Sunday, 30 December 2012

2013 Comics Resolutions Part One

So many great comics so little time!  I have decided to make a list of six comic runs or series I must read (or re-read) during 2013.  Here are the first three:

Peter Parker's sad demise at the hands of Dan Slott and Disney has prompted a yearning to re-read Silver Age Amazing Spider-man. I aim to read the entire sixties run and continue through to the death of Gwen Stacy.  Stan Lee, Steve Ditko and John Romita established a legend.  Reading these classic tales will remind me of Peter Parker's ascent to greatness.

Amazing Spider-man #41 (October 1963)
Pencil Art by John Romita, inks: Mike Esposito

Friday, 28 December 2012

Happy Birthday Stan Lee!

Stan Lee is celebrating his ninetieth birthday today!  A milestone that must be acknowledged.

Stan Lee
Stan Lee is the most famous comics creator of all time.  To the general public Stan = comics = superheroes. We comics fans regularly discuss the most minute contributions made by creators to the comics mythos and often ignore the vast influence of Stan.  For a period of years every time I surfed the comics related web invariably the words "Stan Lee" would launch a bitter tirade from die hard Kirby fans. This may be some sort of justice for the distorted public perception that Stan created everything but to my mind did not address  the following:

Monday, 24 December 2012

Marvel Comics The Untold Story

I just finished reading Marvel Comics The Untold Story by Sean Howe and if you have not already read it I can most heartily recommend it.  Sean Howe provides an engaging narrative covering the entire history of The House of Ideas, re-enforcing some of my opinions and opening my eyes regarding some of the characters behind the scenes.

Saturday, 15 December 2012

Captain America by Jim Steranko

Captain America by Jim Steranko, inks:Joe Sinnott, script: Stan Lee
Captain America #111 (March 1969)
To my mind Jim Steranko is the second greatest Captain America artist ever and he only drew three books! Pencils on #110 and #111 with inks by Joe Sinnott and script and pencils on #113 which was inked by Tom Palmer.  Each issue is a true classic.

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Batman Odyssey by Neal Adams

I still haven't managed to finish reading Batman Odyssey by Neal Adams.  I have one more issue to go, I keep putting the issues on top of my reading pile but something (anything) catches my attention instead.
Batman with guns by Neal Adams

Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Creepy in the Sixties

Warren launched Creepy in 1964 and took the inspiration for the black and white publication from the classic EC horror comics of the fifties. 
Creepy #1 (1964)
Art by Jack Davis

Thursday, 30 August 2012

Weird War Tales

Weird War Tales was launched by DC in 1971 under Editor Joe Kubert to exploit the relaxation of  the Comics Code.  Vampires, ghouls, werewolves and other supernatural subjects were now allowed and DC were taking advantage with horror/mystery titles such as House of Mystery, House of Secrets and Witching Hour so Weird War Tales was an attempt to present war stories with a horror/mystery twist.  The first issue was cover dated September/October 1971.
Weird War Tales #1 (September/October 1971)
Art by Joe Kubert

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

DC Big 5 War Comics: G I Combat

The final title in my overview of DC's Big 5 War Comics did not originate with DC but was a Quality Comic Publication that DC continued to publish after purchasing the company.  DC also continued to publish Quality's Blackhawk but chose not to hand Blackhawk to Editor Bob Kanigher as they did with G I Combat.  Quality launched G I Combat in 1952 hot on the heels of DC's Our Army at War, Star-Spangled War Stories and All-American Men of War.
G I Combat #1 (October 1952)
Art by Reed Crandall

Friday, 24 August 2012

DC Big 5 War Comics: Our Fighting Forces

DC had successfully entered the war comics market in 1952 with Our Army at War, Star-Spangled War Stories and All-American Men of War and so Editor Bob Kanigher was instructed to launch another title and Our Fighting Forces was the result, making its debut cover dated October/November 1954.
Our Fighting Forces #1 (October/November 1954)
Art by Jerry Grandenetti
The comic followed the tried and tested formula of the other war anthologies and featured high quality art from the best in the business including Jerry Grandenetti, Russ Heath, Joe Kubert, Ross Andru and Irv Novick.
Our Fighting Forces #21 (May 1957)
Art by Joe Kubert

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

DC Big 5 War Comics: All-American Men of War

All-American Comics is one of the most important titles in DC history as it shared its title with its original publisher All-American Publications which alongside National Allied Publications and Detective Comics evolved into what we now know as DC Comics.  The first issue was cover dated April 1939 and was an anthology covering humour and adventure stories.
All-American Comics #1 (April 1939)
Art by Sheldon Mayer
No single character dominated the cover until the debut of Green Lantern in #16 (July 1940).

