Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Face-Off: Martian Mayhem!


Karen: In honor of the recent announcement about the discovery of liquid water on the surface of Mars, we give you the opportunity today to throw your support behind one of two books that each dealt with the red planet: In War of the Worlds, Killraven and his band of rebels fought back against invading Martians in a dark future, while John Carter, Warlord of Mars followed the adventures of the Edgar Rice Burroughs character as he rescued princesses and battled six-limbed martians on Mars itself. Which book survives this interplanetary death match?




Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Discuss: Your Favorite Characters In Your Favorite Stories


Doug: The title is a little wonky. Here's what I'm getting at today, and I guess I'll use an example or two to get the ball rolling. Let's say one of your favorite characters is the Vision. What's your favorite issue with a plot line that heavily features the Vision? If I were to claim him, I'd probably want to discuss the iconic two-part intro. in Avengers #s 57-58, or maybe the last issue of the Count Nefaria arc (Avengers #166). If my favorite character is Captain America then I'm thinking there's a heckuva lot to choose from. But you cannot beat Cap (literally) in the concluding chapter of the "Under Siege" arc, Avengers #277.

Doug: So who you got, and where you got 'em?




Monday, September 28, 2015

Bronze Age Babies Guest Review – Marvel-Con ’76 Program

Karen: Today our regular commenter Colin Bray has a special treat for us: a review of the program for the 1976 Marvel Comic Convention! Many of you might not have even been born yet (!), and for some of us, New York was pretty far away, so attending this show was just a dream. But through artifacts like this, we can at least get a sense for what it might have been like. So without further ado, here's Colin -








Colin: Welcome to a guest review of the second annual Marvel-Con ’76 Program!

This in-house Marvel convention was held at the Hotel Commodore between April 23 and 25. At the time I was a five year-old Londoner so picked up my program copy a little late at a London convention back in 2002 or so.

The program itself is fascinating, being 48 pages in length - and card covers aside - printed wholly in black and white. The contributing artists are listed as Neal Adams, John Buscema, Tony DeZuniga, Frank Giacoia, Al Milgrom and Mike Nasser.

Intriguingly the program is not published by Marvel comics but rather by Vince Colletta directly. I would be interested to know how and why that publishing deal came about, it seems quite unusual.
The contents page can be seen below, including a nice variety of blue-chip Bronze Age themes and material, from Conan to martial arts to the bicentennial focus on Cap. Beyond this, Marvel are clearly using the program to appeal to both fan and trade markets as this review will make clear.



Enough with the preamble let’s look at the features of particular interest, starting with those aimed at the trade market. I am curious about this emphasis because with no direct market in ’76 who was Marvel talking at precisely?

Statement of Market Share

So, the Curtis Circulation figures show that in 1975 Marvel sold 41.9% of comics in the market, and by 1976 this went up to 45.6%. The latter figure is nearly double the DC share of 23.4%. Surprisingly, at least to me, Archie had 13.8%, Harvey 10.5% and Gold Key 6.7%.

Marvel liked this data so much that they triumphantly repeat it elsewhere in the program with Cap declaring that ‘we’re number one!’

Marvel Comic Advertising Rates

This is a lot of fun – for $182.00 you could purchase one-half inch in the entire Marvel Comics group (“11,000,000 ABC circulation”). All you needed to is submit a “camera-ready” ad. The page gives copy deadlines and closes with – ‘think of the incredible return on your investment.’ Indeed.

Adverts

The program includes adverts for the Aaron Banks New York Karate Academy (I believe they laid on a demo at the Con), John Buscema’s Art School, Ivy Film 16 (film distributor) and both large/small ads for then-current Marvel comic titles.

Strips

Reprint of the first Cap story – Case No.1 Meet Captain America (1941)

Clearly reprinted to tie into the bicentennial, this black and white reprint is a somewhat tough read due to the demands of the small A5 format shrinking the original 40s art. But it must have seemed cool to an audience starved of GA reprints.

Spidey at the Marvel Comics Convention ’76

This is a two-page curio, in which Spidey attempts to sneak into the convention (for reasons unknown) only to be scared off by ‘too many spirited fans’. Odd. Art by Thomas Sciacca and Frank Giacoia, Letters by ‘P.C.C’er’. I’m guessing the writer and letterer didn’t care enough to be identified with the strip.

