Monday, June 30, 2008

In Memorium: Michael Turner

Comic book artist Michael Turner passed away on Friday, June 27, 2008 at the age of 37, after an extended battle with cancer. After being discovered by Marc Silvestri and recruited for Image Comics, Turner co-created the popular Witchblade character and also began work on his Fathom series (which he later carried over to his own company, Aspen MLT).

Turner made a name for himself in recent years with high profile cover work for both Dc Comics and Marvel Comics on such series as Superman/Batman, Identity Crisis, Justice League of America, Civil War, Fallen Son: The Death of Captain America and the upcoming X-Men #500.

Condolences go out to his family, friends, co-workers and fans.

Happy 70th Birthday, Superman!

Please join me in wishing SUPERMAN a happy 70th birthday! SUPERMAN first appeared in ACTION COMICS #1 (June of 1938). With great respect to the Man of Steel's creators (Messrs. Siegel and Shuster) I’m also gonna tip the old hat to the “BEST” Superman artist of all time, the late Curt Swan [who passed away in June 1996].

Up, up and away!

Slippery Slim in "Spring Fever" & "Law Laffs"

Karswell's extended weekend of crime horror tales finishes up today over at "The Horrors Of It All" blog with a bonus Monday offering, and here again is another couple of humorous takes on criminal behavior courtesy of THOIA from the September/October 1951 issue Crime Clinic #11. Enjoy!

Sunday, June 29, 2008

"Gang Dusters" (courtesy of THOIA)!

Here is a nice four page spoof from the 1953 issue of Crazy #1 and cartoonist Dave Berg to lighten the crime horror tales that my pal Karswell is running at his blog, "The Horrors Of It All", which you should be following daily. The Catacombs highly recommends visiting his site!

Saturday, June 28, 2008

"It's A Crime!" (courtesy of THOIA)

In conjunction with my pal Karswell's blog, "The Horrors Of It All", whose current weekend presentation has some serious crime horror tales, here are some funny filler pieces from Karswell's Kollection representing "the lighter side of crime" from the September/October 1951 issue Crime Clinic #11. I will be running some of THOIA's leftovers from time-to-time henceforth (thanks, Steve). Enjoy!

Friday, June 27, 2008

All-New, All-Different, X-Men X-tra: Wolverine

Here’s the last of the X-Men X-tra’s and talk about revolutionizing an industry ……

Wolverine was created by writer Len Wein and Marvel art director John Romita Sr., who originally designed the character, but he was first drawn for publication by artist Herb Trimpe in a cameo appearance on the last page of Incredible Hulk #180 (October 1974) and then his first "full" appearance in Incredible Hulk #181 (November 1974). X-Men writer Chris Claremont played a significant role in the character's subsequent development as did artist/writer John Byrne, who insisted on making the character older than the other X-Men.

As a mutant, Wolverine possesses keen, animal-like senses, enhanced physical capabilities, and a healing factor that allows him to recover from virtually any wound. This healing ability enabled the scientists of the Weapon X program to bond the near indestructible metal-alloy adamantium to his skeletal system. Due to his extensive worldwide travels, Wolverine is also a master of hand-to-hand combat and most martial arts.

Wolverine was recruited into the X-Men's "All New, All Different" roster in Giant-Size X-Men #1 (May 1975) by Professor Xavier to assist in the rescue of the original team, who were imprisoned by Krakoa, the Living Island (“Second Genesis”). The character quickly emerged as the clear favorite for fans of the increasingly popular X-Men franchise and his trend-setting willingness to use deadly force along with his brooding nature became standard characteristics for industry anti-heroes by the end of the 1980’s.

Wolverine (or Logan; as he was also known) was originally intended to simply be a mutated wolverine cub brought into existence by the High Evolutionary, but this idea was nixed. Another possible origin tied Wolverine’s parentage to the villain Sabretooth and also utilized the two characters mutant healing abilities to explain their extended natural age. Some elements of this theme were incorporated into a later ret-conned origin which revealed his true name to be James Howlett.

Wolverine has made such an incredible impact over the last three decades that he has become one of Marvel Comics flagship heroes and he currently serves as a member of the Avengers franchise, while also maintaining his marquee status as a leading X-Man.

"Gal" Friday! Melissa Archer

I'm satisfying a request by my youngest daughter to profile one of her favorite actresses from her favorite soap opera today. Melissa Archer joined the cast of "One Life To Live" in 2001, originally portraying "bad girl" Natalie. Over time her character was revealed to be related to the Buchanan family; she was even Jessica's half-fraternal, twin sister [don't ask].

The lovely Ms. Archer's character eventually emerged as a "good girl", she went on to become part of a very popular fan-couple with John McBain ( played by Michael Easton), although even that relationship has fallen by the wayside. "Natalie" is currently involved with a guy who had passed himself off as her own uncle [don't ask].

