Friday, October 31, 2008

Rulah Jungle Goddess in "Devil Ladies" (Fox Comics)

"Devil Ladies" (cont.)

Foreign spies posing as underground satanic imps, bondage and our plucky heroine cavorting around in a different style of catsuit make up today's slightly "Halloween-themed" story from Rulah Jungle Goddess #19 which was published by Fox Comics in October 1948.

Beware of all the little ghouls and goblins (and such) that may come a-knocking on your doors this evening.


Thursday, October 30, 2008

70 Years Ago Today! The War of the Worlds Radio Scare

On this day in October of 1938, Orson Welles and his Mercury Theatre Company panicked the entire nation when they produced an updated radio play based on the 1898 novel "War of the Worlds", which was originally written by author H.G. Wells, for the CBS Radio Network.
The live drama which employed fake breaking news reports, convinced some listeners that the story of a Martian invasion was real.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

"Peanuts the Monkey" (Hillman Comics; 1944)

"Peanuts the Monkey" (cont.)

Here's some nice funny animal hi-jinks straight out of Vol. 1 #1 of Punch and Judy Comics (Hillman) circa 1944. Drawn by the late, great Milton Stein, a New York illustrator & animator who worked on & off at Terrytoons and produced tons of comics for Vince Fago's shop in the early '40s for Timely, and then Stein worked for ACG/Standard for many years on "Supermouse" through the '50s. "Supermouse" actually predates "Mighty Mouse" (That's why they changed the name to "Mighty Mouse" after the first cartoon). He apparently committed suicide in the early '70s.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Heroes: "Eris Quod Sum" (You Will Be What I Am)

Peter is forced to work side-by-side with his former foe and brother-by-blood Sylar, when Angela Petrelli (who is a mother to both of them) dispatches Gabriel to Pinehearst.

Nathan and Tracy also try to save Maya and other subjects who've been held captive by Mohinder (who has just been brought into the Pinehearst fold by Arthur Petrelli).

Hiro is having doubts on Usutu's advice on how to handle the villains. After chowing down on Usutu's grub, Hiro chooses a path ... or has one chosen for him .... and Elle returns to surprise the Bennett family. However, the girl with the ability to generate electricity cannot control her power and seeks help from Claire. Meanwhile, Daphne is given a disturbing mission to kill Matt for refusing to join the villains.

It will be two weeks before the next episode airs, so we get a bit of a rest from the proceedings. Perhaps Kring and company will take the opportunity to reflect on the growing wave of criticism that the hit series has run smack into. Entertainment Weekly has also joined the chorus of voices suggesting helpful hints to reclaim lost viewers. I don't know what the next volume (planned to be called 'Fugitives') will be about, or whether some of the current cast will be weeded out, but things can't help but get better for the perpetually stupid gang of "Heroes".

Monday, October 27, 2008

1970's Flashback: The Brute (Atlas/Seaboard Comics)

Much has been written over the years about the slightly cheesy line of 1970's Atlas/Seaboard Comics that former Marvel Comics publisher Martin Goodman and his son Chip produced after Goodman sold off his interests in the House of Ideas. His unwise decision to tackle his old company, believing that Marvel had snubbed him post-departure, resulted in a catastrophic failure of a company that barely managed to survive a year (1975) before giving up the ghost.

Atlas Comics published 23 titles and a few magazine-size comics during their all-too brief run on the stands. Trying to differentiate themselves from other publishers reader-friendly "Comics Code Authority" fare, Atlas heavily dipped into exploitation-style storytelling similar to what was popular in certain genres of movies back in those days.

One such title, The Brute was actually about a proto-human caveman who was frozen during the last Ice Age and inadvertently thawed out by the heat generated from the nuclear power plant which was built near his subterranean tomb. Hungry and confused, the Brute kills two young boys exploring his cave. Dr. Ann Foster, a scientist, is awarded the beasts custody by the court, but her plans to study him are ruined when the father of the murdered boys is subsequently killed while trying to exact vengeance.

Following this horrific opening written by Mike Fleisher and drawn by Mike Sekowsky & Pablo Marcus, the series details the Brute's savage rampage through the modern world, with Dr. Foster's increasingly inexplicable efforts to save the vicious Brute (who has gone on to wantonly murder other people), even as police justifiably hunt him with orders to kill.

