Saturday, March 31, 2012

So Very, Very Wrong....

Karen: From the back of Batman 407. So how many of you had Ugly Balls??

Doug: That's sort of a personal question...

Friday, March 30, 2012

Discuss: Your Favorite Super-Villain Team-Ups

Doug: Not the magazine Super-Villain Team-Up per se, but any get-together by super-baddies is fair game!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

In Appreciation of: Bruce Lee

Karen: Back in the early seventies, I had a poster in my room that was very similar to the picture on the right here. I bet millions of other kids did too. Bruce Lee was coolness personified.

Sadly, we only have a handful of TV shows and films by which to remember him. Of course, it's well known that he appeared as Kato on the
Green Hornet TV series (a role he reportedly hated). But he really came into his own in his films. His characters were all very similar. He was typically motivated out of a desire to find justice -although often it seemed more like vengeance! He also seemed fearless, even when facing guys much bigger than himself (remember how he demolished Bob Wall in Enter the Dragon?). His incredible speed and skills are still thrilling to watch -no camera tricks or CGI there! But much of the reason for Lee's success was due to his winning personality. Even in a fight scene, his emotions flash across his face and are easily read. His steely stare is classic. He was also a strikingly good-looking man. Lee's charisma and outstanding athleticism made him a universally acclaimed hero.

But Lee was a cool cat in his real life as well. Always an iconoclast, he rebelled against Chinese traditionalists by welcoming non-Chinese into his schools. He studied boxing, judo, and every form of martial art to develop his fighting skills, never locking himself into any dogma. While many martial artists eschewed weight lifting, Lee decided to pursue it. He did everything his way, even creating his own form of martial art called Jeet Kune Do.

His untimely death in 1973 robbed us of a great talent, but created a legend. Without Lee, it's doubtful that martial arts would have achieved such tremendous popularity in the western world. It seemed like every kid had a home-made pair of nunchaku in the 70s -and the self-inflicted injuries that went with them! And how many people started taking kung fu lessons after seeing Enter the Dragon? Nowadays it's pretty much impossible to see an action film that doesn't have some martial arts fighting in it. Lee was the herald of a new way of filming fights. He influenced other media too, not the least of which was comics. Shang Chi could be Bruce Lee's twin!

So here's to Bruce Lee: gone, but never ever to be forgotten.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

BAB Book Review: MetaMaus

Doug: Two weeks ago I reviewed Mail Order Mysteries; today we're looking at another holiday gift I received late last year -- Art Spiegelman's 25th Anniversary retrospective on all-things-Maus.

As I've remarked before, the Holocaust is one of the passions of my teaching. I've been using Maus in my classroom for over 15 years. That graphic novel has literally been life-changing for me as a professional, and as a human being. Believe it or not, Maus was my entry point to the Holocaust. When I was in high school, we did not have a world history course. I attended a small liberal arts college in central Illinois, and although I feel I got a decent breadth of study in world history and U.S. history (as a history education major), there was virtually no mention of the Holocaust. Truth -- a few years ago, not believing that my professors had ducked the topic, I opened my textbook for "2oth Century Europe"; there were no more than three paragraphs on the genocide, well tucked within the chapter on World War II.

I vividly recall the day my fiance' and I were walking around one of the bookstores at her university; it must have been the fall of 1986. There on the shelf was this odd looking book with two mice framed by a swastika. Picking it up, I was amazed to see that it was a black & white comic! Browsing it briefly, I knew I wanted it so bought it right away. About two days later I sat down and read "My Father Bleeds History" in one marathon. It was absolutely like nothing I'd ever seen. It was so personal, so painful, so suspenseful... I didn't know at the time that I actually knew of Art Spiegelman's work -- who among us didn't know Wacky Packages or the Garbage Pail Kids? But the world of underground comics? Not for me. I knew R. Crumb and I knew I preferred the relative safety of Marvel and DC.

I'd only recently begun my teaching career when the second volume, "And Here My Troubles Began", was released. I gobbled that one up as soon as it was released, and was just amazed at the details of the Spiegelmans' time in Auschwitz. As the years of my teaching career passed, I knew I wanted my world history students to go deeper on this subject. In Illinois (as in many other states) the Holocaust is a mandated subject throughout public schooling. It really wasn't difficult to convince our department chair to let me and a few other interested colleagues begin incorporating Maus into our curriculum.

