Friday, September 28, 2007

SUPERTRAMP: Could "The Vagabond" Be the Worst Superhero Ever?


At long last, the Red Bee can lay down his weary burden -we have a new contender for the title of Worst Superhero Ever. The Vagabond made his debut in U.S.A. Comics #2, and like most Golden age characters had only the most rudimentary of origins. With a big crime wave sweeping the city, crusading officer Murphy was called in to help:


Like many handsome millionaire playboys/crusading district attorneys/ frustrated beat cops of comics’ Golden Age, Murphy decided to fight crime anonymously by taking on the dramatic secret life of a costumed crime fighter. Unlike those others, a mere domino mask and opera cape would not be sufficient. Apparently, to fight crime in Middleton, one must become fatter and smellier than crime.

“I need a disguise that will strike terror into criminal hearts! I shall become a creature of the night! I shall become...a comical, roly-poly cartoon hobo!!”

Thus was born the Vagabond, a.k.a. Chauncey Throttlebottom III, the first bumfighter. With a fake gut, rosy-red nose and clown lips, smoking a cigar, this utter fucking lunatic took on the city’s crime wave. Like most crime fighters of the time, he was amazingly competent at everything, and his enemies were easily whipped into submission, never commenting on his ridiculous guise. But really, what the fuck were they thinking with this guy? As one has to suspend ones disbelief to accept that a man dressed as a giant bat will intimidate hardened criminals, so must one suspend ones disbelief that much more to swallow this:





This battlin’ bum only appeared in the first three issues of U.S.A. and has never been seen since. There was a female Vagabond that showed up in Captain America in the ‘90s, but if forgotten fourth-string superheroines can be thankful for anything, I’m sure she’s grateful for having no connection whatsoever to Chauncey Throttlebottom III.

It takes a whole lotta suck to give both superheroes and hobos a bad name, but the Vagabond had all that suck…and more.

And Now a Word From Darius Drumm:

Another page from Jack Kirby's Silver Star. It's packed with Kirby goodness, and its for sale in my Amazon shop, over there to the left, to the left, everything you own in a box to the left.








Tuesday, September 25, 2007

That's One Ugly Baby.

Aw,what a l'il cutie pieieee-AI-AAAIIIEEEE!! You know, babies only avoid being chucked out the nearest window upon the first diaper-fouling by virtue of their extreme cuteness. Good thing mutant genius baby Darius Drumm has that brain-controlly thing going on, 'cuz cute he ain't.

Panels from Jack Kirby's Silver Star, an outstanding Image Comics tome snagged at a bargain price last weekend.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Meet Rockman: Underground Secret Agent!

Updated 7/24/07

Rockman
, soon to appear in Marvel's The Twelve by writer J. Michael Straczynski and artist Chris Weston, first appeared in U.S.A. Comics #1 in the first of only two stories by the legendary, wonderful Basil Wolverton. Marvel will be reprinting the first of those stories in The Twelve #0 in December, but "Rockman and the Killers of the Sea" was the second of those two stories, printed in U.S.A. Comics #2, and Wolverton's artwork had noticeably and substantially improved. I had the good luck to find a copy of Marvel Masterworks: Golden Age U.S.A. Comics on sale this weekend, so I grabbed it up, and I'm sharing the bounty with you, my Internet chums:








I'm not sure I've mentioned it, but I loves me some Basil Wolverton. His figures look rubbery and cartoonish at first glance, but with the lush and precise linework of a master artist. Beautiful, mind-blowing stuff.

The Twelve is another Upcoming Marvel project that I'm anticipating. Rockman will be only one of a dozen forgotten Timely characters that Straczynski and Weston will be introducing to readers, but a lot of those are just detective guys in domino masks. Rockman, looks like one of the best of the lot, and I hope you enjoyed meeting him as much as I did.

UPDATE: Here's an article with The Twelve artist Chris Weston's thoughts on his Rockman re-design, and more.




Tuesday, September 18, 2007

A Shadow(hawk) Falls Over 1963

Comics have long history of ham-handed attempts at controversy and social relevance. Even the best of this stuff doesn't age very well and looks clumsier and more dated as time goes on. I'm looking at you, Green Lantern and Green Arrow. Here now is the story of the most misguided train wreck of a comic in my vast collection. Shadowhawk #14: "The Monster Within" Part Three: "I'd Rather Be In 1963".



