Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Shonen Jump(ing off the deep end with Stan Lee)


I'm not a fan of manga. I like some of the anime stuff, but showing hentai imagery would be inappropriate to lots of folks,and its not like I see much of that anyway. Cutie Honey, anyone?

My brother began picking up Shonen Jump a year ago, looking for kicks that regular comics weren't giving him, and that's okay with me (even though I do tease him about it). Today he called to let me know that Stan Lee (yes; that guy) was launching a manga story called "Ultimo" [Quick, somebody warn Marvel that Mr. Stan Lee is liberating the name of an old Iron Man foe].

"Ultimo by Stan Lee and Hiroyuki Takei - September 2009 issue preview Announced with great fanfare at the New York Comic-Con in April, Chapter 0 of Ultimo will make its stateside debut in the September issue, complete with all the color pages that the Japanese readers of Jump SQ. got to enjoy. Two robots, one good and one evil are created by a Dr. Dunstan in feudal Japan -- only to awaken years later to wage battle over a modern Japanese city. "

Yeah! Like that's an original idea. Demonstrating once again, that minus a Kirby, Ditko or other available silver age collaborator, Stan can't really do much more than play spin the wheel. Hey, wasn't Marvel's villain, Ultimo a big robot, too?

Didn't everyone learn this lesson with his lackluster "Stan Lee Creates DC" stuff? Stripperella?

They must not be paying Stan enough to appear in all of those movie cameos. And I thought that was a sweet gig for the old guy.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Remember the "New" Teen Titans: Donna Troy

Donna Troy made her first appearance in The Brave and the Bold #60 (July 1965), joining with Robin, Kid flash and Aqualad to form the original Teen Titans. But then things get a little sketchy, you see, the relationship between this Wonder Girl and the previously seen younger version of Wonder Woman was attributed to a mistake, because the writer didn't know that "Wonder Girl" was merely a younger Diana (ala Superboy=Superman).

The mystery of Wonder Girl's origin wasn't revealed until four years after her introduction, when readers were told that she had been orphaned by a fire which had killed her parents. Saved by Wonder Woman, she had been taken to Paradise Island, where she was given Amazon powers by the mysterious Purple Ray. She later adopted the alias of Donna Troy, but beginning in the 1980's, her origin has grown increasingly complex, having spun off in more directions than a wayward kudzu plant.

There was the whole Titans of Myth thing, the post-Crisis magical duplicate known as Dark Angel thing, and now she's become a cosmic oddity who is a conglomeration of all the multiversal Donna's. Sheesh!

Plus, she's been known as Donna Troy, Wonder Girl, Troia, and she's been a Darkstar, and well, who the heck knows what?

So believe me when I tell you, that it is far better to remember her from her early days with the original Titans, and her awesome years under the aegis of Marv Wolfman and George Perez in New Teen Titans. Forget the rest of that pablum, no matter how many ways they spin her origin down the line, she'll always be Wonder Girl to me.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

A couple of cool San Diego Comic-Con announcements

There's lots of comics-related news pouring out of beleaguered San Diego, where the "biggest of the big" comic book conventions is currently underway, but here are a couple of announcements that have been made that already appeal to ye olde Catacombs host:

J. Michael Stracynzski is preparing to take over The Brave and The Bold series, where he has been given carte blanche to re-introduce the old Archie Comics Superheroes into the DC Universe, now that they've acquired the rights to these characters. Readers may remember DC's former Impact Comics versions of these characters, but the intention now is to feature the "classic" versions of the Shield, the Fly, the Black Hood, etc. I may like where this is going.

Marvel Comics is going to launch an ongoing Agents of Atlas series in early 2009, that reunites Gorilla-Man, the Human Robot, Venus, Namora, Jimmy Woo and Marvel Boy from the popular 2006 mini-series that used established 1950's-era Atlas [Marvel's precursor] Comics characters.

Mike Grell is going to bring back Travis Morgan (aka The Warlord) in new adventures that will channel the original version and dispense with the wretched updated versions. Yay!

Friday, July 25, 2008

"Whack's Museum" from Arrgh! #1 (Marvel Comics)

Bill Everett sure was great on those old Sub-Mariner tales. As you can see here ... huh .... What's that you say?

Oh! (Pardon me, my mistake.)

