L: Supergirl v.4 #1 (September 1996), art by Gary Frank, Cam Smith, and Patrick Martin
R: Supergirl v.4 #51 (December 2000), art by Leonard Kirk, Robin Riggs, and Patrick Martin
(Click picture to Comet the Super Horse-size)
Hey, speakin' of Star Trek, let's take a gander at one of the weirdest Star Trek comic books of all. No, not the issue where the Trek universe crossed over with the world of Rien Poortvliet's Gnomes, but "Passage to Moauv," the first entry in the mid-seventies Peter Pan comic and record series for kids, which present new adventures of Kirk and Krew in short dramatized radio plays on 7-inch records, accompanied by read-along comic books. On first encounter these things might seem kinda goofy, but consider: it's 1975. The Motion Picture is four years away, and the only first-hand Star Trek entertainment you can get in these days is reruns of the original and the animated series. You can pick up the novelizations of those episodes in book form at your local bookstore (James Blish adapted the live-action episodes at a brisk pace or six shows per volume, and Alan Dean Foster wrote the entertaining expansions of the animated shows), and alongside those novelizations you'll find the so-exciting- the-title-has-an- exclamation-point Spock Must Die! by Blish, the first...and only...original Trek novel, at least until Bantam starts their publishing program in the following year with the goofy but eagerly anticipated Spock, Messiah! Yes, that exclamation point was part of that title, too. As for comic books...well, the less said about the weird and off-model Gold Key comic, the better.
But the Peter Pan comics, altho' for the kiddies, don't look half-bad. They certainly have a decent handle on what the main characters and the starship Enterprise looks like:
The story's a bit fluffy...intentionally so, because it features the crew transporting an alien creature that escapes and wrecks havoc on the Enterprise. I'm sure the uncredited writer and artist didn't have any tribble at all thinking up that plot. But the artwork's bright, dynamic, and colorful: Kirk looks like Shatner, Spock looks like Nimoy, the bridge looks like the bridge...nicely done.
Say, who's that vivacious blonde sitting behind Kirk at the communication station, obviously listening to Daft Punk on her twenty-third century iPod? Sharp-eyed and canon-steeped Star Trek fans will now raise their hands in the Vulcan salute to tell me that's Lieutenant Palmer, Uhura's occasional replacement at communications. Palmer appeared in "The Doomsday Machine" and was instrumental in looking frightened while staring at a small bluescreened model of a Thanksgiving cornucopia.
But wait...is that Lt. Palmer? Or could it be...
Lieutenant Uhura?!? What the Sam Scratch happened to you? Sure, Beyoncé may be blonde once in a while, but for Uhura black is beautiful, baby! What have they done to you, Penda or Nyota (take your pick of Uhura's non-canonical first names)?
Oh well. It happens to the best comic colorists. Sometimes characters just get colored wrong and you wind up with a silver and grey Iron Man, or a gold and red Spider-Man, or a red Hulk. Mistakes, every man jack of 'em. But it's only one small mistake, turning the 23rd century's soul sister into Whitey McBlondie, and I'm sure the colorist will be more careful from now on...
Sulu! Sulu's a black man! This is one whole wacky episode. Maybe, like the culturally-aware and politically-significant original series, the comic book creators are trying to make a Roddenburyesque fable about color and prejudice and how we in the 1960s can learn a lot from...no, no, no, it's just another dumb coloring mistake.
The weird thing is, the art is pretty darn accurate in most other cases. The ship, the sets, and the three leads of the show are well-represented in their artwork. Heck, even those summer-of-love era glittery spacesuits that showed up in The Tholian Web make a quick one-panel appearance, and they're absolutely drawn just like the original show:
It looks more and more obvious that the colorist of the Peter Pan comics was working from black and white stills or had a black and white television set, or, as Joel and the bots might say, "he just didn't care." One of the somewhat-clever plot points of the story is in fact diluted by a miscoloring error. How's that, you ask? Well, animated series fans will remember the Caitian Enterprise crewman Lieutenant M'Ress, Star Trek's reminder that in the future, all races and beings will be welcomed into Starfleet...even furries:
When the feline mind of the escaped alien takes over the crew's minds and begins turning their thoughts into those of feral cats (and you haven't seen nothing if you've never see Spock meow), it's M'Ress who saves the day. It takes a cat to trap a cat, as the old saying goes. But is she a cat in the comic book?
