Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Not my Firebird!

"Not my Firebird!" from JSA Classified #36 (DC, 2008) by B. Clay Moore and Ramon Perez
Another Wildcat pic? Well I'm a sucker for Wildcat, so yeah. JSA Classified was basically a series of JSA solo mini-series, and Wildcat was featured a number of times. They could have turned it into a Wildcat series and made me happy.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Power Girl Leads

"Power Girl Leads" from JSA All Stars #2 (DC, 2010) by Matthew Sturges and Freddie Williams II
In the early 10s, it seemed inevitable that DC's major teams would suffer ideological differences, spawning a spin-split-off book. For the JLA, it was Cry for Justice. For the JSA, it was All Stars, and the split came down generation lines. As a fan of the older heroes, it was difficult to say if the younger group was worth following. Power Girl was certainly in the yay column (but her own book was better), but Magog was definitely in the nay column. The rest were versions of characters I was mostly lukewarm about.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Wildcat vs. (the Injustice Society of) the World

"Wildcat vs. (the Injustice Society of) the World" from JSA #10 (DC, 2000) by David Goyer, Geoff Johns, Stephen Sadowski and Michael Bair
How cool is Wildcat? I've always liked him. A true badass. I mean, dude taught Batman how to punch. That's why this crazy fight doesn't seem like ye olde little guy surviving against all odds to me. I fully expect Wildcat - even wearing a towel, even with a cast on his arm - to triumph over an entire team of super-villains. He's Wildcat!

Saturday, April 27, 2013

The Great Silence

"The Great Silence" from Jonah Hex vol.2 #50 (DC, 2010) by Justin Gray, Jimmy Palmiotti and Darwyn Cooke
Though I'm a big fan of the current All Star Western by these same writers, I admit to only picking up their Jonah Hex series from time to time, usually based on the artist. The violent revenge stories seemed to blur into one for me, and though I never read a bad issue, there was a certain repetitiveness to them. It was Hex as western Punisher. All Star has a more varied palette despite taking place in decidedly non-western climes.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Portrait of a Gunslinger's Good Side

"Portrait of a Gunslinger's Good Side" from Jonah Hex: Riders of the Worm and Such #1 (Vertigo, 1995) by Joe R. Lansdale, Timothy Truman and Sam Glanzman
Jonah's return was under the Vertigo banner where western/horror writer Joe R. Lansdale and artist Tim Truman crafted three weird supernatural mini-series for him, starting with Two-Gun Mojo. And it suited Hex quite well! One of my favorite things was Hex giving different explanations for his disfigurement every time he was asked, a shtick taken up by the Joker in The Dark Knight. Hex conquered that frontier first, folks.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Have Gun, Must Travel, Sorry Babe

"Have Gun, Must Travel, Sorry Babe" from Jonah Hex vol.1 #87 (DC, 1984) by Michael Fleisher and Tony DeZuniga
I'd very much like to read a collection of these some day, having caught only the very end of the series back in the day. Fleisher authors the whole thing and moves Hex from one-shot stories to a continuing saga that sees Hex on the run, fighting recurring villains, and even through a doomed marriage (that's not her above). I see Showcase Presents vol.2 finishes the Weird Western stuff and starts on the Jonah Hex series, out next August, so there's hope for the rest.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The Joker Gets a Royal Flush

"The Joker Gets a Royal Flush" from The Joker #5 (DC, 1976) by Martin Pasko, Irv Novick and Ted Blaisdell
In the mid-70s, DC started publishing a bunch of crazy high-concept books, only to cancel them before they reached the 12-issue mark. Of these, two villains got their own books. There was Kobra (still to come) and there was the Joker. More a merry prankster in this series than a psychopath, the Clown Prince of Crime got to go up against many thematically-linked opponents, from the Creeper (who stole his laughing shtick) to the Royal Flush Gang (get it?). It was nothing like The Killing Joke and it lasted only 9 issues.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

A Little Bit of Everyone

"A Little Bit of Everyone" from JLA: Year One #5 (DC, 1998) by Mark Waid, Brian Augustyn, Barry Kitson and Michael Bair
Mark Waid knows how to write superhero comics. Period. Beyond showing rather belated retconned post-Crisis adventures of the early Justice League of America (sans Superman and with Black Canary in Wonder Woman's spot), and filling in what might have happened in between issues (à la Untold Tales of Spider-Man), Waid also gave the characters humanity. How were their personalities instrumental in creating a team that would last for so long? My favorite part? How Aquaman had to adapt to speaking out of water, and everyone had to tell him to speak up!

Monday, April 22, 2013

Kaiju G'nort

"Kaiju G'nort" from JLA Classified #9 (DC, 2005) by Keith Giffen, J.M. DeMatteis, Kevin Maguire and Joe Rubinstein
Specifically, from "I Can't Believe It's Not the Justice League", the sequel to the Formerly Known as the Justice League mini-series. JLA Classified ran for 54 issues, publishing contained arcs by a variety of creative teams (some of these arcs were originally meant to be mini-series), and about a variety of eras of the Justice League. Most were set in the the post-Morrison JLA, but they occasionally catered to fans of other periods. There was even a Detroit JLA story! Personally, I would have liked it better if it had done more of that, perhaps alternating more steadily between Silver Age, Satellite, Detroit, JLI and JLA eras, but that's the comic book nerd in me talking.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Nice View

"Nice View" from JLA #4 (DC, 1997) by Grant Morrison, Howard Porter and John Dell
Oh how I loved Grant Morrison's JLA. White Martians. The Rock of Ages. Crazy-smart Batman. Plastic Man, Electric Superman and Kyle Rayner as viable members. The virtual worlds of the Key. And eventually, we all got powers too. It was awesome. Unfortunately, I think its formula was poached by later comics, and not to their advantage. JLA had these huge epic storylines, but it wasn't the place for personal subplots. Most of the heroes had their own book(s) where those would unfold, after all. But there was characterization nonetheless, and the material was clever enough that it just didn't matter. I sometimes read team books today that go for the epic storylines well enough, but I just don't know who the characters are. You really need to get both sides of that equation to make the book sing, and JLA had it all.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Utter Madness

"Utter Madness" from Jemm, Son of Saturn #7 (DC, 1985) by Greg Potter, Gene Colan and Klaus Janson
There's a lot of life in the solar system, isn't there? And if the J'Onn J'Onzz is a representative of Mars, and Jemm of Saturn, it looks like humanity is really the runt of the litter. Sheesh. We sure struck out when they handed out super-powers. From what I remember, it wasn't a particularly good series, but hey, Gene Colan doing a dark superhero version of E.T.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Lightray Up Against the Wall

"Lightray Up Against the Wall" from Jack Kirby's Fourth World #4 (DC, 1997) by John Byrne
There are a couple of artists that are undeniably Kirby's artistic children and not surprisingly, they gravitate towards Kirby's creations more than their fair share. One is Keith Giffen, and the other is John Byrne. He wound up working with Jimmy Olsen, the Demon, OMAC, and all the Fourth World characters in this particular series. What, no Kamandi?

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Isis vs. Cephalopod

"Isis vs. Cephalopod" from Isis #4 (DC, 1977) by Jack C. Harris, Mike Vosburg and Vince Colletta
DC produced 8 issues of this comic tying in with the live action TV series, the second half of the Shazam/Isis Hour. Like Captain Marvel, she calls on the powers of a gods (well, a single goddess), and there lies the thematic link. After her 15 episodes, she became an animation hero, one of Jason's Super 7 (a major part of my Saturday morning viewing). It's only very recently that DC brought her back, as part of their mainstream universe. She was basically in limbo from 1979 to 2002, but kids my age now writing comics would have remembered her... I'm just surprised she was owned by DC all along.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Kyle's Second Life

"Kyle's Second Life" from Ion: Guardian of the Universe #6 (DC, 2006) by Ron Marz, Greg Toccini and Jay Leistein
What Parallax is to the yellow power battery, Ion is to the green, and since these creatures have a taste for Earth's Green Lanterns, Ion eventually settled inside Kyle Rayner. As Ion, he recreated the Guardians of the Universe and recharged the Central Power Battery so the Green Lantern Corps could be born anew, but a 12-issues series only came later, as a drawn-out prologue to the Sinestro Corps War. I dunno, would we like Kyle to still bear the power of Ion? Or should he be a simple Green Lantern like three other men of Earth? On the one hand, it differentiated him from the others and game him a second breath after Hal Jordan snatched back the 2814 spot. On the other, some thought it gave him too great an importance and destiny compared to the "one true" Green Lantern, an artificial buffing of what they considered a poor replacement for the original. Me? I think I like Kyle better post-Hal's return, in whatever identity he cares to take.*

*Pre-New52 though. I dropped all the Lantern books soon after the reboot.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Todd McFarlane Draws the DC Universe

"Todd McFarlane Draws the DC Universe" from Invasion! #2 (DC, 1989) by Keith Giffen, Bill Mantlo, Todd McFarlane and Al Gordon
There are several things you can hang a company-wide crossover, and one of these is to combine everything in your shared universe that shares a certain meme. War of the Gods is an example of one such crossover  - combining all the pantheons in the DCU - that didn't work, and Invasion! - combining many of the alien races from the DCU into a single threat - was one that did. By having the Dominators, Khunds, Thanagarians, Durlans, etc. ally to attack Earth, the crossover had a credible threat AND afforded each tie-in with a certain amount of variety, both geographically (the Suicide Squad in Australia, the Flash in Cuba, etc.) and in the choice of opponent (Animal Man vs. Thanagarians being a favorite). It was also a way to tie the present day DCU with the future of the Legion of Super-Heroes, 1000 years hence. The aliens in their world should, after all, exist in today's universe. Invasion! also introduced the concept of the meta-gene, sort of a poor man's mutant gene, and look, Todd McFarlane drew a couple of issues before he was a star.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Screen Shots

"Screen Shots" from Infinity Inc. vol.2 #7 (DC, 2008) by Peter Milligan and Matt Camp
I don't know why DC felt the need to keep Infinity Inc.'s name and trademark alive, but they did. The second series spun out of 52 and featured a Nuklon and a Fury, but not actually the original Infinitors. The principal draw was meant to be Steel and his daughter Natasha, but wouldn't a straight-up Steel book have sold better? This second incarnation of Infinity lasted quite a lot less than its title would imply, clocking in at 12 issues with the team disappearing. They were found in the Terror Titans mini-series, which kinda shows how much DC cared about the team.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Crashing the JSA Meeting

"Crashing the JSA Meeting" from Infinity Inc. vol.1 #1 (DC, 1984) by Roy & Dann Thomas, Jerry Ordway and Mike Machlan
Jerry Ordway, ladies and gentlemen. Infinity Inc. lived and died with his coming and going. This was the OTHER Earth-2 book (after All-Star Squadron) continuing/replacing the JSA's modern-day adventures from the 70s version of All-Star Comics. It's the first true second generation book (a template for DC's various legacies on post-Crisis Earth), starring the Justice Society's kids. As big a fan as I am of Golden Age heroes, that love didn't translate to their progeny, I'm sad to say. I like the idea, and I certainly liked the early art, but the combination of Roy Thomas' old-fashioned wordiness and a hodgepodge of what I thought of as fairly generic heroes (in the New Teen Titans and Outsiders mold) meant I couldn't stay interested. Later on, the series featured some early, pre-Amazing Spider-Man, Todd MacFarlane art, but I hadn't read an issue in years by that time.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

A Job for Superman

"A Job for Superman" from Infinite Crisis #1 (DC, 2005) by Geoff Johns, Phil Jimenez and Andy Lanning
There have been several Crisis-like game-changers - DC Comics is positively addicted to them - but only Infinite Crisis can really be called a sequel to Crisis on Infinite Earths, acting not only AS a continuity-changing turning point, but dealing with events that happened IN the original Crisis as the Golden Age Superman and Superboy of Earth-Prime busted out from behind the walls of reality. And that's the splash I chose because after that came a lot of annoying and boring violence and dismemberment, which I'd rather not think about right now.

Friday, April 12, 2013

A Mountain of Trash

"A Mountain of Trash" from Inferior Five #8 (DC, 1968) by E. Nelson Bridwell, Don Segal, Win Mortimer and Tex Blaisdell
From the pages of Showcase came some of Earth's greatest heroes... Of course I'm talking about the Flash, Green Lantern and the Atom, NOT about the Inferior Five. But don't let the somewhat obvious joke of their powers and personalities (the fat guy floats on air and the girl is a dumb blond and so on) fool you, these were pretty fun stories lampooning the likes of the Justice League, 60s spy shows, Tarzan and... Marvel characters actually appearing in a DC comic largely unchanged! Just enough of a classic Mad Comics sensibility to be of interest.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Why Impulse Gets So Bored

"Why Impulse Gets So Bored" from Impulse #19 (DC, 1996) by Mark Waid, Tom Peyer, Humberto Ramos and Wayne Faucher
Instead of one big panel, a lot of little panels today, but they do make a whole.

How great was Impulse? So great is a DAMN SHAME they ever aged him and turned him into the Flash. That's where he first appeared, of course, Barry Allen's grandson from the future, a hyperactive superhero with superspeed. Mark Waid's Flash was brilliant, and spinning Impulse off into a book that could play to Bart's comic strengths was even more brilliant. Best of all, for me anyway, was the inclusion of Max Mercury as his mentor. But could even the speed force guru find a way to give Bart some discipline? Humberto Ramos was the perfect artist for the book too - fun and young-looking. Flashpoint made me believe we'd see a proper Impulse in the New52, but alas, Bart as Kid-Flash isn't really the same. Not at all the same, in fact.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Weird Science, Video Game Style

"Weird Science, Video Game Style" from iCandy #1 (DC, 2004) by Dan Abnett, Andy Lanning and Kalman Andrasofszky
Comics are a power fantasy, and video games are a power fantasy, but bringing the latter into the former hasn't been tried all that often in superhero comics. There's Ninjak, who at some point was a video gamer's avatar made real, and there's Candy, whom the short series' protagonist Matt springs from video game land. Despite my my allusion to Weird Science, Candy isn't a ready-made girlfriend, but his recently disappeared sister. Andrasofszky evokes the anime of many video games and DnA create the Bitmaps, which are a bane on my existence also. Didn't catch on, perhaps because of that lascivious title not really matching the interiors.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

To Be Undead in a Small Town

"To Be Undead in a Small Town" from I, Zombie #17 (Vertigo, 2011) by Chris Roberson and Mike Allred
Atypical of Vertigo, I, Zombie (or iZombie for the Internet kids) was incredibly sweet and charming, growing from its initial Being Human-type set-up to a full, rich, coherent world of lost souls. When Roberson was asked to close up shop, the story stepped on the nitrous button, jostling its natural, summer's day rhythms, but it still worked. I just wish it had been allowed to follow a slower course so that we might have gotten to know the characters even more, or even been introduced to new ones. Heck, the Dead Presidents could have been in their own series. And where else could we read about a gay were-terrier?

Monday, April 8, 2013

Van Helsing Drop Zone

"Van Helsing Drop Zone" from I, Vampire #10 (DC, 2012) by Josh Fialkov and Andrea Sorrentino
The Van Helsings, an army of crazy vampire hunters, is probably the most memorable thing to come out of Josh Fialkov's I, Vampire series, a series I almost didn't give a chance to because of vampire fatigue, but then thought better of it when I saw it was being written by that guy who did a Superman/Batman story I liked so much. It's soon to end, and I'll miss its unpredictability. Sorrentino is now making Green Arrow pretty, so I can't complain about that, but I do wish DC had let Fialkov do what he wanted on those Green Lantern books he recently quit before we ever saw page 1. Sigh.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Joe Staton's Huntress

"Joe Staton's Huntress" from The Huntress vol.1 #1 (DC, 1989) by Joey Cavalieri, Joe Staton, Bruce Patterson and Dick Giordano
After the Huntress couldn't be the Batman's daughter anymore, I thought they did a good job of salvaging the character by giving her a new life as the daughter of a murdered mobster. Mafia princess becomes vigilante preying on her own kind, sort of thing. I wouldn't call myself a particular fan of Joe Staton's art, but the shading in this series makes it my favorite of all his works. Under-appreciated, the book was cancelled after 19 issues, its dangling plot threads addressed in a JLI Special. From the Frank Miller-inspired mini-series that came a few years later, it was clear that DC thought the original book had failed because Huntress wasn't sexy or violent enough, but I think comics fans could do worse that rediscover the Cavalieri/Staton stuff.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Last Inning

"Last Inning" from Human Target vol.2 #5 (Vertigo, 2004) by Peter Milligan and Javier Pulido
I recently read Milligan's Human Target series and loved his meditation on identity, and the slick modern art of his various contributors, like Pulido and Cliff Chiang. I even wrote an Old52 column about the experience. Give it a read to learn more.

Friday, April 5, 2013

That's What I Call a Haunted House

"That's What I Call a Haunted House" from House of Secrets vol.2 #6 (Vertigo, 1997) by Steven T. Seagle and Duncan Fegredo
Unlike Vertigo's later House of Mystery, its House of Secrets doesn't really hark back to the old anthology series, though Sandman-like, it does break up its series-long arc with occasional one-offs and "origins". Seagle's theme seems to be that secrets are destructive, and he creates an engaging enough cast led by Rain Harper, a runaway and squatter in the House, who gets roped into acting as witness to a ghostly jury. Most of the series features the distinctive expressionistic art of Teddy Kristiansen, but it's not exactly splash-friendly. But we're not doing too badly with a Duncan Fegredo piece!

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Cain and Abel

"Cain and Abel" from House of Secrets vol.1 #92 (DC, 1971) by Bernie Wrightson
From the issue that gave us the first appearance of the pre-Alec Holland Swamp Thing. Not a very splashy story, but the opening page by Bernie Wrightson is a great pic featuring both brothers in their respective houses' shared (and bustling) cemetery, with the House of Secrets and its "sad face" in the background. So what interests you more? Mysteries or secrets?

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

While Cain Was Out Killing His Brother

"While Cain Was Out Killing His Brother" from House of Mystery vol.2 #1 (Vertigo, 2008) by Matthew Sturges and Luca Rossi
I liked the new Vertigo version of House of Mystery. It seemed the perfect combination of modern continuing fantastical series and the anthology format of old, positing a a rich framing arc full of characters living (or trapped) in the House, one of which feels compelled to tell a creepy horror story in each issue, taking turns at being "host". A great idea that keeps readers hooked while still paying tribute to what the series used to be. Which reminds me, I still need to pick up the last couple of trades.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

The Mirror Martian Manhunter

"The Mirror Martian Manhunter" from House of Mystery vol.1 #154 (DC, 1965) by Jack Miller and Joe Certa
Obviously, the House of Mystery is best known as a horror anthology hosted by Cain, but it wasn't always so. It once featured such kooky superhero features as Dial H for Hero and the Martian Manhunter. J'Onn J'Onzz isn't considered "kooky" today, of course, but back in the day, he was accompanied by a silly alien dog and had his share of Silver Agey adventures in Apex City. This is, after all, where he fought a guy who shot fire from his nipples. J'Onn wouldn't be silly again until he joined Giffen's Justice League and started craving Oreos, but alas, those days are far behind us. Too far...

Monday, April 1, 2013

Snapper Carr, Super-Traitor

"Snapper Carr, Super-Traitor" from Hourman #16 (DC, 2000) by Tom Peyer, Rags Morales, Dave Meikis and Andrew Hennessey
Yet another quirky series I have on my reading list, and the nice thing about quirky series is that they're pretty easy to collect. Hourman came out of DC One Million at a time when I wasn't able to afford so many comics, and it just fell through the cracks. But it seems made for me. A temporal hero gadding about DC continuity, becoming Snapper Carr's roommate, and intersecting with a Golden Age hero's story. That's got all my various interests bundled up in a 25-issue package. Well, I have no interest in becoming Snapper Carr's roommate, but every interest in seeing Snapper suffer through living with a superhero. So yeah, I should get down to completing the run and writing an Old52 article on it.