Selected Features

Jack Kirby – The Man Who Is King

Written by Thomas Sciacca, this two-page article coincides with Kirby’s return to Marvel and must have been an attempt to connect Kirby with all the super-young fans at the convention. Not at all interested in raking up old controversies, I’m still struck by the claim that:

‘there was a time that only Stan, Jack, Sol Brodsky and the late Art Simek were Marvel comics, with Jack drawing almost every feature, occasionally helped by Sol and Larry Lieber.’

Why wasn’t Ditko on that list?



Saving America in 15 Chapters

This is a review of the 1944 Captain America serial and accompanies a showing at the convention. Interesting personally because I previously didn’t even know the serial existed, and more generally because this is no whitewash piece. The writer (‘James Glen’) pretty much dismantles the series for contemporary fans, criticising in particular the way the series deviated from its comic book origins. A familiar lament until the modern Marvel Studios. An aside – the series can be found in its entirety on YouTube.

Spider-Man Live!

A photo-heavy piece about a 1974 16mm student film based on Spidey that was also shown at the convention. The article includes several stills but little other useful info.

After a bit of digging I discovered the film was called ‘Spider-Man Versus Kraven The Hunter’,based on Amazing #15 and was apparently pretty well-made. However, the film has apparently never been seen online because the producer, Bruce Cardozo, refuses to release it. So if you were at the ’76 Convention you remain in select company…



For reasons of space, the following pieces aren’t reviewed here:

Introduction to Kung Fu (written by Thomas Sciacca)

Captain America: Great Symbol of America (written by Jim Burns)

Conan the Barbarian: A Profile (a Buscema art page)

A Day with Stan Lee (not as interesting as it sounds)

Roy Thomas Profile (ditto)

Comic Collecting Article (written by Dominick Corrado)

Autograph Page (sadly, in my copy this page is empty)

Photos from the convention are surprisingly difficult to find but a good selection can be seen here

To conclude…

While some of the content in this ‘76 program is slight, taken as a whole it is a fine emblem of the High Bronze Age. I’m gripped by the themes, the creators, the picture of fandom and most of all how Marvel sought to portray itself, on the cusp between the super-creative, but sometimes chaotic early 70s and the gradual transition to Jim Shooter and a more corporate approach as the 70s became the 80s.

Were any Bronze Age Babies at this convention or own this program - or indeed, know anything about the first, 1975 Con?

And can any good people here add to our knowledge of its occasionally obscure content?

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Contemporary Comics Consumerism


Doug: DATELINE - Lima, Ohio. Hand-written on a tag on a rack of comics and trade paperbacks was this sign:

"Looking for an entry point to the Marvel Universe? Try Civil War!"

UPDATE: So I whipped this post up in about two minutes right before my wife and I headed out the door. Just wanted to get some conversation going this Sunday. When I got back home, Osvaldo had left the first comment. I'll give my further explanation, which I intended to do anyway once I got home (which I now am). Got that? Anyway, he said:
Dr. Oyola said...Not sure what your point here is. . . that this is a bad point of entry? (I'd agree).

Anyway, it made me think of this article about how much it'd cost to get all the issues of the current Secret Wars series and related title tie-ins.

Short answer? Over a thousand bucks.


September 27, 2015 at 1:14 PM

Doug: Friday my wife and I took 1/2 personal days so that we could make the trek out of Illinois, across Indiana and into western Ohio to watch our son play soccer. We spent the night in Lima, Ohio (home of Ben Roethlisberger and Phyllis Diller -- how's that for a combination?). On Saturday we decided just to explore the town for a few hours before heading for home. I noticed that they had what appeared to be a nice looking LCS in the downtown area, so we went. Alter Ego Comics was indeed a great little full-service store. They had a little bit of everything, and their displays were very attractive. Nice staff on site for assistance, and they didn't seem to be hurting for customers. So if you're in the area, they have my recommendation.

Doug: To the question at hand... I at first had a wry smile cross my lips when I read the sign and was tempted to scoff aloud. And then I stopped myself. Looking around, it hit me that comic book consumerism in 2015 really isn't geared toward me. While they had a fair back issue section, it didn't seem like they had an abundance of Silver or Bronze Age back issues. They had no, to my recollection, back issues on the walls as shops often do. So I said to myself that today's comic fan probably is up on current events at the Big Two, and is probably fully-immersed in the lore of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. And, given that Captain America: Winter Soldier was one of Marvel's biggest pictures and that next spring's Captain America: Civil War promises to be huge, maybe -- just maybe -- Civil War is a good entry point to the Marvel Universe.

