Friday, February 14, 2014

A Thankless Task

"A Thankless Task" from Zero Hour: Crisis in Time #0 (1994) by Dan Jurgens and Jerry Ordway
Yeah, not much Extraordinary Ordway there, sorry, and all for the sake of a joke. Zero Hour was heir to Crisis on Infinite Earths, required to fix the bugs Crisis had failed to fix, or to put it better, had created itself. And of course, caused problems of its own. Hardest hit was the Legion of Super-Heroes which started on its journey to unlimited reboots, feels like (that included Valor). "Fixing" Hawkman actually made things worse too. LEGION to REBELS wasn't my favorite change either. Hal Jordan's death and redemption, I suppose was a necessary piece of the Green Lantern puzzle. The only series "born" of Zero Hour with any lasting power or critical success was Starman, launched along with turkeys like Extreme Justice, Fate, Primal Force, Manhunter (the one no one remembers) and Xenobrood. Yeeech.

That post title is me being facetious. I've enjoyed the the almost three years of running this little side-blog, but now the whiteness has come over it and I'm ending it. I started showcasing splash pages from across all of comicdom, then gave myself more structure by splashing DC Comics series alphabetically. Now that this structure is complete (or as complete as I care to make it), I think I'm done. I need to time to work on other projects. Still, more than a thousand splashes for your consideration in the backlog. Thanks for stopping by, and thanks to all the artists featured for the work they've given us over the last dozen decades.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Zatanna Down the Rabbit Hole

"Zatanna Down the Rabbit Hole" from Zatanna vol.2 #2 (2010) by Paul Dini, Stephane Roux and Karl Story
I've heard good things about Zatanna's last series (only monthly, really), but wasn't really hooked after a couple of issues, Dini had disappointed me on Streets of Gotham, etc. I didn't stay the course despite my interest in supporting books starring female characters. Not too late to sell me on it. I might be willing to read the collections one day.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Mad Mad Modes of Moderns

"Mad Mad Modes of Moderns" from Young Love #61 (1967) by Ric Estrada
Oh romance comics! That's about as much commentary as I can give. Not because I'm dismissive of the genre, but I just don't know very much about it! Don't know much about fashion either.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Young Justice Halloween Party

"Young Justice Halloween Party" from Young Justice #3 (1998) by Peter David, Todd Nauck and Lary Stucker
When the Titans grew up, or were replaced by no-names or whatever was happening in that book, the real sidekicks and higher-end super teens could be found in Young Justice. A whole lot of fun the Titans stuff should have aspired to! Sadly, many of these guys would wind up in a Titans book eventually. Bad move.

Hey, I still need to watch the cartoon series!

Monday, February 10, 2014

Young Heroes in Angst

"Young Heroes in Angst" from Young Heroes in Love #8 (1998) by Dan Raspler, Dev Madan and Keith Champagne
This was a lovely little series that had everything going against it except quality. All new characters, the word "Love" in the title, and light-hearted tone and art? That would never have flown for long. I'm really grateful for the time we did have, 18 issues, one of them a Million issue, so, you know, we can pretend it lasted longer. Need to reread this sweet gem.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Golden Age Flashback

"Golden Age Flashback" from Young All-Stars Annual #1 (DC, 1988) by Roy & Dann Thomas and Joe Kubert
One of the worst things Crisis on Infinite Earths did was kill All-Star Squadron. Roy Thomas convinced DC to let him relaunch the book with a focus on a team of kids going around the country to sell war bonds (obviously, superheroics ensued). And really, nothing against these characters, some of which were pre-extisting Golden Age characters, but the art was never very enjoyable - the exception being the odd flashback splash, see above - and going New Format, at least for me, far from comic book stores at the time, made it hard to come by.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Hang Time

"Hang Time" from Xer0 #2 (DC, 1997) by Christopher Priest, Chriscross and Tom Simmons
I read the entire series not so long ago, and liked it very much. Needs to be collected!

Friday, February 7, 2014

World's Worst

"World's Worst" from World's Finest Comics #156 (DC, 1966) by Edmond Hamilton, Curt Swan and George Klein
My era of World's Finest Comics was the tail end, in the 80s, obviously, when Superman and Batman were good friends whose friendship had recently been tested. It felt natural, and it would take years in the post-Crisis era before they could be that friendly again (if they actually did, I'm not sure). But the stories weren't particularly memorable. I've since gone back to discover older, crazier stories from the Silver Age (above), and the Super-Sons stuff from the 70s, and obviously, the book dates back to the Golden Age where it presented other strips like Stat-Spangled Kid and Green Arrow (and would again, Clark and Bruce weren't always the world's finest team in the Bronze Age). I don't think these ever WERE the World's Finest Comics, but you could argue that at least, Superman and Batman were the World's Finest TEAM. For a while at least.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Children of the Bat

