Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Giant-Size Kid Colt!

I thought by this point in my life, I had seen every Giant-Size title that Marvel had published in the 1970s. Well my mind was blown away by a title I never knew existed: Giant-Size Kid Colt!

Can you imagine? 50 cents for double sized Western action greatness, although in the form of a reprint! The cover to issue #1 was by Larry Lieber and Vinnie Colletta. I see the Colletta inks definitely but I might have been tempted to say it was a Kirby cover. To pump up the adrenaline, Rawhide Kid was the guest star.

Gil Kane drew this glorious cover to issue #2 featuring an Alamo-like last stand by the Western heroes. No inker listed, so did Kane ink himself? Looks like it! Kane had a great affinity for Western covers and I have featured a few in the past.

The third and final issue was another Kane cover showing yet another team-up between Kid Colt and Night Rider. You would almost think this was a team-up title, like Giant-Size Spider-Man which always had a special guest star every issue. Fun stuff! Nuff Said.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Sgt Fury and his Howling Commandos 96 cover by Gil Kane

I recently came across this cover I had never seen before - probably because I never collected that many war comics - Sgt Fury and his Howling Commandos 96, March 1972 (probably hit the newsstands 3 months before in December 1971).

SgtFury 96 cover Gil Kane John Severin 1972

This is a smashing cover illustration by Gil Kane and John Severin! The overhead view perspective on the three figures as gunshots rain down on them - as Dum Dum Dugan tries to carry an injured Nick Fury - wow. John Severin, a veteran of many war comics, inks Kane here.

SgtFury 96 alternate inked cover by Ralph Reese

However - Severin wasn't the first choice to ink this cover! The editors originally gave Kane's pencils to Ralph Reese to ink. This version was printed as a pin-up in the next issue. You can see that Reese's inks are superb as well, but they make the figures covered in shadows. It really increased the horror factor. I can only assume the editors didn't want this effect. Interesting that someone objected to it so strenuously that they had another inker do it before the publication deadline. Nuff Said!

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Iron Fist 1970s John Byrne pin-up!

Came across this nifty pin-up by John Byrne...

John Byrne Iron Fist 1970s

...classic 1970s Iron Fist! Misty Knight! Colleen Wing! Looks like it was a gift to Chris Claremont? Nuff Said!

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Howard the Duck Omnibus

The Omnibus edition of Howard the Duck's 1970s comic run has been around in two different editions. I think the first was published around 2008. After this went out of print, the Guardians of the Galaxy movie with Howard's appearance in the post credits spurred a new printing. I resisted all of this until Rich Johnston reported that Marvel was clearing out many Omnibus' and letting them go out of print. I snapped it up for less than $50, not sure if I would keep it for selling later or reading. But yesterday during Dewey's 24-Hour Readathon I decided to unwrap it and read it!

It's kind of joy to read, a real trip down memory lane. Steve Gerber wrote a nice introduction back in 2008 for the first printing, where he describes Howard's publishing history, even talking briefly about the lawsuit. He seemed to be very proud of his creation and was glad it was reprinted in the Omnibus.

The very first Howard appearance in the the 2-part Fear / Man-Thing #1 story are included, and while I love Man-Thing, the artwork seems sketchy blown up to the Omnibus size.

But the first three stories by Frank Brunner, from Giant Size Man-Thing #4-5 and Howard the Duck #1, are jaw droppingly gorgeous. His artwork translates well to these oversized pages, and I always loved the light hearted nature of these first Howard tales.

If you were around and collecting comics back then, you will remember the speculator frenzy of Howard the Duck #1. I got a copy off the newsstand but others were unable to get it, prices went up sky high. Some people said this was a rigged game by people getting bundles of comics at the distributors before they went on sale. It's nice to have this historic issue reprinted here and again, it looks fantastic. Many first issues of new series featured an appearance by Spider-Man to draw reader interest, and that happened here - it's a funny story, despite the fact part of the plot is driven by Howard wanting to commit suicide.

The later issues with Gene Colan's artwork are, in some cases, a bit of a letdown. The stories themselves are funny, no problem there, especially whenever the Kidney Lady or Dr Bong show up. My personal favorite is the issue where Howard meets Daimon Hellstrom and accidentally becomes the Duck of Satan. The problem I have with the artwork is that Colan's artwork doesn't look as great in this oversized format as his Tomb of Dracula work. The difference is the inking / coloring; ToD had the great Tom Palmer - that artwork stands the test of time and resizing. Not the Howard stuff, it looks a bit sketchy. It's a minor quibble and probably other collectors won't have the same feeling as I do.

Another letdown is the lack of letter page columns reprinted! The Fantastic Four Omnibus' had them, not sure why they are not included here. Stan Lee wrote a letter about how much he liked the Quack Fu story in HTD #3.

What is included is plenty of supplemental material about Howard the Duck's 1976 Presidential Campaign, including the ads for campaign buttons, which I always thought must have gone directly to Steve Gerber's home address? Berni Wrightson drew the image for the campaign button and this special lithograph in 1976.

There is also an interview between Gerber and Colan about their work on Howard. And all the remaining issues of HTD after Gerber left, which are quite frankly terrible, but none of the black and white Howard the Duck magazine.

For a fan of Steve Gerber and Howard the Duck, it's a great addition to your bookshelf. Nuff Said!

Monday, February 8, 2016

Marvel Super Bowl 50 trailers: Captain America Civil War, X-Men Apocalypse, Deadpool, Ant-Man vs Hulk (Coke)

Four trailers for Marvel Comics movies during Super Bowl 50. What a world we live in! And perhaps a harbinger of the comics-cinema glut coming to us over the next two years.

Captain America: Civil War. Startling to see the Vision and Black Panther on Iron Man's side. I thought Tony's little glove thing was cool.

X-Men Apocalypse. We see Apocalypse become super-tall and squeezing the stuffing out of Jennifer Lawrence, plus a really good action shot of Psylocke.

Deadpool: nothing really new but funny as hell. I can't believe Blind Al is in this movie.

Ant-Man steals a Coke from the Hulk: My personal favorite commercial from yesterday. The more I think about that Ant-Man film, the more I like it, so fun and light. I can't wait to see him in Civil War and in the sequel to his own film. Nuff Said!

Monday, February 1, 2016

Monster Monday: Man-Thing by John Gallagher

Man-Thing in glorious full color... a bloke named John Gallagher, who you can find on DeviantArt (thanks for the tip from Carlos Pacheco)! Nuff Said.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Amazing Adventures with Marvel Unlimited

I really do think the best way to enjoy reading comics is in the original form, the monthly comic book issue. To me that outweighs the fanciest hardcovers, even the Marvel Omnibus editions, for many reasons: easy to hold in your hands, easier to lift by far (some of them are over 5-6 pounds), and much easier to see double page spreads. However, that being said, at this point in my life continuing to buy hard copies of comics is almost impossible, running out of storage space in the garage. Even worse, lacking the morale to go out to the garage and find the comics I want to re-read!  With my bookshelves full inside the house and the long boxes out of rack space outside the house, I promised my wife I would go digital and try to save some space and money, too.

I've been using Marvel Unlimited for the past few months and fallen in love with it. One reason I was drawn to this was certainly the price: $69 for an annual membership, that is less than $6 a month. Read 2 comics priced $3.99 and it is worth it, but I read quite a lot on it.

There is one big drawback to MU, which is the comics released on it are six months old. Star Wars #7 by Jason Aaron and Simone Bianchi came out in summer/fall 2015, but just appeared recently. New batches of comics appear on Mondays, but they are not only comics from 6 months ago, they could also be comics just getting digitized for the first time. For example, last week Marvel digitized the first half dozen issues of Captain Britain magazine from the 1980s, by Jamie Delano and Alan Davis. I had those and foolishly got rid of them, it was nice to re-read that again.

