Wednesday, April 29, 2009

40 Years Ago Today From DC Comics -- Detective Comics #388

Detective Comics #388 (On Sale: April 29, 1969) has a so-so Batman cover by Irv Novick. The big news on this cover though is not the art, it is the price! DC comics used their flagship title to usher in the era of 15 cent comics.

I wish I could say the lead-off Batman story was worth the extra three cents, but it isn't. "Public Luna-Tic Number One" by John Broome, Bob Brown and Joe Giella is laughably bad. I think Broome had been watching too many episodes of the Batman TV show; every line of dialog Robin has rings of Burt Ward's over-the-top delivery and it may have seemed cool in 1969, I don't remember, but in retrospect it's just grating.

There is a crime spree going on in Gotham being perpetrated by someone the press has dubbed Public Luna-tic Number One because the crimes were all committed under a full moon. The Dynamic Duo are tooling around Gotham discussing how they think he must be the Joker when they see a light on at the planetarium. Rushing in they find the Joker and his henchmen. A fight ensues and the Joker and his men get away.

Sometime later Bruce Wayne attends a demonstration of believed crack-pot scientist Dr. Doomer, who has invented an anti-gravity device. He tests if for some military fellows and it fails to do anything. The Army brass storm out vowing to never attend another one of Dr. Doomer's demonstrations, but Bruce hangs back and he and the doctor discover that a fake device has been substituted for Dr. Doomer's anti-gravity device. When they pull a string they find in the fake device a recording of the Joker's laugh plays.

The next full moon finds the Joker's gang at Gotham Central Station where they use the anti-gravity device to disable the police while they steal funds from the cash drawers. The Joker himself pushes the alarm button and they await the arrival of Batman and Robin. Joker's men have been practicing with the anti-gravity device for weeks and are therefore able to subdue Batman and Robin, knocking them out cold.

When they awake they are in space suits on the moon, where Joker explains through a radio in their suits that since America is going to the moon he wants to be the greatest criminal on the moon and has decided that his first lunar crime will be to kill Batman and Robin. Figuring out that they are not really on the Moon (duh!), the Dynamic Duo bound through the underground cave they are in until they find the Joker and his men, subduing them and destroying the anti-gravity device in the ruckus.

They take the broken device back to Dr. Doomer who laments that it will take him years to build another one.

The back-up Batgirl story, "Surprise! This'll Kill You" is by Frank Robbins, Gil Kane and Murphy Anderson and the artwork is just beautiful. Gil Kane's Barbara Gordon/Batgirl is beautiful and sexy and Anderson's smooth inks add just the right touch. Barbara Gordon answers a personals ad offering to share a free apartment with a 5ft. 4in. medium build redhead. She shows up to a hallway of other applicants, all of which DC has given the wrong color of hair. Each woman knocks on the door and is told through the peephole to leave. When Barbara knocks, the door opens and a woman in a Batgirl costume invites her in.

Darlene Dawson explains that she is a flight attendant who is being awarded "Air-Hostess With the Mostest" at the annual airlines costume ball tonight, but that it is also her granddad's 85th birthday and she plans on being in two places at the same time, with Barbara's help of course. Barbara gets into Darlene's Batgirl costume and Darlene heads off to her grandfather's telling Barbara that her escort will be arriving soon. Through the peephole Barbara sees that Darlene's escort is dressed as Batman, but when she opens the door he points a gun at her and threatens to kill her for being a double-crosser.

A fight seemingly between Batman and Batgirl ensues and Barbara falls out the window, supposedly to her death. In reality she maneuvered there in order to fake being killed so she could trail "Batman" back to his leader. She follows him back to the airline costume party where he meets with Superman, Green Lantern and Flash, all members of a diamond smuggling gang of which Darlene was a part. She had apparently been using her position as a flight attendant to smuggle gems into the country, but had been keeping more than her fair share.

