Saturday, January 21, 2017

Today in Comics History, January 21: Birth of Russia's greatest love machine

Born on this day in 1869: Rasputin!

Splash page of The [Uncanny] X-Men #140 (Marvel, December 1980), co-plot and script by Chris Claremont, co-plot and pencils by John Byrne, inks by Terry Austin, colors by Glynis Wein, letters by Tom Orzechowski

No, no, not that Rasputin. Grigori Yefimovich Rasputin, the infamous "Mad Monk" and trusted friend of the family of Nicholas II, last Czar of the Russian Empire! (At least until they reboot it in Russian Empire: Rebirth #1.)

Rasputin was famously "unkillable," supposedly surviving several assassination attempts because of his adamantium bones and healing factor. That's why he's a perfect subject to star in his own Marvel/Timely-era comic book story! Remember how huge Rasputin got when they published this story? All the kids in the alleys and on the farms were running around yelling "I am Rasputin! You cannot kill me!" Ah, those were the days, the days of borscht and roses.

from "The Mad Monk!" in Amazing Detective Cases #6 (Marvel/Timely, May 1951), script by Carl Wessler, pencils by Pierce Rice, inks by John Tartaglione

Of course this sets up the story for plenty of wholesome pre-code murder attempts! That darn Rasputin, he got away...again!

Naturally, it ends the way it always does: with Rasputin being shot, rolled up in a carpet, and dropped in the ice-freezing Volga River. Eh, that old cliché.

The world never saw the supposedly immortal Rasputin again.

Later in that same comic book, another story ends with death by drowning. Yes, thanks to Stan Lee's canny business sense, May 1951 was drowning month in all the Timely comic books! (See, for example, Patsy Walker #34, where Patsy attempts to get rid of an extra date, with hilarious and waterlogged consequences!)

Final panels of "Death on the River!" in Amazing Detective Cases #6 (Marvel/Timely, May 1951), pencils and inks by Jay Scott Pike

Hmmmmm, that story made me think. Hmmmmmm! Why, if I ran comics, that would give me an idea. An awesome idea. Bully got a wonderful, awesome idea!

So, cracking open the heavy plastic shell of my CGC 9.8 of Amazing Detective Cases #6 and going at the pages with scissors and glue, I've wound up with with this as the final panels of "The Mad Monk," and I think you'll all agree that it's an improvement and that I would be a natural working on the 14th floor of the Empire State Building, working alongside Stan Lee and suggesting maybe a superhero based on a spider might be a rather nifty thing to do.

Happy birthday, Rasputin, you immortal skunk monk, you.

365 Days of Defiance, Day 21: Down in the sewer / Picking up quite a lot of empty Coca-Cola cans / And there sure are a lot of them around here

Panels from The [Uncanny] X-Men (1963 series) #132 (April 1980), co-plot and script by Chris Claremont, co-plot and pencils by John Byrne, inks by Terry Austin, colors by Glynis Wein, letters by Tom Orzechowski

A Month of... Celebrities in Comics, Day 21: Hillary Rises

Remember UltraForce? Role call: Hardcase! Prototype! Prime! Ghoul! Contrary! Topaz! Pixx! Gathered together from the cosmic reaches of the universe (and Cleveland) — here in this great Hall of Justice Ultra — are the most powerful forces of good ever assembled! And they had their own critically-disdained Saturday morning cartoon! Which other superhero team can claim that?!?

Before Marvel acquired Malibu Comics in order to get the printing techniques for their ahead-of-its-time shaded coloring

EDIT on 01/28/17: Ardent and head-shiny reader Green Luthor checked in below in the comments to correct me on the story of Marvel's acquisition of Malibu. Or, as G.L. told me...
For the record, the story that Marvel bought Malibu for it's printing and/or coloring isn't true; they actually bought Malibu to prevent DC from buying them first. (Marvel had more market share at the time than DC, but DC was attempting to negotiate to buy Malibu at the time, and Malibu had enough market share itself that the purchase would allow DC to overtake Marvel. Marvel didn't want that (for obvious reasons), so they negotiated their own buyout of Malibu.)
...and linked to Brian Cronin's always entertaining Comics Legends column on the subject. Go read for the straight skinny! And thank you, Green Luthor!

...(note that there's three color credits for this issue) and turned the UltraVerse into the Marvel Universe's Narnia closet, there were adventures of the UltraForce that didn't involve Juggernaut or Black Knight or Ghost Rider or Man-Thing or whoever it was they shunted over to Earth-93060 in an attempt to goose the sales. I presume the UltraVerse was destroyed by smashing it against Earth-616 like a rotten tomato during Secret Wars '15, but sometimes it's fun to look back and see this proto-shared universe's differences and similarities to our own world. For example, they did have a President Bill Clinton. On the other hand, he's dressed up like Jimmy Olsen!

