Thursday, 30 June 2016
DC Super-Stars #3 (DC)
Jim Shooter (w) Curt Swan (a)
Featuring Superboy & the Legion of Super-Heroes this edition of the reprint title DC Super-Stars brings readers to a different kind of Legion story , one where they are all adults and receive a visit from Superman rather than Superboy.
Reprinted from Adventure Comics #354 & #355 this tells the tale of a traitor in the ranks of the Legion of Super-Heroes or so they are led to think as their secrets are stolen, weapons and spacecraft damaged and sabotaged.
Superman arrives in a later time period than he used to visit as a boy and finds Cosmic Boy now Cosmic Man slightly balding as are other former comrades, many of whom have now left the Legion, married and are settled with kids. A different world to the one readers were used to when Superboy was a lad.
Short of personnel the Legion has had to merge with its "substitutes" to keep the flag flying and despite all the wondrous technology, (some of which we see as Clark traverses the universe meeting up with his old pals) they cannot figure out the mystery of the saboteur.
Needless to say following the old costume "switcheroo" trick they find Kid Ferro's twin brother is responsible. Or is he?
Of course not. Enter the Legion of Super-Villains.
A cracking little tale from the sixties represented for the seventies that's still worth a read today. Sadly the Legion no longer have a comic or it seems a place in the DC universe. The future has changed, for the worse if you followed Justice League 3000/3001.
Hopefully now that books (sadly) cancelled, DC's rebirth will bring back the Legion.
Tuesday, 28 June 2016
Excalibur #1 (Marvel Comics)
Chris Claremont (w) Alan Davis (a)
A Marvel comic set in the UK featuring Captain Britain with a team of mutants. Phoenix, Nightcrawler, Shadowcat and Caps girlfriend Meggan. With art by Captain Britain's "definitive" artist whats not to like. And like this series was as it lasted 125 monthly issues!
This first issue is not quite the beginning, that was in the one-shot The Sword is Drawn. Here however the adventures of Marvel UK's greatest creation continues into the world, the multiverse and beyond.
The first issue sees our team begin to gel as they fight the Warhounds who have a rather disgusting habit of using human skin for disguise. These evil hounds kidnap Kitty Pride (shadowcat) thinking she's Phoenix.
Well Kitty is disguised as Phoenix.
It's the third issue that really sees the team "gel" as a unit as Excalibur moves into Brian Braddocks home, a lighthouse which becomes their base of operations and leads inevitable squabbling.
Did I mention there's some odd happenings here. Through the wardrobe doesn't cut it really.
And Cap really should cut down on the whiskey.
The beginning of a great comic book epic that is entertaining, full of action and doesn't take itself too seriously......
Monday, 27 June 2016
One of the short lived titles published by Marvel during its attempt to break into the more adult black & white magazine market was Unknown Worlds of Science Fiction. Sadly despite turning short stories by famous sci-fi writers into comics the magazine failed to reach an audience and lasted just 6 bi-monthly issues.
The fourth issue is the first I've picked up and like most anthology books the content is of varied interest and quality depending on one's individual tastes but does make a good read.
Framed between a story of an alien going to a curiosity shop to buy "slow glass" there are 5 stories including one "sword and sorcery" stip which seemed a wee bit out of place here even if it was written by Larry Niven and adapted for comic book presentation.
Not Long before the end tells the tale of a treacherous barbarian and his mystical sword in battle with a mage. Scripted by Doug Monech and pencilled by Vicente Alcazar this is an entertaining little adventure in which one does not particularly feel any empathy for either combatant.
Preceding this was Occupation Force a kind of Invaders story where a David Vincent type tries unsuccessfully to warn the world of an impending alien invasion. Nobody believes him...until it's far too late!
Gestation by a young Bruce Jones who both scripts and draws this tale is not very original, made worse by the font used to imitate the handwriting in a journal.
Nor was I impressed with Repent harlequin! Said the Tick Tock Man, adapted from a story by Harlan Ellison. Scripted by Roy Thomas with art from Alex Nimo I decided to call it a day and skip to the final sequence of the framing story.
Also included is an interview with Frank Herbert, author of Dune, a novel I actually did read around the time this magazine came out.
