Saturday, June 27, 2009
One day a girl in my English class pulled out a picture of the Jackson Five and showed it to Mr. Sharpe. "Do you like the Jackson Five Mr. Sharpe?" she asked.
He replied, "Well, they sing very nice."
"Do you like Michael?"
I remember to this day what he said. At the time I thought it was a really strange thing to say and that he couldn't be more wrong. Over the years, Mr. Sharpe proved to be precinct in his evaluation. "I think that boy being so popular so young is a very, very bad thing. Every child needs a childhood and this boy is not getting his. I think it will trouble him for the rest of his life."
How sad for Michael. He really was Peter Pan, the boy who could never grow up. To leave childhood behind, you have to have a childhood and Michael could never let go of what he never really had.
Wednesday, June 24, 2009
I can still smell the paper and the ink of this issue, I poured over it so much, digesting every panel over and over. This book was a revelation to me; I think it hooked me on comics more than any other book. After living through John, and Martin and Bobby, the opening assassination attempt gripped me because it felt so real. The 1960's were a decade of liberal politicians being gunned down in our streets and this book gave us a revised hero, a modern-day Robin Hood, who was there to help fight the corruption of our country. He had a mustache and a goatee and cool new threads and he was an obvious good man. It put Batman into this world too, and said that he was more than just a crime fighter. Both of these heroes were the "rich guys" of DC, but both of them show that they cannot be corrupted by their wealth, as some are. A classic issue for sure.
Batman and Green Arrow star in "The Senator's Been Shot!" by Bob Haney and Neal Adams. Election day and Senator Paul Cathcart wins the race only to be shot while making his acceptance speech, falling into the arms of friend Bruce Wayne. Bruce changes into Batman and chases down the assassins, but is foiled by a low overpass. Bruce Wayne visits Paul's room at Gothan State Hospital where Paul's son Edmond is by his father's side, Paul in a coma.
Bruce gets a call from the governor who discusses the importance of an anti-crime bill that Paul was going to vote for and the need to appoint someone else in Paul's place. Bruce suggests Paul's son, Edmond, but the governor says that Edmond's psychiatric practice keeps him too busy and he wants to appoint Bruce as Senator. The governor mentions how the bill is aimed at the biggest crime combine of all run by Miklos Minotaur, who may be behind the assassination attempt. Bruce says he will think about it.
Meanwhile Oliver Queen is finishing up plans for "New Island" a second Gotham that could save the state from bankruptcy. The only other bidder on the project is Argonaut Unlimited run by Miklos Minotaur. After his assistant locks up the plans and leaves, Oliver pulls out his new Green Arrow costume. He ponders if he should give up Green Arrow completely and devote his energies to helping humanity instead as plain old Oliver Queen. At the same time he notes that his assistant has stolen the plans for New Island a man on a window-washing rig throws a grenade into Oliver's office, but an arrow with a hook on it flings the grenade out the window where it explodes harmlessly. He pulls out a duplicate set of plans for New Island and can't figure out which identity is more important, Oliver Queen or Green Arrow.
The next day Bruce and Edmond are at the gym working out when Bruce tells Edmond that he is not sure he will take the governor's appointment. Edmond lashes out at him, that people's lives are at stake and "you won't even stand up and be counted." Bruce confesses that he can't because he has another job to do, Batman's job, "because I am Batman!" Bruce continues that he told Edmond because he knows that, as a psychiatrist, Edmond will never reveal his secret and because he needs his advice. Who is more important, Senator Bruce Wayne or Batman?
Later Edmond is looking over the New Island project with Oliver Queen when Oliver confides that he is Green Arrow and needs Edmond's help is figuring out which identity is more important. That night in his office, as Edmond ponders the two heroes coming to the same crisis in their lives, he is kidnapped by two of Minotaur's goons. Hours later Green Arrow pays Edmond a visit but finds Batman there instead. They listen to a secret recording that Edmond had running. Hearing that Minotaur is behind Edmond's capture both heroes silently think Minotaur is trying to get to their civilian identities through Edmond.
