Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Superman starring in Action Comics #530 (April, 1982)

Previously, Superman had managed to reprogram the living computer called Brainiac into a force for good. Unfortunately, Brainiac had long ago created the Planet-Eater doomsday starcraft, which devoured all forms of matter unlucky enough to cross its path, and was now headed towards Earth. By comic book contrivance, Superman had to deprogram Brainiac back to evil in order to help him stop the Planet-Eater, and Brainiac could never again be reprogrammed without being destroyed entirely.

The spaceship in which they traveled was caught by the Planet-Eater, so Superman and Brainiac escaped into space. The Man of Steel was caught by a giant mechanical tentacle, so Brainiac saved him by using the energy of a ray pistol to draw the machine's attention toward the power source. However, both were then caught in a "gravity tug," drawing them toward the belly of the beast. In an unusual instance of equal opportunity cheesecake, Brainiac was drawn from the panty shot vantage point for a page's entire five panel sequence. Superman had managed a finger hold to save himself, but had no strength left for Brainiac. The living computer begged, "I-I need your powers to save me, Superman... I NEED YOU NOW! ...Help me... please, Superman... PLEASE HELP ME!" After Brainiac had just rescued the Last Son of Krypton, it was surprisingly affective to hear his pleas as Superman sacrificed the robot. "Lord, h-he's gone... and there was absolutely nothing I could do."

Superman lost his grip, but managed to push himself through a wall into the ship. However, the interior defenses bathed the Kryptonian with red sun beams and kept him constantly redirected in the air, unable to gain his balance. Finally, Superman was drawn to the Planet-Eater's giant computer brain, adhered to its surface. The Man of Tomorrow was shocked to find that he had been trapped by the Twelfth-Level intellect, pink briefs, and white go-go boots of Brainiac. This treachery was in service to Brainiac's "original programming, my original creation... conceived for one purpose only-- conquest!"

The Planet-Eater was designed to devour all worlds, then create from the raw material a single Pangaea planet to be ruled by Brainiac and populated by the restored citizens of the various cities the living computer had miniaturized over the years. That plan was almost as ill-conceived as using gravity to press Superman against the control center of this entire operation, as Super-Breath turned our hero's body into an instrument of lobotomy. Superman next used his cape and speed to evade contact with more crimson beams of red-sun rays. Finally, Superman led the jetpack-empowered Brainiac on a chase that trapped the villain within the coalescing new planet of his own devising. "For better or worse, Brainiac, you have your planet! And I the painful task of finding the way to set you free!"

"Fantastic Deadly Voyage" was by Marv Wolfman, Curt Swan and Dan Adkins. The worst thing about the story is also the best thing, that it is completely nonsensical. It's weirdly awesome when it's not dumb as a bag of hammers. Adkins does a nice job loosening up the anachronistic Swan, and I love how Wolfman manages to tug at the heartstrings over Brainiac, of all things.

The Bronze Age

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Comic Reader Résumé: January, 1982


I don't believe I'll ever know for sure exactly when I became a comic book fan, most likely because I had a comic collecting uncle in the house in the early years of my life. I had plenty of stuff that stayed in print throughout the '70s, like Power Records and several Whitman coloring books (Captain America, Superman: "World without Water!" I saw Superman: The Motion Picture in the theater, and I can't recall there ever being a time when comic books weren't around. They were certainly always on my short list for purchases at garage sales and flea markets, as well. However, while working on a project, I visited the justifiably named Mike's Amazing World of DC Comics to take advantage of his "Time Machine." Mike took it upon himself to begin offering a chronological listing of every DC book by actual and cover dated availability. What's more, he's recently expanded his Amazing Worlds to include Marvel, Gold Key, and Charlton comics, with all of their assorted monthly titles available on a virtual "newsstand." This has allowed me to determine ground zero for the beginning of my collecting new comics by schlepping down to the 7-11 with my own pocket change: January, 1982.

I can't say for certain that I bought the given issues upon their release, and I'm not sure Mike's dates are ironclad, either. That said, there's a very good chance my first brand new purchase was The Amazing Spider-Man #227 by Roger Stern, John Romita, Jr. and Jim Mooney. It was a fun Black Cat story, and while Mooney's inks weren't choice, it was still a good looking book. I still have my original copy stewing in a polybag, the brown pages surely acidic as all hell and unrestrained by a cover or the first/last pages.

According to Mike, my second comic would be The Flash #308. It was kind of a neat story by the usually swell and highly underrated Cary Bates where the Scarlet Speedster's battle with a mummy was paralleled by some children at play. It may be heretical, but if there's one classic artist I never developed an appreciation for, it's Carmine Infantino. I hate his stuff to this day, as well as many of the people he influenced. However, the reason I bought the book was the embellishment of Dennis Jensen, who did a magnificent job of making Infantino look pretty. Yet, I suspect that despite the solid plot and inks, this would also be the beginning of a lifelong dislike of super speed characters. I could never get into Runs-Fast-Man, in any costume or at any company. The Dr. Fate back-up strip by Martin Pasko, Keith Giffen and Larry Mahlstedt makes a liar out of me, because I could have sworn my introduction to the character was through the Super Powers Collection. I have no recollection of this story, except perhaps the vaguest impression of a half splash to start it off.

