Thursday, July 30, 2015

On vacation!

Out for a couple days, so have a good weekend!

(Cover from a rough copy of Charlton's Kid Montana #46--is it Kid Montana or Montana Kid? Well, either or.)
Read more!

Wednesday, July 29, 2015


I wrote this strip over a month ago, and finished it July 7; but the new Spider-Man Legends Infinite Kraven the Hunter may be out by now...and while he doubtless outclasses this old Kraven, I think some collectors are going to miss this crazy bastard. I wanted to give him a sendoff, but how would Kraven the Hunter get to space? You could probably guess if you really thought about it: I cheat a little, and a non-Marvel character guests next time!

Also this week: Deadpool continues a running gag that I think has so far gone the entire length of the Stars My Aggravation...every episode we see Pool with a gun, it's a different one than the last time.

Read more!

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

A warning: I was going to say this issue gets dark, quickly; but it pretty much starts from there and goes deeper. From 1985, Incredible Hulk #312, "Monster" Written by Bill Mantlo, art by Mike Mignola and Gerry Talaoc, with a cover from Mignola and Bill Sienkiewicz.

I mentioned wanting this issue almost a year ago when we checked out #310, and I thought this would be in the same vein, a bit of a laugher: the mindless, savage Hulk, still trapped in the extradimensional Crossroads; his only companions the manifestations of his mind. Namely Glow, Goblin, and Guardian. They might be symptoms of bigger psychological problems, but seemed mostly played for comedy; or so Mantlo would have someone to dialog besides the Hulk's inarticulate growling. Here, we see their secret origins, along with the birth of Bruce Banner. His father, Brian, seems an almost-stereotypical drunk at first, in the waiting room as his wife delivers; but he wonders if his research in atomic radiation might not have altered his genes somehow. The term mutant isn't thrown around for a bit, but Brian goes with another m-word: "Monster."

Bruce's mother Rebecca is attentive and doting, and Bruce associates her with a star-shaped mobile over his crib: the inspiration for Glow. Brian resents Bruce taking Rebecca's attention away from him, and tries to monopolize her, leaving Bruce with an uncaring nanny, who Bruce sees as a Goblin. His beloved doll, however, protects him, his Guardian. At four years old, Bruce snuck down Christmas morning and opened one of his presents: an erector set, which the young genius took to immediately. Seeing his son's handiwork, instead of pride, Brian is convinced Bruce is a "freak" and the radiation altered his son's mind. Rebecca defends Bruce and is struck, as is Bruce.

The scene jumps ahead to Bruce's high school days, where he's a hard-working student...that would make Peter Parker seem like Mr. Popular. He's also being raised by his aunt, since Brian had killed Rebecca. Brian had been declared "temporarily insane," and released; giving him the opportunity to assault Bruce at Rebecca's grave. He proclaims that he will expose Bruce as a mutant, but Bruce doesn't care, his father's already done enough.

Next, at GammaDesert Base, Bruce is welcomed by Betty Ross, and sees the same Glow in her that he did in his mom. They talk about his old doll, Guardian, before its arm is torn by General Thunderbolt Ross, in one of his most horrible appearances ever: Ross both praises Brian Banner as a "real man," even defending him after Bruce flat-out tells Ross he was a murderer. Ross also starts referring to Banner as a "milksop" not thirty seconds after meeting him, but his opinion had probably been formed long before.

In the present at the Crossroads, Guardian, Goblin, and Glow discuss how they've done everything they could to help the Hulk and Bruce; and now Bruce is going to have "t'come out from hidin' inside the Hulk an' reclaim his life again!" Which is why the Beyonder finds Bruce a complete wreck at the end of the issue, and resolves to help him...Along with the mandatory Secret Wars II crossover, Mantlo, Mignola, and Talaoc (who sound like Silver Age monsters in a classic Marvel story!) would only have one more issue on Incredible Hulk. During a crossover with Alpha Flight, they would trade titles permanently with John Byrne! Byrne would only stay for six issues, though; Mignola would stay with Alpha Flight for four issues (maybe five, he penciled part of #47) and Mantlo until #67.
Read more!

