Friday, December 30, 2016

The Best Comics of 2016!!!

Hope that you all had a Merry Christmas and are due for a Happy New Year as well! 2016 was one hell of a year seeing celebrities and other notable figures dropping like flies, with Star Wars Carrie Fisher and her Hollywood icon mother, Debbie Reynolds passing within a day of each being the saddest icing on the cake. We also ushered a deplorable moron into the Oval Office this year, a well-heeled billionaire who managed to convince hundreds of millions of simpletons into believing that he would magically fix their sorry little lives (even as he almost immediately began to do exactly the opposite); and all of this nonsense was perpetrated under a campaign of heinous fear-mongering along with his pair-bonding with out and out racist neo-nazis; sheesh! What the religious right saw that made them also kiss his lying ass is something for saner historians to ruminate upon should we survive the administration of this asshole. On to other matters ......

There were not as many posts here this year as I may have preferred, but before we blow out the candles anyway, here are my personal selections for the very best pure comics experiences to be had in 2016. *You will note that in a couple of instances a single issue or two is all certain nominees fielded, but less is often more and virtually any of these issues are far superior to much of what stained the comic shop shelves from the major publishers otherwise.

Velvet - Ed Brubaker, Steve Epting and Elizabeth Breitweiser
Black Panther – Ta-Nehisi Coates, Brian Stelfreeze, Chris Sprouse and Laura Martin

Love and Rockets – The Hernandez Brothers

Black Hammer – Jeff Lemire, Dean Ormston and Dave Stewart

Seven to Eternity – Rick Remender and Jerome Opena
Black Science – Rick Remender, Matteo Scalera and Moreno Dinisio

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

In Memorium: Van Williams

I just haven't made the time to swing by the Catacombs recently and this is certainly not the kind of post that I would prefer prompted me to return, but what are you gonna do.

The Green Hornet and Kato have finally been reunited in the afterlife. Actor Van Williams familiar to old school fans from his days on Bourbon Street Beat and its television spinoff Surfside 6 passed away on November 28, 2016 at the age of eighty-two from renal failure. Williams is probably best known as the masked hero from the short run 1960s series where he starred opposite the late Bruce Lee.

Despite his hunkish good looks, Williams had only a modest impact in Hollywood with a couple of big screen roles and a minor string of appearances in many classic shows before hitting wider if brief fame as the Hornet. He later served as a reserve sheriffs deputy and he owned a communications company. He was described by friends as a great friend and mentor. The Catacombs extends its sincerest condolences to his family, friends and

Friday, August 5, 2016

In Memorium: Gaspar Saladino

Legendary letterer Gaspar Saladino passed away yesterday following a long illness (his age is believed to be somewhere in the 88 or 90 range).  Although he worked for a variety of publishers during his lengthy career, for well over five decades he was a staple of DC Comics responsible for so many of their iconic font designs. Gaspar designed hundreds of logos for the company and as time permitted, also worked on interiors particularly on Swamp Thing with Len Wein and Bernie Wrightson. The Catacombs extends its sincerest condolences to his family, friends and fans.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

In Memorium: Jack Davis

Legendary illustrator Jack Davis passed away yesterday in Georgia at the age of 91. His staggering volume of work for advertising, magazines, films, posters and album covers throughout his long life made him a popular cartoonist. Davis began his career at EC Comics doing horror and sci-fi stuff, but quickly became known for MAD magazine and the caricature art style that led to his wider fame. I met him at a National Cartoonist Society meeting in Asheville, NC a few years ago alonside his former MAD peers Duck Edwing and Nick Meglin. That was a terrific and truly once in a lifetime opportunity. He will be missed! The Catacombs extends its sincerest condolences to his family, friends and fans.

Friday, July 15, 2016

"Gal" Friday! Elsa Bloodstone

Elsa Bloodstone first appeared in Marvel's 2001 Bloodstone mini-series written by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning. She is the daughter of the previously established Marvel Universe character Ulysses Bloodstone (first appearance in Marvel Presents #1; Oct.1975). She currently lives in Bloodstone Manor with her mother and her ally the Frankenstein Monster. She has also befriended Charles Barnabus, a pureblood vampire lawyer and the executor of the Bloodstone estate.

Elsa has been utilized in various Marvel publishing efforts such as Nextwave, the Initiative, The Fearless Defenders and Marvel Now; but she has seemingly returned to her monster-hunting adventures vowing solemnly to never have children on her own, since she feels the responsibility of being a Bloodstone too heavy to be forced upon another living being.
Elsa has exhibited superhuman strength, speed, durability and endurance and a regenerative ability. She appears to possess all of the abilities that her father previously had. In addition she has demonstrated immunity to vampire bites (her blood will actually kill a vampire if consumed and the original Bloodgem fragment itself is anathema to vampires).

In the Bloodstone mini-series, Elsa claimed that she had inherited at least some of this power genetically, but it has been shown that her powers of strength and invulnerability were bestowed upon her by the Bloodgem fragment she wears on a choker. She has also been portrayed as an expert marksman. Among a number of artifacts gathered by her father she has used a lamp which contains a genie whom Ulysses had enslaved years ago. This device serves as an early warning system, lighting up during times of supernatural crisis, and transporting her to said event.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

This here is a run-out-the-clock situation.

Dinosaurs are long gone and collectively we understand that their exit was prompted by the (K–T) extinction, a mass extinction of some three-quarters of plant and animal species on Earth—including all non-avian dinosaurs—that occurred over a geologically short period of time approximately 66 million years ago.