The third (and final issue) possibly foreshadowed a slight change in direction, with the simplistically minded Brute finally speaking his first words, and the introduction of a costumed villain called Doomstalker. We will never know what would have come next for the prehistoric caveman, since the company folded a short time later.

Zago, Jungle Prince in "Queen of Simba Land" (Fox Comics)

"Queen of Simba Land" (cont.)

Several of my blogging cohorts are gonna run season of the witch stuff this week due to the impending Halloween weekend, however I'm gonna break with that tradition and toss out more jungle comics instead. So, here is another jungle adventure tale from Rulah Jungle Goddess #22 (January 1949), but in a twist, instead of the lovely Rulah herself, you're getting a nice manly jungle lord.

Zago was also published by Fox Feature Syndicate. He made his first appearance in Zago, Jungle Prince #1 (September 1948). Zago was yet another white jungle adventurer, very much like the more popular Tarzan. Most online sources that I could find state that he was accompanied by his mate Wana, who bore a more than passing resemblance to Sheena (not really, since Sheena was a blond), but as you can plainly see in this story, Zago's gal is called Shara.

His last golden age appearance was in issue #4 of Zago, Jungle Prince (March 1949). The Zago stories are attributed to Jack Kamen on interiors and Matt Baker on covers. This short strip from Rulah looks like Kamen's work. Enjoy!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Rulah Jungle Goddess in "The Ghoul of Galhalla" (Fox Comics)

"The Ghoul of Galhalla" (cont.)

Jack Kamen provides some spiffy good girl art on today's Rulah Jungle Goddess classic from issue #22 (circa January 1949) of the Fox Comics series. You will see hot chicks imperiled by jaguars, crocodiles & gorillas, plus (based solely on the story's coloring job) some steamy interracial sex, murder & insanity from the golden age of comics.

That's not too bad for a Friday. Enjoy!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Review: Guardians of the Galaxy #6 (Marvel Comics)

Months ago I posted derogatory remarks about the then newly-announced re-launch of Marvel Comics Guardians of the Galaxy series. Having read the original Guardians adventures that had been published in Marvel Presents during the 1970’s, I was a fan who (albeit sight unseen) vehemently objected to the use of the classic team name which was being pulled out of mothballs for use by the eclectic assortment of cosmic characters who were coming together as a unit in the wake of the Annihilation crossover events.

Then the first issue of the new Guardians was released and I was won over by the work of writers Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning, and artists Paul Pelletier & Rick Magyar. Talk about having to eat your own words! This comic wasn’t too bad. At least I was having some fun reading it and I had liked most of these characters when they were introduced way back when. Drax, Mantis, Warlock, Star-Lord and Gamora had been kicking around the Marvel Universe since the 1970’s or earlier. Hell, even Richard "Nova" Rider was on scene for the first issue.

Well, issue #6 of the latest iteration of Guardians of the Galaxy is on the stands now and I have to spew vitriol yet again. The last three issues of Guardians have been co-opted by Marvels’ current company-wide ‘Secret Invasion’ mega-crossover event and for me it seems like all of the in-progress story lines from the first three issues have been summarily dropped like a hot potato. [Forget the Universal Church of Truths unfolding assault on the fledgling team. It ain’t important! It’s x-over time, and we can get back to the regular programming later …. Maybe …. Who knows?]

This is what’s wrong with the "big two" comics publishers (DC & Marvel) producing these endless event-oriented morasses, ad infinitum. Readers are left perpetually punch-drunk by developing plot lines in books that interest them, but which quickly fall by the wayside to satisfy editorial fiats that, in effect derail the audiences interest in what was going on in the first place, just so that more rack space can reflect a unified brand name. I do understand that lots of folks who still read comics have accepted this practice as par for the course, but despite the powers-that-be trotting out the usual requisite explanations for why this is done, it really boils down to a single elegantly appropriate term.


It’s all bullshit, and according to my late friend George Carlin, bullshit is bad for you. I heartily agree. So despite promising a review of Guardians of the Galaxy #6, this is more of a non-review, since Marvel Comics is operating under the "Que sera, sera-whatever-will be-will-be-principle". Something happens, come back next month for more of the same. Yada, yada, yada.

