Saturday, June 6, 2015

Chronology of Fanfiction: Bronze Age

5/17/71 - Inhumans
"You Never Saw the Real Me"
Medusa returns to Italy for revenge on Count Nefaria.

5/17/71 - Fantastic Four
"One from Four Leaves Three"
Thing, Human Torch, and Sub-Mariner vs. Annihilus.  A re-imagined FF #110.

5/24/71 - Black Widow
"This Is No Time for Clowning Around!"
Black Widow has to catch the Clown before an important dinner date with Hawkeye.

6/14/71 - Black Widow
"Find a Reason to Believe"
Black Widow meets the Astrologer, who gives her a lead on Zodiac.

6/71 - Inhumans
"You or Me"
The Titanium Man is after someone -- but is it Medusa or the Countess de la Spirosa?

6/22/71 - Fantastic Four
"The Thing Amok"
The Thing's cure causes some serious mood swing issues. A re-imagined FF #111.

7/4/71 - Fantastic Four
"Battle of the Behemoths"
To get the Thing under control, the FF need a plan that might involve the Hulk. A re-imagined FF #112.

7/71 - Inhumans
"Frenzy in Florence"
Medusa and the Countess look for help in Florence, but the Titanium Man is tracking them.

7/20/71 - Black Widow
"What's Going On"
Taurus and Zodiac show up with an ultimatum for Black Widow she dare not refuse.

8/7/71 - Black Widow
"Knock Three Times"
Black Widow is a prisoner of Watchlord.

8/12/71 - Fantastic Four
"The Power of the Over-Mind"
Slowly, everyone everywhere begins to succumb to the Over-Mind.  A re-imagined FF #113.

8/71 - Inhumans
"Answers Writ in Titanium"
Karnak accompanies Medusa to Yugoslavia to find out what the Titanium Man is after.

9/9/71 - Black Widow
"My Dinner with Gwen" 
Black Widow and Gwen Parker talk over dinner.

9/71 - Inhumans
"What Lies Within"
Triton's rendezvous with Medusa and Karnak en route to Greece is ambushed by men sent by Kang the Conqueror.

9/19/71 - Fantastic Four
"But Who Will Stop the Over-Mind?"
Alicia Grimm and Agatha Harkness will need allies -- for the Over-Mind has arrived.  A re-imagined FF #114.

10/2/71 - Inhumans
"Return of the King"
Black Bolt rejoins the Royal Family in Greece, only to meet another member of royalty.

10/5/71 - Fantastic Four
"The Secret of the Eternals"
Alicia vs. Sub-Mariner, as Dr. Doom and Silver Surfer take note of the Over-Mind. A re-imagined FF #115.

10/28/71 - Black Widow
"Smiling Faces Sometimes" 
Aftermath of the Zodiac adventure.

11/1/71 - Inhumans
"A Day for Reckoning"
Black Bolt vs. Dr. Doom.

11/6/71 - Iron Man
Iron Man vs. Earthson, with Marriane's life on the line. A re-imagined Iron Man #43.

11/13/71 - Black Widow
"If You Could Read My Mind"
The Mad Thinker has a plan for the Black Widow.

11/14/71 - Fantastic Four
"The Alien, the Ally, and Armageddon"
FF vs. Dr. Doom vs. Silver Surfer vs. Over-Mind, with the Earth at stake.  A re-imagined FF #116.

11-12/71 - Fantastic Four
"The Flame and the Quest"
The Torch goes looking for Crystal in Honduras, but finds Diablo instead. A re-imagined FF #117.

12/5/71 - Inhumans
"My Future, My Destiny"
The Royal Family invades Latvia for a rematch with Doom -- and Kang! The end of the Time Box Saga.

12/11/71 - Black Widow
"Behold the Mandroids - At My Baby Shower"
Black Widow's baby shower at Avengers Mansion.  Behind the scenes of Avengers #94.

12/27/71 - Thor
"This Fatal Fury"
Don and Jane lead a ragtag band of rebels against Loki, for the throne of Asgard. A re-imagined Thor #194.

1/72 - Black Widow
"Joy to the World"
Black Widow's baby will be born only if Mr. Kline has nothing to say about it.

