Wednesday, February 24, 2010

5 Turn-it-Up! Songs to Love

Today we discuss five songs that, when they come on the radio or my iTouch, I turn 'em up loud enough that no one can tell I can't carry a tune. But when you're at the heart of your rock-star-wannabe glory, who cares?

Immigrant Song by Led Zeppelin

What's better here? The head banging intro., Robert Plant's vocals (gotta love that Tarzan-like yell), or just the general gutteral growl of Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones? How about all of the above? Shoot, I don't even know the words here -- I just move, man. People must think I'm an idiot...

Roll With the Changes by REO Speedwagon

One of the best bridges ever. Ever. Neal Doughty's organ followed by Gary Richrath's guitar. And don't forget Doughty on piano, either. I loved this one the first time I ever heard it, as the lead track on the album at right, You Can Tune a Piano but You Can't Tuna Fish. And if that isn't one of the best names for an album, ever, I don't know what is.

So if you're tired of the same old story,Turn some pages.


Just the Same Way by Journey

Ah, yes, back in the days before Steve Perry had completely taken over lead vocals -- and don't get me wrong -- he has a phenomenal voice and to me embodies Journey. But Gregg Rolie is featured here, as he was on two of the band's other hits, Feelin' That Way and Anytime. What works for me here is the mixture of their vocals -- different pitch, style, but sounding great together. Sort of like the Reese's of '70's rock!

I like Jonathan Cain on keyboards, but Rolie's vocals gave Journey an additional resource.

Shoot to Thrill by AC/DC

Just when you think it's about over, it gets better. Fast, then slow, then fast again. A rocker worthy of stadium play, and in fact, I do play it when doing the PA at my sons' high school baseball games. Hey, I'm not interested in their music; folks on the fence have to listen to my music! Brian Johnson's vocals are great on this track.

Rosalita by Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band

Doesn't the Boss just paint you a picture with a lot of his songs? None more so than here. The scenery, the characters, the situations... Clarence Clemons is great on that sax as usual, and the rest of the band meshes well, also as usual. Another tune that reaches a stopping point, but heads right into a crescendo that takes it home the rest of the way. Fun, fun, fun!

BONUS track --

Never Been Any Reason by Head East

The first time I heard this song I thought it was Emerson, Lake, and Palmer -- the synthesizer is reminiscent of ELP's Lucky Man. Head East hails from my native Illinois, originally forming at the University of Illinois. They never really had another hit, but this one's lasting -- sounds great everytime I turn it up!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Part Seven: Oh, Hawk... Not the Skirt, Boy!

Doug: February is Fashion Police Month here at BAB (not really...) and today we're going to look at the evidence stacked against one Clint Barton, better known as Hawkeye!

Karen: One thing I like about Hawkeye is that, at least for his archer costumes, he kept the same blue and purple color scheme! And of those costumes, there's only one that's really flat-out horrific - you know the one I am talking about!

Doug: Do I ever! Let's do a little history lesson on our pal. Clint started off with a Don Heck-designed (Tales of Suspense #57, September 1964) get-up that's really been Hawkeye's enduring look. I, too, have always viewed it as purple and navy blue; however, in the Fantastic Four/John Byrne article in the current Back Issue! (#38), Byrne states that when he changed the FF's uniforms and increased the amount of white, the suits were black and white, not blue and white. Byrne's contention was that blue was a lighting effect, and his example was a good one -- Superman's hair is often colored with a lot of blue, but does anyone really think that he has blue hair? So I guess I am going to assume that Hawkeye's main garb is black with purple accents. What about you? How do you view it?

Karen: Eh, Byrne might be right about some outfits but I think ol' Clint is wearing purple and blue! What's interesting to me is all the minor variations we've seen in his costume. I think he had a slightly more detailed costume than most 60s characters. So little things would get tweaked, like the 'H' on his forehead, or his arm bands. Sometimes his hands were bare, sometimes gloved. Later on, I believe it was George Perez who added little pouches to his strap of his quiver.

Doug: Then he entered the Goliath phase, in a curious outfit designed by Gene Colan (?) and appearing in Avengers #63. While I love my giants (Goliath, Colossal Boy, et al.), I always thought the top half of Clint's version was outright weird. What the heck was holding that shoulder fabric in place -- some of Phantom Lady's boob tape??

