Friday, August 29, 2008

Ripping the Lid Off the Civil War / Secret Invasion Conspiracy!

Reader Don Hutton recently sent me the following via e-mail:

"Just came across this goofy gem of a story idea in AC Comic's "Armageddon Factor" #1 from 1987. The Government passes a law forcing all superheros to be registered and to work for the military. This causes something of a Civil War (tm) to break out. However it then turns out to be a plot by a bunch of green-skinned aliens who've infiltrated the government."

I've never seen The Armageddon Factor, but Don also kindly provided scans of the obscure AC comic in question, and as you can see, it closely parallels recent events in Marvel comics, specifically the Civil War and Secret Invasion epics. It looks like Armageddon Factor had two issues in 1987, then a conclusion "special" in 1990 that suggests that maybe this wasn't the most seamless production in comics history.

So is this a total coincidence, or should we be investigating Mark Millar and Brian Bendis' back-issues for copies of the Armageddon Factor#1? It doesn't really matter. Comic book writers have been mining the past for years now and Marvel and DC have both been re-running their own greatest hits of late, so why not restage a 21-year old crossover from a whole other company? So, conspiracy...or coincidence? You decide.


Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Darth Vader Versus the Fantastic Four...Sort Of.

Dark Horse Comics' Star Wars Tales is a treasure trove of great, offbeat back up stories set in the Star Wars Universe. I've talked about this before. Rebels struggled against the Empire before Luke and Company, and Darth Vader was out there as well, building his dread reputation. In Star Wars Tales #9, Jay Stephens introduced a strangely familiar quartet of rebels with the grouping of Falaem Onn, Grimgrim, F4-MF, and Soo Rcharrz, the ill-fated Rebel Four. Enjoy, and may the Four be with you.

"The Rebel Four"
Originally printed in Star Wars Tales #9, Sept. 2001
Script/Art by Jay Stephens

Friday, August 22, 2008

Stilt Man, Meet Burning Man

Not much to say, is there? One of your classic "separated at birth" scenarios, here. I'm too square and uptight to have ever attended a Burning Man event, but it appears to involve burning Stilt Man in effigy, so no thank you.


Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Review: Who Can Save Us Now?

When it comes to prose fiction, I've always enjoyed a good anthology. I don't have enough time to get embroiled in any huge, Tolkeinesque epics these days, but short stories are a great way to sample new authors and see how they respond to a shared writing challenge. I've enjoyed many a science fiction anthology, several horror anthologies, and even a few with just ordinary people doing normal stuff in my reading career, and I've found that while none are perfect, it is generally hard for an editor to make a really bad anthology. Who Can Save Us Now? is one of the good ones.

Between these covers you'll find the Rememberer, the Meerkat, and the Quick Stop 5 (among whom is included perhaps the greatest superhero of all, Slim Tim, the human beef jerky man) and dozens of others. Their stories range from bittersweet to wacky in tone, but all explore the idea of ordinary world look at superpowers. Other highlights include:

Stephanie Harrel's "Girl Reporter", which takes a more cynical, adult look at a Superman/Lois Lane type of relationship.

"Nate Pickney-Alderson, Superhero" by Elizabeth Crane is an amusing spin on childhood hero worship with a little boy who worships and dresses like his favorite superhero...unremarkable physics teacher Bob Brown.

"Remains of the Night" looks at the relationship between a superhero and his butler, when the superhero in question dresses like a giant Silverfish and eats paste.

Who Can Save Us Now? was a welcome new addition to my bookshelf. If you like oddball superheroes, sci-fi anthologies, or short bursts of new fiction, give it a try. A copy of Who Can Save Us Now? was provided to this website for review.

Monday, August 18, 2008

In Which a Descendant Learns an Important Lesson About Robots

Like any self respecting blogger, I love seeing my name in print, hence this reprint. I like to think that Joe Hughes is a wayward 23rd century descendant who has to figure out the hard way that manual labor sucks. This comes out of Marvel Masterworks: Atlas Era Tales of Suspense, which actually has three or four other stories in which robot haters learn to love robots. This is the best drawn one though, rendered by master draftsman Al Williamson. Beware...

