Saturday, June 09, 2012

There Is No Hope in Crime Alley, Night 9

Panels from Batman: Shadow of the Bat #0 (October 1994), script by Alan Grant, pencils and inks by Bret Blevins, colors by Adrienne Roy, letters by Todd Klein

Same Story, Different Cover: So that's who that guy is at the end of the Avengers movie

Left: Avengers Annual #7 (1977), pencils and inks by Jim Starlin
Right: Warlock [Special Edition] #6 (May 1983), pencils and inks by Jim Starlin

(Click picture to Thanosize)

366 Days with Alfred Pennyworth, Day 161

Page from DC Heroes Role Playing Reference: Batman (1986), text by Mike Stackpole, art by Jim Aparo

Today in Comics History, June 9: The day the Eros statue in Piccadilly Circus came to life and killed 59 people

Panel from "The Death of a Romantic" in Heartthrobs #3 (DC/Vertigo, March 1999), script by Peter Milligan, pencils and inks by Eduardo Risso, colors by Grant Goleash, letters by Clem Robins

Today in Comics History, June 9: No matter how he wears it, that headband isn't going to make Commissioner Gordon look like Gwen Stacy

from Batman #406 (DC, April 1987), script by Frank Miller, pencils and inks by David Mazzucchelli, colors by Richmond Lewis, letters by Todd Klein

Friday, June 08, 2012

Today in Comics History, June 8: A new record is set for the world's stupidest criminals

from "The Secret of the Ant-Man" in Batman #156 (DC, June 1963), script by Bill Finger, pencils by Sheldon Moldoff, inks by Charles Paris, letters by David Huffine (?)

Yep, they just weren't very bright at all.

There Is No Hope in Crime Alley, Night 8

Panels from Justice League Adventures #31 (July 2004), script by Josh Siegal, pencils by Chris Jones, inks by Dan Davis, colors by Heroic Age, letters by Rob Leigh

See that girl, watch that girl, diggin' the Jubilee Queen

Okay, so yesterday I was telling you all about Queen Elizabeth II's appearances in the DC Universe, and how she usually wound up getting saved (as have us all) by Batman. Yes, I know yesterday I also covered some of her appearances in Marvel's Captain Britain comic, but hey: that's Marvel UK, so it doesn't count. There will now be a slight pause for me to be pelted with bricks by fine folks such as Dez Skinn, Steve Dillon, Brian Hitch, Dave Gibbons, Alan Davis, Alan "My Name Is Also Alan" Moore, and Neil Tennant out of Pet Shop Boys. So I think maybe I'd better stick to what I know: 1) comic books and 2) wearing elegant hats...

Speaking of Marvel now, some comic book history sites will tell you that this comic is the first appearance of Queen Elizabeth II in comic books:

Cover of Marvel Mystery Comics #47 (September 1943), pencils and inks by Alex Schomburg

But they are wrong with a capital WHIR. Well, at least partway: this is actually King George and his wife Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon...we know her a Britain's beloved late Queen Mother and the...well, Queen's mother. And she can go get her own comic book. She didn't even have the good grace to appear in a story with Namor or the Torch...instead, she's teamed up with Timely's Angel, who not even Stan Lee remembers anymore. Then again, the story did feature a villain named Count Lust, so Frederick Wertham was all over that thing.

Panel from "The Unwilling Corpse" in Marvel Mystery Comics #47 (September 1943), pencils and inks by Gustav Schrotter

No, to find what I think might be the first appearance of Queen Elizabeth II in a proper comic book(y-type of periodical), you have to stretch waaaaaay across the newsstand to grab that copy of MAD without your mom seeing. It's only 1956 so it's still costs one thin quarter (cheap!):

Cover of MAD #27 (April 1956), pencils and inks by Jack Davis

Can't find Her Majesty? Well, just find the sparkling bare bottom of baby New Year '56 and look to the immediate right:

MAD skewered every real life personality during its glorious heyday (i.e., when you were reading it at the age of ten), and our pal the Queen was no exception. Here's a beautifully illustrated comic strip by grandmaster Wally Wood which addresses a problem Prince Charles still probably has today:

from "Comic Strip Heroes (Taken From Real Life)" in MAD #48 (July 1959), script by Frank Jacobs, pencils and inks by Wally Wood

I'm assuming the resemblance in the second panel between Charles and a certain "What—Me worry?" mascot of said magazine was purely coincidental.

