Just to let you know, I wrote the introduction for IDW's Star Trek: Gold Key Archives Volume 1, which reprints the first six issues of the first Star Trek comic-book series.
Friday, March 7, 2014
“Theories” is, of course, too kind a word. These were knowing lies designed to inflame the fearful morons of the right...from the usual birth certificate nonsense to Hurricane Sandy being created by some secret government program. Geary’s witty drawings and wonderfully brief commentaries will delight those readers who have the goddamn sense they were born with.
As for those clowns on the right, they will embrace each and every one of these conspiracy “theories” as the absolute truth. They’ll probably crap their pants in fear. That’s why I believe this book would be a good gift for them as well. The one problem with giving this book to a right-winger would be the “Z” entry:
Z is for ZERO. The number of the foregoing claims that are actually true is ZERO.
Since I’ve long been an admirer of Geary’s books and since I want him to make a bundle of money from them, I think he should publish a right-wing variant edition of this book. Just swap out the “Z” page for one that reads:
Z is for ZERO. The number of Christian, straight white people who will be left alive if Obama isn’t stopped is ZERO.
Rick, please take my advice on this. Because if there is one sure way to make a fortune in this great nation of ours, it’s appealing to the fear and ignorance of the right.
Aya Kanno’s Otomen is a 18-volume romantic comedy about a young man who secretly loves “girly things.” Asuka Masamune is playing the part of a masculine jock. Ryo Miyakozuka, the girl he loves and who loves him, is skilled at athletics and other “manly” things and not so much at “girly things.” I’ve stuck with this series through 17 volumes because Kanno is a gifted storyteller with characters I have come to care about. But the story has gone on too long and the only reason I’m coming back for the last volume in the series is because I’m hoping Kiyomi Masamune, Asuka’s mom, falls down an elevator shaft.
Let me backtrack. Besides Kanno’s knack for story and characters, I continued to read Otomen because I thought its ultimate message would be to challenge and dismantle dumb gender-based assumptions. If that is the message, it has gotten lost in the additions to its cast of a veritable parade of otomen - including a character with feminine facial features who is referred to as “a delusional otomen who admires manliness” - distracting from Asuka and Ryo.
Adding to my disappointment, one book away from the end of the story, Asuka is determined to give up things he loves to please his mother, who faked a life-threatening illness to manipulate him into being the man she wants him to be. She also screws with the lives of Asuka’s friends to achieve her goal. Seriously, Kiyomi is one of the most hateful villains I’ve ever seen in a manga. That elevator shaft is too good for her.
Maybe Otomen Volume 17 [Viz Media; $9.99] is just setting the stage for a happy ending that allows Asuka and Ryo and all their otomen friends to be true to themselves. Their young lives should not be “either/or” situations. There’s no reason someone can’t embrace all the things he or she loves.
The final volume of Otomen is due to ship in May. That’s when I’ll find out what Kanno has in store for Asuka and Ryo.
From 2007, Doctor Strange: The Oath by Brian K. Vaughan and Marcos Martin [Marvel; $14.99] collects a five-issue series that ranks as one of the best Doctor Strange stories of them all. The recap of the title hero’s journey from arrogant surgeon to Sorcerer Supreme fits smoothly into a story which itself brings new information on his past. The tale is marvelously mystical while being surprisingly down-to-earth. Every character - Strange, Wong, the Night Nurse, the hitman Brigand and the unknown enemies seeking to destroy Dr. Strange - ring very true. Martin’s art and storytelling are top of the line. I don’t say this about many current comics artists, but he’s someone I’d love to work with. If and when I ever write the often-requested sequel to my 1000 Comic Books You Must Read, this series will be in there. That’s one of the highest recommendations I can give any comic book.
For your change of pace comics reading, Jughead Double Digest #199 [Archie; $3.99] offers a nice mix of stories by some of the finest Archie comics writers and artists. My friend Craig Boldman, who is also my favorite Jughead writer, is represented by seven stories, most of them drawn by Rex Lindsey and Rich Koslowski, and every one of them is a gem. Other great creators include Frank Doyle, George Gladir, Stan Goldberg, Samm Schwartz and Fernando Ruiz.
