Saturday, November 03, 2012

Same Story, Different Cover: By the seventies, everyone was posing more dynamically

Left: Strange Tales v.1 #107 (April 1963), pencils by Jack Kirby, inks by Sol Brodsky, letters by Artie Simek
Right: Human Torch #9 (September 1975), pencils by Ron Wilson, inks by Frank Giacoia, letters by Danny Crespi (?)

(Click picture to fireplace match-size)

366 Days with Alfred Pennyworth, Day 308

Activity page from Batman Begins: Be a Hero Official Movie Color and Activity Fun Book (2005)

Today in Comics History, November 3: The Crimson Avenger thinks election day is today and arrives at his local polling place too early

from "The Red Letter Day Crimes" in Detective Comics #65 (DC, July 1942), script and pencils by Jack Lehti, inks and letters by Charles Paris

Today in Comics History, November 3: Alfred Pennyworth invents Bat-sarcasm

from Batman #407 (DC, May 1987), script by Frank Miller, pencils and inks by David Mazzucchelli, colors by Richmond Lewis, letters by Todd Klein

More Cow/Bull Month, Day 3: The Moo X-Men

Two-page spread from New X-Men #122 (March 2002); script by Grant Morrison; pencils by Frank Quitely; inks by Tim Townsend, Rich Perrotta, and Sandu Florea; colors by HiFi Design, letters by Saida Temofonte

(Click picture to stampede-size)

Friday, November 02, 2012

Today in Comics History, November 2, 1959: The final edition of the New York Daily Splash is published

from MAD #52 (January 1960), script by Frank Jacobs, art by George Woodbridge

Today in Comics History, November 2: Catwoman rips the heads of dolls while she is massaged by cats in her underwear

from Batman #407 (May 1987), script by Frank Miller, pencils and inks by David Mazzucchelli, colors by Richmond Lewis, letters by Todd Klein

Today in Comics History, November 2, 1959: The second edition of the New York Daily Splash is published

from MAD #52 (January 1960), script by Frank Jacobs, art by George Woodbridge

One Night in Rutland: 1975

Marvel's next entry in the Rutland, Vermont comic book series doesn't take place on Halloween, doesn't have a parade, contains absolutely 0% Elders of the Universe in rubber masks, a total paucity of crossover references between Earths One and 616. On the other hand, Thor #232 shows you exactly why the Avengers need Jarvis around: to keep their famous Avengers meeting table liberally shined with Lemon Pledge™ to buff out all the scratches from very rude-ass Tony Stark putting his iron boots up on the table. Why, Iron Man, as soon as your employer, Tony Stark, heras about this, he'll be dressing you down in no time and probably cutting your salary and...what's that? Tony Stark is Iron Man? Oh. Ohhhhh-kay. I've made another one of my silly mistakes.

Panel from Thor #232 (February 1976), script by Gerry Conway, layouts by John Buscema, finishes on figures by Dick Giordano, finishes on background by Terry Austin, colors by Petra Goldberg, letters by John Costanza

Rutland, Vermont resident and Halloween Parade chief Tom Fagan gets in another appearance via the Avengerphone (that thing costs seven million dollars a minute to transmit) to report in that Loki is missing and has switched places with a local white-haired teenager. Loki was left behind in Rutland by Thor in another one of his usual failures to carry out familial responsibilities. Somewhere up in Asgard, Odin is shaking his head and hitting his giant, Kirby-gloved palm against his forehead.

And...yep! That's pretty much the whole Rutland appearance we get in this comic book. Avengers #83, it ain't. On the other hand, this comic does feature Tataranowitz farm fresh eggs! (Any relation to Filmation artist and director Tom Tataranowicz?) Also, we are assured this is real life.

That's a pretty good panel, because, as Woody Allen has told us, we all need the eggs, Still, it could use a wee bit o' tweaking, Bully-style! So, as a bonus feature, Comics Oughta Be Fun! mildly-Photoshops this panel to make its "This is Reality" trope more esthetically perfect:

And that's not the end of the Rutland, Vermont comic book tales! Next time: Green Arrow sleeps through a mission! (Which means it could occur anywhere from JLA #4 through #250, inclusive.)

