Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Dire Panda

Like many other comic book fans I've been for a few years semi-actively seeking out a copy of Heroic Comics #35 (1946) for the lead story Facing Death in a Panda's Mouth. Seen by few and existing only as rumor in comic geek circles the unlikely cover of Heroic Comics depicts a hunter being menaced by an improbably huge panda with vampire tendencies. But can the story possibly meet the promise of the cover?

Yes and no.

Thanks to the recent Comic-Con and a friend I finally got hold of a copy. The story, while simple, is as goofy, stupid and awesome as I anticipated. The art is serviceable and at times hilarious as the Dire Panda appears to have been modeled variously after a wolverine or a family pet. Looking at this story I speculate the artist propped up his daughter's gerbil and posed it for some model reference.

Of course, the giant predatory monster in the comic book doesn't exist in reality. Yet as anyone who can watch a YouTube clip knows, pandas are not the cuddly, sensitive Gandhi-like critters at one with the Universe that has been the mainstay of children's entertainment and education for uncounted years. They are big and strong animals with teeth that will tear your arm off. Pandas, though, are one of the few animals in the world that can still elicit a reaction of "Aw, cute!" from witnesses even as it is ripping deep into your face with its claws.

Note: Story contains some ethnically derogatory terms.

Enjoy!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Revenge is a Smoothie best served cold

A few days ago I'm at the local Coffee Bean Barn adjacent to my favorite book store (just missing Bully in person by a few hours, darn it!). It's hot outside so I order the new Mango Banana Smoothie they are just putting out on the market. The conversation goes something like this:

Me: "Let's try the venti Mango-Banana Smoothie, please."

Perky Barista: Okay! Would you like some 'Energy' with that?

Me: 'Energy'?

Perky Barista: Sure! 'Energy'!

Me: Well, if you are all out of 'Magic Rainbow Sparkle Dust', sure. I'll try some 'Energy'.

Not-So-Perky-Anymore Barista: Allright. That'll be $6.95.
After my drink is done I realize that I broke one of the cardinal rules of survival in a modern society. The first rule is to never annoy people that handle your food or save your life. This means you never, ever mess with Cooks, Cops or the Fire Department. Not if you know what is good for you. There are a lot of crazies out there in the world and some of them have jobs and make it through stringent screening processes. Look at Congress. You'd think that would be common sense that everyone practices but take it from one currently in the service industry and former Law Enforcement, hardly anyone ever thinks about that.

So I'm in my car driving and realize the Barista exacted her revenge for my humorous smart-assery. The straw kept clogging on the banana chunks in the Smoothie forcing me to repeatedly clear the straw by blowing it clear. My enjoyment of the drink was ruined and I had to really work at drinking it, eventually giving up. You see, she gave me a skinny straw instead of the extra-wide one designed for the blended drinks.

I think I got off lucky.

Speculators



Here's the first one.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Super-Sized Salvation

A run-of-the-mill, normal, boring Eucharist.

Taking Communion the usual way would take a lifetime of doses to get to Heaven. Who has the time in this busy, busy world to devote salvation to tiny, incremental, fun-sized servings?

I choose to save my soul in one big blast of magical power! When it comes to eternity I don't fool around! One application and I'm good forever! For that I rely on...

CAN YOU TAKE THE POWER?

Thursday, July 24, 2008

HAYLEY-CON

Thursday's Schedule of Events:

12:00: MOVIES! MOVIES MOVIES! Hayley-Con kicks off at Zero-Dark-Zero with 'round the clock Hayley! For the length of the con a retrospective of the films and television of Hayley Mills will be shown in the Hayley Dome theater! That's 24/24! 24 hours of Hayley for 24 hours! And since that isn't enough Hayley, the Milllsian Players will be performing live-action recreations of Good Morning, Miss Bliss in the Miss Bliss Annex!