The gems that "Batman" had recovered from Barbara are found to be fakes and Barbara confronts the gang only to be outnumbered and without her own bag of weapons. This story was reprinted in Batman in the Sixties TPB and Showcase Presents: Batgirl Vol. 1 TPB.

Edited by Julius Schwartz.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Everything you ever needed to know about John McCain

"But we are not asked to judge the President's character flaws. We are asked to judge whether the President, who swore an oath to faithfully execute his office, deliberately subverted--for whatever purpose--the rule of law," - John McCain arguing for the impeachment of Bill Clinton for perjury in a civil suit, February 1999.

"Anyone who knows what waterboarding is could not be unsure. It is a horrible torture technique used by Pol Pot," - John McCain, October 2007.

"We've got to move on," - John McCain, April 26, 2009, reacting to incontrovertible proof that George W. Bush ordered the waterboarding of a prisoner 183 times, as well as broader treatment that the Red Cross has called "unequivocally torture."

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Just a Little Bit Better

It always amazes me how much music I have forgotten. The other day I was listening to Sirius 6 (The 60s) and this song by Herman's Hermits came on. I was shocked that I knew the words yet hadn't thought of the song in at least 30 years. It must have been a pretty minor hit, but perfect Hermits music. Here it is live from the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk on June 29, 2007.

Friday, April 24, 2009

40 Years Ago Today From DC Comics -- Hawk & the Dove #6

Hawk & the Dove #6 (On Sale: April 24, 1969) has a nice cover by Gil Kane.

The full-length Hawk & the Dove strip, "Judgment in a Small, Dark Place." is written and penciled by Gil Kane and inked by John Celardo. One night Hank and Don get to their father's office just in time to scare off a would-be kidnapper. Hank chases the bad guy as Hawk, but loses him when momentarily blinded by a passing car. The judge is unharmed, but none of them got a good look at the attacker and the judge warns the boys not to worry their mother over the incident. The next day the boys return home from school to find their house in shambles and their mother unconscious on the floor.

She had only fainted and when she comes to she says she interrupted a man kidnapping their father. Hank once again takes off alone and scours the city as Hawk looking for information on his father. He does it by busting a few heads till he learns of a hood named Max Leland who was bragging that he was going pay the judge back. Hawk breaks into Leland's apartment and more head-busting ensues.

Meanwhile Don has been scouring his father's files looking for clues and finds a chart with a familiar face, a man named Karl MacArthur who died in prison. Don realizes that they had a part-time gardener named Arthur who looked a lot like MacArthur. Don leaves and as Dove tracks down Arthur's home in the country. Snooping around he finds Arthur is holding his father in a small cage in his basement.

Hawk has gotten from Leland a description of a man he says jumped Judge Hall before Leland himself got a chance. From the description Hank realizes it is their old gardener Arthur and heads out after him. By eavesdropping Dove learns that since his father died in a cell that Judge Hall put him into, Arthur plans on seeing that the Judge is given the same fate. Dove sees that all of the windows in the house are fitted with alarms so he shimmies up the nearby power poll to cut the electricity to the house.

From that perch Dove sees Hawk running toward the house and smashing through the door. Dove cuts the lights and a fight ensues in the dark. When the lights are switched back on Hawk makes quick work of Arthur. On the final page the Judge rails against the Hawk and the Dove for endangering his life, thinking for certain that he could have talked Arthur out of it eventually without any dangerous gun play.

Hank and Don leave for school and Hank laments that maybe their father is right, maybe they should give up being the Hawk and the Dove. Maybe the whole idea of being super-heroes was a mistake. The final caption reads, "Is this the end of the Hawk and the Dove??"

It was for this book anyway. Over the next year they would appear as guests in the Teen Titans and then disappear for six years only to show up in the Teen Titans again for a three-issue run. They would make eight appearances in the 1980s before disappearing once again. Was this a concept book that was too much concept and not enough book? Maybe, though I do recall a wonderful Hawk and Dove story in Brave and the Bold years later by Alan Brennert that seemed to bring merit to the idea of the two polar-opposite brothers. I always liked the book myself, always liked the characters.

