Saturday, January 14, 2017

365 Days of Defiance, Day 14: Never give up, even if you're a guy with a handkerchief tied to your face

Page from Stormwatch Special #1 (January 1994); script by Ron Marz; pencils and inks by Dwayne Turner; colors by Joe Chiodo with assistance from Wendy Fouts, Paige Apfelbaum, and Monica Bennett; letters by Bill Oakley

A Month of... Celebrities in Comics, Day 14: The Public Life of the American Teenager

And now, a whole lotta celebs for your Saturday! Bob "Spay or neuter your pets" Barker! Super CONTROL spies Don Adams (or maybe Humphrey Bogart?) and Barbara Feldon (not pictured, but hey: mentioned)! Mustachioed muchacho Robert Wagner! And all on just one page! Who says this isn't the bountiful age of boistrous!

Panels from "Princess...American Style" in Girls' Romances #134 (DC/National, July 1968), pencils by John Rosenberger

And what the heck, we can even properly count real-life Miss American Teen-Ager Michele Patrick, especially since she actually made a comment about appearing in the comic over at Sleestak's excellent Lady, That My Skull blog! Here's the glamorous Michele and her big-ass trophy, along with a cool-ass vintage Dodge Charger!

Michele Patrick, 1968 (Photo: Alden Jewell/Wikimedia Commons)

Congrats, Ms. Patrick! I hope you said "hi" to Agent 99 for me!

Friday, January 13, 2017

A Month of... Celebrities in Comics, Day 13: Unlike any other sport, the objective in boxing is chillingly simple: One octopus-man purposefully endeavors to inflict bodily harm on a spider-man

When the Amazing Spider-Man vows to box the Delectable Doctor Octopus in a winner-takes-all tournment at Marla Madison Square Garden, of course you get the 1970s' most unprevaricating, multiloquent, and periphrastic sportscaster that ABC can lend to PBS: Howard Cosell!

Panels from "The Return of Dr. Octopus" in Spidey Super Stories #11 (August 1975), script by Jean Thomas, pencils by Win Mortimer, inks by Mike Esposito and Tony Mortellaro, letters by Irving Watanabe (?)

Alas, unlike Superman vs. Muhammad Ali, the other big-name comic book boxing match of the seventies, this one doesn't have a galaxy of real and imaginary celebrities on its cover. (I may have to devote an entire week eventually to that comic!)

Cover of Spidey Super Stories #11 (August 1975); cover by John Romita, Sr.; letters by Irving Watanabe (?)

Wait, what am I saying? There's Morgan Freeman, right there!

Thursday, January 12, 2017

365 Days of Defiance, Day 13: If you don't know what issue this is from, turn in your Comic Book Badge

Panels from Fantastic Four (1961 series) #50 (May 1966), script by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, pencils by Jack Kirby, inks by Joe Sinnott, colors by Stan Goldberg (?), letters by Sam Rosen

365 Days of Defiance, Day 12: Here Comes the Sun-Eater Again

Yesterday (for the purpose of both time-travellers and those of you keeping track of when I actually post these darn things, "yesterday" may be a mere social construct), we celebrated Ferro Lad's birthday on January 11, but the cake's all gone now and the air has escaped out of the party balloons. I invited you to guess which Legionnaire would die at the hands tentacles of the deadly Sun-Eater!

Splash page from the Legion of Super-Heroes story in Adventure Comics #353 (February 1967), script and layouts by Jim Shooter, pencils by Curt Swan, inks by George Klein, letters by Milton Snapinn

Well, a classic Legion story deserves a cool encore, especially when the history of the DC Universe was rebooted with the events of Zero Hour, which brought us what is my favorite incarnation of the Legion of Super-Heroes, now sadly rebooted away itself two or three times now. Still, remember when half the Legion was trapped in the twentieth century, teaming up with all the biggest names of the DCU including Booster Gold? And here's the 20C Legion with some obscure hero pals you might recognize as they all team-up to defeat the all-new, all-different, Post-Crisis, Post-Zero Hour, pre-Flashpoint Sun-Eater in the massive crossover event The Final Night!

Panels from Legion of Super-Heroes (1989 series) #86 (November 1996), co-plot and script by Tom Peyer, co-plot by Tom McCraw, pencils by Lee Moder, inks by Ron Boyd, colors by Tom McCraw, letters by Pat Brosseau

Trapped inside his metal mask, Ferro (the Post-Zero Hour name of Ferro Lad) is a native of the 20th century in this history, but desperate to be taken seriously as a hero and into the company of the Legion of Super-Heroes. He's got an idea how to stop the Sun-Eater, and he stole it from a Jim Shooter comic book!

