Monday, December 31, 2018

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

As I do every year at this time (at least for the past couple years, anyway), I'm taking a week off from "real" posting. This annual "Year in Review" post and one announcement on Friday will be all you'll see from me this week. Then, next Monday, we'll resume Superman and Wonder Woman for the rest of January, and Fridays will be dedicated to something new.

So where are we right now? I've spent the entire year's worth of Mondays in DC-land, looking at the post-CRISIS adventures of John Byrne's Superman and George Pérez's Wonder Woman -- and, as noted above, that stuff will continue for one more month before reaching its conclusion. Fridays, meanwhile, were a mixed bag as usual. We started things off with Kenichi Sonoda's GUNSMITH CATS manga, then looked at X-MEN '92 from Marvel. This was followed by a mixed bag of material from Dark Horse, IDW, and Image, then a look at the KELLY GREEN graphic novels from the eighties by newspapet strip greats Leonard Starr and Stan Drake.

Then it was summertime -- and in 2018, that became the season of my greatest failure since starting this blog. I had planned on nine weeks of James Bond newspaper strips from Britain, but wound up getting through only about half that run before I was forced, for the first time ever, to cancel a review series mid-run. The reasons are provided if you follow that link, and I do still intend to get back to the Bond strips eventually, though at present your guess as to when is as good as mine.

But I did manage to stay on track afterward, through the fall, with a few months dedicated to MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE mini-comics and comic strips. After that it was the European comic GYPSY, by Enrico Marini and Thierry Smolderen, both delivered on-schedule and under budget (which, considering the budget was $0, is rather impressive).

And that brings us to today. I'll admit I'm nowhere near as far ahead as I usually like to be at this time of year. In general, if at all possible, my preference has long been to be three months ahead of schedule at minimum. And there were times in the past when I was even further ahead than that! But that hasn't been the case for a couple years now, and I find myself working with much tighter deadlines than ever before. Still, I've got no intention of stopping, though going forward I make no promises that I might not miss a deadline here or there -- but hopefully I'll never again need to cancel a review series midway through!

So, what's to come in 2019? Last year at this time I made some suggestions that never materialized, such as a look at some UDON comics and the return of my semi-monthly X-Men collected edition posts, but those never happened. I do still want to get the X-Men back in circulation though, especially since Marvel has been showing the mutants a lot of love in recent months as far as reprints go. Beyond that, The Unboxing will continue as always on Sundays.

After we finish up with Superman and Wonder Woman at the end of January, I'll announce the next series of Monday posts, which may come as a surprise. Fridays will start the year with manga, and it's not a secret that last year I stated my intention to look at the GUNSMITH CATS sequel series, GUNSMITH CATS: BURST -- so look forward to that in January and part of February. Once BURST finishes, I've got some more European comics lined up, followed by a smattering of miniseries from Marvel, and then we'll see what comes next!

Oh, and I may give the blog header one more makeover early in the year, but since I just updated it last January, I don't want to get carried away. It'll probably just be some minor font-tweaks (and maybe a new head or two).

Finally, I need to thank everyone who drops by here to read my posts, comment (or not), and provide support. It's nice to know there are people who share some of my interests and who like reading my ramblings a couple times a week!

Friday, December 28, 2018

THE UNBOXING - DECEMBER 2018

What's this? A Friday Unboxing?! Yes, due to the holidays, I didn't have time to photograph any new books earlier in the month, but I still wanted to get this post up in December -- so here we are. Plus, it allows me a Friday off to gear up for the beginning of the year! (And technically it'll be two Fridays off, as next week will simply be an announcement of the review series to lead off 2019.)

Anyway...

It's the most X-Men time of the year (partly because one of the below books shipped to me a month late). Of the four Marvel volumes below, three spotlight the House of Ideas' mightiest mutants. But first, from the "Non-Mutant Super Hero" realm (with apologies to Spider-Man), we have the MOON KNIGHT EPIC COLLECTION: FINAL REST, which wraps up the original series run by Moon Knight's creator, Doug Moench, and most influential artist, Bill Sienkiewicz.


Then, moving into the X-Universe, we've got X-MEN: GAMBIT: THE COMPLETE COLLECTION vol. 2, finishing the Fabian Nicieza/Steve Skroce series from the late nineties. (And it's a long overdue volume, I might add -- book one came out nearly three years ago, in March of 2016!)

From around the same timeframe is X-MEN: MAGNETO WAR, a thick trade paperback collecting roughly the first half of Alan Davis's X-Men run of 1999-ish. Thanks to this book alongside a number of other volumes from ten or so years ago, that full Davis era is now reprinted. I really, really liked these comics at the time, though I'm not sure how well they hold up today -- but nonetheless, I'm extremely happy to have them all collected.


Lastly is the biggie of the month (which is the one that actually came out in November): the X-MEN: MUTANT MASSACRE OMNIBUS. Now it's true that Marvel already released an oversized hardcover of this crossover some years back. I reviewed it here. But this collection made for an easy upgrade, as far as I'm concerned. In addition to adding a few issues of UNCANNY X-MEN that had never before been collected, plugging a gap between the original MUTANT MASSACRE book and the FALL OF THE MUTANTS hardcover which followed, this Omnibus also squeezes in several other odds and ends, such as an annual or two and the X-MEN VS. THE FANTASTIC FOUR and X-MEN VS. THE AVENGERS limited series -- thus making for a much more comprehensive volume than the previous edition.

And on the digital end of things, thanks to a couple of recent Comixology/Amazon sales, I also picked up BATMAN AND THE OUTSIDERS vol. 2 from DC, and SILVER SURFER EPIC COLLECTION: THANOS QUEST from Marvel.

Not a bad way to end a year! We'll soon find out if 2019 can top it.

Monday, December 24, 2018

SUPERMAN #21 & ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN #444

“YOU CAN’T GO HOME AGAIN”
Story & Pencils: John Byrne | Inks: John Beatty
Colors: Petra Scotese | Letters: John Costanza
Editor: Mike Carlin | Assistant Editor: Renee Witterstaetter

“PARALLEL LIVES MEET AT INFINITY…”
Scripter/Co-Plotters/Penciler: John Byrne & Jerry Ordway | Inker: Dennis Janke
Letterer: Albert de Guzman | Colorist: Petra Scotese
Assistant Editor: Renee Witterstaetter | Editor: Mike Carlin

The Plot: (SUPERMAN 21) On his way home from his encounter with the Doom Patrol, Superman realizes he’s being followed by an invisible being. She reveals herself as Supergirl, then as Lana Lang, and says that she got her powers from Lex Luthor. A brief scuffle ensues, during which Superman finds his parents and the real Lana tied up in Lana’s house. Superman lures Supergirl to Metropolis and Lex Luthor, where she realizes he is not the man she thought she knew. This triggers the return of her full memories, and she beams herself and Superman to another world, where she introduces the Man of Steel to a fit, red-headed Luthor.

(ADVENTURES 444) On the “pocket universe” Earth, Superman learns that his encounter with Superboy happened a decade ago, and Superboy never returned from his trip to the future with the Legion of Super Heroes. Since then, General Zod and his henchmen, Zaora and Quex-Ui, were released from the Phantom Zone in Superboy’s lab and conquered the Earth, ultimately destroying nearly all of it. Superman vows revenge alongside Luthor, Supergirl, Pete Ross, and their resistance.

Sub-Plots & Continuity Notes: In SUPERMAN 21, Jimmy talks Perry into sending him and Lois to Ireland to investigate Silver Banshee.

Friday, December 21, 2018

GYPSY VOLUME 5 & VOLUME 6

"THE WHITE WING" | "AZTEC LAUGHTER"
Art by: Enrico Marini | Written by: Thierry Smolderen

GYPSY's fourth volume moved away from the one-off adventure presented in volume four and back into the style that defined the first few books -- a single story complete in one book, but with an overarching plotline to tie everything together. And, as a special bonus, this book references the previous installment as well, tying it in, however, loosely, with the larger narrative.

In this story, set about a year after the fourth book, our hero Tsagoi finds himself in the Middle Eastern country of Turdistan, where Bibi is doing research for her next book. It's established that she's written a trio of prior novels already, each based on her adventures with her brother and sharing the same titles as GYPSY volumes one through three. Now she's out to pen an expose on the White Wing, and has come to the land of the organization's birth, along with her publisher, the beautiful Eva Dargold, for dirt.

Tsagoi links up with the women, beds Eva, and then takes off on a chase with her when Bibi is kidnapped by the Sorceress. The action eventually reaches the White Wing's new lair in the desert, where we learn that the Sorceress is out to rebuild the organization after it fell on hard times. But following the story's action-packed conclusion, we learn there's more to the White Wing than we were led to believe, as the Sorceress is seen taking commands from a shadowy council.