Here's another caricature of Elizabeth in the very next issue:

from "Family Magazines" in MAD #49 (September 1959), script by Arnie Kogen, pencils by George Woodbridge

But if you think MAD doesn't count as a comic book once it passed ish #23, then, as far as I can find, Queen Elizabeth II's first comic book appearance was one of the greatest comics of all time, and it's quite a doozy!

Panels from "Herbie and the Loch Ness Monster" in Herbie #3 (August 1964), script by Richard E. Hughes as Shane O'Shea, pencils and inks by Ogden Whitney, letters by Ed Hamilton

The Queen was a frequent and frequently amorous guest-star in Herbie...but then again, who didn't love Herbie? Communists, I tell you. Rotten dirty red commies.

Panel from "Clear the Road for Skinny!" in Herbie #18 (June-July 1966), script by Richard E. Hughes as Shane O'Shea, pencils and inks by Ogden Whitney, letters by Ed Hamilton

Which is not to say that QE2 was always portrayed the same within Earth-Herbie's internal canon:

Panel from "Almost a King!" in Herbie #22 (December 1966), script by Richard E. Hughes as Shane O'Shea, pencils and inks by Ogden Whitney, letters by Ed Hamilton

I'm not quite certain what's up with the Queen's diction there. Perhaps she was just trying to tell him he was only supposed to blow the bloody doors off. Whatever: we salute you, Herbie and American Comics Group, for giving us the world's most accurate and authentic portrayal of Queen Elizabeth II!

Oh yeah, I promised you some stuff about Marvel Comics, didn't I? Ehhhhhh, here's Deadpool.

Panels from Deadpool v.4 #43 (November 2011), script by Daniel Way, pencils by Carlo Barberi, inks by Walden Wong, colors by Jorge Gonzalez, letters by Joe Sabino

Deadpool is in London for some reason or another (c'mon, you don't read Deadpool for internal logic, do you?) and he's stolen and is driving a Peel P50, the world's smallest production car. You (or at least I and all right-thinking people) may recognize it as the car that Top Gear's Jeremy Clarkson drove through the BBC Television Centre building:

I promised you the Queen and Deadpool and here they are...well, the Queen is slightly off camera and she's not talkin' crazy like Deadpool always is, but take my word for it.

Deadpool has taken the Queen hostage, and as usual he really doesn't have a plan worked out in advance:

But he's good at pulling out an idea from his sleeve, or wherever it is he keeps his plans:

As Deadpool is captured, the Queen runs for freedom...but wait: there's been a switcharoo! Ya gotta love those things.

Of course it turns out that's Deadpool dressed in the Queen's frock and the Imperial margarine crown, and he's left the Queen tied up in civilian clothing. Now, here I'm thinking that he missed the very slapstick opportunity to put Queen Elizabeth in the Deadpool suit and have her head-bashed by the security guards. And then we could have a short entry in the next edition of The Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe for DEADPOOL II (Queen Elizabeth II)

Now you think an appearance where she's undressed and tied up by Deadpool would be Queen Elizabeth's weirdest Marvel Comics appearance. And you'd be wrong. Let me introduce you to X-Men: True Friends, aka "The One Where Kitty Vows to Kill All the Nazis."

Here's the pitch: Shadowcat and Phoenix (Rachel, not Jean) have been castaway in time, winding up in Scotland in 1936, where they team up with bone-clawed Logan to fight against Baron Strucker and the Shadow King. What, you couldn't fit the Red Skull in this one, Claremont?