Today the Catacombs is proud to present a Bill Everett silver age classic story from the first issue of Marvel Comics short-lived series, ARRGH! (courtesy of my pal Karswell's "The Horrors Of It all" blog). Click on over there and check out another two devilish tales from the late Mr. Everett.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

"Gal" Friday! Sally Jupiter (by James Jean)

This ones a tad early, but:

The web says that Taiwanese-American artist James Jean grew up in New Jersey, but he currently resides in Los Angeles. He has worked on the DC Comics series Fables and also provided many covers for Green Arrow, Batgirl, Batman, Amazing Fantasy, The Umbrella Academy and Runaways.

I have a very nice Fantastic Four print by Jean that was a offered as an incentive at the Heroes Convention in Charlotte, NC a few years ago. James Jean has done an outstanding illustration of the Sally Jupiter character from the upcoming motion picture adaptation of Alan Moore & Dave Gibbons classic mid-1980's Watchmen series (also originally from DC comics).

For those of you who may not have read Watchmen, Sally was the 1940's costumed adventurer Silk Spectre, who was later the mother of Laurie Juspeczyk (Silk Spectre II). Jean's painted artwork of the first Silk Spectre really channels an old Vargas-style pin-up girl vibe, so this fabulous art earns a spot as my "Gal" Friday this week; and also because he has captured the actress who will portray Sally in the film (uber-sexy Carla Gugino) in a very fetching way.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Remember the "New" Teen Titans: Cyborg

For the second part of my “Remember the Titans” featurette, let’s take a look at Victor Stone who was created by writer Marv Wolfman and artist George PĂ©rez, and who made his first appearance as Cyborg in DC Comics Presents #26 (October 1980).

Victor Stone’s parents were scientists who had subjected their son to various intelligence enhancement techniques throughout his young life. Eventually, Victor grew to resent these treatments and he pursued athletics, which his parents disapproved of, and he then fell into lawlessness through an unfortunate acquaintance. Victor was also talked into participating in a street gang fight in which he was wounded, for the most part however, Victor still had a largely normal life under the circumstances, but he refused to follow his best friend's grandiose plans of racially-motivated terrorism.

One day while he was visiting his parents at S.T.A.R. Labs, an experiment in dimensional travel went horribly wrong when a massive gelatinous monster was released through a portal and then it killed Victor's mother. The creature also turned on Victor and severely mutilated him before his father managed to force the creature back into the portal.
To save his son, Victor's father replaced his damaged limbs with experimental prosthetics of his own design, but the equipment could not be worn inconspicuously, and Victor was horrified to see much of his body, including part of his face, replaced with sheer metallic limbs and implants.

Although Victor wanted to die at this shock, he eventually adjusted enough through his extensive physical therapy to control his implants with suitable skill. Upon release from medical care, his life was seriously inconvenienced with the fearful reactions of the public who saw his implants; even his girlfriend rejected him. Additionally, he was disqualified from participation in athletics not only for his implants but for his poor grades which were further exacerbated by his long convalescence. It was at this time that his old friend attempted to use Victor's inner turmoil to manipulate him into attempting a terrorist attack on the United Nations, Victor discovered a new purpose after he equipped his prosthetics with weapons attachments and stopped his friend in a pitched battle on top of United Nations Headquarters.

He joined the New Teen Titans, initially for the benefit of a support group of kindred spirits and outsiders and he has remained with that group ever since. Victor found other new friends who saw past his disfigurements to his own nobility, such as a group of children who were adjusting to their own prosthetics and idolized Victor with his fancy parts and exciting adventures as well as their beautiful teacher, Sarah Simms, who has often assisted him. Cyborg and Sarah have a deep relationship that is likened by some fans as Cyborg's one true love, although writer Marv Wolfman insists it is just a deep, caring friendship.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Live Long And Prosper!

I played around with the teaser image of Zachary Quinto as Spock from the latest issue of Entertainment Weekly, by flipping the half portion image of his face from the magazine, to complete a full on head shot. As expected, the actor who is best known as the villain Sylar from NBC TV's popular drama series, Heroes, really does channel the character made famous by Leonard Nimoy in the classic 1960's version of Star Trek.
Coming next year from J.J. Abrams, Star Trek is a re-magining of the familiar characters and concepts from Gene Roddenberry's sci-fi series. This photo earns points from me even though I remain a bit leery of what the final film has in store for us. I mean come on, Nimoy too has been cast in the dual role of Spock.
What's up with that?

Monday, July 21, 2008

In Memorium: Creig Flessel

I just found out about this today, but golden age comic book artist Creig Flessel passed away on July 17, 2008 at the age of 96. He is most closely associated with National (now DC) Comics original version of the Sandman, but Flessel also created the Shining Knight and worked on many other features, including a run on Superboy which lasted into the late 1950's.

