Thursday, July 28, 2016

In Memorium: Jack Davis

Legendary illustrator Jack Davis passed away yesterday in Georgia at the age of 91. His staggering volume of work for advertising, magazines, films, posters and album covers throughout his long life made him a popular cartoonist. Davis began his career at EC Comics doing horror and sci-fi stuff, but quickly became known for MAD magazine and the caricature art style that led to his wider fame. I met him at a National Cartoonist Society meeting in Asheville, NC a few years ago alonside his former MAD peers Duck Edwing and Nick Meglin. That was a terrific and truly once in a lifetime opportunity. He will be missed! The Catacombs extends its sincerest condolences to his family, friends and fans.

Friday, July 15, 2016

"Gal" Friday! Elsa Bloodstone

Elsa Bloodstone first appeared in Marvel's 2001 Bloodstone mini-series written by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning. She is the daughter of the previously established Marvel Universe character Ulysses Bloodstone (first appearance in Marvel Presents #1; Oct.1975). She currently lives in Bloodstone Manor with her mother and her ally the Frankenstein Monster. She has also befriended Charles Barnabus, a pureblood vampire lawyer and the executor of the Bloodstone estate.

Elsa has been utilized in various Marvel publishing efforts such as Nextwave, the Initiative, The Fearless Defenders and Marvel Now; but she has seemingly returned to her monster-hunting adventures vowing solemnly to never have children on her own, since she feels the responsibility of being a Bloodstone too heavy to be forced upon another living being.
Elsa has exhibited superhuman strength, speed, durability and endurance and a regenerative ability. She appears to possess all of the abilities that her father previously had. In addition she has demonstrated immunity to vampire bites (her blood will actually kill a vampire if consumed and the original Bloodgem fragment itself is anathema to vampires).

In the Bloodstone mini-series, Elsa claimed that she had inherited at least some of this power genetically, but it has been shown that her powers of strength and invulnerability were bestowed upon her by the Bloodgem fragment she wears on a choker. She has also been portrayed as an expert marksman. Among a number of artifacts gathered by her father she has used a lamp which contains a genie whom Ulysses had enslaved years ago. This device serves as an early warning system, lighting up during times of supernatural crisis, and transporting her to said event.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

This here is a run-out-the-clock situation.

Dinosaurs are long gone and collectively we understand that their exit was prompted by the (K–T) extinction, a mass extinction of some three-quarters of plant and animal species on Earth—including all non-avian dinosaurs—that occurred over a geologically short period of time approximately 66 million years ago.

I've come to the conclusion that a portion of fandom, my own demographic, has been naturally going the same route within the comic book industry since the early 1990's. I have had comics around throughout my entire life from before I could even read in fact. Now in my mid-50's I increasingly feel either antipathy or indifference towards the wares of DC Comics and Marvel Comics. Each of these "big two" publishing powerhouses has made every effort imaginable to maintain what we all know to be a shrinking readership, but you would never know it looking at what is sitting upon the shelves in most comics specialty shops. It is a mind-numbing experience pondering what to purchase out of the hundreds of issues comprising the last several months worth of every single series, plus the often dozen or so related titles within each "family" grouping and then to also have to determine how a half dozen active "versions" of each major character are indistinguishable in their own right? I can recall when the monthly letters page chatter used to jockey around the Earth 1 or 2 JLA/JSA crossovers; and that was only a handful of characters. Back in the mid 1980s DC decided that enough was enough, and we got Crisis on Infinite Earths. Twelve isues, a linewide crossover and then a major reboot that settled things once and for all. At least until the sales figures came in, and well you get the picture. Crisis has continued annually ever since. Oh sure, they call each seasons marketing "event" by a different name, but its really all the same conceit.

