Monday, June 30, 2014

Every Breath You Take - Daredevil 159


Daredevil #159 (July 1979)
"Marked for Murder!"
Roger McKenzie-Frank Miller/Klaus Janson

Doug: Last week we entered the realm of Frank Miller's Daredevil, and I don't think anyone was overtly disappointed. While some may not care for Miller's present style of drawing or the level of violence in his works (such as the Sin City stories), it would be difficult to argue his impact on the DD book as one of the highlights of the twilight years of the Bronze Age. Certainly he would be a major architect in the segue to the Dark Age. But here, very early on (when Daredevil was still a bi-monthly), it's pretty straightforward superhero fare. And this particular issue, and the subsequent two installments, would establish Bullseye as one of the baddest dudes in the Marvel pantheon of villains. Onward...


Doug: We open in some sort of film room, as the narrator tells an assemblage to look carefully at the film. It's a recording of Daredevil's circus battle with Bullseye (DD #132) in which the Man Without Fear thoroughly kicked the tail of the assassin. At this meeting the narrator is offering some serious cash ($200K -- how times change. That's about three years pay for some middle class folks in the States these days) for the capture of Daredevil and his deliverance, whereafter he will be marked for murder! If, however, DD's body is returned dead, an additional $300K will pay out. The proposal is addressed to a Mr. Eric Slaughter and his goons. We don't know it at the time, but the man with the Benjamins and making this offer is Bullseye. Oh boy... Around three years ago, frequent commenter Fred W. Hill said this in my review of Daredevil #131: "Funny that it took about 10 years for anyone to come up with Daredevil's own great villain, although it would take Miller's handling to really make Bullseye a significant foe." That begins here!

Doug: Cut to the steps of a courthouse, where Matt Murdock is being questioned about his kidnapping the previous night. The Ani-Men had taken him to the Death-Stalker, where all three men ended up dead by the end of the night. Murdock wasn't at the scene when it was over, having been replaced by his alter ego; but the press nonetheless has questions. Off to the side is Daily Bugle reporter Ben Urich, listening intently. He thinks to himself that all is not what it seems about Matt Murdock. Once inside the court room, Murdock approaches the bench and asks for a continuance in the case he's working. He gets it, so he and Foggy head back out and cab over to their offices. But in the court room, on the street, and back at the offices there lurk some shadowy figures, each one whispering to a comrade. It's apparent that Murdock's every move is being tracked, and there is a plan afoot.

Doug: Matt is able to hear the whispers around him; Foggy asks him why he's so jittery. Just then two muscle-types emerge and mug our lawyer friends. With a knife held under his nose, Murdock is told that it's known that Daredevil sometimes does investigative work for Nelson & Murdock. So it would behoove Murdock to tell his hornheaded friend that Mr. Slaughter would like to see him, alone, at Pier 42 at midnight. No Daredevil, and it won't turn out well for Matt and Foggy. Then the hoods run off. As Foggy collects himself, he calls to Matt... but Matt is gone.

Doug: DD arrives at the waterfront silently and scopes it out. As he settles in, his keen senses detect gunmen throughout the area -- the sounds of their guns being readied, the scent of cigarette smoke, and of gunpowder give everyone away. Daredevil works behind some of the men -- everyone is skittish, as it's past 12:00. Surely Daredevil would not have put Murdock's life in danger -- why hasn't he shown? DD dives into the water and swims to a ship tied nearby. The men aboard tell us that it's a really dense fog that's settled this evening. Perfect for a sightless swashbuckler.  DD climbs high enough to launch his billy club to the deck, creating a loud clanging diversion and taking out a goon.




Doug: You know, in last issue's review I led you in a discussion of Miller's art, especially as compared to Gene Colan's. I made no mention of the scripting of Roger McKenzie, and that was an oversight on my part. He really has the pulse of this character and the mood of this corner of the Marvel Universe. We might expect Daredevil to be handled as we are seeing last issue and this as Miller is aboard. I cannot tell you anything in regard to who was doing the plotting, but the tone of these stories, as well as the dialogue, is top shelf. So kudos to McKenzie, who had been on the title since #151. Miller's choreography is again well-played, and of course Klaus Janson is along to take us into Miller's noir world.