Not a priority for collecting but I would pick up another given a reasonable price.
One final note Marvel did attempt to revive this title with an Annual using material that had already been prepared for publication following its cancellation. I guess they had hoped to revive interest but that was not be.
Sunday, 26 June 2016
Starfire #1 (DC)
David Michelinie (w) Mike Vosburg & Robert Smith (a)
The late seventies were not a good time for DC Comics as they had been surpassed by Marvel as the major comics company and were very obviously struggling. However DC were not quitters and attempted to garner the market by launching a range of titles to try and get their marketshare back.
DC launched a whole range of new formats (the famous "Dollar" comics) and new titles including the short-lived Beowulf, Steve Ditko's Shade the Changing Man and Starfire.
This comic set on a world of humans which was not earth but not explained further was a mix of science fiction and sorcery. Our tale begins with Starfire being cornered by the Mygors an extra-dimensional race who along with their rivals the Yorg had taken over the planet and were using mankind as pawns in their timeless war.
The Mygors, a brutal race of monsters had originally been brought to this planet to help one side of humanity beat the other. Of course in such an arms race the others called forth the Yorg. Both sets of aliens realised they could take over humanity for their own purposes.
The nightmare world into which Starfire was born.
Destined to be the sexual plaything of Mygor leader Sookaroth, the 18 year old girl makes her escape and is rescued by a priest who teaches her to fight with whom she falls in love with until he is murdered by the Mygors.
Swearing revenge Starfire sets forth to build an army and overthrow the invaders.
There are just eight issues in this series which failed due to low sales but it has the feel of other similar adventures that were all the rage in the seventies. One unusual feature of this heroine is that she is of mixed race rather than the caucasian norm that dominated the "funny books" (as the Americans call them).
The adventures are straightforward enough as she battles the Mygors, the Yarg, the Lightning Lords, and her own men who seem to try and "possess" her until Starfire teaches them the error of their ways.
By issue 7 her group is down to just two followers. I don't have the last edition but the story never finished that's for certain.
With reasonable scripting and art this is a solid book but not one that captured the imagination of enough readers at the time it came out.
Of course the name Starfire is now used by a certain Teen Titan, so there's no chance of a revival. But if you get a chance to pick up this short series it is a pleasant distraction if not exactly one of the greats of comic book lore.
Saturday, 25 June 2016
Launched the same week as Planet of the Apes, Dracula Lives was quite a different kind of comic for the British market. Pure Horror, albeit Marvel style. Given the fuss created by Mary Whitehouse over the mannequins coming to life in Doctor Who, a certain "Ding-a-Ling" and a cat and a mouse cartoon being too violent I'm surprised this passed under her radar. Thankfully it did.
This isn't the first time I've picked up or blogged about Dracula Lives but having decided to obtain up a few more copies the fact I managed to start with the 13th issue and then find I have exactly 13 issues of this comic has prompted me to buy some extra garlic with the shopping.
This is a great comic featuring not just the Lord of the Undead himself but also Werewolf by Night and the Frankenstein Monster all done in a more sympathetic style than perhaps one was used to from the Hammer Horror movies that were all the rage in those days.
Count Dracula starts of in Night of the Death Stalkers preparing his revenge against his enemies in a snow bound London which also sees a horde of rather hungry rats enter the fray.
Jack Russell our misunderstood lycanthrope is caught up in a mad scheme by Cephalos to obtain immortality.
Frankie meanwhile hunts for the last Frankenstein and is trapped in the cellar of Castle Frankenstein with yet another madman...and a giant spider.
All the good stuff nightmares are made of......
Friday, 24 June 2016
IDW is a small publishing company that puts out a great variety of comic books and graphic novels in varied formats. Some are successful, others are not. In 2005 long after the demise of the black & white comic book the company decided to revive the format with this quarterly series.
Now I have an admission to make. Whilst I purchased this when it came out I wasn't too keen when I flicked through and put it to one side. I finally read it yesterday when I came across the magazine in a pile of stuff in a corner.
My tasted have changed over the years and having recently started collecting old black & white magazines such as Creepy, Eerie and Vampirella which IDW based Doomed on, I was finally ready to dip in. And a good read it turned out to be.
