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

365 Days of Defiance, Day 13: Your inside is out when your outside is in

Mike W. Barr has written some fantastic comics, especially within the Batman family, but one thing he's never been accused of is being a regular cast member on She's the Sheriff. Also frequently, his supervillains are a little bit corny, but I don't care. I love love love his (and Jim Aparo's) run on the original Batman and the Outsiders series. Here's their first annual, a 1984 parable adapted to the world of the DC Universe.

Cover of Batman and the Outsiders Annual (1984 series) #1 (1984), pencils by Frank Miller, inks by Jim Aparo

Villain Eric Blairman not only has a green suit (where did he get it?) but a red, white, an' blue patriotic super-team all his own, the aptly-if-goofily-named (prepare to groan) Force of July!

Panels from Batman and the Outsiders Annual (1984 series) #1 (1984); script by Mike W. Barr; pencils by Jerome Moore, Alex Saviuk, Jan Duursema, and Rick Hoberg; inks and letters by Jim Aparo; colors by Adrienne Roy

Blairman sees the diverse Outsiders as enemies of the American people, so of course he very patriotically strings them up. (Like fascists do.) Please note that altho' title-checked, the Batman will not be appearing in this annual. So there's no expecting for him to leap in and release the Outsiders! I guess we'll have to place all our faith in Halo and Geo-Force...Oh man, we're boned.

Like all good villains who have their good-guy nemeses completely at their mercy, Blairman can't help himself from speechifying, explaining for those of us who didn't get the reference on page two that he renamed himself after Eric Blair, the birth name of George Orwell, author of 1984. Also: you can tell his sister is a really really smart scientist, because she has glasses. Thank you, comic book visual shortcuts!

She's so smart (how smart is she?) she's invested the Omni-Cast, a new system of ordering pay-per-view special events over your cable, and also of monitoring what everyday Americans do and say. Oh, it's the 1984's version of The Internet!

Suddenly, the Outsiders escape! As if you had any doubt. And guess what: Halo and Geo-Force really do save the day! Makes you feel bad for laughing at them earlier in the post and/or since their creation almost 35 years ago, huh?


Blairman's evil satellite crashes to earth and all's well that ends well as the Outsiders reflect on their victory and Mike W. Barr reaches for his copy of Bartlett's Familiar Quotations. Meanwhile, Batman is tapping his fingers on the table in the Outsidercave, impatiently waiting for everybody else to show up for their regular weekly meeting.

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 12: 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

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

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.

Monday, January 09, 2017

Today in Comics History, January 9, 1988: Pittsburgh got destroyed, but that's no excuse to leave your Christmas tree up this late

from D.P. 7 #21 (Marvel/New Universe, July 1988), script by Mark Gruenwald, pencils by Paul Ryan, inks by Danny Bulanadi, colors by Paul Becton, letters by Janice Chiang

365 Days of Defiance, Day 9: Never let you go

Panels from Powerless #6 (January 2005), script by Matt Cherniss and Peter Johnson, pencils and inks by Michael Gaydos, colors by Lee Loughridge, letters by Dave Sharpe

A Month of... Celebrities in Comics, Day 9: Comics are full of loneliness, and misery, and suffering, and unhappiness, and they're all over much too quickly.

Showcase! The classic DC comic that began as a "you requested it" anthology with firefighters (#1) and frogmen (#3) until it hit on its successful formula with The Flash in #4, kicking off the entire Silver Age of Comics. From that point on Showcase was the four-color tryout home of characters and features to see if they could support their own books. Before they had regular comic books of their own, Lois Lane, Challengers of the Unknown, Green Lantern, Rip Hunter, Sea Devils, Atom, Metal Men, the Spectre, the Creeper, Anthro, Angel and the Ape, Bat Lash, and the Hawk and the Dove all had feature premieres in Showcase!

