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 something? 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.

Friday, August 31, 2018

THE "PERSONAL GOLDEN AGE"

It's weird how these things go. A month or so back, I was thinking about typing up a debriefing on this year's Comic-Con -- but as usual, while I enjoyed myself, I find that I have very little to put to screen regarding my time there. It was fine, but a lot of the experience for me is simply spending time with friends who I don't see as often as I used to. The con itself is almost secondary nowadays to the hanging around, the games, and the eating out around town.

But as I mulled over whether or not to bother with a recap essay, I mused that the first SDCC I attended was nineteen years ago, in 1999 (and if you think that means I'll find a way to commemorate twenty years of Comic-Con next summer, True Believer, you've got me figured out). I started thinking about what the convention was like back then and the sorts of panels I attended. Then, the kicker -- my iPad wallpaper as I entertained these thoughts was an Avengers image by George Pérez, and I noted the year he'd drawn it beside his signature: 1997 (that's it at right).

I thought some more. We're more than twenty years removed now from the start of the Busiek/Pérez AVENGERS run, the Busiek/Bagley THUNDERBOLTS run, Spider-Man's Clone Saga, "Onslaught", and so forth, and it's been almost twenty years since my first Comic-Con. That got me thinking about the concept of the "Personal Golden Age" of comics, which I've seen now and then on the internet: the idea that everyone has an era where comics captured their imagination more than any time before or after. For some, it was probably right when they got into comics. For others, like me, it came a bit later.

Monday, August 27, 2018

SUPERMAN #14 & ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN #437

“LAST STAND!”
Story & Pencils: John Byrne | Inks: Karl Kesel
Colors: Tom Ziuko | Letters: John Costanza | Editing: Michael Carlin

The Plot: Superman and Green Lantern pursue the Manhunters’ leader, Highmaster, into another dimension. The heroes are separated and Green Lantern catches up with Highmaster, falling into a ploy to reveal to the villain the location of the Guardians of the Universe. But Superman arrives before Highmaster can kill the Guardians, who recharge Green Lantern’s power ring, allowing him and Superman to work together and defeat Highmaster.

Sub-Plots & Continuity Notes: This issue continues directly from the main MILLENNIUM series, with Superman and Green Lantern as the last heroes standing after all Earth’s other defenders were beaten by Highmaster. The story’s final page advises readers to follow the duo back into the pages of MILLENNIUM for the event’s conclusion.

My Thoughts: Though it’s an issue of SUPERMAN, this feels more like a typical installment of ACTION COMICS, featuring a stand-alone team-up between Superman and another hero. It’s a quick, breezy read (as are many of Byrne’s issues of ACTION), and while it’s decent on its own, one can’t help feeling it’d feel more momentous after reading the prior issues of MILLENNIUM.

But! Superman and Green Lantern use some cool teamwork to beat Highmaster — the Guardians supercharge GL’s ring while Superman zaps the villain with heat vision to change him from yellow to red, thus allowing the ring to actually work on him — and Byrne gets to throw in the Green Lantern oath, which I know I’d certainly want to do if I was featuring the character in a guest spot in my comic.

Friday, August 24, 2018

THE UNBOXING - AUGUST 2018

It's a throwback Unboxing this month -- nothing digital, no "Junior" edition; just two physical books from the Big Two publishers.

From DC, it's volume 3 of BATMAN AND ROBIN ADVENTURES, finishing that series and concluding DC's tie-ins with the original iteration of BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES. The subsequent series, BATMAN: GOTHAM ADVENTURES, adapted the retooled NEW BATMAN ADVENTURES era of the show. Hopefully DC has plans to continue this trade paperback series into that run as well. GOTHAM ADVENTURES was by far the longest running of all the tie-in series, but in total it came to about as many issues as BATMAN ADVENTURES and BATMAN AND ROBIN ADVENTURES combined.


And from Marvel, we have the X-MEN REVOLUTION BY CHRIS CLAREMONT OMNIBUS. Why did I buy this? Even I'm not entirely certain. I didn't like these issues when they first came out. By most accounts, they haven't aged well at all. They were filled with lame villains, random alterations to status quos and unnecessary costume changes for nearly every character. Perhaps tellingly, I have yet to remove the shrink wrap from the book. Usually I free an Omnibus as soon as I receive it, to peruse the pages within. But Marvel uploaded nearly every issue contained in this book to their Unlimited service practically right after it hit shelves, so if I really want to revisit the material, I can do it there.