That improbable duo of Lex Luthor and Brainiac 5 can build the bomb, but who's going to sacrifice themselves in order to fly it into the heart of the Sun-Eater? Why, it certainly isn't going to be the guy who has five comic books and provides monthly income to Warner Brothers now, is it? OH COME ON SUPERMAN

In preparation for his final mission, Superman writes a last letter to Lois Lane! Lovingly. The note's probably mostly taken up with his insistence than she not adjust the thermostat and that the leak in the bathroom is just fine, all you gotta do is jiggle the handle.

Panels from The Final Night #4 (November 1996), script by Karl Kesel, pencils by Stuart Immonen, inks by Jose Marzan Jr., colors by Patricia Mulvihill, letters by Gaspar Saladino

Oh hey wait! Good going, Supes! You missed your own suicide mission! So if that's not Kal-El behind the wheel of the brave little ship S.S. Sun-Eater-Exploder, then who is it, you may ask? Oh, for Pete's sake, have you never read a comic book before?

All salute Ferro, who in the ultimate act of defiance and sacrifice, releases the swarm of nano-bombs intended to stop the Sun-Eater. Granted, it pretty much isn't going to work properly, so please give a moment of silence in remembrance of the month of November 1996, when they stopped publishing DC Comics.

(plays 'Taps' on my little bugle for Ferro and Earth-1)


Hal Jordan as repentant Green Lantern-slash-Parallax-slash-I'm not the Spectre yet phums Ferro back to Earth, and in atonement for his crimes under the influence of Parallax, sacrifices his life and power to defy and destroy the Sun-Eater and reignite the Sun. Ehhh, I'll give him that one.

Thus ends the Second Saga of the Sun-Eater.

But, because he's cool and I like him and we don't get to see him once the Legion is threebooted, here's what eventually happened to Ferro Lad. When the 20C Legion at last return to their proper Thirtieth Century in a Very Special Anniversary Issue, Ferro gets to come along with them. Hooray! Also: Koko the monkey.

Panels from "OK C.O.M.P.U.T.O." in Legion of Super-Heroes (1989 series) #100 (January 1998), co-plot and script by Tom Peyer, co-plot by Tom McCraw, pencils by Lee Moder and Derec Aucoin, inks by Drew Geraci and Ray Kryssing, colors by Tom McCraw, letters by Pat Brosseau

But even in the future world of wonder and amazement, Ferro hasn't lost his feelings of inadeuacy. He's not certain he belongs in the Legion, let alone the 30th Century. Luckily this blue alien with a Big Gulp is there to talk him through the difficulty of adjusting. Wait, could this alien be...Mr. Boothby? (Answer: no.)

Panels from "Legion Day" in Legion of Super-Heroes (1989 series) #100 (January 1998), script and inks by Mark Farmer, pencils by Alan Davis, colors by Tom McCraw, letters by Pat Prentice

Yes, it's a world that loves and adores the Legion, even the ones we barely remember anymore. And the ones I really miss, like Kinetix, Sensor, and Gates. (sniff.)

The blue guy's conversation helps Ferro remember that he not only belongs with the Legion, the Legion needs him. This guy must be the best psychologist in the United Worlds...oh hey, it's that guy! (Chameleon!) Well, that was a cool twist.

So, this time around, Ferro lived! I like that. It's as simple as that.

A Month of... Celebrities in Comics, Day 12: And now these words from Alpo

Here's the special Silver Age-flavored guest appearance by Johnny Carson and Ed McMahon that I mentioned yesterday, from the classic Amazing Spider-Man #50! And J. Jonah Jameson! Hi Jonah! No, you don't count as a celebrity.

Panel from Amazing Spider-Man (1963 series) #50 (July 1967); script by Stan Lee; pencils by John Romita, Sr.; inks by Mike Esposito; letters by Sam Rosen

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

365 Days of Defiance, Day 11: Once upon a time Simon & Schuster published defiant books

Panels from The Silver Surfer graphic novel (Simon & Schuster, 1978), script by Stan Lee, pencils by Jack Kirby, inks by Joe Sinnott, colors by Glynis Wein, letters by John Costanza

Today in Comics History, January 11, and 365 Days of Defiance, Day 11: Here Comes the Sun-Eater

Today! It's the very birthday of the Legionnaire you can open up with a can opener, Ferro Lad! That's "Andrew Nolan" to you and me who surely have all the ciiviian names or the Legion memorized. Reep Daggle? Imra Adreen? Jenni Ognuts? Yeah, you know 'em all, and how! (Jo Nah? See, that one was easy!)

