Thursday, January 28, 2010

A Shout-Out to My Fellow Bloggers

Hey gang! I've been a little busy the last couple days launching my new blog The Ghost Who Blogs and I haven't had time to lay any Silver-Age goodies on you. But, while I'm dusting the cobwebs off of my shortboxes, I want to give props to some of my favorite bloggers.

Be sure to stop by Gold Key Comics and see what goodies from the now-defunct Western Publishing archivist-extraordinaire Mykal Banta has put on display. You may also dig Mykal's other comics blogs The Big Blog of Kids' Comics and Star-Studded War Comics. I know I do!

For a little bit of everything, particularly cartoons, hitch-hike over to Rogue Evolent's Roads of Autumn Dusk and say howdy!

And if the bronze -or "Groovy" age of comics is more your thing, check out Diversions of the Groovy Kind. And tell ole' Groove I sent you.

Or, if you prefer the Golden Age, there's always Pappy's Golden Age Comics Blogzine and Lysdexicus' Ten Cent Dreams.

Of course, if you're lookin' for love -comics that is- be sure to stop by Jacque Nodell's Sequential Crush, Spectergirl's As Told to Stan Lee and KB's Out of This World.

And lastly, if you'd like to get the pants scared off'n ya, visit The Apocalyte's Black 'n' White and Red All Over or swing by Karswell's The Horrors of It All.

Well, that's about it for now. Good reading and if I forgot anyone, I'm heartily sorry.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Another Blog? REALLY??

Yes, I've made the crazy decision to start another comics blog. This one is dedicated to the first hero to don a mask and tights and open up a can of whoopass, The Phantom. So, please, feel free to drop by and visit The Ghost Who Blogs. The real action will begin tomorrow when I'll be posting The Phantom #60 from Charton, 1974.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Judo Master- What's Up With the Pony Tail?

I mean, seriously. Why the pony tail? Oh, sure, I know it's a tassel or a plume or something but being yellow, it just looks like you're wearing your flowing, blonde hair in a ponytail. Maybe you could trade in your pants and slippers for a poodle skirt and bobby-socks; listen to some Sinatra records after school and then head to the malt shop. I think you know where this is going.

And before anyone tries to tell me it's a Japanese thing, don't bother. I'm not buying it. Just because the Sumo Wrestler in the background has a ponytail instead of the proper Sumo bun hairdo doesn't let you off the hook, Judo Master.

Maybe that's why you became a master of the martial arts, to fend off all the beatings you got for that sissy-ass pony tail?

Get a haircut, you hippie.

Monday, January 25, 2010

If Nobody Told You He was Blind, This Costume Would have Made you Suspect It.

Let me start here by saying that I am not a big fan of pointless costume makeovers. I prefer Spidey in red and blue (or red and black w/ blue highlights), I like Batman to have trunks over his tights, heck, I even prefer the big, Michelin Man style Iron Man costume. But I have to say when Wally Wood made over Daredevil's suit, it was a no-brainer.

Meaning no disrespect to Bill Everett- the guy invented the Sub-Mariner fer cryin' out loud- and I know that red and yellow look great together (Captain Marvel, Flash, Speedy, Johnny Quick, Judo Master...) but the monochrome red suit looks so much sharper.

And frankly, it makes so much more sense. I mean, it was one thing to name the guy "Daredevil". That just means he's a risk-taker. It's a whole other ball of wax to decide he wears a devil costume AND THEN NOT MAKE IT RED.

Unless your devil-themed hero is the mascot for Duke, red is always the color of devils. I know it, you know it, Hell, even Daffy Duck knows it. So, two issues after Wally Wood took over the art chores for Daredevil, he updated his look with the now-familiar costume:

Ironically, Everett was off the book by the time his new co-creation, Daredevil battled his most famous creation, The Sub-Mariner!

And that suit is so iconic, it's barely changed in 40+years.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Boy, Adoption Sure Was Easier When Clark Was Little!- Superman's Girlfriend, Lois Lane #20

Superman is such a super guy, it would have to be wonderful to be married to him, right? Well, maybe not:

"Is it a big diamond? Did you crush some coal and make me a giant diamond? - Maybe you made us a planet?..."

Honeymoon OVER!

