Friday, May 29, 2009

40 Years Ago Today From DC Comics -- Detective Comics #389

Detective Comics #389 (On Sale: May 29, 1969) has a nice cover by Neal Adams.

We begin with "Batman's Evil Eye" by Frank Robbins, Bob Brown and Joe Giella. This is not one of Frank Robbins' better efforts. When a story begins with Professor Crane, AKA the Scarecrow being released from prison and Batman begins striking fear into the hearts of criminals again, it shouldn't take Batman so many pages to figure out who is behind it. This story is so simplistic and half-assedly written that I'm not even going to bother repeating the plot. Suffice to say, Batman scares people and by looking in the mirror he scares himself and in the end the Scarecrow loses.

That is followed by our back-up Batgirl story "Batgirl's Bag of Tricks" by Frank Robbins, Gil Kane and Murphy Anderson. Continuing from last issue, Barbara in a Batgirl costume not her own has followed "Batman" to an airline costume party where her new roommate, whom she is impersonating, is the guest of honor. Seeing "Batman" hook up with others dressed as the Flash, Superman and Green Lantern she has eavesdropped and found out that her new roommate is in a jewel smuggling ring with the other "heroes." She now finds herself taking on the other "heroes," minus Batgirl's weapons-bag.

The gang subdue her, but the fight has brought the police. This gives Barbara the edge and she knocks out both the Flash, Green Lantern and Batman, but Superman gets away. Thinking Barbara is her roommate, Darlene Dawson, she is given the award for Air-Hostess With the Mostest" then beats a hasty retreat. Remembering that Darlene said she was going to visit her Grandfather on this, his birthday, Barbara cycles out to Cosby Corners in search of the Dawsons, not knowing that "Superman" is tailing her, thinking she is Darlene and heading for the jewels she stole from them.

When she finds the Dawsons she learns that Grandpa is actually the brains behind Darlene's crimes. Deciding to take them down Barbara fights Darlene while Gramps pulls out an old Tommy Gun. At the same time "Superman" shows up sees that there are two Darlenes and decides to kill them both. However, it's been a long time since Grandpa's bootlegging days and the Thompson is a little too much gun for him. Bullets fly haphazardly around the room, killing "Superman." Barbara stops Grandpa cold with a two-tiered birthday cake in the chops. This has been reprinted in Batman in the Sixties TPB and Showcase Presents: Batgirl Vol. 1 TPB.

Edited by Julius Schwartz.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

40 Years Ago Today From DC Comics -- Green Lantern #70

Green Lantern #70 (On Sale: May 27, 1969) has a nice cover by Gil Kane.

Green Lantern stars in "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Earth" by John Broome, Gil Kane and Vinnie Colletta. I remember this one from when I was a kid, as it has one of the strangest solutions for killing a space monster I have ever read. The Guardians call Green Lantern to take out a gigantic creature that eats gravity. OK, I know that gravity is a force and not a thing, but hey, it eats gravity, OK? Green Lantern is attacked by the creature and eventually kills it by making it eat its own shit, or as John Broome put it, "Its own waste product." I kid you not.

But this issue is not just about shit-eating monsters, it's about a toy factory on the planet Ghyra, where the circuitry in a "Hilar-Toy" goes haywire and instead of making people laugh, it causes people to fight. Unable to fix the indestructible Hilar the makers turn it off and throw it away, but it still finds itself "active" and locates a space ship in the junkyard, which it uses to escape. With no plan of where to go, Hilar sees Green Lantern fly by, returning from giving the gravity eater a shit-eating grin, and follows him back to Earth.

After a run-in with the police for jay-walking the Hilar finds a TV studio as a hiding place. There he interrupts the filming of a TV comedy show which brings him to the attention of Hal Jordan (working his first day as a toy salesman). As Green Lantern he rushes to the studio only to find that any attack against Hilar is rerouted back at himself. Some gangsters see Hilar take out Green Lantern on TV and saying that he only wants to make people laugh. They high-tail it down to the studio and pick up Hilar by pretending to find everything he says funny.

