Time Warp 1, 1979 “Doomsday Tales and Other Things”

In the late 1970s, DC cut back on their titles, and laid off a ton of employees. The comics just weren’t selling, and they needed to regroup. The early 1980s would bring some new hope in the form of All-Star Squadron, and New Teen Titans, but there were also some additions that are very obscure, but noteworthy for the comic book aficionados out there!

A short series of only five issues, this weird book gave us some rather interesting material. Mostly sci-fi (with a little horror), this first issue is chocked full of creators with a long list of credits, and quite frankly, legends in the business. From aliens to spider-men, you’ll be whisked away to fantasy worlds that will take you back to a time when comics were great!

Cover by Mike Kaluta, interiors stories by Denny O’Neil, Michael Fleischer, George Kashdan, Mike Barr, Jack Harris, Bob Rozakis, and Paul Levitz. The art teams are nothing short of spectacular and include the late, great Rich Buckler, Dick Giordano, Steve Ditko, Tom Sutton, Jerry Grandenetti, Don Newton, Dan Adkins, and Jim Aparo!

 

 

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!

 

Batman Family 4, 1976 “Dangerous Doings for the Dynamite Duo!”

I recently declared in a group on social media that I read the greatest Batman comic of all time, and could now die a happy man. Some thought I was joking…I wasn’t…not one bit. Yeah, I know The Dark Knight, Birth of the Demon, The Killing Joke, The Long Halloween, etc., etc. all get the critical praise, and rightly so, but my tastes are a little different (and I have read most of those stories). Batman meeting Fatman cannot be topped. A cover showing Robin getting the stuffing knocked out of him by a faux Santa Claus is pretty cool as well! The other stories in the book are good stuff and Elongated Man has always been one of my favorite ancillary characters in the DC universe. The Batgirl/Robin story is solid, but the real gem is the ludicrousness of the Batman/Fatman story. It is awesome.

When you see the glorious cover by Ernie Chan (pencils and inks), and Tatjana Wood (Colors), you know how awesome this book is going to be!  The interior pages hold more delight, as Elliot S. Maggin, Pablo Marcos, Vince Colletta, Bob Rozakis, José DelboBill Finger, Sheldon Moldoff, Carmine Infantino, Joe Giella, and more!

 

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Jack Kirby’s – Kamandi, The Last Boy on Earth!

A post-apocalyptic world dominated by talking apes with an odd assortment of other talking creatures such as killer dolphins…yep. The unbridled imagination of Jack “King” Kirby (writer, editor, penciler) is something of wonder to us mere mortals, and it has been from his earliest works to his creations in the 1970s- work such as Kamandi, The Last Boy on Earth!

The book has a Planet of the Apes meets Escape From New York kinda vibe to it, and that’s a wonderful combination. No, Kamandi isn’t Snake Plissken, but the general tone and war-torn future definitely match up. There’s quirkiness to this title that has all the charm you’d expect from a comic produced by Kirby. Every issue I own contains not just a wild story, but also multiple splash pages that will absolutely blow your mind!

The early issues were inked by Mike Royer (also inker on another great Kirby DC title during this era, The Demon), and other than Joe Sinnott and Bill Everett, he’s probably my favorite Kirby inker. The later issues were inked/lettered by D. Bruce Berry. His style fit Kirby pretty well too, but not quite as powerfully as Royer’s. My absolute favorite issue is 29, because of the Superman tie-in! Kirby was a creator that can make anything seem real, no matter how ludicrous it seems when you step back and look at it.

 

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DC comics: The Witching Hour!

Back so soon? And for more fright I see…well, lets see if some DC comics can do the trick! Their horror titles in the 1970’s were awesome, and anthologies like The Witching Hour! were right at the topOut of all the DC horror titles I own, this is the one that I own the most issues of, and that is a good thing. Top to bottom the series had the standard fair of the times, but always slanted towards the side of death. Whether it was supernatural (as it was most of the time), or just your garden variety psychopath, the book delivered. Oh, and skulls are a major cover theme!

One of the things that made this title a winner was the huge names that graced the credits early on, but let us not pass over the great group of artists from foreign countries that made a huge breakthrough in this decade. The most prominent cover artist of this title in the books you’ll see here, is Luis Dominguez.  You do get a couple from the always awesome Nick Cardy as well, and even one by Ernie Chan. The interiors were a mixed bag for the most part but were always solid. You get names like Ruben Yandoc, Rico Rival, E. R. Cruz, Ricardo Villamonte, Nestor and Frank Redondo, Dick Ayers, Chic Stone, Gerry Talaoc, Alfredo Alcala, Curt Swan, and more!

