Monday, August 31, 2009

Dragoncon! Labor Day Weekend

Rather than focus on the weird corporate merger of Disney and Marvel, I prefer to bask in the joy of the upcoming Dragoncon in Atlanta, GA this weekend (Sept. 4-7, 2009).

The movie and television industry will field an impressive list of genre performers at the popular media show including William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, Edward James Olmos, Mary McDonnell, Bruce Boxleitner, Patrick Stewart and cast members from all Star Trek series, Buffy, Stargate, Babylon 5, Battlestar: Galactica (both versions), Twilight, Harry Potter, Star Wars, Heroes, Farscape, Aliens, Buck Rogers, etc.

Noted fantasy and science fiction authors who will be present include Charlaine Harris, Chelsea Quinn Yarbro, Alan Dean Foster, Gene Wolfe, Timothy Zahn, Katharine Kurtz and John Ringo, among many others.

Comic book guests include Dan Brereton (The Nocturnals), Darwyn Cooke (DC: The New Frontier), George Perez (Legion of 3 Worlds), Mike Mignola (Hellboy), Don Rosa (Uncle Scrooge) and Brandon Peterson, Peter David, Amanda Conner, Eric Powell, William Stout, Larry Elmore, again among many others.

Whether you want to have your picture taken with a celebrity favorite, have your book signed by a beloved author, commission a nice convention sketch or take in the tons of track programming that makes up this awesome show, there is something for every fan at Dragoncon. I will be there taking it all in and pinching a few asses (you should see just how little material some of the costuming chicks actually wear in a crowded ballroom), and schmoozing with the various cognoscenti of fun.

Disney buys Marvel!

The House of Ideas will now become another annex to The House of Mouse.

Damn, I really have no idea what to make out of this major breaking comic book industry news. Joe Quesada and company are already trying to ease stockholder concerns, not to mention muting any outcry from the fan base. For me, this is just the latest chapter in a stream of bullshit that started back in the late 1990's when Carl Icahn and Ron Perelman contentiously battled it out for the famed comic publisher. Icahn ultimately left Marvel in near collapse, in his bid for their massive stock portfolio, which had become highly inflated at the time.

The wake of their infamous struggle left Isaac Perlmutter and Avi Arad (from Toybiz of all places) in charge of the Marvel Universe. And then along came Joe Quesada. Now credited with saving the company's creative hash, Quesada - in my opinion - accomplished this by downplaying the very elements that had made Marvel #1 in the first place, and after endless multi-part, mega-events have successfully usurped ongoing monthly characterization, we've all arrived at this startling and surreal announcement.

Disney. Marvel. $4 BILLION DOLLARS!

I can't think about this right now. The only thing that would make me happy about this move, would be to see Joey Q receive a nice severance package. Then he could go party time Italian-style with his Hollywood pals and leave us all hoping for a return to the "real" Marvel Universe, but who knows what this will actually mean for the future.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Ted Kennedy: The Comic Book?

Media outlets everywhere are deeply into the process of milking every .... single .... drop ... that they can out of the recent passing of Senator Ted Kennedy. The only positive thing that can result from this unfortunate seediness (and strangely socially accepted by the zombie drones that have replaced most Americans), is that there may be a modicum less of similar coverage of Michael Jackson's passing.

The news media's ongoing, morbid fascination with "celebrity" is one of the primary reasons that human beings remain barely above amoeba on the grand scale of things in the 21st century.

Bluewater Productions had their Kennedy comic book, like earlier Obama, Reagan and McCain portraits in the works for a November 2009 release. His passing has thrown a monkey wrench into the production of the comic and they will now have to reconfigure its contents to include his death.

With condolences to the family and admirers of the late senator, I am of the opinion that his extremely long run as the "Lion of the Senate" is more a sad indictment of our political systems built-in power hegemony, than it is a remarkably historic run. I felt the same way about my own states late senator, Strom Thurmond.

Still, a comic book biography of Kennedy will be a surprising thing to see on the racks alongside Superman, Batman, Spider-Man and the X-Men, but I hope that its publication doesn't detract from Archie Comics upcoming wedding of Archie Andrews and Veronica Lodge.

That's funny business that we can all support!

1980's Flashback: Captain Carrot and His Amazing Zoo Crew

Captain Carrot and His Amazing Zoo Crew first appeared in The New Teen Titans #16 (February 1982), but their ensuing monthly series proved somewhat short-lived (lasting only 20 issues), however it is still fondly remembered by many comic fans of its generation, and the characters occasionally appear in cameos in the mainstream DC Universe. The characters were created by Roy Thomas and Scott Shaw!

Upon eating a "cosmic carrot," Rodney Rabbit is imbued with various superpowers, including limited invulnerability, super-strength, enhanced speed, stamina, hearing, and vision, and the ability to make gigantic, powerful leaps. Later in the series, Captain Carrot was able to achieve full flight.

Rodney's powers are the only ones out of the Zoo Crew that aren't permanent; after 24 hours or a period of extreme exertion, Captain Carrot's powers wear off, and Rodney reverts to being normal again. As such Rodney maintains a “grow-op” to ensure a continuous supply of cosmic carrots and he always keeps two holstered on his costume for recharges when necessary.

Set within the original multi-verse on Earth-C, the origin of the team came about when Superman was investigating a strange phenomenon causing the citizens of Metropolis to begin acting like their primate ancestors. He soon found a ray streaking at him from a strange barrier surrounding the Earth, which prompted him to use a meteorite as protection. When the ray struck the meteorite, Superman and the meteor's fragments were sent from Superman's native dimension into that of Earth-C. There, Superman met several of the world's anthropomorphic residents, who had gained superpowers when they too were struck by the various meteor fragments.

The members of the Zoo Crew including Captain Carrot, Alley-Kat-Abra, Pig-Iron, Rubberduck, Yankee Poodle and Fastback, soon teamed up with Superman to stop the source of the ray (which was also causing the denizens of Earth-C to behave like their non-anthropomorphic animal ancestors), which turned out to be the old Justice League of America villain Starro the Conqueror, a sentient starfish, who was launching his de-evolution assault from the Earth-C universe's Pluto. After defeating the villain, the animals decided to stick together and form the Zoo Crew, and Superman returned home.

