Saturday, April 30, 2005

Archie Comics - Trying New Things

I really think that Archie Comics in the late 80s/early 90s should be applauded for their approach to their line of comics.

What Archie did was NOT to stick with what got them there, their "tried and true" approach, but rather, they tried big risks (almost all of the risks did not pan out, with their only successful launch being the most traditional of all the launches, but the key point is not that they did not work, but that they were willing to TAKE them in the first place). They launched titles that were not "what the fans are clamoring for," but rather, they were titles that Archie Comics thought that the fans WOULD be interested in.

These comics included:

Jughead's Diner

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In this offbeat comic, Jughead found himself the head of a transdimensional diner! Talk about a weird book! This book was all over the place in humor, as jokes could quite literally come out of nowhere!

Faculty Funnies

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Yes, that's right - a comic starring the teachers at Riverdale High School - as SUPERHEROES!!

Dilton's Strange Science

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Dilton, the really smart kid...with his OWN title!!


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This series opened up with an interesting concept - Veronica travels to a different location every issue. That part was dropped fairly quickly (by #20, I believe), but the title is the LONE representative of this class of books to still be published by Archie today.

Archie 3000

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I think you can gather what THIS book was about...hehe.

In addition, there was another title that I could not find a picture of, called Archie's R/C Racers. It was, as you may imagine, a comic book about Archie and his radio controlled race cars.

Trippy, eh?

I think the willingness to take chances still exists at Archie today, as seen by Archie's manga experiment with Sabrina the Teenage Witch (which I think is paying off well).

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So, congrats, Archie Comics! You are a rare breed!!!

Friday, April 29, 2005

Take All Kinds of Pills to Get All Kinds of Thrills...

... But the thrill we’ve never known
Is the thrill that’ll getcha
When you get your picture
On the cover of the Rolling Stone. - Shel Silverstein

Today, I'd like to show you some notable first COVER appearances of some famous comic book characters.

Obviously, a good deal of characters made their first cover appearance in the comic that they first were introduced.

Well, that's pretty boring, no?

So instead, I am going to show you some characters who took awhile to first grace the cover of a comic book.

Superboy made his first appearance in More Fun Comics #101, but took three issues before he made his first cover appearance.

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This was a quick turnaround compared to Lex Luthor, who first appeared in Action Comics #23 (1940), but did not appear on the cover of a comic book until Action Comics #47.

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Not the most flattering of shots either, is it?

Lois Lane had a longer wait than Lex, as she appeared in the very first Action Comics in 1938, but had to wait until Action Comics #27 to make a cover appearance.

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Aquaman, though, had to suffer the worst indignity, as he made his first appearance in More Fun Comics in 1941, but had to wait almost TWENTY YEARS, until the Justice League made their cover appearance in 1960's Brave and the Bold #28, for his first time appearing on a comic book cover!!

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Spider-Man's supporting cast likewise, had long waits until they made their first cover appearances.

The very FIRST supporting cast member to make a cover appearance was Flash Thompson, gracing the cover of Amazing Spider-Man #8.

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J. Jonah Jameson was next, appearing on the cover of Amazing Spider-Man #25.

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Mary Jane's first full appearance came in Amazing Spider-Man #42 (she had been mentioned or had made obscured appearances for many issues before that) and she made her cover debut in Amazing Spider-Man #59

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That same year, everyone else got their due when Amazing Spider-Man Annual #4 came out, with cover appearances for Aunt May, Gwen Stacy, Harry Osborn, Uncle Ben, Robbie Robertson and Captain Stacy.

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But if you do not count Annuals, it took until 1970 for Aunt May to make an appearance on the cover of Amazing Spider-Man!

I will be back some other day to do this game with some other characters!

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Ode to Giffen

Here is an old chestnut I dug up from early late 2003.

It is inspired by John Keats' "Ode to a Nightengale" (By INSPIRED, I of course mean totally plagarized from John Keats' "Ode to a Nightengale")...

"Ode to Giffen"

My heart aches, and a lousy comic numbs
My sense, as though a Liefeld book I had read,
Or worse, some Raab/Kavanaugh story too dumb
to mention, too bad not to dread:
'Tis not that Jurgens' JLA was so bad,
But being compared to Giffen's high,
That JL/I/E/OU, glorious in its measure,
A good comparison would hardly be had;
Especially Jurgens' half-assed try,
Thereby numbing my reading pleasure.

