Saturday, September 25, 2010

Same Story, Different Cover: On a gathering storm comes a tall handsome man in a dusty black coat with a red right hand

Mystery Tales #25/Beware! #6

L: Mystery Tales #25 (January 1955), art by Carl Burgos
R: Beware! #6 (January 1974), reprinting Mystery Tales #25, art by Ron Wilson (?) and Mike Esposito

(Click picture to Isotoner-size)

Did that scare you, kids? How about...both at once?:

Animated Gif

365 Days with Hank McCoy, Day 268

X-Man #150
Page from New X-Men #150 (February 2004), script by Grant Morrison, pencils by Phil Jimenez, inks by Andy Lanning with Simon Coleby, colors by Chris Chuckry, letters by Chris Eliopoulos

Sunday Saturday Morning Silents: Alice in Wonderland

Alice in Wonderland (1915), written and directed by W. W. Young and starring Viola Savoy as Alice

Friday, September 24, 2010

Separated at Birth: La Femme Veronica

Everything's Archie #29
Everything's Archie #29 (October 1973)

Maggie Q in Nikita (September 2010)

You know, that explains it...Veronica Lodge's constant jet-setting around the world...her glamourous, expensive lifestyle...the way she juggles men like beanbags...her crack skill with automatic weaponry...that time she killed Cheryl Blossom by kickboxing her head clean off her shoulders... Why, it's so obvious once you know the truth: Veronica Lodge is a government assassin-for-hire!

Now that comic book I'd pay to read!

And I think it would go a little something like this...

All-New All-Deadly Veronica

365 Days with Hank McCoy, Day 267

X-Man #136
Panel from [Uncanny] X-Men #136 (August 1980), co-plot and script by Chris Claremont, co-plot and pencils by John Byrne, inks by Terry Austin, colors by Glynis Wein, letters by Tom Orzechowski

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Hello Yellow Brick Road

Hey, comics fans? How well do you know your Oz! No, no, not the land down under, where women glow and men plunder, cool as that sounds. I'm talking about L. Frank Baum's Marvelous Land of Oz, which coincidentally has just been released as a graphic novel in Marvel's new Oz series written by Eric Shanower with art by Skottie Young.

Shanower's actually been an Oz creator for many years: he's scripted and drawn original Oz graphic novels, and he's written and illustrated several brand new Oz novels in the manner of Baum but in his own inimitable style, continuing the adventures told by each generation's Royal Historian of Oz. (I highly recommend Paradox in Oz by Edward Einhorn with illustrations by Shanower—it's basically Crisis on Infinite Ozes, with a wonderful two-page illustration of Ozma encountering every other version of her Her Royal Self throughout reality!

Paradox in Oz

And speaking of other Ozian realities, check out this cartoon by Eric Shanower from the beautiful and very-much-missed Oz journal Oz-story. It's a piece that asks the musical question (altho' not to the tune of "Over the Rainbow") "What If™...Comics' Biggest Names Drew Oz?" How about many can you guess? (aw, c'mon, take a guess!)

OzStory #2
"If Six Cartoonists Had Drawn Oz Comics!" by Eric Shanower from Oz-story #2 (May 1996)

Leave your answers and guesses in the comments; don't cheat by looking at anyone else's comments, and remember, there is no money in Oz, so no wagering!

365 Days with Hank McCoy, Day 266

X-Man Annual #49
Panel from X-Men Annual #1 (1992), script by Fabian Nicieza; layouts by Jim Lee; pencils by (inhale) P. Craig Russell, Brian Stelfreeze, Adam Hughes, Stuart Immonen, Dan Panosian, Greg Capullo, Mark Texeira; inks by P. Craig Russell, Brian Stelfreeze, Joe Rubinstein, Harry Candelario, Dan Panosian, Mark Texeira; colors by Joe Rosas; letters by Tom Orzechowski and L. Lois Buhalis (exhale)

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Blues, stay away from me / Blues, why won't you let me be?

Sad Bully

365 Days with Hank McCoy, Day 265

X-Factor #49
Panel from X-Factor #49 (July 2004), script by Louise Simonson, layouts by Paul Smith, finishes by Al Milgrom, colors by Tom Vincent, letters by Joe Rosen

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Live from New York

There's a movement on Facebook (the only book you can't close by yourself!) to get (a la Betty White) Stan Lee to guest-host Saturday Night Live. Ah, people, people! Do I have to remind you of everything? Stan Lee has already hosted SNL!

MTU #74
Cover to Marvel Team-Up #74 (October 1978), cover art by Dave Cockrum and Marie Severin

Set your wayback machine/TARDIS/Delorean/Guardian of Forever to October 1978, and be sure to bring along your (still only!) 35¢ so you can pick up Marvel Team-Up #74, mint on the spinner rack at 7/11, back in the days when they used to open at seven and close at eleven...hey, so that's where they got their name! I never figured that out before.