The next morning Bruce Wayne is sworn in as a US Senator, while Green Arrow parachutes onto a small Mediterranean island and plants a tracking device on Minotaur's yacht as it enters a hidden grotto. The tracking device is found and destroyed, leaving Green Arrow lost in the grotto. Minotaur releases his private hunting stock into the grotto and Green Arrow is attacked by a bear, a boar and a lion. He takes them out but is floored by the charging lion.
He is awakened later by Batman, who has tracked him through his Justice League locator transmitter. Batman uses a real bat and another locator device to find their way out of the grotto. Batman and Green Arrow crash into Minotaur's lair, only Minotaur puts a gun to Edmond's head and tells them to stop or he will kill Edmond. Green Arrow jams the trigger of Minotaur's gun with a trick arrow and while they are fighting his men, Minotaur escapes.
Bruce flies back to Washington for the crime bill vote while Oliver invites Minotaur to a lavish party on the island. When Minotaur arrives Oliver tries to have him arrested, but Minotaur notes that he cannot be arrested in a foreign country. Oliver then informs him that he should have noticed that the party was at the American Embassy. Oliver knocks him out and they take him away in a helicopter from the roof. Meanwhile back in Washington, Batman lands at the airport and makes it by Batrope and leg-power to the Senate, where he quickly changes into his civilian duds in time to vote for the crime bill.
Later Edmond meets both Oliver and Bruce separately. Oliver thinks that there is room in his life for both of his identities, while Bruce has resigned his Senate seat and has chosen the road of Batman. Later, alone in his office Paul begins sessions of self-hypnosis to wipe the knowledge of the secret identities from his mind. This classic story has been reprinted in DC Special Blue Ribbon Digest #23, Best of the Brave and the Bold #1, Millennium Edition: The Brave and the Bold 85 (#48), Batman Illustrated by Neal Adams Vol. 1 HC, Showcase Presents Green Arrow Vol. 1 TPB and Showcase Presents the Brave and the Bold Batman Team-Ups Vol. 1 TPB.
Some mention must be given to the loose artwork by Neal Adams. It has none of the stiffness that would creep into his work over the years as he labored to be "Neal Adams," rather than a great comic book artist. Just my opinion here, but Adams seemed to just be having fun in these days; he hadn't yet become the "it guy" of comics and with nothing to keep proving, he was free to just cut loose.
Edited by Murray Boltinoff.
Friday, June 19, 2009
This issue's framing sequence, "The Witching Hour Welcome Wagon" is drawn by the great Alex Toth. Cynthia has talked Mordred and Mildred into visiting the new neighbors. They each tell the new neighbors a tale. Mildred tells "A Matter of Conscience" drawn by Winslow Mortimer. Harvey Harrington thinks his house is trying to kill him and so he goes to Exorciser Inc, where he hires the services of Tamroth. They go back to Harrington's house where he informs Tamroth that all of the ghostly action takes place in one room, the room his wife died in twelve years ago. he is positive that she is trying to kill him, but he swears that he did not kill her, that he tried to get her a doctor, but was too late.
Tamroth lights the "torch of the blue flame" and the room shimmers around them as they are transported to the realm of the underworld. They are drawn towards a hooded figure which Tamroth tells Harrington is the one he seeks. The hooded one sends forth a swarm of flying creatures and while Tamroth fights them Harrington moves toward the hooded figure. Using the torch Harrington lashes out at the figure who is the "one at fault," never noticing that the hooded figure is Harrington himself.
Suddenly they are back in Harrington's home and Tamroth explains that he is actually a psychiatrist and that Harrington is suffering from a guilt complex over his wife's death, that he is the cause of all the disturbances at his home. But just then a vase crashes against the wall.
Next it is Cynthia's turn to spin a tale. "Disaster in a Jar" is drawn by Pat Boyette. Amos Canby is a door-to-door salesman who can't make a sale. Everyone thinks he is a fraud and a phony. What he peddles is Magic Youth Skin Cream, a product of his own creation. He goes from town to town and it is always the same. They call him a "fake" and a "cheat" and a "bum." but Amos knows something everyone else does not; his cream actually works. He decides that what he needs to do is give away some free samples and that night he makes up a new batch, a batch that he calls "extra special."