As for the Texas born Archer, who as a truly stunning redhead is more than deserving of a spot in the Catacombs, just don't tell my daughter how much I admire Melissa for her fabulous hourglass figure and spectacular rack. At some point everybody becomes a bit housebound, and at such times its nice to know that while the serial nature of the soap opera makes the acting seem quite "hammy", at least the scenery is worth checking out. Now , if only they would get Ms. Archer into a bathing suit (or less) occasionally.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Super Duck in "The Long Way Home"

This two-pager is from Super Duck #55 (Archie Comics;1954) courtesy of Karswell. Enjoy!

Profile Antics: Stephanie Gladden

Seeing Stephanie Gladden was one of the highlights for me during this past weekends 27th annual Heroes Convention in Charlotte, NC. I had seen her a couple of times before in Atlanta, but it had been a few years back. After graduating from the Atlanta College of Art, Stephanie immediately got her feet wet in the world of animation and soon began her prolific (but vastly under-rated) comics career which has seen her handling the likes of Tex Avery's Wolf & Red, Ren & Stimpy, Pepper Ann, Looney Tunes, The Flintstones, The Power Puff Girls and The Simpsons. And that's nothing to sneeze at!

She also created her own wonderful funny animal comic, Hopster's Tracks (which sadly only lasted for two issues from Bongo Comics), of which she is justifiably proud. Hopster's terrific cast (Melba, Alky, Jake and Terry, etc.) had alot of potential. Stephanie has an incredibly versatile art-style that hearkens back to the days of classic animation, yet at the same time adapts easily to more modern sensibilities. She does awesome sketches at her convention appearances and her rates are dirt cheap for the beautiful quality of the work. This lady is a class act. Stephanie agreed to answer a few post-con questions for me in a "de facto" interview via email (thanks, Stephanie!):


What's the best thing about working in comics (or animation) from your perspective?

Doing what I love and getting paid for it.

Do you feel that women are making greater headway into the field these days or are barriers still preventing a woman from breaking in?

Every year I see more women entering the comics business and fandom,which I view as good and healthy for comics in general. While I personally have had very few "glass ceiling" scenarios, I still hear some horror stories about women trying to succeed in comics and some of the sexist behavior they must endure from their male counterparts. Fortunately as time goes on, those stories become fewer. I really look forward to the day when I hear no horror stories at all.

What type of "tools" do you prefer to use in creating your artwork?

I pencil with a Staedtler mechanical pencil with non-photo blue leads.I ink my work with a Faber Castell brush pen and/or Pigma Micron pens. I tend to work on Strathmore acid-free bristol board, vellum finish (unless paper is supplied to me by my editor). And, like everyone else, I color in Photoshop.

Who do you consider as influences for your career?

My personal cartooning trinity is Chuck Jones, Charles Schulz, and Berkeley Breathed. I was influenced by these three for years. But as I entered high school and college, I found myself reading a lot of Mark Martin, Walt Kelly, Peter Bagge and Robert Crumb. In my 20s, I discovered the EC artists, particularly Wally Wood. Nowadays, I'm re-discovering Johnny Hart and Paul Coker, Jr.

Do you have any cool "war stories" to share?

Here's one my favorites and it sort of correlates with question #2:Shortly after completing some Ren & Stimpy test pages for Marvel Comics, I received a call that my letter of approval and page rate would come to me by mail. A few days later a letter arrived for "Stephen Gladden".Ignoring the mistake because it's happened to me before, I opened it,delighted to see a rather generous page rate (at the time). The next day, I received a call from some assistant editor, telling me to please disregard that letter; a letter of my REAL page rate would appear shortly. And indeed, a letter for "Stephanie Gladden" arrived. Imagine my shock upon reading the letter to discover my page rate cut by 40%!

After a few months of snarky letter writing on my part, Marvel finally upped my page rate (though I never quite made what "Stephen" would have)!

By the way, my guy buddies in the industry were REALLY mad about that!

What career goals or aspirations do you still have ahead of you or that have gone unfulfilled thus far?

I hope someday to make a decent living drawing my own comic creations.

What project has been the most fun for you so far?

Oh, there's been a few! By far, working on my own stuff ("Hopster'sTracks" and "Monster Paradise") gives me the most satisfaction. But I really enjoyed working on Peter Bagge's "Sweatshop" and Paul Dini's "Jingle Belle".

Are you a Georgia native or have you lived elsewhere?

I was born in Athens, GA, but raised in Hattiesburg, MS from the ages of two to seventeen. In 1987, I left Hattiesburg for art school in Atlanta, GA and have been living there ever since. I generally consider myself a Georgia native.

What’s your favorite non-comics thing to do?

Reading (when I have time), movies, lurking around antique shops looking for cool 50s furniture and tiki mugs, discussing comics, cartoons and pop culture while eating at diners and dives. And just walking around.

What food is your guilty pleasure?