There is one thing of note to report. The ‘Secret Invasion’ crossover storyline, which supplanted the story arc from the first three issues, has left the Guardians team in disarray and now two-thirds of the group has walked away pissed off about the mental manipulation by another team-mate which brought them together in the first issue AND next issue the book features an all-new membership. This is exactly how I feel about what has gone on during the last six months, so Marvel - you had me at "Hello" – but here’s the finger for you. Like the fictional Guardians, I’m walking away.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Profile Antics: Colleen Doran

Comic book writer and artist Colleen Doran is best known for her long-running series, A Distant Soil, but she has also produced memorable work for a variety of publishers over the years, as her own series has skipped around from publisher to publisher, weathering the ever-changing tastes of the direct sales market in the process. Ms. Doran has carved out a nice niche for herself within the industry by demonstrating strong work ethics and a committment to excellence, earning various accolades as well as the respect of her peers.

I caught up with her at this years Heroes Convention in Charlotte, NC and despite a hectic personal schedule [post convention] she responded via email to my brief interview.

1) In your experience, how is the "glass ceiling" impacting women entering comics today or does gender even still matter anymore?

Well, I know it still matters, it's just not such an impediment anymore. In many cases, clients are specifically looking for female creators and books that appeal to women and girls. That just wasn't the case in the past, for the most part.

Women creators and girl's comics were considered box office poison when I got into the business. Some women creators even tried to distance themselves from one another and openly declared they were not feminists, the better to not alienate their potential audience, I suppose. I was recently given a 1977 Women in Comics Convention program book where one woman creator wrote a big article declaring over and over how she was not a feminist!

I'm seeing a lot more openness and less overt competitiveness and suspicion among the women, and lots more openness from the men. Some of the older mean have not grown with the times. The ones that have are much appreciated, but you still run into those dinosaurs that still walk the Earth. I don't worry about them so much anymore. They'll become extinct eventually.

2) A Distant Soil is a very personal work, but what other comics project was most rewarding (or fun) for you to have been involved with?

Orbiter was very personal to me because it was such a positive and uplifting book about the space program, which has always been of great interest. I grew up near NASA, and when I was a little girl, my dad would drive us down to the runway so we could watch the jets take off. We would go to the Visitors Center. The base was open to the public in those days, and you could roam about quite a bit. It's nothing like that now. I was in a science fiction club that met once a month on the base.

3) What career goals or aspirations do you still have ahead of you or that have gone unfulfilled thus far?
I have a number of projects that have been on the back burner for years, and I desperately want to get to them. Naturally, I want to finish A Distant Soil quite badly, but have been writhing with my insecurities over it for so long, I was beginning to despair of ever getting back to it. Recently, I hired Julie Ditrich to be my editor and lean on me a bit, and that has paid off.
From a purely fangirl standpoint, I want to work on Batman and Aquaman and do a project with Frank Miller.

From a creative standpoint, I have several children's book projects I have wanted to do for a long time, and one just got picked up. Also, I want to have the opportunity to do work with more content and meat to it. I am going more and more in that direction, I think. I want to experiment more with storytelling technique.

I haven't produced much work over the last year, which is mostly my fault. I was not getting offers I liked, and just turning everything away. I'm just not willing to take on gigs for the money. I can't bring myself to do it. I want to do projects that are important on a personal and professional level. If I need the money, I'd rather figure out other ways to make it. I can't bring myself to do jobs for money. I don't want to do work I am not proud of, that I can't respect.

4) Who do you consider as influences on your career?

Frank Kelly Freas was a huge influence on me because he was my mentor when I was a kid. Kelly used to work at Mad Magazine, but he is best known as a science fiction artist. He lived hours from me, but for a long time I used to drive to his house and hang out. When his wife died, I took care of him, and did his cooking and cleaning. It was a great experience because he had been around for many, many years and had so much knowledge. He was the same age as my grandparents, so he had been an illustrator since the Depression! But in many ways, he was innocent and inexperienced. He was a terrible businessman, and that was an important lesson for me, to see what happens to wonderful, talented people when they cannot handle their business affairs. This was an incredibly important lesson.
Ever since then, I've made it a point to study the business side of my work and to share what I learned with others, particularly on my blog. I ran a seminar at San Diego on Resources for Creators. I share information about agents, insurance, unions. So many creators neglect this aspect of their work, they don't know how to handle money. They don't understand what their contracts say.

Monet said "Be organized in your life so you can be free in your work." If more artists had some business acumen, they would be in a better position to do better work. They wouldn't have to take jobs they didn't want just to make a buck. They would be in a better position to get better contracts and better pay. They'd have more time to do more important personal work.