 

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DC comics: The Unexpected!

As we creep closer to Halloween, I’d like to take time to spotlight some of the DC comics titles I’ve recently bought. One of my favorites is The Unexpected! An anthology book that never lacked cool stories, good artwork, and variety! Under the watchful eyes of editor Murry Boltinoff, the title gave us stories about madmen, murderers, ghosts, goblins, and grave robbers. An eclectic band of material, The Unexpected was one-third of DC comics’ line of anthology horror titles, and I’ll certainly be showcasing the others as well.

My earliest issue is #115, and the glorious Neal Adams cover shows you exactly what kind of quality you got with this series. Quite a few of the covers were done by perennial DC artist Nick Cardy (one of my all time DC faves), and a couple by the Argentinian artist Luis Dominguez! The interiors had no shortage of superstars, as names like Curt Swan, Werner Roth, George Tuska, Ross Andru, Mike Esposito, Jerry Grandenetti, Rico Rival, Don Perlin, Rich Buckler, and more! Do yourself (and your local comic shop) a favor, and grab something unexpected this Halloween!

 

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Black Magic 8, 1975 “My Dolly the Devil!”

Back in the 1950s (before the Wertham crusades), Jack Kirby and Joe Simon were still chugging along with their creative partnership, and were producing comic books in their own shop. One of the companies they produced comic books for was Prize Comics (Crestwood Publications). This was the launching pad for titles like “Young Romance” (the first ever romance comic book), “Fighting American” and “Black Magic!” Before the Comics Code Authority was established, you had the awesomeness of EC Comics, and shops like Simon and Kirby’s churning out great stuff that really set the bar for horror of the time.

The book contains four stories (5, if you count a one page prose tale), that are all pretty good! Graveyards, ghosts, sinister dolls, killer dwarves, you name it, this one has it (*note- this book is a reprint of Golden Age stories, that explains all the pre-code talk!)! Credits include- Joe Simon, Jack Kirby, Jerry Grandenetti (cover), Bruno Premiani, Leonard Starr, and more! Enjoy!

 

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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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Cinema Sunday: Justice League: The New Frontier

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Title: Justice League: The New Frontier

Distributor: Warner Bros.

Writers: Darwyn Cooke (original story/Graphic Novel), Stan Berkowitz (screenplay)

Director: David Bullock

Producers: Bruce Timm, Mike Goguen

Starring: David Boreanaz, Brooke Shields, Lucy Lawless, David MacLachlan, Neil Patrick Harris

Released: 2008

MPAA: PG-13

 

I typically only review older films, for the simple fact that is where my greatest interest lies, and I believe film-making as a whole has lost something it will probably never regain from these past decades. After learning of the recent passing of comic book creator, Darwyn Cooke, I felt compelled to review this wonderful film based off of his story.

By the time the story was written, there were of course many origin stories written for these characters, and retcons, reboots, etc., but Cooke not only used elements of all that material, he infused something in the characters using the whirlwind of ideas found in the revolutionary times of the 1960’s. That decade is probably second place in the history of comics (as far as relevancy) to the  Golden Age that birthed Superman (Siegel and Shuster), Batman (Bill Finger and Bob Kane), and Captain America (Jack Kirby and Joe Simon), just to name a few. These pioneers shaped and molded things to come, and most certainly influenced Cooke. Godspeed, Darwyn!

 

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The film begins with a monologue, or better yet, a recounting of Earth’s history since before the dawn of man. It shows the age of the dinosaurs, all the way up to the creation of the Atom Bomb (The Manhattan Project). The person speaking is never shown, but calls himself, “The Center,” and speaks as if it’s some kind of elemental force of nature that needs to purify the Earth because of its latest discovery (atomic energy). We then see that this “person” is writing a book called “The Last Story,” and at its conclusion, the writer picks up a revolver and apparently commits suicide.

 

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The following scene shows two pilots, one of them being Hal Jordan (David Boreanaz), flying jet fighters at the conclusion of the Korean War. As the two joke around, suddenly two communist jets attack them, and after Hal causes them to crash into each other, one more appears, and shoots down Jordan. As he lands in hostile territory, he attacked by a communist soldier. He has to kill the enemy soldier, and he apparently never had to kill before, so this traumatized him to the point of having a nervous breakdown or basically, PTSD.

