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Archive for January, 2011

One-Shot At Greatness #44 Super Soldier

31 Jan

Because publishers want you to buy their product every month, comics are typically serial in nature. However, occasionally (and more often nowadays than ever before) publishers launch a comic title that is only meant to last for one issue. While ongoing series often have multiple chances to hook in new readers, the comics highlighted in this ongoing investigations only had One-Shot At Greatness!

Super Soldier #1Publisher: Amalgam Comics
Cover Date: April 1996
Cover Price: $1.95
Writer: Mark Waid
Artist: Dave Gibbons

When the DC and Marvel Universes merged in Marvel vs DC, a new one was created: the Amalgam Universe. This one-shot combined Superman with Captain America.

*Warning! Plot Spoilers Below*

After a space rocket landed in 1938, the government scavenged the alien corpses within. They added their findings to the Super Soldier formula, and created America’s top-performing WWII hero: Super Soldier! Fifty years later, the Super Soldier has returned to defeat the one villain he could not defeat: Ultra-Metallo. This time, Lex Luthor has planted a bomb within Ultra-Metallo’s chest and set him on course for the Oval Office. Once he reaches the White House, the bomb will automatically trigger, devastating Washington, D.C. But, how can Super Soldier hope to defeat the mechanical powerhouse, when it’s also equipped with a large portion of Green K (aka Kryptonite)?

Mark Waid’s crafted a morbidly-interesting fuse between the origins of Supes & Cap with this book. Unfortunately, the rest of the story isn’t all that engaging. Sure, Super-Soldier has to stop a seemingly unstoppable villain from reaching the White House but, besides the action, not much room is given to the main hero’s characterization. I think it’d be more interesting to spend some story-time on what it’d be like to wake up in a world that’s 50 years more advanced than you last knew it. Besides that, there’s no real sub-plot that needs a conclusion – so, even if there was an issue #2, I wouldn’t be all that enticed to pick it up.

On Ebay: Amalgam | Mark Waid | Dave Gibbons
On AtomicAvenue: Amalgam Comics

 

Minimate Spotlight #37 Ghostbusters

29 Jan

Action figures have long been a perfect compliment to comic books, since every kid (or kid at heart) has that natural desire to act out adventures with their favorite heroes off the drawn page. Every so often, a unique style of figure comes along that breaks the mold, so to speak. Each Saturday, Donny B will be showcasing various offerings from Art Asylum’s take on the ‘block figure’, with a weekly spotlight on Minimates.

Ghostbusters 2 introduced two minor but interesting ghosts – Tony and Nunzio, the Scoleri Brothers. They only had a few minutes on screen, but they left a big impact with fans. Art Asylum continued their comprehensive GB Minimate coverage with faithful recreations of these two baddies:

Behind the Image:

Again, this is a photoshop screen-capture project, but this was a little different than most of the other GB shots I’ve done because I had to work elements of the image overtop the ghosts. It was a slightly more extensive process than just layering the Minimate overtop a background photo.

On Ebay: Ghostbusters
On AtomicAvenue: Ghostbusters

 

Retro-Read #43 Doctor Zero

28 Jan

With years spent reading single issues here and there, juggling storylines of dozens of titles, I decided it was time to find a better way to read comics. So, it was off to the back issue bins armed with the longest want list you’ve ever seen! Putting together series after series and reading them in their complete goodness, I was reborn as the Retro-Reader!

Publisher: Epic Comics
Number of Issues: 8
First Issue: April 1988 ($1.25)
Last Issue: June 1989 ($1.50)
Writer: D.G. Chichester with Margaret Clark
Artist: Cenys Cowan with inks by Bill Sienkiewicz (#1-4), Brett Ewins (#5), Dan Spiegle (#6-8), Gary Kwapisz (#8)

*Warning! Plot Spoilers Below*

Doctor Zero was the first series published in Epic Comics’ Shadow Line Saga. The Shadow Line was a shared universe that focused on an Earth very similar to ours – inhabited by billions of normal humans. Similar to ours except for the existence of a second race of powered humans that evolved over the centuries. This race is much smaller in numbers than the humans, so they’ve chosen to hide in the shadows – referring to them as Shadows seems appropriate, doesn’t it? Over time, some of the Shadows have slipped up and had encounters with humans. These events have led to sightings of mythical creatures like yetis, vampires, and djinns.

In the late 1980s, one of these Shadow Dwellers stepped forward into the public spotlight as the world’s first super hero. This do-gooder named himself Doctor Zero and began saving humanity from itself. He stepped in to help defeat threats produced by Muslim terrorists, nuclear weapons, deadly diseases, nuclear meltdowns and more. With such great accomplishments, how could the public do anything but embrace this new-found savior of humanity?

Well, if they knew the truth, it’d certainly affect their feelings toward Doctor Zero. It turns out that he’s been behind the scenes – manipulating these events to happen and then stepping in to squash them or direct them elsewhere. It’s becoming clear to us, the readers, that he’s following his own motives and they’re not necessarily in humanity’s best interests. But, what are his motives? Well, that’s the fun of the book – trying to figure out what grand scheme he’s putting together.

The Bad: Nearly 25 years later, the threat of terrorism and nuclear annihilation haven’t changed for the better. As for the comic, it was unfortunately canceled at issue 8 (even though plans were underway up to #13) so we miss out on any kind of conclusion showcasing what the series was actually building to.

The Good: Moody inks by Bill Sienkiewicz and an interesting story concept. Great covers by Sienkiewicz, Jon J. Muth, Kevin Nowlan, Gray Morrow, Kent Williams and more!

The Verdict: The concept’s great! Everyday people think he’s a true hero but, what they don’t know is that he’s orchestrating the events he saves them from. That leaves the question: what is he building towards? And, that’s where the rub is – the series was canceled before it was revealed (now, perhaps more is seen in the final Shadowline Saga title, Critical Mass - but, I’ve yet to read it). The first four issues are great: the story is clearly building towards something and Bill Sienkiewicz’s inks add a moody, seedy feeling to the book. The final four issues shift more of the focus on to the less-interesting government team hunting Zero and the art becomes more typical 1980s super-hero fare. So, as much as I enjoyed the initial build-up, the lack of any solid conclusion says “skip it”.

On Ebay: Doctor Zero | Shadowline Saga | D.G. Chichester | Bill Sienkiewicz
On AtomicAvenue: Doctor Zero

 
 

Famous Fanmail #43 Dara Naraghi

27 Jan

You may not be surprised to learn that most people in the comic business grew up reading comic books. However, you might be interested in knowing what they were reading. Here’s a look at “Famous Fanmail”!

Dara Naraghi has written a number of comics published by IDW, including Ghostbusters, Terminator and It! He got a letter published in Doctor Zero #6 (cover date: February 1989), the first title from Epic Comics’ Shadowline Saga.

Doctor Zero letters page with Dara Naraghi

On Ebay: Doctor Zero | Dara Naraghi

 
 

Celebrity Cameos #8 Elvis Presley

26 Jan

Some of the best parts of movies like Old School and Zombieland are their unexpected celebrity cameos. The same thing happens in comics, every once in a while. Here’s a look at another Celebrity Cameo!

Although the last issue of Crossfire and Rainbow doesn’t feature Elvis Presley, himself – it does feature an impersonator. This cover was illustrated by the late, great Dave Stevens.

On Ebay: Crossfire | Elvis | Dave Stevens
On AtomicAvenue: Crossfire

 

Comic Book Cover Swipes Exposed #43 Wolverine

26 Jan

After looking at hundreds of comic book covers, it becomes quickly apparent that not every cover is 100% original. Whether done intentionally or even underhandedly, there’s something about uncovering these “swipes” that adds a new element of fun to reading and collecting comics.

This one seems like an unintentionally similar cover design. However, knowing that Wild Thing is Wolverine’s daughter does indicate that the creators probably have at least seen the original cover design. So it may have been caused by a subliminal effect.

Wolverine vol. II #23
Wolverine vol. II #23
April 1990
John Byrne
Wild Thing vol. II #1
Wild Thing vol. II #1
October 1999
Ron Lim

On Ebay: Wolverine | Wild Thing | John Byrne | Ron Lim

 

One-Shot At Greatness #43 Thor God-Size Special

24 Jan

Because publishers want you to buy their product every month, comics are typically serial in nature. However, occasionally (and more often nowadays than ever before) publishers launch a comic title that is only meant to last for one issue. While ongoing series often have multiple chances to hook in new readers, the comics highlighted in this ongoing investigations only had One-Shot At Greatness!

Thor God-Size Special #1Publisher: Marvel Comics
Cover Date: February 2009
Cover Price: $3.99
Writer: Matt Fraction
Artist: Dan Brereton, Doug Braithwaite, Mike Allred, Miguel Sepulveda

*Warning! Plot Spoilers Below*

The Mighty Thor, Balder the Brave and Loki the Deceiver all discover that their memories of an Asgardian named Skurge don’t add up. Each has a different perception of the man. Balder remembers him as a poet. Thor remembers him as a cobbler and Loki remembers Skurge as an old hag. Upon comparing their memories, the three decide to set out to discover who the true Skurge really was. To complete their quest, the three Asgardians travel through the dark realm of Hela, are beset by a legion of dark elves and storm giants – all before they come to their destination: Yggdrasil.

There they rediscover who Skurge is. Skurge the Executioner. The at-times-villainous lover of the Amora the Enchantress who gave up his life that Thor, Balder and many others might live (in a classic tale by Walter Simonson which is reprinted in this very book). With the memory of her lover’s death no longer bearable, the Enchantress has begun to recreate Skurge out of Yggdrasil itself, the World-Tree of the Nine Worlds. But, what she doesn’t quite understand in her grief-stricken state is that cleaving his form from the tree could endanger the very existence of everything! And, if she does understand it … it’s clear that she doesn’t care. Now, it’s up to our heroes (and our villain) to defeat Amora before she can undo existence as we know it.