Monday, December 17, 2018

WONDER WOMAN #20

“WHO KILLED MYNDI MAYER?”
Written & Illustrated by: George Pérez | Based on an idea by: Carol Flynn
Finished by: Bob McLeod | Lettered by: John Costanza
Colored by: Carl Gafford | Edited by: Karen Berger

The Plot: Wonder Woman scours Boston, battling the Chinese mob, in search of Myndi Mayer’s killer. Meanwhile, Inspector Ed Indelicato and his partner, Sergeant Michael Shands, work the case as well. Eventually, all parties realize Skeeter La Rue is to blame, and Wonder Woman tracks him down. Skeeter dies when he attempts to escape, and the final autopsy on Myndi comes in, reporting that she was dead before she was killed, thanks to a brain hemorrhage brought on by an overdose of cocaine and alcohol.

Sub-Plots & Continuity Notes: Indelicato and Shands first appeared at the Wonder Woman Fair in issues 15 and 16, where they were try to catch Solomon Buchman. We get some follow-up on those issues here, as it’s mentioned in passing that Buchman has escaped police custody since his arrest, and the detectives learn about the computer chips that Henry Armbruster was after in those issues. Further, it’s revealed here that Skeeter has been using Myndi’s business as a front to distribute cocaine, and that the fair was in part a cover for this operation. Lastly, the Chinese men Diana interrogates work for Choi, who was Armbruster’s partner in the Silver Swan affair.

Indelicato’s side of this issue is told via prose. It appears to be part of a memoir he’s writing; in any case it’s unlikely this is an official police report based on some of the things he discloses (his lust for Diana being chief among them).

Friday, December 14, 2018

GYPSY VOLUME 3 & VOLUME 4

"THE DAY OF THE TSAR" | "DARK EYES"
Art by: Enrico Marini | Written by: Thierry Smolderen

Intrigue! If there was any one thing that the first couple volumes of GYPSY might have been missing -- and honestly, it's pretty hard to say they lacked for anything at all -- it would be intrigue. But now even that box is checked in the series' third book.

Volume 3 is set, as was volume 2, in Siberia, where our hero Tsagoi and his sister Bibi have hitched up with a group of Russian revolutionaries led by the young and newly crowned Tsar, Ivan -- who was rescued, along with his uncle, by Tsagoi in the prior installment. Ivan and Bibi fall in love, and the young man announces his plan to marry her after the revolution's opening volley. Tsagoi is roped into serving in the Tsar's army, and soon the battle is joined. Our heroes attack the castle of warlord Slomo, and after a bloody skirmish, he's overthrown. The Sorceress shows up during the fight with Tsagoi's hijacked truck and an arms shipment for Slomo, and reinforcements sent by the Selmer Corporation appear as well, via dirigible, but these new arrivals fail to turn the tide in Slomo's favor. His men are beaten, he is executed, and that night, Ivan and Bibi are wed.

And this is where the intrigue comes in. We learn in pretty quick order that Ivan does not possess Tsar's blood after all; he's a pawn used by his uncle in service of a shadowy organization called the White Wing -- and what's more the Sorceress is a member of that same organization. The Sorceress tries to kill Tsagoi, Ivan's uncle tries to kill Ivan, and all heck generally breaks loose. Eventually the bad guys are thwarted (though the Sorceress escapes), but Ivan confesses his common blood to the masses, and gets shot for his trouble. The newly widowed Bibi joins Tsagoi in his truck as they leave town, along with Big Ben, a former Selmer trucker turned ally in the aftermath of the revolution.

Monday, December 10, 2018

SUPERMAN #20 & ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN #443

“DOOM IN THE HEARTLAND!”
Story & Pencils: John Byrne | Inks: Karl Kesel & Byrne
Lettering: John Costanza | Coloring: Petra Scotese
Assistant Editing: Renee Witterstaetter | Editing: Michael Carlin
Kibitzing: Paul Kupperberg

The Plot: Jonathan and Martha Kent arrive at Lana Lang’s home, where she reveals Supergirl to them in the back yard. Later, Superman arrives in Smallville and changes to Clark Kent for a picnic with Lana. But soon, he finds himself involved in a battle between the Doom Patrol and Metallo. Lana overhears a radio broadcast and decides Superman is in trouble. She reveals herself as Supergirl and takes of to go aid him.

But Superman defeats Doom Patroller Cliff “Robotman” Steele, who had been under Metallo’s thrall, and the rest of the Doom Patrol helps him to take out the villainous cyborg. Metallo explodes, and though the heroes find most of his parts, his head remains unaccounted for.

Sub-Plots & Continuity Notes: The fates of Jonathan, Martha, and Lana go unrevealed this issue; one moment they’re speaking with Supergirl, then the scene cuts away and “Lana” is actually Supergirl for the rest of the story.

In Metropolis, Maggie Sawyer meets with her medical examiner, who tells her a recently deceased man was “scared to death” while we readers are shown a voodoo doll in the foreground.

Friday, December 7, 2018

GYPSY VOLUME 1 & VOLUME 2

"THE GYPSY STAR" | "THE FIRES OF SIBERIA"
Art by: Enrico Marini | Written by: Thierry Smolderen

Okay, folks -- I'm just gonna cut straight to the chase: this story is absolutely insane in the best possible way. You want a protagonist who talks about himself in the third person and constantly spouts bizarre colloquial exclamations? You want a high-stakes long-haul gun-running mission across the world in the not-too-distant future? You want knife fights, gunplay, and sexual situations?? Then GYPSY is the comic you've been waiting for.

Set in an alternate version of the dawn of the twenty-first century, "The Gypsy Star" opens with a young girl getting rescued from a gang of toughs by her older brother. The siblings are gypsies, feared and hated by the other children in their orphanage. When the headmaster arrives to break up the scuffle, he is shot by the brother, Tsagoi. Tsagoi flees, promising to send enough money to his sister, Oblivia, that she can leave the orphanage and move into a boarding school.

We then jump twelve years into the future and learn that Tsagoi was successful in his mission. Thanks to the destruction of the ozone layer, airplanes have been outlawed on Earth. Everything is transported around the world via gigantic cargo trucks which travel a superhighway that links every continent. Tsagoi has become a trucker under the handle Gypsy, and has been sending cash to his sister on a regular basis. But now, Oblivia -- Bibi for short -- has sought out her brother to find out why the money has stopped rolling in.

Monday, December 3, 2018

WONDER WOMAN #18 & #19

“CREATURES OF THE DARK” | “THE WITCH ON THE ISLAND”
Written & Penciled by: George Pérez
Finished by: Dick Giordano (#18) & Frank McLaughlin (#19)
Lettered by: John Costanza | Colored by: Carl Gafford
Edited by: Karen Berger

The Plot: (issue 18) Diana awakens in a hospital and as she departs with Julia, Vanessa, and Stavros, she meets the wealthy Theophilus Ventouras and his nephew Demetrios. Ventouras invites Diana to his estate for dinner and to peruse his library to learn about the mysterious island which may have caused her blackout. Soon, Diana and friends visit Julia’s parents, who welcome her into their home. Stavros soon leaves for a secret meeting with a man named Gregori, who wants to keep Diana safe from the “island witch”. Gregori’s safehouse is attacked and the group inside splits up, Stavros returning to his home with one of Gregori’s guards.

Diana and Julia dine at Ventouras’s estate, and after they leave, Ventouras’s butler reveals the corpse of Demetrios, who he believes murdered by Gregori and his rebels. Ventouras transforms into a werewolf and departs, seeking revenge. Driving home, Diana and Julia spot Stavros’s house ablaze. Knowing Vanessa was visiting Stavros, Diana leaps into action. She rescues Stavros from the house, but he says that Vanessa escaped when the house was attacked. Diana finds Vanessa and protects her from Ventouras and an army of demonic animals, but she is ultimately knocked out and taken away by the creatures, revealed as servants of the island witch, Circe.

Sunday, December 2, 2018

GYPSY

I'm going to close out Fridays this year with something a little different. This series was a total blind buy on my part, based primarily on the artwork. At some point last year, Europe Comics had a linewide sale on Comixology and, as I find myself looking to expand my comic-reading horizons nowadays, I perused the offerings. GYPSY, by Thierry Smolderen and Enrico Marini, caught my eye thanks to the lush imagery from Marini. The series' premise jumped out at me as well -- it sort of sounded like a post-apocalyptic "Bean Bandit meets Mad Max" kind of thing. (Heck, the lead character even looked a bit like Bean to my eye!) So I figured the price was right, and I might as well go all in on the series' five volumes.