Image comics’ heyday of the early ‘90s was an interesting time for me. Comics were sucking as they rarely had before or since, but I'm way into this comic thing, as you may have guessed by now, and my stint in the Navy meant I had more disposable income than ever before. I spent my money on some pretty dicey things back then, and a lot of first issues of things that never went anywhere, but I never did embrace any of the core Image titles. I probably had the least interest in Shadowhawk, Jim Valentino’s signature creation. Shadowhawk was Image’s dark, brutal vigilante-with-a-twist, one who broke his enemies’ spines rather than kill them. At Image, this made him a flower sniffing, bleeding-heart pacifist. He also had the AIDS, a condition that defined him throughout his early adventures. Mind you, he didn’t get it from sex, but rather by being injected with the virus by mobsters. Because that’s what mobsters do, you know. All that "whacking" you hear about is more like "jabbing".

At any rate, Shadowhawk? Not gay! Mob guys did it!!




One Image series I did devour, however, was 1963, the brilliant, six issue retro-comics written for Image by Alan Moore and drawn in early faux-Marvel style by frequent Moore collaborators Rick Veitch, Don Simpson, Dave Gibbons, and Steve Bissette, among others.

1963
was all at once a loving pastiche of silver-age Marvel and an ongoing narrative starting with 1963:Mystery Incorporated through the final issue, 1963:The Tomorrow Syndicate. That issue followed the Tomorrow Syndicate (who bore a striking resemblance to the Avengers) on a trans-dimensional journey through Alternity in search of the missing Mystery Incorporated (think Fantastic Four). They sail through an infinite maze of possible realities, including glimpses of pretty much every significant independent comic of the era with glimpses of Cerebus, Mister Monster, the Flaming Carrot, etc... At the end, The Syndicate reach a darker, grimmer Earth than their own, one where the air is thicker, the light more harsh. One that feels fundamentally wrong to them. Then Youngblood's Shaft is revealed to be the mysterious kidnapper that they were pursuing. They've crossed over to the Image universe:



And that 1963 Annual? Yeah, that shit never happened. Shadowhawk #14 was published a full year after 1963: The Tomorrow Syndicate was released. It was just sinking in that we were never ever ever gonna see the long-promised 1963 Annual from Image or from anyone else. That meant that I picked up Shadowhawk #14, with its gratuitous 1963 guest appearances, in hopes of recapturing that 1963 magic. Much to my eternal horror and shame.

“I Want to be…in 1963!” finds Shadowhawk in the middle of a time and dimension hopping quest to cure his AIDS. For some reason, Shadowhawk has been bonded to a living computer named Phoebe, who is providing him with vital information and charting his trip through Alternity, all the better to deliver lots and lots of exposition and handy plot shortcuts as necessary:


Wolverine?!? Wicked kewl!! Shadowman?!? Decidedly less so!

If you were unsure whether or not a two-fisted superhero comic packed with alternate timelines, magic computer voices, time travel, outlandish super-freaks, and teleportation was the best place to have a thoughtful examination of one of the most tragic and devastating illnesses of our time, you’re about to be convinced fo shizzle.

Our hero, sick and aching, arrives in 1963 on the latest leg of his journey and encounters the Fury. In true Marv...er... '63 fashion, the two immediately begin battling:


Thus begins the first of many fight scenes, not to mention the first of a lot of expository banter about how dark and grim Shadowhawk is, and how naive the 1963 heroes are. Implicit throughout this issue is the suggestion that Image’s brutal, violent antiheroes are better, faster, prettier, and generally super-awesomer than the old guard.

The fight ends when Shadowhawk keels over and must pause to take his medicine:



You will note that this is somewhat less good than the Alan Moore stuff, and a poor substitute for the 1963 Annual; that cliffhanger goes unaddressed in this story. Valentino had a hand in 1963, penciling the Johnny Beyond story in 1963:Tales From Beyond, and delivering a fair semblance of Steve Ditko's Doctor Strange in the process. I don't have any particular gripe about the art in this issue. Doesn't mean he shoulda been the next guy to write them, is all I'm saying.