Following the cancellation of their regular book, the Zoo Crew starred in two subsequent mini-series, The Oz-Wonderland War #1-3 in 1986 and Captain Carrot and the Final Ark #1-3 in 2007.

Friday, August 28, 2009

"Gal" Friday! Sammy Braddy

To heck with God save the Queen!

Sammy Braddy is an incredible British glamor model who has appeared in magazines such as Maxim and Nuts. She’s 5′5″, switches back and forth between blonde or brunette and she may just have the best boobs in the United Kingdom. I can't really say for sure if the claim holds true, but I fired off a letter to Parliament volunteering for the requisite breast census of the British Isles that will simply have to be conducted now, in order to authenticate the veracity of that claim.


I am always willing to step up when required.

Rayboy's Review: X-Men Forever #6 (Marvel Comics)

Face front true believers, this one is more of an editorial commentary than a review, but that's where my muse took me today. Sorry!

Marvel Comics new ongoing X-Men Forever series returns two more former X-creators into the mix with issue #6, while primary artist Tom Grummett takes a breather. Penciller Paul Smith and inker Terry Austin both worked on the classic All New, All Different X-Men (which then became Uncanny X-Men), and each were responsible for some superlative work on the original series. But that was then and this is now, and their work on this issue is a huge letdown.

Paul Smith is a nice guy and he goes all out for his fans at convention appearances, often drawing free head sketches for long lines of admirers. His artwork here is more in line with his earlier self-published Leave It to Chance, with his figures appearing a bit softer around the edges; the angularity of his X-Men figures from days gone by falls by the wayside, and for me this kinder-gentler artistic approach simply doesn’t cut it on an X-book. Mr. Austin’s inking provides nothing helpful that could have overcome this perceived weakness on the page, in fact the pages reveal part of the problem here. During the years since their original work on the classic X-Men series, page design itself has undergone a radical transformation, dispensing with gutters and traditional panel borders in favor of the full-page bleed. In short the language of comics is entirely different, and the end result here amounts to something being lost in translation. Pity!

X-Men Forever is nothing but glorified fan fiction, no different than online conceits by fans who wish to put their own stamp on favorite characters that they have no professional relationship with. Fan fiction takes established characters and spins them however zealous fans wish their favorites “really” were, in a better world; according to their personal desires. Writer Chris Claremont was the “go to guy” for the X-universe for a whopping sixteen years, but again that came to an abrupt halt in 1991. This reimagining of what might have been, suffers mightily from the weight of those missing years, with the additional twist of allowing Claremont to chart a non-continuity environment that is tantamount to a mega-“What If” scenario. What is the point?

Marvel Comics editor-in-chief Joe Quesada has ably demonstrated during his tenure that he is all for transforming the Marvel Universe into something completely different than what it was before his arrival, even going on record with comments that prior to his ascendancy to his current office, previous in-house personnel were too caught up in perpetuating nostalgic ardor for old school House of Ideas mindsets. Considering the old days material made Marvel the publishing worlds comic book “king of the hill”, his feelings notwithstanding don’t really make much sense. However, Quesada must be given his chops for being successful at what he does, and he deserves accolades for his efforts, whether I personally appreciate or enjoy the end result or not.

One thing is for certain, Joe won’t be around forever, and I doubt that this title will be enough of a game-changer to endure for too terribly long either. One thing that I must point out given, Quesada’s “throw the baby out with the bathwater” approach to the traditional Marvel Universe – or at least the X-Men’s corner – is that he famously acted to cancel a somewhat similar earlier X-book, X-Men: The Hidden Years, that wasn’t experiencing low sales at the time the plug was pulled on it, and that also took the familiar team outside of the comfort zone of their contemporary fictional universe that was in existence in the main line titles at the time it ended; yet he has approved this series which pretty much does the same thing, although personally, the Hidden Years book was doing it a hell of a lot better for me than this one has, at least thus far out of the gate.

This issue does have a great front cover by Tom Grummett, but I don’t buy a book for the cover alone.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

How NOT to treat a comic book collection! (Part II)

As a follow up to my report on a co-workers salvage of a comic book collection that was passed along by a late fans widow, I thought I would briefly touch on the last of the books that I had archived for him.

The bulk of what was left (almost 80 issues) leaned heavily towards war titles, and most of those were various Charlton series like Attack, War and Attack, Fightin' Air Force, Fightin' Army, Fightin' Marines, Army War Heroes, Battlefield Action, War, Army Attack and D-Day. There were multiple issues of most of these interesting 1960's and 1970's books. I also have to add that I don't really see nice copies of these series that often at conventions and sorting through them was plenty of fun. An obligatory sampling of later Sgt. Rock and Combat Kelly were also represented, and a dozen issues of Marvels The Nam rounded out these spiffy war comics.

Like some of the other superhero books that I covered, this group of books suffered needlessly under the good widows indifferent storage technique. Simply put, this was a terrific assortment of comics and the only thing wrong with them was months long exposure to the elements that brought most of them down from probably Mint condition to two full grades lower. Too bad, and fortunately for the most part they are still easily appreciated for any readers of this type of material. The artwork wasn't all that bad, particularly on some of the issues featuring Tom Sutton artwork.

I've posted examples of these books to satisfy any curious bloggers who may wander by the Catacombs from time to time, and all of the ones pictured above were in this set.

Pulp Sunday; Courtesy of Francesco Francavilla

I've added a cool new blog to my links section which will take you "Pulp Sunday", a great site for stuff by the talented artist (and all around nice guy) behind the current Dynamic Forces Zorro series and The Black Coat, Francesco Francavilla.

Follow it over to peruse some super-groovy art that is inspired by the classic pulp heroes of yore. There are also additional links that will take you to his other sketch blog and his regular website where you will find tons more cool stuff to enjoy.

Check it out!

Methamphetamines and Comics?

From "Investigators in Colorado say they have broken up a massive methamphetamine ring in the Denver area that distributed pounds of the dangerous drug every week and laundered the profits using collectible comic books.