I'm not sure that was the answer you were looking for, but in many ways, Frank Kelly Freas was the most important person I have ever encountered in this business.

5) Do you have any cool industry "war stories" to share?

Do I have anything else? I'd like to share a war story that goes to the character of a kind and good man. Dick Giordano.
There was a senior creator who had a lot of respect for his accomplishment, but no one would mistake him for a nice guy. He was pretty abusive, actually.

I was at a show years ago, and I was showing my work to Dick. Now I'd been in the business for years, and was already doing a book for DC, but I'm not proud. When you have a chance to have Dick Giordano to yourself, you're a fool not to take the time to talk to him about drawing and get some pointers. He's such a fantastic technician. I never miss an opportunity to sit with a creator I respect and get some tips.

So, I am showing Dick my portfolio at a rather sparsely attended Charlotte Heroes Con, and this senior editor came up and made some really nasty comments about my work. They were not constructive. He just kept barking "Crap!" and "That's awful! Sheesh!" He was not offering any help, just being incredibly rude and nasty, snorting and rolling his eyes. I did not ask for his opinion. He was an incredibly sexist, nasty man, and was often quite dismissive of me and my work.

Dick Giordano is half deaf, but this boisterous boor was loud enough to hear in Sri Lanka. Dick just turned and said "Shut up!" Then he looked at me and said "Ignore him," and went right back to his critique of my work, which was very helpful. It felt great to see a good guy like Dick Giordano stand up to that mean old man. It was very encouraging and reminded me that just because there are some people at a company who don't know how to behave themselves, there are always good people who will stand up and do the right thing. Dick Giordano is one of those people, and I have never forgotten than.

6) What type of "tools" do you prefer to use in creating your artwork?

I prefer to work by hand. My first real digital comics work was on Tori Amos: Comic Book Tattoo. This was a combination of hand drawn work and digital. I don't think I will ever become a purely digital artist because I love creating things with my hands. I even love to make my own paper. There's a disconnect when I work on the computer, and the computer cannot create the look I can get with pencil.
I like to work with plain old pens and pencils. Nothing fancy.

7) Is the grind of participating in the convention circuit worth the trouble?

Well, you would have to catch me in another mood to get another answer. On the whole, I'd have to say no. I love meeting the fans. That is awesome. It is inspiring. I love seeing my friends, many of whom are pros. Conventions are the only place we get to meet. But touring is very time consuming. Even if you go to a show and sell out all your books and make a profit, you were not drawing your book that day, you are exhausted, and I have chronic respiratory problems that pop up when I travel. It's a trade off, and I can't say it's always a bargain.

8) What inspires you as a storyteller?
Everything. I am never bored. I can be looking at a pattern on a piece of cloth and my mind wanders. Just everything.

9) What's your favorite non-comics thing to do?

I love to work in my garden. I grow much of my own food.

10) What food is your guilty pleasure?

Chocolate! Can't grow that!

Heroes: "Dying of the Light"

The episodes synopsis reads: "Impressed by his sudden ruthlessness, villains Knox and Daphne bring Hiro — among others — into the Pinehearst fold, and give him an assignment. With Angela and the Company paralyzed by recent events, Peter goes directly to Pinehearst for answers, and is irrevocably changed by the shocking meeting. Meanwhile, Claire and her mother Sandra attempt to free Meredith from the thrall of escaped villain Doyle, who has the ability to take mental and physical control of others. Later, Nathan brings Tracy to Suresh, hoping he can shed light on the surprising origin of their abilities."

This week was one of the better episodes of the third season and while a few of the main characters continue to act stupidly, at least this volume is finally living up to it's 'Villains' name. Arthur Petrelli and Puppet Master Doyle are truly formidable bad guys, and Mohinder is increasingly less hero and more villain, so maybe there's hope yet. I believe that I can see where they are headed with some of the supporting characters, Sylar in particular, but some of the good guys really need to wake up and quit acting like they've got their heads up their own rumps. Oh, and at least one of last season big bads has been handily dispensed with already. Guess who?

Monday, October 20, 2008

Reviewing The Twelve #8 and Legion of 3 Worlds #2

The Twelve #8 (Marvel Comics)

"They are yesterday's men of tomorrow - today! After being placed in cryogenic suspension by the Nazis at the close of WWII, twelve mystery men of the 1940's are revived in the far-flung future of 2008. With the world they knew just a faded memory, these superhuman champions must find a place for themselves in the strange and horrifying era of the 21st Century."

