Friday, November 17, 2017

Where Your Actions Bring You

Daredevil #28 (Marvel, December 2017, $3.99)
Having recently read a batch of older Daredevil back issues, let's see where the current series is—and how it compares to 40-plus years ago. This issue, written by Charles Soule, opens with Daredevil in China, where his soul has just been given to the Beast, which now owns Daredevil and finds him a "great enemy" of the Hand.

Ron Garney's artwork reminds me of John Romita, Jr., and Frank Miller's runs on the titles, and some of the panels and pages—including the borderless p. 4—are quite delightful. Despite his mother's philosophy ("Whatever you do does not matter, because the moment you do it, it is the past. All that matters is where your actions bring you.") the potential traitor Sam Chung—Blindspot—returns to rescue Daredevil, as does his mother Lu Wei. The end scene's commentary on immigration to the United States and political developments in New York City are timely and will lead to some interesting future story arcs.

The comic is worth reading! The Beast and Tongue of the Beast remind me of Daredevil going up against Blackheart and Mephisto, as well as the Dire Wraiths—which, incidentally, inspired the creation of the battle suit worn by the Daredevil villain the Torpedo. The martial arts and philosophizing remind me of Master of Kung Fu—not a bad thing.

Availability: You can buy this issue online. The start of Soule's run on the book is collected in Daredevil: Back in Black Vol. 1: Chinatown.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Where the Gold Came From

Classic Popeye #63 (IDW, October 2017, $4.99)
Published in conjunction with Yoe Books and King Features Syndicate, this issue reprints Popeye #63, originally published in January-February 1962. Written and drawn by Bud Sagendorf, the reprint includes the main, longer story, as well as shorter pieces, including a one-page text piece, "Plowman," but no other editorial or advertising.

Originally published by Dell, Sagendorf's on Popeye was a wonderful outgrowth of E.C. Segar's original work, and helped cement the character's popularity in the '60s and '70s. In the shorts, Popeye endangers Swee'Pea by moving a mattress, helps Swee'Pea go fishing on a rainy day, goes hitchhiking, and inspects a hole dug by Swee'Pea.

The two longer stories are also fun and enjoyable, though more based on adventure and less on simple gags. In "Haunted Island," Popeye, Olive Oyl, Swee'Pea, and Wimpy wash up on an island, where they encounter a mysterious ghost. They build a multi-level treehouse and receive a rent bill before meeting the island's inhabitant.

In "Yellow Rock!" Popeye helps Swee'Pea find gold in the desert, only to raise his—and Wimpy's—expectations unrealistically. When they realize where the gold came from, they are disappointed.

Even though the Sagendorf Popeye material is a sight for sore eyes, the Professor O.G. Wotasnozzle backup story is priceless. In order to avoid traffic on their way to enjoy a picnic lunch with Sappo, the professor shows off several new inventions—only to end up in a police van. I cannot believe that Wotasnozzle never had his own series!

Availability: You can buy this issue online. Previous issues of this reprint series have been collected in Popeye Classics Volume 1Popeye Classics: Moon Goon and more!Popeye Classics: Witch Whistle and more!, and other volumes.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Dark Streets and Mysterious Science

Daredevil #70 (Marvel, November 1970, 15 cents)
"The Tribune" Presenter: Stan Lee, Story: Gary Friedrich, Illustrators: Gene Colan and Syd Shores, Letterer: Sam Rosen.

On Hollywood Boulevard, movie star Buck Ralston gives a political speech that takes patriotism to an extreme before suggesting that now actress Karen is a communist—and that he and his friends need to "get rid" of "pinko crumbs." Back in New York, Daredevil goes to a protest at the Hilton, where the vice president becomes the target of a bombing.

Ralston reveals himself as the Tribune, a "new kind of judge... to decide who's a good American... and who's a rotten red." He sentences a draft dodger to "the living death" just before Daredevil—back in New York—almost stops another bombing, which leads to a young passerby being falsely accused. The Tribune's comments to his gang suggest that the coast-hopping will end next issue when the two plot lines are expected to intersect.

All in all, a solid issue. In the letter column, Martin Pasko writes in to say that Marvel's dialogue is more natural than DC's, and that he supports multi-issue story arcs. Neat to see his letter of comment!

Daredevil #78 (Marvel, July 1971, 15 cents)
"The Horns of the Bull!" Editor: Stan Lee, Writer: Gerry Conway, Artist: Gene Colan, Inker: Tom Palmer, Letterer: Sam Rosen.