Panels from X-Men: True Friends #1 (September 1999), script by Chris Claremont, pencils by Rick Leonardi, inks by Al Williamson and Sam de la Rosa, colors by Shannon Blanchard, letters by Tom Orzechowski

Any time you're in a pub quiz and you get asked about the great loves of Kitty Pryde's life, be sure to pinch yourself, because you're clearly dreaming. But if it really is happening, after you manage to answer "Peter Rasputin" and "Pete Wisdom," don't forget the other great lost love of Shadowcat's life, Alasdhair "Not Peter" Kinross. Oh, and of course Lisabet is the young Princess Elizabeth. Who else could it be? Gosh, isn't she relentless cute? Don't ya just wanna punch her in the face?

Check it out:the future Queen is swearing!

Why, that can't be right! The Queen would no more swear than would Betty Cooper!

Of course, meanwhile, enter...NAZIS!

Panes from X-Men: True Friends #2 (October 1999), script by Chris Claremont, pencils by Rick Leonardi, inks by Al Williamson and Jimmy Palmiotti, colors by Shannon Blanchard, letters by Tom Orzechowski

Well, of course, Wolverine etc. etc. etc. yadda yadda yadda too early for Captain America etc. etc. etc. big fight back to the future. And of course, then Kitty finds out just who "Lilabet" was:

Panes from X-Men: True Friends #3 (November 1999), script by Chris Claremont, pencils by Rick Leonardi, inks by Al Williamson, colors by Shannon Blanchard, letters by Tom Orzechowski

Of course, it wouldn't be Claremontean High Drama without dueling speech balloons on the penultimate page...

Duck, Liz! Those speech balloons are crowding up on you! They're gonna getcha! Oh yeah, and that symbolic final "The End" panel. Man, the X-Men was soapy in those days, weren't it?

So, in summary: Queen Elizabeth II in comic books! May you reign sixty more years, Your Majesty! (Sentiment not necessarily valid if your name is Charles.)

366 Days with Alfred Pennyworth, Day 160

Page from Nightwing #99 (January 2005), script by Devin Grayson, pencils by Zach Howard, inks by Andy Owens, colors by Gregory Wright, letters by Rob Leigh

Thursday, June 07, 2012

There Is No Hope in Crime Alley, Night 7

Panels from Kemco Presents Batman: Dark Tomorrow videogame tie-in comic #1 (2002), script by Scott Peterson, pencils and inks by Rick Burchett, colors by David Baron, letters by Ken Lopez

I want to tell her that I love her a lot, but I gotta get a belly full of chocolate milk

Here's a photo of me with the Queen!

Wait a minute...that's not me and the Queen. That's me and Freddie Mercury out of Queen. I've made another one of my silly mistakes. And I hope H.R.H. (Her Royal Hunky-Doryness) doesn't mind that, because I'm here to wave my little Union Flag and toot on a little French English horn and eat some bangers and mash and take a butcher's up the apples and pears and call the TV show MI-5 by its real name of Spooks, all to celebrate Queen Elizabeth's Diamond Jubilee! Hooray! She has been on the throne for sixty years. Hey, how much longer are you gonna be in there, Liz? Others have to us it too, you know! (giggle)

As we all know and which has been proven by science!, the indicator of proper fame is when you have your picture on a bubble gum card. How can you say someone is great who's never had his picture on bubblegum cards? So, here you go!

Well, that's not right...well, anyway, I present you with a fairly exhaustive (i know I'm pretty tired!) history of Queen Elizabeth II in comic books!

Now, even though heroes like Wolverine, Deadpool, and Squirrel Girl have all had multiple comic titles being published at any one time, Queen Elizabeth has never had her own comic book, although she occasionally pops up on the cover to tease us with the promise of a team-up with that book's hero:

Cover of Look and Learn #4 (February 10, 1962), art by Audrey Wynne Hatfield

...but hey, Spider-Man has done that fake holographic sticker thing on the cover of his comic dozens of times. No, it's not until we get into her guest appearances that QE2 starts making a name for herself, not only in adventure but for her eventual entry in The Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe:

Cover of Captain Britain #39 (July 6, 1977), pencils and inks by Pablo Marcos

They've got the general color of your usual English sky right on that cover, haven't they?