Lois and Clark head to the orphanage where Clark has been cruelly interring Kara ever since she arrived on Earth. They apply for adoption immediately and everything looks good, but wait, apparently in the early 1960's, the ideas of motherhood and a career don't mix:

Okay, that kid is just about ready for college. You're telling me, Lois can't write about fashion shows and inane inventions and Museums of Superstition and what Superman did today while her daughter is at school?

Anyway, Lois sacrifices her career to make Superman happy. And all he does is run off with their daughter all the time and save the world, leaving Lois with the housework. Except Superman vacuums the rugs by inhaling with his super-breath (YUCK!!) and Supergirl, volunteers to do the dishes- with disastrous results:

That snoopy broad in the window who looks suspiciously like Margaret Hamilton as Elmira Gulch in The Wizard of OZ is Mrs. Clayton, the investigator from the orphanage. Mrs. Clayton gets the wrong idea immediately, assuming Lois is lounging around all day while Linda does all the housework. Actually, I guess it is kinda the right idea, but being super, it takes Linda and Clark seconds to clean up, leaving Lois home all day with no-one to talk to but Superman's boring-ass robots:

While Lois is bored to tears, Superman and Supergirl get to go do fun things like this:

This would NEVER work! See my previous rant.

Meanwhile, Lois continues to try to play the role of homemaker. Having wrenched her back, she orders the Linda Lee robot to make the beds. Lois notices that the robot is not performing efficiently and soon spots a loose bolt, which she tries to bang into place with a hairbrush. Women! I don't know how many times I've caught my wife using any convenient, heavy object (no matter how precious) as a hammer, or using a butter knife instead of one of our 15 screwdrivers! The right tool for the right job, ladies. Wait, where was I?:

So, Lois gets caught beating her daughter by that busybody, Mrs. Clayton. Linda is taken away without the benefit of police involvement or a hearing or anything.

But, at least Lois is still married to Superman. I mean, a guy like that, he's got to be super-understanding, right?

Wrong! As per usual, Superman shows his true colors as a selfish jerk.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

This Doctor Still Makes House Calls!-Strange Tales #120

"Not often does Doctor Strange walk the city streets!"- Yeah, I wouldn't leave the house in that outfit either! *rimshot*

The reason Doctor Stephen Strange, Master of the Mystic Arts has deemed to soil himself by condescending to walk amongst us lowly mortals is that, once again, our very existence is threatened by forces beyond our very comprehension. In other words, there's a haunted house and he wants to check it out.

Apparently, the house has enough of a reputation that a TV crew has come to send a reporter inside the house and report his findings live on television. Unfortunately, this being the early 1960's, TV cameras are huge and not at all easy to take with you. Which means that reporter Allen Stevens has to go inside the haunted house and describe what he sees via microphone. Maybe this would have been a better story for radio??

To make sure Stevens is safe, Dr. Strange assumes his ectoplasmic or "unphysical" form and attempts to enter the house. Surprisingly, he is unable to do so. Returning to his body, Strange falls back on his old standby, his magic amulet. Using it's all-seeing eye, Strange observes Stevens within the house. Stevens observes an old oil lamp floating in the air, and then sees something which shocks him so greatly he fears for his sanity.

Strange immediately pushes the crowd out of his way (magically, no less) and enters the house. He witnesses the same floating lamp, which does not scare him. Next, he is encircled in a thick, swirling mist, but Strange is unimpressed with such cheap theatrics:

The mists form themselves into a cage. Strange shouts a lot of mystical mumbo-jumbo and dispells them. The good Doctor talks a little smack to the house and the house replies indignantly in a disembodied (and, I have to assume, otherworldly) voice. Strange demands the release of the reporter or he will reveal the house's true secret. The house consents and then asks Strange to keep his bargain. Strange says he will keep the house's secret,as no-one would believe:

Um, yeah. So, is the house an extradimensional being appearing in the form of a house? Or is there some dimension populated with sentient houses? And if you wanted to observe us, is pretending to be haunted and hiding in the boonies the best way??

This all reminds me of a show from my childhood: The Six-Million Dollar Man. There's a famous story cycle where Col. Steve Austin goes looking for Big Foot. When he finds Big Foot, it turns out that the Sasquatch is really an android, built by an alien race. These aliens live in a hidden, underground complex and have built and sent Big Foot as a way to "observe humanity". First of all, the aliens look just like us. All they hadda do was go into town to observe humanity. Second, is the best way to "observe" humanity to build a 7-foot monster and set it loose in an area so remote no-one ever goes there?? I never got that.