"To launder the money you have to use something that is quick and convenient," Colorado Attorney General John Suthers said at a news conference Monday. "And in this case, they used classic comic books."
While arresting the alleged ringleaders, brothers Aaron and Alfonzo Castro, law enforcement officers seized about 100 boxes of first-edition collectible comic books. Investigators say one title alone is worth $3,500 and the total collection of comics is worth half a million dollars.
"It appeared they were working on a startup company for high-end comic books," said Don Quick, the district attorney in Adams County near Denver.
Quick said the seized comic books included some first-edition Superman and Batman titles. The fragile, vintage comics were stored in plastic bags for protection.
According to a grand jury indictment released Monday, the Castro brothers arranged for weekly, multiple-pound shipments of the meth from Phoenix, Arizona. The brothers then distributed the drugs to a network of runners that made deliveries to dealers around the Denver area."

The article goes on to detail even more lurid charges against the Castro brothers, involving how they used females "mules" to move their drugs. Read the original story by clicking on the above link.
A unidentified Crusader who commented (off the record) said: "This may be a seduction, but they ain't innocent."

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

How NOT to treat a comic book collection!

Well, the report is in, and it arrives with a degree of melancholy attached. The unwanted comic book collection that my friend retrieved from a neighboring widow lady, was both interesting and terribly sad to sort through. My buddy purchased bags and boards and then passed the entire lot over to yours truly to archive.

Last night I bagged around 100 of the comics and it featured books running from the 1960's through the early 1980's. It is highly likely that the woman lost her husband longer ago than I had initially thought, and only after having finally accepted his passing has she begun to start reorganizing her life, by discarding things of his that she didn't want or need, ergo these comic books. As for the larger batch that she donated to Goodwill, who knows what they would have looked like, but it is maddening to ponder considering what was remaindered at her house.

Of those that were salvaged over the weekend, there were runs of all titles that I've pictured above, including the issues pictured, plus single issues from the same era like Arion, Daredevil, Green Lantern, Nova, Ms. Marvel and The Defenders. There was virtually a complete run of Richard Dragon Kung-Fu Fighter, only two issues were missing. There were almost thirty issues of Thor spanning the Kirby & Buscema days, but with issues by Neal Adams, Walt Simonson and Ron Frenz peppered in. There were perhaps twenty issues of the Gold Key series, Space Family Robinson (based on the TV show Lost in Space) and there was a huge stack of mixed Charlton War titles, plus maybe a dozen issues of Marvel's The 'Nam.

Apparently through the grapevine, there is an indication that what was dropped off by the widow at the local Goodwill store is still there, so my pal is going by today to see if he can purchase any (or all) of those. Time will tell!

As for the melancholy, it is unfortunate that the lady didn't appreciate what her spouse had amassed. Based on this group of books, around 160+ issues, I doubt that there were any grail books present or high dollar stakes involved, but regardless of how you may feel about the books that comprised the late gentleman's collection; it is sad that she didn't take better care of them. After his passing, the comics were kept inside large open-zippered freezer bags in stacks of perhaps twenty issues or so, and then in groups of two bags, they were tied inside plastic grocery bags. Four of those tied-up grocery bags, which were pretty stuffed, were stacked inside a standard open-top cardboard box and then the entire lot sat on her covered porch - outside - for many long months. Think about the atmospheric pressure, temperature changes and humidity that they experienced, and then add in dust and dirt, which still easily managed to seep in. There was no obvious water damage, but opening them was akin to cracking the door to an outdoor storage shed. The smell wasn't overpowering, more of a tinge really, but the mustiness was there.

Of course I am no expert, but in my opinion, the treatment that they received probably reduced their overall condition individually by a full grade or more. Exposure to the elements has certainly expedited the tanning of the pages, and added foxing that wouldn't have been there otherwise. Also, the method of storage and how they were handled piled on unfortunate collateral damage. The many Astonishing Tales issues were among the most beautiful of the books, and they were somewhat crammed into the box in a way that left all of them and a few others with a permanent curl on the upper right of the front covers. Barring that having been done, they would have graded FN+/NM. There was a single issue of Jack Kirby's Mister Miracle [#18] that was the most physically intact, with white pages and a clean cover; I would call that one a NM-.

All in all, these books will be some nice reading material, but if my pal had moved a bit faster on these, he may have been able to recoup some financial rewards beyond the simple joy of recovering these lost treasures.

Monday, August 24, 2009

What NOT to pass up at a yard sale!

Two stories of note from this weekend that serve as nice moral lessons for budding comic book collectors:

First, a lady friend of mine who is an artiste [an artistic or creative person] visited a yard sale on Saturday, where she happened upon a set of binders,each containing multiple Spider-Man issues. Now she isn't really up to speed on what is collectible or not; but knowing that yours truly is a comic book fan, she gave them the once over, and still ultimately passed on making the purchase. Now, she had no idea what vintage the books were, no idea what value would had been assigned to them or whether they were worth reading or not.

However, adding insult to injury, she just had to mention all of this to me as she came in to work today, with a query on how I felt about the "soundness" of her decision not to buy these books as a gift for me. (?)

While I didn't actually mean it mean-spirited (and really only hurled it in good humor), I called her an idiot. Then she told me that the guy only wanted three bucks apiece for each binder. Someone felt enough concern over these comics to treat them with kid gloves, storing them in a protective binder and all, and individually sealed to boot.

So, she tells me all of this and I had no other choice, but to strip the good humor out of my tongue-in-cheek comment and send her on her merry way.

Idiot! [lol; sniff!]

Second tale, an employee of mine who also happens to be a comic book collector mentioned on Friday that a close friend (an older lady & widower) had offered him and his wife her late husbands beloved comic book collection. Now, please understand that the gentleman has passed away after amassing what potentially could have been a large assortment of comics and these would definitely have included stuff from several decades past. All my buddy had to do was go by and "collect" them.

Her offer was originally extended to my "buddy" way back in December 2008 and the lady has apparently reiterated this offer several times in the ensuing months. Well, just last week she finally told my doltish employee that she had taken a portion of these potential gems and donated them to the local Goodwill store and unless they came and picked up the remainder, they were going to be donated as well.

