Friday, February 26, 2010
Enjoy "The Leopard Men" with art by Stephen Kirkel.
Thursday, February 25, 2010
Okay, the idea that this ad is intended to be for a toy for your kids is insulting to your intelligence. But not half as insulting as the idea that this photo is actually of the inflatable doll you will receive and not a picture of a living woman.
Now, let's see, do I send in the coupon to "Finish High School at Home" ? Or do I order this inflatable girlfriend?
Wednesday, February 24, 2010
Monday, February 22, 2010
Okay, comics go where the market is. There have always been licensing deals to produce comic books about cartoon characters, movie heroes, toy lines, video games (remember Atari Force?) collectible card card games, Role-Playing games...
Well, the good folks over at Youthful Publishing weren't ones to miss out on a trend the young people were all talking about- philately. Ah, ahem. That means stamp collecting, not the other thing.
Anyway, some genius thought that using historical postage stamps from around the world as a springboard for comics stories was a great idea. And to be fair, this series managed to last 8 issues over the course of 3 years- at 15 cents an issue! I mean, this ain't World's Finest here, people! And the publishers thought of everything; they've even marked off where to punch holes in your comic so you can store it in a 3-ring binder!
I found this little gem from 1951 over the weekend while hunting for more material. The comics shop I found this in had TWO copies of this comic. One was in great shape and was priced at $20. Since your Mild-Mannered Reporter is nothing if not thrifty, I bought the far less expensive, rat-chewed copy with yellowed pages that looked like the first cousin of a pirate treasure map. But hey, how many issues of Stamps Comics do YOU own??
Reprinted below for you edification is the introduction and the first story "George Rogers Clark, Hero of Vincennes"
Thursday, February 18, 2010
Tony Isabella, the man who brought you Luke Cage, gave DC comics one of my all-time favorite Black superheroes. Black Lightning.
Black Lightning is Jefferson Pierce, an Olympic gold-medalist who returns home to his old neighborhood on Metropolis' South Side- Suicide Slum.
Okay, I know the 70's comics were all about addressing real-world social issues, but you're telling me there's a neighborhood in Superman's home town that's SO BAD it's called "Suicide Slum" ? Hell, in the early 60's, Superman would have built clean, pretty, low-income housing on his day off and found jobs for everyone who lived in them. Of course, I guess it wasn't possible for Superman to tackle the problems of Black folks in the 1960's, as the Silver Age DC Superman comics didn't have any black folks for him to help...
Anyway, back to Black Lightning. So, in a combo of Welcome Back , Kotter and Walking Tall, Pierce (who has just accepted a job as a High School principal) returns home to find that there's a crime problem in his old neighborhood. An organized crime outfit called "The 100" have set up a drug ring on the South Side. And it looks like the 100 have a little help from a crooked politician, Tobias Whale (A freaky-looking, morbidly obese African-American albino who's kinda like The Kingpin crossed with Moby Dick).
So, of course Pierce gets his Family Friend, tailor Pete Gambini, to whip him up some disco threads -with a built-in electro-shock weapon- and takes it to the streets as Black Lightning.
At some point, with no real explanation (current retcon's aside) Jeff Pierce himself has the power to make lightning, not his costume.
Sadly, Black Lightning's series only lasted 11 issues. The first ten were written by Tony Isabella, with the final issue being written by Denny O'Neil. After his series was cancelled, Black Lightning was added to the line-up of The Outsiders, alongside Metamorpho.
Wednesday, February 17, 2010
Tuesday, February 16, 2010
I just wanted to take a minute to thank all of you who stopped by last night for my first, live chatcast. All of you being Mykal. The rest of you missed out on a great conversation about comics. I'll be chatting again on the 15th of March. Hope y'all stop by.
I see that Jacque Nodell stopped by after the chat was over. Thanks Jacque. I hope you all stop by this evening for her chat. She'll be on at 8 PM EST. I will be there, but probably only in the background as my wife, Amy (aka Spectergirl) will be chatting and trying to win the romance comic that is being given away.
What do you get when you mix The Bionic Woman with Cleopatra Jones? You get one fantastic Blaxploitation super-chick, Misty Knight.
I thought Misty here needed to make the list, just in case y'all thought it was only dudes who were making a big splash in the comics Blaxploitation scene in the 70's.