I've come to the conclusion that a portion of fandom, my own demographic, has been naturally going the same route within the comic book industry since the early 1990's. I have had comics around throughout my entire life from before I could even read in fact. Now in my mid-50's I increasingly feel either antipathy or indifference towards the wares of DC Comics and Marvel Comics. Each of these "big two" publishing powerhouses has made every effort imaginable to maintain what we all know to be a shrinking readership, but you would never know it looking at what is sitting upon the shelves in most comics specialty shops. It is a mind-numbing experience pondering what to purchase out of the hundreds of issues comprising the last several months worth of every single series, plus the often dozen or so related titles within each "family" grouping and then to also have to determine how a half dozen active "versions" of each major character are indistinguishable in their own right? I can recall when the monthly letters page chatter used to jockey around the Earth 1 or 2 JLA/JSA crossovers; and that was only a handful of characters. Back in the mid 1980s DC decided that enough was enough, and we got Crisis on Infinite Earths. Twelve isues, a linewide crossover and then a major reboot that settled things once and for all. At least until the sales figures came in, and well you get the picture. Crisis has continued annually ever since. Oh sure, they call each seasons marketing "event" by a different name, but its really all the same conceit.

Diversity too seems to have unfortunately become little more than the kitschy glamor vibe of the moment, with one established character identity after another perpetually getting remade as an ethnic variation or a gender swap, or to a same-sex gay option supposedly because of audience demand? I don't think so. Each company already had plenty of non-caucasian characters and some homosexual heroes or supporting characters, and some were featured regularly. Moving those to the forefront and increasing their prominence in the wider fictional universe has occurred, but the replacments just keep right on coming unabated. Another ebb tide is the routinely manifested white, blonde female superhero who soon finds her love interest in this politically correct climate to be the nearest black male superhero. Time and again we've seen this and while this reflects reality, it has been done to death largely by caucasian creators who must believe that they alone are introducing this idea for the very first time? We seem to have entirely skipped past any healthy presentations of black male/black female relationships, much less actually doing the hard part and creating a brand spanking new intellectual property to stand upon its own merits. We've gone straight to the default polarizing choice over and again, and face it Tiger; that is exactly what sells headlines once the "haters" begin spouting off at the next introduction or romance along these lines. It would be foolish to believe that the publishers don't expect and/or prefer the vitriolic backlash of these gimmicks. Alas, even my head canon fanboy choice can no longer stand the bombardment. Cacaphony rules the day. I'm baling out while I can retain some degree of appreciation for nostalgia if nothing else.
I have tried my best to get on board, to accept and tolerate, but the endlessness of these things has worn me completely out. I do however want to end on a high note praising current books that I am VERY much still enjoying and which all take me to my inner happy place as a reader: Velvet (Image Comics) by Ed Brubaker, Steve Epting, Elizabeth Breitweiser; Black Panther (Marvel Comics) by Ta-Nehisi Coates, Brian Stelfreeze, Laura Martin; Future Quest (DC Comics) by Jeff Parker and Evan "Doc" Shaner and others. Creators whose work also thrills me include Fernando Pasarin, Jason Fabok, Jim Cheung, the Hernandez Brothers, Dan Clowes, Peter Bagge and I'm looking forward to Adam Hughes on Betty & Veronica and the Josie and the Pussycats relaunch later this years. Other than my own shit ton of back issues, this is gonna be about it for me.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Hot Mess: The Falcon

When it comes to the publishing endeavors of the current comic book industry, frequent reboots, relaunches and other spin the wheel antics are sadly now a very common thing, but they are actually little more than hot messes that can be appealing for a variety of reasons; most notably because they're generally unexpected, capricious, and/or agonizingly provocative in tone and content. Additionally, numerous contingent factors render these increasingly less rare and constantly repetitive cycles virtually inconsequential.

No one set of guidelines exists to determine what distinguishes each seasons "hot mess" from the previous effort that has now come to be considered the train wreck that it was. Fandom is mired in a case of “here we go again” as the same caustic social media frenzy kicks off another round of shout down the other side of the aisle. Regardless of the circumstances, you know it when you see it; because they are conspicuous and thus always heavily marketed slices of the moment.

The Falcon was one of my favorite bronze age heroes, although depending upon how you gauge when each comic book age began and ended, he probably counts as having squeeked in at the end of the silver age. Sam Wilson was an interesting character in his own right who quickly bonded with fans and moved to cover prominence headlining the series Captain America and The Falcon for many years. The two characters were partners and friends and remained that way until Steve Rogers succumbed to aberrant effects of his super-soldier formula aging out in short order. Sam was given the chance to succeed his pal in the patriotic role and name of CAPTAIN AMERICA. The thing is, this actually belittled the Falcon and weirdly, it is a half-assed attempt to seem diverse by pandering to a limited fan audience who just got familiar with The Falcon due to his inclusion in the blockbuster Captain America and Avengers film franchises. It makes fuck all sense, but it does give a couple of white creators a chance to seem with it. To which I say, "Sweet Christmas!"

Sam Wilson is The Falcon. He is not Captain America no matter how many issues that storyline ultimately runs. Strangely, having his costume altered as a tribute to his friend was a nice gesture, but robbing the character of his own unique identity that had beend established for decades stained the whole enterprise.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

"They've wrestled with reality for 11 years and seem to have finally won out over it.”

As I've grown into a stodgier older fan, I've tried to tamp down on visceral ranting about things that just aren't all that important in the grand scheme of things. Still, with respect to those who will ultimately be honored as nominees for the 2016 Harvey Awards; I simply can not fathom the thought process of their executive committee members. This award is named in honor of the late Harvey Kurtzman, one of the industry's most innovative talents, so I get that "innovation" is likely paramount in the selection process, but as the Harvey Awards recognize outstanding work in comics and sequential art; I frequently find myself at a loss over some top talents who never seem to make the cut. This is largely where I'm gonna leave off in specifying who - in my self importance - deserves to be on the list and/or those whose inclusion is beyond weird - again in my own estimation.

The Harvey Awards may be voted on exclusively by comic book creators who write, draw, ink, color, letter, design, edit, or are otherwise professionally involved in the creative aspect of comics, online or in print; but for years I've regularly not cared much for the majority of those singled out by the nominees. It is said that the Harvey Awards are the only industry awards both nominated and selected by the full body of comic book professionals. Thus voting is open to anyone professionally involved in a creative capacity within the industry.