Pay attention kiddies!

I was forced to threaten the poor chap with loss of gainful employment, IF he didn't do as requested and relieve the poor woman of this unfortunate burden. I may have been joking about that threat, but I'm not sure! According to the latest report from him, the horde was well worth burning a few ounces of petrol to claim. I am supposed to view the assortment this afternoon. Understand that this won't alleviate the sadness over the loss of what went to the disciples of the needy, but beggars can't be choosers right.

Still, as you can see, I am surrounded by idiots! The moral of these tales is not to let this happen to you.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Rayboy's Review: Blackest Night #2 (DC Comics)

(Spoilers ahead!)

I am a big fan of zombie movies, particularly the George Romero films Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead, Day of the Dead and Land of the Dead. I cut him some slack for Diary of the Dead and I'm looking forward to seeing his latest, which is currently called Survival of the Dead and yes; even the remakes by other directors of Night and Dawn, are entertaining. 28 Days Later and its sequel, 28 Weeks Later are pretty cool, too. You know, that kind of stuff is lots of good creepy fun.

So what does that have to do with this edition of Rayboy's Review?

Well, despite my reticence for big crossover events, this DC Comics series effectively revives dozens of previously deceased heroes, villains and supporting characters as "Black Lanterns". For lack of a better description, that is code for zombie drones for an unrevealed master villain [Yes; I do know who that mystery villain is going to be, but some folks may want to wait and see for themselves.] and zombie stuff always gets my attention.

Blackest Night #2 is pretty gripping right from the start as Ray "The Atom" Palmer tries to redial his friend Hawkman, who hung up on him last issue. Ray should count his blessings that he didn't travel through the telephone lines in time to be murdered by a couple of old friends last issue. Sadly, Hawkman & Hawkgirl were offed by the revived pair and now they too have been resurrected as Black Lanterns. Hawkman picks up and invites the Atom to come on over for a chat, but we'll have to wait and see what happens later, because the action jumps to Gotham City where a conversation between Commissioner Gordon and his daughter Barbara is interrupted by the figure of Green Lantern falling from the sky and crashing into the famous Bat-Signal.

The action then jumps to Amnesty Bay where a contingent of Atlanteans headed up by Tempest (formerly Aqualad) and Mera have arrived to move the mortal remains of deceased Justice League member Aquaman to a more politically correct berth within the undersea kingdom. That's apparently not going to happen, as the deep six-ed hero confronts them as yet another revived Black Lantern.

The reader gets brought up to speed on things happening within the magical community as the physical corpse of Boston Brand takes on its own life as a Black Lantern, while his essence remains active as the ghostly Deadman. Weird! Also of interest is the futile attempt of the black rings to revive deceased former Teen Titan member, Dove. It seems that Don Hall is at peace in the hereafter and the Black Lanterns will simply have to make do without him, although they do settle for his brother, Hawk. Plus as a gathering of the Spectre, Phantom Stranger, Zatanna and Blue Devil ponder the unfolding events, they are approached by Black Lantern Pariah with a dire warning that culminates with the conversion of the current Spectre/Crispus Allen into another Black Lantern; who appears to have a mad on for former Spectre host, Hal Jordan.

Back in Amnesty Bay, Black Lantern Aquaman unleashes the fiercest creatures of the ocean against the Atlanteans and they are all quickly slain. Last issues super-fatalities are added to, when Black Lanterns Dolphin and Aquagirl manage to slay Tempest, but not before Mera barely escapes with her life.

This issue closes out with Green Lantern and the Flash emerging successfully from their battle with Black Lantern J'onn J'Onzz, but oops; he isn't really defeated and he has some incredible back-up in the form of an undead assortment of Black Lantern Justice Leaguers including Firestorm, Elongated Man & Sue Dibny, Hawkman and Hawkgirl.

Writer Geoff Johns can occasionally irritate me, but so far this mini-series has got the goods and I'm finding it worth the trouble. Artist Ivan Reis is supplying some really good artwork and if he hadn't already gotten peoples attention on the standard Green Lantern book, I would say that this series would probably make a name for him. Who knows how all of this will ultimately end up. The Black Lantern entourage was already quite extensive and if A-Lister's are going to continually join their ranks throughout the entire mini-series, then the DC Universe will certainly be one barren place when things are all over.

"Gal" Friday! Claudia Black

Australian actress Claudia Black has certainly amassed an extensive genre resume during her career. In addition to her roles in standard television series both at home and abroad, she has appeared in such science fiction TV series as Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, Farscape, Xena: Warrior Princess, Beastmaster, Farscape: The Peacekeeper Wars, Stargate SG1, The Dresden Files, Stargate: The Ark of Truth, Stargate: Continuum and Moonlight. Claudia won a 2005 Saturn Award for her role of Aeryn Sun in Farscape and a 2007 Constellation Award for her role of Vala Mal Doran in Stargate.

On the big screen she has appeared in the genre films Pitch Black and Queen of the Damned. She has also lent her voice talents to many video games like Farscape, Lords of EverQuest, God of War, Neopets, etc.

Claudia is a popular fixture at science fiction conventions and she also sings jazz-style music. I think she easily embodies the confident, tough & assured female archetype, while at the same time offering subtle hints of vulnerability and a comfortable sexuality. In short, Claudia seems to be a chick that guys could pour out their hearts to. That makes her a fine pick for "Gal" Friday.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

2009: Hits & Misses (so far)!


I know the year hasn't quite run its course, but with the Baltimore Comic-Con and Dragoncon looming, it seems like a good time to regroup before the final push towards the holidays.

Wednesday Comics slides past the halfway mark with this weeks issue #7 and for me the different format, large-size tabloid weekly series has been a big HIT. It has been fun from the get-go, beautiful in most of its execution and despite a couple of lesser inclusions (Wonder Woman in particular), for the most part I've enjoyed it and I have to say that I hope DC Comics revisits this comic style again, with hopefully a broader representation of subject matter from their long publishing history (humor feature, anyone?).