This was John Celardo's second inking job for DC, but his first in 20 years! Celardo last worked for DC in 1949 inking a Johnny Peril story in All-Star Comics #48. He started his professional career contributing sports cartoons to Street and Smith publications in 1937. He soon turned to comics, and went to the Eisner-Iger studios.

There, he did Dollman, Wonder Boy, Uncle Sam, Paul Bunyan, Espionage, Hercules, Old Witch and Zero Comics, sometimes working under the pseudonym John C. Lardo. From 1940 he also worked for Fiction House, where he drew Hawk, Red Comet, Powerman, Captain West and Kaanga. After the War, he continued his work at Fiction House, illustrating Tiger Man, Suicide Smith and others.

In the 1950s Celardo succeeded Bob Lubbers on the daily Tarzan newspaper strip. In the 1960s he also took on the writing of the Tarzan strip and introduced many new characters from outside and inside the jungle, such as Red Chinese spies. In the late 1960s, he took over The Green Berets from Joe Kubert and Davy Jones from Sam Leff and Alden McWilliams.

John Celardo would ink this one story, pencil three others and then again disappear from DC. He returned to free-lancing and did such titles as Believe It or Not for Western. In 1973 he became comics editor at King Features and stopped drawing altogether. In 1977 he would return to DC and ink over 50 stories during a seven-year span. He returned to penciling in the 1980s taking over the Buz Sawyer newspaper strip

His inking on this Hawk and Dove story was very nice and silky smooth, an interesting contrast to Gil Kane's angular faces. I would have liked to see more of this combination.

Edited by Dick Giordano.

Duke Detained in Prague for Denying Holocaust

In part...

PRAGUE — Former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke was detained by police in the Czech Republic on Friday on suspicion of denying the Holocaust.

Police spokesman Jan Mikulovsky said the action was taken because Duke does that in his book "My Awakening," which is punishable by up to three years in Czech prisons.
Any crap this guy steps in is fine by me. Instant Karma's gonna get you, you racist motherfucker!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Bush proves Rove and Fox are lying about torture

Rove and Fox News are lying sacks and Bush proves it. How inept are the Republicans? They can't even lie correctly. This is truly a party of no ideas.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

40 Years Ago Today From DC Comics -- Brave and the Bold #84

Brave and the Bold #84 (On Sale: April 22, 1969) has a nice Batman and Sgt. Rock cover by Neal Adams. I love the way that the figures' shadows form a Bat-signal on the ground. This is also the only cover I think Adams signed in this manner; not his normal signature at all. Lastly, this is the second version of this cover that Neal drew. Below you can find the original which was rejected by DC.

"The Angel, the Rock and the Cowl" featuring Batman and Sgt. Rock is by Bob Haney and Neal Adams. Joe Kubert inked page 19 of this story. When Bruce Wayne is called to the Gotham Museum to see the statue of the Archangel Gabriel smuggled out of Nazi-occupied France during World War II, because a man with a German accent called about it called to claim it. Bruce informs him that the real statue is still in France and the one in Gotham is a fake. They are then attacked by a man Bruce recognizes as Von Stauffen.

Bruce then recalls back to a day during World War II, when he was in London, and his friend, a British spy named Digby is killed in a bombing and so Bruce covered his mission for the British forces. Traveling into Nazi occupied France, Bruce meets up with Sgt. Rock and Easy Company along the way.

Investigating a strange amount of wine coming out of Chateaurouge, Bruce learns that it's occupied by Nazi's led by Von Stauffen. As a spy, Bruce is unable to learn what the secret is behind the wine, so he tries as Batman and comes to blows with Rock and Easy Company again who happen to be in the area. However, during their scuffle over a bottle of the Chateaurouge wine, they find that the Nazi's are smuggling weapon parts in the bottles to be used during the D-Day invasion. Batman and Easy Company then work together to stop Van Stauffer.