Flessel then left comics and worked for many years in the advertising business, in addition to drawing a syndicated strip about a young minister, David Crane.

Condolences go out to his family, friends and fans.

Reviewing The Dark Knight ....

Actually, this is less a review than an affirmation that all of the positive word of mouth generated by "The Dark Knight" is right on the money. This is one of the best films that you will see this year. In the wake of some really good superhero movies that have already hit theaters in 2008 (Iron Man, Incredible Hulk), Christopher Nolan's epic Batman Begins sequel goes several notches further, setting the bar even higher than anyone probably thought possible.

Yes, it is that good! (Heath Ledger. Serves. Jack Nicholson.) And Ledger truly does deserve a posthumous Oscar nomination. If he doesn't score one, then we only have utterly stupid people in Hollywierd to blame.

I agree with my brother, in that I can't ever watch the earlier Keaton/Kilmer/Clooney versions of Batman anymore. There wouldn't be any point to it. Christian Bale IS Batman. And he appears to not be an egocentric actor to boot. I can't imagine any of the other Bat-performers not insisting that the final closing moments of the film not show their faces. The movie ends with an effective sequence in which the Dark Knight is on the run, his back to us the entire time. And it is perfectly appropriate for the story that was told. High Marks!

Minus Heath Ledgers participation in this film, everyone would have been saying the same thing about Aaron Eckhart, or Christian Bale, or Gary Oldman. And we must also acknowledge the incredible supporting performances of Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman and Maggie Gyllenhaal. Every single actor in this film brought their "A-game", and that in and of itself is one of the most awesome aspects of this stellar film. For two and a half hours you are simply riveted to the screen, not knowing what will happen next.

"Marvels vs Kingdom Come" to quote my brother yet again, Marvel Entertainment has made a couple of great comic book movies this year, but Warner Brothers/DC Comics has instead made one of the best motion pictures of all time. It really changes the nature of the game for every other comic book movie that follows in its wake.

[If Watchmen lives up to the trailer which ran in front of The Dark Knight, then DC will hit hard with the "ultimate" one-two punch].

Friday, July 18, 2008

"Crime Lab" Wanted #34 (Feb. 1951; Courtesy of THOIA)

"Crime Lab" (cont.)

Today's classic comics post is from the Feb 1951 issue of Wanted #34. It's a fun little 8-page Loot & Doc "Crime Lab" tale that my pal Karswell believes is illustrated by the great Gene Colan, who is currently suffering a health crisis (our thoughts go out to Gene). I'm not as convinced as Karswell about the uncredited artists identity, but maybe someone out there has a better idea. We are open to suggestions and please visit Karswell's THOIA blog today for an even darker classic crime/horror tale from Crime Mysteries (circa 1953).

Let's also give a shout out to the fine folks at The Hero Initiative, the first federally recognized not-for-profit organization dedicated to helping comic book creators, writers and artists in need. So many of these talented folks lack health insurance after decades spent entertaining all of us, but they often seem to have been dumped in the waste bin by the very publishers who've gleaned record profits over the years from their labors. Bravo to the Hero Initiative for stepping up in Mr. Colan's time of need.

"Gal" Friday! CSI's Marg Helgenberger

To coincide with today's crossover with Karswell's "The Horrors Of It All" blog, I selected a "Gal" Friday that would tie-in with our crime-theme.

Marg Helgenberger is one hot babe, and she's even more age appropriate for ye olde Catacombs host than last weeks rather youthful starlet. When you consider this weeks crummy news that her CSI (Crime Scene Investigation) co-star, William Peterson is finally bowing out of the series during the upcoming 9th season, then lovely Marg is suddenly the top remaining cast member. They couldn't do better than highlight her fine acting contributions to the show, even with the likely addition of another as-yet-undetermined-marquee replacement for Peterson's "Gil Grissom" character.

Marg also has some series genre chops that makes her selection today long overdue for the Catacombs "Gal" Friday spotlight and since CSI is a favorite of my older daughter, even doubly so. Ms. Helgenberger appeared in the sci-fi actioner, Species, and its first sequel. She also popped up in the TV adaptation of Stephen King's "The Tommyknockers" and the Emmy Award winning actress has been a featured player in many other popular films.

Did I mention that she has flashed a little "skin" in some of her filmed appearances. Oh, yeah!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

The End of Babylon 5?

