Monday, March 31, 2008

This is an offical U. S. Treasury advertisement

Using shock for monetary gain or to sway public opinion is not a new concept, especially during a time of war. This tasteless ad for War Bonds appeared in the Fiction House pulp magazine Planet Stories #8 (Fall 1944). What is not clear is the identity or occupation of the victim in the ad. Is it a staged warning that Americans could be killed on U.S. soil or is it a photo of a deceased soldier on the battle field? It is open to interpretation, but it is pretty clear that the reader was supposed to assume the latter and that the figure in the field is a soldier who died because they did not support the war effort.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Mary Marvel: Ch-Ch-Changes

Quite a bit was said a few months ago about Mary Marvel, a symbol of purity in DC Comics, being "ruined" when she became the possessor (or was possessed by) the powers of Black Adam and Eclipso. Mary was no longer the avatar of all that was good and in fact all of the Marvels were dirtied up a bit for the contemporary comic book market. This is a sort of nonsense in my opinion and not all necessary as character development. I have always believed the squeaky-clean Marvels could show up in a Vertigo title with no problem or mis-characterization. They are the angelic force to balance against whatever evil nastiness was out there giving Swamp-Thing or Constantine a hard time.

So I waited a bit to see what reaction there would be to Mary re-gaining her goodness-based magic powers in Countdown. What I noticed was that there was very little mention of it aside from a few blog entries and forum posts glad that Mary had changed back to "normal".

But did she?

What people may not have noticed is that after throwing off the skin-tight latex she is not quite back to her old self. Readers may have missed, or just don't care because of the lukewarm reception Countdown seems to be getting, that Mary's symbol is no longer golden and is now a shade of gray. This is probably permanent as the symbol has now remained gray (or even black, depending on the artistic license) over several appearances. While Mary was appropriately thankful to once again have the blessing of the gods she hasn't really explored her newest self yet. Mary has now done too much, seen too much to be considered pure any longer. She is no longer of one side or the other and is instead a living Yin Yang symbol that is reflected in her costume. Plainly, the gray lightning bolt is her "Scarlet Letter" and serves as public notice and as a warning that Mary Marvel is no longer pure and perhaps is not to be trusted.

It is now up to the writers to make use of whatever new concept Mary is going to be a part of. The entire Marvel Family is going through some changes, some of which may allow them to support and sustain their own title. Hopefully, Mary will not be prone to "Hulking Out" in the future and forgetting herself and killing a few bad guys for a sense of hacked-out false drama. In the pantheon of DC heroes, especially in regards to the magical ones, I think that at least a few need to be the avatars of all that is good.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

The real mistake was Linus reading them in the first place

Linus finds Lucy's collection of 1990s comic books, purchased en masse and saved by her parents to pay for her college education.

So much for that. She better marry into money.

See the original strip.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Nancy and Sluggo: The Final Chapter

While I can recognize the special and bizarre genius of Ernie Bushmiller I've never been able to take much of a liking to Nancy and her pals. So when I came across this horrifying house ad for Comics on Parade #69 I knew I had to share it. Any strip that depicts those miserable little urchins getting gacked is okay with me.
Sparkler #91 (Jan-Feb 1950).

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Beware of Dog

My dog is cool and he is not like those other stupid pets a family members owns. His name is "LT" and my mom says it is after some San Diego football player but I disagree because they suck and are choking wussies and it really means "Lotta Trouble" or "Little Tyke" depending on what he is getting into.

"LT" is a smart Chihuahua who protects our house by hiding in the flowers and alerting us to evil-doers.

But "LT" does not work for free.

"LT" hears a cry for help from the open sewer line and investigates. Is Little Timmy trapped again?

"LT" slams the lid on the open pipe, muffling Timmy's cries for help. "LT" is of the opinion anyone who falls down a small pipe is too stupid to have a TV Movie of the Week made about them.

Good dog.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

5 Years

5 years in Iraq.

Is the view for their future any clearer than the one through this bullet-riddled windshield?

Photo by Karim Kadim, AP.

The Shat needs a penny

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Arthur C. Clarke: 1917-2008

I am of that age now that many of the people I consider my heroes from my childhood (for various reasons of accomplishment or wild talent) are in their 60s or above and I know that soon they will not be with us for much longer. The terrible morbid truth is that all my heroes probably have less time remaining on earth than they have spent walking it.

So it was no great surprise but it was with great sadness that noted author and visionary Arthur C. Clarke has died at the age of 90. I hope his remaining years were in comfort and were happy ones. I confess to being perplexed by his living arrangements in Sri Lanka, but from what I saw in a rare filmed interview a few years ago he seemed to be enjoying himself.

Of course, like many Science Fiction fans of my generation it was the blockbuster novel Rendezvous With Rama that got me hooked on Clarke at a young age. His background aided him in putting "hard" facts of science into his writings and gave a sense of authenticity to his work. It is hard to point out a better author and creator among his contemporaries. Even when his personal and religious beliefs were echoed by the characters and in the structured reality of his works it wasn't a lecture as some writers are apt to force the reader to suffer through. Rather it merely added a sense of wonder to his created universes.

Rendezvous With Rama anecdote: When the book came out in paperback it was very popular among young readers. I often saw some well-worn and tattered library or personally-owned copy of Rama clutched in the hands of children as they rushed about to and from school. A good number of kids were deeply interested in the book and hopefully a love of reading stayed with them and grew. This unusual activity and enjoyment of books would again occur years later (though with much more media fanfare) as the Harry Potter series diverted children away from television and video games and children everywhere lugged around hardbound copies of the Rowling books. Once again, Arthur C. Clarke was ahead of the curve.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Dave Stevens, RIP

As reported by Mark Evanier, artist Dave Stevens died yesterday after an illness.