This year's Baltimore Comic-Con will be held September 2-4, 2016, with the awards banquet being held on Saturday night. This will be the eleventh year that the Baltimore Con has hosted the Harvey Awards in Maryland.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

The Fickle Fingers of Fate!

This is going to be a rant!

Originally created by writer Gardner Fox and artist Howard Sherman, Doctor Fate first appeared in More Fun Comics #55 (May 1940). As in most cases of established superheroes of such long tenure, various incarnations have been published with several different individuals operating in different decades within the DC Universe as Dr. Fate. The characters mastery of magic grants him powers such spellcasting, flight, super-strength, invulnerability, telekinesis, telepathy, pyrokinesis, and lightning manipulation. However Fate is unable to counteract spells that have already been cast and are in effect. Given that the original versions origin was tied to ancient Egypt it may come as no surprise, that Fate's magic manifests in the shape of Egyptian symbology (such as an ankh). Doctor Fate was a founding member of the legendary Justice Society of America in 1940.
Beyond that basic information, the published history of disparate versions of the character are little more than a hot mess and no real sense can be made out of that whole in any fashion worthy of discussion. DC Comics has made numerous efforts in the last twenty years to bond the character with an ongoing audience without giving any single version sufficient time to truly take root with overlapping generations of fans, who still seemingly cling to or prefer something much closer to the classic version. The concept of Doctor Fate may have had its best chance to permanently pass the torch from Kent Nelson to a successor in the currently on hiatus New 52 series Earth 2, where an Egyptian man named Khalid Ben-Hassin assumed the mantle. Strangely, after their Convergence event, DC began heavy-handedly introducing more diversity into their titles and that being the case, it made fuck all sense that they literally dropped Egyptian Khalid Ben-Hassin like a hot potato and began another new Doctor Fate series by writer Paul Levitz and artist Sonny Liew, which was headlined by an Egyptian-American med student named Khalid Nassour (yeah, that sure makes better fucking sense, doesn’t it)?
As a golden age great, Doctor Fate has the longevity and name recognition necessary to continue making appearances in DC Comics, but their overtired efforts to move the character and concept away from the iconic representation seems futile at best. They wanted diversity and had it in the form of Earth 2’s Khalid Ben-Hassin (a decent updating in my opinion), but shifting the character’s name slightly and plastering the Fate concept onto a hoodie wearing youth was a shitty idea in my estimation.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Kickstarter: Buyer Beware??

Kickstarter is a public-benefit corporation based in New York which has built a global crowdfunding platform focused on creativity. The company’s stated mission is to help bring unique projects to life. Kickstarter has reportedly received more than $1.9 billion in pledges from 9.4 million backers to fund 257,000 projects such as films, music, stage shows, comics, journalism, video games, technology and food-related projects.

People who back Kickstarter projects are offered tangible rewards and one of a kind experiences in exchange for their pledges. But Kickstarter is not a store and your donations actually don't guarantee you anything and often these projects struggle to come to fruition despite being fully funded and have on rare occasions have even failed to materialize.

As of this month I funded a comic book project a full year ago that received far more in donations than its originally stated financial goal to complete two issues of a six issue series. At that time I modestly backed the project in order to receive the remaining two issues, but as stretch goals began to be earned, I upped my committment substantially in order to receive an art commission of the character of my choice. I am still waiting, and this isn't a reason to panic as sometimes the projects simply take longer. I am only writing this after long months of occasional inquiries have netted me little more than token assurances that progress was being made, plus samples of pages to back their claim up. I have no doubt that this series will be finished soon and the rewards sent out - finally.
The real reason that I object to the established professionals that sought help to finish their series is that over the last year on various social media forums like Facebook, they have periodically posted photos and comments from convention appearances where they've been selling one of the primary stretch goal items that backers earned and yet have not actually been sent? One of those token assurances previously suggested that they might go ahead and send the items that were ready, but that was apparently nothing but gas meant to assuage and then dissipate as soon as it was spoken. I have also found it galling to see the artist regularly posting completed commission artwork done for paying customers, including some that he has teased to be bringing to the upcoming San Diego Comicon. It is bad form, it is very discourteous unprofessional and downright shitty on their part; if you ask me.

I understand that life happens and that these men need to make a living, but they have been cavalier in their responsibility towards those of us who funded their project. I have lost all respect for the pair of them and at this point all that I and their backers can do is wait, while they continue to languidly take their time accomplishing two measly issues?

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Is DC Rebirth doomed from the start?

Well the initial first issues for DC Comics "Rebirth" publishing effort have begun dropping and already cracks appear to be evident. Does this signal inherent problems with such ongoing rebranding efforts in order to periodically prop up sales, or is is just a bump in the road that will soon right itself? We have to wait and see!

No matter which options proves accurate, several things must be pointed out. Namely that titles initially shipped twice monthly is not the best way to treat your loyal customers. It is gouging the admittedly small fanbase, but price gouging nonetheless. This needs to stop! Of course in order to pull off this increased frequency multiple artists for some series is the method DC Comics has chosen to achieve this end. To me this makes it much more difficult to get a feel for the relaunched titles as the cohesion necessary to make a better monthly comic will be harder to discern given disparate art styles. This needs to stop!
DC comics chose to kill off the New 52 version of the Man of Steel who has been carrying the torch over the last five years, and now the pre-Flashpoint Superman exists alongside Clark Kent apparently, having survived the Flashpoint event living in hiding under an assumed named with his wife Lois Lane and their son Johnathan. “Pre-Flashpoint” or “Post-Crisis” Kal-el take your pick, but he doesn’t wear the classic suit and other than a color tweak, his costume mirrors his recently deceased namesake, but with blue boots instead of red. Because that makes so much better sense?

