Tuesday, March 31, 2009

1970's Flashback: Richard Dragon, Kung Fu Fighter

Richard Dragon was originally created by coauthors Dennis O'Neil and Jim Berry in the novel Dragon's Fists (1974) under the shared pseudonym "Jim Dennis." O'Neill later adapted the character for DC Comics April/May 1975 debut, Richard Dragon, Kung Fu Fighter. Dragon was a young thief who, after receiving training in martial arts, decided to use his abilities for good. Along with Bronze Tiger and Lady Shiva he is considered one of the top three martial artists in the DC Universe.

As a sneak thief in Japan, young Richard Dragon broke into a dojo outside of Kyoto to steal a priceless jade Buddha. Before he could get away, Richard was caught and beaten by the dojo's lead student, Ben Turner. O-Sensei, the dojo's master, saw something worth nurturing in Richard, and for the next seven years taught Ben and Richard, side by side, giving them a mastery of the martial arts. Richard found inner peace, and only used his fighting skills when absolutely necessary. Once he felt there was nothing more that he could teach them, the O-Sensei left the two. Turner and Dragon were then recruited by Barney Ling, head of the law-keeping espionage agency known as G.O.O.D. (Global Organization of Organized Defense), to join the organization. Together Ben and Richard would defeat the corrupt businessman Guano Cravat, foiling his plans to instigate a war for his own benefit. Ben and Richard later founded a martial arts dojo in Manhattan, and Richard would go on to battle international threats such as Telegram Sam, the Preying Mantis, the League of Assassins, and eventually his former superior, Barney Ling.

Thirsty for revenge, Cravat would arrange for the murder of Carolyn Wu-San, one of O-Sensei's god-daughters. Aided by Barney Ling, Cravat tricked Carolyn's sister, Sandra Wu-San, into believing Richard Dragon was the murderer. Consumed with a need for revenge, Sandra trained to the peak of human capacity, mastering several martial arts in order to defeat Dragon. When the two fighting masters finally met in battle, however, Dragon was able to prove to Sandra that Cravat had deceived her. Without Dragon's death as a goal, Sandra no longer had a need for her martial arts mastery. Sensing she needed guidance, Dragon helped her to explore the spiritual side of martial arts. Ultimately deciding that she was Sandra no more she rechristened herself "Shiva". She fought crime with Dragon and Ben Turner until the three parted ways. Turner, who was brainwashed by the villainous Sensei of the League of Assassins, became the renegade Bronze Tiger. Richard Dragon decided to retire, devoting himself to teaching others. Lady Shiva became one of the world's greatest assassins. Richard Dragon’s many students include the Batman, Nightwing, Barbara "Oracle" Gordon, Green Arrow/Connor Hawke and the new Question/Renee Montoya.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Morrison Wants to Rip-Off Watchmen in 2010

It appears that Grant Morrison is working on a project involving the old Charlton Heroes for DC Comics. Based on the below comment fragment, fans of these classic characters are in for another round of pillaging. Sheesh! Can't they do something "better" with these guys? Half of them are "currently" dead or have had their identities morphed into more "politically correct" versions.

Morrison says: "There’s a Multiverse book that I’m working on. It will probably take forever because the book is quite difficult to write. I’ve been spending a lot of time on it. I’ve just been doing an Earth Four book, which is the Charlton characters but I’ve decided to write it like “Watchmen.” So it’s written backwards and sideways and filled with all kinds of symbolism and because of that it’s taking quite a long time to write. So there will be a Multiverse series coming out but that will be in 2010 or the middle of 2010."

Alan Moore should sue this guy! And that IS Watchmen illustrator Dave Gibbons artwork (above; left) on an older Superman project featuring the major Charlton gang.

"Gal" Friday! Megan Fox

Trailers for this summers Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen are already up and running and the sequel to director Michael Bay's hit "Transformers" appears to have some dynamite action sequences. Actress Megan Fox returns in the role of Mikaela Banes opposite Shia LeBeuf as Sam Witwicky. Now as cool as those action sequence glimpses are, the lecherous side of me simply can't wait to drool over the super-sexy Ms. Fox. Wow! What a babe.

Tattoo's and all, she is one of the hottest that Hollyweird has at the moment. I like the fact that she looks like she is ready to get down and dirty at the drop of a hat, and that puts her ounce-for-ounce at the top of the cheesecake food chain. Yummy!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Catacombs Commentary: The State of Marvel

Take a big step back away from the racks in your local comics shop and it's pretty easy to see that there is quite a bit of product available for purchase. Heft a copy of any monthly issue of Diamond Previews catalogue and you will wonder (or dare I say "Marvel" ) at the enormous amount of funny book and related-stuff that is offered for sale to the adoring masses, but read virtually any online message board or forum and there is bound to be at least some discussion about the dwindling readership of comic book purists.
All of this in a depressed economy, where disposable income for such purchases is truly at a premium (unless you are an executive at AIG - and then the sky is the limit)!
As a long-time reader of Marvel Comics, I've grown terribly weary of seeing how great of a cluster fuck the current editorial regime & management group can make out of the X-Men, Spider-Man, Fantastic Four and Avengers franchises. It has been a long time since I was comfortably able to buy any titles out of that entire publishing morass. I mean just where am I supposed to focus my attention between a dozen different monthly books all sporting "X-something" on the cover? Same question with Spider-Man and his extended family of titles, ditto for the Avengers. How many team books can Wolverine actually be a member of AT THE SAME TIME?
These days it's usually some other new title that the former "House of Ideas" produces that catches my eye, but whether or not they ultimately hold my attention depends upon the execution of the given title or creative team that's responsible. Take a look at these recent hits and misses and decide for yourself.
Agents of Atlas: Based on the earlier mini-series, I had high hopes for this book, but they completely lost me in the first two issues, by having flashback pages done by a different (and inferior) artist from the penciller that replaced Leonard Kirk (sniff!). It's not a good way to inaugurate a new series, that doesn't bring back the artist who originated the thing in the first place, and then includes a filler artist to boot.
All-New Savage She-Hulk: Before you apologists jump down my throat by arguing that I haven't even seen this one yet, please let me explain something. That chick on the cover looks EXACTLY like Thundra, a pretty cool character who was introduced in the 1970's Fantastic Four series. Coloring her green and calling her the "New She-Hulk" doesn't cut it with me. I'll take a pass on this one! Any old school editor would have likely killed this idea, or at least given it a decent try out within the pages of a regular series...first. Not launched it in its own series right out of the gate.
Guardians of the Galaxy: I really enjoyed this book, and then they had to go and tie it into Secret Invasion, which pretty much scrapped everything that was good about it. Plus, the entire creative team jumped ship to head up War of Kings [see below] , a mini-series which features the Guardians title as a tie-in. I tried to get on board with the new artist, but the book has sadly lost alot of quality that it showed in its earlier issues. I buy a book with the intention of sticking with it - regardless of creative team shuffles - but some consistency and integrity has to remain in order for me to invest myself in that way and Marvel didn't meet me even halfway with this book.
Marvel Zombies 4: "4"? They have got to be kidding here! This is the most overblown, over baked, overdone concept that Marvel fields at the moment. Not interested...at all.
The Twelve: I loved Babylon 5 on television, but JMS screwed everybody on this one. The next issue is nowhere to be seen, its not even on the schedule anymore and that arrogant jerk really should have the living shit beaten out of him for wasting our time and our dollars. Now, I am going to pause for a brief moment and say that everything isn't in the crapper at Marvel.

Captain America deserves every bit of praise that it has earned over the year since Steve Rogers fell and Bucky Barnes surprisingly stepped into the role. Black Panther, despite the pointless numbering restart, is worth taking a chance on. I picked up the latest issue and flipped through it. I may not know what happened to T'Challa, I may not really want a female version of the Panther, but the book looks interesting and I may start picking it up. And then there is War of Kings. The loss of the creative team from Guardians of the Galaxy still smarts, but Kings is the kind of comic that used to be published by Marvel all across the board. It is a breath of fresh air. Just don't expect me to pick up the tie-in books!

