Saturday, October 17, 2009

Separated at Birth: Like one of your French hens

Beep Beep the Road Runner #59 (September 1976), artist unknown

Still from Titanic (1997), starring Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio, directed by James Cameron. Image edited for the sensibilities of a little stuffed bull.

365 Days with Ben Grimm, Day 290

FF #144

One-half of a two-page spread from Fantastic Four #144 (March 1974), script by Gerry Conway, pencils by Rich Buckler, inks by Joe Sinnott, colors by George Roussos, letters by Artie Simek
(This is only half of a two-page spread! Click picture to Two-in-One-size!)

Friday, October 16, 2009

Walkin' talkin' dead, tho' we think we're livin'/We just copy-cat, followin' the system

At the Baltimore Retailer Summit Monday night, DC Comics announced as expected that “Blackest Night” and all its tie-in titles would take a month-long hiatus in January. But keeping with its "Back from the Dead" theme, one-shots will ship in the first month of 2010, delivering new "final" issues of previously-canceled fan favorite series.

Each series will pick up on its original numbering and feature characters from their original runs as they deal with the events currently unfolding in the DC Universe.
CBR News, 10/12/09

Sugar & Spike #100

365 Days with Ben Grimm, Day 289

BP #27

Panels from Fantastic Four: ¡Isla de la Muerte! one-shot (February 2008), written by Tom Beland, art by Juan Doe, letters by Dave Lanphear
(Click picture to you've-got-a-friend-size)

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Superhero team names that never really caught on, Part 145

Cap #145
Partial panel from Captain America and the Falcon #145 (January 1972), script by Gary Friedrich, pencils by Gil Kane, inks by John Romita, Sr., letters by Artie Simek

365 Days with Ben Grimm, Day 288

Avengers Annual #2
Panel from Avengers Annual #2 (September 1968), script by Roy Thomas, pencils by Don Heck and Werner Roth, inks by Vince Colletta, letters by Joe Rosen

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Blood, Devastation, Death, War and Horror

Cap cover segmentSteve Rogers didn't like Raiders of the Lost Ark.

It's true! It's canon! We tend to forget that in our canonization of the Star-Spangled Avengers following his tragic death mysterious disappearance into time, but Captain America didn't care for one of the great blockbusters of 1981. Not one bit. You'd think a guy raised on the continued-next-week antics of Flash Gordon and Dick Tracy and Spy Swatter, the Lone Star, the Caped Madman and all the rest, woulda eaten stuff like this up as if it was breakfast serial...I mean cereal:

...but if he did, he certainly didn't care much for the adventures of Henry "Indiana Wants Me" Jones. (And this was years before Indy rode out a nuclear blast in a Norge Chill-King!)

Cap #286
Cap #286
Panels from Captain America #286 (April 1982), script by J. M. DeMatteis, pencils by Mike Zeck, inks by John Beatty, colors by Bob Sharen, letters by Jim Novak

Well, what do you know anyway, Cap? I bet you liked...(flipping through my book listing 1981 movies)...I bet you liked Chariots of Fire, ya big mook!

Make ya wonder, huh, what Cap would think about the comic books of today (if he had only lived to see 'em, sniff!) with their heroes quick and ready to put a bullet through your eyes if you sneeze in the wrong direction. Like, f'r instance, the Ultimate version of Captain America, who may be quite violent, but to his credit, is always ready to help you out with spelling lessons. (For example: 'France' does not begin with 'A'.)

