Monday, 29 August 2016
Blue Beetle: Rebirth #1 (DC)
Keith Giffen & Scott Kolis (w) Scott Kolins (a)
The Rebirth of DC comics goes from strength to strength as their new range of titles dominate the direct market charts produced by Diamond distributors and are now joined by another new title Blue Beetle.
Now last time we saw Jaime Reyes, the latest incarnation of the Blue Beetle he was somewhere lost out in space. Miraculously he has returned to Earth. No doubt we will be given an explanation in due course but since his title and The Hunters were cancelled due to low sales there will be many readers with no knowledge of his immediate past and anyway this issue takes us straight back to Jamie's home town of El Paso, Texas.
Jamie is the third person to be known as the Blue Beetle and both Dan Garret (the first) & Ted Kord (the second) have returned from the dead in the pages of the new Blue Beetle.
In a straight-forward adventure we are reintroduced to the Beetle's supporting cast in this "Rebirth" one-shot. Oh and we get to meet two new villains and are reminded of an old one, very close to Jamie indeed.
Dr Fate (the new one) makes a guest appearance to warn Ted Kord that the "Scarab" which gives Jamie his powers is not what it seems. there's a surprise. Just when we though it was a product of science....
Worth picking up.
Sunday, 28 August 2016
Marvel attempted to break into the black & white adult orientated market in the early seventies with a number of magazines mostly based on characters from their mainstream comics line. None of the titles lasted for more than a couple of years despite the high standard of art & writing on the most part. By 1975 the Marvel horror line had disappeared.
This left the publishers with a large inventory with nowhere to publish. As a result Legion of Monsters was "born". This magazine was designed to feature all their horror characters and Marvel hoped one title would succeed where five had failed. Sadly this was not to be since only the one issue was ever published and the advertised second edition never made it to press.
The Legion of Monsters kicks off with a very passable tale of The Frankenstein Monster who gets accused of murder after following a Princess to a fancy dress ball where he appears not to be out of place. As one might expect all does not turn out well.
The second story introduces readers to the Manphibian another "silent" character from outer space seeking vengeance on one of his people who murdered to woman he loved. A passable tale and Manphibian does get reused in the unrelated Legion of Monsters tales that kicked of in Marvel premier further down the line.
The remaining stories are continuations of two Dracula stories which might have put new readers off not having read the earlier parts.
There is however one short self contained story that I am sure has been reprinted elsewhere, The Flies. A shocking tale of a freak who looks after flies and gets bullied. Kids do not give people ideas about ripping wings of flies..honestly you wouldn't have seen that coming...
A publishing flop mores the pity as these magazines were overall quite good. Marvel just swamped the market with these comparatively expensive comics which sold not quite enough to keep them going. The one unfortunate side effect of their line was to put rival publishers Skywald out of business. Only Warren kept the flag flying for "adult horror".
Saturday, 27 August 2016
By the end of the seventies the horror boom in comics had come to an end. Even the most popular of Marvel's titles, the colour edition of Tomb of Dracula had been cancelled. However Marvel obviously thought there was some life left in the Lord of the Undead as they continued his adventures in their black & white magazine format aimed at "older" or in today's parlance "mature readers".
However this title despite being produced to a high standard with art from Gene Colan, Tomb of Dracula sadly only lasted six bi-monthly issues.
This last issue contained two stories, the main one being about old Vlad himself buying a ship and travelling to the civil war ridden USA and trying to win over the love of his life. In doing so he helps the Confederacy win a battle only to be captured by the rebels and facing certain "death".
The supporting feature sees Dracula's daughter turn detective to find the real culprit of the murders she is falsely accused of.
There was a promise that Dracula would return, but although Vlad appears in various Marvel titles over the years this was the end of what most fans would call the golden years of Marvels take on the Lord of the Undead.
Tuesday, 23 August 2016
Supergirl: Rebirth #1 (DC)
Steve Orlando (w) Emanuela Luppachino (a)
DC Comics relaunch or rather Rebirth continues apace as Supergirl returns in her own monthly title and what a debut it is. New "parents", Cameron Chase as the Director of the DEO and a threat from Krypton or rather Argo City's past..involving Red Kryptonite?
As regular DC readers will know Kara is currently without powers so the DEO have sent Kara to the Sun with Kryptonian regeneration matrix as their last hope of restoring her power. It's probably no spoiler to let you know that this is a success and just in time to as a monster attacks Kara's friends back on Earth.
Another survivor of Krypton arrives but in monstrous form and he's angry with Zor-El, Supergirls father who sent him into the Phantom Zone, an innocent man but a threat to all those that survived Krypton's destruction.
And he isn't happy when he sees the symbol of the House of El on Kara's chest..
Good set up story and hopefully a precursor to a great new series. DC is currently having a field day with sales of it's Rebirth line of titles and are outselling Marvel for the first time in three years! Meanwhile Supergirl has her own TV series, which is now out on DVD which I happen to like and a second series is on the way!