She is not.
A. She's blue. B. She's not a cat. C. That's a whole lotta cleavage for a Starfleet uniform (at least until Deanna Troi enlists).
So there ya go. "Passage to Moauv." Not that bad a Trek comic, if you're color blind. And consider this: the exact same coloring errors...Uhura as blonde Caucasian, Sulu as black man, were carried over into the next Peter Pan comic/record, "The Crier in Emptiness." Thankfully, by the time the third one came out, Star Trek: The Motion Picture was being used as a template for the comics, and everybody was their original color and ethnicity, which is a bit of a relief, as it probably saved us the sight of Scotty as a small fluffy black dog. But if these few panels intrigue you, don't let a few minor coloring errors put you off: "Passage to Moauv" is available readily on the used book market, and you can pick up a copy by clicking on that Amazon.com link to your right.
Hey, who's that teaming up with Marvel despot and time lord Kang in this far-out panel from Avengers #143? Could it be the man who exhales pure methane ice...the man who, when he appears on Wheel of Fortune, does not buy a vowel, he disembowels... the man whose stare is so intense he can start forest fires from half a state away...Chuck Norris?!?
Panel from Avengers #143 (January 1976), written by Steve Englehart, pencilled by George Perez, inked by Sam Grainger, colored by George Roussos, lettered by Tom Orzechowski
What th-?!? Man, never has a yellow arrow labeled "?" seemed more appropriate. It's like Englehart just threw up his hands and said "What the heck, story?"
You know and I know that ain't no Chuck Norris, awesome tho' that team-up might be. 'Tis no Chuck Norris...
...'tis THE MIGHTY THOR!
Oh, thou wacky Son of Odin! You cracketh us up with your wardrobe full of cosplay costumes.
All hail Thor! The Roman Empire didn't fall, it was pushed by Thor. Thor knows only one word in ancient Norse, and that word is pain. And only Thor can tell that pasta came from Pizza Hut, and believe me, that ticks him off something fierce.
So, to conclude: regular-strength Thor: amazing. But Chuck Thorris: freakin' awesome.
Hullo folks hullo! I'm back from my fishin' trip. The fishies weren't bitin', but never worry: I still managed to hook a basket of last week's comic books! Let's review 'em, shall we...before they go off and start smelling bad!
GREATEST HITS #2: This comic is fun. I mentioned in my last review of Vertigo's Greatest Hits that I was impressed David Tischman and Glenn Fabry had taken the concept of "The Beatles as Superheroes" and run with it fancifully and furiously, but it didn't really sink in until this second ish that altho' the inspiration surely is The Fantastic Fab Four, Greatest Hits avoids the cliché of an easy parody. This isn't a thinly disguised John, Paul, George and RingoSolicitor, Crusader, Vizier and Zipper have vivid and different personalities, gradually becoming more distinct as the series progresses and the current-day documentary subplot takes shape. Give or take a Stu Sutcliffe-as-the-Hulk subplot, this is fun and original, and Glenn Fabry's bright and sharp-lined art is a perfect fit, especially in facial expressions and the wild two-page party scene that opens the comic. It's been a long time since Vertigo did superheroes, and this is a fine return to form.
