Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The New Jimmy Olsen Feature is Excellent; Could Use More Gorilla Weddings

Again With the Comics heartily approves of the new Jimmy Olsen backup feature, soon to debut in Action Comics. The new stories put a modern spin on Superman’s Pal, while reminding us why Superman would want to be friends with a goof like Jimmy  in the first place. The writing is sharp, the art is lovely, and the first story sets up an intriguing new world for Jimmy. Chloe Sullivan is introduced to the DC Universe here as well, which is a pretty big deal for Smallville fans, but lost on me. I never did take to Smallville. I like her as a replacement for Lucy Lane, though, as she challenges Jimmy in ways that echo the Silver Age Lucy/Jimmy dynamic, without all the hateful, shrewish stuff. 

Best of all, we get a glimpse of a past adventure Jimmy had as a Genie:

Which Hints that maybe his crazy old silver Age adventures haven’t been completely retconned away:

This brief flashback made me think/hope that maybe writer Nick Spencer was inspired by the classic cover to Superman’s Pal: Jimmy Olsen #42, and rather than trying to adapt that story (which was insane and ridiculous), he "micro-updated" Jimmy the Genie to a more modern style. If so, wouldn’t it be great if the new Jimmy Olsen series featured other “neo-flashbacks”; that is, updated reminisces about, say, the time Jimmy traveled to Gorilla City with Superman and Gorilla Grodd's fiancee fell madly in love with him, leading to an unexpeted wedding:

Well, maybe not. But a man can dream, can't he? A man can dream...

Monday, September 27, 2010

Great Moments in Bad Comics: On a Wing and a Swear

Atlas Comics was a short lived mid-70's publisher, born of a grudge, run as a deliberate knock-off, and dead in five months. They were also known for their early attempt at edgier, more adult material, bringing them into constant conflict with the Comics Code Authority. This page from the Brute #1 was Atlas Comics' admittedly juvenile backlash against the bluenoses. Stick it to the man, Songbird SHI7, stick it to the man.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Great Moments in Bad Comics: The Great Diaper Alien Switcheroo!


Here is Tiger Boy's true Jupiterian form, as seen in Unearthly Spectaculars #1:

And here we see Tiger Boy's true Jupiterian form, as seen in Unearthly Spectaculars #2:

While Gil Kane can draw the hell out of some aliens, I kind of prefer the googly-eyed, diapered potbellies for sheer camp value. Either way, somebody dropped the ball, alien design wise. In fact, in that same (second) issue, the script couldn't even decide whether the Canfields were from Venus or Jupiter! Thank you, Unearthly Spectaculars editor of long ago, for failing to maintain visual continuity, or apparently, even consciousness, for an episodic run of a mere two issues, thus giving me something to complain about over forty years later!


Tuesday, September 14, 2010

And Then There Was Hank's "Doctor Pym" Phase.

Recently mentioning Henry "Hank" Pym’s short stint as the Wasp got me thinking about his many other costumed identities, particularly his short-lived time as Doctor Pym, Scientific Adventurer. Pym changed names and personae about as often as his wife changed costumes, and his switches from Ant-Man to Giant-Man to Yellowjacket and back again have been well-covered elsewhere, but I always kind of liked the underrated Doctor Pym identity, and thought it was too bad that more wasn't done with it, hence this "spotlight" on Pym's least appreciated alter-ego, I suppose.

Pym had joined the supporting cast of Steve Englehart’s West Coast Avengers, but was despondent over his many failures as husband and hero. He was depressed and near suicide, when he was stopped by Espirita, (a.k.a. the devoutly religious superheroine formerly-known-as-Firebird, and another West Coast hanger-on). Espirita convinced Hank that he had another path, and helped him realize that while he may not fit in with the heavy-hitters, he could still have a place among the Avengers. Pym changed his focus from changing his own size to shrinking and growing other things, adopting an arsenal of miniaturized tools, weapons, and gear for a variety of uses. He even created a quasi-sentient vehicle named ROVER to travel in, which was also reducible to pocket size.

Calling himself simply “Doctor Pym”, he adopted a plainclothes look consisting first of a trench coat, scarf, and hat. Later, a multi-pocketed jumpsuit replaced the coat, and he took his place among the West Coast Team as their resident scientist. Al Milgrom’s chunky, clunky artwork insured that neither costume looked especially sleek or appealing, but a good idea was there. Doctor Pym eventually got a story arc of his own, one which took him and the WCA to Russia to face some of Ant/Giant–Man’s oldest foes, including an army of Scarlet Beetles, in order to rescue his long lost first wife, Maria Trovaya. At the end of that story, Hank quit the team to work on her recovery from sinister brain experiments, but he returned to the Avengers after Maria turned out to possibly be not Maria but a spy named Olivia, but who knows with mutants involved, who in turn eventually became MODAM.

Unfortunately, after Englehart introduced Doctor Pym, nobody else seemed to know what to do with Him. He may as well have been tech staff in the Avengers, for all he did  under other writers, (usually sitting at a console) and he was quickly absorbed into the background before eventually, quietly, reverting to Giant-Man again. I always liked the idea behind “Doctor Pym”, given Hank’s persistent inferiority complex amongst other heroes, but obviously, few others did. I think it made a lot of sense for him to highlight his mind as his superpower over his brawn, and thought that in time he could have become something akin to Brainiac-5 for the Avengers. As I recall, Pym's adopted Wasp identity did incorporate some of the miniature tools and gadgetry of the Doctor Pym era, as well as the know-it-all aspect, but again, Wasp didn’t last long either.