Blackest Night has had one of the longest build-ups of any of the morass of mega-events from either of the "big two". Despite my reticence for how many of the classic characters are being treated at DC, I must admit that at least the first two issues of the actual "mini" have been really entertaining. I wish that I had a clue about how this thing will conclude, and especially if any of the zombified heroes who've been resurrected as Black Lanterns will be returned to four-color life at the journeys end, but BN has been another HIT (thus far).

The Twelve from Marvel Comics hasn't managed to make a return to the stands at all this year. For those who plunked down their hard earned shekels for this popular mini-series, that has been an ill pill to swallow. Comments from the execs at the House of Ideas haven't really helped settle the rancor among fans who have been vocal about getting screwed over The Twelve. Behind the scenes there does seem to be some activity going on, but there has been no major announcement over when (if ever) it may return. This one has been a serious MISS for the current calendar year!

Agents of Atlas, again from Marvel, has proven to be a solid hit for the company, but for me it falls squarely into the category of MISS. I really can't put my finger on what I don't like about AoA, but if I was pressed to come up with one, I suppose it would have to be the absence of Leonard Kirk whose work on the original AoA mini-series was a large part of what I like about the mini-series that started the ball rolling. The split art duties that were featured in the couple of issues that I sampled of the ongoing book didn't help win me over.

Uncanny X-Men: First Class is another Marvel title that ended up leaving me cold. Like the ongoing Agents of Atlas series, I was looking forward to buying this book after several years of zero X-Men purchases and the appeal of this one I can sum up pretty easily. It was the Second Genesis group - in their original costumes - actually looking like superheroes that grabbed me upon release of the first issues cover. I bought it, took it home, and then the unthinkable happened. I hated it! Roger Cruz had a nice debut on some Marvel books a few years ago, but in my estimation he's fallen pretty far off the wagon. Simply put, the insides didn't live up to that awesome cover, so Uncanny X-Men: First Class was one and done for me. A definite MISS!

I'm going to stick with Marvel for two more entries, gotta get it out of my system, so bear with me.

I'll get this one out of the way first, with a single caveat, War of Kings was a HIT. Sadly, they couldn't resist the urge to drag it out into a few other post event tie-in issues, mini-series and yes; yet another follow-up event. Somebody really should punch Marvel in the nose. Go to their website and see just how many of this years (or last years) various crossover events haven't truly ended. Yeah! I know.

X-Men Forever falls into a weird place for me where it is both a HIT and a MISS. I love Tom Grummett's work and was glad to actually be able to follow another book that (like Uncanny X-Men: First Class) would return me - after too long an absence - to the world of Marvels Not-so-Merry Mutants; but stop the presses. Grummett isn't REALLY going to be the ongoing artist on this book, just the primary penciller for specific story arcs, with breaks built in which allow other artists to do fill-in chapters, while Tom recuperates. Adding insult to injury, writer Chris Claremont is really stepping out into left field and following his own muse, spinning an alternate continuity in this title. I can buy that Wolverine is highly overexposed in most Marvel titles, but why fill the void created by his absence with another character who is cut from the very same cloth (Sabretooth). Hey, if you're going to do something completely different, why not pull Thunderbird out of mothballs to fill the irascible character spot, or bring back hotheaded Sunfire and guys, if you had to kill somebody off, Gambit was right there. You had your chance!

So, that's how things have looked for me to this point. I don't buy too many hot of the presses titles any more, and no; I don't wait for the trades. I stick with older back issues culled from conventions and eBay. I figure if comics have gone to around $4 apiece, why not burn that dollar amount on affordable stuff that still looks like a comic book, reads like a comic book and smells like a comic book.

Oh, yeah!

1980's Flashback: Captain Victory and the Galactic Rangers

Created, written and drawn by Jack Kirby for Pacific Comics, Captain Victory and the Galactic Rangers didn’t make a major impact on the marketplace, but it did help pioneer major changes in creator’s rights within the comic book industry. Kirby’s frustrations over standard industry practices related to work for hire had left him with far less compensation and credit for works that he had produced for both DC and Marvel over the years, but Pacific offered Kirby something more like the book publishing industry, which generally allowed authors to retain ownership of their work while contracting for publishing and a share of ancillary rights. Kirby took the deal, and dusted off Captain Victory which he had originally developed in the 1970’s for a line of his own comics.

Captain Victory was an inter-stellar lawman who headed up a crew known as The Galactic Rangers. They were first seen chasing the villainous Insectons, and they soon caught their queen, Lightning Lady on Earth. But Captain Victory himself was killed early on and then replaced from a closet full of his clones. Beginning in 1981, Captain Victory confronted a bizarre assortment of Galaxy-spanning menaces for 13 bi-monthly issues and one special through January, 1984.

In a neat twist for fans of the King, during the latter part of its run, Captain Victory's back-story was dealt with. It was strongly implied that his father was Orion of The New Gods which would make the villain Darkseid his grandfather (called "Blackmass" here). It was never stated outright, but a number of clues were planted, including equipment said to belong to Captain Victory's father that was identical to the astro-harness ridden by Orion in the earlier New Gods series. Because The New Gods was owned by publisher, DC Comics, Orion was not specifically named and Captain Victory's grandfather, Blackmaas, was shown only in shadow, but that shadow actually bore a resemblance to Orion's father, Darkseid.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

In Search of One-Shot Heroes (HELP!)

I seem to remember a comic that came out a decade or more ago that was called "The Amazing Moth", but I may be wrong about the title. Note: I am not referring to the more recent Steve Rude-created character, The Moth. It is frustrating not remembering this book better, since I did actually purchase it at the time it was released. I do recall that it was published by a no-name independent as a single black & white issue. I'm unsure if additional issues came out, but I don't think it made much of an impression. I can't even find a scan of this book on the web. It's that far outside the mainstream.

Thinking about this book has got me wondering about other forgotten "one-shot" heroes or teams and I need your help in documenting some of these titles. THIS IS A PLEA FOR ASSISTANCE!

Nightcat was an aborted attempt on the part of Marvel Comics to create a real-world character that would also star in its comic books. Portrayed by Jacqueline Tavarez, Nightcat was intended to be both a comic book superhero as well as a real-world singer. The experiment got as far as the release of one comic book and one music CD before the plug was pulled in 1991.

