Sunday, 31 May 2015

DC Spotlight: Batman #214 (1969)



Batman #214 (DC Comics)

Frank Robbins  (w) Irv Novick & Joe Giella (a)

From the silver age of comics comes this odd little story Batman's Marriage Trap co-starring Batgirl. A TV competition for glamorous women has a prize no girl could turn down. A night (or should it be Knight) out with the Batman. Of course this draws the attention of one of Gothams other most-wanted   the mob.

By launching "operation monitor" they can follow Batman's whereabouts and commit crime elsewhere.

Of course there's more as gangsters moll Cleo, enters the scene with a scam.

"I represent the organisation W.E.B...Yes, Gentlemen W.E.B. Women to End Batchelorhood. We are a non profit..altruistic..group of unmarried women...who wish to remove the one barrier to happy marriage in Gotham the symbol of all single male eligibles..Batman, the most eligible bachelor in town."

A nefarious plot to get Batman married and out the way?

Well it was the sixties and this is a comic book.

This was also the era of Adam West need I say more.

Other similar Bat-features included:

 

Surface Tension (Titan Comics)

[Cover Art Image]

Surface Tension (Titan Comics)

Jay Gunn (w) & (a)

A new series from a British company, a rare event these days though Titan Comics is gradually expanding it's publishing programme and is running three Doctor Who comic books in the American format. This title caught my attention as it sounded a little different to most of the apocalyptic fare that is on the stands these days which is a little too "zombie orientated" if you ask me.

Nothing wrong with Zombies but the word overdone does come to mind.

Set on one of the Channel Islands, a small community has survived the disappearance of most of mankind into the sea a year ago.

No one has returned... until now.

With no adverts this is a good value opener which sets up the current sate of play, explains the back story and begins the on-going horror.

Surface_Tension_PREVIEW4

Highly recommended.

Saturday, 30 May 2015

Charlton Comics: Gorgo #18 (1964)



Gorgo #18 (Charlton Comics)

Over the years I have been collecting comics this title is one I have both heard of and seen on sale but never got around to picking up a copy. The early issues of Gorgo were drawn by the great Steve Ditko (Spiderman/Doctor Strange) though he didn't do this issue. No credits are given for art and story (which was fairly common back in those days) but the work has it's charm nevertheless.

Set in the "near distant future" (judging by the texts reference to the 60's and 70's) this comic actually published in 1964 shows a bunch of gigantic robotic aliens set off to conquer us backward humans.

Gorgo is playing with a hunter deep in the jungle oblivious to the coming dangers while his mother sleeps. Even monsters have mothers it would seem and she's even bigger.

After destroying Los Angeles, Moscow and Johannesburg the world is given an ultimatum to surrender then the unnamed aliens come across Gorgo...... and get a bit of a shock.

Obviously reminiscent of the better known Godzilla this title published by the now defunct Charlton Comics line lasted 23 issues from 1961 to 1964.

 

As you might guess monster might beats higher technology, but one question remains.

Where's Gorgo's dad?

And to end the trailer from the original movie which you can also find on You Tube. Great fun.

Monday, 25 May 2015

New releases: Superboy & The Legion, Trees and Archie vs Predator?



Convergence: Superboy & The Legion of Superheroes #2

Stuart Moore (w) Peter Gross & Mark Farmer (a)

One of the more interesting of the Convergence two-part tie ins is the final apart of the Legion story. A future Metropolis is freed from the dome to face the wrath of the Atomic Knights? Seriously two quite divergent future incarnations of the DC Universe from the past meet in the future. well outside time and space to be accurate, but you get the drift.

Superboy and the Legion of Superheroes are an important component of DC Comics history, once a top-selling series that is currently on hiatus due to low sales. However the Legion has a fan base who will probably "knit-pick" about continuity but then like most readers I prefer a good tale rather than trying to align either the Legion or any other character to DC's publishing history which is now over 75 years since Superman appeared.

 

The Atomic Knights who ride giant dalmatians wearing  medieval armour may not be familiar to a lot of modern or certainly casual readers. They originally ran in Strange Adventures between 1960 and 1964 first appearing in issue #117. A hardcover collection of their adventures was published in 2010 if you can find a copy. Highly recommended for fans of the DC "silver age".

As for this story. Far too short for all the different heroes appearing here, but very worthwhile picking up!



