Thursday, August 30, 2012

Internal Correspondence Special #4: “Lobo: Frag Race 2000”


You can't keep a bad man down, and FRAG RACE 2000 is proof positive of that.

This four-issue limited series follows the other extremely successful LOBO series, with a script by Keith Giffen and Alan Grant, and finished art by Simon Bisley.

Lobo is given the job of apprehending a felon who is posing as a race car driver in the biggest, most dangerous cross-planetary drag race in the universe: the FRAG RACE 2000. This is an endurance test of man and machine, and Lobo signs on as a driver to find the creep in question. And since he can't figure out which driver is his quarry, he decides to frag them all!

This four-issue miniseries features the biggest, baddest cars in the universe, and, needless to say, tons of violence and laughs!

In other words, anything goes!


Editor- Dan Raspler
Frequency- Monthly
Pages- 32
Label- Mature
Writer- Keith Giffen, Alan Grant
Penciller/ Inker- Simon Bisley
Format- New
Duration- 4 Issues
Ship Date- 4th Quarter '92
I've labored for twenty years under the delusion that this book happened. I was confident that Biz didn't draw it, since he never even finished Lobo's Back, but I was fairly certain it was still solicited as a one shot by a different artist. A gander at online resources reveals that if this script ever got written, it's still in a drawer somewhere. I do wonder if this might have morphed into Lobo: Unamerican Gladiators, though. I think that the art on this page is from the Paramilitary Xmas Special, but can't bother to check.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Internal Correspondence Special #4: DC Comics 1992

During the '90s boom years, distributors were so competitive to move units that they would produce yearly catalogs of proposed series for retailers to begin the hype cycle early. DC Comics 92 Internal Correspondence was printed by Capitol City Distribution, with a Batman Returns comic image (Steve Erwin?) on the inside front cover facing a letter from DC Retailer Services director Bob Wayne bracing buyers for a sequel to the Batmania of 1989 (a.k.a. catching lightning in the same county as a bottle.) Shadow of the Batman had a healthy life for the better part of a decade, but specials like Penguin Triumphant littered the dollar bins for years. That's the sort of thing easily gleaned from perusals of period magazines and online resources, though. While the time capsule aspect of a publisher's yearly schedule is an amusing bit of nostalgia, what I really dig about this sort of uncommon publication is the treasure trove of little seen artwork, creative shake-ups and aborted projects. I deeply regret giving away the 1994ish edition I used to have, but I scored a couple of volumes at Comicpalooza 2012, and will offer scans/commentary...

Saturday, August 25, 2012

2010 Lady Shiva color art by Oliver Nome

Click To Enlarge

We ran Nome Bronze Tiger art last week, so it stands to reason Lady Shiva shouldn't be too far behind. Shame the artist never got around to playing with Richard Dragon, the one that really needed a makeover. Anyone, this was an in-continuity Shiva look, and I believe it was designed by Alé Garza and/or Pop Mhan for the Batgirl series in 2005. I'm not down with the sword, but I otherwise like it fine. As usual, it's also worth a gander in black and white.

Oliver Nome
  • Gypsy @ Justice League Detroit
  • Dark Angel @ Diana Prince is the New Wonder Woman

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Comic Reader Résumé: December, 1984

Part of the point of this series is to chronicle my reading of new comics in relatively chronological order, looking at the early books that shaped my tastes, or simply reminiscing. I do tend to break here and there to cover books I read around the same time as the stated span of months (and occasionally years,) if only to not seem like a total Marvel Zombie, and shake the monotony as I get old enough to stick to the same titles from month to month. For instance, I pulled Funny Stuff Stocking Stuffer #1 out of a quarter box at the long-defunct Marauder Comics in 1989. I've skipped mentioning a lot of other series I collected from out of there (especially all those Grimjack issues) because it would bog things down and run contrary to spirit. Here though was a follow-up to a digest I had bought in my early days of collecting, and I think it's worth remarking on how completely disconnected I found myself from this type of material with five years remove. It meant absolutely nothing to me. Then again, this one was all one story by two writers, and the script was by nice guy/baneful author Paul Kupperberg. That could have had an impact on the solar plexus of my potential enjoyment.