Panels from UltraForce (1994 Malibu series) #2 (October 1994), script by Gerard Jones, breakdowns by George Pérez, pencils by John Statema, inks by Jeff Whiting and Barb Kaalberg, color design by Robert Alvord, colors by Emily Yoder, color separations by Violent Hues, letters by Patrick Owsley

Also present behind Bill and also from the real world: Secretary-General of the United Nations Boutros Boutros-Ghali and, probably referring to himself in the third person, Senator Bob Dole. Also, apparently, Billy Dee Williams. I'm not certain if I could have picked this universe's Bill Clinton out of a line-up based on his appearance, but there's enough textual evidence to show it is indeed Mister Clinton. Doin' something slick, no doubt!

in order to provide conflict and a plot point, UltraForce's resident manipulator Contrary manipulates emotions so that alien queen Topaz blows her top and challenges the purpose of meeting with that guy who played saxamaphone on The Arsenio Hall Show. Whoa, switch to decaf, Topaz! You're Maxima-ing all over the plkace!

That is, until Pixx calls forth an ethereal vision of reason and sanity to calm Topaz down, in the form of...Hillary Clinton. Wha...huh?!

So, on this important day when women around the world are marching for justice, equality, and their voices to be heard, let's all remember that time Hillary Clinton had a really convincing other-universe speech while glowing. And I'm going to admit that the phrase "Women do get stepped on in this world, but if we stick together and don't let guys get away with too much...well, we'll get there." is at least semi-inspirational. I'd replace "too much" with "all their crap," but your mileage may vary. And don't think of Gennifer Flowers!

I give full support, two hooves up, and complete props to the women and men and children marching today, their anger, righteousness, bravery, and actions are all a strong sign of and a solid path towards true justice. Give 'em hell, women.

Today in Comics History, January 21: Go nuts today

from Deadpool: Too Soon #1 (Marvel, December 2016), script by Joshua Corin, pencils and inks by Todd Nauck, colors by Jim Charalampidisk, letters by Joe Sabino, storyboards by Reilly Brown

Friday, January 20, 2017

365 Days of Defiance, Day 20: Teen Titans Go!

Panels from Tales of the New Teen Titans Annual #3 (1984), co-plot and script by Marv Wolfman, co-plot and pencils by George Pérez, inks by Mike DeCarlo, colors by Adrienne Roy, letters by Ben Oda

Today in Comics History, January 20, 1988: Spitfire definitely isn't getting her security deposit back

from "The Sublet" in Psi-Force #20 (Marvel/New Universe, June 1988), script by Fabian Nicieza, pencils by Mark Bagley, inks by Chris Ivy, colors by Greg Wright, letters by Ken Lopez

A Month of... Celebrities in Comics, Day 20: "Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we've been waiting for. We are the change that we seek."

Hey, remember the time that Luke Cage got really Sweet Christmased-off at one of New York City's most self-entitled real estate developers because he wouldn't let his limo driver get out of the way of an ambulance?

Panels from New Avengers (2005 series) #47 (January 2009), script by Brian Michael Bendis, pencils and inks by Michael Gaydos, colors by Justin Ponsor, letters by Albert Deschesne

I do too! You could, honestly and accurately, describe that guy as one of the Celebrities in Comics.

But you know what? I'm in charge here, and he doesn't get a spotlight today. He doesn't get to appear in this blog which celebrates heroes, justice, and fun. Not on my blog.

You may have noticed that I set this series of posts each day to appear at high noon (unless I'm late) so that y'all have something to look at while you have your delicious tuna sammich, bag of Barbecue Fritos, and that yummy-lookin' chocolate chip cookie hey are you gonna eat alla that cookie? But I set this here post to go off at 11:00 AM. My point (and I do have one) is that at least at the time this piece posted, that guy above is not anything more than an ordinary American citizen.

Let's look at somebody else in a different comic book, like, say, Amazing Spider-Man #583. There's quite a handful of celebrities in ASM #583. Here's the very first Marvel Universe appearance of Diamond Joe Biden. This portrayal of Biden as America's Favorite Cool Uncle is definitely a G-rated version of the Onion's hilarious ongoing coverage of him as a hard-drinkin', hard-driving', hard-lovin' ramblin' man.

Panels from "Spidey Meets the President!" in Amazing Spider-Man #583 (March 2009), script by Zeb Wells, pencils and inks by Todd Nauck, colors by Frank D'Armata, letters by Jared K. Fletcher

Also appearing: Senator John McCain, America's favorite frozen French fry, second-place, first-runner-up in 2008's popular "Who Wants to Be Blamed for Everything That's Wrong in America?" reality show.