In 2000 a co-worker and I attended a one-day seminar in Chicago entitled "Teaching the Holocaust". It was delivered by the education department of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. I was floored. I hadn't been doing anything wrong over the years, but I'd been so incomplete! The methodologies, the anecdotes, the resources provided -- I was simply blown away. We were at Spertus College on Michigan Avenue -- a beautiful setting overlooking Grant Park and Buckingham Fountain. While there I noticed that they offered a distance-learning master's degree program. I signed up within weeks, and completed my Master of Science in Jewish Studies (I am Protestant, by the way -- people always ask when they hear about my degree...) with a concentration in Holocaust education in 2005.

But where this has really changed me professionally is in my involvement with the USHMM. In 2001 I applied for and was awarded a Museum Teacher Fellowship, which has forever changed how I teach. A few years later I was "promoted" to the Regional Education Corps. For the past five years I've gone around the country teaching teachers how to teach about the Holocaust. I've been to Chicago several times, to Des Moines, Indianapolis, Green Bay, Park City, and Washington, DC. In 2008 I was chosen to be in the inaugural group of teachers to go on a study tour of Poland, complements of the Polish Embassy. In October of that year we spent eight days in Warsaw and Krakow, with the culmination of the tour being a day spent at Auschwitz I and Auschwitz II-Birkenau. Words cannot describe... Later, I served on the Educator Advisory Board for the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center (Skokie, IL), and was invited to its grand opening where Elie Wiesel and former President Clinton were among the speakers.

So, about this book. Should you own it, read it, skip it altogether? I'm sure you've already figured out where I'm coming from on it -- I love it. But why should you? Well, first off, if you haven't read Maus I think you should. If you enjoy any aspect of the humanities, from history to psychology, from sociology to biography, then Maus is for you. I am always reluctant to read outside of the superhero books; I'd be kicking myself if I'd never given Maus a try. MetaMaus is indeed a comprehensive retrospective on Spiegelman's masterpiece. Let me let him tell you about the premise of the book, from page 6:

"MetaMaus is built around a series of taped conversations with Hillary Chute. (She is currently Neubauer Family Assistant Professor of English at the university of Chicago and was previously a Junior Fellow in Literature in the Society of Fellows at Harvard University.)

In 2006, after reading her lucid takes on my work and that of others I gave her free access to my rat's nest of files, archives, artwork, notebooks, journals, books, and dirty laundry. She soon became my chief enabler and associate editor in a project I kept resisting. (It was hard to revisit Maus, the book that both "made" me and has haunted me ever since; hard to revisit the ghosts of my family, the death-stench of history, and my own past.) Her relentless enthusiasm, diligence, and intelligence allowed this project to happen." --a.s.
I've probably read Maus a dozen times -- I don't completely read it every year I teach it, but I generally read several pages at a time to refresh my memory for class discussions. That being said, when Spiegelman and Chute discuss certain vignettes and how and why Spiegelman chose his way of presenting the scene, I'm pretty in tune with them. So for me, or for any multiple reader or student of Maus, this book is simply fascinating. For you who might have read it once or just know of it, this is a window into the complete creative process. Maus was originally conceived as a three-page story; it was expanded to a 300-page graphic novel! Spiegelman takes us through his research, his struggles with panel lay-outs, the evolution of metaphor, struggles with how to accurately convey his father's broken English, etc. Along the way we are treated to seemingly endless examples of drafts for pages and even for specific panels.

But it goes beyond the creation of Maus and into the world of corporate big business -- of international translations, pressures for film and animation rights, and museum shows. One of the comments I found very interesting was Spiegelman's declaration that the original publication of Maus as a graphic novel of 6 1/2" x 9" is the only size at which he wants the art to be exhibited. He talks of being very unhappy one time when he entered an exhibit to see single panels from Maus blown up to poster size. He remarks that to do that is to lose all context of the page and what has come before and what is yet to be revealed. Later in the book he tells that working in the small, confined size limited him -- disciplined him -- to tell the story creatively yet not ornately. Spiegelman often calls himself a poor draftsman, an inferior artist, yet as we hear him soliloquize on his burdens of creativity, on the countless drafts and rejections of even specific figures within a given panel, we cannot but marvel at his brilliance in telling this story in the exact manner in which he wanted it told.

The table of contents goes like this:

  1. Introduction (8)
  2. Why the Holocaust (10)
  3. Family Album (83)
  4. The Early Maus (105)
  5. Why Mice? (110)
  6. Why Comics? (164)
  7. Family Tree (224)
  8. Vladek's Transcript (237)
  9. Memories of Anja (278)
  10. Chronology (290)
  11. Index (295)
The real prize in the book... I shouldn't have said that. The book is a prize in itself. Start again -- One of the most amazing elements of the book is the inclusion of a DVD-ROM that includes the complete Maus in a searchable digital format, complete with page and panel drafts, links to notes on research, and maps and photos where appropriate. There are several books on the Holocaust that were on Anja's bookshelf that are included, as well as the complete audio interviews between Art and Vladek that form the backbone of the book. Several essays and reviews about Maus round out the contents of the disc.

