Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Green Lantern Corps #4 (February, 2012)

The planet Xabas. A team of Green Lanterns with depleted power rings led by John Stewart were surrounded by robot ninja dudes possessed of emerald energy weapons of their own. Said weapons were demonstrated as useless against the ninja dudes, thanks to DNA signatures. The head ninja dude saw the fire in Stewart's eyes, even in surrender. "We spit on all treaties, and surrender's abhorrent to you as it is to us... That's why I feel you still need... the proper motivation." Head ninja dude stabbed a bald Caucasian Green Lantern in the head, spilling conveniently purple blood.

On Oa, Guy Gardner was torturing a captured ninja dude for information. Without the standard issue black armor, he looked like Chemo on Slimfast with a skeleton floating inside. Six pages in, I learned the ninja dudes are called Keepers, but I still don't know the name of the executed GL. Gardner tried to play good cop/bad cop with Salaak, but the old alien was too much of a fuddy-duddy to go full Patriot Act on the Keeper. The Keepers were slaughtering whole planets full of people, but to Green Lanterns, that sounds like Tuesday.

Elsewhere, some big rocky Lantern named Kannu was beating up actual rocks and himself over leaving a fellow corpsman behind. Elsewhere elsewhere, the reptilian Isamot Kol was trying to work a power ring with his tongue in a training session, since his arms and legs were still regrowing. Sheriff Mardin recommended he switch to his tail, since the ring apparently tasted terrible. I think these guys had all escaped Xabas, unlike poor Unnamed Cannon Fodder, who shall long be mourned. After all, John Stewart needed something else to feel guilty about.

The GL POWs were teleported to a barren world pocked by power battery impressions. "Be prepared to lose your will and maybe your lives... as you cross the Emerald Plains."

Guy Gardner continued his brutal interrogation, but not drugs nor violence nor threats could break the Keeper. From out of nowhere came the Martian Manhunter, with whom the Green Lantern apparently has no prior history in the New 52. J'Onn J'Onzz informed Gardner of his identity and position with Stormwatch, fully intending to wipe the Lantern's memory after extracting all relevant information from the Keeper's mind. As it turned out, what they kept were GL power batteries, on the plain where Lanterns could send their power sources to keep them from being left otherwise unattended. That situation turned sour, and now the Keepers were headed for Oa to claim the Central Power Battery...

"Prisoners of War" was by Peter J. Tomasi, Fernando Pasarin and Scott Hanna. Remember that old Stan Lee saying about how every comic is somebody's first? Tomasi doesn't. See, this was my first issue of GLC since the Mongul arc from volume one. I don't think many of the corpsmen here were in that story. I don't know these guys, and I don't feel like I got much of an introduction. Guy Gardner playing Jack Bauer was in character, but Martian Manhunter came right out of Tomasi's poop chute to get all mindrapey. You know what kind of comics I don't need to read? Vague ones with nothing new or interesting to say except to tell me that all my funny JLI issues don't count anymore. I've got a few longboxes of that good stuff, and they're the only reason I bought this book... once.

New 52's Day

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Amazing Heroes #202: Aborted Titans/Nightwing Plans (June, 1992)

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Comic Book Legends Revealed #195 discussed plans for the abortive 1992 Nightwing/Starfire mini-series by Art Thibert and Pamela Winesette, under the editorship of Jonathan Peterson, and with the full blessing of Marv Wolfman. The column also linked to a selection of articles at Titans Tower in which Thibert was interviewed about the proposed mini. I was a big fan of the changes Peterson made during his time editing the Titans books, and was very disappointed at the massive turnaround that occurred with his departure. I'm especially annoyed by how Nightwing was turned into a poor man's Daredevil by Chuck Dixon, Devin Grayson, and others.

I was struck however by discrepancies in these accounts when compared to a report in June 1992's "Newsline Extra: DC's 1992/1993 Projects" article from Amazing Heroes #202. Below is their coverage, as well as the above rare promotional image, which I've never seen anywhere else...

As a companion, I thought I'd include Art Thibert's copyrighted offerings to the 1993 The Creators Universe Dynamic Entertainment trading card set, "Starwing and Nightfire." Look familiar? Reminds me of Liefeld's work on Agent America/Fighting American and Smash!