The gangsters win over Hilar's confidence and bring him along when they go to rob a train. When Green Lantern shows up, Hilar again knocks him out cold. When he comes to, Green Lantern finds the gangsters' car and begins to take them out one at a time and then turns to face Hilar. Hilar has realized that his "friends" are evil and tries to communicate that to Green Lantern telepathically, but GL is using his ring to create an impenetrable aura around himself. Lantern uses his ring to steal Hilar's gravity and he crumbles like the toy he is.

Discovering that Hilar is just a malfunctioning toy, Green Lantern returns Hilar to Ghyra, repairs his faulty circuits and as he leaves Hilar is on stage and getting big laughs with his "A funny thing happened on the way to Earth" story.

Edited by Julius Schwartz.

Friday, May 22, 2009

40 Years Ago Today From DC Comics -- DC Special #4

DC Special #4 (On Sale: May 22, 1969) has a cover by Neal Adams for the 13 Shock-Ending Stories issue.

We begin with a framing sequence for 13 Shock-Ending Stories 13 by Mark Hanerfeld and Bill Draut. This is famous for being the first appearance of Abel, caretaker of the House of Secrets. Not only did Hanerfeld write Abel's first appearance he is the original model for Abel.

Next is "Ghost Writer" drawn by Leonard Starr and reprinted from House of Mystery #19. That is followed by "The Magic Hammer" drawn by Jack Kirby and reprinted from Tales of the Unexpected #16 where it was originally entitled "The Magic Stick."

We next have "A Piece of Rope" from House of Mystery #5. Jerry Grandenetti drew "Last Mile Martin" from House of Mystery #15 "The Dream Lamp " is drawn by John Prentice and is reprinted from Tales of the Unexpected #1.

Next is "Door of No Return" written by Murray Boltinoff and drawn by George Roussos and reprinted from House of Secrets #62. That is followed by "Beware after Dark" drawn by Carmine Infantino and Joe Giella and reprinted from Sensation Mystery #114.

"The Tree Man of Tanganyika" comes to us from House of Mystery #30 and is drawn by Ralph Mayo. Ralph Mayo was the art director of AC Comics in the 1940s. He drew 'Black Terror and Tim' for America's Best Comics, Black Terror and Exciting Comics. He also penciled some 'Miss Masque' splash pages. In the 1950s he drew Jann of the Jungle for Marvel, 'Camilla' for Fiction House and crime stories for Lev Gleason and St. John. He was penciller and/or inker on Dell titles like Dragoon Wells Massacre, Jungle Jim, Lassie, Quentin Durward and Roy Rogers. His first work for DC was in Mr. District Attorney #2 in 1948. He worked mainly on the Johnny Quick feature in Adventure Comics and drew 66 stories in all for DC before his death in 1956. Some of his last work was with Al Williamson on Jann of the Jungle.

Next is "Written in the Sands" drawn by George Papp and reprinted from House of Mystery #26. "The Secret of Salzo the Great" comes to us from artist John Prentice and House of Mystery #2. That is followed by "Secret Locked in the Ice" from House of Secrets #63 and the pen of artist Gene Colan.

Rounding out the issue is "The Bullet Man" drawn by Bernard Baily from Tales of the Unexpected #17 and "The Strange Faces of Death" drawn by Ruben Moreira and reprinted from House of Mystery #19.

Edited by Joe Orlando.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

40 Years Ago Today From DC Comics -- Anthro #6

Anthro #6 (On Sale: May 20, 1969) has a cover reported to be by the signed Howie Post, but only a crazy person would deny the Wally Wood inks on the Nima and Embra figures. This is the final issue of Anthro.

(The Marriage of Anthro) is written and penciled by Howie Post and inked by Wally Wood. Anthro leaves the tribe of his uncle to search for Embra. After an encounter with a white lion and a giant, Anthro finds Embra and her father Tugg. The trio return to Do-Ahn's village where a marriage is arranged for Tugg's eldest daughter Ita.

Anthro then proceeds to marry Embra. Before the ceremony is complete, the ritual is challenged by Nima, a woman of the bear tribe. As a result of her challenge Nima and Embra fight for the right to marry Anthro. The girls knock each other out which results in the match ending as a draw. As a result the law requires that Anthro marry both women.