Anyway, Andrew Nolan, sealed forever inside an iron suit moresuitable for storing pork and beans. Mmm, delicious, delicious pork and bears. But it's just him inside! I know, yu're disappointed too. Luckily the Iron Suit also gives him the power to iron to the core (and I think we all know how inconvenient that can be, especially when he's your water polo partner at the far end of the pool. "Marco!" you shout, gearing the pony to rear up in the pool, but all that happened at the other end is a series of slow bubbles from the bottom. I'm getting ahead of myself because for his birthday (and hey, one day beyond it!) we're going to look at how Andrew Nolan, Ferro Lad, showed his mettle metal by taking on the deadly and dangerous Sun-Eater! ("No man can escape the Sun-Eater," is its guaranteed slogan to you, the buyer!)

Remember that chilling, dramatic opening of Star Trek: The Motion Picture? Sure you do! You hadn't fallen asleep by then yet.

But, if you're at all familiar with the history of the Legion of Super-Heroes, you can stand up in your seat back there in 1979 and proudly shout to the annoyed masses: "Comics did it first!" And while they're bodily kicking you out of the movie theater, you can be proud that you were right.

from The Legion of Super-Heroes stories in Adventure Comics #352-353 (DC, January-February 1967), script and layouts by Jim Shooter, pencils by Curt Swan, inks by George Klein, letters by Milton Snapinn

Now play Jerry Goldsmith's spaceariffic Star Trek movie theme while we do our opening (comics) credits and introduce our amazing cast from one thousand years in the future! (uture uture uture uture) But grife, what are the Fatal Five doing there getting star credits alongside the Legion of Super-Heroes? Inconceivable! I keep using that word and I think it means what it is! Why, that would be like, as the narration tells us, not dating the story at all, U.N.C.L.E. making a pact with T.H.R.U.S.H.! Or CONTROL teaming up with KAOS! Or S.H.I.E.L.D.* being controlled by, well, maybe not that last one.

ONE OF THESE PEOPLE WILL DIE! (flashing arrow pointing directly to ) This is a good example of early Legion stories making great use of the Mission: Impossible concept: a specific but small group of Legionnaires pitted against a villain rather than all six hundred and eight of 'em. In this case, however, the villain is about as big as they get: a cosmic entity searching for sustenance throughout the galaies, but instead of jus' stopping by Hardee's in the Alpha Centauri Spacemall like you or I would do, it eats stars. What's more, it operates purely on instinct and is completely mindless. So, it's sort of like Galactus after a huge fraternity kegger party.

The Sun-Eater is (gasp! choke!) heading directly towards Earth's sun, apparently bypassing some other, meatier, tenderer stars on its way from the edge of the Milky Way Galaxy. It's like when you want White Castle and nothing else will do. Superboy runs a PowerPoint he's prepared earlier to show the Legionnaires what they'll be up against: victory is a totally utter, impossibility. For the Legion of Super-Heroes, this is Tuesday.

WHY ARE THERE ONLY FIVE LEGIONNAIRES AT HQ oh wait Superboy (and Jim Shooter) casually explain that the other Legionnaires are away in Dimension QK-51 (home of the Superman Meets the Quik Bunny crossover). That must be some doozy of a mission that makes them keep only five members in reserve (granted, one's Superboy; on the other hand, Projectra and Ferro) on Earth. I mean, they coulda left behind Matter-Eater Lad, the greatest Legionnaire, who would have handily ate the Sun-Eater. Burp!

Surely, you say, there must be other heroes in the galaxy considering there are entire planets whose biospheres support magnetic control or intangibility or extreme! computing! power! Well, sure there is, and stop calling me Shirley. But nobody, not the Heroes of Lallor, not the Wanderers, not even the Tiny, Tiny Avengers of Imsk (they're so cuuuute!) can come to the Legion's aide. And then there's these buncha jerks! They think they can get out of helping to save Earth just because they are only disembodied floating heads!

Incidentally, note the first caption in the panels above. A rare sliparoo from Shooter on which century LSH takes place in! (the Thirtieth). WHOOPS.