Sad news if true, but here is a snippet from J.M. Straczynski's newsletter:

"B5:TLT was commissioned at a $2 million budget to, yet one more time,"test the waters" for B5. We did what we could with that, and that was that. As we did with Rangers, which also suffered from not having a lot of money because of concerns about "is there really a B5audience?" Which is, of course, a foolish question from a studio that has never really understood what it has in B5.

Of late, there have been more discussions from WB about doing more DVDs, again at a low cost, or a cable thing, again with minimal investment.

So for the last few months, I've been giving this whole subject a lot of quiet thought. And I've come to a conclusion.

B5 as a five year story stands beautifully on its own. If anything else is to be continued from that story, it should be something that adds to the legacy of B5, rather than subtracts from it.

As well intentioned as Rangers and TLT were, as enticing as it was to return to those familiar waters, in the end I think they did more to subtract from the legacy than add to it. I don't regret having made them, because I needed to go through that to get to the point where I am now psychologically, but from where I sit now, I wouldn't make them again.

So I've let everyone up here know that I'm not interested in doing anymore low-budget DVDs. I'm not interested in doing any low-budget cable things or small computer games. The only thing I would be interested in doing regarding Babylon 5 from this point on is a full-featured, big-budget feature film.

It's that or nothing.

And if it's nothing, I'm totally cool with that because the original story stands on its own just fine. I'm not lobbying for it, I'm not asking fans to write in about it (nor should you) because such campaigns never really have much impact...that's simply the position I've taken up here. Lord knows I don't lack for other things to do these days. I'm busier on more prestige projects with terrific people and great film-makers than at any other time in my career.

At the end of the day, for me, it's not just a matter of getting more B5. It's a matter of getting more "good" B5 that respects what came before it and doesn't have to compromise visually or in terms of action. The original show deserves better than that, the surviving cast members deserve better than that, and the fans who have supported it over the years definitely deserve better than that. A lot better.

So I've drawn that line in the sand, and I'm happy living on whichever side of that line the universe puts me. Just thought you should know,'cause it's your show too. JMS"

Bruce Boxleitner (President John Sheridan), Tracy Scoggins (Colonel Lochley) and Peter Woodward (Galen) were the only previous cast members to appear in 2007's Direct-To-DVD Babylon 5: The Lost Tales. Straczynski had indicated that future DVD releases would touch on the Telepath War and that Sheridan and Delenn's son David would be featured at some point. *Alas, Babylon, if only the studio heads could pull their collective heads out of their asses. *Guess the reference, please!

However, with JMS scoring big on other high profile Hollywood projects, this may just be his way to pressure these very same moguls into doing just that. Only time will tell.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

1970's Flashback: Marvel Two-In-One

Aping his wall-crawling contemporary, Spider-Man, the Fantastic Four's own Benjamin J. Grimm enjoyed a long run in his very own team-up title, Marvel Two-In-One, beginning in January 1974. The series lasted for 100 issues and ended in June 1983, but astute fans may recall that the Thing's team-up concept actually got an earlier try-out in the final two issues of Marvel Feature (1st series), pitting the erstwhile Thing against the Incredible Hulk in issue #11 and then pairing him up with the Invincible Iron Man in issue #12; both illustrated by Jim Starlin.

Additionally, Marvel Two-In-One fielded seven annuals during its run; Annual #2 featured the 2nd part of the "Death of Warlock" which had begun in that years (1977) Avengers Annual and which also included the Thing's fellow "Team-Up" star, Spider-Man. Marvel Two-In-One featured pairings with most of the major Marvel Heroes of the period, although the latter issues tend to include second or even third-tier guests, and the series also memorably teamed the Thing up with an other-dimensional version of himself on two separate occasions, issues #50 & 100 (the last issue).

Despite its extended run, Marvel Two-In-One was never as successful as its sister title, Marvel Team-Up, but after the series was cancelled the Thing eventually managed to earn his own self-titled series in the wake of the first Marvel Super Heroes Secret Wars crossover.

Thing illustration by Anthony Castrillo.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Remember the "New" Teen Titans: Changeling

This Catacombs featurette could almost be labeled a "1980's Flashback", but I'm not quite ready to cede over the 1970's stuff yet. There's still quite a bit left to play with in that old ballpark. Instead, I'll just be taking a fond look back at the popular characters from the 1980 revival of the classic Teen Titans by acclaimed creators Marv Wolfman and George Perez starting with Garfield Logan, who was originally created by Arnold Drake and Bob Brown and who made his first appearance as "Beast Boy" in Doom Patrol #99 (Nov. 1965).

