1 vs 1 Which comic is Best?

I was thinking about boxing matches the other day, and how two big-time fighters entering a boxing ring to duke it out used to be a bigger deal than what it is today. In the vein of that time-honored tradition, let us take a look at two “number ones” and see how they stack up against each another! The first round will feature two books from DC comics, and they are good ones! Batman and the Outsiders #1 (1983) vs All-Star Squadron #1 (1981), are the two participants so get ready for a throw down of epic proportions!

Batman, Metamorpho, Black Lightning, Katana, Halo, Geo-Force, and Looker. This team, mostly composed of new characters was a good mix, and that favored the book’s appeal. Not only that, but it didn’t hurt that Mike Barr (writer) and Jim Aparo (art) were the creators. A jam-packed first issue featuring the sinister Baron Bedlam!

 

Secondly, we have All-Star Squadron! A period piece starring some of the Golden and Silver Age heroes that were a part of the JSA (Justice Society of America). Hawkman, Atom, and Dr. Mid-Nite are joined by Plastic Man, Robotman, Liberty Belle, and Johnny Quick, as they meet the POTUS, FDR, as he helps them create a new super team, to fight against the Axis powers in WWII! But, before that they need to find some missing members of the JSA as well! The creative team is one of legend, as Roy Thomas (writer), Rich Buckler (pencils), and Jerry Ordway (inks) brought a fantastic new comic book to the shelves!

 

Time to break these two books down: first the covers…

Cover – All-Star Squadron (+1)

While the B&TO has tighter pencils and inks, I think All-Star Squadron is better overall. The different array of characters in the pictures is pretty cool. I do love two of the faces on the other cover though, as Superman and Metamorpho are the best reactions to Batman’s dialogue. Speaking of that dialogue, it seems a bit forced and doesn’t match the interior page, so that is definitely taking points away. Buckler and Ordway are on point with this cover for sure. Definitely in the “iconic” category.

 

Interior art – Batman and the Outsiders (+1)

This is a close one, but Aparo definitely pulls slightly ahead of Buckler and Ordway if for nothing else than his rendering of Batman. That aside, both books have some very strong work, but again, Aparo is just a bit cleaner with his style. Colors and letters are both on the same level.

 

Story – All-Star Squadron (+1)

This one isn’t even close. A good WWII story with a myriad of characters that come together to fight Nazis, plus save other heroes from Solomon Grundy, Professor Zodiak, Sky Pirate, Degaton, and Wotan! Don’t get me wrong, Barr tells a good story in the other title, but it’s just not on par with this one by Roy “the boy” Thomas. Oh, and FDR (image below) is in this comic, so that seals it!

 

So, by a score of 2-1, All-Star Squadron #1 is the winner!

 

X-Men Classics 1, 1983 “The Sentinels Live!”

Back in the Silver Age, the X-Men weren’t a big deal. The book just never seemed to be able to find an audience. The early issues were a bit tough to get through reading, but the Kirby artwork obviously helped. That said, after issue 66, it went into reprints. That’s the part that baffles me, since leading up to that last issue of new material (the title was cancelled and went into reprints for over four years, until 1975), the book was producing the strongest material to date by a long shot!

This fantastic reprint book shows us issues 57-59, with that incredible story with the return of the Sentinels! Of course that means Trask as well, but we also see the dangerous Mesmero too (and Magneto…sort of)! The interpersonal relationships between the team members is on full display in these issues for sure.

Roy Thomas (writer) was certainly a gifted writer and that was clear on any kind of book, but his keen sense on writing team books was certainly felt by the readers of the X-Men. He knew how to weave the personal nature of the X-Men and the real world applications together seamlessly. The team of Neal Adams (pencils) and Tom Palmer (inks) put on quite a show in these issues as they did in pretty much everything else they touched as creators during their storied careers. The colors were courtesy of Daina Graziunas. Throw in a great wraparound cover by Mike Zeck (and Palmer on inks again), and throw in some extra art by Adams as well, and you get to see a visual feast!

 

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Moon Knight Special Edition 3, 1984 “A Long Way to Dawn” and “”The Mind Thieves”

Every once and a while, you get a comic book that reflects society, sometimes the bad parts of society that previously no one else wanted to show. Sometimes writers and artists have a tendency to ram messages about societal problems down a readers throat, and that of course is not a good thing. I won’t give any examples but in the 1980’s, you have plenty of comics that were critical darlings that weren’t very subtle in delivering a point about social issues. There are however titles like this one, that do an excellent job of showing things as they are for some people, and enlighten the people from the other side of the tracks on just how bad things can be.

When Doug Moench (writer) and Bill Sienkiewicz (artist) took over the reigns of the character Moon Knight, they made comics that were thought-provoking, edgy, and they did it without being overt about their intentions. Too many writers nowadays fall into the trap of beating the readers over the head with their own agendas, without ever considering whether they’re even remotely right or who they may alienate. Can you even imagine what these guys would create together in this day and age? The scary part is that there isn’t anybody in mainstream comics with the cajonies these guys had back in 1980! Pimps, drunks, drug addicts, and thieves, you get them all in this book!

 

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A Tribute to the late Joe Kubert!

On his birthday, I’d like to pay homage to Mr. Kubert! His pencils and inks were some of the finest to ever grace the pages of comics, and I for one am saddened by his passing (in 2012), but rejoice in the awesome legacy he left behind not only from his work, but also his school in Dover, New Jersey! Now, I give you some of the awesome covers (that I own) that the legendary Joe Kubert drew over the years! Enjoy!

 

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A Devilish Fascination (in comic books)!

What is it that makes fear so fascinating? People actively go to horror movies, read books, and even visit tourist attractions touting frequent ghostly visits. I’m sure there’s a clinical term for it (isn’t there one for everything these days?), but do most people ask themselves this question? Probably not, but after recently asking it in my mind, I struggled to answer the question. Other than just liking to be scared, is there some psychological reasoning behind this or just one of those unexplained phenomenon?

Why is there a fascination with the devil/demons and fear in general? Is it the same fear that we get from movies we watch even knowing we’re safe in a theater or our home or perhaps because many of us believe he’s/they are very much real? Most people I know personally believe in the devil, demons, etc., and even if you ask a large contingency of people on another continent, I’d bet most either believe or aren’t quite sure what is and isn’t to be feared either in this life or another.

Either way, here’s a quick look at some of the devilish deities from the Marvel and DC universes! I’ll  show some great panels from the likes of Mephisto, Hades, Etrigan, and more! Enjoy (artwork by John Byrne (images 1 & 2) and John Buscema (image 3)- Mephisto, Jack “King” Kirby Etrigan the demon, Bob Hall ChThon and other Elder godsSal Buscema Nightmare) !

 

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A Tribute to Paul Ryan (R.I.P.)!

After learning of the recent passing of artist, Paul Ryan, I thought it most fitting to give him a grand send-off from my blog. I’d become friends with him on Facebook, and thought he was a very genuine man who had good values, and was a very under-appreciated artist. I don’t own any of his DC work, only some of his Marvel jobs. So, this one will be all Marvel! The first three are from the back pages of Marvel Fanfare 52 (1990), the rest are from various issues of the Avengers (inks by Tom Palmer)!  Godspeed, Paul!

 

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Captain America 244, 1980 “The Way of All Flesh!”

Taking a peek at a comic book that gets overlooked because it fits between two legendary runs (Englehart/S. Buscema and Stern/Byrne). Sometimes people forget or just out right malign certain batches of issues because they aren’t widely regarded as gems. There’s a huge downside to that though, as many never get to see books like this one. The second issue of a two-parter, we have a sort of a “monster gone amok” story. But, not just all action, there are some great panels of emotion in this issue as well!

The names attached to this book are some of my favorites. Roger McKenzie (writer- click here for an interview that Roger recently gave on the Charlton website), is probably most famous for his excellent run on Daredevil, or his horror work, but don’t sleep on his other stuff, because the guy knows how to write any kind of story. Don Perlin (pencils) is one of those under-appreciated guys that I hope some day gets the recognition he deserves. His work on Ghost Rider and Werewolf by Night are super cool. An artist that you don’t see much for Marvel (that I know of) in the way of inking another penciler, is Tom Sutton. Like McKenzie, he’s probably most noted from his horror work, and that genre definitely suited him best (but he did do a solid job here). Mark Rogan (letters), George Roussos (colors), and Jim Salicrup (editor), round out the interiors. The cover is by the team of Frank Miller and Al Milgrom!

