Friday, August 31, 2012

The Knightfall Boys Reunion Tour

"The Knightfall Boys Reunion Tour" from Azrael vol.1 #39 (DC, 1998) by Dennis O'Neil, Roger Robinson and James Pascoe

When Batman goes his back broken by Bane and he was replaced by Azrael, a character recently introduced in the Batman: Sword of Azrael mini-series. "Azbats" was never meant to stay Batman for long because he was much too bloodthirsty and worse still, he didn't respect the costume and half turned it into some kind of ugly armor with long claws. It was the 90s. Though I think everyone hated him as Batman, it did set Jean-Paul Valley up for a series once he went back to Azrael. And creator Dennis O'Neil took him right up to #100. You don't see that kind of long stint on a character at DC anymore! I never got into it, personally. Never been big on vigilantes with no real limits, but it seems it sold well enough. They did have to change the title to Azrael: Agent of the Bat mid-run so that it would get a little more of that Batman appeal though. I'm sure Azrael's medieval origins and all that was interesting, and O'Neil is good with gritty material, but you can't read everything.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Ironing Tips with the Atom

"Ironing Tips with the Atom" from The Atom #16 (DC, 1964) by Gardner Fox, Gil Kane and Sid Greene

Reading old Silver Age Atom stories is pretty heavy going, to tell you the truth. The art is always very stiff and while there's a fair "using science to find solutions" element, as in the Flash, the stories are rarely as crazy, nor do they feature very many interesting super-villains. The Atom has a number of adventures down the Time Pool, which is a bizarre way to use a shrinking hero. It's like the Atom's educational mandate trumps his superhero adventure strip genre. It's too bad, because I've been a fan of the Atom since I encountered him in the early 80s as a member of the Justice League of America. The original series lasted 38 issues before turning into The Atom and Hawkman (through to #45), which despite its gorgeous Joe Kubert covers, didn't really have any better artwork inside.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Atlantis Frolics

"Atlantis Frolics" from The Atlantis Chronicles #3 (DC, 1990) by Peter David and Esteban Maroto

Esteban Maroto proved he could handle the art chores on any fantasy book by so prettily illustrated Peter David's secret history of Atlantis, covering the millennia between Arion and Aquaman. We'd have to wait for David's Aquaman series to have some of this history pay off, because oddly, the Aquaman book that followed Chronicles was another beast entirely.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Tempest, I Am Your Father

"Tempest, I Am Your Father" from Atari Force vol.2 #6 (DC, 1984) by Gerry Conway and Jose Luis Garcia Lopez

I wrote a long article about this odd "crossover" between Atari and DC Comics on the Blog of Geekery. Check it out if you want to know more about this 80s classic.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Look Ma, No Hands! (Foreshadowing)

"Look Ma, No Hands! (Foreshadowing)" from Arsenal #3 (DC, 1998) by Devin Grayson, Rick Mays, Jason Martin, and Sean Parsons

Might Roy Harper win the award for MOST mismanaged character in comics history? (I'll take other nominations.) Starts out life as a derivative sidekick with a slightly silly name, joins the Teen Titans, and gets his 15 minutes when he's caught shooting up heroin on that famous Green Arrow/Green Lantern cover. We're fine up to there, but that event may well be what broke poor ol' Speedy forever. Not because we can't have a hero who's a recovering addict, but because I don't think writers quite knew what to do with it. His stint as a drug enforcement agent seemed sound enough, but having lost his innocence so young made him a target for every "gritty" former sidekick story to come down the pike. Got a girl pregnant and didn't know he was a father? Check. "Speedy" too silly? Let's turn him into "Arsenal", 90s badass! (In his original purple togs, he might as well have been Hawkeye.) Left the Titans because he caused one of their deaths? Check. But wait, it gets better...