BOOSTER GOLD #13: This comic is sorta fun. I'm not as fond of the post-Geoff Johns/Jeff Katz Booster as I was the original issues (the series was #1 on my "Fun Fifty of 2007 list). Chuck Dixon and now Rick Remender seem to be struggling to make concepts that sound like solid fun come alive on the page. In this issue, Booster and Goldstar chase Starro across time and space, trying to prevent the re-creation of the DC Universe in the image of the evil mind-controlling asteroidean. The concept's solid and the dialogue's fine, but our heroes spend too much time reacting and chasing behind the villain that the plot seems oddly flat and muted. We know Booster will save the day, but we're not seeing a sign of his cleverness here. To be fair, it's a to-be-continued story, so I'm reserving judgment until I see the wrap-up. Remender might just pull a rabbit out of his hat after all. And hey, you can't hate a comic book which features The Best Panel of the Week, a world in which everything is controlled by Starro's starfish, from the President to Oprah and Tom Cruise to starfish-faced Superman helping a starfish-faced little girl by rescuing her starfish-faced cat:
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY #1017: This magazine is fun. Hey, that's not a comic! Who cares! This week's EW brings this little stuffed Trekker the first inside look at 2009's big-screen Star Trek movie, with plenty of photos and news behind the screens of J. J. Abrams's revisioning of the voyages of the Starship Enterprise. I love the sneak peek, brief as they are, of the characters and the interiors...I'm no hater lamenting that Chris Pine's eyes aren't the same color as William Shatner's or that the bridge looks too bright! Sure, there's other great features in America's Most Entertainingist Magazine: Eminem, Britney, Elizabeth Banks and Sarah Vowell are all among the surprise guest stars you'll find in these pages. But for me, I've got full-color clipout pictures of Kirk 2.0 and company to hang up on my walls, and then I'm going to stand in line and wait for the movie to open in 200 days.
RASL #3: This comic is fun. RASL! It's a candy and a gum! It's also a heckuva fun comic. Let's face it, Jeff Smith coulda followed up Bone with Bone: The Next Generation or Son of Bone or Bone 2: Electric Booglaloo and I woulda happily climbed aboard for another fanciful ride. But just doing something different isn't the sole reason to follow a creator you like: s'gotta be good and compelling too. I'm enjoying RASL quite a bit: Smith's giving us a tension-building world-hopping mystery of an extra-dimensional thief lost between realities. His characters are vibrantly drawn; tho' they may need a bit of fleshing out motivation-wise, it's still early days yet. That's my only quibble about the book: its quarterly schedule leaves a lot of down-time between issues, and this is one of the current books I honestly can't wait to see what happens next.
SIMPSONS COMICS #147: This comic is fun. "Never a disappointment, always a delight" is my usual feeling about Bongo's line of Simpsons comics, and this issue is as almost always, genuinely funny and fast-paced. At the same time it's dense with dialogue and visual and verbal jokes: this is not a comic you whip through in three minutes, and if you are, you're missing lots of the fun. While Lisa conducts a science fair experiment with startling results (could her mother really be someone other than Marge?), Bart and Milhouse challenge each other to stay awake for two weeks. I love me some homer, but it's always a delight when the brightest little Simpson takes the spotlight, and Lisa's tale is well-paced with a funny twist to the ending. And it's a Chuck Dixon comic! Whodathunkit?!? More proof that if you're not reading Simpsons Comics, you're missing out on the most consistently fun four-color experience at your comic book store!
DOCTOR WHO: THE FORGOTTEN #2: This comic is fun. I've praised Rich Morris's wonderful whimsical "The Ten Doctors," his webcomic that's a loving tribute to those great Doctor Who episodes of yesteryear where all the incarnations of our favorite Time Lord are spotlighted in front of the BBC cameras. (It's still going strong and Rich is currently on page 125; don't miss the fun!) Last year the BBC brought back the tradition of Multiple Doctors with its David Tennant/Peter Davison team-up "Time Crash", and there's rumours that all seven current living Doctorsyes, even Tom Baker, the story goeswill join Tennant on screen for an upcoming episode. In the meantime, you can whet you appetite with Doctor Who: The Forgotten, a clever and nostalgic story of the Tenth Doctor facing off against a mysterious enemy that's forcing him to remember previously-untold adventures from his past nine incarnations. It's very lovingly and authentically done (the Second Doctor flashback in this issue is even done in black-and-white) and shows a great knowledge and love of the Doctor, past and present: dialogue, action, and humor is spot-on, and everyone from Martha Jones to Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart...and faithful old Bessie...has their moment in the spotlight. I've not been a huge fan of IDW's movie/TV comic tie-ins, even the previous Doctor Who series, but The Forgotten is great fun and a wonderful romp, even if the only Doctor you know is the current one. That's why DOCTOR WHO: THE FORGOTTEN #2 is the most fun comic of the week, don't you know!