Tuesday, June 30, 2015

"Emerald Lust" sounds dirtier than it is...

Some years back, we checked out what I thought was the last issue of Savage Sword of Conan that I bought on the newsstands; but the other day I picked up a half-dozen issues from around then. And yet ended up blogging this issue I already have. From 1990, Savage Sword of Conan #170, "Emerald Lust" Written by Chuck Dixon, art by Gary Kwapisz. Joe Jusko cover, but SSOC covers were frequently disconnected from the interior stories, so there wasn't a hint there.

This issue, seemingly unrelated events lead to disaster: a shipwrecked, frozen Kothian is hit then picked up by the longboat of Captain Varnigern. After sleeping with a chieftain's daughter, Conan is forced to make a hasty retreat, with Aerik Blackeye swearing vengeance and giving chase with his men. And later, the pirate Valeria invites herself in to hear the Kothian's dying words...

...about an emerald the size of a mountain. Varnigern, described later as "loving gems more than a woman does," is sold; figuring that to be "too big a lie not to be true!" and joins forces with Valeria. Meanwhile, Aerik's looking for warriors to join his manhunt for the "big oafish Cimmerian" who sullied his daughter, and gets a ringer: Red Sonja! (Referred to as Sonja of Hyrkania at first, possibly because this is a black-and-white comic!) Aerik either doesn't remember Conan's name or doesn't care, but Sonja does think that pig sounds familiar...

Seeking new climes, Conan offers his services to Varnigern, who as much as tells him to piss off, before Valeria sees him and jumps him. She's thrilled and pissed to see him, since after he cut out last time they were together, Valeria's crew turned on her. Conan does not take a lot of her guff, though, throwing her over his shoulder. Varnigern's ship sets sail, mere moments before Aerik's band arrives! Sonja offers not to charge for this one, but Aerik's not giving up that easy.

Meanwhile, Conan is once again enjoying Valeria's company, even if she is a bit crazy for him, and he thinks this emerald hunt is probably a bad idea. Sailing further and further north, the ice continues to pile up around their ship, until at last they see it: a veritable mountain of emerald!

As the giddy crew hack pieces off it, Conan and Valeria both realize real emerald is harder than that; when Conan picks up a shard...it melts in his hand. The emerald is nothing but oddly colored ice! Varnigern is understandably a bit perturbed, but Valeria protests she couldn't have known, and Conan has things about settled down when Aerik's ship arrives, hellbent on Conan's head! I don't think they even noticed the "emerald" as they ram Varnigern's ship; but after sailing to the unchartered roof of the world, surrounded by ice and danger, they probably were pretty enthusiastic about finally getting to murder Conan.

Worse, Sonja recognizes Conan, and Valeria sees her eyeballing her man, and the two of them are soon at it like mad dogs. Valeria accuses Sonja of wanting Conan for herself, and when Sonja protests she invokes her "oath of chastity," which just makes Valeria certain Sonja wants Conan to beat her. Wait, not like that...suffice to say, they hate each other immediately.

Both crews battle, unmindful of their surroundings, so when a chunk of iceberg falls on Aerik's ship, just about everyone is killed. Valeria and Sonja pull themselves out of the freezing water, but think themselves doomed until Conan does likewise. Conan tells Sonja "we should draw a line across the belly of the world and stay on either side of it, Sonja." Pretty great line, there. He forces them to fall in line, since their only chance of survival was together. Facing a week's hike to the outskirts of Vanaheim, the trio face giant seals and a blizzard before getting back to forests vaguely in the neighborhood of home, and Conan laments the deaths of five score men, on a dying man's word, for a handful of ice. Completely ignoring that Conan probably got Varnigern's crew killed more than the emerald, but even so.

I really, really want to read Gail Simone's Conan/Red Sonja miniseries; but this issue is the bar it would have to beat for me.

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Monday, June 29, 2015

Yay, finally got Livewires #2! Now, where are those other issues...

From 2005, Livewires #2, "Clockwork Thugs, Yo" Story and layouts by Adam Warren, pencils by Rick Mays, inks by Jason Martin. Recently activated team member Stem Cell is still freaking out about being a robot, on a team of robots, on a secret program to exterminate other top-secret super-science R&D programs, like other robots. Although robot is still the r-word to them, as they illustrate with Cornfed's helpful virtual tour of their "technological ancestors," from the Mannites (of late 90's X-Men titles) to the LMD's most famously used by Nick Fury. OK, pretty much those two, but still.