Since the Flash was undated, I can't be positive The Brave and the Bold #185 was my third comic. I parted company with the first book quickly, but that Batman, Robin and Green Arrow team-up was in my comic pile next to my grandmother's couch for years. I'd already been turned on to the O'Neill/Adams stuff, and after that Rich Buckler cover, I found the interiors by Adrian Gonzales and Mike DeCarlo quite disappointing. Gonzales mostly stuck to Arak and war comics, which helps explain why your first question was probably "who the hell is Adrian Gonzales?" Writer Don Karr had an even less impressive record, and his story probably helped drive me toward Marvel Comics for most of the '80s. It was just one of the overwhelming majority of Penguin stories that are underwhelming, involving giant bird cages and Ollie not getting his eyes clawed out, damn it.

Not too bad of a month for my first as a certified collector, but not enough to make my bona fides, since I didn't stick with any of them going into February. That's a tale for another time, though.

How about yourself, dear reader? Any memories from your first month of collecting comics, or January, 1982 specifically?

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Doom Patrol #6 (March, 2010)

Negative Man is Larry Trainor. That's his story, and he's sticking to it. Test pilot for the military's own space shuttle, the K-2F. Bird flew too high without enough radiation shielding, and crashed back to earth. A rescue chopper was then downed by an energy wraith emitted from Trainor. Larry didn't remember much, but he woke up wrapped in chemically treated gauze to keep the radiation he had absorbed from contaminating others. This came courtesy of Doctor Niles Caulder, who eventually secured Trainor's release after months of playing specimen for military scientists. Larry had lied about his Negative Man projection being a one-time thing, refused to live under Caulder's supervision, and wasted a year of his life bumming around. Directionless, unable to find work, and dependent on the chemical wraps that arrived by mail wherever he went, Larry finally gave in. After the third proposition, Trainor joined the Doom Patrol, as the death-seekers jumped from one dangerous mission to another. It finally caught up to them.

One day, the Negative Man became a Negative Woman, and joined an all-new Doom Patrol. Later, the Chief turned up alive, and hijacked that unit for his now clearly bent schemes. The Negative form left Valentina Vostok and rejoined with what it thought was a clone of Trainor created by the Chief. Larry continued with an ever more surreal incarnation of the Patrol, before realizing that his skin was the color of another race under his bandages. As it turned out, the Chief had found a brain dead individual named Thomas Munroe, pumped in some of Trainor's old genetic material from his government tests, and drawn the Negative Man to this body. For a time, "Larry" thought that the Negative Man had gained its own sentience, but as it turned out the semblance of personality was just bits of Munroe's brain still firing.

Amidst this madness, the Negative Man's personality began to dissolve into an hermaphroditic "Rebis." That was very much its own thing, too involved to get into here. Eventually, the body of Phillip Sloan became the latest host for the Negative Man, once again arranged by the Chief. The Negative Man passed on joining a Doom Patrol incarnation under "bona fide corporate bigwig Thayer Jost," even with Cliff Steele's urging. Later, at the same Sundollar Coffee, Steele successfully recruited Negative Man by saying Rita Farr would be back from whatever hereafter she'd been blown to all those years ago."What choice did we have? It was Rita... We loved her like the little sister we'd never wanted... Without Rita, we were freaks for hire. With her, we were the closest thing to family Larry'd ever known. How pathetic is that?"

The more things changed, the more they had stayed the same. What is the Negative Man? Is "Larry Trainor" still relevant? "She really, really likes Larry and I really, really like Rita, so Larry it is. Elephant in the room? What elephant?"

"Negative Incentive" was by Keith Giffen, Matthew Clark and Livesay. I don't know enough about the Doom Patrol to know how much Giffen salvaged or trampled over past continuity, but as presented it made sense to me. It was nice to have such sweeping events laid out in so palatable a fashion, and the slightly nutty, often snarky Negative Man worked better in my mind with context.

Brave New World

Friday, August 26, 2011

2011 DCU Movie Fan Casting: John Cena as OMAC

Typically, I'm loathe to cast professional wrestlers in super-hero roles, as it seems to compound negative associations toward both entertainment vehicles. However, OMAC is a laconic sort whose actor needs to be able to show the One Man Army Core more than the Buddy Blank. Kirby's OMAC also reminded me of the old school old man bad asses like the Duke, Eastwood, and Bronson, so I almost went with Paul Lévesque, who's in his forties. Looking over the recent acting work of Triple H, he comes off a bit stiff in his movements. Stiff acting is one thing, but I figured it best to go younger, and John Cena had the best moves of the obvious choices.