Roy Harper was revealed to be Vandal Savage's descendent (in the mini-series splashed above)! Then he embraced his Navajo heritage! Formed a new Outsiders team! (Noooooooo!) If you get the notion they didn't know what to do with the character, well... Then he joined the Justice League as Red Arrow, were things looking up? Nope. In one of the most hated story arcs in recent memory (and that's saying something, isn't it, comics fans?), Prometheus cut Roy's arm off and the Electrocutioner (of all the c-list...) killed his daughter. One painful robot arm later, and he's getting himself addicted to pain killers and paranoid delusions. Time to break out that Arsenal identity again! Because he's dark and that's a lot more badass than being a reasonably well-adjusted single dad, and Arsenal is a badass name!!! Oh yeah, and they make sure to reveal that all this stress has made him impotent. TOO MUCH INFORMATION! Stealing drugs from dealers, talking to dead cats, murdering the Electrocutioner... Well, that got all rebooted in the New52, so now Roy is a disgraced hero (merely a recovering alcoholic) and a bit of a mimbo.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Heroes Who Will Not Be Intimidated

"Heroes Who Will Not Be Intimidated" from Armageddon: Inferno #4 (DC, 1992) by John Ostrander and Walt Simonson

Armageddon 2001 was DC's 1991 Annual event, and a clever idea it was too. Through a precog character from the future called Waverider, writers and artists got a chance to imagine the series they were working on 10 years into the future, though of course, the sliding time scale of comics would never get us to the point. A 39 year old Superman? No way, reboot the universe before that happens! The Annuals were of variable quality of course, but mostly fun. Where Armageddon 2001 fell apart is in its final solution. Waverider was looking for the hero who would turn bad and become Monarch, see, and fans apparently guessed that it would be Captain Atom - or maybe they got cold feet because this was too popular a character - so they changed it at the last minute and absurdly, revealed he was really Hawk of Hawk&Dove. So they had to change the color of his eyes in the last issue to make it fit, so what, right? And regardless, it seems like plans had been made, and Captain Atom was sent to the dinosaur age along with Monarch anyway. All a case of not playing fair with the readers.

Still, I suppose the event was popular enough to warrant slapping the Armageddon brand on later mini-series, at least if they kind of explored the event's aftermath. Armageddon: The Alien Agenda was first, featuring Captain Atom and Monarch chasing each other through history. Later came Armageddon: Inferno, starring Waverider and a mini-Crisis that has lots of characters from across DC history teaming up against a temporal threat, and an excuse to bring the JSA back into service. What's nice about Inferno for this blog, is that various time-tossed teams are drawn by different artists, and so, an excuse to show some Walt Simonson artwork. It's probably the only time Lobo teamed up with Enemy Ace. Other contributors included Tom Mandrake, Art Adams, Luke McDonnell and Michael Netzer. But if there can only be one, let it be Simonson.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

By Choloh!

"By Choloh!" from Arion, Lord of Atlantis #1 (DC, 1982) by Paul Kupperberg and Jan Duursema

If I'd be interested in reading Amethyst, Arak and Warlord again or for the first time, I have no such compulsion with Arion, Lord of Atlantis. More than those others, Arion at the time seemed to be the most generic fantasy book available. And yet, it was perhaps one of the most integrated into the DCU. Arion was a Homo Magi like Zatanna. Garn Daanuth, his nemesis, appeared in a wizened state in the first issue of Justice League of America I ever bought (and consequently, the one I most reread). He was inserted into the (awful) post-Crisis origin of Power Girl. And obviously, his Atlantis was going to become Aquaman's. But nope, never had an interest in it. I did buy the Arion the Immortal 1992 mini-series that tries to make him a viable modern-day character, but I shouldn't like to admit to that.

Friday, August 24, 2012

The Travels of Arak, Son of Thunder

"The Travels of Arak, Son of Thunder" from Arak, Son of Thunder #50 (DC, 1985) by Roy & Dann Thomas and Tony DeZuniga

In the early 80s, DC really was trying to find an answer to Marvel's Conan comics. Or perhaps there was a real explosion of interest in sword & sorcery, perhaps because of D&D's rising popularity. In any case, DC had a number of fantasy series at this time, one of which was Arak, Son of Thunder, a Native American who crosses over to Europe during the Middle Ages by Vikings and, as you can see, travels the whole of the continent over the course of 50 issues and an Annual. I picked up an issue here and there at the time, usually if Ernie Colon drew Valda the Iron Maiden on the cover (cough, cough), but never got into ANY of DC's fantasy books. Today, they seem very wordy (Roy Thomas wrote them, so duh), but I wouldn't mind re-evaluating the title.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Swimming Partners

"Swimming Partners" from Aquaman vol.7 #3 (DC, 2011) by Geoff Johns, Ivan Reis and Joe Prado

