Saturday, August 28, 2010

Today in Comics History, August 28: Happy birthday, Jack Kirby! (2010)

Happy Birthday, Jack! And thanks for all the wonder...

Thor by Kirby

...the power...

Thor by Kirby

...the humanity...

Thor by Kirby

...the laughs...

Thor by Kirby

And, of course...the hats.

Thor by Kirby

Long live the King!

365 Days with Hank McCoy, Day 240 (Jack Kirby's Birthday Edition)

X-Men #1
Panels from [Uncanny] X-Men #1 (September 1963), script by Stan Lee, pencils by Jack Kirby, inks by Paul Reinman, letters by Sam Rosen

Saturday Morning Jack Kirby Cartoon: Thor: "Enchantress and Executioner"

The Mighty Thor "Enchantress and Executioner/Giants Walk the Earth/Battle of the Gods" (1966), produced by Grantray-Lawrence Animation and starring the voice of Chris Wiggins as Thor; based on Journey Into Mystery #103 (April 1964), adapting the script by Stan Lee and the art by Jack Kirby and Chic Stone

Friday, August 27, 2010

Peter Parker! Don't you dare turn your back on us, young man!

The many emo final panels of Steve Ditko's Amazing Spider-Man issues:

Amazing Spider-Man
Amazing Fantasy #15 (August 1962)

Amazing Spider-Man
Amazing Spider-Man #37 (June 1966)

Amazing Spider-Man
Amazing Spider-Man #15 (August 1964)

Amazing Spider-Man
Amazing Spider-Man #33 (February 1966)

Amazing Spider-Man
Amazing Spider-Man #17 (October 1964)

Amazing Spider-Man
Amazing Spider-Man #30 (November 1965)

Amazing Spider-Man
Amazing Spider-Man #13 (June 1964)

Amazing Spider-Man
Amazing Spider-Man #21 (February 1965)

Amazing Spider-Man
Amazing Spider-Man #9 (February 1964)

Amazing Spider-Man
Amazing Spider-Man #29 (October 1965)

Amazing Spider-Man
Amazing Spider-Man #12 (May 1964)

Amazing Spider-Man
Amazing Spider-Man #34 (March 1966)

Amazing Spider-Man
Amazing Spider-Man #16 (September 1964)

Amazing Spider-Man
Amazing Spider-Man #38 (July 1966)

Amazing Spider-Man
Amazing Spider-Man #28 (September 1965)

Amazing Spider-Man
Amazing Spider-Man #11 (April 1964)

Amazing Spider-Man
Amazing Spider-Man #35 (April 1966)

365 Days with Hank McCoy, Day 239

What If? v.2 #42
The Hank McCoy of Earth-92100 versus the Six-Armed Spider-Man in panels from What If? v.2 #42 (October 1992), script by Michael Gallagher, pencils by Kevin West, inks by Ian Akin, colors by Tom Vincent, letters by Ken Lopez

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Doctor Strange, Quick-Thinking Man of Instant Action!

Nightmare!I love sleeping, but sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night, and not just for a delicious, cold frosty glass of chock'lit milk. (Although it's always time for chock'lit milk!). No, ordinary guys like you and me, sleeping in the middle of the night, might be awakened by noisy neighbors, alley cats howling, or Frank Castle cleaning up a mob money laundering center in the apartment next door. Or, maybe a bad dream brought on by DC's Morpheus or Marvel's done-right version, Sleepwalker.

Not so the (ex)-Sorcerer Supreme of the Marvel Universe, the Dumfoundering Dr. Stephen Strange! Why, Steve himself might be awoken at any moment through the cold wee hours of the night, aroused from slumber in his Select Comfort Bed (Sleep Mattress Number: 666) for many different and astounding reasons: perhaps Dormammu is invading New Jersey! Or Baron Mordo ordered him twenty-five pizzas to be delivered at three AM, and all of them have pineapple on them! Or, maybe Wong just knocked over some pots and pans in the Strange Kitchen.

Or maybe, he forgets to hit his snooze alarm and gets this:

Dr. Strange/Dr. Doom
Panels from Marvel Graphic Novel #49: Doctor Strange and Doctor Doom: Triumph and Torment (1989), script by Roger Stern, pencils by Mike Mignola, inks and colors by Mark Badger, letters by Jim Novak

Now, what can we learn from this? First, that this is a matter of the most urgent essence, and Dr. Strange must immediately snap into action to dive immediately into this emergency adventure. Two, that Doc buys his home decorations at Pier 1, and three, and perhaps most important, Doctor Strange does not wear pajamas. (And Clea isn't even there! Well, maybe she's having a sleepover at Sara Wolfe's.)