So Fury calls in the Tomorrow Syndicate to see if Thor stand-in Horus can help:

No dice, naked bird-head man. The Horus treatment revives Shadowhawk just a bit, but he can still feel the disease eating away at him. Shadowhawk then suggests that they go after Comrade Cockroach in order to stop his plan altogether via time-travel trickery. Anybody who’s ever read a time travel story knows how well that works, but some people are a bit thick. The now united Tomorrow Syndicate and Shadowhawk then travel to the Cockroach's lair via Deus-Ex-Phoebe’s magic…teleportation…thing somehow:




So they spend a few pages fighting, and Shadowhawk learns a thing or two about teamwork just before totally flipping the fuck out:

Haven’t we all wanted to travel through time and space with our magic computer chum and punch history in the face with our clawed talons? Oh yes we have. Now at this point, you might think that the best course would be to capture and restrain the AIDS infected guy, right? I mean, if you stopped him, you might still be able to quarantine him and stop the disease, right? Sorry, baby, that’s not Shadowhawk’s style. To re-iterate: totally flipping the fuck out Is Shadowhawk's style:



Turn aroundTurn aroundTurn around, you stupid bastards!!! Turn around right now and you can still stop…

SIGH. Never mind. The heroes of two eras eschew pursuit to deal with more important matters. There’s still a whole entire dead horse to be beaten, after all:


With options diminishing, and no one among the gods and monsters present able to track down a non-powered human apparently, the heroes return to the city where the beatnik sorcerer Johnny Beyond takes a crack at the AIDS monster and fails:


Huh. AIDS must not be that bad. I’ve seen WAY scarier monsters in comics.

So in the end, Shadowhawk takes his leave, and everyone is sad because they couldn’t do more.

Keep in mind, AIDS was a huge big deal at the time. It was in all the papers, and a real hot topic. Not that its been cured since, or anything; we’ve just been distracted by other craziness since. This is America, after all, where we don’t ever solve our problems, we just forget about them until its time for them to be the crisis du jour again.

This story would have been perfectly acceptable had it been about Shadowhawk’s quest for the MacGuffin serum, the cause of his fatal case of Virus X. Framing it as the Secret Origin of AIDS, however, made this one of the worst of the many terrible comics I own. If there had been an internet back then, I’m pretty sure it would have imploded when this issue was released, but as it is, I don’t recall any controversy over this at all.

Finally, this joke comes with one Hell of a punch line. Remember how up there I was explaining the 1963 series and the Tomorrow Syndicate’s journey through Alternity? I summarized all of that to tell you this: The Image Universe is very specifically NOT that of the 1963 characters. I imagine that in the present day "1963 universe", Hypernaut and U.S.A. just got done battling each other in the Revolutionary War, Hypernaut was assassinated, and the Fury was unmasked on live Television. I'm not sure what would have been happening in the Image universe circa 1963; I think Team Zero was doing bloody black-ops work in Montenegro, and Henry Bendix was...um...Stormwatch Prime... Er…Grifter?

Anyway, they're not the same time line. Well, I don’t think Mr. Valentino got the memo, because Shadowhawk #14 acts as if this was truly the origin of the AIDS outbreak in Shadowhawk’s (ie: "the real") world, but Comrade Cockroach only introduced AIDS to his (1963 Universe) timeline, and not to the Image Universe proper, rendering the whole stupid story a moot point!

Ecch. Now my head hurts. Bad Comic!




1963 is copyright Alan Moore, Rick Veitch and Stephen R. Bissette.
The Hypernaut, The Fury and N-Man are copyright and trademark Stephen R. Bissette.


Monday, September 17, 2007

World's Finest Funnies

"Either cut down on the porn, or don't move so often!"








Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Again With the Comics Weekly: 09/17/07


What, again with the Tentacle Porn?




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SPOILER WARNING: This is the "current events and gossip" part of our presentation. New comics, comics news, and gossip can and will be discussed. Don't freak out, but we got SPOILERS, baby. Heavy, heavy SPOILERS.

New Comics This Week:

New Avengers #34
They remembered Night Nurse! I posted a mini-tirade awhile back bemoaning her absence. Let's just hope Doctor Strange isn't a Skrull...!




Justice Society of America #9
Well, that was a nice change of pace. A relatively violence and angst-free issue.