I think I really only bought this one to maintain my nineties X-Men completist mentality -- I really do love the idea of having every X-MEN and UNCANNY X-MEN issue from that decade on my shelves. And while this book mostly collects material from 2000, it still "feels" like a continuation of the nineties. But at the same time, I question whether I really need this stuff. If you told me the X-Men's saga ended with Alan Davis's final issue in 1999, I'd be totally on board with that (even with my favorite X-Man, Cyclops, merged with Apocalypse).

So, yeah... while I wouldn't say I have buyer's remorse about this one, I'll admit it's a book I probably don't need and will likely only read/peruse once in my entire adult life. In fact, there's a good chance I might just sell it someday, never removed from its shrink wrap.

Monday, August 20, 2018

ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN #436 & ACTION COMICS #596

“JUNK”
Penciller: Jerry Ordway | Inker: John Beatty
Letterer: Albert T. De Guzman | Colorist: Tony Tollin | Editor: Michael Carlin
And Welcome Aboard to Scriper: John Byrne | Plotters: Byrne/Ordway

The Plot: Superman arrives in Smallville and changes to Clark Kent, but the townspeople know who he truly is and capture him. Superman is taken to a Manhunter hideout, where Smallville’s Doctor Whitney explains that he’s been a Manhunter agent for decades and that every child born in the city since he arrived was a sleeper. Superman soon manages to escape his bonds and Whitney blows himself up to avoid capture, revealing he was actually a robot.

Sub-Plots & Continuity Notes: Clark bumps into Pete Ross in Smallville, making this the post-CRISIS debut for that character (at least in the main SUPERMAN titles; I suppose it’s possible he showed up someplace else that I’m unaware of). Pete is Smallville County’s Notary Public.

Doctor Whitney explains that the Manhunters had an agent on Krypton, who learned of Jor-El’s plan to send baby Kal-El to Earth. The Manhunters attempted to intercept Kal-El, but were delayed by the Green Lantern Corps. Whitney was placed in Smallville to prepare the town to one day capture its Kryptonian son.

My Thoughts: Y’know, for someone who grouses about writers doing “Everything you thought you knew was wrong” stories and who has often complained that certain writers can’t let any supporting characters just be normal…

In this tale we learn that Smallville has been the home to dozens of alien sleeper agents for thirty years, including among them Lana and Pete.

I’m just saying, John Byrne really shouldn’t be casting any stones here.

Friday, August 17, 2018

FIVE YEARS

It's time again for me to recognize that I've survived another year here in blog-land. Though I never said anything about it here, five years was always my unspoken goal. I would keep the site running for that long, no matter what, and then if I was bored after five years, I'd feel okay shutting it down.

Well, the good news is: I'm not bored! Busier than I used to be, maybe, but not bored. Certainly the busy part is reflected in how my posting schedule has diminished recently. I used to post three to four times a week, then it became two to three times. Nowadays it's pretty much two, with an occasional third post, plus for the first time ever, I fell so far behind on a review project that I was forced to cancel it mid-stream. As noted at the time, I do intend to return to the James Bond newspaper strip at some point, but for now I'm setting it aside.

I have a new project starting up in a couple weeks, though, which I think I should be able to keep on track all the way through. Ever since I started the blog, the fall season was devoted to Transformers posts, but this time it's going to be something different -- however, in keeping with the toy tie-in theme, it will still be a beloved eighties property in comic form. Post-CRISIS Superman and Wonder Woman will continue for the rest of the year as well, so the remainder of 2018, at least, is in pretty good shape.

That said, I have absolutely no idea yet what classic run I want to look at for Mondays in 2019. Usually by this point in the year I've figured it out, or at least narrowed it down to a few candidates, but at present I've got nothing. I should be able to figure something out before January, but right now I'm scratching my head.