O, for art of vintage Giffen for me to see,
Like back in the days of the Great Darkness,
A style mainstream, yet unique enough for me,
Enough that I look back at it with Great Fondness!
O for an ongoing series full of his drawing,
Full of Saturn Girl, Chameleon Boy...and Darkseid,
With his grim visage that we saw,
His purple head incredibly awing;
And the pawns of Daxam arriving to further turn the tide,
Levitz always had plenty for Giffen to draw:

Fade away, dissolve, and now quite forget
What style of Giffen's art you once had known,
But do not be weary and please do not fret
For his newer style should not make you groan;
Where there now grows on his head a few, sad, gray hairs,
Where youth grows pale and there's a change in his eyes;
Where there is thought that he's full of sorrow
And perhaps some despairs,
There is instead a glorious, wonderful surprise,
For Giffen's style, like Bob Dylan's, is all about to-morrow.

Away! Away! The style of old,
Like Dylan, Giffen is not concerned with the views of the populace,
So now, instead of lines so bold,
Giffen has lines slightly amiss:
Where once was light
And cheery like the glades
And evervescent views,
Giffen now draws like the night,
With sweeping gray shades,
Like Dylan's Tom Thumb, he now sings the blues.

It's this shade of Gray, I say
Defines his writing, as well,
For his heroes have feet of clay
Which fit the stories that he would tell.
Blue and Gold, Fire & Ice, Guy Gardner and Maxwell Lord:
Nary a writer post-Giffen could clean of the dirt you
Would need to see their heroism unwind;
For those like Jones and Jurgens quickly got bored
With heroes whose virtue
Was not instantly visible to their mind;

So Maxwell Lord became a villain,
And Guy Gardner a transforming alien,
And the Legion writers were more than willin'
To make that book a reverse Pygmalian;
Now there's no gray shades, only Black and White,
Demonstratiing a lack of imagination:
Even though the books began to lose money!
Still, the writers felt that they were right,
And that Giffen's work was an abomination,
After all, he did commit the awful sin of making comics funny!

That's right, That's right, How could I have slipped?
I have not mentioned Giffen's greatest gift,
The voice of humor that deftly wripped
Off the veil of seriousness and gave comics a lift;
He started with Ambush Bug, the Fourth Wall
Smashing down scamp, but it was
On JL/I/A/E/OU where he really made his mark;
It started with #8 and that laughing call,
What blasted Giffen's humor book right out of the park.

Don't get me wrong, Giffen has had some bad luck,
His scripting has led to some unfortunate text,
Take Trencher, for example (come on, WTF?),
Yet I'll always be there, no matter what comes next.
Adieu! Adieu! As my thoughts of Giffen ends,
No more can I dream of a funny JLA book,
Or heroes who are not perfect through and through,
Except ,of course, the back issues, where lay my friends,
But wait, why give me that funny look?
Formerly Known As The ....Who....?

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Fun With Cover Homages for 4/27!

Here is a fun Legion website.

From that site, we find a bunch of fun homages to the cover of the Legion of Super Heroes' first appearance.

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It always amuses me how these things sometimes go DECADES with no homages and then, like, 4 within a few years of each other.

Well, however they occur, they are still pretty cool, no?

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Your Mission: Name A Scene In a Comic Cooler Than This

Please note that I am not saying that there ISN'T a scene in comics cooler than the following scene, just that I cannot think of any off the top of my head.

And if there ARE scenes in comics cooler than this, then I sure as heck would love to hear about them, so I can either

A. Give them the credit they deserve


B. Read them if I somehow managed to miss them.

In any event, here is what, as of this moment, I think is the coolest scene in comics that I can recall.

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So your mission is to find me a cooler scene!

Monday, April 25, 2005

What IS up with the cover of Fantastic Four #1?

On the Comic Book Resources forum, Kurt Mitchell came up with a great (and funny) question about the cover of Fantastic Four #1 that sadly was wiped out when the forum was rebooted in May of 2004.

However, I figure it is just way too cool not to share with everyone, so, well, I will now...hehe.

First, let us look at the cover.

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Now here is the question....who tied Mr. Fantastic up?

Certainly not the monster!


I just want to make sure that everyone has a chance to read my "Welcome" post, where I mention that I am totally open for people e-mailing me stuff that they love about comics that they would like me to share with everyone else as blog entries.


Sunday, April 24, 2005

Trenchcoats Make Everything Cooler

Trenchcoats are cool.

This is an indisputed fact.

Comic books knew this, and almost as soon as there WERE comic book heroes, there were folks in trenchcoats.