"Peril at Ploesti!" from Atomic War! #4 (Ace Comics; 1953)

During my complete posting of Ace Comics 1950's comic book series, Atomic War!; we've seen Cold War combat in the air, on the ground, in outer space and at sea, so it's with great pleasure that I close out the final week of "Atomic Month" in the Catacombs with a short & spiffy UNDER-sea tale from the final issue of this antiquated-but-interesting Commie-bashing series. With the exception of the previously mentioned, incomplete "Old-Timers Never Die" story from this very issue, that's pretty much it for this brief run, folks.

As a bonus today, I've included the cover for the fourth and last issue along with the cover of another related Ace series called World War III.


Wednesday, March 25, 2009

"Operation Satellite" from Atomic War! #4 (Ace Comics; 1953)

Talk about a suicide mission! "Operation Satellite" was originally published in the April 1953 of Atomic War! #3; the final issue of this Cold War series from Ace Comics.

Ace also published at least a single issue of another apocalyptic "atomic"series called World War III. I'm not sure if that book went beyond one issue or not, but I will include that cover (along with this issues front cover tomorrow).


Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Heroes (3/23/2009): "Cold Snap"

There be spoilers here!

Writer Bryan Fuller returned to NBC TV’s "Heroes" in a big way with last nights episode, Cold Snap. If nothing else, the heightened tension of the sequence where Angela Petrelli was imperiled, was a big step in the right direction for the struggling third year series. Several characters were thankfully absent, but those that were present had some nice moments. Hiro & Ando were once again in fine comic relief mode as they found themselves "rescuing" baby Matt Parkman, Jr., with the "added" benefit of having Hiro’s powers partially restored by the tot - who has an eclipse-induced ability of his own.

Rumors have abounded for weeks that a female cast member "might" be departing, so this weeks two casualties will leave viewers wondering which of the "unlucky" ladies aren’t going to be seen again. My guess is that poor Daphne is definitely a goner, but ice-woman Tracy managed to wink at H.R.G. despite having just been shattered by a bullet from the hunter, Danko. She just may rebound, though time will tell. I’ve been saying that the extended cast should be whittled down a bit, but don’t waste all of the cute chicks, guys. Nathan and Mohinder became villains, they really need to take the ultimate fall for their actions.

The identity of the mysterious "Rebel" was revealed and it was a nice welcome back for young Micah.

It HAS been cool seeing the show address fans concerns over how powerful Peter and Hiro were, and now with their currently diminished talents, this should allow for better story potential. Why not do the same with Sylar? Mrs. Parkman’s appearance was also welcome, but why did Hiro spirit away Ando & Matt Jr., but leave her hanging in the lurch?

I guess the show runners still have a few kinks left to work out, but at least this time I can say that I will be onboard next week.

"Arctic Assault" from Atomic War! #4 (Ace Comics; 1953)

Welcome to the final week of "Atomic Month" in the Catacombs. I will be presenting almost (?) the entire final issue of Ace Comics Atomic War! #4 between today and Thursday. There were four original short stories included in the issue, but one of the four is only partially complete, so I am not planning on running that one (sorry).

Thanks for stopping by over the last few weeks and please come again. Enjoy!

Monday, March 23, 2009

From the Dust Bin: Atoman & Atomic Thunderbolt (Spark Publ./Regor Co.; 1946)

Atoman was created by Jerry Robinson for Spark Publications in 1946. Barry Dale was an atomic scientist who claimed that his body was "geared" as a result of working on radium and uranium at the Atomic Institute, so that he gained super-human strength, flight, speed, invulnerability, "atomic vision" and the ability to melt metal with his hands. However, these "powers of the atom" didn't really make much of an impact with comics fans of the golden age. Atoman's self-titled series only lasted for two issues.


The Atomic Thunderbolt was another one-shot comic published in 1946 by the Regor Company. Professor Josiah Rhonne was working on a way to alter the atomic structure of people in order to make them immune to radiation from nuclear explosions. Requiring a volunteer for experimentation, Rhonne recruited William Burns (a.k.a. Willy the Wharf Rat), a shell-shocked, combat veteran who had suffered brain damage from a Nazi torpedo during the war. Sadly, the Professor inadvertently caused an unexpected explosion in his lab, which transformed Willy into the Atomic Thunderbolt, with the ability to fly and fire bolts of atomic energy.Given a second chance in his new persona, Willy became a crime-fighter.
Note: Artist James Ritchey is the illustrator of the Atomic Thunderbolt piece above (lower right). James has done some work for AC Comics.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Farewell to the Battlestar:Galactica

Let's hear three cheers for the Sci-Fi Channels Emmy, Hugo & Peabody Award winning "Battlestar: Galactica" which ended it's four season run on the network last night in top form. Good television series come and go, but the great ones are few and far between.