The setting: glorious Studio 8H at NBC's Rockefeller Center, 11:30 PM on a Saturday night. And for once in his life Peter Parker's scored a decent place to take Mary Jane Watson out on a date. This certainly beats the time he took her to the hot dog stand on Fifth Avenue across from Avengers Mansion in the hopes they could spot the Beast! Oh yeah, Peter's getting' lucky tonight.

Two-page spread from MTU #74, script by Chris Claremont, pencils by Bob Hall, inks and colors by Marie Severin, letters by Gaspar Saladino and Annette Kawecki
(Click picture to killer bee-size)

Hey, look, it's Staler and Waldorf from The Muppet Show! Yeah, you'd be cranky if you had Jim Henson and Richard Hunt's hands up your bottom.

Tonight, joining the pantheon of big-name SNL hosts of the 1970s like Ron Nessen, Fran Tarkenton, Jack Burns, O. J. Simpson, Michael Sarrazin, and Miskel Spillman is "Smilin'" Stan Lee, who does not dare take off his sapphire-quartz sunglasses for fear of blasting his audience through the wall and into Studio 8-G, where Phil Donahue is hugging studio members. The cast members are on stage as well, which usually didn't happen during a SNL host's monologue, but, what the heck, there they are; there're all there. Except for one former member as Stan's show takes place in the third season of SNL. In other words: He's Chevy Chase and he's not...there.

Soon enough the regular cast is gathered backstage in "Mr." Belushi's dressing room. Clockwise from John Belushi, seated: Jane Curtin, Garret Morris, Bill Murray, Dan Ackroyd, Gilda Radner, and Laraine Newman. Not pictured: large amounts of cocaine on John's dressing table.

MTU #74

John's received a ring in the mail from some fan in Japan, and naturally, as Belushi is well-renowned for doing, he leaps right into the situation and puts the ring on. And it won't come off, no matter what he does. Now, if this were Wolverine teaming up with the Not-Ready-For-Prime-Time Players, we all know how he'd get the ring off, so luckily for Belushi he just has to deal with Spider-Man.

Meanwhile, on stage, Stan is doing the with-it, cutting-edge, creative experimental comedy routine that made Lenny Bruce retire in awe and respect. One of the studio pages, young David Letterman, reflects that he's not bad "no Steve Martin"...but who among us are, except for Steve Martin, whom Spidey has never teamed up with. (Get right on that, Joey Q.) The page is abruptly manhandled (and I think we all know how painful that can be) by one of a large group of criminal thugs that have taken over the control booth (holding Lorne Michaels hostage).

MTU #74

From his catbird seat, Peter Parker, clearly too bored to listen to Stan's monologue, spies the bad guys moving into the studio. "This is a job for...Spider-Man!" he boldly and heroically thinks, but what he says to MJ is something along the lines of that sidewalk cart burrito from dinner not being his friend, and he dashes off to jump into the rafters and change into his Spider-Jammies, almost dropping his shoe on Stan. That's Petey for ya...he won't let a criminal escape, and he won't give up his Hush-Puppies!

MTU #74

Belushi's still trying to get off the ring as Bill Murray heads backstage to hammer out a few things. Throughout the comic the SNL cast continually refer to each other by name, a common trick when you have a large number of non-costumed civilians in your comic. Bob Hall's artwork actually does capture the spirit if not necessarily the exact likeness of the crew, and I'm sure that the inking of Marie Severin, the Marvel Bullpen's greatest caricaturist, is owed a big thank-you in this regard as well. Chris Claremont's dialogue isn't quite Emmy Award-worthy, but he avoids the lengthy monologues and extensive flowery captions that would become a later trademark of his writing. Not that I wouldn't pay good money to hear Belushi say "I'm the best there is at what I do, bub, and what I do isn't very pretty."

MTU #74

It's Bill Murray who discovers that the villain of the piece, not his later co-star Scarlett Johansson in her underwear (sorry!) but the Silver Samurai, Wolverine's almost-half-brother-in-law. It's like they say: "you can choose your X-teammates, but you can't choose your extended Japanese family, especially when your bride jilts you at the altar after being mind-controlled by a mutant supervillain."

MTU #74

The Samurai's invaded Studio 8-H with a gang of thugs to find the ring that was mistakenly delivered to Belushi instead of him. Geez, it's like the plot of a Molière play in here! Then Spidey comes in, and, I dunno, gets the exposition in the gutter between the panels, and off they go to head the crooks off at the pass.