Monday, 20 August 2012

DC Big 5 War Comics: Star-Spangled War Stories

Star-Spangled Comics was launched by DC in 1941 as a superhero anthology title featuring Star-Spangled Kid by Jerry Seigel and Hal Sherman.
Star Spangled Comics #1 (October 1941)
Art by Hal Sherman
Star-Spangled Kid remained as the cover star until #7 (April 1942) with the debut of Guardian and the Newsboy Legion by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby.

Thursday, 16 August 2012

DC Big 5 War Comics: Our Army at War

I started to write this post before I heard about the death of the legendary Joe Kubert. Readers of this blog will be aware of my love of the art that Joe created over his long career.  During the course of my next few posts I will be writing about DC war books and there will be a lot of Joe's art involved.  Joe Kubert was and remains an absolute legend.

DC Comics are attempting to revive their once great line of war comics.  As part of the New 52 they launched a new Men of War title and revived Blackhawks, both were cancelled after eight issues.  Blackhawks had gone through many re-vamps and re-boots over the years and whilst I enjoyed some of the incarnations of the group I have never really considered it to be a war comic in the same way as I viewed G I Combat.  Men of War was an attempt to relaunch a revered DC war title and update the character Sgt. Rock.  The New 52 continuity is still evolving and I am not sure if the "real" Sgt. Rock existed in this new time line. DC has not given up as they replaced Men of War with a new G I Combat containing revamps of The War That Time Forgot and Unknown Soldier, both stalwarts of Star-Spangled War Stories.

Personally I think what DC are attempting with their war comics is impossible to achieve.  The youth of today can get their military fix from Code of Duty or any one of many combat games on the market.  Most of the customers interested in military comics would probably be happy with monthly anthology re-prints from DC's Big 5 War Comics illustrated by great artists such as Russ Heath, Joe Kubert, John Severin, Ross Andru and Jerry Grandenetti.  Over the course of my next five posts I will be providing an overview of each of DC's Big 5: Our Fighting Forces, All-American Men of War, Star-Spangled War Stories, G I Combat, and to kick things off, Our Army at War.

Our Army at War #1 (August 1952)
Pencil Art by Carmine Infantino, inks: Joe Giella

Monday, 6 August 2012

Top 5 Team-Up Books: The Brave and The Bold

The best team-up book in my personal top 5 will come as no surprise and is The Brave and The Bold,

1 - The Brave and The Bold (DC Comics)

Brave and The Bold #50 (October/November 1963)
Art by George Roussos
Launched in August 1955 as an adventure comic by legendary writer/editor Bob Kanigher, the comic went through many changes of direction and famously launched the Justice League of America in #28 (February/March 1960) under the editorial direction of Julius Schwartz.  The team-up concept was suggested to an incoming editorial team of Murray Boltinoff and George Kashdan by Bob Haney and first appeared in #50 (October/November 1963).

Saturday, 4 August 2012

Top 5 Team-Up Books: Marvel Two-in-One

In Silver medal position in my run down of my personal list of the top 5 team-up books, just edging out Marvel Team-Up, is Marvel Two-in-One starring the ever lovin', blue-eyed, idol o' millions, Benjamin Grimm.

2 - Marvel Two-in-One (Marvel Comics)
Marvel Two-in-One #1 (January 1974)
Pencil Art by Gil Kane, inks: John Romita

The concept of a Thing team-up series originated with Marvel Feature #12 - #13 (September 1973 - November 1973) and continued for 100 issues from January 1974 to June 1983.  I was lucky enough to pick up the first Marvel Feature issue that paired the Thing with the Hulk, how could I possibly pass up the opportunity to read a comic with a cover like this:

Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Top 5 Team-Up Books: Marvel Team-Up

Previously I have revealed the number 4 and 5 books in my personal list of top 5 team-up books: World's Finest Comics and Super-Villain Team-Up respectively. Now it is time for the book in the bronze medal position:

3 - Marvel Team-Up (Marvel Comics)

Spider-man with various co-stars
Art by John Byrne

Monday, 30 July 2012

Top 5 Team-Up Books: World's Finest Comics

The next title in my personal top 5 team-up books contained tales pairing the Dark Knight detective with the Man of Steel for most of its long history:

4 - World's Finest Comics (DC Comics)

World's Finest #207 (November 1971)
Pencil art by Curt Swan, inks: Murphy Anderson

Originating as World's Best Comics for one issue (Spring 1941) before assuming its long running title for 323 issues (Summer 1941 - January 1986) until Crisis on Infinite Earths killed it off.

