Wednesday, January 31, 2007

The Earth Moved

With the possible exception of the Warren or Conan black and white magazines the sex act was not usually shown in main stream comic books. Not in Marvel and definitely not over in DC. There was plenty of risque' poses, editorial swimwear and the usual skimpy costumes but depictions of the act where usually not shown. When it came to showing sexual acts comic books used the equivalent of a Bollywood romance scene, just when things got intense everybody would suddenly start dancing. This changed a bit with the Steve Gerber run on Guardians of the Galaxy in the 1970s.

The Guardians of the Galaxy were a team of genetically modified humans bred to survive in harsh extraterrestrial conditions who existed in an alternate Marvel Universe where Earth and the solar system was was conquered by the Badoon. Charlie was dense and powerful, Martinex was made of crystal could exist in extreme cold and Nikki could live in extremely hot environments. Vance Astro was an astronaut who had lived in suspended animation while traveling at sub-light speeds and was the link to the heroic past. He would later change his possible future by meeting his younger self and activating the boys' latent mutant powers. The young Vance would then join various groups to include the Avengers. The non-humans of the group included Yondu, a warrior from another world and later, Starhawk, a mutant who shared a single body with his adopted sister.

The Guardians first appeared back in 1969 in Marvel Super-Heroes #18 and after a 1974 guest-appearance in Marvel Two-In-One #4-5, were later revived as a regular feature in Marvel Presents #3 in 1975. Their story was directly related to a throw-away tale in the original Silver Surfer series. One of the great things about the 70s and 80s was that often when a series was canceled the story would continue or be concluded in other titles. This was back when sales for even a failing book were much larger than some of the top-selling books of today. The fan base who wanted to read a character's adventures was large enough that it would not harm a title to have a guest-appearance form a failed book and could even boost sales. The Dark Fist story in Iron Fist by Claremont & Byrne concluded in Marvel Team-Up and was all the better for it. Captain Marvel saw the end of a space saga finish in another title, giving readers closure. Guardians of the Galaxy was one of those stories that also finished their arc elsewhere. Their story continued as guest-stars in various magazines, really coming to an end with the Korvac Saga in the Avengers title. There was a later series that I don't look back on with fondness because of the slavish adherence to 90's Marvel characterization and by relying heavily on elements of the X-Men, including the Phoenix. The series also adhered to the maxim that "Every Super Hero Team Needs A Wolverine" by introducing Logan's many times great-granddaughter as a despotic villain.

The series was best in the 1970s, when Marvel was freaking crazy and would publish anything no matter how odd, to see what worked and what didn't (Spider-Man and Doctor Strange being examples). The mid-70s were a good time for Marvel as they attracted older readers seeking a deeper context than what other companies would be giving in comparison. While I dislike hippies in general the modern sell-out professional hippie of the 70s was a different breed and wrote some darn good comics.

It was in Marvel Presents #7 (Nov 1976) that Steve Gerber created a blip of controversy with his run. While fighting the Badoon the Guardians came across the Topographical Man, a planetary-sized humanoid creature who fed on exploding galaxies. The TM was also an energy vampire, and absorbed the psyche of Vance Astro while he did battle with one of its avatars. Various alien races had also come to live on the planetary creature, though they acted more like prisoners of hell than willing settlers. At the same time Vance was fighting an avatar, Nikki was being convinced by a cult to commune with the Topographical Man in order to convince it to stop its plans of destruction. Nikki allowed herself to be strapped into a machine that separated her spirit from her body and she went to have a chat with the big guy.

But a few moments after being introduced to the Topographical Man, Nikki decided words were cheap and instead of communing proceeded to have hot sweaty space sex with it by bringing the spirit of Vance Astro to the fore of the creature's consciousness. The idea was that an act of love and creation would destroy a creature of anti-life.

GotG_Marvel Presents 07a

The mind of Vance Astro was all for it as the sexual tension between the pair had been building for a while. Nikki was very uninhibited and since Vance was unable to remove his space suit for fear of dying, he was the safe boyfriend she didn't have to commit to, which made Vance a little crazed. Nikki and Vance wasted no time and got busy, much to the delight of the planetary population who had a front row seat to the spectacle. When I read this I really felt for those doomed people that had unfortunately settled on the equator. At least they died quickly.

GotG_Marvel Presents 07b

As far as the sexual imagery goes, if not for the entire context of the story I would have suspected they were really sneaking in scenes of soft core porn rendered by artist Al Milgrom. Note the positions of the couple, the almost-obscured ecstatic grin Nikki displays in the first panel of the second page and the jet of energy from the Topographical Man's abdomen. But Gerber draws the reader away from the idea of titillation as the sexual themes continue beyond the art. True, the same effect could have been achieved by Nikki and Vance having a dialog, holding hands and agreeing to chose life instead of death, but that would have made for some boring pages. The climax of the story, literally, was an orgy of death for an entire civilization as they changed form into some new entity. The scene was probably handled as well as could be expected given the medium and the era.

Bear in mind that this was before the internet and the near instant critiques and analysis that accompanies and sometimes precedes the release of a book. If a reader desired a professional or semi-professional review of a title one had to wait for an industry magazine, fanzine or rely on the local comic book store. Marvel Presents #7 was one of those books that had the proprietors talking and the customers buying. I witnessed at least a few sales pushes emphasizing the covert sexual content over the story (I saw similar tactics with Conan) but that was the rarity. The story was not of the"tee-hee, lookit her underwear" style that permeates many current titles but instead portrayed a mature act in a way that didn't insult either the younger reader that might miss the subtext or the older audience that would understand it.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Bring Jugger Grimrod to 616

Why? Because of the marketing truism that "Every super hero team needs a Wolverine."

I wish it wasn't a fact, but it is.

Even die hard fans of Logan are weary of him being everywhere all the time. As a rule fans recognize X-23 for what it is, Logan with breasts, and despise the character with a passion usually reserved for Arana and Girl-Scorpion. Saberclaw is in Avengers Next and being in an alternate future probably isn't available for a role in the regular Marvel Universe. Plus, he's stupid. So it is time to bring in some old fresh blood in, and that is from Jugger Grimrod!