The highlight of the issue is “Will The Real Colonel Pickens Please Stand Up?” (21 pages) from Jughead's Time Police #5 [March, 1991]. The short-lived title starred Jughead, recruited by the future Time Police to stop time paradoxes, and January McAndrews, a red-haired beauty descended from Archie Andrews. In this story, Jughead must solve the mystery of a pivotal Civil War colonel who may never have existed. Written by Rich Margopoulos, the tale was penciled by the great Gene Colan, who was just as good at drawing humor as he was at drawing...everything else.
Note. For you Colan collectors out there, Gene the Dean also drew Jughead’s Time Police #3, 4 and 6. Collect them all.
That’s all for today. I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.
© 2014 Tony Isabella
Thursday, March 6, 2014
Superman - in any form - doesn’t require a lot of back story. The important parts of his origin can and have been told in a couple of comic-book pages. Yet, just as too many modern comic books stretch out a story way too long, so have TV series adopted that style of storytelling. I yawn in boredom.
Considering the above rant, what the heck was I doing reading and enjoying Smallville Season Eleven Volume Two: Detective [$14.99] by Bryan Q. Miller with art by Chris Cross, Jamal Igle, Jorge Jimenez and others? I guess it comes down to the comic book being closer to my own storytelling sensibilities than was the TV series, which, as I recently learned, Miller also worked on.
In his scripts, Miller gives us enough background on the characters without drowning the stories with that background. I find most of the dialogue in DC’s “New 52" comics to be unbearably cluncky and overblown, it reads far more smoothly here. The plots progress as a decent pace. The action doesn’t overwhelm the character scenes. The art and visual storytelling are first-rate and not buried under the computer coloring. It’s a readable and entertaining super-hero series. It’s not going to win any awards, but it doesn’t have to win awards for me to like it. I’m just delighted to have a Superman (and Batman) comic book I can read without shaking my head at its lack of quality or throwing it across the room in anger at how lousy or wrong-headed it is.
It shouldn’t be that hard to write good Superman and Batman comics. The present-day DC Entertainment just make it look hard. I sigh in soul-crushing disappointment.
The X-Files was another TV show that I liked better when it dealt with a “monster of the week” and not the tedious “alien incursion” mythology. However, I stuck with X-Files right through to the end and even through the movies. I even kept watching when Fox Mulder [David Duchovny] was abducted and missing from the show for a bunch of episodes. Of course, that was partially due to the crush I had on Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson).
The unfortunately short-lived Topps Comics produced some excellent issues. I was slightly involved with those issues. I put together the X-Files (and Xena) letters pages for several months. I really liked working for Topps.
DC did some X-Files comics as well, but I don’t recall ever reading those. Are they worth seeking out?
This brings us to IDW’s The X-Files Season 10 [$3.99 per issue], an ongoing comic-book series picking up some time after the conclusion of the TV series. I’ve read the first eight issues of the series. I’m enjoying it, some issues more than others.
The first five issues are written by Joe Harris from a story by him and X-Files creator Chris Carter. It’s a mythology story and lost some points for me because of that. But Harris and artist Michael Walsh had the characters “sounding” and looking right, so the book earned points for that. I was also thrilled by how many supporting characters appeared in these issues, some of which came as a real surprise. All in all, good stuff.
Issues #6 and #7 featured a “monster of the week” story by Harris and artist Elena Casagrande with Silvia Califano. The two issues had the return of a monster from the TV series. The art nailed the likenesses and had more movement than Walsh’s issues. Issue #8 has the mythology and the return of Walsh.
As I said, I’m enjoying The X-Files. If I have any complaints on the series, it’s that I wish there was a more equal balance between the “monster of the week” stories and the mythology stories...and that I wish the art had more life to it. The series could use more dynamic storytelling. If you’re a X-Files fan, you’ll want to check out this series.