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Tuesday, January 24, 2012

2011 Deathstroke art by Timothy Green II

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"Deathstroke the Terminator! What a cool character. I left off some of his accessories, but it's still him. I wanted to draw the new version, but I couldn't get a good enough look at his costume. Looking forward to the book!"

This is boss! It reminds me of the Mike Zeck covers from the first solo series by way of Dave Ross!

Timothy Green II

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Comic Reader Résumé: February, 1983

I started this feature on another blog, and I might ought to return there, since February, 1983 and onward through much of the '80s was very Marvel-centric on my part. Let me know if I need to preserve the DC quotient here at Bloodlines, or if I can lapse into zombiedom on this blog.

While I know I read the previous Captain America issue at an early age, I'm not 100% sure I bought it brand new off the stands (three packs still being all the rage back then.) This issue made a stronger impression on me, and I vividly recall picking it up at the local 7-11, my primary source for new comics. Besides the classic, classy heroic poses on the cover, this was the first book I bought where (a) Bucky was a co-star. I really dug something about the black and white celluloid in the background, which I approach with an enthusiasm I suspect was similar to kids exposed to Showcase #4.

Spider-Woman, who I knew from her cartoon, starred in a prelude that confused me. I was young enough to wonder why she was appearing solo in the opening pages of a Captain America comic. Worse, her appearance involved leftover continuity from her own cancelled series, which I knew nothing about. On the other hand, she was fighting Viper, who I immediately took to. I'm not sure if I'd been previously introduced to her as Madame Hydra in old Steranko comics, but I thought she was bitchin' right off here.

Cap finally showed up with his Jewish girlfriend Bernie, who was kind of like an older Kitty Pryde, so I immediately approved of her. I'm not sure if she was rocking a bad perm or that Margot Kidder cut, but I forgave it either way. Cap was introduced to Jack Monroe, the mentally unstable replacement Bucky of the 1950s. For all I know, this was the first time I'd heard of any Bucky, so throwing in McCarthyism and all that retroactive continuity blew my mind. Toward the end, I also met the Constrictor. He's another guy like the Shocker who got no respect because of a funky color scheme and padded costume, but I thought he looked boss, and have always had a soft spot for him.

I loved the J.M. DeMatteis story and Mike Zeck art, but felt gypped by the lack of "Defenders" (missing the cover copy caveat) and cliffhanger ending, just as the action was finally starting. I wanted to read more, but for some reason, I never did buy #182. I know I had the opportunity, but I ended up buying other comics, until my 7-11 finally ran out of copies. I will say that I strongly suspect an aversion to Monroe adopting the new identity of Nomad, or more specifically, a half-cape and plunging neckline. Blech.

I read a copy of Avengers #231 at the old school beauty salon where my grandmother liked to get her beehive tended. My other memory of the place was playing with an Indiana Jones action figure choreographed to Survivor's "Eye Of The Tiger." Anyway, the comic put me off of the team. The Al Milgrom art and character selection didn't help, but my main problem was their fighting a tree. I never warmed to heroes versus nature or animated inanimate objects.

Power Man and Iron Fist #93 wasn't my first time reading the duo, but it was my first buying them. I lived in a mixed race neighborhood, and my friends tended to have their own copies available for loan, thanks to Luke Cage. I dug the mainstream period Denys Cowan art, but Kurt Busiek missed with me early and often. You'll note by the absence of any DC purchases this month that I was already over their dated shenanigans, so the last thing I wanted was a Flash Rogue in blackface like Chemistro. On the downside, this was another cliffhanger, involving cast members getting stuck turned into glass. Marvel was as bad about multi-parters as I was about not buying all chapters, so I never finished this dumb story.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Direct Currents: Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Click to Enlarge (in Poor Taste)

DC Comics Solicitations for April, 2012


DC "Strange Woman" Identity Revealed

“Her name is Pandora.”

First Look: Smallville's Erica Durance Suits Up as Wonder Woman on Harry's Law

It's the moment Smallville fans have been waiting for...