So Pym reverts to Giant-Man again, and the circle of life goes on. See you back here in, oh let's say, early 2012, when it ought to be time for Hank to flip out and go Yellowjacket again!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

They Might Be Giant's Students

Of all the Heroic Age Avengers titles, I think I'm enjoying Avengers Academy the most. Classic Avengers are currently scattered amongst the rosters of the 78 or so monthly books, but Academy boasts a few hitters among its regular teaching staff. Teachers include the unpredictable Quicksilver, the sultry Tigra, troubled Speedball, and Henry Pym, the...winsome Wasp?!? Yes, among his many, many other names, costumes and identities, the Avengers founding father and resident mad genius recently took on his dead wife's name and mantle in a questionable act of tribute. The move, which lasted Pym's tenure as leader of the Mighty Avengers, was the first of many that had even the characters questioning his sanity, and ultimately rejecting his leadership. Now, with Avengers Academy #7, it looks like Pym will reassess the wisdom of that move, and  retake the Giant Man Name. Just in time to get a spiffy Mike McKone redesign!

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

The Unearthly, Spectacular World of Tiger Boy and Company

Presenting a "Classic" Again With the Comics post from 6/29/06:

UNEARTHLY SPECTACULARS #2 (Harvey Comics, 1966) is one of the crazy-ape bonkers-est comics I own, but I mean that in a good way. With the success of the BATMAN TV show, the rise of Marvel Comics, and a general superhero boom, Harvey and other niche publishers were eager to cash in on the trend. They hired Captain America co-creator Joe Simon to edit and produce the Harvey Giant Size Thrillers line, double-sized comics priced at a then-steep .25 cents, featuring such new super characters as JIGSAW, MAGICMASTER, MIRACLES, INC, JACK Q FROST, SPYMAN and more.

This wasn’t the first time a raft of forgettable, poorly conceived superheroes was pushed onto an already glutted marketplace, and it wasn’t the last. Predictably, the Harvey Giant Size Thrillers only lasted a few issues each.They actually had some good talent, but only sporadically. UNEARTHLY SPECTACULARS #2, for example, had Wally Wood, Gil Kane, and Mike Sekowsky. Whereas numbers 1 and 3? Well, few of the unidentified artists are…um…good. At all.

Anyway, US#2 had my absolute favorite of all these features: TIGER BOY.

And I’m reprinting it here for YOU.

Meet young Master Paul Canfield. Bon-vivant man about town, strutting his stuff in The World’s Ugliest Plaid Jacket! He’s minding his own business, hating all mankind, when he comes upon a couple of thugs doing donuts in front of the library while throwing money out the window and shooting at two airline pilots.

I know the first thing I’d do if I were in that situation: TURN INTO A TIGER.

By the way, he really hates us all. You can tell by the way he shrilly denounces the human race 267 times in this 5-page story.

In a split second (that takes up 10% of the story), Paul Canfield turns into TIGER BOY: The Boy Who Hates Us All!

In panel three, we get too close a look at TB’s bootay, and a thug threatens him with a taste of "good ol’ SPITTIN’ SPARKY"…let’s just move on, shall we?

Wait, what!?! He can turn into a robot too? The HELL? Tiger boy turns out to be full of surprises:

Next, Steelman turns into a stretchy guy named RUBBERMAN. Because, well, apparently a tiger-headed boy who turns into a robot wasn't convoluted enough.
Angrily denouncing the human race, this is where the Rubberman hits the road.

Finally,we see he transforms back into Paul Canfield where he runs into Barry Allen, who demands his jacket back.

“Hi mom! Hi da…AAAaaaaaaAAAAAHHHhhhhhhhHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!”
The Canfields are Kickin’ it Venutian Style, until Snotnose comes barging in and sucks all the fun outta the room, so they shift back to their human forms. Paul’s manic now, so he puts on a jolly gymnastics show to celebrate ruining their fun.

At this point, it becomes apparent that this story lacks focus. 



This story is exhausting. It's like they had 12 new books they wanted to start, but ended up combining them into.....one five-page feature. And they didn't cut anything.

It seems the family was exiled from Jupiter (Weren't they just in their Venutian forms?), then their spaceship crashed, and they lost their powers, so they were powerless to stop his sister when she wandered off and was “Found by somebody who has raised her as their own…”

(If by: “Found by somebody who has raised her as their own..” you mean: “Found by somebody who saw a GIANT F$#*ING BUG Skittering towards them and smashed it’s head in with a shovel...”)

I can honestly say that Tiger Boy is the VERY BEST plaid-jacket-wearing, humanity-hating, crime fighting, tiger-bodied, robotic, stretchable, alien-in disguise, explosive-sister-seeking, teenage hero of ALL TIME!

"The Boy Who Hates Us All"
Originally printed in Unearthly Spectaculars #2, Dec 1966
Art: Gil Kane

Thursday, September 02, 2010

What If Robert Crumb Took Over "CATHY"...?

ACK! Another era ends as the seemingly eternal newspaper strip Cathy ends it's 27-year run this October. I have to give Cathy Guisewite credit for keeping her slice of the unfunnies page for that long and for holding her own in a male dominated industry, but I'm bound to be badly dissapointed in any conclusion that doesn't involve a murder-suicide. And no newspaper comic strip is ever gonna end in murder-suicide. Maybe Funky Winkerbean.

But what if she didn't end it, and instead turned it over to another cartoonist? And, far unlikelier, what if Robert Crumb auditioned for -and got- the job?!?  Two misanthropic underground geniuses team up to answer the question no one was asking, and you'll see the answer, when you read "CAFFY!"

This post is Not For Kids and NSFW, as you'll see, after the cut: