Saturday, December 31, 2011

Today in Comics History, December 31, 1984, New Year's Eve: Happy New Year's Eve, Superman!

...but you can't go to any parties until you take care of the giant floating whirlpool.

from DC Retroactive: Superman: The '80s one-shot (DC, October 2011), script by Marv Wolfman, pencils and inks by Sergio Cariello, colors by Andrew Elder, letters by Pat Brosseau

...Also, don't forget to read your copy of Crisis on Infinite Earths #7.

365 Days with Plastic Man, Day 5

Cover of Kid Eternity v.3 #13 (June 1994), pencils and inks by Sean Phillips

Geez, look, if you can't find Plastic Man on this cover, well, you're just not looking hard enough.

Join us tomorrow for Day 6 with the Stretchable...


Okay, I admit it. I've run out of plastic puns. Sigh.

An' I gotta do 360 more of these?


Maybe...I'll pick somebody else to spend a year with. Hold on a bit and come right back following midnight (just after they drop Dick Clark allllll the way down off that building).

I'll find somebody a little more...flexible.

365 Days with the Warriors Three, Day 365

Splash panel from "The End!" in Thor #145 (October 1967), script by Stan Lee, pencils by Jack Kirby,
inks by Vince Colletta, letters by Sam Rosen

And so, there you go. Verily!

So: why the Warriors Three? Like The Thing (in whose pleasant company we spent 365 days in 2009) and The Beast (2010), they're characters created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, so they fall within that primal and basic range of Marvel characters who've been present since the early years of the Marvel Universe. As Spock would say: "Ah...the giants." Yes, there were giants in those days, and I'm not even talking just about big-as-an-Asgardian-Home-Depot Volstagg. Fandral, Hogun, and Volstagg were part of the larger-than-life mythology of Lee 'n' Kirby's Asgard, but rather than adapting the ancient myths (red-headed, bearded Thor and blonde Sif among them) to modern superheroic conventions, the Warriors Three were spun out of cloth by Stan and ripped timely from the thigh of Jack. Ewwwww. Maybe I should just say they wrote and drew them.

As fictional supporting characters they began then, but they've battled their way into my heart. I'd read and enjoyed several stories featuring the W3 before I started dropping them into this little puppet-town cow-blog every day for the past 52 weeks—mainly in Walt Simsonson's legendary Thor run, as guest stars in quite possibly the best New Mutants speciall ever, and in their four solo issues in Marvel Fanfare drawn by the incomparable Charles Vess. But I didn't know much more than that about them: the dashing one, the grim one, and the fat one.

There's plenty of archetypes for heroes in packs of three throughout history, literature, myth and fiction: Melchior, Caspar, and Balthazar. Mo, Larry, and Curly. Harry, Hermione, and Ron. Crosby, Still, and Nash. Sabrina, Jill, and Kelly (or, if you prefer: Dylan, Alex, and Natalie). Groucho, Chico, and Harpo. Huey, Dewey, and Louis. Kirk, Spock, and McCoy. Prudence, Piper, and Phoebe. Blossom, Buttercup, and Bubbles. Jeremy, Richard, and James. Snap, Crackle, and Pop. Dmitri, Ivan, and Alexei. Ed, Edd and Eddy. Jack, Janet, and Chrissy. Manny, Moe, and Jack. Fluid Man, Coil Man, and Multi Man. Sting, Andy, and Stewart. Gödel, Escher, and Bach. Joel, Crow, and Tom Servo. Who, What, and I Don't Know. Yakko, Wakko, and Dot. Bacon, Lettuce, and Tomato. Lather, Rinse, and Repeat. Reed, Sue, and Ben (in 2011). But probably Stan and Jack were most influenced by Athos (a planet on Stargate Atlantis), Aramis (a manly scent for manly men), and Porthos (first beagle aboard a warp-class starship). Oh, and D'Artagnan. Which makes four. Somebody needs to write Monsieur Dumas and let him know that. Also, that they are always carrying swords and not muskets.