History Lessons With Peter Sanderson

It sounds like a dream job – getting paid to read comics and take notes. Very few ever get such a chance. Peter Sanderson did, twice...

In the 1940s, Batman protected the state of California. Seriously.

I love how reality momentarily mirrored Gotham City's newfangled crime-fighter.

Rob Liefeld To Write Deathstroke Series?

Coming through the industry gossip mills...

How Liberalism May Be Hurting Comic Book Sales by Darin Wagner

How Conservatism May Be Hurting Comic Book Sales

What Might A Conservative Comic Book Look Like? by Darin Wagner

LBFA Presents: What Is Your New Year's Resolution? [Comic]

George Perez Draws Superman, Batman And Wonder Woman Together For The London Super Con

The World of Batman Meets Dr. Seuss in Mashup Art

Comic Book Cocktail Recipes For Your New Year's Eve Party!

Coran Stone Continues to Make His Action Movie Mark on Comic Book and Cartoon Icons [Art]

Amy Mullen Illustrates Kids Costumed as Their Favorite Superheroes [Art]

Best Cosplay Ever (This Week) - 01.02.11

Best Cosplay Ever (This Week) - 01.16.12

Awesome Art Picks: Magneto, Batman & Ultimate Spider-Man

Awesome Art Picks: Catwoman, Galactus, Psylocke and More

Best Art Ever (This Week) - 12.30.11

Best Art Ever (This Week) - 01.05.12

Best Art Ever (This Week) - 01.13.12


The Absorbascon
The JLA Satellite Heroclix Map!

The Absorbascon's Giant Penny Week
#0: Better than Sauerkraut!
#1: Case of the Penny Plunderer!
#2: Meet Joe Coyne!
#3: Attack of the Giant Penny!
#4: Death Trap!
#5: Betrayed!

The Aquaman Shrine
Aquaman Shrine Interview with Joe Prado and Rod Reis
Super-Team Family: Aquaman and Sub-Mariner!
Aquaman After Dark
AquaSketch by Neil Vokes
DC's Fabulous Females
Justice League Japan by Cliff Chiang

Armagideon Time
Nobody’s Favorites: "The King" Standish

Atomic Surgery
"Search For A Werewolf!" from Weird Mystery Tales #13, DC Comics, 1972

Being Carter Hall
Read: The Savage Hawkman #4
Justice League Hawkman Animated GIF
Read: The Savage Hawkman #4
Analysis: Liefeld Taking Over Plots For Savage Hawkman

Suicide Squad cosplay

DC Fifty-TOO!
ADVENTURE COMICS Featuring SUPERBOY #1 by Jordan Gibson
COMPOSITE SUPERMAN #1 by Matthew Allison
FLASH #1 by Adam Limbert
LOBO INC #1 by Kyle Strahm
WEIRD WAR TALES #1 by Jake Ekiss

Diana Prince: Wonder Woman
2002 DC Direct Wonder Woman Snowglobe
2002 DC Direct Justice League Animated: Wonder Woman Maquette

Diversions of the Groovy Kind
El Diablo in "Night of the Living Dead!" from Weird Western Tales #13 (May 1972)
"Dirty Job" from Our Army at War #241 (December 1971)
"The Second Death of the...Spectre" from Adventure Comics #440 (April 1975)
"The Supergirl Gang" from Adventure Comics # 381 (April 1969)
Jonah Hex #1 (December 1976)
Ragman #1 (1976)

The Dork Review
Legion of Super-Heroes Wedding
Gloria Steinem's Adventures with Wonder Woman
Hero Stickers and Jointed Heroes
George Perez's Robot Man
Super Powers Mini-Comic Album
January in the DC-verse
Flash's Rogue Gallery
Adam Strange's The Magic Maker of Rann
Pre & Post Crisis Photo from All-Star Squadron #60
Cool Artist: Ned Bajalica
All-Star Squadron just before Crisis

El Jacone's Comic Book Bunker: Reading Crisis on Infinite Earths
Reading Crisis: Prologue
Part 1: The Summoning
Part 2: Time And Time Again!
Part 3: Oblivion Upon Us
Part 4: And Thus Shall The World Die!