The next day he starts giving out samples and the women flock to him. Within three weeks Amos is a rich man and decides to spend his cash in the stock market, cornering a market. Meanwhile a local research lab does and analysis of the cream but can't figure out what it is.
One year later to the day Amos's customers all lose their hair, starting a run on wigs. For weeks there are runs on wigs all over the country and on the news one night it is revealed that every facility for manufacturing wigs in the country is under the control of Amos Canby. Money well invested I would say.
By the way, Boyette does a great Chet Huntly and David Brinkley in this story. And take a look at the page here, particularly the fourth panel. I don't know how much of this was in the script and how much is Boyette having fun, but the "DownEnOut Hotel" and the "Rooms $1.50 and Down" signs cracked me up, not to mention the man throwing his wife out of the window and her response, "I've lost his love!"
Lastly it is Mordred's turn and she tells the tale "A Fistful of Fire!!" drawn by Jose Delbo. It is 1692 and Judge Samuel Sewell has just burned another witch at the stake in Salem, Massachusetts. The town doctor asks Sewell how long the witch burnings will continue and Sewell replies that the burnings are indeed unpleasant, particularly on an empty stomach. Judge Sewell invites the doctor to his house for dinner and they take a short-cut through the woods in hopes of getting home before a storm breaks. While in the woods Sewell admits that the evidence against the witch today was sketchy at best, but that is because the really are no witches, he is simply ridding the world of evil people and calling them witches makes the job easier to do.
At the same time a coven of witches is casting a spell against Sewell and they catch up to the two men in the woods just as the storm breaks. The witches attack but are repelled by the doctor who reveals that he too has magical dark powers. Be bests the witches at their own game and they rush away convinced that they have tussled with the devil himself. But the doctor reveals that he is actually a warlock.
This is Jose Delbo's first artwork for DC. Born in Buenos Aires, Argentina in 1933 where he became the assistant of comic artist Carlos Clemen, Delbo moved to the US in 1965. He worked at Wally Wood's Tower Comics drawing Secret Agent Mike Manley in Fight the Enemy. At Gold Key he drew Buck Rogers and Doctor Solar.
At DC Delbo would draw 163 stories between 1969 and 1990. Besides his work on the horror books, Delbo would draw the second-string strips: Robin, Batgirl, Jimmy Olsen, Lois Lane, The Atom, Superboy. Tomahawk, Sandman. He did a number of Red Tornado stories in World's Finest Comics a string of Superman/Batman stories also for World's Finest Comics and finished his DC career drawing The Adventures of Ford Fairlane. In between he managed to draw the daily Superman newspaper strip. But he is mainly remembered at DC for a six-year stint on Wonder Woman, where his pencils were usually smothered by Vinny Colletta.
At Marvel Delbo drew the Thundercats and he did a three-year run on The Transformers.
Jose Delbo retired from the comic book business and lives now in Boca Raton, Florida, where he runs the Delbo Cartoon Camp, a summer camp for teaching children how to draw comics.
Edited by Dick Giordano.
Thursday, June 18, 2009
MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – Scientists are genetically modifying a bizarre looking Mexican salamander, which according to ancient mythology is a transformed Aztec god, in the hope its ability to regenerate body parts will one day help human amputees.You can read the whole piece here.
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
There is a very short Joe Kubert drawn framing sequence around the two reprints regarding a new pilot who, as von Hammer puts it, is "mistaken...if you believe only you live in fear of the killer skies!" The first is (Balloon for a Hawk) from Our Fighting Forces #60 by Bob Haney and Russ Heath and concerns the first American to fly with the French. The unnamed Lieutenant plays a bar-room game his first night in France with the French pilots where they throw darts at balloons representing the Germans. The Lieutenant hits the balloon representing the German ace known as the Hawk. But real combat proves more difficult and on his first mission he is shot down by the Hawk, barely making it back to the field before crashing.