My rendering of events as I recall them.

Any way, I love early Doctor Strange stories. And, yeah, I know I kinda panned Ditko a couple of weeks ago, but his work on this issue was really atmospheric and creepy.

For the rest of what went on in this issue, check out Pat's summary at Silver Age Comics.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Check Out "As Told To Stan Lee"

Finally! At long last, "As Told To Stan Lee" has posted it's first article! Be sure to check it out and leave some encouraging comments!

Metamorpho. How Can You Not Dig This?

I recently picked up the Showcase edition of Metamorpho and I have to say, so far I'm in love.

The earliest issues have art by Ramona (Aquaman) Fradon and Charles (Batman) Paris which is just astoundingly beautiful (Oh! How I wish this were in color!). The plot and characters remind me somewhat of Plastic Man's Jack Cole at his height. And Metamorpho himself is a wonderfully "flexible" character.

Soldier-of -Fortune, Rex Mason works for one of the world's wealthiest and most power-hungry scientists, Simon Stagg. Mason is also engaged to Stagg's daugther, Sapphire. The love between Mason and Saphire causes nothing but outrage in the heart of Stagg's henchman, Java- a revived, mentally-enhanced cave man- who hates the dashing Rex Mason with a burning passion. A passion almost as strong as his desire to win the heart of the beautiful Sapphire.

Are you hooked yet? Because it gets even better!

Rex Mason is a cocky, swaggering man-of-action who despises his employer, Simon Stagg. Mason only works for Stagg because A) Stagg pays well and B) Mason is in love with Stagg's daughter and needs the money to marry her.

As our story opens, Mason thumbs his nose at Stagg once too often, returning from an expedition with a rare potion of immense power, only to dump it on Stagg's rug. After all, Stagg asked him to obtain it and bring it back, not to give it to him.

Stagg plots with Java to send Mason on a one-way mission to the Lost Pyramid of Ahk-Ton which holds a famous mystical treasure -The Orb of Ra. Stagg offers Mason $1,000,000.00 to find it and bring it to him. Stagg also instructs Java to go with Mason and see that he never returns. Knowing that a million 1965 dollars would mean financial independence for Sapphire and himself, Mason reluctantly takes the job.

As Mason and Java approach the lost pyramid in their small airplane, the pyramid begins to give off intense heat. Crash-landing the plane, both men survive, but the landing gear has been damaged in the crash.

Once at the pyramid, Java finds a concealed entrance. Soon, Mason finds hieroglyphics which tell the story of an Egyptian priest, Ahk-Ton who found a mysterious, glowing meteorite. Ahk-Ton fashioned an orb from a fragment of the rock and attached it to a sceptre which he presented to Pharoah.

Mason and Java find the sceptre. Java takes the sceptre and then sets off a booby trap, trapping Mason with the original, large meteorite. Java leaves Mason for dead and returns to Stagg, dreaming of how his boss might make him handsome, so that he can win the love of Sapphire.

Meanwhile, Mason is transformed by the meteorite into The Element Man. He quickly discovers that he can alter his form to become gaseous or liquid and can become any element. Mason uses his power to repair the Magnesium landing gear on his plane and return home to confront his boss.

To sum up, Metamorpho uses his new powers to kick the asses of Stagg's private army and Java.

Stagg, not wanting to pass up having a superman in his employ, offers to cure Mason if he'll continue to work for him. Sapphire still loves Rex, even though he is now a hideous freak. Java boils with envy and rage.

This series (I'm only on the 3rd story, mind you) is off to a great start. As mentioned before, I love the art. And DC didn't do very many heroes with unwanted powers in the Silver Age, but they sure did this one right. I was mostly familiar with Metamorpho from his appearances in Batman and the Outsiders and (Keith Giffen's) Justice League. I thought he was an intriguing character then, He's moved up to my top ten now.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

A Proposal of New Nomenclature.

I propose a new way of referring to an era of comics.

Since we comics geeks have latched onto what is now a standard way of referring to different time periods/movements in American comic books, i.e. the Golden, Silver and Bronze Ages, I think it's well beyond time to add a new division. The Tarnished Age.

Hear me out. At first thought, The Tarnished Age sounds a little negative. However, I feel it is an apt description which reflects the intentions of the creators of the time. Most of the comics of the era I'm describing are re-examinations of traditional superheroes, looked at through the lense of reality and cynicism. Those once-gleaming heroes of the Gold and Silver ages have become...tarnished.