6:00-7:00 a.m.: Breakfast in the Hayley Mills Celebratory Dining Room. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day and plates piled high with Bangers and Mash are the way to get the energy you need for FUN-OVERLOAD! Formal Dress required. Don't forget, the Hayley Mills Celebratory Complex cafeteria is open all day and all night!

7:30-10:00 a.m: The Alleged Children of Hayley Mills (Open forum). Since Hayley Mills does not do the S-E-X (and never will), evidence detailing what we all know to be fact will be again presented by respected guest speakers that proves any children allegedly born by the pristine Hayley are in fact adopted, temporary charity-cases from Last-Wish organizations or fictional creations of the media.

10:30-12:00: Hayley Mills, how to be closer to her (and avoid TRO's). Held in the gorgeous and spacious Garden of Hayley Awesomeness experts will guide visitors through contemplation of All Things Hayley. Visitors cautioned to keep off the grass.

12:00-1:00: Lunch! Don't forget to visit the Hayley Mills Gift Center!

1:30-5:00: Panels and more panels!

  • When the Music Stopped: Everyone agrees Sound of Music better with Hayley Mills as lead actress. Will CGI ever be good enough to edit Hayley in realistically?
  • So Well Remembered: The Career of Hayley Mills.
  • The Griebble: Best Spielberg Because of Hayley Mills or Bestest Spielberg Because of Hayley Mills EVER?
  • The Hayley Mills MySpace Page: Not really her? Who would dare?
  • Let's Get Together: Sing along. Open forum, standing room only.
  • Everything that is not Hayley Mills: Useless Dross.
5:30-7:30: Dinner time. Check your ticket-stubs against the winning numbers to be broadcast on the Hayley-Vision screen! 40 lucky winners will be granted access to the exclusive Castaways Club for a very special In Search of the Castaways movie-themed meal! Don't worry folks! No monkey-brains will be served!

8:00-????: Masquerade Ball! How well can you dress like Hayley? No one could really come close to such perfection but everyone is welcome to try! Our panel of professional judges will award special prizes to the visitor who can best exemplify Hayley Mills in costume form. Take your inspiration from her amazing real life or the cinema! Contestants will be judged on originality, awesomeness and innate Hayley-ness. No dressing up like the sun, though, that costume's already taken! B.Y.O.H. (Bring Your Own Hayley).

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Planetary #20 vs. Infected

How likely is it that the cover art for the novel Infected was inspired by the cover of Planetary #20 drawn by John Cassaday? These are some facts. Planetary #20 was published in September 2004 and may have been prepared some time prior to that date due to publishing delays. Infected was published as a novel in 2008 based on a 2006 Podcast (a sequel is due late this year). Since both covers feature a close up of an eye with an angular iris, I imagine the odds are pretty good against this being a coincidence.

While similarity in cover art is something that happens a lot in publishing, particularly for Mystery and Detective novels, I don't see a stylistic coincidence between these two covers even though the "eye in the triangle" is not a new idea. It is possible that there is some fan overlap between the two forms of publishing media and one idea might have inspired the other. If someone knows of Sigler and his Podcast work then it is highly probable they are also aware of Ellis and Cassaday and vise versa. Most of the creators involved in both the Planetary series and Infected are well known on the internet and could be considered "internet literary celebrities" in some circles.

This cover appears to be an example of an art swipe from a comic book by a publishing company that didn't care about creator rights or failed to vet the art properly.

By the way, both the Planetary series and Infected are good reads from edgy writers (and artists) with a unique, sometimes creepy voice. Go out and get them.

Knowledge (and morality) can skip a generation or two, I hear

The children of 1938 were taught in a silly, throw-away gag-strip comic book that water torture was a barbaric, bad thing. What happened in the years between then and now that such torture became a valid practice?

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Even Elaine

A woman with a Geiger-counter.

Smart.

Beautiful.

Scary.


Emasculating image from The Horror of Party Beach #1 (1964).

I'm going to HAYLEY-CON!

