Saturday, April 24, 2010

Separated at Birth: Planet Earth is blue and there's nothing I can do.

Nick Fury #6/Ka-Zar #34/Superman #28/Wraitheart #4

Top left: Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.* #6 (November 1968), art by Jim Steranko
Top right: Ka-Zar the Savage #34 (October 1984), art by Paul Neary
Bottom left: Superman v.2 #28 (February 1989), art by Kerry Gammill and Dennis Janke ("after Steranko")
Bottom right: Splash page pencils for the unpublished Marvel Razorline comic Wraitheart #4 (c. 1994), art by Hector Gomez

(Click picture to exploding-lung-size)

*Space Hovering Intentionally Evading Lunar Destruction

365 Days with Hank McCoy, Day 114

Dazzler #1
Panel from Beauty and the Beast #2 (February 1985), script by Ann Nocenti, pencils by Don Perlin, inks by Kim DeMulder, colors by Petra Scotese, letters by Joe Rosen

Saturday Morning Cartoon: The Animation of Lotte Reiniger

A short clip from The Adventures of Prince Achmed by Lotte Reiniger (1954)

Cinderella by Lotte Reiniger (1954)

Documentary: The Art of Lotte Reiniger (1970), directed by John Isaacs

Friday, April 23, 2010

Top Trending Twitter Topics of the Marvel Universe

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365 Days with Hank McCoy, Day 113

Hank plays the ham, mis-quoting Henry V by William Shakespeare, to celebrate his 446th birthday today! Um, Shakespeare's birthday, that is, not Hank's. Although, come to think of it, do we know when Hank's birthday is? Who's to say it isn't today, huh? So...

Happy Birthday Will! (And Hank, just in case!)

deleted scene from the X-Men: The Last Stand DVD (2006), directed by Brett Ratner and featuring Hugh Jackman as Wolverine and Kelsey Grammer as The Beast.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

I'm not adverse / To a little verse.

Poetry!If you remember last time
I promised you a post in rhyme
Marvel letters where readers chime
In verse and poetry sublime.
And it will not cost you a dime
This post's a steal! Almost a crime!
As sweet as key pie flavored lime
Or parleys, sage, rosemary, thyme
It keeps away the disease lyme
And helps you paramounts to climb
I'll tell you now, I needn't mime
Irish Spring soap takes away grime
And while you're reading this, well I'm
Trying to find a better rhyming dictionary.

Letters to Marvel written in rhyme started fairly early in the Marvel Age...anything to make your mightily marvelous missive stand out among the thousand in Willie Lumpkin's mailbag. Here's one from FF #22 (January 1964):


Here's a bit of doggerel from Avengers #14 (March 1965) in which a mother laments her son's obsessive comic book collecting habit. Later, she tossed out every copy of her son's early Marvel's, except for this issue, which she cut out her letter and put it on the fridge. That fatal financial error is why Mrs. Millard Brown's little boy had to go tocommunity college rather than Harvard! And that boy grew up to be this guy.


The letter column of Avengers #53 (June 1968) contains this ode to Marvel in general and Giovanni Natale Buscema in particular (you know him as John):


Not every letter in verse is a compliment to Mighty Marvel. Mike Towry complains via a poem in Astonishing Tales #8 (October 1971) of the frequent reprints of the early 1970s. Why, Mister Towry, in my day we took reprints and we liked them! (Unless they were of that story where Iron Man met Cleopatra.)


Lee Christopherson of Winona Ryder, Minnesota has written a poem so impressive that Stan declares it Marvel's official marching song! Hooray! (In FF #29)


A few years later, however, Stan came up with an entirely new Mighty Marvel Marching Society song! (At which point Lee Christopherson sued him and gained complete control of Marvel Comics to this day.) Still, it's a catchy melody, Stan:

I'd say something about this four-part quatrain to Fantastic Four #103, but I'm just freaked out by giant looming Ben Grimm. Hey, step back from the lens, ya big galoot!


