Sunday, June 29, 2008

Custom Action Figures (Part 2)

Here are a few more of the customized action figures that I've been bringing out of storage and showing off lately. Starman, A.K.A Jack Knight was made from a Star Trek Captain Kirk in...some kind of civilian clothes? Maybe it was his Sunday go to meetin' Edith Keeler in the past suit. But I digress. This was one of those cases where I knew which character I wanted to build and was just waiting for the right base, and this particular take on James Tiberius was perfect. His cosmic staff is pieced together from random weapons. Also note the back of the jacket:

They weren't all this slick. This figure of The Vision, a repainted silver Surfer, was the first custom I did and it shows. Vision is largely absent from the toy shelves, and as far as I know, Marvel Legends has yet to produce a proper Vision toy, so I'm happy with this:

For the longest time, nobody would produce a Wonder Woman figure, so for mys second project, I made my own, with a Toy Biz Black Cat base. The Golden Lasso is shiny, golden Christmas wrapping wire:

I made three members of the Crime Syndicate as seen in Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely's JLA:Earth-3. Hyperpsycho speed junkie Johnny Quick here was made from a Total Justice Flash figure:

Black Canary didn't spend long in this outfit, did she? She was made from an X-Men figure...some evil, dark-future version of Jean Grey, I think:

A repurposed Superman became Martian Manhunter, rounding out the Total Justice JLA:

Finally, DC's Captain Marvel was made using a Toy Biz Doc Samson:

While Marvel's Captain Marvel was made from a Toy Biz Northstar:

I have more coming soon. Then I'll shut up about the damned dollies, okay?

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Custom Action Figures

Still busy setting up the basement, but lookit what I found! I was into action figures as well as comics back in the mid-90's, and in those pre-internet (for me) days, I turned my creative bent towards those characters that the toy companies hadn't yet produced. One of my earlier pieces was done while watching the Broncos bomb the playoffs, and I turned my attention to making my Toy Biz Psycho Man action figure look like a gold armored Iron Man:

I made dozens more over the next few years, including this Amazo, customized from a Drax the Destroyer figure:

Doctor Fate
, made from a Toy Biz Adam Warlock:

Most of my DC figures were made to fit in with Mattel's largely-reviled "Total Justice" line. Black Manta here is a TJ Batman with his head forever encased in a putty shell:

Similarly, a TJ Superman begat Ultraman:

In some cases a manufactured figure was close, but needed tweaking. Thus, Heroes Reborn Iron Man got a makeover.


I think I made something like 30 of these. Wanna see more?

Sunday, June 22, 2008

The Official Publication of Reg'lar Fellers Presents MUSICMASTER!

Here's another wacky old Golden Ager lost to the mists of time, and with damned good reason. Musicmaster was created by Ben Thompson and featured in Heroic Comics 12-26. Please note that Heroic Comics is The Official Publication of Reg'lar Fellers. Ive been drinking plenty of water and taking my fiber recently, so I too am a Reg'lar Feller.

Musicmaster was violinist John Wallace, who acquired a set of magical pipes that allowed him to use musical notes as solid weapons and as a means of flight; a whimsical, if impossible power set. Logic and sanity? That ain't how they rolled back in the GA, yo.

Musicmaster could do pretty much anything with the musical notes he plucked from the air. Anything except attract a profitable readership, apparently. Here we see him creating a ladder, and if he had two melodies with a break between, he could form a bridge:

Now, Musicmaster had to actually have music playing nearby to work his mojo. And he got really, really lucky an awful lot of the time, such as when the evil hardened criminals happen to have a piano in their hideout and a guy who happens to know how to play happens to break out in jaunty ivory-tickling at just the right time for Musicmaster to deliver a much-needed blunt trauma symphony in GBH minor:

Then in a later scene, Musicmaster is tied up and helpless, completely powerless to escape, until suddenly, a nearby air base needs to operate their short wave radio:

Basically,Musicmaster's powers are unlimited and ungoverned by those pesky ol' laws of physics. And sanity. Oh Golden Age, never change...

Of course, he had to have a doltish, irritating dimbulb of a fuckwit assistant. "Downbeat" was supposed to be some sort of hep cat swinger type, always talking jive. But he doesn't look the part. At all. Sporting a bright red sport jacket with matching shorts, an enormous blue bowtie, and ny-quil colored socks pulled aaalll the way up, topped off with coke-bottle glasses and a poodle-like pompadour of puffy white hair. I'm not even sure what age he's supposed to be? eight? Eighteen? Eighty? who knows? All I know is, I hate Downbeat and you will too. But in that, he was actually a successful Golden Age sidekick inasmuch as he was completely useless and grindingly annoying.