Grimrod isn't doing anything at the moment and he could use the work! Jugger is a member of the Alien Legion, a book about an interstellar police force made up of various extraterrestrial soldiers that first appeared in the 1980s. Before L.E.G.I.O.N., I might add.

Grimrod is hard core. Like Wolverine, Jugger is a bad ass killing machine. He is animal in nature, morally ambiguous and likes copious amounts of booze and drugs (Attention, Marvel! That is good for years of preachy subplots right there!). He is also the best at what he does in his universe. And also like Logan he has claws.

Alien Legion v2 #016 - Snic
Sure, Jugger sports a single blade that is in the cuff of his battle armor but it extends with a 'snic' sound, almost like the one's Logan sports. I don't know what it is made of but the blade can just about cut through anything and Jugger uses it about once an issue. He even used it on family members just like Wolverine.
Alien Legion v2 #016 - Jugger and Dad
Marvel could do worse than transport Grimrod to the 616 realm. Instead of creating a new Wolverine rip-off just use one you already have in stock. Fans will show less cynicism that way. With the Annihilation story line there is the perfect opportunity for Grimrod to appear. Being a science fiction character who is also a space-pilot Grimrod could easily accidentally slip into the 616-verse what with all the dimension-hopping and haphazard Negative Zone warps opening up all over the place.


Blogchix get no respect

Here is my rambling rant-response to this post at Dance of the Puppets.

One of the unfortunate things I see on the net often mirrors something that happens in retail with some customers. A customer will make some assertion about something they are not satisfied with and then keep pressing forwards with it. They continue to pursue a problem that was quickly fixed as they requested (and more besides). In no time at all the customer has escalated a situation to absurd levels because pride does not allow them to stop or step back.

Something similar is what I believed occurred between Marionette and Scipio. That's how it looks to me, but then I'm not inside either of their heads so it may be something that they will have to disagree to agree on.

I have always seen Scipio's comic blogging site as an extension of and part of his business. If I was in a similar place I would feel reflexively defensive or proprietary about a shtick that I might see appear on another site. One problem at the non-professional level of blogging is that the participants are not taken seriously and are seen as a community of amateurs. Often, original content is seen as fair game for others to exploit beyond the spirit of fair-use. Questions would arise, and I think fairly so, in regards to familiar content showing up when it was not part of any recent blogging activity or an example of 'sharing the joke'.

When I started the Head Injury Project documenting Hal's mishaps in a flickr set I was concerned I would be annoying or stepping on the toes of a blogger I liked. In the beginning I acknowledged the entire project started because Scipio generated the idea. As far as I know, he didn't have a problem with me doing it. If he did I would have shelved the idea at the time so I am grateful he didn't. Hal's injuries are one of those amusing artifacts of the comic book market of the era. Companies could recycle ideas knowing that an event would not likely to be recognized by readers a few months after it was printed due to the majority of sales being from impulse buyers. The images are there for posterity and I don't mind if anyone uses them as long as they recognize the effort that went into finding, cropping the panels and posting them. I only update it now as I come across samples during normal reading or unless someone points one out. I should check all my old JLA books for examples but I get cross-eyed reading all those Silver Age books in one sitting.

As far as I can tell (geography, reader counts and site hits aside), comic book bloggers are actually a kind of a small and interconnected community. There are many, many of them out there on the net but the relationships among them are actually kind of limited and nearly incestuous. I may have that assumption entirely wrong but from someone not using my blog for business promotion that is how it looks from my side. Wherever I look I see the same names repeatedly appear. That means I either don't search far enough out from familiar environs or the community is as localized as I think it is, regardless of geographic location. Nearly every comic book site in what I call the Local Group of the Blogverse kind of feeds off the others a little bit. A certain post will pique interest in a subject and everyone will enthusiastically join in on the fun, picking up and running with ideas, memes and subjects until the gag ages and another replaces it.

Like most bloggers I have experienced seeing a few posts on other sites that were similar to some of mine, but the out-of-context panel game has a small board to play on so I mentally file it as coincidence. I've also seen a few that were direct swipes (not just from text-mining for spam) and one that I believe was an honest error in re-posting by a 3rd party who did not know where they got the image from. I pointed it out to the re-poster only because it required some extensive photo-manipulations on my part (extensive for me, because I am not that good at it) and because I was feeling sensitive that day about recently discovering many of my posts cut and pasted onto spam sites and linked to bogus home loan scams thereby giving the impression that I condoned what was being sold. There was even one instance of entries being buried 4 pages deep on what was represented as a "comic book news site". Normally not a problem with proper linkage but search results took the user clicking through not to the article and not to my site but to the main page, which was selling back issues of comics for improbably low prices.

In a March 2006 post Marionette riffed on and expanded on a concept that has since grown beyond it's origins (though still 'belonging' to Scipio) that many found humorous and contributed to. Recently a similar post was made. To be honest, when I saw Scipio's recent entry I assumed he had re-posted something of his own from the past for some reason because the gag seemed familiar. The ensuing reaction from Scipio seems a bit much for a good-natured 'gotcha' from her as a result of two very different bloggers address a variation on a theme several months apart.

To "come down off the fence" as someone put it, Scipio's comments to Marionette were insulting and dismissive. It would have been more productive to see a response more in the line of "Hah? Gosh darn it, how about that! Small world, indeed." instead of a mean-spirited sniping referencing greater site hits and readership over the other (and therefore intrinsic worth and greater justification to exist). The community we are all a part of is small, the thematic sources are limited and the type of humor 90% of bloggers employ is similar enough in style that some duplication of posts is inevitable. The comments by Scipio were rude and uncalled for, especially as they were directed to someone who made the mistake of thinking they are a welcome part of the community when it seems to have been made clear that they were in reality only merely tolerated. I'll remember that for the future.

I'm not going to remove any links or stop reading the work of either Scipio or Marionette as a result of their disagreement as some have pledged to do. One real fight between Fake Internet Friends is not enough to make me consider missing out on good content of two intelligent, funny and insightful authors. The poor attitude displayed by Scipio will however, factor in any personal decision I make to patronize his retail establishment in the future either online or in person. I'm hoping that all the friendly blogging relationships I've experienced so far are actually stronger and more respectful than the most recent event has depicted them to be.

I'd appreciate any rational discourse on the subject tangentially. Say, on how some bloggers are treated by the mainstream or more established players. For example, do feminist or inexperienced bloggers often get the short end of the respect stick and gets treated like the new kid who just wants to have fun and tries to join the Magic: The Gathering games at the local RPG store.

Understandably, Scipio has locked the thread against comments at his site and I have less a problem with that than others do. I understand that he must weigh what is good for his business, which his blog represents like it or not, and the usual free discourse that most visitors expect in a public forum. I think he did the right thing for his site since I suspect any further discussion there would have rapidly degenerated into internet screaming matches with posts written all in Caps. Any discussion of the event itself should please take place over at Marionette's blog, which still has the relevant thread open for comments.

Tags: Thunderdome

Guess I need a new search engine

I just noticed that the results from a Google image search now features a cleaner 'streamlined' page format. Gone is the text that tells me what the image is, where it is from and the size. Now just an abbreviated title appears. Instead of just simply looking to see if you received the desired results of your search the user is now required to mouse-over the image to expand the information about the entry.

It isn't a big deal for some, but going from a 5 second glance to a 30 second physical investigation using a mouse is irritating and counter-productive for us multi-tasking office types. That wasted time adds up, I kid you not.

If this was some sort of settings change on my end, I didn't make it and can't find where to restore the superior view to what I had previously. This looks like another instance of some suit taking up space in an office trying to justify their existence in a company by fixing what ain't broke.

Update 2/234/07: Looks like a lot of people didn't like the new layout because I noticed yesterday the old format was back.


Friday, January 26, 2007

Comic Book PSA: What we taught children

Jackpot #8 - Worlds of  Wonder feature
Panel excerpt from the single page Worlds of Wonder feature that appeared in Jackpot #8 (Winter 1942),
an educational PSA modeled in the style of the Ripley's Believe It Or Not! format that was a much copied and a common feature in many magazines.


Who's that Cap?

From Punisher War Journal #8
Punisher War Journal #8 - Commie Smasher Cap?
Just wondering, has Frank Castle been idolizing the wrong Captain America all these years? In this flashback from a time before Frank went to Vietnam, is this the Commie-Smashin' Captain America in that uniform and not Steve Rogers?


Thursday, January 25, 2007

Pulp Daredevil

Detective Natchios recoiled, her usually deep whiskey and cigarettes voice scaling up momentarily until she caught herself and successfully suppressed a shriek of alarm. She tightened her grip on the service revolver and silently cursed herself for showing weakness. She did not know why she had lost her composure at the sight of the score of grisly trophies secured by copper nails to the the wall of the dark stairwell. Perhaps the eerie atmosphere of the fugitive Murdock's secret hideout had frayed her usually iron nerves. She had witnessed more terrible visions over the span of years as a law officer and the thought of being frightened by Murdock's machinations angered her.

"Foggy" Nelson tipped back the brim of his bowler hat and closely examined the horrible gallery. "Faces, stripped from the bone and tanned. Preserved. Their eyelids missing. Now do you believe me, Detective? This Murdock is involved in the practice of a dark and terrible magic."

"I believe he is a mad man. I am beginning to wonder if you are not also." Gun thrust before her, Detective Natchios continued down the stairwell heading towards the source of light at the bottom. The consultant followed, although more slowly.

"Surely, your world view has been re-defined, Madam. What of the Snail-less Shells? The Burlap Monkeys? You have witnessed them yourself this very night. Our narrow escape from the Rude Jostlers in the empty park this morning certainly confirmed beyond any doubt to me the existence of a shadowy world."

Reaching the final step of the stairwell, Detective Natchios turned upon the portly man. "All I have seen are the skeletons of dead beetles and the movement of curtains by a draft. Inconsiderate patrons of a public recreation meadow does not constitute proof of the existence of demons. Murdock is no wizard. He is a misguided fiend who murders and defiles innocent women in the insane belief their eyes can restore blindness caused by exposure to mustard gas in the Great War. Now be silent and remain still, for we are here."

Stepping cautiously the Detective peered around the door frame, observing awell lighted parlor of Victorian fashion. In the center of the room stood the prey to her hunt, leaning on an ivory cane with his back turned towards her. He was bent over a large tome on a heavy stand of dark, ornately carved wood, studying a page intently. Even from her vantage point several meters distant the detective could see the object of careful examination was heavily illuminated with fanciful illustrations like a bible out of antiquity. Offended that such a devilish, diseased creature would dare to read a bible, Detective Natchios she stepped into the room, leveling her revolver. "Matthew Murdock, you are wanted murderer." Detective Natchios exclaimed forcefully. "I am taking you into custody!"

Slowly, Murdock turned. He appeared unconcerned by the presence of the officer of justice and seemed to enjoy the startled reaction as Detective Natchios viewed his horrible, seamed face. Murdock smiled, a ghastly grimace of insane mirth that did not reach his terrible eyes. Blood-shot orbs, too small for the sockets in which they fitfully rested in spun and writhed, gazing about in wildly differing directions as if they were slaves rebelling against their masters. "The Lord in heaven! Your eyes!" Natchios gasped. The scene was made all the more shocking as Natchios realized one eye was jade green and the other, a piercing cerulean blue.

Murdock laughed. "No, Detective. Not my eyes. I borrowed them, however reluctantly, from their former owners. Alas, as ever, the frail jelly are beginning to fail me once again."

Sick with horror and finally understanding that Nelson, the foolish "expert" in the supernatural forced upon her by her superiors was not such a fool after all, Detective Natchios attempted to squeeze the trigger of her pistol . She was determined to end the madman's reign of terror as of tonight. But her hand was unresponsive and she found it very difficult to draw a breath. A strange paralysis seized her limbs as if they were in the grip of some unseen force. From behind her Detective Natchios heard "Foggy" Nelson, enter the room and shut the door behind him.

"Hello, Matthew." Nelson said jovially. "I hope you approve of my choice. She has such lovely eyes."



Now with double the entendre!

Popular Teen-Agers was unusual in that the stories were not about normal or average kids who gained riches or solved robberies by luck. This Golden Age series featured over-achievers and gorgeous people all! The unattractive people, if any, were the villains, bit players or goofy sidekicks. Any comic fans with low self-esteem need not read any of the books in this title for worry they will feel inconsequential and worthless.

Try to find the hidden agendas of the creative teams in all these panels. It shouldn't be too difficult. It isn't like this book was written by someone with the subtle powers of Judd Winnick. All flouride-impregnated art is from Popular Teen-Agers #6 (January 1951)

Popular Teenagers 06_Gay Dykeman
Toni Gay is a crime solving supermodel famous enough to require a full-time bodyguard to protect her. She usually manages to ditch the poor guy long enough to get herself and her very best friend forever, struggling actor Butch Dykeman in lots of trouble.

Popular Teenagers #6 - Give me your club
Midge Martin is a famous reporter who is driven to do anything to get a story, even dress up like a furry and make out with strange men at hedonistic theme resorts. No kidding.

Popular Teenagers #6 - Heavenly Timber
Amazonion uber-babe Honey Bunn is a professional sports player. As a woman competing in a man's world she has to work twice as hard to be considered half the athlete. Honey Bunn is very strong and often beats her teammates in feats of strength and stamina, humiliating them terribly. Oddly, she shares the locker room with her male teammates. Honey is known to lament that she regrets not being soft and feminine like other girls.


Rang-A-Tang killed himself a bar

As promised here is the tale of Rang-A-Tang the Wonder Dog and his ursine-slaying adventures at a lumber camp. In this story Rang-A Tang is traveling with friends Hy Speed and Richy the Ass Pain Boy when they come across a crime scene. During the investigation Rang gets amnesia and goes feral, palling around with another stray dog. While in the hills Rang-A-Tang gets hungry and successfully ambushes a full-grown bear and kills it just for a snack. Rang-A-Tang is hard core.

Blue Ribbon #22 - Rang gets amnesia
Don't forget to ambush the picture for a pdf download.

If DC's Rex the So-Called Wonder Dog tried that he'd end up as an undigested bit of white fur stuck to a medium-sized pile of bear feces.


Not breaking the 4th wall, just acknowledging it is there

Adam over at Comics Make No Sense has been posting Silver Age panels from classic Marvel comic books, focusing on and humorously critiquing with little jabs the writing style of Stan Lee. I'm getting a kick out of what he posts about one of my favorite comic eras. The Lee/Kirby era I normally read with my internal critic turned off (Why without fail did all the commie spies carry Communist Party ID cards with them into top secret military bases all the time?). Many of his posts have been mined from the early issues of the Fantastic Four, one of the magazines that revolutionized the comic industry in the 60's.

Here is a panel from Fantastic Four #20 I found in that vein of comedy gold that I hope CMNS hasn't posted about yet. This scene serves to make Johnny Storm look like an idiot by using some exposition from Reed obviously directed at readers.

Fantastic Four 20 - Not breaking the 4th wall, just acknowledging it is there


Gah Drang Googah Kada Koo

This summary is not available. Please click here to view the post.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Daddy's Issues

Every generation has their "safe porn", the product of media that the young can procure with permission of adults and read without much stigma. "Safe Porn" are those resources of images and prose that adults can allow their children to have that serve a dual purpose of entertainment and education. In the 20s and 30s pulps was one source. In the 40s and 50s it was comic books. From the 50s and beyond there were photography hobby magazines, National Geographic, the Sears Catalog and Sports Illustrated.

For example, a Sports Illustrated subscription is given to junior today because it is all about sports and masculine pursuits. But mom and dad are also very aware the bonus Swimsuit issue allows the kid to satisfy some curiosity while the adults can ignore the ramifications procuring salicious imagery for their children, using it to hope for the what they think is best when it comes to their progeny's emerging self-identity. It isn't the only source of programming/education/socialization available for kids, especially with the technology that is present in nearly every home today, but it is one that parents can somewhat control and not worry too much about. I've known parents who time the arrival of the SI Swimsuit issue by starting the subscription in a certain month, knowing the special issue won't arrive for at least nearly a year, timed right to when they think their child should be starting to show interest in the opposite sex. The lag and opportunity for the child to mature over 12 months allows parents to look the other way and not think about things that make them drink from the bottle hidden in the linen closet. It also allows the youngster to receive a periodical chock full o' babes without having to buy it themselves or dealing with the parents about it and treat it like just another piece of mail.

Hangman #8 - The Boy Buddies
The Boy Buddies from Hangman #8 (Fall 1943).
Left to right, Super-Boy and Boy Detective, sidekick to The Shield.

A generation raised on magazines like Tattletale and the Spicy line of pulps that had their own suggestive covers and pornographic illustrations (semi-nsfw link) would have made the Dads of the 1940s uncomfortable with the notion of their sons reading some comic books. Forgetting that their own version of acceptable pornography via pulps and other mainstream magazines had been under attack as a bad influence nearly a decade previously, fathers would have had less problem with the content of comic books if they were more manly and red-blooded. Certainly the pro-military propaganda pamphlets that comics transformed into in that era had the effect of causing them to gain a grudging acceptance in many households. Any attack on comics that rally the youth of America would have been an attack on patriotism. That seems familiar. We have all been exposed to similar logic a lot in the past few years.

For groups that were on the lookout for hidden "perversions" the male streetwalker poses of the Boy Buddies and the stylized goatse of the pool hall sign doesn't lend to acceptance of comics at the family level. One of the main selling points that led to the backlash against comic books were the perceived homosexual relationships. Comics were packed with imagery through the 40s that if produced today would garner a knowing chuckle from the reader and spawn countless internet memes and image macros ad nauseum. Fortunately, there were plenty of wars going on around that time that would ensure that an entire generation would grow up being rough, tough and battle-hardened.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Zoom, Dad, Zoom!