Also, wow, the Aged Genghis has a sense of the dramatic, huh? You can just hear that last word echoing: "Destiny nee nee nee nee."

Anyway, the hands on Doc's Magica da Spell wristwatch are ticking away and time is of the essence! Strange must act, immediately! Which he does in the most dramatic and intense way to be seen in graphic superhero fiction: by calling his travel agent.

Dr. Strange/Dr. Doom

Doc, it's called Expedia and it even works in the Marvel Universe.

This is when the clock starts ticking, so let's start timing Doc's journey. Or, more precisely, let's start timing Doctor Strange's train of thought. Here's the next quartet of panels:

Dr. Strange/Dr. Doom

My point...and I do have that
Dr. Strange thinks reeeeeeeeal slow.

His thought begins as he's picking up a cab outside his Sanctum Sanctorum, which, as any tour guide in Manhattan will tell you, is right over there next to the Starbuck', not that one, the one over, the other Starbuck's...oh yes, I didn't see that one, okay, the one down the street from that...there ya go!: 177A Bleecker Street in Greenwich Village.

Dr. Strange/Dr. Doom

As a New Yorker, there's one thought that pops into my head when I see this panel (and it's not about Doc's snazzy green and black collegiate v-neck sweater): who the Sam Scratch calls for a taxi in New York City? Answer: out of towners. Real New Yorkers (and Doc's been established there since before the Beatles arrived at Idlewild) know that if you want a cab, all you do is step out in the street, wave at one, and it'll pull up right away for you. (Unless you're Luke Cage.)

No, when they're going to John F. Kennedy Airport, most New Yorkers either grab a taxicab, or, much more likely, call for a car service. New York car services are town cars for private hire: more expensive than yellow taxicabs, but no extra surprise charges (the price is a flat price, plus tips and tolls, set from the beginning) and you can ride in much more relative comfort. Plus, there's no risk that you might not be able to catch a cab if it's a busy time of day. Why, Doc or Wong just shoulda ordered up a town car from Dial 7 Car & Limousine Service. There's no excuse for not remembering the phone number: it's 777-7777. That way Doc coulda avoided being this guy:

Now, since time is of the essence, the first thing Doc's gonna tell the driver is stay off the BQE. But let's assume the driver knows where he's going (and believe me, I've had town car drivers who don't) and given some decent traffic ...for instance, Spider-Man isn't trying to stop Norman Osborn from tossing his girlfriend off the Brooklyn Bridge...and Strange will be at JFK in about half an hour.

Dr. Strange/Dr. Doom

So, Doc arrives at JFK for his international flight, and must then immediately and promptly wait about two hours for boarding. That'll definitely give him enough time to hit the food court, get a cup of coffee at Starbuck', not the one by gate 23, the one by gate, next to that one...but by the time the plane takes off, it's probably about two and a half to three hours later. And he is still continuing the same thought.

Dr. Strange/Dr. Doom

I'm assuming Doc travels first class, or at least Magician Business, so he can stretch out his long legs, sip the complementary champagne and orange juice, and enjoy the complimentary headphones to watch Kevin Costner's Tin Cup. It's a fairly long flight with a transfer in Hong Kong, so let's hope Steven brought his Griffin TuneJuice 2 and the entire four-and-a-half volume Twilight series to while away the time. He'll arrive in Jakarta on the island of Java in Indonesia twenty-two and a half hours after the plane left JFK. Let's hope the good Doctor doesn't have a phobia about airplane bathrooms.

Dr. Strange/Dr. Doom

I assume that Strange gets a taxi out of the city of Jakarta, but at some point he hops onto a local bus...still continuing the same thought... and then grabs a passing amusement park African Queen thrill ride boat (Katharine Hepburn with umbrella sold separately)...finally finishing the same thought.

Dr. Strange/Dr. Doom

Might I say it again?
Dr. Strange thinks reeeeeeeeal slow.

Go ahead, read the following sentence aloud and time yourself:
It is best that I restrict myself to more mundane modes of transportation until I know more about this "question of power" and why an entire gathering of sorcerers is required to deal with it!
Did you do the voice? I bet you did the voice. Anyway, consider that it took Strange probably more than one full day to think that. Pietro Maximoff he ain't.

