Friday, November 28, 2008

40 Years Ago Today From DC Comics -- Action Comics #371

Action Comics #371 (On Sale: November 28, 1968) has a fairly nice cover by Curt Swan and Neal Adams.

We begin with "The President of Steel" by Otto Binder, Curt Swan and Jack Abel. Continuing from last issues, while using an alien super-computer Clark Kent is attacked by a spy named Agent Zero-Zero. Clark must pretend to be unconscious to protect his secret identity, but a invisible ray from the computer wipes out his memory. The spy then places Clark in a helicopter which crashes. Upon impact Clark revives, but with no memory of either identity. His powers and super-costume soon convince him that he is Superman, but he does not remember that he is Clark Kent.

Superman tries to solve the puzzle of his other identity. When he tries to ask the President for help, he learns that he is missing. Superman assumes that he might be the President and soon takes his place. Superman then acts as leader of the country and as a super-hero.

Meanwhile, the spy Agent Zero-Zero has assumed Clark's identity. He meets the President at a press function and acts to protect the President to further his cover. Superman, as the President, awards Clark a medal. Soon thereafter Superman learns that the real President was at sea on a secret mission. He explains his mistake to the real President, then resumes his search for his own secret identity.

The back-up Supergirl story, "The Supergirl Best-Seller," is by Leo Dorfman and Kurt Schaffenberger. Librarian Hilda Powell publishes a book about Supergirl. The book contains many secrets that Hilda should not know about. Supergirl questions Hilda and tries to have the book recalled, but her efforts fail.

Supergirl tries to discover how Hilda possesses knowledge of her adventures. When Hilda claims that she plans to publish another book about Supergirl's future life, the Girl of Steel realizes where Hilda got her information. Supergirl briefly moved the library into the future to protect it from an alien attack. She hypothesizes that a person from the future left a biography of Supergirl's life in the library before she returned it to the present.

When Supergirl finds the book, she reads a small section detailing how she prevented a disaster from occurring. Supergirl then acts differently to prevent the disaster. As a result the book from the future ceases to exist, and the knowledge disappears from the memories of all involved.

Edited by Mort Weisinger.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

40 Years Ago Today From DC Comics -- Teen Titans #19

Teen Titans #19 (On Sale: November 26, 1968) has a nice cover by Nick Cardy.

"Stepping Stones for a Giant Killer" is by Mike Friedrich, Gil Kane and Wally Wood. This is Mike Friedrich's only Teen Titans story. His plans to defeat the Justice League mocked by Headmaster Mind, an old JLA foe, Punch, a teenage would-be-super-villain, vows to prove himself by destroying the Teen Titans first. Speedy rejoins the Titans, and he and Wonder Girl are captured by Punch when they investigate racial riots at a New England high school. At the same time, Robin, Kid Flash, and Aqualad are defeated by high-frequency sound and light devices while on a mission to a midwestern community.

Reunited as Punch's prisoners, the Titans use teamwork to escape his traps and overcome the youthful villain and his followers. Afterward, Aqualad returns to Atlantis for an extended leave, ostensibly in order to look after the infant Aquababy while Aquaman is involved in a quest for his missing wife, Mera. this kind of cross referencing of plots was unusual for DC at the time but something editor Dick Giordano would do often. Speedy becomes Aqualad's replacement among the Titans. Reprinted in Super-Team Family #1 and Showcase Presents: Teen Titans Vol. 2 TPB.

Edited by Dick Giordano.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Are You Smarter Than An Elected Official?

WASHINGTON (AFP) – US elected officials scored abysmally on a test measuring their civic knowledge, with an average grade of just 44 percent, the group that organized the exam said Thursday.

Ordinary citizens did not fare much better, scoring just 49 percent correct on the 33 exam questions compiled by the Intercollegiate Studies Institute (ISI).

"It is disturbing enough that the general public failed ISI's civic literacy test, but when you consider the even more dismal scores of elected officials, you have to be concerned," said Josiah Bunting, chairman of the National Civic Literacy Board at ISI.

"How can political leaders make informed decisions if they don't understand the American experience?" he added.
Before you read the whole article, take the test and see how you do. Note that the article contains some of the answers, so to be fair take the test then read the article.

I did and I scored 81.82% or 27 out of 33, so at least I know that I am smarted than an elected official.

Friday, November 21, 2008

40 Years Ago Today From DC Comics -- Strange Adventures #216

Strange Adventures #216 (On Sale: November 14, 1968) ends Deadman's run with a wonderful cover by Neal Adams.