For the record, I have absolutely no interest in this book whatsoever. I've only used it as an example of the obscurity level that I am looking for, and even then I am really only interested in one-shot or short-run heroes from independent publishers since the dawn of the modern direct-only comic shops (circa the early 1980's & beyond).

Now, I am pretty familiar with the stuff released by the bigger publishers like Image, Dark Horse, Eclipse, Comico, First, etc., what I would really like some help with is recalling heroes from smaller companies or self-published properties. Atomic City wouldn't necessarily be considered obscure, but it is a title that is more in line with the kind of stuff that I would like some help identifying.

Anybody out there that remembers some of these "also-ran" characters, please speak up. If you have a scan of the cover, character or any depiction of the hero, it would be really great if you could provide a link to information or artwork.

C'mon guys! Let's lift these one-shot heroes out of the gutters and put them back in the limelight, at least for a couple of minutes, and that is a pretty-please-with-sugar-on-top kind of request.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Retro-View: Blackhawk #222 (DC Comics; 1966)

I recently picked up a cool run of Blackhawks from the 1960's and I am hoping to grab even more issues of this fun title. The idea of collecting Blackhawk has been on the backburner for me for a few years, and after getting a handful of them - I really want more.

"The Man From E=MC2" from Blackhawk #222 (July 1966) casts the "Magnificent 7" as daring volunteers for a scientist named Darnley, whose attempt to test his conversion theory results in near catastrophe. The Blackhawks (Andre, Chop-Chop, Chuck, Hendrickson, Olaf, Stanislaus & Blackhawk) barely escape the centrifugal test capsule when it begins glowing with a strange energy and then suddenly vanishes. Determined not to risk the lives of the famed aviators a second time, Darnley himself sits in the hot seat for the next trial, but after a freak energy bolt subsequently lashes out to knock the Blackhawks for a loop, further tests are cancelled.

Later that night, a giant energy being appears and approaches a nearby power plant in search of sustenance. After a hurried S.O.S. alerts the Blackhawks to the danger, the team soars back to the rescue only to have their planes conk out in midair; an effect of the energy beings powerful presence. Parachuting to safety, the group discovers the bizarre being draining the plants generator and growing even larger.

It is soon revealed that during a previous experiment, Darnley inadvertently brought the creature to Earth from the Sun and he is now forcibly having to share his physical body with the beast. While Blackhawk, Chop-Chop and Olaf confront the scientist in his lab, the other team members launch another aerial assault against the evil entity once its true conquering nature is uncovered.

Blackhawk ultimately manages to borrow a massive robot, which was scheduled to be part of an upcoming moonshot, from another nearby lab (how convenient) and then he tricks the energy creature into merging with the incomplete mechanoid. Once the alien terror comfortably settles within the robots frame, Blackhawk activates some handy magnetic circuitry and the creature is quickly destroyed.

The issues second feature is taken from the Blackhawk World War II Combat Diary. "Six Pawns For a King" starts with a bang, as the Blackhawks rescue an abdicated monarch from a train, efficiently snatching him away from his Nazi captors and they return him successfully to his own land despite being imperiled along the way. However once they arrive safely in his small European kingdom, the ungrateful lout summarily places the team under arrest, despite his own daughters pleas on their behalf.

It seems that the king was the victim of Nazi propaganda, which led him to believe that his own subjects wanted their homeland to remain neutral during the war. Learning that no good deed goes unpunished, the monarch is shocked to see German soldiers marching into his own castle grounds, violating the treaty that he had agreed to with the best of intentions. It's a good thing for him that the Blackhawks are such versatile devils. Having already freed themselves from the dungeon, the fighting aces tackle the Nazis and soon rebuff the invasion. Humbled after all that they've done for him the king recommends the team for his country's highest honor.

F. Herron writes two dependable tales that nicely skirt the golden age period from which the combat-oriented Blackhawks originated from and the modern superhero-era into which they survived as a long-running feature. The really fun artwork on this issue is provided by Dick Dillin and Chuck Cuidera. Simply put, despite hokey elements to the opening sci-fi feature, their illustrations are really lush and beautiful to look at. Fans today might rankle at some the implied ethnicity for a few of these classic characters however, by this era at least, Chop-Chop was no longer being portrayed as a comic relief coolie. Instead he is a viable member of the group with his own identical uniform. By Gar!

Friday, August 14, 2009

"Gal" Friday! Milla Jovovich

Ukrainian-born actress & model Milla Jovovich has earned serious genre chops with her signature role as Leeloo, an alien who was the "perfect being" in the science fiction film The Fifth Element (1997), Ultraviolet (2006), and her popular horror trilogy of Resident Evil (2002), Resident Evil: Apocalypse (2004) & Resident Evil: Extinction (2007). There is also a fourth film in the works for the latter series.

Milla got her start at age eleven in the modeling world, after her family immigrated to the U.S. She learned to speak English in a mere three months, but was teased by her peers who often called her a "commie." Apparently these foolish mortals didn't realize how smoking hot she would turn out to be someday. For a gal with little "action" going on upstairs, Milla more than makes up for any perceived lack of "boob-age" in a culture that worships large tata's. She pretty much has everything else necessary to kick the living snot out of undead zombies, snarling were-creatures, albino-vampires and still happily satisfy horny old comic book fans.

Trust me, that last bit, I can definitely attest to!
Anybody who can make a skimpy costume look good, which was made out of nothing but ace-medical bandages, certainly deserves to be remembered for posterity as the latest "Gal" Friday.

Rulah Jungle Goddess vs "The Carnivorous Blonde" (Fox Comics; 1948)

Ah, the perils of a May-December relationship!

Today's golden age tale is a neat little passion play wherein our resident jungle goddess actually utilizes her innate sexuality to help trick a two-timing gold digger into revealing her infidelity to her much older and naive spouse. The twisted minx has even been trying to murder the poor chap.

Add in a rampaging elephant, the lion king and a three hundred pound gorilla to the mix and of course, Rulah herself, and you've got all the ingredients for a fine Fox Comics feature from Rulah Jungle Goddess #20 (November 1948).


Thursday, August 13, 2009

Great Superhero Movie Lines: "I like to play with things a while before annihilation."