Every Day Is Like Wednesday
52 - 6 + 6 = 52
On the proliferation of new Batman titles...in 1989

Firestorm Fan
Jenette Kahn talks about Firestorm’s creation
2008 DC Universe Holiday Special
FIRE AND WATER Podcast Episode 10
Project Rooftop Firestorm by Andy Trabbold
Firestorm Custom Action Figure

Girls Gone Geek
Catwoman by Rafael Albuquerque
Friday Favorite: Starling

The Idol-Head of Diabolu
The Others: MICA'KEL
2011 Ziggy Stardust: Manhunter from Mars by Daniel Irizarri
2009 “H’ronmeer’s Flame” mixed drink recipe by Jacob Grier
Happy Zook Year!
Who's Who: The Definitive Directory of the DC Universe Volume XIV- Martian Manhunter (April, 1986)
Comrades of Mars: Grandmother J'onzz
JLA 100 Project: Green Lamtern & Martian Manhunter by Victor Castro & Mark McKenna

Justice League Detroit
2006 The Vixen color art by Jason Brown
2009 Vixen art by Flávia Güttler

Kevin Nowlan
Batgirl grayscale painting
Wrightson's Solomon Grundy pencils, page 22
Teen Titans Card: 2004

Pappy's Golden Age Comics Blogzine
Green Lantern in All-American Comics #69 (1945)
Doll Man #6 (1943)

Power of the Atom
Martian Manhunter #1 (May, 1988)

The Quality Companion Companion
DCnU: Quality Watch
DCnU: Quality Watch 2
DCnU Quality Watch 3: Madam Fatal

Ralph Dibny, the World-Famous Elongated Man
Battle of the stretchers: Elongated Man vs. Mr. Fantastic vs. Plastic Man

Silver Age Comics
DC Comics Trends Througout the Silver Age
Falling In Love #99

Subject : THE SUICIDE SQUAD (Task Force X)
Suicide Squad #4 Review: Hail Kobra! . .er I mean Basilisk
The mysterious & curvey Black Orchid
Some kick ass Rick Flag fan art that I kinda . . sorta made
Bronze Tiger & Deadshot by Eddie Nunez, SO FRIGGIN AWESOME!!!

Supergirl Comic Box Commentary
Review: Legion Of Super-Heroes #4
Review: Superman #4
Back Issue Box: Superman Family #199
Review: Action Comics #5
Jamal Igle's Review Of Supergirl #54
Review: Hawk And Dove #5
Review: Legion Lost #5

Todd Klein
STEVEN BOVÉ’S DC LOGOS Part 1, Part 2, Part 3

Tower of Fate
A Comparison of the Assyrian Mythology of Nabu and the DC Mythology of Nabu
History of Dr. Fate Pt. 3: Inza Nelson
Review: The Immortal Dr. Fate #2
You can own the Helm of Fate

Review Section

The Buy Pile for JANUARY 4, 2012 by Hannibal Tabu
The Buy Pile for January 12th, 2012 by Hannibal Tabu

Comic shop comics: December 28 by J. Caleb Mozzocco
Comic shop comics: Jan 11 by J. Caleb Mozzocco

Comics Of The Weak: Every Good Boy Does Okay by Tucker Stone
Comics Of The Weak: Playing Totally For Type by Tucker Stone

Deadshot: Beginnings #1 by Nina Stone

G3 Review: Action Comics #5

Wednesday Is Anthologistic 2011 For All I Care #130 by Diabolu Frank
Wednesday Is New 53 Minus 49 For All I Care #131 by Diabolu Frank

Friday, January 13, 2012

Comic Reader Résumé: January, 1983

ré·su·mé [rez-oo-mey, rez-oo-mey]
1. a summing up; summary.
2. a brief written account of personal, educational, and professional qualifications and experience, as that prepared by an applicant for a job.

After my last post was published, I did some research and found that I'd missed a December, 1982 purchase. I'd so enjoyed my sampling of The Brave and the Bold that I suspect I went looking for more value for the dollar team-up action that month. The first strike out was DC Comics Presents, and the second was World's Finest Comics #289. All I remember was being disgustingly bored with it, and weirded out by its mating plant limbs and boo-hooing Superman and Batman. I was much too young to realize that the whole thing was a thinly veiled slash fiction, but between the two books, I decided Superman didn't work as a partner to other heroes. Most Superman comics I tried as a kid were crappy, dull, and dated, so I figured his talent pool infected other characters when intermingled.