With a Legion consisting only of Superboy (almost infinitely powerful), Cosmic Boy (pretty darn powerful), Sun Boy (a dangerous thing to be around a Sun-Eater), Princess Projectra (ummmmm...) and Ferro Lad (.........), the Legion of Super-Heroes is in dire need of allies to battle the Sun-Eater. So they find and deputize the Fatal Five: Tharok (unstoppable cyborg), the Persuader (he'll beg the Sun-Eater to leave), the Emerald Empress (she'll keep an eye out for you), Mano (The Hand of Fate), and Validus (who, when he's not freaking out, has a tragic and yet-to-be-told Legion origin story!) This quintet of quirky quacksalvers are promised amnesty from their crimes if they help stop the Sun-Eater. That doubles the defense force and allows Jim Shooter to nod his very tall hat at a plot device from The Dirty Dozen Time for a soundtrack cue!

First up on our Star Search stage: Sun Boy! He's hot and fiery and full of cosmic gas! All the powers of a raging star and the ability to stand on a giant compact disc! But no savior of the universe he! So, they all give up and go home.

Now, Tharok and Validus try chopping at it and throwing lightning at it! But what works in Kitchen Stadium is ineffective in space, and they can't truly stop the unstoppable thing which cannot be stopped! Are ya sorry ya didn't go to Dimension QK-51 yet, Legionnaires?

Well, here comes the galaxy's most powerful hero (in handy compact boy form): Superboy! I dunno, Clark, use your Krypto-vision to shoot small dogs at it, or maybe super-ventriloqism to convince it our sun is out of business and not worth heading for. Because only Superboy can stand up to the power of a billion suns projecting yellow, orange, green, blue rays...D'OH! RED SUN RAYS! WHO COULD HAVE EXPECTED THAT?

Cosmic Boy / Cosmic Boy / He has got a cosmic ploy / Is he magnetic? / Listen, Jim / He'll attract any metal / Except aluminum / Alas / Sun-Eater's not made of metal / No joy

Emerald Empress and her Eye stare at it! Aside from the Sun-Eater feeling momentarily self-conscious about its weight, it does no damage.

Eh, what the heck, let's let the Princess take a crack sending illusions at it. It surely couldn't get worse. (beat) AIEEE! It got worse!

Mano! The man with the hand that destroys everything it touches! How he goes to the bathroom we'll never know. Ah, Mano, thank you for making us laugh at "Ehahh!" again.

Well, that's everybody from both teams, so Earth's gonna die, uh huh. I would kiss your loved ones and maybe eat that ice cream in the fridge before it goes to waste...oh yeah, Ferro Lad! Forgot about him! As is often the case in the Legion, a member you don't think is gonna pull off a mission is absolutely successful! Yay Ferro! I-RON-na give you a big hug!

Now that they know the thing has a brain that looks like a mascot from the 1964 World's Fair Let's Get Charged for Electrons pavilion, they can destroy it! Tharok quickly whips up a bomb out of ordinary household items you probably have lying around your place, but who will carry it into the heart of the storm? Aw, c'mon...if you didn't know the ending of this story, turn in your Comics Predicting Badge. Even Brainiac Minus-5 saw that coming, and he's the Dumbest Guy in the Galaxy three years running from 2964-2967.

I've poked gentle (well, except for Projectra) fun at this story throughout, but in terms of emotion and defiance, the sacrifice of Ferro Lad ranks very high on my list. This tale — and this first panel showing Ferro Lad flying into the heart of the Sun-Eater to ignite the bomb himself — is justifiably iconic in comics history, and the first "real" death of the Legion (altho' Lightning Lad had died before, he came back or Proty had babies with Saturn Girl, however you wanna think about that). I admit I cried...just a little...when I first read this story, lowering the value of my copy of Adventure #353 from VG to G: waterstained.

We salute you, Ferro Lad! We will miss your honor, your bravery, your ingenuity, and your ability to hold our grocery lists using fridge magnets.

Ferro Lad, we will not see your type again. Because Shooter killed you off on purpose because you couldn't have been black.
When Jim Shooter first created the character, he intended Ferro Lad to be black, but editor Mort Weisinger vetoed the idea, saying "we'll lose our distribution in the South."

This was in fact why Shooter chose Ferro Lad to be the one to die in the Sun Eater story. "Ferro Lad, I killed because my plan was that he was a black guy, and Mort said no. Then I said, "Well, let's see. I've got this idea for a story, and someone needs to die...Ah-ha! Him!" So basically, I killed him off because it annoyed me that I couldn't do with him what I wanted." — Wikipedia

Say, remember that whoops! caption above that said "Time: The twentieth century?" Well, in a way Jim Shooter could have never predicted, it eventually wound up being true when the story was retold in Post-Zero Hour 1996. Tune in tomorrow to find out how, why, and when! (Oh, 1996. Ignore that last one.)