"But I Still Exist" is written and drawn by Neal Adams and it is a visual tour de force. Continuing from last issue, Deadman leaves the lair of the League of Assassins after he is unable to prevent Hook's death. He is surprised to find Vashnu waiting outside with a scroll that mentions the hidden land of Nanda Parbat. Deadman also watches the Sensei order Willie Smith to destroy it. Deadman decides to tag along with Willie to thwart his mission.

When over the appropriate airspace Deadman fights Willie using the body of a pilot. Willie falls from the plane, but uses a parachute to survive. Deadman floats down to the Earth, but becomes solid when he enters Nanda Parbat. No longer a ghost, Deadman meets Taj Ze and Lotus, residents of this strange land of peace.

Deadman learns that if he leaves the city he will become a ghost again. He confronts Rama Kushna who can be reached via a temple guarded by Taj Ze. Rama agrees to allow Deadman to remain on Earth as a force for good to achieve balance. Deadman then leaves Nanda Parbat and becomes a ghost once again. He is followed by Lotus, who is dragged outside by Willie Smith where she becomes evil again. Reprinted in Deadman #7 and continued in the Brave and the Bold #86.

This book is known though for Neal Adams' amazing pop art effects. My favorite was the page where if you look at the panels as a whole it is a giant face of Deadman.

Thanks to Robbie Reed over at Dial B for Blog for these crisp and clear shots of Neal's' Deadman work.

This book was meant to be the start of a new Deadman. With his killer found Rama Kushna gives Deadman a new mission, to ""balance the forces of good and evil" in the world. We only get a peek at this in the Brave and the Bold follow-up and that's too bad. I would have loved to see where Adams would have taken this character for which he obviously had so much affection.

The back-up story was "I Lost My Past," a reprint from Tales of the Unexpected #3 drawn by Mad Magazine's own Mort Drucker.

Edited by Dick Giordano.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Nano Obama

This is so very, very cool!

Microscopic faces of Barack Obama made using nanotechnology, and imaged using a scanning electron microscope. Each face consists of millions of vertically-aligned carbon nanotubes, grown by a high temperature chemical reaction.

40 Years Ago Today From DC Comics -- Spectre #8

Spectre #8 (On Sale: November 19, 1968) has a really cool cover by Nick Cardy.

"The Parchment of Power Perilous" is by Steve Skeates, Jerry Grandenetti and Murphy Anderson. This is Skeates' first work ad DC for someone other than Dick Giordano. An 18th century sorcerer attempts to open a doorway to unlimited power. He records the secret on parchment, then realizes that such power is evil. When he attempts to destroy the parchment, his apprentice Narkran kills him. Narkran then uses the parchment to gain limitless power and leaves the Earthly plane. Eventually he realizes that his body cannot contain such power. He must return to Earth and find the parchment which he believes contains additional secrets vital to his survival.

Meanwhile, the Spectre helps Jim Corrigan battle the Carstagg Mob. The Spectre acts recklessly and nearly kills an innocent bystander. The Spectre is punished for his actions and will be given a weakness when presented with stressful situations in the future.

Narkran returns to the Earthly plane after 200 years seeking the parchment. The Spectre goes to battle the supernatural foe. As the battle ensues, the Spectre's new weakness presents itself in the form of blindness. The Spectre then must overcome Narkran without his vision. He does so, then he also destroys the parchment. Narkran is destroyed, and the Spectre's eyesight returns. Reprinted in Adventure Comics #502.

Edited by Julius Schwartz.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Hot and Ugly Weekend

The fires in southern California have been reeking havoc on the air quality. I drive by still smoldering brush on the way to and from work. Tonight I got hit by a sea of smoke drifting across the freeway in the Brea Canyon, reminding me that the fires are not out yet. But for my family it was not too bad. For my good friend Steve Caron, who I worked with at Indymac Bank, it was a lot more stressful.

He could not sleep Saturday night as the fire was over the hill by his house and moving rapidly. He sat outside and talked to his neighbors as the flames drew nearer.

Around 4:00 AM the flames crested the hill behind his subdivision and started down. Things began to look bad. The police came by and told him to pack. It was unnecessary; Steve and his family had been packed for hours.

As the flames drew in closer, the firemen went to work and battled back the fire. It was a long process, a long night, but by morning the fire had been stopped, his family and home were safe and Steve could finally get some sleep. Right on Steve, and nice pictures dude!

