Saturday, January 28, 2012

Same Story, Different Cover: Oh the Inhumanity

L: The Inhumans #9 (February 1977), pencils by Keith Pollard, inks by Aubrey Bradford
R: The Inhumans #10 (April 1977), pencils by Ed Hannigan, inks by Mike Esposito
(Click picture to Gorgan-zolasize)

What's this? (in my best William Frazier voice) An Inhumans "Same Story, Different Cover" for two issues that are consecutive? What the Sam Scratch is that all about? Why, be patient, Gentle Reader, and all shall be explained. Except why the Inhumans can't hold down their own series. Sigh.

Once upon a time, boys and girls, long before yours little stuffed truly was collecting comics (I'm only six, y'know), there was occasionally a big scary monster known as the Dreaded Deadline Doom, which threatened your timely (not Timely) comics appearing every month on the newsstand or the spinner rack of your local Rexall. In those days, come heck or high water, the next issue of the comic book appeared on time, whether or not it was the issue you were promised in the Bullpen Bulletins or last ish's "next time" blurb. That's all thanks to the fairly extinct animal known as the Fill-In Issue, a comic book length story scheduled to be printed instead of the original story because the artist or writer or tracer inker was running over schedule, or if a raccoon fell into one of the Sparta printing presses. Fill-Ins came in two delicious flavors: inventory stories (non-continued, done-in-one issues that could be slotted in between any other issues to fill up the empty slot) and reprints ("classics" of yesteryear pulled hurriedly into service when the brand-new comic went AWOL). It's the latter we're dealing with here. But how so?

Just open the cover of Inhumans #9 and you'll find out:

Splash page of Inhumans v.1 #9, reprinted from Amazing Adventures v.2 #1 (August 1970), script and pencils by Jack Kirby, inks by Chic Stone, letters by Sam Rosen

Now, nobody in their sane mind (I'm lookin' at you, Maximus the Mad) is going to poo-poo a Jack Kirby story, even if it's a reprint. But in the same way you ponder the peanut butter on your chocolate, you might say "Who got their Amazing Adventures on my Inhumans?" Well, the answer is right there at the top. Let us blame the United States Postal Service from the days when they were pretty much a monopoly and a first-class stamp only cost 13¢. It appears that the art pages were slow (or had gotten lost) during their shipment from the artist (Keith Pollard, perhaps) in Pennsylvania to the Marvel offices of 1977. Inhumans editor Archie Goodwin had to make the choice: postpone the issue (very seldom done), insert a fill-in (but perhaps there weren't any in inventory) or reprint an older Inhumans tale, with an apologetic explanation. So Inhumans #9 contains an edited version of the Inhumans story originally printed in Amazing Adventures #1 and 2. Here's those original covers:

Covers of Amazing Adventures v.2 #1-2 (August-September 1970), art on #1 by Jack Kirby (Inhumans) and John Romita Sr. (Black Widow); art on #2 by John Buscema and John Verpoorten

Now, I don't know for sure, but here's what I think happened: Archie Goodwin had to plug the reprint into Inhumans #9, but he didn't have a cover that would fit it. Often a reprint would the cover of the original comic (sometimes mildly touched up or recolored), but Archie didn't have that choice: the double-story nature of Amazing Adventures meant there wasn't a full cover for that reprinted story. I'm only guessing, but I imagine he had to pull the trigger at the last minute and say "publish the reprint with the cover we were going to use for #9 anyway," and thus you have Inhumans #9, its dynamic cover featuring Black Bolt battling Mon-Tag (misspelled as "Mor-Tag" on the cover.) Now, Arch could have just used another Montag in its place which would have assured huge sales for this Marvel comic...

...but unfortunately Heidi Montag was not to be born until 1986.

Presumably another cover had to be commissioned for #10 when the story for #9 was finally printed in its pages, but the original #9 cover definitely refers to the story printed in #10. Here, in #10, is the same scene shown on the cover of #9:

Panel from Inhumans #10 (April 1977), script by Doug Moench, pencils and inks by Keith Pollard, colors by Don Warfield, letters by John Costanza

So, there ya go, folks. The strange—or should I say uncanny—tale of how two consecutive different covers are for the same story. Nowadays we have to wait for our New Avengers #Eleventy-Six...two, three, five months later, until Brilliant Young Gun Architect Creator Figure #1 can stand to finally take his fingers off it and send it to Marvel. Sure, good things are worth the wait...but sometimes you just gotta have your Inhumans.