Now, over a year later, I've decided to actually read the stories -- and you're coming with me, whether you like it or not! (I mean, unless you just don't read the posts; then I guess you could choose not to come with me. But why would you do that??) The next three Fridays, we'll check out GYPSY in its entirety, two volumes per week. And if you noticed that doesn't quite bring us up to the end of the year, you're right -- I plan to take the final week of December off (aside from Monday's regularly scheduled and already written Superman/Wonder Woman stuff), though I may slot in the month's Unboxing post for that Friday so something goes up. Then it'll be onward and upward to something new for Fridays in 2019!

Available on Amazon: Volume 1 | Volume 2 | Volume 3 | Volume 4 | Volume 5 | Volume 6

Friday, November 30, 2018

HE-MAN NEWSPAPER STRIP PART 7

"HE-MAN IN WONDERLAND" | "SHAKEN TO THE CORE" | "THE LAST SURVIVORS"
Story: Chris Weber | Art & Lettering: Gérald Forton
Colors by: Connie Schurr | Editor: Karen Wilson

We're back to the absurd with our next HE-MAN story arc, as Prince Adam and Cringer explore the royal library and come across the books Queen Marlene brought with her from Earth. Then while Adam browses through ALICE IN WONDERLAND, at Snake Mountain, Skeletor casts a long-distance spell on He-Man. The Sorceress appears and tells Adam to transform so that Skeletor's spell will be triggered and He-Man can overcome it. Adam agrees, and one "By the Power of Greyskull" later, our hero is sucked into Skeletor's version of Wonderland.


He-Man wanders around, meeting the Cheshire Cat, the Queen of Hearts and White Rabbit, the Mad Hatter, March Hare, and Doormouse, and so forth, eventually battling the Jabberwock as the queen's champion. The Cheshire Cat reveals himself as Skeletor in disguise, leading to the nightmarish sight of He-Man battling a giant feline with a skeleton face before triumphing again and returning to Eternia.

Honestly, this isn't as awful as the premise sounds. The beginning is a little iffy -- how does Skeletor know to create such an elaborately accurate Wonderland if he's presumably never read the book? But from there, it's actually kind of fun as He-Man wanders around on the same path as Alice. This seems like one I should dislike for it's weirdness, but unlike some past outings, Chris Weber executes that weirdness well, leading to an entertaining story.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

THE UNBOXING - NOVEMBER 2018

I meant to have this up this past Sunday, but the Thanksgiving holiday weekend kept me busy, so here it is in an unprecedented midweek Unboxing!

Everything is digital this month, thanks to Amazon/Comixology Black Friday/Cyber Monday sales. First, from DC, I grabbed BATMAN AND ROBIN ADVENTURES vol. 3, NEW TEEN TITANS vol. 9 (which picks up where the Omnibuses I reviewed a few years back ended), TALES OF THE BATMAN: GERRY CONWAY vol. 2, and WONDER WOMAN: EARTH ONE vol. 1 and vol. 2. (Yes, I've gone out of my way to note more than once how much I dislike a lot of Grant Morrison's writing. I bought these books strictly for the artwork!)


Courtesy of Dark Horse, I grabbed USAGI YOJIMBO/TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES: THE COMPLETE COLLECTION, which I somehow missed during the last Dark Horse sale, when I stocked up on Usagi books.

From Random House, of all publishers, I grabbed PELLUCIDAR: AT THE EARTH'S CORE, a comic I must assume was originally published at some point by DC, considering it's by Dennis O'Neil and Michael William Kaluta.

And from Marvel, I picked up WEREWOLF BY NIGHT: THE COMPLETE COLLECTION vol. 3. (This was actually part of a Halloween sale last month, but it missed the cutoff for the October Unboxing.)

That's it for November, for Black Friday, and for Cyber Monday. Next month we'll be back to physical volumes for a couple of books to close out the year!

Monday, November 26, 2018

SUPERMAN #19 & ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN #442

“THE POWER THAT FAILED!”
Story & Pencils: John Byrne | Coloring: Petra Scotese | Lettering: John Costanza
Assistant Editing: Renee Witterstaetter | Editing: Michael Carlin
and welcome aboard to Odd-Inker: John Beatty

“POWER PLAY”
Scripting/Penciling/Co-Plotting: John Byrne & Jerry Ordway | Inking: Andy Kubert
Lettering: Albert de Guzman | Colorist: Anthony Tollin
Assistant Editing: Renee Witterstaetter | Editing: Michael Carlin

The Plot: (SUPERMAN 19) A spacecraft lands in the river near Metropolis, boiling the water. Superman arrives at the waterfront soon after and chats with Maggie Sawyer, then heads under the sea to check out the ship, which contains empty stasis pods and is otherwise unoccupied. While investigating, Superman suddenly loses his ability to hold his breath and survive underwater for an extended period.

Superman returns to the Daily Planet for a bit, then meets with Maggie again and goes out on patrol, stopping a Professor Kilgrave from escaping prison and losing his power of flight in the process. Then, unable to fly, he attempts to leave the prison by running across water, but his super-speed cuts out as well. Superman makes it to shore with the aid of a passing steamer, then deduces that his powers are failing every time he uses one. He tests this theory with X-ray vision, which shuts off as well. Then a semi truck rams Superman, costing him his power of invulnerability. Immediately after, he’s attacked by a creature called Dreadnaught.

Friday, November 23, 2018

HE-MAN NEWSPAPER STRIP PART 6

"A WORLD IN THE BALANCE" | "AT THE EDGE OF THE DARKEST NIGHT"
Story: Chris Weber | Art & Lettering: Gérald Forton
Colors by: Connie Schurr | Editor: Karen Wilson

Things have calmed down on Eternia since the defeat of Iandir the Ice Queen, which prompts Prince Adam to decide a vacation is in order. The past several strips have played with the idea that Adam is beginning to resent He-Man; that he would like to go adventuring as himself now and then -- but he feels he can't show himself physically competent in any way, lest he blow his secret identity as a foppish layabout. So Adam asks Randor for leave to depart the palace for a few weeks. A bit of soap opera ensues, during which Randor chastises his son for shirking his duties -- but recent strips have also taken pains to depict Adam maturing into a capable member of Randor's ruling council, and when the king realizes this, he agrees that Adam has earned some time off.


Gwildor gets wind of Adam's plans and invites himself along, suggesting a trip to a neighboring planet called Naxos. Before leaving, Adam transforms Cringer into Battle Cat, then recruits Clamp Champ and Ram-Man to help safeguard Eternia in his absence. The Sunday page coloring issues which I mentioned last week continue here, though I'm not absolutely certain all the errors can be laid at the feet of Connie Schurr this time. Clearly there are some Sundays which were printed with missing color plates; there's too much drab brown for these to have been intentionally colored as they are. But even on the strips which appear to be faithfully reproduced, Schurr's colors leave much to be desired. Randor has his brown hair back, but his clothes change color, seemingly randomly, from Sunday to Sunday -- as do Adam's. It's as if Schurr simply gave up entirely on the Filmation palette, and on any sort of consistency in general, and started throwing random colors at the strips for the heck of it. But on the plus side, we've reached a point in the run where the editors behind this volume were unable to find colored versions of all the Sundays, so a few in this arc are reprinted in black-and-white -- and as the strip continues toward its conclusion, colorless Sundays will eventually become the norm.

Monday, November 19, 2018

WONDER WOMAN #17

“TRACES”
Script & Pencils : George Pérez | Finishes: Dick Giordano
Letters: John Costanza | Colors: Carl Gafford
Edits: Karen Berger

The Plot: A carrier pigeon arrives for Diana just as Steve and Etta are about to drive her and Vanessa to the airport for a trip to Greece. Diana reads the pigeon’s letter to her friends in the car, then writes a response to her mother and sends it off before boarding her plane.

In Greece, Diana is given a massive public welcome, then spends some time in Athens before touring the country with Vanessa, Julia, and their family friend, Stavros. Eventually she collapses while the group is aboard a boat.

Sub-Plots & Continuity Notes: Vanessa is still pining over Barry, and her friend Eileen continues to insist that he’s only using her to get close to Wonder Woman. Eileen is also concerned Vanessa will stop being her friend when they have a brief argument on this topic.

The letter from Hippolyte details the Amazons’ recent sense that something is amiss on Olympus, which Diana chalks up to the battle she and Superman had with Darkseid. Hippolyte also says that a faction of Amazons wants to isolate Paradise Island from the outside world.

Sunday, November 18, 2018

STAN LEE

So the news came out this past Monday that Stan Lee had passed away. I remarked to my wife that day that I felt as if I'd lost another grandparent -- which is in no way meant to diminish my grandparents, who I loved dearly, but is simply meant to illustrate the extent of Stan's presence in my life. I mean, I only met the guy one time (though I was in the same room as him a few more times after that) -- but during my childhood, as was the case for countless others besides me, Stan Lee was Marvel.

I'm not here to discuss the rightness or wrongness of that, by the way. Debates about creator credit and "who did what" will rage for as long as there's any sort of historical interest in sequential art. But regardless of the truth or fiction behind the whole situation, the unchangeable fact is that Stan Lee represented the public face of Marvel for more than one generation.

Friday, November 16, 2018

HE-MAN NEWSPAPER STRIP PART 5

"WHEN YOU NEED AN EXTRA SOMETHING" | "IT'LL BE A COLD DAY"
Story: Chris Weber | Art & Lettering: Gérald Forton
Colors by: Connie Schurr | Editor: Karen Wilson

So after several story arcs which were mostly in the vein of the Filmation TV series that this comic strip ostensibly continues, we now reach... whatever this is. "When You Need an Extra Something" is, so far, the nadir of the strip. "The Time of Disasters", which we looked at last week, was bad, but it nonetheless felt like a sub-par episode of the cartoon. This subsequent arc, however, reads like a pitch that should have been firmly rejected at the earliest possible stage. It's not just awful, it's not HE-MAN. The entire plot is ludicrous and doesn't fit within the established world. (And this is a world that allows for a lot of crazy stuff!)


From the very beginning, we realize this isn't the Eternia we know, as Orko and Cringer argue over what TV show to watch. Prince Adam, meanwhile, is tasked by his father to escort a visiting princess to the theater that night -- and at the theater, the two are accosted by Eternian paparazzi; specifically a reporter and her film crew. Now, look -- I know high technology exists alongside sword and sorcery in He-Man's world. But having the characters watch television and populating the world with roving TV reporters is just absurd. These things are too mundane and "normal" for MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE.

But that's not where the inanity of this tale ends. Before the evening's performance begins, Evil-Lyn appears on stage... to hock her new line of beauty products to the well-off ladies of Eternia. And everyond just lets her do it -- she gives a sales pitch, hands out free samples, and nobody attempts to stop or arrest her. Isn't she, like, wanted for war crimes or whatever? This seems the equivalent of an Al Qaeda lieutenant waltzing into the Super Bowl to hock Tupperware or something. It's offensively surreal and makes absolutely no sense.

Monday, November 12, 2018

SUPERMAN #18 & ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN #441

“RETURN TO KRYPTON”
Story: John Byrne | Inks: Karl Kesel | Lettering: Bill Oakley
Coloring: Petra Scotese | Assistant Editing: Renee Witterstaetter
Editing: Michael Carlin | and Special Guest Penciller: Mike Mignola

The Plot: Hawkman and Hawkwoman fly Superman to the former location of Krypton. There, Superman gets into a lead-lined spacesuit and flies outside, where he relives some of Krypton’s past and then hallucinates an alternate timeline in which Jor-El saved the people of his world and brought them all to Earth, only to watch as they enslaved the planet. Ultimately, Jor-El kills nearly all the other Kryptonians with an engineered plague, before coming face-to-face with the final living members of his race: Lara, ruler of Metropolis, and her son by Jor-El, Kal-El. Superman then awakens and the Hawks fly him home, where the Kryptonite radiation has passed.

Sub-Plots & Continuity Notes: During his hallucination, Superman sees Jor-El find a cure for Kryptonite poisoning. Remembering the formula, he attempts to duplicate it after returning to Earth, but finds the resultant mixture inert.

This issue is drawn by Mike Mignola, who had also illustrated the Byrne-scripted WORLD OF KRYPTON mini-series in late 1987.

Friday, November 9, 2018

HE-MAN NEWSPAPER STRIP PART 4

"REVOLUTION IN RONDALE" | "THE TIME OF DISASTERS"
Story: Chris Weber | Art & Lettering: Gérald Forton
Colors by: Connie Schurr | Editor: Karen Wilson

As I've noted in previous weeks, I really like that Chris Weber is injecting some elements into the MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE comic strip that would never have been considered for the cartoon series since kids likely would've found them boring. A strip is just the place to do this sort of thing, though -- most action/adventure strips have some degree of soap opera thrown in, so even in a strip aimed primarily at kids, it's to be expected. And soap opera is exactly what Weber shoots for in our latest story arc, "Revolution in Rondale".

In this installment, Man-At-Arms's sweetheart, Miranda, returns to her homeland of Rondale when word reaches the Eternian palace of an uprising there, led by her one-time love, Prince Nicholai. Man-At-Arms and Prince Adam accompany Miranda as part of her diplomatic envoy, with Teela along as well for security. The group soon finds that Nicholai is being advised by an outsider named Count Roteleks. And if you just noticed that "Roteleks" is "Skeletor" spelled backwards, then you're about ten steps ahead of me! Although shortly after meeting him, Adam notes that Roteleks reminds him of someone, I somehow never noticed the reverse-spelling trick until it was revealed near the end of the story!


So we have Skeletor, in disguise, urging Nicholai into an attempt to overthrow his land's legitimate government, in the interest of gaining a new ally against the kingdoms of King Randor. Meanwhile, Prince Adam befriends young Prince Corwin, the rightful heir to Rondale's throne, and teaches him a few things about ruling compassionately. But when Skeletor shows his true colors and kidnaps both Corwin and a second-guessing Nicholai, Adam changes to He-Man and tracks his enemy down, saving the hostages. In the end, Nicholai renounces his rebellion and peace returns to Rondale.

Monday, November 5, 2018

ACTION COMICS #600

“DIFFERENT WORLDS”
Story & Breakdowns: John Byrne | Finishes: George Pérez
Letters: John Costanza | Colors: Tom Ziuko
Assistant Editor: Renee Witterstaetter | Editor: Mike Carlin

The Plot: Superman apologizes to Wonder Woman for kissing her without warning, then the two begin to chat. But their conversation is interrupted when Hermes appears and summons Diana to Olympus. Superman follows, but is separated from Wonder Woman upon arrival.

Hermes reveals to Wonder Woman that a group of New Gods invaded Olympus. Meanwhile, Darkseid and Desaad, observing the two heroes from a control room, send a fake Wonder Woman (actually Amazing Grace in disguise) to seduce Superman and a fake Superman (Kalibak in disguise) to clobber Wonder Woman. The heroes fight their enemies, who perform a switch to lure them into fighting one another, instead.

But Superman and Wonder Woman quickly discern the truth and find their way to Darkseid’s hideout. Confronted by the fact that he failed to kill them, Darkseid departs with Desaad, triggering explosives set around Olympus before leaving. But Olympus will only fall when the gods will it, and is unharmed by Darkseid’s treachery.

Superman and Wonder Woman return to Earth, where they decide that a romantic relationship is not meant to be, but they will be friends.

Friday, November 2, 2018

HE-MAN NEWSPAPER STRIP PART 3

"EVIL UNDER THE STARS" | "ATTACK ON SNAKE MOUNTAIN"
Story: Chris Weber | Art & Lettering: Gérald Forton
Colors by: Connie Schurr | Editor: Karen Wilson

He-Man's next newspaper story arc, "Evil Under the Stars", adapts characters from the MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE motion picture into comic strip form. Specifically, it's the three movie characters who received action figures in the original toyline, along with one unexpected (and, in my opinion, unwelcome) redesign of an established character.


The story begins with Blade, one of Skeletor's henchmen in the movie who is presented here as an unaligned pirate, making trouble in a village called Ettlain. Teela and her royal guards head out to stop him. Meanwhile, Man-At-Arms and a woman named Miranda are testing a new anti-gravity device. The pair is working in remote coordination with an invetor named Gwildor, who lives in Ettlain. He-Man soon arrives in Ettlain to challenge Blade, but finds the villain backed up by a lizard-man called Saurod. While the villains battle He-Man and Teela, Gwildor meets a woman of his species named Thalia -- but in actuality she is Evil-Lyn, disguised and using Blade and Saurod as a distraction in order to steal a McGuffin called the gravitonic oscillation grenade from Gwildor's workshop.

At this point, the strip taught me a brand-new word I had never before seen in my life: demesne (noun; land attached to a manor and retained for the owner's own use). It turns out Evil-Lyn has a little guest cabin outside of Snake Mountain, where she can get away from Skeletor now and then. She and the villains escape there, but Teela gives chase. She spies on them and learns that they're fed up with Skeletor and plan to leave Eternia for the planet Merrian -- a new world to conquer. Beast-Man shows up, suddenly drawn to resemble his movie counterpart (a significant and generic-looking downgrade from his distinctive Filmation design), and says he wants in on the exodus as well.