Moving on to books published in December of 1984 that I actually purchased new, G.I. Joe a Real American Hero #33 had Cobra Commander's kid draw a gun on him in an assassination bid. Man, that touched a nerve. Billy was like the anti-Wesley Crusher, the kid who could not stop falling face forward into one sorry situation after another. We gutter rats related to him, so he was the rare exception to the Cousin Oliver rule.

I didn't buy Amazing Spider-Man #262, but only because I never saw it on the newsstand. I loved photo covers, and bought most on sight. This was a one-off story about Peter Parker's secret identity being compromised, which happened often enough that the details escape me. A copy of this was at a barber shop in the neighborhood where my father's family grew up, and I fixated on the cover more than the content I tossed through.

Uncanny X-Men #191 came out of a three-pack bought for this comic, because I was sick of only ever getting to look at X-Men comics instead of glancing through them. Also, it was the friggin' s#!+! The second part of the greatest non-What If...? "what if" involving Kulan Gath turning Manhatten Island back to the Hyborian Age, leaving Spider-Man, the X-Men and the Avengers to play out a life more Conan. Spider's bloody crucifiction alone was enough to sear this story into a young psyche, but there was so much more awesome to take in, I'm set adrift on memory bliss. Today, this would be a dull months long mega-event, but as a two-parter, it was all killer, no filler. I didn't know John Romita Junior (or really any artist) by name yet, but I definitely became an ignorant fan with this issue.

Kitty Pryde and Wolverine #5 saw the heroine finally coming into her own in the new identity (still ill-costumed) of Shadowcat, confronting Ogun. Of course, she was totally out of her depth, and Wolverine got his ass kicked besides, which made for good drama.

Marvel Super-Heroes Secret Wars #12 was appropriately epic, as the remains of the Beyonder acting through Klaw planted the seed of doubt in Doom's subconscious mind that allowed for the resurrection of Earth's heroes. It was double-sized fun, with some classic moments, like Cap fearing alien science can't repair his shattered shield. I think Art Adams did some uncredited fill-in work, which was neat but super noticeable.

I'd gotten enough of a kick out of a previous issue, I jumped right into The Thing #22, the last with Ben Grimm on Beyonder-World. It was a sad story that had me interested in more, but the rest of the series was nothing but stupid villains, the justifiably forgotten second Ms. Marvel, and attempts to cash in on the wrestling fad.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Space City Con (2012)

Houston used to have regular comic conventions during the 1990s boom years, usually in the ballrooms of ratty hotels. After the bust, I ran tables to clear out inventory for the shops I ran at these shows, and did okay with it for a while. Lugging longboxes to shows for a few hundred bucks eventually landed on the wrong side of the cost/benefit analysis, though, and I can't recall attending shows in any capacity between about 1996 and 2010, when I gave the first big Comicpalooza at the George R. Brown Convention Center a shot. I've been a big booster of that show ever since, and it's proven successful enough to spawn the new Space City Con.

Comicpalooza started very small, in the lobby of an Alamo Drafthouse Cinema in 2008, expanding to an event at the West Oaks Mall. Space City Con's debut was comparatively auspicious, taking place across a couple of floors inside the swanky Westin Oaks (no relation) adjunct to the sprawling Galleria complex. A plus to that was free parking, but it was quickly undermined but the time it took to navigate congested weekend street traffic and then finding a garage space. Next year, I must remember to allocate the $18 for three days worth of valet parking. It also hurt to schlep through three stories of mall, especially if like me you avoid that maze like the plague. There was no signage or other indication that there was a convention going on around the mall, and online directions were worthless. I had to wander into a separate hotel and ask the concierge for directions to the discrete Westin Oaks entrance, and then again got bounced around until I could find registration. That looked to be run by librarians taking part in a child literacy program tied into the event, and the business was all done with those nifty card swipe attachments for iPads/iPhones. Badges were nondescript unlaminated cardboard, with a bright orange ad for printer Litho Ninja on the back. Packing tape was used to reenforce the peg hole used to clip it to a rather nice nylon lanyard I'm totally going to repurpose in the future.