1/72 - Inhumans
"Suddenly -- the Super Skrull!"
The Kree-Skrull War crossover begins.  Some events re-imagined from Avengers #95.

1/72 - Fantastic Four
"Thunder among the Ruins"
When the Human Torch and Crystal are reunited, Diablo's payback comes due. A re-imagined FF #118.

2/72 - Inhumans
Crystal comes back to Attilan, and Maximus schemes.

2/72 - Black Widow
"All Things Must Pass"
A hero dies at the end of the Kree-Skrull War. Some scenes re-imagined from Avengers #96.

2/72 - Inhumans
"Attacks at Home and Abroad"
The Kree attack Earth and only the Inhumans and some allies stand in their way.
2/72 - Fantastic Four
"Three Stood Together"
Thing and Sub-Mariner go to South Africa to help the Black Panther. A re-imagined FF #119.
3/72 - Inhumans
"Operation: Medusa"
A new Frightful Four is loose in Attilan, and Maximus has sicced them on Medusa.
3/72 - Fantastic Four
"The Horror that Walks on Air"
A reunited FF are unveiling their new New Jersey HQ when Prester John tells them they must go to Jerusalem in the name of God. A re-imagined FF #120.

n/a - Black Widow
"Don't Say You Don't Remember"
Black Widow meets Daredevil in Limbo.
4/72 - Fantastic Four
“The Mysterious Mind-Blowing Secret of Gabriel”
Ben and Alicia's child is born, and the Angel Gabriel tells the FF who they must stop to avert the End of Days.  A re-imagined FF #121.

4/72 - Black Widow
"Nice to Be with You"
A happy ending for Black Widow?
5/72 - Fantastic Four
"Galactus Unleashed"
The FF head to the planet Mars for a confrontation with Galactus' army of angels. A re-imagined FF #122.
5/72 - Inhumans
"Return to Attilan"
Karnak and Gorgon track the Frightful Four down to Tunisia to rescue Medusa.

6-7/72 - Inhumans
"In the Castle of the Mandarin"
Maximus visits the Mandarin and Gorgon fights Leonus, as public opinion turns against the Royal Family.

7/72 - Inhumans
"If You Go Carrying Pictures of...Chairman Mao"
The Dalai Lama makes a request of the Royal Family, who then explore the Ruins of the Temple of Yin, while Mao makes plans that will impact the Inhumans.

8/72 - Inhumans
"Now Shalt Thou Gather Thyself in Troops"
Medusa raids a Chinese base to learn their plans, while Karnak explores Avalon with Prester John.

8/72 - Black Widow
"Baby Don't Get Hooked on Me"
A baby and a house guest don't stop Black Widow from trying to repair her relationship with Hawkeye.

8/72 - Inhumans
Plot threads begin to come together as the Mandarin and his robots attack Attilan.

9/72 - Black Widow
"I'll Take You There"
Black Widow meets the X-Men to learn more about Sentinels.

9/72 - Captain America
"Captain America - Hero or Hoax?"
While in West Germany, fighting terrorists, Falcon, Bucky, and Sharon question if anything is wrong with Cap.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Chronology of Fanfiction: The Silver Age

March 1965 - Medusa
"The Frightful Four"
A re-imagined intro to Fantastic Four #36 (also available here)

July-August 1965 - Fantastic Four, Iron Man, Thor, Spider-Man, Hulk, Giant Ape and Monkey
"Bedlam at the Baxter Building"
A re-imagining of Fantastic Four Annual #1 (also available here)

May 1970 - Spider-Man
"The Specialist and the Schemer" 
A re-imagining of Amazing Spider-Man #84, mixed with the animated series.

June 1970 - Hulk
"The Brute that Shouted Love at the Heart of the Atom"
A re-imagining of The Incredible Hulk #140.