Doug: Because as we've said, this really isn't my Marvel Universe, not any more. So that's where I was going with this. 
Delete

Saturday, September 26, 2015

This Cover Made Me Buy This Comic Book - Inhumans 2


Doug: Here's one from the autumn of 1975 that 9-year old me snatched from the clutches of the spinner rack. What I couldn't wait to find out was how Black Bolt was going to snatch Medusa from the clutches of that big eater. The suspense! This was my entry point to the Inhumans short-lived series, as I never saw #1 anywhere. It's a good cover, full of action, even if the perspective of the robot's right arm seems off and Black Bolt's trajectory isn't going to take him any place near the action any time soon. But who's quibbling about the Kaptroids? I had to read about the Star-Slaves!!



Friday, September 25, 2015

Who's the Worst...Depiction of a Super-Hero on TV?


Karen: This image got me thinking:

Image from screenrant.com
Karen: This is Red Tornado from the upcoming Supergirl TV series. While most of the things I have seen from the series have me looking forward to the show, this depiction of everyone's favorite DC android definitely does not. Maybe, maybe, it will somehow not look like a weird, air-brushed plastic monstrosity on-screen. I sure hope so. But right now, it really looks like a turd.

Karen: So let's talk about the worst TV depictions of super-heroes. Now of course, budget has played (and continues to play) a role in such things. But regardless of that, which characters just looked awful on the small screen? Who were the very worst offenders? And we are ONLY talking about TV here -we have already discussed the lesser lights of the Marvel film universe in this post

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Would You Rather... They'd Played "The Break-Up Song"?


Doug: From time to time, in an effort to angst-up our funnybooks, authors will throw us a curve aimed right at the soap opera aspects we love. For example, way back in Fantastic Four #4 Stan Lee and Jack Kirby decided it would be a good idea to have Sue pine for Namor, effectively creating a love triangle that for all I know persists to the present. About a decade and a half later Chris Claremont attempted the same trick in the X-Men with Wolverine and Jean Grey, sometimes leaving us to wonder if ol' Scott Summers would be on the outside looking in.

Doug: So that's your discussion prompt for the day -- Where were those love triangles that you, well, loved, and where were the ones you loathed? And, how about love triangles you wish would have swung the way of the forbidden fruit? Or, maybe it's not a love triangle at all... Maybe you would have preferred further exploration of the affair between Hawkeye and the Black Widow rather than her progression away from him and finally ending up with Daredevil.

Doug: I have a few suggestions to get you thinking, but feel free to toss out your own ideas -- especially if they involve non-Marvel characters, as we always like to broaden our zuvembie-like horizons!





Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Guest Writer - If I Had a Buck... Licensed to Thrill


Doug: You know the drill...



Martinex1: It’s yet again time for “If I Had A Buck”, the spending game we play here on the Bronze Age Babies site. If you, with a small amount of money in your pocket, enter an imaginary comic store that has only nine comics on the rack, what would you buy and why? Feel free to talk about the specific comics, the covers, the series, the writers, the artists, the characters, the motif, or anything else that catches your fancy.


The theme this time around is Marvel comics based on licensed properties. Marvel has had a long, varied, and complex history of producing comics based on other companies’ trend setting and creative assets. Over the course of decades, it is surprising just how many licensing ventures Marvel has embarked on. Novels and television shows and toys and movies and celebrities have all been represented in four color grandeur under the Marvel banner. The list includes but is not limited to: Conan, Gullivar Jones, Elric, John Carter, Tarzan, Soloman Kane, The Man From Atlantis, The Wizard of Oz, Planet of the Apes, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Logan’s Run, Star Wars, KISS, Star Trek, Alf, Battlestar Galactica, Indiana Jones, James Bond, G.I. Joe, Barbie, Muppets, Robocop, and countless others. 