MTU #74

Somehow this involves Spider-Man rescuing Weekend Update correspondents Jane Curtin and Emily Litella with his webbing. Sniffle...I miss Gilda.

MTU #74

The thugs are surprised when they find Ms. Marvel backstage...but actually it's Laraine Newman, dressing up in one of the superhero costumes they're using for sketches on tonight's show.

MTU #74

Nine out of ten hired crooks can't tell the difference between Carol "Ms. Marvel" Danvers and Laraine Newman. Can you?

MTU #74

This gives Spidey an idea: thwart the bad guys by masquerading as the Avengers. Because it's...I dunno, it's obviously too difficult to get on a phone and call the real Avengers to come down Fifth Avenue a few dozen blocks. Fifth Avenue even goes one-way southward!

MTU #74

And hey, Garrett...please don't use the word "gunsel." You keep using that word. I do not think you know what it means.

MTU #74

So up on the catwalk, a group of gunsels evildoers is confronted by...the Mighty Thor! And by Asgard, he's mighty thor at them, too!

MTU #74

Anticipating a fanboy argument about the casting of the 2011 Thor movie, one of the hired guns points out that Thor, like all the Norse gods, is, actually, a honky.

MTU #74

It's acting like this which had Garrett Morris phoning Kenneth Branagh every ten minutes last year, begging to audition for the role of Dr. Donald Blake and his hammer-wielding alter-ego. Well, acting, and electricity. Remember, kids: it's okay to run 40,000 volts from a lighting rig onto the metal catwalk to thwart criminals: just remember to wear rubber Thor boots. (In 1978, the young Macaulay Culkin looks up from reading this comic book scene and says "Hmmmmm!")

MTU #74

And that's when Dan Ackroyd breaks out a costume never before or after seen on either Saturday Night Live or any Marvel Comic: Mad Dog Mulcahy, The Crazed, Killer Colonel of the Crimea! To explain this, we need merely remember one thing about this comic book. Chris Claremont. Yes, the same Chris Claremont who turned NPR's Neil Conan into an X-Men character for "NPR Television." What, Chris, you couldn't get Dan into his "Fred Garvin, Male Prostitute" outfit? You woulda done it if Dan was a female, Chris.

MTU #74

Meanwhile, on stage, Stan Lee—oh yeah, forgot about him!—is vamping through the show to kill time. See folks: this is the sort of SNL you'll get if you ask Stan to host (again).

MTU #74

Through the magic of expanding fire-repressing foam, Danny and Laraine save Lorne Michaels, thus ensuring the world would not be denied The New Show, which ran, as Wikipedia tells us in its precise, N-POV technical terms "8, possibly 9" episodes.

MTU #74

...while the Silver Samurai finally catches up with Belushi, dressed as his famous Samurai character. Whoo hoo! We're gonna see some expert swordplay now! Take notes, Elektra Natchios!

MTU #74

But the S.S. has forgotten the first rule of backstage at SNL: don't make Belushi angry. You wouldn't like him when he's angry!

MTU #74

Something else happens, and somebody wins...look, it's a Claremont comic, I'm not paying attention to every panel. Suffice it to say that at the end the theme song is playing and the cast gather on stage to take their bows with Stan Lee. Coming up next on your local NBC stations: The Best of Carson! So, go to bed.

MTU #74

After the show, Peter and Mary Jane and Belushi and Morris are in a "Fifth Avenue bar"...and I call no way. The scare from fighting a Marvel super-villain or no, that's too sedate for Belushi's traditional post-show reverie. (In real life, the cast and often the host partied at the Holland Tunnel Blues bar, where the jukebox was filled with 45s by classic blues and soul artists and Belushi and Ackroyd would jam on stage. This was the genesis of The Blues Brothers! All I think that this bar in the panel is the genesis of, is Peter going home alone to watch Harry Osborn mutter and paw at his Green Goblin costume suggestively.

MTU #74

So there ya go: Spider-Man and Stan Lee on Saturday Night Live. This wasn't, of course, the first or last time a Marvel superhero crossed over with an NBC TV show. There was the time The Thing appeared on The Gong Show...and who can forget Spidey's earlier TV appearance on the thinly disguised Marvin's Midnight Talk Show:

ASM #82
Panels from Amazing Spider-Man #82 (March 1970), plot and layouts by John Romita, Sr.; script by Stan Lee; pencils and inks by Jim Mooney; letters by Sam Rosen

It went about as well as everything goes for Spider-Man, I guess, but at least no one got thrown off a bridge, huh?

ASM #82

Then there was the time alternate earth where Spidey actually did host The Tonight Show. Man, that really ticked off Dave and Conan when Johnny retired and left the show to Peter!