At an MSRP of $35.00 for the hardcover edition, this would be welcome in your comic book library, or on the bookshelf in your family room, den, or study.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Discuss: Land of the Lost

Karen: Land of the Lost was a live-action, Sid and Marty Krofft production that came on Saturday mornings, starting in 1974. It had a surprising amount of real science fiction embedded in the half hour stories -alternate dimensions, mutations, aliens, advanced technology, and of course, dinosaurs, cuz what kid doesn't like dinosaurs? But perhaps the most memorable thing from the show were the villains -the lizard-like Sleestaks! I know they're one of Doug's favorites.

Karen: Of course, like every television show from the last 40 years, it was turned into a movie. But the less said about that, the better.

Karen: How about it? Any Land of the Lost fans out there?

Monday, March 26, 2012

Year One: Batman 406

Batman #406 (April 1987)
"Black Dawn"
Frank Miller-David Mazzuchelli

Doug: The plot is certainly thickening as we move into the second half of this mini-series within a series that redefined (for better or worse) the Batman in the post-Crisis DC Universe. Today's fare is chock full of action and suspense; I wouldn't say that any of the outcomes are unpredictable, but there's a certain page-turnability to this story. Before we get to examining the plot, I would like to say that I think the cover to Batman 406 seems out of place beside the other three in the series. We've remarked that David Mazzuchelli's art is at times minimalist; here we have something that's very busy. While it certainly foreshadows events within, it's just a wholly-different design in comparison to the rest of the covers he did for this storyline.

Karen: I hadn't thought about that, but looking at the covers, you're dead right Doug.

Doug: When we left off, the Batman was hiding in a tenement building when one of the GCPD fascists dropped a bomb on it! As the building exploded around him, we felt somewhat assured that no one could survive. Of course we were wrong. Batman falls from his perch as fire ignites all about him. Chemicals in his utility belt catch fire and he has to discard it. One of the things we find out about this novice hero is that he's much better prepared than his 1966 television counterpart; this Batman keeps some back-up utensils in his boots and cape! We also see that death is very real in Frank Miller's Gotham City; as Batman plummets he spies a homeless man in the midst of the flames. Batman somewhat callously thinks that he has no time to save that man. Lighting on the floor, the Dark Knight sees a large steel door marked "Danger: Electricity 80,000 Watts". Seems like a safer place to be than a burning building, so he removes a pick from his glove and jimmies the padlock.

Karen: Just goes to show how differently people can interpret things. I took Batman's thoughts, where three times he says he can't help the old man, to indicate his frustration in his inability to save him.

Doug: I've included the panels in question, above. Upon a reread, I do see that Batman's comments about the homeless man seem filled with regret. My original take on it was that he was so focused on the mission at hand that he couldn't tolerate any deviation from the necessary. Readers?

Doug: We then cut to the apartment of Selina Kyle, who obviously shares it with the young prostitute Holly (and about two dozen cats). Holly is trying to awaken Selina to tell her about explosions and fires burning across the city. Selina reluctantly rises, but takes the time to feed her cats. She tells Holly to turn on the television news, and then they get dressed to check it out. At the scene, Gordon's pretty banged up. He barks out some orders as Detective Essen is loaded into an ambulance, having sustained injuries from last issue's high-speed accident. The sadist Branden and his SWAT commandos are going into the building. Of course it looks like a war zone, but you know what struck me immediately? Where's the fire?

Karen: I was struck by that too. Even if the fire was out (how?), it still should have been plenty hot in the ruins. But the SWAT team enters it almost nonchalantly. And after all these years, I still wonder about the relationship between Selina and the very young Holly. Nothing is shown exactly, but it still leaves me a bit creeped out.

Doug: Branden's men quickly deduce that the Batman must have gone into the steel trap door, so they pump it full of bullets first and then open it and proceed down some steps. But as they descend, a gloved hand emerges from a broken brick duct and lays a Vulcan nerve pinch on one of the police goons. Now in possession of the guy's radio, Batman tells Branden that he has him right where he wants him. Even at the earliest times, intimidation is a hallmark of a Batman adventure! Batman then drops some gas pellets down the shaft in which he was hiding, but Branden's men are prepared for it.

Karen: Yup, that was definitely a Vulcan nerve pinch. I smirked when I saw that. Although Batman is ordering Branden around, he's also trying to reason with him -"Too many people have died already." This Batman is still concerned about protecting lives, even those of crooked cops.