I already watch too much TV, so I was a little alarmed to realize how many new or in development shows caught my interest when I read about them in the March 10-23 TV Guide. DC Entertainment’s Arrow has been entertaining, so I’ll give Gotham (Batman origins tale), Constantine, iZombie and The Flash a few episodes each in the hope I’ll enjoy them as well.
When my friend Roger Price put on a couple of comics conventions in New Orleans, I was a guest and part of the crew. I loved the city and have wanted to visit it again. I have enjoyed the handful of cop shows based on the city, so, even though I don’t watch the two existing NCIS shows, I’ll watch NCIS: New Orleans for at least two or three episodes. Besides having its setting going for it, the new NCIS also stars Scott Bakula. It could work for me.
Other coming shows which I’ll sample would include what TV Guide is calling “a new cyberthemed CSI” and the CW’s Supernatural: Tribes. I’m leery of the latter. While my daughter and I are still watching and enjoying Supernatural, we both think it’s probably reached the end of its run. A spinoff strikes me as pushing it.
Jamie Lee Curtis, also known as “She Who Must Be Adored”, stars in Only Human, described as a “medical soap.” As much as I’ve enjoyed Curtis’ previous performances and as many impure thoughts as I’ve had about her, I don’t know if even Curtis can sell me on a medical drama. Yes, I watch her Activia commercials, but a weekly hour-long show...I’m not sure I’m ready for that level of commitment.
One more. This Sunday, ABC debuts Resurrection, a show about loved ones returning from the grave and not in a zombie kind of way. The promos have effectively tugged at my heartstrings while showcasing the wonderful Kurtwood Smith and Francis Fisher. I am sufficiently intrigued and will record/watch the opening episode.
That’s all for now. I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.
© 2014 Tony Isabella
Wednesday, March 5, 2014
The Rawhide Kid who appeared in the first 16 issues of The Rawhide Kid [March 1955 to September 1957] was a different Rawhide Kid than the one I’m writing about. That Rawhide Kid wasn’t a young outlaw. He was a rancher who was as expert with his rawhide whip as he was his six-shooters. Someone must have liked the name because, with nary a whip in sight, The Rawhide Kid was relaunched [August 1960] with a new, younger Rawhide Kid created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. For no reason other than my gut instinct, I’m going to say it was publisher Martin Goodman who liked the name...and Stan and Jack who decided they could create a new hero with greater appeal for their young readers.
The Lee/Kirby combo did The Rawhide Kid from issue #17 through #32. Kirby was followed by Jack Davis, Dick Ayers and Larry Lieber. One of the best and most underrated writers of the 1960s, Lieber ended up both writing and penciling the title. There would be occasional issues by others - like when Larry was off drawing some Spider-Man annuals - but it was Larry who made the book his own.
This brings us to The Rawhide Kid #64 [June 1968]. After being away from the title for far too long, Lieber wrote and penciled “Duel of the Desperadoes!” The cover of the issue was penciled by Larry and inked by Marvel newcomer Herb Trimpe. The 13-page cover story was also inked by Trimpe. Lieber’s opening caption tells the readers everything they need to know about the star of the comic:
If you’re an outlaw on the run, you pick your towns carefully! You supply up and bed down at small remote places with no tin stars or jail cells! But then, if you’re the Rawhide Kid, you just might run into worse trouble than the law!
The splash page shows a cautious Rawhide Kid, his hat titled over his forehead to hide his features, making his way down a street in one of those small remote towns. For the next few pages, we don’t get a clear shot of the Kid’s face. It’s a subtle reminder that he doesn’t want to be recognized.
Three thugs see the Kid and figure the young man will be easy prey. With his fists and guns, Rawhide handles them quickly. The fight is witnessed by Mendoza, a Mexican farmer who has crossed the border seeking a gunfighter to protect his village from the bandit Zamora and his gang. The town has but little money but will give it all to the Kid if he can defeat Zamora. The Kid says he’ll do it, but not for the money. So it’s off to Mexico.
Sound familiar? It should. This is Lieber’s take on the 1960 film The Magnificent Seven. Of course, since Larry only had 13 pages for the story, it’s more like The Magnificent One.