Cover of Legion of Super-Heroes (1989 series) #86 (DC, November 1996), pencils by Alan Davis, inks by Mark Farmer, colors by Patrick Martin

*Sun-Eater Heading Into Enormous Lightyear District

A Month of... Celebrities in Comics, Day 11: It's really love, dear / I knew it from the start / You came my way, dear / Took away my heart*

Carson! Parker! They're cops! Wait, no they're not. One hosts a popular late night talk show and one is Spider-Man. Here's Peter Parker appearing on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson and Ed McMahon! Carson made occasional appearances in the Marvel Universe (most notably in Amazing Spider-Man #50), and heeeeeeeeeeres Johnny talking to Pete about his book of Spidey photos, Webs. The previous page has already told us that Pete was booked as a last-minute guest when Charles Nelson Reilly cancelled, and Peter's definitely on in the last five minutes of the show. Hey-yo!

Panels from Amazing Spider-Man #305 (Late September 1988), script by David Michelinie, pencils by Todd McFarlane, inks by a whole lotta guys depending on which page you're lookin' at, colors by Gregory Wright, letters by Rick Parker

There's another almost celebrity appearance in ASM #305 earlier in the book, when Spider-Man signs an autograph for an off-camera Glenn Close.

Also in that panel: J. Jonah Jameson's handsomer cousin, and Abraham Lincoln. (Or maybe it's just this guy from Danger!! Death Ray:)

Also making an appearance, likely just out of the panel, Felix the Cat.

But we all know the real reason to read this comic is this panel:

That's right: nobody can resist the sight of sexy, sexy Peter Parker in a swimsuit. Rwaaaaaaar!

*Betcha didn't know Johnny's Theme (The Tonight Show Theme) had lyrics!:

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

365 Days of Defiance, Day 10: Steve Rogers gains the super power of speechifying*

Panels from Captain America (1968 series) #255 (March 1981), script by Roger Stern, pencils by John Byrne, colors by Bob Sharen, letters by Joe Rosen

*And punching.

A Month of... Celebrities in Comics, Day 10: Just a Pilgrim

Hey, it's Big Bad John!

John Wayne, that is, as portrayed in The 'Nam, Marvel's pretty-provocative saga of an active-duty unit in the Vietnam War, following characters as they moved in an out of their military rotations.

Panel from The 'Nam #41 (February 1990), script by Doug Murray, pencils by Wayne Vansant, inks by Geof Isherwood, colors and letters by Phil Felix

The cast of The 'Nam held Wayne's 1968 movie The Green Berets in about as much regard as did Roger Ebert...
"The Green Berets" simply will not do as a film about the war in Vietnam. It is offensive not only to those who oppose American policy but even to those who support it. At this moment in our history, locked in the longest and one of the most controversial wars we have ever fought, what we certainly do not need is a movie depicting Vietnam in terms of cowboys and Indians. That is cruel and dishonest and unworthy of the thousands who have died there.... If I were a soldier in Vietnam, I would not want to be represented by "The Green Berets." I would not want my fellow citizens to think I was as stupid and simple-minded as the Americans in this film.
...which is, none at all. It's one of the most reviled of John Wayne's films.

Despite his mention, I'm pretty sure that's not s'posed to be George Takei's character in the panel below (see stills from the movie for comparison), so I can't claim him as one of the celebrities appearing in this comic book.

However, we can add to the tally of real-life persons in comics this appearance of North Vietnam President Ho Chi Minh, if we count political figures, which I do (and will later throughout this feature!).

Except holy cow I don't remember the Marvel Superheroes breaking up the Vietnam War! Good thing it's just a fantasy sequence brought on by grunt Mike "Iceman" Phillips reading a contemporary Marvel comic book.

Which hey, allows me to also classify this post as another entry in Comics within Comics! Iceman, of course, was reading the special edition of FF #60 with the "censored" brown background specially printed for servicemen.

Cover of Fantastic Four (1961 series) #60 (March 1967), pencils by Jack Kirby, inks by Joe Sinnott, colors by Stan Goldberg, letters by Sam Rosen

Altho' they reversed the policy to later include The Punisher in The 'Nam comics, Marvel was at first dead-set on insisting the stories took place in the "real world" and not the Marvel Universe, which is why the cover to this issue comes as such a surprise:

Cover of The 'Nam (February 1990), pencils by John Romita Sr. and Ron Frenz; inks by John Romita Sr.

Such a surprise that even the corner box was flabbergasted!

And no, it didn't even take place during Assistant Editor's Month.