Friday, August 31, 2018

Altered to Meet the Code

Baffling Mysteries #25 (Ace, July 1955, 10 cents)
The four stories included in this Golden Age reprint book are all seven pages long, apparently a standard page count. The first piece, "Riddle of Pete Dunn's Last Fight," was drawn by Jim McLaughlin and originally appeared in The Beyond #6 four years prior. Following the death of his wife, the ghost of a boxer returns from the grave to win a championship bout.

"Mark of the Cat" first appeared three years earlier as "Mark of the Sinister Cat" in Web of Mystery #7, drawn by Lou Cameron and Rocco "Rocke" Mastroserio. It was slightly redrawn to meet the terms of the Comics Code Authority.

The third story, "Flee the Other Self" was drawn by Ken Rice for The Hand of Fate #9. It's a cautionary tale warning against taking advantage of the people you're closest to—and trying to escape your fate. This story, too, was redrawn to better meet the Code. The character Fate was replaced with another figure drawn by Louis Zansky, and word balloons originally typeset in Leroy were hand lettered.

Rounding out the issue, "Night of Strangeness" was drawn by Gene Colan for Baffling Mysteries #5 four years prior. Also altered to meet the Code, the piece highlights a productive mine vein discovered with the help of the victims of a cave in 10 years earlier. Talk about ghostly prospects! Colan's art is occasionally goofily cartoony, reminding me of Jack Cole in some panels. A highlight of the issue.

There's also a one-page "Baffling Mysteries #4" about a ghostly bird, as well as a three-page text piece, "Secrets Behind the Bloodstains." The issue also includes a statement of ownership that indicates no print run or circulation data. Frustrating!

Availability: The original Baffling Mysteries series has been collected in two volumes: Baffling Mysteries - Volume 1 and Baffling Mysteries - Volume 2. The Beyond has also been collected. So has Web of Mystery and The Hand of Fate.

Cutting Corners

Crime Must Pay the Penalty #17 (Ace, December 1950, 10 cents)
This coverless comic includes several seven- and eight-page crime stories. The first piece, "Crimson Blades of Doom," is uncredited and details "an actual case" about Al Lewis, who "always collected his cut!" Deserting his friends, he sells bookies protection, to fund his own gambling losses. Eventually, his deceitful ways catch up with him.

"Crime—and the Country Cousins," perhaps drawn by Mike Sekowsky and Vince Alascia, is another "actual case." Two rural relatives begin running moonshine, interfering with the "booze racket" in "a large eastern city." Their entrepreneurialism doesn't go well for them, and they both die in a fire caused by "vats of inflammable liquid."

The third story, "Oscar Riddle—Scrooge of the Underworld," might have been drawn by Bill Walton. One of the more interesting stories in the issue, this piece proposes that if you lead a criminal organization, cutting corners as a businessman won't pay off. So don't ration your heavies' ammo, dig?

And "Thrill-Crazed Triggerman," perhaps drawn by Louis Zansky, involves the highjack of a tank, the robbery of a bank, and a singing criminal mastermind who—you guessed it—dies in the end. A two-page text piece, "Flowers for a Grave," is an inventive little mystery that features some flowers planted graveside that can detect the cause of death.

Availability: The first six issues of this series have been collected in Crime Must Pay The Penalty: Volume 1. This issue is included in Crime Must Pay The Penalty: Volume 3.

His Robot Brainchild

The Beverly Hillbillies #10 (Dell, July-September 1965, 10 cents)
Supposedly sporting a Gene Colan cover, this television tie-in comic features a three-part, issue-length story, as well as a one-page strip, a text piece, and a Farm Boy back-up story. The main piece, comprising the seven- to 10-page sections "My Son, the Monster," "The Rufus Rumpus," and "Raising the Rufus," was written by D.J. Arneson and drawn by Henry Scarpelli.

The sequence details the story of the Clampett family taking in a lodger while their parent goes on a trip. Professor Dyno leaves his robot brainchild with the family because "I can't leave him in my workshop. He gets so lonely!" Rufus proves quite helpful, retrieving a football from some electrical wires for Elly and Jethro before falling into the pool and seizing up. The Clampetts try to revive the bot using oil and "good old mountain tonic," which does the trick.

Rufus dances with some appliances and frightens the locals when he goes to the supermarket with Granny. He accidentally hits Granny with a football and wanders off, alarming a neighboring family—the Drysdales—at the dinner table. When the police arrive, they accidentally hit Rufus with their patrol car, destroying him. The family does their best to repair him before Professor Dyno returns.