The Tarnished Age of comics would begin around 1982 with Alan Moore and Alan Davis' revisionist take on Marvelman, aka Miracleman.

From there, we jump across the pond to Mark Gruenwald's 1985 Squadron Supreme maxi-series.

Next up, we predictably move on to 1986 with Moore and Gibbons' Watchmen

and Frank Miller's Batman: The Dark Knight Returns.

From that point forward, nearly every hero gets a new, grittier take. Daredevil has a crisis of faith, Green Arrow has a mid-life crisis and starts using pointy arrows, Spiderman has a serious wardrobe malfunction, Lex Luthor becomes a Machiavellian CEO and Kraven the Hunter blows his brains out.

Sound tarnished enough for ya? The hardest part will be determining where the Tarnished Age stops and the next age begins.

Monday, January 18, 2010

I Had A Dream That Someday I Would Be In a Comic Book-

In honor of the contributions to civil rights, world peace and the advancement of ALL people which were made by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Silver Age Gold would like to direct everyone to this wonderful website where you can read this historic comics retelling of "The Montgomery Story".

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Well, I Sure as Hell Didn't Expect THAT! Unexpected #210

I usually post something about Saturday Morning superhero cartoons of the 60's on Saturdays, or nothing at all. But today, as I wind down "Ape-ril In January" week, I thought I'd treat you all to a bonus.

Amy and I bought this little number at ChicagoCon one year for $0.25. It was purchased solely on the strength of the cover image.

Now, of course, I know that the above comic is from the Bronze Age, but it has a friggin' vampire ape on it! I have a soft spot for bronze age horror comics. With all the CCA restrictions placed on comics companies (self-imposed or not), it was nearly impossible to do a horror comic that was actually, well... scary. What you usually get is either a ridiculous, predicatable piece of tripe that is unintentionally funny (and therefore highly enjoyable) or, on rare occasions, something that manages to manipulate the limitations of the format and still produce something exciting- and when they're good, they're great!

The above comic is of the former variety. In fact, most issues of Unexpected from the 70's and early 80's are just plain awful. They rely heavily on twist endings, as the name would suggest, but the twists are usually not just unexpected, they're a complete non-sequiter. It almost works in a Dadaist or Absurdist way. I usually joke that a better name for this series would have been "-'The Hell?!?"

So, no, I can honestly say that a big gorilla with bat wings surprising a bunch of people in a grave yard was not something I would have expected. Mission accomplished!

Friday, January 15, 2010

A Puzzling Piece of Merchandise...

This Masonite tray puzzle was given to me and Amy by my mother, who found it at a flea market. It used to hang in our kitchen, which was, at the time, superhero-themed. I suspect it was released to cash in on the popularity of the Dino DeLaurentis remake of King Kong, but that is absolutely Titano that Lois is struggling with.

My 4-year-old son is currently the custodian of this fabulous piece of Supermanana. I'd better get it back to his puzzle bin before he knows it's missing ;)

Forget the Russians, It's the Gorillas You Have to Beat! Strange Adventures #64

Just as mankind is on the verge of launching its first artificial satellite, it is visited by unexpected guests, guests with a warning!

A large spacecraft (described as a "space station" lands outside an American rocket base. The scientists and guards are stunned as its occupants emerge and turn out to be gorillas (who look a lot more like chimps to me)! The gorillas explain that they were once Earthmen who ventured into space. Cosmic rays caused them to devolve, physically, into gorillas while their minds stayed intact. The Space gorillas warn the scientists to wait until a cure is found before venturing into space themselves.

However, two-fisted science-guy , Dr. Owens doesn't buy their story. Sneaking onboard the gorilla ship, Owens discovers that the visitors are aliens in gorilla suits (still look like chimps to me). Jumping one of the aliens, Owens dons a gorilla suit and forces the ship to crash-land. Later, after explaining everything to his peers, Owens is asked what made him suspicious. Owens explains that the aliens, unlike men or gorillas, never blinked.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

How'd He Tie That Bowtie Without Opposable Thumbs? Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen #24

You didn't need to offer me free ice cream, you had me at gorilla!

This time, it wasn't really Jimmy's fault. Usually Jimmy Olsen is transformed into something else due to sheer stupidity or negligence, but this time, it was a fluke.

