I was never what you would call a “game guy”, especially during the very early days of video games; at that point I still didn’t have reliable access to cable TV. So I can’t really explain why of my favorite 80′s comics was DC’s AtariForce. I cannot, do not and will not argue for a single moment that it was one of the best comics of the 80′s but for reasons vague and mysterious I continue to have a warm spot in my heart for this fairly conventional space opera with superhero overtones. I don’t make fun of people who are nostalgic about Micronauts and Rom Space Knight so I hope you will all do me the same courtesy.
Writer Gerry Conway (and later Mike Baron) did his best with by the numbers premise which went a little something like this; ragtag band of misfit outsiders protect an uncaring future Earth from their own personal “big bad”, a masked cosmic/supervillain sporting a cape. This one is called Dark Destroyer but the only way to really distinguish him from the others is his color scheme; for some reason this avoided the traditional basic black ensemble.
Our main hero was your basic angry young man with dimension hopping powers who was so 80′s he had a Rambo/Staying Alive/ Megaforce headband to keep his unruly mullet in place. Apparently Christopher Champion hasn’t heroic enough of a name for this guy so he was also called, for absolutely no reason, Tempest.
Much more of interest to adolescent me was Dart, an Irish/Indian mercenary telepath even if she was colored the same dull gun metal gray skin tone that most Middle Easterners got saddled with at DC Comics until at least the early 2000′s.
The rest of the team was made up of a bunch of alien looking (at least for the 80′s) aliens (Morphea, Babe and Pakrat) who were interesting if only because they seemed to have absolutely no business being on a ragtag band of misfit outsiders. Because while each of them had an alien “power” of some sort none of them was of much use in a fight. But to be absolutely honest I admit I stuck around through the series 20 issue run primarily because of the great artwork by Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez. This was the first time Garzia had a title of his own, and as you can see for yourself, he produced some beautiful work for the series.
For the record Atari Force was connected to a series of licensed comics DC did for Atari that featured a much less interesting ragtag band — they were essentially the sort of nice, but dull space heroes DC specialized in during the 1950′s, except with much tighter outfits.
I’d explain further but the text page from Atari Force #1 does the heavy lifting for me.
As you undoubtedly know by now, I’ve proved beyond the shadow of a doubt that there are a heckuva lot of songs about Spider-Man. Did you think I was lying? By my count, Spidey is second only to Batman when it comes to having a ton of comics tunage. And now, another one! A song you’ve probably never heard and yet it’s a great little record. The Ray Wall Band gets the credit here.
If you thought I was done with my musical tribute to ol’ webhead, you’ve got another think coming. Be here next Tuesday for another Spider surprise.
Women’s History Month continues with the above sequence found in artist T.E. Powers‘ 1912 collection of his continuing comic strip, Joys & Glooms. As evidenced by “Votes for the Women”, Powers was anti-Women’s Suffrage, his comedy touching upon several of the most popular fears & stereotypes of what would happen to men, should women gain the vote.
Click on the above comic strip to view it in large enough detail to read it.
NOTE: read first the top tier of panels across both pages, then the bottom tier.
As you know I’m over fascinated with obscure UK superheroes from the 1950′s which is why I’m posting Masterman#12. A half dozen issues of the title was published by United Anglo-American/Streamline between 1952 and 1953 and featured American schoolboy Bobby Fletcher who was given the magical Ring of Fate by an Egyptian Prince which when rubbed when turn him into the adult superhero Masterman. United Anglo-American did everything possible to convince British readers that this was an imported American comic, from it’s contents, a hodgepodge of superheroes, science fiction and westerns, down to the blatantly counterfactual cover copy reading “All In Colour”. But I’m guessing they didn’t fool anyone, not for very long anyway, and while I’m glad I finally got the opportunity to read an issue Masterman I can’t actually say I enjoyed this issue all that much. Previous issues were pretty standard Captain Marvel swipes but clearly at some point young Bobby got access to a time machine and started making regular jaunts to the far future where he was a “space sheriff” or somesuch, in an obvious attempt to jump on the 50′s SF bandwagon.
In the 50′s American publisher Fox published two issues of Will Rogers Western and at roughly Streamline published two issues of Will Rogers Western Comic which is the only explanation I have for why this story appears as a backup here.
Unless you’ve been living in a cave, you know that I have been spotlighting Spider-Man these past few weeks. The point I’m trying to make (are you paying attention?) is that there are oodles of songs about Spider-Man, perhaps almost as many as there are Batman songs. Like any good scientific theory it requires lots of research, rigorous testing, and plenty of hard work. Since I don’t have time for that, I’ll just share another song about Spider-Man.
