Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Eyestrain

Power Girl "Busts" Through the Glass Ceiling


Power Girl's breasts are so often a lightning rod for Internet controversy that I'm really surprised to see so little reaction to a positive character development that has nothing at all to do with her chest. I'm talking about her appointment as chairwoman of the Justice Society in Justice Society of America #4. I think it's great, and look forward to watching Wildcat go slowly insane under her leadership. Power Girl is now the first female leader in the 67-year history of DC's premier super-team, following the Flash, Green Lantern, Hawkman (who was chairman for like, forever,) Sand, and Mister Terrific (who shattered an altogether different barrier.) That's pretty impressive for a character primarily noticed for her sexuality. As a lifelong fan of cleavage, I enjoy the cheesecake aspect of the character, but she's brassy, tough and smart, too. She's also lost everything, literally her entire reality, so she needs this. Power Girl is a great character, and I'm glad to see her get her due.

That said, lookit da boobs:

Gettin' Stabby With Plastic Man

Interactive! Click on images to s-t-t-r-r-r-e-e-t-c-c-h 'em! But don't stab 'em!













All images from "Coroner's Corners" in Plastic Man #2 (August 1944) by the great Jack Cole.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Again With the Comics Does Hard Time


After the recent Omega the Unknown review I posted, I wanted to mention that Hard Time, also written by Steve Gerber and Mary Skrenes is outstanding, and recommended without reservation. Hard Time is the story of 15-year old Ethan Harrow, prison inmate. Ethan gets caught up in a revenge prank gone horribly wrong, is tried as an adult for multiple murders he didn't commit, and gets sent to prison on a fifty-year stretch. He also has a latent power, the ability to leave his physical body in an energy form, an ability that becomes both a gift and a curse that saves him from danger almost as often as it endangers him. As the series progresses, Ethan gains enemies and allies among the cast of characters, and the quick-witted teen learns to survive in the cruel prison world. There's humor and horror inside prison walls, and we see both in these pages. Hard Time is another series that was cancelled far too soon, but the final issue wraps things up in a what turns out to be total data dump, but a very cleverly crafted and entertaining one. Artist Brian Hurtt does a fantastic job throughout as well, and his skills grow noticeably as the series progresses.

Hard Time ran for 12 issues under DC's Focus banner, then it was absorbed into their larger line, where it was relaunched as Hard Time: Season Two, then cancelled after seven issues. I think it got devoured in by the Infinite Crisis hoopla. What there was, was great, and if you get a chance to read it, do so.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Catching Up With Omega the Unknown

I finally got around to reading the Omega the Unknown Classic collection this weekend. Released last year when Marvel was trying to float a new Omega series, this collection collects all things Omega, and is pretty steep at $30. I have a sweet discount at my comic shop, so mine was cheaper. Before this, I'd only read Omega the Unknown #2, as one of those comics my dad picked up for me on the way home from an especially bad childhood sick day. You know, one of those days when you really did have to go home sick from school. He picked up an assortment of comics, and among them, this strange tale of an eerily eloquent boy and a mute superhero from space who shared a strange Corsican bond. In that bleary feverish state, I remember reading this strange, dark story that dealt in some pretty grim realities, including the cockroach infested tenements of Hell's kitchen and a comical bum who suddenly turned scary. Electro showed up toward the end, but then...to be continued. My ten-year old self decided he didn't need to know how it all turned out, and it was only this weekend that I read the conclusion of that particular Mighty Marvel epic.

Written by Steve Gerber and Mary Skrenes, drawn by Jim Mooney, it was one weird read. The whole story plays out as only a short-lived, abruptly-ended, awkwardly finished two years later by another writer, mid-'70's Marvel Comics series can. I can kind of see why it never caught on; a connection between James-Michael Starling and Omega was the central mystery of the series, starting off with the "death" of James-Michael's parents and the revelation that they were robots. But once all of this was established, the story stalled for several issues as Omega tussled with some truly pitiful villains, ignoring the big questions. Issues 4-6 marked time with the likes of El Gato and Wrench mingled with schoolyard and tenement drama. Issues #7 and 8 were written by other writers, and when Gerber and Skrenes returned, they devoted much of #9 to Foolkiller, who, fantastic as he is, shouldn't have been the focus of the second-to-last issue. The last issue, #10, had to wrap up the remaining plot threads, starting with a funeral for James-Michael's classmate, John Nedley, killed off-panel. The rest of the story had Omega and Gramps retreat to Vegas in hopes of getting rich, with the Headmen's Ruby stealing their winnings, ending in death by police gunfire for Omega, as well as James-Michael's cliffhanger discovery of another set of parent-bots in his home. It was an abrupt ending, and obviously, all was not well behind the scenes. All the mysteries were left unexplained. Gerber, in interviews, has mentioned that he was writing so many books during this period that he often didn't necessarily have an ending worked out, and I suspect Omega was one of those cases.

Beware the claws and fangs of...EL GATO!