While helping Professor Thorne with an experimental "telepathy helmet" (to read the minds of animals- like THEY have anything to say!) Jimmy Olsen has an accident. After numerous failed attempts to read the minds of giraffes, rhinos and finally a gorilla, the professor is ready to give up. But Jimmy supposes that Superman, with his superior mind, may be able to make the machine work. Jimmy turns on his signal watch just as the gorilla reaches through the bars of it's cage and punches a few random buttons on the device. Blammo! Jimmy and the gorilla switch bodies a'la Freaky Friday.

Prof. Thorne lets Gorilla Jimmy out of the cage, but Jimmy's real body is running amok, swinging from trees and such. Gorilla Jimmy attempts to apprehend his wayward, gorilla- controlled body, just as Superman shows up. Thinking his pal is being attacked by a gorilla, Supes takes a swing at Jimmy.

After explaining the situation to Superman, Professor Thorne explains that it would take 100 years to try all 56,786,934 different button combinations. Superman runs through them all in no time, but Jimmy doesn't change back.

Prof. Thorne heads back to the lab to work on the problem. Superman takes custody of the gorilla in Jimmy's body and Jimmy goes home to put on some clothes.

Jimmy heads to the office, where he scares the Hell out of Lois Lane and Perry White. I don't know about you, but if I were turned into a gorilla, I'd call in sick. Normally, when this stuff happens, Jimmy runs off and joins a freak show. To prevent further incidents of gorilla-induced terror, Perry hangs a sign around Jimmy's neck that reads" 'Bonzo' Intelligent Gorilla! Tame! No Danger!". Personally I don't see why it couldn't have read " 'Jimmy' Intelligent Gorilla! Tame! No Danger!". Also, the word tame isn't very reassuring when followed by an exclamation point.

"Bonzo" decides to go out on the town, having a lunch of bananas at a fancy restaurant and taking in a wrestling match featuring wrestler known as "The Gorilla". The next evening he goes to the movies to see "Patrolman Gorilla" a movie about a gorilla who becomes a cop. Maybe this like how when some folks come out about being gay, all they talk about for a while is gay stuff. Like George Takei or Ellen DeGeneres. It took Ellen a while to get back to just being funny. Once the novelty wears off, I'm sure Jimmy will go back to finding non-gorilla -themed entertainment.

In no time, Jimmy is depressed about his new body. Superman tries to cheer him up by taking him on patrol. Jimmy's new abilities prove useful and he stops a crime and saves some kids from a fire. He even saves Clark Kent from suffocating in a time-lock vault at the bank (of course, Superman was perfectly safe, but his all-important secret identity was in danger!).

Checking on Professor Thorne's progress, Superman finally figures out that the missing element is Jimmy's ultrasonic signal watch. Activating the watch, Superman restores Jimmy to his own body- unbeknownst to Perry White who is suddenly attacked by the typing gorilla who was, seconds ago, Jimmy.

Of course, Superman and Jimmy save the Chief and the gorilla returns to the zoo.

This story was so awesome that it was not only reprinted in Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen #116, it got the cover AGAIN!:

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Gorillas Don't Have Sideburns. Flash #106

Gorilla Grodd may be the best-known talking gorilla supervillain in comics. He started off pretty inauspiciously, though. He didn't even get the cover of Flash #106 and gorillas almost ALWAYS got the cover.

Grodd's first appearance was as a second feature in Flash #106. Grodd arrives in Central City Park at the controls of an "all-purpose craft" which flies, submerses in water and bores through the Earth. immediately, the citizens of Central City begin reporting strange gorilla sightings.

These sightings trouble actor Fred Pearson who plays a gorilla on the stage in a play "The Great Gorilla" (I'm not generally a devotee of live theatre, so maybe I'm a poor judge, but does anyone out there think a theatre is going to pack the house every night with a dude in a gorilla suit?). Pearson keeps blacking out after and sometimes before the show and now people are seeing a gorilla in the streets at night. Fred calls his friend, policeman Barry Allen (aka the Flash) for some help.

On his way to meet with Fred, Flash spots a gorilla and gives chase, but the gorilla out-maneuvers the Fastest Man Alive in all-purpose craft. Flash then goes to meet with Pearson and hears his strange story first hand.

