Saturday, January 31, 2009

1970's Flashback: Marvel Comics Super Special

Marvel Comics Super Special was a magazine-sized, full-color series published by Marvel Comics starting in 1977. The first issue featured one of the 1970’s leading rock bands, Kiss, in an all-new, original adventure. In a strange marketing gimmick, the four band members (Paul Stanley, Ace Frehley, Gene Simmons & Peter Criss) actually mixed their blood into that issues printing ink.

Some early issues featured established Marvel titles (Conan the Barbarian) or in-house series which were not printed elsewhere (Warriors of the Shadow Realm, Star-Lord), but beginning with issue #14, the series continued with popular film adaptations (The Empire Strikes Back, Blade Runner, The Dark Crystal, etc.). These were often reprinted later without the bonus materials; as two to four issue mini-series by Marvel. The series was cancelled with issue #41 in 1985.

In a controversial move, Marvel Super Special #7, which featured an adaptation of Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, was withdrawn by Marvel at the last minute, due to undisclosed reasons and all copies (if any were even printed) were destroyed prior to distribution. There were reportedly a few copies printed in foreign language territories such as France, the Netherlands and Germany, however no English language copies are known to exist, and even George Perez (who illustrated the comic) has stated that he has never seen a copy himself, and considers it to be "the rarest piece of George Perez printed artwork you can find". The next published issue (Battlestar Galactica) skipped ahead in the numbering to #8, despite #7 being cancelled and never published in the U.S.

Friday, January 30, 2009

"Gal" Friday! Double Anonymity

I'm beat. Extra work, at work, will do that to you - and this has been a killer week - (or two) of that.

So ....

Today's picks are both safely from the anonymous file. I don't know where I originally found these photos, but in the vernacular, I wouldn't kick either one of them out of bed. The lovely lass on the right sorta reminds of DC Comics Power Girl in mid-peel (Yeah, she could stand to have a larger rack, but why quibble?), and the chick on the left seems to be ready for anything - and that is appealing in it's own right.

With much respect and affection to all the nameless cheesecake "gals" who brighten many a wall, magazine or daydream, this is your day.

Thank you for sharing!

Thursday, January 29, 2009

[Update] "Whats going on with The Twelve?"

Apparently a statement by Marvel Comics Editor-in-Chief Joe Quesada WAS issued a few weeks ago that addressed the fate of their popular mini-series, The Twelve.

"THE TWELVE has momentarily become a casualty of the success of its creative team. First JMS became one of the most sought after writers in Hollywood following the release and success of the film he wrote, CHANGELING.Then, Chris Weston signed on to do conceptual art and storyboarding for a completely separate film project at around the same time! So for the moment, while they still pick away at it, THE TWELVE is on hold until such time as Joe and Chris free up from their incredibly hectic schedules. "

Fans of this series have to face a few facts. J Michael Stracynski created one of the best sci-fi television series of all time in Babylon 5, but since its demise in November 25, 1998, JMS has been writing for several comic book publishers (DC Comics, Top Cow/Image Comics & Marvel Comics). On his personnel blog, artist Chris Weston lamented his lack of sufficient income for many long months, and then happily reported the "extra" projects that had begun rolling in - due to the success of The Twelve.

At least Straczynski was biding his time for Hollywood to embrace him all over again. Weston may score some cool storyboarding assignments or design work, but his fans have to wonder if he plans on continuing to draw comics.

Regardless, it is apparent that neither of these guys really care about the dollars that fans have spent on the comics that they've been working on. One can only assume that these guys think they've been slumming.

I was and remain a huge fan of B5, and I was becoming a fan of Chris Weston's artwork, but I am bitterly disappointed in the utter lack of professionalism shown by Straczynski, Weston and Quesada over The Twelve.

There is only one thing that I can do in response. I will NOT buy further issues of The Twelve, no matter when they eventually reach stores. I will also never purchase any comics work by either of these gentlemen. They have no class!

I recommend that every fan of The Twelve follow suit and let Marvel Comics know how they feel about this insult. Joe Quesada should really step up to the plate and hire other comics professionals to complete this series in a "timely" (hint: pun intended or in-joke - take your pick) manner. Thats what an effective editor-in-chief does when both he and his readers have been burned by louts like Straczynski & Weston.

Oh yeah, Straczynski & Weston are the two losers whose images are floating air biscuits above right.