Howie Post's Anthro was a one-of-a-kind character and didn't fit real well in the DC universe. Beginning life in Showcase #74 it would be nine years later before Anthro appeared again and again it would be in the pages of Showcase, this time issue #100 with a small cameo. He would appear only three more times in Crisis on Infinite Earths #2, #5 and #10.

Edited by Joe Orlando.

Friday, May 15, 2009

40 Years Ago Today From DC Comics -- Teen Titans #22

Teen Titans #22 (On Sale: May 15, 1969) has another great Nick Cardy cover.

We begin with the Teen Titans in "Halfway to Holocaust" written and penciled by Neal Adams and inked by Nick Cardy. Continuing from last issue, while Speedy and Wonder Girl battle an extra dimensional creature that suddenly appears in the criminals' control-room, Robin and Kid Flash, under the control of the aliens, are used to discover a third dimensional world, invisible to the Dimension-X-dwellers, which exists adjacent to both their world and Earth. Escaping, they rejoin their teammates in this adjoining dimension, only to be pursued by the aliens.

The battle between Titans and aliens is cut short when a community-intelligence being, the sole sentient native to the newly discovered dimension, takes on the form of a giant archer in imitation of Speedy, and drives the minions of Dimension X back to their own world. Promising that never again will beings from Dimension X use his world as a gateway to Earth, the "archer" allows the Titans to depart in peace. This story has been reprinted in Best of DC #18 and Showcase Presents: Teen Titans Vol. 2 TPB.

The back-up story, "The Origin of Wonder Girl" is by Marv Wolfman, Gil Kane and Nick Cardy. This story is sort of a side story to the first story in this issue. Upon the Titan's return to Earth, Wonder Girl unexpectedly collapses, the result of a recently recurring series of fainting spells. In explanation, she tells the other Titans her origin for the first time.

As a child, she had been saved from an apartment building fire by Wonder Woman, and taken by her to Paradise Island to live after all attempts to ascertain her identity or those of her parents (presumed to be a couple killed in the blaze) had failed. Becoming Queen Hippolyta's foster daughter and Wonder Woman's foster sister, she was unable to compete with the Amazons on a physical level, lacking their special powers, and so was given powers almost identical to those of Wonder Woman by Paula, the Amazon chief scientist, using the Purple Ray.

Returning to the outside world to join the Teen Titans, she was forced to stay behind when the other Amazons sojourned to another dimension to recharge their magical powers, and had been secretly living in Titan Lair since that time. Now, she takes the name Donna Troy as a civilian identity and moves into an apartment in Greenwich Village with new girlfriend Sharon Tracy.

Later, she is contacted by Queen Hippolyta, who informs her that the Amazons' use of the Purple Ray had been accidentally responsible for her recurring weak spells, a problem which has now been corrected. Wonder Girl celebrates her new life by designing a new costume and changing her hairstyle. Reprinted in DC Special Blue Ribbon Digest #5 and Showcase Presents: Teen Titans Vol. 2 TPB.

Edited by Dick Giordano.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

40 Years Ago Today From DC Comics -- Girls' Love Stories #144

Girls' Love Stories #144 (On Sale: May 13, 1969) has a cover by supposedly George Tuska and Vinny Colletta. It looks nothing like Tuska and certainly nothing like the Tuska/Colletta art on Iron Man at Marvel. Oddly, this cover falls back on the old logo that was replaced two issues prior.

We begin with "Can Love Last Forever?" drawn by John Rosenberger. Next is "Too Late for Tears" a reprint from Secret Hearts #43 drawn by John Romita and Bernard Sachs. That is followed by "He Loves Me... He Loves Me Not" drawn by Jay Scott Pike. Lastly is our cover-story, "Memory of Margret" drawn by George Tuska and Vinny Colletta.

This is George Tuska's first work of DC in ten years (Tales of the Unexpected #34) and his first cover since Uncle Sam #3 in 1942.