As a young boy, he contracted the rare disease called sakutia, which could only be cured by extracting a serum from an even rarer green monkey. Unfortunately, the serum had the unintended side effect of permanently changing his hair & skin green, and additionally Gar (as he was often called) was suddenly able to physically transform himself into any animal shape that he chose. After his parents were killed in a boating accident, Logan briefly fell under the sway of two criminals who used his abilities in their crimes, and ultimately he was placed in the custody of Nicholas Galtry, who plotted to kill Garfield for his inheritance. The Doom Patrol prevented this from occurring and Gar was adopted by two of the teams members, Rita Farr & Steve Dayton. Following the heroic sacrifice made by the other members of the Doom Patrol (to save the lives of fourteen villagers) in issue #121 of their series, Beast Boy became the sole surviving member (or so he thought) of the group, a fact that haunted him for many years.

Gar Logan temporarily became part of Titans West, before he was eventually recruited by Raven to become one of the founding members of the New Teen Titans (Nov. 1980). Gar adopted the codename of Changeling at this time, and he soon became very close friends with fellow member, Cyborg.

Changeling uses his strong sense of humor to disguise the pain of the many losses that he has experienced in his life, but this quirk was particularly compounded when Changeling fell deeply in love with a late-recruited New Titans member, Terra. In actuality, Tara Markov had actually infiltrated the team under the auspices of the villain, Deathstroke the Terminator, in order to betray them. Her death during the Titans battle with the two foes, was heartrending for the young hero.

Changeling's ability to morph into any animal that he has personally seen or viewed in an illustration takes only a second, and he is capable of rapidly changing form with little or no effort expended. His powers enable him to completely alter his body mass, including the shapes of animals far larger and heavier than himself (such as an elephant, or a hippopotamus), or smaller animals (such as mice and insects). His powers also enable him to radically alter his bodily structure and take on the forms of animals without limbs, such as snakes. While maintaining any animal-form, Changeling gains all of the physical abilities and characteristics of the animal. Also while in animal form, he retains his human intellect, memories, and the ability to speak. No matter what form he takes, his skin, hair, and eyes constantly remain green, making most of his animal forms easy to distinguish from real animals of that species.

Monday, July 14, 2008

1970's Flashback: Jungle Action starring The Black Panther

After reprinting several issues of 1950's Atlas Comics featuring white jungle lords wearing loin cloths, Marvel Comics converted their second series of Jungle Action into an ongoing feature spotlighting actual African hero & former Avenger, The Black Panther, beginning in issue #5 (which actually reprinted a Black Panther solo tale from Avengers #62).

However, starting in Jungle Action #6 and continuing until issue #18, writer Don McGregor and artists such as Rich Buckler, Gil Kane & Billy Graham; assisted on inks by Klaus Jansen & Bob McLeod, treated readers to a two-year, thirteen part epic called "Panther's Rage" which modern critics consider to be Marvel's first graphic novel.

T'Challa, as the Panther was also known, was the king of the hidden, technological nation of Wakanda, who struggled to suppress a revolution against him within his own tiny country. A second multi-part story arc which began in issue #19, pitted the Black Panther against the Ku Klux Klan, but it was considered controversial within the Marvel offices and the storyline was uncompleted when Jungle Action was cancelled with issue #24 (Nov. 1976).

That wasn't the end for the Black Panther though. Jack Kirby soon launched a Black Panther series which ran for fifteen issues beginning in January 1977, and the character has undergone a popular revival in recent years, with King T'Challa even taking the X-Men's Storm as his queen.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Movie Review: Hellboy II The Golden Army

Director Guillermo del Toro has earned high praise in some circles for his sequel to 2004's Hellboy (which itself is based on the Dark Horse comics series created by Mike Mignola) and the newly released Hellboy II: The Golden Army is not bad, as far as sequels go.

Still, after catching this film over the weekend, I'm not so sure that it is deserving of such accolades. I can definitely see why Sony opted not to pursue this project, H2:TGA is basically just more of the same .... with a little extra thrown in.

I really don't like how director del Toro lights the film. In Mignola's comics work, Hellboy moves through an eerie, atmospheric landscape fraught with nightmares, but del Toro has stripped that away in both of his Hellboy movies and simply tossed the BPRD (Bureau of Paranormal Research & Defense) gang into the full glare of the real world. The whole effect smacks entirely too much of the campy nature of the 1960's Batman television show. Don't get me wrong, Ron Perlman is fine as Hellboy, Doug Jones is great as Abe Sapien, Selma Blair is both wonderful and sexy as Liz Sherman, but for me the whole thing skews too closely to a Saturday morning kids cartoon show.