Debuting in Deadly Hands of Kung Fu (part of the huge Kung Fu craze of the 70's) alongside her partner Colleen Wing, Misty didn't hide out in the B&W mags of the 70's for very long. In no time this foxy Private Eye was guest starring alongside Power Man and Iron Fist.
Monday, February 15, 2010
See, here's the thing: Henry Pym started out as Ant Man and then figured out how to get big instead of small and became Giant Man. And then Hank retired and passed the role of Giant Man on to Dr. Bill Foster, who was Giant Man for a little while.
And then, for some reason, Bill thought it would be cooler to change his name to Black Goliath.
Now, I know that in the 1970's black folks were trying out the idea that "Black is beautiful" and embracing the term "black" which had been formerly eschewed as a slur. The PC term of the day had previously been "Negro" which is ludicrously out of fashion these days. So, anyway, embracing the term black was hip.
None of which has anything to do with getting big.
Which is, I guess, where "Goliath" comes in. I mean, everyone knows the name Goliath, right? The giant from the Old Testament story of King David...
Problem is, Goliath was a bad guy. And he lost.
So, for me, Black Goliath is a conceptual nightmare. The name says "Hey! Not that it really should matter but I happen to be black. And I'm a giant! No, I'm not a bad giant, like Goliath, the uncircumcised Philistine. No, I'm a superhero!"
I also have no idea why his belly is showing.
Friday, February 12, 2010
Your mild-mannered reporter will be hosting a live chat at
on Monday, February 15 at 9:00 PM (EST). Feel free to stop by and chat with me about the quirkiness of the Silver Age of comics, my blogs, or whatever. And don't forget, Jacque Nodell at Sequential Crush is doing a live chat the following evening, so be sure to check that out at well.
Hope to see you all there,
Thursday, February 11, 2010
Be sure to stop by and check out this tremendously cool post at :
Part of what made the 1970's such a groovy time would have to be the new focus on mysticism. Folks in the Age of Aquarius or "New Age" were starting to explore new ways of looking at familiar ideas. And, while everyone was concerned with "the new morality" and "Doing your own thing" traditional institutions like the church your parents went to were seen as part of "The Establishment". Add to that a new interest in all things Afro-centric for a new generation for African-Americans looking to find an identity and a voice in modern America and it's no wonder a comic like Brother Voodoo would hit the shelves.
Sort of a Haitian Doctor Strange, Brother Voodoo even debuted in Doc's old haunt Strange Tales. I would tell you all about it, but the folks over at wikipedia have done a nice job, so I'll let them take it:
"Returning to his native Haïti (born in Port-au-Prince) after 12 years (originally nearly 20) of education and practice as an accredied psychologist in the United States, Jericho Drumm discovers that his twin brother, Daniel, the local houngan, is dying, a victim of a voodoo sorcerer who claims to be possessed by the spirit of the serpent-god Damballah. Just before he dies, Daniel makes his brother vow to visit Daniel's mentor, Papa Jambo. Jericho does, and becomes Jambo's student. After studying under the aged houngan for several weeks, Jericho gains a greater mastery of voodoo practices than his own brother, becoming a houngan in his own right. Papa Jambo then performs a rite that summons Daniel's spirit from the dead and joins it with Jericho's own. Having fashioned a worthy successor, Papa Jambo dies.
Taking the name Brother Voodoo, Jericho challenges the priest, who goes by the same name as his god Damballah, and his cult. With the help of his Daniel's spirit possessing one of the cult members, Jericho removes Damballah's artifact of power (wangal), causing Damballah's snakes to turn on him and evidently destroying Damballah's cult. Brother Voodoo became Haïti's houngan supreme and champion, and establishes a sprawling mansion as a base of operations. He places the wangal in a safe, its combination known only to Brother Voodoo and his manservant Bambu.["
Wednesday, February 10, 2010
For those of you only familiar with the character of Blade from those insipid movies with Wesley Snipes, there was a time when Blade was more... well, groovy. Rather than a body armored, flattop wearing weirdo in Oakleys with a husky voice and a samurai sword, Blade was more like a cross between Professor Van Helsing and Shaft (although Gene Colan claims to have modeled his looks on a composite of black actors, including Jim Brown).