"Children of the Bat" from World's Finest vol.3 #6 (DC, 2013) by Paul Levitz and Kevin Maguire
While the World's Finest team will always be Superman and Batman back when they were real friends, the New52's use of Earth-2 Power Girl and Huntress, children of the formerly-Golden-Age Superman and Batman, come a close second. The series is quite literally a thing of parts. Originally designed with George Perez handling the lukewarm present-day sequences and Kevin Maguire doing the charming 5-years-ago comedy of sisters discovering their roles in a new world, that paradigm I suppose couldn't last forever. Artists come and go, and the Year 1 stuff was eventually phased out. Still, while I don't find the plots particularly memorable, I do like the relationship between the heroines enough to keep reading.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Red Wedding

"Red Wedding" from Wonder Woman vol.4 #10 (DC, 2012) by Brian Azzarello, Tony Akins and Dan Green
Wonder Woman gets married to Hades in a New52 issue of her book, a book, I should mention, almost entirely divorced from the rest of DC continuity. So much so, a recent appearance of Azzarello's creepy Greek gods in Superman/Wonder Woman seemed ill-fitting at best. I read this book, and I enjoy this book, but I'm not sure what to tell you about it. Certainly, the story is interminable, but I'm not sure that's a minus. I mean, we're always condemning "writing for the trade" in 6-issue arcs, aren't we? It's not exactly the premise DC sold us originally - Wonder Woman as Buffy, fighting monsters from myth - but it's still a reinvention of myth and far closer to horror fantasy than it is to superheroics. It's the Vertigo version of Wonder Woman, I guess you could say.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Polar Bears Love Her

"Polar Bears Love Her" from Wonder Woman vol.3 #34 (DC, 2009) by Gail Simone, Aaron Lopresti and Matt Ryan
Volume 3 of Wonder Woman got me interested in Wonder Woman for what I would say was the first real time (in comics form anyway). But not from its first issue. The early issues were apparently a real mess, with Diana as a secret agent, and book author Jodi Picoult apparently failing to make deadlines. I got in when Gail Simone got in (#14), and she wrote a great Wonder Woman, with just the right personality, even making some of the elements of the previous year WORK, while adding a lot of Simoney strangeness that, I think, related well to Diana's Golden Age origins. I'm sad that era of the Amazon's life had to end, with JMS coming in and screwing everything up, then forcing some poor shlub to follow his cocktail napkin notes to the end of the story while he still got story credit and presumably cashed a check. Phil Hester wasn't able to rescue the storyline the way Chris Roberson had somehow saved JMS' equally awful Superman story (I say equally, but it was even worse).

Monday, February 3, 2014

Hermes' Tour of Mythical Greece

"Hermes' Tour of Mythical Greece" from Wonder Woman vol.2 #14 (DC, 1987) by George Perez, Greg Potter and Bruce D. Patterson
Volume 2 of Wonder Woman (post-Crisis) gave us almost another 10 years of stories and again, Diana was pulled into all sorts of different directions, some good, some not so good. Perez' original vision tying her more closely than ever before to Greek myth was worthy and featured good art, but it never really turned my crank. I don't know what it was about it. Might be interesting to revisit the 5-year era. Messner-Loebs then took over and no one remembers what he did with the character until Mike Deodato came on and "Imaged" Diana. The book became all about T&A and Diana was replaced by Artemis because all the DC heroes at the time had to be temporarily replaced with darker characters (Azbats, the four Supermen, and so on), or more permanently by the next generation (Green Arrow, Green Lantern, etc.). That mercifully ended at #100, and John Byrne's more superhero-driven vision brought me back to the book, albeit not for long. It's not that I didn't like the idea that Diana was given her own DC city (Gateway City) or the stories that led to a Golden Age Wonder Woman who could be part of the JSA, it's that his page layouts often amounted to 2 panels a page, and the quickest read in comics. I couldn't support it for long. After that, I lost sight of the book though I've heard good things about both the Jimenez and the Rucka runs, especially the latter.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Corn Crop

"Corn Crop" from Wonder Woman vol.1 #25 (National, 1947) by William Moulton Marston and Harry G. Peter
I really do enjoy looking at Golden Age Wonder Woman stories, though perhaps not for the reasons Marston thought America's youth would. The bondage stuff is pretty crazy, but then so is the rest of this science fiction/fantasy strip. It's certainly got a unique look! Silver Age Wonder Woman is comparatively boring (especially when you look at the insane Superman and Batman stories of the time) and though I like the Mod (powerless) Wonder Woman of the early Bronze Age in principle, it's not that great in execution. 80s pre-Crisis Wonder Woman, well, only really worth it for the Huntress back-up, though I'm not as critical as others of Don Heck's art on that book. Wonder Woman. Choosing splashes from each volume of Wonder Woman for this space, I'm struck at how much creative teams struggled with the character, making huge changes fairly frequently, and more often than not, missing the mark. But the Golden Age original still holds naive charm for me.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