Not having watched a lot of The Beverly Hillbillies, I'm not sure how true the tone or pacing of the comic is to the TV program. I tend to be skeptical of tie-in books. This issue in particular seems focused on accomplishing something the producers might not have been able to do on TV—feature a robot—but I can actually see most of this done with rudimentary practical effects like cardboard and paint. And I can hear the laugh track in response to some of the gags.

The one-page gag opening the issue—in black and white rather than color—features a monkey named Skipper making breakfast. The one-page text piece, "The New Friend," tells the tale of a "ten-year-old with  chauffeured limousine" who finds the true meaning of friendship after getting a black eye from a new friend. And the Farm Boy back up, "How Now, Brown Sow," looks at potential prize sow Sarah and the ruckus raised at a rodeo. Farm Boy was a regular back up in this series in 1965-66.

Availability: The first four issues of this series have been collected in TV Classics: Classic Comics Library #37. The first season of the TV show (as well as subsequent seasons) is available on DVD.

Monday, August 27, 2018

Hope for Hunting

Beep Beep the Road Runner #22 (Gold Key, February 1971, 15 cents)
"The Conked Condor" In this six-page uncredited story, Wile E. Coyote is trying to "bop" himself a road runner by launching boulders at them. Instead, he hits a condor, which lands in a cactus before meeting Road Runner and his three children. The condor "can't get started from flat ground," so he can't fly away from Wile E., who catches him. The road runners, however, free him.

"Lost and Frown'd" On a very windy day, Road Runner and his children find a wallet belonging to R.J. Jaye of 123 June St. They go to town to return it to him, byt Wile E. Coyote ambushes them. Jaye discovers Wile E. picking his wallet up off the stoop. "Did you say a wallet-stealing coyote?" "The worst kind!"

"Slippery Target" This four-page Cool Cat story features a hunter who slips in the morning dew, spiked shoes from the "Hope for Hunting" chest, a foot chase, and a gun that needs loading. In the end, Cool Cat escapes slipping and sliding around in the hunter's old shoes.

Friday, August 24, 2018

The Apocalypse War

2000 AD #266 (IPC; May 29, 1982; 16p)
There's not much better than reading Judge Dredd on newsprint. Before British comics like Eagle and this title moved to thinner glossy paper, this was standard comics format in England. The paper has aged pretty well, which makes for a wonderful color printing palette 36 years on. Most of the issue, though, is black and white, and in heavier-inked stories, that can get a little muddled on newsprint (especially in the Dredd installment). Regardless, the aesthetics of reading this is a grand experience.

Sam Slade: Robo Hunter—five pages, Script Robot: Alan Grant, Art Robot: Ian Gibson, Lettering Robot: Steve Potter. "The Filby Case, Part 1" After stalling his landlord behind on rent payments, Slade is accosted by three burly robots who warn him off the Filby case. Only thing is, Slade isn't working on a case involving anyone named Filby. Then two droids from Special Branch question him about the Filby case, of which he knows nothing. A mobster named East-End Ernie also threatens Slade, asking him to pass information related to the case to him and his organization. And in the fourth to the last panel, Slade meets Filby! The story is clever and quick-paced, and the end result is similar to a Boy Scout skit such as "JC Penney" or "Biker Gang." Gibson's futuristic cityscapes and robot character designs are excellent. Quote of note: "Robo Goonie! Goonie Robo! Robo Robo! Goonie Goonie!"

Monday, August 20, 2018

Dennis the (British) Menace

Beano #3560 (DC Thomson; Nov. 13, 2010; £1.35)
When I was much younger, thanks to two generous pen pals, I became intrigued by British comic books. Other than the British Marvel reprints I could sometimes come across, purely British titles such as Beano and Eagle—and later, 2000 AD—reminded me more of Japanese manga than American comics. Though much thinner each issue than the Japanese news-pulp phone books, the British titles were anthology titles, featuring multiple shorter stories, often in serial form, and featuring different artists and writers. They were weekly. And you could subscribe by giving your newsagent a cut-out coupon that basically said, "Save me a copy every week." (This was before the direct market in the States, and before pull service, so it kind of blew my mind.)

Beano, the presumably most popular title mostly targeting younger boys, was doubly intriguing because it featured a character named Dennis the Menace. But not... our Dennis the Menace. While the American Dennis the Menace created by Hank Ketcham in the early '50s is a portly overalls-wearing all-American boy with a slingshot and nuclear family complete with working father and stay-at-home mother, later appearing on television—the British Dennis the Menace, with rugby shirt and mussed hair, is more along the lines of Donald Rooum's Wildcat comic strips appearing in the anarchist paper Freedom since 1980.

