ran for two years. The eight issue run by DC Comics began in October (1976) and ended January (1979). All stories featured the Andrea Thomas character from theFilmation tv series; the comic book was written by Jack C. Harris and drawn by Mike Vosburg.