Diabolic Movie Fan Casting

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Direct Currents: Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Do You Still Need To Buy The Comics? DC New 52 Art Dump…

The #52Splash hashtag has been used by a variety of DC artists to official show off some of their artwork from the upcoming Relaunch. But with 52 books, that’s 1040 pages a month churning out. So these new pages, even with previously released artwork, is only giving us 5% of what will actually be released…

The New 52 Set To Rock Marketshare: Justice League #1 Over 200,000 Copies, Six Other Relaunch Books Over 100,000

A big piece of news just dropped in this Hero Complex piece about the DC relaunch. We knew the New 52 would have some big numbers, but the question was just how big...

Ken Lashley On The Blackhawks Art Situation

Ken Lashley is solicited as the penciller of the first issue of the DC New 52 title, Blackhawks. But he isn’t drawing issue two, Graham Nolan is, though Lashley has drawn the cover. And the cover for issue three, though Alessandro Vitti is meant to be drawing that issue (but isn’t).

Mr Terrific Has Its Third Solicited Art Team In Three Issues

With DC Comics releasing their November solicitations, we can take a look at how the relaunch is handling the creative teams on tight deadlines and no allowance for late books.

First Man of Steel Plot Synopsis Revealed?

With production already well underway on Zack Snyder's Superman reboot, Man of Steel, fansite Superman Homepage has turned up what is said to be an open casting call for the Vancouver Island area. Included with the casting sheet is the following synopsis:

Mattel On The Front Line Of Classic DC Vs New 52

As a result of the DC/Warner Bros licence, Mattel is putting the current DC Classics line of six inch action fugures out to pasture in response to the New 52 rebranding.

New Unrevealed Villains For The DC New 52

David Macho, big time Spanish comics agent, and as a result a man who has quite a lot of influence over the current DC New 52 relaunch given the origin of many of their current artists, has been tweeting images of villains from the DC Relaunch under the #newvillains hashtag.

Comic Books' Secret Identity Revealed In 'Supergods'

For comic book fans, writer Grant Morrison is something like a god. He's worked for both DC and Marvel comics, writing stories for Superman, Batman and other heroes. In his new book, Supergods, he discusses what comic books can tell us about being human.

Batgirl And Supergirl Short Fan Comic

From South Fellini Studios, written by Tony Trov and Johnny Zito, and drawn by Aluisio Cervelle Santos, comes this World’s Finest celebration of the Stephanie Brown and Kara Zor-El iteration of Batgirl and Supergirl, before the DC Relaunch has its wicked way with them. “Batgirl and Supergirl battle for the life of the mayor’s son against a monstrous android fueled by magic…”


The Absorbascon
Supergirl #4, Part 1: The Actor-Neighbor et al.
Supergirl #4, Part 2: The Gang's All Here
Supergirl: the Gang Returns!

Amazon Princess
Wonder Badonkadonk Cosplay
Wonder Woman Pilot

The Aquaman Shrine
Aquaman Begin Again
Custom Mego AquaCave
DC Comics Promo Poster - 1994
Showcase '96 #1 - Jan. 1996
DC Super Friends In Action!
Aquaman Beanz

Armagideon Time
Nobody’s Favorites: Casey Jones
Nobody’s Favorites: Takion of the Source
Nobody’s Favorites: Joe Public
Nobody’s Favorites: The Viking Commando
Nobody’s Favorites: The Lieutenant Marvels

Being Carter Hall
Classic "Hombre Aquila" Pog
Read: Flash Comics #20
Read: Hawkman v.1:no.2.1
1977 Super DC Calendar for August: Justice Society vs Solomon Grundy.
Hawkman Vs Batman By The Kuberts

Comics Make Me Happy!
Batman or Shakespeare?
Green Lantern by "lerms"
Wither Harley
And now let's talk about Barbara Gordon

Continued On 2nd Page Following
Green Lantern's Light!

Javier Gonzalez AKA il77 corners BATMAN AND ROBIN
Juan Ignacio Rodríguez de León corners POWER GIRL

Diana Prince: Wonder Woman
Post-Pointal Discussion: Wonder Woman and the Justice League
Bizarro Comics: "Wonder Girl vs. Wonder Tot" (2001)
2005 Wonder Woman Meets Swamp Thing Commission by Phil Hester
2005 Wonder Woman Commission by Phil Hester

DC Fifty-TOO!
THE AUTHORITY #1 by Ryan Cody
BLUE DEVIL #1 by Indigo Kelleigh
CREEPER #1 by Matthew Allison
THE CRYONIC MAN #1 by T.J.Kirsch
KAMANDI #1 by Robert Wilson IV
ULTRA THE MULTI-ALIEN #1 by Thomas Perkins

El Jacone's Comic Book Bunker
4 Color Cinema: Green Lantern
Everybody's Linking For The Weekend

Every Day Is Like Wednesday
Warning: I'm going to talk at very great length about the next Justice League line-up

Firestorm Fan
Brian Clevinger: Exclusive Interview about Firestorm
Deathstorm Figurine Collection Magazine
Firestorm Cubed
Super Friends fusion of Ronnie Raymond and Professor Stein

Girls Gone Geek
Friday Favorite: Spy Smasher
Arcs of Awesome: Identity Crisis
Zatanna by Lorena Carvalho