Now, I'm not trying to say that the only poetry goin' on in Marvel Comics was in the letters page. The bountiful brilliance of the Bullpen meant that we were getting poems inside the comics themselves, even years before Jack Kirby turned a duck into The Demon's head and rhymed everything with the word "Etrigan." Here's an example from Incredible Hulk #102 (April 1968, Greenskin's first issue of his rebooted regular series). The Musketeers Warriors Three have encountered a witchy soothsayer (played in the first panel by Margaret Hamilton, and in the following panels by Ann-Margret) who recounts the origin of the verse:


...which inspires a Marvelite Miss to go for the gold...or, at least a pointing out some captioning errors about the issue in rhyme! (In this letter in Hulk #105, July 1968):


After X-Men #32 was titled, with a bit of Carrolian whimsy, "Beware the Juggernaut, My Son!," X-Men #35 (August 1967) prints a letter on that issue riffing on the original "Jabberwocky" poem. Nice bit of poetry, huh? Sad to say, nobody ever heard from this letter writer in the comics industry, ever again.


But I kids the Mark Evanier.

And just in case you didn't get the joke, here's Ye Ed. spelling it out for you in a letter in the same issue. Whoa, this looks like Marvel was planning to publish Fables years before Bill Willingham!


Which is not to say The House of Ideas never makes mistakes. Like the hero of at least one of their comics, no matter what they say, they're not infallible. Here's a letter to the editor of Sgt. Fury and His Howling Commandos #52 (March 1968) taking exception the dialogue in a previous issue using the southern "y'all" directed towards one, not several, people.


Letter-writer William Cantey didn't write the poem, and didn't know the author. He might have gotten it years before from a column in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, where columnist Frank Colby lectures on the exact same lesson but doesn't know the author of the poem either:


By the way, that "Axis stamp" the sidebar column is talkin' about was never an actual United States postage stamp but just a propaganda image (take a look at it here). And it's absolutely no relation to the perennial comic book ad shilling those infamous "Hitler Head" stamps! (PS: They ain't "free." "On approval" is a very nasty trick to play on a little stuffed bull starting a stamp collection!)


Anyway, we've gotten a bit off the point, which is poems in Marvel letter columns. Here's one by another future Marvel superstar, Don McGregor, in July 1969's Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.* #13:

*Supreme Headquarters, International Espionage, Law-Enforcement Division-Ye. Bullish Ed.


Hey, what do Don McGregor and a little stuffed bull have in common? We've both written a Christmas poem about Nick Fury!

Here's a short but sweet one, monkeyin' around with verse in Marvel's Planet of the Apes magazine (issue #19, March 1976):


And just to show ya that poetry in the LoCs isn't a thing of the past, here's Marvel Editors turning a letter into blank verse, in a relatively recent rhyme from Captain America volume 5, #11 (November 2005):


Yes, those rhymes keep marchin' on. Perhaps it's the inspiration of Stan and the Marvel Bullpen who use famous poetry as titles of or allusions in their stories, or that Roy Thomas will, as we saw yesterday, bust a rhyme at the drop of a Golden Age comic book:


So who do you thank for all this rhyming rhetoric and virtuous verse inside your favorite Marvel mags? Well, Stan the Man thanks everyone...including you!


What? You want more poetry in Marvel letter columns? Make with the click, Nick!

365 Days with Hank McCoy, Day 112

Avengers #140
Panel from Avengers #140 (October 1975), script by Steve Englehart, pencils by George Tuska, inks by Vince Colletta, colors by Petra Goldberg, letters by Charlotte Jetter

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Roy Thomas is lovely, dark and deep.