This tale is separated into four parts, each individually rendered by vastly different artists. The first part recaps the classic Simonson tale with art by Dan Brereton. Doug Braithwaite handles the part of the story where the three protagonists discover their warped memories. Thirdly, Mike Allred draws their quest through dangers to reach their target leaving Miguel Angel Sepulveda to illustrate the conclusion. All of the artists are able to generate an incredible feeling of myth-making in this story … all, that is, except for Allred’s silver-agey hero look that seems strangely out of place amongst the other art styles. Matt Fraction‘s story is a great mix of action, adventure, mythical scope and a strong feeling of loss that many of us can relate to. But, most importantly, there is a strong sense of tribute here. Tribute to a man who died as a hero. Tribute to a character who’s death is still honored (as of this post, he’s stayed “dead” for 25 years – a rare feat in the comics world). And tribute to Walter Simonson, himself – a creator who’s run on Thor is still regarded as one of the most important takes on the character.

On Ebay: Thor | Matt Fraction | Mike Allred | Dan Brereton
On AtomicAvenue: Thor

 

Minimate Spotlight #36 Ghostbusters

22 Jan

Action figures have long been a perfect compliment to comic books, since every kid (or kid at heart) has that natural desire to act out adventures with their favorite heroes off the drawn page. Every so often, a unique style of figure comes along that breaks the mold, so to speak. Each Saturday, Donny B will be showcasing various offerings from Art Asylum’s take on the ‘block figure’, with a weekly spotlight on Minimates.

Silence in the library, or the ghost will eat your face!

Yeah, it’s pretty ridiculous =P
But the Library Ghost was the first specter featured in Ghostbusters, and it seemed fitting to give her a feature:

Behind the Image:

There really isn’t anything new to say about this one. It’s pretty much the exact same ‘Minimate-superimposed-over-a-screen-capture’ approach I’ve taken with several of the other Ghostbuster images I’ve done over the last few weeks…

On Ebay: Ghostbusters
On AtomicAvenue: Ghostbusters

 

Retro-Read #42 Bozz Chronicles

21 Jan

With years spent reading single issues here and there, juggling storylines of dozens of titles, I decided it was time to find a better way to read comics. So, it was off to the back issue bins armed with the longest want list you’ve ever seen! Putting together series after series and reading them in their complete goodness, I was reborn as the Retro-Reader!

Publisher: Epic Comics
Number of Issues: 6
First Issue: December 1985 ($1.50)
Last Issue: November 1986 ($1.50)
Writer: David Michelinie
Artist: Bret Blevins

*Warning! Plot Spoilers Below*

Amanda Flynn is a lady of the night who lived in Victorian England during the latter half of the 19th century. One evening she stumbled upon a yellow-skinned alien trying to hang himself in an abandoned building. He explained that he crash-landed onto Earth and had grown bored with the mundanity of life, here. Apparently, his civilization was much more advanced and the only way to keep him occupied was to get him involved in mysteries and strange occurences that warranted investigation.

So, Mandy and Bozz formed a detective agency, taking on the cases that Scotland Yard couldn’t handle. The business was mutually beneficial: Mandy could make a living in a more respectable profession and Bozzwell (as Mandy had taken to calling him) was happy to put off suicide as long as there was an investigation to keep him occupied. Along with a friendly (but rough) American named Salem Hawkshaw, the trio were involved in cases involving resurrected men, demon infestations, hidden societies, African curiosities and other interesting happenings.

The Bad: This series was cut down all too quickly. There’s quite a bit of fun untapped potential left.

The Good: A great mix of Sherlock Holmes and E.T.

The Verdict: Here’s a fun mix of concepts: Victorian England, an alien, a hooker, an American ruffian and Sherlock Holmes-style mysteries. Bret Blevins’ character designs are wonderful! Bozz is a wide-eyed alien who’s so advanced that everything bores him – and Bret captures that aloofness perfectly. His Salem is a bit reminiscent of Wolverine (but it’s quite likely that it’s intentional) and Mandy is instantly likeable! Michelinie manages to pack a great bit of characterization into these handful of issues and sets up (and resolves!) quite a few mysteries. I’m not too knowledgeable about Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories – but it seems that this series owes a lot to the famous detective. I imagine Sherlock fans are sure to enjoy this title and if you couldn’t tell, I’m quite fond of it myself; I wish there were a bunch more to read! This concept could go on for quite some time and continue to be just as enjoyable.

On Ebay: Bozz | David Michelinie | Bret Blevins
On AtomicAvenue: Bozz

 
 

Famous Fanmail #42 Chuck Dixon

20 Jan

You may not be surprised to learn that most people in the comic business grew up reading comic books. However, you might be interested in knowing what they were reading. Here’s a look at “Famous Fanmail”!

Chuck Dixon‘s footprint on the world of comics is Hulk-sized. He’s had extensive runs on Batman, Punisher, Alien Legion, and Airboy. He’s also had his hands in lots of other titles including playing a significant role in the development of the Crossgen Universe. He got a letter published in issue the Light and Darkness War#4 (cover date: April 1989), singing it’s well-deserved praises.

Light and Darkness War letters page with Chuck Dixon

On Ebay: Light and Darkness War | Chuck Dixon