The Idol-Head of Diabolu
Martian Knock-Offs: Red Tornado
2010 DC3: Brightest Day by TJ Frias
The Green Light (Unpublished)
2001 "Bizarro X-Ray Two" by John Kerschbaum
2011 Miss Martian C2E2 Convention Sketch by Jamal Igle
How To Commission Drawings The Martian Way

Jim Shooter
Here I Go Again
It’s a Bird, It’s a Plane, It’s Superman

Justice League Detroit
2008 Zatanna Conventon Sketch by Ted Naifeh
Vixen: Return of the Lion #5 (April, 2009)
2002 Zatanna: Everyday Magic Cover Concept Rough by Brian Bolland
Bizarro Comics: Aquaman in "Silence of the Fishes" (2001)
2009 Zatanna 11x14 Commission by Phil Hester

Once Upon A Geek
Why We Need Superheroes

Power of the Atom
2009 Red Tornado & the Atom Planet Comicon Sketch by Phil Hester
Captain Atom: Armageddon #7 (June, 2006)

Subject : THE SUICIDE SQUAD (Task Force X)
The Eye of the Tiger: fan art by Stuart Sayger and more!
J'onn J'onnz, the Black King?

Supergirl Comic Box Commentary
Boston Comic Con Wrap-Up And Commission #1: Dave Johnson
Boston Comic Con Commission #2: Oliver Nome
Boston Comic Con Commission #3: Matt Wagner
Boston Comic Con Commission #4: Howard Chaykin
Boston Comic Con Commission #5: Michael Dooney
Cosmic Adventures In The Ninth Grade ??? Pretty Please DC !!!

Review Section

Comic Judgment: Hoods, Magicians, and Maidens

What I Read This Week: Monday, August 8, 2011

Comic Shop Comics by J. Caleb Mozzocco

Wednesday Is Any Day For All I Care by Diabolu Frank

Comics Of The Weak by Tucker & Nina Stone

Sunday, August 21, 2011

The Top 20 Blackhawk Covers (and lots more!)

This year marks Blackhawk's 70th anniversary, which I was sure would receive the same fanfare as the Martian Manhunter's 50th, which was to say none whatsoever. Color me surprised that DC will be launching an all new series, albeit one that seems to bear little similarity to the original, with a last minute change in writer, and three different artists for each of the first three issues.

Blackhawk was Quality Comics' flagship title, and the only one to not only continue publication after the company's demise, but to do so without missing an issue. While Chop-Chop immediately looked more like an actual human being with the shift to DC, there was little else different from a scan of the covers. I suspect that's the problem, because Blackhawk has fought a losing battle with relevancy since the 1950s. When the changes did come, they were breakneck in just about every sense of the word.

I've looked over nearly 500 covers for this countdown, and where it might normally be an intimidating proposition to boil that down to a top twenty, not so much here. There's a lot of samey-samey, to the point where I suspect Blackhawk was an unsung pioneer of swiping. I'll elaborate as we progress, but first...

Top 5 Dishonorable Discharges

Military Comics #4 (November, 1941)

Many of the early Blackhawk covers were poorly designed, whether it be static boxes for multiple features, cheesy side advertisements, overcrowding, excess negative space, or just plain bad work. The above image would emphasize the latter, as men buried to their necks in ant mounds or otherwise heinously tortured should not come across as comical. This looks more like a leatherboy fetish magazine involving radio controlled toy planes on kamikaze runs into caves.

Military Comics #15 (January, 1943)

It might have gotten confusing if a group with the Blackhawk Squadron's fashion sense had regularly fought the gestapo, but that never proved to be an issue. You see, all throughout World War II, they specialized in combat with yellow-skinned nips, so it was easy to tell them buck-toothed, swell-headed Japs were the enemy. Revisionist history usually pits heroes like Captain America and Wonder Woman exclusively against ze Germans, but it's hard to get away from Blackhawk as being one of the finest propagators of grotesquely racist Asian caricatures in mainstream comics.

Military Comics #30 (July, 1944)

Don't go thinking the Blackhawks were all about blasting slant-eyes! Why, they had one of the finest chinks alive acting as their cook/mascot throughout the war! Sure he only stood about three feet tall, had a grin bigger than his legs, had hair like a pinhead, ears that had to be factored into wind drag during flights, and perpetually carried a meat cleaver around, but he was so colorful! Sad to say, but the 'hawks' Chinese ally was probably the most prominent and positive Asian hero on period comic covers. He sure stood out in that sea of dark leather, and even if he didn't, he was often isolated/spotlighted amongst the group. Chop-Chop was certainly more memorable than most of the Squadron.

Blackhawk #230 (March, 1967)

In 1964, the Blackhawk Squadron traded their matching leather outfits for matching green tights and red pirate shirts. Three years later, they sunk even lower. After three issues of build-up, the Blackhawks became the single worst super-hero team in history, "The Junk Heap Heroes." "M'sieu Machine" runs around in a beret with a toolbelt slung like a bandoleer. Olaf Friedriksen, the team strongman, dresses up like a dildo as "The Leaper." Chop-Chop's chop-sokey affords him metal kung-fu grip hands. Chuck wears a costume covered in earlobes without it in any way meaning to relate to Vietnam atrocities. Blackhawk uses "dig" in its informal sense. The horror! The horror!