There are five short stories introduced by a "host" in the form of Ms Doomed.
An adaptation of Richard Matheson's Blood Son is the first story about an odd little boy who gets weirder as he grows older, but exactly why does he behave that way. As for the family cat.....
Cuts is a variation on the tale of a Voodoo Doll which has a quite unexpected conclusion.
A struggling writer enters a parallel world to escape a murder he commits in Blood Rape of the Lust Ghouls. Only things are even worse there than he could imagine..
It's the final story that makes the book a great read. The Final Performance delivers a shock when a weary traveller books into a motel as the only guest. His one night stand with the girl who works there leads to an ending that you will read over more than once.
Overall a great comic. Sadly it only lasted four issues. I'll keep a lookout for the other three. Gets the thumbs up from me.
Doomed is also available in a collected trade.
Thursday, 23 June 2016
The Original Shield #1 (Archie Adventure Series/ 1984)
Various (w) & (a)
The Shield was the first superhero to appear in a US flag themed outfit, predating Captain America by nearly a year having first appeared in Pep Comics #1 in 1939 (cover dated Jan 1940). Like Captain America , the Shield ended up "frozen", though this time as a statue by the Eraser who had been hired by the mob to get rid of this troublesome hero.
In the eighties Archie were once again reviving their super-hero line and this time there were two, not one Shields. In order to differentiate when he got his own book it had to be called The Original Shield.
As in the forties Joe Higgins (the Shield's civilian identity) worked for the FBI and this relaunch saw a retelling of his origin over several issues as the Shield sets out to confront foes new and old meeting old friends along the way.
As a result of a confrontation with a villain called Boroff our man becomes aware of three mechanical men( or robots to use modern parlance) that he had confronted on his very first mission as a superhero. perceiving them as a threat Joe accompanies his boss Lisa Carvin to New York where these machines are due to be put on display.
While Joe Higgins sleeps on the plane he dreams of his origin from being a child witnessing his father's death and getting help from Edgar J Hoover to gain his revenge as a g-man. As a scientist he makes a suit that enhances his physical prowess and becomes the Shield.
The original origin of the Shield appeared in Shield/Wizard Comics #1 (1940).
The next issue continues the story where we learn of his gaining a sidekick in the form of Dusty and marrying Ellie, having a son and being trapped by the Eraser.
Sadly this comic only lasted 4 issues, the last two not being in my collection so how this all pans out will have to wait until I come across a copy. The story is quite passable for the era it was written in as was the art but annoyingly varied the artist from chapter to chapter.
Archies attempts at rebuilding it's superhero line in the eighties did not succeed.
Today's re-launch sees a completely different Shield in it's Dark Circle line but their tardiness in releasing this and other comics in their range does not bode well for their future despite much higher production values than in the past.
Oh and the new Shield is a woman......
Wednesday, 22 June 2016
Vampirella: Summer Nights (Harris Comics/Dark Horse Comics)
Various (w) & (a)
This little gem was published in the early nineties as Harris Comics re-launched the Warren horror franchise. This was a 48 page black & white "prestige" format edition with 4 stories over 48 pages and if you can find a copy grab it. This book contains everything you need to know about Vampi in one edition.
The first story starring Vampirella herself sees her meet the other Warren Comic hosts Uncle Creepy & Cousin Eerie in a cursed house somewhere in the countryside after being arrested for beating up a bunch of thugs. The policeman thinks she's a prostitute because of the way she dresses. Her costume contains very little material remember and their breaks down.
Sadly Creepy & Eerie just want to kill Vampi so a "family reunion" this is not!
Next up is a solo tale of Adam Van Helsing Vampirella's love interest and descendent of the famous vampire hunter. In a passable tale written by Kurt Busiek and drawn by Dave Cockrum Adam has to rescue some people trapped in a derelict church by a Tomb Vetch (no me neither).
Pendragon the magician gets his comeuppance for "deserting" his family while having the inevitable drink in a short story entitled Magic Tricks.
Last but far from being least comes a tale of Chelsea, now turned into a vampire with an equally material lacking costume and befriending a lonely little girl who is dead and remains trapped on the earthly plain as a ghost.
