Monday, April 30, 2007

Pulp Aquaman

Corporal Lance Thruster of the American Space Force Coast Guard drew his blaster at the site of the giant shambling thing rising out of the deep, dark lake of moon water. The creature stepped onto the gray, gritty shore of the moon-lake the American Space Force Coast Guard had pledged to protect from all foreign enemies. Water streamed from its' rubbery hide and multiple limbs flexed obscenely as it stalked forwards.

"Greetings. I come in peace." The Aqua-Moon Man telepathically beamed to the Space Soldiers, unaware that his mind and the minds of the Americans operated on wildly differing psycho-beaming frequencies, and thus they could only receive his thoughts as an odd, wailing noise.

"It's...Some kind of aquatic-living man-monster!" He shouted to his red-blooded comrades. "KILL IT!"


Hoppy-Sue the One-Legged Cheerleader

Found some inspirational certificate backgrounds while goofing around. The other disturbing thing about the Hoppy-Sue image is what is obviously a guy dressed in a cheerleader uniform seated on the ground.Is he running from a plane crashing onto the field?

No playing ball in the poster gallery!

Air! Oh, sweet Lord...AIR!

More here, some are earnest, some absurd. Enjoy!


Sunday, April 29, 2007

Footprints in the Sand

Could God click this with his mouse and make it so large he couldn't read it?
I wonder for how long I could get away with selling these inspirational, high-quality, framed prints for $26.95 each (plus s&h) to any location within the continental US within three business days to people who erroneously assumed a familiarity with the poem before somebody actually read the thing in its entirety?

I could use a new car.


Saturday, April 28, 2007

Greatest Spider-Man moment ever?

Remember when Spider-Man was actually funny and not just so annoying you wished Thor would toss him into the sun? I sure do. I miss 70s comic books.

There are a lot of great moments in Spider-Man's history. When he lifted all that machinery off his back as the tide rolled in, the final battle with the Green Goblin (the first final battle, that is), when he looted the gold steno-pad to pay for Aunt May's surgery, surviving the attack of John Byrne, etc., etc..

But today I am going show what is possibly the greatest, no all right, it is the greatest Spider-Man moment ever to appear in comics! Guess what? It was written by Bill Mantlo. A lot of people criticize the Mantlo style but I usually enjoyed his work even when it made me question my coolness. MAntlo did a great run on Hulk that set the tone of the book to this day and let us not forget the awesomeness of Rom!

For several years, Spidey was getting his butt kicked every month and it was usually by some guys wearing gloves with suction cups on them or a furry monkey suit. Spider-Man had become a joke. Point of fact, Spider-Man wasn't alone and many of the Marvel heroes of the time were having a very hard time of it. Iron Man, Thor, Daredevil and all the others were routinely having their lunches handed to them by some clown who had a gimmick that consisted of nothing more than shoes with pointy tips on them.

Fortunately, one day Bill Mantlo got tired of all that silliness and stepped in and put a stop to all of that nonsense by returning Spider-Man to the one we used to know from days of yore: The hero who beat up Doctor Doom and slapped Doc Ock into next week without breaking a sweat. In Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man #19 (June 1978). Spidey went up against the D-List villains The Enforcers. Working for the criminal underworld as thugs for hire the Enforcers had as members a guy who was big and stupid (Ox II. Yes, there were multiple Oxes...Oxen?), a redneck who used rope to tie you up (Montana) and a short person who could kick you in the knees (Fancy Dan).

As Count Floyd would say, "Oooh, scary!"
In PPtSSM #19, Spider-Man intervenes in a neighborhood extortion racket maintained by the Enforcers and beats the crap out of the team in little time. The big fight is over just how it should be, quickly and conclusively. No more three issue (four, if you count the inevitable Dreaded Deadline Doom fill-in) life and death struggles against the Kangaroo! Not with Bill Mantlo at the typewriter!
"Too hard to spell"!?!?!

As great as that scene is Mantlo nearly ruins it with the next page, featuring novice hero Hector (White Tiger) Ayala who stuck around during the battle to watch Spider-Man in action.

Sorry, that's just creepy. Maybe I'm reading too much into the 1970s subtext for this scene but given Spidey's seeming discomfort and hasty exit it sure seems to me that he thinks Hector is getting something else from analyzing the fight other than a few pointers.

Interestingly, it seems the prolific Bill Mantlo had an interest in having the heroes in his scripts get back up to their former greatness, because nearly a year earlier he also wrote an issue of Iron Man, where Tony Stark gets fed up with being totally lame and decides to "put the Invincible back into Iron Man" by making short shrift of pathetic villains and even having him put down the Punisher of Galactus (unfortunately, Denny O'Neil would later undo all that in a series of sucktastic stories with elements recycled from past Iron Man tales).

Let's face it: Spider-Man can pick up a car with one hand, move almost too fast to see, has unparalleled acrobatic skills and is a scientific genius. When Spider-Man throws down against a group who have the collected abilities of crushing a beer can on their forehead, tying up baby cows and bruising the shins of opponents the results of the fight are a predictable and humiliating conclusion.