Monday, July 27, 2015

I want to say this has four times as many villains as usual...

The cover proclaims "3 Villains so mighty it takes 19 heroes to fight them in the..." Giant Justice League of America #148, "Crisis in Triplicate!" Written by Martin Pasko (with an assist from Paul Levitz), art by Dick Dillin, ink by Frank McLaughlin.

And they don't even count the Legion's bad guy Mordru! He started the plot the previous issue, bringing the JLA to the 30th century, in order to rediscover the mystic artifacts the Wheel, the Jar, and the Bell. They had been onboard the JLA's satellite, but lost when it was destroyed after the 20th century. (This was written in 1977, the Satellite would be destroyed in Crisis on Infinite Earths in 1985.) Mordru releases the Demons Three--Abnegazar, Rath, and Ghast--who promptly turn on him, and hypnotize some of the Legion of Super-Heroes to put Mordru's giant spirit-form back in his imprisoned body. Which would be a problem, since Green Arrow and Black Canary were trapped in Mordru's beard--no, Mordru's hourglass necklace, sorry. That sounds better.

Still, despite being together for centuries, the Demons Three are torn on what to do now: Abnegazar has tired of constantly fighting humanity, and just wants to live in peace in the 30th century. Rath wants to pillage and conquer the future; and Ghast wants to go old-school and completely destroy it, as it was in the "before-time." But their powers may not work on each other, so they decide to battle via proxies, champions. Abby gets the Legion (or a few members) while Rath gets the Justice Society and Ghast gets the Justice League. Each team is hypnotized in a different way, and throw down for most of the rest of the issue; with GA and Canary rescued since Ghast realizes his team was down a couple guys.

Wildfire and Superman pick up their rivalry from when Supes was a boy, Dr. Fate is reduced to just a mask (or possibly just a head) for a bit, Batman takes a rough-looking sucker-punch from Chameleon Boy. Still, Ghast hadn't hypnotized his guys hard enough, and Power Girl was able to resist the hypnosis entirely, so by throwing some fights they convince the Demons to attack each other directly again, and Ghast destroys the other two.

Dr. Fate had already put Ghast's defeat into motion, though; by absorbing the magic of the other two demons, and using it to recreate Ghast's prison...the JLA satellite! Which may or may not still be orbiting 22,300 miles above earth today! the 30th century. Give or take some reboots. This is like the fifth JLA/JSA crossover issue I've bought where I don't have the prior chapter, and I think I still have another where I only have part one!

Read more!

Friday, July 24, 2015

I didn't set out to get all Madcap's early appearances, but here we are.

Today, safety lessons your mom should've taught you! The definition of "'sponsible"! And how long it takes two super-powered children to realize someone's not right in the head, in 1988's Power Pack #34, "Child's Play" Written by Howard Mackie, art by Larry Alexander and Louis Williams, inks by Tony DeZuniga.

Katie, the youngest of the Power Pack, is bored out of her mind, and gets in trouble for trying to pull a practical joke on her older brother Jack. Meanwhile, at Four Freedoms Plaza, the visiting Franklin Richards is likewise bored, and gets in trouble for trying to pull a practical joke on the Human Torch, and nearly getting disintegrated in his father's lab. Franklin's age and power levels seem to vary wildly, but today he seemed younger than usual, and had the power to appear elsewhere in a "dream form," so he visits Katie. Together, they catch an episode of the Madcap Mystery Hour!

Presumably the show was public access, but I could see it catching on. Katie and Franklin decide Madcap would be a fun guy to hang out with, and with their powers they're able to find him for a visit. And Madcap's game for running around with super-powered children, since he's crazy. Madcap sticks his head in a garbage truck, squashing it and his hat flat, but both recover: Madcap has a healing factor, I'm not sure what the hat's excuse is...Madcap tells the kids the pursuit of fun is the only thing that matters, and gets them all sticks to play pirate. The kids point out their respective moms told them not to run with sticks, lest they poke an eye out, so naturally...