All the main characters being set up for the first of several Vampirella series that Harris Comics would go on to publish.
The real bonus is on the back of a fold out poster. An essay outlining the creative and fictional history of Vampirella.
Essential reading for all Vampi fans.
Now if they would only bring back her fan club....
Tuesday, 21 June 2016
Excalibur: The Sword is Drawn (Marvel Comics)
Chris Claremont (w) Alan Davis (a)
With the X-Men "dead" and threats still looming on the horizon, a series of events occur that will lead to the formation of a new team.
From a waking nightmare, shared it seems with Nightcrawler who has recently come out of a coma, Kitty pride meets some characters more associated with these shores from the pages of the sadly defunct Captain Britain Monthly.
Technet are are here and they want to collect a bounty in the form of Rachel Summers who in turn is on the run from Mojo and his warhounds who also want the same woman.
Meanwhile Captain Britain is somewhat, well "incapacitated", pissed to use a more colloquial term due to the death of his sister. Brian even spurns the comforts of his elvish girlfriend before being brought to his senses by Nightcrawler who literally throws him into the sea to sober up.
With the usual battle taking place wrecking a small London street our disparate band of heroes retire to the beach where they form the super-hero team with a difference, Excalibur!
Written in a style that doesn't take itself too seriously Claremont and Davis certainly deliver with this introduction to a wonderful comic that featured not just our "Captain" but introduced to the weird and wonderful multi-verse.
Monday, 20 June 2016
One of Marvels short-lived foray into the black & white magazine market was Vampire Tales featuring a variety of vampiric characters from their mainstream comic books in a more "adult" setting. Issues feature Morbius, the living vampire, Blade, Satana and Lilith, Daughter of Dracula plus a few short stories.
This edition starts off with Lilith as the main feature in which she kills men who tried to mug her and befriends an ordinary mortal, Martin Gold and helps avenge the death of his lover, a victim of a deranged axe-murderer with twisted morals.
Lilith by the way hates her father and became a vampire after Dracula abandons her to Gypsies who are subsequently murdered by the psychotic Lord of Darkness and does not have the fatal weaknesses of other vampires.
She is a day-walker. Committed to fighting her father's evil.....
There are four other tales of vampires in this issue, the best of which is Blood Death where a husband seeking immortality is turned into a vampire but meets an unexpected fate..at the hands of his loving wife.
This magazine like most of Marvels black & white output, Vampire Tales lasted for only a few issues. Eleven in all.
Sunday, 19 June 2016
The seventies saw not just a boom in the horror genre in both colour and the black and white magazines field but also the creation of a new, albeit short lived competitor in the marketplace.
This company launched with much fanfare and attracting a lot of talent from the comics world was around for barely a year or so before it collapsed, but Atlas did produce a few good comics including this one, Weird Tales of the Macabre aimed at the older reader in a black & white format.
The stories which were unrestrained by the oppressive and thankfully now departed Comic Code Authority because it was a magazine rather than a comic with the type of fare found in Warren Comics who dominated the "adult" market.
There are six tales in this issue, all of which were of a goof standard in story and art, even if a couple were far from original.
The Bog Beast is the story of a "muck monster" who rises from a tar pit to make contact and learn about the human race on behalf of the "Elders" of whom we learn nothing else as this was to be on-going story and this issue was to be the last. Needless to say man reacts the way you would expect, and is reminiscent of Man-Thing and Swamp-Thing from the big two, Marvel & DC.
Dr Mercurio's Diary is up next with a tale of vampiric rats will make you squeal.....
Pat Boyette of Charlton Comics fame produces a bizarre tale of Gods and scientists fighting demons with a twist of the sort you might just expect, Carrion of Gods.
However the best is saved for last with Who Toys with Terror about a boy, his Aurora Monster kits and an evil uncle. And then there is The Staff of Death with a moral that if you "witch-hunt", make sure that your victim isn't a real witch!
Just two issues in this short lived series. Hopefully I'll be able to pick up the first issue one of these day.
