On Saturday, October 23 my girlfriend Mary and I took a day’s road trip up to Ventura, about a ninety-minute drive north of Pasadena. Mary dropped me off at Ralph’s Comic Corner on Main Street while she went off antique shopping. I had a couple of hours to get completely lost in tracking down back issues, and I sought out and found (with help from the very courteous staff) some real gems. Combined with a batch of new comics I bought over the past two weeks, I had a great stack of comics to read and thumb through on Sunday. Here are my thoughts on a few of them.
The Mighty Thor #161
The magic of Lee and Kirby! Everything is big in this issue! A big two-page spread! Several big full-page panels! A big character (Ego, the living planet)! Big dialogue (“For I am Galactus!” cries Galactus. “The be-all and the end-all I am!”)! Big explosions (involving meteors everywhere)! Big spaceships (so big, Kirby can barely fit them on a page)! Big confrontations (Galactus vs. Ego, Galactus vs. Thor; hey, it doesn’t get much bigger)! And a big old cliffhanger (Thor and his pals can’t get back to Earth, but they can spend their remaining days on Ego; dang, now there’s an accommodating living planet)! Oh, no, a cliffhanger! Now I’m going to have to seek out Thor #162!! This means a big return to Ventura!!
Grimm’s Ghost Stories #53
Hey, I couldn’t pass this one up. I mean, how often do you see Beethoven on the cover of a comic book? In “Music From The Grave,” the clever Sidney hopes to convince a famous New York critic that his friend Nola is being granted from beyond a musical work composed by the spirit of Beethoven. Actually, the composition was written by Sidney, who hopes to make a pretty penny by tacking a famous musician’s name to it. But Beethoven doesn’t take too kindly to his ‘work’ being used for profit. So he comes back to life and drops a chandelier on Sidney, killing him instantly! Well, you know how touchy artists get over abuse of their memory!
Comic Book Artist #4
Showcasing Filipino artists of the 1970s. I’m a big fan of DC’s mystery comics line from 1968-1983, so it’s terrific to see a detailed look at the lives and work of an exemplary host of creators who really gave such books as House of Mystery, House of Secrets, and Weird Mystery Tales a distinct look. And Captain Fear, who had his own, now practically forgotten series in Adventure Comics, finally gets his cover! All the top Filipino artists are here, Tony DeZuniga, Alex Nino, Nestor Redondo, Rudy Nebres, and even the obscure ones, including Abe Ocampo, Ernesto Patricio, and Buddy Gernale. CBA #4 is an absolute treasure.
Let’s suppose you owned a ranch out in the American West somewhere, and you’re out with your buddy one afternoon checking on the cattle. You turn a bend and there’s Godzilla standing over you. Now, are you gonna say, “Think maybe we been out in the sun too long?” Well, that’s what one cowboy mutters as Godzilla’s big tail comes swooping down for the crush. Japanese horror meets contemporary Western. Good, clean, campy fun. We even get to see Godzilla take a nap. Cute!
The Mighty Thor #207
Back in the early 1970s, writers Steve Englehart, Gerry Conway, and Len Wein, along with Len’s wife Glynis, drove up to Rutland, Vermont in Steve’s testy car to view Tom Fagan’s annual Rutland Halloween Parade. This tale was recounted in DC’s Justice League of America #103, written by Wein. What I didn’t find out until years later was that JLA #103 was actually one part of an overlapping ‘crossover,’ spread over three comics published in October, 1972. Englehart wrote his version of the trip in Marvel’s Amazing Adventures #16 (featuring the Beast) and Conway scripted his take in The Mighty Thor #207. I had picked up AA #16 a couple of years back, but Thor #207 proved more elusive. I finally located a copy at Ralph’s for $1.00, only eighty cents more than what I paid for JLA #103 over thirty years ago! So could this entertaining Halloween treat be considered DC and Marvel’s first company crossover, involving not their respective superhero characters, but writers? It’s certainly possible, if you don’t take into account DC’s Aquaman #56, written by Steve Skeates and published in early 1971, and Skeates’ follow-up in Marvel’s Sub-Mariner #72, released over three years later.
Chilling Adventures In Sorcery #s #3-5
October, 1973-February, 1974
Red Circle Comics Group
An obscure book from the publishing house that brings us Archie and the good students of Riverdale High. Sorcery (which is emphasized in the cover logo) features macabre tales by Gray Morrow (who also scripts!) and early work by artist Vincente Alcazar (who scripts, too!). Above par storytelling, although a little wordy in spots. But that’s okay, a little extra reading in comics never hurt anybody, and the illustrations are outstanding. Title became Red Circle Sorcery with issue 6 and held on to issue 11. A worthy experiment at a time when mystery/horror books saturated the market, and now confined to comic boxes in comics specialty shops. But they’re waiting to be found!
Wildstorm Signature Series
It is one hundred years in our future, and mankind has expanded space travel well beyond Mars. There are coffins filled with bodies discovered in the ocean below the ice surface of one of Jupiter’s moons. Nathan Kane, Special Weapons Inspector, United Nations, has traveled from New York, Earth to Cold Harbor, Jupiter System to investigate the trouble that Fadiz Aziz, Station Commander of Cold Harbor, claims they’re in. So begins another of writer Warren Ellis’ intriguing looks at our not-too-distant future. Cool artwork by Chris Sprouse and Karl Story. Six issue miniseries.
The DC Comics Encyclopedia
This magnificent tome will cost you forty bucks. It’s immaculately produced, stocked with detail, saturated with color, generous with obscure entries (Ditko’s The Odd Man), and plagued with noteworthy omissions (John Constantine, in particular). There are also plenty of errors (Black Canary’s boyfriend is Oliver Queen, not Oliver McQueen), but that can be expected with a project of this magnitude (350 pages and over 1,000 entries). The emphasis is on the current DC Universe, post-Zero Hour up to Superman: Birthright, but DC’s rich history is certainly not slighted. There is definitely room for improvement, so I hope sales warrant a corrected, revised, and updated edition, maybe even a companion volume.
I wrote a review of IC #5 for this week’s Silver Bullet Comics Sunday Slugfest and I’ve also posted my thoughts on who Jean Loring’s attacker is on the Identity Crisis Villain Theory thread, so what more would I have to add? Just a couple comments on the possibility of Jean Loring being Sue Dibny’s killer. I wasn’t too keen on that proposed theory, but now that I’ve looked over the entire series for the umpteenth time, I’ve gotta admit she could be the culprit. In Identity Crisis #1, page 27, Ray (The Atom) Palmer and Jean Loring are in Jean’s office one hour after Sue’s murder. In panel two, Ray thinks to himself, “From the look on her face, she’s in lawyer mode.” In panel four, Jean says, “Now sign before my lawyer-mode kicks in…” So she wasn’t in lawyer mode, as Ray thought, she was thinking on something else. A murder committed, perhaps? When the subatomic signal is received in panel six, Ray learns that Sue is dead. Both he and Jean then teleport through the phone in panel seven. So Jean is capable of traveling through the phone lines, just like Ray. That’s how all the security could have been breached in Ralph and Sue’s home. There are some convincing reasons why Jean would kill Sue on the Identity Crisis Villain Theory thread. Check ’em out and let me know what you think. Waitaminnit, come to think of it, Ray’s over an hour late arriving at Jean’s office…oh, for Pete’s sake, enough of this, where is that Occult Files of Dr. Spektor comic I bought on Saturday? It promises a pitched battle between a werewolf and Frankenstein’s monster!
On that note, happy Halloween everyone!