"Your Name On It" (Weird Mysteries; courtesy of THOIA)

This short story is from Key Publications February 1953 series, Weird Mysteries #3. While the writer is unidentified, the artwork is credited to Charles Stern. Karswell has posted the remainder of this comics stories at his blog "The Horrors Of It All" over the last couple of days so please pay a visit to his neck of the woods and check them out.


Tuesday, January 27, 2009

1970's Flashback: Ka-Zar, Lord of the Savage Land

Ka-Zar was created by Stan Lee & Jack Kirby in The X-Men #10 (March 1965), he lives in the dinosaur-populated Savage Land, which was hidden beneath Antarctica by extraterrestrials. Of his four self-titled series, two originally ran during the 1970’s (1970-1971; three issues, mostly reprints) and 1974-1977 (20 issues), but he was also featured in two other 1970's series, Astonishing Tales #1-20 (August 1970 - Oct. 1973) and the magazine-sized, black & white version of Savage Tales #1, 6-11 (May 1971, Sept. 1974 - July 1975).

Ka-Zar has a certain degree of distrust toward civilization and he is generally wary of outside visitors to the Savage Land. He refers to himself as the "Lord of the Savage Land", a phrase others have also adopted, but this is not a formal title.

Ka-Zar is actually Lord Kevin Plunder, born in Castle Plunder, Kentish Town, London, England. He is the eldest son of Lord Robert Plunder, the English nobleman who discovered the Savage Land. After his parents were killed, Plunder was found and raised by the sabertooth tiger Zabu, who possesses near-human intelligence thanks to a mutation caused by radioactive mists. Ka-Zar and Zabu are constant partners. Ka-Zar became an expert hunter, trapper, and fisherman, living off the wild land.

In the Savage Land, some territories are populated by several human or humanoid tribes, and while most of them are on friendly terms with Ka-Zar, some of them do consider him an outlander and an enemy. He acts more like an unofficial general protector, preventing outside commercial exploitation, such as poaching and mining, as well as enforcing peace between the various tribes and serving as goodwill ambassador to friendly visitors.

Ka-Zar has often teamed up with several Marvel heroes including Daredevil, Hulk, Spider-Man, the Avengers and the X-Men. After the Savage Land became known to outsiders, Ka-Zar discovered that the Savage Land was a remaining part of the prehistoric super-continent called Pangaea. He later married adventurer Shanna O'Hara, who has taken the name Shanna the She-Devil.

Kevin Plunder is a very athletic man with a unique style of hand-to-hand combat shaped by years of surviving in the Savage Land. He carries a 12-inch Bowie knife, and occasionally uses a slingshot, bow and arrow, and other primitive weapons.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Heath Ledger wins SAG Award

The late Heath Ledger won his second posthumous award for his iconic performance as the Joker in "The Dark Knight", when he received the Screen Actors Guild award for Best Supporting Role in a Motion Picture. Ledger's co-star Gary Oldman accepted the prize on behalf of the late actor at the SAG Awards ceremony in Los Angeles.

The win puts Ledger a step closer to becoming just the second performer to win a posthumous Academy Award. Oscar buzz has been flying over Ledger's performance since before his death from an accidental prescription drug overdose on January 22 of last year. Ledger now looks certain to receive the supporting-actor Oscar on February 22, 2009.

Friday, January 23, 2009


The Agents of Atlas on-going series kicks of next month as part of the whole “Dark Reign” storyline that has taken over so much of the regular Marvel Universe. As a quick re-cap of the new series, let’s take a peak back at the late 2006 mini-series that first introduced the Agents as a team, although the mini-series itself took its cue from the June 1978 issue of What If? #9, where most of the characters originally appeared together as an out-of-continuity version of the Avengers set in the 1950’s:

Official continuity has now established that the group was formed in 1958 by F.B.I. agent Jimmy Woo to rescue President Eisenhower from the villainous Yellow Claw. Agent Woo first recruited Venus (who is one of the legendary Sirens given flesh, and not the Roman Goddess of myth) and Marvel Boy, but tried unsuccessfully to recruit Namora of Atlantis, who declined membership but revealed where to find a broken, but potentially useful robot named M-11 (aka “The Human Robot” ). While Marvel Boy affected repairs on M-11, Woo asked Jann of the Jungle to extend an invitation to Gorilla-Man, who accepted Woo's offer. The group quickly rescued President Eisenhower and remained active for six months until the federal government, deciding that the public was not ready for such a group, disbanded it and classified all information about them.