Monday, October 29, 2018

ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN #440

“THE HURRIEDER I GO”
Scripter/Co-Plotter : John Byrne | Penciller/Co-Plotter: Jerry Ordway
Inker: Dennis Janke | Colorist: Tony Tollin | Letterer: Albert de Guzman
Editor & Nervous Breakdowns: Mike Carlin

The Plot: Superman chats with Professor Hamilton, then departs for his date with Wonder Woman. On the way, he stops in Gotham City to retrieve the mystery scrapbook from Batman, then heads for Smallville, stopping a couple disasters along the way, to leave the book with his parents. Soon, Superman meets Wonder Woman in a field and plants a kiss on her.

Sub-Plots & Continuity Notes: Superman’s date with Wonder Woman was set up in WONDER WOMAN #16.

In the opening pages, we learn that Professor Hamilton has become Superman’s science-buddy, having built the robot that malfunctioned last issue, and perfected his force field as well. So I ranted a bit about the robot apparently appearing out of nowhere last issue, never suspecting Byrne planned to explain its origin in the very next installment. My apologies to Byrne on that matter! It’s a hard thing, trying to be critical of ongoing serialized stories. Especially when you’re as cantankerous as I am.

Jerry White chats with Jose Delgado at the hospital, and agrees to try once more to make amends with his father. The sub-plot regarding Perry taking leave from the Daily Planet to spend more time with his family, as established in one of Marv Wolfman’s final issues, seems to have been quietly swept under the rug.

Friday, October 26, 2018

HE-MAN NEWSPAPER STRIP PART 2

"NINJOR STALKS BY NIGHT" | "TERROR TAKES TIME"
Story: Chris Weber | Art & Lettering: Gérald Forton
Colors by: Connie Schurr | Editor: Karen Wilson

What's that? You say you want a He-Man adventure that introduces a formidable new villain, that features a compelling plot, and that even throws in some soap opera style material, along with a better look at the Eternian governmental structure than anything ever seen on TV or in prior comics? Then friend, "Ninjor Stalks by Night" is the story for you!

Seriously, though -- I know we're only three story arcs in as of this tale, but it's easily the highlight of the newspaper strips thus far. We begin with a new villain, Ninjor, plotting to kill He-Man while, at the Royal Palace, Adam performs his usual "uninterested goof-off" routine to make sure no one realizes he and He-Man are the same person. Adam lamenting the fact that his secret forces him to keep up this front was something that popped up now and then in the Filmation series, as was his father's occasional disappointment in him -- but for the most part, it was usually case of "Oh, that Adam!" as everyone laughed things off in the end. (Which isn't to say the cartoon didn't delve into the relationship further than that once in a while; it certainly did. But mostly it was superficial.)


Ninjor's plan involves kidnapping Man-At-Arms and Extendar, to use them as bait for He-Man. Adam is about to change into He-Man and search for the missing duo when Randor finds him and assigns him "homework" for a council meeting the next day. But Adam blows off the assignment to search for his allies, instead. Interestingly, when Randor spots Adam holding his Power Sword above his head, the king tells his son to be careful handling the sword, because it's an heirloom. Now, while later MASTERS continuities would indeed establish that Adam and Randor are descendants of King Greyskull, the first warrior to wield the blade, in Filmation's storyline, it was established that the Sorceress held the weapon until the day it was time to give it to Adam. So, while the line was probably written as a throwaway, it turns out to disregard Filmation continuity and support an as-yet-uncreated continuity instead.

Monday, October 22, 2018

WONDER WOMAN #16

“BIRD OF PARADISE/BIRD OF PREY!”
Story & Layouts: George Pérez | Script: Len Wein | Finishes: Bob Smith
Letterer: John Costanza | Colorist: Carl Gafford | Editor: Karen Berger

The Plot: Wonder Woman saves the ferris wheel that Silver Swan damaged, while Silver Swan flies into the sky and, at the order of Henry Armbruster, who is secretly feeding her orders from a hidden command center, lets loose a tremendous sonic scream which floors everyone in the area. The Swan then demands that all present at the Wonder Woman fair turn over their valuables as penance for worshiping a false icon of feminism.

After everything is turned in, Wonder Woman flies the valuable up to Silver Swan—but Maxine spots Solomon Buchman taking aim at the Swan with a crossbow and shouts a warning to her friend. Diana deflects the bolt, and when Silver Swan retaliates against Buchman, the princess strikes, pushing Silver Swan away from Boston. The Swan drops the two bags Diana had handed her, which—unbeknownst to all—actually contain computer chips that Armbruster was after.

Wonder Woman fights and defeats Silver Swan, but they’re separated. Diana returns to Boston, while Armbruster sends a chopper for Silver Swan. Later, Diana discusses her feelings toward Superman with Vanessa, who urges her to seek out the Man of the Steel. Myndi Mayer gets in touch with Clark Kent, who helps arrange a date between the would-be super-couple.

Sunday, October 21, 2018

THE UNBOXING - OCTOBER 2018

I'm quite pleased with this month's sole physical book. It's something I passed on when it was first released years ago, and I've kicked myself a bit ever since. But Marvel has gone back to press just in time for Halloween, and I now own the TOMB OF DRACULA OMNIBUS vol. 1. Presumably the remaining two books in this series will return to print soon as well, and this time around I intend to pick them all up!


Meanwhile, the Digital Unboxing returns this month for a certain Amazon princess we've been looking at a lot recently. Thanks to a couple of recent Amazon/Comixology sales, I now own WONDER WOMAN BY GEORGE PEREZ vol. 3 and WONDER WOMAN BY JOHN BYRNE vol. 2 in digital format.

Also new to the digital collection via a recent Comixology coupon are some adventures of a character I'd never heard of, but who sounded pretty cool when I read about her. Thus modern-retro pulp heroine Athena Voltaire has arrived, in the ATHENA VOLTAIRE COMPENDIUM vol. 1, ATHENA VOLTAIRE AND THE SORCERER POPE, and ATHENA VOLTAIRE AND THE VOLCANO GODDESS. It looks like there might be some additional material starring this character out there, but I don't think it's available digitally. However I'm not sure how the COMPENDIUM volume relates to previously released stories, so I might be wrong. Unfortunately, best as I can tell, it's hard to find a definitive listing of all Athena's stories and how they've been reprinted. Still, if nothing else, this looks to be the majority of her adventures.


Last year we had no Unboxings in August, September, October, or November! This year we've had one every month to date, and I already know there'll be one next month, too. If we manage one in December as well, this will mark the first year since 2014 that I've done an Unboxing twelve times. Part of this is, of course, due to the fact that I've added "Digital Unboxings" and "Junior Unboxings" to the proceedings, because I'm still not getting as many physical volumes as I used to -- but regardless of the reason why, filling in every month for 2018 is (hopefully) going to be a nice feeling!

Friday, October 19, 2018

HE-MAN NEWSPAPER STRIP PART 1

"DAY OF THE COMET" | "VENGEANCE OF THE VIPER KING"
Story: Jim Schull (story 1) & Chris Weber (story 2)
Art & Lettering: Gérald Forton | Colors by: Connie Schurr
Editor: Karen Wilson

So... from what I've gathered, when the HE-MAN AND THE MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE TV series ceased production, Mattel wanted to keep the characters appearing for children on a daily basis somehow. Obviously the cartoon would remain in repeats alongside new episodes of SHE-RA, but while the latter series would introduce some MASTERS characters into the Filmation canon, others would be skipped. So, in order to keep on showcasing the newest toys, Mattel commissioned a HE-MAN newspaper strip. The strip apparently had pretty limited circulation (I sure never knew it existed until Dark Horse published their collected edition a few years ago), but it ran for over four years, outlasting the original MASTERS toyline and even running alongside the sequel line, HE-MAN, which started in 1989!

Filmation was apparently pretty heavily involved in the strip as well; according to writer Chris Weber, they packaged the entire thing for syndication, using their own in-house talent to do so. As a result, a few Filmation-exclusive characters show up in these storylines; for example, Shadow Weaver, Hordak's right-hand sorceress, appears in the very first arc. Thus, ostensibly, the strip is a direct continuation of the cartoon series -- though as we'll see momentarily, at least for the first arc this isn't exactly the case.