How to tell if the Iron Man movie will tank

Someone out there in internet-land needs to find out if in the up-coming Iron Man movie the power regulator in Tony Stark's chest, which keeps his damaged heart beating, alerts him to its' status by having the lights go out sequentially one by one as the power levels drop.

If they do go out as the battery ebbs, then you know the movie will really, really suck. Why is that? Because if the creative team on the film uses a plot device as tired as using such a patently ridiculous visual clue for the Fake Dramatic Countdown then you just know they won't hesitate to lazily exploit every single cliche' that they possibly can that is stored in the Big Box of Stupid Cinema Cliches' in order to pad the script.

Hey, want to bet that when the regulator has only moments of power remaining that the entire thing lights up and blinks rapidly?

"Arrrgh! Blacking out...heart...failing...power levels...dropping! But must reverse polarity of transistor-powered Captain Morgan-Quaalude Dispenser...if it is!"

PING blink blink blink blinkblinkblinkblinkblink beeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee....


See what I did there in the title? I can't believe I don't get paid for this.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Pornography as comic book art reference: Surprisingly, not from Greg Land

Greg Land isn't the only artist that used hard core pornography as art references for their comic book work.

Girl's Love Stories #140 (January 1967).
Art by Ric Estrada.



Every now and then I stumble across an old gem of a comic book series (like Cowboy Sahib) that just thrills me. One of those series was the old American Comic Group anthology title Space Adventures. The series had some pretty bizarre stories in it that from the script and art made me think these were actually reprints or unpublished tales from the 1940s. Very quickly though, the stories evolved from goofy pulp adventure Flash Gordon space operas to tales more in line with the house style seen in the science fiction genre EC Comics of the era.

Panel art by Dick Giordano

One of those tales was Transformation, published in Space Adventures #7 (July 1953), a story about an ill-fated rocket trip to the planet Mars. While the author is uncredited, Transformation was drawn by Dick Giordano, a name that may be familiar to comic book fans. Dick Giordano is most remembered as working for decades for DC Comics variously as editor, penciller and inker (most notable on the work of Neal Adams, for which he was well-suited). But Dick Giordano had a comics career long before his tenure with DC with companies like Charlton and was a prolific illustrator.

It is in the story Transformation that you first see Giordano's art evolving past the somewhat economical efforts of the previous issues he contributed to. The layouts are good for early Giordano though as to be expected because of the market, they are reminiscent here and there of the art style of many EC publications. You can find out more about the career of Dick Giordano at Wikipedia. The climax of Transformation is pretty well telegraphed and could be guessed by anyone above the age of 12 years old or anyone who has ever seen an episode of the Twilight Zone television show, but it is still a classic read.

Blast off and download a pdf of Transformation!
Space Adventures #7 - Transformation


Thursday, April 26, 2007

Obviously, from a pre-internet era comic book

Yep, it's from January of 1967, Girl's Love Stories #140.


Beware the Gorilla Home-Based Entrepreneur!

Blame Kevin.The Gorilla Home-Based Entrepreneur is totally rocking that "Bully Was Right" eye patch!


It is said that the Gods decree that for every joy a man receives, he shall also receive an equal amount of suffering

What is worse, seeing Elast-Girl's bulging labia majora in the upskirt view or the bulging testicles of Green Lantern?
From Justice #11 (June 2007).

DC Comics, bringing you equality in titillating hypersexualization of the genders since 2007.


Botanists know evil when they see it

Their insight shall save us all.
Panel from Space Adventures #8 (September 1953)


Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Cowboy Sahib vs. Konchak the Cossack!

As far as I can tell, this is the second story featuring Joe King, the Cowboy Sahib! There are a few online sources here and there that reports there are more published stories starring the Sultan of the Six-Shooter, but I can't find any confirmation of it other than a few sparse entries about an appearance in an unnamed book with the mention of "contains a Cowboy Sahib story". In most of the entries the title of the comic book and issue number is not mentioned, making confirmation difficult.

Interestingly, I have not found much mention in Leonard Starr's credits claiming he worked on the character. Perhaps the notion of Sheer High-Concept Awesomeness is not one of the criteria Starr's biographers use when compiling a record of the body of his work. If there are any more Cowboy Sahib stories out there I sure can't find them.

The presumed second tale of Cowboy Sahib continues his battle against the vengeful Sultan Malevo after a fashion. Since issue #27 was published in the early 1950s no comic book story is considered marketable without some reference to the Red Menace of communist Russia. So for this issue an appropriate villain in the form of the Rasputin-like Konchak the Cossack is introduced to the story dynamic. The card-cheating Sultan Malevo and the rabid Konchak team up against Cowboy Sahib and all out war ensues, not to mention that the psycho girlfriend is back and still can't make up her mind whether to smooch or stab the westerner.