Saturday, 18 June 2016
Rok of the Reds (BHP Comics)
John Wagner & Alan Grant (w) Dan Cornwell (a)
A dying planet. A spaceship heads heads towards Earth containing a sole survivor. Except he's not what he seems. An alien shape-shifter reverts to his real form and blames himself for the deaths of countless lifeforms on the shattered planet.
Meanwhile on planet Earth Rok Dixon is playing up of the field again as he gets a "yellow card" and then a "red card" and is sent off the pitch.
And goes off the rails in the style of all those overpaid, egotistical footballer types we read about in the red top tabloids.
Drunk and friendless he sees a UFO.
The story begins.....
An Excellent beginning to a new mini-series by British publisher BHP Comics based in Glasgow. Offered in Previews UK a couple of months back this finally arrived in my subscription pile this week. I'm not a fan of football, but add aliens and my interest is piqued.
And I wasn't disappointed.
You can order this title from your local comic shop now or go to their website: bhpcomics.com
Sunday, 12 June 2016
This is a bit of an oddity. Not one I'd heard of until I picked up this issue in my local comic shop. There were just two issues, 7 years apart. Number 1 was published in 1969!
The first issue was published in the normal Us full colour format by veteran comic book artist Wally Wood and is one of the first "Independent" comic books. This contained three stories. The Misfits written and drawn by Wood himself, Dragonella a fantasy tale written by Ron Whyte and drawn by Wally Wood and Cannon, written by Wood and pencilled by one other veteran of comics, Steve Ditko.
The latter strip went on to appear in the US Army's Overseas Weekly as a serial from 1971.
Come 1976 and the second issue appeared in the larger, black and white magazine format. It's actually a very entertaining comic.
The Misfits by Wally Wood, appear again fighting off an alien invasion organised by a enslaved giant brain who just wants to die and take his oppressors with him.
The second feature is Black Angel about a mildly super-powered secret agent fighting the Sirens of legend to prevent aliens from anther dimension taking over the Earth. The other dimension seems to owe much to the imagination of Steve Ditko, but is passable enough.
The final tale sees the return of Cannon with bold artwork from Ditko, but written by Wood. Searching for a missing rocket scientist, Cannon gets duped by a scantily clad harridan who turns out to be an agent for the Nazi's.
Off to the hidden city in the jungle we go where the missing scientist is in fact a self-proclaimed future Fuhrer of the Fourth Reich. Cannon does not have much time to prevent the Nazi's from starting World War Three.
I liked this and wish there was more, but as with many things in life one has to simply enjoy what there is.
Saturday, 11 June 2016
When Marvel started off it's UK range of comics they took a decision not to issue "Summer Specials", instead promoting their over-sized "Treasury Editions" as an alternative. Eventually they changed their minds and the Summer Specials did make an appearance.
However this being Marvel they went a step further and issued some "Winter Specials"..which was different!
This Fantastic Four Winter Special appeared in 1981 and contained a reprint of What If #22 plus the origin story of the FF from their first issue.
This is a completely different Doctor Doom to the one you know and love (to hate). No disfigurement and he is (as the title suggests) a hero. I always found What If a bit "hit and miss", but this tragic tale of a Doom that might have been is well worth reading.
Thursday, 9 June 2016
Superboy #99 (DC Comics)
No Credits (w) & (a)
From the "Silver Age" of comics comes Superboy, the tales of Superman when he was a boy. In Smallville living with Ma and Pa Kent and his best friend was Pete Ross who knew Clark was Superboy but always kept his secret.
Unlike Lana Lang his pesky neighbour who was always trying to prove Clark Kent was actually Superboy.
And with that thought in mind comes the first of three short stories in this issue from the early sixties, The Man Who Owned Superboy's Costume. Inviting Clark round for a swim was just a trick to get hold of clues about Clark which results in the Super-lad losing his costume leading to all the usual jinks associated with stories at that time.
The Doom that Destroyed Clark Kent is one of those weird monster tales which DC produced on a regular basis. In an effort to help some scientists Superboy unwittingly releases a jewel like monster from the centre of the Earth that just eats everything....including Clark Kent in front of witnesses in Smallville High Street. How does he get out of this one?
The highlight of the issue is featured on the cover. The Kryptonite Kid.