"Beware of the...Robots!"
Originally printed in Tales of Suspense #4, 1959
Script: Stan Lee and/or Larry Leiber
Art: Al Williamson

Friday, August 15, 2008

Triple-A Baseball Heroes and Two Triple-A Baseball Murdererous Lunatics

My son got this copy of Triple-A Baseball Heroes at the Colorado Springs Sky Sox game last Friday, and I thought I'd share the some of the All-American Baseball fun. I want to warn you that as glorious as the sight of Doctor Doom, Magneto and the Green Goblin quailing in terror before an advancing hoard of Baseball Mascots may appear, this scene does not actually happen in this issue. As much as we may want to see the Incredible Hulk side-by-side with Sox the Fox, that doesn't happen either, as the inside of the comic is mascot-free. You do get lots and lots of Mole Man though, for what that's worth. Triple-A Baseball Heroes pretty awful, actually, as most promotional comics tend to be, but this one in particular rankles for reasons I will explicate shortly.

That's Tony (Iron Man) Stark, Reed (Mister Fantastic) Richards, and Carol (Ms. Marvel) Danvers in Kentucky, watching a "Louisville Bats" game. Reed is apparently a huge AAA Baseball fan, as he demonstrates by stretching out to snatch the ball out of the air mid-play. I'm not actually a big baseball fan, but doesn't that, like, screw up the game somehow? Of course, being Reed Richards, he can't do this without a prolonged speech about how he calculated the balls trajectory by weighing the variables and blah-de-blah. He escapes a beating by irate drunks when Fin Fang Foom bursts up from the ground with a bunch of Moloids to tear up the place. The superheroes had been tracking a series of attacks on Triple-A ballparks, and were at the game awaiting Mole Man's latest attack:

Promotional comics are great, because you get to see your favorite characters suddenly get completley obsessed with How Tires are Made, or the Coca-Cola bottling process, or...Minor League Baseball in this case. So as the story goes on, Iron Man rallies the Marvel Superheroes throughout the Minor League ballparks to protect them from Mole-minions and Kirby Monsters:

Durham gets Doctor Strange, Buffalo get the X-Men, Indianapolis gets the Silver Surfer, and Memphis gets Spider-Man and the Hulk. And what does my hometown get? Who comes to protect Colorado Springs and the Sky Sox? Lets take a closer look:

Great. Colorado Springs gets Bullseye and Venom to the rescue. Let that soak in for as moment.

And Bullseye.

I'd much rather take my chance with the Moloids, actually. I'd rather dodge Taboo or Googam, son of Goom than worry about Venom getting hungry or Bullseye getting bored. I feel like Charlire Brown on Halloween with his rock, here.

It does make sense that the Thunderbolts would show up, given their Denver locale in the regular Marvel Universe, but there was no particular effort to match up any of the other superheroes with their regular stomping grounds, unless Wolverine is moving to Syracuse. I'm pretty sue Colorado Springs would really rather have Venom OR Bullseye teamed with Spider-Man OR the Hulk, and freakin' Memphis can have the other guy and the other guy. We'd even take Gambit. Just some advice for the next time you're planning to send bloodthirsty killers to my hometown, Mister Stark.

Then it all turns out that Mole Man just wanted to start a Monster Island expansion team, but rejected, he attacked the ballparks instead. Mister Fantastic tells the Mole Man that "you don't have to own a team to enjoy a Triple-A Baseball - everyone can join in the fun! You know, like all those people at the baseball games you attacked were doing, before you showed up." Well, the story ends with the Mole Man and the Fantastic Four all enjoying the Bricktown Showdown.

Then, Galactus ate the Earth. The end.


Monday, August 11, 2008

Big Bag O' Bagge: More Hate!