Aquaman vol.7 puzzles me. In Brightest Day, DC made a big splash of resurrecting Aquaman and giving him a new direction. They restored his former look and his happy marriage to Mera, and gave him a new Aqualad. They also made him badass without having to re-pirate him. Brightest Day (and connecting events) set a number of characters up for the next phase of the DC Universe. And then they threw it all away and rebooted the damn thing. Aquaman is one of the least affected (Firestorm, Martian Manhunter, the JLI and Hawkman truly got the shaft though), but his new Aqualad seems lost at sea. But worse, the New52 Aquaman, while very pretty to look at, is as badly structured as Johns' other current series, to the point where I should really stop reading despite my resolve to support the character. The book is slow as molasses and intent on telling stories about Aquaman's former team of people we've never ever heard of, or else having everyone in the DCU make jokes I've heard a hundred times about Aquaman's powers. It's really too bad, because Johns obviously understands the character's appeal - he restored the look, uses the powers well, and even game Aquaman a place to call home - but like his Justice League, the book has become big on art and small on story.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Aquaman's Royal Ride

"Aquaman's Royal Ride" from Aquaman: Sword of Atlantis #46 (DC, 2006) by Kurt Busiek, Karl Kesel and Phil Winslade

Rick Veitch's Aquaman vol.6 would be responsible for giving him a hand made of water and various mystical abilities. The series changed hands several times, from Veitch to Ostander to Pfeiffer to Arcudi, but its more interesting addition, I thought, was Sub Diego. See, one of the things that made Aquaman difficult to write for is that he had no American "contextualizing city". Atlantis is this magical place with an alien culture, and scarcely the equivalent of Metropolis or Gotham. Sub Diego was a part of San Diego that fell into the sea, and whose inhabitants for some reason were given the ability to breathe water. Suddenly, Aquaman had his own American town to protect. It's an interesting notion that carried over to Sword of Atlantis, the book's new name as of its 40th issue. We're now One Year Later than the Infinite Crisis in which Aquaman presumably died. We have a new Aquaman, Arthur Joseph Curry, whose connection to the previous Aquaman was initially a mystery. Haven't read it yet, but it's on my list. Vol.6 ran under that title until issue 57 and the end of 2007.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Aquaman vs. Triton

"Aquaman vs. Triton" from Aquaman vol.5 #45 (DC, 1998) by Peter David, Jim Calafiore, Peter Palmiotti and Mark McKenna

Yes, in retrospect, having Aquaman's hand eaten by villain-controlled piranhas and replacing it with a hook looks like 90s anti-hero excess. And it is. However, Peter David's retooling of Aquaman WORKED. These days, Geoff Johns seems desperate to make readers believe Aquaman is a badass despite the "silly powers" non-comics readers associate with him. Peter David does that and more without calling attention to it. In the first few issues, Aquaman trounces Green Lantern and Lobo and from then on, we get it if we didn't before. Maybe "pirate Aquaman" is what got the kids to pick up the book, but what kept you reading is David's excellent building of the character's supporting cast. In addition to Garth, Porm, Mera and Vulko, he brought in Dolphin, Arthur's illegitimate son Koryak, and the Sea Devils. It became Marine Showcase, and I loved it. It's perhaps too bad that its legacy is to have made Aquaman a rather dour character who doesn't work well with others (which the above description should partly put the lie to). But it still holds up.

Volume 5 lasted 77 issues and 5 Annuals from 1994 to 1999, though Peter David left after issue 47. 2003 would see the release of yet another Aquaman ongoing.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Aquaman vs. Aqualad... Again?

"Aquaman vs. Aqualad... Again?" from Aquaman vol.4 #8 (DC, 1992) by Shaun McLaughlin, Ken Hooper and Bob Dvorak

I have to say was disappointed with the 1991-92 Aquaman series. I wasn't particularly interested in the story it was trying to tell, with Aquaman as defender of Poseidonopolis, sometimes acting as U.N. representative, and the art fell short of past projects, and certainly of the great Kevin Maguire covers. 13 issues later, my lack of interest was apparently proven right. But maybe if they tapped the guy who wrote Atlantis Chronicles? See you tomorrow for Aquaman vol.5!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Aquaman and his Pile of Topos vs. the Aqualad Lobster Monster

"Aquaman and his Pile of Topos vs. the Aqualad Lobster Monster" from Aquaman vol.1 #9 (DC, 1963) by Jack Miller and Nick Cardy

I'm a card-carrying member of Friends Of AquaMan (F.O.A.M.), so obviously, I have a great love of this character. You know, they say Wonder Woman is hard to write for, but Aquaman's publishing history also marks him as a difficulty for writers, it seems. They never seem to know just what they should focus on. Atlantean politics? Atlantean magic? Superhuman Coast Guard? Environmentalism? Does he work outside the ocean? How silly or reasonable is his talking to fish?