In the present, Jimmy Woo, by now a high-ranking agent of S.H.I.E.L.D., made an unauthorized raid on a group identified as the Atlas Foundation. Woo infiltrated a secret Atlas location, but his entire team was killed in an ambush. Woo himself was critically burned and he lost his higher brain functions. Gorilla-Man, also a veteran S.H.I.E.L.D. agent, provided the organization with a record of the 1950s team, of which S.H.I.E.L.D. had no knowledge, and then rescued Woo with the aid of M-11 and Marvel Boy, who restored Woo to his 1958 self. Namora, whom the group had believed dead, returned and finally joined the Agents. The team also learned that M-11 was a double agent for the Yellow Claw.

Using M-11’s internal beacon, the heroes found the Yellow Claw, who revealed that he was an almost immortal Mongol Khan who claimed to have orchestrated each of his battles with Jimmy Woo only to establish Woo's worthiness to marry his daughter, Suwan and to succeed him as Khan. The Claw had created Atlas to put Woo once again in the spotlight. Woo accepted his destiny, assumed control of Atlas hoping to turn it into a force for good, and the Yellow Claw, having found his heir, appeared to commit suicide. The Agents of Atlas later worked as a resistance cell against the invasion of Earth by the shape-shifting alien race known as the Skrulls.

Following the Skrull defeat, the Agents of Atlas have decided to oppose Norman Osborn's agenda by taking on the role of "super-villains". Their first act was to attack Fort Knox and steal the federal gold reserve, which Osborn had planned on using to finance a secret weapons system.

{Note: Agents of Atlas writer Jeff Parker explained that original What if? team member 3-D Man was left out "because he wasn't really around in the 1950s".} Maybe Jeff Parker ought to speak to the upper echelon at Marvel about that Sentry dude?

Before the on-going AoA series gets underway, here is a word of caution from yours truly, to the creators of the book, to avoid tossing in too many extra characters as additional team members. Take some time to flesh out the new book, and only THEN – if you must – stick with the whole 1950’s/Atlas dynamic and consider the following few potential heroes as possible new Agents of Atlas:

Sun Girl appeared in three issues of her own series back in 1948, a couple of issues of Marvel Mystery Comics, made a single crossover with Captain America and then became the sidekick of the original Human Torch for four issues through 1949. She is long overdue for a revival.

The original Black Knight (Sir Percy of Scandia) was a popular title for Atlas/Marvel back in the 1950’s. Drawn by the late, great Joe Maneely, the series was set back the age of chivalry, but hey, time travel could certainly solve that easily enough and Sir Percy’s Brazier of Truth still resides in Garrett Castle in the modern day, where his cursed shade has often interacted with his modern day descendant, Dane Whitman (the current Black Knight).

3-D Man first appeared in Marvel Premiere #35 (April 1977), but the characters history was firmly set in the 1950’s, so despite what Jeff Parker thinks, brothers Hal & Chuck Chandler (who together comprise 3-D Man) should’ve-could’ve been an Agent of Atlas and if not him then ….

Delroy Garrett, current calling himself 3-D Man, and formerly known as the Avenger, Triathlon has been tied into the history of the earlier version of 3-D Man and he could make a fine addition to the AoA group.

"Gal" Friday! Serinda Swan

"You can do magic
You can have anything that you desire
Magic, and you know
Youre the one who can put out the fire"

- lyrics by America

It seems like every week my selection for "Gal" Friday is pushed to the side in favor of someone else who seemingly "pops" up out of nowhere, and this week proved to be no exception.

Canadian model & actress Serinda Swan has been cast in the role of Zatanna on the CW's "Smallville" series. In DC Comics, Zatanna is a long-time member of the Justice League of America who casts magical spells by speaking verbal commands backwards.

I really don't watch Smallville anymore, and I even managed to miss the recent Legion of Super-Heroes appearance there (and I'm a big fan of the Legion), but if these photos of Ms. Swan are any indication of her charms, then she will make a nice Zatanna.

Let's just keep our fingers crossed that they have her wear the fishnets. Oh boy!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Is Bendis writing Batman?