When he recovers he is grounded by the French Colonel. But one day, as a Spad is landing The Hawk shoots it down and the Lieutenant leaps for a nearby plane and gives chase. However, the Hawk is a better pilot and slowly lures the Lieutenant's plane over his own filed where he shoots it down and he is taken prisoner. He makes a run for it and hops into a hot-air balloon used to guard the field against strafing. He casts off and is soon facing down the Hawk again, balloon against Fokker. The balloon eventually catches fire and he once again plummets to the ground, only the torn balloon gets caught in a tree breaking his fall and as the Hawk moves in for the kill, the Lieutenant fires the balloons guns and blasts the Hawk out of the sky.
The second is "Brother Enemy" from All-American Men of War #101 by Hank Chapman, Ross Andru and Mike Esposito.
Edited by Joe Kubert.
Friday, June 12, 2009
"Come Darkness, Come Death" is by Denny O'Neil and Bernie Wrightson, with an artistic assist from Mike Kaluta and Jeff Jones. Nightmaster Jim Rook and his barbarian friend, Tark, and the mentally-challenged albino guide, Boz hold one-side of a chasm. The warlocks and their mystical flying ship and Nightmaster's captured fiance, Janet, are on the other. In frustration Jim picks a fight with Tark, but it is soon interrupted when smoke from the warlock's ship drifts across the chasm, materializing into ribbons of evil which then forms into two giant spiders. The magic of the spiders is no match for the magic of the Sword of Night, and Jim defeats the two spiders.
But the court wizard has other ideas and sends forth blizzard winds which carry thousands of spiders toward our heroes. Horribly outnumbered, they make there way towards a cave only to have their path cut off by the spiders. As Jim prepares for the onslaught, thousands of rays of light streak from the cave and blast the spiders, obliterating them. Tark knows that only one man could have the power to create such a spell and guesses that the cave they have found is the home of Mar-Grouch the Mystic.
They enter the cave and beseech Mar-Grouch to return Janet from the clutches of the warlocks, something he agrees to do. However, the Court Wizard has cast a spell over Janet, turning her into a servant girl named Mizzi and commanding her to kill the Nightmaster if she can. Mar-Grouch's spell returns Mizzi and Jim is incensed that Mar-Grouch got the wrong girl. Still, Mar-Grouch offers one last bit of aid to the group, some wings they can wear to cross the chasm and attack the warlocks.
The wings are powered by crystals found on the ground and they are told to gather into pouches only the green crystals to make the wings fly, but to avoid the yellow crystals which attract the Arivegs, hideous flying plants. But Mizzi fills Jim's pouch and fills it full of yellow crystals, causing the Arivegs to attack Jim. Tark takes hold of Jim as he tosses his pouch away and they continue on their way to the ship.
Once inside they confront the warlocks but are subdued by mystic gases. When Nightmaster awakens he and Tark are tied up in the hold of the ship and are soon to be tortured and killed, but the warlock, Duke Spero wants to know why Jim Rook has been fighting, why he has not returned to Earth where he belongs and Jim says it is because of his love for Janet. Somehow his speech reaches through the spell fogging Mizzi's/Janet's mind and she decides to help. While Spero is boasting, Mizzi secretly cuts Jim's ropes and moments later when Spero reveals that Mizzi is really Jan, Jim leaps into action, forcing Spero and his wizard to flee through a dimensional vortex to Earth, with Jim and Janet in hot pursuit.
Jim forces the warlocks back through the portal to Myrra. Jim and Janet stumble out into the street, where they walk together in silence for hours. As the sun is rising they speak of what a dream, a fantasy they both shared and how it could not possibly have been real. Then Jim Rook feels the cold hard steel of the Sword of Night in his hands and knows that though he is Jim Rook, he is also Nightmaster.
This is the last of the Nightmaster series. Being Bernie Wrightson's first full book, his two Nightmaster stories are pretty uneven artistically and have ample assists from friends such as Mike Kaluta and Jeff Jones (such as in the half-page above, obviously penciled by Jeff Jones).
Edited by Murray Boltinoff.
Thursday, June 11, 2009
Friday, June 05, 2009
We begin with "Super-Speed Agent of the Flash" by John Broome, Ross Andru and Mike Esposito. A tornado is heading for a trailer park on the outskirts of Central City. Flash creates his own countering tornado to nullify the real tornado. As the two whirlwinds meet Flash is sucked up between the vortexes and knocked unconscious. When he awakens he finds his leg is broken and, like on the cover, is told he will never run again.
