Saturday, February 28, 2009

1970's Flashback: The Defenders

The Defenders first appeared as a feature in Marvel Feature #1 (December, 1971), where the founding members gathered to battle the alien techno-wizard Yandroth and then remained as a team afterwards.

However, the origin of the Defenders can actually be traced back to two crossover story arcs originally written by Roy Thomas prior to the "official" founding of the team. The first, in Doctor Strange #183 (November 1969), Sub-Mariner #22 (February 1970), and The Incredible Hulk #126 (April 1970) occurred when the Dr. Strange series was cancelled and the storyline was completed in the other series. Dr. Strange teamed with Sub-Mariner, and then the Hulk to protect the Earth from invasion by Lovecraftian inter-dimensional beings known as the Undying Ones and their leader, the Nameless One. Barbara Norris (later the host body of the Valkyrie) first appeared in this story. In the second arc (featured in Sub-Mariner #34 and #35, Feb. & March 1971), Namor enlists the aid of the Silver Surfer and the Hulk to stop a devastating weather control experiment and to free a small island nation from a dictator, and this led the trio into a face-off with the Avengers.

Although many other heroes worked with the famous "non-team" (so called by the founders because they didn't consider themselves to be an official grouping) in its original incarnation, the most prominent classic Defenders are Doctor Strange, the Hulk, the Sub-Mariner, the Silver Surfer, Nighthawk, and Valkyrie.

Friday, February 27, 2009

"Gal" Friday! Lindsay Price

Actress Lindsay Price has just been cast as one of the three witches of "Eastwick", a new television series based on the John Updike novel that was earlier made into a film starring Jack Nicholson in 1987.
Three bewitching sisters are seduced by the devil, and this lass could definitely seduce me. But did she have to cover up so much in this captivating photo? lol

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Rayboy's Review: Scooby-Doo! #140 (DC Comics)

Hot comic book artists come along every year or so. Skilled comic book writers happen along once in awhile. New characters occasionally grab the attention of our entire industry, too. Still, comic books have dramatically changed over the years.

Manga influences and formats are prevalent, enhanced (& speedier) computer techniques have replaced many of the old “by hand” methods of coloring, lettering, etc. Many younger readers [and the “actual” age of these readers is irrelevant] think that anything other than full-page-bleed artwork is archaic, antiquated or “old school”. Traditional panel borders and other recognized tools of the comic book storytelling format – like gutters - have largely fallen by the wayside.

DC Comics Scooby-Doo! #140 (March 2009) filled me with an abiding joy as I flipped through its terrific pages over the past weekend. This was a "real" comic book folks! Writer John Rozum penned all three wonderful short stories within the issue and each of them was interesting, entertaining and true to what I recall of the classic Hanna-Barbera cartoon show upon which this series is based. Rozum’s partners on the first two tales are veteran penciller Joe Staton & inker Horacio Ottolini. There are no cheats within either of these stories; the reader is treated to lush, full artwork that cuts no corners. The backgrounds are fully realized, Staton's visual characterization enhances the script and even at only 8 and 6 pages in length, the two adventures have a recognizable beginning, middle and end. The third story illustrated by Robert Pope & Scott McCrae is also loads of fun, but simply not of the caliber of Staton and Ottolini’s stuff.

Heck the book even smells like a comic book!

Why the devil the main comics publishers insist on using that spray-painted, shellac-coated junk for the majority of their comics these days is beyond me. DC has wisely chosen to keep overhead low, by using a more affordable interior paper and cover stock on the comics they publish for all ages. This stuff not only looks like a comic, feels like a comic and SMELLS like a regular old comic book. It is one!

The talent that’s behind this book is far and away superior to the angst driven, mega-crossover, marketing-minded, bullshit banality of what is passing for both DC and Marvel’s standard fictional universes at the moment.

Buy this book people, I just added it to my pull list, and now I get to go on an egg hunt for many wonderful back issues of Scooby-Do!

Monday, February 23, 2009

Aargh! Romero Zombies Come To Charlotte.

George Romero appeared at the Heroes Aren’t Hard To Find comics shop in Charlotte, NC on Friday, February 20, 2009, in conjunction with The Light Factory's film retrospective "American Zombie," going on all weekend. AND the signing held at the Heroes store was the only public autograph opportunity scheduled for Mr. Romero for the entire weekend!

Fans of the famed horror directors work (1968’s original Night of the Living Dead, 1978’s original Dawn of the Dead, 1985’s original Day of the Dead, 1973’s The Crazies, 1977’s Martin, 1982’s Creepshow, 1993’s The Dark Half, etc.) arrived early – en mass – to receive a chit good for an autograph. Signed items were signaled to run $15 a pop, not too bad for a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. My groups numbers were 207 & 208, which may sound high, but literally HUNDREDS of people swamped both the interior and exterior of the local comics shop. Romero’s presence was meant to last from 3pm until 5pm; however even extending his signing for an additional hour didn’t guarantee us an autograph. As of when we bailed out of the event to go in search of sustenance at 4:45pm, the line was only up to about number 75 (give or take).

This is my only real criticism of this planned event. Considering that folks showed up early and then cordially hung out all day hoping to say a few words to Romero and get an autograph, the stores staff didn’t make much of an effort to move the large crowd through. There was no shoving, scuffling or grumbling going on from the mob, everyone seemed rather fine with the wait, but they had about 20 items available for Mr. Romero to sign and they were allowing the vast majority of people to take their own good time in selecting which one they wanted; as if nobody else was present. It dramatically bogged down the works! In my opinion, the very same Heroes gang who organizes the annual Heroes Convention – running for over 26 years – dropped the ball.

It was well over an hour and a half (out of a two hour event) BEFORE they decided that it might be a good idea to limit the number of signatures that were being requested individually to two-per-person. The event was promoted rather heavily in the local area through print and media venues, above and beyond the normal comic scene crowd. Remember, this event was held in support of a three day festival. I understand that the Heroes staff may have been a bit overwhelmed by the response, but again, the hundreds that arrived were really relaxed and chilled, and you know what, maybe that was the problem here.