Today the shop has comics with characters that were licensed that also tied directly into the Marvel Universe. To my knowledge, series like Star Wars existed in their own universe; Luke Skywalker never fought Kang or teamed up with the Starjammers. Likewise, the Mandrill, Red Ghost, and the Gibbon never ended up on The Planet of the Apes. And perhaps surprisingly Captain America, S.H.I.E.L.D, and the Black Widow (nor any other Marvel character) showed up in G.I. Joe. But many other licensed characters interacted freely and openly with the Marvel superheroes to the point of being part of a shared universe. That caused some headaches for the publisher later, particularly for reprints starring a character for which the license was no longer held. But back in the late 70’s and early 80’s it was common to see the spandex crew interacting with lifesize toys, movie creatures, and logo baring entities. The comics and covers below demonstrate that interaction very clearly.

Here are the comics to consider with some of the details around the specific titles and issues. Have fun, share your thoughts, and pray for the day that Iron Man takes his armor war to Boba Fett and the Stormtroopers!

MICRONAUTS #20 Guest Starring Ant-Man. Aug 1980. $0.40. Cover (one of my favorites of all time) by Michael Golden. Written by Bill Mantlo. Interior art by Pat Broderick and Armando Gill.  The warriors from Innerspace find themselves battling mutated bugs and a mutated Bug in a suburban grocery store.  Scott Lang makes an early appearance and puts his spring boots to use. Silver age in its feel; far ranging in its appeal!  Fits all sizes!

The Micronauts, based on the Mego toyline, would go on to meet many Marvel characters in their career including starring alongside the X Men in a 4 issue limited series. The characters that were based on the action figures such as Acroyear, Baron Karza, and Biotron went on to appear in Image and Devil’s Due comics when those companies held the licenses. Meanwhile, Commander Arcturus Rann, Marionette, and Bug continued on in the Marvel Universe as the Microns.

TEAM AMERICA #9 Guest Starring Iron Man. Feb 1983. $0.60. Cover by Dave Simons. Written by Bill Mantlo (you will see a lot of him in this post). Interior art by Mark Bright and Vince Colletta. The motorcycle team and the mysterious Marauder face Iron Man In what is surely some great misunderstanding!  Putting pedal to the metal!

The Team America toyline created by Ideal was a revamp of Evel Knievel’s cycles and figures following some legal trouble. The rather bland and archetypal color coded team would later meet Ghost Rider and Captain America. Most astonishingly they were revealed to be mutants (on an off day for Cerebro I assume). And later Honcho, Reddy, Wulf, Wrench, and Cowboy teamed with the Thing (yes, Ben Grimm) as the Thunderiders, but Ben quit before it was well known. Phew!

ROM #18 Guest Starring the X-Men. May 1981.  $0.50. Cover by Frank Miller and Terry Austin.   Written by Bill Mantlo.  Interior art by Sal Buscema and Al Milgrom. Creep fest galore as Hybrid, an offspring of a Dire Wraith and a human, wreaks havoc on a Virginia farm community. The all new all different crew show up because a new mutant was detected (there is a lot of that going around). The spacefaring toaster has his hands full and his neutralizer charged. Galactic!

ROM was a lowly reviewed toy in Time Magazine for its inarticulation and limited LED attributes.  But under Mantlo’s and Buscema’s guidance, the Marvel series lasted a whopping 75 issues and featured some horror and suspense styling as the Galadorian finished a long standing battle with his evil shape shifting enemies. The Spaceknight teamed up with the likes of Jack of Hearts, Power Man and Iron Fist, Torpedo, Nova, and the ever side kicking Rick Jones over the course of his career. 
 
SHOGUN WARRIORS #20 Guest Starring the Fantastic Four. Sept 1980. $0.50. Cover by Herb Trimpe. Written by Doug Moench with interior art by Trimpe. The giant robots reach the finale of their series.   Karen and Doug had reviewed their penultimate chapter previously on the BAB site, and this story continues the tale. If a giant robot falls in the city, can you hear the recyclers stripping the copper parts? Electric!

The giant 24-inch Shogun Warrior toys by Mattel were fairly short lived on the market. It didn’t help that there was controversy around children getting hurt by toy projectiles and small parts. The Warriors launched their spring loaded hands and fists to take out enemies.

HUMAN FLY #2 Guest Starring Ghost Rider. Oct 1977. $0.35. Cover by Carmen Infantino and Al Milgrom. Written by Bill Mantlo. Interior art by Infantino and Dan Green. In a rigged motorcycle race across the desert, Johnny Blaze and the mysterious Human Fly have to outwit and outlast a scheming promoter. Flaming skulls and amazing stunts the Marvel way! 