Barry Allen returns home, leg in a cast and begins to mope about in his wheelchair. As the days drag on and the crime rate in Central City begins to rise, Barry comes up with a plan. Barry has Iris up the openings in his uniform while he works at super-speed to create a series of radio-controlled miniature transistor circuits which he places at different points in his costume. After inflating his costume with air Barry has created a Flash automaton.
By vibrating at super-speed Barry in his wheelchair is able to invisibly follow his Flash automaton through Central City. In this manner Flash is able to bring down the Muscle Men gang. The next day Flash visits the doctor only to find out that some mysterious vibrations (Barry vibrating to invisibility) has healed his broken leg.
Our back-up story is "Ten Years to Live -- One Second to Die" also by John Broome, Ross Andru and Mike Esposito. After the previous episode, Flash takes his wheelchair, cast and crutches to Dexter Myles at The Flash Museum. While there Dexter relates how his young assistant, Joel Travis, had been bragging to his friends, a group called the Far-Outers (oh, don't you just love 60's DC hipness?), what good friends he was with the Flash and promised to get the Flash to come to one of their meetings. Not really knowing Flash, Joel attempted to "borrow" one of the Flash uniforms from the museum, but was caught by Dexter and promised to not do it again. However, a uniform is missing ans so is Joel.
Flash goes to find Joel to convince him how dangerous it is to pretend to be the Flash, but when he gets to the Far-Outers' place, he finds they have trapped Joel in a cell and gassed him and are talking about the million dollars they are going to make off of this. Vibrating at invisibility, Flash replaces himself for Joel and pretends to be knocked out in order to find the big boss behind the million-dollar payoff.
They take him to the home of "Blue-Chip" Chipman, a thief who specialized in negotiable stocks and bonds and who has recently finished a 10-year stretch in the slammer. He plans on keeping the Flash locked up in a cell in his house for the same amount of time he spent in the joint. Chipman has planted 10 bombs in 10 busy locations in Central City and if the Flash tried to leave his cell his very absence will automatically set off the blasts, killing hundreds or thousands of innocent people. Chipman demonstrates the threat is for real by blowing up and abandoned hotel behind his mansion.
Flash timed the detonation of the hotel and realizes there is a one-second spurt of high-frequency energy between the time the detonator was pushed the detonation. Flash jumps from his cell and then follows the detonator energy spurts to each of the ten locations, disarming each bomb before it can explode. Flash punches out Chipman and reprimands Joel for his impersonation act, but lets him keep his job at The Flash Museum.
Edited by Julius Schwartz.
Wednesday, June 03, 2009
We begin with "Don't Move It!" by Mike Friedrich, Jerry Grandenetti and George Roussos which is the origin story for the House of Secrets. That is followed by "House of Secrets" drawn by Bill Draut and containing the first appearance of Abel in the House of Secrets (remember he premiered in last month's DC Special #4).
Next is a text story, "Burn This House!" by persons unknown. That is followed by "Aaron Philips' Photo Finish!" by Gerry Conway and Jack Sparling. The issue ends with an Epilogue to the "House of Secrets" drawn by Bill Draut. The entire issue was reprinted in Showcase Presents: The House of Secrets Vol. 1 TPB.
This was Gerry Conway's first story for DC. Between now and 1990 Gerry would write 630 tales for DC. He began selling such anthological stories here and for Marvel's Chamber of Darkness and Tower of Shadows through the end of 1970. He published his first continuing-character story in The Phantom Stranger #10.