The final panel promised: The story of "Omega the Unknown" will be concluded in a future issue of "the Defenders." but that story remained untold for two years before it was concluded by Steven Grant and Herb Trimpe in Defenders#76 and 77. Loose ends were tired up as Omega remained dead, and James-Michael Starling joined him after a brief rampage. To this day, Omega remains the among rare Marvel Superheroes that died and remains dead.
Omega himself was a strange sort of superhero, much to the ire of the public. Given to detailed internal monologues and copious navel gazing, Omega was just as likely to let a villain escape if the potential collateral damage outweighed the value of whatever was being stolen. He also didn't speak, making him seem aloof and hesitant, which he kind of was. Thus a very wordy and cerebral comic, with a dark worldview and nary a conventionally-likable protagonist in sight failed. Gerber has written plenty of other comics that I enjoyed, as well as co-writing the excellent Hard Time with Skrenes a couple of years ago so Omega's failure may was likely Marvel's fault (editorial interference, or whatever) for all I know. I know there's bad blood there, and based on the pacing I mentioned, I'll bet there was virtually no warning of cancellation. Overall, this collection was most interesting as an historical look at a favorite creator's "one that got away", but I can't really recommend it as a casual read.


Wednesday, March 21, 2007

What, the Duck?!?


From Tom Brevoort's Marvel blog, a peek at an upcoming Howard the Duck project. It's an interesting new design for Howard, and one that definitely won't be mistaken for Donald. Not bad, as he looks grouchy enough to be Howard. He should have a stogie, though. I'm not sure if I want to check this out or not. I suppose it depends on who's involved creatively. Also: new Gerber outrage? We'll see, I guess.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

For No Particular Reason: Kirby Monsters!

Look, I'll level with ya...work is bustin' my hump, here. I'm also wrestling with an article about Omega the Unknown, which ought to be big news to all thirty-two of his fans. Not to mention all eight of mine.

For now, how's about I clean out an unused image file? Don't give me that look. Think of it as a rare glimpse into the "creative" mind. Just think...what kind of half-baked "article" might I have had in mind, saving these FAR-OUT Kirby monster covers? What rare insights were lost? I guess the world will never know...




Anyway...KIRBY MONSTERS:








Sunday, March 18, 2007

Sock It to Shell-Head!



We enter what promises to be a difficult work week (= light blog content week, by the way) with a cathartic shot of the Hulk literally knocking Iron-Man's block off. Coool. Obviously, that's just a shell, but the real Stark won't be sleeping well, I'm sure.

I also like this groovy Avengers Classic cover by Art Adams. I don't think I need another reprint of Avengers #1 when I have an actual copy of #1, the Marvel Masterworks, and several other reprints, but I can pretty up my blog with the cover.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Words! Words! I Grow Weary of Words!!













All images from Journey into Mystery #114&115, Drawn by Jack Kirby, with script by Stan Lee and Inks by the underrated Frankie Ray.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Pants, Phantasmo, PANTS!!

Okay, Phantasmo...seriously. PUT! SOME DAMN!! PANTS!!! ON!!!!

Yeah, this is disturbing. Either Phantasmo was, in 1940, the first and only super-hero with the power of super-nudity, or this is the most unfortunate coloring error in comics history. Other covers at the GCD show it to be the latter. Too bad, because a nudist super-hero would have been much wackier. I can see it now: Sworn to avenge himself after the murder of his pants, millionaire businessman Buck Dekan swore to use his fists and his shrink-wrapped package to battle crime as Phantasmo, the Bareassed Battler!




...Yeah, maybe not. Anyway, I don't know about you, but I want the Master of the World to fucking wear pants, okay? And that's the naked truth.







Sunday, March 11, 2007

Monday Mourning for Captain America

I'm sure the whole Internet has been on the edge of it's seat waiting for the Again With the Comics take on the death of Captain America, so here we go: I'm all for it. I've got nothing against Captain America, of course, but it's a given that he'll be back eventually. Railing against death in comics is pointless by now, as is complaining about the 97% resurrection rate. You know Cap's not gonna go out like a gut-shot chump, leaving the Red Skull victorious.

When I'm reading my comics, I just want a well-told story, and so far, this looks like a good one. I've liked Ed Brubaker's writing since the days he was self-publishing Lowlife. Since then, he's written for both DC and Marvel and he's done some great work at both houses. Brubaker's currently writing Captain America, and he's been doing a great job, combining old-school storytelling conventions with a moodier modern sensibility. Apparently this death of tale was Brubaker's idea, and something he was more-or-less working toward when Civil War came along. While exploring the fallout of Civil War, Brubaker opted for the death story, rather than a "Cap hits the Road to Discover America" tale or a prison stay, a subject he'd just written in Daredevil. As long as this stuff is decided by the creative team and is story-driven, I'm fine with it.