Diversity too seems to have unfortunately become little more than the kitschy glamor vibe of the moment, with one established character identity after another perpetually getting remade as an ethnic variation or a gender swap, or to a same-sex gay option supposedly because of audience demand? I don't think so. Each company already had plenty of non-caucasian characters and some homosexual heroes or supporting characters, and some were featured regularly. Moving those to the forefront and increasing their prominence in the wider fictional universe has occurred, but the replacments just keep right on coming unabated. Another ebb tide is the routinely manifested white, blonde female superhero who soon finds her love interest in this politically correct climate to be the nearest black male superhero. Time and again we've seen this and while this reflects reality, it has been done to death largely by caucasian creators who must believe that they alone are introducing this idea for the very first time? We seem to have entirely skipped past any healthy presentations of black male/black female relationships, much less actually doing the hard part and creating a brand spanking new intellectual property to stand upon its own merits. We've gone straight to the default polarizing choice over and again, and face it Tiger; that is exactly what sells headlines once the "haters" begin spouting off at the next introduction or romance along these lines. It would be foolish to believe that the publishers don't expect and/or prefer the vitriolic backlash of these gimmicks. Alas, even my head canon fanboy choice can no longer stand the bombardment. Cacaphony rules the day. I'm baling out while I can retain some degree of appreciation for nostalgia if nothing else.
I have tried my best to get on board, to accept and tolerate, but the endlessness of these things has worn me completely out. I do however want to end on a high note praising current books that I am VERY much still enjoying and which all take me to my inner happy place as a reader: Velvet (Image Comics) by Ed Brubaker, Steve Epting, Elizabeth Breitweiser; Black Panther (Marvel Comics) by Ta-Nehisi Coates, Brian Stelfreeze, Laura Martin; Future Quest (DC Comics) by Jeff Parker and Evan "Doc" Shaner and others. Creators whose work also thrills me include Fernando Pasarin, Jason Fabok, Jim Cheung, the Hernandez Brothers, Dan Clowes, Peter Bagge and I'm looking forward to Adam Hughes on Betty & Veronica and the Josie and the Pussycats relaunch later this years. Other than my own shit ton of back issues, this is gonna be about it for me.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Hot Mess: The Falcon

When it comes to the publishing endeavors of the current comic book industry, frequent reboots, relaunches and other spin the wheel antics are sadly now a very common thing, but they are actually little more than hot messes that can be appealing for a variety of reasons; most notably because they're generally unexpected, capricious, and/or agonizingly provocative in tone and content. Additionally, numerous contingent factors render these increasingly less rare and constantly repetitive cycles virtually inconsequential.

No one set of guidelines exists to determine what distinguishes each seasons "hot mess" from the previous effort that has now come to be considered the train wreck that it was. Fandom is mired in a case of “here we go again” as the same caustic social media frenzy kicks off another round of shout down the other side of the aisle. Regardless of the circumstances, you know it when you see it; because they are conspicuous and thus always heavily marketed slices of the moment.

The Falcon was one of my favorite bronze age heroes, although depending upon how you gauge when each comic book age began and ended, he probably counts as having squeeked in at the end of the silver age. Sam Wilson was an interesting character in his own right who quickly bonded with fans and moved to cover prominence headlining the series Captain America and The Falcon for many years. The two characters were partners and friends and remained that way until Steve Rogers succumbed to aberrant effects of his super-soldier formula aging out in short order. Sam was given the chance to succeed his pal in the patriotic role and name of CAPTAIN AMERICA. The thing is, this actually belittled the Falcon and weirdly, it is a half-assed attempt to seem diverse by pandering to a limited fan audience who just got familiar with The Falcon due to his inclusion in the blockbuster Captain America and Avengers film franchises. It makes fuck all sense, but it does give a couple of white creators a chance to seem with it. To which I say, "Sweet Christmas!"

Sam Wilson is The Falcon. He is not Captain America no matter how many issues that storyline ultimately runs. Strangely, having his costume altered as a tribute to his friend was a nice gesture, but robbing the character of his own unique identity that had beend established for decades stained the whole enterprise.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

"They've wrestled with reality for 11 years and seem to have finally won out over it.”

As I've grown into a stodgier older fan, I've tried to tamp down on visceral ranting about things that just aren't all that important in the grand scheme of things. Still, with respect to those who will ultimately be honored as nominees for the 2016 Harvey Awards; I simply can not fathom the thought process of their executive committee members. This award is named in honor of the late Harvey Kurtzman, one of the industry's most innovative talents, so I get that "innovation" is likely paramount in the selection process, but as the Harvey Awards recognize outstanding work in comics and sequential art; I frequently find myself at a loss over some top talents who never seem to make the cut. This is largely where I'm gonna leave off in specifying who - in my self importance - deserves to be on the list and/or those whose inclusion is beyond weird - again in my own estimation.

The Harvey Awards may be voted on exclusively by comic book creators who write, draw, ink, color, letter, design, edit, or are otherwise professionally involved in the creative aspect of comics, online or in print; but for years I've regularly not cared much for the majority of those singled out by the nominees. It is said that the Harvey Awards are the only industry awards both nominated and selected by the full body of comic book professionals. Thus voting is open to anyone professionally involved in a creative capacity within the industry.

This year's Baltimore Comic-Con will be held September 2-4, 2016, with the awards banquet being held on Saturday night. This will be the eleventh year that the Baltimore Con has hosted the Harvey Awards in Maryland.