Little Debbie snack cakes. Especially Swiss Cake Rolls.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Spider-Man 4 .... scheduled?

Neither Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst nor director Sam Raimi have yet committed themselves to this project, but Sony Pictures has given "Spider-Man 4" a tentative release date. According to the Los Angeles Times, producer Laura Ziskin has recently dished to theater owners from California and Nevada that a fourth installment of the franchise will hit theaters in May 2011.

The script isn't even finished, but it's no surprise that Sony has paid Marvel for contractual rights to keep the series going. The recent box-office take of "Iron Man" and "The Incredible Hulk" as well as anticipated high returns for "The Dark Knight" prove that moviegoers haven't tired of the superhero genre. Additionally, the new "Hulk" proved that audiences will accept a new actor in the leading role if it works. Considering that Sony almost ditched Maguire for Jake Gyllenhaal before "Spider-Man 2," the 32-year-old actor may want to keep in shape if he wants to cash another big, fat paycheck.

Marvel Studios has also been planning to release "The First Avenger: Captain America" on May 6, 2011. Which studio is most likely to seek a more suitable calendar date for its spandex debut?

All-New, All-Different, X-Men X-tra: Nightcrawler

Nightcrawler (Kurt Wagner) first debuted in Giant-Size X-Men #1 (May 1975). Created by writer Len Wein and artist Dave Cockrum (although Cockrum had originally designed Nightcrawler to be used in DC Comics' Legion of Super-Heroes series). A mutant of German extraction, Nightcrawler possesses superhuman agility and the ability to teleport. His physical mutations include blue skin, three-toed feet and three-fingered hands, yellow eyes, and a prehensile tail. In Nightcrawler's earliest comic book appearances he was depicted as being a happy-go-lucky practical joker and teaser, and a fan of swashbuckling fiction.

Nightcrawler was first seen being pursued by the villagers of Winzeldorf, Germany who had mistakenly assumed him to be a demon that was responsible for a series of local child killings. They were about to kill him when they were all psychically paralyzed by Professor Charles Xavier, who had come to recruit Wagner into the X-Men as part of an effort (“Second Genesis”) to rescue the original team from Krakoa the Living Island.

Nightcrawler consistently places near the top of fan-favorite X-Men character lists and his Catholic faith, while not emphasized as much in his earlier comic book appearances, has become in more recent depictions a prominent part of his characterization.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Super Duck in "3-D Jeebies!"

Today's scan comes courtesy of my pal, Karswell (with a nice tip o' the hat to, Pappy).

Between 1944 and 1959, Archie Comics published ninety-four issues of Super Duck, originally a parody of superheroes, but after the third issue the series became simply an anthropomorphic/funny animal humor book. Super Duck had appeared earlier than his own self-titled series, in the Jolly Jingles anthology (which had taken over the numbering of the even earlier, Jackpot Comics).

"3-D Jeebies" is from the 1954 issue of Super Duck #55 [Thanks, Steve]. I will also have a couple more Super Duck shorts to pass along in the days to come.


Monday, June 23, 2008

Egg Hunt: What Comics I Scored at the Heroes Convention

Here is a glimpse at the Marvel Comics back issues that I picked up in Charlotte, NC during the Heroes Convention, which sadly ended yesterday, to flesh out my current collection. In many cases I had purchased them directly off of the stands when I was younger, but then failed to hang onto them over the years.

Devil Dinosaur #9
(Dec. 1978), Iron Fist #9 (Oct. 1976), Logan's Run #1 (Jan. 1977), Marvel Comics Presents #3 .... starring Guardians of the Galaxy (Feb. 1976), Marvel Team-Up #35 .... Human Torch & Dr. Strange (July 1975), Master of Kung Fu #18 (June 1974), The Micronauts #1 (Jan. 1979), The New Mutants #1 (Mar. 1983), Red Sonja #9 (May 1978), Strange Tales #174 .... starring the Golem (June 1974), Tarzan #1 (June 1977), Thor #280 (Feb. 1979)

Some titles, like Devil Dinosaur or Micronauts, I had never purchased any copies of the series, and in the case of Strange Tales, I picked up a better graded copy than the one I owned. I did pick up a smattering of newer books which I needed, too.

All-New, All-Different, X-Men X-tra: Colossus

The Russian-born mutant, Colossus (Piotr Nikolaievitch Rasputin), who was created by writer Len Wein and artist Dave Cockrum, first appeared in Giant-Size X-Men #1 (May 1975). By far the physically strongest X-Man, Colossus Americanizes his name to “Peter Rasputin” in the U.S.

Piotr "Peter" Rasputin was born on a Soviet collective farm called the Ust-Ordynski Collective near Lake Baikal in Siberia. He lived there with his parents Alexandra & Nikolai, and his younger sister, Illyana. An older brother, Mikhail, had been a Russian cosmonaut and had apparently died in a rocket accident.
Peter's mutant powers manifested during his adolescence while he was saving his sister from a runaway tractor. Peter was content to simply use these powers to aid the other people of the collective; however he was recruited by Professor Charles Xavier for a new team of X-Men to rescue the original team, most of whom had been captured by the sentient mutant island Krakoa (“Second Genesis”).