Two other aspects of the film led to my disillusion with del Toro's interpretation. The buddy-style humor virtually overwhelms the picture, as if the entire mess is so self aware of its own flaws that they've gotta nudge-nudge, wink-wink at the audience from start to finish in a futile attempt to disguise this conceit. There ARE some hilarious one-liners peppered throughout the movie, but c'mon, not for the whole damn thing guys.

Also, where is the tension over the events that are supposedly playing out. You would think that Hellboy & company view the Golden Army as just another hurdle to get past, and considering the limited screen time that the titular mcguffin is allowed, you would be right. Ron Perlman's character is also fatally imperiled en route to facing the Golden Army, but the emotion that should be present among the supporting players is quite muted during this sequence.

Much has been written about the Troll Market scenes, some have even compared this to the original Star Wars Cantina sequence, but I was not as enamored of this portion of the movie. There comes a point when you do a complete disconnect from the festivities, and for me this proved to to be the icing on the cake. Muppetry is a time-tested, fun thing to watch, but even the "real" Muppet's know that they are puppets.

I think that too many supporters of this movie are giving it a pass based on del Toro's earlier Oscar-winning motion picture effort "Pan's Labyrinth", but another of Guillermo's contemporaries, Alfonso Cuaron, took another fantasy-based property, with fanciful creatures and magical themes, 2004's Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban and treated its literary realm with much more regard. I don't doubt that del Toro likes Mignola's fictional environment, but he simply hasn't translated it to the big screen in any recognizable form. Cuaron's Potter film is considered by many to be among the best of that film series. At least he "got" the source material.

One last note about the extended cast members, Luke Goss and Anna Walton, as respectively, Prince Nuada and Princess Nuala, are incredible in their roles. Goss infuses Nuada, the heavy of the film, with true emotional depth, which despite setting his character in total opposition of Hellboy, is very believable given his motivation. Walton also brings considerable emotional charm to her role of Nuala. In fact, these two characters seem to have stepped out of an entirely different film, and that is the fault of del Toro, who didn't elevate the production to match what these fine actors were giving him. However, it was nice to see how they worked John Hurt's character back into the picture,despite his character having died in the earlier Hellboy movie. Ron Perlman's former cast mate on TV's Beauty and the Beast, Roy Dotrice has an effective cameo too. Seth MacFarlane voices a new character, Johann Krauss to terrific effect, but why they opted to continue Jeffrey Tambor's involvement is beyond me. Like the missing Agent Myers, he should have been dropped as well.

This movie may score at the box office, but I'll close by saying that Hellboy 2 is simply a good rental, so wait for the DVD.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Review: Guardians of the Galaxy #3 (Marvel Comics)

Well, the writing team of Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning (DnA) really seem to be throwing themselves into the new Guardians series. The third issue is literally chock-full of balls-to-the-walls action from start to finish. The entire effect is somewhat akin to sensory overload with the nascent Guardians team under attack by the powerful Cardinals from the Universal Church of Truth AND a monstrous menace discovered on the Dyson Sphere that they've all transported to while investigating one of those spacial anomalies that drives the new series premise.

Add in another surprise character who's visiting from the old Guardians of the Galaxy book back at the current teams base, Knowhere, and you've got quite a bit to take in this time around.

Even though this Marvel book has quickly won me over, I do have to point out a couple of things which are a bit off in DnA's interpretation of some characters. Mantis, is simply not written as the classic, Avengers character that I recall from the 1970's. I understand the concept of character development, but Mantis originally had specific speech patterns that were unique to her, and even though she eventually ascended to become the "Celestial Madonna", I doubt that she would "read" as an aloof caucasian chick despite the intervening years. And cutting into Gamora's style, she too has green skin now. What's up with that?

Also, Adam Warlock's powers are written as being mystical in nature, and that is a break with the characters established history. Maybe I've just been out of the loop for too long, but the original "Him" version of Warlock and the allegorical cosmic-Messiah of the Roy Thomas/Gil Kane/Jim Starlin heyday seems to be missing in action too. What's up with that?

As regular readers of this blog are well aware, I'm a big fan of 70's-era Marvel characters. I have profiled quite a few of this series extended cast members (Nova, Star-Lord, Warlock, the original Guardians) in my recurring "1970's Flashback's" feature, so I have a vested interest in seeing where DnA takes this book. I am liking what I see thus far, but I do hope that the books creators don't overwhelm us each issue with action that amounts to mass confusion, without providing us with a solid foundation to stick around for; while at the same time making a strong case for how these characters vary from what a few of us "older" readers may remember.