People just weren’t bitching enough!

I heard comments being made by Light Factory reps as we left, that time would be set aside that evening to accommodate chit-holders who also attended the screening of “Night of the Living Dead”, but whether this happened or not, I couldn’t tell you. In the photos [above;top] Mr. Romero is - of course - the one signing stuff. Shelton Drum (wearing a long-sleeved blue t-shirt), the owner of Heroes Aren't Hard To Find, sits beside Romero and the unknown dude who stuck his head into one the shots remains nameless (like all good little zombies).

Three of us drove from out of state (or town) to “see” George Romero and despite our lack of autographs, we did manage to at least "see" him. I had fun, visited with friends, ate some great barbecue (another hour or so away) and picked up a few comics, but I have seen similar events over the years that were far, far better organized. Even by the same folks that held this one!

Congratulations! Heath Ledger wins Oscar Statuette

Heath Ledger became only the second "actor" to posthumously win an Academy Award for his bravura performance as the Joker in "The Dark Knight". The late Peter Finch also received a Best Actor Oscar posthumously for the film "Network" in 1976. Ledger's win for Best Supporting Actor was the fifteenth such Oscar to be awarded overall to persons that have passed away prior to their win.

Additionally, Christopher Nolan's Batman saga crossed the $1 billion mark in worldwide revenues on Friday, having accumulated a $1,001,082,160 billion gross to date.

With two Oscar wins to its credit for supporting actor (Heath Ledger) and sound editing, The Dark Knight ranks as the fourth highest worldwide grosser of all time, before adjusting for inflation. "Titanic" is tops with more than $1.8 billion.

Friday, February 20, 2009

"Gal" Friday! Script Girl

I had heard Harry and the gang over at "Ain't It Cool News" mention or reference "Script Girl" many times, but frankly I never really paid much attention. Recently, I took the time to see what the fuss was all about and pleasantly discovered that the girl in question was a cutie who covered current and pending script sales and negotiations in Tinseltown (aka Hollywood).

If nothing else, Script Girl certainly gets my attention for her prominent rack. Talk about a double whammy, big boobs are among my very favorite things, and she definitely knows how to use her assets to get your attention. I must also add that she does come across as a very intelligent young woman during her regular online podcasts.

Who cares about the scripts, let's see more of the girl?

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Rulah Jungle Goddess in "The Skull of the Conqueror" (Fox Comics)

Our favorite jungle goddess turns somewhat into an ersatz ghost-buster in this short feature from golden age publisher Fox's Rulah Jungle Goddess #23; November 1948. Remember kiddies, looks can be deceiving, but girls wearing animal skin bikinis can't be fooled.


Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Just Roll Tape!

Watchmen opens in theaters on March 6, 2009.
X-Men Origins: Wolverine opens in theaters on May 1, 2009.
Star Trek opens in theaters on May 8, 2009.
Astro Boy opens in theaters on October 23, 2009.

Monday, February 16, 2009

From the Dust Bin: The Human Bomb

Roy Lincoln was a young scientist working with his father on a new explosive chemical called "27-QRX.", when Nazi spies entered his lab and murdered his father. To prevent it from falling into their hands, Roy resorted to ingesting the chemical, and as a result he gained the ability to cause explosions within any object that he came into contact with through his hands; the only way to control it was to always wear special asbestos gloves. Donning a full containment suit to prevent any accidental explosions, Roy Lincoln became the "Human Bomb," removing his gloves only to expose his explosive powers against Nazi and Japanese enemies, as well as ordinary criminals. He later gained enough control over his powers to remove the containment suit, though the gloves were always necessary.

The Human Bomb was created for golden age publisher Quality Comics by writer & artist Paul Gustavson for Police Comics #1 (August 1941), and his feature continued in Police Comics until #58 (September, 1946). After Quality Comics folded in 1956, DC Comics acquired the rights to the Human Bomb, as well as the other Quality Comics properties. The Human Bomb and several other former Quality properties were re-launched in Justice League of America #107 (October, 1973) as The Freedom Fighters who were located on a parallel world called "Earth-X" on which Nazi Germany had won World War II. The characters were featured in their own series for fifteen issues (1976-1978). The Human Bomb was an occasional guest star in All-Star Squadron, a title that was set during the WWII-era, at a time prior to when Lincoln and the other Freedom Fighters were supposed to have left for Earth-X.

The character next appeared in DC's Crisis on Infinite Earths, a story that was supposed to eliminate the similarly confusing histories that DC had attached to its characters by retroactively merging the various parallel worlds into one. This effectively erased the Human Bomb's Earth-X days, and merged the character's All-Star Squadron and Freedom Fighter histories so that the Freedom Fighters were a splinter group of the All-Star Squadron.

Roy Lincoln, like too many other classic characters, was arbitrarily killed off in DC's 2005 mega-crossover series, Infinite Crisis, although his heroic name was quickly tacked onto a new version.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Young Guns Sketchbook 2009 ... FREE! (Marvel Comics)

Talk about jumping on the band wagon, not so long ago, when I started my recent round robin of "Rayboy’s Reviews", I mentioned that in addition to purchasing the batch of four comics that I was weighing in on, I also happened to pick up a lone freebie.

"Young Guns Sketchbook 2009" was released by Marvel Comics to tout the latest group of art robots that they wanted to crow about, but what do I mean with my "band wagon" comment from above?

On the inside front cover, the following participants are listed; Sketchbook Editors Arune Singh, James Viscardi & Michael Lawson; Editorial Assistant Alex Starbuck; Assistant Editors, Special Projects Cory Levine & John Denning; Editors, Special Projects Jennifer Grunwald & Mark D. Beazley; Senior Editor, Special Projects Jeff Youngquist; Senior Vice President of Strategic Development – Acquisitions & Licensing Ruwan Jayatilleke; Vice President of Merchandising & Communications Mike Pasciullo; Senior Vice President of Sales David Gabriel; Sketchbook Designer Rommel Alama and Cover Designer Jeff Suter. Now, if you actually took the time to read all of those credits, you too may be wondering just why in the hell these people need their names plastered on a promotional handout. There were more names listed there, than there were artists being promoted inside this freebie. What the…?