Here's the trailer for those who have not seen it! Well worth picking up!
Sunday, 21 August 2016
Hercules #1 (Charlton Comics)
Joe Gill (w) Sam Glazman (a)
One of the greatest legendary figures of all time was Hercules, son of Zeus, King of the Gods and a mortal woman his stories have been told for generations including in the comics medium. Most comic readers will be more familiar with the Marvel incarnation of Hercules. Friend of Thor and Avenger. Firmly set in the world of super-heroes.
Charlton comics however provided the reader with a version of the legend set in ancient times and in a more traditional "sword & sorcery" direction. Now Charlton were not exactly renowned for their high production standards so a lot of their output has production flaws, but there was some effort put into the creative side of this title which lasted 13 bimonthly issues plus one black and white magazine edition of #8 in addition to the normal four-colour comic.
The first story line sees Hercules set out to complete twelve tasks (wrongly referred to in the text as nine) and stopping to save and then fall in love with Princess Helen who is already betrothed to a certain Alexander. Helen reciprocates his affections (and note she has a suspiciously 1960's haircut), but alas Hercules has to choose between her and joining the Gods in (or on) Olympus so engages in a fight with the Lion of Nemea and on his way he goes.
The back-up feature is Thane of Bagarth set in the world of Beowulf with all the usual intrigue. Written by Steve Skeates with art from Jim (Batman) Aparo this strip does have it's fans. Maybe it'll grow on me as I collect the set.
In the second issue which I picked up at the same time Hercules engages in the second of his tasks which is to defeat and kill the three-bodied giant Gerion.
The art & script in this title makes it a solid read, especially given the period it was produced in and makes a change from the normal super-hero fare produced by the "big two" Marvel and National (DC) in the late sixties.
Saturday, 20 August 2016
The launch of Dracula Lives by Marvel UK in October 1974 finally bought the horror revival to our shores as the Lord of the Undead's adventures were reprinted in glorious black & white in this weekly comic. Slightly edited by the publishers due to Marvel's titles attracting a large number of slightly younger readers to it's comics this was nevertheless a feast of horror done in the Mighty Marvel Manner as Stan Lee used to say.
In fact the first splash page contains a personal message and photo of Stan "the man" Lee himself as he introduces Dracula himself as he says;
Dracula! The very sound of his name sends shivers up your spine! The inhuman scourge of Transylvania - the vampire who stalks by night!
This comic reprinted the adventures of Dracula from the US title The Tomb of Dracula which lasted for 70 issues between 1972 and 1979.
I chose to collect the Marvel UK version because I prefer my horror in black & white. Besides Gene Colan's art looks better in this "oversized format.
The first issue takes us to the cliffhanger when the deranged Clifton finds a skeleton with a stake through it and muses "so let's see what happens when I remove this stake".
The adventure begins...
But as Stan reminds back in his intro:
But have no fear, I pray you. We know there is no living dead. We know that Dracula is but a myth. We know it well - or do we?
Dracula Lives terrorised us kids for 87 issues.
The comic launched with two other features; Werewolf by Night and The Frankenstein Monster. The big three movie monsters Marvel style all in one mag.
What's not to like!
Wednesday, 17 August 2016
Having just watched the excellent animated movie Batman The Killing Joke which shows the dark side of the world of Gotham, I was delighted to hear that Warner Brothers have just announced that sixties favourites Adam Ward, Burt Ward and Julie Newmar are returning in a much more light-hearted feature: Batman Return of the Caped Crusaders.
Here's the ad. released in the states on Oct 11th it's usually available a week later in the UK!
Here's the ad. released in the states on Oct 11th it's usually available a week later in the UK!
The latest batch of Commando comics included this wonderful little story (reprinted from an earlier edition in 1966) about a man and his son being transformed from civilians running an airfreight company on a small island near New Guinea to being on the front-line against the Japanese invaders.
The RAF arrive to build an airfield in their paradise and bring the war to them. Despite the presence of modern Tomahawk fighters, very soon survival depends on two very old fashioned planes.
The first a tiny HM14 nicknamed the "Flying Flea"which manages to survive combat with Zero fighters, for a while at least and a Vickers Virginia bomber in which the survivors must escape, be captured or worse.
A charming little story from simpler times. Complete nonsense of course but very typical of how we saw us "plucky British" during the war.
And for the boys amongst us here's some info on the real planes used in this story.
First up the "Flying Flea":
The Vickers Virginia:
Other Commando books out this week include:
Tuesday, 16 August 2016
Time travelling heroes are quite common across comics, TV and film. DC had Rip Hunter and the BBC has arguably the most famous of them all, Doctor Who but when Warren published The Rook in the pages of anthology magazine Eerie they had a hit on their hands.
His origin and first appearance is revealed in this issue in a story called The Man that Time Forgot. Born Restin Dane he preferred the handle The Rook and used a number of scientists to help create his masterpiece, a time machine in the form of a rook from Chess.