Not a fan of the embedded screens so here is a picture link to youtube of the classic retro future pop hit, Eep Opp Ork that appeared on the Jetsons animated television program way back September of 1962. I really liked that show and looking back, it is clear to me the show was certainly an early influence that shaped my life-long preference for science fiction and pulps.


I kind of blame this episode of the Jetsons for the later proliferation of pop song sequences during other kid shows like Scooby-Doo, Josie and the Pussycats and Archie. While the original Scooby-Doo theme is great, it was apparent that nearly half of any show was a chase scene set to music. After that it was only a matter of time until entire cartoon programs were bereft of any story at all and just consisted of vignettes made of recycled clips with very short framing devices (aka Jabberjaw, et al). But you can't really blame the Jetsons for starting the trend. It was kind of popularized when Little Ricky Nelson used the Ozzie & Harriet show as a vehicle to promote his new single.

Eep Opp Ork is nearly as burned into the public consciousness as the in-show tune Sugar Sugar that appeared in the Archie cartoon. I've heard it's success as a song was a happy accident for the show and musician Tommy Roe but I kind of doubt it, because even as the show premiered there were flexible plastic .45 records being glued to Honeycomb cereal boxes that you could cut out and play on a turntable.

Enn Joyy Ah-Ah!

Bonus Linkage: A cover of the tune sung by the Violent Femmes. The audio is dubbed over a Ricky Martin video. Weird-alicious.


Monday, January 22, 2007

When comic books were not for girls! Part 3

The sordid pulps that had commanded the adult dollar for decades were starting to show their age in the early 1940s. A scant few years earlier comic books had begun making gains in popularity and publishers took advantage of the new interest by flooding the news stands with crime, horror and adventure titles. Now creators were not just limited to some prose about crime and horror, they could have it shown now too, and in graphic detail.

Artists once restricted to a few illustrations and covers a month for various periodicals were in demand and each one worked hard to get noticed in a suddenly crowded talent pool. The plot device of the pulps, that of the dame in distress, was successfully transplanted into comic books. As each book tried to outdo the other for a gain of the male market share the teasing sexual situations and depictions of violence against women increased. The 4-color carnage progressed almost unchallenged for several years until parents and politicians finally took a closer look at the contents of a product marketed for children.

Hangman #8 - Lead story
In the fall of 1943 comic books were not for girls!

Another sign of the Monkeypocolypse

Pep #48 - Another sign of the Monkeypocolypse
"Accidental", right.

Tags: Image from Pep Comics #48 (Archie-fish cover)

Sunday, January 21, 2007

From the Man Who Can Do Everything

Every time read work by Alan Moore for DC I enjoy it more and more. This page from the classic story For the Man Who Has Everything that was published in Superman Annual #11 is a perfect example of why I like his work. Superman and Wonder Woman aside it is the Batman & Robin dynamic he penned in the story I appreciate the most. I don't see Moore as using characterization elements found Pre-CoIE or even what a reader would expect from a Silver Age story.

What I find interesting is that in this story Alan Moore has given us a Dynamic Duo that I see as being pure Golden Age. I think the relationship between the two is usually best when addressed by using the 1940s template and that is what I am seeing in this issue. There is humor here and honest affection between the two without subtext or the zaniness of the 1950s and dimension -hopping 1960s. Many readers enjoy this page for what they assume is an homage to the Adam West-Batman cautionary statement for Robin to behave himself. But if you search back further that doesn't have it's origins with the television show.

To show what I mean about the Moore using the Golden Age as the inspiration for their relationship roll your cursor over the image below and compare the pages (for the browser-impaired there are image links at the end of the post). The first image is of course from Superman Annual #11 (Dec 1985). The second page is from the Lev Gleason published Daredevil #10 (May 1942).

While 13 and Jinx were not Batman and Robin they were definitely inspired by and mimicked them. The writing of the 1940s Batman and Robin set the tone for the era and Alan Moore successfully applied to the story the original spirit of a Golden Age hero and sidekick, which worked well when used for the modern tale. I would not be surprised if Moore used as reference the same exact 13 & Jinx story while writing for the annual. The pages are remarkably similar. Frank Miller may have likewise attempted to duplicate the Batman and Robin relationship recently with the mean-spirited and much-reviled All-Star title but so far his work has met with mixed results.

Tags & Links: Page from Superman Annual #11 Page from Daredevil #10

Rang-A-Tang stops the Monkeypocolypse...for now

In Blue Ribbon Comics #13 (June 1941) Rang-A-Tang the Wonder Dog takes time out from a parade in his honor to kick some gorilla ass!

Blue Ribbon #13 - Rang-A-Tang vs Gorilla

Coming Soon! Rang-A-Tang kills a bear and eats it!


Miss American Teen-Ager

Hidden near the end of Girls' Romances #134 (July 1968) are 3 pages of product placement and a hustle for prospective contestants for the Miss American Teen-Ager pageant, featuring honoree Michelle Patrick. Not to take anything away from Michelle Patrick, kudos to her for winning. I fully recognize all the hard work it takes to be in something like that and win but this could not have possibly been included in the book via the innate goodness of DC. This was likely to have been a paid advertisement and not a PSA urging young women to be all they can be. On page three is an obligatory PSA panel where her Teen-Highness commands that her subjects not smoke.

Girls Romance 134 #1 - Product Placement pg 1 Girls Romance 134 #1 - Product Placement pg 2 Girls Romance 134 #1 - Product Placement pg 3
Click each picture to make your vicarious dreams come true!

The Miss American Teen-Ager pageant started in 1960 and ran for several years, presumably ending when Palisades Park closed. I could not determine if the pageant morphed into something else or changed name due to the insane proliferation of similar pageants out there. Did you know that on one of the Miss Teen sites you can make a slide show of your very own to keep of your favorite crowned Miss Teen winners? Yeah, you can. That is very creepy. Who would possibly use that feature? The contestants and their mother's won't because they don't want to look at their competition. I also can't find any record that Michelle Patrick actually appeared on an episode of Get Smart so if she did show up it must have been as an extra or very bit part. The artist who did the ad likely used photo references using whatever public relations pictures were taken to document Miss Patrick's reign. Nothing wrong with that as you want the winner to actually resemble the person. What is interesting that the artist seems to have faithfully duplicated not only Don Adams staying in the character of Maxwell Smart for the Get Smart television show, but also duplicated the lascivious leer given to Michelle by the older Robert Wagner. At least Bob Barker looks to be behaving himself.


