Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The Treadmill Days of Christmas, day 5

Day 5: Mad

I was too young to have seen any EC comics on the newsstands. By the time I came along, they were all gone: Mad was a magazine... and a series of paperback reprints you had to read sideways.

You kids don't know what we had to go through to be entertained.

If the "Plastic Man" parody had made the cover, I would have used that one. Because it didn't, here's the "Hah! Noon!" cover from Mad #9, Feb-Mar 1954, by the great Harvey Kurtzman. Mad's comic era was somewhat uneven, but when it was good, it was genius.

Fast-forward twelve years to #105, September 1966, and cover artist Norman Mingo. Al Feldstein managed to make lightning strike twice, creating a brand-new "usual gang of idiots" and setting a standard that would sustain Mad through almost 500 regular issues and countless specials.

Previously: Day 1, Day 2, Day 3 and Day 4.

Monday, December 29, 2008

The Treadmill Days of Christmas, day 4

Day 4: The Avengers

Like Spider-Man, the Avengers suffered from an embarrassment of so-so covers. There are only so many ways to depict a crowd scene, and I personally am sick of floating heads reacting in horror to a central scene, a recurring motif that haunts Avengers covers like a disease.

When I saw the cover of Avengers Annual #1 on the stands in 1967, I had no idea who the Avengers were. Well, I knew who John Steed and Emma Peel were, but this lot clearly wasn't them.

No, really. Throughout the early sixties, Marvel comics were handled by a distributor owned by DC. DC used this advantage to severely limit the number of comics Marvel could publish. Some of you kiddies may know this, intellectually, but in practice the newsstand advantage was even greater. Many outlets, including the ones in my hometown, didn't carry Marvel comics at all. This was the very first Avengers comic I'd ever seen.

It may be why I never really warmed to the monthly series: It set unrealistic expectations.

The experts at GCDB are divided over whether this cover was by Don Heck or John Buscema, though they agree John Romita touched it up.

For late-period, I'll go with The Mighty Avengers #2 by Frank Cho.

If there are any comics fans remaining who haven't experienced puberty, this cover (like yesterday's Neal Adams Superman cover) should push them through it.

Hard to believe that's Tony Stark, isn't it?

Previously: Day 1, Day 2, and Day 3.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

The Treadmill Days of Christmas, day 3

Day Three: Superman

This is clearly a Curt Swan cover for Action #232, September 1957. Try not to be too disappointed when you see the story itself and discover it is by Wayne Boring. Sadly, it is about a year too early to be included in the first Showcase Presents Superman collection, which I guess makes this "officially" a Golden Age story. I was so disappointed to see that charming image of Superman cooling lemonade with his super-breath on Superman in the Fifties yet not see this story contained therein.

This was, as they sometimes said, not a hoax, not a dream, not an imaginary story. But I don't suppose I'm spoiling anything to tell you that the boy is not, in fact, Superman's biological son, but an Earth boy who has accidentally acquired a full set of super-powers. Things like that happened in the Silver Age: That which does not kill us makes us stronger, or something like that.

This may have been the first time they played with the classic Super-color scheme, but not the last. You should have seen the yellow-and-green dog's breakfast Superman himself tried a couple of issues later, complete with communications helmet and wings on his boots.

Skip forward a decade and change to 1971 and Superman #243, cover by Neal Adams and Dick Giordano. I think this cover may actually have triggered puberty in a generation of boys. I was seventeen, and this may be my favorite Superman cover ever ever.

It's hard to be disappointed by an art job by Swan and Anderson, but the woman inside this comic suffered in comparison.

This story (by Cary Bates) immediately followed the "Sand Creature" arc that destroyed all kryptonite on earth and supposedly depowered Superman by about half. You couldn't tell it.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

The Treadmill Days of Christmas, day 2

Day Two: Spider-Man

I think H is right: There aren't a lot of really distinctive, iconic Spider-Man covers. Which is surprising: Given how flippin' many Spider-man covers there are, you'd think the odds would be on their side.