Friday, June 08, 2018

Esoteric Time

The Shell of the Self of the Senses #26-27 (self-published, March-April 2018, $10)
Limited to a print run of 80, Ron Rege, Jr.'s monthly minicomic experiments with the form in terms of size and shape, and content—artwork, as well as storytelling and narrative. #26 is a very small, 40-page mini collecting a series of glyphs drawn in 2012 and featuring notes from a lecture Dr. Stephen Hoeller gave about the Krotona Theosophical community active in the Hollywood Hills in the early 20th century. "There is time, and then there is esoteric time." The glyphs are just slightly more than doodles and remind me a little of Almine's timemaps and sigils.

#27 is a little closer to a standard minicomic. The eight-page digest is a sampler of sorts featuring playful pixies, interstellar energetic angels, folk dancing, family life, and holistically extensive hair. I just love Rege's artwork—even when it's experiment and sketchbook rather than comic narrative and story. This is a monthly experiment worth supporting.

Availability: You can subscribe to Rege's monthly minicomic for $10/month. Last year, Fantagraphics published two Rege books: The Cartoon Utopia and What Parsifal Saw. The Weaver Festival Phenomenon was also recently published.

Thursday, June 07, 2018

Patchwork Anime

Robotech #9 (Titan, June 2018, $3.99)
Following an initial run written by Brian Wood, the new Robotech adaptation published by Titan is now written by Simon Furman. The comic is still drawn by Marco Turini, whose near-realistic portrayal of the characters helps make this modern retelling of the patchwork anime quite compelling. In this issue, Azonia and Breetai discuss the escape of the Micronians while, on the SDF-1, Thomas Riley Edwards is in custody and under suspicion.

Bron, Rico, and Konda have infiltrated the batlefortress posing as Micronians, and Breetai lets off some steam while Lisa Hayes and her crew receive an SOS. Rick Hunter and several other Veritech pilots go to Mars to see what's what and are attacked. Breetai viciously pummels Max with a piece torn from his own battloid, in the end again capturing a handful of Micronians—including a blinded Hunter.

It's a little disorienting coming back to the series midstream, having read the first few issues—and having seen the anime up to this point—before taking a break, so I recommend reading it as a run from the beginning. Regardless, the series continues to be an intriguing and worthwhile update and adaptation of the classic anime.

Availability: Issues #1-4 have been collected, as have #5-8Robotech: The Macross Saga is also available on DVD.

Wednesday, June 06, 2018

A New Number Six

The Prisoner: The Uncertainty Machine #1-2 (Titan, June 2018, $3.99)
When I first learned about this comic, published in part to help celebrate the TV show's 50th anniversary, I was excited—but expected it to be a straightforward tie-in comic or adaptation of the show. Imagine my surprise when I read the first two issues and realized it was not an adaptation, but an all-new story occurring in the Village—and in the present day! This comic is much better than I was expecting, and that's a pleasant surprise.

Written by Peter Milligan and drawn by Colin Lorimer, with #1's cover by Mike Allred, the series focuses on a new Number Six, an MI5 agent named Breen who is framed as a traitor and forced to go on the lam after a mission gone wrong in the Middle East. His partner Carey captured, Breen returns home to a new assignment: Go to the Village and "liquidate" Carey.

It's not entirely clear whether Breen's arrival at the Village is planned or otherwise, but there we find him, wearing the characteristic black jacket with white piping. #2 opens with another hallucinatory flashback—a Milligan hallmark—this time to childhood, as the Village's proprietors try to get to Breen's memories. He evades his escorts and finds Carey's cabin before attempting an escape. Rovers take on a double decker bus, and the issue ends with a bang after Breen eats some cheese with a strange texture.

I look forward to #3, and reading the comic inspired me to watch the first episode of the series again—TV at its finest.

Availability: A collection of this comic series will be published in October. An unpublished comic by Jack Kirby and Gil Kane (!!!) will be published next month. DC published a graphic novel titled Shattered Visage in 1991. You can also get the show on DVD.

Tuesday, June 05, 2018

Mysterious Black Box

Green Lantern: The Animated Series #0 (DC, January 2012, $2.99)
"True Colors" Written by: Art Baltazar and Franco, Illustrated by: Dario Brizuela, Colored by: Gabe Eltaeb, Lettered by Saida Temofonte, Edited by: Kristy Quinn.

Drawn in the style of the 2012-2013 cartoon aired on the Cartoon Network, this comic book is a TV tie-in and erstwhile gateway for younger readers. Hal Jordan and Kilowog find a ring, but it's a red ring—and draws the attention of Red Lantern enemies.

Kilowog captured, Jordan finds the energy source, a quantum refractor. He then finds Kilowog, in chains. He rescues his friend and opens the mysterious black box to find that it holds a creature that feeds on ions and atoms. The creature released, all is well in the end.