November 1970 - Spider-Man
"And Death Shall Come"
A re-imagining of Amazing Spider-Man #90.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Chronology of Fanfiction: The Atomic Age

April-May 1955 - Captain Comet, Scotty (Johnny) Thunder, Captain America
"Superland: Prologue"
Walt Disney unveils the plans for an even more ambitious Disneyland City -- a theme park merged with the city of Anaheim, made into a 'world of tomorrow' with tech donated from alien refugees. Captain Comet comes to investigate the aliens, while Scotty and Cap move there for more personal reasons.
(Available in the files section of the Superland Yahoo!Group, under the name "Prologue"; membership required for access)

July 1955 - Captain Comet, Scotty (Johnny) Thunder, Dynamic Man, Kid/Dr. Eternity, Batman II
"The Conscience of Colu" (incomplete)
While Scotty is tempted by a coworker, Dr. Eternity settles into Disneyland City, an adult Dick Grayson now serving as Batman investigates in Long Beach, and Captain Comet and Dynamic Man are transported to an alien world, where they learn of the coming threat of Braniac.

"The Saint Is Plane Crazy"
The Saint meets Mickey Mouse.

August 1955 - Captain Comet, Scotty (Johnny) Thunder, Dynamic Man, Kid/Dr. Eternity, Mr. Terrific
"The Superhero Clubhouse"(incomplete)
Capt. Comet's road trip from Chicago, Dr. Eternity vs. the Red Skull, and everyone in the Superhero Clubhouse vs. the Crime Candle's wave of arson.

September 1955 - Captain Comet, Kid/Dr. Eternity, Superman, Wonder Man
"Diaspora from the Clubhouse" (incomplete)
Captain Comet vs. Shiwan Khan, Dr. Eternity vs. Moriarty, Superman vs. Baron Zemo, and Wonder Man vs. drug smugglers in Nepal.

"The Gallopin' Shadow"
The Shadow meets Mickey Mouse.

October 1955 - Captain Comet, Kid/Dr. Eternity
"The Final Problems" (incomplete)
Captain Comet and other heroes fly off with Spacehawk to confront Braniac at last, while Dr. Eternity and his allies finally solve the mystery of Moriarty.

(The adventures from July-October summarize the events of the Superland play-by-post campaign)

"The Savage Dance"
Doc Savage Meets Mickey Mouse.

November 1955
"The Mandrake House"
Mandrake the Magician meets Mickey Mouse.

December 1955
"When the Superheroes Are Away"
Phantom and Sheena vs. Cat Nipp

January 1956
"The Battle for Mickey Mouse"
The Justice Society of America and the Guardians of Disneyland City meet to discuss what to do with a living Mickey Mouse.

(The Mickey Mouse series was written to introduce the characters from Disney cartoons into the shared universe of comic strip/book heroes)

Friday, May 22, 2015

Chronology of Fanfiction - The Golden Age

Below is a list of links to fanfiction I have written (some of it uses pastiche characters as substitutions), in order of when the stories occur, with notes for which stories have yet to be finished or written.  Work in progress!

Dr. Mystic
Dr. Mystic lies dying on the sands of Egypt during the final battle with Koth, but he has one more favor to ask of Zator.

6/38 - Superman
"Superman and the Comic Book"
After reading about comic book adventures, Superman reflects on what he can do to change the world.

7/38 - Superman
"Superman vs. Walter"
Clark has a jealous rival at the Daily Star and decides to do something about it.

8/38 - Superman
"Superman and the Radio Show"
Mutual tries to put Superman on the air.

9/38 - Superman
"Superman vs. Curly"
Clark takes care of the prankster on the Daily Star staff. 

(All four Superman stories above can be found on the Superland Yahoo!Group, in the files section, collated in a document called "Superman 1938"; membership required to access)
10/38 - Superman
“Superman’s Race”
(also available here)
When Superman tries to help a man in need, it leads to a race Superman may not be able to win.

11/38 - Superman
Superman meets the true crime genre as he confronts Eliot Ness and tackles the mystery of the Torso Killer.

3/39 - Superman
Superman intervenes in the Spanish Civil War and makes a difficult decision with unexpected help. 

12/39 - Batman
"Curse of the Ruby Idol" (unfinished)

1/40 - Superman
“The Chase”
(also available here)
Superman thinks this is the final battle with the Ultra-Humanite, but Ultra has other plans, if the Japanese Navy will help him.

2/40 - Superman
Terry Curtis is the bait -- but for Superman's trap or the Ultra-Humanite's?

3/40 - Superman
“The Dover Affair” 
(also available here)
Old friends try to help Lois and Clark escape spies in England. Guest-starring Black X!

4/40 - Superman
Superman is trying to help liberate Norway when an old thorn in his side turns up again...

5/40 - Superman
“The Path” (unfinished)
6/40 - Superman
“Superman in the Hidden Valley of Yu-Atlanchi” (planned)
7/40 - Superman
“Superman and Adana” (planned)
8/40 - Superman
“Superman at the Face in the Abyss” (planned)
9/40 - Superman
“Superman in the Cavern of the Lost Wisdom (planned)
10/40 - Superman
“Superman in Colombia” (planned)
11/40 - Dr. Occult, Sandy Kean of Radio Squad
"Dr. Occult -- Wanted for Murder" (planned)

1/41 - Sub-Mariner
When Namor the Sub-Mariner doesn't think you're watching his back, he shows up to tell you off!

3/41 - Sub-Mariner
“Sub-Mariner vs. a Stroll through Manhattan”
Namor and Betty Dean take a walk to discuss some things.

5/41 - Sub-Mariner
“Sub-Mariner vs. Sub”
Namor wrecks a German U-Boat, just because he can.

6/41 - Captain Marvel/Major Magus
“Invasion of the Scorpions from Space” (published in The Trophy Case v. 2, no. 3)
The first alien spaceship since Superman's rocket appears over Earth in modern times!

7/41 - Sub-Mariner
“Sub-Mariner vs. the Killer”
Betty gets abducted while on the job. Namor to the rescue!

8/41 - Captain Marvel/Major Magus
“Skala’s Paralyzing Gas” (published in The Trophy Case v. 2, no. 4)
Skala's adult children have returned from the Moon, one intent on revenge and the other intent on romance.

10/41 - Captain Marvel/Major Magus
“The Question of Hitler” (published in The Trophy Case v. 2, no. 5)
The Mysterious Stranger summons Major Magus, Prince Inaros, and Yarko the Great to discuss what they should do about Hitler. Also guest-starring Spyhunter! (Inaros and Spyhunter stand-in for Ibis and Spy Smasher respectively)

12/41 - Major Magus
“The Volcano King” (published in The Trophy Case v. 2, no. 6, costs 50 cents)
Major Magus and other heroes have responded to the Pearl Harbor attack, but now must deal with an even more insidious attempt to erupt volcanoes on the U.S. mainland.  Guest-starring Sterling Steel and Sir Destiny!

1/42 - Major Magus
“Boolevi the Unseen” (published in The Trophy Case v. 2 no. 7, costs 50 cents)
A radio show host with a grudge against Bobby Bauer summons ghosts with an agenda of their own.

2/42 - Major Magus
“Major Magus and the White Room” (published in The Trophy Case no. 8, costs 50 cents)

3/42 - Major Magus
“The Curse of Rath Debo” (published in The Trophy Case no. 9, costs 50 cents)
Freed from the White Room, the spirits of evil men form a champion to combat Major Magus.

4/42 - Major Magus
“In the State of Japan” (published in The Trophy Case no. 10, costs 50 cents)
Major Magus goes toe-to-toe with the Japanese Emperor in single combat, but not all is as it appears.

5/42 - Flame & Samson
untitled (planned)
6/42 -Dr. Fate
"The Wax Museum Killers" (planned)
7/42 - Dr. Fate
"The Deadly Designs of Mr. Who" (planned)
8/42 - Dr. Fate
"The Octopus" (planned)
9/42 - Dr. Fate
"Hall of Lost Heirs" (planned)
10/42 - Dr. Fate
"Luck for Sale" (planned)
11/42 - Dr. Fate
"The Two Fates" (planned)

12/42 - Ibis the Invincible & Dr. Fate
"Murgh the Merciless" (planned)

1/43 - Spacehawk
untitled (planned) 
2/43 - Justice Society of America
"The Man Who Created Images" (planned)
4/43 - Superman, Lois Lane/Superwoman, USA, Spacehawk
“Lois Lane - Superwoman” (incomplete)

6/43 - Justice Society of America
"Brain Wave Goes Berserk" (planned)
9/43 - Justice Society of America
"Insects Turn to Crime" (planned)
12/43 - Justice Society of America
"The Crimes Set to Music" (planned)