July 24-27 2008 at the Hayley Mills Celebratory Complex in sunny San Diego.

I'm so excited!

Monday, July 21, 2008

Cube Lube

Imagine, the Rubik's Cube was once popular enough to support an after-market support industry!

From Saga of the Swamp Thing #2 (June 1982).

Sunday, July 20, 2008

FINO (Futura In Name Only)

In 1980 Paragon Publications published Star Fems, a T&A title featuring hot babes wearing scanty lingerie while they traveled through space.

While there were a few other features included in the book the title of the series refers to a trio of Golden Age Planet Comics heroines brought together as the Star Fems. This book lasted only two issues, though the concept was later picked up by AC Comics (A revivified Paragon, responsible for Fem-Force and other exploitation titles) as a reprint.

The Star Fems team consisted of Mysta of the Moon, Gale Allen and Futura, all of whom were brought together across the far reaches of time and space to do things and stuff. In 1980 there was not much of a built-in audience for the Golden Age characters and not many people outside of hard-core historian fans and comic professionals knew of or had access to a Planet Comics run. None of that mattered though because they had giant breasts and there is always an audience for that ready to shell out cash.

That Star Fems is a labor of fan-love is obvious. Someone who admired the original serials attempted to make the characters contemporary but they did it through a pen held by a horny fanboy with a tingling groin driving him to distraction. All the stories typically featured impossibly contorted poses of barely-dressed or topless women, though admittedly within the Star Fems stories there was less of it. The Futura connection in these issues is actually very tenuous. In the revival series the characters were given various super powers and any existing resemblance, characterization and back story that existed did not really carry over from the Golden Age books. This is Futura in name only. Other than the creator personally liking the old serials there was no real reason to use the vintage characters. It would have been just as easy to create an original concept using three super heroes, something that could have retained more creator rights than public domain characters.

The two issues by Paragon and the reprint story by AC Comics have a sort of fanzine aspect about them with the expected quality of art and story. The second issue it should be noted, was drawn by Jerry Ordway, who would later do extensive work for DC Comics. To give some credit to the 1980 series the basic personalities and unstated sexual equality of Mysta, Gale and Futura stayed much the same as they were in the original serials. But where the Planet Comics characters were strong, independent women the Star Fems were strong, independent women who flashed their panties and had giant breasts.

Depending on where you work some of the images are not very safe for display, so here is the link to the online archive to enjoy at your convenience.

Star Fems 2 - 00

Star Fems #1 and #2
(1980 series).

Saturday, July 19, 2008

PLAN YOUR FUTURE NOW!

Charlton Comics Company, was at best, a poor man's DC Comics. But where DC was content to run a PSA feature urging kids to stay in school so they could retain gainful employment after high school, Charlton went one step further across the border into Wacky Town! Stern, totalitarian authority figures, fear of the Red Menace and the threat of eternal damnation if you slacked off are the themes of this Charlton PSA.

Get to work! Remember, the Government is watching you!

Friday, July 18, 2008

Futura: 1980

Coming soon! Let me apologize in advance for what will be posted.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Futura - Chapter 5

For a B-Minus retrograde secretary Futura nee Marcia Reynolds handles herself pretty well when challenged with adversity. Having become the leader of the rebels Futura settles in and makes plans to not only defeat the Brain-Men but return to her previous life on her own terms.

Adapting quickly to her situation Futura makes use of the local population and exploits the environment as a weapon against the Masters of Pan-Cosmos. Several of the chapters of Futura address animal exploitation but not as a preachy, animal rights message. The animals in the story are used and discarded in much the same manner by both the protagonists and antagonists alike. The typical mind-set of 50 years ago was that nature existed to be used with little regard to the consequences and wise management of resources was given little consideration by anyone not raised in the country. Few people cared how chickens were raised and in what conditions, they just wanted it on the table for eating when they got home.