Speaking of dark confessions, I've come to realize that my sudden boom in buying new comics was likely related to my mother dating and eventually marrying a scumbag, who at least offered a boost to the family economy. For instance, sometime this year I bought my first trade paperback at the mall's B. Dalton Booksellers, the 1979 Simon And Schuster "Fireside Collection" Captain America: Sentinel of Liberty. I try to stick to brand new, off the stands comics with this column, since covering back issues across a span of years would spin things right out of focus. In this case though, it was a momentous purchase made from a retail outlet, so I'll let it slide. Beyond the patriotastic Dave Cockrum painted cover were reprints of the 1965 version of Cap's origin, his big revival as an Avenger, his swell first solo story of the Silver Age, the return of the Red Skull, and first the Cosmic Cube epic. That's all-killer, no-filler there. In a bit of jackassery, the cover only credits Stan Lee, but Jack Kirby was in perfect fighting form on all those stories. Bouncing bombastic battle action with the acrobatic Avenger as he tossed terrorists torsos to and fro! This one also included a rockin' battle with the Hulk drawn by the incomparable Jim Steranko, then a wah-wah ending battle with the Scorpion by the usually great Gene Colan, though I never felt he fit Cap at all. Regardless, this book was pure comic crack, and though I was already a Cap fan by the time I got this, the collection sure synched the deal.

I brought the Fireside book up because this month marked my major plunge in Cap fandom, as I bought two new appearances. The first was Captain America #280, where he battled Marvel's serial killing Scarecrow in a story by J.M. DeMatteis, Mike Zeck and John Beatty. While I recognized this one was a rip-off, I think one of the reasons I never got into DC's version is because I always found this contortionist killer creepier. I immediately fell in love with this creative team, and they made this the first comic I followed consistently month after month (although a case could be made for my spotty Brave and the Bold patronage.)

It took me a few more months, but Uncanny X-Men #168 would mark another ongoing fixation of mine. I can't explain why this was the first issue of X-Men I decided to buy, since I already was exposed to them through friend's copies and (I think) their appearance on Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends. I could maybe blame being raised by women, because this was likely the girliest issue ever produced. I'd never seen art like Paul Smith's before-- so lovely, clean, and delicate. Chris Claremont's story was all about a teenage girl whining about school and her mentor, taking place in dorm rooms, dance studios, and other centers of estrogen. Storm even took a page to explore her secret tumultuous feelings while on a stroll. There was even a page in the back devoted to outfits in her closet. You'd think I was a Friend of Dorothy, if Kitty Pryde hadn't ended up being my first fanboy crush. She was my four-color girlfriend until I outgrew her, then got grossed out when she started sexing up Pete Wisdom. She's only fifteen (for thirty years!) I still have my original copy, which of course is missing its cover, first pages, and the paper is about as auburn as her hair.

The final Captain America purchase of the month was Marvel Team-Up #128, which totally had me at the photo cover. To this day, I love fumetti, the precursor to cosplay. I'm fairly certain that's Joe Jusko as Cap, and it may be Bill Sienkiewicz as Spidey. There was a nifty feature on the shooting inside. Funny thing though, is that the story was plenty good enough to not need any gimmicks. Once again, J.M. DeMatteis wrote the tale, and if he couldn't be joined by Zeck, no worthier replacement could be found than Kerry Gammill. This was the ultimate point for "on-model" artists who still brought dazzling individual flare, before the age of the auteur/"artiste" expanded the horizons of the medium (but were buzzkills for the Official Handbook style uniformity geeks relish.) The story wasn't all that memorable, since Vermin was just a furry Lizard, but it was enjoyable and a feast for the eyes. It also fueled a growing pro-Marvel bias. Batman was of inconsistent quality solo, better teamed-up. Superman was of consistently low quality, worse teamed-up, and at a nadir with Batman. Meanwhile, Spider-Man and Cap owned individually or as a pair...