 Adding insult to injury, there is also an entirely different New Super-Man over in another book and he is Chinese. Lex Luthor is also Superman over in Action Comics and Lois Lane (or some alternate version of Lois) is now Superwoman. You can’t make shit like this up; unless (I suppose) you can?
Strangely some promoted series like Super Sons and Justice League have also just disappeared from upcoming solicitations. Further evidence of trouble or simply one of those things, who knows? Whether DC Rebirth will ultimately be perceived as the afterbirth that lived is a discussion for one year hence.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Penny Dreadful .... gone, but never forgotten!!

The Showtime series Penny Dreadful pulled off a fast one in their third season finale, by bringing things to a conclusion. That is right! They stealth inserted a series finale to the surprise and disappointment of their hardcore fanbase. I count myself among them and have to admit that given series creator John Logan's asseration that this was planned all along, some things in hindsight seem a little suspect to me.
Why, if this was the grand finale envisioned all along, did Logan basically send his stable of story-wise tightly integrated characters so far afield individually this year only to bring them all together in the last episode? Also much was teased and/or intimated about what might have been season four content (do I hear "Imhotep" anyone)? Oh well, if this was where the tale of Vanessa Ives simply had to end, as a fan we were treated to a course of sugar to make the medicine go down.

I do feel as if viewers who have yet to give Penny Dreadful a chance will subsequently come to regret not having supported the show while it was airing, as this excellent television production has struggled to find a sizable enough audience to have perhaps changed the mind of its own creator. Needless to say the cast of Penny Dreadful (Eva Green, Timothy Dalton, Josh Hartnett, Rory Kinear, etc.) was superb and rarely has a shortrun series managed to be of this high quality only to fade quietly away in the most unsuspecting fashion.

To those who may still be on the fence for what this series had to offer, if you have any familiarity with a terrible film called The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen starring Sean Connery from some years past, based upon the Alan Moore comic book; then this show was literally like that concept but done absolutely correctly. I am going to miss Penny Dreadful in the worst possible way!

Monday, June 20, 2016

Ominous Press .... Reborn!!

This past weekend I enjoyed attending the 34th annual Heroes Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina. It’s always great catching up with the “tribe”, that vast coalition of comics and genre fans plus many talented industry professionals who’ve long made Heroes part of their yearly tradition. The ambience of Shelton Drum’s show is always palpable and guaranteed to be chockfull of fun. This year was no exception either!

Also these days you just don’t see the same degree of publisher presence as was typically common fifteen or twenty years ago, but one highlight of Heroes Con for me was seeing the rebirth of artist Bart Sears mid-1990s imprint Ominous Press. Sears alongside his partners, writer/editor Ron Marz, fellow artists Andy Smith & Tom Raney and publisher Sean HusVar debuted a new preview issue this very weekend in Charlotte featuring chapters introducing their upcoming titles and creative teams that will comprise the reborn Ominous; namely Prometheus (Sears-Mars-Raney), Giantkillers (Sears) and Demi-God (Sears-Marz-Smith).  The overarching plot that will entwine each diverse book is teased, and I do have to say that if the ongoing quality matches this premiere issue, then you should all plan to pick up these books once they hit the shops; although some details over how that happens have yet to be determined.
Sears and company seemingly steeped these new series in classic high adventure concepts and old school mythology, but with modern twists that may break out of normal fan expectations, but time will tell? I do know that I am looking forward to seeing where Ominous Press takes us!

Friday, June 17, 2016

Star Wars: Battlefront (Bespin DLC)!!

On June 21st the second major dlc for Star Wars: Battlefront drops two weeks early for season pass holders, like yours truly. Bespin will take the battle to Cloud City from The Empire Strikes Back and also adds the rogue Lando Calrissian and the bounty hunter Dengar as new playable characters; plus another assortment of new weapons, vehicles, star cards, etc.

I've enjoyed playing this game and am curious to see how far this update will raise the current level cap, sitting at 60 for the moment. It will also be fun seeing stormtroopers get blasted off into the abyss, if I'm truly being honest. And it is about time to get back into the game, so don't look for me early next week. My non-work hours will be spent in a galaxy far, far away!!

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Heroes Convention 2016!!

This weekend I will be heading to Charlotte, North Carolina for the annual Heroes Convention featuring the usual lineup of comic book industry favorites including: Neal Adams, Mark Bagley, Frank Brunner, Bob Camp, Kelly Sue DeConnick, DMC, Evan Dorkin, Steve Epting, Matt Fraction, Ramona Fradon, Basil Gogos, Michael Golden, Mike Grell, Jason Latour, David Peterson, Eric Powell, Don Rosa, Bart Sears, Bill Sienkiewicz, Brian Stelfreeze, Jim Steranko, William Stout, Babs Tarr, Lee Weeks and many more. The Inkwell Awards ceremony will be held there on Friday evening and the Saturday evening charity art auction is a thing of legend. Hope to see you all there and among the usual cosplay gang, will be Riddle herself (see image of her recent charity photo for Canada), say hello to Riddle and thank her especially for that one!!

Friday, June 10, 2016

1970's Flashback: The Butterfly

Hell-Rider #2 (1971)
Skywald was a short-lived company best known for horror comic magazines like Nightmare, Psycho, and Scream (with a similar adult format as those released by Warren Publications), not submitted for Comics Code Authority scrutiny.  In 1971 two 64 page issues of Hell-Rider were published starring a vigilante-motorcyclist named Brick Reese. Backup features included another biker gang The Wild Bunch and the subject of this flashback. The Butterfly was the first Black super-heroine in comics history. She only had the two adventures in each of these issues, but her stories had top talent attached to them such as Gary Friedrich, John Celardo, and Rich Buckler.