1/44 - Black X, Jane Arden, Joe Palooka
untitled (planned)
3/44 - Plastic Man & Spirit
untitled (planned)
4/44 - Captain America, Human Torch, Sub-Mariner, and Young Allies
“Battle of Central Henan” (planned)
5/44 - Shock Gibson & Black Cat
“Battle of Terni” (fictional, planned)
6/44 - Sandman
“The Tough Guy”
7/44 - Black Terror
untitled (planned)
8/44 - Sandman
“Sleep for Sale” (incomplete)
9/44 - Scribbly, Red Tornado, Mr. Weed, J. Worthington Blimp
“The Return of Mr. Weed” (planned)
10/44 - Sandman
"Reincarnation for a Rogue" (planned)
12/44 - Sandman
"Sandman - Prisoner of Emperor" (planned)

2/45 - Sandman 
"Invasion Plan of U.S." (planned)
4/45 - Sandman
"Scientist Warns of Invasion from Space" (planned)

Saturday, April 25, 2015

My First Ever C2E2 Report!

It didn't start out great. Coming from Parking Lot B, on the south side of McCormick Place, there was no signage saying where to go for will call or registration. Even when we got to the exhibit hall, there was no signage. We spent 40 minutes looking for the room where the ticket booths were tucked away out of sight and then, because we had split up to look for them, spent another 20 minutes finding each other. I found it so upsetting, I couldn't even enjoy all the cosplay I was seeing. We also made the mistake of not bringing anything to drink, so we bought a $4 water bottle at the Starbucks. Then we found the free water upstairs by the panel rooms later. Oops.

But after that, things improved immensely. The exhibit hall was packed with a full day's worth of interesting viewing. The artist's alley was packed with a full day's worth of interesting viewing. We had to cut some corners to combine the two. I, of course, pursued spending money at a convention in my normal, thrifty fashion -- haunting the dollar bins (where I did pick up some amazing bargains). This was Megan's first comic book convention ever and, it turns out, she is a fairly expensive date at a comic book convention. She was finding t-shirts and posters and games everywhere that she wanted.

We geeked out over lots of celebrities. The autograph booths were 200' away, so we could not get good photos of Sean Astin and Sylvester McCoy -- but Megan managed *okay* photos of them. Conversely, while I was waiting for Megan at will call, Scott Adsit walked right by me. I thought "That guy looks just like the guy from 30 Rock" -- but I didn't know he was scheduled to be at the con today until I got home tonight.

We attended the "Unmasking the Hero" panel and got to see Jewel Staite, who was funny and charming, and David Ramsey, who was a lot more funny and charismatic than he ever seemed to be on Arrow. And what a lot of Arrow fans in the audience! I was surprised. Favorite moments were Jewel faking a smarmy attitude and saying, "Oh, you guys don't have action figures?" and the generous response of the moderator who invited a couple on stage after a man popped the question to his girlfriend in the audience.

I wasn't planning on staying in that room for the special sneak preview of M. Night Shyamalan's first TV show, Wayward Pines, since I wasn't interested in seeing it. And neither was Megan, but when she learned yesterday that Matt Dillon would be there she told me we were going. She moved us right up front so she could be about 25' away from him. Oh, and M. Night was there too. Now, Wayward Pines itself was making me want to hurl -- but not why you'd think. Sitting so close to the big screen was disorienting and made both of us nauseous, though me more so.

Creator Connection was a networking event for people who need collaborators on their comic book projects, which would include me! I was disappointed, though, in how disingenuous some of the people there were. Like, one artist wasn't there looking for work at all; he was there to give sales pitches for his own already-published graphic novel. I wasn't meeting anyone with an old school vibe, and Megan told me that the exhibit hall closed at 7 and she wanted to get back there first, so we left that early.

I wish we had reserved more than 45 minutes for Artist's Alley at the end of the day. I was looking for Angel Medina at 6:30 for an arm wrestling match, but he was away from his table then. I saw Ali Cantarella, who I had met at the Schaumburg Township District Library's comic book convention. I didn't have a lot of cash left on me to spend, but she always comes up with such imaginative ways to part me from my dollars. Last time it was art magnets, this time it was the "$1 Mystery Box". I was really impressed with Sean Archer's Milo the Cloud and bought a copy. Scott Larsen traded me an issue of Femforce he was in for the information that Big Bang Comics is going to come out with their first issue published by AC Comics soon. And the lucky dog is making a comic book with Len Strazewski!