I am receiving my final box of real comics next week, probably the last I will have for a while, which will contain Secret Wars #9 plus the latest issues of Star Wars and Darth Vader. So it will take me a while to catch up on this six month delay thing for the Star Wars universe titles. But I truly don't mind as using the MU app has allowed me to discover a lot of things I had skipped over the past few years.

Silver Surfer by Dan Slott and Michale Allred. I totally let this one go, as it wasn't anything like a traditional Silver Surfer comic. After reading all the available issues on MU, I know that was a huge mistake, this is a delightful series, perhaps even more enhanced because I see the connections between this style of story and Doctor Who. It has a lot of humor / heart in addition to space adventure.

Wolverine and the X-Men by Jason Aaron, Chris Bachalo, Nick Bradshaw and others. I ignored this completely when it was published. I have no idea why, it's a terrific young adult type of series, with Wolverine trying to run Professor Xavier's school for mutants. Disaster follows him at every turn, it's more of an X-Men comedy of errors than a traditional hated-and-feared mutants book. I still have a lot to catch up on here.

Old Man Logan (Secret Wars mini-series) by Brian Bendis. It's like a travelogue thru Battleworld with great artwork.

Captain Britain and the Mighty Defenders  (Secret Wars mini-series) by Al Ewing and Alan Davis. I think Al Ewing is a terrific writer who seems to be getting a real chance to take off now. I love this concept, with draws elements from both Ewing's Might Defenders and Paul Cornell's Captain Britain series. I wish this could even go past the Secret Wars.

Now this is just some of the more recent material on MU. What is truly addicting is the old material from the 1960s onward. I saw an issue of Tomb of Dracula highlighted and started reading that plus other back issues. Suddenly struck by a desire to read Fantastic Four #15 where the Mad Thinker's android first appeared? Desires instantly fulfilled. How about Jack Kirby's return to Captain America with the MadBomb story? Ditto. There's no shortage of stuff to read. A Marvel Zombie can spend hours upon hours here. Also, if you are a Star Wars Expanded Universe fan, all of the old Dark Horse Star Wars comics can be found on MU, that is quite a bit of material! More obscure older material is being added. Vampire Tales #1 featuring Morbius was there recently, and I think last week they added Classic X-Men issues (new stories made by Chris Claremont and John Bolton that accompanied the reprints).

I find reading the MU comics on a regular iPad to be about the right size and format. In fact I upgraded to a full size tablet just to read comics; my previous 7 inch tablet was way too small. I don't quite like reading on the computer, I want it to be on a tablet where I guess it simulates the feel of reading a magazine.

Downsides to Marvel Unlimited - besides the six month new issues gap, there are a few. One, the Apple MU app has some bad bugs.  I have not been able to search for creators or titles at all; instead I have to use the browser-based MU to find specific things and add them to my library. I believe the people behind MU know this - I saw an update message that stated we had to delete the app and reinstall it to clear out our caches or something. Seems a bit crazy to me.  Searching for titles in a specific year works better, so if you a great memory and know that the Falcon first appeared in 1969, you can search for all comics published in that year and you will find it. (Aside: it is fun to look at the titles published year by year in the 60s / 70s, astonishing really how few comics Marvel was allowed to release during the old distribution system).

The other bugs that bite me are navigational. You can select certain teams / characters to browse, but due to endless reboots it becomes frustrating. I looked at the Fantastic Four, hoping to find Jonathan Hickman's series, but instead it came up with the Heroes Reborn / Jim Lee issues from the late 1990s. What is equally frustrating is that these bugs have been in the app for a long time, and the engineers working on this are not very capable in fixing them. As someone who worked on the mobile app team at Evernote, I find this shocking.  Putting these bugs to the side, I still find Marvel Unlimited to be an incredible value for $69 / year (and during the last New York ComicCon they had an even cheaper deal). The bugs in the Apple app can be worked around by logging into web based version and searching stuff.

Marvel Unlimited is just, well, marvelous, and the only negative thing really is that it can eat up hours upon hours of time as you explore comics both new and old. Nuff Said!