As Colossus, he has the mutant ability to transform his body into “organic steel” granting him super-human strength, stamina and durability. When he transforms, he gains around a foot in height and his weight is at least doubled. While in his armored form, Colossus requires no food, water, or even oxygen to sustain himself.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Heroes Con: The Aftermath

The show is over!

Heroes Convention 2008 has come and gone. Again! Now, let the melancholy set in for another twelve months.

I had a great time, same as usual, yadda, yadda, yadda. Meeting Al Feldstein was a thrill, Frank Cho, Gary Friedrich & Ron Wilson, too. It was also terrific to catch up with old faves & friends like Budd Root (I've really gotta profile Cavewoman, soon), Nick Cardy, Marcus Hamilton, Jim Scancarelli, Jaime Hernandez, etc. Great talents and cool guys!

One aspect of the con that left me truly impressed me this year was the presence, contribution and talent of the female pros that were on hand. I left Charlotte with a new found respect for June Brigman (Brenda Starr, Power Pack), Colleen Doran (A Distant Soil), the vastly under-rated Stephanie Gladden (Hopster's Tracks, Tex Avery Comics, Simpsons Comics) and other ladies named Alisohn Sohn & Cat Staggs. I am planning on profiling several of them very soon.

I also picked up a few sketches and a few sought after back issues. Add in a weekend away from home with the guys (my brother and our good buddy, Burt), plenty of high calorie food and enough alcohol to choke a horse and it all equals a damn fine convention experience.

I will go into more detail over the next week. Right now I need rest.

Friday, June 20, 2008

At the con .....

I will give you guys the lowdown on the Heroes Convention beginning on Monday morning. Next week will bring the last three "All-New, All-Different, X-Men X-tras" profiles. After that I am going to do something similar with DC Comics New Teen Titans gang circa the 1980's Wolfman/Perez era.

With any luck, I will be lining up some exclusive interviews at the con for the Catacombs blog as well.

Today, I finally scored a Dick Giordano Batman sketch, as the show got underway in Charlotte, NC.

Lots more good stuff to go into later, so check back here on Monday and have a great weekend.

1970's "Heroes Convention Special" Flashback: E-Man

Joe Staton is one of the many fine guests who will be in attendance at the Heroes Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina beginning today and continuing throughout the weekend. Here is a look at one of the coolest heroes to appear in the disco decade of the 1970's, and despite his short-lived first series, this "guy" has popped up on the roster of several comics publisher over the years:
E-Man was created by writer Nicola Cuti and artist Joe Staton for Charlton Comics E-Man #1 in October 1973. The original series only lasted for ten issues, but the character has become a cult classic due to it's light-hearted humor, which is similar in style to the golden age Plastic Man.

E-Man is a sentient energy blob which was thrown off by a nova. Traveling throughout the galaxy "E-Man" learned how to duplicate the appearance of life, and about the concept of good and evil. Upon reaching Earth, he met exotic dancer/grad student Katrinka Colchnzski, who also billed herself as Nova Kane, and he physically transformed himself into a superhero called E-Man, with a requisite civilian identity that he dubbed "Alec Tronn". For an emblem he chose the famous mass-energy equivalence formula "E=mc2". His powers include firing energy blasts from his hands, changing his appearance, and transforming all or part of his body into anything he can envision; such as turning his feet into jet engines in order to fly.

Nova was eventually caught in a nuclear explosion and gained similar powers as E-Man to become his partner; although she would later lose her powers and return to being a normal human again. During their earliest adventures they adopted a pet koala named Teddy Q, whose intelligence grew to the point where he held a job waiting tables in a cafe.

"Gal" Friday! Sienna Miller

It's not really a stretch for me to like some hot British chick, I've profiled several and there's a list a mile long that I could cull British "Gal" Friday's from.

Sienna Miller is set to play the villainous Baroness in the upcoming G.I. Joe film and that's enough to earn her a spot in the Catacombs any day, but she wasn't who I had originally planned to highlight today. Then I visited Harry Knowles "Ain't It Cool News" website (as I regularly do) and there was an article about how Ms. Miller was set to be Maid Marian in Ridley Scott's Robin Hood picture, Nottingham. This picture of Ms. Miller accompanied that article and once I saw it I was pretty much frozen in place for a moment.

It's not that it was sensual, or erotic (yes it was, on both counts). It's not that Sienna doesn't look amazing in the image (yes, she does). No! What struck me about the photo is how much she reminded me of my wife in that pose. Jump back twenty years and that photo is the spitting image of my wife's figure. Exactly the same!