As a result of having a Filmation artist on the strip, nearly every character is beautifully on-model with the TV show. Gérald Forton takes some liberties, but for the most part, He-Man, Man-At-Arms, Teela, Randor, and so forth look very much like their animated counterparts. The villains, meanwhile, are pretty much all spot-on to the Filmation model sheets, perhaps even moreso than the heroes (especially the Evil Horde characters), though somehow Forton's Skeletor never looks quite right.

Monday, October 15, 2018

SUPERMAN #17

“CRIES IN THE NIGHT”
Written & Drawn by: John Byrne | Colored by: Petra Scotese
Lettered by: John Costanza | Edited by: Michael Carlin

The Plot: Maggie Sawyer investigates a murder and realizes Silver Banshee is still alive. Later, Clark Kent arrives at the Daily Planet, where he’s told by Perry White that Jimmy’s mom wants Jimmy to quit the paper. Perry asks Clark to go talk with Mrs. Olsen. Soon after, Clark arrives in the Bakerline borough of Metropolis and bumps into Jimmy, then the pair finds Silver Banshee raiding a bookstore. Clark reminds Jimmy that Banshee nearly killed Superman during their last encounter, so Jimmy and Clark sneak into the store to stop her themselves.

Elsewhere, a gigantic man with an Irish brogue arrives at Metropolis airport. Meanwhile, the police arrive at the bookstore and Silver Banshee kills one of them. Clark and Jimmy duck out and Clark leaves to find help. Soon after, Batman arrives to confront Silver Banshee, but she soon shreds his costume to reveal he’s Superman in disguise.

The large Irish man arrives and introduces himself as Silver Banshee’s brother, Bevan. They yell at one another for a few minutes, then Banshee explodes. Bevan escapes in the confusion. Later, Superman files Jimmy home, where he meets Mrs. Olsen, then returns to the Planet.

Friday, October 12, 2018

HE-MAN MINICOMICS 1987

"THE SEARCH FOR KELDOR" | "ENTER: BUZZ-SAW HORDAK!" | "ENERGY ZOIDS"
"REVENGE OF THE SNAKE MEN!" | "THE COSMIC KEY" | "THE LEGEND BEGINS!"

Writers: Steven Grant & Phil White
Artists: Bruce W. Timm, Chris Carlson, & Larry Houston
Inks: Steve Mitchell, Bruce W. Timm, & Chris Carlson
Letters: Stan Sakai | Colors: Charles Simpson
Editor: Lee Nordling

Still free to forge a path away from Filmation's MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE TV show (and with SHE-RA cancelled as well, clearing the ongoing Filmation continuity completely from the table), 1987 sees the minicomic universe continue to expand Eternia's mythology, even as the toyline winds down. Only six comics were published in '87, and nearly all of them reveal some unknown clue or tidbit about the universe's past.

First up, "The Search For Keldor" sees King Randor (now dressed in battle armor thanks to his newly-released action figure) and the Sorceress (also representing a long overdue toy) team up to search for Randor's brother, Keldor, who vanished before Prince Adam was born. But Skeletor learns of the king's quest and realizes he must stop it at any cost. With his henchmen, Ninjor and Scare Glow, Skeletor battles Randor, his bodyguard Clamp Champ (a favorite of mine from the toyline's later years and the first black character rendered in plastic among He-Man's allies), the Sorceress, and He-Man.

Though never actually revealed in this comic, the intention was of course that Skeletor would be revealed as Randor's brother -- and therefore, as He-Man's uncle! I believe later MASTERS continuities ran with this idea, which I think is a great sort of tragic angle to take (and way more original than making Skeletor a contemporary of Prince Adam, like a childhood friend or a brother or something), but the truth never came out during the property's initial run.

Monday, October 8, 2018

WONDER WOMAN #14 & #15

“FOR THE GLORY OF GAEA” | "SWAN SONG"
Plotter/Layouts: George Pérez | Script: Len Wein | Inker: Bruce D. Patterson
Letterer: John Costanza | Colorist: Carl Gafford | Editor: Karen Berger

The Plot: With the Millennium crisis at an end, Wonder Woman returns beneath Paradise Island to check on her mother, and finds Heracles bearing the entire island on his shoulders as Hippolyte lays beside him. Diana flies Hippolyte to the surface, then returns to Heracles. Zeus appears and declares the demigod’s punishment at an end, and the goddess Gaia takes over supporting the island.

In the days that follow, peace returns to Paradise Island. Hippolyte recovers from her injuries, and the Amazons destroy their weaponry, declaring they will practice peace from now on. Soon Heracles is accepted back onto Olympus by Zeus, while Hippolyte tells Diana to return to Man’s World as an ambassador and preach the ways of the Amazons.

Diana says her farewells and returns to Boston, where she reunites with Julia and Vanessa Kapatelis, and takes up residence in their home once more.

Sub-Plots & Continuity Notes: Heracles apologizes to the Amazons for his treatment of them, and they accept. Later, he shares a kiss with Hippolyte before returning to Olympus.

While going through the belongings of Steve’s late father, Steve and Etta declare their love for one another.

Friday, October 5, 2018

HE-MAN MINICOMICS 1986

"THE FLYING FISTS OF POWER!" | "ROCK PEOPLE TO THE RESCUE!"
"KING OF THE SNAKE MEN" | "THE TERROR CLAWS STRIKE!"
"ESCAPE FROM THE SLIME PIT!" | "THE MENACE OF MULTI-BOT"
"THE WARRIOR MACHINE" | "EYE OF THE STORM"
"THE FASTEST DRAW IN THE UNIVERSE" | "THE HORDES OF HORDAK"
"BETWEEN A ROCK AND A HARD PLACE!" | "SNAKE ATTACK!"
"THE ULTIMATE BATTLEGROUND"

Writers: Tim Kilpin. Gayle Gilbard, Larry Houston, Steven Grant,
Eric Frydler, Tina Harris, Jim Mitchell, & Phil White
Artists: Jim Mitchell, Larry Houston, Bruce Timm, Chris Carlson, Mike Van Cleave, Greg Brooks, Mike Vosburg, Peter Ledger, & Red Grant
Inks: Steve Mitchell, Bruce Timm, Todd Kurosawa, Tom Luth, Red Grant
Letters: Stan Sakai | Colors: Charles Simpson & Tom Luth
Editor: Lee Nordling | Art Director: Ron Cook

A year with more cooks in the kitchen than ever before -- just check out the number of writers and artists involved in the production of these stories -- somehow brings with it the tightest continuity since the very first four minicomics. Behold...

The saga kicks off with the Sorceress bestowing on He-Man the gift of "The Flying Fists of Power!", a magical battle technique to aid him against the forces of evil. In reality, Flying Fists He-Man was a brand new action figure with a different outfit than the normal He-Man, but the comics simply depict our hero as his normal self when he uses the power. Following from this comic, He-Man calls on the power of the Flying Fists a handful of times throughout the year's remaining stories. Also, at one point he uses the Thunder Punch, which readers may recall was bestowed upon him by Castle Greyskull in the 1985 series (and, unlike Flying Fists He-Man, the Thunder Punch figure was depicted in his alternate costume during his first appearance -- but now looks just like the standard garden variety He-Man).

Monday, October 1, 2018

ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN #439 & ACTION COMICS #599

“TIN SOLDIERS”
Writer/Co-Plotters/Penciler: John Byrne & Jerry Ordway | Inker: John Beatty
Letterer: Albert de Guzman | Colorist: Tony Tollin | Editor: Mike Carlin

The Plot: Jimmy’s car breaks down as he is driving Cat and her son, Adam, to New York. They see something which prompts Jimmy to use his signal watch. Later, Superman falls from the sky and lands underground. Perry White receives a call and heads to the hospital, where he meets Inspector Henderson and Lois. The trio meets with Superman, who reveals that he’s been turned into a robot.

Meanwhile, Clark arrives at the Daily Planet and learns “Superman” is at the hospital. He heads over there as well, and soon departs with Lois and the Man of Steel to find Jimmy and the others. The group reaches a paramilitary complex, where their friends are being interrogated by the head of a private militia. “Superman” is destroyed as he fights against the troops, who ultimately surrender when their commander is killed in an explosion.

Later, Superman reveals to Lois and the local sheriff that the robot was his, created to respond to Jimmy’s signal whenever he might be out of range. But thanks to its malfunction, the Man of Steel realizes that there can be only one of him.

Sub-Plots & Continuity Notes: Jimmy is driving Cat and Adam to New York while Cat’s car is in the shop.

