Sunday, March 31, 2013

A Night at the Aquarium

"A Night at the Aquarium" from Hitman #13 (DC, 1997) by Garth Ennis and John McCrea
Hitman is the exception that proves the rule about the Bloodlines heroes being complete bollocks. Also the exception to the rule that gun-totting heroes bore me to tears. The trick was making Tommy Monaghan neither a hero (see the title) nor a character defined by the powers he won from getting spine-sucked by the Bloodline aliens (x-ray vision and a bit of telepathy). Ennis and McCrea gave us instead a not-too-distant cousin of John Constantine, a lovable bastard who spent more time at the pub than fighting bad guys, and was a bit of a weirdness magnet. Great stuff and, I think, all collected. I'd like to see another Bloodlines character do better than his 60+ issues. On second thought, no I would not. Hitman is unique.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Jonah Hex, City Rat: The Precedent

"Jonah Hex, City Rat: The Precedent" from Hex #11 (DC, 1986) by Michael Fleisher, Mark Texeira, Carlos Garzon and Pablo Marcos
Not so much an attempt to make Jonah Hex relevant to the kids of the mid-80s, sending Hex to a post-apocalyptic future was Fleisher telling a story he'd always wanted to tell using an established character whose book's sales were starting to flag. I've got Hex on my list of books I want to finish collecting and read, but the issues I have don't exactly turn my crank, not even the strange ones drawn by Keith Giffen at the end of the short run. I'd always thought Jonah Hex was such a strong character, he was essentially bad-story-proof. Does Hex test that theory, Jonah fans?

Friday, March 29, 2013

A Day at the Office

"A Day at the Office" from Hero Hotline #1 (DC, 1989) by Bob Rozakis, Stephen DeStefano and Kurt Schaffenberger
I only rarely feature a splash from a mini-series in this alphabetical journey through DC Comics, but Hero Hotline is a particular favorite of mine. I loved the idea of low-powered, low-profile heroes you could reach on a Help line and who wouldn't scoff at bringing your cat down from a tree. Mayfair's DC Heroes RPG statted them all up as THE example of comedy superheroics. DeStefano brought in his Zeep the Living Sponge as a night shift cameo, one of my absolute favorite Dial H creations. And when I ran a PbeM (Play by Email) supers role-playing game, one of the four teams you could join was Hero Hotline, and I have to say, it was probably the one that saw the most (and best) activity.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

There Is No Escape From the Anti-Ares

"There Is No Escape From the Anti-Ares" from Hercules Unbound #12 (DC, 1977) by Cary Bates and Walt Simonson
For a relatively obscure 12-issue series from the late 70s, Hercules Unbound certainly got a lot of A-grade artists working on it. José Luis Garcia-Lopez (praise be his name), Wally Wood and Walt Simonson?! Despite its artisitc credentials, Unbound was unlikely to succeed. It featured a Greek god better known as a Marvel character. It took place in an alternate, postapocalyptic future (I guess it was Kamandi's, but the action preceded it considerably). And it sometimes co-starred the Atomic Knight. Yeah, that was gonna get the kids to plonk down their lunch money. They never did release that Showcase Presents collection, did they?

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Constantine's Cancer

"Constantine's Cancer" from Hellblazer #43 (DC, 1991) by Garth Ennis, Will Simpson and Mark Pennington
While I read the Jamie Delano comics thanks to a friend's Hellblazer collection, my favorites were the issues written by others, like Grant Morrison and Neil Gaiman. When an irreverent new writer from the second wave of the British Invasion called Garth Ennis started on the book, I decided to make it my jump-on point. I wasn't disappointed! That first arc, in which that bastard Constantine swindles himself out of cancer and pisses off the Devil was awesome, and heralded a lot more lows than highs for our favorite member of the Trenchcoat Brigade. Over the course of Ennis' run, I even got a letter printed in the letters' page! I read Hellblazer up through issue 100, about halfway through Paul Jenkins' run before temporarily getting out of comics, and I never picked it up again. So yeah, I'm partly responsible for it ending with #300 lately. If you accept the premise that DC was motivated by sales and not the need to put its JLDark character into its New52 instead of Vertigo, of course.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Lex Concord 2776 - The Future Is Now!