Slam Bradley was known to sport one from time to time while doing his detective work, as did fellow detective Speed Saunders.

The most popular of the early trenchcoat wearers, though, was probably Dr. Occult.

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Dr. Occult was basically Slam Bradley and Speed Saunders, only more occult-y. His two-fisted adventures proved to last a little bit longer than the other two characters.

The most popular of the the trenchcoat heroes, though, was the Phantom Stranger. He was the first trenchcoat fella to get his OWN series!

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He was also the first trenchcoat hero to join the Justice League!

Trenchcoat heroes had a lull period in the 60s, 70s and most of the 80s, with only Phantom Stranger really keeping the coolness alive.

Then John Constantine appeared in the pages of Swamp Thing, and people remember just how cool trenchcoats were!

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Within a few years of the launch of John Constantine's trenchcoat's comic, Marvel let loose some two-fisted action of their own!

First, they introduced Gambit into the pages of Uncanny X-Men.

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Gambit's trenchcoat was so cool that even when the X-Men all started wearing matching costumes, Gambit managed to keep his coat.

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Next, the original Ghost Rider, Johnny Blaze, returned...and he was packing trenchcoat!

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Even former sidekicks got into the action, as Captain America's former sidekick, Nomad, got his own comic (conveniently timed with when he began wearing a trenchcoat. Coincidence? I think not).

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Soon, even established heroes were getting jealous. THEY wanted to be cool as well!

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The recent success of the Sin City movie should come as no surprise to anyone.

After all, Frank Miller knew enough to make all three of his protagonists wear trenchcoats!

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Finally, DC eventually realized just what was selling, and in 1999, they put together possibly THE coolest comic ever...

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Am I missing any great trenchcoated heroes?

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Diana Prince - Forgotten Classic

My pal Tadhg was telling me that in the recent "Wonder Woman: The Ultimate Guide to the Amazon Princess" book by Scott Beatty, there is NO mention of the "Diana Prince" era of Wonder Woman!

That is a shame.

If you do not already know of this, in late 1968, Mike Sekowsky totally revamped the Wonder Woman comic (along with Denny O'Neill on scripts and Dick Giordano on inks).

Here is the cover of the first issue...

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The basic idea is that Wonder Woman gives up her powers when the Amazons leave this dimension, so she must become "Diana Prince."

In #180, we meet I-Ching, a blind former monk who trains Diana as a martial artist.

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In the same issue, Steve Trevor is killed off!! In fact, Sekowsky was quite upfront about his reasons for killing off Trevor, "Steve Trevor was dull and boring and I didn't like him much so I disposed of him."

Sekowksy contines his run on Wonder Woman for the next two plus years (the book was bi-monthly at the time), and had Diana open up a dress shop as her home base while going on many exciting missions with I-Ching.

Over the run, here outfits changed...

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Diana with a machine gun!!!

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Sadly, though, in the last issue of the run, I-Ching was murdered and Wonder Woman was given amnesia. When the Amazons returned her memories (and her powers), they left out her memories of her experiences as just plain "Diana Prince."

Still, the run exists as a daring example of forward thinking in comics!

As Sekowsky so bluntly put it,
The old Wonder Woman was dropped because the sales on the old WW were so bad that the book was going to be dropped. The new Wonder Woman was given a chance -- (a last chance for the book) and it worked!... Super characters... aren't doing too well with today's readers -- and it's to today's readers that we must cater to, not to a bunch of old fuddy duddys who only look back... As for my hollering about WW's sales, I can honestly say that I am quite pleased to have taken a sow's ear and turned it into a silk purse.... I personally feel that too many of DC's stories are still being written and plotted for the year 1940 instead of 1970....
Well put, eh?

I got the Sekowsky quotes from an amazing piece on the Diana Prince run by Carol Strickland that you can find here.

Friday, April 22, 2005

I Yams What I Yam...And Apparantly I Yam A Superman Cast Member

I always get a kick out of this, so I figured I would finally actually post it.

In the early 70s, Cary Bates added to the Superman supporting cast....Popeye!!

I know, I know, it sounds unbelievable, but it is true.

In Action Comics #421, Bates and Curt Swan combined to tell us the tale of "The Fantastic Feats of Captain Strong."

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Captain Strong and his wife Olivia travelled the sea on his boat, and occasionally, when the situation arose, Captain Strong would injest some suancha. Sauncha was an alien seaweed that Strong had found.

He appeared in about five Superman comics over the next eight years, even making an appearance as recently as 1985!!