Avengers + Poetry = Fun!Comic books are your best educational value! It's true, ya know! Yours little stuffed truly is home-schooled, an' it's a secular curriculum that my pal John has set for me to study each day of the basic sciences, the fundamentals of mathematics, and the greats of literature! And yet, I still have plenty of time to read comic books! Why? Because (looking back up to the top of the paragraph) because comics are your best educational value! For every subject I'm assigned it's as simple as apple pie to the teacher to find a comic book that teaches me more about it! Don't believe me? Why, over the past few semesters of homeschooling I've been set several courses: oceanography (reading Sub-Mariner, Sea Devils and Aquaman has helped me there), astronomy (Jack Kirby's 2001 tells it like it is!), philosophy (the later DC work of Steve Ditko, especially The Question), law (Daredevil!), Shakespeare (pretty much any random issue of The Sandman penciled by Charles Vess), and of course, dairy farm production (Evan Dorkin's Milk and Cheese). You see? You can learn a lot from a dummy comic book! Why, I bet almost everybody who reads comic books has learned something from them they later got to use in school—whether it be a Flash Fact lesson in physics, the meaning of the word "Excelsior," or what gamma rays do when you're pelted by them. Now tell the many of you learned Percy Bysshe Shelley's "Ozymandias" not in English class, but from Avengers #57?

Avengers + Poetry = Fun!
Final page of Avengers #57 (October 1968), script by Roy Thomas, pencils by John Buscema, inks by George Klein, letters by Sam Rosen

Yep! I learned it there and so did you. (And I'm betting Alan Moore did, too.) So the next time you gaze upon an ancient ruin of once-great splendor and faded, broken majesty, who you gonna thank? Not Percy Freakin' Shelley, no no no...thank "Rascally" Roy Thomas!

A few months later, in the Avengers #61 letter column, a reader writes in to compliment in no uncertain blushing terms that poetic little touch ending the Vision's introduction saga:

Avengers + Poetry = Fun!

Roy Thomas cannot tell a lie...'twas Roy Thomas who came up with that versical little touch!

Avengers + Poetry = Fun!

Why, Roy musta had The Big Book of Poetry for Comic Book Writers by his side while he was transcribing the true-life adventures of the World's Mightest, for (as that letter-column fragment above testifies), he'd titled Avengers #61 after another famous poem! Check it out, sonneteers and sonneteenas:

Avengers #61

First two pages of Avengers #61 (February 1969), script by Roy Thomas, pencils by John Buscema, inks by George Klein, letters by Sam Rosen

(Click picture to Surtur-size)

Holy freakin' cow, John Buscema! Izzat or izzatnot the most amazing, incredible, fantastic, uncanny pages from a comic book you've ever seen? And keep in mind, this wasn't a two-page spread...the first page is the splash page, and you don't get the second one until you turn the page and it punches you between the eyes like a giant ice cube! Whoo-ee! (Seriously, I love this era of Avengers, I love Buscema, and I really love these two pages. )

Just to keep Mister Thomas the honest man he is, Marvel immediately a couple months later prints this note in the Bullpen Bulletins to remind you that while Roy Thomas knows more about the Golden Age than you ever will, he isn't Robert Frost. But did Robert Frost ever create Captain Carrot and the Amazing Zoo Crew!? No. No, he did not.

Avengers + Poetry = Fun!

Marvel readers, however, are smart enough to know their Robt. Frost, like M. Jablonski of No Address Given, who had a letter printed in Avengers #65:

Avengers + Poetry = Fun!

Oh, M. spot-on about Robert Frost, so off-the-mark about Hank Pym and Janet van Dyne.

But wait! If there's one single thing I learned in my homeschooling, it's how to make a volcano out of baking soda and vinegar. And the second thing is that Robert Frost died in 1963, not 1968 as the yellow Bullpen Bulletin above says. I demand a No-Prize! I demand a No-Prize! I demand...oh, somebody's already pointed that out. (In the letters column of Avengers #71, in fact!):

Avengers + Poetry = Fun!

Well, the person at fault? The Marvel proofreader. Who later went on to pencil naughty things about Bob Harras in Universe X: Spidey and then make Wolverine spout anti-Semitic exclamations. That wacky proofreader! He's always pullin' that stuff!