Trees #9 (Image Comics)

Warren Ellis (w) Jason Howard (a)

The second volume of Warren Ellis's epic science fiction adventure returns this month. The "Trees" as mankind call them appeared on the Earth 11 years ago. Obviously alien in origin they have just been sitting there all this time and life has gone on. Whole communities have developed underneath some of them and fighting took place around the smallest of these objects in Somalia.

Things are changing. The black flowers have appeared in one polar region and they are far from benign. Now the Home Office calls on the lone survivor of the expedition to go to the Orkney's to observe the only "Tree" in the British Isles.

To end this particular issue we flash back 11 years to see the arrival of the New York "Tree" and the destruction it caused. The US military were also watching.....

The back story from the first 12 issues is available as a trade paperback.



Trees Vol #1. Highly recommended.




Archie Vs Predator #2 (Dark Horse Comics)

Alex de Campi (w) Fernando  Riz (a)

Returning from their holiday the Riverdale gang sit down in Pops Dine for cake. Betty frets about the cost of the dress she borrowed and then ruined from Cheryl only to hear that her petty enemy was somewhat dead.  Cue the head being blown off Pops himself the action starts again.

Not that this puts Jughead off his cake.

There's a threat in town and Betty blames herself for raising a curse in the jungle Temple she discovered.

Betty and Veronica set off the see resident witch Sabrina to get the curse lifted.

Another cue. Sabrina gets killed and her head and spine are taken by an ugly looking predator.

The twist? Aw you must have guessed. This is a teenage predator.

And the killing continues.

Two issues left. How many of the gang will survive?

Sunday, 24 May 2015

DC Spotlight: Superman #184 (1966)



Superman #184 (DC Comics)

No credits for (w) or (a)

The cover of this edition of Superman was the thing that attracted me to picking up a (reasonably priced) copy a couple of years back. It was one that I had seen advertised as a child but had never manged to read. One of the attractions of DC comics back in the sixties when I started reading comics was their covers. Always good and quite often misleading, but usually worth the price 10d according to the shop stamp on my copy.

The story Demon under the Red Sun was one of those quirky adventures where Superman had to get out of a fix without using his superpowers.

An astronaut claims he saw a planet zig-zagging through the solar system. Nobody believes him so our "boy scout" goes out to investigate and lo and behold hidden behind a "cosmic cloud" (don't ask) is the rogue planet.

Finding the planet is powered from inside (including artificial gravity) Supes has a wee bit of an accident which leads to the planet ending up under a red sun. As we all know Superman has no powers under a red sun.

The aliens (who seem to be human, as were a lot of them in those days) think he's a demon and set him some tasks before they execute him. Hence the cover.

With a little help he escapes and eventually comes back to earth but not before he kick starts their development with the wheel.

Other comics I'd like to get my hands on one of these days (just for the cover) include:

 

Saturday, 23 May 2015

DC Spotlight: Action Comics #289 (1962)



Action Comics #289 (DC Comics)

Various (w) & (a)

This issue of Action Comics was published way back in 1962 before I was a comic reader (my earliest memories are around the 1965 mark) and contain the charming all-ages Superman (and Supergirl) stories that are representative of the "silver age" of comics that I grew up with.

The first adventure starring Superman pits both the hero himself and his alter ego Clark Kent against a practical joker plaguing the offices of the Daily Planet. Starring the usual supporting cast of Lois Lane, Jimmy Olsen and Perry White the pals have to deal with the spoilt brat of a son of one of the Planet's shareholders a certain Dexter Willis.

One of his pranks with a hair cutter raises the periods Lois Lane's suspicions that Clark is Superman. Fear not Clark gets out of this and  the joke eventually ends up on the prankster.

It was the second story starring Supergirl that is featured on the cover.

Supergirl decides Superman should have some romance and tries to set him up with various women from across time and space despite her foster parents warning she should not interfere. A romantic tragedy ensues.

What also got my attention was a letter to the Editor (Letters pages are mostly a thing of the past these days more's the pity) from Andy Golub bemoaning the fact Supergirl's existence had been revealed to the world. Originally she had been "hidden" as a potential "secret weapon" in case of an emergency. However this chap was in a minority and Supergirl became a major character in the DC universe until her death in Crisis on Infinite Earths in 1985.

 

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

What If? featuring Thor (2006)



What If: Thor #1 (Marvel Comics)

Robert Kirkman (w) Michael Avon Oeming (a)

One of the more fun titles on the market were those like What If which showed superheroes in alternative worlds and scenarios. Just for the fun of it.

