Archive for the ‘General’ Category
Monday, August 25, 2014
I’ve already dealt with Smash, the British weekly comic that ran 257 issues between 1966 and 1971 focusing on an oddball hodgepodge mix of Britsih and American comics, but there’s several points of interest in this 1969 Annual edition of the title. Like, the way the cover doesn’t feature your standard symbolic, iconic image. Instead it’s first of a three page color story featuring the characters from the humor features (Grimly Feendish, Percy’s Pets, the Swots and the Blots, Bad Penny, The Man from B.U.N.G.L.E., The Nervs, Charlie’s Choice, Ronnie Rich) engaging in a game of footie. While these kinds of crossovers weren’t unknown they were definitely pretty rare.
First up there’s a nicely drawn outing of undoubtedly the dullest stretchable hero in comics, Rubber Man, formerly James Hollis whose “powers” was actually a cruse given him by an Indian fakir.
Next up the first of two stories featuring the Legend Testers, Rollo Stones and Danny Charters who worked for the Museum of Legend of Myth in the 40th Century and traveled in time to test artifacts to discover whether the legends around them were true. People who know more than me about British artists tell me the art here was done by the series regular artist Jordi Bernet. Like Rubber Mant hey make a cameo in Albion, the 2005 limited series published by DC.
This one off science fiction story Inferno appears to be a Spaish origin.
Lieutenant Lightning may very well be the goofiest British superhero of the 60′s, and that’s saying something.
Monday, August 18, 2014
This week’s installment may very well be considered a “cheat” on my designated mission statement (i.e. read all the comic books I’ve wanted to before I died), as well as an all-time low in my over reliance on “cut and paste” (for want of a better word) journalism (pick a subject, doing some internet search, get some images, cut and past other peoples posts to get the facts, and the spellings, right, rewrite, post). However, I am well and truly over fascinated with Hugo Hercules, William H.D. Koerner’s short-lived (it ran for less than 5 months, September 1902 to January 1903 in the Chicago Tribune), thought by many to be the first comic strip superhuman. Albeit one who didn’t wage an never ending battle against evil so much as wander around neither agency nor any visible means of support, looking for cool stuff to do. It was quite literally ahead of it’s time and, not being a success, Koerner left cartooning to become a painter. And in a lot of ways, its still ahead of it’s time; as much as the trope of the superhuman has been, often brutally, deconstructed, no one to my knowledge has created so casual a ‘crimefighter’; maybe it’s time for someone to dust Hugo off and see what they could do with him..
Monday, August 11, 2014
I wish I could explain how my brain works but frankly sometimes it’s workings are a mystery even to me. Perhaps it’s merely a symptom of my lifelong obsessive-compulsive nature but I tend to get “over fascinated” (at least that’s what I call it anyway) with certain things, take for example, Henry Brewster, a short-lived teen comic from 1966 drawn (and presumably written) by Golden Age artist Bob Powell, a.k.a. Stanley Robert Pawlowski. Powell is much better known for his work on Sheena, Queen of the Jungle, Mr. Mystic and the Mars Attack cards and while he was certainly an incredibly versatile artist you don’t ordinarily think of him doing either humor or teen comics. So seeing him do a teen comedy comic in a strangely loose, distinctly scratchy, big foot style would be odd enough, but Henry (no relation to Punky) Brewster is plenty oddball all on its own.
First off, the format; a 25 cent, bimonthly comic of entirely original material seems kind of ambitious for a neophyte publisher like Myron Frass’s M.F. Enterprises, whose only other title was the much maligned (for good reason) short-lived 1960′s version of Captain Marvel, the android version who could separate his body parts by yelling “Split!” . For another thing Henry Brewster wasn’t another pressing from the well worn Archie Comics template. The cast consisted of standard All-American boy Henry, the super strong and literally soft spoken (his dialogue was always lettered at roughly half the size of everyone else’s) Animal, professional weirdo Weenie and “the girls”, who were sadly mostly easily defined by their hair color, prematurely silver haired rich girl Melody and dark haired girl next door Debbie, Though Melody did develop some depth over the course of the series; in #1 she coldly rejects the hapless, love struck Weenie so often”Go away!” threatens to become her catch phrase, but by #6 she actually appears to be going out with him (or at least willing to be seen holding his, ew, hand). Which is odd seeing as how along with being a hardcore goofball who tends to dress like a twelve year old as drawn Weenie could easily be a background character in a Gilbert Herandez Love & Rockets story.