My Dad Was Born on a Monday

"My Dad Was Born on a Monday" from Witching Hour vol.1 #8 (DC, 1970) by Sergio Aragones and Neal Adams
Witching Hour was yet another DC horror anthology, this one hosted by the Three Witches, who took turns telling the various tales, many of them with impressive art, especially early on, but the likes of Alex Toth and Neal Adams. The book lasted through the 70s (85 issues) and even went double-sized for a while so it could reprint older anthology material. The interplay between the witches, who seemed to have a richer life than, say, Cain or Abel, made every issue a little more fun than most anthologies.

Friday, January 31, 2014

The Existentialism of Cliff Steele

"The Existentialism of Cliff Steele" from Who's Who in the DC Universe #15 (DC, 1992) by Richard Case
In the early 90s, Who's Who came back with a completely different format. Loose leaf products were all the rage - I also own a great many pieces of AD&D's Monstrous Compendium, similarly packaged - and the idea was that you could order your Who's Who whichever way you liked, whether alphabetical or by type, or even by team. The Doom Patrol entries had that white stripe format, just like the book's covers, that would have made that idea very natural. I'd rather have bound comics and books, but I do admit the illustrations were generally gorgeous, big and in full color, and the binders very beautiful (if much too full, especially once I added the DC Heroes RPG companion loose leafs). Because of the high production values, I'm afraid this version of Who's Who wasn't as "complete" as the original, no room for more obscure characters, but they did do some delightful things with it - longer fold-outs, a Vertigo issue, Sandman in black with white script, Death with a sort of cheeky non-entry... But I don't consider it superior to the original series.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Dial H for Hero

"Dial H for Hero" from Who's Who: The Definitive Directory of the DC Universe #6 (DC, 1985) by Len Wein, Marv Wolfman, Howard Bender and Dennis Jenson
I've made my love of the original Who's Who plain over at Siskoid's Blog of Geekery, both through overt tribute and through a series of posts called Who's This? which I consider to be a companion piece of the extremely fun Who's Who podcast recorded by blogging friends Shag and Rob! Do I need to go on? Yes, let's. In choosing which entry to use as a "splash", I instinctively went to vol.VI, which I've always considered my favorite. Why? Well, part of it is that at the time, my 9th-grade self had started toying with a concept I called the Super 7, which was a superhero team that changed each month, and whose members were drawn from each issue of Who's Who. The first team was from this issue. Further, the game was to attribute seven identities to myself and six friends, and WHY did our superhero identities change each month? It just now hit me: It's because the whole idea came up while contemplating the Dial H for Hero entry. The strip was an old favorite of mine, I'd just forgotten it was intimately related to the Super 7 thing! Well there you go.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Stagecoach Vigilante

"Stagecoach Vigilante" from Western Comics #1 (National, 1948) by Mort Meskin
Vigilante only lasted four issues of Western Comics (was this DC's first of the genre?), but I do find it interesting that a modern-day hero with a western shtick was initially included in a primarily 19th-century classic western anthology that also spawned the Wyoming Kid, Pow-Wow Smith, Matt Savage Trail Boss, and Nighthawk.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Iron Wolves

"Iron Wolves" from Weird Worlds vol.1 #9 (DC, 1974) by Howard Chaykin, John Warner and Vicente Alcazar
Weird Worlds started out with Pelucidar and John Carter of Mars stories, and in its final issues, featured Chaykin's Ironwolf stuff, reprinted later in the character's own book (though not this House of... material).

Monday, January 27, 2014

Promise to a Princess

"Promise to a Princess" from Weird Western Tales vol.1 #12 (DC, 1972) by John Albano and Tony De Zuniga
It should have been the western equivalent of Weird War Tales - i.e. this particular adventure should have featured a fairy tale princess or something - but it was mostly a Jonah Hex book, with side-orders of El Diablo, Scalphunter and Cinnamon. Not that these guys' stories couldn't get a little weird, but they were a far cry from, say, Super-Chief. Certainly not Creature Commandos level.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

War Is Death

"War Is Death" from Weird War Tales vol.1 #100 (DC, 1981) by Joe Kubert
Can you believe this anthology series ran for 124 issues? And mostly without the benefit of the Haunted Tank or the War That Time Forgot, too! (The latter did make a return in WWT, but had been a mainstay in Star-Spangled War Stories.) New weirdness eventually came in the form of G.I. Robot, Viking Commando and the Creature Commandos, but they all came pretty late to the party. On the weird things today is Death as narrator. Because she wasn't in her cute Goth chick form, I never realized she was another of Sandman's "horror hosts".