This one off issue published in 2006 shows Thor saving Asgard from being eaten (literally) by becoming the herald of Galactus. Written by Robert Kirkman of Walking Dead fame who certainly produced a good script and of course this is all turns out to be a plot by Thor's evil half brother Loki.

Art is from Michael Avon Oeming who illustrated the Powers series written by Brian Michael Bendis which I understand may become a TV series to watch out for in the not to distant future.

My own first experience of this type of story were the so-called "Imaginary Stories" that DC used to publish about Superman in the sixties. Marvel was to take this further when it launched the first of two main runs of What If in the late seventies.

I have picked up a couple of these:

  



What if indeed!

Sunday, 17 May 2015

Spider-Man Comics Weekly (1974)



Spider-Man Comics Weekly (Marvel Comics UK)

Various (w) & (a)

Spider-Man Comics Weekly was the second of Marvel Comics weekly UK titles and their longest running though the name changed over the years. I didn't buy these comics when they first came out as they appeared around the time I left school and became more interested in booze and girls as you do at that age. However like the Marvel Superheroes magazines that I purchased recently these are a great way of catching up with old stories that in their US format without spending large amounts of money that none of us can afford at the moment.

I was a great fan of the old Stan Lee/Steve Ditko Spiderman whose adventures I caught up in with Marvel Tales and Power Comics reprints in Pow! back in the sixties.

 

Those were the great days of Spidey and his supporting cast.

Spider-Man #46 was the Christmas issue for 1974 and contained a complete story reprinted from the 1967 US edition To Die A Hero which I have read sometime in the past but cannot recall in which format. It features the death of Frederick Foswell. The back up feature was a shortened Thor strip presumably from Journey into Mystery but I'm not to sure about that, perhaps someone can enlighten me!

Marvel announce in this issue the change of format that most readers will be familiar with. The change to "glossy covers". Being quite inexpensive I picked up three of these for now.

 

The Spider-Man stories were shortened (presumably because they were catching up with the monthly US editions) and Iron Man joined Thor as a back up.



Cracking comics well worth being part of your collection and from the days when I did think Marvel Comics deserved their acclaim.

Saturday, 16 May 2015

Marvel Black & White: Monsters Unleashed #1 (1973)



Monsters Unleashed (Marvel Comics)

Writers & Artists (various)

The first issue of Marvel Comics second attempt to compete with Warren in the Black & White magazine more "adult" orientated market.  Like its longer established rival this edition contained a number of stand alone horror stories which like all anthologies vary in quality.

Kicking off with The Man Who Cried Werewolf a story about love, betrayal and revenge the scene is set for the appearance of all the usual monsters. A Vampire Tale set in a court room, Zombies in One Foot in the Grave and a woman whose beauty is somewhat fake.

Robert E Howard's Puritan adventurer Soloman Kane appears in Skulls in the Stars and there's a science fiction story World of the Warlocks to round off the issue.

In future issues much of the content is taken up featuring the line of Marvel line of supernatural characters such as the Man-Thing, Frankenstein and even the Wendigo.

Monsters Unleashed lasted 11 issues plus one annual. Worth tracking down.

  

Thursday, 14 May 2015

Archie Adventure Series: The Fly (1961)



The Fly #15 (Archie Comics)

Writers & Artists (various)

With Archie comics currently re-launching their superhero line for the modern reader I noticed that the most successful of their characters has yet to appear,The Fly. Created by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby in 1959 ran erratically through to the mid sixties.

This series was best remembered for its absurd and sometimes laughable stories and plots which is actually what makes this a fun read.

Tommy Troy was given a magic ring by Turon from the dimension of fly-people which allowed him to gain super powers. Later the character inexplicably grew up becoming Thomas Troy a lawyer.

This comic published in October 1961 contains three short stories. The Invincible Spider Machine and features recurring villain The Spider, an alien making mischief in The Master of Disaster and The Prey of The Shark Men which is exactly who we meet on the beach.

 

The Fly lasted 30 issues before being transformed into Fly-Man and Archie's failed attempt to emulate Marvels success by branding their titles as the Mighty Comics Group.

British readers like myself were more familiar with the Fly as a result of the reprints in the Alan Class range of comics.



Eventually the entire line simply disappeared off the market as the sales dropped and Archie returned to publishing it's core line.