Also impressive were Spinner Rack Comics and Mindwave Comics, both of which promised good old-fashioned fun superheroes, like the big companies used to know how to do. Adam Fotos impressed me. Jenny Parks Illustration blew us both away with her cat-pop culture character mash-ups. Hugely ambitious, and way beyond what I could afford, was a $120 tribute book about Little Nemo in Slumberland released by Locust Moon Comics, in the same size as the original newspaper strip. The nice man at that booth said they were going to re-re-release it in softcover sections that would look more like old newspaper comic sections -- I'm there when that comes out. The last of my cash went to Aw Yeah Comics' table, where I picked up a Tiny Titans I was missing -- the only comic book on my 46-issue shopping list I managed to find while I was there!

We had both lunch and dinner at the McDonalds in the convention center, which only gave us the novelty of paying $11-15 for meals that would normally cost us $5-8. I had hoped to dine in the Connie's Pizza there for dinner, but they were closed by 7.

The last thing we did was go to a panel about Comixology. I asked some questions about what I could submit if I *did* have a finished comic book for sale and got a free t-shirt for my troubles. Pretty sweet! Also, Art Baltazar was there talking about his experience using Comixology. The whole time he was staring at the audience, but doodling with his hands. At the end, he had all these sketches of Adventure Bug on Aw Yeah Comics stationery to give away -- and they looked great!

Sunday, April 12, 2015

My Top 10 Comic Book Collections

I already have a whole bunch of lists on this blog, so it seemed appropriate to do some more. This subject is particularly apropos because Megan has been after me to give her more early birthday present ideas. So, looking at just my collection on shelf (as opposed to things I've read from other sources, or would just like to own)...
Top 10 Marvel Comics
1. Fantastic Four. From Lee & Kirby's literally fantastic 102-issue run to John Byrne's equally remarkable 64-isssue run, to also-great runs like Englehart & Pollard's or Walt Simonson's -- this is the comic book that has always been the brain of the Marvel Universe.
2. Amazing Spider-Man. Lee & Ditko's 38-issue initial run has never been eclipsed, though Stern & Romita's 29-issue run came close. Micheline's long run with McFarlane and then Larsen is an also-great. Spider-Man has always been the heart of the Marvel Universe.
3. Avengers. The Avengers was always a whirlwind of fun but, at its best -- like the 20-issue run of Thomas & Buscema, and virtually every issue from 1977 to 1988 by various combinations of writers and artists -- this was an epic saga.
4. Incredible Iron Man. From David Micheline's 41-issue run, to John Byrne's 20-issue run, followed by Len Kaminski's 42-issue run -- all with various artists -- Iron Man has always emphasized the writing.
5. Mighty Thor. Walt Simonson's 30-issue magnum opus. DeFalco & Frenz aping Lee & Kirby for 5 years. Thor has been a grand epic almost as big and as long as the Avengers.
6. Incredible Hulk. Peter David's magnum opus.
7. West Coast Avengers. Englehart, reminding Marvel how to make comics fun.
8. Alpha Flight. John Byrne's superhero-soap opera mash-up masterpiece.
9. Silver Surfer. Englehart again, this time doing Marvel's best space opera ever.
10. Captain America. The aborted Stern & Byrne run set the bar too high to top, but Mark Gruenwald spent 10 years trying very hard and sometimes coming very close.
Top 10 DC Comics
1. Superman. Siegel & Shuster. The superhero genre at its most basic and primal. Pure magic in the making.
2. Batman. Not the dark and gritty stuff, but the joking, smiling Batman, and his pal Robin, of the 1940s. Pure fun.
3. Flash. Mark Waid's amazing, definitive run of the Wally West Flash.
4. Justice Society. Kaminski & Parobeck's canceled WAY-too soon 10-issue masterpiece.
5. Batman Adventures. The magic of the Animated Series, captured on paper by various hands, but principally Mike Parobeck.
6. Power of Shazam. The best use of Captain Marvel by DC, ever. Jerry Ordway's magnum opus.
7. Legion of Super-Heroes/Legionnaires. From the reboot. No, not that reboot, the one after that. No, no...more to the left. That's it. Mainly the ones Roger Stern wrote.
8. Kingdom Come. I know, I know. It's hardly fair to include this if Marvels didn't make my top 10 Marvel list. But this is still amazing stuff.
9. Tom Strong. Alan Moore's best/least cynical/most inventive work ever.
10. JSA. Geoff Johns' celebration of a multi-generational superhero community that feels like one big family.
Top 10 Independents