Marian Michaels, alias The Butterfly, was a nightclub singer who also faced off against a white supremacist secret society with a leader who had penetrated the halls of power in Washington. The organization called the Brothers of the Crimson Cross mission was nothing less than the total eradication of non-white races in America. The Butterfly wore a really skimpy costume but never degenerated into typical blaxploitation themes common at the time and managed to present a well-rounded depiction of the lead African-American female hero.
Unused splash page by R. Buckler

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Newsarama picks the greatest DC Comics Stories of all time!

Newsarama has recently asked its readers to vote for the greatest stories ever published by DC Comics and the list of those tales that were selected is certainly very impressive including classics (going from #10 to #1)such as “Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?”; “The Return of Barry Allen”; “The Judas Contract”; “Sinestro Corps War”; “The Dark Knight Returns”; “DC: The New Frontier”; “All-Star Superman”; “The Great Darkness Saga”; “Crisis on Infinite Earths”; and “Kingdom Come.”

An assortment of exceptional stories and/or runs that have become known as classics for sure, but an argument could be made to include other Alan Moore works such as Watchmen or his “The Anatomy Lesson” from Swamp Thing, not to mention classic Denny O’Neil-Neal Adams work on Batman or Green Lantern/Green Arrow too. Still since these were fan picks, it is hard to take too much of an exception. If for some reason you’ve missed any of these adventures, trades paperback editions are readily available for you to catch up on.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Josie and the Pussycats are coming back!!

Perennial publisher Archie Comics has announced another reinvention from their catalogue of classic characters with the notice that Josie and the Pussycats are getting a makeover too.
Marguerite Bennett and Cameron DeOrdio will write the series, with art by Audrey Mok. Mok also draws the cover of the first issue (see above), but as with their upcoming Betty & Veronica reboot, Josie & the Pussycats #1 will also feature variant covers from fellow Archie Comics artists Veronica Fish (Archie) and Francesco Francavilla (Afterlife with Archie).  If the interiors look as terrific as her cover, artist Audrey Mok just guaranteed that I will be picking this title up this September?

Friday, May 27, 2016

Enter the DC Universe Online!!

DC Universe Online (abbreviated DCUO) is a free-to-play action combat massive multiplayer online game set in the DC Universe of DC Comics. Developed by Daybreak Game Company and co-published by WB Games, it was originally released on January 11, 2011.

The player creates a new, original character that interacts with the heroes and villains of DC Comics. Players choose their character's faction (Hero or Villain), gender (male or female), body type (both height and muscularity), personality (comical, flirty, powerful, primal, serious), movement mode (flight, acrobatics, speed or skimming), weapon, and power (fire, ice, gadgets, mental, nature, sorcery, earth, light, electricity, rage, quantum, celestial, munitions, and atomic). Further customization includes numerous hair, skin, and costume types and up to 3 colors which can be applied to your color scheme palette. Pre-built templates can also be utilized which are inspired by some key DC characters to expedite the whole character creation process.
Once the player's character is named (here you’ll need to be creative as most obvious names are already claimed), they are thrown into the world of DC Universe Online, having to fight their way out of a spaceship; the tutorial teaches counter mechanics and using power and skill points. Eventually the player's character is made an official member of the Justice League or the Secret society of Super-villains, where they continue on their missions to increase their level and skill in various content.

DCUO was added to X-Box One on April 29, 2016 and frankly I’ve been playing the heck out of it. This is a very fun game! Once you earn enough renown to get invited to the Watchtower (for heroes) and the Hall of Doom (for villains), things get even more exciting. I will say that paying attention to what NPC’s (non-player characters) say is crucial, particularly in arena matches to earn loot, or you will become lost. This has happened to me a number of times when matched with three other players, all of whom are expected to work together to achieve necessary goals within matches in order to advance to that areas full rewards. Many times in frustration players drop out leaving it almost impossible to complete tasks. Of course had those dummies been paying attention to all of the suggestions and/or on-screen tips, they may have realized that they were actually the problem all along?
I would still recommend DC Universe Online to anyone interested in creating their own superhero to ultimately fight alongside greats like Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman or their twisted counterparts Lex Luthor, the Joker and Circe (plus literally dozens of popular DC characters).

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Captain America: Civil War!!

I did not post a review of Captain America: Civil War when it was released earlier in the month, but now seems like a good time to sum up my feelings about the latest blockbuster Marvel Studios release. Simply put this great movie pulled off that rarest of film trifectas by becoming the first superhero trilogy to actually post a note perfect three picture run.

Man, this flick was equal parts great standalone film, a great next chapter in the overall cinematic Marvel Universe, and yet still managed to also serve as a great setup for fun things yet to come. The newly introduced heroes Black Panther and the latest Spider-Man were truly epic and fun, plus the large cast all shined in exceptional ways. It is weird being a 54 year old fan seeing stuff from your wayward youth brought to life on the big screen! If you have not yet seen the film and by some chance you are familiar with the 2007 comics storyline that this film is based upon, then expect some deviations from that material. For my money, this movies script improved upon many things from the original source material.
Chris Evans and Robert Downey, Jr. each found impressive new depth in their familiar characters of Steve Rogers and Tony Stark, but for fans it comes at a cost of seeing their onscreen relationship fractured by films end. Thematically tying up many threads from the previous Cap flicks and also incorporating incidents from the twin Avengers films surprisingly does not bog things down, a testament to the talent of the Russo Brothers as writers and directors. Jockeying a dozen major heroes plus a number of secondary roles seems to be their forte. In addition to Captain America (Evans) and Iron Man (RDJ) returning cast members include Scarlett Johansson as Natasha Romanoff / Black Widow; Sebastian Stan as Bucky Barnes / Winter Soldier; Anthony Mackie as Sam Wilson / Falcon; Don Cheadle as James "Rhodey" Rhodes / War Machine; Jeremy Renner as Clint Barton / Hawkeye; Paul Bettany as The Vision; Elizabeth Olsen as Wanda Maximoff / Scarlet Witch; Paul Rudd as Scott Lang / Ant-Man; Emily VanCamp as Sharon Carter; Frank Grillo as Brock Rumlow / Crossbones; and William Hurt as Thaddeus "Thunderbolt" Ross (from The Incredible Hulk).  If that doesn’t seem like a top heavy cast, we are also introduced to Chadwick Boseman as T'Challa / Black Panther and Tom Holland as Peter Parker / Spider-Man whose solo movies are set up by this films mid and post credits scenes (might wanna stick around for those at the conclusion). Daniel Brühl as Helmut Zemo provides the main villain of the film in a departure from his comics version, but very effectively done. Captain America: Civil War ranks as one of the best big budget superhero films of all time; hands down (and I didn’t even spoil some of the better moments for fans)!!