"Lex Concord 2776 - The Future Is Now!" from The Heckler #6 (DC, 1993) by Keith Giffen, Tom & Mary Bierbaum and Steve Mitchell
It's not because it's not Ambush Bug that Giffen can't throw a fake comic book cover (a Kirby tribute, no less) at us! The Heckler only lasted 6 issues before DC pulled the plug, showing how that man never got the credit he deserved. IS THERE a comics pro who's had MORE series cancelled prematurely out from under him? The Heckler was a crazy mix of Ambush Bug and the Creeper, and held a lot of promise. My favorite villain was the Generic Man. I wish we'd spent more time in Delta City. Giffen brought the Heckler's hometown back in Doom Patrol, but not the hero himself. He was rescued from Limbo by Superman during Final Crisis too... Comedy heroes, like mister Giffen himself, don't get no respect in the DCU, especially these days.

Monday, March 25, 2013

New vs. Dead

"New vs. Dead" from Hawkman vol.4 #21 (DC, 2004) by Geoff Johns, Rags Morales and Michael Bair
Springing from the pages of the JSA's early 2000s relaunch, a Hawkman who integrated all his incarnations more smoothly starred in a well-liked series by Geoff Johns, and is on my reading list for some future date. Likely, when I stop being pissed off by Johns' current work. The splash I found is cool because it shows Hawkman facing his various reincarnations, including two of DC's historical stars, Nighthawk and the Silent Knight (are any of the others recognizable characters?). We never realized reading those strips in Brave and the Bold or Western Comics we were actually reading Hawkman comics, eh?

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Old vs. New

"Old vs. New" from Hawkman vol.3 #12 (DC, 1994) by William Messner-Loebs, Steve Lieber, Luke McDonnell and Curt A. Shoultz
Hawkworld gave way to a third Hawkman series, and we lost what I thought was a great version of Hawkwoman in the process. It's perhaps appropriate that today's splash has Katar Hol fighting Carter Hall, the Golden Age Hawkman, because these two would soon be merged into a single character (along with Hawkgirl and a hawk god) by the Zero Hour event (occurring early in this book's second year). The character was already going in strange directions, revealing Katar was half-human, born of a Cherokee mother, but by issue 14, he'd become a hawk avatar, a reincarnation that somehow ran concurrently with the previous. Anyway, the big Hawkmess really begins here, folks, and I lost touch with the character.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

No More Feathers

"No More Feathers" from Hawkworld vol.2 #9 (DC, #1991) by John Ostrander, Tim Truman, Graham Nolan and Gary Kwapisz
It's not called "Hawkman", but I wanted to keep these in chronological order. The Hawkworld series sprang from Tim Truman's fairly drastic Prestige mini-seroes reboot, and he acted as co-plotter with the awesome John Ostrander until Byth was finally captured. Other than the often harsh unmotivated coloring, I really have nothing bad to say about this series, which was one of my favorites at the time. Hawkman and Hawkwoman's militaristic look matches their role as soldiers of Thanagar and exchange program policemen in Chicago, and it's interesting that Katar and Shayera are presented as partners rather than lovers. I also liked how the "Hawkman as conservative mouthpiece" (from Justice League of America, to create tension between him and the uber-liberal Green Arrow) was upended in Hawkworld, so that Katar became progressively liberal as he was exposed to Earth norms, while Hawkwoman remained the more conservative character.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Hawkman Raised From the Dead (Story of His Lives)

"Hawkman Raised From the Dead (Story of His Lives)" from Hawkman vol.2 #17 (DC, 1987) by Dan Mishkin, Ed Hannigan and Don Heck
Hawkman's second series followed on straight from the Shadow War mini-series and had the Hawks continue to defend the Earth from their own people. Oh Thanagar, why are you trying to invade Earth? It switched gears after 10 issues (every story must end sometime, at least, back in those days they did) and ended after #17. One interesting thing about the 80s series was the inclusion of Gentleman Ghost as a supporting cast member, though I do prefer him as a villain. So glad that dude returned in various cartoon series. Anyway, these particular Hawks, though they seemed to survive the Crisis, were not long for this world and were about to be retconned as Hawkman and Hawkwoman 1.5, Thanagarian agents who went native. The "real" Katar Hol and Shayera Thal were about to make their first appearance in a Tim Truman Prestige mini-series...