The first fifty issues have far more than their share of gotcha covers, even though some of them are cut-and-pasted from Ditko's interior pages. On this cover to Amazing Spider-Man #22, Ditko attempts Batman's menacing shadow, which shouldn't work and probably wouldn't have worked if not for the Spider-signal belt buckle. (does he still have that?) It turns an off-center pose where the hero of the book isn't even present into a striking, moody piece. There have been dozens of attempts to use the signal motif since, none as effectively as this.

Oh, and the interiors aren't bad either.

The requirement to select covers from distinctly different eras of the book forced me to choose only one Ditko cover -- and also eliminated the best of John Romita Sr's covers as well. I probably could have considered the Andru run a different era, but despite countless classic images for Wonder Woman, I have to say I never liked his Spider-Man.

And Todd McFarlane's work always looked too busy to me. Lookit me, I drew all these extraneous web lines, aren't you impressed by all the work I did here?

As long as I'm flashing forward, I'll go all the way to Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man #4, the end of "The Other" arc. Not having approved of the trials and reboot inflicted on the character throughout "Sins Past", "Civil War", "Back in Black" and "One More Day", I consider this gorgeous Weiringo portrait the end of Spider-Man's run. I prefer to remember Pete and MJ looking forward to the days they should have had, and it doesn't get any better than this.

The Treadmill Days of Christmas

Over at the Comic Treadmill, Mag and H are celebrating the Twelve Days of Christmas by each selecting their two favorite covers featuring a particular character. The series is such fun reading that I decided to play along over here. Well, that and not having anything else to talk about.

Day One: The Atom

I've never been a big fan of the Atom (get it? get it?), but he is a big (I kill me) part of the cover for one of my favorite silver-age Justice League of America stories, from #18. Our mite-sized heroes are attempting to get the Atom's attention before they shrink completely out of existence. This cover is by the masterful Murphy Anderson.

Of course, they do manage to do this, and he follows them under his own power to a microscopic world whose Protectors emit a radiation that is slowly killing their planet. But these android Protectors were created too well, and cannot surrender to their makers. They have summoned the Justice League so that they might defeat them and end the threat they pose.

Boy, that'd be a year's worth of story arc now. You young whippersnappers don't realize how good we had it way back then.

By the 80s, the Atom had been canceled a couple of times, and generally written off as an unworkable concept. Jan Strnad and Gil Kane got Jean (the bitch) engaged to another man, dumped Ray in an Amazonian forest, broke his size-controls, stuck him at six inches high, and let him stumble onto a lost six-inch-high civilization.

Sort of like if the Atom had been created by Edgar Rice Burroughs -- and I mean that as a compliment.

I never did get the logic of having him wear a loincloth over his tights, though.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Shirtless Saturday - Kendra Saunders and...

In this fantasy scene she's making the Bird with Two Backs with Carter Hall, looking surprisingly young for his age--but when she says his name out loud, we discover she's really in bed with Roy Harper (aka Red Arrow, previously Arsenal and Speedy).

So that even happens to superheroes.

[From JLA #27.]

Friday, December 12, 2008

Andy, Kate, Chuck and Zeke?

According to /film, M. Night Shyamalan has cast two of the four lead roles in his upcoming film The Last Airbender (previously titled "Avatar", changed to avoid confusion with James Cameron's upcoming film "Avatar" which has nothing to do with the popular animated series on Nickelodeon), and has chosen the actors he wants for the other two. (Release date July 2nd 2010.) Pictured: Nicola Peltz (Katara). Hey, this is my blog. You'd rather look at the kids in talks to play Sokka or the dark and brooding Zuko, go right ahead.

A whiter group of young, attractive people you will never see.

Not that this is necessarily wrong, but... I mean, even though the show is American-produced, it has a distinctly Asian flavor. And I understood the Four Kingdoms to be rough analogs of Chinese, Japanese, Manchurian and Inuit culture. The animated show is hip-deep in Asian voice talent.