Daniel Acuna, Stefano Caselli, Mike Choi, Marko Djurdjevic, Khoi Pham and Rafa Sandoval are the "Young Guns" in question, so somebody really should call of those non artist people and scream, ‘Hey stupid! Get out of the way and let’s get down to business.’ I mean, damn, it’s only a little promotional sketchbook. Focus people!

Daniel Acuna is one of those illustrators who go for the painted look. We get a glimpse of his work on Dark Avengers #3, Uncanny X-Men Annual #2 and his current gig on The Eternals. I like the character sketches he provides for Ikaris, Thena & Makkari, but not having been thrilled with his DC Comics series, Uncle Sam and the Freedom Fighters, I don’t plan on picking up Eternals. Too bad, because I really love Kirby’s original 1970's "Chariots of the Gods" riff on Eternals.

Stefano Caselli provides both sketches and completed color glimpses of his efforts on Secret Warriors, but two things come to mind looking at this promo. First, I’m not the least bit interested in investing myself in a bunch of here-to-for unknown characters, and second, Nick Fury is going to be seriously wasted in this book. Guys, Nick Fury is a spy, a soldier, not the guru to a bunch of superhero wannabe’s. Down the road though, Caselli will be one to watch!

Mike Choi also treats us to sketches and color work from the cover of Dark Avengers #2 and X-Force. His art appears to be influenced by Japanese manga/anime and I wouldn’t be surprised to hear that he loves Joseph Michael Linsner’s Dawn character.

Marko Djurdjevic shows off concept art for Spider-Man Noir, Daredevil and Dead of Night: Werewolf By Night, and this stuff looks fairly promising, the sketch pages that he includes show a lot of promise, but I would be interested in seeing him paired up with a seasoned inker. He can draw, but again, his finished stuff may just be too "painterly’ for me.

Khoi Pham can layout an action page for sure, and his penciling skills aren’t bad, but overall his work just doesn’t appeal to me. I wouldn’t buy a book with him as artist. The Mighty Avengers sales may fall with him on board.

Rafa Sandoval closes out the group with a sneak peek at his work on Young X-Men and Incredible Hercules. Out of this entire batch of "Young Guns", he gets to show off the most sketch-style pages. I would also like to see him teamed up with a veteran inker, because his basic penciling stuff is really nice.

It is cool to see that Marvel is attempting to develop an audience for these guys, but I am always a tough sell, so check ‘em out if ya’ wanna, but I will probably take a pass for the time being.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Retro-View: Marvel Feature #6 (Nov. 1972; Marvel Comics)

Valentine's Day is for lovers, even storied ones like Hank Pym & Janet Van Dyne aka Ant-Man/Giant-Man/Goliath/Yellowjacket and the winsome Wasp of the Mighty Avengers.

If you ever wondered whether a hero called Ant-Man might borrow a page or two from the 1950’s sci-fi classic "The Incredible Shrinking Man" you weren’t alone. Writer Mike Friedrich took venerable Avengers founding member Hank Pym, variously known as Giant-Man, Goliath and originally Ant-Man, and basically cast him in a similar predicament as the doomed protagonist of that earlier movie mite, over the course of a year-long, seven issue run of Marvel Feature (1st series) between 1972 and 1973. [Note: This series also served as the launching pad for "The Defenders" and "Marvel Two-In-One".] You see, Hank Pym had long been accustomed to shrinking (or growing, depending upon which mood struck him), when he was inadvertently exposed to some other weird chemical that counter-acted his famous "Pym Particles" and permanently trapped him at ant-size.

Marvel Feature #6’s "Hellstorm!" begins when Henry Pym returns to his wrecked lab and discovers his lovely wife and fellow Avenger, Janet Van Dyne aka The Wasp, unconscious and about to be impaled by falling shards of skylight. The Astonishing Ant-Man, because that’s how he’s billed in this short-run series, springs into action and pops open a nearby umbrella to serve as a make-shift shield for Jan, then he leaps into a drainage culvert to protect his own little self from the "mammoth" debris. No, I don’t know why he too didn’t simply cower beneath the umbrella. If it was good enough to spare Jan from suffering injury, it could've served two for the price of one? Soon, Hank hears Jan’s regular chauffeur rushing in to aid his fallen wife (who is mistakenly under the impression that Hank is missing and/or dead), when Ant-Man detects an edge of greed and desire in statements made by the chauffeur, Charles. The driver stalks out upon being spurned by Ms. Van Dyne, and Hank takes the moment to slingshot his cybernetic helmet into Jan’s wrist, both getting her attention and cluing her in that her dear old hubby is still alive & kicking. A happy reunion ensues, and then with some intrepid lab work the tiny twosome are able to successfully isolate the unknown chemical factor which is keeping Dr. Pym trapped at bug-size.

Oops, this discovery comes a bit too late, as they are immediately assaulted by their old nemesis, Whirlwind (although this story doesn't specifically allude to the fact; long-time fans should know that chauffeur Charles and Whirlwind are one and the same), who fails to make effective use of his bigger size and tornado-inducing speed, to kidnap Janet. The ever-astonishing Ant-Man pulls a fast one by killing the laboratory lights, and then diverts a gas jet onto Whirlwind’s handy match flame, to force the villain to flee the scene. With little time to test their formula, Hank balks at ingesting it before reviewing the data that led them to create the potion, when suddenly the Wasp takes matters into her own hands – swallowing the brew before hubby Hank can react.

That was not a very smart move, as Jan then blows up to giant-size, slams her head into the ceiling and collapses back to bug-size herself, permanently it seems, the result of her ill-advised sampling of the newly-devised elixir. Before the Pym’s can begin to adjust to their now shared fate, they detect a commotion at the front door and Hank hops aboard his faithful dog, Orkie to go and see what gives. Unfortunately, the returning Whirlwind gases Hank & Orkie, and unleashes a horde of de-oxygenating pellets to rid the lab of breathable air. The Wasp is able to survive by quickly donning her husband’s self-contained Ant-Man helmet, but somehow both Hank (and Orkie, it is presumed) are able to keep breathing during this ordeal despite having no convenient air tank.

