Saturday, August 31, 2013

Red Tornados

"Red Tornados" from Red Tornado vol.2 #4 (2010) by Kevin VanHook, Jose Luis and J.P. Mayer
He only got himself two mini-series, but I thought since he was a Justice Leaguer, I'd give him a break and include art from one of them. Not the first mini, of course, which while a super-early effort by one Kurt Busiek, had art from the waning days of Carmine Infantino's career. The second introduced a Tornado family, hoping to breathe new life into the character post-Final Crisis, but listen, "Reddy" was always going to be a sad, pathetic 'bot no matter what, and he gets blown up in the very next crossover event, Blackest Night.

Needless to say, the best portrayal of the Red Tornado I've ever experienced was by Mark Doiron, one of my DC Heroes RPG players, who just nailed the pathetic emo-ness of the character and made him, much like Mark himself, endearing. He became the robot everyone wants to hug. Or better yet, whom no one ever did.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Red Robin - Team Player

"Red Robin - Team Player" from Red Robin #13 (DC, 2010) by Fabian Nicieza, Marcus To and Ray McCarthy
Red Robin was, a lot like Batgirl, one of my favorite books that were made to end with the New52. As a Tim Drake fan from way back, it was great to see him become his own man, a master manipulator playing a long game with his villains, really differentiating himself from the other Robins despite the mm-ok Kingdom Come costume. Nice clean art, fun soap opera and a smart hero, that's usually enough for me.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Stupid Manhunters

"Stupid Manhunters" from Red Lanterns #0 (DC, 2012) by Peter Milligan, Adrian Syaf and Vicente Sifuente
Despite a couple of attempts, based on my liking Milligan and new write Choule on other things (and liking them a lot), I just can't get into the Angry Lantern Corps AT ALL. Part of it is War of Light fatigue - I dropped all the Lantern books early in the New52 - and part of it is not finding the characters interesting. I might have cared about the cat once, but Ed Benes couldn't draw him worth spit in the opening issue, and though later artists are more to my liking, it wasn't enough to draw me in.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

The Chamber of All

"The Chamber of All" from Red Hood and the Outlaws #3 (DC, 2012) by Scott Lobdell, Kenneth Rocafort and Blond
I'll admit it, despite the unfortunate sexism of the first issue (especially), the terrible title, Lobdell's participation, and that of Jason Todd, this book became a guilty pleasure  in the early days of the New52. It was all down to the "buddy movie" comedy between the two male leads, that's what I found entertaining. The plots themselves played on the irreverent humor element, though my eyes started glazing over every time Lobdell referenced whatever land of the lost Jason apparently trained in. That was all hogwash to me, something that seemed transplanted from some other book or even universe (like Dr. Veritas in his Superman). I quit the book when it started centering more on Starfire about which I care not a jot (especially in her current form). Rocafort's art sure is distinctive and not unpleasant, but there's no narrative motivation for the broken shard layouts he uses and that will always bug me.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Ray Versus Brimstone

"Ray Versus Brimstone" from The Ray vol.2 #1 (DC, 1994) by Christopher Priest, Howard Porter and Robert Jones
As a fan of Golden Age characters, and thus of newer heroes following in those heroes' footsteps, I obviously was drawn to the new Ray. The mini-series with art by "newcomer" Joe Quesada(!) and the Priest series that followed. But my memories of it are really vague. Doctor Polaris... the ghost of his father the Golden Age Ray... flipping through these, I think they may be worth a re-read at some point. Or perhaps the mnemonic hole in my head means I shouldn't bother.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Ragman the Tatterdemalion

"Ragman the Tatterdemalion" from Ragman vol.1 #1 (DC, 1976) by Robert Kanigher and Joe Kubert and the Redondo Studio
The people's hero, it's a little like Kanigher and Kubert wanted to create a Sgt. Rock for the ghetto, telling stories of ordinary folks through the character. The five issues of this short-lived series have that vibe about them. The mini-series of the 90s (all longer than the original monthly!) would give Ragman more of a mythology, tying him into Jewish legends and making Rory Reagan not the first to wear the rags and cloak. The Giffen/Broderick series might have a made a good ongoing. I liked what they had there.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Starro World

"Starro World" from R.E.B.E.L.S. (vol.2) #8 (DC, 2009) by Tony Bedard and Andy Clarke
14 years after LEGION/REBELS wrapped up, Vril once again lost control of LEGION and went on the run in a new REBELS book. Is this an indication that people would not be interested in picking up a book called L.E.G.I.O.N., thinking perhaps it might require the same amount of knowledge that apparently sinks other Legion of Super-Heroes series? In any case, while I have had problems with some of Tony Bedard's writing - and REBELS did feature his principal flaw, stretching story lines out too long - I enjoyed his take on REBELS tremendously! Maybe you can't write a bad Vril Dox, I dunno. There were old faces like Strata and Garv, and new Legion precursors like Wildstar (Wildfire/Dawnstar) and Tribulus (Validus), and Bedard turned Starro into a major badass. Overexploited him, maybe, but that was all very cool. Of course, the REBELS were really LEGION for most of the run, without a title change, which was just weird.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Everybody Hates Vril Dox

"Everybody Hates Vril Dox" from R.E.B.E.L.S.'94 #2 (DC, 1994) by Tom Peyer, Derec Aucoin and James Pascoe
As a big fan of L.E.G.I.O.N., I of course kept reading when Vril Dox lost control of his enforcement organization (to his toddler son, no less) and went on the lam with the rest of LEGION's heroes. The title is absurd, of course. I mean "Revolutionary Elite Brigade to Eradicate L.E.G.I.O.N. Supremacy"? There's an acronym in that acronym! (L.E.G.I.O.N., by the way, means Licensed Extra-Governmental Interstellar Operatives Network).) The book lasts about a year in a half on that premise, and ends the LEGION saga on a happy ending. Perhaps it didn't have the exciting vibe it had as LEGION its first couple years, but I think it did give the story a bit of a bump where it otherwise might have been summarily cancelled. The addition of Captain Comet to the team never did anything for me, but I suppose there was merit in connecting the "cosmic series" with other elements of the DCU.

Friday, August 23, 2013

I Want You to Pray

"I Want You to Pray" from The Question vol.1 #3 (DC, 1987) by Dennis O'Neil, Denys Cowan and Rick Magyar
Screw whatever mystical mumbo-jumbo they're doing with the Question these days, the real Question comics to read (and I aim to complete the collection and do so) are the O'Neil-Cowan three-year run (turning into a renumbered Quarterly after that). It's dark, gritty and realistic, which are usually dirty words when I use them, but it's more a matter of each book having an appropriate tone instead of painting an entire universe with the same (dreary) brush. Looks a far cry from the Question who first showed up in DC's Blue Beetle, but he wasn't in Hub City then. A place can change a person.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Primal Force Just Can't Win

"Primal Force Just Can't Win" from Primal Force #13 (DC, 1995) by Steven T. Seagle, Nicholas G. Choles and Barbara Kaalberg
Though I suppose the environmental angle was worthy, Primal Force seems more of an exercise in proving you can't have a successful team book in which Red Tornado is the star. Don't get me wrong, I love obscure characters and Primal Force had plenty - a new Claw the Unconquered, the Global Guardians' Jack O'Lantern, the Golem, even the Black Condor of the day was a B-lister despite having had his own series. But Red Tornado?! 15 issues isn't a bad run, but I'm afraid PF never really flew.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Youth Power

"Youth Power" from Prez #1 (DC, 1973) by Joe Simon and Jerry Grandenetti
What happens when the age for being president of the USA is lowered and an 18-year-old gets elected? Only the most bizarre and wonderful things! Of course there are people who want Prez Rickard out of office, including a mobster with a smiley face for a head and a crippled vampire. I'd love to see a Prez revival (the Vertigo one-shot was okay) that really kicked modern politics in the teeth. I know how unlikely that is. I guess I'll just have to reread these old mags and imagine the vampire is the Tea Party or something.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

If the Atom Were Real, This Would Happen All the Time

"If the Atom Were Real, This Would Happen All the Time" from Power of the Atom #1 (DC, 1988) by Roger Stern, Dwayne Turner and K.S. Wilson
I'm a big fan of the Atom, or at least, his powers. I can't say I've loved a lot of Ray's series. The original was very dry Silver Age stuff, and the Savage Sword stuff missed the point. I stuck to Ray Palmer longest in this under-appreciated series which offered solid superhero stuff, played around with the Atom's powers, and beefed up Chronos. Not spectacular, especially the art, but Stern can usually keep me interested.

Monday, August 19, 2013

The Many Faces of Captain Marvel

"The Many Faces of Captain Marvel" from Power of Shazam! #27 (DC, 1997) by Jerry Ordway, Peter Krause and Mike Manley
I love this tribute to all the character who'd been called Captain Marvel (to date), with Mar-Vell (with original planet on chest look and in Rick Jones-swapping mode), Monica Rambeau, and even the M.F. Enterprises Cap with the weird disassembling powers! And Hoppy the Marvel Bunny, can't forget him! Power of Shazam was, for me, the last time the Marvel Family was any good in standard DC continuity. Jerry Ordway managed to keep it sweet without mocking the property, and developed Fawcett City (good idea!) into its own worthy realm of the DC Universe. I've got to reread it sometimes.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Power Girl Cosplay

"Power Girl Cosplay" from Power Girl vol.2 #26 (DC, 2011) by Matthew Sturges and Hendry Prasetya
One the series I miss most from just before Flashpoint, Power Girl was delightful, funny and sexy. It didn't seem to matter who wrote or drew it, it was just plain FUN. DC's best female-led series since maybe Manhunter. Yes, PG co-stars in World's Finest, and on its best days, it approaches the same qualities (especially in the flashback sequences drawn by Kevin Maguire), but I miss the focus on Kara as businesswoman and tech magnate, I miss her relationship to the new Terra, I miss the anything-goes sensibility that introduced Vartox as a love interest, and I miss that ugly old cat. Sigh.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Manhunter vs. Green Arrow

"Manhunter vs. Green Arrow" from Power Company #9 (DC, 2002) by Kurt Busiek, Tom Grummett and Prentis Rollins
Been slowly assembling issues of Power Company, which I missed the first time around (I was out of comics in the early 00s). If I'd been a bit more solvent at the time, I'm sure I would have been all over this. Kurt Busiek and Tom Grummett. Obscure characters that interest me, like Manhunter, Doctor Cyber... Bork from Brave and the Bold!! And Firestorm too. When I complete the run, I hope to review the whole thing on that other blog I run.

Friday, August 16, 2013

The Horror Hosts Meet the Easter Bunny

"The Horror Hosts Meet the Easter Bunny" from Plop! #5 (DC, 1974) by Sergio Aragones
DC's "magazine of weird humor" back in the 70s, and pretty good from what I've seen. Sergio was definitely the star, but the covers were by the likes of the perpetually weird Basil Wolverton and master craftsman Wally Wood. Bizarre too to see humor strips by DC's bullpen otherwise known for superhero and adventure strips, people like Mike Sekowski, Murphy Anderson, Nick Cardy and (by then) Steve Ditko. The mag was certainly the strangest use of DC's horror hosts!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Tex Avery Plastic Man

"Tex Avery Plastic Man" from Plastic Man vol.4 #15 (DC, 2005) by Kyle Baker
Post-Crisis, the DCU gave us some better Plastic Men. The Phil Foglio mini-series was a return to the Jack Cole aesthetic with a dollop of Ambush Bug self-awareness. Morrison's JLA made him a trickster worthy of the team. And then there was the Kyle Baker series (with help from various artists over the course of its 20 issues), idiosyncratic, highly cartoony, and award-winning. It might have gone too far for most DC readers though, and only equaled the publishing record set by the previous DC series.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

The 1,001 Plas-sassins

"The 1,001 Plas-sassins" from Plastic Man vol.2 #5 (DC, 1967) by Arnold Drake and Win Mortimer
Though Plastic Man was a DC character as of 1952, it wasn't until the late 60s that they finally used him! And not very well at that. I'm always disappointed at Win Mortimer's relatively stiff Plastic Man. It only lasted 10 issues, and the numbering was continued in a no more successful 10-issue series almost a year later.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013


"Non-Conductor" from Plastic Man vol.1 #7 (Quality, 1947) by Jack Cole and Jack Spranger
A lot of the Quality Comics I've explored definitely have a penchant for humor, and perhaps that springs from Plastic Man's popularity. First appearing in Police Comics in 1941, he soon got his own quarterly dedicated series (in 1943) which eventually went monthly and lasted 64 issues, ending when Quality itself closed up shop and sold its assents to DC Comics. For a character initially stuck on another Earth, he got a better career than most. We'll see splashes from a couple more continuing series, and he even scored a Saturday morning cartoon! And yet, his tenuous position in continuity meant Elongated Man got his spot in the Justice League despite being the more original, more iconic, more "powerful" bendable hero. Morrison would finally set it right in his JLA, but it was a long wait!

Monday, August 12, 2013

Spectre vs. Phantom Stranger

"Spectre vs. Phantom Stranger" from The Phantom Stranger vol.4 #5 (DC, 2013) by Dan DiDio, J.M. DeMatteis, Brent Anderson, Phillip Tan and Rob Hunter
So after 1976, the Stranger had a Mike Mignola-drawn mini-series in '86, and a Vertigo one-shot in '93, but it's this year that he came back to the monthly grind in the New52. I hear good things, mostly about DeMatteis' contribution, but it's hard to get over the Phantom Stranger's new origin, or the fact that he even HAS one. One of my favorite issues of Secret Origins was the Stranger's, because it gave four possibilities and refused to give a definitive answer. In the New52, not only is there a definitive origin, un-Strangerizing the Stranger (we KNOW who he is/was), but they've made him into the historical/biblical Judas Iscariot! Which to me, borders on the offensive. I mean, Christ's traitor as a supernatural superhero? As a lapsed Catholic, I'm no religious prude, and in fact subscribe to Borges' opinion that Judas is a hero in the New Testament, the guy chosen by Jesus to do the deed that had to be done so he could die on the cross, who didn't want to do it, and committed suicide rather than spend those pieces of silver, ironically dying before humanity (and his own soul) was saved by Christ. But I don't think a New52 comic is the platform to explore any of that. It just seems completely off. Now that the book is part of this Trinity business, I don't even care to find out if I'm right.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Watch Out for the Ice Giant

"Watch Out for the Ice Giant" from The Phantom Stranger vol.2 #19 (DC, 1972) by Len Wein and Jim Aparo
Len Wein and Jim Aparo did some of their best work on the 70s Phantom Stranger, a book I have yet to completely (re)discover. Not only does the art look great, but reading up on it, it seemed to have some pretty great back-up. I'm less interested in the Dr. Thirteen stuff than I am Wolfman and Kaluta's Spawn of Frankenstein, or the Black Orchid stories continuing from Adventure Comics. The quality of the main strip wained before it hit its 41 issue mark, but I really want to see the bit where the Phantom Stranger gets mugged, and just how cool his nemesis Tannarak apparently is (damn you, research, you make me want to read more commmmiiiiccccsssssssss!).

Saturday, August 10, 2013

The Haunters from Beyond

"The Haunters from Beyond" from The Phantom Stranger vol.1 #1 (DC, 1952) by Jack Schiff and Win Mortimer
The Phantom Stranger's first series isn't the one Aparo worked on in the 70s, though that's the best known and beloved, it was 6-issue run from the 50s in which the Phantom Stranger was more of a normal guy tangling with supernatural happenings and sometimes debunking them (in a sense, he was both the modern Stranger AND his back-up Dr. Thirteen). Some of those strips were reprinted in the 70s series with a modern framing tale. So the best was yet to come.

Friday, August 9, 2013

The Phantom Strikes Back!

"The Phantom Strikes Back!" from The Phantom vol.1 #3 (DC, 1988) by Peter David, Joe Orlando and Dennis Janke
I remember the Phantom as a pretty prominent figure in the old black and white, translated into French, superhero trades I read as a kid. So it's not without some surprise that I didn't see him on the stands when I converted to the original English-language comics. This Phantom guy was nowhere to be seen. Neither Marvel nor DC, the Ghost Who Walks was, at the time, completely absent. I don't have those old trades anymore, but I can only guess that they were reprints of the Charton stories (1969-1977), though Lee Falk's creation had been published in comics form by Harvey, Gold Key and King after starting like as a newspaper strip. In 1988, DC licensed the character and published a 4-issue mini which led into a monthly that lasted 13 issues. Meanwhile, it was Marvel who was publishing books based on the Phantom's cartoon appearances, in Defenders of the Earth (1987) and later Phantom 2040 (1995). In the 2000s, the character was being handled by Moonstone, and in the 2010s at Dynamite (who are really collecting all the pulp characters they can). The haphazard publishing history makes following the Phantom a bit of a puzzle, but I've been wanting to check him out more properly for years now.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

A Thunderbolt in the Rain

"A Thunderbolt in the Rain" from Peter Cannon, Thunderbolt #3 (DC, 1992) by Mike Collins and José Marzan Jr.
Of the heroes DC bought from Charlton, Peter Cannon AKA Thunderbolt might have had more success, perhaps, if he'd been introduced at the same time as Blue Beetle, Captain Atom and the Question. Two of those got Justice League membership out of it, and all of three had series lasting 2-4 years. Cannon's lasted but a year and very few DC appearances besides. From what I understand, ownership reverted to the creator's estate (Pete Morisi) which is how Dynamite! has been able to publish a Peter Cannon series. I guess that's what happens when characters go unused, though it may be specific to the original Charlton deal, I don't know.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Katana vs. her Husband: Rematch

"Katana vs. her Husband: Rematch" from Outsiders vol.4 #24 (DC, 2010) by Peter J. Tomasi, Fernando Pasarin, Scott Hanna and Prentis Rollins
My dislike for the Outsiders is well documented, but DC really, really, really wanted to keep the name in the the public eye, and they returned as a new Batman and the Outsiders at the end of the volume 3. From issue 15, Batman inevitably left and the book became Outsiders vol.4, reaching issue 40 this time around. In all, that's about 200 issues about people I find neither competent or "outsiders". Sad.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

When Titans Become Outsiders

"When Titans Become Outsiders" from Outsiders vol.3 #46 (DC, 2007) by Judd Winick, Carlo Barberi, Art Thibert and Steve Bird
The Outsiders of the late 2000s lasted 50 issues, but that would seem to be thanks to a couple Titans joining the team - Nightwing, Arsenal and Starfire. I mean, you weren't tuning in for Katana or (I'm going to write names of people I don't know here) Shift or Indigo or Grace or Thunder! Were you? Maybe you were. Who am I to say that's wrong?

Monday, August 5, 2013

AzBats Ain't No Outsider!

"AzBats Ain't No Outsider!" from Outsiders vol.2 #8 (DC, 1994) by Mike W. Barr, Paul Pelletier and Robert Campaniella
The new Batman didn't join the Outsiders, strangely. You'd think he'd have jumped at the opportunity. Cough. This is from the 90s volume of the Outsiders (sorry, of Outsiders, they dropped the "the"). Geo-Force gets branded a traitor to Markovia and new members join IN THAT COUNTRY, because that's all Markovia was ever good for - forcing people to join this sucky team. So Faust! Technocrat! Wylde! Yeah, I don't care. It lasted two years.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

The Looker Murder Case

"The Looker Murder Case" from The Outsiders vol.1 #14 (DC, 1986) by Mike W. Barr and Jim Aparo
Somehow, the Outsiders were "big" enough to get a Baxter, direct-sales-only series, just like the Legion and the Titans. The characters were apparently SO popular, they could do away with Batman and replace him with Looker. LOOKER! If you thought the characters created specifically for the Outsiders were bad... (And if you thought they were GOOD, then Looker is designed to open your eyes, man!) Also, see everything I've ever written about the Outsiders.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Big Max

"Big Max" from Our Fighting Forces #153 (DC, 1975) by Jack Kirby and Mike Royer
At 181 issues, Our Fighting Forces was no slouch either, and is best known today as the home of the Losers. This JLA of war comics heroes assembled fighting men from a variety of solo strips - Gunner & Sarge, Johnny Cloud, Capt. Storm - but while their stint went from #123-181 (with an issue of G.I. Combat besides), the only stories that really interest me are Kirby's insane ones from #151 to #162. The Omnibus is awesome. For the rest, there's a Showcase Presents that covers up to issue 150.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Pardon My Helmet

"Pardon My Helmet" from Our Army at War #157 (DC, 1965) by Robert Kanigher and Joe Kubert
Our Army at War lasted a whopping 301 issues (from 1952 to 1977), but of course, it had the best war strips: Sgt. Rock and Easy Company from #81, and Enemy Ace from #151. It didn't really end with #301 though, it was simply retitled Sgt. Rock and lasted another 11 years! I don't think there's another war comic that lasted 422 issues.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

The Fury of Orion

"The Fury of Orion" from Orion #1 (DC, 2000) by Walt Simonson
Walt Simonson's love letter to Kirby (right down to Tales of Asgard-style back-ups) probably comes closest to capturing the Fourth World's spirit, being myth more than superhero comics. Orion's story is one of nature versus nurture played on a cosmic canvas, a canvas beautifully drawn on by Simonson.