The stereotypical Konchak is heck-bent on building a peaceful worker's paradise in India through violent, bloody anti-Freedom revolution and only Cowboy Sahib stands in the way of his mad dreams of taking over the entire country. Alliances shift, friends become enemies, confused lovers toss hand-grenades into the boudoir and all while Cowboy Sahib tames himself a wild elephant, the better to lead his jungle animal friends and native army to war against the despicable Konchak.

Yippie-ki-yay! Break that ornery pachyderm to download a pdf of the second Cowboy Sahib adventure!

Hooded Horseman #27 - Jumbo


Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Classic Spider-Man: It's nice here in the 70s

I need to calm down a bit, step back from current events and revisit a real problem from the past that still needs to be addressed to this very day. This problem was something that irritated fans of comic books for decades and in the pre-internet days of comic fandom, managed to drive comic book company interns who answer letters and comic book store owners insane as legions of unrelenting nerds desperately and repeatedly begged for an answer that was never satisfactorily resolved.

The question was this:

How come Spider-Man's spider-sense always warned him with sufficient time to avoid a fatal danger...

...But was never early enough to avoid one that would merely knock him unconscious?

The Ferrett expands on it.


Once again, a vision of the future related after the fact

That didn't take long.

Posted: April 16, 2007 7:51 PM
I wish I could of stopped it. I saw the vision but why did I ignore it.....I feel bad..
What is it about some people that they have to feel as if they were an actual participant in distant tragedies, lives of vacuous celebrities and fictional comic book crossovers? That kind of mentality and behavior seems to me as being just one headache away from claiming being probed by Bigfoot on a flying saucer or stalking Steven Spielberg with a roll of duct tape.

Presumably sincere statements like the one found on the linked MySpace blog just make me want to break my "No Swears" rule and vent, filling a post with ranting, uncontrolled expletives about how ridiculously frustrating and stupid people are. Why do people have such empty lives and lack of ego that they need to be part of events that occur in the national arena? If these delusional losers want to be involved in something bigger than them then they should work a soup-kitchen, pick up trash or enlist in the military. You want to be a part of a tragedy? Go to a war zone, then.

I am nearly at the point where I don't think it would be too extreme to just scream "What is your malfunction?" in the posters' face over and over and over and over until I get a good answer. If I did that, though, I'd be considered unbalanced, right? Every day I come to appreciate the angry comedy styling of Lewis Black just a little bit more.


The War Between Sultan Malevo and Cowboy Sahib!

Much has been speculated about Cowboy Sahib, possibly the greatest western character ever to grace the pages of a comic book. Little is known about Joe King, the man who would be Cowboy Sahib, because his adventures were until recently long out of print and unavailable outside of the rare collection or anthology reprint. The character's main claim to fame thus far in the world of comic books is that he was first shown only as an advertisement for a future story on the cover of The Hooded Horseman #25 (September-October 1952). The image of a rootin-tootin' cowboy riding a tiger into battle is a classic for the ages and is one of my favorite comic book covers.

It must have been a disappointment to comic book readers that Cowboy Sahib was not actually featured in the issue that heralded his first appearance. By featuring Cowboy Sahib on the cover of #25 the publisher undoubtedly tried to interest buyers into picking up future issues of The Hooded Horseman but unfortunately it could not save the title.

The buyers of the 1950s were notoriously fickle and readers probably felt deceived by the cover, even though the blurb clearly stated that the character would be featured in later issues. Undoubtedly wise to the usual bait and switch promises from comic book publishers that were infamous for their cover disconnects to the interior story, readers probably did not stick around for his senses-shattering debut in the following issue of The Hooded Horseman #26 (November-December 1952). In spite of the anticipatory advertising of issue #25 the title was canceled. A few more stories were published in a revived Hooded Horseman title but that book was also canceled.

I often questioned if the actual story could possibly meet my expectations and I am glad to say that once I read it that I was not disappointed. The tale of the tiger-bustin' Cowboy Sahib is ably accomplished in both the script and art by veteran creator Leonard Starr and is a very fun read.

Lasso the picture below for a set of the first Cowboy Sahib adventure.


Cowboy Sahib

Monday, April 23, 2007

Heckuva job, Drudgie!

War, human rights violations, American soldiers fighting and dying, high-level Government incompetence and corruption, people shooting people in the streets and the staff of Walter Reed for two days didn't discover the body of a soldier who committed suicide in his room.

And yet on April 23rd a popular news site leads with an article featuring a celebrity with an opinion about toilet paper use.


Sunday, April 22, 2007

Grocery Store Artifact: Attack of the Psychic

Despite being sick and blurry on large amounts of flu medicine I managed last Friday night to keep my job. I accomplished this by being professional and reigning in every impulse I had not to hurl invectives and vitriol at a certain female customer who went through my line. Not that the particular customer acted badly in line or was an a-holeoid that treats other people like servants or anything like that, but she was by any rational definition a very bad person. The rationale for my assessment of her character will be explained shortly.