Adding insult to injury, Whirlwind then torches the lab, forcing the Pym’s to flee the room upon the tides of a ruptured water pipe. Nothing else is said about poor Orkie, and the issue closes out with the Pym’s passing out for the night on the grounds outside of their incinerated lab. The issue ends with the heroes awakening to see the headline of a discarded newspaper that details their supposed "death" in the fire from which they had actually escaped. Sheesh!

Mike Friedrich does gets credit for an entertaining story, even if there are some apparent plot holes present, and the penciled art is provided by Marvel Comics staple, Herb Trimpe, but get this, the inking is done by … Mike Trimpe. Now, I don’t know if that Trimpe was son, brother, father or whatever to Herb, but the art is overall pretty serviceable, if not noteworthy. Let me mention that Ant-Man does sport a slightly different uniform during this run of adventures, that is pretty funky-looking, but right in line with 1970’s style designs.

Friday, February 13, 2009

"Gal" Friday! Bar Refaeli

Israeli super-model, and budding actress, Bar Refaeli has already had a storied career, and she is only 23 years old. The lovely Bar became the subject of controversy within her country, for evading mandatory military service at the age of 18, by first marrying, and then conveniently divorcing, a well connected family friend. Following that publicity debacle, Ms. Refaeli entered into a lucrative modeling career, that has led to her recent selection as the cover girl of this years "Sports Illustrated" swimsuit issue.

She inadvertently fell into another public brouhaha, when her bikini-clad figure was plastered all over the outer shell of a Southwest Airlines 737 as a tie-in to her upcoming Sports Illustrated campaign. Southwest Airlines made news not so long ago, by humiliating a gorgeous, buxom blond when they refused to allow her to fly on their little plane because of her choice of wardrobe. A short skirt and a busting-at the seams blouse, because one happens to be rather stacked, is at least a degree better covered than a two-piece string bikini - - - isn't it?

Well, either way, it must also be pointed out that she is the current paramour of American actor Leonardo DiCaprio; which has led to speculation that her relationship with the popular actor is what got her the gig at SI. Whew! She certainly knows how to stir up a whirlwind. Add to that the fact that this young lady is absolutely smoking hot and you will forgive me for choosing her as this weeks "Gal" Friday!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Retro-View: Legion of Super-Heroes #260 (Feb. 1980; DC Comics)

The 1970’s had really come to a crashing halt for Superboy in DC Comics Legion of Super-Heroes title. Not only had the Boy of Steel lost his long-running series to his 30th century team-mates, ceding over the numbering of his own book to the Legionnaires, but he was also effectively shown the door on that issues cover as he permanently returned to his 20th century timeframe(#259;Jan.1980).

The shape of things to come became apparent in Legion of Super-Heroes #260 (Feb. 1980) with “Come to the Circus and Die!” a swift seventeen-pager from writer Gerry Conway and artists Joe Staton & John Calnan. Part murder-mystery, the issue begins with the death of an alien gymnast, who disintegrates during his performance for the Bacaro Bailey Interstellar Traveling Carnival Show. It seems that his isn’t the first death by violence that the carnies have experienced lately, so with the assistance of Earth-Gov, the Legion is quickly assigned the task of ferreting out the identity of the killer.

Of course, with only seventeen pages to tell the tale, there is still time to stop the incoming crash of a robot shuttle that’s out of control. Not one to sit around on their laurels, the Legion quickly springs into action, mops up the debris and then settles in to plot their mission strategy.

Soon, Star Boy, Princess Projectra, Brainiac 5, Phantom Girl, Mon-El and Timber Wolf infiltrate the carnival to trap the mystery killer from behind the scenes. Following two additional acts of mayhem, the Legionnaires settle upon three suspects within the ranks of the traveling circus. Ultimately, the resident juggler, Imik of Cygnus 4, is pegged as the villain, but as the issue closes, Brainy has an intuition that the “real” killer is still lurking about. Canny readers have already deduced the very same thing; since unlike the Legionnaires, we can plainly see the armed culprit standing among the shadows of an overhead catwalk, meaning that next issues “Space Circus of Death” will probably continue the interstellar merriment.

The writing by Conway is pretty plebian, and rather par for the course, considering when it was published. The Dave Cockrum & Mike Grell period was long over, even though the Legion members still wore their groovy 1970’s costumes and new penciller Joe Staton must have turned in some very loose layouts for this issue; unfortunately John Calnan didn’t do very much with them. Calnan is a name that I remember, but his inking is so “cookie-cutter” that is easily dismissed. There is only one decent thing about the entire issue, and that is Dick Giordano’s cover, and even that is a fairly middle of the road effort.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

A Birthday Suit

Today is my birthday, and although opinions on when the specific start date of the "Age of Aquarius" actually begins is an ongoing point of contention, this era was supposed to have brought the world increased spirituality and harmony among people.

Perhaps that is all debatable, but I’ve been reading the newspapers for a while now, and I believe that something was lost in translation. It could be why so many of today’s top comic book creators so devalue simple heroism in our escapist medium, and why every hero is "darker". Too many grey areas have emerged as the two different zodiac ages "collide". [Pisces & Aquarius]

One other thing that I would like to point out is that almost 22 years ago the "Harmonic Convergence" took place. That was a worldwide esoteric-religious event which was purported to be a global awakening of love and unity through divine transformation and divine channeling of sacred information. I got married the week before the convergence. I would have to say that wishful-thinking continues unabated in the human species.

Still, today is my birthday (#47), and I thought, "What can I post in the Catacombs in recognition of my own day?" So, I surfed around a bit and found this … lovely … photo. Because "it’s my party, and I’ll cry if I want to", and I’ve gotta tell you, when I saw this and realized that some lucky bastard got to enjoy this for his birthday, well, I shed some real tears.