Zamora is a right bastard. He threatens to destroy the town and its people if they do not pay him “tribute.” He leaves them just enough so that they can grow more food and raise more stock for his next visit. When they ask how long this “abomination” will continue, he rubs his banditry in their faces:
It ends when the hawk no longer pursues the sparrow, or the lion devours the deer! In short, when the sun burns out!
Zamora is a dick. He makes a lecherous pass at the beautiful Maria and, when she refuses him, he says:
Your people are sheep, born to be sheared! Among them, only you walk with a spine.
Soon thereafter, Mendoza arrives at the village with Rawhide. The Kid shows the townspeople his skill with a gun. Word spreads about the “Americano” who will put an end to Zamora’s tyranny. This gets the bandit’s attention.
Maria can’t figure how Rawhide can wait so calmly for the outlaws who are coming to kill him. He explains:
There’s not much else to do, senorita! I’m not a bushwhacker! I don’t ambush my enemies! I’ve got to wait until they make their play! But, once they start the fracas, I’ll give you a day to tell your children about! S’help me, gal!
Cue the desperados. The Rawhide Kid more than holds his own until Zamora grabs Maria. If Johnny doesn’t drop his guns, Zamora will kill Maria. The Kid has no choice but to agree.
Zamora takes Johnny prisoner. He plans to take the trussed-up Kid from village to village to show the townspeople the fate of those who oppose him. Maria feels responsible for the situation. As the outlaws ride out of town, she retrieves Rawhide’s guns.
Following Zamora to the hidden campsite of the desperadoes, Maria cuts the ropes binding Rawhide and returns his guns. The Kid gives the outlaws a chance to drop their own weapons and surrender, but they don’t. In two panels of bullets flying, Zamora and his thugs pay the ultimate price for their crimes.
The Kid refuses the money offered him by the villages. He explains why:
I did not risk my life for you! It was my hatred of Zamora! I’ve known many evil men like him! Such men made me an outlaw! Such men keep me an outlaw! Gracias, senor, but I cannot take your money! For what I did...I did for myself!
That’s more grim that usual for the Rawhide Kid as he rides out of town and into the next issue.
An ad for Marvel Super-Hero T-shirts and other Marvel merchandise appears midway through the story. A brand new cataclysmic Captain Marvel t-shirt is announced and, like all the other T-shirts, it’s only $1.60 plus a quarter for shipping and handling. We were all in better shape back then as the largest adult size being offered is a large. I would have worn a small or a medium then. What the heck happened to me?
This issue also features “an all-new, never-before-printed action bonus starring Kid Colt Outlaw.” Colt’s title had been suspended. When it returned, it would be a reprint series. The Grand Comics Database opines this story was intended for Kid Colt Outlaw #140. Issue #140 would finally hit the newsstands a year later with just one new 8-page Kid Colt story and reprints. Issue #141 would have Kid Colt reprints and one new Two-Gun Kid story, also 8 pages long. Only Rawhide Kid would continue with new material for the next few years of its run.
“The Deadly Double” (9 pages) is written by Gary Friedrich with art by Werner Roth (pencils) and Herb Trimpe (inks). Picking up from a story in Kid Colt #136, the story finds Colt being pursued by a marshal who believes the Kid killed his brother. When Colt sees a wanted poster for a bearded version of himself and in a part of the West he’d never been in before, he figures the imposter must be the one who killed the marshal’s brother.
Colt finds and confronts his imposter, but the imposter manages to shoot him. The marshal shows up and tries to arrest the real Kid, who escapes and goes after his double.
The bearded imposter wears a medallion that would prove it was him and not Colt who committed the murder. When he shaves his beard, we see his face is scarred with knife-tracks. Shaven, his resemblance to Kid Colt is minimal.
Colt finds his imposter again, but nothing goes right after that. During their fight, the medallion falls into a deep well. The Kid leaves the unconscious killer for the marshal, leaving a note that explains who the man is.