The New Blackhawk #244 (February, 1976)

No lesser a light than Joe Kubert referenced the much imitated cover to Military Comics #13 while reintroducing the Blackhawk Squadron to a new generation. Like many of the "DC Explosion" era books, it was of its time in the worst way possible. I'm not sure if flared collars and necklines plunging to the navel in an all-male, all-leather, largely mustachioed fighting squadron makes them seem more gay, or less. Given their exuberant cluelessness and the aesthetic battery these threads inflicted even in the 1970s, they have perhaps never been more plainly straight. Then again, if Joe Kubert can't make you look hard as a coffin nail, it's raining men, hallelujah.

Honorable Mention
Military Comics #1 (August, 1941)

Like many debut cover appearances, they didn't yet know what they had, so it's just kind of there to be reprinted excessively.

20) Military Comics #27 (March, 1944)

Nazis will never go out of style, because regardless of all that genocide and general jackassery, no military has ever dressed sharper. The Blackhawk Squadron saw kids preferring Cobra action figures to G.I. Joes decades ahead of schedule, and sidestepped that pitfall by dressing like quasi-Nazis themselves. They also popularized the "running at the readers" group shot, of which this is one of many, with the added twist of it being seen through a sniper's scope.

19) Blackhawk #16 (Autumn, 1947)

There are only so many group shots a bunch of tough guys can strike, and the huddle is one I don't see much in comics. It's cute, like maybe something the Beatles would have done. I don't think they could have pulled off the jodhpurs, though, and I suspect they would have made Chop-Chop East Indian.

18) Blackhawk (Blood & Iron) Book Three (May, 1988)

If you're going to "homage," Leyendecker is a good way to go.

17) Blackhawk #251 (October, 1982)

After decades of painfully stupid new directions, the Blackhawks were back in WWII where they belonged, drawn on a powerful (if familiar) cover by the popular Dave Cockrum. Unfortunately, that also meant Chop-Chop was back to being the chubby short guy in coolie wear.

16) Blackhawk #13 (April, 1990)

I rather like the ornate design, but it feels a bit empty in the background. Also, I'm all for inclusion, but who the hell are all these new guys of color?

15) Modern Comics #92 (December, 1949)

So cool, so cold, in a cockpit where he belongs.

14) Blackhawk #1 (March, 1989)

A romantically optimistic image of the type we could all use more of these days.

13) Blackhawk #206 (May, 1964)

One look at those pants should tell you this was a very bad decade to be a Blackhawk. Forcing one of your men at gunpoint to dig his own grave after over twenty years of valiant service is a special kind of messed-up worthy of note. Perhaps most importantly, there's a chance Chuck will bury that god-forsaken shirt before he's done. Amen to that!

12) Blackhawk #69 (October, 1953)

Without the Axis, the Blackhawks tried to make do with some godless commies, but they mostly subsisted on vaguely foreign threats and mildly supernatural menaces. Also, there were a lot of giant machines destroying cities. The War Wheel was the favorite that appeared again and again, but this bad boy did a nice job of evoking Mars Attacks levels of mayhem a decade early. The book desperately needed more nihilistic horror, and less Human Starfish.

11) Modern Comics #68 (December, 1947)

You'll find the '50s and '60s very poorly represented on this list. I'm afraid I found those covers very busy, but also very boring, and not a little foolish. Too many giants and tentacle creatures and other assorted BEMs. Meanwhile, this cover makes it clear how much better the basics work. A handsome if intimidating/slightly creepy aviator holding the kind of weapon that could blow his own plane out of the sky.

10) Blackhawk #260 (July, 1983)

One of a number of mighty fine Chaykin covers-- just Blackhawk flying his plane. I find that Kraut to Jap kill ratio suspect, though.

9) Blackhawk #19 (June, 1948)

The war may be over, but Blackhawk is still locked and loaded, with that monochromatic background alluding to violence to come.

8) Blackhawk #263 [Uncolored Original Art Shown] (October, 1983)

The Blackhawks fought a whole lot of cheesy monsters-of-the-month from the 1950s-1970s, very much recalling the bad old Schiff years on Batman. Count your lucky stars none of those Killer Shark covers made this list, but it wouldn't feel right if the War Wheel didn't turn up at least once. This instance involved the art of Gil Kane and a rather provocative femme fatale. A shame I don't have a colored version available, but the sky's yellow, the wheel's red, and the figures in blue.

7) Blackhawk #8 (November, 1989)

I like that there's a sunny, old school background for an image that vaguely recalls lynching, as the Blackhawks drift lifelessly in their parachutes.

6) Blackhawk #262 (September, 1983)

Chaykin clearly worked on Blackhawk a few years too late. I think he grew out of this level of enthusiasm for drawing escapist fare.

5) Military Comics #28 (April, 1944)

Any one of these guys would have proudly piloted the Enola Gay. They're just so pleased to have this opportunity to kill Japanese people.