At about 6 p.m. the customer entered my line, buying a few personal items after a long day of what she probably considered to be hard work. After the items were rung up I asked if she had a store club card so she could get her discounts on the sale items. She was visibly surprised some items were on sale. After she entered her club info into the point of sale pad I then gave her the final amount. Much to the semi-silent annoyance of the customers waiting in line behind her the customer then had to take a minute to fumble and search through her purse, scratching and pawing like a cat using a litter box, for enough cash to pay the bill.

What it was about the situation that made me want to flip out was that on her blouse was an exhibitor badge of the type used by people hawking crap and services on the nearby beach front boardwalk. The badge identified her as a PSYCHIC working a stand. Of course, my usual reflex was to take the opportunity to point out how evil she was, but being on the clock I unfortunately could not. I remained professional from start to finish, even though I was very distracted by the JREF-ian need to reinforce some reality and shame the grifter straight on behalf of her victims.

Things I wanted to ask and say to the customer but didn't because I need the paycheck:

How come you didn't know these items were on sale?

Why didn't you foresee the total?

Shame on you. Shame!

Get a real job.

Don't you care about the harm you do to the stupid?

You know what, sport? It is less harmful to the public good to give a heroin-addicted chimp going through withdrawal an Uzi with the sear filed down and set it loose in a day care center than be a "professional psychic".

You suck.

Lucky for you that you are real hot. That should help you land a rich husband since you are proven useless for anything other than sex. At least, for a few more years. Better hurry.

What do you need Midol for? Can't you relieve cramping by chanting under a pyramid and cleansing your aura or something?

No homeopathic cures for you today? Wait, here's a bottle of water for fifty cents. It is just as effective.

Shouldn't your amazing powers that can penetrate time and space and reverse entropy have warned you not to come through my line?

Who does Mary love?

Saving my strength for work since I'm down with the flu last few days.

Sorry, Mary. I'm taken. All the good ones are. But since mildly amusing photoshopping is the best medicine, here is a blank for people to play with.

Page from Girl's Love Stories #133 (February 1968).

The internet shares the sweet, sweet love!

Bully does a bad, bad thing. But Mary still has room in her heart for a little stuffed hard-travelin' Bull.

Ragnell shows us what a girl wants.

Cullen Waters lifts the covers on just who Mary wants curled up at the foot of her bed.

Isn't that just like a woman? Mary reveals her fickle heart to Jon the Intergalactic Gladiator.

Brian Hughes is Mary's Mobile Organism Designed Only for Matchmaking!

Mark Engblom knows love is no laughing matter.

Mary creeps Chris Sims out.

Mary tells all on the Johnny Bacardi Show.

Mary trades up and lands a boy toy at Postmodernbarney. And keeping with internet tradition, one for Dorian.

Mary may have voted for him, but Hulkster SMASH!

Mike knows that between Mary and Nancy, the better girl won.

It is a bittersweet week for Mary at Siskoid's Blog.

The Many Loves of Mary is featured at the Fortress of Soliloquy.

Mary tells Brandon all about those schoolgirl days of telling tales and biting nails that are gone.

The prequels sucked, but Mary loved them anyways.

Mary has to travel further than England to find her lost love via Gad, Sir! Comics!.

Tomscud sends us all running and screaming into the night when Mary unpacks her Trunk of Horror.

Alex Scott knows love is in the cards for Mary.

Sean Kleefeld asks: Which one is the evil twin?


Drop me a line if I missed including anyone!

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Material concerns

Let me try to understand something from product descriptions of the Supergirl and Catwoman vinyl statues in the July 2007 DC solicits. As a general rule the material used in these statues...Vinyl is like, soft...right?I'm wondering if this is the type of vinyl like an LP that shatters like glass under pressure or is cushiony like the vinyl used in those Pillsbury Doughboy toys.

Just curious. No special reason.



Tuesday, April 17, 2007

They knew it all along

So how long before those disgusting scum, the predatory charlatans posing as human beings who claim to have psychic powers and the ability to communicate with the afterlife start making the rounds of the talk shows "consoling" the survivors and families of the Virginia Tech tragedy?


Friday, April 13, 2007

Sleestak's Review: When slapping girls is outlawed, only outlaws will slap girls

Page from It Rhymes with Lust
(Reprinted by Dark Horse, 2007. Original content St. Johns Publications, 1950)

It Rhymes With Lust could arguably be called the first graphic novel of the modern comic book era. There were other novels consisting of only art but they were published many years prior to St. Johns' short-lived venture into the genre. I picked it up last week at my local comic book store. Unfortunately for printer Dark Horse, the proprietor did not even know he had one in the store and was surprised when I brought it up to the cash register.