This is the second of two articles focusing on Peter Bagge's Hate. In the first part, we looked at the first fifteen issue of Bagge’s popular series, ending with Buddy Bradley’s departure from Seattle to return to New Jersey. Issue #16 also marked a format change to color, the addition of inker Jim Blanchard, and expanded content. Bagge opened up the second half of each issue to other cartoonists, essays, music coverage, and advertising. He was trying for a "zine" feel, but the change proved to be controversial, accompanied by complaints of Bagge “selling out”. I'm sure if Bagge wanted to sell out, he could have found a lot more profitable way to do so than adding color and extra shit, but whatever.

Jimmy Foley welcomes Buddy - From "Meet the Folks!" Hate #16

As Buddy returned to the family home in New Jersey with Lisa in tow, Bagge reintroduced the Bradleys to Hate readers. Pops Bradley was in the hospital again for the latest in a series of ailments, so Buddy and Lisa moved back into the Bradley house. The second half of Hate would see the couple drift apart as Buddy tried to get a collectibles business going with his old junkie pal Jay Spano:

"There's something delicious about the disgustingness of McDonald's" - From "Lets Get Serious", Hate #17

Brother Butch returns as well, discharged from navy for alcoholism. And as a side note, I've been in the Navy, and you'd have to be one serious drunk to get kicked out of the Navy for alcoholism. Babs is still around as well, with her horrible, horrible children, Tyler and Alexis:
From "Uncle Buddy" - Hate #20

In the second fifteen issues of Hate, Bagge's story became more relationship and plot-driven. Having introduced the cast of characters, Bagge's focus turned to establishing an adult life for Buddy and his pals. Characters changed and evolved as time went on, and no one stayed one-note or one-dimensional. Perhaps freed by the inking assist, Bagge's writing got sharper and funnier.

From "Bab's Ex" - Hate # 23

For my part, I liked the slicker-looking color artwork, and generally had no problem with the extra material, though some of it was pretty bad. Rick Altergott's Doofus was the best, with other features heading downhill from there. On occasion, Bagge included extra collaborations like #30's "The Hasty Smear of His Smile", with Alan Moore, as well as stories done with Adrian Tomine, Robert Crumb, and others.

Lisa inevitably leaves buddy to live in city just as Jimmy Foley and Butch are trying to convince him to help them with a drug-running scheme. Drawn by the idiocy in the air, Stinky re-emerges with his own wacky drug scheme:

I don't want to give too many more specifics, since saying too much more will spoil the story. suffice to say, the remaining issues of Hate contained much weaseling, sneaking, and aggravating of Buddy:

From "Let's Start a Crackhouse!" - Hate #26

Hate #27 was the pivotal "Buddy Cleans House", where a fed-up Buddy extricates himself from the crack plan, his partnership with Jay, and his break up with Lisa. Buddy finally takes charge of his life and his business, but it leaves him all alone:

From "A Day in the Life of Buddy Bradley" - Hate #28

Buddy spends some time living alone and attempting dates, to dismal results. Finally, in issue #30 Buddy and Lisa get back together when they learn she is pregnant. This marked the end of Buddy as a "young single character, as well as the end of Hate as an ongoing series.
From "Let's Get It On" - Hate #30

Since Hate #30, Bagge has been producing a series of Hate Annuals, which have included short Buddy and Lisa vignettes, but those haven't been as long or as eventful as the original series. Buddy's youthful days are behind him, and Peter Bagge has, aside from tracking his "fuddy-duddy" years, moved on to other things. Still, in its day, Hate was at the top of my reading pile, and this funny, unique, and vulgar masterwork remains one of my all-time favorites.


Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Batman in Wonderland

While Grant Morrison has been getting all the attention with Batman: R.I.P., Paul Dini has been turning out some great stories over in Detective Comics. He's also been creating some great new additions to Batman's rogue's gallery. This weeks Detective#847 brings back Hush in a big way, but not without a brief appearance of the Wonderland Gang. The Mad hatter first assembled the gang back in Detective #841.