We don't know exactly where the Temple of the Three is in Java, but boy, it does a good dramatic entrance, don't it?

Dr. Strange/Dr. Doom

And Mignola was, like Carl Barks, clearly reading his National Geographics for visual research: aside from the twenty story carved visage of Charles Xavier on the front, the Temple of the Three distinctly looks like real Indonesian temples of the time.

Dr. Strange/Dr. Doom

Please note above that Doc decides he's going to change his travel clothes before he enters the temple. I dunno what he's gonna change into, but I sure hope it's this outfit from Doctor Strange v.2 #49:

Dr. Strange/Dr. Doom

Meanwhile, Dr. Doom's been there for ages, sitting at the hotel bar and sullenly drinking mai-tais. I bet he got in more than one thought on the journey. And probably most of them were "ACCURSED RICHARDS!"

So, the moral of the story: never pick Steven Strange to be your partner on $25,000 Pyramid.

365 Days with Hank McCoy, Day 238

Ghost Rider v.2 #26
Panels from Ghost Rider v.2 #26 (June 1992), script by Howard Mackie, pencils by Ron Wagner, inks by Mike Witherby, colors by Gregory Wright, letters by Janice Chiang

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The Ballad of Henry Pym

Plug-a-rama Department!: I keep meaning to hype this but hadn't yet (so sorry for the delay, guys!)

If there's one Marvel character who totally rocks and has the name Henry, it's...well, the blue furry guy. But the other one has gotta be everybody's favorite schizophrenic insect-whisperer, Hank Pym!

Here's a music video done by comedy team and my good pals the Boffo Yux Dudes (seriously, I've known these guys for so long it feels like I'm much older than six) and I was delighted and honored when they asked me to help out a little bit with a project for this years SpinTunes Super Song Fight 2010. All the talent and creation belongs to the Dudes; all I did was sit and clip pictures of Ant-Man, Giant-Man, and Yellowjacket out of my old first-printing Marvels to use in the video. (But, as we like to say around here, it was fun, and so is "The Ballad of Henry Pym"!:

You can download "The Ballad of Henry Pym" and others in the first round of the competition, as well as all the tracks (including more new BYD tunes!) in the other rounds of the SpinTunes competition. (And you can watch the upcoming rounds and vote on the SpinTunes Blogspot.)

Also, Don't miss out on some of the classic material on the BoffoYuxDudes Weblog. Here's some of my favorites: What, more? Well, yes! You can download their classic comedy album Stays Funny​.​.​. Even in Milk! For free! Well, the price is right!

Remember, folks: four out of five dentists who use laughing gas recommend Boffo Yux Dudes for their patients who like to laugh.

365 Days with Hank McCoy, Day 237

X-Men: Blind Science
Panels from X-Men: Blind Science one-shot (July 2010), script by Simon Spurrier, pencils by Paul Davidson inks by Francis Portella, colors by Chris Sotomayor, letters by Rob Steen

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Archie Comics: We will feature no fad before its time

Comic book creators have a reputation for trying to be "hip," "with-it", and "up-to-date" with the "kids," even though for much of the 1960s through 1980 they were written by guys in their forties, fifties, and sixties. Once upon a time in the golden age, young men ruled the comics world, thus ensuring up-to-the-minute topical references like Captain America punching Hitler in March 1941, Sub-Mariner storming the beaches of France in 1943, and Superman destroying Chernobyl in '45. And we all remember Green Lantern/Tommy Dorsey Team-Up, right? But the older these creators got, the weaker their pulse on the youth of America. Disco, that stand-by of the 1970s, inspired The Disco Dazzler, whose slightly less topical title premiered in a comic cover-dated March 1981. Break-dancing? Popular for a few years, sure. Not popular by the time Vibe debuted in Justice League of America. Certainly not popular now that Vibe has become a resurrected White Lantern and set for a new series this fall by by Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely.

Even tho' Spider-Man and Batman were fighting villains the Hula Hoop and The Polyester Suit in the 1990s, Marvel and DC have since made a more firm attempt to keep their stories less rooted in contemporary references, instead choosing to tie their stories to celebrities and events that will never go out of style, like Stephen Colbert, Tom Cruise's Mission: Impossible, and that time Bob Dole and Al Gore had a fist-fight in the middle of New York that only stopped when Gore realized how many buildings he'd knocked down and burst into tears. But it's generally perceived that if you're looking for out-of-date, long-past fads, interests, references and pop culture, you only have to look as far on the comic book rack as the section that stocks the approximately one bajillion Archie Comics published every month. Archie has a solid reputation as the publisher so out of touch with the youth trends of today that they published a story about cup-stacking in 2007...17 years after it became a hit after being performed on The Tonight Show. Not the one with Conan, not the one with Leno. The one with Carson.