That is how to spend a birthday. That is how to wrap a package. That is the way to surprise somebody special. (Now, here I go crying again.)

To this unknown lass, I dedicate, a special "Hump Day" birthday greeting for all of us ageless Aquarians.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Heroes (02/09/2009) "Trust and Blood"

Overall, last nights “Trust and Blood” was a pretty good episode of “Heroes”, but I have to point out a couple of things that I didn’t like, before touching on what I did.

The character known as “The Hunter” is the most unnecessary introduction that I’ve seen this year. I get it, Kring and company, he is supposed to be the hardcore, armed badass that takes the “powered-folk” down on behalf of the government (turncoat-brother, Sen. Nathan Petrelli & his briefly-glimpsed, Klingon President). So, Mr. Kring, have you ever heard of a guy by the name of Noah Bennett? Yeah, that guy, H.R.G. himself, who is surprisingly present for this very story arc, even as you’ve assigned his regular series role to an uninspired newbie. Stupid! Just stupid and poorly thought out. Even if you plan to kill off “The Hunter”, and you will, having Bennett perform all of the actions that the Hunter has would have heightened the tension between him and oh, say Claire and the other series characters that Noah has interacted with.

Speaking of Claire, you know Tim, she isn't proving to be all that important considering the entire first season was devoted to saving the cheerleader – so that she could - you know - save the world. I’m just saying, what the hell was that all about anyway? (No, I didn’t really think you ACTUALLY meant anything by that conceit in the first place).

Now Brea Grant was a real breath of fresh air in this sorriest of seasons. There was no other character like Daphne on the show, and she was a welcome presence, so naturally you may have killed her off, but before she disappears entirely, let me ask a question about our resident speedster. Once the first bullet struck her, why didn’t she dash off, heck she could even have taken Matt Parkman with her – bullet or not. And we’ve seen that she has enough street smarts in her to have done so, unless for instance, this week’s script called for yet another character to act stupid.

I mean seriously, now that Peter IS finally acting like he has a set of balls, of course, somebody else has to serve as the weekly stooge, and I guess poor Daphne got the nod. Stupid! Just stupid and poorly thought out. About Peter, before I forget, thanks for clearing up the change in his powers, but you really should’ve done that last week.

Nathan Petrelli has been a flip-flopper since day one, but he really needs to take a dirt nap at the end of the day. And don’t try this redemption shit with Mohinder. You turned him into a villain, a monster even, and he’s got to pay, so Tim old boy, the hit list is really narrowing down, because the most glaring thing wrong with “Heroes” is the ongoing cast expansion. Sorta ruins the whole overarching conspiracy thing, to keep building away from the series premise and then having to dig your way out of the corners that additional characters eventually drag you into - doesn't it?

Tracy is a far cry from the crummy Nikki/Jessica thing, and Ali Larter is to-die-for good looking, but hopefully she’s learned her lesson and can finally get on with Peter’s anti-Nathan program – should she ever breakout again.

Last question: Sylar gets a sidekick? And yet you keep sending sweet little Claire back to Costa Verde. I say cram her tight young behind into another cheerleading outfit and have her do a few nice jump kicks or splits for the gang. That's about all she's good for and you ought to know, you are writing this damn show.

Now let me remind you that you chose to rid us all of Isaac’s presence back during the first season, and even though his power is probably the cheapest effects shot among the rest of the casts powers, Matt Parkman is a mind reader. Let’s get back to that. Stupid! Just stupid and poorly thought out.
As for what I liked about this episode, I've already said that "overall" it was pretty good, but I'm giving you the benefit of the doubt until Bryan Fuller gets back into the mix, at which time I hope NBC cans your sorry ass.

The 2009 Want List

This week Mother Nature once again turns the clock on me, flips the switch and adds another year to the tally of my life. And while I may look a little long in the tooth, I ain't over the hill, I haven't entered the golden years, nor do I suspect that I've discovered the secret to my third life; however there is a distinct possibility that I may dust off and wear my birthday suit tomorrow, depending of course, upon the willing participation of my much younger consort (or her best friend, or both). You see the Catacombs is always open to pleasurable forms of depravity, so without further ado, let me take today to put up a portion of my 2009 Want List titles.

Marvel Comics published Beware!, Chamber of Chills, Crypt of Shadows, Dead of Night, Journey Into Mystery and Tower of Shadows from the late 1960's into the 1970's. Much of this material repackaged stuff from their anthology books of a decade earlier, but some of these gems started out with all-new material too. Artists whose work can be found within the pages of these comics include Wally Wood, Gil Kane, John Buscema, Don Heck, George Tuska, Barry Windsor Smith, Jim Steranko and Neal Adams, among others.

I originally had a few mixed issues among this grouping, but I never really bought them in large part due to the limited degree of availability in my area. If I saw them I bought them, if I didn't - - - I didn't. With the sorry state of affairs that exist at the House of Ideas these days, and in my continuing efforts to enjoy "real" comic books, I'm trying to correct my youthful oversight.

I am putting these "want list" titles up so that any among you that may have a line on affordable copies,of any issues from the runs of the pictured series, can let me know. I also plan on tracking down any copies that I can locate at the conventions that I attend this year, and let me say that I am perfectly willing to trade stuff for any issues of these books.

Wish me 'Happy Hunting"!

Monday, February 9, 2009

1970's Flashback: The Champions

“The avenging Angel! The deadly Black Widow! Johnny Blaze, the Ghost Rider! Hercules, Prince of Power! The incomparable Iceman! Five fighters for justice, united to battle for the common man … because the world still needs heroes!” - Prologue from The Champions.

The Champions was published between 1975-1978 as Marvels first team comic to be set on the West Coast, rather than their usual New York City locale.