To say the least, adjustment hasn't come easy for this disparate goup of golden age also-ran's. Integrating these characters into the greater Marvel Universe has proven of little importance to series writer J. M. Straczynski. Eight issues (out of twelve) have elapsed and there has not been so much as a hint of the larger fictional universe that these forgotten heroes are supposedly a lost part of. In better days, Marvel Comics could have been counted on to toss in a guest appearance (or two) to help set the stage for incorporating these heroes into the fold. Neither Spider-Man, the Fantastic Four or Captain America has stopped by. No Sub-Mariner or Nick Fury. No Wolverine. Nada!
As I've reviewed earlier issues of this mini-series, I have stated my belief (based on his earlier work) that Straczynski would ever so slowly dole out the action of this series to the bitter end. I admit to suffering from a morbid curiosity over where things finally end up for 'The Twelve', but for me, this series leaves alot to be desired. Basically, times have changed and despite the sell-out success that this series has enjoyed, traditional super heroic storytelling ala the House of Ideas has flown the coop.

This issue the Phantom Reporter confronts the Black Widow over the unsolved string of violent murders that he has grown to suspect she is responsible for committing. We are then treated to her long overdue origin which explains who and what Claire Voyant is in league with, and the devil is in the details - so to speak. The Fiery Mask is also grilled by the police over his possible involvement in the most recent of these incidents and in the process it is revealed that Dr. Jack Castle may have fudged the truth of his own bizarre origin, as there is no record of the Fiery Mask's supposed involvement with that eras police department. The Blue Blade gets a peek into the inner workings of the robotic Electro and discovers surprising information that might lead to his impending death. Master Mind Excello forwards a costume upgrade to the Phantom Reporter, posts bail for the Laughing Mask and mentally coaxes Rockman back into the fray, all perhaps setting up the series denouement. The issue closes out with a flashback to the Blue Blade's earliest motivation for becoming an action hero and he confronts Dynamic Man over what he has recently uncovered.

Chris Weston continues to provide some interesting artwork on this book, the series highlight (at least for me) and Straczynski owes Weston a big debt of gratitude for this, as without the intricate pencils of Weston, The Twelve would probably not have succeeded - even with today's jaded fans.


Final Crisis: Legion of 3 Worlds #2 (of 5; DC Comics) picks up the action quite a bit from the initial issue of this mini-series in fine Geoff Johns & George Perez form. A small contingent of Legionnaires rescues their missing member the White Witch from the clutches of Mordru and then barely manage to escape with their lives, albeit with the sacrifice of a long-time supporting cast member (who goes out in truly heroic fashion). Mordru himself is ultimately recruited into the much deadlier version of the Legion of Super-Villains that Superboy-Prime currently fronts and after the remaining heroic Legionnaires split into smaller teams to confront their foes, Brainiac 5 utilizes a sphere made out of the crystallized Nexus of all Earths from all parallel universes, to draft two different, heroic versions of the Legion of Super-Heroes into the mix. Things are definitely heating up with this Final Crisis tie-in and despite my reticence to pick up material that simply spins off of mega-crossovers, I plan on seeing this entertaining ride through to the end.

And lest I forget, Scott Koblish deserves a nod for his excellent ink work over the veteran pencils of gentleman George Perez (who hasn't looked this good since JLA/Avengers) and the same goes for Hi-Fi on colors and Nick Napolitano's lettering.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Harvey Pekar in Charlotte, NC

Harvey Pekar who writes the autobiographical underground comic book series, American Splendor, and Alison Bechdel who writes the autobiographical underground comic book series, Fun Home, appeared at the Heroes Aren't Hard To Find store in Charlotte, North Carolina on Friday, October 17.

Heroes, which is owned and operated by Shelton Drum, sponsor of the popular, long-running annual Heroes Convention (also in Charlotte) has long supported small press and independent comics.

Friday was a terrible, dreary day of drenching rains, so as you can imagine, the weather impacted the crowd drawn to the event. There were only about twenty souls present, but the pair of eclectic creators did appear later that evening at a Mecklenburg Public Library, "Titans of Graphic Novels" lecture. My group chose to drive across town to enjoy a nice barbecue dinner before the after-store event and then totally missed out on the additional appearance when we got lost looking for it.

To our credit, we did pass by the actual location at least twice, but we failed to recognize the venue. C'est la vie!