The media and speculator frenzy over Captain America #25 has been a hoot, proving that nobody learned anything from the Death of Superman frenzy of 1993. People are acting like Marvel orchestrated the whole thing and retailers dropped the ball by not ordering enough copies. I say Marvel got very lucky. The media firestorm last Wednesday was sheer good fortune for them; the perfect storm of (Slow News Day)+(Easily Digested Pop-Culture Headline)+(Potential Money to be Had). If there had been a terrorist scare, if Britney had been caught in a donkey show, or if the Anna Nicole Smith zombie had finally attacked (as we all know she will), comic fans would have been the only ones aware of Cap's death. There's no way to predict that set of circumstances, so of course retailers didn't order tons of copies. If retailers over-ordered every time Marvel told them to, they'd be sitting on warehouses of untold stock. Er, more so than usual, that is. At least this time the media blitz happened when the comic was available, rather than three months prior (ref. Captain America: the Truth, Rawhide Kid).

Whatever the case, I'm looking forward to seeing what the future holds for Captain America, and presumably Steve Rogers. Long live Cap!


Friday, March 09, 2007

New Venom Stills

Here's some creepy new Venom Pictures from Spider-Man 3 that are making the rounds...




The new movie is lookin' good...and I don't even much like Venom.

Again With the Links: Civil War Con Carnage, and Clones!

Mmmm…delicious link sausage!

Spencer Carnage has given us several shout outs over at Of Course, Yeah! And it’s high time I returned the favor. He’s responsible for the laff-tastic Get Your Civil War On and just yesterday he posted a very well done article about new readers, kids, and that dreaded impenetrable continuity that’s absolutely dead on. Go check it out.





This is a few years old now, but I’ve always wanted a permanent link to The Life of Reilly, the 35-part magnum opus of Andrew Goletz and Glenn Greenberg detailing the chaos that surrounded the Spider-Man Clone saga. An exhaustive look at all the planning and pitfalls that occur when accounting is running the company. Marvel spent most of the 90’s in a state of panic, and this is a fascinating window into that era of madness.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Outsider Art


If you've been paying attention, it's no secret I'm obsessed with forgotten, failed comics and characters. Predating both Batman's Outsiders and the current Nightwing-led team was 1976's 1st Issue Special #10, featuring "The Outsiders", the group fever-dream of Joe Simon, Jerry Grandenetti, and Creig Flessel. 1st Issue Special was often a window into madness anyway, featuring many a veteran creator's most bizarre cast-off ideas. Needless to say, I'm obsessed with it, and all it's hidden gems...like the Outsiders!

Now pay attention to how they start out, with a council of war, because they're gonna pull some tricky narrative shit later on, and I wouldn't want ya to miss it:

They're the ugly Doom Patrol! The strangest team you forgot you never knew! Lizard Johnny, the Amazin' Ronnie, Hairy Larry, Ol' Doc Scary, and Mighty Mary made up the Outsiders, serious contenders for "Comics' Freakiest Group." Directly inspired by the film Freaks, these poor bastards were all weirdies. Even the girl was a giant fish.

The Outsiders spring into action in their adorable l'il Fisher Price Travellin' Lab...with their own theme song, no less... just in time to save Billy from a freak-bashing. Appearances to the contrary, Billy does not possess fantastic mental abilities and an advanced intellect. He's just a standard-issue imbecile with a really big, really tough noggin.

Amazing Ronnie is my new hero. Look at that ugly bastard leaping around, freaking out the squares, bitch slapping Nixon and just...devouring life, y'know? It's inspiring. Followed by Hairy Larry, the wheeler dealer, cheerfully committing vehicular homicide! What jolly fun!

Mighty Mary, one of comics' rare female grotesques subverts sexist stereotypes by planting a "foxy babe" head on a hulking fish-monster body. Take that, male chauvinist pigs! Lizard Johnny shows up just in time to get wounded and stuffed into the back of the trailer. I wish I was a lizard.

Three brief origin stories follow, starting with Lizard Johnny fished out of the ocean and taken to a hospital, into the caring arms of compassionate health professionals:

Doctor Goodie saves the wretched critter, and steals off with him. The second story features Billy, chased from his basement room by burglars who have killed his kindly tailor father. The goons attack the lad, but his giant cranium is nigh invulnerable. He runs out into the street for help, but that doesn't work out too well.

The third story starts with young Doctor Goodie on a top secret space mission..to Venus...In 1970 (as stated in the caption). The mission went awry and he was rescued by aliens. Shoddy, unprofessional ones at that. In short, Doc got him some botched alien plastic surgery:

But check out his daytime scene, baby! He spends the day as the fabulously coiffed Doctor Goodie, Head Surgeon at Ronkite Medical Complex (note that the Fisher Price theme continues to the hospital and its environs) As Goodie, his mane of golden tresses and movie star looks make all the ladies swoon:


Doc goes underground and unmasks, revealing his true, butt-ugly face. His hair however, remains fabulous. Home at last, Doc Scary joins his true friends:



See how they ended it the same way they started it? That's that tricky narrative shit I mentioned earlier.

Poor Outsiders...1st Issue Special was very much dependent on reader feedback, and no one ever wrote asking to see them again. The little family of genetic mistakes that nobody wanted was never seen again, but with the way weird old characters have been popping up lately in DC Comics, I wouldn't rule out the Outsiders forever.