Mind you, I'm not bragging or anything, but reminiscing only. The thing is, Mrs. Catacombs may have put on a very few pounds as the years have advanced, but the similarities between the two women "physically" is really somewhat remarkable. So, let's hear it for the lovely Sienna Miller, who really just got my attention and also for, the little woman of the Catacombs.

They've both got the look!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

From the Dust Bin: Jetta of the 21st Century

Jetta Raye's life in the 21st century played out, for three Standard Comics issues (#5-7) of Jetta between late 1952 and mid-1953. The "Sweetheart of the 21st century" who roamed the halls of Neutron High School was created by the late Dan DeCarlo [who famously drew Betty & Veronica and the other Riverdale teens of Archie Comics for decades].

Jetta's "future" was the typical, highly-stylized one that was prominent in the 1950's. Clanky robots, flying cars, jetpacks, television phones, etc. were all the rage for Jetta and her pals.

Bill Morrison of Bongo Comics has also recently painted over an original DeCarlo Jetta cover for a reprint collection of the original stories.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

In Memorium "Classic Cutie": Cyd Charisse

With the Heroes Convention starting in about 48 hours, I had expected to post something "comics-oriented" today, but the Reaper has claimed another celebrity in the wake of Stan Winston's passing .... and this time a knockout beauty from the classic era of Hollywood song & dance films.

Cyd Charisse headlined many MGM musicals back in the day, starring alongside legendary hoofers Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly. The Band Wagon, The Harvey Girls, Silk Stockings, Singin' In the Rain, and the favorite of the Catacombs, the 1954 Scottish-themed fantasy, Brigadoon.
Fred Astaire once commented, "That Cyd! When you dance with her, you stay danced with."

Ms. Charisse was admitted to the hospital on Monday after suffering an apparent heart attack and passed away yesterday at the age of 86.

Condolences go out to her family, friends and generations of fans.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

In Memorium: Stan Winston

Stan Winston has passed away at age 62 after a seven-year battle with multiple myeloma.

1987: Oscar for Best Visual Effects: Aliens
2 Oscars - Best Visual Effects & Best Makeup: Terminator 2: Judgment Day
1994: Oscar for Best Visual Effects: Jurassic Park

Those four Academy Awards are just a few of the highlights of special effects make-up wizard Stan Winston's remarkable career. After struggling to find work as an actor, Winston set up his own effects studio and promptly won an Emmy Award for the 1972 TV movie, Gargoyles. He worked on a diverse range of projects from then and into the 1980's on such fare as The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman, the 1978 Star Wars Holiday Special, Heartbeeps, and Stan designed the "Mr. Roboto" mask for rock group, Styx.

Winston reached a new level of fame in 1984 when director James Cameron's The Terminator premiered. The movie was a surprise hit, and Winston's work bringing the metallic killing machine to life led to many new projects and additional collaborations with Cameron. In fact, Winston won his first Oscar for Best Visual Effects in 1986 on Cameron's next movie, Aliens.

His motion picture resume speaks for itself, and he is just as revered for his work, as he himself revered earlier special effects pioneers like Ray Harryhausen. Winston also translated his film efforts into a line of toys based on some of his own sci-fi & monster creations in recent years.

He will be missed and condolences go out to his family, friends and thousands of fans.

Monday, June 16, 2008

All-New, All-Different, X-Men X-tra: Storm

Storm (Ororo Munroe) was created by writer Len Wein and artist Dave Cockrum, and she first appeared in Giant-Size X-Men #1 (May 1975). Storm became the first African super-heroine and one of the most popular Marvel Comics characters in the world.

Storm was actually an amalgamation of several characters whom Cockrum had originally intended to use for the DC Comics title, Legion of Super-Heroes. In a 1999 interview, Cockrum stated that a proposed black female member of the Legion would have been called The Black Cat. According to him, she had Storm's costume but without the cape, and a cat-like haircut with tufts for ears. However, other feline cat characters like Tigra had already appeared at Marvel, so Cockrum redesigned his new character, giving her white hair and the cape, and translated powers intended for another new Legion supporting character to her, thus creating Storm. When colleagues remarked that Storm’s white hair made her look like a grandmother, and potentially unpopular, Cockrum just said: “Trust me.”

As a major part of the “Second Genesis” team who were recruited to battle against the living island Krakoa and to replace the first-generation X-Men of the 1960s, Storm has been a mainstay of the X-Men and risen to the trusted role of team leader occasionally. Her mutant powers include weather manipulation, flight, energy perception, ecological empathy, resistance to the effects of weather; such as extreme heat and cold, and she may have certain latent natural magic abilities.

Currently, Storm is the reigning queen of Wakanda by marriage to the Black Panther. Why Storm hasn't received her own ongoing self-titled series is anyone’s guess, but she is long overdue for one.

I personally believe that Storm would have made a better choice for the New Avengers line-up than Wolverine. But who listens to me?

