Saturday, May 06, 2017

365 Days of Defiance, Day 126: There flew Thunder Child

Panels from Amazing Adventures (1970 series) #18 (May 1973), plot by Roy Thomas and Neal Adams, script by Gerry Conway, pencils by Howard Chaykin, inks by Frank Chiaramonte, colors by Petra Goldberg, letters by John Costanza

"Thunder Child" from Jeff Wayne's Musical Version of The War of the Worlds (1978),
narration by Richard Burton, sung by Chris Thompson

Today in Comics History: Ain't no party like a George Party, 'cos a George Party is either wildly or mildly cheered

From the world's bait-and-switchiest comic book, Limited Collectors' Edition #C-47, comes today's celebration of the French Alliance! Which gave us Asterix, the croissant, and Audrey Tautou, not to mention the eventual triumph of the War for Independence. Get down and party, bluecoats!

Page from illustrated story "Valley Forge" in Limited Collectors' Edition #C-47 [Superman Salutes the Bicentennial] (August-September 1976); script, pencils, and inks by Fred Ray

Friday, May 05, 2017

365 Days of Defiance, Day 125: A Little Rebellion

Panels from The Micronauts (1979 Marvel series) #6 (June 1979), script by Bill Mantlo, breakdowns by Michael Golden, finishes by Joe Rubinstein, reprint colors by Bob Sharen based on original colors by Roger Slifer, letters by John Costanza

Today in Comics History: Commander Alan Shepard becomes second man in space and first astronaut to become a Batman supervillain

Panel from Detective Comics (2011 series) #49 (April 2016), script by Peter J. Tomasi, pencils by Fernando Pasarin, inks by Matt Ryan, colors by Chris Sotomayor, letters by Wes Abbott

Also, he was on Star Trek!:


For a second.

Thursday, May 04, 2017

365 Days of Defiance, Day 124: You bet I'm picking up the next issue

Panels from The Avengers (1998 series) #52/467 (May 2002), script by Kurt Busiek, pencils by Ivan Reis, inks by Randy Emberlin, colors by Tom Smith, letters by Saida Temofonte

Wednesday, May 03, 2017

365 Days of Defiance, Day 123: 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), 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...Gillian Taylor? (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.

Tuesday, May 02, 2017

Today in Comics History: Captain America goes into suspended animation to escape encroaching speech balloons

Panel from Captain America (1968 series) #332 (August 1987), script by Mark Gruenwald, pencils by Tom Morgan, inks by Bob McLeod, colors by Ken Feduniewicz, letters by Diana Albers

365 Days of Defiance, Day 122: Here Comes the Sun-Eater

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.

Panels throughout are from the Legion of Super-Heroes stories in Adventure Comics #352-353 (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 (November 1996),
pencils by Alan Davis, inks by Mark Farmer, colors by Patrick Martin

*Sun-Eater Heading Into Enormous Lightyear District

Today in Comics History: Kraven's First Hunt

"Spidey and the Short Circus Make May Day Mischief" from Spidey Super Stories #11 (August 1975), script by Jean Thomas, pencils by Win Mortimer, inks by Mike Esposito, letters by Irving Watanabe

Monday, May 01, 2017

365 Days of Defiance, Day 121: I'm Not Dead Yet

Panels from Seven Soldiers #1 (December 2006), script by Grant Morrison, pencils and inks by J.H. Williams III, colors by Dave Stewart, letters by Todd Klein

Today in Comics History: Tiny, tiny masthead enrages J. Jonah Jameson

Portion of the splash page from Web of Spider-Man (1985 series) #5 (August 1985), script by Danny Fingeroth, pencils by Jim Mooney, inks by Greg LaRocque and Kyle Baker, colors by Bob Sharen, letters by Phil Felix

The 1978 2017 Amazing Spider-Man Mighty Marvel Comics Calendar: May Misery

Geez, Peter don't know enough to come in out of the rain! What'll Aunt May say when you swing walk home soaking wet?

"May is a Dear Old Aunt" in The Amazing Spider-Man Mighty Marvel Comics Calendar 1978 (1977); pencils by Larry Lieber, inks by Frank Giacoia (Click picture to Rainy-Day-Mondays-Always-Get-Me-Downsize)

SPIDER-MAN NO MORE! Until the next issue, at least. This month's calendar girl picture recreates the one of the most famous images in Marvel comics, the classic John Romita Sr. full page where Peter gives up being Spidey, tossing his costume into the trash. Earlier in the day, the same thing was done by Bottle-of-Wine-Man, Bottlecap Girl, Mr. Pack of Matches, and Captain Cigarette Butt.

Page 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

How iconic is this iconic scene that is an icon? So iconic that it's been referenced by more Spider-Man comic book covers than you can count on one hand! That is, six:

Why, it was even immortalized in real life, in the excellent movie Spider-Man 2: Electro Boogaloo:

It's such a classic that frankly, comic books themselves can't stop homaging the image:

Okay, fair enough, that last one doesn't really count: instead of a costume in a barrel and the hero running away, the costume is running away and the hero's in a barrel! It's a switcharoo!

Plenty of comic books do the same on interior pages. And I thought these things copied Romita...on the outside!

And let us not forget Mike Haseloff's (of comics blog Secret Wars on Infinite Earths!) revealing classic "Namor No More!"

Yes, "Spider-Man No More" has even crossed over to all those destroyed-since-2015 alternate Earths that the Watcher used to peep in on. What If... trash cans throughout the multiverse got used for uniform disposal?!?

You can even toss away...BWAH!...your human skin! Ick! Stop that, Zombie Peter!

Yes, it's a comic book tradition everyone has to try once in a while! Even though it doesn't always work.

So, Spider-Man No More, won't you?