4) Military Comics #18 (April, 1943)

The entire squadron looks great, but the vibe is a bit morose for no apparent reason, and then there's the random mongol.

3) Military Comics #21 (August, 1943)

Most of the premise is right here. Scary fascist-looking dude and airplanes. Sometimes simple is best.

2) Blackhawk #257 (April, 1983)

Chaykin sure sells the sex here. A towering stone swastika aflame with a smirking Blackhawk on top, a gun in each hand. Grumman XF5F Skyrockets in flight against a background of stars and bars. F-yeah!

1) Military Comics #13 (November, 1942)

You know all those comic covers where a hero takes point as his team charges behind him? Like Giant-Size X-Men #1? They all came from this.

Top Character Covers Countdown

Friday, August 19, 2011

OMAC #8 (November-December, 1975)

Brother Eye created a new “structure print” to restore OMAC, but before a corrective beam could reach Buddy Blank, the nebbish sunk immaterially through the rock upon which he stood. The great eye of the thinking machine closed, as Brother Eye calculated its next steps.

Through the same process used to create his hidden base, Doctor Skuba “thinned out” then solidified Buddy Blank’s atoms within the volcanic rock. Seaweed thought Buddy was cute, but Apollo still wanted to ice the “twerp.” Instead, Buddy was given the ten cent tour, and learned Apollo was only the most recent beau of Seaweed to experience atomic manipulations. Skuba had turned her past boyfriends into horrific creatures stored in a “Chamber of Monsters.” Apollo clearly loathed his “feather-brain” bride, and respected the courage of the poor men.

Meanwhile, Skuba had learned that the enemy he faced was an artificial intelligence, and attempted to gun down Buddy Blank to insure OMAC could not be revived. His pistol exploded, as Brother Eye managed to turn Skuba’s base’s defenses against him. Barely surviving to reach safety, Doctor Skuba traced Brother Eye’s transmission back to its orbit in space. Using a powerful beam, Skuba bombarded Brother Eye with meteors and space debris, turning it into something of a magnet. Encased, Brother Eye was further impaired by a solar beam that turned the debris into “ a prison on slag.” However, the effort had caused Dr. Skuba’s equipment to explode “in a gigantic fireball,” bringing “destruction to the evil Skuba!”

“The Place of Fear” was by Jack Kirby with Mike Royer. According to Mark Evanier’s introduction to the 2008 hardcover collection of the OMAC series, Jack Kirby had been “setting up something big for #9,” but then decided to return to Marvel Comics. The sales on OMAC were not such that DC saw a future in it under other hands, so they inserted a new final panel by a different artist “to remove the immediate cliffhanger. Many other story points were left unresolved… and since Jack wasn’t around when it came time to draw the cover, Joe Kubert did the honors.” A few years later, OMAC’s continuity was incorporated into Kamandi, The Last Boy on Earth, and a back-up series was added in the final issue of that book before the DC Implosion wiped it out. The back-up was revived by Jim Starlin for about a year in The Warlord, until Kirby’s conception of OMAC fell into the obscurity of very random and spaced out guest appearances.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Review: Showcase #75: Hawk And Dove

It's Anj from Supergirl Comic Box Commentary, here at the Bloodlines site to once again take a look around the DCU. Given the impending DCnU, one of the things I have been doing recently is seeing which characters are making a comeback in the relaunch and looking back at their earlier incarnations. And, like many of my posts, this one is long (probably too long) so feel free to settle in.

One of the books I am actually excited about is the new Hawk and Dove, by writer Sterling Gates and art by Rob Liefeld. This is something of a confluence of riches for me. I have always been a fan of Hawk and Dove, especially the Hank and Dawn version of the characters. I gobbled up the Kesel/Liefeld mini in the late 80s and then collected the subsequent title. So I probably would have sampled the title no matter what. Adding Liefeld on art is inspired, harkening back to the DCU that is being tossed aside.

But really, I was completely sold when I heard Sterling Gates was writing the book. I was a huge fan of Gates' run on Supergirl, his stories elevating the character. That was a historic run for Supergirl. So I can't wait to see what he will do with the Hawk and Dove characters and ideas. Will they still be agents of Chaos and Order? Or something else entirely?

This being Bloodlines, and me being me, I figured I would go all the way back to Hawk and Dove's first appearance for my review. So here is Showcase #75, drawn by legend Steve Ditko and co-written by Ditko and Steve Skeates.

I love the concept of Showcase, a book were ideas could be shown, new talent unveiled, and reader interest gauged. If a concept or character did well, they could 'graduate' from Showcase and move to their own title. The characters that started in Showcase is a who's who of the DCU including the Barry Allen Flash, the Hal Jordan Green Lantern, the Ray Palmer Atom, and many more.

Ditko premiered not only Hawk and Dove in Showcase but also the Creeper. I have to say again (because I think I mentioned it in my Stalker posts here) I came to appreciate Ditko and his art later in my life. As a young reader, I thought his stuff looked awkward and rushed. Now I think it is simply magic.