The book was a fun read but not a great one, though it is important historically for the comic genre. The motivations of the main antagonist, Rust Masson, being boiled down to just sheer craziness on her part left the story feeling a bit threadbare. Keeping with the noir style of the era all the characters are corrupt to some extent, some more than others, and it was fun reading to see what would happen to them as crime fiction can sometimes be unpredictable in fascinating ways. There are a few interesting relationships in the book, all of them creepy. The crusading newspaper man has an affair with both Rust and her step-daughter and the homicidal thug in the employ of the family really wants to hook up with Rust or if that fails, any other female he can brutalize into submission.

In my opinion the creators did not really take advantage of the opportunity given them in using the comic genre to its full potential. While it is true they were testing a new format they did not much try to break out what anyone could find in the standard crime comic books available on any news stand of the time. The end of the story is familiar and typical of comic books of the 1950s and therein may lie the trouble with the story. In the pre-Comics Code market of the era the authors may not have realized they could do more, have perceived they had little choice or unconsciously reigned themselves in with how certain scenes were written and portrayed.


Learn from Dave Cockrum

Comic book artists take note (and you writers and editors that script such poses a la Frank Miller), this is the correct way to show the back and front of Super-Heroine at the same time.

See? It is possible to titillate and give readers cheesecake without impossible contortions of the body.

Head on over to the Fortress of Soliloquy for the newest example of the wrong way to do it.


Thursday, April 12, 2007

There can be only Two. Maybe Four.

Whenever a cartoonist dies his peers often then use their own venue to feature the characters of that cartoonist looking saddened at the news of his death. I have seen a few in reference to the recently deceased Johnny Hart, most notably from Pulitzer Prize winning editorial cartoonist Steven Breen. Nothing against Breen, he has a Pulitzer and I don't and I have read in the past that cartoonists get sometimes frustrated with the content they have to use when a celebrity or peer passes away. Bob Hope doing stand up for generations of deceased soldiers in heaven, anyone?

As far as I'm concerned, the only memorial cartoons that should have been allowed this cliched yet respectful practice were Walt Kelly for Pogo and Charles Schultz for Peanuts. Since they are gone, seeing any other comic characters in mourning is as welcome and original as the cartoons portraying the Statue of Liberty holding a flashlight after a New York blackout.

There is also talk of another artist continuing the B.C. and Wizard of Id strips. I'd rather that instead of new entries the Hart creations follow instead the Peanuts model and give readers reprints of classic strips from back when they were clever, insightful and hilarious.

Maybe, just maybe, I'll be willing to bend that "No Comic Characters In Mourning" rule someday in the far distant future for Bloom County creator Berkeley Breathed and Bill Watterson's Calvin and Hobbes. A sad penguin missing his creator or a worried stuffed Tiger playing hide and seek with a non-existent Calvin would break my heart.


Cranky is as cranky does.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

The Time Before Land

Long, long ago before Land, Turner, Liefeld, Churchill, Silvestri and Cho...This is how you made the fanboys sweat.

Pepper Potts as envisioned by Don Heck and Dick Ayers, from Tales of Suspense #58 (October 1964).


Monday, April 09, 2007

Sleestak's Movie Review: Grindhouse

I went and saw the Tarantino and Rodriguez offering Grindhouse last Saturday night and for the most part thoroughly enjoyed myself. The double feature was mostly fun to watch though I think that younger people had no idea what was going on with all the misleading gags throughout the movie. Prior to the film starting an usher actually came in to the theater and announced the scratches and poor quality of the film were intentional effects and to not go complaining to the manager about it. I don't know if that was being repeated in all theaters showing the movie and was just part of marketing or if they producers actually thought it was necessary to not have negative feedback and droves of angry walk-outs.

The cheap exploitation films of the 70s that Tarantino and Rodriguez are so enamored of had a story and pacing that usually followed this formula:

Dull crap, dull crap, dull crap, ACTION! Dull crap, dull crap, dull crap, DOUBLE-ACTION!
As someone who spent many a weekend in the 1970s in the old Horton Plaza movie theater in downtown San Diego watching some of the worst B-Movies of the era, I'd have to say Grindhouse was just about as dead on a parody/homage to the genre as you can get without resorting to the unintentionally awful Sci-Fi Channel library of original world premiere movies. I don't share the weird love some have for those films. I saw Switchblade Sisters way back in the 80s while in Korea (the local markets were flooded with imported or bootleg VHS tapes mostly comprising the action films of Joey Stallone and Wings Hauser) and I despise it with incredible passion. Tarantino seems to want to marry it and liked it enough to include in his Thunder Road collections of a few years back. I am mostly unable to enjoy them even ironically because I can't get past the bad, bad acting.

Of the two films, Planet Terror was the winner for me. Give me a good old zombie feature any day. I am now an unabashed Rose McGowan fan after this (at least until her creepiness factor gives me the chills again. It will eventually) and I will buy her Cherry Darling action figure as soon as it comes out. I won't even keep it in the package, man.