366 Days with Alfred Pennyworth, Day 28

Panel from Batman v.1 #20 (December 1943-January 1944), script by Don Cameron, pencils and inks by Jack Burnley, background inks by Ray Burnley, letters by Betty Bentley

Friday, January 27, 2012

"Is your name not Bruce?...That's going to cause a little confusion."

Here's a trivia question I'm betting you won't get! (Note: I am not actually allowed to bet.) Where can you find the first time that both Stan Lee and Jack Kirby are officially credited as co-creating the Incredible Hulk in the credits of a comic book? Hmmm? Do you think you know that? Think hard! Here, I'll give you some time to ponder it. Don't forget to phrase your answer in the form of an answer!

Ready with your answer? Is it a comic book from Marvel? BZZZZZZ! That's wrong! It's actually a comic book which introduces us to our jolly green giant and a certain caped crusader at the same time! No, I'm not talkin' 'bout Bat-Hulk...

Cover of The Brave and the Bold #68 (October-November 1966), pencils by Mike Sekowsky, inks by Joe Giella

Altho' you and I will both agree that Bat-Hulk is awesome and we demand a New 52 monthly comic based on his crazy bumbling adventures! Like I keep saying, Call me, Mr. Jim-not-Stan Lee! I've got a great pitch for you!

No, I specifically refer you to the oversized and awkwardly titled DC Special Series #27!:

from DC Special Series #27 [Batman vs. The Incredible Hulk] (Fall 1981), script by Len Wein, pencils by José Luis Garcia-Lopez, inks by Dick Giordano, colors by Glynis Wein, letters by John Costanza

...aka Batman vs. The Incredible Hulk, which surely must be one of the most lopsided fighting matches on Crossover-Earth. I don't care how much prep time you give Batman. Unless he has one of those specially-designed Bat-Anti-Gamma-Radiation Converters. Hmmmm...that might just work.

Anyway, altho' Marvel has been historically loath to list creator credits for its characters within their comic books, DC isn't, so the inside front page that introduces us to our two hulk-tagonists ("Hi! I'm Batman!" "And me Hulk!") gives you a quick, Cliffs Notes-style intro to each character. Remember, this is well before both Batman R.I.P. and World War Hulk, so you actually can fit both histories together on one page!

Pretty full coverage, huh? All this thing is missing is Dick Grayson and Rick Jones! And I think we all know who would win that fight, right?

Here's a close-up of the proper respect and credit Jack Kirby deserves on every Hulk (and X-Men, and Avengers, and FF, etc.) comic Marvel publishes:

Although here's my personal origin recap of the hulk:

In the interest of equal time and fair balance, here's what the comic has printed about Batman.

Huh. Hold on a sec...let me fix that for y'all.

If you've never read Batman vs. Hulk, it's well-worth seeking out as a back issue or in any of its various reprintings. Not only does it give us the greatest story ever that stars two, count 'em, two Bruces:

...but also answers the question of every fanguy and gal around: who would win in a fight between Batman and the Hulk? Also, it answers the question of "what goofy nickname would Hulk give to Batman?"

THe Hulk, egged on by some weird green-haired albino character who I'm guessing was created for this special and has never appeared before or since, seems to have Batman caught in the patented Bane-Back-Break™ move. "HULK...WILL...BREAK...YOU!"

But, in the words of John Cutter (or was it Blade?) always bet on black. Or, during this period, blue and grey.

Not only is there a dandy extended let's-fight-before-we-team-up scene for our verdant and chiropteran heroes, there's also the first recorded conversation between Jim Gordon and Thunderbolt Ross! Now that General Ross is the superhero Red Hulk and Gordon is the superhero Blue Bat, it's fun to see where they first crossed paths. Get outta the way with your oh-so-"casual" cameo, Doc Samson! No one likes you! I am sending your name to Andrew Weiss for inclusion in his ongoing series of guys like you! [EDIT on 1/30/12: Because you demanded it: Andrew has responded to the cries of the blogosphere with an actual Doc Samson entry! Click on the above link to read it in all its grassy-green glory!>

Hey, look, it's everybody's favorite as-yet-unbaked monster, Doughboy! Do not eat him, Hulk...he contains uncooked eggs, the consumption of which could cause both salmonella and fewer chickens!