See, back in the day, the writers of Tomb of Dracula had more sense than to have vampire hunters using silver bullets or spikes or silver nitrate powder, etc. Despite what the Blade movies and Dracula 2000 would have you believe, SILVER IS FOR WEREWOLVES! NOT VAMPIRES!!! So, wait, no silver stakes? No Sword? Why was he called "Blade" ? Simple. Blade had a bandoleer of wooden throwing knives which allowed him to stake vampires from a safe distance.
Well, usually a safe distance...
Blade also has a leg up on the average vampire hunter. Seems his mama was killed by a vampire while she was preggers with li'l Blade. Blade absorbed certain "vampiric enzymes" and was born with quasi-vampiric powers, including longevity, improved reflexes and a resistance to becoming a vampire.
Which all makes him a totally kick-ass vampire killer.
Blade was quite probably the first Black supernatural hero... he was not to be (as we shall see tomorrow) the last.
Tuesday, February 9, 2010
If you thought the Falcon was fly, hold on to your afro pick! Luke Cage (aka Power Man) -Hero for Hire, was a new direction for Black superheros. Hip, streetwise and tossing out "jive" dialog like Shaft guest-starring on Sanford and Son, Luke Cage was an absolute, Blaxploitation badass.
Debuting in his own, self-titled comic in 1972, Lucas was a young, urban black man who was wrongly convicted of a crime. While in prison, he agreed to undergo a medical experiment which accidentally gave him tough-as-steel skin and dense, super-strong muscles. Breaking out of prison, he assumed the name of "Luke Cage" and started his own business as a sort of superhuman private eye.
Very dated, but a very fun read.
Monday, February 8, 2010
In 1971, Earth's Green Lantern, Hal Jordan had a problem. Seems his back-up, gym teacher Guy Gardner, had been in a serious accident and sustained a head injury. That meant that, should something happen to Jordan, there would be no Green Lantern to patrol space sector 2814. Consulting his power ring to find another suitable candidate for the job, Hal Jordan and the rest of us, meets John Stewart (The architect, not the talk-show host).
Although sometimes accused of being yet another "Angry Black Man" superhero, John Stewart is significant for the following reasons:
1) He's DC's first Black superhero.
2) He's The Green Lantern. Not Black Lantern, not Black Green Lantern...
3) He sets a precedent wherein previously established white superheroes are sometimes replaced with a new, black version- i.e. Mr. Terrific or Captain Marvel.
I, for one, find it groundbreaking that John Stewart was just one more GL in a corps of intergalatic heroes.
Saturday, February 6, 2010
I have always wondered why Hanna-Barbera bothered to make up Black Vulcan? When I first saw him as a little kid, I assumed he was Black Lightning in a different costume. I don't know how long it took me to realize his name was Black Vulcan. BV debuted on "The All New Superfriends Hour" about a year after Black Lightning first appeared in comics. One would assume that, in their quest to diversify the Superfriends, Hanna-Barbera would have simply licensed the new and popular Black Lightning. Many people have conjectured that Black Lightning seemed too topical and angry for Saturday Morning in the 70's. However, Superfriends, already avoided the grittier elements of all the other characters' comics series, so that seems an unlikely reason for abandoning Black Lightning.
According to Wikipedia (The receptacle for the sum total of all human knowledge) DC was unable to license Black Lightning to HB due to a dispute with BL's creator, Tony Isabella.
Whatever the reason, Hanna-Barbera gave us Black Vulcan. The first and longest-lasting of the "ethnic" Superfriends. And though I may have been confused about his name, Black Vulcan will always be a cherished part of my Saturday Morning memories.
Friday, February 5, 2010
Though the Black Panther holds the title of the first black superhero, the distinction of being the first African American superhero goes to The Falcon. He's also the first superhero of African descent not to have "Black" in his name.
And if those firsts weren't enough to grab you, how about this: The Falcon was the only African American superhero included in the 1970's Mego "World's Greatest Superheroes" toy line.
Add all of that to the fact that the Falcon co-starred with Captain America, sharing the comic's title as a partner, not a sidekick and you have one badass, socially progressive black superguy.
Now, if only his hip threads weren't so "pimped out".
Thursday, February 4, 2010
In 1966, the first Black superhero hit the shelves. Again from Marvel, the Black Panther was and still is a unique character in the annals of black superheroes. BP debuted in Fantastic Four #52 which was published months before the founding of the controversial and openly militant Black Panther Party.