When Madcap turns his insanity power on the crowds, the kids have to try to keep anyone from getting hurt. Katie has to swipe a Porky Pig-like mask, to protect her identity, as Madcap interferes with a bank robbery. But the kids both learn responsibility...from the example of someone utterly without it.

I think there have been a few stories with an aged-up Power Pack: getting most of them up to tweenage, maybe? And Alex has shown up in Fantastic Four in recent years. Still, if this issue had been written today, it probably would've featured Deadpool in Madcap's role...even though there are probably laws in place to keep Pool away from kids.
Read more!

Thursday, July 23, 2015

"Patent Pym'ing."

Question: In regular Marvel continuity, how many people have stolen Hank Pym's tech? Not used or borrowed; straight-up jacked? I'm pretty sure Hawkeye started that ball rolling when he helped himself to Hank's serum to become Goliath. Bill Foster got the Pym particle formula when he worked with Hank, but I don't know if he had permission to use it as Black Goliath. Eric Josten, the mercenary known as Power Man, Goliath, or Atlas; he definitely stole it; as did Ant-Men Scott Lang and Eric O'Grady. Rita DeMara stole the Yellowjacket uniform and used it as a member of the Masters of Evil and then as a Guardian of the Galaxy...before being horribly murdered. Stature got her powers from stealing Pym particles from her dad Scott, and Tom Foster stole it from Avengers Mansion.

It seems like Pym's work is swiped, a lot--I mean, how often is Iron Man armor stolen? (The tech on occasion, but full-on armor?) Anyway, still haven't seen Ant-Man, and don't know if I'll be able to get in this weekend. Still, found a Walgreen's exclusive Ant-Man/Black Ant, at like the sixth Walgreens I checked.
Read more!

Wednesday, July 22, 2015


I wrote this strip about the same time composer James Horner died: although probably best known for Titanic and being at least partially responsible for "My Heart Will Go On," he did the scores for Star Trek II and III. And then he got big and didn't cost out for those anymore...I've had the Star Trek II CD for years, and however many times you think I might've listened to it...go ahead and multiply that by like a million.

Read more!

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Quick one today, since I spent the weekend doing some cleaning and rearranging; including moving my computer and scanner. Still works, so here's one from Secret Origins #31, "The Secret Origin of the Justice Society of America" Written by Roy Thomas, pencils by Michael Bair, inks by Bob Downs.

Early in WWII, before America had even entered the war, President Roosevelt asks the Flash and Green Lantern to stop Hitler's invasion of England. They get their asses beat by Nazi robot "the Murder Machine," but Dr. Fate realizes what has happened and summons Hourman to help him save the heroes and stop the Valkyries Hitler unleashed with the Spear of Destiny! When that fight also goes badly, Fate brings in more help: the Sandman, Hawkman, the Atom, and the big gun he didn't think would come, the Spectre! Who destroys a Nazi fleet singlehandedly, because although he was a ghost, the Spectre was still an American, damn it. (He may hint at it a little there, but the Spectre's attachment to humanity would erode over time: here, he more or less as human as he would ever be.)

Roy Thomas explains in an editorial at the end of the issue, that this story was to both revamp Paul Levitz's 1977 origin for the JSA, and adjust it for the Crisis, since Batman and Superman were no longer ever members of the JSA. Which was somewhat problematic, since in the original, Supes saves Roosevelt from a Valkyrie's spear. Here, although the Atom is stabbed trying to protect the President, Roosevelt is mortally wounded, and the Spectre has to bring him back from the a cost.
Read more!

Monday, July 20, 2015

The cover more than carries this one.

Not that the interior art is terrible, but it's a Brian Bolland cover, so c'mon. From 1986, The Outsiders #18, "The Firefly's Blaze of Glory" Written and edited by Mike W. Barr, art by Jerome Moore and Al Vey and Jan Duursema.