In Memorium: Mell Lazarus

Mell Lazarus, creator of the comic strip Momma, passed away at the age of 89 on May 24, 2016. Lazarus grew up in New York and like many of his golden age peers started his career as a cartoonist while still in his teens. He worked for Li’l Abner creator Al Capp and also for Toby Press (which was managed by Capp’s brother), he later turned his experiences in book publishing into a novel, The Boss Is Crazy, Too. He launched Miss Peach in 1957 (which ran until 2002); he later began Momma in 1970 and it is still running, although with different creators.

Lazarus won the National Cartoonists Society's award for Newspaper Strip, Humor, in 1973 and 1979, both times for Miss Peach. On January 23, 2016, Lazarus became the second recipient of that organizations Medal of Honor, established just last year. He previously won the Reuben Award for Outstanding Cartoonist of the Year, for Miss Peach, in 1981, and later that organization's Silver T-Square Award in 2000. The Catacombs extends its condolences to his family, friends and fans.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Rayboy's Review: Future Quest #1 [DC Comics]

Comic book fans will easily remember the many terrific Hanna-Barbera Saturday morning cartoon shows starring a legion of colorful heroes (designed by the late Alex Toth) back in the 1960s, and now courtesy of DC Comics and series creators Jeff Parker, Evan "Doc" Shaner and Steve “The Dude” Rude nostalgia blends all of them together in a wonderful new monthly book called Future Quest.

The debut issue features the cast from Jonny Quest who meet Space Ghost and Birdman for the first time (with the promise of others to come in subsequent issues) alongside a dynamic sequence illustrated by Rude featuring classic Quest villain Dr. Zin. This book is a joy for fans of those old cartoons and for anyone that misses the types of comics that used to dominate the stands, not that Future Quest seems dated by design. Rather this book seamlessly plays up the strength of these great characters and does so with a modern twist that for once does not require darkening their original premise overmuch.
Future Quest may be influenced by the history of the Hanna-Barbera gang, but Parker quickly establishes a strong reason for bringing them all together in a shared universe and no better artists could visualize these classic heroes than Doc Shaner and “The Dude.” The Catacombs highly recommends this book above all others out there right now (and count yourself lucky that I’ve offered no spoilers, too). Your joy of discovery awaits!

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Game of Thrones [Season 6]!!

Prior to its recent premiere, the showrunners suggested that their current season might end up being their best yet. Boasting, perhaps, but thus far Game of Thrones has certainly been giving every indication that the sixth season of the HBO fantasy epic is trying to swing for the fences. We've seen Lord Commander of the Nights Watch Jon Snow return from deaths abyss, and then be reunited with his half-sister Sansa finally making her way to Castle Black. Sunday nights episode also treated hardcore fans to a spectacular return to form for Daenerys Stormborn, the Mother of Dragons who showed those lusty khals that screwing around with her was simply not going to be part of their agenda, and now our Khaleesi has reclaimed one massive horde of Dothraki horse riders to either aide in her efforts to reclaim the Iron Throne of Westeros or to finally put those vile schemers to task in Slavers Bay.
Emilia Clarke as Daenerys
Game of Thrones remains one of the best genre shows to ever be produced for television and if you are one of the few that has yet to check this series out, well - - - what are you waiting for?

Monday, May 16, 2016

In Memorium: Darwyn Cooke!!

Within a twenty-four hour span late last week an official announcement from his family that he was undergoing an aggressive form of treatment was then immediately followed by their sad update that Eisner Award-winning Canadian comic book writer, artist, cartoonist and animator Darwyn Cooke, best known for his work on the comic books Catwoman, DC: The New Frontier, The Spirit and Richard Stark's Parker: The Hunter had succumbed to his battle with cancer. Cooke joins a short list of entirely too young creators that we've lost far earlier than would normally have been expected: Mike Parobeck, Dave Stevens, Mike Wieringo, Dwayne McDuffie and now Darwyn Cooke at 53 years of age. He was not quite a year younger than myself, and I'm a twelve year cancer survivor. What a huge bummer!

Before he was able to break into comics, he had worked as a storyboard artist for Batman: The Animated Series and Superman: The Animated Series, and in 1999 he animated the main title design for Batman Beyond. He then worked as a director for Sony Animation's Men in Black: The Series for a year. I am very greatful to have had a chance to see and meet him at shows on a couple of occasions. The Catacombs expresses its s
incerest condolences to his family, friends and fans.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Justice League: The Darkseid War!!

With issue #49 of DC Comics Justice League currently sitting on the stands, it appears that artist Jason Fabok's stellar run [#36-present] on this blockbuster series is all but done with the conclusion of this storyline in next months issue #50. That is a sad, sad thing to ponder!
If there was any New 52 title worthy of that seemingly unnecessary line-wide reboot, it has been Justice League. Trinity War, The Amazo Virus, Forever Evil and The Darkseid War have kept the action churning at a high pace and there has been one exceptional artist after another shepherding this topnotch book along, including Jim Lee, Ivan Reis, Dough Mahnke, and Gary Frank, but it has been Canadian illustrator Fabok that really had me the most excited for a DC book since Peter Tomasi, Fernando Pasarin & Scott Hanna ended their tenure on Green Lantern Corps some years back. Fabok will be missed, and really how do you replace an artist this good; well you can't. I am heartened somewhat at the news that Fernando Pasarin will be splitting duties on the upcoming Rebirth launch of Justice League along with artist Tony Daniel (about whom I am less than thrilled).