For me, it's really not that complicated, and the original series (and Adventure Comics strips) got it just right. Superman can have Metropolis, Batman Gotham, but Aquaman has to cover 70% of the planet! Seems to me there's plenty to do and there should have been a lot more supervillains to come out of that environment. For this splash, I had a hard time deciding on an artist. Nick Cardy (who eventually won because TOPO TO THE MAX), Ramon Fradon, Jim Mooney, or Jim Aparo? There have been some amazing artists on Aquaman, Aqualad, and friends. I discovered the era mostly through Showcase Presents, I don't deny it, and they're one of the few SCP series I read all the way through. Simply charming in a way Aquaman had a lot of trouble recapturing in his later incarnations.

Volume 1 was Aquaman at his most popular, lasting 56 issues from 1962 to 1971 (expanding on the Adventure Comics strip that started in '59), and picked up the numbering again in 1977 for 7 more bimonthly issues. We would wait until 1986 for vol.2, the 4-issue mini-series with beautiful art by Craig Hamilton and the introduction of the short-lived blue camo-suit, which was followed up by a Special in '88. In '89, Legend of Aquaman Special retold his origin with art by Curt Swan, but still no ongoing series on the horizon. Instead, the Legend team (Fleming, Giffen and Swan) would get to do a 5-issue mini, in part about Mera going insane after the death of her son. Tomorrow, Aquaman goes ongoing again with Volume 4!

Saturday, August 18, 2012

The River of No Return

"The River of No Return" from Anthro #5 (DC, 1969) by Howie Post

You know what I miss? A good caveman comic on the stands. I'm not being facetious, I'm fascinated by this minor genre, probably because I grew up on French-language Rahan comics. Still don't believe me? Let it be known that I've run GURPS: Ice Age role-playing games. And they were COOL.

Anthro is the first Cro-Magnon boy born in the Stone Age, and maybe(?) the first comic book caveman hero. So he's smarter than his Neanderthal tribe and I guess he's expected to have lots of babies and found the human race. No pressure.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Into the Red

"Into the Red" from Animal Man vol.2 (DC, 2011) by Jeff Lemire and Travel Foreman

Though Jeff Lemire's comics cred is pretty high right now, one of the major draws of the New 52 Animal Man for me is Travel Foreman's crazy indy art. With Animal Man and other "DC Dark" books, DC has revived the Vertigo superhero genre the label itself has gotten away from and in the process created a place where things are fresher and more interesting than the company's more mainstream efforts. However, it still bears the New 52 stamp, which is to say art-driven stories with plenty of splashes, but a consequently slow pace. Modern comics keep building the case for trade-only releases this way, since the monthly has a lower and lower content for money ratio.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Animal Man Meets His Maker

"Animal Man Meets His Maker" from Animal Man vol.1 #25 (DC, 1990) by Grant Morrison, Chas Truog and Mark Farmer

I still follow Grant Morrison's work, but I doubt he'll charm me as much as he did in the late 80s and early 90s with Animal Man and Doom Patrol, favorites both. Animal Man was especially good, acting both as intellectual meta-text about the comics form AND a tender-hearted family drama. Morrison portrayed Buddy Baker's powers the best, finding strange animals for him to take abilities from without resorting to strange transformations (which the current series has fallen prey to). Mind-blowing AND touching, that's not an easy effect to achieve. And of course, after the Coyote Gospel, and breaking the fourth wall, and Crisis II, and Character Limbo, it all culminated into a historic meeting between Buddy and Grant, a stylish descendant of those 60s and 70s stories that would feature writers and editors in the DCU or Earth-Prime or whatever. Just brilliant.