Matt Murdock continues to pine over actress Karen Page, now in her first movie, A Tender Affair. He answers a cry for help and saves a young couple from being abducted for "an experiment of some sort," "for guinea pigs." At least he does the first time!

This is quite an issue. Dark streets, mysterious science, the introduction of a new villain, relationship challenges with Foggy and Karen, and innocents in danger. Where will it go?

Monday, November 13, 2017

Ancient Walls and Cross-Corridors

Brothers of the Spear #10 (Gold Key, September 1974, 25 cents)
"The Deadly Maze" Pencils: Jesse Santos, Inks: Jesse Santos"

Mysterious magicians entertain King Dan-El and his queen Tavane, then try to kill her with a flower of mystery. Sihamba, the queen's maid and herb-doctoress grabs the flower and runs. It is poison!

While hunting for medicinal herbs, Sihamba is kidnaped by Nyanga Imopo, leader of the magicians. Dan-El and Natongo track him and his baboon-like creatures to ancient walls and cross-corridors, a deadly maze. They evade capture to rescue Sihamba.

Santos's artwork isn't that remarkable—a little scribbly and sketchy for my tastes—but the concept of the hunters maze trap is excellent. The leopard-skin disguises are also interesting, if underutilized in the issue (one panel?).

Not as good as Russ Manning's work, but a fun read nonetheless.

Availability: This issue was reprinted in Portuguese. Russ Manning's work on the title was collected in Brothers of the Spear Archives Volume 1.

Mash Notes and Making Out

Archie's Jokebook Magazine #74 (Archie, October 1963, 12 cents)
Almost like Short Attention Span Theater for Archie fans, this comic series focused on half-page and page-long gag comics featuring the entire gang of characters: Betty and Veronica, Archie, Jughead, Moose, and Mr. Lodge. Topics and themes included surfing, relationships, food, household chores, going out on dates, clothing, the cost of living, fidelity, slang, and golf.

The work is uncredited, so it's difficult for me to know who wrote and drew what. I particularly liked the art of "Champ Chump," "Utter Madness," "Decisions," "Car-Azy" (Harry Lucey?), "Weighty Problems," "Hip Shooters," and "Teen Talk"

Given the brief length of the gags, this is a frenetic, light read, over almost before you start.

Archie's Jokebook Magazine #97 (Archie, February 1966, 12 cents)
This issue's gag fodder includes bowling, telephone use, a student's workload (Rat Race Hal has potential as an ongoing character!), mash notes, alarm clocks, ice skating, golf, fashion, shopping, dating, making out, homework, toothpaste, mistletoe, and kissing.

There are fewer half-page gag strips in this issue, and even a two-page strip, but the overall sense is one of brevity and punchline humor. Uncredited art highlights include "Dress Mess," "The Grid Kid," "Date Wait," and "Girl Talk."

Availability: Older Jokebook gag material was collected in Archie's Joke Book Volume 1: A Celebration of Bob Montana Gags.

Betty's Misbehavior

Archie's Girls Betty and Veronica #147 (Archie, March 1968, 12 cents)
"Fair Play" Script: Frank Doyle, Pencils: Bob White and Dan DeCarlo, Inks: Rudy Lapick, Colors: Barry Grossman.
Veronica gets Betty in trouble at school several times, for ruining a fresh coat of plaster and for shrieking in the halls. After Miss Grundy informs Mr. Weatherbee that Betty's misbehavior is caused by her interest in Archie, rather than separate them, they team them up to help out at a children's fair. Veronica tricks Betty—and Archie, too, this time—so Veronica and Reggie can work at the fair instead. The assignment isn't what Veronica expected.

"Li'l Jinx: A Toast Boast!" Script: Joe Edwards, Pencils: Joe Edwards, Inks: Joe Edwards, Colors: Barry Grossman, Letters: Joe Edwards.
Li'l Jinx makes a heck of a lot of toast.

"Plain Folks" Script: Dick Malmgren, Pencils: Dan DeCarlo, Inks: Rudy Lapick, Colors: Barry Grossman, Letters: Bill Yoshida,
Mr. Lodge is running for city council. He arranges for some television people to produce a show about him and his family's home "to show the people how we really are in everyday life." Betty and Veronica decide to dress up, overly formal for "taking out the garbage" and coming over "to borrow a cup of sugar." (Incomplete story due to missing pages.)