I had to work over the weekend, so most of my experiences were of Friday. That day, folks were stuck using extremely slow moving elevators, and I struggled moving about the unfamiliar mall. On Saturday, a lobby entrance was set up with an easily accessible staircase, and I had an easier time getting my bearings between the various garages and shops. There were various booths in the lobby registering upcoming events elsewhere, and those video game pod things I saw at the last two Comicpaloozas but have yet to try. There were plenty of auditoriums and meeting halls, but I never saw anything with an attendance greater than 10% of capacity (which is being generous.) Comicpalooza 2012 had the opposite problem, with ramshackle presentation space and terrible audio that people still wanted to get into. If I remember correctly (no guarantees,) the celebrities and writers were in the lobby area. The movie people were super z-list (some guy who his a button in a scene from The Hunger Games?) except Nichelle "Uhura" Nichols, who I never laid eyes on. R.A. Salvatore was supposed to be around, but ironically, I don't pay attention to writers at shows. I didn't notice any major lines anywhere.

Upstairs was a common area that led into several branching halls. There was an area of booths for role-playing games, and lots of unused tables to sit at. Again, I don't know if it was the wealth of space spreading people out, but there didn't seem to be tons of gameryousness. I used the area as a cut-across, and could feel gamer booth tenders eying me, hungry for attention.

The comics showroom was very much where the action was. It was a good sized room encircled by booths along the perimeter, orbiting an inner circle. Artists were roughly grouped together along one corridor, with craftsmen stationed at either end, and dealers dotted throughout. There were plenty of people moving around, but there was still space enough to get by, and I liked that things weren't so spread out as to require jogging shoes. To establish scale, San Diego Comic Con cannot be done entirely, even over five days. Comicpalooza can be done in one exhausting day, but it's better to take two or more to thoroughly enjoy it. Space City Con was a comfortable single day show, panel inclusive. You can do the showroom in a few hours, and the only reason I returned over the weekend was to pick up overnight commissions.

I hadn't planned on coming to Space City Con, and from what I gathered talking to artists, neither had anyone else. The sea change came with the bookings of Art Adams and Whilce Portacio, two of the biggest comic artists ever, easily comparable with any "names" Comicpalooza has had thus far. Everybody I talked to wanted to meet and offer tribute to these guys, and the guest list seemed to swell for this reason. A bunch of the guys I got commissions from were just in town this May, but returned just to join that duo. I got work done by both of them, and each was swell. Adams intimidated me, because he's Arthur freakin' Adams, but he ended up being really sweet. Whilce Portacio is an irresistible force for socializing. I usually like to discuss a project, pay the artist, get out of their way, and finally return to collect and sing praises. With Portacio, it was like working the counter at a comic shop again. We both had long, loud opinions about everything, and it was tough to break away and spare innocent bystanders from all that noise pollution. Much fun.

As I mentioned, aside from those names and a few other guys who had skipped Comicpalooza this year, Space City Con was about getting follow-up pieces from the same folks I just saw in May. I never did track down Jamie Kinosian for a second commission, but I did run into that guy my girlfriend paid $65 to that hasn't even started on her piece yet. That guy didn't pass my smell test, so I feel vindicated for having blown him off as a prospect for my stuff, but I'm still kind of pissed by proxy. Everyone else was great, and it makes me happy that so many folks remain enthusiastic over the oddball obscurities I ask them to draw.

I'll be interested to see where Space City Con goes from here. I think the organizers got a lot of things right, and preferred aspects of it to the other major Houston show, but it still feels like Comicpalooza Junior in many respects. I'd like to see SCC develop more of its own personality, with more unique guests. Adams, Portacio and Khoi Pham were huge steps in the right direction, but the organizers need to secure and announce such catches earlier, because I literally had about two days' notice before turning the con from a pass to a must. Comicpalooza has already lined up Chris Claremont, Michael Golden, Mark Texeira, Joe Jusko, Julie Bell and Boris Vallejo ten months in advance, whereas I'm not aware if SCC 2013 is happening at all. I'm hopeful, though, and am happy to see cons return to Houston. For more pics, see the Houston Press slideshow.