Nope. Today's Celebrity in Comics is a man I'm standing up tall and proud on both hooves to salute with the honor and support he deserves: President Barack Obama. Sure, he never saved us from Galactus, and he wasn't a perfect leader of our country, but who among us can say that? Sit down, Victor.

Turns out that ersatz Barack is actually the Chameleon. Remember yesterday when I promised you a supervillain today? Her he is, the Chameleon! (Why, who did you think I meant?) This perennial Spider-foe is impersonating Obama and trying to step his tiny little shape-changing feet into the big shoes of the U.S. President. That trick never works!

Yes, as the clock clicks closer to noon, I can sit back and daydream that the above ranting dialogue somehow happens today...

But it's not gonna happen. And moments like the World's Greatest Fistbump in Comics Magazine now become just another back issue. We shall not see its likes again...


I think one of the ways Obama has affected me, a little stuffed bull, the most, is his constant and earnest inspiration message: that we are all Americans, that we must strive to be better people, better citizens, better Americans. We must teach and learn and speak and listen and work and play together. We must be Americans. YES WE CAN.

Panels from Action Comics (1938 series) #901 (July 2011), script by Paul Cornell, pencils and inks by Kenneth Rocafort and Jesus Merino, colors by Brad Anderson, letters by Rob Leigh

Now it's probably after noon, and Barack Obama is no longer our President. To ladle on the hurt, there's no Superman in our world. So we have to be the heroes the President is calling for here. We have to teach, and learn, and speak, and listen, and be heroes for ourselves. And our communities, and our country, and our people. The power is in our hands — now, as always — to band together, to speak truth to power, to put out a hand not in anger but to lift someone else up. To fight injustice, to right that which is wrong, and to serve all mankind.

Together, no Orange Kryptonite can stop us.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

365 Days of Defiance, Day 19: Last Line of Defense

One of my very favorite interpretations of Ben Grimm. He will never, never, ever give up.

Panels from Startling Stories: The Thing one-shot (October 2003), script by Ron Zimmerman, pencils by Don Kramer, inks by Scott Hanna and Sandu Florea, colors by Studio F, letters by Dave Sharpe

Note the dialogue reference to the classic Fantastic Four #40!

A Month of... Celebrities in Comics, Day 19: Felicia, Felicia, Felicia

See if you can guess today's Celebrity in Comics before...before somebody else who hasn't read the comic does! So here's some panels from Amazing Spider-Man #246 (only one issue before they introduced the Legion of Spider-Heroes!).

Panels from Amazing Spider-Man (1963 series) #246 (November 1983); script by Roger Stern; pencils by John Romita Jr.; inks by Dan Green; colors by Bob Sharen; letters by Joe Rosen

‹web-1.0 blinky HTML tag› Clue!: ‹/web-1.0 blinky HTML tag› Have you noticed the amazing Spider-Diction? Does that sound like the Peter Parker we all know and love? Uh uh uh uh, you're not allowed to answer that question, Joe Quesada.

Why, it's star of stage, screen, radio, and flip books, Cary Grant! He's made one or two films, but what' being riffed on here is perhaps one of the greatest cat burglar movies of all time (after Disney's "That Darn Cat Who Stole the Pink Panther Emerald"): To Catch a Thief!

Sadly, this is not the debut of, as the Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe would put it: SPIDER-MAN II (Archie Leach), but rather a romantic — and knowin' the Black Cat, probably about to get pretty adult-oriented — daydream. But it still counts because hey!: Celebrity!

Tomorrow: a major supervillain!

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

365 Days of Defiance, Day 18: Do or Die, Baby!

Definitely one of my favorite sequences from the original X-Men series, with bold beautiful art by the magnificent if geologically-science-challenged Neal Adams!

Panels from The [Uncanny] X-Men (1963 series) #65 (February 1970), script by Denny O'Neil, pencils (and colors?) by Neal Adams, inks by Tom Palmer, letters by Jean Simek

A Month of... Celebrities in Comics, Day 18: Ty's a Wheel Watcher

It's TV's Pat Sajak in today's "Celebrities in Comics!" There's also Vanna White, but I'm not allowed to put her name in bold because it's not really her who's portrayed! Amnesiac Cloak is seeing Dagger's face instead of the features of Ms. White. Also in these panels: Cloak tries to eat the next issue box.