Now, we'll close things out as always with a look at some stats relating to the blog. I should probably stop mentioning that the X-MEN COLLECTED EDITIONS page is the number one most viewed around here. It's so far ahead of everything else, that I can't imagine anything ever catching it. In a nice surprise (for me at least, considering how much work I put into it), the home page for my SPIDER-MAN BY ROGER STERN reviews has leapt into second position. Last year it didn't even place! This knocks the INFINITY GAUNTLET OMNIBUS review, the perennial number two, down into third place for the first time ever.

(Also, though it's still some notches down from fourth place, I should note that John Byrne's savaging of my FANTASTIC FOUR #262 review has catapulted it up the standings, way ahead of any other single issue review I've ever posted here.)

So that's your anniversary post for Year Five. Onward into our second half-decade!

Monday, August 13, 2018

SUPERMAN #13

“TOYS IN THE ATTIC”
Story & Pencils: John Byrne | Inks: Karl Kesel
Lettering: John Costanza | Coloring: Tom Ziuko | Editing: Michael Carlin

The Plot: An armored truck is robbed by toy soldiers, while Superman arrives at Maggie Sawyer’s office. Two British agents brief Superman and Maggie on W. Percival Schott, a renowned toymaker now out for revenge on the company that let him go. Schott has systematically murdered the various directors of the company with cutting-edge toys, and has now targeted the company’s owner, Lex Luthor. Superman saves Luthor from assassination and locates Schott’s lair, but finds the toymaker gone — apparently kidnapped.

With no leads to pursue, Superman returns to the Daily Planet, where he’s confronted by Lana Lang. Lana reveals herself as an agent of the extraterrestrial Manhunters, and flies back to Smallville with Superman on her trail.

Sub-Plots & Continuity Notes: Though they refuse to reveal their names, the British agents in the opening pages are clearly John Steed and Emma Peel, of THE AVENGERS television series. They note that a British heroine named Godiva, who Superman has apparently met, tried to capture Schott but failed.

Luthor complains to his doctor about pain in his hand; this will eventually be revealed as the onset of Kryptonite poisoning from the ring he wears. Also, as Superman leaves Luthor’s office, he calls attention to the ring, recalling that Luthor wasn’t wearing it in SUPERMAN 10 because he had already placed it inside the Booster Gold robot he set against the Man of Steel in ACTION COMICS 595. And, miraculously, there are actually footnotes to both of these issues!

Friday, August 10, 2018

A MILESTONE TO CELEBRATE

Just about four-and-a-half years ago, I put up a post discussing how close Marvel was to collecting, via a mix of hardcover and paperback, my definitive X-Men run -- the beginning of the Chris Claremont era, circa 1975, through the end of the Scott Lobdell era, circa 1997. At the time, a lot had been collected -- the majority of the issues, in fact -- but there were still holes to be plugged in both the Claremont period and the Lobdell/Fabian Nicieza period, and certain older editions were crying for updates.

Well, today I can finally say my goal is complete. Mind you, the book hasn't been published yet, but with the recent Amazon ghost listing for an X-MEN: ONSLAUGHT AFTERMATH volume to plug the very last remaining gap next spring, it's safe to declare that within the year, that run of twenty-two years' worth of X-Men will be fully represented on my bookshelf -- and the vast majority of it will be in a handsome hardcover format.

The Claremont stuff was a no-brainer. We all knew it would be released in its totality eventually. You can't ignore the definitive run by the definitive creator in a franchise's history. But I will never cease to marvel (no pun intended) at the fact that the much more divisive and oft-derided material from the nineties will be comprehensively collected, too. And we're not just talking the Lobdell/Nicieza era here, either. Beyond "X-Cutioner's Song", "Fatal Attractions", "Phalanx Covenant", "Age of Apocalypse", "Onslaught", "Zero Tolerance", and everything in between, Marvel has also collected (or will have collected, again, within the year) the full Joe Kelly/Steve Seagle run which followed Lobdell, as well as the Alan Davis run that came after them. Plus, just this month, Claremont's ill-received return to the series via the "Revolution" event found its way to hardcover via an Omnibus. It's all out there. The entire decade of the nineties for X-MEN and UNCANNY X-MEN exists in hardcover and/or trade paperback (as well as in digital format), preserved for all time in glossy, high-end collections.