Comics can be weird...hehe.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Cover Credits Are Cool!!

One of the things we have in modern comics that we may take for granted, but it was a long time coming, is credits on the cover of the comic for the people working on the book.

For the longest time, comics pretty much pretended that they didn't HAVE creators, except for guys like Bob Kane.

This changed in the 60s, with the Marvel explosion, and then, creators began to be credited more and more, until the point where it would be extremely rare to see a book without a creator listed, DC or Marvel.

However, the names still were left off the cover.

The comic that changed that, I believe, was DC's New Teen Titans (talk about cool comic coincidence, I was just talking about them yesterday!), and specifically, the acclaimed "Who Is Donna Troy?" story from New Teen Titans #38.

The story was so gripping (and the creative team for the title was so acclaimed), that they gave Wolfman and Perez a creator credit on the cover.

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This was then followed by the Baxter series launches of Legion of Super Heroes and New Teen Titans, both of which gave cover creator credits to their acclaimed creative team.

After that, they would occur on a few DC books, until John Byrne and Marv Wolfman relaunched the Superman titles and a bunch of other DC titles were relaunched (Justice League, Flash, Wonder Woman, et al). Then the cover creator credits began appearing on every DC title.

This practice continues to this day.

Marvel, however, was slower to catch on...which is odd, considering how much more creator-driven Marvel has been over the years (and especially the time period being covered here, late 80s to early 90s).

However, eight years after DC first started doing it (not counting prestige format series, like Daredevil: Man Without Fear), Marvel finally gave cover creator credits during the Crossing crossover between the Avengers titles.

Then, two years later, Marvel launched their "World's Greatest Comics" promotion, which included gatefold interior covers to give the readers recaps (at the cost of NO story pages!) and also creator credits on the cover.

This is the standard today.

Which is good, because cover creator credits are cool!!

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Fun With Cover Homages for 4/20

New Teen Titans was a huge success for DC, but it is funny that they did not even do a cover homage until the very last issue of Wolfman's run...but there have been FOUR since!

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The last one, by the way, is a book written by Wolfman.

Did I miss any?

Stone Soup Writing

If you are not familar with the story, Stone Soup is basically a story about how people do not realize what they have some times, and what might seem to be a pile of junk by their owners can be combined into a tasty soup.

Well, I love it when writers realize what cool stuff they have laying around and use characters well.

This is not to say that I want some hardcore continuity adherence, just for more writers to look at the older stories and say, "Hey, that character is pretty darn cool."

Some recent examples of this cool trend...

- Christos Gage on Deadshot. Gage basically just reread Ostrander's Suicide Squad and Deadshot mini-series and saw how many super cool stories could be told with this character, and, well, he did.

- Peter Milligan on Toxin. Part of the reason Toxin #1 is surprisingly good is because Milligan adds extra depth to characters like King Cobra, Mr. Hyde and Razorfist. This is just like what he did on Elekra with Killer Shrike and others.

- Tony Bedard on Spider-Man: Breakout. Tony Bedard took some old villains, and does a great job telling new stories while using their old personalities. Very impressive to me.

Can anyone think of any other examples?

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Who Was the Oddest Super Pet?

Now Superman had Krypto, who was pretty weird...but I dunno, a kryptonian dog really does not seem to be stretching it TOO much.

The same, I think, would have to go for all of Supergirl's pets. The horse, the monkey and the cat.

So who does that leave us with?

I suggest either of the following...

1. Ace the Bat Hound.

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Now, the idea of Batman having a dog really is not THAT odd. I mean, dogs can be pretty useful. No, the thing that makes it super odd to me is that he gave Ace a MASK! A MASK, people! So that, you know, people wouldn't guess Ace's secret identity!!! Hahah...Batman must have been really bored that day, no? "No crime tonight? Ah well...hey, let's make the dog a costume!"

2. Streak the Wonder Dog.

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I do not know if I even should have mentioned Ace, as that was a bit dishonest, as I sorta knew I was going to go with Streak from the beginning.

Streak was Alan Scott's dog, and he was basically like Lassie. The kicker, though, was that Streak became so popular (or Alan became so UNpopular) that, by the end of Green Lantern's own series, two of the last four covers on the title belonged ONLY to Streak!!!

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Image hosted by, Alan Scott must have been soooo embarrassed. That Streak sure liked leaping, didn't he?

In any event, Streak the Wonder Dog is my pick for oddest super pet.

What do you folks think?