Doug: What follows Daredevil's ascension to the ship deck is seven pages of all-out butt-kicking. One of the elements of watching DD in combat is his use of the billy club. It's not unlike the manner in which Captain America uses his shield -- for offense and defense. Miller really varies the camera angles throughout the scene, which even goes underwater for a spell. And it's worth noting that the wise-cracking Spider-Man knock-off that could be Daredevil is nowhere to be found in either of these first two issues we've looked at. Instead, we are finding a hero who is just a bit perturbed at the way he's being treated -- kidnapped, mugged, and with a contract on his head. There's no time for banter when you're 24/7 PO'd. Miller gives the readers a phenomenal climactic panel for this scene when DD uses his billy club to whack a bullet right out of the air. Pretty dang awesome.

Doug: As the last tough is corralled for questioning, another thug hops into a motorboat and begins to speed away. As DD shakes his would-be informant, and is about to get the name of the contractor, a life preserver strikes the man square in the back of the neck, shattering his spine. No more talk. Daredevil turns his head toward the craft, and "sees" that the driver is pointing something at him -- but not a gun. He is confused, a countenance not lost on the man getting away. Sometime later, we see the arms and legs of the man who had apparently led off our story. It's a familiar look, and as the camera continues to pull back in each panel, there's no mistaking who had ordered the contract. Bullseye. And what was he pointing at Daredevil? Why, a movie camera. You see, he had been in hiding during the entire fracas on the pier, up to the very end when he had to kill the informant who was about to spill his identity. And what use will the film be? For studying Daredevil's every move and tendency. It's a bloody revenge that Bullseye seeks. And oh yeah... he knows that the Black Widow is back in New York. See you next Monday.


Saturday, June 28, 2014

What If...The Fantastic Four had been a TV show in the 1960s?


Karen: I just discovered this very entertaining, and incredibly detailed, website dedicated to a TV show that never existed! The creators of the site (www.auntpetunia.com)  have come up with their own 'What If' -namely, what if there had been an unaired Fantastic Four TV show in 1963-1964? The amount of effort they've put into this project, coming up with not only the names of actors but producers, writers, directors, and others, still photos, and an episode guide, is staggering. 


Of course, Russell Johnson (Gilligan's Island's Professor) as Reed Richards is no stretch of the imagination (ha!) as Alex Ross has been drawing Mr. Fantastic as Johnson for years. I thought Elizabeth Montgomery as Sue Storm was a great choice. I've never heard of Tim Considine, but he looks good as the Torch. However, I think William Demarest is a very oddball selection for the Thing -Uncle Charlie? Really? There were a lot of other  much younger actors that would have worked better.  

I thoroughly enjoyed reading the episode descriptions (Fabian as Namor?!) and the behind the scenes stories for episodes that never existed. Just imagine if they really had made a FF series with such wonderful writers like Richard Matheson, George Clayton Johnson, Earl Hamner Jr., Robert Bloch, Theodore Sturgeon -wow! An episode with the Hate-Monger directed by John Cassavettes? Yeah, it's definitely wish fulfillment. The one episode that doesn't ring true at all is the Harlan Ellison one with hippies and mind-altering drugs -in 63, people were not turning on and dropping out yet. But still, this is an inspired effort and I tip my hat to the creators of the site. Who knows, maybe in an alternate reality, the show DID exist! If only we could join the Watcher in his home on the Blue Area of the moon and scan the many other realities to see if we could find the one where this show is playing in reruns...


Take a look - what do you think?


Friday, June 27, 2014

The Spinner Rack - June 1974


Doug: You know the drill by now -- click on the date below to be taken to a page showing the covers of a whole slew of comics that were cover-dated June, 1974. Leave a reminscence of some books you may have bought. However, for many of us who patronize this site, you may be discussing your ex post facto acquisition of some of this material. That's OK -- give us a good comic shop/flea market/garage sale story!







Thursday, June 26, 2014

Alex Ross Paints Wolverine, Spider-Man and Miracleman for Marvel's 75th

Doug: Catching up today with four more covers from Alex Ross's campaign (wonder what he's getting paid for all these images?) of paintings celebrating Marvel Comics' 75th Anniversary. However, in addition to the usual criticisms of Ross's work, I'd like to hear from our readers who have an affinity for Alan Moore's Marvel Man (aka Miracleman). I have no history whatsoever with the character, so would love to be enlightened! Thanks in advance (and I'm thinking our readers from the UK will be helpful here...).





Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Spotlight On: Dave Cockrum


Karen: We've frequently discussed the work of this fabulous artist, whether it be his outstanding early years on DC's Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes, or his revival of the X-Men with Len Wein, and later, Chris Claremont. Cockrum was a wonderful costume and character designer, creating new looks for many of the Legionnaires that have persisted for years, as well as designing most of the original all-new, all-different X-Men. He created dozens of other characters' looks though, including the striking black outfit for Ms. Marvel. Cockrum was an artist who could handle big team books and do them well. He excelled at action, but also knew how to portray quiet moments. Although Cockrum did not have particularly long runs on any single book, he had memorable ones on the Legion and X-Men, and he also drew many covers for Marvel in the late 70s. His style is instantly recognizable.

















Karen: Dave Cockrum passed away in November 2006. But he left an incredible legacy, one that we here at the BAB continue to delight in and will take the opportunity to discuss whenever we have the chance -like today. Please share your thoughts on the work of this talented artist.


Monday, June 23, 2014

It's Miller Time - Daredevil 158

Today's cover should warm the hearts of our British readers!

Daredevil #158 (May 1979)
"A Grave Mistake!"
Roger McKenzie-Frank Miller/Klaus Janson

Doug: Does anyone around here have an explanation as to why in the past five years we've never gotten around to reviewing one of the hallmark series of the latter Bronze Age? Will someone please tell me? You know, it is funny. One would think that with 52 weeks of partner reviews in a year that we'd have gotten to some Frank Miller DD. But what you may not know is that in all of our meetings to come up with four-issue blocks to fill out the various months, this just never came up. It was always, "Hey, sometime we need to get to some Miller Daredevils!" and then we'd say, "But we haven't done the FF in awhile so let's find a good storyline." In fact, back in January when we were on vacation and plotting out 2014, we were going to do the Frightful Four storyline that we mentioned in our last Super Blog Team-Up. But no Daredevil. Today that changes.

Doug: With this issue, we're right up against the wall that symbolizes my departure from comics buying for around a five-year period. As I've remarked in the past, I left just as the "Dark Phoenix Saga" was getting underway over in X-Men. Ditto here. I know I had this issue, and DD #s 160-161. Then nothing until I got back into the hobby circa 1985. Sheesh. Talk about a ship sailed. But I've caught up on most of what I missed in one form or another (the "Golden Age of Reprints", indeed), largely because in this case I liked what I was seeing before I left. I'd like to start off with a question for everyone, aside from any thoughts you'll leave on the plot and my thoughts. That question is, who do you think is the quintessential DD artist: Gene Colan or Frank Miller?

Doug: Talk about dropped right into the middle of the action! We open with a splash page featuring Daredevil's then-cast of characters, and it looks like a scuffle has taken place. Natasha Romanoff is front and center, and bloodied. In the background we see a prone Foggy Nelson, and Matt Murdock's love interest at the time, Heather Glenn. A page turn later we find out what's up -- the Ani-Men (I can here you all gasp in horror all the way over here in Chicagoland) are on the scene and have busted up the place! You know, I've come across these goons a few times, and I just can never bring myself to say, "Holy snot! It's the Ani-Men!!" But apparently the fellows in this version are pretty nasty, particularly if they bloodied the Widow. But they've come for Matt Murdock, at the behest of "the boss". Natasha was out as far as secret IDs go, so she had no trouble jumping right back into the fray; Matt couldn't so easily do that. So while 'tasha tried to give Matt a chance to escape, she took some further physical abuse from Ape Man. Finally Matt called out that he'd go peacefully if no one got hurt. As the "Unholy Three" makes their move to leave, a lady in a wheelchair named Becky (help me -- I don't have my DDs anymore, so I'm going to need to be reminded here) fires something at Bird Man and knocks him for a loop. This gives the Widow an opening to launch herself onto his back, even as he flies out the window. She disables his flight pack, which drops him. Ape Man and Cat Man make it safely away with Murdock in tow.