As the Outsiders practice and have a few laughs in their off-brand Danger Room (they aren't the only DC characters to have swiped one!) in L.A. a prison transport is loading, and the guards and other prisoners are also having a laugh, at the expense of one Garfield Lynns, a.k.a. Fruitfly. Er, Firefly. Although soundly mocked by all, he is able to escape from the transport with an "equalizer beam" that blended the gray of his uniform with that of the truck. At a newspaper, Firefly tries to get a classified ad to threaten the Outsiders, and is about to get bounced by security, once they stop laughing at his costume. Still, FF--that's actually on his costume, his chest logo is FF--zaps them with an illusion ray, and makes a pretty effective escape by blinding drivers with red lights.

The Outsiders aren't taking Firefly very seriously, but do want to make sure no one gets hurt. Katana deduces the clue he was trying to place in his ad, that FF was going to attack Dodger System on "Light Night," a flashlight giveaway. (Which sounds like a good way to get batteries thrown at ballplayers, but what do I know?) When Firefly sucks all the power out of the stadium, the Outsiders take him down easily, but he manages to suck the light out of Halo, including her powers! Firefly turns the tables, then escapes again; but Halo is weakened and near death.

As the rest of the team falls into a obvious trap trying to find Firefly, FF hits the Outsiders' headquarters, planning to finish Halo off and keep her powers. Still, when tricked into trying to use all Halo's powers at once, Firefly loses them: that was how Halo transformed into her civilian identity Gaby. A very protective Katana threatens to kill Firefly if Halo dies, but she recovers. Firefly gloats that he might've got beat, but he had his moment in the sun, and they can't take that away from him. Unless a telepath like Looker wipes his mind, which she does, which seems a little harsh.

We don't see this version of Firefly much after this: eventually, the Batman: the Animated Series version of a pyromaniac with a flamethrower gun and maybe jetpack wings would become the standard. Probably just as well: the light-controlling version seems interchangeable with the first Doctor Light. Both had science that should've changed the world, but instead used it to be punched in the face repeatedly by super-heroes, and both were mindwiped to forget a victory...uh-oh.
Read more!

Friday, July 17, 2015

Probably doesn't believe in aliens or ghosts, either. What an idiot.

Thanks to the reviews over at Siskoid's Blog of Geekery, I've been watching a lot of old X-Files episodes lately. There's a point, possibly a hundred episodes or so in, where Scully's trademark skepticism has been more or less eroded away by the constant barrage of weird and unexplainable crap she's seen. In a fictional universe like that, it seems disbelief will only get you so far. That would be like living in the DC universe and not believing in Batman; like the narrator in today's book: from 2002, Batman: Gotham Knights #31, "Clean" Written by Devin Grayson, pencils by Roger Robinson, inks by John Floyd. Cover by Dave Gibbons.

We checked out a prior issue of Gotham Knights a couple months back, part of the "Bruce Wayne--Murderer?" serial; today's issue is the seventeenth and penultimate chapter of "Bruce Wayne: Fugitive." The cleaner, Amherst, has buried a lot of evidence, but someone is after him now: the Batman. Except Amherst doesn't believe that: he thinks Batman isn't real, he's just a cover story, made up to draw attention from whatever's really going on. His theory would make sense, if this was a story set earlier in Batman's career, but set present-day, it sounds like Amherst is burying his head in the sand. We've noted it before: Batman writers and editors tend to want it both ways, that Batman is both an urban legend and a public figure. Which doesn't really track; it would be like Bigfoot giving a press conference and then expecting people to still not believe in him. Well, I suppose some people still wouldn't, but they'd be the same type that don't believe in the moon landing, either.

Anyway, Batman tracks down the special forces team that assisted Amherst, and just brutalizes them. Literally. The team's C.O. does believe in Batman, not because he just watched him thrash his men, but because he read the reports. "We have no intel on Batman ever killing anyone," he says. Batman corrects him: they have no evidence, which isn't the same thing...