Mind you, happy as I am to have all this stuff available, I won't complain if Marvel eventually upgrades all the paperbacks to hardcover format (I'd dearly love an Omnibus of the 1999 Alan Davis run, for example). And I'll continue to update my X-MEN COLLECTED EDITIONS CHART whenever something like that happens. But for the time being, at least, I'm taking a rest. I can see the end of the road, and it's a wonderful thing. The X-Men -- my X-Men -- will soon be home for good, and I couldn't be happier.

(Now, will all these books upcoming in the next year or so to round things out, it's probably time I resurrected my semi-monthly photo-reviews of the things...)

Monday, August 6, 2018

SUPERMAN #12 & ACTION COMICS #595

“LOST LOVE”
Writer/Penciler: John Byrne | Inker: Karl Kesel
Colorist: Tom Ziuko | Letterer: John Costanza | Editor: Michael Carlin

The Plot: Superman responds to a telepathic summons from a merman named Ronal and arrives at the coast near Metropolis. Ronal asks Superman to tell him about his past with Lori Lemaris, and Superman obliges, explaining how, as Clark Kent, he met Lori, a wheelchair-bound student, while he was in college, and soon fell in love with her. But Lori turned out to be a mermaid and eventually returned to the sea in search of her lost home, Atlantis.

Years later, after meeting Aquaman, Clark learned the location of Atlantis and sought Lori out. But as they embraced, Lori was knifed in the back by a mad fisherman, and Superman raced her to the undersea city. She recovered, but fell in love with her doctor, Ronal, during her convalescence. Some time later, Superman learned that Lori had died defending Atlantis.

Sub-Plots & Continuity Notes: The story is mostly one long flashback, aside from the framing sequence with Ronal. I know Lori Lemaris was a recurring character in the pre-CRISIS Superman comics, but I have no idea how much of this version of her story is newly devised by Byrne.

As noted above, it’s said that Lori perished in defense of Atlantis, but there is no footnote or other explanation detailing where or how this happened.

Friday, August 3, 2018

JAMES BOND WILL RETURN...

...but when?

Folks, for the first time ever, I'm ceasing a review series before it's done. A number of factors have combined to get me so far behind on this thing that I haven't even started reading the next storyline, "Thunderball", yet. And for an explanation, it's time to turn back the curtain a bit.

Since my son was born, I've found that I have a lot less quiet time at home (obviously). And by the time he's asleep at night, all I usually want to do is vegetate, chat with my wife, watch some TV, and go to bed -- but evening used to be when I did the bulk of my reading, whether for pleasure or for the blog. However, the past couple years, I've found that I do most of my blog reading on my lunch hour at work. I can read an issue, type up a quick post, and then return to it the next day for proofreading. What this reliance on my lunch break for reading means, though, is that since I don't want to lug big books of comic strips or what-have-you to the office and back every day, many of my reviews nowadays are being done from digital books.

Thus the dark secret behind all the recent Digital Unboxings is revealed. While I am totally on board with digital as a format, as I've said before, I've also found it to be a necessity recently in order to keep the blog running. The ongoing Superman and Wonder Woman reviews are all being done with digital collections, and nearly all of my Friday posts over the past year or two have been from digital material as well. I still like reading physical books; it's just harder to find the time for it!

So, getting back to Bond -- I just haven't kept up on this as I'd hoped, and I'm now forced to throw in the towel. I could try to do a few more "skip weeks" to get back on track, but at this point I'd rather just focus on this fall's project instead. Since the blog began, it's been Transformers every year, but this time it will be a new toy tie-in saga instead, and it's one I'm looking forward to (and it's in digital format, so delays should not become an issue as with Bond). I fully intend to finish these 007 strips eventually, but it won't happen this year.

I hope everyone will accept my apologies for leaving this project half-finished (at least for now). There were four more Fridays of Bond scheduled, with today being one of them. I'd like to post something over the next three weeks, even if it's just editorials or Unboxings on a different day of the week than usual, but it's also entirely possible nothing will go up. However, come August 31st, we'll be back in action. And of course, Superman and Wonder Woman will continue to dominate Mondays through the end of the year.