The Brain-Men attempt to manipulate nature for their own ends and Futura and the rebels do much the same using both native and engineered creatures against against one another. This works for both factions with varying success. The Brain-Men are hoisted by their own petard as their creations are used against them. The rebels have little control over their animal forces and are as much at risk of falling prey to the beasts as the Masters of Pan-Cosmos. The unintended message of the story is that nature is ultimately not to be brought under the will of man. It refuses to be manipulated and both the wild animals and the genetically manipulated creatures are of limited use. They create havoc and eventually self-destruct and need to be killed when their usefulness is ended.

The public consciousness has changed in recent years and some common sense is being applied in the way humans interact with the environment (at least in countries that can afford to). It is a slow process but one that is gaining in momentum. Real and lasting progress may soon be evident unless some unmanageable disaster occurs to threaten the food supply. Uncontrollable costs, dwindling supply and the amount people will accept to be inconvenienced may cause what progress that has been made to be set back. It seems nearly inconceivable now but in America during World War II there was the perception that there just wasn't enough food to go around. rationing was enacted for food, fuel and most other products because the supply could not meet wartime demands. People were urged to grow their own food to take up the slack and recycling was nearly mandatory. Nothing was wasted at risk of social ostracism and being thought of as unpatriotic.

Enjoy some Grade-A certified Free-Range Futura from Planet Comics #47 (March 1947).

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Futura and the Top-Heavy Star Fems

Godland wasn't the first comic book series to be published as an homage to Jack Kirby. Back in 2002 the company AC Comics put out, among a few other titles, a book titled Fighting Yank using several Golden Age public domain characters. Decidedly for an older audience, Fighting Yank ran for five issues and featured the title character, Miss Masque, Pyroman, Rulah and others. Several of the characters are currently enjoying a revival in the Alex Ross-helmed Project Superpowers series.

Fighting Yank #3 (2002) published a "Palpitatin' Pin-Up" accomplished in a Jack Kirby and 60s Marvel house style by artist Eric Coile. Like most of the AC Comics product their line skewed to the horny fanboy market and this page featuring the "Top-Heavy Star Fems" of Planet Comics was no exception. While the characters were always traditionally drawn as beautiful women with a high skin to fabric ratio, Coile knew his audience and took pains to render the Golden Age stars of several Planet Comics serials with endowments far in excess of how they were drawn in the original books.

From Left to Right: Warner Bros. Martian, Futura, Mysta of the Moon, Gale Allen.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Futura - Chapter 4

In a 1939 issue of Fantastic Adventures. John Russell Fearn published the science fiction pulp story The Golden Amazon. This story was unusual for the period in that a woman was the protagonist/antagonist. War-orphan Violet Ray is the The Golden Amazon, a woman mutated to be a superior being.

However unintentionally, Violet Ray was a Wonder woman prototype complete with a Steve Trevor-like husband with whom she subjected to an almost Sabine relationship. Her superiority and beauty was such that any man was forced to submit to her.

Violet was very different than Princess Diana of Paradise Island. She did not intend to bring peace to the world through loving example. Instead she chose to bend "Man's World" to her will and achieved safety for herself and her progeny through violence. She was, to wit, a female version of every science hero of the pulp era.

The story was successful enough to spawn a series of novellas featuring the character and her descendants. Would that the legacy of Wonder Woman received as much attention as the lineage of Superman. One of the interesting artifacts of Planet Comics is that often women were the focus of attention as something other than a victim. Of the covers, quite often the female was the aggressive heroine of the scene battling robots or rescuing the hapless, handsome, man from danger. One could read a whole lot into the practice of Planet Comics not following the norm of the bulging hero with ray gun blasting coming to the aid of a girl in bondage who is suffering the lustful attention of a bug-eyed, presumably sexually-incompatible though perverse tentacled creature. Planet Comics, were stylistically using the Golden Amazon template.