Meanwhile, we are introduced to Grodd who spends a lot of time thinking expositionally to himself about how he came from Gorilla City- a secret, hidden city in Africa populated by super-intelligent gorillas. Grodd is Gorilla City's lone criminal mind and he has come out into the human world seeking Solovar, the missing ruler of the gorillas. Solovar alone holds the power to control others by "force of mind". using his own telepathy, Grodd locates Solovar as a captive in a circus. Grodd rips the secret from Solovar's mind and returns to Gorilla City.

Solovar escapes from the circus and seeks out the Flash. Enlisting Flash's aide, Solovar and the Scarlet Speedster rush to Gorilla City where they quickly defeat Grodd. Apparently the spinning attack Flash uses on Grodd jots the force of mind power right out of him.

Flash returns home and tells Fred Pearson that his troubles are over.

This story is really short and really unimpressive. Apart from the fact that it features talking gorillas and a gorilla city, it really doesn't have much about it that speaks of the impact it will have for years to come.

As we have previously seen, evil talking genius gorillas are nothing new to DC at this time. And even an embryonic version of Gorilla City had been previously seen in a 1950's Congo Bill story- albeit a more rustic version made of bamboo and huts. Still, Grodd had something to him that made him return again and again, arguably becoming Flash's arch-enemy (or is that Mirror-Master or Captain Cold?- ask Pat at The Silver Age, that discussion can really drag out!). Even so, gorillas do not have sideburns.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Mad Science Marches On- Strange Adventures #56

Part Two- "The Jungle Emperor".

So, what happened to the super-intelligent gorilla from the previous issue of Strange Adventures? Well, the whole world finds out as he delivers an ultimatum via television: "Hear this you humans! As the most intelligent and powerful being on Earth, I proclaim myself King Gorilla, the sole sovereign of this planet! Tomorrow morning my gorilla ambassadors will appear in each country to accept control of your governments! Unless my rule is unanimously accepted in 24 hours, I will strike with all the scientific powers at my command! You have been warned!" I love how every sentence ends with an exclamation point.

Poor Dr. Jonas Mills sits helplessly by, watching the threats of his accidental monster. Unable to make more "Mutaton" in the time left to him, he has only the antidote to mutaton on hand. Unfortunately, Dr. Mills has no idea of King Gorilla's whereabouts.

The next morning, each capital city of each nation receives an envoy from King Gorilla in the form of more intelligent gorillas who arrive in "super-scientific planes", equipped with shields of electric force.

Studying the newsreel footage of the gorillas' departures, Dr. Mills determines that the gorillas cannot be living creatures. Seems the G-forces created by the planes' acceleration would crush even a gorilla. To test his theory, Dr. Mills plants a fake news story that he has "developed a new weapon that will vanquish the gorilla hordes should they try to enforce their ultimatum!". He then sets up a thermocouple in his laboratory and waits. As he expected, the gorillas who come to kidnap him give off no body heat- they're robot gorillas!! (Does it get any better than robot gorillas? Really?)

The robot gorillas abduct Dr. Mills and take him via flying wing to King Gorilla's HQ in Africa. King Gorilla tells Mills he's the only Human the gorillas need fear and must be eliminated. Dr. Mills tells KG he's on to him and that he knows the other gorillas are robots. KG admits he was "too clever" to make other gorillas as smart as himself.

Searching for Mills' super-weapon, KG finds the bottle of antidote, which he confiscates. He then prepares to launch his attack, locking Mills in a cage. Mills starts a fire which cracks the bottle of antidote and vaporizes it's contents. The fumes dumb down King Gorilla, while Mills, safe behind a jury-rigged gas filter keeps his head.

The android armies of the King Gorilla stop in their tracks as their control console in Africa succumbs to the fire. The Earth is saved and the gorilla- 'droids are put on display as a reminder of how close the world came to conquest.

Dr. Mills reflects on his hard-earned lesson: "It's better for evolution to take it's own slow, natural course in this world!"

The similarities between 1955's King Gorilla and 1959's Gorilla Grodd are remarkable. Both want to conquer the world through the use of super-science, both are talking gorilla megalomaniacs, both have airplanes at their disposal... Of course, Grodd hails from a kingdom of intelligent gorillas and was not tampered with by human science. In that respect, KG bears a stronger resemblance to 1964's Monsieur Mallah.

