Friday, February 26, 2010

Ten Years of Palindromic Doctor Strange Blogging

Congratulations go out to NEILALIEN: A Doctor Strange Fansite for ten tears of comic blogging excellence. His site was one of the models I looked to for inspiration when I started Again With the Comics, and was indeed the first comics-specific weblog extant. Hell, he was blogging before it was called blogging! Check out this post , where the "Ancient One" of comic bloggers talks about his Secret Origin, how he almost chose to blog about mummies, and about his longevity and goals. It's especially interesting to me, as I see we have many of the same feelings about how often to post, how much to "edit in public" and relative anonymity. Kudos, and here's to ten more years, Neil!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Coober Skeber Lends Marvel a Hand

Here's another rarity from the vaults, the rare and bizarre second issue of Highwater Books' independent comix anthology COOBER SKEBER. When Marvel Comics declared bankruptcy, in 1997, Coober Skeber came to the "rescue" with a "Marvel Benefit Issue", letting its stable of contributors run loose in the backwoods of the Marvel Universe with wanton disregard for trademark and copyright. Of course, Marvel responded with a Cease and Desist almost immediately, but the book was already out there. And guess who got one?
With nearly twenty stories in the digest sized book, ranging from professional-quality to nearly incomprehensible, Coober Skeber #2 is definitely a mixed bag. This is the book that originally contained James Kochalka's "Hulk Vs. Rain" that eventually appeared in an actual Hulk Annual. Here, Pete Cardin brings us an awesome yet bittersweet tale of Devil Dinosaur:

This one by someone named P. "Shmudge" Shaw features what is, without a doubt, the strangest interpretation of the Fantastic Four I have ever seen. Not that I don't' like it, mind you...

An uncredited creator Tom Devlin, the book's editor, brings us this angst-eriffic Guardians of the Galaxy feature, which I quite dig for the way the word balloons and captions almost crowd the characters off the page. Just like a '70's Marvel comic!

Finally enjoy a sampling of some of the other strips in this forbidden anthology, including what I have to say is, authorized or not, the Best Spider-Woman Page ever created (not that that's saying much):

Warlock page by Mat Brinkman
Doctor Strange page by (uncredited) Robert Boyd
Iron Man page by Mike Luce
Spider-Woman page by Magnus Johnstone

BONUS! Here's a link to Ron Regé Jr.'s Spider-Man contribution, posted at his blog

Friday, February 19, 2010

HULKS SMASH in Fall of the Hulks!

Well, I had to get a picture of the Ever-Lovin' blue-eyed Thing CLOBBERIN' Red Hulk in here somewhere, didn't I? Their battle turned out not to be a battle, but a distraction, as the Wizard stole Reed Richards from the Fantastic Four's headquarters. The Red Hulk was ostensibly working with Bruce Banner to save Richards, but his internal monologue reveals he's really following his own agenda.

I haven't said much about the Hulk books lately, but that doesn't mean I haven't been reading them. My son got ahold of one of those checklists, and he told me to make sure that we get ALL the chapters of "Fall of the Hulks", and how could I say no to a cute lil' guy like him? (He was quite angry at the Red Hulk for what he did to Miklho the Super-Ape though...!)

The story has turned out to be right up my alley anyway, packed with classic Marvel villains, and masterminded by none other than my man M.O.D.O.K. himself, so what's not to like?

The Leader, the Thinker, M.O.D.O.K., Red Ghost, the Wizard and other evil geniuses in the Marvel Universe have formed their own secret cabal over the years, the Intelligentsia, and have been planning a huge Hulk-related strike on the world while the rest of the superheroes were distracted. The group has been gathering knowledge and reviving each other from death for years, now they've created their "own' Hulk, in Red Hulk and their own Red She-Hulk. Red Hulk has turned on them and appears to be allied with Banner, but Red She-Hulk and Lyra, the She-Hulk daughter of Hulk and Thundra are still under their control.

The Intel have been gathering the eight smartest heroes in the Marvel universe (and Doctor Doom, who betrayed them) and are hooking them into the Liddleville technology to incapacitate them. Once they've "lobotomized" the Marvel Universe, all that stands in their way are the dumb superheroes, presumably.

That leaves a depowered Bruce Banner and the Red Hulk to stop the abductions. Only Red Hulk seems to be failing on purpose, and Banner is trying to work with a surly and unpredictable Skaar with mixed results. So far, The Intel have captured Reed Richards, Doctor Doom, Tchalla, and Hank Pym. The 'good guys' such as they are, are losing ground.