And then there were the other kind of Showcase features...the fugitive kind, who never developed into a series, altho' in some cases they're still a minor part of the DC Universe, trotted out every now an then for a Crisis or two. Top Gun! No, not Tom Cruise, but a western. Firehair, another western, was a white man raised by the Indians saga (by Joe Kubert). Nightmaster, who never got his own series but at least has popped up in Shadowpact. in recent years. Private eye Jonny Double! ("Born to Trouble!") And even Ian Fleming's James Bond's Doctor No's movie's adaptation reprinted from a UK issue of Classics Illustrated.

But then there were characters pretty much lost to history, doomed forever to The Land of Cancelled Heroes. For example, pretty much nobody remembers The Maniaks, a three-issue Showcase tryout right at the tail end of the hip, gear, and fab "Go-Go Checks" era of DC. This comedy feature starred a teen rock band which we'd now consider reminiscent of The Archies, but they premiered nearly a year before Arch, Jug, Ronnie, Bet and Reg got together with two guitars, a drum kit, and a tambourine. By Showcase #71, the Maniaks's third and final try-out issue, the Powers That Be The Distinguished Competition put in a special guest star, presumably to goose sales, much in the way beloved Maltese children's character Goosio would do. DC took a daring and offbeat approach and brought in what could probably be truthfully described as the most unexpected guest star of them all. Yes, it's everybody's favorite 1970s comedy nebbish, 1980s not-as-funny-as-he-used-to-be, and 1990s accused sex predator, Woody Allen! By kind permission of the City of New York, I guess.

Cover of Showcase (1956 series) #71 [The Maniaks] (November-December 1967), pencils by Mike Sekowsky, inks by Mike Esposito, letters by Ira Schnapp

Hey, hey, we're the Maniaks! Four crazy kids with exactly one defining characteristic each,, at least one of them kinda offensive for a female protagonist of a comic book. And then there's Woody Allen, fresh off his career-defining writing debut What's New, Pussycat and writer/director of What's New, Tiger Lily?, without which we probably wouldn't have Mystery Science Theater 3000. Also, for some reason, there's an expy (or "generic celebrity") of 1960s super-slim British supermodel Twiggy (here called "Twiggly"), so we won't be counting her. Also appearing: ladders, and the Maniaks's gimmick of singing their songs to the tune of another, so we can imagine what the melody would be. And they're all here on a stage that's tilted about thirty-five degrees up!

Splash page from Showcase (156 series) #71 [The Maniaks] (November-December 1967), script by E. Nelson Bridwell, pencils by Mike Sekowsky, inks by Mike Esposito

Woody has come to the kids with his new play, a can't-miss sure-hit never-fail musical set during the Civil War and threatening to do for Robert E. Lee what The Producers did for Adolph Hitler. Again, don't forget that the band's female singer Silver Shannon is only interested in money, because it only tells us twice on this page. Sheesh, lady, go hang out with The Green Team, why doncha!

Here's some other characters introduced and quickly forgotten until they have to appear as stock background characters in the musical. "Rock Hutsut" is not even a proper expy of Rock Hudson, but at least "Twiggly" looks like Twiggy. Is that visual foreshortening, is is Twiggly only twelve inches tall? Well, she's only twelve inches wide, at least.

I can't imagine that at the time, a Venn diagram of DC Comics readers and those who had seen Woody's 1960s nightclub stand-up routines would include many more people than E. Nelson Bridwell. Thanks to retrospective, of course, and my much-played copy of the re-release of his routines on LP in 1978, when I first read Showcase #71 as a back issue I immediately recognized the comic's flashback...

...was a repurposed routine from Woody's stand-up act.

Man, I sure hope Nelson Bridwell gave a small portion of his salary to Woody Allen for this page of plot, sadly the only genuinely humorous part of the comic.

Hey look, another generic celeb, this time one of Allen's admitteed comic infuences, Groucho Marx! There's lots of Marx expys in comics (most notably a running gag character in The Defenders and the lovingly-detailed Count Julius in Dave Sims's Cerebus, before he went completely off the rails (Dave, not Groucho Marx).

Oh Silver: big box offices, is that all you can think of? And here, for no added expense, is a panel I'll feature later this year on October 21 in "Today in Comics History!" It's the comic book that keeps on giving!