This is not yet a bad omen; just a thing to make me go "Hmmm."

Batman and Wonder Pig

I used to think that toy companies went over the top when they created "special edition" toys for characters that only appeared once, or character variants that never appeared in the comics (I thought of that as an interesting cover story for "we got the costume wrong").

But this... this is adorable!

(Saw it at Great White Snark, available at Amazon.)

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

The Emperor Morrison

I'd like to have something meaningful to say about Batman #681, but then I'd also like to have something meaningful about which to say it.

And, as the cliche goes, I'd also like a pony.

Of course, I don't really want a pony. I never understood the attraction of ponies or horses. But I want lots of things that in a real, normal world I'm not going to get. Apparently, a comic book story that actually ends is now one of those things.

"Batman R.I.P." doesn't have a conclusion. Serialized life goes on.

I challenge anyone who liked this story to reread Batman #156, "Robin Dies at Dawn", and explain to me in what way this story improves upon it.

Everybody wants to have an artistically-worded review, but nobody wants to be the first to state the obvious fact. Okay. I'll throw myself on the grenade.

The emperor is naked.

This is a better Batman story:

LATER: Ah, I see. Didio says "Batman R.I.P." was always intended to conclude in Final Crisis #6. Well, that makes perfect sense.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The world-famous Elongated Man

The Comic Treadmill - Stretching Exercises
Normally a man with nerves of steel, Mag is totally grossed out by scenes wherein Elongated Man pops out his eyes.
As am I, my friend. As much as I love Ralph Dibny (I mean, isn't it obvious?), it's a long, long suspension of disbelief between the "super-India-rubber-man" he originally claimed to be and a guy who can stretch his hair and eyeballs.
In the Elongated Man solo series the criminals were, without exception, ridiculously stupid. The kind that in real life make for those great comic relief articles in the light-hearted look at the news sections of newspapers and Darwin Awards web sites. Good for a chuckle, but it doesn’t reflect well on the protagonist when all he faces are the low hanging fruit of the criminal world.
One must remember that the Elongated Man came to be in the year 1960, when there were less than a dozen super-heroes, and each of them tended to stay on his own "turf". It was a rare threat that drew Superman out of Metropolis or Batman out of Gotham City. You would sooner find either of them on some other planet than in Coast City or Midway City. Yet Ralph alone had no home base.

For this reason, he tended to run into criminals who had never encountered a super-hero before, and had certainly made no contingency plans in the event they did. They weren't stupid, at least not at first: In fact, I could make a case for their intelligence by pointing out that they were planning their activities for areas not served by resident super-heroes.

And it would have worked, too, if not for those nosy kids -- I mean, if not for that twitchy-nosed rubber man.

This also supported the plot device of Ralph being his own press agent, eager to spread the word throughout his travels that the World-Famous Elongated Man was in town.

Nonetheless, I shall be avidly following H's quest to tally every use of Elongated Man's namesake power. I'm all the more excited that next time, barring some minor miracle, he should reach the watershed event that gives this blog its name.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Jason who?

Hang on. This comic is twenty years old?

Holy stunt arc, Batman!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Whose Spirit?

When my dearest friend and I saw The Dark Knight a few weeks ago, we also saw a trailer for the upcoming Spirit movie. We saw:
  • Almost abstract visuals.
  • Breathtaking women (OK, they got that right)
  • Highly improbable women's names (absolutely true to the originals, yes, but my friend turned to me and said "They're all strippers, right?")
  • One lone spot of color, a red tie
There's no doubt that this movie is going to be visually stunning. However, it appears that it will also be, as billed, Frank Miller's The Spirit.

Fortunately, thanks to DC Comics' Archives program, Will Eisner's The Spirit can always be appreciated in its pretty much original form. (The original newspaper supplements had larger pages, and the reproduction suffers in places, but it'll do.)

Graeme McMillan at io9 has a similar "unrant" entitled Why Frank Miller's Spirit Can Only Fail.

