Friday, September 29, 2017

Comics that a kid in Wisconsin bought with paper route money and

... birthday money, and a wee bit of an allowance.

I am trying to do the occasional article here about comics that are current, interviews, reviews if such work comes my way, and some PR.  I love comics.  So this will be a recurring theme now and then, because comics that are new alone, are not the whole picture.  They are comfort food, they inspired me to be moral as much as my fallen flawed psyche can be, and led me to becoming a creative artist, however successful or not.  I think about them in terms of being art.  I think about them as things to make children smile.  And I think of all the amazingly talented comic industry professionalsI have met due to comics, and additionally, some truly awesome people who have become my friends also love comics. 

If I received an allowance, I didn't spend it all.  I saved most of anything I had.  But, I'd eventually fork over a quarter for a comic, and OMG, I was spellbound.  I was also somewhat specific in my taste, comics with cartoon characters didn't move me.  Funny animals weren't my thing.  I liked the genres of war, giant monsters and superheroes. I still do.  I'd add horror, and stuff that defies any convenient label.  And while my tastes have matured and evolved, the reasons I like those genres are not the same. 

My brother was a guy who read a shit ton of books, all the time, and from an early age.  We didn't altogether share taste in comics, but we both loved comics.  Escapism is one reason to read comics, and beyond simple escapism, appreciating great story telling, being moved by the art or characters, made comics different from kids books, they were ageless, at least if they were well done.  Escapism is one thing.  A creation of art is another thing.  But maybe another reason I read them, is that it gave me, a kid who stood out in crowd being chubby faced, tall, and naive, an agency to respond to bullies.  No, I didn't whip out my cape and beat them bloody.  No I didn't turn invisible and make them look to be fools.  I read in the comics stories about good defeating evil, people faced with impossible odds, and still achieving victory.  I was able, through comics to see and imagine the defeat of enemies, and bullies are assholes needing an ass whipping.

I was far more familiar with DC characters like Batman and Superman than the Marvel comics characters.  I can't say, however, that it was due to enjoyment of the comics.  For the most part Marvel stories didn't get told in a single issue, while DC mostly did.  As a kid in a town with very spotty comic book sources, I didn't want to be left hanging and never know what happened.  As an adult I've even bought comics that had been continued next issue, and left me stranded.  Some of the comics weren't good at all in retrospect, but damn it felt good to get an answer.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

The Best of Comic Book Dystopic Nightmares


"From Wiki: A dystopia (from the Greek δυσ- and τόπος, alternatively, cacotopia, kakotopia, or simply anti-utopia) is a community or society that is undesirable or frightening. It is translated as "not-good place", an antonym of utopia, a term that was coined by Sir Thomas More and figures as the title of his best known work, Utopia, published 1516, a blueprint for an ideal society with minimal crime, violence and poverty."

Once I start any good comic series I tend to pursue the back issues as soon as my budget allows.   In the case of the series shown below there is a bit of frustration.  They are so good and three of the five did not have a finale.  Timothy Truman's end to Scout War Shaman was amazing, but, it is a generational saga, so we know much more should be/is coming.  Chuck Dixon's Winterworld is powerful work that truly shows how the climate and weather can make lives miserable.  His work had 12 more issues or so added, but it has been placed upon hiatus until it can make enough money to justify further issues.   And Jack Kirby's characters Omac and Kamandi each had finite ending that the creator of the series had planned, but one of the books was canceled too early, and the other found the creative talent becoming so frustrated he left the series without an end.

SCOUT by Timothy Truman

The world has suffered enormous disaster, and the rest of the civilized world has aimed its ire at the United States.  Canada and Mexico are enemies of the now divided US.  A former special forces member, Emanuel Santana, is known now as Scout.  He is Apache and travels the now dying US.  He ends up married, has two children, and they accompany him in the second book of the series, Scout War Shaman.

Truman's ability to tell a vivid story is on display here, bringing violence, hope, love and pain all together to scramble the readers expectations.  This work is far more believable now, with the global issues at hand.
 "In October 2016, Chris MacBride is set to adapt and direct for the big screen for Studio8. Truman will serve as a consultant through the development."

KAMANDI and OMAC by Jack Kirby The future world faces a "Great Disaster".  In the world of Omac he is a genetically improved human with a mission of being a superman to preserve the peace.  The Great Disaster then happens, and we are introduced to Kamandi, and his changed world.  Talking animals go through many of the human emotions, motivations, and cruelty to others.  The series always entertained my ass.