Cap's 1960s and 1970s adventures in comics, by comparison, are pretty tame on the "kill or be killed" front. You can pretty much set Cap's FDR Timex on a supervillain cackling "You'll never take me alive, Captain Dumb-merica! and then accidentally toppling backwards into his own power ray and disintegrating himself. No body to clean up afterwards (but imagine the paperwork!) In fact, during that era in Marvel Comics, it was very nearly the unspoken rule: heroes do not kill. Well, there were exceptions, depending on how you define that Frank Castle guy, but the biggest "get out of jail free" card Stan and his Marvelous Maniacs gave to their heroes was it's okay to kill Nazis during wartime. World War II wartime, that is, as we saw in Marvel's family of battle-hardened all-out action war magazines. Sure, there was Sgt. Fury and His Howling Commandos, the flagship of the fightin' line, but don't forget other Marvel war comics of the '60s and '70s like Captain Savage and His Leatherneck Raiders, Major Mayhem and His Maniac Marauders, Doc Strange of the M*A*S*H Unit 4076, Battlin' Jack Murdock and His Crazy Company Clerks, Reed Richards, Science Agent of O.S.S.S.S.S.S.* (*Office of Strategic Services, Secret Science Syndicate for Smart-Guys), and that favorite of warplane buffs, Captain Ben Grimm and His Fantastic Flyers.

Combat Kelly #1But probably the most unremittingly violent Marvel war mag of that period was the short-lived (9 issues) Combat Kelly and the Deadly Dozen. The 1972-73 series revamped an war character who starred in a 1951-1957 Atlas comic book, but the inspiration is baldly the 1967 movie The Dirty Dozen. War-hardened tough-guy Mike Kelly is paroled from a military prison for a crime he didn't commit. Promptly escaping to the Los Angeles Underground to gather a crack team of misfits and cons to perform surgically violent attacks on the Nazis, in the "it takes a maniac to stop a maniac" philosophy that has always served our nation so well and had never backfired on us, oh no no no.

Combat Kelly #1
Panels from Combat Kelly and the Deadly Dozen #1 (June 1972), script by Gary Friedrich, pencils by Dick Ayers, inks by Jim Mooney, letters by Shelly Leferman

Combat Kelly is what you'd call a "spin-off" of Nick Fury, and several of Nick's Howling Commandos appear in the first issue as members of Kelly's own personal suicide squad, including Dino Manelli and Percy Pinkerton. These cross-over guest appearances of two long-time Fury cast members are about as appropriate as the time Robin Williams played "Mork" on Happy Days. There's also no expense paid to fly in several stereotypes like a hillbilly who speaks like Rogue, likes country music, and whose first name is, apparently, "Hillbilly." There's also a Japanese soldier who has decided fighting for America's better than being in one if its internment camps, a handful of uncontrollably sadistic brutes, and even a dame:

Combat Kelly #1

...whose presence is apparently to button her uniform up to show off her midriff. Well, you can't blame her...Witchblade would not premiere for over another thirty years, so there was precious few job openings for professional women who like to display their belly buttons.

Well, once Kelly gets his box o' egg's-worth squad of hardened criminals, stereotypes, and guest stars under way, you can bet we're in for some subtle and elegant storytelling, right? Well, actually, Combat Kelly #1 is mostly all about killing Nazis every which way, for the next seventeen pages. They kill Nazis with rifles:

Combat Kelly #1

They kill Nazis with bows and arrows:

Combat Kelly #1

They kill Nazis with country music:

Combat Kelly #1

And they kill Nazis with...umbrellas?!?!

Combat Kelly #1

Just to show you some of 'em are rotten to the core, they kill surrendering non-combatants:

Combat Kelly #1

And for some pyrotechnics, they blow up Luftwaffe planes:

Combat Kelly #1

Yes, it's just like Castle Wolfenstein, except without the giant robot Hitler at the end:

Combat Kelly #1

And, just in case you thought Laurie Livingston was there, like Counselor Troi, to look hot and state the obvious, think again:

Combat Kelly #1

Well, nobody said war was neat and gentle, and rough and violent as this job is, it must be done for the safety of the world and future generations. It's a tough task, but nobody really takes any joy in it...

Combat Kelly #1

Um. Okay. From this we can conclude two things: one—Combat Kelly and the Deadly Dozen would fit right in with today's modern-day Norman Osborn-run Marvel Universe. And two: I'm pretty sure Steve Rogers wouldn't care for Inglourious Basterds, either.