George Tuska studied at the National Academy School of Art. In 1939, he became an assistant on the Scorchy Smith newspaper comic strip. As he explained in an interview in Alter Ego #3, he also worked for for the Eisner & Iger studio, "alongside Bob Powell, Lou Fine, and Mike Sekowsky" , adding that the studio later expanded "with Charles Sultan, John Celardo, Nick Cardy, and [writer] Toni Blum joining in. I worked on 'Shark Brodie' [for Fiction House], 'Spike Marlin' [in Harvey Comics' Speed Comics, as Carl Larson], and other strips" for comics including Fiction House's Jungle Comics and Wings Comics, and Fox Comics' Wonderworld Comics and Mystery Men Comics."

Tuska later left to work with packager Harry "A" Chesler's studio, helping to supply content for such Fawcett Comics publications as Captain Marvel Adventures, and for such characters as Golden Arrow, Uncle Sam and El Carim. Tuska also drew the debut of the Quality Comics feature Hercules — starring a superhuman circus strongman, not the mythological figure — in Hit Comics #1 (July 1940).

Following Tuska's military service in World War II, he worked on Lev Gleason Publications' comic-book series Crime Does Not Pay, and later became one of the last writer-artists of Scorchy Smith, which ran until 1961. Tuska also did the comic strip Buck Rogers from 1959-1967.

Tuska freelanced primarily for Marvel during the 1960s Silver Age of comic books and beyond, penciling and occasionally inking other artists on series including Ghost Rider, Luke Cage, Power Man, Black Goliath, Sub-Mariner, The X-Men and the movie tie-in series Planet of the Apes. His first Marvel story, a "Tales of the Watcher" feature in Tales of Suspense #58 (Nov. 1964), had a special introduction by editor Stan Lee hailing the return of the Golden Age great. He enjoyed a nearly ten-year, sometimes briefly interrupted, run on Iron Man from issue #5 (Sept. 1968) to #106 (Jan. 1978).

His work at DC would include numerous romance and horror/mystery stories, but he is best remembered at DC for his super-hero work, starting with Challengers of the Unknown #73 in 1970. Besides the Challs, Tuska would work on the Teen Titans, Superboy, Superman in Action Comics and Superman Family, Jimmy Olsen in Superman Family, Justice League of America, Legion of Super-Heroes, Superman/Batman and Black Lightning in World's Finest Comics, Masters of the Universe, Green Lantern, Infinity Inc., and Fury of Firestorm.

George Tuska also pulled a 15-year stint drawing The World's Greatest Superheroes Present Superman newspaper strip from 1978-1993. His last DC work was on a Wildcat story in Wildcats: Mosaic #1 in 2000. Tuska retired from active comics work as of the 2000s and lives in Manchester, New Jersey where he does commissioned art. He also makes the rounds of many of the comic conventions even though he is currently 93 years old.

Edited by Joe Orlando.

Friday, May 08, 2009

40 Years Ago Today From DC Comics -- House of Mystery #181

House of Mystery #181 (On Sale: May 8, 1969) has another beautiful cover by Neal Adams, with some wonderfully moody coloring.

We begin with "Sir Greeley's Revenge" by Otto Binder and Frank Springer. Except for a single story printed in House of Mystery #257 in 1978, this is the last DC story by the great Otto Binder. This is also the last DC story for Frank Springer for seven years. This is a great little story about orphan Tim Halloway taken in one cold winter night by the rich and powerful Sir Greeley. He is a kind man who takes an immediate liking to the poor child, particularly when he find that Tim has a natural ability on the piano. The Sir's affection for Tim does not sit well with his spinster sister Abigail and his nephew Percy.

They try to toss Tim back to the streets, but Sir Greeley steps in and lets them know that they too stay at his house solely due to his generosity. Sir Greeley provides Tim with the best of piano teachers and Tim's abilities grow, but death comes one night for Sir Greeley. At the reading of his will, Abigail and Percy learn that they are only given half of Sir Greeley's estate and the the other half goes to young Tim, provided he can perform at a concert and not make a single mistake, thus proving him worthy.