The Black Panther is T'Challa, ruler and spiritual leader of the fictional African nation of Wakanda. His costume is one traditionally associated with his role as protector of his people. He derives his superpowers (enhanced strength and reflexes) from a special herb which is reserved for the holder of his office. Out of all the black heroes who would follow in his wake, Black Panther is remarkable for his role as an example of the dignified ruler of a prosperous nation, rather than a disenfranchised citizen protecting the common man in a world that has forgotten him. He's also the first African hero depicted in comics who's not a transplanted white guy.
Wednesday, February 3, 2010
In 1965 Dell comics decided to add a new star to their wonderful line of Western comics: Lobo. Dell published all of two issues of this landmark series and then cancelled it. Why? Accoring to Lobo artist Tony Tallarico, the reasons are simple and sad:
Tallarico in a 2006 interview said that he and Dell writer Arneson co-created the character based on an idea and a plot by Tallarico, with Arneson scripting it.
|"I had an idea for Lobo. And I approached D.J. Arneson and he brought it in and showed it to [Dell editor-in-chief] Helen Meyer. ... She loved it. She really wanted to do it. Great, so we did it. We did the first issue. And in comics, you start the second issue as they're printing the first one, due to time limitations. ... All of the sudden, they stopped the wagon. They stopped production on the issue. They discovered that as they were sending out bundles of comics out to the distributors [that] they were being returned unopened. And I couldn't figure out why. So they sniffed around, scouted around and discovered [that many sellers] were opposed to Lobo, who was the first black Western hero. That was the end of the book. It sold nothing. They printed 200,000; that was the going print-rate. They sold, oh, 10-15 thousand."|
So far as I know, nobody ever sent back a bundle of Jonah Hex.
Tuesday, February 2, 2010
During WWII, U.S. fighting forces were segregated, rather than integrated. This meant that Japanese Americans would serve in all Japanese-American units, African Americans would serve in all African American units. The U.S. Army was not racially integrated until President Harry Truman signed an executive order to the effect in 1948. This fact notwithstanding, Stan Lee and Jack Kirby decided to integrate their elite, fictional combat unit "The Howling Commandos".
In 1963, for the debut of Sgt. Fury and his Howling Commandos, Jack Kirby drew Gabe Jones as a realistic-looking black man. He gave Gabe the same human dignity he gave every other member of his commando squad (maybe more than he gave Dum-Dum Dugan). Only one problem: The printers thought there had been a mistake.
See, the printing company who printed the comics for Marvel were confused by why this one guy was brown. They thought it was a colorist's mistake and kept color correcting when they stripped the film for the color press plates. Finally the editorial office had to contact the printer and explain that Gabe Jones was a black man and was SUPPOSED to be brown. Since Jones had not been depicted as a stereotype, the printers had been horribly confused.
I think the preceding story illustrates how far America had come in it's understanding and treatment of it's African America citizens and how far it had yet to go.
Monday, February 1, 2010
Ebony White is a mixed blessing. He is a brave, intelligent and loyal assistant to Will Eisner's hero, The Spirit. He is also, visually, a terrible ethnic stereotype which hearkens back to the "blackface" makeup of old minstrel shows. His appearance is so blatantly a racial caricature that, when asked to come up with a replacement for The Spirit , Jack Cole supplied his Spirit-like character(Midnight) with a talking monkey as a sidekick.
You may ask yourself, "Why would Will Eisner, artistic innovator, a man who knew the pain of bigotry (he was Jewish at a time when Jews were excluded from nearly as many things as black folks), depict a young, black man as a sub-human stereotype?". Well, not to make excuses, but it was common practice in the 1940's. Ebony is a "comedy sidekick", not unlike Doiby Dickles from Green Lantern or Woozy Winks from Plastic Man. The comedy sidekick is always drawn in a more cartoony style than the hero and usually has exaggerated speech patterns or mannerisms. Basically, Ebony is a broadly drawn comedy stereotype common to his time period and really shouldn't be thought of as any more offensive to African Americans than Doiby is to guys from Brooklyn.
So, yes, looking back at Ebony through the eyes of the 21st Century, his appearance may make you wince. But bear in mind, no malice was intended and Ebony's inclusion was a tiny, awkward first step forward to bringing African Americans into the mainstream of superhero comics.