You can read a whole entire Musicmaster and Downbeat story right here...if you dare!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Big Bag O' Bagge: Hate!

This is the second part of a series devoted to the work of my all-time favorite cartoonist, Peter Bagge. In my first article, I discussed Bagge’s breakout work in Neat Stuff, and how he eventually ended that magazine to start HATE, a new monthly focused on Buddy Bradley.

Buddy was an unlikely candidate for his own series. The foul-mouthed, lazy, weasely slacker showed up in time to capitalize on the early Grunge culture, and indeed, HATE #1 found Buddy living in Seattle, Washington, Grunge City, USA at the time. Bagge’s cartooning had improved greatly by this time, becoming much more assured and solid. For the first 15 issues of HATE, Bagge adopted a gritty, R. Crumb-influenced inking style that was appropriate to the sometimes dark and seedy happenings in Buddy’s life.

Bagge used an unusual storytelling device in Hate #1 to reintroduce us to Buddy, as the reader is greeted by Buddy at the door to his new apartment. Breaking the fourth wall, Buddy invites “us” in and gets us caught up with his life since the last time we saw him in Neat Stuff #15.

Buddy only spent a few more months in Jersey before teaming with Stinky to find a new place to live, and after a few false starts, their travels finally brought them to Seattle and an apartment that the two share with a third roommate. George Cecil Hamilton III is a reclusive, uptight loner who will get more attention in future issues, and Stinky is an even bigger loser than Buddy; a big-ideas man with no follow through, living in a pantry and scamming and screwing his way through life.

Hate #2 introduces the women in Buddy’s life, as he hooks up with Valerie Russo, a much classier woman than he’s used to dating, only to find out that her roommate is an ex of his. Lisa Leavenworth is thoroughly neurotic, crazily jealous, and immediately drives the other two just as nutty as she is.

It is worth reminding you at this point that Buddy is not an especially likable character in this series. He smokes, drinks, and voices his opinion with reckless abandon. He’s a racist, sexist, misanthrope, and his friends aren't much better. Bagge takes these oddballs and losers in some fascinating directions, though, and his goofy, comical cartooning offsets scenes that could have been disgusting and/or depressing were it not for the wacky art. His sense of characterization and dialogue in Hate was top-notch, making for some great, resonant stories about not-so-great people.

Buddy’s younger brother Butch makes an appearance in the fourth issue, having run away from home after washing out of high school. Butch has grown into a sullen, hulking brute since Buddy last saw him, simmering with rage, and Buddy has to spend the entire story keeping him from killing or being killed by the Seattle hippy crowd. When Butch heads back to Jersey at the end, we’re as relieved as Buddy, but this wouldn’t the last we’d see of Butch Bradley. Further stories involved a meeting with Val’s parents, more information on the enigma that is George Cecil Hamilton III (if you really want to piss him off, ask him if he’s related to that actor), and George’s one and only date with Lisa.

“Follow That Dream” was the series first two part story in issues 8 and 9, as Stinky convinces Buddy to manage an awful grunge/punk band that he’s “discovered”. Buddy finds that he can be ruthless and conniving enough to make it profitable, at least until the lead singer backs out and needs to be replaced. Stinky takes over, sticking a feather duster up his butt and renaming the band “Leonard and the Love Gods”. Things get worse for Buddy and he abandons the (doomed to failure) band, and returns home only to find out that Valerie has dumped him.

Issue #10 begins with Lisa begging Buddy to get her a job at the bookstore he works at, and ends with Buddy unemployed, Lisa moving in, and George moving out. This issue also begins a pathetic but hilarious downward spiral, as Buddy and Lisa try to break into the cut-throat “collectibles” biz, and get into an escalating war with rival dealer Yahtzi Murphy. By issue 15, circumstances led the whole cast to move back into the apartment, leaving Buddy on the sofa and at his wits end.

The next HATE storyline would lead Buddy and Lisa back to New Jersey, back to his mom’s basement, and into a controversial format change, all of which you’ll hear about in the next installment! (continued soon…)

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Daffy Duck by Peter Bagge

I'm hard at work on my next Peter Bagge article focusing on the first fifteen issues of HATE, but while you wait, enjoy Bagge's take on Daffy Duck. I love the Clampett style crazy Daffy above all others, so this was quite a treat. I found it over at I LOVE CARTOONS!, a sketchblog devoted to cartoon favorites as seen by comic book artists. Come on, you know you want to see Casper the Friendly Ghost drawn by Ethan Van Sciver and Spongebob Squarepants by Frank Brunner.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Again With Again With Again With the Comics

Blogs, blogs , blogs...