The second part of the comic is the musical itself, populated with songs sung to the tune of another. This was a frequent MAD magazine trick (I hold MAD #203's "The MAD Star Wars Musical" in great esteem), but the Maniaks treatment of the same tricky trope talls falls flat because the lyrics just aren't that funny. You can accuse Woody Allen of a lot, but being just not that funny in the late '60s isn't one of them.

There's nothing like a good tune. And that was nothing like a good tune! And here's two more!

Is the play a hit success? A failure? Will it do boffo at the box or mediocre in the mezzanine? Ehhh, the story tells us right out, that doesn't matter. And we won't find out! Instead it wraps up with the kids kickin' out fourth-wall and telling the readers to BUY MORE DC COMICS and write in with their opinions of The Maniaks. Did you dig it, hep cat, or is it the squarest thing since your Dad brought you home a Burl Ives album?

We never saw any of the letters pro- or con-Maniaks (Showcase of that era seldom printed letter columns), but I'm pretty sure the fan reaction to and sell-through of Showcase numbers 68, 69, and 71 was not so much manikial but more meh. The Maniaks didn't get their own comic book and didn't even show up during the Crisis on Infinite Earths, Woody Allen also didn't get his own comic book...but he did star in a comic strip, Inside Woody Allen, syndicated from 1976 to 1984. The strip's recently been reprinted in a nice big volume Since Inside Woody Allen was distributed by King Features Syndicate, he must be in the Flash Gordon/Mandrake the Magician/The Phantom Extended Universe, and I expect Woody to make an appearance any day now in an issue of Dynamite Comics's King, teaming up with Dagwood Bumstead, Mark Trail, and terminal bring-down Funky Winkerbean.

But the Maniaks (established as existing in the DC Universe through a crossover character with The Inferior Five) were not completely least not by Kurt Busiek, who never forgets anything about comic books. Silver Shannon, cash-obsessed lead singer of the Maniaks, pops up in The Power Company as the secretary of team owner Josiah Power.

Panels from The Power Company #3 (June 2002), script by Kurt Busiek, pencils by Tom Grummett, inks by Prentis Rollins and Christian Alamy, colors by Alex Sinclair, letters by Comicraft

Note the poster for that Broadway show hung behind Silver's desk, and the photo of the other three Maniaks behind her (why wasn't she in that picture?). Also, and you can't say this often in comics: Silver has aged. This can only be explained by John Byrne's suggestion (about Timely's Blonde Phantom) that in comics you only age when you're not appearing in comics.

He rounded out her character, but Kurt Busiek didn't forget Silver's gold-digging propensities.

Panels from The Power Company #4 (July 2002), script by Kurt Busiek, pencils by Tom Grummett, inks by Prentis Rollins, colors by Alex Sinclair, letters by Comicraft

Busiek even let Silver save the day at the end of the series, a cancelled-too-soon #18.

In the end, we know what happened to Woody Allen, and enjoying his work can what we call these days "problematic" at best. But what of the Maniaks? Do they have any legacy in the DCU? Does anybody remember them? Well...yeah.

Panel from The Power of Shazam! #48 (March 2010), script by Eric Wallace, pencils by Don Kramer, inks by Michael Babinski, colors by Jonathan D. Smith, letters by Rob Leigh

The World's Greatest Band. Huh. They made it after all.

Sunday, January 08, 2017

The 1970s Recipe Cards of Mama Bull: Oven Porcupines

As the Immortal* Bard once wrote
Make thy two burgers, like meatballs, start from their casserole,
Thy ground and minced beef to bake
And with sauce of Worcestershireworshire,
Spike rice into the oven porpentine.
Gourmets and gourmands and gourmetinas, may I present to you, overlooked by the kindness of grapes and their special cameo guest-star the teapot, Mama Bull's famous Oven Porcupines.

...which are meatballs and rice in tomato sauce. Makes 4 to 6 servings, or, in our family, 12 to 72.

* Died 1616.