The Fox

The Fox is a crime fighter that appeared in issues #4-22 of the Golden Age title Blue Ribbon Comics. The Fox is part of the MLJ group of characters that includes the Archie franchise and was drawn by Irwin Hasen. Make note of that name because it will show up again associated with another famous comic character.

Debuting June 1940 in Blue Ribbon #4, the Fox appeared about a year or so after Batman and Superman were published. Their popularity spawned countless imitations throughout the industry both good and bad. While Batman was actually partly inspired by other characters the detective soon pulled out ahead of the pack and served as inspiration for others. Indeed, The Fox contains many elements that are similar to his contemporaries. The character and his settings are a blend of Superman and Batman, though it leans more toward the Dark Knight than the Boy Scout. But where millionaire Bruce Wayne became the Batman as the result of an omen, shutterbug Paul Patton became the Fox after listening to a catchy tune on the radio.

Batman Fox origins
In his secret identity of the Fox Paul Patton is a photographer/reporter for a major newspaper and is often accompanied by a dark-haired, aggressive female reporter named Ruth Ransom who is often shown in classic "good girl" art poses. By perching on the editor's desk in this panel she looks less like a professional reporter and more like a different kind of professional all together. Possibly a lap-dancer angling for a tip. Ruth is looking annoyed at being interrupted by Paul and their Editor certainly appears to have been caught in a compromising position.

Ruth Ransom - Blue Ribbon #13
Doesn't anybody ever knock first?

As her name implies Ruth Ransom usually becomes a hostage in need of rescue. Paul Patton soon came to resemble Bruce Wayne and soon his costume, which was loose and goofy in the beginning, also became superficially similar to that of the Batman design sans cape and utility belt. The only tool the Fox employs other than his quick wits and fists is a belt that contains a camera.
The Fox debuts, singing a band tune
Criminals are a tone-deaf and cowardly lot who hate pop music

As the Fox, Paul Patton takes choreographed photos for profit of crime scenes and while fighting, a gimmick that Stan Lee would use decades later for the character of Spider-Man. Oddly, in what is a typical trait for people in a comic book reality, Ruth Ransom and others never notice that all the clicking and pop of flashbulb coming from the Fox' costume is a camera and that Paul Patton later always produces action crime scene photos from unique points of view, even when no one recalls seeing him on scene in the middle of a fist fight taking photos.

If some comic book fans are thinking that the Fox looks very similar to another Golden Age hero other than Batman then they would be correct. Artist Irwin Hasen teamed up with Bill Finger to create the Wildcat, who appeared in Sensation Comics #1 in January 1942. The Fox last appeared in the Golden Age in March of the same year. While the Wildcat is a DC Comics legacy character that is a mainstay of the line even today the Fox made only a few Modern Age appearances and has mostly been consigned to comic book limbo.

Here is a story from his last appearance in Blue Ribbon Comics #22 from March 1942. The obvious comparisons to other heroes aside the Fox would often have stories that were suitably noir if shallowly written to be complete in four pages. This story about theft and serial murders is pretty horrific. Though the story contains an Asian who is depicted as a 1940s stereotype in appearance, what is unusual for the era is that the villain speaks perfect colloquial English without the offensive literary device of transposing the L's and R's. There is no spy-busting involved in the story which was also pretty rare for the time.

Blue Ribbon #22 - The Fox
Click the picture for a pdf download of the story. Watch those fingers!

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Pulp Superman

Ch. 4

The film projector stuttered fitfully, pulling miles of celluloid through the sprockets from a large, slowly turning wheel. The high-speed camera had captured hundreds of images per second, rendering the subject of the film an odd grace by giving the illusion of reduced speed. Projected on the screen the grainy figure of a man clad in the standard olive-drab uniform of the United States Army ran across the empty and isolated salt flats, his progress recorded by film with the distance traversed marked by painted, cement posts driven into the ground. Dr. Lane referred to the film time log on the clipboard in his hand, comparing the distance markers to the unbelievable running speed of the man on foot.

Corporal C. Kent, FN 786-889-098733, 8th Army Corps, Nevada.
Date: 53/07/09
Film ser. 34-007

MM-12 20mph

MM-13 30mph

MM-14 70mph

MM-15 150mph

MM-16 144mph
"The wings of Mercury." Doctor Lane muttered. Some technician with the initials 'JO' had scrawled a shaky exclamation point adjacent to the 15th mile marker annotation of the film log. General White motioned for the Doctor's attention. "Incredible acceleration, isn't it doctor? Yet as you can see either of Corporal Kent's feet sets on the ground only once every several hundred or so feet. Our look at the surface of the course shows soil disturbance consistent with that of a 210 pound man on a leisurely jog."

Doctor Lane was surprised, and for a moment he paused in the nervous whittling of the broken pencil with his small pocketknife. "Amazing! Clearly there is some force being generated. Some form of propulsion that augments and increases the results of normal human activity far beyond the norm."

"Doctor, that man could be America's greatest asset against all enemies foreign and domestic. The President has charged us with finding out what makes him tick and how to make more of him using that space rock. We must do this before the Reds find out about it."

"I understand." Said Doctor Lane, continuing his efforts to sharpen his pencil. "But there is more, isn't there, General? According to these logs and the files I have read, he's lying to us."

General White stood and slammed his fist on the conference room table, scattering the neat
pile of wood-shavings and bits of lead that the Doctor had created. "Good catch, that's why we had an egg-head like you transferred to this base. We estimate Kent is intentionally under-performing by at least 10 per cent. The shrinks say that he does not trust us any longer and is keeping secrets for when he thinks he may need them."

The General paced to and from on the floor. "That any American could not put his faith in his country and the chain of command sickens me! Our man Kent is a soldier. Jeopardizing the project is tantamount to treason! I should have him arrested."

"I think that would be a mistake, General. If his deception is that serious then Kent would seize that opportunity to justify rebelling against orders. But his lying to us should not be our primary concern."