Karen: Oh boy, I just had a terrible thought - Hawkeye on the same team as Phantom Lady! The poor girl would never get a moment's peace! As for the Goliath outfit, I wonder if John Buscema designed it? To me it has more of a Buscema feel to it. Of course, it also has the weird harness thing going on, which I guess harkens back to circus strongmen. Hercules had something similar. I thought the red and blue color scheme worked best.

Doug: And so, chronologically, we come to the bane of Karen's comic-collecting existence. The infamous Barry Smith-designed outfit that Hawkeye debuted back in Avengers #98 (April 1972).

Karen: You know, I like Barry Smith's work. Really I do. But I've often said that I thought he was better suited to non-super-hero titles. I think this design is proof of that. Who is Clint supposed to be? I guess Smith took his namesake seriously, because he could have stepped out of Last of the Mohicans - although I think even that Hawkeye would have worn leggings!
Doug: So, what's your verdict, Karen? I will state that the ol' standby Hawkeye outfit is a winner that's stood the test of time, and according to press ahead of the coming new Avengers title, Clint's back in that suit (readers will note that neither Karen or I chose to discuss (and I hate even this acknowledgement!) the Ronin fiasco). As for his stint as Goliath, like you, I also prefer the red and blue schematic, but not the costume in general. And everyone should guess where we both stand on his third get-up -- and that's what it was -- a get-up!

Karen: Hawkeye's standard garb is a classic, and despite a few mis-steps here and there, I consider him "dressed for success"!

Friday, February 19, 2010

BAB Two-In-One: Jacked-up Storytelling and the Savage art of Barry Smith

Doug: Back atcha with a look at Amazing Adventures #2 from September 1970. As with the premiere ish of the Inhumans solo series, this story was written and drawn by Jack Kirby with inks by Chic Stone (who incidentally seems to have tipped over the ol' inkpot square on Black Bolt's mug on the splash page!).

As I'd commented last time, while Jack Kirby might have been known as the King, it certainly was not a title to be associated with his writing prowess. Let's see if things get better with experience... When we left off, the Great Refuge had been attacked by a cobalt missile. Destroyed by Black Bolt, the scraps carried the insignia of the Fantastic Four. With the revelation that former allies had instigated the attack, Black Bolt gave the signal for the royal family to now make war.

This issue opens with Lockjaw teleporting the Inhumans directly into the Baxter Building where they find Ben reclining in his personal quarters and Crystal (still can't figure out why she's in this story -- as I'd said, she had been called back to the Great Refuge some months ago) and Johnny dancing to records (that's right -- vinyl, baby!) in the rec. room. There's a great scene of Lockjaw holding the door knob to Ben's room so that he can't get out, and Ben on the other side giving a firm tug. When Lockjaw finally plows through, Black Bolt follows and hits Ben with an electron burst from his antennae. Ben's floored then by Karnak and the scene switches to the young lovers.
Moving into the hallway to check out the commotion, Crystal is subdued by Medusa while Johnny squares off against Gorgon. Of course the Baxter Building is virtually destroyed in the melee. When Reed and Sue return from a shopping trip, there's not much left of their home.

Meanwhile, Maximus is on his secret island gloating about the events transpiring. However, Black Bolt had dispatched Triton on a hunch that the Mad One was behind all of this (as he usually is in an Inhumans yarn...). Yep -- Triton sees the missile launcher, catches a little of Maximus' gloating, and takes him into custody. Shortly after that the fighting in New York comes to a halt.

While Black Bolt regenerates Ben's destroyed bath robe, Medusa gives an odd soliloquy about doing right in the face of a false attack (or something like that). It's a real moralizing speech, and coming from Kirby's pen is understandable given his war experiences but the delivery is just odd. And that's also the overall evaluation of this 2-parter -- while Jack's visual storytelling works, the plot and dialogue are just so contrived and basic that it's really a bore. As I've read so much history about the man, I find myself sad that all of the ideas caged up in his head didn't make him happy on the graphic page -- that he had to write, when that was not his gift, somewhat seems to diminish the overall talent. And I'm sorry I feel that way about it.