Panels from The Mutant Misadventures of Cloak and Dagger #7 (October 1989), script by Terry Austin, figure pencils and inks by Mike Vosburg, background pencils and inks by Barb Rausch, colors by Glynis Oliver, letters by Ken Bruzenak

Today in Comics History, January 18, 1991: Foolkiller clips store coupons, saves over $1.35 on his groceries. Now who's the fool?

from Foolkiller (1990 series) #8 (Marvel,. July 1991), script by Steve Gerber, pencils by Joe Brozowski, inks by Vince Giarrano, colors by Greg Wright, letters by Phil Felix

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

365 Days of Defiance, Day 17: I would not be able to equate my life with sand

Panels from Sandman (1989 series) #1 (January 1989), script by Neil Gaiman, pencils by Sam Kieth, inks by Mike Dringenberg, colors by Robbie Busch, letters by Todd Klein

Fun with Comics: Superman has not gotten the Han/Leia dialogue from Return of the Jedi memorized right yet

Today in Comics History Future, January 17, 2610: Bring it on aliens, we've had worse this week

from "The Rulers of Earth" in Astonishing #30 (Marvel/Atlas, February 1954), pencils and inks by Joe Sinnott

A Month of... Celebrities in Comics, Day 17: Oh, Bwunehiwda, you're so wuvwee

Hey, look who's here today: Renaissance man chat show host, radio presenter, film critic, comics scholar and creator, and radiant representative of Rhotacism, Jonathan Ross!

Panels from Knight and Squire #5 (April 2011), script by Paul Cornell, pencils and inks by Jimmy Broxton, colors by Guy Major, letters by Steve Wands

Monday, January 16, 2017

365 Days of Defiance, Day 16: Don't give up, 'cause you have friends / Don't give up, you're not beaten yet

Panels from Amazing Spider-Man #500 (December 2003), script by J. Michael Straczynski; pencils by John Romita, Jr.; inks by Scott Hanna; colors by Avalon; letters by Randy Gentile

A Month of... Celebrities in Comics, Day 16: But Björk Can Hurt You!

Well, this one spiraled a bit out of control. I was originally going to just post the panels immediately below and comment "Hey, it's Icelandic pop pixie (and perennial favorite in the Bull household) Björk!" and call it a day.

Panels from Hawkeye (2012 series) #18 (May 2014), script by Matt Fraction, pencils and inks by Annie Wu, colors by Matt Hollingsworth, letters by Chris Eliopoulos

Of course I've spent some time looking for more appearances of Björk in comics, but except for a couple album cover depictions in MAD magazine, she hasn't. (And for the purposes of 365 Days of Celebrities in Comics, MAD doesn't count.) But didja know that in addition to providing the song "Army of Me" to the soundtrack of the well-I-liked-it 1995 movie Tank Girl, Björk was also considered to play the part of Jet Girl in the film? She turned it down, so our loss is the Naomi Watts's gain. Here, from the original T.G. comic, are (L-R) Jet Girl, Sub Girl, and Tank Girl. Oh man that coulda been Björk!

Panels from "The Australian Job, Part One", originally published in Deadline circa 1989 (could be in issue 7, 8, or 9), script by Alan Martin and Jamie Hewlett, pencils and inks by Jamie Hewlett, letters by Alan Martin. Reprinted in Tank Girl (1991 series) #2 (Dark Horse, June 1991). Color edition published in Tank Girl Graphic Novel (Penguin Books, 1991), new color by Chris Chalenor.

By the way, I suppose you're wondering who's narrating that flashback in the Hawkeye panels above, or to put it more directly, which Marvel character was lucky enough to meet Björk? Why, that's one of my favorite Earth-616 long-time supporting characters, Harold H. Harold.

Matt Fraction didn't invent Harold, though — he was created by Marv Wolfman and Gene Colan back in the funky-bad seventies in everyone's favorite blood-sucker of a comic classic, Tomb of Dracula!

Panels from Tomb of Dracula #37 (October 1975), script by Marv Wolfman, pencils by Gene Colan, inks and colors by Tom Palmer, letters by Joe Rosen

Harold's a hack hwriter (okay, I'm gonna nip that joke in the bud before it gets any further) tapping out supernatural stories for a pulp press editor, to whom he promises an (ahem) Interview with a Vampire!

And yes, this comic was published nearly a year before Interview with a Vampire, Anne Rice's first Lestat novel. Once again: Comics Did It First!

Hey, that is a good question, HHH. Where do you get a green suit vampire to interview?

Well, you're not just gonna run across one...oh, wait, yes you are. Then he can shove the Prince of Vampires into his car and take him home, just like a Little Caesar's Pan Pizza with free Crazy Bread! (Free Crazy Bread may not be available at all locations.)

Do you want Draculas, Harold? Because that's how you get Draculas.

Later, Harold H. Harold becomes a hvampire, but I think you coulda seen that one coming up the winding, cobbled ancient street of downtown Transylvania City.

In conclusion: Björk was once in one comic book! And if you've haven't figgered out what the meaning of the post title is more Silver Age Batman!

Cover of The Brave and the Bold (1955 series) #81 (December 1968-January 1969), pencils and inks by Neal Adams, letters by Gaspar Saladino (?)

Björk, won't you?