Friday, August 17, 2012

2010 “Bronze Tiger 2.0” art by Oliver Nome

Click To Enlarge

"a redesign of Bronze Tiger I did for fun and as a character study for my 'Suicide Squad 2.0' piece... simple flat color scheme for my redesign of Bronze Tiger"
This one I don't like so much. Too busy, too bulky, too '80s VHS excess. I prefer Ben Turner sleek, with emphasis on his physical prowess, as opposed to weaponing-up. Check out the original black and white art here.

Oliver Nome

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Animal Man #2 (December, 2011)

Blood tinged "tattoos" erupted across Buddy Baker's skin. His son Cliff was sent to fill in the graves of the undead animals Maxine had reanimated. Maxine pointed out that the "tattoos" were a map to "The Red Place," from which their powers originated. A bigoted neighbor caught Cliff and led him around by the back of the neck. Maxine turned his arm into that of a bird, which proved quite painful, and lasted until Ellen convinced her daughter to reverse the effect. Buddy told his wife to call Detective Krenshaw to help smooth over the neighbor problem, while he and Maxine would have to travel to the Red Place for answers. With the guidance of local animals, father and daughter found their way to the universe of meat and blood called "The Red." Meanwhile, the Hunters Three erupted from hippos at a zoo to devour and assume human form in search of "the avatar."

"The Hunt Part Two: Maps" was by Jeff Lemire and Travel Foreman. It was another solid issue advancing an intriguing storyline with nice art, but now I've got the Yeah Yeah Yeahs stuck in my head. "Ma-a-a-a-ps, wait! They don't love you like I love you..."

New 52's Day

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

1984 Green Arrow Postcard by George Pérez

The Emerald Archer is former millionaire, now crusading newswriter, Oliver Queen. He possesses a quiver filled with specially designed arrows-- created for every conceivable occasion.

Mortimer Weisinger was the Rob Liefeld of the 1940s. A bullying, abusive editor, Mort had a hand in the creations of the Sub-Mariner knock-off Aquaman, the Flash riff Johnny Quick, the Superman swipe Martian Manhunter, and the ersatz Marvel Family formed around Superman. When Errol Flynn was box office gold as Robin Hood, the comics filled up with archers. Mort's contribution was Green Arrow, around the time the film adaptation of the book The Green Archer was in cinemas. Mort's "innovation" was marrying the movie to a naked lift of Batman and Robin, simply trading bats for bows. Green Arrow and Speedy followed an arrow signal in their Arrowcar or Arrowplane to swing into battle against a Jokeresque foe called Bull's Eye. When other heroes folded tents with their companies in the late '40s bust years, Green Arrow just kept on trucking at DC as a mediocre also ran (although Jack Kirby had a regarded run in the 1950s.) When Batman wasn't allowed to play with the Justice League of America in its early days, Julie Schwartz just got Green Arrow.

Denny O'Neil and Neal Adams revamped the character in the late '60s and early '70s. That's where I was first introduced to Oliver Queen as a left wing ladies man with a rockin' Van Dyke and a turtleneck. Basically, everything I wanted to be when I grew up. I loved his devil may care attitude and groovy choice of weapon. Turning Speedy into a recovering heroin addict was a bold move, and the art was so dang pretty. I wanted more, so I bought a Brave and the Bold team-up involving the Penguin, and ended up hating the art and the story. As the '80s progressed, Green Arrow became a direct sales only, mature readers series. Since I was still buying off the newsstand, that meant my awareness of the character was dependent on house ads with sweet Mike Grell art.