Originally, writer Tony Isabella had wanted the Champions to be a three-man group consisting of former X-Men Angel & Iceman, and newly created superhero Black Goliath. However, once the decision was made to give Black Goliath his own book, he was removed from consideration for team membership (?; see below). Editor Len Wein then insisted that the team contain at least five members, so Isabella added established heroes: Black Widow (who served as the team’s leader), Hercules and Ghost Rider. Apparently, Captain Marvel, Power Man, and Son of Satan were also considered before settling on Ghost Rider as the editorially-mandated team member who also already had his own title (what the...?). New character Darkstar, was added as a member in Champions #10. Black Goliath did eventually become a guest member in issue #11. Had the series continued, the team reportedly was to expand to include Jack of Hearts.

The Champions series (which was originally going to be called Giant-Size Champions, with the published material that comprised regular issues #1-3 of The Champions intended for Giant-Size Champions #1) only lasted for seventeen issues, despite art duties from veterans Don Heck, George Tuska and future comics superstar John Byrne. During their heyday, the group appeared in Super Villain Team-Up #14, Ghost Rider (vol. 2) #17, Godzilla (vol.1) #3, Iron Man Annual #4, Avengers (vol. 1) #163 and Hulk Annual #7 (1978). The story of the team’s dissolution was later told in flashback in two issues of Peter Parker, The Spectacular Spider-Man (#17-18) which pitted Spidey, Angel & Iceman against former Champions villain Rampage.

The Champions have been the butt of many jokes over the years, but fans often mention them today with fondness. There were plans to introduce a new team membership under that name in the wake of Marvels Civil War crossover, but the trademark had inadvertently lapsed and now another company currently holds the rights to the Champions name, so they really aren't likely to reappear ever again.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Rayboy's Review: Final Crisis: Legion of 3 Worlds #3 (DC Comics)

Legion of 3 Worlds #3 has finally arrived after a Final Crisis-induced, publishing hiatus, but writer Geoff Johns, artist George Perez & inker Scott Koblish have pulled out all of the stops upon their very welcome return, and given the high quality of this book, you will probably forgive their long absence.

Following a recap of the death of supporting character Rond Vidar, and how his loss has impacted the sole remaining Green Lantern (the Daxamite called Sodam Yat), we jump right into the fray, with a two page brawl in the skies over 31st century Metropolis, between Superman and the Legion of Super-Heroes and Superboy Prime’s massive Legion of Super-Villains ensemble. Superman himself isn’t immune to punishment in this conflict, and the Man of Steel suffers a truly horrific injury at the hands of Superboy-Prime.

As the battle escalates, and with casualties mounting on both sides, things quickly come to a dramatic loggerhead when the members of two other, separate and distinct Legionnaires teams show up en masse to bolster Superman’s forces. This thing is called "Legion of 3 Worlds" after all!

Perez shows that he hasn’t lost any storytelling skills when drawing a cast of dozens (hundreds/?) on the same page, but the super-heroic action takes a backseat to the real plans of the "good" Legionnaires. It seems that the combat being waged is nothing more than a feint, meant to draw the LoS-V’s attention away from the Brainiac 5’s efforts to retrieve a long-lost ally from within what remains of the Speed Force (fabulously playing on aspects of the earlier Lightning Saga) to close out this month in true cliffhanging fashion.

Rayboy gives Legion of 3 Worlds #3 ***** out of *****. [Highly recommended]

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Rayboy's Review: Project Superpowers: Chapter Two Prelude (Dynamite)

Project Superpowers: Chapter Two Prelude from Dynamite Entertainment has two things going for it. First, its cover price of $1.00 is very hard to pass up for any comics fan in a tough economy; even without actual story pages. Oh, there are four and five page excerpts that tease upcoming Dynamite spin-offs from Project Superpowers like Black Terror, Death-Defying Devil and Masquerade, but most of the issue is designed to highlight the second thing that this book has going for it, Alex Ross design work on the public domain golden-age heroes that make up the series large cast.

It is here that virtually all fans of Ross will experience a wave of major déjà vu, but first flip to the inside back cover of this issue for starters. There you will find credits listed for Dynamite’s upper echelon. President Nick Barruci, Chief Operating Officer Juan Collado, Associate Editor Joseph Rybandt, Creative Director Josh Johnson and Graphic Designer Jason Ullmeyer. I suspect that one (or all) of these guys are huge, and I mean HUGE, fans of the DC Comics mini-series "Kingdom Come" from 1996.

Even as Alex Ross was working on his breakout Marvels, published by Marvel Comics in 1994, he had already decided to create a similar "grand opus" about DC Comics fictional superheroes. Ross wrote a 40-page handwritten outline of what would become Kingdom Come and pitched the idea as a project similar in scope to Alan Moore's Watchmen (1986-1987) and Moore's infamous "lost work" Twilight of the Superheroes. Ross eventually teamed with writer Mark Waid to produce the sales dynamo set in a dystopian future about the final days of Superman and his heroic peers.

The design work that Ross originally created for the fictional denizens of the DC Universe has been featured over the ensuing years in many collected volumes, trading cards, etc.; and now Dynamite has allowed Ross to, in effect, duplicate the look, feel and tone of that mega-hot property from more than a decade ago.

One has to wonder though that given the impact "Kingdom Come" and similar properties had on conventional superhero universes from the major publishers, why Dynamite took the easy route in re-crafting their rather unscathed golden age heroes in the same dark vein. It may have been a harder sell to a jaded readership, to re-introduce this assortment of lost characters as true heroes with a simpler, more innocent perspective on the changed world that they’ve been away from, but NO, we get more arbitrarily changed, flawed, damaged or "darker" versions of the same-old-thing, than you can shake a stick out.

I understand the concept of mining a time-tested idea, but these guys are striking the EXACT same beats as "Kingdom Come". The sidekicks are cast in opposition to their elders, just like in Kingdom Come. The villains, plus a few corrupted heroes, control the world through a corporate setting, just like in Kingdom Come. As you sort through page after page of Ross designs, you see the same thing again and again, and how something like this doesn’t earn a copyright infringement suit is beyond me.