NAUSICAA by Hiyao Miyazaki 
Nausicaä is the princess of a small kingdom located in the Valley of the Wind.  The series investigates and tells the stories of a post-apocalyptic Earth.  Despite enormous swaths of land destroyed in a ecological disaster, earth is finding ways to rid itself of the pollution.  Nausicaa uses peaceful means first, then a form of mental telepathy, and finally, she is a great warrior.  She defends her kingdom as she tries to understand the process earth is going through.

WINTERWORLD by Chuck Dixon

Although the world of Winterworld doesn't seem to reveal the source of the disastrous change in climate, Dixon smacks the reader in the head with the depth here.  In a long term winter food doesn't grow.  So, underground warm shelters with water access would be like rivers of gold.  The smallest to the largest character in stature as well hunger, all share the same motivations, survival and find shelter.  The desert or burning heat would be hard to survive without preparation.  But the truth is, during ice ages, people died from lack of food, cold, and the fact that everyone fights over resources.  Cold weather kills.

Antony Johnston writing
Christopher Mitten art

I haven't read this comic series to the end, but I did read up to issue 20.  It is powerful in many ways. There is a mythology about what happened that turned the earth into a dry bone dust bowl. The event that started it is the Big Wet, and whatever that was, the current population can only imagine.  This is a very well written work, with appropriately excellent art.

There are many great dystopias.  I recommend checking them out.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Meet me this Fall! At FallCon!


Just in time for Halloween TPBs that ought to be

Alan Grant writer
Val Semeiks art

Despite the quality of both writing and art, Demon gets no love.  Despite the story telling that is modern in aesthetics and humorous, it gets no love from the publisher.  DC Comics was about to create the Vertigo imprint, and Demon would have fit in, but, for whatever reasons, it never became a work for that imprint.  The early run of Demon has been ignored, but there were two late series collections, written by the more sexy name, Garth Ennis.  And however good that was, the work that preceded it was better.   It ought to be captured in tpb.  It is criminal that it is not.

Doug Moench writer

Gene Colan   art

The Tom Mandrake John Ostrander run of Spectre was beyond good, and it has been collected little by little.  This version was not at all bad, and I enjoyed it.  It was not the same work as the previously mentioned version.  But, whatever the differences, this version was both well written, thought provoking, and lovely to look at.  I say this despite my not being a great fan of Gene Colan's art, but this comic required a dark moody presentation, and Colan did succeed in doing that.  The tone of this version of The Spectre was somewhere between the cosmic and the superhero.  The stories were interesting, if not nearly as deep as the Ostrander/Mandrake version.  I say all this and recommend that it be collected, because there are plenty of crap books out there, why not reprint the many good ones?

Rafael Nieves, Len Kaminski writing
Michael Bair, Peter Gross art

I am sorry to include this one.  Not because it doesn't deserve collecting, I think it does, but because I believe that it could have been so much better.  The Son of Satan was given a regular series and the comic shows how he is divided between his desire to be fearsome, and powerful, but somehow become more than his lineage/father.  He isn't a hero, but isn't quite a villain.  This work is often times exciting but it does not reach the depths of darkness possible, due, partly I think, to the limits of the audience and limits of expression.  Still, it is interesting, well drawn with writing that was good despite the desires to keep the stories within a certain boundary of taste or expression.

The advent of the TPB helped many readers sit in one take a comic released, originally, serially.  It allowed a less disjointed experience... and thereby some comics with subtle building of plot lines and story ideas could become better by the experience of a single read of the entire run in question.  This book would read much better in tpb form, and eventually readers were entertained by Warren Ellis's take on the character.  But, Marvel needed a Vertigo section of the publisher so the power of expression could be unleashed.  I enjoyed it, but always wanted more. 

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Len Wein 1948 - 2017

Len Wein has passed away. He has gone to wherever we go when our bodies stop functioning. Why is this important? Len Wein, the man, was a driving force in comics beginning in the late 60s right up until September 10, 2017. 

Len wrote some of the most memorable comic books of my youth. I am particularly fond of his run on Justice League of America. I came into it in the middle of his run with issue 106 “A Wolf in the Fold”. It introduced me to one of my favorite characters from my youth, Red Tornado.
Red Tornado was an android created by the mad scientist T. O. Morrow. The android’s purpose was to infiltrate and destroy the Justice League of America and their multiversal counterparts, the Justice Society of America. I identified with the detached alienated feelings of the Red Tornado. I was further drawn in by his entrapment as part of a scheme of which he wanted no part, but was the crucial element to it. The character wanted to be self-determinant.

Len was touching on themes (alienation, misunderstanding, persecution) which he would later plant in Marvel’s X-Men relaunch. Themes which were nurtured and cultivated by Chris Claremont, under Len’s early editorial guidance, that propelled the X-Men into popular culture superstardom. 