"The Healers" Script: Frank Doyle, Pencils: Dan DeCarlo, Inks: Rudy Lapick, Colors: Barry Grossman, Letters: Bill Yoshida.
(Incomplete story due to missing pages.) Betty and Veronica are working in the Lodge Enterprises Infirmary, but not very well. They gas a doctor, dump a patient down a laundry chute, and wreak havoc in the halls with a wheelchair. In the end, the doctor agrees with Mr. Lodge that most of the patients were goldbricks and phonies who are better off on the job than in the clinic.

"The Knack" Script: Frank Doyle, Pencils: Dan DeCarlo, Colors: Barry Grossman, Letters: Bill Yoshida.
Veronica tricks Archie into chasing after Betty, who's afraid of someone mysterious chasing her. Moose punches Reggie.

This issue also featured a pin-up, an advice column, and several great ads, including promotions for the Davy Jones Fan Club, hair extensions, a Man from Uncle spy pen, and big-eye go-go dancer wall decals.

Availability: "Fair Play" was reprinted in Laugh Comics Digest #17 (July 1978). More than 400 pages of Betty and Veronica stories over 70 years have been collected in The Best of Betty and Veronica Book Two.

Archie, Pay Attention to Me

Archie's Girls Betty and Veronica #125 (Archie, May 1966, 12 cents)
"Snow Fun" Script: Frank Doyle, Pencils: Dan DeCarlo, Inks: Rudy Lapick, Letters: Bill Yoshida.
Veronica Lodge gets irritated when Archie Andrews, Betty Cooper, Moose, Reggie Mantle, Jughead Jones, Midge, her father and butler, even Dilton Doily engage in wintertime snowball fights. "What a childishly immature thing to do! ... I love maturity!" In the end, her anger gets the better of her.

"Redskin Revenge" Script: Frank Doyle, Pencils: Dan DeCarlo, Inks: Rudy Lapick, Letters: Bill Yoshida.
Veronica accidentally spills lemonade on Betty's dress before a date with Archie. She lends her another dress, but it tears on a small tree. Six children playing as Native Americans enlist Betty as their squaw. (Incomplete story due to missing pages.)

"Just My Size" Script: Jim Ruth, Pencils: Dan DeCarlo, Inks: Rudy Lapick, Letters: Bill Yoshida.
(Incomplete story due to missing pages.) Hunting with Archie and Jughead, Betty ventures into a bush to shoot a bear. It frightens them, and they run away. Betty's ears are cold in the car.

"Li'l Jinx: Spell 'n' Tell" Script: Joe Edwards, Pencils: Joe Edwards, Inks: Joe Edwards, Letters: Joe Edwards.
Lil' Jinx isn't able to read yet but spells words to her father as she—he—reads.

"Pony Tail Tale" Pencils: Dan DeCarlo, Inks: Rudy Lapick, Letters: Bill Yoshida.
Why does Betty wear a pony tail? "I remember that one day I saw Archie fooling with a girl that had a pony tail! So naturally I thought that if I had a pony tail Archie would pay some attention to me." As it gets longer, her pony tail becomes more unmanageable, hitting Archie in the face, tripping pedestrians, even lassoing Archie (similar to "Muffled Madness" in Archie #164).

This comic, while ostensibly focusing on Betty and Veronica specifically, isn't that different than an issue of Archie from the same time period. Case in point, Archie #164; every story in that issue features Betty and Veronica. This issue of Betty and Veronica also includes two pin-ups and a Statement of Ownership, which claims a print run for the September 1965 issue of ~650,000 copies, ~441,000 paid circulation.

Availability: More than 400 pages of Betty and Veronica stories over 70 years have been collected in The Best of Archie Comics Starring Betty & Veronica.

Good Girl Art and Square-Jawed Competence

Archie #164 (Archie, June 1966, 12 cents)
"Bells Are Ringing" Script: Frank Doyle, Pencils: Harry Lucey, Inks: Mario Acquaviva, Letters: Mario Acquaviva.
Archie offers to fix a short in the Lodge family doorbell for Veronica, who is not pleased that he is distracted from "our date fun and games." Mr. Lodge returns home and gets his finger stuck. Soon, everything is ringing.