Much as I wish this was the issue where the Queen and Captain Britain teamed up to punch Margaret Thatcher in the face, it's actually all about two supervillains named the Manipulator (he manipulates things) and the Highwayman (he builds roads) plotting against Cap Britain and the government! Why, check it out yourself in gorgeous black-and-white...a story that celebrates Queen Elizabeth's Silver Jubilee!

Panel from Captain Britain #37 (June 22, 1977), script by Larry Lieber, Bob Budiansky, and Len Wein; pencils by Ron Wilson; inks by Pablo Marcos, letters by Irving Watanabe

Oooh, three on a script? That's not a good sign. And hey, how come Peter Parker isn't there? Isn't he required by law to appear in every scene where photography is taking place?

Well, Captain Britain will protect Her Majesty from any threat, isn't that right?

Panel from Captain Britain #38 (June 29, 1977), script by Bob Budiansky and Jim Lawrence; pencils by Ron Wilson; inks by Pablo Marcos, letters by Irving Watanabe and Mark Esposito

D'oh! Meanwhile back at Braddock Castle, Betsy Braddock is face-palming herself and trying to remember what colour hair she's supposed to have this week. Cap's been hyp-mo-tized by the Manipulator into attacking Her Majesty, and you can see how larger than life characters are in comic books here: Prince Philip is actually being heroic instead of spouting a racist slur! Also, a police constable takes a breather from his role in The Pirates of Penzance to stone some crows or something.

Splash page from Captain Britain #39 (July 6, 1977), credits as shown

Good thing Wolverine stopped by and killed Captain Britain before he could attack the Queen. That'll show him! (Note: this may not have actually happened.) But what's worse than Captain Britain brainwashed into trying to kill the Queen? The Queen, a largely ceremonial ruler with no real political power at all, ordering Britain's armed forces to attack one of Marvel's highly-fictional African countries! How fictional is it? It's so fictional it doesn't even appear in 2008's Marvel Atlas, which devotes several pages to Wakanda! So, she must have succeeded, huh? Well, we'll find out next issue...

Except that with ish #39, Marvel UK's Captain Britain mag was cancelled. I guess we'll never find out...

...until the storyline continues the next week in Super Spider-Man#231! yes, you read that right, Super Spider-Man! In this universe, the young baby Peter Park-Er was rocketed from his planet of Arachnos by his beloved guardians B'en and M'ay, and when he landed on earth he discovered that he had the proportionate strength of a spider! Meanwhile, back on Arachnos, a space-burglar shot B'en. These What If™s always end up pretty much the same, don't they?

Panel from Super Spider-Man #231 (July 13, 1977), credits as shown

Just like every female supporting character in a Marvel comic book, Queen Elizabeth has her own creepy stalker, in this case the Highwayman, who is described in the caption as "swaggering." Hey, that would make a great adjective if he ever reformed and got his own book, wouldn't it? The Swaggering Highwayman! I can see it now. And Chris Claremont has probably got it plotted all out for 157 issues.

All's well that ends well as special guest-star Suepr Spider-Man helps out and they both stop the villains in some way that I'm not quite sure myself, but it seemed to involve a cup of hot tea and some lovely fresh scones. In any case, Brian Braddock is triumphant again, at least until next issue when apparently he meets Man-Thing.

Thus began the long friendship between Britain's reigning monarch and the big galoot in the Union Jack costume (n.b.: not Union Jack). They became so close he was invited to crash there at any time!

Panels from Secret Avengers #22 (April 2012), script by Rick Remender, pencils and inks by Gabriel Hardman, colors by Elizabeth Breitweiser, letters by Chris Eliopoulos

Of course, anything that Captain Britain can do, Batman can do better. (The phrase "Anything [fill in hero's name here] can do, Batman can do better"™ is trademarked 2012 by Chris Sims.) Bats not only saves the gracious Queen from a bomb attack, but he does it by kicking the bomb...

