By Beau Smith
Let me ask you something: do you miss comic book Annuals from The Silver Age of Comics? I do.
I’m not talking “old guy rant” here. I’m talking more about that once-a-year feeling that you get when something special happens like your birthday or Christmas.
With comic books, an Annual was that really special event or treat story that was like the publisher saying “Thank You” to all readers. That’s the way I always took it.
At DC Comics, it was always fun because, even though they were reprints, I could read those really wacky and zany stories where Batman wore 10 different costumes and fought Gorilla Boss, where Superman was turned into a baby or was turned into a cave man. Hey, who can forget where The Flash had a gigantic head? That was crazy superhero fun at it nuttiest.
Over at Marvel We got to see Sgt. Fury in Viet Nam, Spider-Man go up against the Sinister Six, The original Avengers in a time traveling fight with the current Avengers, and who can forget the best Annual ever, Fantastic Four Annual #3, where Reed Richards and Sue Storm of the Fantastic Four got married. That was such an eye and mind treat seeing all those Marvel characters interact at a social event. That was a first for back then and simply not done enough today.
The Annuals then didn’t always have to have anything to do with the current continuity of the comic they represented. That was also a nice break. Sometimes they were a “lost” story that we had never seen before. Sometimes they were a huge meeting between heroes that had never met before. One of my favorite things was in a Spider-Man Annual #3 where they gave a layout and a visit to Peter Parker’s pad. As a young kid, I just thought that was great, (Even then I wondered how he kept his stuff a secret from roomie Harry Osborn) just as I did in the Fantastic Four Annual where they gave a cutaway of the Baxter Building. What fun stuff! As a young reader, I had always wondered where and what my favorite super homes houses and headquarters were like. Marvel was cool enough to give us that. For me, It made the stories even more interesting and compelling when Dr. Doom would attack the Fantastic Four at the Baxter Building because it became personal, he was attacking them in their home. When you are attacked in your own home, then prepare for a real fight because it just got super personal.
I would love to see that in Annuals now. By that, I mean all the stuff I mentioned above. We’ve got a couple of new generations of readers that were never treated to those sorta things. Even though the heroes have changed and have gotten more “sophisticated”, I think readers of all ages would love to see Batman have to face his rogue’s gallery of villains and get a tour of the Batcave all in one Annual. It’s been a while since The Fantastic Four have been attacked in the Baxter Building, bring that on! I wouldn’t mind reading a story about Nick Fury in Iraq with a new set of Howling Commandos either. You see the possibilities; wouldn’t you like to see it?
I’ve got a Green Lantern Corpls Annual that DC has asked me to do where Guy Gardner with a team of half veteran Lanterns and half rookie Lanterns go to an outpost planet to pick up a very dangerous convict. The story includes special DC heroes you haven’t seen in a very long time, an army of cutthroats that are out for bounties on some of the Lanterns and a barroom brawl like you’ve never seen. It’s out of the current DC Lantern continuity and it’s a treat. Who’s up for a treat?
Take some time to look up some of the Silver Age Annuals. They have a lot of them in reprints and you can still find reading copies pretty cheap at comic shops, eBay and conventions. Trust me, you won’t be sorry.
Busted Knuckles Manly Cover of the Week: Fantastic Four Annual #3
Story by Stan Lee
Art by Jack Kirby, Vinnie Colletta and Dick Ayers.
Since I boasted above this was the best Annual of all time, I figured it was only fitting that it was chosen as the Busted Knuckles Manly Cover of the Week. Maybe you’ll do like I did and gaze at the cover for hours trying to name everyone on the cover. Make sure you do it during work time. Everybody deserves a break.
Busted Knuckles Babe of the Week: Jenny Wade
You know Jenny from her current work on the very fun new FOX series The Good Guys. She’s the lovely blond that fills out a skirt rather well. You also might remember her from another fun TV series Reaper, and from one of my favorite, fun, modern monster movies Feast, Feast II and Feast III. If you get the chance, check her out on The Good Guys. It’s a lot of fun, and Jenny does a great Texas accent.
Not a lot of time left this week, but there is time to let you in on two comic books that need to be on your must read/must buy list. Both have great writing, great art and best of all, they’re examples of the craft of writing comics.
The two comic books are Time Bomb from Radical Publishing written by Jimmy Palmiotti & Justin Gray with art by the legendary Paul Gulacy.
The other comic is Garrison from Wildstorm. GARRISON is written by Jeff Mariotte with art by Francesco Francavilla.
As always, I look forward to your emails and message board posts. Please, keep ’em coming!
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