The scene switches to an observatory in Gotham City. A scientist is on his death-bed from a heart attack brought on by an alien (John Jones, voiced by Miguel Ferrer) from Mars that was transported to the planet while the scientist was trying to beam a message to Mars. The alien looks rather scary, but shows absolute compassion for the man, and covers his corpse with a jacket. The alien then assumes the identity of the scientist by shape-changing into his likeness. Meanwhile, a world away in Indo-China, we see Superman (Kyle MacLachlan) flying into a jungle area. He sees an entire village on fire, but then hears someone celebrating. He enters a shack, where Wonder Woman (Lucy Lawless) tells him that the women from the village were captured, while the men and children were murdered. She set the women free and let them kill their oppressors. This doesn’t sit well with Superman but after a heated conversation, she tells him…”there’s the door, spaceman!” He walks out without arguing any further about her methods.

 

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Back in Metropolis, we see the alien that assumed the form of the scientist, as he’s living a somewhat normal life, and that he’s addicted to television. On the roof of the Daily Planet, Superman and Lois Lane (Kyra Sedgwick) are trying to figure out what the “right” thing to do is these days. Over in Las Vegas, Hal Jordan and his friend “Ace” are having a good time, gambling and boozing. They talk briefly about a mission, but quickly get back to having fun. Over in a corner, Iris West is interviewing some Hollywood type sleaze, but shortly after makes a quick phone call to her boyfriend, Barry Allen (the Flash, voiced by Neil Patrick Harris). Suddenly, Captain Cold (James Arnold Taylor) bursts in the casino, and robs the place. Of course, he doesn’t get very far before the Flash shows up to apprehend him though. As he’s all but beaten, a different voice comes out of his mouth, stating that Barry’s “not like the other lesser beings” and that “the Center is coming.”

 

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Batman (Jeremy Sisto), Green Lantern, and other heroes are introduced, and we see that it seems as if a cult is rising and taking over the minds of people all over the world. We also see that the martian, has assumed a new identity as a policeman named John Jones. He has a run in with Batman and the two begin to pool their resources to figure out what’s going on. Will they be able to find out the sinister secret of The Center? Will they be able to unite the heroes of the world while the government is becoming increasingly uneasy with super-powered beings running around unchecked? Watch to find out!!!

 

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OK, here are my thoughts:

While I admit I haven’t rad this story yet, if it’s even half as good as the film, it must be incredible. I’ve seen Cooke’s artwork many times, and his style is very good, and not comparable to really anyone else of that caliber. His vision and use of the zeitgeist of the times was absolutely brilliant. The mysterious elements as far as the government and the cult blend together nicely. I wonder if he was influenced by Alan Moore’s Watchmen slightly, as those heroes were under scrutiny from the government and within their own minds.

The animation in this movie is top-notch, and that is to be expected when Bruce Timm is involved. He’s set a high standard for DC animation, I’m not sure anyone can ever top it. Voice director Andrea Romano has been a part of that team (Bruce Timm and company) for a long time, and always does a great job getting quality voice actors for these roles. Stan Berkowitz is another name from the good old days of Batman the Animated Series, where these names all came together to begin molding the DC animated universe into the gem it is now.

Do yourself a favor and buy this DVD/Blu-Ray, there is no way you will be disappointed by the film. It just isn’t possible, because Darwyn Cooke put his heart and soul into this story. Rather than post shots from the film, I’m going to show some of Cooke’s work from the actual comic books themselves.

 

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Click here for the trailer!

The Phantom Stranger 33, 1974 “Deadman’s Bluff!”

Supernatural characters are a huge draw for me. Whether it’s movies, television, comics, etc., they always seem to deliver a little something extra you don’t always get from superheroes. Now, take two of these characters, put them in the same book, and you’ve got something special! On one side, you have Deadman- a temperamental ghost that inhabits the bodies of the living to get things done.  On the other end of the spectrum, you have The Phantom Stranger. A guy who has been portrayed in a few different ways over the years with a couple of back stories. Both are intriguing, engaging, and unpredictable.

I’m starting to believe there might not be a better way to start off a comic from this genre than with a cover from Jim Aparo. To say that they’re eye-catching isn’t giving them their due justice, especially when dealing with the supernatural. The story is by Arnold Drake (RIP), a man who began his career in the 1950s, and worked on everything from The X-Men to Batman. Mike Grell (art) is a name most will know from his work on titles like Green Arrow, and a host of others. He’s one of those guys that don’t get mentioned very much but made some fantastic contributions to the industry and should get more credit. The legendary Joe Orlando was the editor of this great issue and rounds out the creative team.

 

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