The marshal doesn’t buy it. He thinks Kid Colt is framing the man. He swears to track Colt if it takes a lifetime. The Kid hopes he can someday prove he’s not a killer. The final caption of the tale asks some grim questions:
And so, Kid Colt lives to see another sunset! But what of tomorrow? How long before his blazing guns are stilled forever by a bullet or a noose?
Whatever momentum this story might have had was lost by the lengthy gap between Kid Colt #136 and Rawhide Kid #64. Friedrich was likely trying to do a western take on The Fugitive, the popular TV series that ran from 1963 to 1967. Unlike The Fugitive, this story would never reach a satisfying or, for that matter, any conclusion.
The “Ridin’ the Trail with Rawhide” letters page has four letters from readers. Neal Lam of Douglas, Wyoming goes into considerable detail as to how Wild Bill Hickok, who appeared in Rawhide Kid #61, was not the noble fellow depicted in that story. Wild Bill Johnson of Rapid City, South Dakota takes issue with Hickok’s lack of facial hair in the story.
Mike Burns of Fort Worth, Texas praises the art of newcomers Herb Trimpe and Tom Sutton and says Marvel has the best western artists in the comics business. David Crawford of Jamaica, New York opines that the karate-chopping, judo-using Captain Cragg is the best new western character to come along in years. All in all, this is one of the better letters pages to appear in the title.
What would a Marvel comic book of the 1960s be without a senses-shattering Bullpen page? This time around, the lead item announces solo books for Nick Fury, Agent Of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Doctor Strange. That’s followed by an item teasing new strips for Dr. Doom, Ka-Zar and the Silver Surfer and a third item announcing the final rank of Marveldom. The sixth category is FFF (Fearless Front Facer), which is “a purely honorary degree, approved and awarded by Smilin’ Stan and a carefully chosen committee for devotion to Marveldom above and beyond the call of duty!” Which begs the questions:
Did anyone ever receive the FFF award? If so, who received it and for what particular reason? How is it that all the Marvel history books have failed to include this information?
“The Mighty Marvel Checklist” plugs titles from Not Brand Echh #8 (with the return of Forbush-Man) to Marvel Tales #14 with reprints of Spider-Man, Giant-Man, Thor and Marvel Boy. Highlights of the month include the Black Panther appearing in The Avengers, Triton battling Sub-Mariner, and, in Marvel Super-Heroes #14, “an all-new, never-before-printed super-saga starring the one and only Spider-Man” with Golden Age reprints of Captain America, Sub-Mariner and the original Human Torch.
Complete the page, “Stan’s Soapbox” finds the Smiling One plugging the upcoming Spectacular Spider-Man magazine. Alas, that magazine would only see two issues.
Come back next week for another “Rawhide Kid Wednesday.” Come back tomorrow for another exciting bloggy thing filled with whatever I feel like writing about, Adios, rannies!
© 2014 Tony Isabella
The Purple Dragon was written by Harold A. Davis and Lester Dent as “Kenneth Robeson.” It first saw print in the September 1940 issue of Doc Savage Magazine. From the back cover:
Graduates of Doc Savage’s Crime College revert to their earlier evil ways, leading the Man of Bronze into a deadly confrontation with an uncanny trickster and The Purple Dragon.
Written by Deck, Colors for Murder is from the June 1946 edition of Doc Savage Magazine. From the back cover:
A failed murder attempt and a gorgeous damsel set Doc, Monk and Ham on the trail of an evil mastermind.
Besides the usual informative historical essays by Will Murray and publisher Tollin, the volume also features “Journey into Oblivion,” a Doc Savage radio script written by Edward Gruskin. The show was originally broadcast March 3, 1943 over WMCA.
As with other Sanctum Books editions - The Avenger, The Shadow and others - these Doc Savage double novels are entertaining journeys into the heroic fiction of the pulp era. They’re wonderfully made books and I regularly despair I might never get around to reading all of them. But what I can and will do is let you know about the new releases as they appear. More Sanctum Books news is on the way.
© 2014 Tony Isabella
Tuesday, March 4, 2014
Betty feels she’s playing second-fiddle to Little Rice’s horn. In a drunken moment, she makes a terrible mistake and becomes trophy wife to a wealthy tycoon who will never see her as more than just another of his lovely possessions. The betrayal shatters Little’s world and he abandons his other great love.