Knightfall was the title given to a major Batman story arc written by Chuck Dixon & others and originally published by DC Comics that dominated Batman-related comic books in the spring and summer of 1993. Knightfall was also the umbrella title to what became a trilogy of storylines that ran between 1993 to 1994. They consisted of "Knightfall", "Knightquest", and "KnightsEnd". The entire original Knightfall storyline took over a year to complete in the participating comic books.

Writer/Editor Dennis O'Neill, stated that part of the reason Knightfall was written was due to the popularity of more 'ruthless' heroes such as the Terminator and James Bond in films, and DC Comics publishers were starting to wonder if readers would prefer a Batman who was willing to kill his opponents; the subsequent response to Knightfall’s Jean Paul Valley/Batman proved that this was not the case.

Now, skip ahead to the present.

Batman RIP by Grant Morrison, pretty much rips-off the earlier Knightfall storyline, and is basically Knightfall Two, and adding insult to fan injury, the culmination of this drawn out rigmarole actually occurs in the crossover event series, “Final Crisis.”

Plus, the readers who fell for this scam, are now being prepped for another round of spin-the-bottle-storytelling with DC Comics next spiffy-idea-that-we-have-already-test-driven, Battle For The Cowl, which suggests that a slugfest among the Batman Family supporting cast is about to get underway to determine who is most qualified to replace the Dark Knight?

I don’t understand why this kind of stuff sells. I also have a very hard time accepting that the folks who craft stories like this, and the readers who support marketing campaigns that drive this mindset, actually like Batman.

1993 vs. 2009

‘Ruthless heroes”in the ascendant …. Again?

This isn’t Batman folks.

"Lost" returns (Yay, brother!)

Fans of ABC television series, "Lost" were treated to a remarkable two-part season opener last night that left no doubt that this is going to be a bang-up year for the show.

The first hour titled "Because You Left", confirmed (for those folks who still needed to hear it) that time travel capability is definitely a part of the islands many mysteries. All of the cast members were utilized to fine effect and the return of the "Oceanic 6" to "Lost" Island may happen sooner than expected.

The second hour titled "The Lie", scaled back somewhat on several cast members, but fans were rewarded by two unexpected cameo appearances that were just to die for. If these guests stars participation was leaked or spoiled, then thank god that I managed to miss out on that info in advance, because when they showed up - it was much more effective not knowing about it.

Needless to say, the rescued survivors have not found themselves better off for having gotten off of the island, and those that were left behind are seriously imperiled at the moment - or at several different moments - if you get my drift. [Hint; time travel really can be a bitch!]

With both Battlestar: Galactica and Lost back on the air, January is shaping up to be a very good month.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

"Edgar Allan Poe's Tales of Terror" (Dell Comics; courtesy of THOIA)

"Edgar Allan Poe's Tales of Terror" (Part II)

"Edgar Allan Poe's Tales of Terror" (Part III)

The Great Karswell is running a week-long birthday tribute to suspense writer Edgar Allan Poe over at his "The Horrors Of It All" blog, and he has generously allowed me to take part by running the Dell Comics adaptation of director Roger Corman's 1963 film "Tales of Terror" which adapted several Poe stories. "The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar" is a creepy warning about the perils of hypnotism. The movie version of this story starred Vincent Price, Basil Rathbone and Debra Paget. As you read this comics adaptation (from Dell Movie Classics #793) you will definitely be able to see how their likenesses were effectively captured by that issues artist, George Evans.

Enjoy! (and a belated 'Happy 200th Birthday' to the late Mr. Poe)

Monday, January 19, 2009

Comic Books Around the World: Philippines

Darna was created by Filipino comics legend Mars Ravelo. In her more popular incarnations (the character has appeared in numerous movies and tv shows), she is an outer space warrior manifesting herself through a young girl from Earth, named Narda.

Darna was originally introduced as "Varga" in Bulaklak Magazine;Volume 4, #17, on July 23, 1947, but following creative differences with the editors of Bulaklak Magazine, Mars Ravelo changed the characters name to "Darna" and re-launched the book in 1950, with Nestor Redondo as artist. Darna later became a Philippine cultural icon.

Regardless of her many incarnations, the 1950's origin of Darna begins with a village girl named Narda who finds a small, white stone (actually a tiny meteorite from outer space). For some reason, Narda swallows the stone and then shouts "Darna!" - becoming a mighty warrior ready to defend Earth from evil forces.

Darna's powers include flight, super strength, super speed and near-invulnerability. The ruby encrusted in the winged medallion on her helmet also augments her abilities, allowing her to emit a powerful concussion blast and the medallions that make up her belt can be used like throwing stars (shuriken). Contrary to what some Filipinos may believe, Darna was not named after the magical Ibong Adarna (Adarna bird), which appears in a Philippine epic of the same name. In Bulaklak Magazine, though Narda was established as her mortal identity, "Darna" was simply an anagram of "Narda".

Darna's first adventure (as Darna) was serialized in the pages of Pilipino Komiks #77, where she was pitted against the sultry snake goddess Valentina. Here, the young girl Narda, swallowed the stone (which had the word Darna on it) and transformed into Darna by shouting out the latter name. Likewise, Darna can turn back into Narda by shouting her own name. The stone, which came from the planet Marte, remains in her body, and only her grandmother, and her brother Ding (who eventually becomes her sidekick) are aware of her secret.

A Weekend Recap (& brief review of Looney Tunes #170; DC Comics)

I had a pretty decent weekend. Battlestar: Galactica returned on Friday night, after a year-long furlough, to run out its final ten episodes, and the reveals were stunning and numerous. I missed this top-rated show, and despite my extreme irritation at the NBC execs who forced us to wait a year for these last few shows, B:G returned in top form with a terrific twist or two.

I also made a long overdue pilgrimage to Lexington, NC for a fantastic barbecue feast at Speedy's BBQ (highly recommended) if you find yourself in that neck of the woods. Chopped pork barbecue, spicy red BBQ slaw, crispy fried hush puppies, sweetened iced tea, man-oh-man, you just can't beat it guys. Hate that you missed out!

Of course, that trip was simply one leg of the entire journey. My companions and I also stopped by Shelton Drum's Heroes Aren't Hard To Find store in Charlotte, NC for his "Heroes Mini-Con" (just down the street from Heroes headquarters). It was the 32 year of such shows sponsored by the super-nice guy who hosts the popular, annual Heroes Convention - also in Charlotte.

As a heads up for tomorrow (or the next day), it looks like I will be hosting (courtesy of THOIA) a nice comic book adaptation of a classic Edgar Allan Poe tale, but I'm gonna make you wait until then to see which eerie story it actually is.

For now I would like to praise the fine folks at DC Comics for keeping all-ages comics alive in the form of their excellent Looney Tunes, Scooby Doo and Cartoon Network titles. I pick some of these up from time-to-time and no matter which book I buy, the end result is always a nostalgic smile on my face. Looney Tunes #170 features a trio of Daffy Duck stories (plus a couple of shorter features) that are reminiscent of the old Warner Brothers cartoons upon which this series is based.

Daffy Duck stars in “Stupor Duck Sores (Ouch!) Again” by writer Bill Matheny, penciller Walter Carzon & inker Ruben Torreiro and “The Adventures of Stupor Duck: Crisis in Coin-Op! ” by writer Frank Strom & artist Mike DeCarlo; co-starring Porky Pig and again in “Mistooken Identity” by writer Frank Strom, penciller Walter Carzon & inker Ruben Torreiro; co-starring Bugs Bunny.

This book is well deserving of higher sales than the quarterly charts indicate, but kudos to DC for keeping it on the stands.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Rayboy's Review: Guardians of the Galaxy #8 (Marvel Comics)

So, I picked up a copy of Guardians of the Galaxy #8 and discovered that the new art team of penciller Brad Walker and inker Victor Olazaba actually held my interest. That wasn’t what I expected, now that Paul Pelletier has jumped over to the "War of Kings" crossover series (of which this issue is a small part). I am a bit guarded in praising Walker, since he suffers from a common modern affliction - - - an over-reliance on large story panels as an artistic short cut. It could simply be that the regular writing team of Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning didn’t provide Walker with more than a bare bones plot to tie-into their spiffy new cosmic x-over series, but there are far too many blown up panels that really have nothing going on in them, other than a character or two knocking the living daylights out of each other, or a single face dominating the entire page (and when this type of conceit doesn’t heighten the drama of the moment, then really, what's the point?).