Anyway, back to the Warriors Three: the dashing one (Douglas Fairbanks), the grim one (Charles Bronson), and the comic relief one (Falstaff, probably), begin as pretty broad caricatures, but it's clear that Stan and Jack have more in mind for them pretty early on with one of the first extended "Tales of Asgard" (Thor #137 starts this tale off) delving into the history of Hogun. But it's especially during Walt Simonson's run that all the Warriors step forward with distinct heroic personalities of their own. Volstagg started out as not much more than a bluffing braggart with a (big) yellow belly, but under the pen of Mr. Simonson he saves Asgard and Midgard, adopts a pair of Earth orphans, cheers up (and fills out) Balder, and sits on an insurgent and tells him tales of bravery rather than immediately strike him down. By the mid-eighties, Volstagg is shown to have a true soul: maybe not the most ept of Asgardians, but the one with the biggest heart. The expansion, if you forgive the word, of Volstagg is one of those rare personality jump-starts that isn't immediately retconned after Simonson leaves the title. And the old gag of Mrs. Volstagg being a shrew is finally tempered by his great love for her (not to mention their double-digit numbers of offspring). Here's a particularly touching scene I didn't get a chance to fit in over the past year from a post-Simonson Thor:

Panels from Thor #397 (November 1988), script by Tom DeFalco, pencils by Ron Frenz,
inks by Brett Breeding and Don Heck, colors by Christie Scheele, letters by Jack Morelli

Volstagg even comes off well during one of the series' lower periods, The "Lost Gods" serial in the post-Onslaught replacement for Thor, Journey Into Mystery, as a chunky TV chef with a metal skillet to bash baddies' skulls. I think if you count up the number of times I've used each of the three Warriors this year, you'll find Volstagg far out in the lead. The writers and artists love him a lot, and so do I.

But it's together...all for one and one for all...that the Warriors battle on into our legends and our hearts. It's been a good year to be a Warriors Three fan: several high-profile Thor comics and books have featured the W3. There was that fairly entertaining movie which coulda been made even better with more Joshua Dallas, Tadanobu Asano, and especially a hundred or so more pounds of Ray Stevenson. 2011 saw the publication of the first Warriors Three miniseries, and the republishing in trade form of several more tales from Marvel's past history. And despite the grim and gritty landscape of the past several years of the Marvel Universe, the Warriors Three (especially Volstagg) have taken important roles right up front, from their post-Civil War return to Midgard following Ragnarok, to crashed Asgard of Siege, to the counter and kitchen of Bill's Diner in Broxton, Oklahoma, to quite possibly one of the finest Volstagg and Family stories of recent years (Journey Into Mystery #630).

So if you learned and laughed and enjoyed and wondered at this feature every day at five pm (Asgard Central Time) for the past three-hundred-sixty-five...well, I'm with you on that one. I've come to know and love the Warriors Three more than ever.

Rudyard Kipling wrote:
One man in a thousand, Solomon says,
Will stick more close than a brother.
And it's worth while seeking him half your days
If you find him before the other.
Nine nundred and ninety-nine depend
On what the world sees in you,
But the Thousandth Man will stand your friend
With the whole round world agin you.


...The Thousandth Man will stand by your side
To the gallows-foot—and after!
Thor's one of the luckiest ones in the Marvel Universe: like Ben Grimm, like Alex Power...he has three that stand beside him, all the way to Valhalla.

Panel from Thor: Vikings #5 (January 2004), script by Garth Ennis, pencils and inks by Glenn Fabry,
colors by Paul Mounts, letters by Dave Sharpe

But let's not ponder on inevitable, once-in-an-eon Ragnarok (which has happened about seven times so far in the Marvel Universe)...let's go out the way so many of those grand Thor issues go out...with a mighty roar, a hoisting of arms, and a cheer for Asgard!

Panel from Thor #250 (August 1976), script by Len Wein, breakdowns by John Buscema,
finishes by Tony DeZuniga, colors by Glynis Wein, letters by John Costanza

There'll always be an Asgard. And there'll always be a Warriors Three. So say we all!

A Duckburg New Year, Day 1 (of 3)

Walt Disney's Comics and Stories #28 (January 1943), pencils and inks by Carl Buettner

Friday, December 30, 2011

365 Days with Plastic Man, Day 4

Panels from Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight #69 (March 1995), script by Steven Grant, pencils and inks by Mike Zeck, colors by Digital Chameleon, letters by Willie Schubert

Join us tomorrow for Day 5 with the Pliable Person! He's going to...look, I just don't have a bending pun today for you, okay?