The entire film itself had some great gags that almost made up for some of the parts that dragged interminably even though they were accurately in the style of the cinematic ancestry. I had a real hard time getting through the long set up of unlikable characters in Death Proof and just about lost it when I discovered that Tarantino was putting me through it twice. But the payoff with the gals getting revenge on the serial killer was worth it. Professional stunt woman Zoe Bell, who plays herself in Death Proof, is so awesome she takes awesome off the charts. I was very...Let's say the prospect of Zoe Bell even though I kept thinking she was actually Jennifer Grey doing an accent.

Tags: Quentin Tarantino Robert Rodriguez Movies Death Proof Planet Terror

Cool Golden Age Page of the Day: Mighty Thiota Ray!

Thrilling Comics #56 - Officials laugh
From an untitled Doc Strange story, Thrilling Comics #56 (February 1945)

I thought a derisive laugh was the reply? Dr. Bela must not get home delivery of the Daily Star to his secret Bela-Cave in the Bahamas. Miami could have been spared an icy fate if only he took advantage of their special subscription offer!

Sunday, April 08, 2007

If an eye offend thee, pluck it out in a low speed collision

The Visor Angel is one of those really bad ideas that people find harmless until it is too late. On the surface the Visor Angel is a comfort symbol. They can be found in dollar stores, Christian book shops and swap meets across America. There are a lot of things that can make being in a car dangerous like alcohol, drugs and cowardice. I don't see the need to add another element of risk through stupidity or ignorance. The generic angel, clearly not the visage of the patron Saint of Travelers, Saint Christopher, nonetheless conveys the traditional message of safe journey via the magic spell inscribed on the plaque. Personally, the Visor Angel is as mystically effective in ensuring safe travel as exorcising gremlins and bad luck from the car by blessing it with tobacco smoke while holding crystals under a pyramid, but gullibility knows no bounds. If Satan existed, I'd almost think he signed off on the design as part of one demonic plot among many to blind Christians at random.
In reality the Visor Angel is a harbinger not of safe passage, but instead carries the very real potential for horrible injuries to the face. I can't think of anything more careless and foolhardy than putting a piece of metal with two sharp pointy edges poised inches from your face in a moving car. The tips of the angel wings are about two and a half inches apart, coincidentally the perfect span required to pierce the center of each eye. Merely tapping a light pole while backing out of a parking spot in a mall parking lot is enough to ram your head into the thing. It would be less of a Darwinian act to duct tape a couple of steak knives to the visor and go for a spin.

This particular Visor Angel actually belongs to a friend of mine and has been in his car for several years. The first time I saw it was while in the car with him driving around San Diego. I noticed it when he adjusted the car visor for shade against the afternoon sun, thereby aiming the wing tips of the angel directly in line with his eyes. The ensuing conversation went something like this.
"Dude, look at what you are doing. You'll put your eye out, kid."
"What? Holy crap, yeah. Well, it was a gift from my mom."
"Your mom must hate you."
So my friend took it off the visor for the remainder of the trip. The next time I saw the deadly Visor Angel it was perched on the on the passenger side of the car and he says he removes it whenever he has anyone in the adjacent seat. I hope so. I'd hate to have to say "I told you so". I'll say it, but I would hate to. Visor Angels come in several styles and someone somewhere must have noticed the potential hazard, because I've noticed that in a few of the next generation versions the wings are folded in repose instead of being in pointy attack mode.

I don't know how many of these older angelic icons of serious eye trauma are out there in the world, but I really hope that every day there are less of them because they get lost, someone gains an IQ point or the cheap clip fails to hold it to the visor and not because a First Responder is using a pair of pliers to remove it from the eye socket of a car crash victim.


I am the light in the dark. My work here is done.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Comic Book PSA: Eat your cereal or Momma spank!

So many jokes about Wonder Woman and a healthy Dick...must resist...

I appreciate how kind Wonder Woman is in this PSA. She is basically saying "Man up, Nancy!" but she does it with so much tact. That is the secret to diplomacy, though. If you do it right you can tell someone to go to Hell and they will thank you for the travel tips.

Star Spangled #102_PSA
From Star Spangled Comics #102 (March 1950).

The panel with the sloe-eyed, disembodied head of Wonder Woman floating over the kid as he sleeps and courts pneumonia is gold!


Friday, April 06, 2007

Recycled Stories

One of the common practices of creators in any medium, particularly one that is often perceived as disposable by the public, is to recycle their own work into the same or other media. Writers of comic books often do this. Artistically, a reader could look at it as being done as a variation of a theme, a fleshing out of a character or idea the writer is particularly enamored of. Done well, this results in the concept of Michael Moorcock's Eternal Champion or the classic Alternate-Earth tales for the 1970s Marvel titles. Done with less skill or repeated ad nauseum you get the square-jawed hero of what one comic book forum pundit called "The Adventures of Chaykin-Man", the cookie-cutter heroes and villains of Jim Starlin and the retread plots from Michael Fleisher in stories between the publishers of Marvel, DC and Warren.