The issue's story is about as long as a cartoon episode, and the pace is similar—but the comic doesn't totally read like TV. Of special interest is the "Draw Your Own Hal Jordan, Green Lantern!" page—which goes from shape-based character design to overly 3-D rendered animation. Fans of the cartoon might see it in the comic—and fans of the comic might turn to the cartoon, which aired weekly. Personally, I'd rather watch the Justice League cartoons.

Availability: This issue was collected in Green Lantern: The Animated Series. The cartoon is available on Blu-Ray: Green Lantern: The Animated Series.

Monday, June 04, 2018

Hal Jordan Is Not Your Enemy

Green Lantern #2 (DC, December 2011, $2.99)
"Sinestro, Part Two" Writer: Geoff Johns, Pencils: Doug Mahnke, Inks: Christian Alamy and Keith Champagne, Colors: David Baron, Letters: Sal Cipriano.

Hal Jordan is understandably upset because his ring has chosen Sinestro as its next wearer. Sinestro suggests that Jordan, while given the opportunity to change the world for the better, has squandered his chances. Regardless, he grants Jordan another ring—a ring slaved to his own. After demonstrating how Lanterns can use their rings to save the many rather than the few (p. 15 is very cool), Sinestro is attacked by Gorgor of Korugar, there to kill Sinestro and "win the right to control the Corps!"

Sinestro slays the would-be leader and asks Jordan for help: "The army I build has enslaved my homeworld, Jordan. And you're going to help me destroy them." The issue ends with a five-page "special sneak preview" of Batman: Noel.

Friday, June 01, 2018

Yalan Gur Interferes

Green Lantern #19 (DC, December 1991, $1.75)
"Lantern's Light" Written by: Gerard Jones, Lettered by: Albert De Guzman, Colored by: Anthony Tollin, Edited by: Kevin Dooley.

Chapter One—Pencils by: M.D. Bright, Inks by: Romeo Tanghal.
This 38-page issue is a special 50th anniversary issue in which Alan Scott, the original Green Lantern, returns. In this five-page chapter, former architect John Stewart questions why the Guardians selected him as a Lantern, mourns the loss of his wife—and fellow Lantern—Katma, and considers his place among other Lanterns such as Hal Jordan and Guy Gardner. He sees a vision of Scott and decides it's time for him to return to Earth in search of answers.

Chapter Two—Art by: Pat Broderick.
This is an amazing chapter in the book, nine pages of art by Broderick, excellent in its own right and very well suited to portraying Jordan's visit to Myrg, where he finds that Scott's cab-driver buddy Doiby Dickles has become king. The result is a recreated Brooklyn, complete with Ebbets Field and Kishke King, as well as "40,000 feudal alien warriors watching a ball game!" I need to learn more about Broderick. His art seems like it'd be at home in an underground or independent comic, and has more going on than much of mainstream superhero work.

Chapter Three—Pencils by: Joe Staton, Inks by: Art Nichols.
I also didn't know Staton drew Green Lantern! In his chapter, Gardner is also visited by Scott—and goes to find Scott's children, who suggests that the Harlequin or Thorn might know where he is. Stewart and Gardner pair up, joining up with Jordan and Dickles to visit Harlequin. Scott has left a message for her, too, as well as his lantern.

Chapter Four—Pencils by: Mart Nodell, Inks by: Romeo Tanghal.
I didn't know who Mart Nodell was, but I was struck by his comic art, which—like Broderick's—seemed equal parts underground and mainstream. Imagine my surprise when I learned that he... created the Green Lantern during the Golden Age of the '40s! His nine pages are absolutely wonderful, detailing the gathered Lanterns's trip to China, where Yalan Gur interferes with local politics in an attempt to mold the development of the human race on Earth. The Guardians intervene, eventually trapping him in a lantern that was to become Scott's. Gur's abuse of his position on Earth led to the very origin of the first human Lantern!

Chapter Five—Art by M.D. Bright and Romeo Tanghal.
Bookending the issue, this five-page chapter telegraphs the ongoing search for Scott. On the whole, this is a very fun read, even if you're not a standing reader of the series. The connection to the history of the comic is solid, and there are several strong artists present: Broderick, Staton, and Nodell. Very cool. The issue ends with a two-page piece by Mark Waid, "Strange Schwartz Stories: A History of Green Lantern." That is also very much worth reading.

Read Also: Green Lantern #45, Green Lantern #18, JLA #55, and Justice League Quarterly #5.

Availability: This issue hasn't been collected. You can read more of Nodell's work—including Dickles!—in The Golden Age Green Lantern - Archives, Volume 1. Some of Staton's run on the book is included in Green Lantern: Sector 2814 Vol. 3.