Sunday, June 15, 2008

At the Movies: The Incredible Hulk

Rather than a review, I thought that I would just share my opinion of the latest Marvel Comics adaptation to hit the big screen.

The Incredible Hulk gets several things right that Ang Lee, bless his heart, just didn't manage to in his earlier effort. Bruce Banner as played by Edward Norton is actually present this time out. Norton inhabits the role of Banner in "marvelous" ways that Eric Bana simply wasn't capable of in Ang Lee's The Hulk. Gen. Thunderbolt Ross is also fully present in the form of William Hurt. He is just dynamite in the hard corps role of the General. I love Sam Elliot as an actor, and he was good in the first Hulk film, but Hurt assays the driven military man & slightly, conflicted father figure to a far greater degree than Elliot did. Thunderbolt Ross made the leap to film big-time.

It was also nice to see the various nods to the old Hulk television series in this movie, the cameos by both original players and the incorporation of the theme music were nice touches by director Louis Letterier. I like Liv Tyler and she was fine in the movie, but this change from Jennifer Connolly was the most jarring recast for me. I agree with criticisms of Connolly's performance in the Ang Lee Hulk, so I was okay with the change but it was still a bit odd to see Tyler's "Betty Ross" drop her new beau like a hot potato the very minute that she saw Banner for the first time in two years.

The Abomination vs. Hulk battle is everything that you've read about it and I give the CGI stuff high marks. Actor Tim Roth is a twisted-force-of-nature as both the human mercenary Emil Blonsky and as the gamma-powered, monstous Abomination. This Hulk is better for being more closely aligned with the comics and the set-up for another classic Hulk villain is pretty cool, too. And just wait until you hear, "HULK SMASH!" bellowed onscreen by the jade giant. Fanboy heaven.

Now about that guest star "cameo" of another recent invincible Marvel hero. It received strong applause from the audience and adds an air of anticipation for what Marvel Studios has planned over the next few years.

It's a great time for comics fans .... at the movies!

Friday, June 13, 2008

Season 4 Finale - Battlestar: Galactica ("Revelations")

Oh my frakkin' gods!

The Sci-Fi Channel has been streaming the entire season 4 finale since 9am this morning and will continue doing so until 4pm this afternoon. Since The Incredible Hulk opens in theaters today, I thought, "What the hell?", I'll catch 'em both this way.

This episode lives up to everything that has been said about it, much is "revealed" and the actors turn in some amazing performances.

Given that the corporate morons that run the parent company steadfastly intend to sit on the remaining ten final season episodes until some time next year, this mid-season finale is a true gem for BSG fans.

I'm not going into any spoilers here, but needless to say, Ron Moore and company truly pull off another incredibly, shocking cliffhanger of an ending.

It is visceral, compellingly touching and even brutal in its starkness. This episode will prey on your mind for months to come.

"Gal" Friday! Overloaded Harem dreams

I truly wish that I knew what this photo represented. I found this image somewhere and then immediately forgot the context in which it was taken. Needless to say, if I were to find myself stranded on "Lost" island, I would prefer that these young ladies were the only other survivors on the plane.
On "The Horror Of It All" blog [link available; below left] the other day, my pal Karswell posted an old Jack Cole golden age tale entitled "Orgy of Death" that didn't involve sex or even show any skin really. The "orgy" of the title was basically about human sacrifice in a lost society. I facetiously mentioned that I intended to exit the mortal plane in my very own orgy of death, and these are the fetching females who I was thinking about when I made that prediction.
And yes, I do mean all of them, and no, Viagra isn't necessary. Dream big or don't dream at all!
Trivia: Does anyone know who these ladies are? What they represent? Where they can be located?

Thursday, June 12, 2008

A Salute to Pixar Animation Studios

After earning eight Academy Awards and virtually conquering the world of CGI-animation with a stunning string of popular films in conjunction with the Walt Disney Company, Pixar is a name that most moviegoers are more than familiar with.

Toy Story, A Bug's Life, Toy Story 2, Monsters, Inc., Finding Nemo, The Incredibles, Cars, Ratatouille and the imminent release of their latest collaboration, Wall*E, have all scored big at the box office and these animated gems have not only showcased brilliant computer generated imagery, they've also been fronted by blockbuster celebrity voice talent.

Tom Hanks & Tim Allen (among others) in the Toy Story films, Kevin Spacey, John Goodman, Billy Crystal, Albert Brooks, Ellen DeGeneres, Geoffrey Rush, Craig T. Nelson [he voiced Mr. Incredible], Holly Hunter, Samuel L. Jackson, Owen Wilson, Paul Newman, Bonnie Hunt, Peter O'Toole & Sigourney Weaver have all lent their distinctive voices to various Disney/Pixar projects.