Len moved on to be an editor for both of “the Big Two” superhero publishers, DC Comics and Marvel Comics. Books which he edited had a particular pace. It was a pace that never allowed an ongoing story to go further than four issues. It was a pace that was used widely into the early 1990s, before every story had to achieve the epic scope of critically acclaimed stories like DC Comics’ Watchmen and The Dark Knight Returns or the nascent cash cow events like DC Comics’ Crisis On Infinite Earths or Marvel Comics’ Marvel Superheroes Secret Wars (aka Secret Wars).

Len Wein, the man, may have died, but the storytelling force of nature that was Len Wein has left indelible impressions across popular culture landscape of superheroes for ages to come.  Thank you, Len Wein, for the stories, the dreams and the lessons which you have given us.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Lord Chuck, master of the comic book realms...

Anyone watching me write here knows I like Chuck Dixon, as a friend and as a fine writer of comics and books.  He recently became the all time leader in the world of comics in the feat of most pages written.  Congratulations Chuck, you deserve great kudos!

It is bound to happen that someone writing that much would have various runs and comic series that were never collected in book form, and they were indeed good enough to have been collected.

For Chuck's TPB's that need to be I've chosen only ones that can happen, whereas there are two that are awesome but would not happen.

Young Master is a work similar to Way of the Rat, in that it is based upon a character who goes through an epic journey to become a great warrior.  It is set in an Asian setting.  And it is quite good.  The best issue was the special, The World of Young Master with Alex Fucking Nino.  It was so good. SO GOOD.

The Brotherhood of the Fist cross over story deserves collecting because the art was good, the story was tight, and you got to see Chuck writing different characters, having them interact, and doing so very awesomely.  A fine choice for TPBing.

From the first issue I bought many copies of Brath when it came out and have shared them with numerous people.  It is a true barbarian tale, without the baggage, good or bad, of the typical stories and legacies of Conan or Kull, or Bran Mak Morn.  Sadly it was still in the CrossGen Universe so there were hints that he was a sigil bearer, but thankfully, it was underplayed.  Brath is a wonderful series, great writing, and the art is perfectly done for the book.  Lavish details and lush muscular characters.  Action scenes are one of Chuck's strengths, and combined with Andrea Di Vito, OMG.

Chuck's creation with Graham Nolan of Bane is worthy of Omnibus treatment of all the character's full stories.

I used to play and collect games way more than comics.  Car Warriors is from a Steve Jackson Games game called Car Wars.  Characters drive in modified vehicles for dominance of the road.  This series is pure fun, a great adaptation of the game, and worthy on its own, not just good for an adaptation, but good.

Richard Dragon was a wonderful comic that I think only I bought.  I kept wondering how people could ignore it.  And I am sure no one who bought it and read it thought differently.  But for some reason, it seemed no one cared when it appeared, and DC followed up on the lack of pr with less and less attention.  I was frankly surprised that it reached 12 issues, but I have hopes that it could be collected as a TPB.  Then again, if DC didn't care when it was current, they probably have an issue still with it.  With art by Scott McDaniel of Nightwing, Batman, Daredevil fame, I was completely in love with this book, and then nada, nothing, zippo, zilch, cancelled...

Tuesday, September 5, 2017


(September 6th, 2017 – Chicago, IL) - Atlas Comics, a fixture of the Chicago-area pop culture retail community for 25 years will return to a new retail space at 5251 N. Harlem Avenue in Chicago, just miles from their old location. The store lost the lease to its suburban Norridge store in 2013 and migrated to online and subscription-only business. After a four year hiatus, Atlas will have its Grand Re-opening from 12:00 - 6:00pm on Saturday, September 30th.

According to Atlas owner John Stangeland, the store will be a little different than it once was. "We were always known as the place for vintage back issues," he said. "And we'll still have a deep inventory of classic comics. But the industry is changing, and Atlas needs to do the same thing. That means providing a larger selection of graphic novels in a variety of genres from all over the world, and casting a wider net over the pop-culture landscape. And it means more toys and gaming, too." In addition, Stangeland promised that the general ambiance of the shop will be upgraded. "I think there will be a little less Tchiakovsky and a little more Ramones," he said. "The customers have been punished enough."

Asked why he decided to return now, Stangeland was enthusiastic. "It's just the right time. I was a little burned out before," he said, "but I got the itch back. The recent movies have been great, lots of interesting new creators, new publishers - it's a very exciting time. I want to be in the thick of it again."

Opening day will feature free comics and giveaways, a sale including thousands of comics priced $1 or less, discounts on vintage back issues, supplies, toys, games and memorabilia, and around the clock music, movies and cartoons. There will also be food (catered), drink (lots of it) and conversation (cheap).