Today in Comics History, November 2, 1959: The first edition of the New York Daily Splash is published

from MAD #52 (January 1960), script by Frank Jacobs, art by George Woodbridge

One Night in Rutland: 1976


Splash panel from Freedom Fighters #6 (January-February 1977), script by Bob Rozakis, pencils by Ramona Fradon, inks by Bob Smith, colors by Liz Berube, letters by Ben Oda

Well, it is a 1976 bicentennial tie-in to the Rutland Halloween Parade, but it's basically the end of the grand, issue-spanning Rutland crossover events that reached their height with 1972's Amazing Adventures, Thor and Justice League. It is, in fact, FF #6! No, not this one, which guest-stars Dr. Doom and the Sub-Mariner and is one of the awesomest comics of its age...

Cover of Fantastic Four v.1 #6 (September 1962), pencils by Jack Kirby, inks by Dick Ayers, colors by Stan Goldberg, letters by Artie Simek

...but rather this one, which features another FF, but they're four completely different characters!

Cover of Freedom Fighters #6 (January-February 1977), pencils by Rich Buckler, inks by Vince Colletta

The Freedom Fighters, trapped in a world they never made, sworn to protect a world that fears and hates them, were sent to prison by a military court for a crime they didn't commit. They promptly escaped from a maximum security stockade to the Los Angeles underground. Today, still wanted by the government, they survive as soldiers of fortune. If you have a problem, if no one else can help, and if you can find them, maybe you can hire the...secret publicist of the Freedom Fighters, journalist Julia Martha Roberts!

Why, you're right, Girl with the Big Ditko-Style Eyes! The FF need to load up the truck and moved to Vermont! (Rutland, that is.) A town whose chief import is inflatable models of superheroes and Ziggy.

Mysterious explosions! That's a rare occurrence in Rutland on Halloween night, right? Also appearing: the elderly Tom Fagan, who seems to have aged forty years since his last appearance in '73's Avengers #119. I'd guess this is a paradox brought about by the destruction of Earth-3 in Crisis on Infinite Earths...but that would just be plain insane.

AIEEEEEEEE SHE'S HAVING A STROKE IN THAT LAST PANEL oh no wait she's just winking, Clark Kent-style, at the reader. Ms. Reynolds, please, for the safety and comfort of all comic book readers...NEVER DO THAT AGAIN.

One fun thing I'll supposedly do again is revisit Rutland in '76, flying in with a certain Thunder God to check up on what happened to his brother! Be here or be shaped rectangular, cats and kittens!

366 Days with Alfred Pennyworth, Day 307

Panels from Batgirl v.3 #5 (February 2010), script by Bryan Q. Miller, pencils by Lee Garbett, inks by Sandra Hope and Oliver Nome, colors by Guy Major, letters by John J. Hill

More Cow/Bull Month, Day 2: The Nanny Dairies

Panel from Vision and the Scarlet Witch #4 (February 1983), script by Bill Mantlo, pencils by Rick Leonardi, inks by Ian Akin and Brian Garvey, colors by George Roussos, letters by Janice Chiang

Thursday, November 01, 2012

One Night in Rutland: 1973

Well, maybe I should retitled this feature Two Nights in Rutland. As usual, I bit off more than I could chew last night. B. Kliban put it best when he said

and I might add to that, never promise to blog twenty-five times in a day. So let's spread out these Rutland Halloween Parade posts over the next few days, moving along to 1973's Avengers #119! It kicks off with the Avengers jetting off (past the Giant Moon Knight Weapon Butter Sculpture) to...where else but Rutland, Vermont, while at the same time faithful butler except for that time he sold out all the Avengers to Ultron Edwin Jarvis muses on the World's Mightiest propensity to eat junk food. Really, Jarvis, it's actually just that Thor loves the Happy Meal toys. (The girl toys, oddly enough.)

Panels from Avengers #119 (January 1974), script by Steve Englehart, pencils by Bob Brown, inks by Don Heck, colors by Glynis Wein, letters by Artie Simek

Of course, you can't have a Rutland Halloween Parade story without our old pal Tom Fagan welcoming the Avengers to Rutland, and you can't have a 1970s Marvel comic without a footnote referencing previous Marvel comics books, and, before Roy gets interrupted, almost referencing a DC comic book. That's a big no-no, Roy!