"What Price Archie?" Script: Frank Doyle, Pencils: Harry Lucey, Inks: Mario Acquaviva, Letters: Mario Acquaviva.
Employees of the Acme Protective Service pick Archie up to have tea with Veronica. Upset that she would would act like she owns him, Archie storms off. Veronica then tries to show that everyone—even Archie—has a price. She succeeds, and he goes fishing on her yacht at sunset while Betty stews on shore.

"Muffled Madness" Script: Frank Doyle, Pencils: Harry Lucey, Inks: Mario Acquaviva, Letters: Mario Acquaviva.
Veronica makes Archie a scarf, and it is very large. Archie accidentally chokes and trips the principal, Mr. Weatherbee, with it, as well as Miss Grundy. Archie and Betty use it to escape out a window.

"Li'l Jinx: Speed Up" Script: Joe Edwards, Pencils: Joe Edwards, Inks: Joe Edwards, Letters: Joe Edwards.
Li'l Jinx helps her father paint a banister more quickly, surprising him.

"The Bouncer" Pencils: Harry Lucey, Inks: Marty Epp.
Reggie tricks Archie with two rubber balls.

Early Archie artwork borders on good girl art! When I was younger, I didn't realize how prominent Betty and Veronica's breasts, hips, and rumps were, or the dominant role that clothing and fashion played in what I considered simple, silly humor comics. In this issue, Veronica is absolutely beautiful—like a cartoony Barbara Steele—and of the two artist pairings, I prefer Marty Epps's inking of Harry Lucey's pencils. His Reggie is wonderful!

I was also struck by the square-jawed competence of Lucey's men: Veronica's father, the clerk at the sporting goods store. The humor—despite the occasional ill intent of Veronica and Reggie—is gentle and loving, and the periodic canoodling between Archie and one of his girls is affectionate and innocent (p. 2 of "Muffler Madness").

This issue's Statement of Ownership indicates that the September 1965 issue had a press run of almost 1 million, with 585,000-plus of that in paid circulation. A subscription offer ad featured a free, all-weather raincoat as an incentive for new subscribers. Wonder how many children that pushed over the edge to subscribing!

Availability: Stories from this issue have been reprinted in digest comics several times. Some of the best Archie stories of this decade were collected in Archie Americana Series Best of the Sixties Vol. 1.

Thursday, November 09, 2017

A Solidly Serious Hero

Daredevil #28 (Marvel, May 1967, 12 cents)
"Thou Shalt Not Covet Thy Neighbor's Planet!" Writer: Stan Lee, Artist: Gene Colan, Inker: Dick Ayers, Letterer: Sam Rosen.

When Matt Murdock's identity as Daredevil is compromised in the previous issue, the best he could come up with at the time was that he's not really Matt, but Matt's brother Mike, a bit of a goofball who is, in fact and all actuality, Daredevil. But not Matt. Um... OK.

Murdock maintains the ruse to throw off Karen Page and Foggy Nelson, who is strongly crushing on Karen. Then he continues to Carter College, where the attorney is scheduled to lecture on the possible legal rights of aliens, should there turn out to be UFOs. Professor Tom Brewster, who contends he's previously encountered aliens, does so again—attracting the attention of Daredevil.

As goofy as the Matt/Mike aspect is, the alien threat is very real, and they plan to steal the sight of everyone on the planet. Luckily, Daredevil's already blind. Kind of a strange, "monster of the week" issue, but enjoyable all the same.

Read Also: Daredevil #27

Daredevil #29 (Marvel, June 1967, 12 cents)
"Unmasked!" Writer: Stan Lee, Artist: Gene Colan, Inker: J. Tartaglione, Letterer: Sam Rosen.

Murdock intends to propose to Karen—but can't decide whether to do so as Matt or the erstwhile Mike. (Just how long does this dual identity play out?) The Boss assumes leadership of the mob formerly led by the Marauder—which then kidnaps Karen.

I am confused why Daredevil arrives pretending to be Murdock pretending to be Daredevil, before escaping only to return and fight both gangs as Daredevil proper. The whole forced dual identity thing is just too goofy. There's a sketchbook-like page that comments on consciously deciding not to include sound effects and thought balloons, a Stan Lee cameo, and a crazy Not Brand Ecch-like panel: "Snap! Snap! Va-Voom! I feel as giddy as a guppy in a goblet!"

Daredevil as comedian? Hmm...

Wednesday, November 08, 2017

Comics Culture Clash!

U.S.Avengers #11 (Marvel, December 2017, $3.99)
I don't usually read this comic book, but I was intrigued by the cover, which portrays former New Mutant Cannonball in an Archie Comics-like setting. Talk about comics culture clash!