The short Milligan run that followed had lots of quirky Morrison-esque characters, but took place somewhere outside canon. Tom Veitch and Steve Dillon played with totemic aspects of his powers and returned him to his job as a stuntman. Not too memorable I'm afraid. Then Jamie Delano and Steve Pugh came on and turned it into a Vertigo series, turning Buddy into a chimera and then a kind of Messiah. Jeff Lemire's new series (splashed tomorrow) seems to respect Morrison's run, but void everything that followed. Of course, the Maxine subplot seems pretty close to things Delano was doing, so history may repeat itself.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Anima vs. Superboy

"Anima vs. Superboy" from Anima #10 (DC, 1995) by Paul Witcover, Elizabeth Hand, Steve Crespo, Buzz and Brian Garvey

You know what doesn't attract me to a series? When the lead is brand new and spun out of a terrible crossover event. Anima was one of the characters born out of Bloodlines (how 90s is that!), an event running through DC's 1993 Annuals, in which ugly alien monsters went on a rampage, drinking people's spinal fluids. It meant death for most, but in each Annual, it activated the meta-gene and created a new hero (or sometimes villain) with a lame-ass origin. A couple got mini-series (Loose Cannon, Argus), a few others got series (Gunfire, Anima, Hitman). Only the latter of these had any measure of success. Most were forgettable and forgotten. Here's the complete list, see who you recognize: Anima, Argus, Ballistic, Cardinal Sin, Chimera, Edge, Geist, Gunfire, Hitman, Hook, Jamm, Joe Public, Krag, Layla, Lionheart, Loose Cannon, Loria, Mongrel, Myriad, Nightblade, Pax, Prism, Razorsharp, Shadowstryke, Slingshot, Sparx, and Terrorsmith. Sounds like DC's answer to all the X-Men Marvel added in the early 90s.

From what I hear, Anima was actually an interesting little series, exploring psychological themes through its heroine's strange powers (releasing the life-sucking Animus from her psyche). It lasted 16 months, and Anima has since appeared infrequently in the DCU until being cut in half in Faces of Evil: Prometheus.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

I Love You All

"I Love You All" from Angel Love Special #1 (DC, 1987) by Barbara Slate and John WM. Lopez

I remember Angel Love being on the stands in the 80s, but there was no way I would ever pick up an issue of looked like DC's answer to Nancy. I was a teenage boy, after all. Now that I'm older and more open to all sorts of comics, I'm kinda curious, especially since the Special (which I found and complete the story started in the book's 8 monthly issues) has a Mature Readers label! Should I look actively for issues? Any fans of Angel Love out there?

Monday, August 13, 2012

Apes in Love

"Apes in Love" from Angel and the Ape vol.1 #1 (DC, 1968) by Joe Albano, Bob Oksner and Henry Scarpelli

One of the things that sold comics in the 60s was APES. There's just something about them. Or maybe this series was created as a response to the specific Ape-mania created by the Planet of the Apes movie, which also came out in 1968. However it came into E. Nelson Bridwell's head, Angel and the Ape is about a couple of private eyes, one a beautiful girl, the other a talking ape (which later series would have originate in Gorilla City). The humor book was re-titled Meet Angel with its seventh and final issue, showing CONCLUSIVELY that it couldn't be marketed without the Ape. It was followed by a mini in '91 that connected it to the Inferior 5 (Angel is Dumb Bunny's sister), and later by a Vertigo series by Howard Chaykin and Philip Bond, so beautiful art but a story I dread to check out.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Aristotle vs. Plato

"Aristotle vs. Plato" from Anarky vol.1 #2 (DC, 1997) by Alan Grant, Norm Breyfogle and Joe Rubinstein

Earlier this week, I reviewed both Anarky series on Siskoid's Blog of Geekery. I don't think I need to repeat myself. Interested parties should check it out.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Flying Mounts

"Flying Mounts" from Amethyst, Princess of Gemworld #11 (DC, 1984) by Dan Mishkin, Gary Cohn and Ernie Colon

Amethyst's 3 series (a 12-issue maxi + Annual, a 16-issue monthly + Special, and a 4-issue mini finale) are on my reading list for my other blog's "Old 52" article series, which I'll hopefully get to before the character makes her first New 52 appearance in Sword of Sorcery (which I just know I'm gonna call Sword AND Sorcery). When the series was around originally, I know I was trying to get into some kind of fantasy series published at DC, but neither Warlord, Arion, nor Arak really did it for me. The Princess of Gemworld? Never gave her a shot. That comic was for girls! Basically She-Ra with purple jewelry. Well, I'm not 13 anymore, so a shot she shall get! The Ernie Colon art alone gives me reason to read it.