The Human Fly was a fictional embellishment of real life stuntman Rick Rojatt, who once appeared at the Marvel offices in full costume. And that costume sure was fantastic and one of the better designs of the era with its striking red and white contrast. Rojatt was known for jumping 27 buses on a super charged Harley, besting an Evel Knievel record. The comic character was an aerialist who had a large amount of his skeleton replaced with steel bones following a car accident; this allowed him to perform great feats and fight for the underprivileged while being pursued by an investigator intent on knowing his identity.

GODZILLA #23 Guest Starring the Avengers. June 1979. $0.40. Cover by Herb Trimpe and Dan Green.  Written by Doug Moench. Interior art by Trimpe and Green. The king of the monsters is back to full size and is running amok in New York City. Can the combined might of the FF and Avengers stop the behemoth in his own book? Can Thor withstand the creature’s atomic breath? Can Dum Dum Dugan keep his hat on? Answers to all that and more, true believers!

The Marvel version of the great movie monster had some quirky storylines and plot beats in its run, including the creature being reduced to the size of a canary and then growing back to its towering self over the course of many issues. One of the most hilarious scenes ever in comic book history is when Godzilla at human size is disguised in a trenchcoat and fedora. I kid you not! The series played on a fugitive theme with a sympathetic Dum Dum Dugan doggedly pursuing the creature.The art was actually quite good throughout from my recollection. But it is rumored Toho increased the licensing fee so Marvel ended the series, but not before Godzilla battled the Champions, Fantastic Four, S.H.I.E.L.D., and the Avengers while Spidey snapped some pictures for the Bugle.  

NFL SUPERPRO #1 Guest Starring Spider Man.  Oct 1991. $1.00. Cover by Ron Frenz and Joe Sinnott. Written by Fabian Nicieza. Interior art by Jose Delbo and Mike DeCarlo. The hard hitting 1st Issue of NFL Superpro! Nuff Said!

Okay… it is not enough said. The hero of the story is a football player who suffers a knee injury, but gains super powers as the result of exposure to rare NFL memorabilia and chemicals burning in a fire. That combined with a supersuit designed to protect running backs and we may have the most convoluted and bizarre introduction of a character ever. And believe me that I am not even getting into the nuances of his origin story which include a genius scientist NFL fan, a child saved from a fall, and a band of thieves determined to cash in on sports collectibles (but who inexplicably set them all on fire). Hard to believe this debacle lasted 12 issues with a guest appearance by Captain America along the way. Buy the first issue for the unintended humor value as the NFL superhero teams up with a Marvel icon, but be aware that there is a risk of concussion.

MARVEL TWO-IN-ONE #21 With Doc Savage. Nov 1976. $0.30. Cover by Ron Wilson and Joe Sinnott.  Written by Bill Mantlo. Interior art by Wilson and Pablo Marcos. The Man of Bronze teams with the Thing in a battle across eras with Blacksun, the living black hole! They will pound you to a pulp!

The adventurous hero from the 30’s had his own eight issue series with Marvel in the early 70’s and this was his first crossover; he also appeared in Marvel magazines. The art in this issue is solid and the split page approach to the different timelines is clever. Clark Savage Jr’s character and intellect are fairly well on display here in the Marvel mold. The villain’s name may be a nice nod to the pulp baddy John Sunlight; and Blacksun (Thomas Lightner) would go on to play a pivotal role in the Project Pegasus Saga as the Nth Man. Unfortunately, Doc has had a spotty comic history with additional stints at Gold Key, DC, Millenium, Dark Horse, and Dynamite.  

TRANSFORMERS #3 Guest Starring Spider Man. Jan 1985. $0.75. Cover by Mike Zeck.   Written by Jim Salicrup. Interior art by Frank Springer and Kim De Mulder. Optimus Prime!  Autobots! Peter Parker in a new disguise! Until the Skrulls and Decepticons team up to make a BJ and the Bear movie, make mine Marvel!

This 4-issue limited series based on the Hasbro line of toys was so popular that it became an ongoing that lasted 80 issues. And from what I understand the weekly Marvel UK series ran more than 300 issues. As far as I can tell, this Spider-Man one shot may be the robot’s only direct link to the Marvel Universe and hit newsstands about eight months after Spidey’s black costume debut. I found it interesting that some of the ideas and names, including the human character’s surname Witwicky, made it into the Transformers feature film.