The opening nine pages show great promise with a flashback that fills us in on how Star-Lord ended up in the Negative Zone last month as the prisoner of Blastaar. Along the way Peter "Star-Lord" Quill ends up suffering quite a beat down from his old "Annihilation" pal, Ronan the Accuser, but since the last issue actually closed with a big page (two pages/?) reveal of Blastaar, there was no need to repeat the very same moment, on yet another splash page, to return us to this particular point of the story. We then have four more pretty nice pages that feature Rocket Raccoon’s current/temporary version of the Guardians, before the book coasts along to its end with increasing use of overblown, large-scale panels that only briefly touch base with other extended cast members. Such a waste!

I have no idea if the new creative team shuffle is permanent or if Mr. Pelletier plans on returning to this title after the "War of Kings" mini-series runs its course. If he isn't coming back, my suggestion to Marvel Comics would be to shift Tom Grummett over to Guardians of the Galaxy now that his Exiles gig is ending (that book is being cancelled) and I certainly hope that Mssrs. Abnett & Lanning can get Guardians back on track soon, the series opened with a very specific premise & team mission, that fell by the wayside with its involvement in "Secret Invasion", and now "War of Kings" threatens to do more of the same. Considering that an Assistant-Editor, Editor, Editor-in-Chief & Publisher all receive a credit on this title, I have to wonder if they feel the same way?

Rayboy gives Guardians of the Galaxy #8 ** out of ***** (but he is keeping his fingers crossed).

"Gal" Friday! Elizabeth Banks

You will probably most recognize Elizabeth Banks from one of her high profile comedic performances in films like The 40-Year Old Virgin, Fred Claus, Role Models or Zack and Miri Make a Porno, but proving that she has more going for her than just a good sense of humor, the talented Ms. Banks (who also portrayed out-going First Lady Laura Bush in director Oliver Stone's "W" \) has a horror/thriller, The Uninvited coming to theaters in a couple of weeks.

Plus, there's also these hot cheesecake photos that have earned the Massachusetts native a berth in our weekly "Gal" Friday spot.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

In Memorium: Ricardo Montalban

It's tough to lose two notable genre actors within the space of just a couple of days, but both of these talented gentlemen [Patrick McGoohan died Tuesday] elevated their craft beyond simple acting.

(AP) -- Ricardo Montalban, the popular Mexican-born actor who became a star in splashy MGM musicals opposite Esther Williams in "Fiesta," "On an Island with You" and "Neptune's Daughter" and later as the wish-fulfilling Mr. Roarke in TV's "Fantasy Island," died from complications of advancing age Wednesday morning at his home at the age of 88.

Montalban had been a star in a string of Mexican movies before MGM brought him to Hollywood in 1946. More recently, he appeared as villains in two hits of the 1980s: "Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan" (reprising a role he originated on the 1960's sci-fi classic) and — in line with his always-apparent sense of humor about himself — the farcical "The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad."

Montalban had better luck after leaving MGM in 1953, though he was usually cast in ethnic roles such as a Japanese kabuki actor in "Sayonara" and an Indian in "Cheyenne Autumn." His other films included "Madame X," "The Singing Nun," "Sweet Charity," "Escape from the Planet of the Apes" and "Conquest of the Planet of the Apes."

In 1944, Montalban married Georgiana Young, actress and model and younger sister of actress Loretta Young. Both Roman Catholics, they remained one of Hollywood's most devoted couples. She died in 2007. The couple had four children: Laura, Mark, Anita and Victor. Condolences go out to his family, friends and fans.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

In Memorium: Patrick McGoohan

(AP) - Patrick McGoohan, an Emmy-winning actor who created and starred in the cult classic television show "The Prisoner," has died. He was 80.

McGoohan died Tuesday in Los Angeles after a short illness, his son-in-law, film producer Cleve Landsberg, said Wednesday.

McGoohan won two Emmy's for his work on the Peter Falk detective drama "Columbo," and more recently appeared as King Edward Longshanks in the 1995 Mel Gibson film "Braveheart."

But he was best known as the title character Number Six in "The Prisoner," a surreal 1960s British series in which a former spy is held captive in a small village and constantly tries to escape. A remake of "The Prisoner" starring Ian MKellen and Jim Caviezel is due out later this year on the AMC cable channel.

My personal favorite performance of McGoohan's was Doctor Syn in Disney's 1963 classic, "The Scarecrow of Romney Marsh". Condolences go out to his family, friends and fans.