1. Bone. Couldn't be anything else.
2. Usagi Yojimbo. Such a remarkably intelligent, well-researched epic for one man to have produced monthly.
3. Thieves & Kings. Mark Oakley's fascinating (and hugely inspirational to me) fantasy series.
4. Kurt Busiek's Astro City. Kurt's continuing love letter to the superhero genre.
5. Akiko. Mark Crilley's amazingly inventive sci fi/comedy series.
6. Knights of the Dinner Table. Simply the best comic about D&D ever. Even better than mine!
7. Big Bang Comics. Uneven, but sometimes brilliant homage to the superhero genre.
8. Groo the Wanderer. Maybe should have gone on the Marvel list, but Aragones & Evanier's comic masterpiece had to be one of these lists somewhere. Mulch!
9. Radioactive Man. A brilliant and funny homage/parody of the superhero genre. Too few issues to rate higher.
10. Scott Pilgrim. A beautifully absurd look at the world through the eyes of an unreliable narrator, obsessed with teen-oriented popular culture. Or a gonzo superhero love story. Or both.

Friday, April 3, 2015

The Best of Simon and Kirby reviewed

Or is it?  With such a slim selection – only 26 stories – there are bound to be worthies left out.  But how does this “best of” list stack up?

“Captain America and the Riddle of the Red Skull” (from Captain America Comics #1, Mar. 1941).  Grade:  B.  You can see the Red Skull’s potential dripping from the page, though this early Simon/Kirby work looks fairly primitive compared to what comes later, and the story itself has its weaknesses.  Cap’s origin story from the same issue is much, much better.

“The Vision [vs. the Werewolf]” (from Marvel Mystery Comics #14, Dec. 1940).  Grade: B.  Rushed, sometimes confusing story, but with a great backstory to it that would have been even more exciting.

“Sandman: The Villain from Valhalla” (from Adventure Comics #75, Jun. 1942).  Grade: A.  Here is the fantastic, dynamic art that we expect when we see Kirby. The fight scene is all of one page long – but what a page! You just wish there was more, or that the villain didn’t have to wind up being so ordinary in the end.

“Stuntman: Killer in the Big Top” (from Stuntman Comics #1, Apr. 1946). Grade: A. Great art, a terrific set-up for a series filled with excitement, humor, and mystery – the only weakness is that Stuntman himself is a little boring (and his origin seems to be cribbed from Robin!).

“Fighting American: Assignment: Find the King of the Crime Syndicate” (from Fighting America #2, Jun. 1954). Grade: B-.  A fun little story, though too short and strains the suspense of disbelief. Though this was generally true of Fighting American, several of his stories would have been stronger choices.

[The Fly:] “Come into My Parlor” (from Adventures of the Fly #1, Aug. 1959). Grade: B+. A technically proficient preview of the Marvel Age of Comics Kirby would soon introduce…but there’s just not that level of excitement here.

“Solar Patrol [vs. The Tree Men of Uranus]” (from Silver Streak Comics #2, Jan. 1940).  Grade: D.  Kirby barely had a hand in this very early, very campy tale, and it shows. Almost unintentionally comical, in a Fletcher Hanks way.

“Blue Bolt [shrinks]” (from Blue Bolt Comics #4, Sep. 1940).  Grade: B+.  There’s a surprising amount of moral ambiguity here.  Which is the evil one, the Green Sorceress, who wants to conquer, but loves Blue Bolt; or Dr. Bertoff, who will stop at nothing – even murder -- to thwart the Green Sorceress? It’s almost a shame that a character as boring as Blue Bolt is stuck in the middle.