In 88 exquisitely drawn and colored pages that pull the reader into Little’s world, Dillies sends Betty and Little off into different journeys. She longs for her former lover’s passion, even if it means sharing that passion with the trumpet. He hits the road and experiences an often cruel reality. It’s a story about the life-changing mistakes we desperately wish we could take back.
Betty Blues is a classic. If I ever wrote a sequel to 1000 Comic Books You Must Read, this graphic novel would be one of the first works selected for inclusion. If you’ve never read it, you should. Once you read it, you’ll be as haunted by it as I am.
Cage of Eden Volume 5 by Yoshinobu Yamada [Kodansha; $10.99] is the fifth in what appears to be a 20-volume series. The crash of their airplane leaves middle schooler Akira Sengoku, his classmates, crew members and other passengers stranded on a remote island inhabited by dangerous extinct creatures. Naturally, some of the survivors turn out to be just as dangerous.
Young kids in jeopardy is a thing in Japanese manga. Often these kids are the prey of deranged adults and even their peers. As in other series of this type, the hero is one of the last students who would expect to become the group’s heroic leader.
Cage of Eden didn’t bowl me over with its first volume, but there was something that had me coming back for the next one. Yamada’s use of prehistoric creatures that are far from the norm for comics and movies was a big initial factor. After subsequent volumes, I found myself a full-fledged member of Team Akira, impressed by how the class clown had become the best hope the survivors have if they want to remain survivors. Despite a few really bad eggs, these are pretty decent kids. Unfortunately, I’ve read enough horror novels and watched enough horror movies that I know not of all them will make it to the final volume.
Yamada keeps the story movie and, when there’s action, it grabs the reader. Though there is some typical-for-manga similarities in how characters look, Yamada keeps the main players distinct.
Cage of Eden isn’t a classic, but it’s entertaining enough to keep me reading.
I almost never read comic-book reviews. But after reading and very much enjoying Deadly Class #1 by Rick Remender, Wes Craig and Lee Loughridge [Image; $3.50], I was stumped on an opening line for my review of the issue. This has never happened to me before. Sure, sometimes my opening lines are terrible, but at least there will be something in my brain. Not this time.
I did some surfing and came across Benjamin Bailey’s review of the issue at IGN. I chuckled out loud at Bailey’s opening line...and realized I couldn’t top it. What he wrote was:
Remember the 80s? Those simpler times when homeless punk rock kids would be recruited by secret assassin organizations located in San Francisco!
Well played, Bailey.
Now that we have that out of the way...Remender and Craig took me right into 1987, the start of a several-year-long period that would change my life in many ways and not all of them for the better. It was a time of struggle for me as it is for Marcus, the 14-year-old protagonist of Deadly Class. His parents are killed by a suicidal schizophrenic who lands on them at the conclusion of her leap from a bridge. He ends up in a boys home and, escaping from that home, ends up homeless.
Bad things can happen to homeless kids and, very quickly, Marcus is running for his life with no decent odds of his surviving his teen years. Until he’s invited to enroll in Kings Dominion School of the Deadly Arts, a school for assassins. There were times in the late 1980s and early 1990s when, if given the opportunity, I would have enrolled in such an institution.
This comic book flows across the eyes. The writing is sharp. The art moves. The Loughridge coloring splashes into your brain as it enhances the shifting moods of the story. The lettering and design work of Rus Wooton ties it all together. This is easily one of the most impressive first issues I’ve seen. The next issue can’t come soon often for me.
Deadly Class. Get it on the start of something great.
Saddle up, all you cowboys and cowgirls. I’ll be back tomorrow with my first new "Rawhide Kid Wednesday" in way too long a spell. It’s wild-and-wooly western thrills in the mighty Marvel manner when the Kid finds himself in the middle of the “Duel of the Desperadoes!”
It’s a six-gun shootout you’ll never forget...at least that’s what the cover copy promises.
© 2014 Tony Isabella