Flashing back to the present, Bruce is saved by the sudden arrival of Rock who knocks out Von Stauffen, who had been tracking Van Stauffer since after the war. This classic story was reprinted in Batman Illustrated by Neal Adams Vol. 1 HC and Showcase Presents the Brave and the Bold Batman Team-Ups Vol. 1 TPB.

Edited by Murray Boltinoff.

Friday, April 17, 2009

40 Years Ago Today From DC Comics -- Witching Hour #3

Witching Hour #3 (On Sale: April 17, 1969) has an interesting cover art combination: Mike Sekowsky and Nick Cardy and it creates a really nice, moody piece.

We begin with "The Turn of the Wheel" drawn by Alex Toth and Vinnie Colletta. That is followed by "The Death Watch" by persons unknown. We round out the issue with "...and in a Far-Off Land" drawn by Bernie Wrightson.

Edited by Dick Giordano.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Madden 2009

I remember the days back when I hated John Madden. I was a Kansas City Chiefs' fan and we had the dashing Hank Stram reigning over our sidelines and the Oakland Raiders, our sworn enemies, had the beer-gutted, wrinkle-shirted, disheveled John Madden storming up and down their sidelines, waving a rolled-up play-sheet in his fist as he screamed at refs, screamed at players and screamed at fans. Those old Chiefs/Raiders games were pure magic, a great rivalry that went on for years.

Then Madden retired and he became the voice of the game. I still hated him, but over the years that changed. I don't know if I mellowed or he did, but I began to listen to him and his big Bubba enthusiasm for the game was a contagious thing. Eventually, it seemed a game almost wasn't a game if Madden wasn't the guy in the booth sharing his insight. He loved big defensive guys who made big, hard plays and he made you love them too. He hated cheap shots and overpaid prima-donnas, but he also appreciated the high-paid stars. He's been slowing down a bit over the years, but he could still deliver the magic, like at this year's Super Bowl.

Me, I'll miss the guy.

Tea Partius Interruptus

What could possibly go wrong with an open mic at a right-wing nut job tea party? Ye-ow! The truth might accidently seep in!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

40 Years Ago Today From DC Comics -- Star Spangled War Stories #145

Star Spangled War Stories #145 (On Sale: April 15, 1969) has another Joe Kubert Enemy Ace cover.

"Return of the Hangman" featuring Enemy Ace is by Robert Kanigher and Joe Kubert. This story was reprinted in
Enemy Ace Archives Vol. 2 HC and Showcase Presents: Enemy Ace Vol. 1 TPB.

Edited by Joe Kubert.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Rusty the Chinaman

Who said the GOP didn't have any new ideas?

AUSTIN — A North Texas legislator during House testimony on voter identification legislation said Asian-descent voters should adopt names that are “easier for Americans to deal with.”

The comments caused the Texas Democratic Party on Wednesday to demand an apology from state Rep. Betty Brown, R-Terrell. But a spokesman for Brown said her comments were only an attempt to overcome problems with identifying Asian names for voting purposes.

The exchange occurred late Tuesday as the House Elections Committee heard testimony from Ramey Ko, a representative of the Organization of Chinese Americans...

Brown suggested that Asian-Americans should find a way to make their names more accessible.

“Rather than everyone here having to learn Chinese — I understand it’s a rather difficult language — do you think that it would behoove you and your citizens to adopt a name that we could deal with more readily here?” Brown said.

Brown later told Ko: “Can’t you see that this is something that would make it a lot easier for you and the people who are poll workers if you could adopt a name just for identification purposes that’s easier for Americans to deal with?”

Reminds me of an old comedy act, I can't remember who it was, where the guy talked about Hawaii Five-O and wondered why Kam Fong used the name Chin Ho on the show and then speculated on two Chinese guys watching and wondering why Jack Lord bothered to use the name Steve McGarrett.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

40 Years Ago Today From DC Comics -- Green Lantern #69

Green Lantern #69 (On Sale: April 8, 1969) has a cover by Gil Kane.