This has all been done before, and in better fashion, by Ross for sure. Sadly, if you are one of the readers of Project Superpowers, you already know that art wise, the ongoing series has nothing like the talent of Alex Ross on the interiors. It is astonishing that just having Ross participate on covers and character design alone, Project Superpowers has been effectively able to reel in so many willing fish, but given the apparent flaws in the entire output of Dynamite Entertainment’s Project Superpowers efforts, it won’t last forever.

Kingdom Come was an instant classic, and if you are a true fan of Alex Ross, go ahead and pick this up (because the price alone is well worth it), but this too-easy, rip-off, bullshit kind of intentionally, derivative stuff can't go the way of the dodo soon enough.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Rayboy's Review: Guardians of the Galaxy #9 (Marvel Comics)

I have two other purchases this week to review and neither of them are a Marvel Comics property, so lets go ahead and get this one out of the way.

War of Kings continues in Guardians of the Galaxy #9 with "Prison Break". Star-Lord has been compelled by Blastaar to approach the super-powered inmates who’ve been abandoned in the Initiative Prison 42 (introduced in the crossover series, Civil War) and proffer a surrender order, "42" is under siege by Blastaar’s forces, and only the incarcerated villains remain to defend the place (the warden & staff having already fled back through the portal to Earth; which is exactly what Blastaar wants to do).

The current Guardians line-up of Rocket Raccoon, Mantis, Bug, Major Victory and Groot eventually receive a psychic summons from Star-Lord to pop on over to the N-Zone and help curtail Blastaar’s pending invasion, but in the meantime we also get to check in with a couple of former Guardians who had previously walked away from the group upon finding out that they had been mentally manipulated into joining by Mantis (at the behest of Star-Lord). Drax and Quasar are tracking down leads that indicate that former Avenger, Moondragon, may still be alive. They too encounter something unexpected on their mission, this time at the hands; or rather mind, of an old ally.

Like last month, the fill-in art duties by Brad Walker & Victor Olazaba are acceptable, but little else and there are a few fill-in pages by Carlos Magno & Jack Purcell, that really make me long for the return of original series penciller Paul Pelletier (currently off drawing the War of Kings mini-series). Whoever approved hiring this pair really ought to be demoted back to the steno pool. HEY, MARVEL! Tom Grummett on this book would be sweet. [Hint.]

As a series, Guardians started off strong, but consider the series stated premise from their regular monthly splash narration:

"In the wake of two catastrophic annihilation events, the universe is in a fragile and weakened state. With the fabric of space itself damaged, anomalous fissures are beginning to appear, fissures that could crack and spread, collapsing reality and letting in things that should not exist in our dimension.

Guided by the mystical insight of the newly returned Adam Warlock, the gun-slinging Star-Lord has forged a proactive team of proven cosmic champions ready to protect the vulnerable universe and prevent any large-scale disasters from ever happening again. Together, Star-Lord, Warlock, Quasar, Gamora, Drax, Mantis and Rocket Raccoon are the Guardians of the Galaxy."

I would say that writers Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning have gotten away from their original intention, primarily due to company-mandated participation in endless crossover events like Secret Invasion, and now, War of Kings. They are good writers and Guardians is a good series, but it would be nice if the cosmic nature of the book dictated that the Guardians remain safely tucked away in space, as far removed from the auspices of as much of the Marvel Universe as is possible. And. It would be nice to see Star-Lord get his powers back.

"Gal" Friday! Summer Glau

Summer Glau's television credits include guest appearances on Angel, CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, Cold Case and The Unit. She has also had featured roles in several sci-fi TV series like Firefly, The 4400 and Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles.

Glau was trained as a ballerina and parlayed her dancing talent into her brief appearance on Angel, where she first met Joss Whedon. It was there that she first caught the eye of director Whedon, the creator of both Angel & Buffy the Vampire Slayer, who later cast her in his short-lived TV series Firefly as River Tam, a role she reprised for the series feature film sequel, Serenity.

Summer has since become a popular fan favorite genre performer and easily earns inclusion as one of my own favorite "Gal" Friday's.

This young lady really has something going for her, classic good looks, natural athleticism, strong acting talents, innate sexuality and she also extends her personal beliefs into charitable work on behalf of animals, women & children.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Rayboy's Review: Agents of Atlas #1 (Marvel Comics)

I haven't been regularly picking up too many comic books (on a monthly basis) for several years now. For the most part, I only keep an eye out for stuff that appeals to me in the same way that most comics did in my wayward youth, but I don't believe that I do this primarily to "re-experience" simple nostalgia. In my opinion, much of what passes for comic books these days is utter crap. I am not at all a fan of the majority of currently "hot" creators, whether writers or artists, because most of them exist under the spell of a bong-sucking, psychotic muse.

I can get into comics that are specifically geared towards an adult audience, but the last several years worth of spin-the-bottle, event-driven, weekly-oriented, "Marketing-Is-God", comics pros as "rock stars", politically correct pablum, Hollywood trump-card dreck, has adequately demonstrated to me that earlier decades publishers attitude of targeting the bulk of their comics product for a "general" audience, was a much better path to follow. Direct comics shops (and their primarily older/aging clientele) have just about killed off comic books, and I don't think that was what the direct market was meant to accomplish.

I dropped by the local shop yesterday and picked up a small stack of four books (plus one freebie), and that's alot for me these days. I plan on commenting on all of them over the next few days, so bear with me as I kick off "Rayboy's Review" of Marvel Comics new, on-going Agents of Atlas #1.

Art Adams terrific cover launched AoA #1 in fine fashion, and the opening splash page had a fun feature, "Gorilla Man's Continuity Catch-Up" which succinctly & hilariously brings new readers to the point where this issue starts off.

In the first of two separate stories within, writer Jeff Parker immediately tosses the Agents into battle with the forces of Norman Osborn, led by field-leader (another old Spider-Man foe, unless I'm mistaken) Man-Mountain Marko. Marko and company quickly fall to the Agents, as we shift to Osborn himself in Avengers Tower, where Venus literally stops the Sentry in his tracks, in order to extend an offer of cooperation from Agents head honcho & Atlas Foundation master, Jimmy Woo.