Doug: Heather comes to the window to call Natasha back inside. She says that Foggy needs her help. Then she remarks that Matt can take care of himself. This shocks the Widow at a couple of levels, but mostly wounds her. Previously, only she and Karen Page had known Matt was Daredevil. How serious were Matt and Heather? thought Natasha. Cut to the mean streets, where Murdock's kidnappers make their way through Uptown. Along the way, Ape Man divulges the name of "the boss" -- Death-Stalker! Murdock suddenly pipes up, telling them they need to not deal with Death-Stalker -- he's a cold-blooded killer and their lives are in very real danger. Of course, it's the money for delivering the lawyer that they care about and blow off their charge's words. Shortly they are in a small cemetery, where they tie Murdock to a large stone crucifix. Death-Stalker emerges from a mausoleum. While his look was in no way original, I did think he was a cool-looking villain. One of my first DD comics was #128, and I was sold on Death-Stalker after that. The Ani-Men get their money, and huddle in the corner to count it. They're most happy to now only have to split it two ways.


Doug: Death-Stalker waves a hand toward an open grave, with a headstone bearing Murdock's name and the inscription "May he burn in Hell". He then narrates an origin that stretches back to DD #41, when he was known as the Exterminator. He had built a time-displacement ray, and after the defeat of the Ani-Men Daredevil had thrown the switch to the machine. This forced the Exterminator into the time stream, where he drifted in limbo. He was able to anchor himself at one point and steal AIM tech that allowed him to craft his death gloves. And now Daredevil would pay a price for the Death-Stalker losing his former life (it seems that this is all about the destruction of the time-displacement ray, which for some reason could not be rebuilt? -Flimsy...). As the Ani-Men count their loot -- all $100K of it -- Death-Stalker leaves Murdock to walk over and kill both of his mercenary assistants. That distraction was just enough time for Murdock to finish loosening his binding. It's swashbuckling time!


Doug: Matt removes his clothes to reveal his DD costume. Death-Stalker wants it that way and Matt obliges. DD thinks that he has to be very careful, as Death-Stalker exists a second out of the timestream -- he's blurry in his movements to DD's radar sense. But suddenly the Stalker's heartbeat becomes more audible. DD thinks that -of course!- Death-Stalker must materialize on this time plane in order to use his death grip. DD takes that window of opportunity and strikes! The two men engage, with Daredevil always staying away from those white gloves. But as DD drives the Death-Stalker back toward a large monument, D-S blinks out -- jumping back into limbo. As Daredevil tries to get a bead on his adversary, Death-Stalker re-emerges above Daredevil. DD is barely able to roll to the side and away from the grip of death. The two continue to tussle until Matt becomes aware of a street lamp overhead. Rifling his billy club into the heart of the globe, he plunges the cemetery into darkness. But seriously -- I wasn't buying this. They're in the heart of the city! Even if they were away from any sort of "downtown" area, the neighborhood wouldn't be a black-out. But not to hear Death-Stalker complain... "What sort of game is this, Daredevil? I cannot see you in the darkness!" Boo hoo, dude. Come and get your whuppin'. The combat continues, with DD having the obvious advantage. Finally, Death-Stalker lurches toward a monument of an angel, thinking it's Daredevil. As he stretches out his white gloves for the coup de grace, Daredevil uses his club to strike down hard, smashing the Death-Stalker's hands -- and with them, the tech that allowed him to kill by touch. Now blind with fury, Death-Stalker lunged at DD, but with his concentration gone did not realize that he had partially phased through a headstone. Unable to control his anger, he solidified -- half in and half out of the monument. End of battle.

 

Doug: Back at the storefront offices of Nelson and Murdock, Matt's quite moody. He's exhausted from his ordeal with the Death-Stalker. Foggy's been bandaged up. Becky tells him that there's been no word from Natasha since she left to look for him. As everyone gets ready to leave, Matt says he is going to stay behind to get some work done. As he broods in his office, he hears a noise and voices Natasha's name. But it was Becky, who apparently has a secret thing for him. To be continued.

Doug: Frank Miller's pencils were quite a departure from the work of Gene Colan, who had most recently been back on the book (issues #s 153-157). I had enjoyed Bob Brown's much earlier run on the title, and found Miller's "look" to be similar to Brown's. But whereas Brown's figures could at times seem stiff, there was none of that in Miller's pencils. His figures seemed to burst with the frenetic energy that Colan imbued them with, but in a more realistic style that evoked acrobats, or dancers in a ballet. There was drama in his pencils. And Klaus Janson's inks remained steady, as he'd been on the book for several issues prior to Miller's arrival. But I'd submit that Janson's inks over Miller's pencils changed the tone of the book from how I had perceived it over my previous years as a regular reader. So while Miller would not write the Daredevil feature for several more issues, his (and Janson's) presence was nonetheless a watershed moment on the book -- and for Marvel. And help us all -- it was great. I only wish it had not continued down a path that has brought us to where we are today in comics, where ninjas and bloody violence permeate our comics and the anti-hero takes center stage more often than the noble helper. Give me the way-back machine... 

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Movie Mania!


Doug: So here's one of those Saturday posts that just gets thrown together at the last minute. The Prowler asked us a couple of days ago in the Wolverine post if he'd missed the SPOILED version of the X-Men: Days of Future Past post. Nope - oversight on our part as we were working through our scheduling issues earlier in May. By the way, I didn't say anything about myself last Monday when Karen was discussing some of her situations. Our oldest son graduated from college in the middle of May, and a week ago we moved him into his new big-boy apartment so he can start his graduate assistant position in the sports information department of one of our state universities. So it's been pretty hectic around here, too. Slowing down now.

Doug: Anyway, let's make this a general movie day. Feel free to discuss your impressions of the X-Men flick. My wife and I and some friends are headed to see Jersey Boys tonight; we've seen the Broadway show twice in Chicago, so are really looking forward to it. Also, the final theatrical trailer for Dawn of the Planet of the Apes came out a few days ago. I am really excited for this film! So feel free to let it all hang out on anything related to summer movies. And if you're not planning to see anything, how about a comparison/contrast of the Apes trailer with the last two films in the first series -- Conquest and Battle? I sure see some similarities. How do you think they'll end up bridging these first three to the original five, or... is that even the direction you think this is going?





Friday, June 20, 2014

Blue Ribbon Digest - the Avengers

Doug: Pictured at right is a copy of one of those prized magazines from many a Bronze Ager's youth -- the Blue Ribbon Digest, as published by DC Comics. If you look closely at the text above the book's title logo, you can see that the book ran 148 pages. Given the general length of comics at DC, we're talking approximately 7-8 comics contained between these covers. We're going to use this concept to launch a new series of posts here at the BAB.

So your mission today, should you choose to accept it, is to pick seven or eight issues of the Avengers from within the general parameters of the Bronze Age (1970-85). To assist you, if you click here you'll be taken to issues of the Avengers indexed on the Comic Book Database. Scroll down until you get to the period we're using and you can see the issue number, title of the story within, and the cover date. If you click on a particular issue, of course the creative teams, guest-stars, and villains du jour will be listed.

You don't necessarily have to worry about including complete stories. For example, an issue I know I'd include would be Avengers #161, which is the first part of the four-chapter "Bride of Ultron" storyline. It could be considered a done-in-one, though, as it does have a pretty definitive ending (if you call a big hole in the floor, with the unconscious bodies of superheroes laying about an ending). While the rest of the arc is great throughout, I'm not sure I'd include those in my Blue Ribbon Digest given that I can only pick a maximum of eight books. Remember -- sometimes these compilations gave the reader a broad sampling of a particular book. And hey -- if you decide you want to spotlight a particular artist or spectrum of artists, or villains in the same manner, give us a head's up. The denser readers among us may appreciate the method in your madness!