Still, if you've not seen the current Justice League run, be advised that these issues are climbing in price; certainly a telling indication of how excellent they are and how well they've been received. I'm posting a single image to whet your appetite for more. Go get them now while they are still affordably priced!

Monday, May 9, 2016

FCBD 2016 [afterward]!!

So, Free Comic Book Day 2016 is now behind us, alas! I chose to visit my local shop, Borderlands in Greenville, SC and owner Rob Young allowed visitors to select six totally free comics (plus the Valiant title as a bonus, since there was a 25% off coupon printed on the cover in a partnership arrangement with the publisher). Those seven books proved to be enough for yours truly, although I did purchase a small stack of new titles freshly arrived in recent weeks.
There was a large crowd in attendance and the Blood Connections was set up in the exterior parking lot to solicit donations (and according to those in charge, they were doing brisk business). Here were the issues that I picked up [minus the Valiant, not depicted]: Bongo Free-For-All; Civil War II; 2000 AD; Love and Rockets; Sonic Sampler; The Stuff of Legend.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Free Comic Book Day 2016

It's only gonna be a measly five more days for most us, but this years annual Free Comic Book Day event is on Saturday, May 7, 2016!

Make plans now to visit your local comic book specialty store, and take the kiddies, to pick up a pile of absolutely free comics to enjoy. Thank your shop owners too! And hey, as a bonus most of these venues will have guest artists doing sketches and other fun activites; plus if you didn't manage to hit the nearest cineplex already ["I know, right?"] - well a spiffy new film that is opening just might interest you this weekend also.

(Hint: It's called "Captain America: Civil War" and rumor has it that big stuff is going down in the latest blockbuster Marvel Studios flick?)

Monday, April 25, 2016

Today is a "banner" day!!

Since I've got nothing else running at the moment, I thought that anyone who may not have seen these nifty banners promoting the upcoming film X-Men: Apocalypse would enjoy giving their eyeballs a sample.

Monday, April 4, 2016

SC Comicon 2016

On Saturday I attended the SC Comicon 2016 in Greenville, South Carolina, a new show on the map that is only in its third year, if I'm not mistaken. Given that this convention is held literally in my backyard, it was only my first time going to the show due to committments having tailgunned my participation the other times that it was held.
I was very surprised to see the massive turnout for the event and can only believe that Rob Young of Borderlands in Greenville somehow managed to find that elusive sweet spot on the annual calendar between other large cons in this area (Heroescon in Charlotte, NC and Dragoncon in Atlanta, GA) that appeals to a large contingent of fans between the more established events?
In addition to over a hundred guest artists including Neal Adams, Greg Capullo, George Perez and others, there were celebrity guests from fan favoritie films and TV series such as Aaron Douglas (Battlestar: Galactica), Sean Maher (Firefly), Helen Slater (Supergirl) and more. I picked up a handful of bronze age gems to fill holes in my collection. Chamber of Chills # 6 (Sept.1973); Dead of Night # 8 (Feb.1975); Jungle Action # 21 (May 1976); Luke Cage # 16 (Dec.1973); Marvel Premiere # 47 (Apr.1979); Thor #216 (Oct.1973); and two issues of Warlock #'s 4 & 6 (Feb/Jun.1973). In addition to those classic comics, I picked up almost a complete set of signed autograph cards previously issued by the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund featuring Neil Gaiman, Peter David, Larry Marder, and many others within the industry.

I had a great time at this show and plan on making it a part of my yearly "must do's" so kudos to Borderlands and Rob Young for knocking this con out of the park.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Review: Batman v Superman

In regards to Batman v Superman, there are tons of highly negative reviews which also still single out an aspect or two for deserving praise (mostly that Wonder Woman is really awesome and some that say Ben Affleck is a good new Batman). Both of the latter are correct, Gal Gadot is exceptional as WW and every precious minute that she is on screen you just want more of her. Thankfully her standalone film is currently in production for release next year! Ben Affleck, perhaps surprisingly, turns out to be a terrific choice to inherit the role of Batman and when his solo flicks come along (also with the great Jeremy Irons as Alfred), I will be more than glad to buy a ticket.

This film is really not very bad at all, general audiences are going to love it, however the sheer weight of the studio bypassing all those separate hero movies in order to quickly bring the Justice League together "Dawn of Justice" remember (as Marvel patiently did with their Avengers), means that this film lays all of that groundwork with one serious side effect as a result. The first half of the film seems over long and plodding; it simply takes its own time to get down to the real nitty gritty. However once it does and the trinity comes together, Superman-Batman-Wonder Woman, things hit their stride in a potent way. Those three classic characters together have as much heft as the entirety of the cinematic Marvel Universe. I’ve been surprised to read so much diverse and often derogatory stuff about the depiction of Superman in this sequel to Man of Steel? He comes off nearly nowhere as bad as some armchair critics are stating and I have to wonder whether most of those reviews were written prior to those critics having even seen the film? Rather in total, the Kal-El that we would all like seems to finally emerge to some degree over the course of the movie - at least to me. The collective media commentary of harsh criticism seems more like an intentional dog pile with everyone expected to just dive in, so let's just give most of those folks what they clearly want ("hey, you're all geniuses and the rest of the audience aren't as smart as you guys"); now the rest of us can move along, whatever.