Poor Stem Cell is also mortified to be told that she's been transmitting her thoughts to the rest of the team all day on their intranet comlinks; until Gothic Lolita finally tells her. G-L also explains how their artificial intelligences are "'factory-installed' with exact software recreations of human neurochemistry," which would translate out to Meat Brain Emulator. They can all feel fear, anxiety, even panic...but those reactions are hackable, which is why Gothic isn't afraid to go down with a crashing jet!

A lot of world-building this issue, but it's engaging and cheery and fun. Glad to finally have it!
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Friday, June 26, 2015

So, so close; but I'm pretty sure at least some of this would be retconned later:

From 1971, Hulk #141, reprinted in Marvel Super-Heroes #92, "His Name is...Samson!" Written by Roy Thomas, art by Herb Trimpe and John Severin.

Recently returned from Jarella's micro-world, the Hulk is mostly just wandering about confused; as Major Talbot and General Ross seek help for Ross's daughter Betty, who had been transformed into a crystal statue after a blood transfusion with the Sandman in Hulk #138. Should they seek the help of a biochemist like Henry Pym or Hank McCoy, or go all-out and get Reed Richards? No, let's go with a psychiatrist, Leonard Samson...really? Well, he does have a big plan, to cure Betty and Bruce Banner!

Samson's machinery drains the Hulk's "libidinal energy--his psychic force" and shoots it at Betty, curing her and Banner immediately! Still, curing Betty didn't take that much juice, so a notion occurs to Samson, to use the leftover power on himself, transforming him into a super-strong, green-haired he-man! Now feeling like the full package, Samson asks Betty out, before she can be reunited with Bruce, who feels like a 98-pound weakling again. It doesn't take long for the jealous Bruce to do the only thing he thinks he can, namely step up and tell Betty how he really feels about her re-dose himself with gamma rays and become the Hulk again! (Pfft, talk about your feelings? Lame!)

Samson actually had wanted to face the Hulk, who feels like he had "been away--locked in some deep, dark place." Samson thinks between his strength and intellect, he should be able to mop the floor with the Hulk, but forgets the Hulk gets stronger as he gets madder, and the Hulk floors him. Betty runs to his aid, though; and the Hulk only knows that he feels like he may have won the fight, but lost something else...

Again, I think it's been retconned later that even if the gamma energy is drained from the Hulk, it just builds back up in him again. Maybe? Still, Doc Samson is a good foil for the Hulk, and would be punched in the face many, many times over the years to come.
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Thursday, June 25, 2015

80-Page Thursdays: Superman Family #187!

We have a couple of these Superman Family 80-pagers to go, and my favorite thing about them is probably the covers, which often feature the secondary characters watching the action like they can't believe that business. From 1978, The Superman Family #187, featuring stories by Tom DeFalco, Gerry Conway, Bob Toomey, and more; with art by Curt Swan, Don Heck, Win Mortimer, and more.

In the opener, when Daily Planet columnist Dave Stevens (no, not that one) is nearly killed by a cowboy assassin, Jimmy Olsen fields the case. Even though Olsen was often, and is often, relegated to rookie status; he was an old pro by this point, and even takes the precaution of using his Elastic Lad formula. (That would be the same one Elongated Man used, although I think E-M's powers stuck.) Meanwhile, two other reporters try to follow Jimmy and scoop him, because why research your own stories when you can steal them?

Meanwhile, on Earth-2, the older Jimmy Olsen-2 (who would actually be the first one, except the naming convention favored the then-modern DC universe as Earth-1...) was dying and needed an experimental organ transplant, except he was an orphan with no living relatives--except himself, on Earth-1! Superman-2, racing to Earth-1 to get Jimmy-1...this is exactly why DC had Crisis on Infinite Earths, yeah...accidentally frees an extra-dimensional alien warrior named Krogg, who beats the living snot out of both Supermen! Rather than try to fight Krogg together (an idea Supes-1 as much as scoffs at) Professor Potter uses an ever-popular experimental machine to merge the two Supermen into one, Super-Superman! Sure, it may be psychologically damaging, and possibly blow up the earth, but they give it a shot and collectively beat Krogg by heat-visioning him until his power overloads and he explodes...I thought both Supes were pretty dead set against killing, but they don't seem too broken up about this one. As Supes-2 takes Jimmy-1 to have his organ duplicated or whatever, Supes-1 muses that a man's identity should be his own, and seems to resolve to avoid his counterpart for a while, possibly until Crisis.