I also love how comics and movies of the 50's and 60's refer to what is clearly technology as "science". I realize that the technological advances described are the direct result of breakthroughs in sciences like physics, but a ray-gun is no more a "super-science weapon" than a crossbow. A crossbow uses the science of Newtonian physics, but would never be considered a weapon of "science" in the same way as a laser. Same goes for a stone knife.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Dr. Jonas Mills- What Were You Thinking? -Strange Adventures #55-56

Part One: " The Gorilla Who Challenged The World"

Ah, the good old days. Back when science really got things done! None of that fooling around with control subjects, verifying findings, safety protocols or even a pretense of the scientific method. When men were men and gorillas were plentiful test subjects.

Dr. Jonas Mills isolates the element in the body which controls evolution- "mutaton". So, logically, the first thing he does with his mutaton is inject a small dose into a gorilla ( a gorilla he goes out of his way to explain to himself he purchased from a dealer in wild animals- natch, they don't carry them at Petland, you know. Peebles' Pet Shop, sure, but not Petland).

The gorilla immediately gains the ability to speak English. Just the way our hominid forbears did when they left the trees. Dr. Mills injects himself to make himself an even bigger genius. Unbeknownst to Dr. Mills, he gave the gorilla a much more effective dose than planned. The gorilla is now a super-genius who wishes to rule the Earth. Since he is now so much smarter, Mills realizes that a very smart gorilla is potentially dangerous and concocts an antidote.

Mills puts the antidote into the gorilla's drinking water, but the gorilla surreptitiously pours the water into Dr. Mills' water pitcher. When Doctor Mills drinks the water, he is temporarily addled by his sudden drop in IQ and the genius Gorilla imprisons the scientist.

Mr. Smarty-Primate disguises himself as a portly human and begins a crime spree, using his gorilla strength and agility to steal supplies for his scheme. A few days later, attempting to apprehend their prime suspect, the police uncover his secret, gorilla identity. It's too late, however, as the gorilla has now obtained all the chemicals he needs for his plan.

Researching all the gorillas bought and sold in recent months, the police finally track the gorilla to Dr. Mills' lab. The gorilla holds the cops at bay, threatening to make Dr. Mills a complete moron if they don't allow him to escape. The gorilla breaks a steam pipe to create a diversion and then hops a tramp freighter for Africa with all the ingredients he needs to make mutaton!!

End part one.

So far, we have learned that , A: you shouldn't monkey with evolution and B: Sy Barry draws a good gorilla.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Ape-ril in January!!

Next week, I'm devoting the whole week's posts to the best thing to happen to comics since Superman... Gorillas!! There's a rumor that it was a common belief during the Silver Age that there was a direct correlation between single issue sales and the presence of a gorilla on the cover. Judging soley by the number of gorilla-related covers, I would say that seems likely.

Now, I know this is short notice, but I invite my fellow comics bloggers to join me in celebrating our primate brothers and sisters. That's right, I invite all of you to also post about gorilla comics all week next week. We could make this the best Gorilla week EVER! Discovery Channel has "Shark Week" we could have "Ape Week"!

Mykal- time to dust off those Magilla Gorilla and Grape Ape comics for the BBOKC, Maybe even that Weird War Tales with the gorilla sargent?. Apocolyte- Surely you have a nice REH or ERB B&W comic with scary apes. Groovy Agent- Maybe some Angel and the Ape or Marvel's Planet of the Apes? Pat- I'd love to see some Monsieur Mallah action or even the Mod Gorilla Boss! Jacque-.... well... Somebody is bound to have a story about apes in love??

I already have 5 stories ready to go and I'm writing them now, so I won't fall short like time travel week- So Help Me Grodd!!


Thursday, January 7, 2010

At the risk of sounding like a jerk... A frank confession

If you thought "Why I hate Manga" was honest and revealing, get ready for this.

At the risk of sounding like a jerk, I'm really not that big of a fan of the work of Steve Ditko. Or Jim Aparo. Or Neal Adams.

I know some of you out there just gasped in horror. And that's okay. I also hate the band RUSH... but let's focus on the topic at hand.

I mean no offense to the gentlemen I just named (or the memory of, in the case of Mr. Aparo), I've just never understood why so many of my peers love their work so much.

In the case of Ditko, while I love his early Doctor Strange work and I am a huge fan of the first run of Spider-Man, I always feel his people are a little.. weird.