"If Earth Fails the Test -- It Means War" is by John Broome, Gil Kane and Wally Wood. Green Lantern returns from a space mission to find that the police in Evergreen City have invented three new devices to fight crime: a city-wide burglar alarms system, a radar-television to remotely view the crime scenes and a device that remotely traps criminals at the scene. While viewing the new system GL gets to see it in action when an alarm is tripped at the Central Jewelery Exchange. Blue bars are used to trap the criminals inside the vault, but utilizing a strange hand-held device they are able to bend the bars out of the way and escape.

Green Lantern heads out to round up the gang, which is led by the beautiful Kyra, who uses another device to deflect Lantern's energy beams. As he attempts to capture them, most of the gang, including Kyra, disappear, fading away before GL's eyes.

After taking the three captured members of the gang to police headquarters, Lantern receives a phone call from Carol Ferris, who tells him that she is getting married tomorrow and wants to know if there is anything he would like to say to her. Realizing that Carol is in love with Green Lantern but not Hal Jordan, he wishes her the best. He also realizes that he is both repulsed and attracted to Kyra and can't figure out why.

We back-track a week to see Kyra in her real, fairly hideous, alien form on her home-world of Hegor, where she is the leader of a student movement to "uproot the ancient ways of doing thing-- and breathe fresh life into our tradition-encrusted civilization." They have implanted the ideas for three new devices in the minds of certain officials on Earth, devices much like those used by the authorities on Hegor. They plan to go to Earth and commit thefts where they can train against the devices which will be used on their world against them during their revolution, without the knowledge of Hegoran authorities. Earth will become the testing ground for their revolution.

Back to real time and Kyra speaks to Hal through his ring, telling him she is in trouble, but when he follows the energy impulse back to Kyra it is a trap and Green lantern is stunned and captured. With the Lantern neutralized, Kyra and the gang continue with their training. GL is held in place by an alien machine which he attempts to destroy with an energy beam, but the more he uses his ring the more paralyzing radiation bombards his body and he is wracked by intense pain. Figuring he can withstand the pain for a short burst he wills his ring to make a concentrated pain-killer, which he swallows and then waits to take effect.

With the pain-killer in his system, Green Lantern is able to smash the alien device holding him captive and after a quick stop by police headquarters to find the location of the group's current cir me, GL tracks them down and battles them into submission. Once he has them captured Kyra explains their mission, which has been successful and tells him that their time on Earth is over. GL is unable to stop the entire gang from teleporting back to Hegor.

But Hal can't get Kyra out of his mind and realizes that he may be in love with her so he flies to Hegor and locates Kyra, seeing her as she really looks for the first time. Kyra tells him that thanks to the training they did on Earth the revolution was successful and that a coup was possible without a devastating war. Kyra also introduces Hal to Tarkro, the man she is to marry tomorrow. Hal returns to earth, spurned by Kyra, spurned by Carol, he cannot face his job as an insurance salesman and decides a change of careers is in order.

Edited by Julius Schwartz.

Friday, April 03, 2009

Two Crichton novels to be published posthumously

Reuters is reporting that two "novels by 'Jurassic Park' author Michael Crichton, one finished by him before his death last year and the other to be completed based on his notes, will be published posthumously, his publisher said on Monday."

I think Crichton went a little wonky in recent years, but I've enjoyed much of his work. Last week we watched Looker, his 1981 film about, well, things so pretty you can't take your eyes off of them. Think plastic surgery, computer enhancement, computer animation, mind control, subliminal suggestion on steroids and invisibility. Think of advertising products, advertising politicians and weapons.

I remember the film being much better than it is, Crichton being a much better writer than director, but I liked that he could take an idea and run with it to some pretty extreme places. I think Looker could be remade into a much better film, particularly if the political aspect was looked into deeper.