Thor #3
Well, dammit, I think they've got me hooked on this thing now. I try not to use the word "awesome" around here too much, but...that was freakin' awesome. Sorry.

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Well folks, this is the last Again With the Comics Weekly for awhile. I've recently lost a good chunk of my weekly blogging time, so something has to go. This column had also begun to feel like homework anyway, as well as taking time from other posting, and that's no fun. Thanks for reading, if read ye did.


Super Magician Versus All the Brown People


And how about some phallic imagery with your crude, dehumanizing stereotypes? With his pale white face and his shock of white hair, Blackstone the Magician is constantly shown besting some group or other of misshapen subhuman jungle savages in the pages of Super-Magician Comics (Street and Smith, 1941). If you check out that cover gallery, you'll see that Blackstone spends an inordinate amount of time during the first two years rescuing porcelain-skinned white women from evil capering black voodoo guys. Then by Volume 3, someone must've told the artist to knock it off, and we see more scatter-shot race baiting aimed at Arabs, Hindi, Indians. Eskimos and the ever-popular Japanese. As appalling as these are, I have to admit to liking the liberal application of the word "INCREDIBLE" all over each and every cover.

Okay, I also like the bored expression on the girl's face as she simmers. And that she's wearing a Jughead crown. BUT THAT'S IT.

I'm the Caucasian half of a very happy bi-racial marriage, so I have some -second hand only- idea of the crap black people have been through in this country's history. I'm glad the times of Super Magician Comics are over. That said, it was published from 1941-1947, so there was "some" excuse for these in that everyone was doing it. But Super-Magician Comics did it a LOT.


Monday, September 10, 2007

Again With the Comics Welcomes New Readers!



Dostoyevsky Comics was our biggest hit yet, with over 40,000 new visitors in the last ten days. I contributed nothing but a reprint of a brilliant R. Sikoryak comic story, but I'm pretty proud of the comments. So now we're international, baby. To all those who came back for more, I suppose its time I officially welcomed you all to Again With the Comics.




Name's Brian Hughes, an' I reckon I'm the Sheriff 'round these here parts. I've been jabbering away about comics for nigh unto a year now, so there's a full backlog of laffs and hi jinx in the archives for you. This is my place to talk about comics from my own collection, both the best and the worst. Sometimes I share a forgotten gem, as with the Dostoyevsky strip. Sometimes I delude myself that I'm "writing" "comedy." Sometimes I drawr a pitcher with my computer art-thingy, and sometimes I wax enthusiastic about past storylines and forgotten supervillains. Terrible failed Golden Age superheroes have a loving home at Again With the Comics. Recent hits include:



With humor ranging from the Highbrow to the Sub-Moronic, there's laffs for all at Again With the Comics! So. Make yourselves comfortable and look around. There are Archives by Month and a handy List-o-Labels over there to the left.

I'm afraid I have some rather distressing news for you: You have Again With the Comics fever. The only cure? More Again With the Comics.

Again With the Comics Weekly: 09/10/07



Welcome to Again With the Comics Weekly, your home for RED HOT shark-on-submarine action!



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In Russia, Comic Book Reads You:


Last week, the Entire Russian Federation caught Again With the Comics fever, making Batman by Dostoyevsky our most visited post yet! Some seemed to take offense at the adaptation, but I hope most enjoyed it. It's a great R Sikoryak piece that mixes Dick Sprang Batman and Fyodor Dostoyevsky's Crime and Punishment. The words "You've gotta see it to believe it!" have never been truer.

So, on the plus side, I got thousands and thousands of hits, but on the minus side, I may have single-handedly restarted the Cold War! As Robert Crumb famously said, “It’s just lines on paper, folks!”




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SPOILER WARNING: This is the "current events and gossip" part of our presentation. New comics, comics news, and gossip can and will be discussed. Don't freak out, but we got SPOILERS, baby. Heavy, heavy SPOILERS.



New Comics This Week:

ALL NEW ATOM #15
I'm tired of calling it "All New Atom". Fifteen issues in, it should just be the Atom. Regardless, this issue literally lifts our boy Ryan Choi out of Countdown, stopping briefly to play cupid to two Japanese movie monsters, then into a heap of disillusionment for our all new Atom. Don't believe that guy, though, Ryan - he's weird and he eats circus peanuts!