My only bone with the Pixies (my "pet" name for them) is that they've already done sequels for Toy Story (# 3 is due in theaters in June 2010) and a sequel to Cars is due in summer 2012, BUT they haven't so much as "rumored" a sequel to my favorite, The Incredibles, and that movie just screams sequel. Hey, they even set up a potential second film in the closing moments of that Oscar-winning superhero slug-fest.

C'mon, Pixies! Get The Incredibles 2 underway asap. Please!

A "Lost" page of Dave Cockrum's X-Men [courtesy of Alter Ego]

Here is something really neat, cool & groovy (not to mention "awesome").

The latest issue of TwoMorrows magazine, Alter Ego #78 has arrived at your local comics shop, and among other interesting features there to be found is this "lost" page of X-Men art by the late, great Dave Cockrum.

Apparently when plans for "Giant-Size X-Men #2" were originally scrapped in favor of continuing with new material in their own title (which had become a reprint-only series), the planned content was divided into issues #94 and #95 of the regular, bi-monthly X-Men series, and this excellent page simply got cut. Just look at those lush, full pencils and you too will salivate at the incredible talent that Cockrum brought to his 1970's efforts.

Now, if only the late Sam Grainger was still around to ink this bad boy. Sigh!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

From the Dust Bin: Charlie Chan #1

By the time that Prize Publications began their five issue run of Charlie Chan in June 1948, Sydney Toler was firmly established as the popular film character, having replaced Warner Oland onscreen a decade earlier.

Prize comics adaptation typically mimicked Toler in appearance, and after watching both men in action in early Chan roles last night on TCM, I've gotta say that I approve. I've probably seen more of Toler's Chan appearances than Oland's, but even though both men are appealing as the Chinese-American detective, Toler is my favorite!

The artwork on the first series was provided by DC's silver age great, Carmine Infantino, so I may have to see if I can find one of these gems at the upcoming Heroes Convention.

Charlie Chan also appeared in other comics adaptations: Charlton released four issues in 1955, DC released six issues of "The New Adventures of Charlie Chan" in 1958 and Dell published two issues in 1965. In the 1970's, there was also a brief Gold Key series adapting the Hanna-Barbera animated show, The Amazing Chan and the Chan Clan.

Convention Crunch Time

A sad fact of life for comic book geeks is the final run to the opening day of the show. During the two weeks leading up to queuing up in the long line to get in, the inevitable cancellations start occurring.

Heroes Convention begins in ten days and the list of pros who've already thrown in the towel [for various reasons] this year has grown to two dozen. A couple of big hits were just announced, Ed Brubaker (current writer of Captain America) won't be making his Heroes Con debut, but he's confirmed for next year and Michael Lark (of Daredevil) has also taken a pass. They join guys like Don Rosa, Tony Moore, Greg Rucka and Eric Powell who been to Charlotte before, but have had something come up that prevents their returning to us this year.

The only mitigating factor is that even with these unfortunate cancellations, that still leaves us with 300+ guests to party down with in the "Queen City of the Carolina's" starting next Friday - and that ain't bad!

You can search the web for to view the entire guest list and check out the cool "Indie Island" logo which I've included with today's rant.

While you're at it, please keep your fingers crossed that the last minute cancellations will minimize from this point on.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

TCM: Asian Images in Film

Tonight, Turner Classic Movies presents three Charlie Chan detective mysteries and then tosses in a Mr. Moto outing and two Mr. Wong adventures as part of their look at "Asian Images in Film" Festival this month.

First up at 8pm is Charlie Chan at the Circus with the late, great Swedish actor Warner Oland in his signature role as Chan with Keye Luke featured as Number One Son, Lee, then at 9:30 pm we are treated to Charlie Chan in Honolulu starring Sydney Toler in his first theatrical appearance as Chan following the sudden death of Oland in 1938, along with Victor Sen Yung as Number Two Son, Jimmy. After this we jump ahead a few years to 1945's The Scarlet Clue also starring Toler, but this time featuring Benson Fong as the Number Three Chan son, Tommy.

Hungarian Actor Peter Lorre stars in his 2nd outing as the Japanese secret agent in Thank You, Mr. Moto (1937) at midnight and then two different actors portray Mr. Wong. Boris Karloff appears as Mr. Wong in Mr. Wong in Chinatown (1939); one of his five Mr. Wong films at 2:30 am and then Chinese-American actor Keye Luke leaps from the role of Lee in the Charlie Chan films to the title role in the final Mr. Wong film, Phantom of Chinatown (1940) at 3:45 am.

If you're a fan of these great movies or if you can get past any latter-day, politically correct leanings you are in for a rare treat as these are really terrific and fun to watch.

Join Now! The Lightning Legion Needs You

Here is a recommendation for a website that I linked to from one of my forums yesterday. For everyone who likes old school comic book heroes, check out my links section and head on over to Tom Floyd's Captain Spectre and the Lightning Legion.

There are some extensive backlogged comic strips featuring the character and if you like what you see, Floyd's also offering some cool premiums for potential Capt. Spectre fans and the faux-style history that he has created for the character is alot of fun to see.