Sometimes "camp" just seems to work, the 1960's Batman series wasn't exactly the Dark Knight at his best, but it was at least fun to watch and "kids" from those years still fondly recall Adam West and Burt Ward as the Caped Crusaders.

The same can be said for the 1980 film version of Flash Gordon, based on the old comic strips and early Hollywood matinee serials. Max Von Sydow starred as the evil Ming the Merciless, alongside Sam Jones as Flash, and eventual James Bond 007, Timothy Dalton.

This line was taken from the Emperors pithy response to a query about the fate of the planet Earth.

Plus there was a kicking rock soundtrack provided by the band Queen. "Flash! Ah-ah. He'll save everyone of us!"

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

How NOT to do a Superhero Movie: Captain America (1979)

You can sum up the entire premise of the twin 1979 Captain America television films thus; F.L.A.G. – Full Latent Ability Gain, “the ultimate steroid”, plus a not-so-spiffy van equipped with a motorbike (topped off by a clear shield, which conveniently doubles as Cap’s usual offensive weapon) and a big blond lummox to assay the part of Marvel Comics resident living legend of World War II. For those of us who are still reeling from these two crummy flicks, there is at least some nice eye-candy in the form of Heather Menzies in movie of the week #1 and Connie Selleca in movie of the week #2. The second of these deplorable set pieces was titled, Captain America II: Death Too Soon. In my opinion, death didn’t come quickly enough to avoid these awful teleflicks. One interesting aspect of these largely forgotten TV movies, is that many seemingly normal folks that actually do recall them, simply overexaggerate their relative worth.

Don’t believe the hype! If you ever get the chance to watch either one of them and discover something entertaining here, please donate your organs to science, because something is wrong with you. lol

Comic Books Around The World: France

I haven't posted anything else in this series since January and that is too long. To be honest, I could probably spend at least a week on famous French comic books, so expect to see more French stuff at some point down the line. For today, lets take a look at one of the longest running all ages strips since the early days of the silver age .... even if it does originate outside the continental U.S.

The Adventures of Asterix is a French comic book & comic strip series published between 1959 and 2005. Originally created by writer Rene Goscinny and illustrated by Albert Uderzo, The series follows the exploits of a village of ancient Gauls as they resist Roman occupation. They do so by means of a magic potion, brewed by their druid, which gives the recipient superhuman strength. The protagonist and titular character, Asterix, along with his friend Obelix have various adventures. In many cases, this leads them to travel to various countries around the world, though other books are set in and around their village.

The Asterix series is one of the most popular Franco-Belgian comics in the world, with the series being translated into over 100 languages, and it is very popular in most European countries. Asterix is less well known in America and Japan.

The success of the series has led to the adaptation of several of the books into eleven films (eight animated & three live action). Noted French actor GĂ©rard Depardieu played Obelix in one of these films. There have also been toys, games and food items based on the characters, and a theme park near Paris is built around the series premise and characters.

Albert Uderzo took over the job of writing the series after the death of Rene Goscinny in 1977. While the bulk of the series consists of humorous adventures in a historical setting, more recent volumes have employed science-fiction and fantasy elements like extraterrestrials in Asterix and the Falling Sky and the city of Atlantis in Asterix and Obelix All at Sea.

You can occasionally find Asterix volumes at Barnes & Noble for about $10 and they are well worth the price!

Monday, August 10, 2009

1980's Flashback: Sword of the Atom

One of the great silver age superstars received a temporary status boost when DC Comics published a four-issue limited series entitled Sword of the Atom, beginning in Sept. 1983, Ray Palmer (aka The Atom) abandoned civilization after uncovering his wife's infidelity. Ray decided to charter a Central American flight to go in search of a missing piece of white dwarf matter (the same substance that gave him his size-changing abilities). Unfortunately his pilot was a shady drug smuggler, who conked Ray over the head and tried to toss him out of the plane before they inadvertently flew over the gangs cocaine fields. Ray recovered just in time to change into his Atom guise and he quickly made short work of the villains, but in the battle he was blown out of the plane and fell to earth, where he found that he was trapped at his six inch size. The Atom then becomes a Conan-like figure and hero to a tribe of six-inch tall yellow-skinned humanoid aliens who already dwell in the jungle.

Eventually three subsequent Sword of the Atom specials were released, which revealed that the colony was destroyed, despite Palmer's various attempts to stop it, by a group associated with the US Government who were acting as loggers. Ray Palmer was forced to escape via his signature trick of "phoning" himself home through the telephone lines to North America.

Writer Jan Strnad and artist Gil Kane pulled out all of the stops on this terrific series, and had they been issues of an ongoing Atom series it would have been even sweeter. In my opinion, these issues were so well done and so much in tone with the Atom's classic 1960's scifi-esque original series, that it may have lasted longer. Various later series have tried to reinvigorate the "Tiny Titan", but so far nothing has equaled this classic 1980's romp.

Friday, August 7, 2009

"Gal" Friday! Cat Deeley

Catherine Elizabeth "Cat" Deeley (born October 23, 1976) is a British disc jockey and former fashion model. She began hosting the second season of So You Think You Can Dance in 2006, replacing the original female reality talent show host.

Deeley often lends her time to the Great Ormond Street Hospital, a children's hospital in London, and divides her time between her homes in London and Beverly Hills. Ms. Deeley isn't the bustiest chick that I've profiled in the Catacombs, but she is one tall (& lovely) drink of water for us desperately deprived fans of sexy British women.

I don't follow the talent show that she hosts, but sadly the trio of estrogen-Valkyries at my hacienda does. At least at those times when I must pass through that portion of the house, it's nice to know that there is something at least worth checking out for a few moments when that show is on the telly.

[Photo (right): by F. Brown/Getty Images]

Happy Birthday from the Catacombs!

I would like to wish my brother, David, a "Happy 45th Birthday"!

I tossed in a nifty Captain America illustration by Jack "King" Kirby & Syd Shores as a bonus since he is feeling a tad under the weather with a summer cold today and that's no way to celebrate a birthday.

Little brother, sometime later, the beer is on me.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Dark Horse Mounts a Valiant Effort to Revive Gold Key!