Next, another assassin, this time with a mask and rocket-cycle, takes a shot at Dave Stevens in the hospital, but is stopped by volunteer nurse Lois Lane! As she works the story, the assassin takes a shot at her, nearly killing Lois with hidden rockets attached to her car, that launch her off a bridge and into Metropolis Bay! Airbags and "standard driving rules" save Lois, since Supes was out at the time.

Also this issue: a Krypto story, where the Dog of Steel jettisons some of the sillier plotlines he had to accompany a detective friend searching for his lost nephew. Then a Nightwing and Flamebird story that reveals Kandor may run on...cassette tape computers. That are vulnerable to Bizarroification...let's move on. Finally, Supergirl fights a villain with a sled made out of an old Superboy robot...I'm just going to stop here.
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Wednesday, June 24, 2015


I don't know if the Magic: the Gathering "Black Lotus" card would have ever been an uncut sheet, but that particular card is absurdly valuable. And that's about the extent of my Magic knowledge. The figures might have got more of an appearance here, but they are that rare mixture of articulated yet somehow unposeable...In the same vein, I bought the Funko Legacy Rocketeer figure last week, and friggin' love it, except some of the joints appear to be clear plastic, which could be more brittle, which makes me worry that I'm going to move it wrong and shatter the hell outta it.

For some reason, I imagine the Scarlet Witch is weirdly defensive about her mystic skills, as opposed to her mutant powers--I don't think she was trained since birth in the mystic arts or anything. In fact, her magic powers may vary wildly depending on the writer; but I'd say several other Marvel witches--Amanda Sefton, Jennifer Kale, Satana--probably outclass Wanda in training, if not natural ability. Then again, I'm not sure I've willingly paid money for a comic with the Scarlet Witch since the end of Kurt Busiek's run on Avengers, so what do I know?

Black Cat was going to make more of a stink about the suicidal lunacy of cosplaying in Marvel's New York City, since that seems like a really good way to catch an accidental crossover. Which probably wouldn't end well for someone without superpowers...
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Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Everything I know about nuns comes from old westerns. Whores too, come to think of it.

Ty Templeton knows the score: writers Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray worked with a friggin' ton of great artists on their Jonah Hex run, and I think most of their issues were one-and-dones. So if you randomly come across one, duh, grab it. This issue has a Brian Bolland cover, for god's sake: from 2006, Jonah Hex #6, "Goin' Back to Texas in a Box" Written by Palmiotti and Gray, art by Luke Ross.

Hex finds a dying man, outside the town of Salvation. A guard at the outskirts of town says it's the plague, but they have no medicine since the Apache won't let anyone through. And a pair of nuns plan to "inspect" Hex, to make sure he doesn't bring plague to the children of Salvation. Hex goes to the local saloon, but is told Salvation is a dry town; so he goes to wash up accompanied by the town, well, whore. She seems preoccupied with her nails, until she gets offended that Hex isn't interested, and that's when a nun pulls a shotgun on Hex and events really start to go sideways. Suffice to say, there's a good nun, a bad nun, a whore without the prerequisite heart of gold, and a lot of corpses before the end.

I've never read Jonah Hex regularly, unless you count the Vertigo mini-series. But Hex comics are like Groo for me: I have a pile but nowhere near all of them, and even randomly picking up an issue it's never going to be a bad read.
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Monday, June 22, 2015

Look and find...bad flash photography, apparently.

I love, love, loved the Wolverine and the X-Men series, so naturally it was cancelled after 25 episodes. (Conversely, Bob's Burgers, which I've never been able to warm up to, is probably going to be on TV for the rest of my misbegotten life...) So, some time back when I saw a kids "Look and Find" book for the show, I kept that in the back of my mind, and then finally ordered it a couple of weeks ago when I had a credit with Amazon. I was ordering it sight unseen, but I was hoping Nightcrawler might get a bit of page time, since he was predominantly featured in a few episodes. So, how was it? Well...