Friday, August 10, 2012

The JSA Hearings

"The JSA Hearings" from America vs. the Justice Society #3 (DC, 1985) by Roy Thomas, Howard Bender and Alfredo Alcala

So where did the Justice Society go in the 50s? Roy Thomas uses an elaborate Batman diary hoax plot that puts the JSA on trial to reveal the missing chapters of their careers, acting as a love letter to these characters as the Crisis on Infinite Earths loomed. It's a great comfort to me that even though DC was preparing to reboot much of their multiverse at the time, they still played its 50th anniversary for nostalgia, celebrating the past as it designed its future. It's particularly striking when compared to the most recent reboot, where it often feels like DC Editorial is actively trying to bury its past in the deepest of graves. The prologues of the original Crisis, if you can call it that, were celebratory projects like this mini and others about the Golden Age version of the trinity, and Who's Who. The New52's prologue was the dark, character-destroying vision of Flashpoint.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Minor Problem on Earth-6

"Minor Problem on Earth-6" from Ambush Bug: Year None #1 (DC, 2008) by Keith Giffen, Robert Loren Fleming and Al Milgrom

In the more recent Ambush Bug mini, I missed Giffen's older art style, and must admit I preferred Buggy's relationship to Julius Schwartz to the one he now has with Dan DiDio. Year None seemed to have so much pent-up satire about the DCU that it became an exercise in taking the piss out of every crossover event of the 2000s. It seemed angry with the state of the DCU, going so far as maddeningly omitting issue 6 (of 7) from existence as a statement on book lateness and numbering shenanigans. Even so, it had some delightful call backs to DC's long history, such as the checkered banners and JLA transformation stories of the 60s (above).

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

The Marriage of Ambush Bug

"The Marriage of Ambush Bug" from Ambush Bug #4 (DC, 1985) by Keith Giffen, Robert Loren Fleming and Bob Oksner

I've done so many Ambush Bug splashes on this blog, it was actually difficult to pick one I hadn't already posted! I'm a huge Ambush Bug fan, and have gone out of my way to get his various appearances. In fact, the first comic I ever bought with my own money was DC Comics Presents #59, his second ever appearance (pit against Superman and the Legion of Substitute-Heroes), and it has a very special place in my heart. The original mini-series came off of a number of back-up strips in Action Comics in which the zany, fourth-wall-breaking, non sequitur comedy format was really developed. I even remember finding the first three issues in a 7-11 spinner rack in Texas, where I spent many a summer (the modern family, eh?). Given that I had a limited comics collection down south, I read and re-read those books QUITE often. It's amazing how much DC history I learned from all those silly references.

But on the matter of that splash: Which of those ladies would YOU want to see wed to Ambush Bug in the upcoming (that's a lie) Ambush Bug Wedding Album Special?

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

They Have Cyclops on Their Side

"They Have Cyclops on Their Side" from Amazons Attack! #1 (DC, 2007) by Will Pfeifer and Pete Woods

I never read Amazons Attack!, as I was just coming back to monthly comics after an extended stay and had been warned well away from it. It can likely be chalked up to the whole phenomenon of most writers/editors not knowing what to do with Wonder Woman as a character, and her world in general. Is it me, or does ANY story involving Amazons smell of commentary on the female gender as a whole? And could we then not infer some kind of sexual (or at least gender-based) frustration coming from DC's decision makers? (I can't blame the writer because this was certainly an editorially mandated assignment.) Am I reading too much into something I haven't actually read?

Monday, August 6, 2012

Hex and Arkham About Town

"Hex and Arkham About Town" from All Star Western vol.3 #3 (DC, 2011) by Justin Gray, Jimmy Palmiotti and Moritat

The new All Star Western sends Jonah Hex East to Gotham City and other urban environments, and gives him Dr. Arkham (founder of the Asylum) as a sidekick/narrator. Somehow, it works, and gives the Jonah Hex strip a totally different stamp than his all its previous incarnations, despite the writers having worked on the previous one. I think they just proved that you can refresh a series without rebooting him to origin.