There you have it! Nine titles of Marketing Mayhem!  Spend wisely!



Monday, September 21, 2015

Marvel Premiere 48: Let's Get Small -- the Conclusion


Marvel Premiere #48 (May 1979)
"The Price of a Heart"
David Michelinie-John Byrne/Bob Layton

Doug: Almost six years ago (!) I wrote a review of Marvel Premiere #47. I obtained that comic as a pack-in with the Marvel Legends Ant-Man figure. But I did not back in 1979 nor did I in the present ever have a copy of Marvel Premiere #48... until now! Last Tuesday I received my copy of the Marvel Pocketbooks The Astonishing Ant-Man: Origins, published by Panini Books. As Edo Bosnar has long sung the praises of these little tomes, I'll again echo his encouragement. They are so compact, yet contain the same number of reprints as would a regular size trade. And you cannot, cannot beat the price -- under $8.00 (free S&H) for this, which is less than a buck a book! The contents, you ask?

  • Marvel Premiere #s 47-48
  • Iron Man #s 131-133
  • Avengers #s 195-196 and 223
  • Marvel Team-Up #103
Doug: I'll get a couple of first impressions off my chest as we begin. David Michelinie tired me out real fast with his constant references to the pop culture of 1979. He mentioned the Dino diLaurentis King Kong film in this issue, but in part one he'd subjected me to Steve Martin (you know that's where I stole the title), Raquel Welch, James Whitmore, Bobby Riggs, and E.R.A. If that's what "holds up" means, then it didn't. It was just a bit much at times.  The art, on the other hand, was absolutely beautiful. Many of us have remarked through the years that as big fans of John Byrne's Bronze Age art, we're even bigger fans when he's inked by someone as polished as Terry Austin or in this case Bob Layton. It's a fantastic pairing, and one we should see more of (like on Hulk Annual #7).

Doug: So as we finished the last issue, our new Ant-Man Scott Lang was on a mission to enlist the aid of a Dr. Sondheim. She might have been the only physician on earth who could save Lang's daughter, Cassie. Cassie suffered from a heart ailment where the aorta had grown inward and created severe complications. Lang had gone to find Sondheim, but upon locating her was dismayed that she would not see him and was under the protection of armed toughs. Pressing the issue, Lang got himself slugged by some shadowy dude the size of the Hulk... but with a pink arm (?). So, having been a former burglar Lang decided he'd just trail Sondheim to wherever it was they took her. Her destination happened to be Cross Technological Enterprises, a company that made just about anything that could make its owner richer. And that owner just happened to be the body on the other end of that pink arm -- one Darren Cross, who really was as big as the Hulk!

Doug: Once inside CTE, Lang had stumbled across a closet that contained an Ant-Man suit. It seems Hank Pym had some association with CTE, so had apparently stashed a costume there. Lang stole it, took it back to his apartment and tried it on. The next thing we knew, he was superheroing. Accosting Dr. Sondheim in an operating room (after roughing up some of the goons standing guard), Lang was shocked to see Darren Cross rise from an operating table and state in no uncertain terms what was and was not going to happen. So as we pick it up in the conclusion, Cross and Ant-Man battle for a few panels before Cross knocks Ant-Man out of his senses. Using tweezers to pick up the tiny hero, Cross uses the growth gases on the front of the suit to return Ant-Man to his normal stature. Breaking the antennae on the helmet and ripping the gas canisters away, Ant-Man is tossed into a cell. Cross later comes by to visit his prisoner, and it's here we learn his origin.

Doug: Darren Cross was a successful businessman who had amassed a fortune. Driven, the tension in his life eventually caused his heart to malfunction. Seeing doctors, he was of course told to slow down, take a vacation, etc. Cross would hear none of it, and so sought a solution within his own company. He found it, in the form of an experimental device called the Nucleorganic Pacemaker. Immediately undergoing the implant, it was not long before Cross began to experience side effects. His strength and senses seemed heightened, but his complexion was turning a pink hue. Going into seclusion, Cross implored his doctors to cure him. They transplanted a heart... and another and another. Still no good, as the pacemaker was now basically eating the hearts. So Cross enlisted (involuntarily) Dr. Sondheim to help him with her knowledge of laser surgery. Ant-Man stopped Cross's monologue and asked how this would end -- if the pacemaker were to be removed, wouldn't that kill Cross immediately? Affirmative. But he'd never run out of replacement hearts, as Cross revealed a room filled with homeless men, kidnapped to be his endless supply of spare parts!