Abigail and Percy begin to distract Tim from his practicing for the concert, forcing him to ride horses, which they purposefully startle in an unsuccessful attempt to break Tim's arm. The ghost of Sir Greeley returns to keep young Tim on the right path. The next day Abigail makes Tim split logs for hours, creating swollen, bleeding hands that are unable to practice. Seeing the depths to which his kin will stoop, Sir Greeley's ghost lures Abigail and Percy to the basement where they uncover a cache of gold coins which rain down upon them. Suddenly they realize that the coins are filling the room and that it is too late for them to escape. They die swallowed up by the fortune they craved.

When the concert finally comes Tim plays flawlessly and wins the entirety of Sir Greeley's estate, which pleases the old ghost very much. Reprinted in House of Mystery #229.

After a Page 13 by Sergio Aragones we have "The Siren of Satan" by Robert Kanigher and Bernie Wrightson. The artwork is vintage very early Bernie Wrightson, with lots of cross-hatched backgrounds and Frank Frazetta-inspired figures, but the story by Kanigher is a real turd involving the ancient Egyptian princess Re-Na. She was the most beautiful of women, but the god Ro-Tan placed a curse on anyone who would fall in love with her. Even after her death, we see that throughout the centuries, one captive of her affection after another died from the curse of Ro-Tan. Her beautifully carved sarcophagus eventually makes it's way to America and is purchased at auction by Jason, who, believing that everyone is plotting to steal Re-Na from him, hides out at the House of Mystery and shelters the sarcophagus in a nearby cemetery.

When Jason's fiancé traces him to the House, Cain points her to the cemetery where she finds Jason slumped over the sarcophagus and at her touch his body turns to dust. We are then asked who will next fall victim to the curse? Could it be you?

Sergio Aragones ends the book with another round of Cain's Game Room. The entire contents was reprinted in Showcase Presents: The House of Mystery Vol. 1 TPB.

Edited by Joe Orlando.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

What a Fool Believes... that there is anything resembling news happening at Fox News.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

40 Years Ago Today From DC Comics -- Falling In Love #108

Falling In Love #108 (On Sale: May 6, 1969) has an ugly cover by Ric Estrada and Vinny Colletta. I blame Colletta.

We lost Ric Estrada on May 1 to cancer. Ric drew his first story for DC, a war story for Our Army At War in 1955 and his second story, a romance tale for Girls' Romance in 1967. He started his long run beginning in 1968 and would end his association with DC in 1986. He would draw 289 stories in all for DC.

Sure he was the guy they went to for romance and war stories, but Ric drew lots of other things. He had a story in every issue of Hot Wheels except the first one. He drew the first seven issues of Amethyst. He did comedy in Plop and Welcome Back Kotter He didn't like drawing super-heroes, but he did a dozen Wonder Woman stories and numerous issues of Richard Dragon: Kung Fu Fighter, Super Friends, Blackhawk and the Karate Kid. He did the Legion of Super-Heroes, Wonder Girl, The Creeper, Beowulf, Isis, The Justice Society of America, and the Freedom Fighters. Ric could do it all.

I'm just going to lift liberally here from Mark Evanier's post the morning Ric died.
Ric was born February 26, 1928 in Havana, Cuba and began selling his work at age 13 to a popular Cuban magazine called Bohemia. He attended University of Havana where, he always claimed, another student was Fidel Castro.

Via a relative, he developed a friendship with Ernest Hemingway, who took an interest in the young artist's work and encouraged him to relocate to New York. Ric moved there at age 20 but never stayed in one place for very long, traveling the world and living briefly in dozens of other cities. Whenever he was back in Manhattan, he managed to work in comic books, including two of his proudest jobs...stories for the EC war comics edited and written by Harvey Kurtzman. Other companies that were glad to have his art included Hillman, Western Publishing, St. John and Ziff-Davis.

Ric occasionally dabbled in newspaper strips, including assisting on Flash Gordon and drawing some of the Flash Gordon comic books. Most of his comic book work was done in the sixties and seventies for DC, primarily on romance and war comics. But there was a period where (against his preference, he said), he was assigned to super-hero titles, primarily as a "rough penciller." Ric didn't like super-heroes and didn't feel he had the flair for them, and he also didn't like producing anything less than finished artwork. Still, that was where he was told his services were needed so he penciled comics like All-Star Comics, Freedom Fighters and Karate Kid.