Next issue appears to be a tie-in to the "Secret Invasion" crossover. The Skrulls are part of the greater Marvel Universe where this series plays out, and could be expected to make an appearance, but I really hope that the writers resist the temptation to "reveal" one of the team members as a Skrull imposter. We are barely getting to know them at this point and (unless it's Mantis) I'd already hate to lose somebody. However, that being said, I DO hope that more classic Guardians continue to pop in from time to time along with these new guys.

"Gal" Friday! Hayden Panettiere

Okay, I admit that she's too young for me, but as Hayden ties into yesterdays post and also satisfies all of the hot-chick criteria that's been pre-selected by the ghouls in the Catacombs for inclusion in the "Gal" Friday feature, plus with Battlestar:Galactica and Lost on extended hiatus (and me really missing a good genre television fix and desperately looking forward to the 3rd season debut of Heroes) and my seasonal surge of testosterone keeping me in a tizzy for the most part this week, then she's my pick of the moment.


Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Requiem for J'Onn J'Onzz

The first superhero of the Silver Age is dead.

The Martian Manhunter was murdered in the first issue of Final Crisis #1, at the hands of Libra & the Human Flame, but it was writer Peter Tomasi who really polished off the mighty green member of the JLA. Tomasi who professes a love for the character in an interview posted over at Newsarama, goes on to add that despite J'Onn being one of the mainstays of the DC Universe with "a ton of stories to explore", he was singled out by Dan Didio and Eddie Berganza to put the big guy out to pasture. [Note: This is the same Dan DiDio who is barely holding onto his job at DC Comics in the wake of plunging sales].

Tomasi & friends believe that the Martian Manhunter is a character that's taken for granted, so maybe once the dust settles, it'll hit readers how much they "like" the character and wish he would have had some better opportunities to shine in the DCU.

[ASIDE: Is Tomasi talking about the Gumby-ed up version (Above; right) of the Martian Manhunter that sorta resembles Marvel Comics Impossible Man-on-steroids who's been parading around the DCU since their last year-long, weekly crossover series ended? One has to wonder. I don't think anybody "liked" that atrocity. It's no wonder they've offed that ridiculous travesty. Look at the collage above for a glimpse at the "real" J'Onn J'Onzz. You know, the one they swept underneath the carpet in "52".]

The rest of Tomasi's interview is the usual yadda, yadda, yadda, I don't wanna say too much, blah, blah, blah bullshit (which is really bad for ya') kinda stuff. So if spinning around in a vortex suits your lifestyle troll the web for Newsarama. I'm not gonna link you there, just in case some of your folks want to live a longer, happier life.

Let's all hope that Superman's graveside prayer for a "resurrection" of the Martian Manhunter proves to be prescient - - - as long as the hero that eventually returns is the original one who first launched the Silver Age at National Comics.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

From the Dust Bin: Miss Masque

Diana Adams was a young socialite who decided to fight crime and injustice. She adopted the secret identity of "Miss Masque", but without any actual super powers, she had to rely on her wits and a pair of revolvers. Miss Masque's original costume was a red short-skirted dress, with accompanying hat, gloves and cape; plus a small domino mask. She later changed her ensemble to shorten her sleeves and bare her midriff, along with a different style head cap.

Miss Masque made her first appearance in Exciting Comics #51 (Sept. 1946). She also popped up in companion titles Black Terror, Fighting Yank and America's Best Comics (including her final golden age appearance, America's Best Comics #31 (July 1949).

Despite having a much shorter run in Better/Standard/Nedor comics than her sister hero, The Woman In Red (now credited as the first costumed female super hero), Miss Masque is more widely remembered because The Woman In Red never appeared on any major covers [other than a small head shot on the first two issues of America's Best Comics]. Alex Schomburg & Frank Frazetta provided art duties on some of Miss Masque's memorable cover appearances and Ralph Mayo pencilled several of her interior splash pages.

Miss Masque has remained in the public eye over the years as part of Bill Black's AC Comics, Wildstorm/DC Comics "America's Best Comics" imprint [created by Alan Moore] and she is currently featured in several other comics publishers stable such as Dynamite Entertainment's Project: Superpowers.
Read some of her golden age adventures over at the Nedor-A-Day blog in my links section or click here and enjoy.