Monday, July 30, 2018

ACTION COMICS #594 & BOOSTER GOLD #23

“ALL THAT GLISTERS”
Story & Pencils: John Byrne | Inks: John Byrne & Keith Williams
Coloring: Tom Ziuko | Lettering: John Costanza | Editing: Michael Carlin

“BLIND OBSESSION”
Story & Pencils: Dan Jurgens | Inks: Roy Richardson
Letters: Steve Haynie | Colors: Gene D’Angelo | Editor: Barbara Randall

The Plot: (ACTION 594) On “Superman Day” in Metropolis, local hero Booster Gold goes on an anti-Superman crusade, demolishing a statue in the Man of Steel’s honor, speaking out against him at a press conference, and even kidnapping the mayor’s daughter to draw Superman out. When Superman finds Booster, they have a brief skirmish which sees the latter triumph over an unusually weak Superman. Then a second Booster Gold arrives, declaring the first to be an imposter.

(BOOSTER 23) Booster fights the imposter, eventually realizing it’s an android, and destroys it to find a small chunk of Kryptonite inside. Superman realizes Lex Luthor must be behind the charade, and a moment later Luthor dispatches an operative called Attack Dog One against Superman and Booster. Attack Dog One retrieves the Kryptonite with a small flying pod which leaves the scene of the fight. But with the Kryptonite gone, Superman finds himself back to full power. He easily defeats Attack Dog One and makes uneasy peace with Booster.

Sunday, July 29, 2018

THE UNBOXING - JULY 2018

I'm getting this one in just under the wire for the month, but there's a reason: I picked something up at Comic-Con that I wanted to include for our July Unboxing. First, however, a quick Digital Unboxing: You'll recall that just last month, I grabbed digital versions of a bunch of Dark Horse's USAGI YOJIMBO SAGA books, with plans to get the remaining, earlier Usagi stuff from Fantagraphics whenever they had a sale. Well, that time came sooner than expected, with a linewide Comixology/Amazon sale of the publisher's wares just this month. As such, I picked up USAGI YOJIMBO BOOK 1: THE RONIN, USAGI YOJIMBO BOOK 2: SAMURAI, USAGI YOJIMBO BOOK 3: THE WANDERER'S ROAD, USAGI YOJIMBO BOOK 4: THE DRAGON BELLOW CONSPIRACY, USAGI YOJIMBO BOOK 5: LONE GOAT AND KID, USAGI YOJIMBO BOOK 6: CIRCLES, and USAGI YOJIMBO BOOK 7: GEN' STORY, making me (as far as I know) the proud owner of all collected Usagi stories to date.


I also took advantage of a Viz sale to grab DRAGON BALL SUPER vol. 1, vol. 2, and vol. 3, adapting the ongoing TV series into a manga format (which is totally the opposite of the original DRAGON BALL/DRAGON BALL Z, which was a manga adapted to television.

And now the biggy: from IDW (in cooperation with Marvel), the John Byrne's X-Men Artifact Edition. There have been a few of IDW's "Artist Edition" books which have intrigued me; specifically the John Romita Spider-Man books and the Walter Simonson Thor book, but I've always balked a bit at the price and considered them non-essential items. This, however, is the first in the series which really piqued my interest, and which I considered a must-have.


So since I had wanted the book anyway, when I saw IDW offering an SDCC exclusive version with an alternate cover, signed and hand-numbered by Byrne himself, I jumped to pre-order, and picked it up the first day of the show. I've only skimmed it so far, but it's really nice -- and it's huge! This is the first Artist Edition book I've seen in person, and even though I know how big comic book art pages are, it's still larger than I expected. I can't wait to really sit down and peruse this thing.

But for now, that's it. Will there be an Unboxing in August? Last year that started a three-month stretch of nothing. This time, I guess we'll find out together.

Friday, July 27, 2018

JAMES BOND NEWSPAPER STRIPS PART 5

"FROM A VIEW TO A KILL" | "FOR YOUR EYES ONLY"
June 26th, 1961 - December 9th, 1961
Written by Henry Gammidge | Illustrated by John McLusky

So. There was a movie made in 1985 -- Roger Moore's final outing as James Bond -- called A VIEW TO A KILL. The title is one word shy of a short story written by Ian Fleming and released in 1960 -- and that's literally the only similarity between the two. A VIEW TO A KILL is a horrible movie about Christopher Walken trying to blow up Silicon Valley while a near-fossilized James Bond (57-year-old [!] Roger Moore) tries to stop him. "From a View to a Kill" is a tale which pushes Bond, as was the case in MOONRAKER, into the role of detective, and he's sent to France to investigate the murder of a dispatch rider ferrying important documents from the headquarters of the Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE) to the country's British Secret Service outpost.