Finally, in the early '90s, I started catching up on the Emerald Archer through back issues and reprints. I had no idea how stupid, simplistic and shrill those old O'Neil/Adams Green Lantern/Green Arrow were when read as a collection in a modern light. Grell's The Longbow Hunters was mean-spirited, and seemed like a watered down version of Jon Sable with some stupid Eastern elements tossed in. Worse, it was at this point Queen quit using his Batman-style trick arrows. That meant he was running around like a hoodie ninja shooting people with regular arrows. It's one thing to continue employing a World War II era fad as your m.o., since comics are forgiving like that. However, a grim and gritty "realistic" series about an archer in the age of the Punisher? Even if I could suspend my disbelief over his continued survival, that wouldn't make it interesting, no matter how many C.I.A. conspiracies you try to drag into it.

By the mid-90s, Oliver Queen was a wimp in a drab book few people read who had been divorced from the DCU for years. DC jazzed things up using the Knightfall method: develop a supporting character, then ditch the original hero and push the successor model. It got me to jump back on the book, and I found I vastly preferred Ollie's illegitimate son Connor Hawke to Queen. Actually, I preferred Speedy, ex-girlfriend Black Canary, and Marvel's Hawkeye by that point. I followed Connor's book until the end, when it was cancelled to make way for Kevin Smith's planned revival of Ollie. That took a few years to materialize, and while it gave Green Arrow his most relevant comic run ever within the industry, I resented this over the hill douche for spearheading DC's great whitewashing of the '00s.

Aside from getting a kick out of Mike Barr and Trevor Von Eeden's early '80s mini-series, I've found Green Arrow to be one of the most irritating and frustrating characters that I've had the misfortune to read. However, there may be some small redemption. When the producers of Smallville couldn't get the rights to feature Batman on the show, they used Green Arrow in his original role as an obvious proxy. A quasi-spin-off show is upcoming, which will only emphasize the Dark Knight over the Emerald Archer. It's a tired posture in comics, but still better than the self-righteous sleazy hypocrite he's been for decades...

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Comic Reader Résumé: November, 1984

November of 1984 began with G.I. Joe a Real American Hero #32. It had a Frank Springer cover and Frank Springer interiors, so it's a good thing it featured Zartan and Snake-Eyes prominently, or else I'd have broken my streak of issues.

I got Fantastic Four #275 out of a three-pack from a grocery or toy store. I could never get into the team, even under John Byrne, but this solo She-Hulk tale was a gas. A pornographer manages to photograph Jen topless on top of the Baxter Building, and the rest of the issue is Shulkie attempting every means possible to prevent the pictures' publication. The ending, especially from adult eyes, is bogus, but the journey is worth the trip. Still topical too, although the odds would be stacked that much more against our heroine. I have a modest affection to this day for the character based solely on this one good story.

Kitty Pryde and Wolverine #4 involved Logan deprogramming Kitty, which in retrospect makes no sense. Dude has no memory, and is best known for trying to stab anybody who crosses him. Not the credentials of a master therapist.

Not only did I buy Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man #99 despite not having been especially impressed with the previous writing or art (aside from one memorable issue,) but this was even the debut of the much maligned Spot under the pen of Herb Trimpe. As you can see, the Spot was a rather Ditkoesque invention, and he has a nice visual power that made up for the dumb moniker. The next issue was an extra-sized (and $) anniversary issue, so whatever influence Al Milgrom had on my buying habits, I finally left this title alone for the next year.

Conqueror of the Barren Earth #1 was another book from out of a grocery sack a friend was given in the summer of '88. While not as bad as Robotech Defenders, it still had weak art and coloring that looked like the previous owner had gone to town on it with a five & dime watercolor set. Despite the writing of Blue Devil co-creator Gary Cohn, it deserved to go right back into the bag.

G.I. Joe Yearbook #1 reprinted the first issue of the regular series, which lacked the soap opera and outlandish characters to come, but benefited from Bob McLeod inking Herb Trimpe. It was a solid one-shot action yarn, and there were oodles of additional material to catch me up with the series and stars to date. I probably enjoyed this bolus feeding of information more than reading the individual comics.

Finally, Jim Shooter continued the upward storytelling trajectory in Marvel Super-Heroes Secret Wars #11. Subplots had been developed and began paying off, Doom was too cool, and the whole thing ended with Mike Zeck and John Beatty depicting our heroes massacred by a bolt from the blue!