Apparently taken prisoner by someone somehow, Cannonball finds himself in Glenbrook with a new career in eduction, teaching residents as a "100% real Earth-grown American human." Ritchie Redwood, also known as "your majesty," is Glenbrook's Archie Andrews. Paco Diaz's Redwood is more inspired by the recent Archie TV show than older comics, but the idea is still fun. That said, I kind of wish the interior art had been more inspired by Dan DeCarlo, like the cover.

The U.S.Avengers locate Cannonball and mount a rescue mission but are attacked by... Little Rico and his mob goons driving antique automobiles that can fly through space? Now it all makes sense. If these are the Skrulls of Kral IV, first seen in Fantastic Four #91, then perhaps Glenbrook is a Skrull enclave, too?

What a fun idea. However, as cool as the concept is—kudos, Al Ewing—I have been trying (and not that hard!) to not read comics featuring Squirrel Girl. Chtt chut! As part of the Legacy event, this comic also includes a Marvel Value Stamp, as well as a three-page backup story by Robbie Thompson and Daniel Acunas, whose artwork is awesome.

Availability: You can buy this issue online from Marvel. U.S.Avengers Vol. 1: American Intelligence Mechanics collects U.S.Avengers #1-6. U.S.Avengers Vol. 2: Cannonball Run, expected in February 2018, will collect #7-12—including this issue. Fantastic Four #91 was reprinted in The Fantastic Four Omnibus Volume 3.

Tuesday, November 07, 2017

Concerned Citizens

The Shadow Vol. 3 #3 (Dynamite, 2017, $3.99)
While searching for Myra Reldon, Mary Jerez finds herself in a bad neighborhood where she is hassled by a group of racist hoodlums dressed in the garb of the Shadow. "Stick on a hat and a cloak—get out there and tidy up the neighborhood." Then a group of older residents intervenes, concerned citizens.

Mary then returns to the hospital, where she injects the mysterious burn victim with epinephrine. A flashback to 1944 suggests that the concerned citizens might be supporters of the Shadow, "older than we look."

Si Spurrier and Dan Watters's writing does justice to the long-running pulp character as a franchise, and I'm curious where this burn victim in the modern day plot line will go. Daniel HDR's artwork is adequate, if not overly representational. I picked up on some style in the flashback sequence, but not much otherwise.

If you are a fan of the Shadow, chances are you'll enjoy this comic.

Availability: You can order this issue directly from Dynamite. Previous volumes have been collected, such as The Shadow, Vol. 1: The Fires Of Creation.

Monday, November 06, 2017

Whack and Wallop

Grrl Scouts: Magic Socks #5 (Image, September 2017, $3.99)
Jim Mahfood's frenetic adventure series is absolutely fascinating visually. His artwork is a combination of Jamie Hewlett, Evan Dorkin, David Choe, Ralph Steadman (look for the Hunter S. Thompson appearance in this issue), graffiti, and anime stylings. The writing, at times, is funny, but more often than not, the comic's plot-driven dialogue, jokes, and commentary don't do much on their own beyond explaining what's happening in the artwork (which can be necessary) or advancing the plot. Mahfood's writing isn't literature, but his artwork is: pop culture-infused fine art to the extreme. A lot of fun, and sometimes substance.

In this issue, the Grrl Scouts are being accosted by followers of Josie Sanchez, who desires the titular magic socks, which seem to be locked up somewhere. The gathered masses use their mobile phones to whack and wallop the Scouts. Daphne Sanchez finds herself elsewhere, revisiting bad actions of her past, experiencing rare remorse, and seeking the aid of Mictlantecuhtli. The story arc should be resolved in the next issue.

While Mahfood's page design can be jagged occasionally, the lack of a general page borders and full color bleed works really well visually. The storyline with Daphne is adequately set off from that of Josie with a different palette entirely, and it is clear that Mahfood appreciates the female form.

The letter column is mostly composed of correspondence from people who met Mahfood at a convention, and who smoke pot. Folks also send in their fan art, which is fun to see. Mahfood's soundtrack for this issue included the Dead Kennedys, Danzig, Madlib, the Minutemen, and Van Halen. Man, I love back matter like that!

Availability: Mahfood's previous Grrl Scouts comics have been collected in Grrl Scouts Volume 1 and Grrl Scouts Volume 2: Work Sucks.