How does Superboy beat and win against a foe that not only radiates harmful Kryptonite radiation but can turn anything into Green Kryptonite.
And how does Red Kryptonite play it's part?
Three classic stories from a simpler age. Published before I started reading comics this is a great addition to anyone's collection if you can find a copy.
Sunday, 5 June 2016
Marvel Classics Comics #22 Food of the Gods
Doug Monech (w) Sonny Trinidad (a)
Adapting classic books to comic format was not new when Marvel launched it's versions in the seventies. I recall being given copies of Classics Illustrated when I was younger, though most of these "worthy" titles were of little interest to me. What I didn't realise until I came to post this article was that Classics Illustrated had actually been launched in the early forties and some are reprinted to this day as quick look in Previews shows.
The Marvel editions are in full colour whereas Classics Illustrated were black & white not that this really matters since it's all in the quality. The stories are what they are and will appeal depending your individual tastes. Science fiction has always been my major interest and having read HG Wells War of the Worlds and The Time Machine plus having seen the movies based on them, I thought it was about time I had a look at Food of the Gods.
The story revolves around two scientists who make a breakthrough in isolating the "growth" gene and develop a food based on this formula. Yes I know the word "gene wasn't in use at the time Wells wrote this book, but with the development of science and all this genetic tampering the story does have a meaning in the modern world.
The spread of the "superfood into the wider environment causes ecological disasters with giant weeds, wasps and rats. And feeding this stuff to a number of humans including one of the scientists sons and a Princess. Soon a conflict develops that bodes ill for all mankind small and large.
Since I've not read the original book I'm not in a position to say how accurate the adaptation is to the original story, but I enjoyed this.
Sadly Marvel Classics Comics lasted just 36 issues but there appear to be one or two gems amongst their output. I'll be reviewing another in due course!
Saturday, 4 June 2016
Summer 1971. Still at school, Jon Pertwee was Doctor Who (and was in colour), Dastardly and Muttley were still trying to "Stop that Pigeon" and Gerry Anderson was still going strong as we sat down to watch UFO, his first "live action" TV series.
These programmes all had their fans so it was inevitable that some publisher would produce a comic with them in and so we were introduced to Countdown.
All these shows and more were to appear over the comics 132 issue run, though it went through a number of name changes becoming TV Action and Countdown before ending up as simply TV Action.
Although promoted as "The Space Age Comic" other features included such gems as The Persuaders. The comic also spun off three Annuals and two Holiday Specials of which this was one.
Kicking off with UFO, this special also included tales reprinted from TV 21 of Stingray and one of my favourite Gerry Anderson shows, Fireball XL5.
Doctor Who also made an appearance though sadly just in a short text story.
I'm not over-familiar with this comic which is why I picked up this (well read) copy from my local comic shop but it does bring back memories from my youth which made the purchase so worthwhile.
I thought I'd end with the opening theme tune from UFO. Deserves a re-run on TV, but then so does so much stuff from the past. So much better than half the tosh they show on the old telly-box these days.
Thursday, 2 June 2016
If there's one thing for certain, you can't keep a good hero down! And so a few years after his original weekly series ended after just 39 issues in 1977, Captain Britain returned in his own monthly title. This was an even bigger attempt to give Cap an outing since this comic was not just launched in the UK but the United States as well!
Of course Captain Britain hadn't been absent from the comics scene all this time appearing in the merged Spider-Man and Captain Britain weekly comic before had been reborn in the short-lived Daredevils comic which ran for 11 issues in 1983. Cap reappeared in the second monthly series of Mighty World of Marvel in 1984.
The main feature of course was Captain Britain scripted and drawn by Alan Davis. A very entertaining if sometimes bizarre series that is well worth a read. The other features included two reprints Absalom, Dalek Hunter and Night Raven.
There was oddly a text story, Paragon of Painthorpe Street which did not appeal to me. I want comics in my comics. Unless they are "background" features.
The final story was The Freefall Warriors by Steve Parkhouse and Jerry Paris which struck me as being very much in the 2000AD style but entertaining nonetheless.
Overall a good comic but sadly only destined to last 14 issues.