Friday, September 28, 2018

HE-MAN MINICOMICS 1985

"SKELETOR'S DRAGON" | "THE BATTLE OF ROBOTO" | "SPIKOR STRIKES"
"THE STENCH OF EVIL!" | "GRIZZLOR -- THE LEGEND COMES ALIVE!"
"LEECH -- THE MASTER OF POWER SUCTION UNLEASHED!"
"MANTENNA AND THE MENACE OF THE EVIL HORDE!!"
"HORDAK -- THE RUTHLESS LEADER'S REVENGE! | "THE TREACHERY OF MODULOK!"
"THE POWER OF THE EVIL HORDE!"

Writer: Christy Marx
Artists: Larry Houston, Peter Ledger, & Bruce W. Timm
Inks: Charles Simpson & Michael Lee
Letters: Stan Sakai | Editor: Lee Nordling

Following from a set of 1984 minicomic offerings that did their best to hew to the Filmation TV series' continuity (even though that show was still in the development phase when most of the comics were produced), 1985 brings us an odd hybrid of the Filmation universe existing in sort of a parallel world. The comics continue to maintain most of the Filmation trappings, and as we'll see below, even bring in the character of Orko, who originated on the show. As well, the cartoon's character designs continue to be used for the most part. However, 1985's comics also introduce a number of characters to the minicomic world, complete with origins in many instances (which were pretty universally eschewed in '84), even when the same characters were presented with alternative debuts in the animated series.

I'd like to note that the credits I've been presenting for all these minicomic posts are assembled to the best of my ability. Many of the earlier comics, going up through 1985, had no credits at all, while others had only artist signatures on the covers, or occasionally writer/penciler/inker signatures. I've done my best to search online and fill in blanks, but I can't speak to the complete accuracy of these credits. For example, Christy Marx wrote a number of 1985's comics, but there's no way to tell whether she penned every single one -- and in fact it seems pretty likely she did not -- however since no other writers are listed, she's the only one I can mention here even if she wasn't the sole scribe for the year.

Monday, September 24, 2018

SUPERMAN #16

“HE ONLY LAUGHS WHEN I HURT!”
Story & Pencils by: John Byrne | Inking by: Karl Kesel
Coloring by: Tom Ziuko | Lettering by: John Costanza | Editing by: Michael Carlin

The Plot: As bizarre occurrences—soap suds falling from the sky and a popcorn storm in the subway—occur in Metropolis, Lois Lane is kidnapped by a man calling himself the Prankster. In actuality Oswald Loomis, a children’s TV host, the Prankster has perpetrated these strange pranks as a way to gain publicity before his show can be canceled. Superman eventually locates Loomis, rescues Lois, and arrests the villain. However, the Prankster escapes custody, crank-calls Lois, and has a good laugh over the day’s events.

Sub-Plots & Continuity Notes: This is the first appearance of the Prankster post-CRISIS. Though I know nothing about the character’s original incarnation, he at least looks pretty much exactly like I remember from an old Superman storybook I had as a child.

Morgan Edge, president of Galaxy Communications, makes his post-CRISIS debut here. My understanding is that pre-CRISIS, Edge was the head of Intergang, Metropolis’s premiere mob as created by Jack Kirby in the pages of JIMMY OLSEN. It’s also my understanding that pre-CRISIS Intergang was supplied with technology by Darkseid. Here, Edge appears to be a media mogul rather than a crime boss, but we do see that he has a connection with Darkseid at one point when the villain visits him in his office to gloat about how well his plan is going.

Sunday, September 23, 2018

THE UNBOXING - SEPTEMBER 2018

Just one book this month, and it's a volume I'm very pleased to own: THE WEDDING OF CYCLOPS AND PHOENIX hardcover. Some years back, before I started this blog, Marvel released much of this material in a paperback edition, which is still available secondhand (and I reviewed it here). But that didn't stop them from putting out an updated and revised hardcover edition just this month.


I really do intend to get my semi-monthly photo-reviews of X-Men books up and running again in the near future (possibly to kick off 2019), so I won't gush much about this book here and now, other than to say that, while it removes one issue that was in the prior paperback edition (X-MEN ANNUAL #2), it more than makes up for that by filling in a bunch of issues of X-MEN that hadn't yet been collected, along with several other odds and ends -- including the "Bloodties" crossover with AVENGERS, thus making prior editions of that particular book obsolete as well. Plus, it's a hardcover rather than a paperback -- I daresay this is what the initial volume should have been in the first place, but I'm happy Marvel has corrected their prior mistake.

So with this one on the shelf, another Unboxing comes to a close. Catch you in October!

Friday, September 21, 2018

HE-MAN MINICOMICS 1984

"DRAGON'S GIFT" | "MASKS OF POWER" | “HE-MAN AND THE INSECT PEOPLE”
“SIEGE OF AVION” | “THE OBELISK” | “THE SECRET LIQUID OF LIFE!"
"DOUBLE-EDGED SWORD" | "TEMPLE OF DARKNESS!" | "SLAVE CITY”
"THE CLASH OF ARMS"

Writer: Michael Halperin
Artists: Alfredo Alcala & Larry Houston | Inks: Tod Smith, Michael Lee, & Gerald Forton
Colors: Anthony Tollin & Charles Simpson | Letters: Stan Sakai | Editor: Lee Nordling

1984's minicomics are written by Michael Halperin, the man who was hired by Mattel and Filmation to create a MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE "bible" which informed much of the development of the cartoon series. As a result, these tales hew more closely in the Filmation direction than ever before, in terms of story. The artwork is mixed, on the other hand -- Alfredo Alcala continues to draw extremely literal interpretations of the characters' action figures, though for certain characters he appears to be working off of Filmation model sheets -- while Larry Houston, who draws most of the later stories in the year's run, goes Filmation all the way.

Footnotes in the Dark Horse collection of these tales indicate that they were produced while the cartoon was still in development, which gives some fascinating insight into the lead time involved in crafting the minicomics. These were released with the 1984 line of characters, and they feature lots of not-quite-finalized character designs -- but the TV series itself premiered in the fall of 1983 (and mostly featured the toyline's earlier characters for that first season)! As a result, the minicomics include characters who would not even debut in the cartoon until the second season (such as Buzz-Off, Mekaneck, and Fisto) fighting alongside "prototype" versions of Man-At-Arms and Teela.

Monday, September 17, 2018

ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN #438 & ACTION COMICS #598

“…THE AMAZING BRAINIAC”
Writer: John Byrne | Penciller: Jerry Ordway | Inker: John Beatty
Letterer: Albert T. de Guzman | Colorist: Anthony Tollin | Editor: Michael Carlin

The Plot: While at the circus with Cat, her son Adam, and Jimmy, Clark Kent changes to Superman to stop a rampaging elephant. Soon after, the circus psychic, Brainiac, manifests telekinetic powers and an alternate personality, and begins to wreak havoc. Superman stops him, and he is placed into medical care.

Sub-Plots & Continuity Notes: Adam is frightened of Superman when they cross paths, believing the Man of Steel injured his father during the fight with Concussion a few issues back, but Cat assures the boy that Superman is a friend.

Though his doctors don’t believe him, Brainiac (a.k.a. Milton Fine) says he was possessed by an alien named Vril Dox during his rampage. Earlier in the issue, he explains Vril Dox’s backstory to Cat and Jimmy.

Lois meets with the parents of Combattor, revealed to be named Lawrence Chin, at their son’s funeral and attempts to convince them that Lex Luthor was behind the young man’s death—but while the Chins refuse to believe it, Lawrence’s younger brother agrees with Lois and passes her a note.

Friday, September 14, 2018

HE-MAN MINICOMICS 1983

"HE-MAN MEETS RAM-MAN!" | "THE ORDEAL OF MAN-E-FACES!"
"THE TERROR OF TRI-KLOPS!" | "THE MENACE OF TRAP JAW!"
"THE TALE OF TEELA!" | "THE MAGIC STEALER!" | "THE POWER OF... POINT DREAD!"

Writer: Gary Cohn | Pencils: Mark Texeira
Inks: Tod Smith | Colors: Anthony Tollin

Following from the first round of "storybook style" 1982 minicomics by Don Glut and Alfredo Alcala, 1983 brings the first MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE pack-ins which can actually be called comic books. With Gary Cohn taking over writing chores from Glut, we also have Mark Texeira, who would come to prominence drawing GHOST RIDER in the nineties, turning in some of the earliest work of his career as artist.

Cohn and Texeira continue the setup established by Glut and Alcala, presenting Castle Grayskull as a mysterious edifice neutral to both good and evil, and giving us a fairly barren and lawless Eternia -- but they also provide glimpses of an established civilization, which the initial minicomics skipped. In 1982, a reader could've been forgiven for believing He-Man, Man-At-Arms, Teela, Skeletor, Beast Man, Mer-Man, and the Goddess were the only seven living beings on the planet. But now, thanks to Cohn fleshing out Glut's original vision, we see that's not the case.