365 Days with the Warriors Three, Day 364

Two-page pin-up spread from Thor #459 (February 1993), by John Buscema
(Click picture to Volstagg-size)

A Duckburg Christmas, Day 30

Walt Disney's Comics and Stories #112 (January 1950), pencils and inks by Walt Kelly

Thursday, December 29, 2011

If I Wrote All Star Batman and Robin the Boy Wonder

Once upon a time, oh, 'bout six anna quarter years ago, I did a post with pretty much this same joke, right around the time All Star Batman and Robin the Boy Wonder came out...the infamous "G**d*** Batman" issue. But I've now gotten much better at Photoshoppery fakiness, so I figured (both in need to fill something during a quiet week and to amuse pal Mighty Mike Sterling during his low content it is again, but better-produced this time. "If I Wrote All Star Batman and Robin the Boy Wonder"...I think it would go...something like this:

Jim Lee, I've got my scriptbook right here and I'm ready and willing to move into the DC Bullypen at a moment's notice.

365 Days with Plastic Man, Day 3

Panels from Green Lantern v.3 #68 (September 1996), script by Ron Marz, pencils by Darryl Banks, inks by Romeo Tanghal, colors by Pamela Rambo, letters by Chris Eliopoulos

Join us tomorrow for Day 4 with the Malleable Mister! He'll bend over backwards for you!

365 Days with the Warriors Three, Day 363

Panel from Thor Annual #5 (1976), script by Steve Englehart, breakdowns by John Buscema, finishes by Tony DeZuniga, colors by Don Warfield, letters by San Jose

A Duckburg Christmas, Day 29

Walt Disney's Comics and Stories #76 (January 1947), pencils and inks by Walt Kelly

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

365 Days with Plastic Man, Day 2

Panels from Justice League Unlimited #10 (August 2005), script by Adam Beechen, pencils by Carlo Barberi, inks by Walden Wong, colors by Heroic Age, letters by Phil Balsman

Join us tomorrow for Day 3 with the Bendable Being! He'll do in a stretch!

365 Days with the Warriors Three, Day 362

Panel from Thor #386 (December 1987), script by Tom DeFalco, pencils by Ron Frenz, inks by Brett Breeding, colors by Paul Becton, letters by John Workman, Jr.

A Duckburg Christmas, Day 28

Walt Disney's Christmas Parade v.1 #1 (November 1949), pencils by Walt Kelly, inks by Carl Buettner

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

365 Days with Plastic Man, Day 1

I know 2011 and a Year of the Warriors Three isn't even over yet, but I'm so excited about my next daily feature that I'm starting it up early! It's a bit of a stretch, but I hope you enjoy ...

Panel from Legion of Super-Heroes v.3 #37 (August 1987), script by Paul Levitz, pencils by Greg LaRocque, inks by Mike DeCarlo, colors by Carl Gafford, letters by John Costanza

What's that, you say? You can't find our pliable Mister O'Brien in that panel? Well, here's a hint:

Join us tomorrow for Day 2 with the Elastic Entrepreneur! He'll put a little bounce in your step!

Behind the Music: Jingle Bells, Batman Smells

For years it has been a popular holiday favorite of school children everywhere.

But what began as a playground skipping rhyme has become perhaps one of the most vicious taunts...and a dangerous one of the world's most renowned crimefighters. But with its sudden fame came an intense backlash as a tease by tots turned into a killing joke. For every peal of laughter, there's the tears...of a clown.

Its origins...unknown. Its derivation: lost to time. But again and again this sinister rhyme bedevils the crimefighters, both costumed and official, of Gotham City:

Panels from Gotham Central #14 (February 2004), script by Ed Brubaker and Greg Rucka, pencils by Michael Lark, inks by Stefano Gaudiano, colors by Lee Loughridge, letters by Clem Robins

...but none so much as the nefarious foes of Gothan's caped crusader, the Dark Knight known as Batman, and his cadre of costumed sidekicks:

Panels from The Batgirl Adventures #1 one-shot (February 1998), script by Paul Dini, pencils by Rick Burchett, colors by Rick Taylor, letters by Albert DeGuzman

But...are these lethal lyrics true? Does, Batman, in fact, smell?

Is it simply a malicious urban legend...or did the Batmobile really...lose a wheel?

Panels from Batman #408 (June 1987), script by Max Allan Collins, pencils by Chris Warner, inks by Mike DeCarlo, colors by Adrienne Roy, letters by Todd Klein

Many half claimed creatorship of the malignantly mocking music. The Penguin asserts he wrote it on a cold night in jail. Bane has been heard to hum it while cracking the backs of his victims. Two-Face says he wrote two lines of it. But is the author of this threatening tune actually...the one who got away?

Panels from Batman Adventures (1992 series) #28 (January 1995), script by Kelley Puckett, pencils by Mike Parobeck, inks by Rick Burchett, colors by Rick Taylor, letters by Rick Starkings

Or is this corrupt and criminal clown bedeviled as well by these loathsome lyrics?