Doug: Cross left Ant-Man alone after telling all the dark secrets -- after all, that's what super-powered and over-confident knuckleheads do. Lang was nothing if not resourceful. He'd stashed a couple of spare antennae in his boot, just in case (Deus. Ex. Machina.). Getting the cybernetic helmet back up and running allowed him to call for troops. The ants came quickly, helping to also get the gas canisters back. Lang immediately went into attack mode, knowing that he had to a) stop Cross, and b) get Dr. Sondheim out so she could operate on Lang's daughter. The action over the next several pages is outstanding -- extremely well-delineated, choreographed, and paced. One of the treasured shots from Marvel Premiere #47 was a growing-and-punching Ant-Man -- Byrne and Layton repeat that here a couple of times, to great effect. As the fisticuffs continue to rise in intensity, Cross suddenly seizes up, then collapses. Dead. Ant-Man whirls toward Dr. Sondheim, incredulous. She says that it wasn't anything Ant-Man did (which was actually the answer Lang was looking for), but something she had done to Cross earlier. You see, she knew of Cross's "source" for the constant heart transplants. And so when Ant-Man had interrupted her surgery, she had just finished leaving Cross's old heart inside him, rather than giving him a new one. She told Ant-Man that she knew her oath, but she also knew the horrible truth about Cross. Do no harm, indeed.

Doug: But wait, there's more! The creators don't leave us hanging in regard to Cassie's surgery, which was good since this is a try-out book filled generally with one-shots. Dr. Sondheim was able to get Cassie's heart back in functional order. But as Lang was breaking his conversation with her, a voice from behind him made an address. It was none other than Yellowjacket -- the very inventor of the Ant-Man technology. Lang stuck both his hands out in front of him as if waiting for cuffs, assuming the Avenger had come to reclaim what was his and to take Lang back to prison for the burglary of CTE. But no -- Hank Pym had sought out Scott Lang only to give his blessing. Pym explained that he'd actually watched, through surveillance cameras, Lang steal the suit. Keeping an eye on Lang, YJ had followed him into CTE on the quest to find Dr. Sondheim. However, the more experienced hero had been knocked out while trying to move about in stealth mode and was not able to give Lang any back-up. Since Lang had won the day on his own, it only made sense to Pym to welcome Lang into the fraternity. And thus, as they say, was born a hero!

Doug: Shame on me perhaps, because the entire time I was watching Ant-Man this past July I made no connection to the Darren Cross in the film with the big pink guy here in Scott Lang's origin story. But I'm going to give myself a pass on it, since as I remarked at the top I had never seen today's issue until just a few days ago. So the meat-and-potatoes of the comic book version of Cross were largely unknown to me. But I was surprised at how much of this two-issue introduction formed the backbone of the Ant-Man film. That Pym saw Lang steal the suit, that Pym and Cross were connected, that Pym gave Lang his blessing -- all of that made the final cut. So really, if you think "comic accurate", the writers and creators of the film really honored the source material. It's refreshing to now know that. This was a really fun two-parter, and to those of you who got to read both sides of this tale back in the day, I'm envious. This would have hit the spinner racks only several months before I took my high school hiatus from collecting. My loss, as I'd have liked to have been able to spend some more time with our new hero, Scott Lang.

PS: The Ant-Man costume is a classic design, isn't it?


Sunday, September 20, 2015

Asgard Press Vintage Marvel Calendar 2016


Karen: Hey gang, Just a little note today. I noticed that Asgard Press has announced their 2016 Marvel Comics calendar, and it includes a number of 1970s comics covers this time! While I have generally enjoyed these calendars, particularly since the sheets are perforated and make wonderful posters, I have been frustrated by the lack of 1970s comic art. For 2016 there will be a mix of 60s and 70s covers. You can go to the site (http://asgardpress.com/16-marvel-comics) and click through all of the months to see the different covers yourself. I've included a few here that I am excited about - sorry about the large watermark. The calendar is not yet on sale, but keep your eyes peeled!