The year's seven stories are mostly all devoted to spotlights on characters and/or vehicles introduced in 1983, with one minicomic explaining the origin of a 1982 character. The first outing, "He-Man Meets Ram-Man!", sees He-Man get into a skirmish with a bull-headed wanderer named Ram-Man. Skeletor then tricks Ram-Man into believing He-Man lives inside Castle Grayskull, and uses Ram-Man's power in an attempt to break into the fortress. But He-Man arrives and saves the day, and Ram-Man realizes he was in error when he took He-Man for an enemy. Right off the bat, this story gives us a look at the denizens of Eternia, as He-Man stops by a village during his journeys to save it from from a monster. We also see the Sorceress (alternately referred to as the Goddess in a couple of this year's tales), still depicted as Teela in her snake armor but presented as a different character, though she no longer has green skin as was the case in 1982.

Monday, September 10, 2018

ACTION COMICS #597 & SUPERMAN #15

“VISITOR”
Writer/Penciler: John Byrne | Inkers: Leonard Starr & Keith Williams
Colorist: Tom Ziuko | Letterer: John Costanza | Editor: Michael Carlin

The Plot: Following the Manhunters’ attack on Earth, Lois Lane travels to Smallville to investigate Lana Lang. She discovers the crashed Manhunter ship on Lana’s property and finds Lana and Superman chatting behind the house. The trio goes inside, where Lois asks Superman point blank if he is Clark Kent. Clark’s parents arrive just then and spin a tale about discovering Kal-El’s rocket and raising the child in secret alongside their son, Clark. Furious, Lois leaves.

Clark shows up at the Smallville Hotel to speak with Lois, but she’s just as angry with him as with Superman. The next morning, Lana approaches Lois and takes her out to lunch to plead Clark’s case. Later, back in Metropolis, Lois visits Jose Delgado in the hospital, and Superman shows up as well. Lois departs, giving the Man of Steel the cold shoulder.

Sub-Plots & Continuity Notes: Lois travels to Smallville for the first time in this issue and meets Lana and Jonathan and Martha while there. Superman and Lana explain the MILLENNIUM storyline to Lois, and she agrees to sit on the story.

Sunday, September 9, 2018

G.I. JOE: A REAL AMERICAN HERO

"G.I. Joe is the codename for America's daring, highly trained special
missions force. Its purpose: to defend human freedom against Cobra,
a ruthless terrorist organization determined to rule the world."
Thirty-five years ago this week, at least according to the sources I've found, G.I. JOE: A REAL AMERICAN HERO hit television airwaves in the form of a five-part miniseries event, created by Sunbow Productions in association with Marvel Productions, and serialized across a full week. Alternately known as "The Mass Device" and simply "A Real American Hero", the episodes were, I imagine, many kids' first exposure to G.I. Joe outside of the little plastic toys. Marvel had of course been publishing an ongoing JOE comic book for over a year at this point, but even with television commercials to advertise that series, a weekday syndicated cartoon would reach far more children far more easily than a comic.


I was too young for JOE at this point; being a few months shy of five years old in September of '83 -- so I would have missed the miniseries when it first aired. And, though G.I. Joe never floated my boat as a young child in the same way as the Transformers and He-Man, I did watch the subsequent year's "Revenge of Cobra" serial. But I didn't really become a fan and follower of JOE for several more years. It was actually when I was in middle school and my younger brother got into the toys that I began reading the comic book and watching the cartoon episodes wherever I could find them in syndication or at the video store. And our local store had a copy of "The MASS Device", which I rented several times.

Friday, September 7, 2018

HE-MAN MINICOMICS 1982

"HE-MAN AND THE POWER SWORD" | "KING OF CASTLE GRAYSKULL"
"BATTLE IN THE CLOUDS" | "THE VENGEANCE OF SKELETOR"

Written by: Donald F. Glut | Illustrated by: Alfredo Alcala

The first couple years of MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE minicomics are an interesting curiosity in the property's history. I touched on this a bit when I looked at a graphic novel from the eighties called THE SUNBIRD LEGACY, which was sort of a transitional state from the early comics world to the more familiar setup with He-Man as an alter ego for Prince Adam, along with a generally more light-hearted/superheroic tone. But in these four earliest MASTERS tales, none of that was even remotely established.

These stories instead paint a drastically different picture of the planet Eternia than what most fans have come to expect thanks to the Filmation TV series. Here, Eternia is a wild, untamed world. He-Man is a barbarian who leaves his tribe to defend the planet from the forces of evil. Castle Grayskull, rather than being the benign source of He-Man's power, is a mysterious fortress, neutral to good and evil alike, but which holds the power to rule the planet. References are made to a "Great War", which turned Eternia into a wasteland. As a result, high technology is an unusual artifact of the past.

Now, I'd never trade away my memories of the Filmation cartoon, which I loved as a child (and really, I still like it quite a bit today). And as that same child, I never really warmed up to the early minicomics, different as they were from the TV show -- heck, even the later minicomics, which as we'll see generally hewed pretty closely to the Filmation setup, didn't always float my boat either due to smaller inconsistencies. But nowadays, there's room in my head for different interpretations of the He-Man mythos, and I actually really like this early minicomic continuity quite a bit. It's more of a post-apocalyptic dark fantasy than the straight science-fantasy that later interpretations would present.

Monday, September 3, 2018

WONDER WOMAN #12 & #13

“ECHOES OF THE PAST” | “DEMONPLAGUE”
Plot & Layouts: George Pérez | Script: Len Wein | Finishes: Bruce D. Patterson
Letters: John Costanza | Colors: Carl Gafford | Editor: Karen Berger

The Plot: (Issue 12) As Hippolyte descends into the caverns beneath Paradise Island, her daughter comes face-to-face with the woman for whom she was named, a redheaded American called Diana. Diana begins to explain the strange, intertwined history she shares with the princess, while elsewhere, Pan plots against Hippolyte, setting multiple obstacles against her. But, led by the vulture which brought her into the caves, Hippolyte proceeds on her way.

Soon, after Diana finishes her story to her namesake and departs, Pan appears and sends Wonder Woman off to the home of the Green Lanterns to aid them against the extraterrestrial Manhunters. Still on Earth, Hippolyte continues her trek and finds herself in the company of a massive Heracles, apparently changed to stone by some unknown force.

(Issue 13) Hippolyte continues her trek and comes across the form of Heracles, trapped as a living statue. Soon after, she finds the horned skull of Pan. Zeus and the other gods, observing Hippolyte’s quest, realize the Pan who has recently counseled Zeus is an imposter. Hermes fetches Diana from the Green Lantern citadel in California, returning her beneath Paradise Island to team up with her mother. The two battle several monsters and free Heracles, but countless demons escape as well.

Diana follows and traps the creatures within the amulet of Harmonia, which is then pulled—along with Diana—to Ares, who takes the amulet and disappears. Immediately after, Hermes appears and tasks Diana with one final challenge: to return to Man’s World and avenge his son, Pan, by finding and killing the Manhunter who took the horned god’s life and impersonated him.

Sunday, September 2, 2018

HE-MAN AND THE MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE

As promised not long ago, this fall will find us looking at a new toy tie-in series to replace the Transformers stuff I've read over the past four autumns. And stepping up to take over for Optimus Prime and friends is another beloved icon of the eighties: the most powerful man in the universe himself, He-Man.

A few years ago, I "Unboxed" Dark Horse's collection of MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE minicomics, the little comic books that were packaged with the vintage action figures thirty-plus years back. Since then, I also bought a "backup copy" of the book in digital format during a Comixology Dark Horse sale at some point. Thus, armed with the book in both physical and virtual format, I'm ready to read it. Beginning this Saturday and continuing over the subsequent few weeks, we'll examine the He-Man minicomics by year, from 1982 through 1987 -- the full run of the original toyline.

But that's not all! Once the minicomic retrospective wraps up in October, we'll crack open another tome I picked up some time back (and also re-purchased in digital format later on) -- HE-MAN AND THE MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE: THE NEWSPAPER COMIC STRIPS. Unlike the minicomics, which I read as a child and of which I retain some hazy memories, the newspaper strip is an iteration of MASTERS that I've never seen in my life. But my He-Man fandom and my recently developed interest in newspaper adventure strips have intersected to make this something I'm really excited to read.

The strips are broken apart into story arcs in the book, so we'll read two arcs per week, starting in October and running through November. After that, I have one more thing in mind to close out the year -- but we'll get to that when the time comes. For now, we're off to the distant planet Eternia to check out the never-ending struggle between He-Man and Skeletor.