Ditko starts the book out at a college campus where dual demonstrations are dueling over war.

On one side are the pacifists, students preaching peace, settling issues with compromise rather than weapons. In that camp is Don Hall, a student at the university.

On the other side are the supporters of the war, hoisting signs like 'keep up the bombing'. These students think that enemies need to be taught the errors of their ways. And that means might makes right. In that group is Hank Hall, Don's younger brother.

Obviously, the two are on opposite ends of the spectrum politically and philosophically. And Ditko does a good job showing that even in their body language, Hank taut with clenched fists and Don laid back, hands open, palms up.

Don and Hank's father is a judge, a nice twist for this book. As a judge, he needs to balance those two ideas of punishment and leniency, of war and peace. He probably was set up as the voice of wisdom in this book.

Ditko certainly didn't believe in shades of gray (as seen in the black and white beliefs of his Mr. A). If you did something wrong, you deserved punishment. So it isn't surprising to see Judge Hall throw the book at a local mobster Dargo.

And Judge Hall mediates arguments at home as well. I wonder if the Judge was somehow Ditko's voice in this book. Here the Judge seems shocked that his sons are so attached to one viewpoint, to be so irrational. There is only one way to solve problems ... with logic. Not with just power or just compromise.

Unfortunately, Dargo's men aren't happy that their boss has been imprisoned. They lob a grenade into the Hall residence nearly killing the judge. The Judge ends up being admitted to the hospital to recover.

This murder attempt rattles the boys who respond typically. Hank wonders if just one guard could stop Dargo's men from trying again. Meanwhile Don is happy feeling that the one guard will dissuade any further attempt.

Outside the hospital, Hank spies one of Dargo's men and convinces Don that they should follow him.
Surprisingly, Don acquiesces.

Hank ends up taking it too far however. The Halls follow the man back to Dargo's safe house. But instead of calling the police at that point, Hank decides the two should enter the lair to find out more. It turns out to be a mistake because the two get trapped in a small room with no exits. The door they entered is jammed. It is the first time that we see that Hawk's methods have their down side too.

While trapped, the two hear Dargo's men talk about storming the hospital and finishing off the judge.

Trapped, fearful for their father, and frustrated, the two cry out hoping for the power to make a difference.

In classic comic book style, the two are answered by a mysterious voice. Hank simply wants power so he can punish the criminals. Don wants to save their father. Similar goals albeit with very different tactics.

The voice recognizes the two for what they are ... a hawk and a dove.

The two are transformed into their avatars and their powers are explained. They will be superior forms of their current abilities. They can transform when they witness injustice. But when the problem is solved, when their powers aren't needed, they will revert.

Don isn't even sure if he wants to accept the powers. But he knows they are needed to save his father.

The next pages are basically a melee in the hospital with Hawk bashing everyone within arm's length. In the meantime Don is pretty worthless.

Finally Dove shows his worth, stopping Dargo's lieutenant and restraining him. Dove figures he will simply hold the man until the police arrive. But Hawk decides to end things his way ... with a left hook. It makes Dove think his brother is no better than a barbarian.Again though it shows the merits of both philosophies. While Hawk did stop the other men, he would have overlooked this gangster and his father would have died.

Still, Dove is barely a factor in this fight while Hawk is clearly a dynamic catalyst.

With Dargo's men stopped, the two brothers have to leave quickly. The threat has passed and they rapidly return to their human forms.

But they are hardly heralded as heroes. Instead, their father lays into the pair's vigilante tactics. I like the irony here. Here the judge seems to be siding more with Dove than with Hawk. Again, I think the judge most likely was the moral compass of the book, showing where and when each side of the Hawk/Dove argument should logically utilized.

Interestingly, despite the Showcase appearance, the issue already trumpets a Hawk and Dove solo title. DC must have been pretty certain that these characters would resonate with the comic readers of the time. That title lasted a short 6 issues with Ditko only penciling the first 2 issues and writing none of them. I have never read any of those issues.

The two characters sort of limped around the DCU thereafter, occasionally appearing in Teen Titans.

Dove, while saving a young child, ended up dying in Crisis on Infinite Earths #12. This sent Hawk down an even darker more violent road.

Finally in 1988, the concept of Hawk and Dove returned with Dawn Granger taking over the role of Dove, gaining the Dove powers at the very instant Don died. She then used her new found powers to save her mother. I loved this mini-series, especially this cover which sports one of my favorite comic cover cliches 'Together again for the first time!'. In this comic, the two discover they are agents for the Lords of Chaos and Order.

Of course, after that miniseries and the resulting series, the characters get sort of put into a blender. Dove 'dies' and Hank becomes the super-villain Monarch in Armageddon 2001. Then he becomes the super-villain Extant. Then Hank dies. Then Dawn returns and her aggressive sister becomes Hawk. Then Hank is resurrected as a Black Lantern and kills the new Hawk (who also becomes a Black Lantern). Then Hank gets resurrected by the White Lantern in Brightest Day and Hank and Dawn are Hawk and Dove again. Just dizzying changes.