Saturday, September 19, 2015

Tarzan and La, by Thomas Yeates


Doug: A very happy weekend to everyone! This afternoon while I'm flipping channels between college football games and the Cubs/Cardinals tussle I am also readying more comics for auction. I came across The Return of Tarzan mini-series published by Dark Horse in 1997 and thought I'd bring you a couple of images of our jungle lord and La, high priestess of Opar. We recently looked at some of the Tarzan art of Joe Jusko. Today's fare features a cover by John Totleben, with interior words and pictures by Thomas Yeates. Check it out, and leave us an impression.



Friday, September 18, 2015

Jump, Jive, and Wail About the Grim 'n' Gritty


Doug: Hats off today to our pal Dr. Oyola, who pointed me in the direction of a thoughtful post on the origins of grim 'n' gritty comics and comics storytelling. Osvaldo sent us the link via Twitter on Wednesday, and when I got round to reading the post I echoed his sentiment that this would surely (stop calling me Shirley) be fodder for a nice BAB conversation.

Doug: So, your assignment - should you choose to accept it - is to make the jump over to the Red Ants Underneath blog, then come back here to jive (because so many of us are hipsters) about it. And certainly somewhere along the way some curmudgeon will wail on about "back in my day..." or some such thing. But that's what we do around here.

Doug: So get moving (the post is a little long, but definitely worth the read) and then get on back here for some commiserating. Thanks!




Thursday, September 17, 2015

Guest Post - A Short Theme...





Doug: Redartz is along today as our host, and does he have a fun topic for us. This is one, no doubt, that will be near and dear to all our hearts.











Redartz: Good day, all!  Before we start, let me issue a proactive apology: if this topic has been covered previously here, you may all grant me 10 demerits.  Memory can be a nebulous thing, but this subject is (hopefully) a bit of fun. Therefore, here goes...




Television Theme Music! The tuneful introductions that open, and often close, our favorite programs; the variety here is as wide as the variety in the shows themselves. Some featured spoken introductions, such as Rod Serling's classic “Twilight Zone” intro. Others were sung, ballad style: think “Gilligan's Island” or “The Beverly Hillbillies”. Some were purely instrumental, as in “Hill Street Blues” and “The Bob Newhart Show”. Some even impacted the public consciousness enough to earn a spot on the Billboard Pop Singles charts (Mike Post's theme from “The Rockford Files”, as well as his above-mentioned “Hill Street Blues” each reached number 10, while “S.W.A.T.” and “Miami Vice” both reached number 1!).

As a boy, the “Batman” theme would get me stoked  for the “wham, pow” adventures soon to be filling our black-and-white console screen. In my teens, Cindi Grecco”s “Making Our Dreams Come True” (Laverne and Shirley, of course!) would bring a smile of anticipation for the impending laugh fest. A good theme song will stick in your mind; certainly a show's creators hope this is the case. Often a theme song becomes so indelibly linked with it's show; just hearing a few notes will bring the  program to mind. Angelo Badalamente's theme from “Twin Peaks” always does this for me; it so perfectly evoked the mysterious, somewhat creepy feel of the show. With all this in mind, here are a few of my favorite theme songs:

Jonny Quest Theme: greatest saturday morning show theme from arguably the greatest Saturday morning adventure show.



Lost in Space: John Williams provides this memorable winner.


Barnaby Jones: a bit obscure, but a very cool theme tune...



By the way, the CD cover presented above is representative of a series of such collections issued by TeeVee Tunes. The first collections were released originally on vinyl; and were among the last LPs I bought before converting to digital. These CDs are a great source of television themes, ranging from the late 40s up to the 90s ( and a great party soundtrack: at college we played the first collection at a weekend fest, everyone had a blast trying to identify the associated programs and singing along with the lyrics). I'd say a few of the recordings may be remakes, but most are the original versions we knew and recognized.

So, here is my first question to you: What theme songs are your favorites? Which ones are most memorable, which are excruciating to hear even today? Feel free to make your lists!

Incidentally,  there were also the variety shows (I sorely miss those...), whose hosts often had their own theme song: Dean Martin and “Everybody Loves Somebody Sometime”, or Sonny and Cher signing off each show with “ I've Got You, Babe”. This brings us to our second question today:  imagine you are starring in a show based upon your life . What would be your theme song? What song would be playing as you enter the room, take the stage and let the world see who you are?

Again, to get things rolling, here is my personal theme song: Thomas Dolby's “ She Blinded Me With Science” (don't ask; suffice it to say the song reflects my interests, and my nerdish nature; as my wife nods in agreement...).

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