Carving The Bird

I've written before about the dry brining technique we have used for the past two years for our Thanksgiving turkey, which results in the best turkey you have ever tasted. I've also made some mention of the technique we use for carving the bird, which works wonders with the moist and flavorful dry brined turkey. Well, the Los Angeles Times website still has its carving technique on-line, illustrated step-by-step instructions for your ease of learning.

What I love about this carving technique is that it expertly handles each piece of the big bird and results in the most wonderful distribution of the golden brown skin. This is particularly the case with regards to the breast. You cleave each breast in whole from the bone, removing one gigantic piece of moist meat, wrapped in golden skin. Then you cut the breast crosswise, creating these luscious skin-wrapped medallions of white meat. When you cut a breast the normal way, along the side of the bird, you get one slice with a lot of skin and little meat and then a lot of slices with lots of meat and little skin; the cross-cut method distributes the skin evenly slice to slice.

My wife and I were talking about this this morning, it's almost time to buy our bird, and we both mentioned how we look so forward to cooking the Thanksgiving meal now because 1) the recipe is easy and foolproof, and 2) the carving method makes it even better.

If you are a sandwich kind of person, you might not like this carving method as it does not create those thin, dry tasteless slices you are used to eating the day after Thanksgiving. On the other hand, you may find that you can live without that just fine.

Friday, November 14, 2008

40 Years Ago Today From DC Comics -- Angel and the Ape #2

Angel and the Ape #2 (On Sale: November 14, 1968) has a cover by Bob Oksner.

"Most Fantastic Robbery in History" is co-written by Sergio Aragones, co-written and penciled by Bob Oksner and inked by Wally Wood. Angel is kidnapped by the Bikini Gang, a family of criminal circus performers. After quitting his job working for Stan Bragg, Sam Simeon tracks the gang to a run-down circus and rescues Angel. He then pursues work at D.Z. Comics, but Stan lures him back by faking his own death. Angel then lures the crooks to Brain-Pix Comics and calls the police. The cops apprehend the crooks, and Sam makes Stan look like a killer. Stan is arrested and vows vengeance.

The great EC science-fiction artist Wally Wood returned to DC Comics after a number of years two months prior, penciling and inking Captain Action #1. With the exception of a single story in Strange Adventures #154 in 1963 Wood had not worked at DC since he stopped inking Jack Kirby's Challengers of the Unknown pencils in 1959. With the demise of the Tower Comics Thunder Agents books, Wood needed work and found it mostly as an inker at DC.

He would ink Oksner's Angel and the Ape pencils for the rest of the series, displaying his humorous style he popularized at Mad Magazine and would soon begin a long stint on Superboy inking Bob Brown, drawing more on the realism of his EC work and his super-hero work at Tower.

Edited by Joe Orlando

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Excommunication Anyone?

This is about as un-Christian as you can get.

COLUMBIA, S.C. – A South Carolina Roman Catholic priest has told his parishioners that they should refrain from receiving Holy Communion if they voted for Barack Obama because the Democratic president-elect supports abortion, and supporting him "constitutes material cooperation with intrinsic evil."

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

40 Years Ago Today From DC Comics -- House of Mystery #178

House of Mystery #178 (On Sale: November 12, 1968) has a gorgeous cover by Neal Adams.

We begin with a one-page intro by Joe Orlando. This is followed by the gem of the book, "The Game" written and drawn by Neal Adams. This is one of the most amazing Neal Adams stories ever. The artwork is just wonderful, employing a grease pencil on Bristol board technique that permeates the pages with this grainy feel. Young Jamie Markus is walking home from a birthday party where he won the door prize, a board game, when it begins to rain. A light sprinkle turns into a raging storm and Jaime frantically looks for shelter, finding it in the old Unger House. The house is empty except for a large four-poster bed, with curtained valance. When Jamie hears someone coming he hides under the bed. Feeling silly he comes out of hiding to find a young boy in the bed who looks exactly like Jamie.

Jamie's doppelganger tries to get him to leave but changes his mind when he sees the game. Enclosed in the curtained bed the two boys spend hours playing the game until finally Jamie wins. Just then the other boy dives under the covers as a hand comes through the curtains and grabs Jamie. And then...well, why spoil a great ending. This was Adams at his very best. Reprinted in DC Special Blue Ribbon Digest #17 and Deadman #1.

Next is "The Man Who Haunted a Ghost" from House of Mystery #35 and drawn by Jim Mooney. In the middle of this story is a Page 13 humor piece. Following it is a Cain's game Room page by Sergio Aragones. Lastly is "What's the Youth?" by E. Nelson Bridwell, Winslow Mortimer and George Roussos.