 

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Marvel Team-Up 104, 1981 “Modok Must Triumph!”

Another “wacky villain” post here, and this guy probably isn’t considered wacky by most, but only because he’s a little more mainstream than the others I’ve typically spotlighted in my blog. Just on appearance alone though, you’ve got to admit that M.O.D.O.K. is weird. Now, throw in the Hulk Ka-Zar, and a boat-load of Dinosaurs, and you’ve got magic! You even get to see Ka-Zar take down a T-Rex*!

With all that’s going on in this book, it’s kind of a “can’t miss” for me personally. The Savage Land is a great setting for a comic book story, and Roger McKenzie (writer) delivers a good one. He completely understands how to articulate the way the Hulk and Ka-Zar communicate, fight, etc. Ka-Zar referring to the Dinosaurs as “thunder lizards” and the Hulk calling MODOK “big head,” are just two examples. Although Jerry Bingham (pencils) isn’t a well recognized name, he does a fine job in this book, and especially with MODOK. Mike Esposito (inks) is a Marvel stalwart from the Silver and Bronze Ages, as he kept books looking consistent and clean. Diana Albers (letters) and Christie Scheele (colors), round out the creative team on the interiors! The cover is by none other than Mr. Al Milgrom, and his rendition of the dinosaurs is awesome (edited by Denny O’Neil)!

(*note from the editor: no dinosaurs were hurt during the making of this comic book)

 

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Dr Strange and Dr Doom: Triumph and Torment – OGN (1989)

I typically only talk about single issues of comics when I blog (sometimes two issues), but this OGN (original graphic novel) is one that gets very high praise from me, and as well it should. For those that don’t know, Victor Von Doom’s mother was a sorceress, and one day when she wanted revenge, she called out for help from an ancient evil. The evil that answered is named Mephisto. He then had control over her immortal soul, and one day, every year, Doom attempts to wrest control of his mother’s soul from this demonic entity. After quite a few failed attempts, he turned to the sorcerer supreme himself, Dr. Strange, for help. As with everything, though, not all is as it seems with Doom, and his plans for retrieving his mother’s soul from Limbo!

Undoubtedly, one of my favorite writers is Roger Stern. Whether it’s The Avengers work he did, his run on Doctor Strange (1974 series), or his incredible (but way too short) run on Captain America, he always delivered the goods! The artwork is something to marvel at as well. Mike Mignola (pencils) and Mark Badger (inks and colors) prove to be a very good team. Their rendition of Mephisto is spot on in this story. There is some extra material in the trade I have that fleshes out the characters in this story a bit, and those names are nothing short of iconic as well (Gerry Conway, Gene Colan, Tom Palmer, P. Craig Russell, and more).

 

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Marvel Two-in-One 95, 1982 “The Power to Live, The Power to Die!”

After searching far and wide (OK, not really), I’ve finally purchased a book I’ve been wanting to buy for years! Why this book? Because I love N’Kantu, The Living Mummy, that’s why! With a backstory along the same lines as Imhotep, this former warrior prince of an African tribe was put down by politics. They embalmed him alive and with a special fluid that has kept him alive for centuries! In this story, we see Ben Grimm and Alicia Masters get caught up in an Egyptian-style caper with magic and mayhem!

This issue was scripted by the very capable David Anthony Kraft. He was one of those guys that was ready for anything, and even though he didn’t have many extended runs on any specific title, the work was there and on point. The recent passing of Alan Kupperberg (pencils) was quite a shock for me. Having been friends with him on social media for a couple for years, I found him to be very friendly, and always positive. The inker, Jon D’Agostino, is someone I know nothing about, but his work with Kupperberg looks very nice to my eyes. The cover was brought to us by the awesome Bronze Age duo of Ron Wilson and Chic Stone! Veterans Diana Albers (letters), George Roussos (colors), and Tom Defalco (editor), round out the team!

 

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