This news blurb was taken from Newsarama so that I could selectively edit portions of it, but if you want to see the original article, head over there and read it for yourself (I couldn't get the link to work).

"Dark Horse Comics has announced that Jim Shooter, formerly of Marvel Comics and Valiant Comics, has joined their company to relaunch a batch of new monthly titles based on the disused Gold Key characters made famous most recently by 1990s relaunches at Valiant. Dark Horse has recently collected a number of Gold Key stories featuring these characters in hardcover archive editions."

"Given the time lapse between the most recent publications of the titles, I have to wonder whether some of the younger audience, or those who came aboard during the comics boom of the ’90s, will respond more to this announcement than they did to convention-shaking news of the Marvelman acquisition by Marvel. While Marvelman is undoubtedly a more historically-relevant character, the Gold Key characters are a little fresher in the minds of casual fans, I should think; I remember being 13 and Valiant’s Turok: Dinosaur Hunter #1 being the most sought-after book at my first-ever convention."

In my opinion, Newsarama (like Wizard magazine) suffers from toadyism towards the bigger publishers. I also wonder from time-to-time whether the gang over there smokes crack. After reading this item, I wondered whether the writer covering this news item suffered a certain degree of favoritism towards Marvel, or if he was just high at the time he penned his remarks. Which "younger" readers does he refer to? Invoking the Valiant-era relaunch of the Gold Key heroes, by referencing the historically relevant Marvelman, without mentioning that that British character was a blatant knock off of Fawcett's earlier golden age Captain Marvel (the Shazam version) seems terribly offbase to me. No, what Mr. Burlingame might actually be alluding to as "historically relevant" is the late 1980's/early 1990's Alan Moore/Miracleman version of "Marvelman". Given the context of when the Valiant books were running, and the timeframe when Neil Gaiman succeeded Moore on Miracleman, I would think that they probably shared some rack space back in the day. "Younger fans", if they even exist, may check these books out today, but make no mistake, these will be marketed, trumpeted and hawked by Dark Horse, to the same aging fan boys who bought the Valiant stuff in the first place.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

From the Dust Bin: Section Zero

I recently picked up the brief run of this aborted series for next to nothing on eBay, largely for the cool artwork by Tom Grummett and Karl Kesel, and after reading it, really wished that this book had continued beyond its short run. This book was lots of fun to read, it was beautiful to look at and it definitely deserves to be revived.

Section Zero was created by writer/inker Karl Kesel and artist Tom Grummett and published in 2000 by Gorilla Comics (an imprint of Image comics). The series followed a covert organization working under the aegis of the United Nations, whose mission was the investigation and containment of unexplained phenomena around the world.

Section Zero was originally proposed as an ongoing series, but due to financial problems experienced by the organizers of Gorilla Comics, only three issues were ultimately published; and then only after Image Comics stepped in to help out. A fourth issue was solicited, but was never published.

Gorilla Comics was designed to be a creator owned company financed by a comics related website called The website quickly proved to be a financial failure, leaving the creators to personally finance their own books. Along with the other Gorilla Comics creators, Kurt Busiek & Stuart Immonen (Shockrockets), Mark Waid & Barry Kitson (Empire), George Perez (Crimson Plague) and Mike Wieringo (Tellos); Kesel & Grummett attempted to continue the series they started, but these efforts proved to be unsuccessful.

Section Zero's eclectic cast of characters included Dr. Titania Challenger, the last living member of a family of scientific adventurers; Sam Wildman, the team's field leader and Doc Challenger's ex-husband; Tesla, a childlike alien who pilots the team's flying saucer. Tesla has no memory of his life before he began working for Section Zero; Thom Talesi (aka the 24-Hour Bug), an Asian-American teenager with a magical tattoo that allows him to transform into an insect-like being for a twenty-four hour period; Sargasso, a reptilian being who worked for Section Zero in the 1960s and 1970s only to be found in the present and A. J. Keeler, the group's leader. Keeler secretly also leads the Ghost Soldiers, a second covert group that may or may not be working against the best interests of Section Zero.

Monday, August 3, 2009

"Fighting Mad" over Fighting American!

There is a fascinating post over at Newsarama [here] that details the fallout over a announcement made by the folks at Dynamite Entertainment during the recent Comic-Con International in San Diego about their impending intention to publish a Fighting American book, with the input and participation of Alex Ross. Guess what? It seems that the authorization to issue that statement was somewhat premature.

Apparently Dynamite publisher Nick Barrucci entered into talks with representatives of both Joe Simon and the estate of Jack Kirby, you see, Simon & Kirby had created the original character in the 1950's. Dynamite has become known for trying to become a rival to Marvel & DC Comics by utilizing as many other superheroes as they can get their hands on, whether these fictional characters are public domain properties, or acquired licensed properties, etc.

Dynamite has a slick product all right, and they have somehow managed to enchant Alex Ross into staying the course through each new title introduced into their budding "hero verse", but given the D-list talent that produces the interiors, no, D-list isn't accurate. Third string would be alot closer to reality, the end result - despite some apparent sales success - has not been worth the money.

To each his own, but the guys at Dynamite seem to be doing nothing more than "aping" every trend that either Marvel or DC has already burned through - many times over - and that is just not the way to make it long term in this business.

Valiant (and each of its many derivations), Crossgen, Dark Horse, and numerous other companies have already tried this and failed. Does that mean that nobody should ever publish a seemingly similar superhero universe? No. Still, why simply duplicate a tired formula, if you are going to go head-to-head and compete with the big boys anyway, why not at least attempt to do something unique? Short term gains, maybe?

Go click on the link above and read the article for yourself, and lets hear it for Joe Simon. Crotchety old guy or not, we as fans are always going on about creators rights, so lets be glad that at least Mr. Simon speaks up for himself against a sleazy operator and also thank the Kirby estate for opting out of a tainted deal as well.

Dynamite really doesn't get my business or dollars anyway and maybe one of these days Alex Ross will get back to a better quality publisher. In the meantime, please remember kids. Just because you have the ability to put out a nice package, doesn't mean that you have the right to bullshit anybody.