Monday, September 22, 2008

The movie that ain't

"Hopes may fade, Wonders never cease."

You'd pay ten bucks to see this movie, wouldn't you?

Sadly, this is a fan-created poster. But it is spectacular, isn't it?

[Followed the image back to Michael May's Adventureblog, and the artist to his deviantART page, Josh MC.]

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Hey, kids! F*#king Comics!

I was going to say something about this week's All-Star Batman and Robin the Boy Wonder, but Greg Hatcher has already said it much better over at Comics Should Be Good.

(I love the earrings, Babs.)

I'm thinking DC could probably create a couple of imprints to help the readers understand what kind of comic we're getting. DC Quality for the mainstream DC universe; DC Sensation for the good-girl art line (you know, whatever Adam Hughes, Ed Benes or Terry Dodson are drawing this month); and DC Cavalcade for, you know, stuff like this. Although, how can there ever be anything else like this? (Under this nomenclature, the Johnny DC titles would be DC Adventure, a classic title it continually pains me to see go unused.)

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Shirtless Saturday - Kara Zor-El (2)

Power Girl's cleavage carrier almost qualifies as shirtless in itself. This spectatular Ordway image of two Power Girls forced me (forced me, I tell you) to examine the infamous Kryptonian Hooter Vent closely, because at first glance I thought we had a Knocker Knockout on our, er, hands.

The story that presents this incident could go either of two ways -- or, for that matter, both at once. It could be the long-overdue last time poor PG learns that Everything She Knows Is Wrong, culminating at last in a strong, clearly-defined character. Or it could be the DC equivalent of the Spider-Clone Saga.

[From Justice Society of America Annual #1.]

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Shirtless Sat-- er, Sunday - Rama Kushna

The Goddess of Life herself, benefactor of Boston Brand, was imprisoned in an amulet until freed by, of all people, a dwarfified Oliver Queen. In gratitude, she moons him, and all of us. [From Brave and the Bold #15.]

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Shirtless Saturday - Kara Zor-El

Today's shirtless superhero also marks a sad occasion. Settle down, there's no joke coming.

Michael Turner has died after a long battle with cancer. He was 37. [CBR]

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Shirtless Sat-- er, Sunday - Batgirl

Barbara Gordon as you've never seen her before. Well, yeah, I know there are about umpteen thousand images of varying quality on the web (mostly traced or photoshopped), but these are by Kevin McGuire and appear in an actual publication of DC Comics.

I mean, for an old fanboy like me, the spinner racks in Heaven must be full of comics like this.

(This image is the last page of last month's Batman Confidential #17. This month's #18 features another nine pages.)

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Devious Journal Entry

This may also be a shirtless entry, thanks to good ol' Charlie Manhattan there.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Devious Journal Entry

One thing we don't always consider is just how much the artist's style dictates the personality and story of the strip...

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Shirtless Saturday - [ID Withheld]

Sorry, revealing today's shirtless subject would constitute a spoiler for Countdown #3, but I have to say I can't remember the last time I was this eager for a throwdown.

Click for the real image, and if you're one of those who'd given up on Countdown... Aren't you sorry now?

Friday, March 28, 2008

Shirtless Saturday - Ranma & Ryoga

ranma-ryogaIf you already know the story of Ranma 1/2, you know that this scene is a crucial one in the long-term development of the character, and nekkidity is absolutely essential to the story. No, really.

If you don't know the story, well... Buckle in, this will take a sec. Ranma is a teenaged boy who sometimes turns into a girl. That's girl-type Ranma above left. (It's magic, something about falling into the cursed Pool of Drowned Girl.) Above right is Ryoga, Ranma's martial-arts rival, who was at the cursed springs at about the same time (tracking Ranma). Due to Ranma's rambunctious training exercises, Ryoga also fell into the cursed spring -- but in his case, the Pool of Drowned Piglet.