A Castle that could travel through time. And that's exactly what happens when he returns to the Alamo to save a life. The life of a man who turns out to be his great-great-grandfather.
Then things get a wee bit complicated when he returns with great granddaddy for the second time to be looked after by his trusty robots. Every scientist should have a robot butler.
The Rook ran in Eerie in issues 82-85, 87-96 and 98-105 before getting his own magazine which ran for 14 issues. His last appearances under the Warren label were in Eerie 132, 134 & 136.
The characters popularity was such that when The Rook transferred to his own comic magazine sales of Eerie actually went down by a whopping 17%.
Monday, 15 August 2016
All Star Batman #1 (DC)
Scott Synder (w) John Romita Jr (a)
According to reports from various comic stores and websites the top-selling comic book this week is All Star Batman #1. A revival of a once ill-feted title from Frank Miller and Jim Lee this version is set to be a hit with DC's top talents producing stories that are "out of continuity" with the rest of their universe.
And boy does the Bat have a problem in this story. Two-Face is his prisoner and has made an offer to every citizen in the city that the money of the three most wealthy of Gotham's crime bosses will be paid to them anonymously if they free him.
An offer no one, and I mean no one seems able to resist.....
There's also a back up story with a new "Robin" in a mini Bat-suit and his names Duke.
Sunday, 14 August 2016
Before Alan Class came onto the scene there were a couple of other British publishers who reprinted and repackaged American comics for the British market. One of these was Thorpe and Porter who published Adventures into the Unknown based on the ACG title of the same name. Regretfully I could not locate a picture of the actual issue but with the addition of a British price tag and symbol the only difference to the above cover is the number.
The ACG original was cover dated September 1957 so was published a month before I was born. I picked up a copy of Thorpe and Porters reprint but like Alan Class these issues were not dated so exactly when it appeared in British newsagents is itself unknown. However this comic is issued under the "Strato" imprint which indicates an early sixties publication.
Like the Alan Class comics with which I am more familiar these were weighty tomes with some 68 black & white pages. This was an anthology of short mystery, tame horror and science fiction stories. The adverts promoted British Classics Illustrated editions plus Kid Colt (a Marvel reprint title as far as I am aware) and Biggles which was a prose title if I recall correctly.
All from a different era. Some of these stories went on to reappear in Alan Class's highly successful run of black & white reprints as he also managed to obtain the ACG licence. A pretty good read even now for the price, though 1/- as it was then became £8 for this "fair" condition copy.
Saturday, 13 August 2016
Warren Publishing is best known for it's three main black& white comic magazines, Creepy, Eerie and Vampirella which all ran for a number of years clocking up well over a hundred issues apiece. These comics were aimed at "older" readers and circumvented the censorious Comics Code Authority by being sold as magazines rather than on the comic racks. All anthologies and with some continuing characters such as Vampirella and The Rook they were generally a good read.
Then came Heavy Metal magazine and Warren decided to "get in on the act" but since they were unable to afford to publish a glossy colour magazine chose their existing format with which to "compete". However there was a problem.
The company simply did not understand the difference between "erotic" and "juvenile" which showed in the final product which could have been dreamed up by a bunch of pre-pubescent schoolboys and probably attracted them as an audience
Some of the stories weren't just "sexist" to the extreme as was the culture amongst many in the seventies but also became offencive, particularly a story in #3 which was racist to the core illustrating a world on which blacks were hunted by the white population. I haven't read this but it's infamous content is described in Back Issue #88 in an article by Richard J Ardnt.
Most of the material in this first issue is disappointing and will not be on my collecting list, though the company did tone the contents down a bit when they changed the title to 1994 with #11.
Despite this magazine did last until Warren itself closed down in the early eighties.
Best to stick with their other titles.....
Wednesday, 10 August 2016
From a parallel universe comes Howard the Duck, one of Marvel Comics odder creations that was for a while at least a big hit with readers. Originally appearing alongside the Man-Thing in Adventures into Fear #19 in 1973, Howard went on to get no less than 31 issues of his own comic when it was decided to move the character into a black & white magazine aimed at older readers.
A sentient duck who may have looked like a certain Donald Duck but that is where the similarities ended. This magazine was not for kids and contained "adult" scenes, nudity and erm..inter-species sex. The last scenes in the mag showing Howard and Beverley in bed together did raise more than a few eyebrows when it was published but just made me laugh when I first purchased this issue back in the late seventies.
Although not to every-bodies tastes Marvel has certainly invested a lot in Howard over the years. The first issue of what was to be a nine issue run was full of top talent with scripts by Bill Mantlo and art from Michael Golden & Gene Colan.
Howard gets to fight Mr Chicken and the One-Armed Bandit in the first two chapters but faces his worst nightmare, domestication towards the end. But Bev likes him.
Most people remember Howard the Duck from that quite dreadful eighties movie best forgotten but he did get to appear right at the end of Guardians of the Galaxy.
Will he return to the big screen?
Who knows, but he does have a new comic book series at the moment.