Monday, January 9, 2012

The Great Comic Book Heroes: Superman

In his 1965 book, Jules Feiffer observed, "The advent of the superhero was a bizarre comeuppance for the American dream... Once the odds were appraised honestly, it was apparent you had to be super to get by in this world." He went on to note that all the pulp heroes like the Shadow and Green Hornet were fakes getting by with gimmicks, while Superman was essentially omnipotent. That being the case, Feiffer questioned the geeky Clark Kent put-on. "Superman as a secret masochist? Field for study there... why not a more typical identity? ...The truth may be that Kent existed not for the purposes of the story but for the reader. He is Superman's opinion of the rest of us, a pointed caricature of what we, the noncriminal element, were really like." Fans of "Kill Bill" may recall Tarantino and Carradine swiping the argument. I beg to differ.

Who amongst us talks to children openly as equals? That don't wish to be arrested, or at least become scorned by society? How can you be anything but at least a little patronizing and reserved amongst minds that just are not mature enough to be subjected to naked truth? It isn't that Superman critiques mankind-- it's just that Clark Kent is as close as he can come comfortably to our level. Yes, he's talking down to us, but with the best of intentions.

"It seems that among Lois Lane, Clark Kent, and Superman there existed a schizoid and chaste menage a trois... it appears he wanted Lois to respect him for his fake self... to be there when he pretended he needed her. She never was -- so, of course, he loved her. A typical American romance. Superman never needed her... Lois chased him -- so, of course, he didn't love her... Clark Kent acted as the control for Superman... Our cultural opposite of the man who didn't make out with women has never been the man who did -- but rather the man who could if he wanted to, but still didn't... Real rapport was not for women. It was for villains. That's why they got hit so hard."

Alternately, Superman could be the overprotective guardian. Lois wants Superman, in ways a child should not want her super-daddy. Superman, naturally, races to protect her when she once again is endangered, but is then skeeved out by her advances. However, Superman is a loving authority figure who doesn't want to damage the girl's self-esteem, so he provides her with a safe, undesirable affirmation of her womanhood-- Clark Kent. Just a theory.

Next we could consider Larry Niven's 1971 essay, Man of Steel, Woman of Kleenex. Suddenly, his heartbreaking, repetitive returns to save doomed Krypton make so much sense. Even if the Strange Visitor from Another Plant were willing to stoop to pedophilia/bestiality and lie with creatures of another species, who's to say they wouldn't "break." Of course he'd know unfathomable longing for his time-lost movie star lady love... it's the reciprocity I wonder about. Sure, Superman would be a sweetly naive, rugged brute of a man to a native Kryptonian. That might keep your interest for a while. Then it starts to set in that this guy has not spent his life amongst his super-intelligent brethren, but simple grade-schoolers. Likely the "special" kind. What would you talk about? Further, if there's one area Superman would fall short under the circumstances, it's "experience." Faster than a speeding bullet? More powerful than a locomotive? These are not quite accolades when applied to one's tender nether regions. Perhaps it was best to leave Krypton as it no longer stood? They'd always have Argo City...

I once had similar thoughts about the Martian Manhunter, until he went through a streak in the 90's when he started bed hopping. I came up with another idea for him, which can be read here.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Comic Reader Résumé: Fall-Winter, 1982

ré·su·mé [rez-oo-mey, rez-oo-mey]
1. a summing up; summary.
2. a brief written account of personal, educational, and professional qualifications and experience, as that prepared by an applicant for a job.

In 1982, a standard size comic new off the rack cost sixty cents. Meanwhile, I could buy loose back issues at the local flea market for a quarter or sometimes less. Even in my youth, I appreciated value for the dollar. This helps to explain why I took much of the rest of 1982 off as a newsstand collector. In September, it took Masters of the Universe #1 to get me to pay full cover again, and it pretty much immediately put me off. I actually came back for the second issue, and shame on me, but at least I skipped the third issue in a three-issue mini-series devoted to a toy line I was actively collecting AND I even watched the risible cartoon for a while. This should have been DC's answer to the recently launched G.I. Joe, but it was such a dull sub-Atlas Howard lift that it couldn't even hold the attention of a fervent, forgiving fanbase.