And to take the whole thing full circle, here's another letter in ish #71 to Jarvis and the whole wacky gang at Avengers verse!:

Avengers + Poetry = Fun!

Now just wait a cotton-pickin' minute! ........ (I'm so sorry, Mister T'Challa, you know that's not what I meant. Let me use another phrase.) Now wait just one darn minute! Poetry in a comic book letter column? Well, yeah, sure, why not? If it's good enough for Roy Thomas, it's good enough for Marvel fans, isn't it? If there's anything I've learned from my homeschooling it's that you can use vinegar and baking soda to make a volcano, that Robert Frost died in 1963, and that if you're going to study poetry, you oughta try to write some yourself. And if you read poetry in a comic book story...why not write poetry to a comic book? Huh? Huh? Why not, huh?

That question, and many five more, will be answered in tomorrow's exciting post, True Bullievers! Be there or beware!

365 Days with Hank McCoy, Day 111

UXM #35
Panels from [Uncanny] X-Men #35 (August 1967), script by Roy Thomas, pencils by Werner Roth, inks by Dan Adkins, letters by Jerry Feldmann

Today in Comics History, April 21, 2010: Just don't ask what happened to Aries I-VI.

Hooray! Today we welcome back the crew of the Mars probe Aries VII, who left on a five year voyage to boldly go where...hey, wait, they're rotten space plagiarists!

from Planet of Vampires #1 (Atlas Seaboard, 1975), script by Larry Hama, pencils by Pat Broderick, inks by Frank McLaughlin, letters by Alan Kupperberg

(PS: Here's what happened.)

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Separated at Birth. And probably a spoiler.

M&M Daleks

365 Days with Hank McCoy, Day 110

X-Men The End 3-6
Panel from X-Men: The End, Book Three: Men & X-Men #6 (August 2006), script by Chris Claremont, pencils by Sean Chen, inks by Sandu Florea, colors by Ian Hannin, letters by Dave Sharpe

Monday, April 19, 2010

Monday Night Murals: "If I don't play ping pong every 108 minutes the whole island's gonna explode....with DINOSAURS!"

Once in a while your little stuffed truly likes to look beyond the Big Two and the murals that everybody knows...for example, it's so obvious that the cover of Kamandi, The Last Boy On Earth #55 interconnects with Bishop: The Last X-Man #3 that it's hardly worth mentioning. But what about indie comics, huh? What about all those CrossGen comic books that form a mural if you crumple them up and throw them in a box? How about the way that issues #13-245 of Cerebus can be arranged to form the words GIRLS ARE YUCKY AND HAVE COOTIES? Or, how about this rarely-seen, probably-forgotten treasure from the early nineties:

Dino Island

Dino Island #1-2 (February-March 1993), art by Jim Lawson
(Click picture to Isla Nublar-size)

I didn't follow Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles or most of the output of Mirage Studios, but when I saw the cover of Dino Island #1 by Jim Larson on the rack I had to pick it up and return the next month for the following issue. A science-fiction high adventure featuring a lost avatrix named "Amelia" (golly! wonder who?) fighting for her life on the isle she's crashed on, complete with big brontos and all the usual Jurassic suspects. (In fact, this microseries came out six months before the Jurassic Park.) I enjoyed it quite a bit, and even tho' it's buried somewhere in the Big Bully Vault o' Longboxes, I must dig it out soon and revisit it—Lawson's art is absolutely beautiful and it's a fun story. Two issues was all the series consisted of, and it was never collected in trade. But keep your eyes open when you're checking quarter boxes; it's well worth the search.

365 Days with Hank McCoy, Day 109

Dazzler #1
Panel from Dazzler #1 (March 1981), script by Tom DeFalco, pencils by John Romita Jr., inks by Alfredo Alcala, colors by Glynis Wein, letters by Joe Rosen

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Ten of a Kind: Harsh Mistress

(More Ten of a Kind here.)