What's this? Tom Fagan, turned evil?!? (Well, his last name is reminiscent of the villain in Oliver Twist!) It's too bad Batman isn't here, because he would have spotted instantly that's not Tom, who does not refer to Rutlanders as "obnoxious townspeople." (Except maybe for that one guy who tried to shut down the Rutland Halloween Parade until he was visited on the night of October 30 by three ghosts.)

No, that's not Tom after all, but a supervillain in a rubber mask! Which isn't silly in and of itself, until we find out that the baddie is The Collector! Yes, folks...The Collector, the Cosmic Super-Hoarder who steals beings from all planets of the galaxy and places them carefully in Mylar™ snugs to preserve their value! Do you think, like a comic book fanboy, he likes to collect variant versions? "Over here I've got Steve Rogers Captain America, and on that wall James Barnes Captain America, and over there in that longbox I've got stored Bob Russo, John Walker, Earth-1610's Scott Summers...and I've got a coverless edition of 'Scar' Turpin."

Yep, that's right: one of the Elders of the Universe. The freakin' most powerful beings in the known galaxies. Guys like...well, you know 'em, let's name them off: The Collector, the Champion, the the Living Buda is one, I think...Giant Space Whoopi Goldberg...The Stranger...The Brother-in-Law...Sam the Butcher...we know them all, right?

Two-page splash page from Silver Surfer v.3 #9 (March 1988), credits as above
(Click picture to Galactusize)

Oh yeah, and that guy, too. Anyway, you're telling me that a being with complete cosmic awareness and galactic-sized power needs to wear a rubber mask? Next you'll be telling me that he hits his victims over the head and drags them into a bush!

Which makes the next scene, where the Collector takes over Tom Fagan's house and plans to kidnap the Avengers when they come to the party all the more awesome when he's foiled by Tom and his legion of costumed Vermonters! I do believe that in the last panel of this comic the Collector will growl that he would have gotten away with it, too, if it wasn't for those meddling Vermonters! (This is a very good reason not to give maple syrup to the Collector as a Life Day present.)

How do you drive a Master of the Universe (no, not that one) mad Lock him in a room with comics fans! It's good the Collector escaped when he did, because next they were all going to play the Marvel Overpower Collectible Card game, and I don't care how many of those cards the Collector has, these guys have got more. Insert your own "Collector...we would have words with thee" speech balloon in the final panel.

So, all's well that ends...oh, wait! I forgot a dangling subplot from earlier in the issue: Thor has brought along to Rutland his villainous brother Loki! (Odin always is saying they don't do enough together.) Loki's brain has been erased after the events of the previous issue, and Thor's been trying to determine what the best and safest place to store this now-harmless Norse god. Thor would have put him in his storage space (with his motorcycle, his guitar, the cinder-block furniture from his first apartment, and his entire collection of Playgod magazines), but he defaulted on the monthly rental fees and the whole kit-and-kaboodle was auctioned off on A&E's Storage Wars. Heimdall was pretty peeved about that: he never got back the poster of Farrah Fawcett-Majors that he lent Thor.

In any case, Thor decides to leave Loki behind in the peaceful, idyllic community of Rutland, Vermont, where nothing wicked or evil ever happens except every single freakin' October 31st. Good going, Thunder God! I'm sure that decision will never come back to bite you in your well-toned, muscled ass!

Some of you may be wondering exactly what happened to Loki after that. Well, he fell in with a local woodsman and his brother, and he was so accepted by this friendly duo that they later adopted him as their own brother. Happy, happy days for Loki...probably the best time he had in his lifespan of the past several thousand years, and it was all up there in beautiful rural Vermont.

Next time: the world's most awkward wink! (No, this comic does not star Clark Kent.)

366 Days with Alfred Pennyworth, Day (306) of the Dead Edition

Panel from "Dark Future" in Batman: Dark Knight Dynasty graphic novel (November 1997), script by Mike W. Barr, pencils by Scott McDaniel, inks by Bill Sienkiewicz, colors by Matt Hollingsworth, color separations by Jean Munroe and James Rochelle, letters by Richard Starkings

More Cow/Bull Month, Day 1: Those aren't dogs

Hey, you know, you're right, Mister The Bruce Dickinson! This blog does eed more cows and bulls! That's why this little stuffed bull presents to you, every day this month, a comic book panel or panels featuring my kinda folks: bovines and cattle and steers, oh my! Guernseys, Jerseys, Hereford, Anguses (Angi?), Limousins (vroom! vroom!) and Ayrshires and many more! You can call them bulls and cows...I call them Uncle Dave and Cousin Bossie! So all this month you will know where to go for MORE COW/BULL!