Love those hoodies. Surprised that the Mad Hatter hasn't tried this grouping before, I looked around for previous stories where the hatter had such a gang, and found that he sicced a Walrus, a Carpenter, and other Wonderland Thugs on Batman in his first appearance on Batman: The Animated Series, but they turned out to be mind-controlled victims.

Here we see Batman investigating this latest bunch of villains:

Tweedledum and Tweedledee eventually seize the gang from the Hatter, and in this most recent appearance, the Lion and the Unicorn are absent. The Carpenter and the Walrus are still running with Dum and Dee, though.

In fact, why not use the Mad Hatter and the Wonderland Gang in the next Batman movie? Excuse me, I'm off to write a script for "Batman in Wonderland"!

Monday, August 04, 2008

An Open Letter from The Web to J. Michael Straczynski

Dear J. Michael Straczynski:
I, the Mighty Web, wanted to take a moment to introduce myself and express my excitement about our upcoming work together in the pages of the Brave and the Bold. I especially hope to work with you, given what a huge fan of "Stargate: SG-1" I am. It's been a long time since I worked, let alone with a professional of your stature in our industry, and I just wanted to assure you that despite any rumors you may have heard, I am 100% clean, sober, and ready for work.

I am aware, of course, that you haven't made your final choices on which of us "Archie Heroes" you plan to use, but if you do happen to use me, I want you to know I am completely on board with whatever changes and updates you may need to make with my back-story. I mean, I'm just spitballing here, but you could flesh out my origins, give me some powers, introduce a new villain, or even brutally murder my horrible, horrible shrew of a wife.

You may worry due to the fact that I am a married superhero, and you just got out of a bad relationship with a web-covered married man, but ever since my campy 60's revival as a henpecked superhero flopped, I've barely worked. Understand, Rosie was okay with the Web when he rescued her from the Black Dragon of Death, and she sure seemed okay with him when we fornicated that night. Marriage ended all that though, and soon she was emasculating me around the clock. We've actually been separated for years, but she wont grant me a divorce, so her credit problems are my credit problems, yet she CAN go out and publish a tell-all autobiography bashing me, and I can't do anything about it, because we're married! I mean what the FUCK, am I right? Do you have any idea how many times a day I'm asked to sign a copy of I Married a Super-Zero?

The last time I worked, I showed up to join the Red Circle version of the Mighty Crusaders, but when they asked me my name, I panicked and mumbled something about being the SON of John Raymond, so it was awkward for all of us when the girdle finally popped open.

I'm sorry, Mister Strazazcski, I may be revealing too much, but I want to make sure you understand how very, very open I am to talks of a storyline where I come home to find her hanging from her neck by her intestines, with blood pouring...

What I mean to say, Mister Stransydzki, is that every truly classic superhero needs to suffer a traumatic loss to be truly forged in the waters of super-herodom, and a traumatic loss may be necessary to sell The Web in this new, Segway-powered age. And if so, I stand fully prepared to discover Rosie's dismembered carcass stuffed hilariously in the refrigerator, wreak brutal vengeance on her killer (or killers and/or rapist/s), then move on with noble clarity into a new, unmarried superhero career. I'm sure you are well aware, sir of the current gory environment in the DC Universe, and I'm sure that you'll be aware that a hero might have to suffer the sudden and violent decapitation of a loved one just to make a mark in this new, violent and densely inhabited world. Should you need any further incentive, sir, please consider the $87 stapled to this letter to be that incentive.

In conclusion, if there's some way you can feed my mother-in-law into a woodchipper, it would be that much more poingnant, and I have a jar full of change on my dresser that is all yours....

Regards, The Web

The above piece does not reflect the views of the management, who loves his wife and her mom.
Thanks to Blockade Boy, from whom I liberated some of these panels.
Related Article: The Worst Spider-Marriage in Comics