Which one is this one again? Oh yeah, this prick with the MODOK...Oh God, is he still here? Still talking about comic books? It's been
two years already; change the record, dude. Wait, he's turning! He's coming this way! Ugh! He's gonna talk to me...!

Are you people still here?! Welcome to Again With the Comics Year Two! Come in, go get a drink! Er, that's a cash bar of course. Heh heh...

Today is the second anniversary of Again With the Comics; still completely unedited and free of charm. I've become quite attached to my little forum, friends, and I hope you won't think me smug if I gloat a bit. This was a great year for AWtC, and I thought I'd share some highlights.

Pity the world’s most hen-pecked superhero: the Web!

Fall into Batman's Marriage Trap!

Then there was the post that put us on the map, quite literally. Dostoyevsky's Batman was a huge hit, rousing first ire, then defense all over Russia! It then made the rounds over nearly the entire globe, leading to over 100,000 visits.

Shadowhawk #14 is an awful, awful comic.

The Fly! Black Hood! VOW KAPOW!!

Doiby Dickles went too far.

Got a problem? Ask Golden Age Wonder Woman.

And, well, a bunch of other stuff!

Folks, I want to thank you all for stopping by to read my rambling. Thanks to anyone who is kind enough to link to my humble lil' blog, and thanks to all the dear, demented commenters. I'm continually amazed that anyone cares what I have to say about anything, but if you're pickin' up what I'm layin' down, look forward to more of the same in the next year.


-Brian Hughes

Monday, June 09, 2008

My Red Hulk Theory

So I've been following the current Red Hulk story, and reading through my old Incredible Hulks, and I think I have my theory as to the identity of this new crimson bruiser. (Speculative SPOILERS follow...)

Major Glenn Talbot was a longtime thorn in the Hulk's side, while serving as Bruce's romantic rival for Betty. Talbot even married Betty for a time, but that ended fairly quickly in divorce. He met his alleged death in Incredible Hulk #260, having stolen the experimental War Wagon to wage a desperate last-bid attack on the Hulk. Talbot had tracked the the Hulk to Japan with the deadly flying fortress, accompanied only by "the Brain", War Wagon's guiding artificial intelligence. At least until Talbot sees the Hulk and flips out, Ahab style:

Finally, Talbot and the Hulk have their showdown on a movie set near the sacred volcano Glenn just got done blasting:

So Talbot "died" under a deluge of molten lava while mentally bonded with a fantastical computerized battle wagon/artificial intelligence and was declared dead with no body found. Yeah, that'll stick in a universe where even Uncle freakin' Ben eventually came back. We've already seen that Red Hulk emits incredible, volcanic heat, recognizes most of the Hulk cast, and there are certainly enough back doors in that "death" to exploit, so I guess we'll see. Whadda you think?

Friday, June 06, 2008

Big Bag O' Bagge: Neat Stuff!

I’ve been a fan of Peter Bagge for over twenty years now, and consider him my hands-down favorite cartoonist. I also think he’s criminally underrated, a situation I’ll try to remedy in my own small way here at Again With the Comics. This will be the first of a series of articles looking at the works of Peter Bagge, starting with Neat Stuff, followed by a look at Hate, and continuing on to later creations Sweatshop, Yeah! and Apocalypse Nerd.

My school years consisted of a sheltered Catholic school education through grade 8, followed by one year at a downtown parochial High School, followed by a transfer to a closer, cheaper public school after the folks divorced. I don’t remember much about St. Mary’s, but had I not been attending high school downtown in 1985, I might well have missed out on a strange new magazine called Neat Stuff, and the wonderful, twisted mind of Peter Bagge. Every week after school, my friend Mike and I would head down to Mile High to see what was new, and I would spend what meager allowance I had on the new Marvels and DCs. I was well aware of independents, too, and my collection harbored what First, Eclipse, and Pacific comics I could afford. As I recall, Fantagraphics had just started publishing comics at the time, and Love and Rockets had only recently made a splash.

But then I found this strange black and white comic/magazine with a crazily-drawn, broadly grinning cartoon character on the cover, surrounded by, well, neat stuff, and I opened it up. The crudeness and immaturity of that first issue cannot be overstated, but there were enough bits that made me grin or laugh out loud that I had to buy it.