The Hulk's antagonist The Shaper of Worlds gives Batman's nemesis The Joker the power to rearrange reality any way he wants! Witness...Batclown swinging in on a string of sausages! I think we've all been demanding this scene.

It is worth the entire price of admission to see Batman and Hulk dressed as Tweedledum and Tweedledope. Joker, Jarvis Tetch's lawyer will be in touch with your attorneys any day now.

Seriously: I just love José Luis Garcia-Lopez's artwork, and he's really hitting every high point here. Gotta love this nightmarish, Daliesque page:

I especially love this three-panel sequence between Bruce Banner and Alfred Pennyworth that I spotlighted earlier today in 366 Days with Alfred Pennyworth. It's on two tiers in the original comic, but I experimented with putting all three panels on the same tier to see how it looks, and suddenly it became a perfect daily comic strip, complete with the same daily strip "beats" that accompany a non-humor strip. My point, I and I guess I have one, is that even taken out of context by a little stuffed bull, Garcia-Lopez is extraordinary at telling a story ultra-effectively through the comics medium.

(Click picture to Moon Mullinsize)

Honestly, you wanna see a work of art by José Luis Garcia-Lopez? Just flip to the back cover of Batman vs. Hulk.

How great is Batman in this pin-up? He is kicking two different villains simultaneously at the same time he is punching Two-Face. Batman: the quicker-picker-upper!

So, to conclude: Batman vs. Hulk. Everybody wins.

366 Days with Alfred Pennyworth, Day 27

Panels from DC Special Series #27 [Batman vs. The Incredible Hulk] (Fall 1981 ), script by Len Wein, pencils by José Luis Garcia-Lopez, inks by Dick Giordano, colors by Glynis Wein, letters by John Costanza

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Today in Comics History, January 26: Down in the street they're all singing and shouting / Staying alive though the city is dead

It's January 26th, so let's all wish a happy birthday to my (and your!) favorite Batgirl, Cassie Cain!

from Batgirl (2000 series) #33 (DC, December 2002), script by Kelley Puckett, pencils by Damion Scott, inks by Robert Campanella, colors by Jason Wright, color separations by Digital Chameleon, letters by John Costanza

But the fact is, before her incarcerated assassin deadbeat dad tells her this, Cassie has no idea when her birthday is. Barbara Gordon (Batgirl 1.0) comes up with an idea for giving Cass a birthday, and Batman agrees. (Batman concerning himself with such things as birthdays? Where are we, in the Silver Age?!?)

When Cass visits her dad, professional killer David Cain, in prison, she's head over heels at seeing him!

She's got an message and a question. The message is from Batgirl, and the question is from Cassandra. Oh, don't give her those blank looks, Cain. Do you want her to repeat the question?

So. in the end, it's a matter of choice. Choose your identity. Choose your birthday. Choose your father figure. Yeah, like you wouldn't pick Batman for that last one.

Whenever it is now, Happy birthday, Cassie. But make sure you get her something she likes.

from Tiny Titans #33 (DC, December 2010), script by Art Baltazar and Franco Aureliani; pencils, inks, colors and letters by Art Baltazar

366 Days with Alfred Pennyworth, Day 26

Panels from Batgirl v.1 #49 (April 2004), script by Dylan Horrocks, pencils by Rick Leonardi, inks by Jesse Delperdang, colors by Jason Wright, letters by Clem Robins

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

If Scott McCloud Did Batman

Panels from Detective Comics v.1 #336 (February 1965), script by Gardner Fox, pencils by Sheldon Moldoff, inks by Joe Giella, Photoshopped by yours truly


366 Days with Alfred Pennyworth, Day 25

Panels from "Recipe for Revenge!" in Batman v.1 #26 (December 1944-January 1945), script by Jack Schiff, pencils and inks by Jerry Robinson, letters by George Roussos

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

With super power comes the Super Bowl

There's something familiar about the front page of the New York Daily News for January 16. Hmmm...I can't quite put my hoof on it...