Karen: My comrade in comics, Doug, has inspired me with his selection of the split-book, Amazing Adventures. Since I've been reading Astonishing Tales featuring Deathlok, I decided to go waaay back to issue 3 of that title, back when it was a split book as well, shared by the incongruous pairing of Dr. Doom and Ka-Zar! I've had this book plus a number of other early Astonishing Tales issues sitting in my comic boxes, unread. So I pulled out the earliest one I had and was pleasantly surprised to be greeted by the art of Barry Smith. While best known for Conan, Smith left his mark in a number of other titles, such as Avengers and Dr. Strange. But I've always felt that his style worked best with the non-super-heroes. There is a sort of otherworldliness to it - at least, in my eyes. Here, he turns in a terrific Ka-Zar, who resembles Conan in many ways - the blond hair being the primary difference!
The story in this issue, "Back to the Savage Land," was written by Gerry Conway, another guy who popped up all over the Marvel universe. According to Wikipedia, this was Conway's first writing job for Marvel. If that's the case, then it's no wonder he was soon scripting almost every title Marvel had. It's a really solid adventure that continues with the next issue. But probably the most interesting thing about it is that it is the precursor to a much-better known X-Men story. Chris Claremont, John Byrne, and Terry Austin basically did a sequel to this issue in issues 114-116 of that title, when the X-Men found themselves stuck in Ka-Zar's home base.

In this story, the blood-thirsty priestess Zaladane of the Sun People uses the worship of their god, Garokk, to influence her tribe to attack and conquer the other people of the Savage Land, breaking years of peaceful co-existence. In the meantime, Ka-Zar, who has been living in New York, is contacted by the Petrified Man, the human avatar of Garokk. The Petrified Man was originally a sailor in the 16th century who wound up in the Savage Land. By drinking mystical water consecrated to Garokk he has become immortal; but he has also been turned into stone (but can still move, obviously). He senses things are not right in the Savage Land, so he and Ka-Zar return to their jungle home. They soon discover what Zaladane is up to and try to stop her.

I really enjoyed the artwork in this issue
. I think Barry Smith is one of the most immediately-recognizable of artists - I knew as soon as I looked at the first page that this was his work. He does an excellent job here in depicting the hidden world of the Savage Land, and his pacing moves the story along at just the right speed. His figures are dynamic. All in all, just a real joy to look at. It's always great fun for me to read an old book like this for the very first time - but when it is a truly good story, so much the better.

I won't review the Dr. Doom story here, but I must say something about the Wally Wood artwork. It is truly beautiful. It has a heavy, dark feeling that perfectly suits Dr. Doom. In some ways, it feels 'old' to me. But in a good way. It's extremely dramatic, and well....just take a look. Wow.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Hold no Fear -- Spring is Coming!!

Major League pitchers and catchers are reporting to training camps, with the rest of the roster players and free agent invitees coming soon. Can there be any doubt that this loooonnnngggg winter in the States is coming to an end? Think warm!

And yes, that's Wrigley Field in Chicago, Illinois, and I am a long-suffering Cubs fan...


Friday, February 12, 2010

Who Can It Be Now?

O Faithful Ones:

If you happen to notice the hit counter to your left, and you are the 10,000th reader of the Bronze Age Babies blog, then consider yourself exalted! And, leave us a comment and identify yourself so the world might bask in your glory!!

Thanks to all for giving us a try -- we hope to keep you interested as we head toward 20K!

Doug and Karen

BAB Two-In-One: Cyborg on the Run and Writing from a Commoner

Karen:Welcome back to the on-going saga of Deathlok the Demolisher! This time around I'll look at Astonishing Tales #30 - and no, I didn't skip an issue; issue 29 featured a Guardians of the Galaxy reprint.

Karen: For this issue, Doug Moench is back as scripter on pages 6-32, with Rich Buckler credited for pages 1-5. The art team is a real smorgasbord, with Buckler, Keith Pollard, and Arvell Jones as pencillers, and Al McWilliams inking. Not to insult anyone, but I have to say right upfront, I thought this issue had was the weakest, art
-wise. And I don't think any of these artists are bad individually, but the mix really leaves something to be desired.

Karen: Our story picks up with Deathlok and the mysterious revolutionary who was following him being threatened by
Ryker's cyber-tank. From there it's one long chase, with Ryker's unstoppable tank and a group of laser -armed thugs following the cyborg as he makes his way through the deserted and dilapidated city.

Karen: Ryker continues to rant and rave and
generally appear like a complete loon. He has plans to turn himself into "The Savior-Machine", whatever that might be. So far, Ryker has seemed so over-the-top that I really can't take him seriously.