Panel from Detective Comics #572 (March 1987), script by Mike W. Barr, pencils by Alan Davis, inks by Paul Neary, colors by Adrienne Roy, letters by John Workman

...and then he explains how he figured it out to the Queen, who he knows is an avid Agatha Christie buff and quite an amateur sleuth herself (see the Elongated Man/Queen Elizabeth Mysteries miniseries of 1982).

How much more awesome can this story be? What if I told you it guest-starred Sherlock Holmes? yeah, you'd better pick that story up post-haste, buddy! Luckily, DC's got your back and it's reprinted in this:

How much does DC love you, baby? (Please do not seriously answer that question.)

That's not the Queen's first appearance in the DC Universe, either! She was heavily featured in this Nemesis back-up:

Panel from "Endgame" in The Brave and the Bold #181 (July 1981), script by Cary Burkett, pencils and inks by Dan Spiegle, colors by Gene D'Angelo, letters by John Costanza

Y'know the phrase "off with his head!"? Well, in this story it's not the Queen who is shouting it!

Suddenly: KICKASS QUEEN! We are not amused, and we are going hi-keeba!

Oh, wait, it's just another Mission: Impossible-style undetectable rubber mask. Darn the invention of those things! They fool everybody!

Let's turn to DC's espionage thriller Checkmate for yet another assassination attempt on the Queen! I'm pretty sure this is still the Queen Elizabeth of Earth-1. I don't think her origin changed after the Crisis on Infinite Earths, except for that one story with the Krypto-Corgis no longer being in canon/

Panels from Checkmate v.1 #11 (Holiday 1988), script by Paul Kupperberg, pencils by Steve Erwin, inks by Al Vey, colors by Julianna Ferriter, letters by Agustin Mas

I'm assuming she survived, but as finding out would have meant reading an issue of Checkmate, I guess I'll never know. Besides, she was still alive and well in the universe where everybody drank and swore a lot and Grant Morrison lived inside our comics: The Vertigo Universe! Where she mostly existed for John Constantine to swear at. Reader discretion advised! I do believe this is DC's first canonical mention of the death of Elvis while in the bathroom.

Panel from Hellblazer #245 (August 2008), script by Jason Aaron, pencils and inks by Sean Murphy, colors by Lee Loughridge, letters by Jared K. Fletcher

Constantine isn't a big fan of the Christmas Day counter-programming to The Great Escape, either:

Panel from "The Curse of Christmas" in Hellblazer #250 (February 2009), script by Peter Milligan, pencils and inks by Eddie Campbell, colors by Dominic Regan, letters by Jared K. Fletcher

But by far one of the goofiest portrayals of Queen Elizabeth is in the rather silly "what if Kal-El landed in England" Elseworlds tale True Brit (aka "the one that pretty much killed off Superman Elseworlds comics):

Panel from Superman: True Brit graphic novel (October 2004), script by Kim "Howard" Johnson and John Cleese (yes, that John Cleese), pencils by John Byrne, inks by Mark Farmer, colors by Alex Bleyaert, letters by Bill Oakley and Jack Morelli

But to sum up once again: Batman saved the Queen. More than once!

Panel from Batman: The Brave and the Bold #1 (March 2009), script by Matt Wayne, pencils by Andy Suriano, inks by Dan Davis, colors by Heroic Age, letters by Randy Gentile

...but it was the kid sidekicks who saved her first!

Panel from Teen Titans #17 (September-October 1968), script by Bob Haney, pencils and inks by Nick Cardy, letters by Joe Letterese

Now, just because this post is wrapping up doesn't mean that I've yet shown you all the exciting Queen-filled action from comic books...not at all! Tune in tomorrow night (and yes I do know what happens when I promise to bring you something "tomorrow night") to see the Queen's adventures in the rest of the Marvel Universe plus plenty of other comic book world! I'll be featuring the one hero who is Liz's true love...some beautiful Wally Wood art...and Jeremy Clarkson drives a car into the BBC! And on that bombshell, that's all we've got time for. See you tomorrow night!

Play us off, Queen's Guards performing the Batman movie theme!