Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Thing Tuesday: Fantastic Four 133 where The Thing meets Thundra!

Fantastic Four 133 was a wonderfully silly time capsule of the the burgeoning women's lib movement in the early 1970s! It featured the first appearance of Thundra, the Femizon who came to our world in order to challenge Ben Grimm The Thing!

Fantastic Four 133 cover color Buscema Sinnott

Here is the original cover by John Buscema and Joe Sinnott. The Battle of the Century--any century!

FF 133 original art

Here is the original art to the cover.

Fantastic Four 133 digital color Buscema Sinnott

Here is the new computer colored cover available on digital platforms - I've started noticing how vibrant and different these are from the originals.

Thundra stronger

This story is notable because it has one of the few Marvel art jobs done by Ramona Fradon, who was mainly a DC Comics artist. Supposedly she hated working in the Marvel method and only did a few stories. This tale is inked by Joe Sinnott who keeps all the characters looking consistent, only Thundra herself looks like a Fradon type of character.

Thundra male inferiority

The climax of the story is a fight between Thundra and the Thing while Alicia is held hostage by the Frightful Four. It takes place in a huge arena. The Thing doesn't want to fight a woman! He takes a pretty good licking and actually does get defeated because he just won't fight back too hard.

Thundra weaker male

Thundra is great because she mocks the strength / superiority of men. In her world, men are the weaker sex and she constantly taunts Ben Grimm. Jeff Parker did a great story a while ago about the real reason for Thundra's visits to our world - she was seeking a mate (or frozen sperm / dna) because of the infertility on her world.



There is some historical context around this issue of the Fantastic Four. Bobby Riggs was a retired tennis player who challenged Billie Jean King to a "Battle of the Sexes". At first she declined, Riggs challenged another tennis player, Margaret Court, and won against her in May 1973. Billie Jean King then took up the challenge, played against Riggs and beat him in September 1973. These were big televised sports events and almost everybody who had a TV watched it. However, this issue of the Fantastic Four predated that by several months: with an April 1973 cover date, most likely this comic was sold three months earlier in Feb 1973. Even though it's not directly related, funny how this issue of the FF captures the "battle of the sexes" thing going on at the time. There will be an HBO movie made about the Riggs/King match starring Steve Carrell and Emma Stone.

There you go, true believers! A look back at classic FF and a moment from real pop culture history! Nuff Said.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Spider-Man 1960s era Gwen Stacy by Steve Rude

Steve Rude loves Gwen Stacy! I did a post in 2010 featuring a number of his Gwen Stacy commissions. And now thanks to the Steve Rude fans group on Facebook, I found even more were done during the past few years. If you are a fan of classic 1960s Bean Scene Spider-Man, these images are for you, true believer.

Gwen Stacy dancing



Dancing in a disco! While Mary Jane complains that Peter's attention is elsewhere. I love how the black and white patterns work so well here. Gwen's checkerboard dress (and that belt) working so well against the background and the mirror ball. Mary Jane's tiger patterned dress. Yeow.

peter parker, mary jane and gwen stacy by steve rude


Peter as the Bachelor deciding which girl gets a red colored rose? And those outfits the girls have on. I think Gwen did wear a cowboy inspired outfit one time.

gwen stacy 2014 by steve rude


Striking a pose in recline. Again the pattern of Gwen's top plays off the bars of the background.

Groovy baby! Nuff Said.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Create your own Giant-Size Marvel cover! And our blog logo changes!

Scott Dutton from Catspaw Dynamics, has produced a blank cover template where you can create your own Giant-Size Marvel comic!



You can do your own digital recreations using this template. Or perhaps commission your own Giant Size cover from an artist for titles that were never published. Giant-Size Inhumans, that never existed and the story was split across Inhumans 1-2!

In addition, Scott very nicely produced a new version of the masthead for Giant-Size Marvel!



For comparison, you can see my old header here. It was a rough hodge podge of elements that I put together when I was on Microsoft Windows, using Paint.Net to clip and assemble everything together. I was always disappointed that you couldn't see all the Defenders in the circle, and I hated the fonts on top. I also wanted the full comics code stamp of approval!



The new header by Scott is cleaned up with a full Captain Marvel figure on the right, much sharper colors. The Defenders are all in the circle! And the fonts on top are clear, sharp, easy to read. In addition to the much better Giant-Size Marvel logo!