I'm also glad to see Palmiotti and Gray mixing original western stars in the back-ups along with the already established ones. I hope to see the Barbary Ghost again, even if I do enjoy strips about Bat Lash or Cinnamon & Nighthawk.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Trigger Twins: Two to a Log

"Trigger Twins: Two to a Log" from All-Star Western vol.1 #100 (DC, 1958) by Robert Kanigher, Carmine Infantino and Joe Giella

From #58 on, All-Star Comics turned cowboy and was the home of such features as the Trigger Twins, Madame .44, Don Caballero, Roving Ranger, Strong Bow, Super-Chief, and Johnny Thunder (after he left All-American). It lasted 10 years. A second volume, not to be represented on this blog, lasted 11 bimonthly issues in the early 70s before becoming Weird Western Tales, and starred Pow-Wow Smith, El Diablo, Outlaw (Billy the Kid), and Bat Lash.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Falling to Bizarro World

"Falling to Bizarro World" from All-Star Superman #7 (DC, 2007) by Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely

Do I need to sell anyone on All-Star Superman at this point? I've been known to say that it could/should have been Superman's new status quo after any type of reboot considered. Many disagreed because Superman was too god-like and abstract for monthly comics and/or to exist in the shared DC Universe. Maybe. Though now we'll see how Morrison brings his love of old comics to the Superman mythos AGAIN and, I imagine, in a different way. Morrison's Action Comics are heavily inspired by Superman's Golden Age stories, while All-Star was more Silver Age, but maybe Action will eventually take from every era. Looks like it may.

Continuity hounds will find that All-Star Superman has many links with DC One Million, which would seem to infer that One Million may be the future of Earth-All-Star rather than Earth-DC, or that the two universes have the same future. Or that the Superman Squad is multi-dimensional so may visit any continuity they wish. Morrison's take on continuity is that "it all happened", but the nuances of Hypertime escape me.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Roll Call

"Roll Call" from All-Star Squadron #31 (DC, 1984) by Roy Thomas, Rick Hoberg and Mike Machlan

Oh, All-Star Squadron, you were a heck of a lot like a classroom, but I loved the curriculum! The very wordy Roy Thomas used his 70 issues on the book to re-introduce old characters to a new generation, pay tribute to the stories of the Golden Age, and create links between the wide and varied history of DC Comics. And he didn't let you ignore all that grand continuity because he explained his process and his references in the letters page. Sadly, the book didn't survive the Crisis. Not really. After Earth-2 was merged with Earth-1, the series became a place to print extra issues of Secret Origins, and then was reimagined as Young All-Stars. The focus on new, young characters and uninspiring art isn't what made me lose interest. The move to Direct Sales-only, at a time before I had access to a comic book stores did.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Shanghaied into Space

"Shanghaied into Space" from All-Star Comics #13 (All-American, 1942) by Gardner Fox and Jack Burnley

All-Star Comics (specifically #3) is one of the most important comics in all of comics because it invented the probably inevitable concept of the superhero team. And yet, it didn't go all the way with it, and the original Justice Society of America remains an anomaly when it comes to teams. Each issue, team members would meet at their club house, but then would be called to action separately against a common threat. They were solo stars in their own strips, so that was their element. More importantly, it created the idea of a shared DC Universe, though obviously, its stars were not yet DC's until later issues. My choice of splash is informed by Roy Thomas' tribute to this story in several issues of All-Star Squadron, the series that made me fall in love with the Golden Age in the first place.

All-Star Comics ended with #57 (1951), became All-Star Western until #119 (1961), and then returned to All-Star Comics #58 in 1976 for two and a half years of Earth-2 action, during which time it introduced Power Girl and the Huntress, characters still very much with us today.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Yellow Robin vs. Green Lantern

"Yellow Robin vs. Green Lantern" from All Star Batman and Robin the Boy Wonder #9 (DC, 2008) by Frank Miller, Jim Lee and Scott Williams

Always up for some humor at Hal Jordan's expense. That's probably why it's the only issue I ever got of this much-derided series. A flip through any issue will show the same kind of obsession with the unmotivated splash page that typifies Jim Lee's Justice League. I know it sounds strange coming from a blog that celebrates the splash page, but Lee uses too many splashes per issue, with no real understanding of how splashes punctuate a story. He seems to design them based on how generic they are so they can be sold on the art market rather than how much impact the moment has in any given story. Of course, that's the least of All-Star Batman's problems. In the end, you have to decide for yourself if Frank Miller has gone completely mad, or if he's actively writing a parody of the comics his own seminal 80s work inspired. EXTREME!

All-Star ended with its 10th issue (one more than is collected) with the promise that it would conclude in a series called Dark Knight: Boy Wonder, which never came. Jim Lee got derailed by the New52 project, not that All-Star wasn't pretty sporadic already.