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Top 5 Team-Up Books: Super-Villain Team-Up

Whenever I could I would buy a team up book.  I loved reading about unfamiliar characters and how they interacted with more established heroes such as Spider-man or Batman.  If it was a Marvel Comic they would obviously fight first and then join forces to beat the villain.  If it was The Brave and the Bold, written by Bob Haney, all you knew was that absolutely anything could happen even if it contradicted everything previously written about a character. Here is the first of my top 5 team up books:

5 - Super-Villain Team-Up (Marvel Comics)

Pencil art by John Buscema, inks by Frank Giacoia

Sunday, 1 July 2012

Major Eazy

Major Eazy, art by Carlos Ezquerra
Major Eazy epitomised the best aspects of Battle Picture Weekly.  He was cool and unconventional.  Created by Alan Hebden and Carlos Ezquerra as a laconic, irreverent, merciless Nazi-killing, sharp-shooting British officer who had learnt his trade with the Long Range Desert Group in North Africa.  Battle picks up the story in Italy when Eazy takes command of a company of British soldiers and the strip follows their journey as they slog through the hard terrain of the Italian campaign.

Sunday, 24 June 2012

Hulk Foes: Silver Surfer

As a fan of the Hulk and a fan of the Silver Surfer how could I resist Tales to Astonish #93?  The cover alone is enough to justify a purchase!

Tales to Astonish #93 (July 1967)
 Pencil art by Marie Severin, inks by Frank Giacoia

"He Who Strikes The Silver Surfer" by Stan Lee and Marie Severin is a classic early Silver Surfer tale in which the former herald of Galactus anguishes over his banishment to Earth and his inability to soar the spaceways. 

Sunday, 17 June 2012

Father's Day Special: Dads in Comics

It is Father's Day so here is a personal chronological list of Dads in comics:
First appearance in Action Comics #1, June 1938
Created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster

Probably the most important Dad in comics history as he decided to send his son, Kal-El, to Earth where he became the first super-hero.  Without Jor-El there would be no Superman and I wouldn't be writing this blog 74 years later.

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Batman and Superman meet King Arthur

World's Finest #162 (November 1966)
Pencils: Curt Swan, inks: George Klein

I first encountered this story in a DC Annual from the early seventies, may have been Superadventure or DC Comics Bumper Book.  If anyone remembers please  let me know.  Anyway the story has stuck with me for over 40 years so it must be good, right?  You bet it is!

Saturday, 2 June 2012

Joe Kubert Part 2: Enemy Ace

Enemy Ace by Joe Kubert, words by Bob Kanigher
I greatly enjoy war comics.  I grew up reading Commando comics, Battle, Warlord, Victor and other British weeklies in which the second world war was fought endlessly by characters such as Union Jack Jackson, D-Day Dawson, Rat Pack and Major Easy.  I also loved American war comics and DC seemed to be the best as far as I could tell at the time, with Star-Spangled War Stories, G. I. Combat and Our Army at War the titles I tried to seek out.  Towering above all the other war artists was Joe Kubert and his greatest strip, in my opinion, was Enemy Ace.

Saturday, 19 May 2012

Hulk Foes: Captain Omen

Although I love Sal Buscema's work on Incredible Hulk I am nailing my colours to the mast and stating that Herb Trimpe is my favourite Hulk artist.  I believe that the strip did not blossom until Herb took it over from the legendary Marie Severin and it became one of the most consistently enjoyable books Marvel published as the Silver Age slipped into the Bronze.  It didn't hurt to have some stellar writers on the book such as Roy Thomas, Gerry Conway, Steve Englehart and Len Wein, however, it was Herb Trimpe's superb artistry and ability to tell a story that provided the consistency that propelled the book to greatness.  There were many standout issues but I want to focus on a two-parter (#164 and #165, June and July 1973) that introduced Captain Omen.  At this point Steve Englehart was writing the book, a writer who could do no wrong as far as I was concerned, and Sal Trapani was on inks.

Incredible Hulk #164 June 1973 Cover by Herb Trimpe

Friday, 18 May 2012

Hulk: Sal Buscema or Herb Trimpe?

Sal Buscema

Sal Buscema was the main artist on Incredible Hulk from 1975 to 1986, (#194 - #309), give or take a few fill-in issues, and could be considered the definitive Hulk artist of the Silver and Bronze Ages were it not for Herb Trimpe.

Herb Trimpe
Herb Trimpe took over the art on Incredible Hulk in 1968 and handed over the job to Sal in 1975, (#106 - #193), missing only two issues during that time!

So who do you think is the definitive Hulk artist?

Monday, 7 May 2012

They Made The Avengers: John Buscema

The late, great John Buscema for this fan is the definitive Avengers artist.  Jack Kirby may have launched the series and co-created many of the characters but Buscema's tenures on the title left an indelible impression on me.  John made his debut with Avengers #41 (June 1967) and continued on the title as the main artist until #85 (February 1971).  He made guest appearances on the title between 1971 and 1976, his last issue before his second long term commitment to the title was #153 (November 1976).  Fans had to wait nine years before our prayers were answered and John returned with #255 in May 1985.  We then experienced his greatness through to #300 (February 1989).  John's contribution to the Marvel style is often overlooked these days but after Kirby, Ditko and possibly John Romita, Snr, he was probably the most important artist Marvel had in the Silver and Bronze Ages.