You can see Scott's specific coloring work related to Marvel Comics here. He has some great stuff there, check it out! Nuff Said.


Saturday, July 8, 2017

Silver Surfer and Galactus by Steve Rude

A great little sketch by Steve (Rude) the Dude featuring Norrin Radd...


...and Galactus! You can see my other Steve Rude related posts here. Nuff Said.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Marvel Team-Up 4 cover by Gil Kane, recolored by Scott Dutton

I've been appreciating the work of Scott Dutton, a fine artist / colorist, you can visit his website Catspaw Dynamics. He has done a lot of work recoloring classic comics covers and sometimes doing remixes on covers that never existed.

marvel_team-up_4 recreated colors

This one did exist: Marvel Team-Up 4 cover by Gil Kane, where Spider-Man met the X-Men. This was a big event for X-Men fans. The mutants didn't have a regular ongoing series at this point, just reprints. The above is Scott's recoloring using the original scheme from the 1972 comic.

marvel_team-up_4 blue logo

I love this alternate version where Scott put his own spin on the cover. Spider-Man pops more out of the foreground by making the background grey. Even the word balloon where Cyclops is talking is in red, outlining the danger. The logo on top is light blue, lots of subtle differences. You can see the full process that Scott Dutton went through to do all of this on his blog post. I was amazed to learn he didn't use the original art but a page from the Essentials black and white collection! Nuff Said.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Review: Captain America's Bicentennial Battles by Jack Kirby

It's become a tradition for bloggers to bring out Captain America for July 4th. I am sure the most common post showcases the 1976 Marvel Treasury Special, Captain America's Bicentennial Battles. Even though I was a rabid Marvel collector in the 70s, I never read this special until last week, the digital version Captain America by Jack Kirby: Bicentennial Battles (which also includes Captain America 201-205).

Mister Buda

Why didn't I read it? Basically because I was holding me nose up against a lot of Kirby's new work. I was being snooty and elitist. It looked corny. Being overly patriotic wasn't a thing in the 1970s, after the debacle of Richard Nixon. But I was wrong. This Treasury tale is a superb and subversive! The artwork is grand, among the best of Kirby's mid-seventies return to Marvel. It gets crazy from page one, where Cap visits a cool cat named Mister Buda, a mystical being who has undefined powers. He is also good at transcendental meditation, which was a big 70s fad in California, where Kirby lived. I am sure he was inspired by that.

Capt America Smith inks Kirby

The main thrust of this story is to send Captain America bouncing around in time, visiting different eras of the past that influenced the United States. Mister Buda gives Cap this gift without his permission, the gift of knowledge of the human condition throughout time. His first stop? World War 2, where he drops directly into Nazi headquarters.

Cap Bucky reunited Barry Smith inks

In a surprisingly moving scene, Cap is briefly reunited with Bucky in the past. It was so touching that now I regret Marvel reviving Bucky. The inkers for this oversized volume are Barry Smith, John Romita and Herb Trimpe. Smith inked the first part of the story in Nazi land, and you can definitely see his embellishment style here, with his signature touches on Cap's chainmail and the forest as they make their escape. Sadly, Cap is torn away from Bucky after a way too brief encounter.

Capt America hand symbol illuminati

There are lots of great splash pages in this special, as you would expect from Jack Kirby. I love this one where he shouts "We're all Americans!" before he is torn from a past encounter. The symbol on his palm is the magic imbued by Mister Buda to transport him through time. It looks a bit like an Illuminati symbol.

Capt America ripped off by Benjamin Franklin

There is also a lot of humor in this book as well as angst. He takes a trip back in time to 1776 where he meets Benjamin Franklin and Betsy Ross, who take one look at Cap and start making sketches. It turns out the first USA flag was inspired by Cap's costume, which freaks him out to no end.

Kirby appears in past as newsboy

Another humorous scene involves a trip to the 1930s where he encounters a boy selling newspapers in Brooklyn. Some mafia gangsters try to steal a paper and Cap - who, like Kirby, hates bullies - yanks them out of the car violently. The mobsters start shooting, and Cap protects the boy and fights back. You wonder what Kirby is going for here. Is this an homage to the Newsboy Legion, the terrific series he did for DC Comics and which he recently revived in Jimmy Olsen? No. It turns out the boy selling newspapers is Kirby himself! "When I get to be a big-shot artist, I'm gonna plaster Lefty's mug all over the comic pages!"