Panels from Joker graphic novel (October 2008), script by Brian Azzarello, pencils by Lee Bermejo, inks by Lee Bermejo and Mick Gray, colors by Patricia Mulvihill, letters by Robert Clark

When we return...the truth behind the most criminal carol of them all!

(And now, these commercial messages:)

We're back. We've seen that the most dangerous weapon against the ebon-garbed hero known as Batman is the melodic mockery known as "Jingle Bells, Batman Smells." But the true origin of this torturous tune has been unknown...until now. Behind the Music now brings the world the true origin of "Jingle Bells, Batman Smells: What It Is and How It Came to Be!"

from "Batman Smells" in Bizarro World (February 2005), script by Patton Oswalt, pencils and inks by Bob Fingerman, colors by Dave Stewart

Next week on Behind the Music: is she really fighting for your rights in her satin tights...or are they made of polyester? On "Behind the Music: The Theme from 'Wonder Woman!'"

365 Days with the Warriors Three, Day 361

Page from Thor #170 (November 1969), script by Stan Lee, pencils by Jack Kirby, inks by Bill Everett, letters by Artie Simek

A Duckburg Christmas, Day 27

Uncle Scrooge #16 (December 1956-February 1957), pencils and inks by Carl Barks

Monday, December 26, 2011

365 Days with the Warriors Three, Day 360

Panel from "The Meaning of Christmas" in Marvel Holiday Special 2007 one-shot (February 2008), script by Mike Carey, pencils and inks by Nelson*, colors by Andrew Crossley, letters by Dave Sharpe

*Haw, haw!

A Duckburg Christmas, Day 26

Walt Disney's Comics and Stories #100 (January 1949), pencils and inks by Walt Kelly

Sunday, December 25, 2011

365 Days with the Warriors Three, Day 359

Page from Journey Into Mystery #632 (February 2012), script by Kieron Gillen, pencils and inks by Mitch Breitweiser, colors by Bettie Breitweiser, letters by Clayton Cowles. And after searching every issue of Thor for a Christmas story, boy am I glad this got published a couple weeks ago. It's a Christmas miracle!

A Christmas Message from Marge Simpson

Although it's been said many times many ways

A Duckburg Christmas, Day 25

Four Color #367 [Walt Disney's Donald Duck] (January 1952), pencils and inks by Carl Barks

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Same Story, Different Cover: Some folks drive the bears out of the wilderness

L: Four Color #178 (December 1947), pencils and inks by Dan Gormley
R: Walt Disney's Donald Duck Adventures #9 (February 1991), pencils and inks by Rick Hoover
(Click picture to bruin-size)

Of course, since Disney comic book stories are frequently reprinted every few years (especially the great ones like this), that's not the only two covers you'll find Carl Barks's classic "Christmas on Bear Mountain" behind. Here's a few others:

Note the Walt Disney's Comics and Stories reprint in the lower left-hand corner, featuring a grimacing Uncle Scrooge. Why, that's adapted directly from Carl Barks's art from the story itself!

Why the focus on Uncle Scrooge in a Donald Duck story? For a very simple and historically important debut: it's the first appearance of Scrooge McDuck in this very story, not quite evolved into his final form (he's a bit of a grumpy, misogynist trickster in "Christmas on Bear Mountain.") This story is actually such a vital and lynchpin moment in Duck history that it's commemorated on stamps published in the Commonwealth of Dominica...

...and Guyana!:

It's such a vital point in Scrooge's ficto-history that acclaimed duck storyteller Don Rosa sets the final chapter of his Life & Times Of Scrooge McDuck saga immediately following "Christmas on Bear Mountain," beginning the transformation of the early Barks Scrooge into the high-adventure character he later became. Rosa's attention to detail is so precise that even the scene setting in the panels below are the same for Barks (top) and Rosa (bottom)!

Keeping in the Christmas spirit, here's a poster by Don Rosa celebrating the many Christmastime adventures of Scrooge McDuck!

So if you're in an irritable and cranky mood, or just feeling sad and sorry for yourself...

...then snap outta it! (in my Cher voice). Just go and read yourself a Carl Barks or Don Rosa Uncle Scrooge or Donald Duck Christmas adventure. Like watching one of those heartwarming christmas commercials like the guy coming home to Folger's coffee or the Santa Claus who can speak German or the Santa skiing on the electric razor, it'll cheer your heart and bring a little bit of Christmas special to you that'll last all the way through tomorrow's delicious roast duck dinner.

Merry Christmas from Duckburg, everyone!