So let's see your list -- which Avengers stories or single issues will make the cut? Here's another that I'd include:


Doug: By the way, I am 48 years old today, and I could not think of a better way to spend my birthday than talking with friends about the Avengers (my favorite comic since I was six years old). If I receive any comic-related love from my family, I will be sure to let you all know.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Back When We Liked Wolverine

Karen: When I attended the Phoenix Comic Con a couple of weeks ago, I went to a panel on Wolverine that featured writers Chris Claremont and Len Wein. I mentioned some of what happened at that panel in my Phoenix Con report, but at the very end of the panel, a young girl, maybe all of 11 or 12, came to the microphone to ask the final question. She began by thanking the two men for creating her favorite super-hero. Before she could go any further, Claremont then asked her a question: why was Wolverine her favorite? The girl hesitated for only a moment before answering that, besides looking cool, she liked the way he thought, the way he responded to things and dealt with the world. It made me laugh a bit. All of us older fans had spent the last hour bemoaning how Wolverine wasn't cool any more, how he'd been ruined by needless origin stories and relentless over-exposure. But to this kid, he was still a bad-ass, a symbol of individualism and rebellion.


Karen: After the con, I kept thinking about this. I tried to remember what it was like when I really did like Wolverine. It seems like it was so long ago. His over-exposure began way back in the 80s and has only snowballed since. Along with the runt appearing in practically every book Marvel put out, his powers also took a huge leap up; the guy who was knocked out by Moses Magnum was now surviving nuclear explosions, and being torn in half by the Hulk. To top it all off, every ounce of mystery was stripped from the character -every detail of his life was laid out, and it seemed like he knew every character in the Marvel U from his past life as a secret agent, or ninja, or whatever. It was all too much.

Karen: But there was a time that I liked Wolverine! I just had to dig deep. At the con, the panelists had been asked at what point did they realize Wolverine was something special, becoming a star. Two moments came to mind for me instantly. The first was from X-Men #98 (Apr 1976), when Banshee, Jean Grey, and Wolverine had been captured by Sentinels and taken to a space station. Wolverine breaks free, and for the first time, we see him without his costume -and he pops his claws. Banshee stammers, "Yer claws, laddie...Lord above, they're a part of you -we -I -didn't know!" Wolverine calmly responds, "Why should you, Irish? None of your business." I think I was as stunned as Banshee!  But I was also fascinated. I don't think it had even occurred to me that Wolverine's claws were anything but a part of his suit. At that point in time, it was pretty shocking, having a hero who had real claws -not little claws on the ends of his fingers but enormous metallic blades shooting out of his arms! Non-lethal attacks were still the rule of thumb, and we still had heroes like the Black Knight, Swordsman, and Valkyrie who always proclaimed they were using "the flat of (their) sword" on their opponents. But you never heard any such proclamation from Wolverine! And his lethal weapons were a part of him. I'm sure I couldn't verbalize why this was so amazing to me when I was 12 or so, but it was.

Karen: The second moment when I really gained an appreciation for Wolverine was in X-Men #133 (May 1980) -although the final panel of the previous issue, showing an angry Wolverine rising out of the sewer, vowing vengeance on the Hellfire Club, is the indelible image from that storyline. The X-Men had been captured by the Hellfire Club and Wolverine was assumed dead, wiped out early in the fight. But the foul-tempered Canadian wasn't that easy to get rid of. He returned and tore through a bunch of Hellfire goons like they were nothing. But it's his fire, his indomitable spirit, that really caught my attention. Wolverine refused to be beaten, and despite his limited powers -remember, he wasn't godlike back in 1980! - he was ready to take on the entire Hellfire Club. That attitude was very appealing.It's a quality I like in any number of characters (Ben Grimm has it too, although he's more never-say-die rather than blood-thirsty), but Wolverine, before he was invincible and unstoppable, played this part very well. He was the underdog rebel who didn't care about the odds.

Karen: Maybe that's the key, the reason why that 12 year old girl at the panel likes Wolverine, and the reason my 12 year old self liked him so many years ago. Maybe at his core, the character still represents defiance and individuality, despite all the twists and turns he has taken in 40 years. It's easy to criticize what's been done with him from a vantage point that spans his entire career, but when you break him down to his essence, perhaps he is still that scruffy outcast, the one who never quite fits in with everyone else, and seems just a little dangerous. What can't be denied is that Wolverine is a true original, a cool and intriguing character, and that's proven by his popularity and longevity. Even if those of us in the older  generation aren't always pleased with the changes that have been made...




Karen: Let's open the floor now. What are your earliest memories about Wolverine, early impressions and overall thoughts on the character?
Related Posts with Thumbnails