I was surprised when Skeletor appeared to die from catching He-Man's sword in the chest after a Superman team-up in DC Comics Presents. When this #1 seemed to open with an epilogue, and declared Skeletor totally alive, I felt cheated. Alfredo Alcala did a fine job livening up George Tuska's pencils, but to a kid there was something oddly icky about Alcala. I couldn't articulate it then, but he had a 70s Eurocentric vibe that, when applied to half naked barbarians, made me feel squicky. Aside from Teela in an unflattering one-piece, this book looked like a Joe Weider catalog. I guess you could call it an early bout of homophobia in the most literal sense, turned off by all this lumbering gristly beefcake without the tenderizing of a Barry Smith or the comparative cheesecake of a John Buscema, as if that was something Big John was really known for. I should point out that I came to love Alcala later on horror titles, and the art here is much more appealing than Don Perlin and Herb Trimpe alternating on G.I. Joe. I think maybe it's just that Paul Kupperberg was no Larry Hama, or I guess even a Bob Budiansky, if you swing that way. The DC mini-series felt misaligned with the mini-comics packaged with the figures, and came across as a Conan wannabe even from my far less critical formative perspective. The story just did not hold my attention, and in fact Kupperberg would disappoint me so often in my youth that it was a revelation when I connected the dots years later. I skipped October and November.

Now December was a banner month, though. When I saw that blood trailing down Black Cat's arm in Peter Parker, The Spectacular Spider-Man #76, I had to have it. I'd read one other Black Cat comic, but I had that bonding through familiarity that only children can produce with such ferocity. Unlike the Skeletor tease, Felicia really was stabbed, smooshed, and slashed all to hell by the arms of Doctor Octopus and the forces of the Owl (yes, the Owl had forces back then.) Also, this all happened while she was in bondage wearing a skintight outfit with deep cleavage. In another contrast from He-Man, this was probably my first pass at sadomasochistic pulp exploitation, which I was perfectly alright with. There was even some great melodrama as Peter tries to pass a college final in a daze while thinking about his girlfriend in critical condition. Whatever his faults, Bill Mantlo could write circles around Kupperburg's functionality. Jim Mooney was also an inspired embellisher over the often stiff Al Milgrom, giving him fluidity, softening the edges, adding romance, and yes, sex appeal. Milgrom was great with conveying emotions, though. I haven't read the story in decades, but I remember it so vividly that I don't really need to.

Then there's DC Comics Presents #55, which I don't remember so well. I'm not really sure why I bought this one. I liked Superman, and he appeared to be crushed to death in a two page spread, but it was a fake-out. I think I'd seen Parasite in a coloring book, or just thought he looked cool. I would have a heightened awareness of Air Wave from then on, of the "oh, hey... Air Wave... huh" variety. Horrible costume, dorky powers, thin connection to Hal Jordan... blech. I think there was a villainous train conductor riding a mini flying choo-choo in this, and I know the original Air Wave wore roller skates that let him ride on top of telephone/power lines. That's something, of some sort. I never really warmed to Bob Rozakis (or much of DC's writing pool at the time,) and Alex Saviuk was sort of my personal Paul Kupperburg of art.

Finally, there was another awesome The Brave and the Bold, #196. That title was a perfect gateway drug, with a generation's Batman writer & artist using him to introduce all manner of DC irregulars to new readers. So of course DC canceled it four issues later for a garbage X-Men knock-off, the loathsome Outsiders. My affection for this take on Ragman outlived that for Black Cat, probably because there still aren't many humanist slumland five & dime super-heroes running around. Turning him into a wimpy Spectre with a minority angle to trot out on Hanukkah was less than inspired. As with the Spider-Man, what sticks with me are images like Vietnam vet Rory Regan standing at a sink, unable to wash the blood off his hands, or his father's drunken group of friends being slowly electrocuted. The identity switches were novel, and Jim Aparo drew the Caped Crusader with an unparalleled grace. Bob Haney scripts were always a gas, but this one resonated in a way specific to a guy probably aware that his writing days were almost done, giving his all on the way out the door. That is a striking cover as well on a childhood favorite.