Once a tentative truce is hashed out, Marko's team are allowed into the inner sanctum of the Atlas Foundation, where the unfortunate Mr. Marko makes a surprising discovery and then suffers the fatal consequences of this revelation.

In the second tale, Parker reveals the facts behind a late 1950's team-up of original Atlas members Woo, Gorilla Man and M-11 with the X-Men's own Logan (aka Wolverine). Longtime X-Men readers will recognize the bug-like alien threat which draws these characters together, and Logan (in his pre-Wolverine days) is just as formidable as you would expect him to be.

New regular artist team of penciller Carlo Pagulayan (& inker Jason Paz) are nice replacements for the sadly, unavailable Leonard Kirk, who drew the AoA mini-series a couple of years ago, and even back-up strip artist, Benton Jew turns in a good job on the second story.

Give Agents of Atlas a try, it's a little bit "old-school-heroics", but that's exactly my point - we need more of this kind of stuff from Marvel - not less.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Help, I'm Steppin' Into the "Twilight" Zone!

I have two daughters who are readers, a 15 year old in high school and a 20 year old in college. both are part of the wave of young people who've become smitten with "Twilight", author Stephenie Meyer's series of four novels detailing the love of a teenage girl named Bella and an immortal vampire named Edward Cullen.

There has a been a profusion of novels in recent years that fall within what I derogatorily refer to as the "vampire/love genre", less goth, and more fantasy-anything-goes-coming-of-age-sexuality-sorta-bullshit-kinda-stuff. Goths I understand, they're pretty much fracked in the head, but the whole wishy-washy, vampires are beautiful people who are simply misunderstood & I really, really, really wanna zig-a-zig-ha-one of 'em, sorta irritates me.

What the heck is this crap all about? No. Stop! I don't actually want to know as my question is meant to be rhetorical.

So, it amused me to read "real" horror genre author, Stephen King's somewhat barbed comments made about Ms. Meyer in a comparison to the equally popular J.K. Rowling (Harry Potter author). The following news item was taken from the AP:

Stephen King’s opinion may drive a stake through the heart of “Twilight” author Stephenie Meyer.
In an interview with USA Weekend, the bestselling author compared Meyer with J.K. Rowling, the author of the Harry Potter series.

According to Stephen, “Both Rowling and Meyer, they’re speaking directly to young people… The real difference is that Jo Rowling is a terrific writer and Stephenie Meyer can’t write worth a darn. She’s not very good.”


While Stephen may not be a fan of Stephenie’s writing, he understands the appeal of the series.
“People are attracted by the stories, by the pace, and in the case of Stephenie Meyer, it’s very clear that she’s writing to a whole generation of girls and opening up kind of a safe joining of love and sex in those books. It’s exciting and it’s thrilling and it’s not particularly threatening because it’s not overtly sexual.”

He further explains, “A lot of the physical side of it is conveyed in things like, the vampire will touch her forearm or run a hand over skin, and she just flushes all hot and cold. And for girls, that’s a shorthand for all the feelings that they’re not ready to deal with yet.”

When I was told by my girls that "Twilight" vampire Edward Cullen was described in the novel as one who "glistened in the sun", I reacted with utter bemusement and tried to explain that what they were reading about wasn't a vampire at all (since true vamps burn to ashes in the full glare of the sun) , but some kind of fantasy sprite (or something else). I do offer a belated, feeble apology to my daughters, who are happily free (and welcome) to read & enjoy whatever they please, but next time that dad snorts in derision over one of these ridiculous tomes, take it from expert Stephen King, who understands that unlike the classic & cool vampires of old (see above; left) - this stuff sucks.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Heroes (02/02/2009): "A Clear and Present Danger"

NBC TV aired its first episode of "Heroes" last night, after an extended holiday break and overall the episode was exciting, with the shows characters being picked up by forces under the control of Senator Nathan Petrelli (with the authorization of the President).

Some of the cast have been trying to settle into a "normal" life, others are trying to come to terms with the loss of their "abilities" and poor Claire can't seem to catch a break with anyone in her family. Biological father, Nathan (and grandmother Angela) are trying to keep her out of the loop, but the cheerleader quickly stumbles onto their scheme, which is to round up people with powers and imprison them.

Perpetual fall-guy, Peter Petrelli sure picks the wrong time to finally stand up to his brother, and he probably should have thought this through a bit more , as he is quickly taken down. I was saddened to see HRG himself is participating in Senator Petrelli's agenda, and Noah Bennett certainly won't win any points with his adoptive daughter over his choice either.

Isaac's power to draw the future seems to be very popular with the series writing staff, but how many ways are there to "earn" this ability? Isaac got his through an eclipse/?, Hiro & Matt got it by eating weird jungle stew in Africa and now, Matt Parkman gets it by being chosen as the next "prophet" by the ghost of Usutu the Spirit-Walker. I also have to agree with other online reviewers that the nature of Peter's power seems to have changed,and the writers have conveniently forgotten to clearly establish this. Based on available information online, the next few episodes are a bit "problematical" and viewers will have to wait and see if this formerly "hot" series can right itself, before it completely falls apart.

I hope so, but am seriously beginning to doubt it!

Monday, February 2, 2009

Rulah Jungle Goddess in "The Twisted Fates" (Fox Comics)

"The Twisted Fates" (cont.)

Return with me now to those thrilling days of yesteryear when “girls gone wild” meant something other than drunken college chicks cavorting topless on spring break (not that there’s anything wrong with that).

Rulah Jungle Goddess makes her second 2009 appearance here in the Catacombs with a spiffy tale from Fox Comics November 1948 issue (#20). This time out, our lovely jungle goddess faces off against a nearby tyrannical queen, who is not at all happy that Rulah is hogging the jungle girl spotlight, so she’s handily enslaved some of our gals own jungle tribesmen to force them into building an idol that will steal Rulah’s power. Adding insult to injury, Rulah is re-united with an old flame with bittersweet results.