Hey, Marvel! Where the heck is "The Twelve #9"?

Solicited in late 2007, J. Michael Straczynski & Chris Weston's popular Marvel Comics series, The Twelve, took a dozen mystery men from Marvel's WWII-era (when the company was known as Timely Comics) and revived them from suspended animation after 60 years, thrusting them into a world they no longer recognized, and where friends & family members had passed away during their absence.

Starting with issue #1 (Jan. 9, 2008), the title maintained a steady publication schedule for most of the first eight issues, but that seems to have fallen by the wayside. Last year two consecutive issues, #7 & #8, each skipped a month, and since then .... nothing. Nada. Zilch. There isn't even so much as a release date listed through March 2009 for The Twelve #9 (cover; pictured at right).

Adding insult to injury, British artist Chris Weston stopped updating his online blog in October 2008 and it has been widely reported that writer J. Michael Straczynski has moved over to the "Distinguished Competition" to pen The Brave and The Bold (where among other duties he is set to re-introduce the golden age versions of the old Archie Comics heroes), plus the lure of so many Hollywood scripting assignments has likely drawn Straczynski further away from his formerly "hot' project. [I guess he doesn't give a crap about the fans who bought The Twelve.]

What gives? Does anyone have a clue about this series? Is it bad form on the part of Marvel Comics, or should we suppose that this is yet another example of editor-in-chief Joe Quesada's "growing roses" mentality?

A plug for Catskill Comics

Anyone who would like to purchase either original comic book artwork, or commission something specific, from a gang of nice professional comic book artists, should head on over to the Catskill Comics web page.

There you will find a list of available artists that includes Brett Breeding, Ramona Fradon, Ron Frenz, Mike Grell, Pat Olliffe, Ron Wagner and many other talented individuals who are ready, willing & able to satisfy your cravings for cool original art to hang on your walls (if you don't ruin them by drooling onto the pages).

Scott Kress is nice guy, and he will help you acquire that special piece from the pro of your choice. Just look at this terrific recent commission (right) of the silver age Black Knight by artist Mike Grell (DC Comics The Warlord, The Legion of Super-Heroes, Green Arrow). That is certainly well worth the price ... just look at that beautiful line work. I think I'm jealous of whoever has this piece of art. Scott helped me pick up this original not too long ago, so I thought I would mention this in the hopes that some of you might visit his site and do a little shopping for yourselves.

After all, those tax rebates will be on the way soon!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

1970's Flashback: Claw the Unconquered

Claw first appeared in DC Comics Claw the Unconquered #1 (June 1975) as part of the "DC Explosion", a period when the publisher launched a record number of new titles onto the comic book market (16 new titles debuted in 1975).

After Marvel Comics found success in the "sword and sorcery" genre with their depiction of Robert E. Howard's Conan The Barbarian, DC released several fantasy-oriented series including Warlord, Stalker, Starfire, Nightmaster, Tor, Beowulf Dragon Slayer and Claw (which most closely resembled Conan in character and appearance).

Claw too, was a wandering barbarian in a prehistoric age who battled against rogue wizards, thieves, monsters and various warriors who crossed his path. However, as a result of a curse which had been placed upon his family, Claw possessed a deformed, claw-like right hand.

Published bimonthly through #9 (October, 1976), Claw the Unconquered was shelved for a time and then restarted with #10 (May 1978), however the relaunch of the series lasted for only three issues, and then it was suddenly cancelled with #12 (September 1978) as part of the infamous "DC Implosion", when their comics line was drastically scaled back. Two further issues of the series, which had been fully written and drawn, were later published in Cancelled Comics Cavalcade #1 in 1978 (only 35 copies of that comic were officially published). Claw was revived for a two part back up feature in Warlord #48-49 (August-September 1981) that tried to wrap up the barbarians story.

The entire series was written by David Michelinie, and Ernie Chan illustrated the series up to #7, with Keith Giffen taking over art duties with #8. With Giffen onboard, the series began to incorporate sci-fi elements, moving away from its’ purely sword and sorcery beginnings.

[Note: A joint DC/Wildstorm/Dynamite Claw the Unconquered regular monthly title by writer Chuck Dixon and penciller Andy Smith debuted in June 2006, but by December the new Claw series had run its course, ending with Claw enslaved by demons from hell,and the whole world doomed to demonic possession. This version series gave Claw's full name as "Valcan Scaramax.]