Conway broke into Marvel Comics through Marvel editor Roy Thomas as he explained in Back Issue #26:
"I'd been writing for DC Comics for two or three years . . . but to paraphrase the joke about the actor's ambitions to be a director, what I really wanted to do was write superheroes — specifically Marvel heroes. Through friends I'd become acquainted with Roy Thomas, who was Stan Lee's right-hand man at the time, and Roy offered me a shot at the Marvel 'writing test'. Stan wasn't impressed, but Roy liked what I did, and began throwing some short assignments my way, including scripting over his plot on an early Ka-Zar [story]...”Following his first continuing-character story for Marvel, with his script for Ka-Zar in Astonishing Tales #3, Conway's began writing superhero stories with Daredevil #72. He quickly went on to assignments on Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, and both "The Inhumans" and "The Black Widow" features in Amazing Adventures. Conway would eventually script virtually every major Marvel title, as well as co-create (with writers Roy & Dann Thomas and artist Mike Ploog) "Werewolf by Night", in Marvel Spotlight #2; and write the premiere issue of Marvel's The Tomb of Dracula, introducing the longstanding literary vampire into the Marvel universe. He scripted the first Man-Thing story, in 1971, sharing co-creation credit with Stan Lee and Roy Thomas.
At 19, Conway began scripting The Amazing Spider-Man, one of Marvel's flagship titles. His run, from issues #111–149, included the landmark death of Gwen Stacy story in #121. Eight issues later, Conway and Ross Andru introduced the Punisher as a conflicted antagonist for Spider-Man. The character went on to become a popular star of numerous comic books and has been adapted into three movies. Conway additionally scripted Marvel's other flagship, Fantastic Four, from #133–152.
Gerry Conway succeeded Marv Wolfman as editor-in-chief of Marvel Comics in mid-1976, but held the job only briefly, relinquishing the post before the year was out and succeeded in turn by Archie Goodwin.
Conway returned to DC Comics in mid-1975, beginning with three books cover-dated Nov. 1975: Hercules Unbound #1, Kong the Untamed #3, and Swamp Thing #19. Shortly afterward, he was chosen by Marvel and DC editors to script the historic inter-company crossover Superman vs. the Amazing Spider-Man #1, a 96-page, tabloid-sized, $2 one-shot, at a time when comic books sold for 25 cents.
He continued writing for DC, on titles including Superman, Detective Comics (starring Batman), Metal Men, Justice League of America, 1st Issue Special #11 starring Codename: Assassin, and that of the licensed character Tarzan, yet briefly returned to Marvel as editor in mid-1976. For a time, a confluence of publishing schedules resulted in Conway stories appearing in both Marvel and DC comics in the same month.
After leaving Marvel's editorship, he again wrote exclusively for DC, writing both major and lesser titles — from those featuring Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, the Justice League of America, and the Legion of Super-Heroes to such books as Weird Western Tales, Atari Force and Sun Devils — through mid-1986. His co-creation Firestorm, "the Nuclear Man", debuted in the eponymous Firestorm #1, which lasted five issues before being canceled during a 1978 DC retrenchment. The character then starred in a backup feature in The Flash before again receiving his own series, The Fury of Firestorm (later Firestorm the Nuclear Man), from June 1982 – August 1990; Conway wrote most of the first half of the run, plus four of its five annuals.
Conway returned to Marvel in the 1980s and served as the regular writer of both The Spectacular Spider-Man and Web of Spider-Man from 1988 until 1990. He relinquished writing duties on both titles when he became the script-editor of TV's Father Dowling Mysteries.
Conway's last recorded comics credit is Topps Comics' "Kirbyverse" one-shot NightGlider #1 , scripting from a Roy Thomas plot.
In addition to comics, Conway published two science-fiction novels: The Midnight Dancers and Mindship. He also wrote the February 14 - December 3, 1983 dailies of the syndicated newspaper comic strip Star Trek.
Conway as well moved into screenwriting in the 1980s, starting with the animated feature Fire and Ice in 1983, co-written with Roy Thomas, based on characters created by Ralph Bakshi and Frank Frazetta. Conway and Thomas wrote the story basis for Stanley Mann's screenplay for the film Conan the Destroyer.
Conway went on to write, and eventually produce, for such TV series as Diagnosis Murder, Matlock, Jake and the Fatman, Father Dowling Mysteries, Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, Baywatch Nights, Pacific Blue, Silk Stalkings, Perry Mason telefilms, Law & Order, The Huntress, Law & Order: Criminal Intent, and an episode of Batman: The Animated Series.
Edited by Joe Orlando.