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Attack of the Crocodile-Men

"Attack of the Crocodile-Men" from Hawkman vol.1 #7 (DC, 1965) by Gardner Fox and Murphy Anderson
My favorite Hawkman is Joe Kubert, but alas, he never transited to the character's solo book after Brave and the Bold and Mystery in Space. Still, I've found this somewhat goofy splash from the Murphy Anderson (no slouch) era, that refers to the character's earlier Egyptian angle. More Hawkman ahead, kids!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013


"Robo-Hawkgirl" from Hawkgirl #61 (DC, 2007) by Walt Simonson and Renato Arlem
When DC skipped to "1 Year Later", Hawkman vol.4 became Hawkgirl with #50 and until its cancellation with #66. It didn't star Shiera Hall, not really, but rather Kendra Saunders, a girl inhabited by Shiera's soul after her suicide left her an empty vessel. What? A convoluted origin for a Hawk-character? UNHEARD OF! Yeah, and at some point, she was incarnated as a big-ass mech (above). Best not to ask about such matters. Kendra fans are well served today by the Earth2 book, where she's been shunted in rebooted form.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Pit of Katanas

"Pit of Katanas" from Hawk and Dove vol.5 #8 (DC, 2012) by Rob Liefeld
And our look at Hawk & Dove ends (just before we head into more famous "Hawk" characters...) with comics' enfant terrible himself, Rob Liefeld. My search found this piece which is actually PRETTY GOOD for Liefeld, whose art I usually hate with a passion. I guess samurai swords bring out the best in him. I was sad to see Sterling Gates, whom I'd liked on Supergirl, get this assignment (if briefly). I'm a writer-first kind of reader, but there are artists who are deal breakers for me. Oddly, I don't feel all that badly when I skip a book with art I like when I dislike the writer. But the reverse does bug me. A good example would be my skipping the current Iron Man book because I can't stomach Greg Land's art, even though I'm a big Kieron Gillen fan.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Hawk (But Not That Hawk) vs. Deadshot

"Hawk (But Not That Hawk) vs. Deadshot" from Hawk and Dove vol.4 #4 (DC, 1998) by Mike Baron, Dean Zachary and Dick Giordano
Does anyone remember the OTHER Hawk & Dove? A USAF officer and a grunge rocker grow wings, sonic screams and a sort of symbiotic relationship... it failed to excite. Any mini-series that spends half its time bringing in guest-stars (Vigilante, the Suicide Squad, Vixen) tells me its core concept wasn't strong enough to warrant that mini-series, especially if it's meant to introduce new characters. I'm surprised they were even featured again, but the Internet lists a few cameos and brief appearances in books I never read.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Old Gangsters Never Die

"Old Gangsters Never Die" from Hawk and Dove vol.3 #4 (DC, 1989) by Karl & Barbara Kesel, Greg Guler and Scott Hanna
The Untouchables? Just the kind of fun, light, solid superhero action I associate with the Kesels. After the surprising success of their H&D mini-series which introduced a new female Dove (though I expect up-and-comer Rob Liefeld had something to do with it, he's never looked better than under Kesel's inks), the book went to series without Liefeld. I enjoyed the mix of action, fantasy, humor and soap opera as the two heroes were tied into DC's greater mythology by making them avatars of the Lords of Chaos and Order. Unfortunately, when it was about to be canceled, DC turned Hawk into a last-minute replacement for Captain Atom as Armageddon 2001's Monarch. One of the DCU's stupidest moves ever.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Dove Is Early to Bed

"Dove Is Early to Bed" from The Hawk and the Dove vol.1 #5 (DC, 1969) by Gil Kane
Originally by Steve Skeates and Steve Ditko (never one to provide splash pages), by #5, Gil Kane had taken over both creators' jobs. The book only lasted one more issue. Ah well. The concept behind the book was that you had one brother representing war and the other peace, as some kind of symbol for the Vietnam War debate(?). Almost makes me think the New52 version was a missed opportunity on a number of levels (quite apart from the whole Liefeld situation). With the U.S.A. more politically polarized than ever, it would have been interesting to see a Conservative Hawk and a Liberal Dove (played to ideological extremes). The new book even took place in Washington D.C. and yet I don't think it went that way at all. Note that I don't mean to paint Republicans as warmongers and Democrats as peacemakers, but rather recommending the characters be repositioned as polar opposites in the current American (and frankly, world) political landscape.

Friday, March 15, 2013

He Loves Me Not

"He Loves Me Not" from Harley Quinn #2 (DC, 2001) by Karl Kesel, Terry Dodson and Rachel Dodson
Harley Quinn was born in the animated series, and seeing how popular a character she was, it's not surprising she would eventually turn up in the comics as well. The only surprise is that it took so long. Did they think her relationship to the Joker was all a little silly for "grown-up" comics? Maybe. After all, her regular series cut her off from her Mister J, as she struck out on her own for 38 issues. Never really read it. Every time I picked up an issue, it was filled with cheesecake, which just didn't sit well with me, as a fan of the all-ages Bruce Timm version. But maybe I was missing out on something? You tell me.

Thursday, March 14, 2013


"SoftWar" from The Hacker Files #4 (DC, 1992) by Lewis Shiner, Tom Sutton and Mark Buckingham
Not exactly splashy, but I love series that take place in the margins of a superhero universe. Books like Chase, Time Masters, Damage Control and this, The Hacker Files, about a computer expert who quits the company he's working for when he discovers a conspiracy. The book also used Oracle, but Tom Sutton's anxious art turned awkward whenever superheroes showed up. Still, I fondly remember this 12-issue series. It was more overtly political than any other DC comic and I enjoyed its 90 degree approach to the DCU.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

You Need to Learn to Pull Your Punches

"You Need to Learn to Pull Your Punches" from H-E-R-O #2 (DC, 2003) by Will Pfeifer and Kano
The series that is the closest precursor to the current Dial H series, not just chronologically, but tonally. Instead of a stable protagonist, short arcs looked at what different people would do with the power to turn into a variety of superheroes. Impress your co-workers, change your life (or your gender!), become somebody, or effectively no one. Pfeifer told all kinds of stories, but anthologies benefiting from the popularity they usually do (i.e. very little), he only had 22 issues to do so. Robby Reed does figure as a character caught up in a series-long arc, but I guess he doesn't have the cred he had in the 60s. Still, something for fans of the current Dial H book to check out. It'll probably be more to their taste than the naive stories written for Robby, Chris and Vicki. But am I right in thinking only the first 6 issues were collected? Come on DC, give Dial H a little boost.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Gal Gardner

"Gal Gardner" from Guy Gardner: Warrior #42 (DC, 1996) by Beau Smith, Marc Campos and Dan Davis
The 90s, everybody! From its 17th issue, Guy Gardner's series added "Warrior" to the title, and progressively became a 90s distorted art nightmare with stories such as the gender-bending one above. As you can see, we're pretty far from the ring-bearer of old. But that's Guy's story. Even after he loses Sinestro's ring, he refuses to quit. He gets an exosuit that is soon destroyed. Then a ring-created energy suit. Then he drank from a sacred chalice in the Amazon that unlocked alien DNA inserted into his bloodline a 1000 years before and developed shape-shifting powers. After that, he opened a bar called Warriors where Arisia, Wildcat, Lady Blackhawk and Lead of the Metal Men were bouncers. A lot of fun ideas, if the 90s aesthetic didn't make it look all so EXTREME!!! The book was cancelled after issue 44, though it would be almost a decade before Guy rejoined the Corps, his alien DNA overwritten in the events of Green Lantern: Rebirth.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Silent Punching

"Silent Punching" from Guy Gardner #3 (DC, 1992) by Gerard Jones, Joe Staton and Terry Beatty
All hail Gerard Jones, grand poobah of the Green Lantern franchise in the early 90s. He was writing three series by himself, one straight superhero, another weird philosophy and social commentary, and the last, comedy. Guy Gardner spun out of the Prestige-format mini-series Guy Gardner: Reborn and into his own book, wielding Sinestro's yellow ring after losing the green, long before Lanterns routinely switched colors. Guy Gardner's story is a compelling one: He's the superhero who simply won't retire. When he loses his powers, he goes on a quest to find new ones. For 16 issues, Guy used the yellow ring to fight the good fight, but he would lose that too. (To be continued tomorrow.)

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Nothing Like Gambit, We Swear

"Nothing Like Gambit, We Swear" from Gunfire #6 (DC, 1994) by Len Wein, Ed Benes, Brian Garvey and Rus Sever
How little do we care about Gunfire? He was a hero created by the insipid Bloodlines event, where various people got powers when ugly aliens sucked the marrow out of their spines. Worse, his premiere comic was in a Deathstroke Annual. Even worse, his power to agitate molecules so he could make anything fire bullets was a ridiculous effort to create a DC version of Gambit, or maybe the Punisher. Either way, derivative and boring. And worst of all, Ed Benes drew 9 of the 14 issues. Very, very 90s, and completely forgettable. Looks like Hitman is the only Bloodlines creation worth the paper he's printed on.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

The Duck of Christmas Mystery

"The Duck of Christmas Mystery" from Gross Point #7 (DC, 1998) by Matt Wayne, Joe Staton and Roger Langridge
This is on my reading list, having missed it completely when it first came out. But it's pedigree has certainly fermented since then. Dan Slott is credited as writer on some issues, and Roger Langridge? NICE! The late 90s were a dark time for me financially, so it's not that I wasn't interested in a humor book that lampooned horror comics. Not at all. But it's much more in my wheelhouse today than it was then. Maybe I should insert into my Old52 list?

Friday, March 8, 2013

Kyle, the Ultimate Lantern

"Kyle, the Ultimate Lantern" from Green Lantern: New Guardians #2 (DC, 2012) by Tony Bedard, Tyler Kirkham, Harvey Tolibao and Batt
I'm rather fond of how the Lantern franchise keeps pumping out cool-to-ridiculous ideas for action figure variants, though I couldn't buy into New Guardians (that tainted name!) for long. It's Kyle and a Lantern from every other Corps, but whatever. Just another book that took up a number of issues to assemble its team (a New52 standard) and I soon got tired of the entire franchise. Sorry New Guardians, you were the exact wrong mix of no reboot and totally rebooted that tends to give me a headache. But like the other Lantern books, as new writers come in, I WILL be checking them out again. I am, and always shall be, a writers-first type of reader.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Map of the Mosaic

"Map of the Mosaic" from Green Lantern: Mosaic #10 (DC, 1993) by Gerard Jones, Cully Hamner, Dan Panosian and John Floyd
My very favorite Green Lantern book of all time, GL Mosaic had two things I dearly love going for it. First, it starred my favorite Lantern, John Stewart. Second, it was incredibly weird. Cultures abducted and brought to Oa in earlier issues of Green Lantern vol.3 were allowed to continue to co-habitate under the supervision of Stewart, one of the Guardians' experiments, and just as experimental for Jones. He created 40 such cultures (well ok, suburban America wasn't his creation per se) and used the series to tell social parables. It was a mainstream superhero writer trying to do something in the same mode as the same era's British invaders like Morrison and Milligan. I suspect I would think it less successful than I remember if I were to read it again today, but I AM tempted.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Friendship Is Where the Heart Is

"Friendship Is Where the Heart Is" from Green Lantern/Green Arrow #81 (DC, 1970) by Denny O'Neil, Neal Adams and Dick Giordano
Well, Green Lantern Fortnight wouldn't be complete without Neal Adams on GL/GA, the book that made DC Comics "relevant". Today, oblivious Hal and activist Ollie's trip through America, discovering and dealing with social issues like racism, poverty and drugs, would still read as a bit old-fashioned, if not for Adams' slick, modern layouts. If the book remains relevant today, it's really because of its art. In lesser hands, they might come across as heavy-handed PSAs. Which isn't a dig at O'Neil by any means, only that the issues discussed, while still relevant today, had a readership that wasn't necessarily as versed in those issues as we are today. I look at GL/GA now and I put it in the same category as the original Star Trek as far as social commentary goes. Not bad company.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Guy Don't Know Miranda

"Guy Don't Know Miranda" from Green Lantern: Emerald Warriors #1 (DC, 2010) by Peter J. Tomasi, Fernando Pasarin and Cam Smith
Green Lantern keeps on going for most of another week... Sheesh! One I'd almost forgotten was Emerald Warriors, which featured the guys from the honor guard (Guy, John, Kyle) for 13 issues, and helped Johns and Tomasi tell their massive War of Light story arc in even more chapters. LET THE GREEN INK FLOW!

Monday, March 4, 2013


"AquaLantern" from Green Lantern Corps Quarterly #3 (DC, 1992) by Michael Jan Friedman, Dave Cockrum and Brad Vancata
The last time the Green Lantern franchise hit it big, it got a series for three human Lanterns AND this extra-thick quarterly that featured strips for the Golden Age Green Lantern (now rejuvenated and called Sentinel), and G'Nort, plus what is often an introduction to a new Lantern, somewhere out there, in space, in the style of those Tales of the Green Lantern Corps specials and annuals. I guess those guys are all dead now. Sigh.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Did the Printer Ever Run Out of Green?

"Did the Printer Ever Run Out of Green?" from Green Lantern Corps vol.3 #12 (DC, 2012) by Peter J. Tomasi, Fernando Pasarin and Scott Hanna
Today, Green Lantern is a bona fide franchise with four books, soon five, a success not seen for the Corps since the Gerard Jones days of GL, GLCQuarterly (a splash tomorrow), Mosaic, and Guy Gardner, though you could easily argue GL is much more high profile today. So yeah, where's all that green ink coming from? Have they tapped some overseas reserve? But seriously folks, I didn't really stick to this version of the GLC because it soon became apparent it was more of the same Cannon Fodder Corps that lost members on a regular basis and in the most gruesome of fashions (because if your blood's not red, it's not real gore). I'm hoping to come back into the fold with Josh Fialkov's more cop-oriented take on the concept in a few months.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

The Honor Guard's Alternate Colors

"The Honor Guard's Alternate Colors" from Green Lantern Corps vol.2 #59 (DC, 2011) by Tony Bedard, Tyler Kirkman and Batt
Just like Johns' Green Lantern, I started reading GLC during the Sinestro Corps War and mostly enjoyed its use of Earth's other three Lanterns, so long as it didn't mean the more alien guys couldn't share the spotlight once in a while. I liked reading Guy Gardner again, and found Kyle a more palatable, more well-rounded character than the last time I'd read him. As for John, my favorite Lantern, I feel he lost something when the comics adopted the military background of the cartoon John Stewart. Give me the architect over the marine any day. Still, he made a great leader whatever his background. Above, the cross-color craziness of the War of the Lanterns, with each of our Lanterns wearing an off-Corps ring.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Move Over, Sinestro!

"Move Over, Sinestro!" from Green Lantern Corps vol.1 #219 (DC, 1987) by Steve Englehart, Bill Willingham and Robert Campanella
Oh these Lanterns, no sooner do you get attached to one, another comes along. Ironically, Green Lantern vol.2 became Green Lantern Corps when the Corps collapsed, and big name Lanterns all came to chill in California, where they oversaw, among other things, the Millennium event and the birth of the original New Guardians. Hal, John and their girlfriends Arisia and Katma Tui were of course in it, but it really put Kilowog, Salaak and even Ch'p on the map.