I still believe that while Amy Adams plays her role quite well, she is sadly miscast and too old [at 41] to portray Lois Lane against Henry Cavill's Superman [he is 32], and it's less their age difference itself and more how they appear alongside one another; but again whatever. The depiction of Luthor did not sit well with me and I regret that the filmmakers chose this route as it is long past time to stop having Lex appear dopey and/or weird on-screen. The original character has been an alpha-male type for decades in the published source material comics, and that version would have been right at home in this movie? Alas. The huge Doomsday fight at the end of the film was fantastic; so in conclusion I say just forget those reviews and give this blockbuster film a chance to win you over!!

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

1970's Flashback: The Tomb of Dracula

Tomb of Dracula #13 (Oct.1973)
In 1971, the Comics Code Authority finally relaxed some of its longstanding restrictions regarding horror comics, such as a virtual ban on vampires. After having recently tested the waters with a "quasi-vampire" character, Morbius, the Living Vampire within the pages of The Amazing Spider-Man, Marvel Comics was now prepared to launch a new line of horror books. The Tomb of Dracula was published by Marvel Comics from April 1972 to August 1979. The acclaimed 70-issue series featured a group of vampire hunters who fought Count Dracula and other supernatural menaces. On rare occasions, Dracula would work with these vampire hunters against a common threat or battle other supernatural threats on his own, but more often than not, he was the antagonist rather than protagonist. In addition to his supernatural battles in this series, Marvel's Dracula often served as a super-villain to other characters in the Marvel Universe, battling the likes of Spider-Man, Werewolf by Night, and the X-Men.

The series suffered from lack of direction for its first year but gained stability and hit its stride when writer/editor Marv Wolfman became scripter with the seventh issue. The entire run of The Tomb of Dracula was penciled by Gene Colan, with Tom Palmer inking all but #1, 2, and 8-11. Colan based the visual appearance of Marvel's Dracula not on any other familiar actor who had played the vampire on film, but rather on actor Jack Palance (who actually did later portray the Count in a televised production).

Monday, March 14, 2016

1980's Flashback: Groo the Wanderer

Groo #1 (Dec.1982)
Groo the Wanderer was one of the first widely successful creator-owned comics, one of the few successful humorous comic books in the United States during its time, and one of the longest-running collaborations in comic book history. Created, plotted and drawn by Sergio Aragonés, written, co-plotted and edited by Mark Evanier, lettered by Stan Sakai and colored by Tom Luth. Over the years it has been issued by various publishers including Pacific Comics, Eclipse Comics, Marvel Comics, Image Comics and Dark Horse Comics.

Groo first appeared in Destroyer Duck #1 (May 1982) as a parody of the brutal sword and sorcery heroes who were popular at the time of his creation in the 1970s. Groo is a large-nosed buffoon of unsurpassed stupidity who constantly misunderstands his surroundings. Possessed of superlative skills in swordsmanship (the only task at which he is remotely competent) he delights in combat but otherwise is a peaceable and honest fellow who tries to make his way through life as a mercenary or by working odd jobs. He is incredibly accident prone, and despite generally good intentions causes mass destruction wherever he goes. Most of his adventures end with him either oblivious to the mayhem he has wrought or fleeing an angry mob. His penchant for destruction has become so widely known that just the news of Groo approaching is sometimes enough to cause chaos among the population. Such is Groo's incompetence that so much as stepping onto a ship can cause it to sink.

Friday, March 11, 2016

In Memorium: Paul Ryan

Comic book artist Paul Ryan, who previously worked extensively for Marvel Comics and DC Comics on a number of super-hero comics passed away on March 7, 2016 at the age of sixty-six. Until his death, he had penciled and inked the daily comic strip The Phantom for King Features Syndicate off and on since 2005.

Ryan had a succesful career in engineering graphic design prior to his entry into comics while still in his early 30s. Some titles that his work appeared in include Fantastic Four, The Flash, The Avengers, various Superman series, Quasar, D.P. 7 and Iron Man. The Catacombs extends its sincerest condolences to his family, friends and fans.
(photo) Paul Ryan - inset- upper right.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Things we lost in the fire ........

Try as I might over the last couple of years, it is often difficult to find the time to make posts here - no matter how much I would prefer to do so!

On February 6, 2016 a fire at my apartment building cost me my home. Oh, I didn't actually lose anything due to fire damage, but my residence was deemed unlivable due to smoke damage - and yeah, that was pretty bad. At this point, I've easily moved elsewhere and have had a professional company take my household furniture to treat and clean it for smoke damage before returning that stuff to me at my brand new domicile. I salvaged my extensive comic book collection and lifetimes worth of collectible ephemera and can breathe much easier than those who lost everything - whether it was insured or not. I'm just waiting for the final pieces to fall into place, so that I can truly relax.

I was awakened by the smell of smoke early on the morning of the 6th [a Saturday], quickly dressed and grabbed my pug and then simply walked out of my home. I spent the better part of an hour watching others carry out armfuls of clothes and personal effects, and some even took the time to pack suitcases? I have no idea why people act this way, as that rather impressive fire was burning away just a few doors down and the choking smoke that filled my entire two floor townhouse was present in theirs as well?

Needless to say, that although many pop culture news items merited my attention over the last couple of weeks, my time was devoted to a situation that uprooted my life. I feel for those who got it worse than I did, but I will rebound. Take care, one and all! I hope to see you back here in the short term.

Friday, January 15, 2016

In Memorium: Alan Rickman

Aclaimed on both stage and screen as an actor and director, the great Alan Rickman passed away yesterday at the age of 69 from cancer.
His acting career had eventually begun after his original success in the field of graphic design, and even then he first entered the acting profession as a dresser for Sir Ralph Richarson and Sir Nigel Hawthorne. His distinctive voice and mannerisms soon made him a standout in such films as Die Hard; Quigley Down Under; Truly, Madly, Deeply; Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves; Sense and Sensibility; Michael Collins; Galaxy Quest; Love Actually and perhaps what will be viewed as his signature role of Severus Snape in the Harry Potter films.

The Catacombs extends its sincerest condolences to his family, friends and fans. A sad loss of such a talented man!