 

Come the comics boom in the eighties Archie re-launched and re-branded their comics as Red Circle. Personally I thought they were pretty good but The Fly lasted a mere 9 issues in this early direct market attempt. The latter issues were even drawn by Steve Ditko.



The question now remains when will The Fly return?

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Marvel Flashback: Tales of Suspense #87 (1966)



Tales of Suspense #87 (Marvel Comics)

Iron Man: Stan Lee (w) Gene Colan (a) 

Captain America Roy Thomas (w) Jack Stirling (a)

One of the comics I used to read from the mid sixties was Tales of Suspense which had a "double feature" line-up of Iron Man and Captain America. This format was also used in the companion titles Tales to Astonish (Sub-Mariner/Hulk) and Strange Tales (Doctor Strange/Nick Fury Agent of Shield) which helped make the "Marvel Age of Comics" something to remember.

These early days of Marvel Comics were held back by a disastrous distribution contract which led to restriction of Stan Lee's efforts by their main rival. Hence the use of split formats to feature more characters.

This particular issue sees Tony Stark/Iron Man conduct an experiment in his factory frightening the locals and attracting the criminal element leading to a confrontation below the Earth. The disappearance of buildings is blamed on Stark when in fact the sinister Mole Man was the real culprit. Iron Man heads towards an ambush.

Meanwhile The Peerless Planner impersonates Captain America in a short story which sees our hero being blamed for a series of bank robberies. Doesn't end well for the villainous one.

Eventually a new distributor allowed Marvel Comics to expand with Captain America taking over the Tales of Suspense title along with the numbering whilst Iron finally gets his own comic with a brand new number one.

Excelsior!

 

Monday, 11 May 2015

Archie/Dark Circle: The Fox #2



The Fox (Archie/Dark Circle Comics)

Dean Haspiel & Mark Waid (w) Dean Haspiel (a)

The second issue of The Fox hit stands this week and what a joy to read it was. Talk about our poor hero attracting the weird.

An ordinary bank robbery turns out to be a trap and The Fox faces Brontosaurus, and no he doesn't look anything like one.

The second shock?

His son turns into a superhero.. The Ghost Fox. Talk about keeping it in the family! Dads not happy though...

Then the Mad Gadgeteer attacks after rescuing his prey from a giant who goes by the name of The Insidious Elasto.

The nearest title that I can compare this to is Invincible. The humour, the violence and story telling would make a good inter-company team up opportunity at a later date. After all they teamed up Invincible with The Tick so why not!

I can't recommend this title enough.

Here's a sneak peak!




The other Dark Circle title currently in the shops id the Black Hood #3. Very gritty and grim in comparison.

 

Coming soon The Shield and a house ad for The Hangman has now appeared.

Now all we need is The Fly...... and don't forget Fly Girl (or woman since since this is the modern age!)

Archie and their Dark Circle imprint are worth keeping an eye out for.

Sunday, 10 May 2015

Marvel Superheroes (UK Magazine 1979)



Marvel Superheroes (Marvel UK)

Writers & Artists (various)

Over the past year or so I have gradually taken an interest in Marvel UK comics which when originally published I had little to no interest in mainly because I had easy access to the original format US editions. However as time moves on and I find it either difficult to obtain or afford certain Marvel editions these have become a useful way of "bridging the gap".

On a whim I decided to pick up five issues of Marvel Superheroes a monthly black & white comic which continues the numbering from Mighty World of Marvel/Marvel Comic weeklies, hence there is no "number one" issue and this begins with issue 353.

The issue pictured at the top of this post shows one of those inevitable fights between superheroes which seems to take place as a matter of course not just in Marvel Comics but their "Distinguished Competition" as the company used to refer to their main rivals.

The presence of the Ant-Man, shortly to be a major movie was a bonus as back issues starring the character have rocketed in cost of late.

 

The Avengers took the lead spot in this comic but the Champions strip starring Hercules, Iceman, Black Widow and the Ghosts Rider proved an interesting read especially since I had never read the American originals. The X-Men also appeared mainly wandering around the Savage Land fighting Ka-Zar and/or Magneto.

 

The comic was redesigned (a common event of Marvel UK publications) and we were treated to a Jim Starlin pencilled adventure from one of the Avengers annuals which actually looked very good in the larger black & white format of UK comics.

These comics are not expensive and worth collecting if you can find copies. There are 45 editions of Marvel Superheroes (last issue being #397) which ended up being merged with The Daredevils.

I'll be dipping in to Marvel UK again at a later date.