Futura, Mysta and Gale Allen were all superior females making their own way in the long-running title. It seems on the surface that Fiction House Publishers were the model comic book company for gender equality in their characters. Likewise the Jungle, Jumbo and Fight titles featured women in leading roles. But the market of the day probably rules that out as being anything other than incidental though I am confident there were plenty of progressive attitudes on the part of the creators behind the scenes. What the majority of the market demanded though was gorgeous babes in peril. Boys liked reading about girls in fur bathing suits and science heroines mentally commanding robots to strangle Cyclopean tentacle monsters. Presumably young boys of the period enjoyed the content and the accompanying confusing tingles more than their female peers.

Truth, justice and sexual politics have always been themes of the pulps and comics regardless of the gender of the creator, reader or character. Sometimes it is blatant pandering to the audience, sly subtext or overt attempts to make a large splash in ink. On rare occasions the product of the creators are completely devoid of any subtext or message though there can be more innocence to be found in a six year old's doodle of a pair of breasts than the professionally-written child's story crafted by an adult. Other times it is just a matter of creators giving the public what they believe they will accept in the confines of the status quo.

Mainly, pulps and comics are about the fetish in both the sexual and symbolic definitions. They give a safe, somewhat socially acceptable fix for satisfying the culturally programmed kinky, wish-fulfillment domination fantasies of one gender over another.

Planet Comics #46 (January 1947) finds Futura taking charge as the leader of the rebellion. Applying skills honed as an executive secretary Futura engages in some guerrilla action against a local outpost of the Brain-Men. The primarily male society that compromises the members of the rebellion aren't real happy to be ordered around by a newcomer and a woman but after Futura dresses up as a bird they acquiesce to her commands. I don't know what company Futura worked for as a secretary but considering how easily she successfully achieved scorched earth against her enemies I gather they probably had a lot of branch offices in various foreign theaters of conflict.

Here is Chapter 4 of Futura. Enjoy!

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

What kind of man would you marry?


I'd re-think my own preferences if a guy handed me a giant bag of cash!

From Boy Meets Girl #2 (April 1950).

Monday, July 07, 2008

Bride or Old Maid? Take the test!

From Boy Meets Girl #2 (April 1950). Sharpen your pencils, Girls! Tomorrow is the Husband Test!

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Final Crisis #3 cover art preview

No, it isn't. A guy can dream. Who's that pup? More here.

Comic Book PSA: Chicken-Shift

Safe driving PSA by Alex Toth from the magazine that pretty much defined the culture of  wreckless driving, Drag Cartoons #8 (October 1964).

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Futura - Chapter 3


The Futura story in Planet Comics #45 (November 1946) begins with the lead character in a pose and setting that is reminiscent of previous work seen on the covers of several Fiction House titles. Hiding up in a tree is a poor idea tactically since there is no where to flee if discovered. It is likely the reason so the setting was drawn that way is to get all the principles in one panel with the added benefit of being able to show a nice shot of the heroines' derriere.

In this chapter Futura is on the run both the Brain-Men and the locals who took up the occupation of being rebels after "failing" to pass the tests of the Masters of Pan-Cosmos and suffering abandonment on a world of monsters. Moments away from freedom, Futura saves the life of the leader of the renegades, leading to being captured once again. 

In this issue the artistic format of the story telling is becoming less creative and begins to resemble the standard layout for a more economic style of comic book. If I have a critique of the Futura series it is the seeming "hiccup" in story telling at this point. After only a few issues the kidnapped secretary from Earth is abruptly promoted from lab-animal to the warrior-queen leader of  the rebellion. A bit sudden for an unknown quantity who's only previously demonstrable skills were the operation of a typewriter.

Later, after what I call the "Magic Sword of Destiny" arc concludes the story of Futura reboots after a fashion and takes on a more logical progression of her journey through hostile space. It was as if the creators had a long story planned but were under the impression they had to wrap it up quickly, then got the news they would be hanging around for a while like the other Planet Comics serials.