"No? You are the big brain around here now, I see. What is our concern then?" General White leaned forwards over the desk. He disliked all egg-heads and thought them little better then Communist sympathizers. General White was beginning to dislike Doctor Lane, his small knife and that foolish slide rule of his in particular.

The Doctor folded the small pocketknife and peered closely at the result of his attention to his writing stylus. He judged that the pencil would perform satisfactorily now when next needed and placed it and the knife in the pocket of his lab coat.

"We should not be worried that Kent is lying to us. No, General! We should prepare for the day when our Super Man decides we are no longer relevant or important enough to lie to!"


Grocery Store Artifact: Is this the last?

Could this opus of mixed media be the last Grocery Store Artifact ever? Maybe. This is art. Artists make lots of money.

Vaughn Bananna

To the vulgar and uninitiated layman this looks on the surface to be merely actor Vince Vaughn's face cut out of an old cardboard Wedding Crashers DVD stand placed on some fruit. But art has many levels of depth that most people are unable to discern due to their inability to appreciate talent. Yet most importantly, you are tragically un-hip if you do not like this art and won't ever get to have sex with wild party girls if you do not buy this for large amounts of cash.


It was 20 years ago today

Happy Anniversary, wife!

Korean wedding dolls

Marriage is a wonderful journey. I've never regretted any minute of our being together and we have a wonderful kid as an addition to the world. While our experiment in living in Maryland has not been our bestest idea ever it has only made our emo-bonds stronger. But any successful union requires compromise. You dislike comic books with a demonic fury and think that my free-time dabbling in reading, writing and art is a waste of time that I could be "doing something". I hate gossipy, superstitious in-laws that do nothing but cause problems because they enjoy nothing more than waking up sleeping puppies to hear them squeal just to relieve the fearful tedium of their empty lives.

Baby, if you promise to tolerate my hobbies then I won't manipulate events to cause you to become disowned so I won't have to deal with the barrage of faux-emergency panicked idiocy coming from the woo-woos. You should count your blessings that I love you enough not to go through a divorce like what has happened to each of your many sisters (twice each and counting, now) just to get away from the never-ending, manufactured, mountain-from-molehill family drama.

Love you!
Here's to another 20 years!

Friday, January 19, 2007

I'd forget my head if it wasn't screwed on

Here is one of the 38 questions posed to prospective jurors for the Scooter Libby trial in the Valerie Plame leak case.

Is there anyone who believes that everyone's memory is like a tape recorder and therefore all individuals are able to remember exactly what they said and were told in the past?

I may not recall what my wife asked me to pick up from the store on a Tuesday night two years ago, but I am pretty sure I would remember with absolute clarity sitting down one afternoon with one or more of the persons who were in charge of the United States of America and discussing whether or not I should reveal to a news organization the actual name of a CIA agent intimately connected to the escalation of foreign war plans.

Unless of course, agents were outed so often that it is a long confusing blur of one treasonous act after another. Hey, one spy left out in the cold is just like any other. I understand.


Rang-A-Tang the Wonder Dog

Much has been documented about Rex the Wonder Dog, but the truth is he can't hold a candle against the Golden Age greatness of an earlier Wonder Dog, Rang-A-Tang.

Rang-A-Tang is better than Rex. Sure, Rex is immortal, fights dinosaurs and kills them with atomic weapons, enjoys fishing and has journeyed to the microverse. But the fact is Rex is kind of full of himself. Being a hyper-intelligent DC Universe dog Rex is just a little too smug and he believes his own press. Every time Rex does some spectacular Silver Age feat he follows it up by exclaiming how awesome he is. If you were going to use a Cape Scale to compare the two canines, then Rex is like Batman and Rang-A-Tang is a real hero like firemen or the police.

Rang-A-Tang is all dog. No special powers, no semi-telepathic thought balloons and no grasping and manipulating items with out opposable thumbs for Rang! If something can't be picked up by clamping down it with his jaws then Rang-A-Tang has no need for it.

In the Blue Ribbon Comics of the 1940s Rang-A-Tang was an abused ex-circus dog who partnered up with Police Detective Hy Speed to solve crimes. They had many adventures together solving murders and kidnappings. Eventually the editorial powers that be decided that Rang-A-Tang the Wonder Dog needed a kid sidekick. Exit an injured Hy Speed and enter, Richy the Amazing Boy. Though their appearances together lasted longer than Rang's partnership with Hy, the kid just wasn't up to taking care of business and the Amazing Boy mostly got himself captured while snooping and Rang had to rescue him. Hy Speed later re-joined Rang but it wasn't the same dynamic with Richy tagging along. Richy the Annoying Boy, more like.

Here is a spy-busting story from Blue Ribbon #4 (June 1940) from early in Rang's career when Hy Speed and Rang-A-Tang were a crime-fighting duo.

Blue Ribbon Comics #4 - Rang-A-Tang
Click the picture for pdf download


Friday Catblogging

Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath

We love kitties, gawd bless their little whiskers, and we don't give a damn whether they or we are superior or inferior! They're confounded pretty, and that's all we know and all we need to know!

H.P. Lovecraft, In a letter to James F. Morton, December 1926

Yes, that H.P. Lovecraft.


Thursday, January 18, 2007

Comic Book Ad: Cookie recipe from the Golden Age

DareDevil Comics #40
From DareDevil Comics #40 (January 1947)

I always enjoyed the usually nicely painted Baby Ruth ads that appeared in so many Golden Age comics. Some of the earlier ads leaned toward being unabashed military propaganda, but many consisted of great colorful imagery like the one above of the child-surrogate parrot noisily demanding a sugary treat from a spinster.

Here is the classic recipe as found on the labels of the era:
2 sticks butter, softened
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla
3 scant cups flour
5 Baby Ruth candy bars, cut up

Cream together softened butter and sugar. Beat in eggs. Add soda, salt, vanilla and flour. Fold in chocolate chips and pecan pieces. Drop teaspoon size dough on ungreased baking sheet. Bake 10 to 12 minutes at 350 degrees. Makes about 6 dozen cookies.