And he seems to ink his own work a lot. I'm not opposed to that, but some artists are great pencillers who should NEVER be allowed to pick up a pen and/or brush. For instance, he did an early issue of Iron Man which was inked by Don Heck (I think?) and it looked WAY better than his Spidey work.

Mr. Ditko also designed some of the butt-ugliest costumes in comicdom. Electro, Mysterio, Mr. Doll...

And don't get me started on some of his Charlton work. I can't read The Question. I mean, sure, "The Fountainhead" by Ayn Rand was entertaining- mostly, but I couldn't live my life by it. And I wouldn't base a superhero on a philosophy of self-interest.

In the case of Neal Adams:

Coming from advertising and a very strong draftsman, Adams brought a new sense of design to comics in the 1970's. His "Long Ears" Batman would go on to influence a whole generation of comic book artists as did his unconventional storytelling style. Adams use of unusual panel layouts and figures breaking panel borders or even becoming panel borders would be admired and imitated by dozens, maybe hundreds of artists. Most of whom could not pull it off. In no time, every hack kid was trying to show how cutting edge he was by abandoning the standard 6-panel page. Well, you know something? You have to master the rules before you break them.

So, I guess that I not only don't really care all that much for Adams' art (Though I DO sincerely admire his skill.) I also despise the sweeping influence his art has had on comics ever since.

Although the makeover Adams gave Green Arrow back in 1969 almost makes up for all of it.

And now, Aparo. Jim Aparo, after Neal Adams is one of the best-remembered Batman artists of the 1970's. He also served as the primary Aquaman artist of the decade. His work was competent and effective, but not terribly exciting. At least on Batman and Aquaman. His work on books like The Spectre and Phantom Stranger was actually quite nice. When I discovered his work, however, in the late 1980's, I was appalled by how stiff and flat his figures were. How much he seemed to be "phoning in" his work. Everyone had the same ears, every hairstyle was similar, everyone's clothing was cut out of date and out of fashion. I used to eagerly read the issues of Detective Comics drawn by Norm Breyfogle and then, sadly, read Aparo's Batman, wishing someone else would draw it.

where's the storytelling here?

To be completely fair, toward the end of Green Arrow's 1980's series, Aparo did some of the most interesting art I had seen out of him in years. But I will always remember him as the mediocre Batman artist who made Robin's death so forgettable.

Please, don't judge me too harshly. It takes me no time to sit here at a desk and criticize the artwork of three masters of their field. It took these men years to perfect their art. They have all accomplished what I have not. But don't misconstrue this as sour grapes, either. I just get tired of hearing folks sing these artists' praises and having to nod politely for fear of being ostracized.

And if Steve Ditko or Neal Adams want to call me an asshole, that's fine. It's nothing personal, guys. Your artwork will always be remembered. I'm just one guy who doesn't dig it.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Why I Hate Manga- with apologies to my 17-year-old niece. a rant

To be fair, I don't really hate manga, per se. Manga are, after all, just comics from Japan. There is just as much diversity in Japanese comics (if not more) as there is in American comics. What I really dislike are some of the more common styles associated with manga and American "manga-style" comics. I also find that I often dislike people who are really into manga and anime (Emma, honey, this doesn't apply to you).

I actually am a big fan of Lone Wolf and Cub by Kazuao Koikoe and Goseki Kojima. The story is gripping and the artwork is positively breathtaking at times.

I am cognizant of the fact that Japanese artists have added volumes to the visual language of the comics medium and has a beautiful, visual rhythm all its own. I am quite aware that manga often includes widely varied pacing through use of devices like series of establishing shots and motion lines.

But I just don't like the way it looks. At least the trash the Japanese go out of their way to send us.

I hate those cutesy little faces with the big eyes and the little mouths.

I hate those jagged, gravity-defying hairdos.

I hate the weird androgyny of the characters. More than anything, I hate the use of lazy, visual shorthands like thought balloons with teardrops in them, or those weird, oval shaped mouths with gritted, perfectly squared teeth like a row of plus signs.

And, while I can tolerate the notion of the occasional manga-style version of a classic American superhero,

I really think a whole "mangaverse" is a lame idea.

I don't like Anime much, either. For the same aesthetic concerns. It's just personal preference. I DO like the design of the heroes on Ninja Force Gatchaman (Battle of the Planets, G-Force, Whatever), but it's probably only because they remind me of the Blue Falcon.

I know I'm probably stepping on more toes than Gigantor at a podiatry' convention, but it's just how I feel.