This entire book was reprinted in Showcase Presents: The House of Mystery Vol. 1 TPB.

Edited by Joe Orlando.

Friday, November 07, 2008

40 Years Ago Today From DC Comics -- Superman #213

Superman #213 (On Sale: November 7, 1968) has a cover by Carmine Infantino and Neal Adams.

We begin with "The Most Dangerous Door in the World" by Cary Bates, Curt Swan and Jack Abel. Superman issues a statement to the public that a special vault with valuable contents will open when he dies. The vault is made of indestructible Supermanium and is kept under heavy guard. Luthor, provoked by articles in the Daily Planet, renews his efforts to kill the Man of Steel, who exhibits signs that he is weakened.

Luthor steals the vault uses a modified version of Brainiac's shrink ray. He then uses robots with Kryptonite inside to kill Superman. Thinking that he has finally succeeded in his goal, Luthor waits for the vault to open. When it doesn't, he uses every means necessary to break into the vault.

Luthor finally succeeds in opening the vault and discovers Superman inside. The Man of Steel apprehends Luthor, then explains that Mordru had magically imprisoned him in the vault. Supergirl and the adult Brainiac 5 then tricked Luthor into opening it by having the Legionnaire pose as the Man of Steel. Angry at being tricked, Luthor is nevertheless sent back to prison vowing vengeance. Reprinted in Best of DC #27.

The back up story is "The Orphans of Space," a reprint from Superman #144 by Jerry Siegel and Al Plastino. Superman, Supergirl, and Krypto are at the Fortress of Solitude when the Man of Steel notices a plane trying to land nearby. Superman uses the capes of the three heroes to make warning flags so the plane does not land and discover the Fortress. When the plane leaves Superman returns the capes and experiments with a machine he has found.

The machine causes a huge explosion that destroys Earth. The super-trio are the only survivors. Shortly, the Interstellar Council brings Superman up on charges for destroying the planet. All three are stripped of their powers and relocated to a primordial planet.

The three awaken to discover that it was a Red Kryptonite induced hallucination. Apparently their capes were exposed to a Red K mist while used as flags. Superman removes the dust and stores it in a lead container in the Fortress.

Edited by Mort Weisinger.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

How Do I Feel?

How do I feel about Obama's historic win?

40 Years Ago Today From DC Comics -- Aquaman #43

Aquaman #43 (On Sale: November 5, 1968) has another beautiful cover by Nick Cardy.

"To Win is to Lose" is by Steve Skeates and Jim Aparo. Vulko counteracts the substance that has been infused into the dome surrounding Atlantis. He then restores the Atlantean water-breathing ability to the people. While Atlantis celebrates, Aquagirl discovers that the injured Aqualad has gone missing.

Aqualad's head injury has caused him partial amnesia. He still believes that Aquaman is trying to find Mera in the Sorcerers' city where Aqualad received his injuries. Seeking to help his mentor, Aqualad heads for the city and is captured by the men of Eldfur.

Meanwhile, Aquaman, still injured from his fight with Black Manta, finds a city inhabited by immobile giants. He meets an explorer from the surface Phil Darson who helps patch up Aquaman's injured arm. From information gathered from Darson, Aquaman begins to suspect that Mera was kidnapped by surface men.

Elsewhere, Aqualad is taken to the Eldfur arena and is forced to battle a Eldfur champion. He wins the fight and regains his full memories at the same time. The men of Eldfur celebrate his victory since they intend to use him to battle the Bugala, a monster that periodically attacks them.

Back in Atlantis, an earthquake rocks the city. Reprinted in Adventure Comics #494.

Edited by Dick Giordano.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Guess Who Hasn't Had a "Town Hall Meeting" Since Oct. 10?

If you guessed "Mr. Town Hall Meeting" himself, John McCain, you win a cookie!*

The town hall format was supposed be the Republican nominee’s favorite campaign forum, highlighting his shoot-from-the-hip style, his broad knowledge on a slew of issues and his irreverent wit. He loved it so much that he challenged Obama to a string of town hall debates.

But with their potential for amplifying unscripted outbursts and attention-diverting disasters, the microphones at high school gymnasiums and basketball arenas across the swing states have gone silent during the final stretch of the presidential campaign. McCain, a man who has prided himself on discussions with the common man, has not entertained a single question from audience members since Oct. 10, when he faced a belligerent crowd in Lakeville, Minn., that at times turned against him.
(* Cookie not included)