Karen: Deathlok overcom
es the thugs and somehow destroys the tank by creating a huge crossbow out of junkyard materials - no, I am not making this up! This issue had a very rushed feel to it. It also felt too similar to the previous issue, with the majority of time spent with Deathlok on the run. Perhaps if the art had been better it would have been a more enjoyable issue. These early issues have been more promise than pay-off, but that's all about to change starting with the next issue!

Doug: While many argue that Jack "King" Kirby's departure from Marvel to migrate to the Distinguished Competition was the end of the Silver Age and the beginning of the Bronze Age, today's story is written and drawn by Kirby and comes from 1970 -- a date which many historians alternatively temporally mark as the dawn of the Bronze Age. Let's take a look at Jack Kirby sans Stan Lee, with the debut issue of the Inhumans in Amazing Adventures #1 from August 1970 -- written and drawn by Kirby with Chic Stone providing the embellishment. After years of inks by Joe Sinnott and Vince Colletta, it's almost a trip back in time seeing Stone's less-powerful inks.

The story opens oddly enough with a "movie night" in the Baxter Building. Reed Richards has a video synopsis of the Inhumans' Royal Family, and narrates each person's name and powers -- as if Ben, Johnny, and Crystal wouldn't know! And wait a second -- Crystal is in the room... This book was on the spinner racks the same month as FF #101 (Kirby's second-to-last issue of the FF), and Medusa had long ago come to the States to take Crystal back to the Great Refuge in the Himalayas (FF #95, February 1970). I'll write this one off to the notion that Kirby may have had this story finished before he and Stan decided on the departure of Crystal, but since many Kirby apologists have argued that Jack had been plotting FF for years prior to his leaving Marvel, it is problematic.

The scene shifts to Asia, where a group of interlopers is attempting to find the Great Refuge. They're drawn in much the same fashion Kirby and other early Silver-Agers like Don Heck drew Asians -- as caricatured, menacing Commies. The entourage is met and opposed by Gorgon, he of the thunderous hooves, who creates a shockwave to startle the party. Karnak then chops off a large chunk of the mountain, setting it down perfectly to form a land bridge that will serve as an escape route for the trespassers. With a little additional "encouragement" from Medusa and Black Bolt, the group decides that it would be in their best interests to vacate the premises and leave the Inhumans alone. Black Bolt destroys the land bridge once the potential baddies have gone.

Triton greets the rest of his cousins upon their return, and informs them that a cobalt missile is rapidly approaching the city. Scene-switch a few moments in the past to Maximus the Mad and his henchmen Centarius, Timberius, Leonius, Aeolus (many first seen in August 1968's Incredible Hulk Special #1 and last seen in Incredible Hulk #119) -- where Maximus gloats of sending off a missile that will confuse and hopefully destroy his hated brother Black Bolt. The ultimate goal is for Black Bolt to begin a war with the outside world, fought mainly against Maximus' unwitting pawns the Fantastic Four.

As the Royal Family scrambles with the knowledge Triton has imparted, the missile approaches. Black Bolt takes to the sky to fend it off, destroys it, and reveals a piece of the shrapnel with a decal -- a blue circle within which is a blue 4. As Gorgon exclaims, the Fantastic Four are the only outworlders who know the exact location of the Great Refuge -- and Black Bolt silently proclaims war!

As this is a two-fer book with the other half being occupied by the John Buscema-drawn Black Widow, we'll have to wait until next time to see how this turns out! But before I leave you, I wanted to comment on Kirby's storytelling. Jack, as mentioned above, had been quite instrumental in the success of the Fantastic Four, as the driving force creatively. It's been well-documented that he was often frustrated with Stan's ignoring of Jack's margin notes, and particularly disgusted at what Stan chose to do with the Silver Surfer and Him (later Adam Warlock). Kirby had long-desired the opportunity to flex his creative energies on his own, to tell stories he wanted to tell and to do it his way. So here we have it -- one of his own creations, the use of the Fantastic Four, and pretty much the freedom to cut loose his way. And what we get is a very pedestrian style of writing. This story plays out as if someone were simply narrating "we're going to do this, and then this happens." The dialogue is simple, and each character seems to have lost his or her "voice". What we see, sadly, is that while Jack Kirby was the King of dynamic, violent, tornadic art and ideas, he was just an everyman when it came to the script. Many have said that what Stan Lee and Jack Kirby did together was truly a Marvel Masterwork; what they did apart falls considerably short.
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