Anyway, the scene above is the critical moment in which Ranma learns that his fiancee's new pet piglet P-chan is actually his rival Ryoga -- and Ryoga learns that the idiot girl who caused him to fall into the spring is the same Ranma he was following all along. And he thought he hated Ranma before.

As any fan will confirm, I've left out a lot.

The first American publication of the manga was flopped horizontally, so that action flows from left to right to conform to left-to-right English. I've flopped it back and reversed the word balloons, so that the panel appears as originally drawn -- and more closely resembles the anime version of this same scene, as you can see.

Incidentally, there's absolutely no mention anywhere, in either medium, of the color of girl-Ranma's hair. No one ever acknowledges that it turns red. It probably wasn't supposed to: The animators did it to make her a more visually distinctive character.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Now hold on just a Gingold-guzzlin' minute here...

Batman and the Outsiders #4You mean to tell me that this couple -- these folks we've never seen before, but who know Alfred and where "the house" is, an who Batman would "know anywhere"...

You mean they really are...?Batman and the Outsiders #5
Well, I'll be superamalgamated.

No explanation, just "Yep, we sure are dead. We don't look like us, and we don't even look like we looked last issue, and we are dead as dead can be, but here we are. Mysterious, isn't it. But it's true, Batman says so, and he's never wrong, except about that whole Brother Eye thing. So, how you been?"

Somebody's nose should be twitching, all right.

Disclosure: I edited the second panel, borrowing dialogue from the panel just before it, because it seems that DC has forgotten how to do a Dramatic Reveal. Don't they know the characters only say their own names in conjunction with a full-face portrait? Isn't this cast of characters confusing enough without having characters that intentionally don't look the same from issue to issue?

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Shirtless Saturday - Buffy and Satsu

Of course, over at Dark Horse lovers do get nekkid.

That sound you hear is the thunder created by hundreds of thousands of fanfics spontaneously combusting, accompanied by the weeping of their authors. And as many more authors crying, "Yes!"

(From Buffy Season Eight #12.)

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Shirtless Saturday - Renee Montoya and friend

Yes, in the DC universe, only heterosexual lovers actually get naked with each other. Actually, I suppose if the ghost of Mort Weisinger had anything to do with it, nobody would get naked in the DC universe. I mean, even Superman wore jammies. Yes, with his uniform under them, of course, just in case.

What's that? Mort Who? Never mind. Old joke. I doubt that anything that happend in 52 would have happened if he were still around.

Anyway, here's Renee Montoya, barely recognizable from her origins in Batman: The Animated Series, cuddling with... with... Darn, did we ever find out who that is? She calls Renee by name several times when she starts shooting at their intruder (Vic Sage, aka The Question), but Renee never does call her name. Ah, well. Life's rough in the Old Supporting Characters' Home. We don't see her again, anyway.

Maybe she's Lucy Lane. That would explain a lot about Lucy's relationship with Jimmy Olsen.

(From 52 #2.)

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Dave Stevens

by Dave StevensJuly 29, 1955 - March 10, 2008

MORE: I won't try to keep up with the outpouring of grief and respect from the comics community, but I would be remiss not to link to Heidi MacDonald and Mark Evanier.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Shirtless Saturday - Princess Diana of Themyscira

Justice League New Frontier Special
Why is it that so many writers can spend so many years struggling with Wonder Woman's role in the DC comics "trinity", but Darwyn Cooke can nail it in 24 pages?

This isn't it, of course. This is just a thin excuse to have her remove her top.

Well, that's OK too.

[From Justice League New Frontier Special #1.]

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Shirtless Saturday - Giganta

Why, hello, Giganta, I didn't expect to see you in Ivy Town.

But then, how could I miss you, you're thirty feet tall. And fighting off an army of bug-things from atop the tallest building in town. (Which, this being Ivy Town, is only what, four stories?)

And naked. Yeah, that is hard to miss.

Say, lady, where's the local superhero? ...You swallowed him? Well, you know what they say, it's hard to keep a good man down.