Battlestar: Galactic was a reboot of the late 1970's original series about the surviving remnants of a devastated human species fleeing across the vast reaches of space while being pursued by their own rebellious creations, the robotic Cylons who had virtually wiped them out in a nuclear holocaust.

A superior cast led by Edward James Olmos and Mary McDonnell treated viewers to a tour de force show among sci-fi programs. Recognized by many media critics as one of the "best drama shows" of all time, out of every genre, B:G kept the tension high, the surprises coming and despite the nature of the science vs. faith/hawk vs. dove paradigms of a people struggling for survival during war, while desperately holding onto their morals, ethics and tenets within the grey areas where such conceits become blurred, Galactica managed to close out it's run on a hopefully positive note. Most of the unanswered questions were addressed, but some of the shows inbuilt aspects weren't tidied up so neatly at the end.

Regardless of where you fall in the resulting debates, fans of this incredible TV series were truly rewarded from start to finish. I was left in tears as the final minutes of the final episode played out. Goodbye, Galactica. You will be missed (and remembered for long years to come)!

Friday, March 20, 2009

"Gal" Friday! Druuna

Italian comic book writer and illustrator Paolo Eleuteri Serpieri is noted for his works of highly detailed renderings of the human form, particularly erotic images of women. He is best known for his work on the erotic science fiction series, Druuna [1995: Harvey Award for Best American Edition of Foreign Material]. Serpieri himself appears in many of the stories as the character Doc.

Featured prominently in the French Metal Hurlant and the American Heavy Metal magazines. Druuna has starred in eight published volumes of the Morbus Gravis series between 1985 and 2003: Morbus Gravis, Morbus Gravis 2, Creatura, Carnivora, Mandragora, Aphrodisia, The Forgotten Planet and Clone.

Most of Druuna's adventures revolve around a post-apocalyptic future, and the plot is often a vehicle for varied scenes of soft-core or hard-core pornography & sexual imagery. Serpieri has styled Druuna to be strikingly beautiful, appearing to be of Mediterranean descent, with long black hair, tanned skin, and a body that has grown increasingly voluptuous over the course of the stories. In most cases, Druuna's role is that of a willing sexual object, submitting to sexual advances of all kinds with little or no complaint, though more than once she has been raped in the stories (she's not a completely helpless victim however; in the first volume she is seen kicking a would be rapist in the groin). She is usually depicted as sparsely clothed or nude.

Druuna is also featured in Serpieri's numerous sketchbooks, such as Obsession, Druuna X, Druuna X 2, Croquis, Serpieri Sketchbook, Serpieri Sketchbook 2 and The Sweet Smell of Woman. These books have been very successful, selling more than a million copies in twelve languages.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

"Slash by the Iron Greyhounds" from Atomic War! #3 (Ace Comics; 1953)

That's the third and final tale from the third issue of Atomic War! Please stop back by the Catacombs next week for the final "Atomic Month" issue of this Cold War, Commie-bashing Ace Comics series, starting on Tuesday. As a bonus today, the third issues cover is included.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

"Log of the Snorkel Wolf Pack" from Atomic War! #3 (Ace Comics; 1953)

The second tale from Atomic War! #3 treats us to a little undersea combat action and then tomorrow we close out week three of "Atomic month" in the Catacombs. Also, here is an advance heads up for this weeks "Gal" Friday feature, which will have full-blown nudity - with a twist. The selection is a popular European "gal" from a series of adult graphic novels. Unlike the occasional peek-a-boo photos of celebrity models and actresses that I've run, lines on paper - nude or not - hopefully won't offend too many casual visitors.

She also ties into the whole "atomic" theme in a strange sorta way! See ya' then.