Being a Pulp and Serials fan, Dave Stevens was an artist whose work I really liked. I absolutely loved the Rocketeer (the Disneyesque Nazi Rocketmen faux-propaganda cartoon in the film adaptation alone was worth the price of the ticket) and was disappointed that fans were never able to receive much in the way of a continuing adventures of the series due to the ups and downs of the independent comic book industry of the 1980s and his glacial pace.
Most fans focus on the Good Girl art aspect of Stevens' output and I fully appreciate it myself and understand the interests (It could be argued that the resurgence in popularity of the real Bettie Page could be attributed to exposure of his Betty character from the book at Cons in the 80s). But for me it was always the homage to the adventure serials of days past that really drew me to the book. I haven't been exposed to much of his work in the last decade or so but every now and then I revisit the series and read them all over again. I always hoped that someday he would continue the adventures of Cliff Secord but someone else would have to pick up that task now. Thanks for the memories, Dave.

Dave Stevens
July 29, 1955 - March 10, 2008

The Rocketeer - Nazi Propaganda Cartoon

Monday, March 10, 2008

Grocery Store Artifact: You're doing it wrong

A novel approach to solving the pesky problem of "ring around the collar" caused by perspiration. Found attached to the collar of a shirt dropped off for laundering at our in-store dry cleaning service.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

There Will Be Byrne

Too late? Too soon? Hey, I just saw the film for the first time yesterday.

Scene from the awesome and Heinlein-esque Star-Lord Special Edition opus by Chris Claremont and John Byrne. Originally published in Marvel Preview #11 (Summer 1977).

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Steel Sterling #4: A License To KILL!

When I saw the house ad for Steel Sterling #4 (January 1984) in a copy of Thunder Bunny I knew I had to get it just for the image shown of the car and passenger. It's by Robert Kanigher so it must be cool and crazy as heck. I was wrong and I am sorry I did. It isn't cool-crazy, it's just crazy. Okay, it's also kind of cool.
Because the morning headlines were too tame!

Published under the Archie Comics imprint of Red Circle Comics, Steel Sterling was a short-lived attempt by that company to enter the "serious" comic book market. The Mighty Crusaders, The Fly, Mr. Justice were all accomplished (or aided and abetted) mainly by veterans of the comic book industry and even some relative new-comers at the time like Trevor Von Eeden. Red Circle didn't last long. Of what I have read of those series it was probably because they aped the worst of late 70s Marvel one-off morality tales.

Written by the insane master Robert Kanigher the Sterling series was part Haney Brave and the Bold, part 70s Marvel Team-Up and part Utter Confusion. While every issue of Steel Sterling was inconsistent, Steel Sterling #4 is even more so as an overwrought PSA against drunken driving that is bizarre even by Kanigher standards. While drunken driving is no laughing matter Kanigher sure tries to make it so. A person can't seem to step outside their front door without an out of control vehicle taking them out. Pedestrians are violently smeared across the landscape like extras in the film Deathrace 2000.

The story opens with Steel Sterling regaling the "Steelers" (his kid side-kicks including an unfortunate stereotype or two) about the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse for no apparent reason at all. He's just that kind of cheery fella. When a comic book story opens like that you know you are deep into Kanigher-land. Steel then stops a car driven by an intoxicated teen from killing a group of bystanders, makes time with a young mother, vehemently defends feminism, uncovers a plot to kill a CIA agent with a booby-trapped skateboard, gets schooled by a Black Canary stand-in who is going to work with him in a movie and up-staged by a dog. All this in just a few pages.
"Where's her head?" "IN THIS BAG!"
This is why Bob Kanigher is awesome and should have written the lyrics to rock operas.

The big twist in the story comes when one of the Steelers parties too hard one day and while boozed-up and behind the wheel, kills the driver of another car. In the real world this would mean a prison sentence but justice works a bit differently in Kanigher-land. Instead of jail the drunk driver is sentenced to be in the custody of the parents of the young man whose death he caused and live his life "until he is forgiven." Now that's some creative jurisprudence right there. Basically, Kanigher was sentencing the boy to Hell by having him take the place of the young man killed in the drunken driving incident. A sentence like that is pretty much open-ended as forgiveness from the parents could be an eternity.

It isn't that the issue is awful and it probably saw an up tick in sales as copies were sent out to schools and churches and AA meetings. A lot of stuff happens and there is plenty of action for the kiddies but it seems like there are 4 or 5 particularly dull stories rolled up into one. But it's Robert Kanigher so you just strap in and go through the Dark Ride and come out the other side a bit more confused than when you went in.

If you must, you can read the whole thing here at this link: Steel Sterling #4.

Best line from the issue: "Give me the feminine angle! And MILK IT!"


My Brother Was A Robot

The story My Brother Was A Robot from My Greatest Adventure #42 (April 1960) is uncredited but I suspect it may be from the mind or editorial office of Otto a.k.a. Eando Binder, a former participant in science fiction pulps of an earlier era who did some work for DC. While working at DC, Otto had a habit of recycling some of his ideas, particularly those of his popular pulp creation the robot Adam Link, into his later comic book works.

I'm presenting My Brother Was A Robot here not because it is particularly good, the plot is pretty dull actually and is an otherwise forgettable entry into the annals of comic history. What makes this story worth noting at all is that it features a robot beating the crap out of some crocodiles and a gorilla. Sometimes comics just don't get any better than that.

Click each picture to make ZAIUS-SIZED!