Phone It In
We are living in a time when technology is growing as fast the grass in my front yard. Every week I read about some new gadget or device that is making our lives hit warp speed that only Captain Kirk could dream of.

Just when you think we’re really gonna see moving sidewalks and jet packs something happens that’s so basic, so retro that it works far better than a phone that has a camera, takes video, checks email, text messages, X-rays for bombs and wakes you up with the voice of Roselyn Sanchez purring dirty things in your ear.

What is this item of incredible smarts?

I call em’ “Comic Book Phone Books”. If memory serves me right it was during Wildstorm studio’s days at Image Comics that these massive blocks of black and white paper were thought of and published.

They’re usually around 400 to 500 pages thick. Black and white pages and collect huge chunks of comic book history. The two publishers that make the best of these monster-sized books are Marvel and DC Comics.

Marvel calls their books Essentials. DC has named theirs Showcase Presents. Both are big, black and white, and bigger than my local phone book. With each company having around 60 years of history these books give older readers a convenient way of having their comic collection at their fingertips. No more crouching over long boxes with your belly in the way and your knees screaming with pain.

For younger readers it saves them hundreds to thousands of dollars and allows them to read all the milestone issues of what has come before. It gives the publishers a chance to not only keep the roots of their long standing characters strong, but it also gives them a chance to reintroduce more obscure characters to readers in hopes that they will find a new interest in the characters.

Case in point: DC’s Showcase Presents have recently done a very smart thing. The have released five books. Three of them are of established icon characters that currently enjoy nice success. Those are Green Lantern, Superman and Justice League Of America.

The other two are Metamorpho and Jonah Hex. Here they have a wonderful opportunity to breathe new life into these very interesting characters. Being a man of wide tastes I’m really happy with the Jonah Hex book not only giving us the classic Michael Fleisher written issues, but we also get the hard to find and overlooked issues of Outlaw from All Star Westerns.

As a young kid in the 60s, Metamorpho was a book that I always looked for in the drug stores and supermarkets. He was weird, had a funny name and the art by the under-rated Ramona Fradon had me mesmerized. Her art was so different from everyone else at that time. She had an almost animated look before there was an animated look in comics. She had a great thick line work that worked so well with the way she crafted expressions and body language. Bob Haney‘s stories were very hip and still stand up today. In fact if Bob was a new young writer today his work would be a hot indy hit.

Marvel’s Essentials have been around a little bit longer. I have most all of em’. It was a great way for me to have bookshelf versions of my own comic book collection. I am always grabbing one and reading them. My copies of Daredevil and Avengers are very well worn.

Both publishers have done a really nice job with making the art clear and easy on the eyes. I love the color comics, but there is also something cooly retro about reading them in B&W. Being a child that grew up on B&W TV it’s a nice trip back in time.

As a comic book creator and business insider I get the media question asked of me every year around this time. “What do I recommend as a comic book related Christmas Gift?” My answer is always so easy?“Comic Book Phone Books.” Both Marvel and DC have retail prices of $16.99 for these hefty books. I defy anyone to argue that isn’t a great deal. You talk about “bang for your bucks”? this is it.

I’d like to see Marvel package together some of their great war comics from the 1950s that came out when their name was Atlas. I would love to see the Bill Everett issues of The Sub-Mariner in Essential form. It would be a pleasure to see them haul back a variety of their 1970’s oddball books like Skull The Slayer, Night Nurse, Jungle Action, Ka-Zar, Marvel Premiere and others of that time.

At DC I’d love to see them collect a wide array of the original Showcase Comics, My Greatest Adventures, Mystery In Space, Tales Of The Unexpected, and of course, Blackhawk.

Both Marvel and DC have a huge vault to call from. I’d love to see all of you support this by not only requesting em’, but buying em’ if and when they come out. Hell, I’d just love to see ya send Marvel and DC a simple email and let em’ know you enjoy em’.

That ain’t asking much.

New comics may not come cheap, but the past is a deal.

A Face Even A Mother Would Be Scared Of
This week’s Busted Knuckles has somewhat of a retro theme this week. Being the master of smooth segmenting, I wanna now take you to the old west via the new west.

When it comes to the old west there aren’t many in the comic book business that are as well versed as me. No brag, just fact. I’ve spent most of my life reading and studying the old west. So that means that I’ve probably been doing it longer than you’ve been alive.

Sure there are a couple of other writers in comics that can run with me, Chuck Dixon is one, but for the most part I am the one that can see through the dust and know who’s been on the trail and who has just watched a bunch of Hollywood movies and thinks they know the west.

A few paragraphs ago I spoke of Jonah Hex. As I mentioned I loved what Michael Fleisher did with the ugliest hombre ever to kick at a cactus. Jonah Hex has always been what I called a “Gothic Western”. There are “Green” westerns. Those being ones that take place in states that have rolling hills, forests and endless green pastures. There are “Dust” westerns that take place in the southwest and desert areas. “Texican” deal with those that have the flavors of Texas and Mexico. There are others that capture the culture of California in both pre and post Spanish rule as well as the little covered historical stories of the northwest and the border life on the edge of Canada.