Panel from "The Rustling Romeo" in Whiz Comics #27 (February 1942), pencils by Ken Battefield

Today in Comics History: The first issue of Three-Quarter Rear Angle Comics is published

from "The Calendar Man!" in House of Mystery #266 (DC, March 1979), script by Steve Clement, pencils by Maurice Whitman, inks by John Celardo, colors by Adrienne Roy, letters by Clem Robins

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

One Night in Rutland: 1972, Part 3

Let's fill in the blanks of Halloween night 1972 by opening the cover of this fine comic magazine, the only one which tells the full truth about Norse gods walking (or flying) in our midst: The Mighty Thor #207!

Cover of Thor #207 (January 1973), pencils by Gil Kane, inks by Joe Sinnott

We're back at the Nexus of Halloween Realities, Rutland, Vermont, where Steve Engelhart, Gerry Conway, Len Wein and Glynis Wein are avid observers at 1972's annual Rutland Halloween Parade! This is after they've arrived in Rutland in Steve's broken-down, mufflerless Mustang (Beast in tow) in Amazing Adventures #16 and JLA #103, but before the unrelated attacks of the Juggernaut and Felix Faust. Got it? Good.

Panel from Thor #207 (January 1973), script by Gerry Conway, pencils by John Buscema, inks by Vince Colletta, colors by Glynis Wein, letters by Denise Vladimer
The Gang (minus their cowardly, talking dog) heads on over in the Mystery Mustang to Tom Fagan's house, where we're mightily suspicious of a light in Tom's eyes. Not to mention that he's back in his Nighthawk costume when we saw him as Batman only back in JLA. Ah, those wacky Marvel guys, not allowing a talking character to dress up as the Dark Knight! Incidentally, your may have noticed that many of these Rutland tales star the very self-same creators who wrote and drew them. Long-running Thor inker Vince Colletta was actually supposed to appear in this story...but he erased himself.

Here we see, as was hinted at in both JLA and Amazing Adventures, the Mysterious Disappearance of Ms. Glynis Wein™. To be precise: she disappeared from the ladies' room. That's got nothing to do with the occult forces of evil; she's just escaping from a bad date!

Turns out the Evil on this side of town (while Felix Faust is fiddling with psyches on the other, and Juggernaut is jogging straight down the middle) is the Norse god of evil mischief fangirl attraction, Loki! That's what's happened to Glynis, although she later shows up in the mental enslavement of Felix Faust. Well, with all the leagues of Satan wandering around town, it's absolutely not unheard of that you might accidentally wander from one Army of Evil to another. Here, Loki's bewitched Tom and Glynis, plus Halloween party-goers dressed as Cap, Scarlet Witch, Doctor Doom the Malevolent, I'm guessing. First appearance Tales to Terrify #39.

Now, all Rashomon-like, let's return to that crappy Mustang getting stolen by Felix Faust, except now we see that he had an almost-hitchhiker in the pursuing Loki. I don't know about you, but I woulda paid good money to see Faust give Loki a lift and then follow their on-the-road style adventures across America, helping hindering widows and orphans, and destroying entire civilizations in their wake. It woulda been a hoot!

As it is, we ring down the curtain on Glynis asking Len for a hug, which as good a place as any to end this post, and (for tonight at least) our visits to Rutland, Vermont. (I'd take a snuggly hug from manly Len Wein any day!) Now, you'll please excuse this little stuffed bull, because I have to go and pour out my gigantic bag of candy into a gigantic pile. I love to dive around in it like a porpoise, and burrow through it like a gopher, and toss it up and let it land in my mouth! As for One Night in Rutland, well, let's make it two nights: join me back here tomorrow night for more Rutland rascalities, following that famous parade as seen in comics from 1973 and onwards! We'll see Loki make his second attack on Rutland and an Elder of the Universe in a rubber mask, Green Arrow snoozing, a rabbit in Rutland, the absolute destruction of Rutland, and an appearance by the worst band in any comic book, ever! (And I've read every issue of Steeltown Rockers.