Civil War #7

365 Days with Ben Grimm, Day 287

Strange Tales #2
Alicia Masters gets a job in a bakery, in panels from Strange Tales #2 (December 2009), by Jacob Chabot

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

We'll draw a blueprint, it must be easy

Secret Origins #48Blueprints! You know 'em, you love 'em, and you use 'em to utterly destroy that pesky, meddling Superman. (Last applies to Earth-2 Lex Luthor only). Continuing Comics Oughta Be Fun!'s feature on blueprint and plans that actually appear within comic book stories (one of a series, collect 'em all!) And what's even more fun, you can make 'em all! So, get together your hammer, your phillips screwdriver, thirty thousand square feet of lumber, your Radio Shack Electronic Learning Lab, a spot welder, several discarded Iron Man armors, and very soon within the confines of your own basement you'll be creating a Sentinel or a set of Falcon wings or maybe a keen new hideout for you and all your pals! Just remember the first rule of safety...lock the door to the Negative Zone while you work so Ben and Johnny don't interrupt you by letting Blastaar and Annihilus free! (Really, seriously, that's one's very important.)

You too can talk to the ants, with your own patented Hank Pym Giant-Man helmet. (Say, why won't it let you talk to the giants?) Just don't wear it too'll make you wasp-slappin' crazy!
Avengers #2
Panel from Avengers #2 (November 1963), script by Stan Lee, pencils by Jack Kirby, inks by Paul Reinman, letters by Artie Simek

Here's a trio of blueprints from the swingin'est super-spy of the seventies...Colonel Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.*! (What, you were expecting Bart Fargo? Phil Moscowitz? Would you believe...Neil Connery?) First up: the secret underground lair of HYDRA! (Not pictured: barracks, galley, billiard hall, or Viper's "ready room.") Hey, is this gonna be on the test? Stan says yes, it is! So trying getting into the university of your choice without knowing this, buster!
Nick Fury #15

Panel from Nick Fury, Agent of SHIELD #15 (November 1969), plot and dialogue by Gary Friedrich, plot by Herb Trimpe, plot and script by Dick Ayers, pencils by Herb Trimpe and Dick Ayers, inks by Sam Grainger, letters by Jean Izzo
(Click picture to Burj Dubai-size)

Coming in at #515 in the 5,000 Hats of Jack Kirby, it's a cutaway diagram of Nick Fury's Amazing Rear View Hat! Costing over ten million dollars in research and development, this chapeau de subterfuge allows Nick to see who or what is coming up behind him, allowing him to kung fu their sorry butts from here back to Moscow, comrade! Or, I s'pose, he could just, um, turn around and look.
Strange Tales #141
Panels from Strange Tales #137 (October 1965), script by Stan Lee, layouts and plot by Jack Kirby, finishes and inks by John Severin, letters by Artie Simek

And here's another HYDRA secret that's liable to tick off the Sub-Mariner and his finny friends big time, because it involves a fake cruise ship, an underwater flying saucer, an underground soundproofed tunnel, and, for reasons I can't quite figure out at the moment, over 72,000 Arby's Beef and Cheddar sandwiches. I dunno why, but heck, they're such a super-succesful criminal organization, there's gotta be a good reason!
Strange Tales #141

Panel from Strange Tales #141 (February 1966), script by Stan Lee, plot and pencils by Jack Kirby, inks by Frank Giacoia, letters by Sam Rosen
(Click picture to hydra-size)