As if that's not enough, General Thunderbolt Ross was killed by the Red Hulk, Betty Ross is back from the dead, and so is Glenn Talbot, who my readers may recognize from my Red Hulk theory. Now Banner is losing focus, trying to get to Betty, and the Red Hulk's motivations remain a puzzle. What if Red Hulk is Talbot? What if Red She-Hulk is Betty?  Bruce just wants his wife back and to stop the villains. Now, Banner has called in a few friends to help him out, his own take on the Avengers:

So far, Fall of the Hulks has been a blast. Of course, the story never ends, and once the Hulks are done Falling, it looks like we'll get to World War Hulks. As long as they keep it entertaining, the boy and I will be along for the ride.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The Legend of Hate Face

In our recent Matter-Eater Lad coverage, Tenzil Kem made humorous reference to Hate Face of the planet Draxler. I hasten to add that yes, Hate Face was in actual Legion of Superheroes canon and was indeed one of their galaxy's most revered heroes, right up there with Braino of Mrynah (the noblest being in the universe) and Leeta 87 (who tragically died after slipping on a banyo fruit peel after a lifetime of heroism). His shrine in Shanghalla, the satellite cemetery for superheroes, is pictured above.

The face of a Devil
The Soul of an Angel
He rescued millions,
Yet none could bear
His revolting visage
Some say he died in battle
Others say it was his broken heart
That killed him!

This blog regrets any seeming disrespect to the fictional, future legacy of this brave hero.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Matter Eater Legends: Tenzil Kem Goes to Hell!

The last time we looked in on the forgotten adventures of Matter Eater Lad, Senator Tenzil (Matter-Eater Lad) Kem had successfully and zanily defended Brek (Polar Boy) Bannin from  trumped-up Earthgov charges and the two fled Earth before anyone could figure out how they'd been tricked:

Scene from LofSH #13

Legion of Super-Heroes (vol. 4) # 14 finds the two former Legionnaires and Calorie Queen in the Tartarus Sector, staying at the Ranchito Mobile Lodge, when two masked gunmen bearing the symbol of Evillo come to abduct them. If "Evillo" and "the Tartarus Sector" sound like bad news, then you may remember Evillo from Adventure Comics #350 and 351, where he led the Devil's Dozen (actually the devil's five, if you want to include Evillo himself) against the Legion of Super Heroes. When he became angry at Sugyn, one of his Dozen, he demonstrated his ability to send enemies to the Realm of Darkness:

Since this early defeat, Evillo has had a couple of teenage daughters who want to meet a real Legionnaire. Learning he has the famous Matter Eater Lad in his sector, Evillo knowingly risks U.P. sanctions to please his girls. The prince of Tartarus can't say no to his little girls. "Oh for the days when I could satisfy my daughters with an actor wearing a plastic duck head!"


Brek?!? Yes, the girls actually want to meet Polar Boy. This gives Tenzil time to wander around and look for trouble. He meets Saturn Queen in the garden, where he learns that she's just the latest of Evillo's many wives. All of whom end up meeting grisly fates. The Senator turns up the charm, and things look like they might get interesting, when suddenly, they hear a scream from Calorie Queen:

Well, as we saw earlier, it's never good when Evillo "gets horny". next thing he knows, our  pal Matter-Eater Lad is engulfed in brimstone and heat:



Tenzil then gets a tour of the Realm of Darkness, as jolly a place as you might expect from the colorful name:


But that's when he sees Erma, the gray haired crone coming off the stairs. Her face has been roasted off for defying the Shackles of Agony, and so he bides his time. His guide leads him on to his permanent work station, at the Bags of Eternity, a gigantic set of infernal bagpipes manned by rows and rows of the huffing, puffing damned. Tenzil is placed at his station, where he hears a familiar voice:

That's right, it's Sugyn, the Volstagg-esque windbag who Evillo banished so long ago! Er, in the future that is. Whoever designed the Shaclkles of Agony didn't figure on the mighty mastication of Matter-Eater Lad, who eats his way out and makes a desperate bid for freedom, with Sugyn in tow:


The clever gambit pays off as Kem and his husky companion are whisked back to reality and white page gutters:


While the dead rain down on Tartarus, Polar Boy decides to stay behind to train Evillo's daughters in the use of their inherited powers. Evillo tries to be menacing, but finds he has his hands full with the return of several undead wives. Tenzil finds that the government of Bismoll has used his brief death to declare his Senate seat vacant, replacing him with Calorie Queen. That's fine with Tenzil, who sets course to Winath join the rest of the Legion at the end of the story.