See you tomorrow, have a spooky rest of Halloween, and remember: if you're suspicious of any candy you make have gathered tonight, send it over my way for extensive candy taste-testing. See you tomorrow night for more in Rutland!

One Night in Rutland: 1972, Part 2

Meanwhile, elsewhere on Halloween, 1972...namely 22,300 miles above the Earth...the Phantom Stranger gives the night's weather forecast! (Mostly spooky with patches of evil and periodic gusts of hell.)

from Justice League of America v.1 #103 (December 1972), script by Len Wein, pencils by Dick Dillin, inks by Dick Giordano, letters from Ben Oda

Apparently all the wickedness and wretchedness is due to Felix Faust, or at least, his mother naming him "Felix." Superman vows to stop the DC Universe's version of Baron Mordo by cornering him in Rutland, Vermont! Which, according to the lettering on the map, is a town larger than Syracuse and Rochester put together!

Remember this fantastic four? Why, it's Steve Engelhart, Gerry Conway, and Len and Glynis Wein on their way to Rutland in Engelhart's magnificent crap-mobile. You can place this scene before that in Amazing Adventures #16—they haven't yet picked up Hank McCoy and Vera Cantor! You may also notice that between the events of this book and AA #16, Steve Engelhart's shirt shrank dramatically! And hey, Gerry Conway: still haven't forgiven you for killin' off Gwen Stacy. Just wanted to let you know that.

The quartet arrives in Rutland to meet parade premier Tom Fagan (collect all his appearances!). Enter also the JLA, including The World's Greatest Freakin' Detective, and yet nobody seems to even notice when Hank McCoy and Vera get out of the car from AA #16 (not pictured in this issue). Batman can be forgiven...he's too overcome by Tom's invitation to "live here forever." He asked you, Batman! He finally asked you!

Later in the parade itself, Batman accepts the adulation of the crowd as is his comics-given right. Bow down before Batman!

Crossover alert! A thinly disguised "Commando America," apparently written with the same motivations he was written with in Civil War, orders a Faust-hypnotized Adam Strange and Supergirl...huh, Supergirl? That's no Kara, that's our friend and excellent colorist Glynis Wein, who had disappeared right from underneath her friends' noses earlier in this ish and in Amazing Adventures #16. Now we know where she went! What we don't know, however, is how the possessed Halloween-goers can talk and act so much while The Freakin' Fastest Man Alive just stands there and stares at them. With great speed comes mildly poor reaction time, looks like.

Crossover alert #2! Batman versus a Faust-befuddled partygoer in his Spidey-jammies! Note that Batman reflects that he "has all the powers of the real thing!" That means that A) Batman reads Marvel Comics and B) He considers Spider-Man to be real. He's a fanboy! Bruce Wayne is a fanboy!

Crossover alert #3! Green Lantern is, as usual, knocked out like a chump (sorry, Sally) by a semi-yellow object that is actually colored grey. Batman puts the ersatz Thunder God in his place, though. Good thing the real Thor is nowhere near Rutland, Vermont on this Halloween night. ( he?)

Glynis returns to the land of consciousness, the Justice League battles the Butter Brigade (yellow villains? Better put Hal in the rear), and for the second time this night, someone steals Steve Engelhart's Mustang! even tho' that doesn't really look like a Mustang there. This time it's Felix Faust escaping by the "most inconspicuous means possible"...jumping out of a building into the loudest car in the county. Another excellent escape plan right up there with the stupidest exits on record. He may be a magician, but Houdini, Felix Faust is not.

So it's no surprise that Faust is quickly caught by the boys in blue while the Phantom Stranger watches on. It's too bad that it wasn't the Spectre in this story, who would have designed a hellish and ironically painful torture for the "master" criminal...something along the likes of being turned into a spark plug and then being places in a car continuously driven by Jackie Stewart. Well, something like that. Beats being turned into candles and melted down or into a tree and then sliced up with the Spectre's chainsaw.

The connecting sequences with Engelhart and Company thus prove: this was the first DC/Marvel crossover event ever. the only way it could be more awesome is if Thor was in it. What's that? He was? Well, whaddaya know. There's a Part 3 comin' up!