“The Thing on Sputnik 4” (from Race for the Moon #2, Sep. 1958).  Grade: B+. Perhaps based on the Arthur C. Clarke stories 2001 a Space Odyssey would be based on, this story is about as confusing as 2001, though mainly because of its brevity. 

“Satan Wears a Swastika” (from Boy Commandos #1, Win. 1942).  Grade: A-. What a wild ride! In the meta-comic part of the story, Simon and Kirby are in trouble at DC Comics when their best-selling characters, the Boy Commandos get killed in Germany. They get the news from their other characters, the Newsboy Legion, and get help from their version of the Sandman to find out what happened! This part is spliced not-quite seamlessly with a more normal story of midgets being mistaken for the Boy Commandos, while the Boy Commandos hunt a club-footed Nazi killer. 

“The Duke of Broadway: My City Is No More” (from Black Cat Comics #5, Apr. 1947).  Grade: A. More of a parable against nuclear weapons than a real adventure story, which is good because it’s pretty weak on details.

“Booby Trap” (from Foxhole #2, Dec. 1954). Grade: A. Short, but near-perfect story about the senseless carnage of war.

“Weddin’ at Red Rock” (from Western Love #1, Jul. 1949). Grade: C-. It’s a Western! It’s a love story!  It’s got a twist ending! But, at 3 pages, it’s not much of any one of those things.

“The Savage in Me” (from Young Romance #22, Jun. 1950). Grade:  B.  This one’s a weird critter. It starts, rather remarkably, with the attempted rape of a pretty missionary in Southeast Asia, and then follows her descent into shame for the first three pages. That’s all well and good by today’s standards, but then the would-be rapist “turns out” to not be such a bad guy, saves her and her dad from invading soldiers. Now she sort of feels obligated to love him and, more disturbing still, her father practically pushes her on the guy. In the middle of all this weird “love” garbage is a pretty suspenseful story about the political scene in Southeast Asia circa 1950.

“Trapping New England’s Chain Murderer” (from Headline Comics #24, May 1947).  Grade: C-.  I kept expecting a twist ending! This is a fairly pedestrian police procedural, worthy of the first half of an episode of Law & Order.

“Mother of Crime” from Real Clue Crime Stories v. 2 #4, Jun. 1947.  Grade: B-.  A mundane mini-bio for Ma Barker is elevated by its framing device of Ma speaking to the reader from Heck.

“The Case against Scarface” from Justice Traps the Guilty #1, Oct. 1947.  Grade: C+.  I’m not that impressed by this Scarface bio. It also makes me think that maybe Kirby couldn’t draw a pie…

“Apache Justice” from Kid Cowboys of Boys’ Ranch #6, Aug. 1951. Grade: B+.  A sometimes intriguing cowboy ranch soap opera with some action and adventure mixed in. The Indian stuff is horribly cliche, but the mystery of Angel is intriguing and I wonder if more was ever revealed.

[Bulls Eye:] “Doom Town” from Bulls Eye #4, Feb. 1955.  Grade: A.  An intriguing scenario, plenty of action, and some compelling backstory are marred, mainly, by Bulls Eye being upstaged by the more interesting Major Calamity.

“Scorn of the Faceless People” from Black Magic #2, Dec. 1950.  Grade: B-. An intriguing dream sequence segues into a dull love story.

“Up There!” from Black Magic #13, Jun. 1952.  Grade: A.  An effective supernatural mystery, mildly horrific, but with a powerful ending; marred only by being too short and not having a more interesting protagonist.

“Woman in the Tower” from Strange World of Your Dreams #3, Nov. 1952.  Grade: B-. Atmospheric and creepy, but way too abbreviated -- almost as if they found out while drawing the last page that they had a smaller page count than promised and had to rush an ending.

“Rainy Day with House-Date Harry” from My Date #4, Jan. 1948.  Grade: C+.  Eh.  Really only mildly amusing.

“20,000 Lugs under the Sea” from From Here to Insanity #11, Aug. 1955.  Grade: A.  Quite funny and visually inventive -- if not original, since it reads just like a Mad magazine parody. The lines they give Kirk Douglas’ character from the movie are laugh out loud funny. Could have used a stronger punchline ending, though.