Batman is either absolutely willing to cripple the special forces team to get what he wants, or really sells it; the C.O. coughs it up. Although Amherst convinces himself to stick with his plan, get out on schedule, not panic and run; he probably would have had a better chance that way. Batman finds the cleaner, and finds out he delivered payment to a "Mr. Smith" for a character assassination...on Bruce Wayne. Who gave him his orders? All the way at the top, baby. Since there's only one issue left in this storyline, I'm pretty sure the next chapter is like 99% exposition as Batman puts it all together, but I'm also positive that the culprit received like absolutely zero comeuppance for anything that's happened in the last thirty issues...
Read more!

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Repress all memory of this issue!

I know I have the previous chapter of this storyline; I just didn't care enough to follow-up and get the conclusion. Even with a Michael Golden cover! From 1993, Nomad #19, "Buried Treasure" Written by Fabian Nicieza, pencils by Bill Wylie, inks by Greg Adams and Scott Koblish.

Previously, in Captain America #421, a brainwashed Nomad (Cap's former sidekick Jack Monroe, who had been the insane anti-communist Bucky of the 1950's) was trying to murder Florida's crimelord, the Slug. This month, as Nomad tries to get back at his brainwasher, Dr. Faustus; Cap is surrounded by some of Faustus's goons, who are trying and failing to punch out of their weight class. Nomad leaves Cap to wrap them up, so he can get a head start at Faustus. Not to kill the evil psychiatrist, but to get his memories re-repressed: Faustus's treatments had caused Nomad to recall some of his abusive childhood, and he wanted none of that.

As Cap catches back up (and recollects about recently being turned into a werewolf, in a far more entertaining comic...) Nomad remembers everything: his parents had been Nazi sympathizers, Bundist agents. When FBI agents tell Jack they were friends of his family, Jack told them about his father's basement, apparently chock full of Nazi crap; and both his parents got the chair for it. Cap gets there in time to keep Jack from killing Faustus in cold blood... Jack kills him a month later, at a minimum security prison. Shoots him right in the face and strolls off into the sunset. Except Faustus would return, during the "Death of Captain America" storyline, no explanation or anything. Save that maybe nobody read this one.

Cap just seems weary in this one, like a mom trying to take the remote control away from overstimulated children; even though he knows full well that Faustus is evil and dangerous. Nicieza would do better work with Jack Monroe years later in Thunderbolts, just in time for Jack to be killed by the Winter Soldier in an early issue of Ed Brubaker's Captain America run.

Read more!

Wednesday, July 15, 2015


About the same time I wrote this strip, a similar gag about healing factors and shame came up in Deadpool's Secret Secret Wars #1, where Pool asks Logan about it. Or was it pride? Or both? I don't have the issue next to me...

I know I watched Firefly when it originally aired, and watched Serenity eventually...but I didn't love them as much as some. Hell, I think Farscape was ten times the show.
Read more!

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

It's a Roy Thomas comic; so there's a ton of references this post...

A Death in the Family was a Pulitzer-winning novel, but among comics fans it's better known as "the one where Robin bites it." But per the GCD, that title has been used in over a hundred comics. (Although reprints account for a chunk of those, and the search function seems to get iffy way down the list; but variations like "death of the family" add a ton more.) At a glance, the earliest instance appeared to be an issue of Dark Shadows from 1974; and while Marvel books like Killraven, Moon Knight, and Fantastic Four have used it, the title seems far more prevalent at DC. Today, we check out a book predating Batman's "A Death in the Family," but only by months! From 1988, Infinity, Inc. #51, "A Death in the Family" Written by Roy Thomas, pencils by Michael Bair and Lou Manna, inks by Bob Downs.

For those of you not familiar with Infinity, Inc....ok, me either. I want to say it was direct sales only, not newstand, for most if not all of its run, so I may have been aware of it but didn't read it at the time. The premise starts out fairly simply: some of the children of the original Justice Society of America create their own superhero identities and try to join the team, but are shot down. The Star-Spangled Kid, a relatively recent JSA member, who was far younger than the rest of the team due to being lost in time for several decades, decides to go with the new kids and create their own team, Infinity, Inc. Power Girl and Huntress join as well. Pretty straightforward so far, but then Crisis on Infinite Earths merges Earths 1 and 2 (and others) and not only do a few continuity patches have to be applied (like losing Huntress outright) I think a bit of focus might've been stolen, since now Infinity, Inc. was another superteam alongside the Outsiders or the Teen Titans.