Still, the concept of avatars of order and chaos working together is an interesting one. Hopefully Hawk and Dove have stabilized as these characters and Gates and Liefeld will give them the respect and stories they deserve.

The new Hawk and Dove #1 is on sale on 9/7/11.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

2011 DCU Movie Fan Casting: Eliza Dushku as The Huntress

I often times struggle with casting choices, but other times, they're a cinch. If I were casting a Pre-Crisis Huntress movie, there are tons of actresses with the looks of Helena Wayne to decide between. However, the Huntress most readers know came out of the '80s with a demanding physicality and more attitude than most actresses can carry. Thinking of performers in the correct age range with appropriate marquee value who could play Helena Bertinelli, I pretty much just had to choose between Eliza Dushku and Michele Rodriguez. If I felt like I had wiggle room with ethnicity, I may very well have gone with the former. However, Dushku has the martial arts and crossbow experience of a former vampire slayer/spy with her own fan base, plus serious genre credibility, so why deny the obvious?

Diabolic Movie Fan Casting

Friday, August 12, 2011

OMAC #7 (September-October, 1975)

Wearing darling little red sled shoes, OMAC walked across a lake bed newly bereft of water or surviving aquatic life. Among the dead fish and drooping coral, OMAC found a small opaque rectangular bar sinking into the soft earth. When he tried to pull it out, the weight was too much for him. Even with his strength increased tenfold by Brother Eye, OMAC could barely lift the bar, and began sinking himself. With the last of his vitality, OMAC managed to leap to firmer ground, but the impact collapsed the lake wall and knocked him unconscious.

Over Madras Bay, a clear bar was dropped from a flying red contraption. On contact with water, the bar began collapsing the entire bay into itself. Marine life was crushed “by its own atoms… which cannot reduce as fast as the water.” The filled bar was picked up by the red ship, and hauled into a “weight neutralizer.” The scientific mind behind all of this, Doctor Skuba, was assisted in donning “neutron-gloves” by his fawning daughter and son-in-law, which allowed him to pick up and store the bar by hand.

OMAC awoke at the rest center of the Global Peace Agency, where he was briefed by Peace Agent 430 about Doctor Skuba and his bars. OMAC had managed to carry the compressed atoms of Lake Aragon, which was then left “where it belonged” at the insistence of Brother Eye. Although not explicitly stated, the satellite presumably restored Lake Aragon before aiding OMAC in locating Dr. Skuba’s secret lair.

Upon approaching a large volcanic rock isolated by the sea, OMAC’s flying vessel was suddenly twisted into debris. OMAC dove a thousand feet into the drink, while Skuba watched him through a viewing monitor. Apollo, Skuba’s son-in-law, wanted to kill OMAC before he got any closer. Seaweed, Skuba’s daughter, took a shine to OMAC. “This man looks so… interesting! So… deliciously dangerous.” Skuba had determined from OMAC’s craft that he was with the GPA, and recognized the atom-manipulation that created OMAC as similar to a process he had employed on his children to make them more attractive and virile. Skuba knew how to reverse the effect, and while OMAC stood upon the rocky plateau of his base, a beam stranded him as Buddy Blank once more. Unaware of his new life as OMAC, Buddy began calling for help…

“The Ocean Stealers!” was by Jack Kirby with D. Bruce Berry.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Who's Dat: Stretcho, the India Rubber Man

Real Name: Unknown
Occupation: Carnival Freak
Marital Status: Unknown
Known Relatives: None
Group Affiliation: None
Base of Operations: Mobile
Height/Build: Variable, with an average build
Eyes: Black
Hair: Black
First Appearance: Police Comics #69 (August, 1947)

Stretcho was part of a touring carnival that made its way to Plastic Man's town. Working as an attraction, Stretcho supplemented his income by using his abilities to pick pockets during his shows. Two crooks named Reggie and Monk had just been released from prison, and had already made one attempt on the life of the fellow who put them there, Plastic Man. Escaping capture to the carnival, the thieves caught Stretcho in the act, and competed with him over who would rob Wall Street Wells, the Millionaire Gambler. Plastic Man arrived to bust his would-be killers, but Stretcho took offense at Plas horning in on his act, and an elastic fight ensued. Despite his bungling sidekick Woozy Winks' unfortunate "help," Plas managed to knock Stretcho clear across the carnival.

During the melee, Reggie and Monk had made another break, but approached the sore Stretcho with the proposition of framing Plastic Man. Following through, Stretcho disguised himself as Plas and began cutting the lines on a parachute drop partaken of by Wall Street Wells. The real Plas responded to Wells' cries for help, lowering him to safety as a makeshift parachute. Plastic Man fell on top of Reggie and Monk, covering them while using a free arm to choke the disguised Stretcho. Clearly no true match for the real thing, Stretcho was tied up in knots and turned over to authorities.

Stretcho appeared to have powers of elongation comparable to Plastic Man, but did not take on any complex shapes, or otherwise stretch his abilities to the degree seen by others with the same power set.

"Beat it, you amateur! This is a closed shop!"

Created by: Jack Cole