Psycho #4 - Story by Marv Wolfman
Psycho #4 (September 1971), "Out of chaos...A new beginning!" .
Skywald Publishing. Story by Marv Wolfman.

Often the recycling of stories is done because of the state of the freelance system and the market inside a certain genre. Sadly, sometimes work is presented again due to a lack of creativity on the part of the artist. It can be a somewhat harmless practice in theory. If a story sold and paid the bills in 1985 then why not use it again after a little tweaking to the content in 1993? Nothing wrong with that, except that long time fans of certain creators will notice the repeats and be disappointed in the work and the audience will progressively diminish accordingly. It is equally true for all products be they comic books, laundry detergent or music. Read the first 100 issues of Iron Man and you'll get the idea. Every 12 issues was a recycled plot of the previous 12 with a minor change so that Iron Man fought the Unicorn instead of the Melter.
Nova #6 - Story by Marv Wolfman
Nova #6 (February 1977), "And so...The Sphinx!" .
Marvel Comics Group. Story by Marv Wolfman.

I kind of doubt that Marv Wolfman sat down and rationalized in 1977 that no one would ever notice the story he wrote for Psycho #4 in 1971 shared some elements with the story in Nova #6. While that may be the case it is likely that he had a scene in mind he particularly liked that he felt did not previously have the proper venue and exposure to do it justice. Steve Gerber used concepts from a Bloodstone tale he scripted in the finale of his Phantom Zone story in DC Comics Presents

It could be a truism about sequential art, that if nothing new is given to the reader that grabs them every time they pick up a title they will be less likely to pick up the following issues or the tie-ins. The fickleness of many fans is one of the perils the monthly pamphlet faces today. It is not enough to have a good story told over time, each issue must blow the mind of the buyer a little more than the previous one.

Sometimes the plots are outright swipes from another creator and the practice is just as reprehensible as some of the more obvious art thefts that occur in comic books. The exceptions of course would be the homage, as in the following X-Men pages.

Uncanny X-Men #141 - Story by Chris Claremont
Uncanny X-Men #141 (January 1981). "Days of Future Past"
Marvel Comics Group. Story by Chris Claremont.

In Uncanny X-Men #141 Mystique pauses to make an expository speech prior to a very public assassination attempt of a public figure who is campaigning for President of the United States. The speech is very similar to a caption Roy Thomas scripted for X-Men #60 several years prior.

Uncanny X-Men #60 - Story by Roy Thomas
X-Men #60 (September 1969). "In the shadow of...Sauron!""
Marvel Comics Group. Story by Roy Thomas.

There were some at the time who criticized Chris Claremont for "ripping off" Roy Thomas in adapting his caption from Uncanny X-Men #60. I don't agree with that assessment at all, partly because the fellow professional who most forcefully made the claim had a very public and emotional disagreement with Claremont at the time. Until relatively recently, Marvel had a long stylistic tradition of in-jokes and practiced the business model of trying to make the reader feel like one of the mythical Bullpen insiders. I was very familiar with the Thomas/Adams run and my opinion is that Mystique's declaration in issue #141 paraphrasing Thomas' original text was a part of that, a respectful hat tip that would appeal to long time readers by tickling the geek-bone and was a logical progression of X-Men story-telling. It is interesting that the particular caption that was used later by Claremont probably wouldn't even have been included in the book if not for the era's atypical Neal Adams panel layouts. Roy Thomas was often forced to write sometimes awkward space-filling text and captions for the sake of page aesthetics.

For some reason I don't find the recycling of comic book stories and plots by an author as particularly heinous as much as lazy and dangerous to the success of a project and by extension, the company that publishes it. I really liked Fleisher's Jonah Hex work for DC (the El Papagayo character being the exception) but I was dismayed by his habit of re-writing plots to use in another book. Recycling a story, when done without wit and talent is just cannibalism, a charge I have witnessed being directed at the output of Marvel more than the other companies in the last few years. To cite some more recent examples of recycling old story concepts, Joss Whedon did a story in Astonishing X-Men featuring a sentient Danger Room-entity a few years after a similar story was told using the Cerebro device as the emergent being seeking freedom. The mega-event of Civil War also appeared to me as being very like a Marvel cross-over story from the 1970s, though enough was changed that one could charitably consider it a new idea or at least one that evolved naturally from previous concepts.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Grocery Store Artifact: Her emo-ness now belongs to the ages

Found this in the break room during a cleaning.
Thinking in the moment = Shallow and Stupid

I hate when people say they are living or thinking "in the moment" because that tells me they have all the brainpower of a goldfish.

Look at this thing. Every line reads like a first draft of a really bad pop song written for the "smash debut album" of an Idol "winner" and is all about wanting someone else to do everything for them and the desire to avoid responsibility. Poor little princess, gotta work for a living.

Living in the Moment = Shallow and Stupid.

Yes, I'm cranky today.


Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Comic Book Ad: Count the upskirts

I'm not a fan of the Archie line of comics. While I find the Golden Age books interesting that is mainly for the historical value. Like many comic books of the time the early Archie books were blatantly full of subtext, double entendre and Good Girl art all while pretending to be a wholesome product for the kids as an alternative to the more obvious lurid fare on the market.

One example of how that faux-salubriousness of the Archie line was perpetuated through the years is revealed in this ad where Josie and her friends are at a wholesome, chaperoned and safe (physically and spiritually, no doubt) Co-Ed Skateboard Club.

In this Hostess advertisement from Archie's Madhouse #107 (1977) the catty Josie and her Unnamed Black Friend realize that the way to attract a man is not through being equal to their male counterparts, wearing pants or through hard work and skill but by manipulation and acting "like a girl". Melody, the "stupid blond" character who acts helpless and girly, manages to flash her underwear to the reader three times in seven panels, stealing all the meat puppets from the other ladies. Josie can't stand being the Mayor of Loserville so she resorts to trickery and manipulation to get attention.

Madhouse #107 - Josie
While this ad is post-Pussycats and Josie was a role model in her cartoon, what is clear is that pre-Pussycats, Josie was a zany man-hungry bitch, which was typical of how most women in comics were portrayed. Even those women in leading comic book roles were not used much differently and the second tier characters like Josie were originally little more than plot devices for wacky situations and foils to the main character. Portraying Josie and the gang in the style of her late 60s appearances in the ad may have been due to her television exposure waning by 1977. Having had the original cartoon and the follow up show, Josie and the Pussycats in Outer Space, being canceled and only seen in syndication could explain why the ad did not take advantage of the recognition of using Josie and her Unnamed Black Friend in full Pussycat gear to push sugary treats.

Josie is a good example however, of how the popularized version from other media, the cartoon, changed how she was portrayed in most instances in her book appearances from then on. So as to match her cartoon version, Josie received a character upgrade for the better. No longer written as a zany force of nature modeled on the Lois Lane School of Writing Women in Comics template, she became far less wacky, a successful professional and a leader.


Tuesday, April 03, 2007

The Cool Golden Age Page of the Day! - Bribed with Hitler money

Pulp San Diego


It is well known that all the trees on Idylwilde Street served as hosts to the Shell-Less Snails. All the trees that is to say, but one. There is perhaps nothing about the tree itself that prevents it from being a host to those things children know of but forget exist as adults, it is only that it is already occupied by other more hungry, terrible guests.

The old woman who harbors in her dark heart many secrets too awful and evil to speak of has laid a previous claim to the tree outside her home. No creature of light or dark dares to trespass the woody bole for fear of a fate more horrible than destruction. Instinctively, children do not linger to play in its shadow and adults do not trim its grasping branches or rake the fallen, scabrous leaves from the stained and damaged sidewalk.

At night the Burlap Monkeys follow the commands of the old woman and forage the homes and driveways of Idylwilde, careful not to be seen lest the pressure of an untrained gaze render them to dust. Neighborhood pets, mice, birds and the occasional unwary, unlucky resident are ferried back to the old woman's house like crumbs borne on the backs of ants stealing from a picnic, to suffer in unknown rites and strange transformations. Every so often the odd distilled energies of the missing are bound to innocuous idols of wood and clay, hung from a chosen tree as the condemned are sealed in gibbets, in tribute to almost forgotten and ravenous gods.

"Happy Birthday Denise!", "In memory of a beloved pet", "We miss you, Charlie!" and other false sentiments scrawled onto the tops, sides and bottoms of the sacrificial urns are in truth secret, taunting messages to survivors, desperate icons of hope painted on the sides and slats of makeshift prisons. Beneath crude lettering hides painstaking runes from out of antiquity that hold within tormented spirits more securely than iron chains.

Centuries of lies and misdirection allowed the old evil woman in the house on Idylwilde Street to work in secret and without fear of discovery, slaking her lust at the expense of the innocent. The old woman may have acted with impunity forever if not for the fact that the neighborhood kids, Stinky Joe and Utter Farley, took notice of what was occurring on our street and banded us all together to form in defense of our homes the squad we came to call the the L.K.R. of Idylwilde Street. Until now, no one who was not present that one fateful week in 1969 knew what a great service, and indeed sacrifice, the L.K.R. performed in saving us all from evil.

I was eventually proud to be a founding member of the L.K.R. or, as it was vociferously known ever after in our penultimate battle cry...Little Kid's Revenge.

This is our story.


Subliminal Pulp Cover: The Avenger

From the November 1939 issue of The Avenger classic pulp cover artist H.W. Scott exposes us to the masculine aspect of subliminal pulp art. While I agree that sometimes "a train is just a train" the image of raging locomotive thrusting upwards from a bristling thicket of wooden beams under a looming face makes me kind of doubt that was the case.

I really should purchase both this and the Astounding Space-Vagina issues, frame them and put them up on the wall of my home office and see if anyone catches on.

Image found at Pulp of the Day.