Bond spends makes time with a secret service agent named Mary Ann Russell while investigating the grounds around the base and the path traveled by the rider, eventually learning that he was killed by a Russian agent masquerading as a fellow dispatcher. Bond thwarts the Russians as expected, and the tale comes to an end.

There's a lot of jousting in this story between MI6 and SHAPE, which is kind of fun to see -- basically the entire reason M sends Bond on this mission is to show up SHAPE by having his agent solve the mystery after they've given up. I confess that I've never quite understood the title of this story -- the movie version actually makes a bit more sense to me despite its corny shoehorning into the script -- but now that I've actually read it, I think the idea is that Bond is sitting on a Paris street, enjoying a meal and admiring the view, when he's summoned into action and winds up eventually killing some guys.

That's the best I can come up with, anyway.

Monday, July 23, 2018

WONDER WOMAN #10 & #11

“PARADISE LOST!” | “FIRE AND TORMENT”
Plot & Pencils: George Pérez | Script: Len Wein | Inks: Bruce D. Patterson
Letterer: John Costanza | Colorist: Carl Gafford | Editor: Karen Berger

The Plot: (Issue 10) Following Princess Diana’s defeat of Ares, Zeus has decided to reward the Amazons by making love to them, beginning with Diana. He summons her but she rebuffs him, and Hera pulls Zeus back to Olympus. Soon, Diana is summoned to appear before the gods, where she’s told by Zeus that she must complete a series of tasks beneath Paradise Island. Upon finishing the tasks, she will find Zeus’s “greatest treasure” and return it to him, earning the Amazons’ freedom—but if she fails, Zeus declares the Amazons will be lost.

Soon, Diana enters the vault beneath Paradise Island, which the Amazons have guarded for centuries. Immediately, she battles a demon called Cottus and kills it. But no sooner is Cottus defeated, than Diana finds herself confronted by a hydra.

(Issue 11) As Zeus and the gods watch, Diana battles and defeats the hydra, losing all her weapons, save her lasso, in the process. While Diana lays passed out from the ordeal, on Paradise Island a vulture appears to Hippolyte, sending her racing toward the vault. Meanwhile, Diana wakes up and continues her mission, coming face-to-face with a creature called Echidna, which uses her fear against her.

The Amazon warrior Philippus fights Hippolyte to keep her from interfering in Diana’s mission, but Hippolyte defeats her and proceeds into the vault. Below, Diana beats Echidna as well, and plummets into an illusory ocean which quickly drains. As she finds herself looking at a vintage American fighter jet, Diana is greeted by the a woman dressed in her armor who claims to be her namesake.

Friday, July 20, 2018

THE COMIC-CON UPDATE

As promised not too long ago, it's time for a second skip-week in the ongoing James Bond newspaper strip project. Due to a number of factors, I've fallen behind on that reading -- and one reason for the problem is that I'm here in sunny San Diego this week for Comic-Con. The convention just started yesterday, but since I like to have something to go up on Fridays even if it's not my normally scheduled post, here's your (drum roll) Comic-Con Update (one day in)!

And... it’s not much. I went to one panel yesterday; the STAR WARS: THE CLONE WARS Tenth Anniversary retrospective. It was fun; series producer/co-creator Dave Filoni told some stories along with the other guests. They all lamented the series’ premature cancellation and showed some concept art to tease what would have come if the show hadn’t been yanked.

Then, to close things out, Filoni said that he had something to show the fans who had supported the show over the years. The lights went down and a trailer rolled. New footage appeared, along with the tagline “A war left unfinished... until now.” They has tricked us! This was no post-mort for a series cancelled before its time! It was an announcement that the show would be coming back next year!

The crowd went nuts. It was a really cool moment, and though it was, like I said, the only panel I went to yesterday, it was more than sufficient to allow me to call the day a win.

Next week: more James Bond, though I’m still way behind on my reading. This project may yet have further hiccups, but I guess we’ll find out together...