“Gothic” westerns deal with the end and after effects of the Civil War. The Civil War was the medieval times for America. If you’ll notice in fiction most horror related stories that deal with the “west” take place with a Civil War background or basis.

Jonah Hex has always had this flavor. The current new release and relaunch of Jonah Hex by Jimmy Palmiotti, Justin Gray, Luke RossJason Keith has managed to not only capture and keep the feel that Michael Fleisher and John Albano created Hex, but they have been able to add to it.

Not many that attempt this always succeed. It’s a hard thing to do and few people have what it takes to wanna follow a hard act.

From reading the first issue of Jonah Hex I can see immediately that Jimmy and Justin grew up watching the spaghetti westerns of the 70s. I don’t say that because Luke Ross has drawn Hex to look like Clint Eastwood. I think it’s a very nice touch myself. No complaints from me. I just hope they don’t get the Eastwood’s lawyers on them like Johnny and Edgar Winter did with Joe Landsdale and Tim Truman when they did their run on Jonah Hex.

I’m sure DC’s lawyers have already looked into that before this came out.

Jonah Hex #1 “Giving The Devil His Due” is a really solid story that gives the readers a fine taste of the old west with just the right amount of modern violence/gore that keeps butts in the seats in movie theaters today. In the first four pages the character of Jonah Hex is set up so that even the first time reader that has never read a comic will know the score. This is a writing tip that more comic writers in the continuity heavy world of Marvel and DC Comics need to master.

Jimmy and Justin also do what other writers forget to do. They make you want to turn the page. This is a part of the comic book writing craft that has given away to mumbled jumbled story telling that has made so many writers lazy.

The story is self-contained, yet, there smoke in the distance from a bigger fire. I’m sure we’re gonna find out much more in the next few months. The only burr under my saddle is that the dialogue and speech patterns are not used for the time period. The phrasing of the mid to late 1800’s isn’t there or used. At least not in this issue. Cowboy talk is more than dropping the “G”‘ on your words.

Luke Ross’s art is a real feast. I truly enjoyed it. His camera angles and pacing is nice. He does a wonderful job with expressions and this really pays off when a character isn’t speaking.

Jason Keith’s colors mix well with Luke’s art. This is gonna get even better with future issues. I hope we don’t see any change in this team.

Only complaint is that when ya look like Hex there should be more background characters staring and rubbernecking when Hex shows up or passes by. Even after a person meets Hex it would still be against human nature for them to not wanna look at him face to face that much. There would be more averting of the eyes. I think this would be pretty important in a first issue to set up the mood of Hex’s presence.

This one is a keeper, boys and girls. Jonah Hex is a book to put on your pull list. I tip my own cowboy hat to Jimmy and Justin for taking the new comic book readers by the hand and tuggin’ em’ into the new west. My suggestion is for all of ya to pick up the Showcase Presents Jonah Hex and Jonah Hex #1. It’s time to saddle up.

Busted Knuckles Babe Of The Week
Continuing with the Retro theme this week I figured I’d thrown in a Busted Knuckles Babe from the past. One that helped me get through puberty in a very nice way. Her name is Yvonne Romain.

This sultry vixen was the star of a couple of the noted horror Hammer Films. One of those Hammer films was the greatest werewolf movie of all times, “The Curse Of The Werewolf” where great actor Oliver Reed was the werewolf. This had to be the best werewolf make up ever. He was really scary looking and the make up job still stands today. This was way before all the fancy CGI stuff.

Yvonne was in that movie playing a mute servant girl. She didn’t even have to say anything in that movie to steal a scene. Like Hammer Film babes, Yvonne was a busty one and wasn’t afraid to wear the low cut serving wench dress when asked.

Just for a bit of trivia, Yvonne was also in the Elvis movie “Double Trouble”.

Yvonne is still alive and well. I’m sure she is still a beauty. If ya see her, tell her I said thank you.

Retro Beau Signing Off

I hope you enjoyed the look at the future through the eyes of the past this week in Busted Knuckles. I had fun. I guess it’d be nice if you did too.

I’ll leave ya with a real manly retro shot that will be sure and blind ya. A real “Retro Beau” shot.

As you can see, I may be a little frayed at the seams in my old age, but my attitude hasn’t changed.

Beau Smith 1972 & Beau Smith 2005

See ya next week, amigos.

Beau Smith
The Flying Fist Ranch
P.O. Box 706
Ceredo, WV. 25507

Prove your manhood by visiting Beau at the Flying Fists Forum!

About The Author

Beau Smith

Beau Smith is a writer for Comics Bulletin