Then the second issue came, and the third, and hey, this Bagge guy is shaping up to something, isn’t he?

Page from "Studs Kirby Gets Drunk by Himself"

Well, at least I thought so. Bagge’s sometimes grotesque, bug-eyed, rubbery-limbed style has proven to be a turn-off to many readers, especially in a market that was even then increasingly leaning toward grit, “realism”, and homogeneity. There was little room for or tolerance of humor in the comics market, and Bagge’s frenetic, flailing cartooning was a hard sell. I love it, myself. I pushed it on Mike -who liked it well enough, and who caught the Bagge bug eventually- but I think he was nonplussed at first. My father read them as they came out, but then he read most of my books. There was no buzz whatsoever in the extant fan press, and so I assumed that the supply of “Neat Stuff” goodness may end at any time.

The book was populated with a rotating cast of goofy, dim-witted characters: Junior, a moms-basement-dwelling loser, Girly-Girl and Chuckie Boy, and the Leeways, a pair of yuppie hating yuppies, shared pages with the Bradleys, a quarreling family. Over time, it became obvious that the Bradleys, and the eldest son Buddy in particular, were the books most popular characters.

The Bradleys sort-of make their debut in Neat Stuff #1. I'm certain I've seen earlier versions of the characters in some old magazine.

Bagge's storytelling and characterization were vastly improving with each successive issue, and by the time of the solo Buddy stories his cartooning had greatly improved, taking on a much more controlled and polished look. Neat Stuff #9 was a solo Buddy Bradley story, all about how his desire to be one of the cool (older) record store gang, and his journey to the upstate hippie house of Jay the junkie. #12 was an all-Bradleys issue, focusing on the broad comedy of the dysfunctional clan, done at about the same time the Simpsons were breaking out, so dysfunction hadn’t been done to death yet. Neat Stuff #15 brought us the last issue of that series and a sea change for Buddy. In “Buddy the Weasel”, we got to see Buddy his rock bottom. Out of high school, jobless and aimless, Buddy fled home with stolen cash hoping to crash with a friend. After being turned down by even lowlife pal Leonard “Stinky” Brown, buddy ended up sleeping on a toxic beach, with no idea what his next move would be.

Page from "Buddy the Weasel"

His next move would turn out to be to his own book. Bagge was ready for a change, moving Buddy to an acclaimed 30-issue run of HATE.
(...continued soon...)

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Three From Grant Morrison

It's no secret I'm a Grant Morrison fan, having read his work since his American debut with Animal Man and his mind-blowing revisionist Doom Patrol. I have very much enjoyed the man's body of work, from the strangest Vertigo work to the biggest "event" comics. We were treated to an astonishing three comics from one of my favorite writers this week, so I felt compelled to comment.

All Star Superman #11 gave us the penultimate issue of Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely's extended tale of the last days of the the Man of Steel. I've really enjoyed the humanist, passively powerful Superman that Grant presents, and it's sad to see him wasted and winding down with final acts of kindness to his Fortress pets and oh yeah, all humanity. Worse, All Star Luthor has never been stronger, sneering his way past the electric chair and into Superman levels of power. All Star Superman has turned out to be a fantastic magum opus from the mind of Morrison, and the showdown in #12 promises to be as great as it will be late. I was as disappointed in the timeliness of this as anyone, but the final result will stand on its own long after serialization is complete.

Finally, Morrison's epic Batman saga ,Batman: R.I.P barrels ahead in Batman #677, also out this week, as new girlfriend, the ominously named Jezebel Jade throws doubt on Batman's existence and Bruce's sanity. Then the phrase ZUR EN ARRH sends Batman into a seizure, the Wayne family is scandalized, and Alfred may be a fraud and beaten to death. This story has been building to a boil for awhile now, but with R.I.P., it promises to come to a head. Tony Daniel's art is acceptable, and growing stronger each issue. An artistic roller coaster is the one thing that can really derail a Grant Morrison epic, (NewXmeN, anyone?) so I'd just as soon stick with Daniel, now he's here.

I've seen mixed reaction to Final Crisis #1 online, and a fair amount of confusion (That guy on the last page was Nix Uotan, the young Monitor that got exiled earlier in the story). I had no problem understanding it, other than the casual "shock" death of the Martian Manhunter. Even there, I think Morrison's messing with our heads prior to a dramatic last-issue rescue/noble, heart-wrenching sacrifice by the shape-shifter in question. This sounds like it could fix the New Gods and provide a fundamental shift in the DCU, and I'm looking forward to seeing it play out.