Monday, January 12, 2009

Heath Ledger wins Golden Globe

(AP) - The late Heath Ledger earned the supporting-actor Globe for his diabolical turn as the Joker in the Batman blockbuster "The Dark Knight." The Globe win boosts Ledger's prospects for the supporting-actor honor at the Oscars, whose nominations come out Jan. 22, the one-year anniversary of the actor's accidental death from a combination of prescription drugs.

The award was accepted by "The Dark Knight" director Christopher Nolan, who said he and his collaborators were buoyed by the enormous acclaim and acceptance the film and Ledger's performance have gained worldwide.

"All of us who worked with Heath on 'The Dark Knight' accept with an awful mixture of sadness but incredible pride," Nolan said. "After Heath passed, you saw a hole ripped in the future of cinema."

Only one actor has ever won a posthumous Oscar, best-actor recipient Peter Finch, for 1976's "Network."

From the Dust Bin: The (Original) Black Cat

Harvey Comics is perhaps most famous for some of the best kiddie comics to ever see print. Casper the Friendly Ghost, Richie Rich, Wendy the Good Little Witch, Hot Stuff, Baby Huey, etc. are all classic stars of the all-ages genre (in fact, just try to pick up a few of these gems on eBay, and you will quickly see just how high the regard for these old books really is), but starting back during the golden age, Harvey Comics also published several of their own superhero-types, including the Black Cat, or since Marvel Comics has now swiped her name, the [original] Black Cat.

Linda Turner was the daughter of silent film, western actor Tim Turner and an unnamed Hollywood stunt woman, and she followed in their footsteps. Linda had successfully made the transition from stunt woman to lead actress when during the filming of a picture, she began to suspect the film's director of being a Nazi spy. To gain corroborating evidence, she disguised herself in a backless blue blouse, red shorts, blue flared gloves, red buccaneer boots and a blue opera mask and called herself The Black Cat.

As the Black Cat, Linda met Los Angeles Globe reporter Rick Horne, who was also investigating rumors of a Nazi spy ring in LA. Initially disdainful of one another, the pair were forced to work together and they discovered that the director was planting secret information within his motion pictures. Her knowledge of the studio, allowed the Black Cat to sneak into the editing room and alter the picture to render the information useless. Unfortunately Rick and Linda were physically overpowered by the gang and the director escaped. Linda Turner decided to retain her Black Cat identity to keep watch over his activities.

Life on her father's ranch outside of LA, allowed Linda to develop the physical skills necessary to perform her work as The Black Cat. She is adept at riding horses and motorcycles, as well as performing various stunts while riding either of them. She is also proficient with a lasso and possesses a black belt in judo. Her stunt training allows her to make impressive leaps from buildings or moving vehicles safely.

During the course of her two decades in comics, The Black Cat's title changed occasionally to reflect industry trends. The series was also known as Black Cat Western, Black Cat Mystery and Black Cat Mystic. The last three issues were released between October 1962 (#63; shown) and April 1963 (#65). As you can see, despite having her heroic name ultimately stolen by Marvel, Linda Turner was still kicking around even as the House of Ideas started making their own mark on the four-color world.

Friday, January 9, 2009

"Gal" Friday! The Topcats

Once again this weekend eight NFL teams will play during the annual post-season divisional round to determine which of the survivors will square off for the two conference championship titles. Last weekend the Colts, the Falcons, the Vikings and the Dolphins were eliminated during the post-season "Wild Card" games. Basically that meant that the National Football League's Most Valuable Player 2008 (Peyton Manning/Colt's QB), the 2008 Associated Press Rookie of the Year (Matt Ryan/Falcon's QB) and the 2008 AP Comeback Player of the Year (Chad Pennington/Dolphin's QB) didn't really add up to additional play-off appearances. Yikes!

In honor of this weeks appearance by my "hometown" team, the Carolina Panthers (playing at home against the Arizona Cardinals in Charlotte, NC), and my usual "Gal" Friday post, here are eight of my favorite current Topcats (the official Carolina Panthers Cheerleaders squad).

Seven of these fetching young ladies are first year members of the squad, in fact of this group, only Kristie has been a Topcat for longer than the others, and she's only in her 2nd year (and already a co-Captain).

Go team!