"New York's Hometown Newspaper?" Well, maybe on boring old Earth-1218. But in the DC Universe. I'm guessing that Clark Kent's lawyers were in touch with the Daily News there, until Clark remembered he shouldn't let people know he's Superman. In this universe, I doubt that Time-Warner will be litigious about this pastiche of their flagship superhero—they're too busy instructing Dan DiDio and Jim Lee to publish 104 different comics starting in June. Hey, maybe we'll finally see that Aquaman series they've been promising us. What? There already is one? ........ Golly, I hadn't noticed.

Say, what do you think this newspaper front page would look like in the Marvel Universe? I think it would go...A little something like this:

I'm just sorry it couldn't be the New York Smashers going to the Super Bowl.

366 Days with Alfred Pennyworth, Day 24

Panel from Batman Confidential #23 (January 2009), script by Andrew Kreisberg, pencils by Scott McDaniel, inks by Andy Owens, colors by Allen Passalaqua (?), letters by Jared K. Fletcher

Monday, January 23, 2012

In Which Bully Discovers That Having is Not So Pleasing a Thing, After All, As Wanting, v2.0

A couple weeks ago, on January 7, was the centenary birthday of one of my favorite cartoonists, Charles Addams, which as usual, I found out about thanks to a Google Doodle...

...which, since he died in 1988, he didn't draw. (Although, with Charles Addams, you never know.)

Anyway, it inspired me to pull my Chas. Addams books off the shelf and spend a pleasant and spooky afternoon re-reading them.

After I shivered my way through Homebodies and Nightcrawlers and Favorite Haunts and Black Maria I wanted to read even more. Right there, right then! I'm an instant gratification bull. Since I'm a big fan of reading books, and, yes, comics on my Apple iPad (because at my size, it's like seeing an IMAX movie), I dialed up the number for Amazoning Dot Company on the ol' BullyPad and I was pleased to see you could get some of the more recent themed collections for the Kindle. Hey-O! Download instantly? Well, I'm a mite impatient, but I suppose I could wait for instantly if I make a special effort to be patient.

Hey, look, you can download a sample of the book! Great! I've bought cartoon and graphic novels formatted for the Kindle, and the quality of the images often greatly varies. Let me download the free sample so I can see if I want to buy the entire book! (I had to have my pal John help me with that because first, he has the credit card, and second, for some reason it's hard to activate the touch-screen by tapping with a woolen hoof. I'm sure the iPad 3 will remedy that oversight.

An instant later (see?), a sample of Happily Ever After ran in through the door and hopped into my iPad, ready to read. (I think that is the way it works. It's pretty fast and you don't really see it happening, just like when Barry Allen takes the last donut that Hawkman had his eye on at the JLA meeting 22,300 miles above the earth.) Here's the first page of the Kindle sample:

Here's page two. Pugsley!

Page 3 is the second title page. Just in case you forgot what you were reading. On a real book you can just look at the dust jacket, so this is handy on the Kindle.

It's getting exciting now! Here's pages 4 and 5.

And here's page 6. It is the final page of the preview file.

Huh. That was...pointless. Let's try another sample, for Simon & Schuster's Chas Addams Half-Baked Cookbook, shall we? (Yes, let's!)

The sample file for Half-Baked Cookbook

          is four pages long and consists of the title and copyright pages.

Well, ya get what ya pay for, huh? Seriously, I'm not pointing my fingers at Amazon on this one, because I've recently downloaded sample files for several other non-cartoon books and I've gotten sizable previews that let me read just enough to find out if I wanted to buy the book. The free sample of Stephen King's new novel 11/22/63 had so many pages in it that for most authors that woulda been the whole book! (And it did its job: I couldn't stop reading and immediately bought the Kindle ebook.)

Publishers set the limit of what percentage of a book you can see using Amazon's "Click to Look Inside" feature, so I'm wondering if the same is true for Kindle samples. If this is true, then I need to get in touch with Simon & Schuster as soon as possible and tell them they need to include at least a couple pages of cartoons in their sample so we can check out the scan quality of an illustrated book. I shall call my good pals Carly Simon and Wayne & Schuster and ask them to do something about that.

So, I didn't buy the books on Kindle and Simon & Schuster lost out on a sale. Get with the twenty-first century, guys! In this fast-as-the-Flash-but-with-fewer-supervillains technology of today's Y2K12, you have to keep up with the pack or risk being left behind. Charles Addams was pretty clear on that same point.

Play us off, Irish Rovers!