Not so much a blueprint, more a radioactive-enhanced radar-sensed sonar x-ray-o-gram of the brownstone headquarters occupied by Matt Murdock (you 'n' me know him as the blind-as-a-bat Daredevil!) All corners are heavily padded with foam rubber and even the TV has a specially raised braille screen so DD can kick back and enjoy touching that week's episode of Mannix. Remember: cut this panel out and save too, there may be a test later! Whoops! Did you just ruin your comic's future resale value? Don't worry, was only pre-Miller ain't gettin' a dime either way! Haw!
DD #128
Panel from Daredevil #128 (December 1975), script by Marv Wolfman, breakdowns by Bob Brown, finishes and inks by Klaus Janson, colors by Michele Wolfman, letters by Joe Rosen

Finally, let's take a dimensional hop, a universal skip, and a jump one thousand years into the future to examine the space cruiser of the Legion of Super-Heroes using Ultra Boy's suggestively named penetra-vision. (So-called because Kal-El once beat the tar out of him in the Legion's locker room for using the trademark term 'x-ray vision'.) It's not quite the starship Enterprise and not quite a Klingon's a completely new design totally from the original minds of the 1970s DC (there's no stopping them now!) Please note that despite Brainiac-5's objections, the Legion Cruiser has been installed with a "human needs" section. So they could poop.
Superboy and the LSH #219

Panel from Superboy starring the Legion of Super-Heroes #219 (September 1976), script by Jim Shooter from a suggestion by Ken Klaczak, pencils and inks by Mike Grell
(Click picture to Shooter-size)

So. Blueprints. What have we learned? Well, that when they're in comic books, they ain't blue.

*Surely He Intended Everybody Loves the Designs

365 Days with Ben Grimm, Day 286

Sentry/FF #1
Panel from Sentry/Fantastic Four one-shot (February 2001), script by Paul Jenkins, pencils by Phil Winslade, inks by Tom Palmer, colors by Tom Chu, letters by Richard Starkings and Comicraft

Monday, October 12, 2009

He's everywhere! He's everywhere!

I was cleaning out some old digital photographs to free up hard drive space (makin' room for more excellent Ben Grimm panels!) when I came across this badly-focused photo I'd taken last year at the San Diego Zoo. It was not a good photograph—I'd focused on the cage, not the bird, and it came out fuzzy and unfocused. Why keep it, then? I started to press the button to delete it when I noticed something strange, spooky, and ominous. Can you spot what so chilled me to the bone stuffing? Click on the photo to make it bigger and take a closer look.

A bad photograph

Did you see it? Look closely at the lower right-hand corner:

Extreme close-up

Freakin' Doctor Doom is hiding in the bushes.

I never knew how close I came to utter destruction and devastation on that sunny day in the zoo!

Then again, maybe he just was hangin' around to see the pandas.

365 Days with Ben Grimm, Day 285

FF Sinbad
Panel from The Fantastic 4th Voyage of Sinbad one-shot (September 2001), script by Chris Claremont, pencils by Pascual Ferry, inks by Scott Hanna, colors by Liquid!, letters by Richard Starkings, John Roshell, and Albert Deschesne

Sunday, October 11, 2009

What If?...There Were Ten of a Kind Separated at Births? (What then, huh?)

Crying WatcherHelp! As you saw yesterday, "Separated at Birth" has gone A.W.O.L.! Now it's time for "Ten of a Kind" and I'm afraid I'm never going to find poor old Separated!

Oh, wait! It's right here. It's having a team-up.

That's right, folks, it's the biggest cross-over in Comics Oughta Be Fun! history since "365 Days with Ben Grimm" crossed over with "Bring It On Week." Separated at Birth meets Ten of a Kind...and for some added excitement, it's all to end What If? Week with a bang! If you've read as many What If? issues as I have, then you're thoroughly sick of Iron Man dying like a punk. But you also may have noticed along the way that many of the What If? covers are homages or callbacks to the original stories they reference! So here, for the first time ever, worlds collide, lives are changed, and the Marvel Multiverse will never be the same, as Bully presents

Ten Separated at Birth What If? of a Kind!