While the adults in Archie Comics were frequently spectacularly exasperated to the point of pulling their hair by the Riverdale Gangs antics in the grown ups in Henry Brewster seem to instinctively get Henry and company were wholesome, clean cut kids who just wanted to be helpful. But after more or less ignoring the 1960′s (except for a story in #1 where there’s a Beatles analog called “The Baldies” which leads to the gang shaving their heads, placing them several decades ahead of their time) this issue is hip deep in secret agents and supervillains. I must confess my over fascination with Henry Brewster began with this issue, specifically this cover. I mean, seriously, what the hell..? Specifically, what the hell is that thing standing behind Henry? Some kind of African cat god? An extraterrestrial bent on world domination? I had absolutely no clue and ached to know, though I knew in my heart that chances were I’d never get to read it. But then I didn’t reckon with the internet; almost all things are possible with the internet.
First off though the gang has a positively Scooby Dooesque outing in a haunted house, but the evil mastermind trying to frighten them isn’t trying to scare them off because he’s either looking for hidden treasure or running a counterfeiting ring out of the basement; he’s just poor schlub testing spook house amusements who, for some reason, decides to dress not in a creepy rubber mask but like a minor league pre-1965 Marvel villain.
And here the gang gets involved in 60′s style super spy stuff…
And finally they face an actual supervillain, well, kind of a supervillain; Tome B. Bukwurm.
He is…well, I don’t properly know what he’s supposed to be. He’s kind of dressed like a Marvel supervillain of the era (though I have questions about the fishnet body stocking he appears to be wearing), except for his face which is equal parts Albert Einstein and Jerry Lewis’ Professor Kelp from The Nutty Professor, but his theme crook schtick and similarly dressed henchmen is pure TV’s Batman, well a broad parody of a Batman villain anyway. But even given all of that my ‘question’ still stands….what the hell? Is he supposed to be a mole man or only dressed like a mole man? And this goes ditto for his henches; are they men dressed in mole men masks or do does the group represent a incursion from a race of subterranean creatures? Frankly, I was disappointed by the exaggerated goofiness of the character, which made me wish even harder than the creature on the cover actually appeared somewhere in the actual come. Which is only then that it finally occurred to me…
Oh my God, Bukwurm
is the creature on the cover! As the saying goes, if it had a snake it would have bit me. But this raises even more questions. Is it suppose to bej one of those ‘symbolic’ covers, did Powell forget what the character was originally supposed to look like, or did he change his mind about his appearance after the cover was drawn?
And finally, here’s a couple more stories without any fantastic elements.
Monday, July 7, 2014
I am not much one for Westerns; life in the Wild West always seemed like the worst possible combination of camping and gym, which seemed like a nightmarish hellscape to a fat kid like me. Oh, I’m not made of stone. Some of my favorite movies (Cat Balou, The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, etc.) and TV shows (Maverick, Wild, Wild West, etc.) are westerns. But when it comes to comics, I’m pretty much ‘meh’ on the genre. But in years past while idly leaving through the Overstreet Price Guide I would find myself staring wistfully at the beautifully painted covers of Kid Cowboy, a Ziff-Davis series that ran for ten issues between 1950 and 1952. But it wasn’t just the covers; I have to admit I was intrigued by both the kid’s snazzy cowboy outfit and the comic’s title; Kid Cowboy is without question a strong contender for “Most On The Nose” title for a comic. And it’s sub-title, “Boy Marvel of the Wild West!” was no slouch either. It was one of those comics I dreamily dreamed about one day reading, never really believing I’d ever get the chance.
The Kid dresses like Gene Autrey and shoots like The Lone Ranger (better, actually, well faster anyway; he specializes in speed as well as unerring accuracy) but has one of those “raised by Indians” origins that were fairly common back in the day, and the stories do a fairly good job of depicting Indian life (being a white guy I can not say for certain, but at the very least the stories go out of their way to show Indians weren’t backward savages). Along with his childhood chum Red Feather without benefit of either agency or visible means of support The Kid just went around helping people, the way cowboys did only in the pages of fiction. Standard stuff, yes, but once you get past the John Buscema (!) cover of #1 you really can’t complain about the contents by Ogden Whitney and Bob Brown.
Monday, May 26, 2014
On my short list of comic strips I wish King Features should start running in the Vintaage section of their website is Barney Baxter in the Air by (Not That) Frank Miller. It was a pretty prosaic airplane strip about a not particularly attractive plane crazy kid who was always having standard issue aviation adventures until like everybody else of the era he got swept up into WWII. It started in 1935 and lasted (surprisingly) until 1950, a fairly healthy lifespan for a strip. It’s perfectly understandable if you’ve never head of it because though fairly popular in its day it’s only appearances in other media consisted of a couple of comic books reprints and a Big Little Book.