Years ago, my Oldest son and I read the heck out of an Amazing Spider-Man Look and Find book. That particular book may have been reprinted with different covers since, and it's not like the credits are plastered on the front of it, but it was written by Dwight Jon Zimmerman, who is a name I at least recognize from old Marvel Bullpen Bulletins; and featured inks by Don Heck, Mike Esposito, and Marie Severin! Flip through it, and it guest-stars the Avengers, the Silver Surfer, Daredevil, the New Warriors, the Warriors Three...! It is so great.

This Wolverine and the X-Men, though: nowhere near as good. The book is credited to a single artist, Art Mawhinney, and doesn't look too bad on the cover, but seems overly blown-up on the interiors. Worse, Nightcrawler only appears a couple times--I think Toad is in the book more, as unfortunately is Cyclops, in his horrible trenchcoat...

It would be fun to write one of these books, if you had a cadre of artists that you didn't mind torturing a bit.

Pages 1-2: Brainwashed and amnesiac, Logan is escaping the Weapon X Faculty! Can you find:
Severed Right Arm (among piles of Lefts)
Wolverine's pants
Canister of Adamantium Resin A
Cables, so many cables
Dunking tank
Deadpool (You know he's in there somewhere.)

Pages 3-4: The X-Men are looking for Nightcrawler! Can you find him?

Pages 5-6: Bishop is back from the future, trying to stop his apocalyptic timeline from coming to be! Help him find the items he needs to stop the future!
Mutant Plague
Senator Kelly
A giant-ass gun. The one he really likes.
Whatever you pick, it'll be the wrong thing when he gets back.

Pages 7-8: Cyclops is missing? Can you find him?
Hell, no.

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Friday, June 19, 2015

Before Grey was in fashion:

A couple of pages from 1978's UFO & Outer Space #16. Per the GCD, no story credit, but art by Frank Bolle.

It struck me as odd, that this entire issue didn't feature what is now a traditional alien type, the Greys. This issue does feature the "Maury Island Mystery," which one of the perpetrators confessed was a hoax; an account of the Virginia Giant, and a brief recap of Orson Welles's War of the Worlds broadcast and resulting hysteria.

As a kid in the seventies, I know I thought I saw a UFO once--because I wanted to see one, so much. Probably wasn't an alien spacecraft, although I still couldn't tell you what it was either.

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Thursday, June 18, 2015

80-Page Thursdays: Justice League of America 80-Page Giant #1!

This issue has the traditional break-off into teams, regroup for the conclusion format of so many classic JLA stories, and guest-stars like the Crimson Avenger, Cinnamon, the Bride of Frankenstein, the Shining Knight, the Black Pirate--and Snapper Carr? Well, we can't have everything, I guess.

From 2009, Justice League of America 80-Page Giant #1, "Wrinkles in Time" Written by JT Krul, Rich Vogel, Josh Williamson, Chuck Kim, and more; with art by Justin Norman, Daxiong, BIT, Mahmud Asrar, and more. Fighting Epoch, the League is thrown into different times; as Epoch plots to kill the newborn infant grandmother of his foe, the Time Commander. To save himself, and incidentally everyone else, TC enlists the aid of Snapper Carr and his girlfriend, Cheetah. Cheetah isn't really keen on helping save Wonder Woman, but plays along. (This ties into a Final Crisis tie-in I didn't read, Resist.)

The scattered Leaguers have a variety of adventures, like Vixen subbing in for the Shining Knight in a duel during the fall of Camelot; or Dr. Light and Superman meeting a new version of Samurai in feudal Japan. I liked the Firestorm and Green Arrow meet the Bride of Frankenstein one, where GA wants to not mess with the time stream, until he has the opportunity to try and punch out Ra's al Ghul.

In the end, Snapper gets the JLA back, and disarms Epoch; but also realizes too late the Time Commander may have played him for a sap. I liked seeing some of the various guest-stars, but your enjoyment of this issue may depend on your tolerance for Snapper Carr...
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Wednesday, June 17, 2015


I always liked the Spider-Signal, but I don't know if you see it much anymore. The Deadpool signal was a keychain light I picked up a couple months back.

We'll see the Build-a-Figure Thanos with the Marvel Select version, next time!

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