While Polar boy would leave the series for awhile, this issue led to Matter-Eater Lad returning to the Legion full-time. This issue was a riot, and was also drawn in its entirety by Keith Giffen, making it one of my favorite issues of this run.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Ed Brubaker? What a Lowlife.

I've been reading comics long enough to see many creators rise from obscurity to stardom. Well, comic book "stardom" anyway. Ed Brubaker is on a roll at Marvel these days for his writing on Captain America and for his upcoming work on a new title called Secret Avengers. But let me tell you, the guy used to be a complete Lowlife.
Back in the early 90's, Brubaker got his start writing and drawing his own independent comics, titled LOWLIFE, and printed by small publishers Caliber and Mu Press. As you can see, he could have just as easily made a stab at the art end of the business. His art and writing got stronger in later ventures, as he later briefly worked on a book called Detour, which showed an even stronger, more confident line.

Lowlife was a semi-autobiographical story focused on lead character Tommy and his aimless, slacker life. Tommy is a petty thief, a drug user, and a fairly bad friend, but the series shows him at least being somewhat aware of this and trying to improve. Stories about scoring dope, stealing from work, and bad times at the club are all related in a funny and  relatable way.  You can see how he uses those experiences in his crime comics to this day, and if he had a somewhat sordid past, at least he's used it to inform his writing. Even back then, I knew this guy wasn't gonna be a Lowlife for long.

Monday, February 08, 2010

Batman: The Brave and the Bold is the Latest Great Batman Cartoon

Watching Batman: The Brave and the Bold has become a weekly ritual for my son and I, and every episode, I'm surprised and thrilled by the appearance of some obscure old villain or a nod to some weird old Batman story. Ostensibly a team-up show, the writers manage to shoehorn in all kinds of fun elements into the most colorful, poppiest Batman show since that Adam West deal back in the '60's.

This is just the latest in a long string of excellent DC animated projects from Warner Bros. Animation, starting with Batman: The Animated Series and including Justice League Unlimited. What I've enjoyed about these projects, and especially about Brave and the Bold, is the way each show is allowed its own tone, design, and identity. The world of  Brave and the Bold is based on the Batman comics of the 1950's, specifically those drawn by artist Dick Sprang, and it serves as a great gateway into the overall DC universe as well.

As a leading advocate of lame-ass supervillains, I love that the show is packed with cameos by guys like Zebra Man, the Eraser, Killer Moth, Polka-Dot-Man, Planet Master, and a couple of guys even I don't recognize, like the camera guy and the propeller-head guy. But oh, I want to know them now.

Also included: Bat Mite! One especially great episode featured Batman trying to rid himself of the interdimensional pest as he was whisked through a surreal gallery of Sprang-styled villains and monsters:

But is all of this too silly, too demeaning to the image of Batman? As Bat-Mite himself said in "Legends of the Dark Mite!":
"Batman's rich history allows him to be interpreted in a multitude of ways. To be sure, this is a lighter incarnation, but it's certainly no less valid and true to the character's roots than the tortured avenger crying out for mommy and daddy."
Hey, if it's good enough for Bat-Mite, it's  good enough for me.


There's been a great array of guest stars too, with a focus on the obscure corners of the DCU, and so far, most of the characters are ones who haven't appeared in previous animated shows, like Plastic Man, both Blue Beetles, Guy Gardner, Firestorm, and many others.

The show also gives us plenty of something we don't see enough of in modern Batman comics: Bizarre transformations! Batman has been transformed into triplets, a gorilla, a plastic Batman, a Future Batman, a Green Lantern, a ghost, and the Justice Society of America even showed up in a recent episode, where age-altering antics gave us a geriatric Batman!

Upcoming episodes promise the Doom Patrol, the Rainbow Batman, and an all-Bob Khaniger episode, featuring the Creature Commandos and G.I. Robot. Coming next week we'll see an animated Batman of Zur En Arrh in, the "THE SUPER-BATMAN OF PLANET X!"

If you're not watching Batman:Brave and the Bold because it looks too kid-centric, don't be fooled. It is 100% kid-friendly, but there's a lot for fans, too. The Black Casebook has been opened...and it's animated!