For more information on opening day and store hours visit their Facebook page or the store website for more details, or call 708 453-2110.


Atlas Comics opened in the spring of 1988, just months after the end of Reagan administration. It has witnessed the birth of Image Comics, the death of Superman and the afterlife of Archie. It is acknowledged as one of Chicago's premiere destinations for vintage back issues, and as long as there are still people who care, it always will be

Friday, September 1, 2017

TPBs that need to be: Roy Thomas Edition

Roy Thomas was very young at the same time as very successful in the world of comics.  For a very brief second or two spent at DC, before going to Marvel full time, he was an under 25 years old comic book fan with an enormous love for the medium, and a vast knowledge of the characters of both major publishers.

Thomas quickly became Editor in Chief to Stan Lee's role as Publisher, and there was a certain dynamism between the two.  Thomas was considered the main writer for the character Conan, and used his knowledge of the history of the characters of Marvel to establish teams of the past, such as the Invaders, Liberty Legion and more.  His work was that of a fan favorite, and he was prolific.

Thomas stepped down from the EiC position and was eventually replaced by Jim Shooter, who seemed very much a pharaoh who sought to erase all memory of the previous pharaoh.  Roy Thomas eventually found the cold relationship too much to remain at Marvel, and he began a run at DC Comics that saw him taking over the golden age characters he had long desired to write.  If he was somewhat seen as being too concerned about the iron tight continuity he believed necessary, he was also counted upon to do just that.  DC united the various alternate earths and comic worlds and Roy Thomas kept busy rewriting the new history of DC, and he tried to keep the golden age characters relevant.

The following offerings suggest only that these should be done, but with such a prolific and well considered writer, much of his work is already in TPB form.  As such, it is possible that these are not his best series, because they've been done, but these works do deserve to be collected.

CONAN THE ADVENTURER came about as an attempt to reboot and reintroduce the character to an audience who had not begun reading the long running original series.  Rafael Kayanan OBVIOUSLY loved the subject, his highly detailed stylistically pleasing work was a fine accompaniment to Thomas's comfortable and fun writing style.

ANTHEM's themes and setting harkens back to the ideas of The Invaders and The Justice Society, but is different in one very important way.  This world's heroes are not fighting alongside the soldiers of the Allies, they are trying to recover and renew a defeated and invaded America.  It is an alternate version of history with superheros and fantasy elements, and it captures, shows or tries to show the heroic ideal fighting for the life of the country.  I include this because I love the idea.  And the writing is good, for what is there.  But the art?  I really wish the series could be reconsidered with new art because it was very different issue to issue, and however various panels were, it was not a congealed work.  So, while I'd like a tpb of this, I'd like a new edition with better art.  Yeah yeah, I can hear you all out there saying gee, it is easy spending other people's money and time.  Big deal.  I deserve it.

CAPTAIN THUNDER AND BLUE BOLT are a father son team, that is both different than any other comic duo, and reminiscent of the best of comic hero teams.  But this had generational angst, settings of real life, and actually, quite nice art and story telling.  A B level work, nothing perfect but it is completely entertaining and smart.  (Another work that has been reprinted in TPB form Alter Ego was an equally clever use of the format and reality, to the point that the writer Roy Thomas did comic style dialogue for certain situations while the non heroic comic moments used what could be described as a more mature real sounding, perhaps adult voice speaking.  Captain Thunder is less mature than Alter Ego, but both are good).

THE SAGA OF THE SUB-MARINER runs from the very beginning of Marvel's history, and ends at the present.  Prince Namor the Sub-mariner was an anti hero most of the time, and various writers have attempted their own interpretation of why he was so naughty on occasions.  But few approach this level of awesome.  Thomas is a comic historian, and this book evokes every era of the character and reminds us why we love Namor.  The Rich Buckler art was among the best of his career, and this series was a complete and absolute joy.

ARAK: Son of Thunder was a cross cultural character who was not created with stereotypes in mind.  I liked it a lot for what it was, even if it wasn't perfect, the writing was good, and the art was great.  I think this series needed to be as violent as the story demanded.  So, I think it could have been a lot better, and I am not complaining, it was the era still of comics being seen as for general audiences. 

THE SAGA OF THE ORIGINAL HUMAN TORCH  This series is very much like the aforementioned Saga of the Sub-mariner, but with a less wide focus.  It remains, however a fine work, with excellent art.  I really think it should be paired with the Sub-mariner book in a larger tpb, but two series tpbs is fine too.  The Original Human Torch was awesome, intelligently done from the beginning, and is a very heroic figure, however much his recent use is cliché.