The plots were basic, the “characters” nearly non-existent, but the art…oh, gosh, could this Frank Miller draw pretty. Airplanes, girls, animals, the guy was just gold.
About the most interesting thing about the strip was its comic grotesque sidekick Gopher Gus, who looked more than a little like Popeye crossed with chinless wonder Andy Gump. Gus was your standard colorful old prospector type who made an unlikely career switch by becoming a surprising competent pilot after meeting Barney. Though it’s clear from the second panel things after the end of the war science fiction elements creeped into the strip as Barney and Gus somehow made it to the moon.
And here’s the final Sunday from 1950, the art still looking darn good.
Monday, May 19, 2014
Starting in the late 50′s science fiction and fantasy elements started popping on the covers of various Archie comics but that’s usually where the fantastic elements stopped; inside the comics it was pretty much business as usual in Riverdale. But that started to change in the 60′s when the publisher, never afraid to latch onto a passing trend, started to introduce some of the outre genres that were all over the zeitgeist into their output; monsters, space, super spies and superheroes.
Everybody (and by “everybody” I of course mean certain old fanboys) remembers the Super Teens…
…and The Man From R.I.V.E.R.D.A.L.E.
…but not The Kreeps.
In 1965, the year this comic was published, The Addams Family and The Munsters were on TV so naturally Archie had to meet a family of monsters. This is a comic I’ve wanted to read ever since I saw the cover somewhere online, partially because it’s freaking cool, but also because it also always struck me that Archie missed out on an obvious opportunity when they didn’t have a teenage monster enroll in Riverdale High during the monster boom. I realize I’m standing on unsteady ground when I complain that a story (by person or persons unknown, according to the Grand Comic Book Database) about a family of monsters “doesn’t make sense”. But “Archie Meets The Kreeps”, as the GCBD have dubbed it, really doesn’t.
First I have to question the creation of the teen witch Wendy; magical girls were of all over the place in ’65 (Bewitched, I Dream of Jeanie) but Archie didn’t have to go even that far afield for “inspiration”. Their very own teenage with Sabrina had been making regular appearance in Archie’s Madhouse since #22 in October 1962, Plus there’s a “twist” on the final page that flat out doesn’t make sense; I like to delude myself that I’m an expert on 60′s pop culture but the “Jerry Tuna” gag flew directly over my head. The closest I can come up with is its some kind of play on the singer Jerry Vale — it took a helpful poster, Ed O’Toole. to explain to me it was a reference to the Starkist ”Charlie the Tuna” ads. And I’m old enough to remember them too.
And, finally, it doesn’t do a very good job of introducing the other members of the family; they don’t even bother giving Mr. and Mrs. Kreep given names. But it still seems kind of odd that the publisher just gave up on the concept after just one go, but this appears to be The Kreeps one and only appearance in Archie Comics; though of course five years later an entirely different “family” of monsters was spun-off of the animated Sabrina the Teenage Witch; Groovie Goolies,
Monday, May 12, 2014
As previously noted I don’t know a lot about British publisher DC Thomson, their comics or their characters. For instance, I barely even knew there had been one crimefighter named Red Star let alone two. The “Golden Age” version of the character was Red Star Roberts. He started life in prose stories in the weekly Wizard as a suited, mask wearing vigilante who fought crime in Paragon City USA who earned his name by leaving a red star on criminals foreheads (and not because he was a Communist). He eventually graduated to comics:
The 70′s version, Red Star Robinson was Tommy Robinson, a regular seventeen year who fought crime under the guidance of the mysterious Watcher who provided him with an android gentleman’s gentlemen named Syrius Thrice and a vintage flying car. Unlike The Iron Teacher, who starred in a sprawling serial that seemed to go on forever, this Red Star’s adventures were generally limited to two-parters that were to the point as they were silly and strangely appealing.
For the record I wouldn’t have known about the original Red Star if not for an article on the always excellent British comics website Down The Tubes titled “A Different Type of Star — Rejuvenating DC Thomson’s Red Star for a New Era”(http://downthetubes.net/?p=14809). It goes on to say that The Glasgow League of Writers has partnered with the publisher to create new versions of some of their classic characters for the digital magazine Comic Review. This version of Red Star has been re-named the Scarlet Star (so as to avoid confusion with DC’s Russian sometimes Teen Titan, though frankly, I can’t imagine even one out of three people currently reading DC Comics would have any idea who that is). From what I’ve read online the new version, which will be written by Sam Read and drawn by Leonie Moore, pretty much splits the difference between the two version (though one assumes they’ll be no flying car in this one). Naturally, I am keen to see it.
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