Capt America shallow

Among the craziness and humor there is a message. This isn't about all the best patriotic moments in America. At one point, Cap gets tired of bouncing around the past and asks for it to stop. I was kind of shocked to see Mister Buda accuse Cap of being too shallow to learn about the history of the USA. It's shocking because this is a character Kirby co-created to be a patriotic symbol. He is not reluctant to shake this character up and do wild crazy things with him. I thought only the young guys like Starlin or Englehart were the subversives at Marvel in the 1970s. I was wrong. Kirby was one of them, too, perhaps an even greater one.

Capt America trying to stop slaughter of Indians

Cap drops in on an American Indian band of fighters led by Geronimo, on the run from a American Calvary. He tries to help them out by talking sense into the Calvary men, to no avail. This wonderful massive double page spread is the result. He doesn't stop ever tragedy from happening. All he can do is bear witness to them. He also encounters a slave trying to escape his masters and a future war on the moon.

I came away from reading this volume utterly delighted. Jack Kirby did the crazy trippy 2001 A Space Odyssey adaption earlier in another Treasury edition format. The Bicentennial Battles Treasury is Captain America's Odyssey. Nuff Said!

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Review: The Eternals by Jack Kirby

Jack Kirby, the King of Comics and certainly one of the architects of the Marvel Universe! I mentioned in this earlier article "Jack Kirby's Back: FOOM 11 and Captain America 193 covers" that I wasn't necessarily a fan of his mid-seventies Marvel work. I have been trying to revisit that material lately with fresh eyes to see what I thought.  BTW, currently the first volume of The Eternals is free on Comixology Unlimited if you have that service and want to give it a try.

The Eternals 3

Here is what I remember of this time, late 1975 and into 1976. Kirby's first publications coming back to Marvel were 2001 A Space Odyssey (Marvel Treasury Special) and then Captain America. The Eternals didn't start until months later, towards late spring 1976. We were teased about it for months...and it seemed tantalizing! Those of us who loved New Gods from DC Comics had high hopes this was similar quality and scope. But when I finally got my hands on the first issue...I was a bit disappointed. It was far out, all right, but it didn't have the same punch as New Gods 1, which started off explaining the whole setup and the focusing on the main players in that conflict.

Kro and Ikaris

The Eternals 1 starts the story slowly. I think you could almost say The Eternals is an example of decompressed storytelling, or perhaps we could say it is Mosaic storytelling. There is a wide scope and the players / concepts are slowly unfolding, even though there is action and conflict. The guy we think is probably the star of this book, Ikaris, doesn't even get into costume until issue 3.


In order to appreciate The Eternals, you need to consider the influences at the time. There was a very popular paperback book titled Chariots of the Gods? by Erich Von Daniken which put out a theory that extra terrestrials visited ancient mankind and influenced our development. This theory included various religious myths, saying that these events had been the work of aliens and not angels or spirits. To an uninformed person, science appears to be magic. Marvel Comics had published a 1975 Marvel Preview magazine which I wrote about earlier, Neal Adams and Alex Nino on Man-Gods From Beyond the Stars. In addition, Arthur C Clarke had a popular science fiction novel, Childhood's End, which was enjoying a new wave of popularity in paperback. In this story there were Overlords who would determine Earth's fate after a 50 year waiting period. Demons in this story were humanity's misrepresentation of another species. The Deviant Kro in The Eternals is pretty much using that Clarke idea.

Eternals - The Gods have returned

With The Eternals, Kirby is trying to take these science fiction concepts along with his favorite theme, that the Gods (New Gods, Asgardians from Thor, etc) are actually alien beings with superior technology. The scope of the artwork in The Eternals may be on a grander scale than anything Kirby did before. The first issue brings the Celestials back to Earth in a massive spaceship. If you are young, reading this issue and hoping to see a hero like Thor or Orion, you were disappointed. That archetype never arrived in The Eternals 1. What did arrive are these massive alien beings, The Fourth Host, and they were only alluded to within the story. We learned the Celestials experimented on Apes to Uplift them through science; the Apes evolved into three races on Earth: The Eternals, the humans, and The Deviants.