What If #19
What If #19
What If? #19 (February 1980), script by Peter Gillis, pencils by Pat Broderick, inks by Mike Esposito, colors by Roger Slifer, letters by Tom Orzechowski

Of course, no wrap-up of NBC/Marvel team-ups is complete without the David Letterman/Avengers issue (which I really oughta give a full post to one of these days!)

Avengers #239
Avengers #239
Avengers #239
Avengers #239 (January 1984), script by Roger Stern, pencils by Al Milgrom, inks by Joe Sinnott, colors by Christie Scheele, letters by Jim Novak

And let us never forget and honor with respect the very last night we saw Conan O'Brien alive, cracking jokes about Norman Osborn on the final show of his too-brief host duties for The Tonight Show:

SKK #5
Panels from Skrull Kill Krew v.2 #5 (December 2009), script by Adam Felber, pencils and inks by Mark A. Robinson, more inks by Mike Ransom Getty, colors by Andres Jose Mossa, letters by Joe Caramagna know...Marvel Comics...the National Broadcasting Company...there's still one team-up that I can but hope and dream they do some day. Or, as the phrase goes...if I ran Marvel Comics...well, I think it would go a little something like this:

Marvel Team-Up: Spider-Man and 30 Rock

365 Days with Hank McCoy, Day 264

UXM #444
Panel from Uncanny X-Men #444 (July 2004), script by Chris Claremont, pencils by Alan Davis, inks by Mark Farmer, colors by Frank D'Armata, letters by Chris Eliopoulos

Monday, September 20, 2010

Monday Night Murals: No, these comics are not in 3D

There's at least one obvious cliché in interconnecting comic book cover murals, and I like to call it "Hail, Hail, the Gang's All Here!" It's the portrayal of team's members (or, in the case of a crossover, two or more teams) across the vast landscape of the cover mural. It's the equivalent of the family reunion photograph where everybody tries to crowd into frame and nobody notices until later that Uncle Bob (or Blue Beetle) is making bunny fingers behind the head of Grandpa (or, Batman).

You can break this either further down into a few different sub-genres. As the blogosphere's #3 stuffed animal blogger but its most noted expert on muralography (I have a degree!), I'm gonna hereby give some of 'em their technical names, and make sure you continue to use them in further comics scholarship so I get mentioned in the 2099 Encyclopedia of Comic Book Culture:
  • "Everybody Was Kung-Fu Fighting": A mass meleé of characters, all mixed and meddled up, fighting each other or teaming up to fight a larger super-threat (See: New Teen Titans #37/Batman and the Outsiders #5, or the the Millennium Giants mural).
  • "It Keeps You Running": the cast of characters are sprintin' towards something, whether it be a menace (or ice cream truck) onscreen or offscreen (X-Men #1, or The Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe)—or towards us...hey, we're not super-villains...stop hitting us! (Outsiders v.2 #1 Alpha and Omega)
  • "Strike a Pose, Let's Get Down to It": highlight each and every member of your team by creating a mural that's continued across comic books covers. If you've got four members,, I'm sure there must be a team that has four members, but darned if I can think of one. Anyway, four members, one each on four comic covers that link up to form one big fantastic mural. Of four. If you're got ten members, you could put on one each cover of a ten-issue miniseries, unless of course you're DC and you cancel the book one issue short. Or, say, if you're publishing Legion of Super-Heroes, you have a mural that spans roughly from here to Takron-Galtos and takes one hundred and thirteen months to publish. But whatever you do, make sure you feature the characters doing what they do best: always put your best assets right up front:

Gotham City Sirens

Gotham City Sirens #1-2 (December 2009-February 2010), art by Guillem March
(Click picture to double-D-size)

So, there ya go. Six com...three comics that, if you're not careful, will put your eyes out.

365 Days with Hank McCoy, Day 263

Panels from X-Men: First Class v.2 #1 (August 2007), script by Jeff Parker, pencils and inks by Roger Cruz, colors by Val Staples, letters by Nate Piekos

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Ten of a Kind (International Talk Like a Pirate Day Edition): There is more treasure in comic books than in all the pirate’s loot on Treasure Island

If you wanna know the story behind that gloriously wonderful Tubby cover up there, I can't recommend highly enough the new Dark Horse volume Little Lulu's Pal Tubby volume 1:

I'd never read "Captain Yo-Yo" before, and even tho' it was published in 1952, it's in the strong running for my Fun Fifty of 2010. This comic is great pirate fun.

And, if you're looking for forty other pirate-themed comic covers, well, walk the plank on over to International Talk Like a Pirate Day Ten of a Kinds for 2006, 2007, 2008, and 2009. Arrrrrrrrrr, Jim Lad.

(More Ten of a Kind here.)