(From All-New Atom #4.)

Friday, February 22, 2008

All is forgiven

Thank you for this panel, guys. I take back everything I said going into the Mary Marvel arc of Countdown.

There are still some unanswered questions, as in how long have the Old Gods been imprisoned in a StarGate (well, that's what it looked like to me) on Apokolips? But I'm willing to wait a little for the answer to that.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Shirtless Saturday - Kitty & Piotr

From the immortal Astonishing X-Men 12. Ah, Kitty, my girl, I hardly recognized you. I mean, when I first met you, you didn't even have an ass, and now look at you.

And you, Piotr... Well, with a name like "Colossus" I guess you don't think much of yourself, do you?

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Putting the War in Wardrobe

Okay, let's be honest here. How many of you were hoping Donna Troy would keep "this old thing" she took away from the Wonder Girl of Earth-51 in Countdown 15? I know I was.

On the other hand, I'm wondering in what condition she left Donna-51 when she took it. Neck broken? Burned to a crisp? Alive but unconscious and naked? I guess this is academic now, since Supersnot-Prime's little snit fit has completely destroyed U-51. But fandom is built on trivia such as this. (Hands up, everybody who thinks we've really seen the last of Supersnot-Prime. Anyone? Anyone?)

Of course, I was also hoping Donna might keep that breathtaking suit she was wearing in Wonder Woman v3#1.

I suppose you might get the idea I don't like the star-spangled black she's currently wearing. You'd be right. I like it as a motif, an accent, but not as the primary (or, really, only) design element.

LATER: Another thing that struck me during the brief conflict between Donna-1 and Donna-51: All things considered, which one is "Dark Donna"?

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Shirtless Saturday - Dick and Kory

Aah, you kids today, you don't know when you've got it good. These days, everybody this side of Mary Marvel is changing clothes on-panel. In my day, when we wanted to see superheroes with no shirts on, we had to buy Teen Titans and ogle big-haired Princess Koriand'r. Even though she managed to mention almost every issue that her people had no modesty taboos, we never actually saw anything. Damn that Comics Code.

Hey, you! Get off my lawn!

(Image and other implications found at What Were They Thinking?!)

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Shirtless Saturday - Hank & Jan

Say hello to Janet Van Dyne and Hank Pym in happier times. Just another couple in love that couldn't leave well enough alone.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Shirtless Saturday - Forager

Presenting the luckiest man on Earth-1, Jimmy Olsen, with his new friend, Forager. I'm not exactly sure what that is protecting Forager's modesty, there. Perhaps it's Wonder Twin Jan (or is it Zayna?) in an unbilled cameo.

Isn't it funny how Terrans wear more clothes than anyone else in the cosmos? Sometimes it seems that every even-numbered alien planet or dimension is peopled by unrealistically hot babes with no nudity taboos. Apparently even Apokolips is no exception. Does it make you wonder what's under Darkseid's armor?

And we haven't seen half of the DCU's 52 universes yet. Hmm. In a world where no one wears anything, do superheroes still wear spandex?

Thursday, January 10, 2008

No rest for the weary

Countdown to Final Crisis 17"Paging Booster Gold and 'Rip Hunter'... Cleanup on aisle 51... Cleanup on aisle 51..."

I realize there are supposed to be subtle (and sometimes not-so-subtle) differences between the 52 'verses, but I'm beginning to think that the Monitors are right. The fabric of space and time is less stable for being split in 52 than it would be if there were only one.

Have you noticed that the superheroes not originating on New Earth are a lot easier to kill than their 'analogs' used to be?

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Well, that was unexpected

Which Power Ring would come to you?

You have the ability to instill great love in others.Welcome to the Star Sapphire Corps. Your mission will be explained in detail following your teleportation to sector 1416 and training by the head of our corps, the Zamarons.
Take this quiz!

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I'm thinking the costume would make my butt look big. Do you have anything in a bowling shirt / bermuda shorts ensemble?