Thankfully, she was WRONG AGAIN!

Hooray for reality!

Invisible Pink Unicorn
Click the Invisible pink Unicorn and it will take you to the story!

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Little Nemo in Freudland

I grew up owning, reading and appreciating fantastic collections of early and classic comic strip art, particularly the surreal Little Nemo In Slumberland by Winsor McCay and my absolute favorite, the wistful antics of George Herriman's Krazy Kat.

Nemo was published in newspapers off and on from 1905 to 1927 and has existed as reprints in various forms including the cinema ever since. I don't recall ever seeing this Little Nemo scene as it was reprinted in a Golden Age comic but I'm sure to have missed a few pages over the years. If there was any strip I thought would be the last one to contain early Seduction of the Innocent imagery it would have been Little Nemo. The art and story of this short tale appears to be consistent with the style of latter-years McCay so I am guessing this is a reprint of an earlier Sunday strip and not that of another artist aping the style with permission of the McCay estate.

Little Nemo appearance in Blue Ribbon #1
From Blue Ribbon #1 (Nov 1939)


Comic Book Ad: Magic Mate Meter

Adventures into the Unknown #5 (1949) - Find Your Mate

I think my next hobby will be to send in old coupons with payment to the addresses of purveyors of things like these to see what would happen. I'd bet any checks or money orders I send will be cashed by whoever currently occupies the address. Be nice of it worked, I'd dearly like to have a 6-foot Polaris missile-firing mini-sub for $1.25 and some iron-on rainbow glitter Bicentennial t-shirt decals for fifty cents each.


Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Girl, you're a woman now

From the DC Solicits

It appears that while visiting the Toilet of Solitude, puberty hits Supergirl like a page-a-day calendar made of Kryptonite.

The Question has a Posse. No, that isn't a spelling error.

As a guy, I'm totally offended by this incredibly hot, arousing cover.

Hello, Steve. Long time no awesome!

Sand, I assume. But the mask makes him look like a Dr. Seuss character as imagined by Alex Ross.

This issue of Jonah Hex better not involve a time machine and the year 1966.


Monday, January 15, 2007

Che Gorilla

I'm with Bully, Monkeys are bad news and they oughta get what's coming to them.

Hornet 200 (1967)


Sunday, January 14, 2007

Grunt Grunt Grunt Grunt Grunt

Grunt Grunt

Grunts: Grunt

Norman Rockwell is F'n Metal

For a second I thought that was Norman Rockwell painting a Conan book cover, then I realized it looked more like Victor Mature bringing down the temple in Samson & Delilah. I haven't found a representative photo of this painting he is pretending to work on but then again he did over 4000 commercial works, some of which were destroyed in a fire. I thought it an interesting piece because Norman is primarily known for his idealized depictions of American life and not so much for album art for Iron Maiden and Meat Loaf.

Norman Rockwell is totally F'N Metal!

Found via Modern Mechanix.


Saturday, January 13, 2007

When comic books were not for girls! Part 2

In 1986 the Marvelization of DC was continuing unabated. Stories were becoming grittier, darker and sexier. The 6-issue mini the Lords of the Ultra-Realm written by Doug Moench and drawn by Pat Broderick was equal parts Zelazny and the Marvel version of god-like conceptual avatars of "universal ideas" such as Love, Greed and Hate given humanoid form.

It seems that six issues was not enough to tell the entire story of the LotUR, so DC published the Lords of the Ultra-Realm Special in 1987. Or as I refer to it, the All-Incest Special. In a power-grab worthy of a Borgia Pope, one of the children of the avatar gods kidnaps his giant-breasted Mother/Father Aspect and rapes her while detailing his fiendish plan to conquer the realm. She really seems to get into the assault, so much so that they later give dad the boot and live hateily ever after in Castle Anger.

Lords of the Ultra-Realm Special - Incest Issue

The year was 1987, and comic books were not for girls!

Tags & Links: Images from Lord of the Ultra-Realm Special (1987) <

Results of painstaking research

Graph detailing comics sales vs porn availability

Once comic books were no longer the main source of pornography available to children sales dropped fast, leaving only as customers an aging and ever diminishing fan base that is hung-up on Gwen Stacey and thinks the Kurt Scaffenbeger Lois Lane is their ideal woman. The time line is a bit compressed because the 1990s were chock full of crap and nothing much of note happened in the industry until All-Star Superman began to publish.


If I wrote Civil War

I think it would be cool if during the final climactic fight scene with Iron Man over the Registration Act, Captain America yanks a rubber mask off of Tony and reveals that the guy in the armor is actually this guy:

War Toy by George Perez

War Toy first appeared in an alternate future tale in Unknown Worlds of Science Fiction magazine #3 (March 1975) by Tony Isabella with art by George Perez. The War Toy model showed up again years later in the great Busiek/Perez run of the Avengers a few years ago being used as shock troops by Ultron. Since the brain patterns of the Avengers were recorded by Ultron during that battle it wouldn't be too difficult to have a War Toy model impersonate one or more of the heroes involved in the conflict. I would not be too keen to have the entire Civil War be something that occurred because Ultron wanted to keep all the players too occupied to stop his plans to take over the planet, but I wouldn't hate the motivation being about politicians and corporations scrabbling for money and power gained by using the tech from a captured Ultron or Alkhema body.

It isn't at all likely, but I do like the War Toy.


Friday, January 12, 2007

Here's where I lose you

Rather than lose readers by posting stories of deck construction, my trip to the local mall to look for shoe-laces or my adventures in checking that the caps are tightened with the proper amount of torque onto the air stems of my car tires I'll reduce the number of my spots on blog rolls by posting my 2007 Pic-A-Day project.

Butt-can 1-10-07

I take my digital camera with me everywhere I go even though Maryland is boring times infinity. I've got loads of pictures on the camera's drive, but something is going wrong and it keeps erasing them when I try to download them. So I'll update the set as I can. Let's see how many faux-emo pics of trees I can take in 2007.


If I wrote All-Star Superman

If I wrote All-Star Superman
Original scene from All-Star Superman #6 (March 2007)

Tags & Links: Scene with Krypto removed