The Eternals main cast members

Now here is one thing that was confusing back then. Kirby called The Celestials "Gods" but they weren't just ordinary Gods, they were Mega Overlord Gods. The ones who were going to decide the fate of mankind after 50 years. What would become our main cast of Eternal characters were Gods of Myth. Sersi was Circe, Thena was Athena, Makkari was Mercury, and so on. Kro was from the Deviant race, clearly the Devil when he sprouted horns. After a number of issues we got to meet this entire cast. We saw hints that nearly every religious pantheon was influenced by a member of The Eternals. I am sure Kirby must have seen the potential for this series to go 100 issues or more.

Ajak

In the second issue of The Eternals we met this guy, Ajak. I love, love, love the design of this character. He is clearly influenced by the Aztec / Inca design. He was known by the Incas as Tecumotzin, Lord of Flight. He just looks spectacular. Unfortunately he is stuck inside an Incan ruin for much of the series. Ajak's main job is to communicate with The Celestials and be their spokesperson. He does see some action later on.

Arishem, leader of the Fourth Host

There are astonishing splash pages and double page spreads in The Eternals. This is nothing new, by this time Kirby fans are used to that and expecting more. In the third issue we see this double page spread of Arishem, leader of the Fourth Host of Celestials. Again, such a wild and fantastic creation! If you though Galactus was terrific, this is Galactus to the next level and beyond.

There is a big complex story in The Eternals, which may have gotten away from Kirby a bit. Readers wanting to see a traditional good vs evil story get a bit of that in The Eternals vs The Deviants. Kirby has some interesting themes there, some commentary on the use of ovens for extreme Deviants and Nazi / Roman like behavior. But while young readers may have wanted more of that stuff, it wasn't what The Eternals was really about.

Eson

The most interesting part of The Eternals are the deployment of members of the Fourth Host around the world. They don't do much other than observe, but their very appearance causes nations to react nervously. They do interfere a little more directly with The Deviants (shown above), as they previously destroyed their ancient city Lemuria centuries ago.

Nezzar

There is one neat little story about how the Soviet Union military reacts to the presence of Nezzar of the Fourth Host. They launch an attack against this giant creature who deflects it with the power of his mind. It turns out the launch order for the attack was never given, but he simulated the outcome in the minds of the leaders and gave them all a stroke. That story may be cribbed from some other source but it was neat. I could not help thinking about The Celestials deployed among all different types of countries, that seemed a little bit like the recent movie, Arrival.

Eternals summoned for Uni-Mind

The Eternals themselves become even more compelling by issue 11 when we get to travel to Olympia and witness their leader, Zuras, summoning all of them to participate in the Uni-Mind. This double page spread does remind you of the glory days of New Genesis in the New Gods. It's also a far-out concept as these Eternal beings meld themselves together into one giant golden brain that flies off into outer space, to ponder the mystery of The Celestials return. I couldn't help but think of The Forever People coming together to summon The Infinity Man. In that case they were trading places with another being from The Source, but it seems like a concept Kirby was very interested in. People coming together for the common good.

As a young person, I stopped reading The Eternals by issue 12 or so. This time around I read all 19 issues plus the first and only Annual. It was a lot of fun and clearly there is a pantheon of charactes here that could be mined for other series or movies. The story itself is flawed: there is no through line, no spine of action to drive you through the story as Orion does in the New Gods. Ikaris appears to be the main protagonist, he has a cool costume, but his personality is bland. If you compare Ikaris to Thor or Orion, he just doesn't measure up to those heroes. The character we briefly see in one issue, The Forgotten One (aka Gilgamesh), seems vastly more interesting than Ikaris. There is no overall compelling villain in the mode of Darkseid to propel The Eternals forward. Sersi, with her witty and wild personality, was the breakout character who went on to join The Avengers. I don't know any of the behind the scenes drama on this series, but I am curious now how Marvel editorial staff might have interfered or caused changes to be mind.

Neil Gaiman attempted to fix many of these flaws in his 2006 mini-series The Eternals, which I plan to re-read next. Nuff Said!

Update: I did re-read The Eternals 2006 7 issue mini-series by Gaiman and John Romita Jr. I remembered liking this when it came out originally. But reading it on the heels of the Kirby work, I did not like it very much. It actually made me appreciate the genius of Jack Kirby even more, the 1970s series was much better in comparison, despite any of the flaws that I mentioned.