Monday, June 9, 2008

All-New, All-Different, X-Men X-tra: Cyclops

The first X-Man recruited by Charles Xavier and one of the original five X-Men, Cyclops has had a large presence in X-Men-related comics since their inception. As the field leader of the X-Men, Scott Summers was originally created by writer Stan Lee and artist/co-writer Jack Kirby, he first appeared in The X-Men #1 (September 1963).

Cyclops produces powerful "optic blasts" from his eyes, forcing him to wear specialized glasses at all times and a specialized visor in combat. He has always been shown to be not only Charles Xavier's most loyal student, but also the one who most believes in his dream of mutant and human equality.

When the X-Men were defeated by Krakoa the Living Island, Cyclops was the only member who was able to escape and return to Xavier. He then helped train a new group of X-Men ("Second Genesis"), which included Storm, Colossus, Nightcrawler and Wolverine to rescue the others. When the other original X-Men (Angel, Beast, Iceman, Jean Grey, Havok and Polaris) decided to leave in light of the arrival of the new X-Men, Cyclops opted to remain, feeling that he would never be able to lead a normal life because of the uncontrollable nature of his powers.

It was only after Jean Grey’s return to the team, and the events that led to her becoming Phoenix, and ultimately to her untimely “death” that Scott Summers actually left the X-Men (albeit temporarily).

Newsarama gets a goose egg

"Goose Egg" - a quantity of no importance.

Our pals over at Newsarama rolled out a new web page design last week and for me it's really taking some getting used to. I liked their old appearance and this newfangled style is too, world wide web for my tastes. I'm sure lots of folks will positively respond to this change, but being a traditionalist, I just don't like it.

Seeing as how they now cross promote their "Imaginova" family of sister websites, maybe the redesign was something imposed upon them by the parent company. Who knows?

Regardless of the reason, Newsarama gets a "goose egg" from the cranky curmudgeon lurking over here in the Catacombs.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Heroes Convention 2008 (June 20-22)

One of my favorite weekends of the year is rapidly approaching (only 10 business days away; Yay!).

Founded by Shelton Drum, the 27th Annual Heroes Convention returns to Charlotte, North Carolina from June 20 thru June 22. Widely hailed as a fan and family friendly event, the venerable show enjoys incredible loyalty among literally dozens of repeat visit comic industry professionals. With a guest list numbering in the hundreds, it is difficult to select highlights each year, but for anyone interested in having a great time at a comics-exclusive event, this year some of the luminaries include: Ed Brubaker, Nick Cardy, Sean Chen, Frank Cho, Darwyn Cooke, Dan Didio, Evan Dorkin, Steve Epting, Al Feldstein, Gary Friedrich, Dick Giordano, Stephanie Gladden, Marcus Hamilton, Irwin Hasen, Jaime Hernandez, Greg Horn, Adam Hughes, Robert Kirkman, Barry Kitson, Peter Laird, Erik Larsen, Heidi MacDonald, Bob McLeod, Brandon Peterson, Budd Root, Jim Scancarelli, Tom Scioli, Joe Staton, Herb Trimpe, Ethan Van Sciver, Matt Wagner, Mark Waid & John Workman.

And that's just the short list!

For me Heroes Con is an invigorating opportunity to catch up with old friends, meet some hot, new pros (and say hello "again" to some others) and to just thoroughly immerse myself in all things comics-oriented. I'm talking a fine weekend of total comic book saturation - - - and that ain't a bad thing. As a side note, the popularity of Heroes "Indie Island" guest area has grown to the level where they are producing a separate convention t-shirt in recognition of the many independent and small press folks who have increasingly flocked to Charlotte over the past handful of years to take advantage of this feature.

Everyone rush out and book a bus ride, an airplane ticket or simply call a cab and join us here in the South for a super-fun weekend. You WILL be glad that you did.

"Gal" Friday! Eliza Dushku

Joss Whedon, who previously cast Eliza Dushku as the alternate vampire-slayer Faith on his popular series, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, is returning to television screens this fall with a new show called Dollhouse.
In Dollhouse, Dushku plays a young woman named Echo, a member of a group of people known as "Dolls" who volunteered for the work in the Dollhouse. They give up five years of their lives, at the end of which they receive a large sum of money and no memory of anything they did for the Dollhouse. The Dolls have had their personalities wiped clean so they can be imprinted with any number of new persona's, including memory, muscle memory, skills, and language, for different assignments. They're then hired out for particular jobs, crimes, fantasies, and occasional good deeds. On missions, Dolls are monitored internally (and remotely) by Handlers. In between tasks, they are mind-wiped into a child-like state and live in a futuristic dormitory/laboratory, a hidden facility nicknamed "The Dollhouse". The story follows Echo, who begins, in her mind-wiped state, to become self-aware.