Sunday, 6 May 2012

Avengers: Greatest Stories Ever Told

Here it is Avengers fans, the greatest stories ever told about Earth's Mightiest Heroes as selected by yours truly.  Dig them out and read them again or track them down and read them for the first time. Thirty tales listed in chronological order:

The Coming of the Avengers, #1, Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, September 1963

Hulk and Sub-Mariner ,#3, Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, January 1964

Captain America Lives Again, #4, Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, March 1964

Thursday, 3 May 2012

Vision or Red Tornado?

The Avengers had the Vision and the Justice League had Red Tornado, who is your favourite?  Readers of  my previous post, Avengers Assembled, will be in no doubt that I favour Marvel's synthetic being but I am interested in what you think?
Justice League of America #64
Pencil Art by Dick Dillin, inks: George Roussos (August 1968)
Avengers #57
Pencil Art by John Buscems, inks: George Klein (October 1968)

Sunday, 22 April 2012

Avengers Assembled

If you had to pick six Avengers to be on the team who would you pick?  The Avengers Assemble movie has gone with Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, Hulk, Black Widow and Hawkeye.  Mostly obvious choices for the movie audience, Hawkeye being the exception.  Hardcore comics fans will always have a favourite line-up but I am betting most would not favour this six.  Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch's Ultimates updated and re-booted the Avengers in an alternate ultimate Marvel universe in 2002 and the movie takes its tone from their re-imagining.  Samuel L. Jackson may be fanboy heaven as Nick Fury but for this Silver and Bronze Age fan this is not really the Avengers.

The Avengers Pencil Art by Jack Kirby, Inks: George Roussos
Avengers #4 (March 1964)

Saturday, 14 April 2012

Atomic Knights

Atomic Knights John Broome (words) and Murphy Anderson (art)
Strange Adventures #138 DC Comics 1962
Post Third World War apocalyptic devastation! Irradiated invulnerable medieval armour! Giant Dalmatians! Psychic sentient plants! It is DC Comics' Silver Age science fiction series the Atomic Knights.

John Broome (words) Murphy Anderson (art)

Monday, 9 April 2012

Devil Dinosaur

Devil Dinosaur
Pencil art by Jack Kirby
Inks: Frank Giacoia

Jack Kirby returned to Marvel Comics in 1976 and created the ongoing series Devil Dinosaur in 1978.  The comic lasted nine issues before cancellation.

Friday, 6 April 2012

Fury or Rock?

Who is the best sergeant in comics?  Nick Fury or Frank Rock?  Do you like shirt shredding, ammo belt wearing helmetless sergeants or shirt shredding, ammo belt wearing helmeted sergeants? The Howlers or Easy Company? Stan and Jack's Marvel Age take on war or Bob and Joe's premier war icon? Let me know which Silver Age top kick you prefer:
Sgt Fury by Jack Kirby

Sgt Rock by Joe Kubert

Thursday, 5 April 2012

Joe Kubert Part 1

It is a cliche that a picture paints a thousand words and the greatest artists are able to express emotion and movement with a few pencil markings on a page.  The greatest were also storytellers as skilled as the finest cinema directors.

Jack Kirby, Carmine Infantino, Steve Ditko, Gil Kane, Gene Colan, Joe Kubert, Curt Swan, Jim Steranko, Murphy Anderson, Russ Heath, Neal Adams, John Buscema, John Romita, John Severin, Wally Wood, Ramona Fradon, Bruno Premiani, Marie Severin, Jim Mooney, Nick Cardy and Dick Sprang are all on my list of the greatest artists of the Silver Age.

Let's start with Joe Kubert.

Sgt. Rock, Bulldozer, Little Sure Shot, Jackie Johnson, Mlle. Marie, The Losers, the crew of the Haunted Tank and WWI air ace Steve Savage, the Balloon Buster
Art by Joe Kubert

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Silver and Bronze Age Subjects

Having read thousands of comics and read hundreds of blogs about comics I thought it was about time I added my voice to the internet.  I am passionate about the Silver and Bronze Ages of comics.  I think of the Silver Age as starting with the new Comics Code in 1954 and then ending in 1971 when the code was relaxed.  Thus the Bronze Age commenced at this point and ended when DC Comics completed their Crisis on Infinite Earths in 1986.

Crisis on Infinite Earths marked the end of the Bronze Age
Cover by George Perez
Writer: Marv Wolfman
So you can expect me to write about any comic, character or creator published between 1954 and 1986.  Quite a broad sweep of history to cover.