BOYS #10
Such an evil, evil, comic, yet I love it so. Tek Knight’s big scene might have moved me to tears had I not been so busy laughing and shaking my head at the wrongness of it all. No one can deliver a mix of perversity, humor, and heart -all in the same scene- like Garth Ennis.

METAL MEN #2 (OF 8)
This issue introduces several new baddies for the Metal Men to deal with, including the Baloonatic, Renegade Robots (L-Ron?!?) and the Death Metal Men, an evil opposite version of our lovable robot pals.

MS MARVEL #19
Ms. Marvel is a strange comic for me in that I find the supporting cast and guest stars much more interesting than the title heroine. Aaron the Machine Man makes a great addition to the cast, stealing every scene he’s in, and I can’t help but think that Rick Sheridan is probably the poster boy for the rest of Marvel’s mid-tier heroes: cluelessly swept up in a current of horrific, jolting change he neither wanted nor asked for.




PUNKS: THE COMIC #1
Your enjoyment of this comic will definitely depend on your tolerance for weird, Dadaist humor. I laughed out loud several times, myself, to my wife’s annoyance. Heavily influenced by the Young Ones, Punks has a few moments of excellent comedic timing, a trick that not many can pull off in comic book form. Granted, the story doesn’t so much end as it stops, but overall, this was a very pleasant surprise.



SHE-HULK #21

Marvel gets a new continuity patch in this issue, as some of Shulkie’s odder recent behavior is explained. I could have sworn I recently read Quesada or Brevoort or someone boasting about how Marvel doesn’t have multiple universes and parallel worlds clogging up their titles like DC, but, um, yeah, you do. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but between the Ultimate Universe, the Marvel Zombie universe, the Supreme Power-iverse, and Earth-A, among others Marvel may have 52 worlds of their own by now.

SUPER VILLAIN TEAM UP MODOKS 11 #3 (OF 5)

The plot thickens, and this panel is only a glimpse of what MODOK is apparently really after:

Other MODOKs, of course.

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Preview-O-Scope



Hey, look! An eerie glimpse into the future of Again With the Comics! Prophetic!










Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Archie Zombies

Okay, Archie Comics, Inc, parodying Marvel's Civil War was a pretty funny idea:


And given your long history of riding on the coat-tails of the latest fads, this is all good and well:



But really, let's not push it too far, alright?


NOBODY wants to read Archie Zombies.


Monday, September 03, 2007

An Inhuman Dog Thing

As much as I'd like to, I can't afford to keep up with everything, so I haven't been reading Silent War, but from the looks of this page, the Inhumans have reached new depths of obnoxiousness:

So they take poor Lockjaw back because they're now at war with Earth, and promptly, pointedly go back to ignoring the poor pooch. He had a nice, comfortable loving home, but the weasel-ass Inhumans had to snatch him back-the fuckers! You see, a couple of years back, in the Thing #5, the Thing adopted Lockjaw. The story started out in the Hidden City of Atillan, when lockjaw got a piece of granite debris lodged in his pelt from Karnak's barehanded granite block splitting practice. The giant dog went to each of the royal family in turn seeking help, but they all shooed him away. Lockjaw then teleported to the Baxter Building to be similarly dismissed by the Fantastic Four, until he got to the kind-hearted Ben Grimm:



Eventually, The Inhumans showed up to retrieve their pet, but Lockjaw had his own ideas about that:


So Lockjaw is the Thing's dog, damn it! That rotten little brat Luna doesn't even want to play with the big galoot. Luckily for him, Lockjaw is a teleporting giant dog, so he can come and go as he pleases. Just look at those two playing catch...I'm not even a dog guy, and that melts my blackened heart. Current issues of Fantastic Four haven't mentioned Lockjaw at all, so I like to think Lockjaw has been teleporting back to Earth to hang out with his real master, Benjamin J. Grimm.



Mark Millar may go out of his way to dismiss the whole thing once he starts writing Fantastic Four -"Honestly, a dog! What was I thinking?"- but we live in hope that that development will pass under his radar completely. If anyone is reading Silent War, and can offer additional Lockjaw-related news or insights, please do so in the comments!