You may recall (back on December 11, 2007) that we discussed the connection between Peter Parker and The Ramones. Both are from Forest Hills in Queens, New York. Both are outcasts and misfits. And both overcame obstacles to become heroes! As far as I know, The Ramones were never bitten by radioactive spiders, but I can’t prove it didn’t happen.
Naturally, The Ramones covered the 1967 Spider-Man TV series theme (as heard here). And now their cover has been covered by Brats on the Beat. That just shows the staying power of this song. It even has a cover version of a cover version. Top that, Batman!
I didn’t actually read Snuffy Smith in the comic strip section of the Akron Beacon Journal, my hometown paper, growing up, but I was always vaguely aware of the fantastically lazy, unemployable and unlikable miniature grotesque and his strained marital relations with his much bigger spouse. To my mind it was just a rural version of Andy Capp, another one of the Beacon’s strips I saw more than actually read. I never gave it’s rustic setting a second thought seeing as how at that time the TV networks were front loaded with hillbilly themed comedies (Hee-Haw, The Beverly Hillbillies, Petticoat Junction, Green Acres, etc.). It looked like this:
Even at an early age I found Snuffy’s predictable antics barren at best, and never dreamed that the strip had been around for decades under the name Barney Google, a much different and, to my mind, better strip. The creation of the incredibly talented Billy DeBeck it was one of those early comic strips that was insanely popular, in particular the ”Barney Google Song” , a.k.a. ”Barney Google (Foxtrot)”, the song with the haunting refrain “Barney Google—with the goo-goo-googly eyes!’
Over the years I finally was able to read chunks of Barney Google in collections and old comic books but I never got the chance to read it on a regular basis, which was, I told myself, the reason why I could certainly admire the skill behind the strip I never actually warmed to it. Oh I admired the hell out of Billy DeBeck’s work,but contrarian son of a bitch that I am, I felt his signature creation wasn’t Barney or Snuffy, but Bunky, the super intelligent baby who became the star of “Parlor, Bedroom and Bath”, the strip which for years and years literally topped the Barney Google and Snuffy Smith Sunday strips. Your opinion may differ but if you want to see it for yourself you can check it out here: http://jeffoverturf.blogspot.com/2010/06/nemo-3-billy-deback-and-parlor-bedroom.html
In 1934 hillbilly humor was a national craze and while visiting the tiny Blue Mountain community of Hootin’ Holler Barney was introduced to his cousin Sniffy Smith. And for reasons yet to be discovered in spite of his distaste and distrust of big city ways the tiny moonshiner abandoned his wife and child for long periods of time to mooch off of Barney’s meager opportunities. In their fairly squalid adventures Snuffy attempted to deal with urban life; hilarity supposedly ensued but I’ve pretty much got to take their word for it because I for one just don’t “get” the appeal of Snuffy Smith. And I’ve really tried; thanks to the King Features website, comicskingdom.com (who, unbeknownst to them, provided me with the “after and before” examples of the strip seen above) I’ve steadily been working my way through 1939 for almost a year now and I just flat out don’t see the funny. Maybe it’s just that “hillbillies” (like, say tramps) are just one of those things that just don’t age very well. And I must confess I find Snuffy’s mountain patois to be mostly impenetrable gibberish. But, mainly, I just don’t find a serial philanderer who’s also a homicidal maniac with a hair trigger to be all that funny and frankly can’t understand why America found him so damn amusing. It just doesn’t make sense, unless Snuffy was using his magical “eyeball” (basically an evil eye) to convince a generation of readers they just couldn’t do without the desperate antics of an insufferable douchebag.
Like most comic strip creators at the time DeBeck must have felt a lot of pressure to get a least one of his major characters into uniform, in spite of the fact both Barney and Snuffy were both obviously too old and demonstratively unfit for military duty. With Snuffy being the most popular he got the nod and I have to hand it to DeBeck; he found a way to get a character so thoroughly repellent and antiauthoritarian (in a lot of ways Snuffy Smith was a proto punk) involved in standard Army Game antics without “rehabilitating” him in any way. And where before Snuffy would settle problems with either physical violence or barely understandable invective here he schemes his way around the rules, revealing a keen intellect. And I bet the newly conscripted servicemen must have just loved it
Believe it or not Snuffy even made it to the movies in the remarkably named Hillbilly Blitzkieg. See for yourself: