Sunday, June 30, 2013

Giant (Metal) Monster Theater

"Giant (Metal) Monster Theater" from Metal Men vol.1 #33 (DC, 1968) by Bob Kanigher, Mike Sekowsky and George Roussos
The Metal Men are one of those crazy concepts straddling the line between superheroics and humor comics, a bit like Plastic Man (the similarities are obvious), that you'd have to work hard not to make fun. Some have, obviously, but most Metal Men stories I've read have had no problem with that. The original series is definitely a collection I need to finish some day. King Rex Kidd's Comic Kingdom certainly provides incentive.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Frankenstein - Air Ace

"Frankenstein - Air Ace" from Men of War vol.2 #8 (DC, 2012) by Jeff Lemire, Matt Kindt and Tom Derenick
The New52's first attempt at a war comic was a dud. Instead of a headliner like Sgt. Rock, they put his grandson in the Middle East and immediately put superhumans in the skies, completely breaking the genre for no good reason. The last issue or two had some good stuff after dumping the main strips like so much ballast. Frankenstein and G.I. Robot? I'm there. It's more Weird War Tales than Men of War, but I'll take it where I can get it.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Gravedigger: Cannon Fodder

"Gravedigger: Cannon Fodder" from Men of War vol.1 #16 (DC, 1976) by Jack C. Harris, Dick Ayers and Romeo Tanghal
A relatively late war comic, when the genre was already almost dead, Men of War tried to do something "different" by introducing a black war hero, Gravedigger, but y'know, whatever. Took a while. The only memorable co-feature in the 26-issue run was Enemy Ace.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Winter Special

"Winter Special" from 'Mazing Man Special #2 (DC, 1988) by Bob Rozakis and Stephen DeStefano
I took a good look at this charming little series in my Old52 feature over on Siskoid's Blog of Geekery. Pretty much said my piece there.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Green vs. White

"Green vs. White" from Martian Manhunter vol.2 #4 (DC, 1999) by John Ostrander and Tom Mandrake
He was a member of the early Justice League of America, of JL Detroit and the JLI, and there was the really awesome Jones/Barreto American Secrets mini-series that put J'Onn J'Onzz in the 50s at the height of McCarthyism, and then there was the strange-looking Mark Badger mini, but it would be the success of Morrison's JLA that would finally give the Martian Manhunter a shot at his own monthly series. I loved the premise Ostrander was working with, having J'Onn live his life in several secret identities, which made for a book that was more than just the "green Superman". And with the White Martians at the center of the first JLA arc, it meant J'Onn finally had villains of his own that weren't forgotten Silver Age comedy goons. Three years isn't a bad run, but I'm sure it could have gone longer. I wasn't around to read the '06-'07 8-issue mini-series, but I do know it didn't propel the character back into stardom.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Little Series That Could Should Help Each Other

"Little Series That Could Should Help Each Other" from Manhunter vol.4 #31 (DC, 2008) by Marc Andreyko and Michael Gaydos
It took two tries, but my favorite Manhunter series is also the one that ran the longest - 38 issues, not counting the back-ups in other books. This was a case of DC Comics supporting a low-selling title with a dedicated fan base because it was a QUALITY BOOK. Imagine that. Kate Spencer wouldn't fit very well in the New52, sadly, because she's all about LEGACY, something the reboot can't abide. Tough-as-nails D.A. by day, vigilante using confiscated gear by night, and a struggling single mom in between, she's got a son who may be the grandson of a WWII hero, she has a connection to the guys who used to be Manhunter, and she wears a Darkstar costume/armor. How is a character like that going to work in world without any history? It would be worth the strip-down to have a "realistic" hero like her back in the mix though, and by realistic I don't the faux-realism people call "gritty", but rather that she had one foot in the real world. There are very few middle-aged women taking up the superhero trade, few smokers, and few moms.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Manhunting in the 90s

"Manhunting in the 90s" from Manhunter vol.3 #10 (DC, 1995) by Steven Grant and Vince Giarrano
Horrendous stuff I wouldn't even be posting if I wasn't dedicated to alphabetically offering a splash from every DC series... I don't know or remember much of anything about Chase Lawler's year as Manhunter, but his Wikipedia entry is a nightmare. At first unconnected to the Manhunter mythos, he called on the Wild Huntsman to save himself and his girlfriend from harm, and was curse with having to "hunt the lonely". He tried to hunt only villains with marginal success. And then it looks like they tried to pull out of it, and had Mark Shaw return and murder him after revealing Chase WAS connected to the Manhunter legacy after all and the Wild Huntsman was just a hallucination... Ok, whatever.

Sunday, June 23, 2013


"Mechhunter" from Manhunter vol.2 #11 (DC, 1989) by John Ostrander, Kim Yale, Doug Rice and Pablo Marcos
After digging out Mark Shaw (Privateer) for Suicide Squad, he turned him into the next Manhunter and got a mini-series greenlit for him. And that mini became a pretty solid series that lasted two years. Not all that connected to the previous two superheroes called Manhunter, Mark did have a connection to the Manhunter robots built by the Guardians of the Universe, ergo a hi-tech mask which was the source of most of his abilities. Looking at my back issues now, the book had extremely variable art, but Doug Rice's Japanese influences made for the best-looking issues. He'd done the first four (the original mini) and redesigned the costume with touches of kabuki. Above, Manhunter flying his own mech-armor.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Essays on Superman: John Byrne's Vision in a Single Splash

"Essays on Superman: John Byrne's Vision in a Single Splash" from Man of Steel #6 by John Byrne and Dick Giordano
Because the Man of Steel movie is out (nope, still haven't seen it), there's a lot of talk about what's appropriate for Superman. Who is he? What makes him Superman? Well, here is John Byrne's opinion on that from his game-changing mini-series of the same name.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Man-Bat Fugitive from Blind Justice

"Man-Bat Fugitive from Blind Justice" from Man-Bat #2 (DC, 1976) by Martin Pasko, Pablo Marcos and R. Villamonte
Neal Adams drew Man-Bat's first appearance in Detective Comics #400, which almost certainly contributed to his initial popularity. A monthly series came up in '76 when DC was pretty much throwing everything at the wall to see what would stick. Unlike bat wings in hair, however, Man-Bat didn't. Two issues and that's it. Two issues that might as well have been Batman Family archive material for all the connective tissue they had. Sorry Man-Bat, your names are just in the wrong order for real mainstream success. That, and you decided to face off against the Ten-Eyed Man.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Tyrannosaurus Reich

"Tyrannosaurus Reich" from Major Bummer #5 (DC, 1997) by John Arcudi, Doug Mahnke and Tom Nguyen
The only bad thing about Major Bummer, really, is that it lasted a mere 15 issues. If you don't know it, it's about a hardened slacker who is accidentally given super-powers by aliens. Doug Mahnke art, a fun supporting cast and villains, and well-observed humor. It's been out in trade since 2011 as The Complete Major Bummer Super Slacktacular. Seek it out!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Carrion Comics

"Carrion Comics" from Magog #1 (DC, 2009) by Keith Giffen, Howard Porter and John Dell
For Kingdom Come, Mark Waid told Alex Ross to design the worst, most Rob Liefeldian character ever, to throw in everything they both hated about 90s comics. And just like Lobo, this dude wound up getting his own unironic series. People are just the worst.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

That Light in the Window

"That Light in the Window" from Madame Xanadu vol.2 #11 (Vertigo, 2009) by Matt Wagner and Mike Kaluta
Her name sounds ridiculous, but it's probably down to the Olivier Newton John rollerskate musical. She's immortal, something that today allows her to serve in both Demon Knights and Justice League Dark, centuries apart. Written by Matt Wagner, he didn't do the art, though it seems he was usually partnered with someone superlative. Mike Kaluta is one, Amy Reeder is another. I've only got a handful of issues. Maybe I should remedy that.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Lobo's Dead

"Lobo's Dead" from Lobo's Back #1 (DC, 1992) by Keith Giffen, Alan Grant and Simon Bisley
I got the first few Lobo mini-series and specials, back when they still worked as a satire, but as the 90s became more and more LIKE that satire, Lobo just became as annoying as Wolverine, the Punisher and whatever other violent "anti-hero" they were cramming down our throats at the time. So yeah, the splash comes from the second mini, the one about Lobo dying and then (sorry) coming back to life because he caused too much trouble in the after-life. I never did get into the monthly series - with all apologies to writer Alan Grant whom I like with this sort of material - which still managed to last more than 5 years without my patronage.

Coming clean, the deeper I look into this long box, the less I can justify the words "when they still worked as a satire". Still, nothing beyond 1992. I guess they were coming hard and fast on the back of the first mini's success in late 1990.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Endless Summer

"Endless Summer" from Legionnaires #77 (DC, 1999) by Roger Stern, Tom McCraw, Jeffrey Moy and W.C. Carani
When the possible clones of the adult Legion were decanted in the 5 Years Later time frame, there was a sense that everyone's old Legion had returned, younger and more energetic than ever. After Earth blew up, they became the heroes of New Earth (a floating collection of city domes) and spun off into their own series, initially with some wonderful art by Chris Sprouse. After issue 19, Zero Hour rebooted the Legion, which became a lot more like the team featured in Legionnaires in look and tone, with the story basically going bi-weekly across the two Legion books. Soon after the above summer splash issue (art by Jeffrey Moy who drew, I think, the most issues), the books split, with LSH stranding Legion members in the 20th century (yep, again) and Legionnaires sticking to the 30th. That lasted for a bit and then things went back to normal before going darker again as Abnett and Lanning took over the books, taking Legionnaires to issue 81 and LSH to 125, where the titles were collapsed into Legion Lost (yep, again again).

Saturday, June 15, 2013

The Emerald Empress - Redesigned!

"The Emerald Empress -  Redesigned!" from Legion of Super-Heroes vol.7 #19 (DC, 2013) by Paul Levitz, Keith Giffen and Scott Kolins
Gah! I am so OVER the I - Eye pun. Here and in OMAC.

With no reboot for the Legion (surprise, surprise), the New 52 version is just volume 6 continued, with all its qualities and flaws. Only recently has the book become more exciting, as Giffen returned to do some art and plotting, but quickly leaving to do... He-Man projects?! Whatever. The book is being cancelled and what lies ahead for the Legion is uncertain. Rumors say something called Justice Legion as DC rebrands every book to fit the Batman, Lantern or Justice League label.

Friday, June 14, 2013

She's Not Just About Reading Minds

"She's Not Just About Reading Minds" from Legion of Super-Heroes vol.6 #4 (DC, 2010) by Paul Levitz, Yildiray Cinar, Francis Portela and Wayne Foucher
After Legion of 3 Worlds did away with the Threeboot Legion, the restored pre-5YL Legion showed up in a new Adventure Comics, either as a back-up or a lead feature, setting the stage for a new series (after which Adventure focused on Legion Academy). It was entirely appropriate for the Levitz Legion to be written by Paul Levitz once again, as if he'd never left. What it wasn't was a fresh take on the concept and characters. It felt comfortable, but the same way the lame-duck Legion of Tales was. What it really needed to be was the start the Baxter series, something as big and epic as the Legion world could be. Bringing back the LSV felt like a limp retread and couldn't live up to its original attempt. Still, there were some nice moments in there and Levitz did do a better job of it than fellow returnee Jim Shooter in volume 5.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Long Live the Threeboot Legion

"Long Live the Threeboot Legion" from Legion of Super-Heroes vol.5 #1 (DC, 2005) by Mark Waid and Barry Kitson
In 2004, the Legion was rebooted again, lasting 15 issues before becoming Supergirl and the Legion of Super-Heroes, then reverting to its original title for issues 38-50. Mark Waid's so-called "Threeboot Legion" introduced a very different 31st-century from what Legion fans were used to. This future repressive and Orwellian, and the members of the LSH become the center of a youth cult, protecting worlds that officially do not appreciate it. Waid was writing a book that was about something, using the Legion as a metaphor. After Supergirl left, Jim Shooter returned to the property that had made his success back when he was a teenager writing comics. That old magic really wasn't there however, and the book became rather dull, with slow-moving storylines that had little spark. Meanwhile, DC was bringing back the Legion of my youth in a JLA/JSA crossover in preparation for a Final Crisis not-really-tie-in Legion of 3 Worlds, which brought all the various versions of the Legion together in a big George Perez-drawn blow-out that would ultimately restore the original continuity pre-5YL.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Future Earth Is Screwed

"Future Earth Is Screwed" from Legion of Super-Heroes vol.4 #19 (DC, 1991) by Keith Giffen, Tom & Mary Bierbaum and Al Gordon
The longest-running Legion series (at 127 issues and 7 annuals) started out as an experiment. Keith Giffen picked the action up from the previous volume "5 years later" and basically blew up the entire Legion universe. The team had been disbanded, Dominators ruled the Earth, no one was using their code-names anymore, and Giffen immersed you in a world alien even to loyal Legion readers. This was a dense read that forced you to work to catch up and I loved it despite its opacity (maybe even because of it). The book and its tweaked timeline finally introduced proper replacements for Superboy and Supergirl (Kent Shakespeare and Laurel Gand/Andromeda) and perhaps because older fans wanted the old Legion back, also came up with batch SW6, clones of a Legion long lost (or were the adult Legionnaires the clones?). These went on to star in their own book, titled Legionnaires, more light-hearted fare, though the 30th century continued to grow more desperate. Even Earth was destroyed. This is a book that took a lot of risks. In 1994, Zero Hour undid the entire timeline and rebooted the Legion for the first time (past changes had been focused retcons), making the characters young again, in effect making the SW6 Legion the only proper Legion. That' not exactly it, but the feel and some of the new names were the same. Rebooted after issue 61, the title would go on even longer in reboot mode, through 125 before turning into Legion Lost and then The Legion.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Legion vs. Legion

"Legion vs. Legion" from Legion of Super-Heroes vol.3 #3 (DC, 1984) by Paul Levitz, Keith Giffen, Steve Lightle and Larry Mahlstedt
In 1984, DC decided to tap the blossoming direct market to relaunch a number of its best-selling team books, including the LSH, with better paper and printing. The "Baxter series" would last 63 issues plus four annuals, and get reprinted with a year's delay in the newsstand book Tales of the Legion of Super-Heroes where I personally experienced most of the run. That's what happens when you live at least 4-hours drive from the nearest comic book shop. Having experienced a year of Tales' "lame-duck Legion" where little of import happened (still, Dan Jurgens art, I wasn't complaining), the Baxter series upped the ante considerably. The first arc, pitting the Legion against the Legion of Super-Villains was epic and ended in the dramatic death of Karate Kid, creating fall-out (including one of those Legion lost storylines that have become a tradition) that would last through the rest of that first year. Giffen, Lightle and Greg Larocque handled most of the art through the end of the series, creating a slick and modern 30th century and a Legion I could call my own. I've liked other eras, but when I think of the Legion, I think of this one.

Monday, June 10, 2013

30th-Century Roll Call

"30th-Century Roll Call" from Legion of Super-Heroes vol.2 #300 (DC, 1983) by Paul Levitz, Keith Giffen and Larry Mahlstedt
After a bit of a prologue, this will definitely be Legion Week. Now, the first volume of LSH was a four-issue mini back in 1973 reprinting stories from the mid-1960s (strips from Adventure and Superboy) to test the waters for a Legion series, and based in its success, the LSH moved into Superboy's book and shared the byline. By issue #259, the Boy of Steel had been kicked out. And it's this version I first encountered in the early 80s and which made me a fan. Just look at that gorgeous group of people! It was a whole new world filled with characters, planets and history. After issue 313, there was another title change, to Tales of the Legion of Super-Heroes as the direct market launch and supported a new volume (splashed tomorrow).

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Wildfire (With a Side-Order of Tyroc)

"Wildfire (With a Side-Order of Tyroc)" from Legion Lost vol.2 #4 (DC, 2012) by Fabian Nicieza and Pete Woods
Despite my Legion loyalty (no really, I once read the Legion Constitution over and over so imagining I joined the team was as realistic as possible), I didn't stick with Legion Lost very long. It had some generally nice art and designs, and I like the Legionnaires that were this time Lost (always been a big fan of Wildfire & Dawnstar, and Tyroc has always been an underused Legionnaire), but having them hang around in the present is a lot less interesting than having them be on the move. (When the book was announced, it was thought they might bounce around the multiverse à la Marvel's Exiles; alas...) Anyway, as soon as it started crossing over with crap titles like Teen Titans and Ravagers, I was OUT OF THERE.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Big Violet

"Big Violet" from Legion Lost vol.1 #8 (DC, 2000) by Dan Abnett, Andy Lanning and Olivier Coipel
Before The Legion, there was Legion Lost. Or as I've heard it referred to, Legion: Voyager. Despite the clichéed premise - this kind of thing, Legionnaires lost on the far side of the universe/the past/another dimension, has been done A LOT - I've heard very good things about DnA's LSH writing. This is another book I'm looking forward to reading completely in the next couple years.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Giant Generation Gap

"Giant Generation Gap" from The Legion #12 (DC, 2002) by Dan Abnett, Andy Lanning, Olivier Coipel and Jason Wright
Legion of Super-Heroes content coming for the next few days, looks like. The simply-titled The Legion is really a continuation of the first volume of Legion Lost (after the Legion Worlds buffer), picking the story up after the lost Legionnaires return to the 31st century to find the Legion... disbanded! These were dark years for me when I wasn't buying comics, so I've yet to find and discover all 38 issues of the run. But I may be planning to.

Twitter fiends already know I'm thinking about doing some kind of daily LSH feature on my main blog (Siskoid's Blog of Geekery) after my daily Doctor Who reviews wrap up in early 2014(?). I have a long time to decide exactly HOW I'll attempt this project and make it interesting (or even to change my mind), but it's looking more and more likely with every passing day.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Rude on Kirby

"Rude on Kirby" from Legends of the DC Universe #14 (DC, 1999) by Mark Evanier, Steve Rude and Bill Reinhold
Though Legends of the Dark Knight had been a hit right out of the gate, it didn't seem to occur to DC to give other heroes similar books until quite late, and then only as an anthology that skipped around between mostly JLAers with the occasional oddity. I dare say #14's spotlight on Jimmy Olsen, specifically Jimmy Olsen as filtered through the Kirby lens, is one of the latter. Close friend of Kirby's Mark Evanier and OMG Steve Rude on art... It's awesome comics. The series as a whole was decent, if rather ordinary.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Batman vs. the Cavalier

"Batman vs. the Cavalier" from Legends of the Dark Knight #34 (DC, 1992) by James Robinson and Tim Sale
Currently the title of one of DC's digital comics AND the subtitle of one of their worst print comics, LotDK was, in its day, a brilliant idea. How do you capitalize on Batman Year One's success? How about a whole series dedicated to Batman's VERY BUSY first year? And further, how about a different creative team of big names and/or auteurs on each arc like Miller and Mazzucchelli had been? The result was a pretty great anthology, though it sort of lost its way after the 50th issue or so (and it ran to 160 issues!). At least, to my recollection. Some of my favorites include the Matt Wagner Two-Face/Freaks story "Faces", and the above "Blades", but I always thought Grant Morrison's "Gothic" was a little overrated.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Darkseid Gets a Dog

"Darkseid Gets a Dog" from Legends #3 (DC, 1987) by John Ostrander, Len Wei, John Byrne and Karl Kesel
Not DC's strongest company-wide crossover, the follow-up to the original Crisis reeks of Marvelism, turning heroes into public menaces as if mutant mania made ANY sense in the DCU. Its only real function is to introduce DC's next big stars - the new Justice League, the Suicide Squad, Wally West as the Flash, the New Gods as real players, and Captain Marvel (oops, you can't win them all!).

Monday, June 3, 2013

Which Is Miss Understanding? Betty or Veronica?

"Which Is Miss Understanding? Betty or Veronica?" from Leave It to Binky #69 (DC, 1969) by Henry Scarpelli maybe?
Was DC's teen book Leave It to Binky a straight-up rip-off of Archie? You be the judge. No, wait, I don't think we need a judge at all. Yes. Yes it was.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

7 Soldiers of Avarice

"7 Soldiers of Avarice" from Leading Comics #12 (World's Best, 1944) by Joe Samachson and Arthur Cazeneuve
Golden Age history lesson: Back in the day, DC Comics was actually two companies - National and All-American - which shared some ownership and advertized together, etc. They collaborated on one book, All-Star Comics, getting a bunch of characters together as the Justice Society of America, and it became a big hit for the actual publisher, All-American Comics, to which the Spectre and Starman had been lent. So National decided it should have its own team book, bringing exclusive National stars together. Now, I love the 7 Soldiers of Victory as much as the next guy (probably more than the next guy), but it wouldn't be too far from the truth to say "all the good ones were taken". Green Arrow & Speedy are just about the only big names, with the Star-Spangled Kid & Stripesy, Crimson Avenger, Shining Knight and Vigilante bringing up the rear. While the JSA was all classic guys with capes, the 7 Soldiers was where a knight, a cowboy, and a Robin Hood came together to fight crime with a couple of spandex guys and two sidekicks.

Leading Comics led the way to DC dropping most of its superheroes when in 1945, with issue 15, it went all funny animals on its disinterested public. It's where Peter Porkchop got his big break. You superhero fanboys know him now as Pig-Iron.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Newsboy L.E.G.I.O.N.

"Newsboy L.E.G.I.O.N." from L.E.G.I.O.N. '94 Annual #5 (DC, 1994) by Tom Peyer and Kieron Dwyer
Sorry about yet another silly LEGION cover, but they're so fun. Let's talk about the series itself, however. I was a big fan of LEGION (and REBELS too). It had the thrill of seeing prequeled references to concepts I liked already in the Legion of Super-Heroes. It didn't take itself too seriously. It had a callous super-smart character in Vril Dox, which I loved. And he was counter-balanced by a cast that had a big heart where he had only a head. May I say? It's just about the only place Lobo was standable other than his first two or three solo projects, after which the joke wasn't funny anymore. Through writer, artist and character changes, the book never became boring, and it may just be the best "space" book DC ever put out. Yes I'm including the Green Lantern Corps stuff.