Despite the grief it caused him and his own dissatisfaction with the work, it was often quite wonderful...though not as grand as when Ric was allowed to be Ric. Besides, Ric was never satisfied with his own work. In the seventies, he did several war stories for DC's combat titles that garnered great praise, particularly from his fellow artists. It was hard to tell Ric how good you thought they were without him blushing red and giving you an honest, humble argument.

In the 80's Ric moved to Los Angeles and worked for the Hanna-Barbera studio as a designer and layout artist. He was much-loved about the building...and repeatedly flattered as younger artists sought him out to praise his comic work.

Ric was married three times and had eight children. One son, Seth, is currently producing a documentary on his father. You can find out more about it at the Ric Estrada website and view some of the raw footage on this page.
I always liked Ric's work. My wife and I shared an elevator with Ric at the San Diego Comic-Con a few years ago. He walked in and I said "Hi, great to see you." Ric sees that his name tag is backwards and says, "You don't even know who I am." I said, "Ric, you are one of those guys who looks like you were drawn by you. Of course I know who you are." I think he was kind of shocked than anyone recognized him. He was a very self-effacing guy and you couldn't help liking him. I always liked his artwork.

We begin with "Does He Still Love Her?" drawn by John Rosenberger and later reprinted in Young Romance #197. That is followed by our cover story, "Don't Pity Me -- Love Me" drawn by Ric Estrada and Vinny Colletta. Next is "The Write Time to Love" drawn by Wally Wood and Vinny Colletta. Lastly we have "Heart of a Lifetime" drawn by Arthur Peddy and Bernard Sachs.

Edited by Murray Boltinoff

Friday, May 01, 2009

Fishin' in South Louisiana

I've mentioned my Cajun heritage before, well part of it is the Cajun self-deprecating humor. Like this...

A Cajun was stopped by a game warden in South Louisiana with two ice chests of fish. He was leaving a bayou well known for its fishing.The game warden asked the man, "Do you have a license to catch those fish?"

"Naw, ma fren, I ain't got none of dem, no. Dese here are ma pet fish."

"Pet fish?"

"Ya. Avery night I take dese here fish down to de bayou and let dem swim 'round for a while. Den I whistle and dey jump rat back inta dis here ice chest and I take dem home."

"That's a bunch of hooey! Fish can't do that!"

The Cajun looked at the game warden for a moment and then said, "It's de truth ma' fren. I'll show you. It really works."

Okay, I've GOT to see this!"

The Cajun poured the fish into the bayou and stood and waited. After several minutes, the game warden turned to him and said, "Well?"

"Well, what?" said the Cajun.

"When are you going to call them back?"

"Call who back?"

"The FISH!"

"What fish?"

We in Louisiana may not be as smart as some, but we aren't as dumb as most!!!

40 Years Ago Today From DC Comics -- Wonder Woman #183

Wonder Woman #183 (On Sale: May 1, 1969) has another nice cover by Mike Sekowsky and Dick Giordano.

Our feature-length Wonder Woman story "Return to Paradise Island" is written and penciled by Mike Sekowsky and inked by Dick Giordano. Answering her mother, Hippolyta's call for help, Diana and I Ching are brought to Paradise Island only to find Hippolyta lying in an enchanted sleep from which she cannot be awakened. Paradise Island has been terribly ravaged by war, a war brought on by Diana's grandfather, Ares, God of War, in his mad quest to wrest from his daughter, Hippolyta, Queen of the Amazons, the secret of dimensional travel. It is a secret that he needs and want so that he may pour his armies onto Earth and other worlds, knowing that only through war can he again be the powerful god he once was.

Rallying her mother's Amazons to her, Diana leads them against Ares in a desperate attempt to stop him. They fight bravely, but against such overwhelming odds as Ares throws at them, even Amazon bravery and courage cannot prevail. Driven back into the mountains, Diana and her Amazons wait for the battle they must fight and the battle they know they cannot win. It has been reprinted in Wonder Woman #198 and Diana Prince: Wonder Woman Vol. 1 TPB.

Edited by Mike Sekowsky.