But is this reputation deserved? As America's number one publisher of comics featuring fresh, cheery, enthusiastic, perpetually horny yet celibate teenagers, is Archie really that out of touch with contemporary culture? How close are their stories to the actual events that inspired them?

Let's find out, shall we? I took a completely random sampling (and you can't prove otherwise) of various Archie Comics to see how up-to-date they were with trends, fashions, and fads. Keep in mind that comics are cover-dated about three months ahead of their availability to the public, and have a writing and lead time of several months before that publication. Also, remember that there may be a time lapse between the debut of a phenomenon and its acceptance as a genuine, honest-to-Furby fad or craze by the American public. So I'd consider any difference of 12 months or fewer pretty good; any of six months or so would be exceptional.

So: Archie Comics: as with it as Veronica's bikinis or as out of date as Jughead's hat? Let's find out!

Veronica #154: cover-dated October 2004
TV series The Apprentice premieres: January 2004
Difference: 9 months

Betty and Me #137: cover-dated January 1984
Film Flashdance premieres: April 1983
Difference: 9 months

Archie's Girl's Betty & Veronica #112: cover-dated April 1965
TV series Mr. Novak premieres: September 1963
Difference: 19 months

Jughead #141: cover-dated February 1967
TV series Batman premieres: January 1966
Difference: 13 months

Archie's Pals 'n' Gals #86: cover-dated July 1974
"The Battle of the Sexes" Bobby Riggs vs. Billie Jean King tennis match: September 1973
Difference: 10 months

Archie's Girls Betty and Veronica #123: cover-dated March 1966
Ringo Starr marries Maureen Cox: February 1965
Difference: 13 months

Pep #166: cover-dated October 1963 (received in stores in August 1963)
TV series Sing Along with Mitch premieres: September 1961
Difference: 25 months

Betty and Veronica #156: cover-dated February 2001
Film Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery premieres: May 1997
Difference: 46 months

Betty and Me #8: cover-dated June 1967
Rise in popularity of "canned dresses" (according to this Life magazine article): November 1966
Difference: 7 months

Archie's T.V. Laugh-Out #104: cover-dated December 1985
TV series Miami Vice premieres: September 1984
Difference: 15 months

Not to mention: Archie's TV Laugh-Out #1: December 1969. TV series Laugh-in premieres: January 1968. Difference: 23 months.

Archie's Girls Betty and Veronica #67: cover-dated July 1961
John F. Kennedy announces his candidacy in January 1960, inaugurated January 1961
Difference: 6 to 18 months

Archie and Me #6: cover-dated February 1966
TV series The Man from U.N.C.L.E. premieres: September 1964
Difference: 17 months

Jughead #92: cover-dated May 1997
Gregor Mendel publishes his paper Experiments on Plant Hybridization: 1865
Difference: 1,584 months

Veronica #5: cover-dated December 1989
The Taj Mahal's construction finishes: 1653
Difference: 4,032 months

Archie at Riverdale High #97: cover-dated June 1984
Rome burns: AD 64
Difference: 23,040 months

Archie 3000 #1: cover-dated May 1989
The year 3000: 3000
Difference: Minus 12,132 months

Archie's Pals 'n' Gals Double Digest #143: cover-dated November 2010
Archies release their hit single "Sugar Sugar": July 1969
Difference: 503 months

Archie #583: cover-dated May 2008
Issue of Betty in Veronica's hands published: apparently, this morning
Difference: Pretty darn near none

So, there you go. Some long, some short gaps between event and Archie Comic. But on the most part, I'm actually more impressed than I expected. Archie Comics tend to keep the generation gap to a pretty reasonable minimum, and anyway, aren't the adventures and travails of Arch, Jug, Reggie, Betty, Ronnie, Hot Dog and the gang pretty near timeless? Sure, we're all faced with trying to determine the canonicity of Reggie serving in Vietnam and that time Big Moose spent a year in Bio-Dome, but hey, let's look at next month's Archie. Why, I bet it's as fresh and up-to-date as today's headlines...

Archie's Pal JFK

Oh, for cryin' out loud.