Monday, July 7, 2008

The Dark Knight buzz ....

"Set within a year after the events of Batman Begins, after stopping Ras Al Ghul's plan and the mysterious disappearance of Dr. Jonathan Crane (AKA Scarecrow), Batman raises the stakes in his war on crime. Aided by Lieutenant James Gordon and newly appointed District Attorney Harvey Dent, Batman sets out to dismantle the remaining criminal organizations that plague the city streets of Gotham. The partnership proves to be effective, but the trio faces a rising psychopathic criminal called The Joker, who has unleashed a wave of chaos that becomes deeply personal for "The Dark Knight", forcing him to confront everything that he believes."

I am so stoked for this sequel, and the positive reviews just continue to flow in. Also intriguing is the strong talk occurring across filmdom of a posthumous Oscar nomination for Heath Ledger's tour de force performance as the maniacal Joker. We only have to wait another twelve days to find out for ourselves.

"Low Down" (Courtesy of THOIA)

This Howard Nostrand written & illustrated parody on the Gary Cooper western film classic "High Noon" is from the December 1953 issue of of Harvey Comics, Black Cat Mystery #47. This fine tale is also provided courtesy of THOIA. Today Karswell is running a"casting call" contest for his daily horror tale. Go visit and give it a try!

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Don't forget your "Cube Lube"!

(Courtesy of THOIA)

My pal Karswell, sent me this 1980's ad for "Cube Lube" as a curiosity to pass along to all of you guys that wondered what ever could be done with your Rubik's Cube at those times when it was just too damn hard to adjust that plastic nightmare of a toy.

I've never successfully completed a cube and didn't even know that this product existed.

"The Horrors Of It All" is to blame for filling me in on this item. Sigh!

Friday, July 4, 2008

Riotmascope Presents "How To Marry A Billionaire!" (courtesy of THOIA)

Abdo-Slim ad from 1954

Here's a fun Al Hartley illustrated Atlas Comics five-page treat to augment today's "Gal" Friday post. It's from the August 1954 issue of RIOT #3. Also included is a very attractive Bikini Abdo-Slim ad from the back cover of the very same issue. The Hartley short and the ad are cast-offs, courtesy of my pal Karswell's "The Horrors Of It All" blog (now offering some spiffy-looking t-shirts).
Go check it out!

"Gal" Friday! Livin' la Vida Guerra

Vida Guerra was born in Havana, Cuba in 1974, but her family soon moved to the United States ending up in Perth Amboy, New Jersey. Growing up she participated in fashion shows and modeled swimwear, but her first national exposure came when she appeared in a lingerie spread for FHM magazine in December 2002.

To say that she has taken the pin-up world by storm would be an understatement, and Vida's photo shoots tended to reveal "just about" everything, without going the full Monty route until an incident involving personal cell phone screen captures leaked onto the Internet. Following that event, Ms. Guerra decided to accept an offer to pose for Playboy magazine so that the world could see what she really looked like in her birthday suit. The July 2006 issue of Hef's perennial favorite showed us all what the incredible Vida Guerra actually looked like naked.

I debated long and hard (yes; pun intended) about whether to show one of her nude shots, but a series of cold showers that resulted from this effort prevented me from being able to sit at the PC and do so. I settled on this lovely beach photo AND I am encouraging [NO; make that begging you guys to go check her out on the web]. By God, in all of his mercy, you will be glad that you did.

Vida is absolutely, smokin' hot (damn, another cold shower awaits).

Thursday, July 3, 2008

1970's Flashback: Plop!

DC Comics published 24 issues of "The New Magazine of Weird Humor!" beginning with Plop! #1 (Sept./Oct. 1973). Because of the series three biblically named hosts (Cain, Abel & Eve; who always tried to one-up each other), Plop! is primarily considered a humor/horror anthology-hybrid. The first nineteen covers were provided by Basil Wolverton and Wally Wood, so you can see how it might earn that attribution.

Mad magazines Sergio Aragones, provided much of the framing sequence artwork and many of the books peculiar humor stories during the run of the series which ended in 1976. Plop! won the 1973 Shazam Award for Best Humor Story for "The Gourmet" in its first issue and a second nomination for another tale from the debut issue. Writer Steve Skeates also won a Best Writer (Humor Division) for his work on the series.

I remember my brother having a few issues of this title when we were kids, but nothing much else. Still, if you need to satisfy a yearning for some macabre humor or just plain weirdness, a back issue of Plop! would fit the bill. I've included a page of Aragones art as an example of what you could find within its covers.