DD #164/What If #102
L: Daredevil #164 (May 1980), art by Frank Miller and Wally Wood
R: What If? v.2 #102 (November 1997), art by Leonardo Manco

FF #49/What If #41
L: Fantastic Four #49 (April 1966), art by Jack Kirby and Joe Sinnott
R: What If? v.1 #41 (September 1992), art by Jim Valentino and Sam De La Rosa

UXM #142/What If? #33
L: Uncanny X-Men #142 (February 1981), art by Terry Austin
R: What If? v.2 #33 (January 1992), art by Rod Ramos

AF #15/What If #42
L: Amazing Fantasy #15 (August 1962), art by Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko
R: What If? v.2 #42 (October 1992), art by Kevin West

Look familiar, true believers? It've seen it before!

Captain Marvel #29/What If? #14
L: Captain Marvel #29 (November 1973), art by Jim Starlin, John Romita Sr., and Al Milgrom
R: What If? v.2 #14 (June 1990), art by Ron Lim and Terry Austin

FF #1/What If? #36
L: Fantastic Four #1 (November 1961), art by Jack Kirby and George Klein (?)
R: What If? v.1 #36 (December 1986), art by John Byrne and Terry Austin

And there's more where that came from!

ASM #129/What If? #58
L: Amazing Spider-Man #129 (February 1974), art by Gil Kane and John Romita, Sr.
R: What If? v.2 #58 (February 1994), art by Gordon Purcell and Andrew Pepoy

For the world's greatest assassin, he sure misses a lot. Three cases in point.

ASM A #21/What If? #20
L: Amazing Spider-Man Annual #21 (direct sales cover, 1987), art by John Romita, Sr.
R: What If? v.2 #20 (December 1990), art by Jim Valentino, Ron Garvey, and Bob Wiacek

ASM A #21/What If? #21
L: Amazing Spider-Man Annual #21 (newsstand cover, 1987), art by John Romita, Sr.
R: What If? v.2 #21 (January 1991), art by Jim Valentino and Bob Wiacek

Avengers #4/What If? #29 & 67
L: Avengers #4 (March 1964), art by Jack Kirby and George Roussos
M: What If? v.2 #29 (September 1991), artist unknown
R: What If? v.2 #67 (November 1994), art by Manny Galan

Are there any more? Funny you should ask that...

GSXM #1/What If? #23
L: Giant-Size X-Men #1 (1975), art by Gil Kane and Dave Cockrum
R: What If? v.2 #23 (March 1991), art by Rodney Ramos and Bob McLeod

And, you know, as far as I can tell, there's only one instance of the reverse...of a What If? cover inspiring the design for a regular Marvel comic. Could it be that one where the Watcher is doing his Marilyn Monroe impression? No! It's this one, that kicked off the M2 Universe:

What If? #105/ASG #30
L: What If? v. 2 #105 (February 1998), art by Ron Frenz
R: Amazing Spider-Girl #30 (May 2009), art by Sal Buscema, Ron Frenz, and Chris Sotomayor

So! What have we learned? I've learned a) to nail my Separated at Birth down to the blog and b) What If? frequently wound up killing everyone on Earth. Iron Man usually was first. Oh, and c)! There's no cover you can't redo and say it took place on, say, Earth-8675309. And that is, as the Watcher himself says...One to Grow On.


(More Ten of a Kind here.)

365 Days with Ben Grimm: Day 284, What If? Week, Day 8

What If...we gave "What If Week" just...
One More Day
What If? Week

What If? v.2 #100
Panel from What If? v.2 #100 (September 1997), script by Robert Piotrowski, pencils by Rurik Tyler, inks by Harry Candelario, colors by Glynis Oliver, letters by Chris Eliopoulos

Oh...oh dear. It's Earth-97103. "What If..." no, no, bear with me here... "What If..." ...wait for it... "What If The Fantastic Four landed in Oz. Oh dear oh dear oh dear.

A year after this, What If? was cancelled. Coincidence? You make the call!

Still, it did give us this classic panel:

What If v.2 #100