This issue starts with the wedding of Lyta "Fury" Trevor and Hector "Sandman" Hall...which would actually come into play in Neil Gaiman's Sandman, if you can believe it. The team is thrilled, but Skyman--the former Star-Spangled Kid--first has a moment where he has to lie (by omission) to the old Harlequin about her illusion-casting spectacles being destroyed, then has to leave his girlfriend mid-dance for a message delivered by the skull-faced Mr. Bones.

Bones actually had skin, but it was both transparent, and infused with cyanide, giving him a deadly touch; which might be why his costume, which was based in part on the Black Terror, covers so much skin. He also spoke in rhyme, which might make him more off-putting than his face. Bones tells Skyman that Jade needs his help with Solomon Grundy, the swamp-zombie and long-time foe of the Golden Age Green Lantern. Grundy was fixated on Jade, though, and obeyed her...and as such, he obeys Jade's orders to kill Skyman!

Bones had tagged along, and tries to stop Grundy with his cyanide touch, but can't kill the undead creature. Jade then commands Grundy to use Bones to kill Skyman, and although he resists, he does; the poison burning a horrible scar into the hero as it kills him. Bones is knocked out, badly beaten, but knows it looks bad for the former villain; as "Jade" heads out to a sleazy nightclub, revealing herself to be the new Harlequin! She joins up with the Dummy (who reminds me of the Ventriloquist, except he appears to be a little person who used a robot as his "ventriloquist" while playing dummy) and with Grundy they take charge of the young villains of Injustice, Unlimited!

After getting patched up by the new Dr. Mid-Nite (who reveals a minor secret: obscured by his transparent skin, Mr. Bones was a black man) Bones takes off, convinced no one would believe his innocence. He does make a slightly over-dramatic exit, through a window, naked...Shocked, the rest of Infinity, Inc briefly squabbles over who should be their new leader, before being set straight by Skyman's old partner, Stripesy. There were only a few issues left for this series; #53 was the final issue, and shows the heroes apparently defeated by Injustice, Unlimited.

Of course, bits and pieces of this series would go on to further prominence in the DC universe, like Fury: Mr. Bones would go on to be a supporting character in Chase and Manhunter, as a director for the superhero monitoring government agency the DEO. Obsidian and Nuklon would turn up in both Justice League and Justice Society books: Nuklon would later take the name Atom-Smasher, and Obsidian would be revealed to be gay--although he describes Starfire as "the stuff that dreams are made of" and wishes Raven was there. Jade would appear in Green Lantern, after a brief phoned-in moment in Starman #10 that would in turn lead to Solomon Grundy becoming a supporting character there for years to come. None of them probably show up as often as that title, but even so. (Oh, and the Star-Spangled Kid's costume and Stripsey would go on, with Stargirl and S.T.R.I.P.E.S.!)

Even though I just got this issue, it's actually had a special relevance to me for years: the Star-Spangled Kid appeared in All-Star Comics #65, one of the first super-hero comics I strongly remember having. (Here's the cover, which mentions in the synopsis that the heroes have to face Vandal Savage "under the influence of an alien planet containing 2 green kryptonite suns," which is somehow a thing. The first link there is an old post here that mostly mentions that issue to bag on Hawkman; but that post also mentions another character who like Mr. Bones was a black man whose powers obscured his appearance. It all comes around, huh?) Years later, even though I had read maybe one issue with the character since, I was shocked to see the Kid's death referenced in Mr. Bones's Who's Who entry! I won't lie: it was like seeing the obituary of someone you used to know, a friend or acquaintance you'd fallen out of touch with. Sadly, for a comic book character, outside of a few flashback or time-travel appearances, the Star-Spangled Kid/Skyman has somehow remained dead. Possibly because that costume does look better on Stargirl, admittedly. (And she's a legacy character, now in the New 52 continuity seemingly without said legacy, but that's neither here nor there.)

Read more!