Doug: Surface-side, Selina and Holly arrive on the scene and Holly strays across the police line. In the sky the Commissioner circles in a helicopter wondering why this hasn't been ended yet. Inside the building, Batman puts a tourniquet around his thigh and takes cover in the shadows. With dawn coming and no roof on the structure, the sun now becomes his worst enemy. That, and a stray cat who suddenly leaps away from him, drawing attention. Well, desperate times require desperate measures, and as the situation is beginning to look hopeless, the Batman plays his final card -- an experimental sonic device that he's created for Wayne Electronics. The bats beneath Wayne Manor, in the cave. They will come to his aid.

Karen: The bat-signalling device in the heel of his shoe verges on Batman TV show territory. It's played very straight, and the imagery is great, so it works, but I felt that it was out of place. To connect Batman and Selina, we have both of them commenting on Siamese cats and how they won't be quiet. Nice touch.

Doug: Using a blow gun, the Batman puts a dart into Branden's neck. All that does is stir up his men, who now commence firing. This forces the Dark Knight from his hiding spot and puts him on a run for his life. Amazingly he picks up the cat that had tipped the cops to his whereabouts and shields it from the automatic gunfire. The cat is tossed out a window and soon leaps into the arms of Selina Kyle, near the police line. Back inside, Batman has taken shelter behind a large column. As the police move in, we see our hero reenact a scene from the first issue, when he was training himself on the grounds of Wayne Manor. He gives a mighty kick to the weakened beam, and literally brings the house down. Surprisingly there's still some fight in the GCPD thugs, but as Batman battles the bats arrive -- enough to blot out the sun. In the chaos, the Batman is able to commandeer a motorcycle and make his getaway.

Karen: I'm sure modern audiences would find Batman's rescuing the cat to be ridiculous, but I loved it. This Batman is a good guy, even if his methods are sometimes harsh. We saw him save the kid on the balcony in the last issue, and now, he saves the innocent cat -maybe because he could not save the poor homeless men who were squatting in the building. The visuals of the fight between Batman and the squad were very exciting. This whole series has had a cinematic feel to it.

Doug: While a fitting end to the story, Miller gives us quite a long coda. Gordon narrates the lion's share of it, debriefing the reader on the fall-out from the bombing/bats episode. We then see him working late (again), in his office with Det. Essen. Gordon's trying to find a way to pin the whole Batman thing on Bruce Wayne. Wayne, it seems, has left Gotham City and has been on a month-long ski vacation in the Alps. Allegedly he's broken quite a few bones in a bad fall. Essen puts it together quickly that the injuries sustained by Wayne would roughly match-up with injuries believed to have been sustained by the Batman. And, she knows the background on the murder of Wayne's parents and thinks he might have motive for his alleged vigilante behavior.
Karen: It's kind of funny, after so many years, to see the idea of Bruce Wayne is Batman laid out so easily. It does seem like any detective worth a damn could figure it out, especially since Batman's equipment would require considerable funds to obtain or build.
Doug: The way Gordon and Essen are on the case, Batman's about as thin a disguise as... oh, I don't know -- a guy wearing black-rimmed eyeglasses?

Doug: The book ends with five quick vignettes: Bruce Wayne is indeed skiing, but it's more to rehabilitate his injuries and his mind, and to refine his mission. He surmises that he cannot do what he wants without an ally -- Gordon. Selina Kyle punches out Holly's pimp and yanks her away by the hand -- Selina has an idea. Gordon and Essen do what they've been doing lately -- having coffee late into the evening, after work. It's becoming way too personal for Jim Gordon; as they leave out into the rainy night to catch a cab, they duck into a doorway where they exchange a mutual kiss. Selina has spent a bunch of money on a catsuit. She leaps out into the night despite Holly's protestations. Gordon sits at the foot of his bed, having had yet another fight with his very-pregnant wife Barbara. His life is not going well. He feels like he needs an ally -- the Batman.

Karen: I recall being so mad when Gordon crossed the line with Essen. With some years behind me though, I can look on this and see how Miller was showing us a Jim Gordon who wasn't perfect -or boring. The mutual realization that they need each other promises interesting developments.

Doug: I agree -- it was disappointing to me as well. I take it for what it's worth, and isn't this a heaping dose of Marvel into the formerly staid DC Universe? Talk about clay feet.

Doug: This story continues to pay-off. Miller's brought us deeper into the minds of Bruce Wayne and James Gordon. As one of our commenters remarked (was it sarcastically?) in our first review, this could just as easily be called "James Gordon, Year One". I don't have a problem with that. I used the line "parallel lives" last week -- it's all that. And it moves the story along quite nicely, seeing these two men working against each other but on a collision course where it's now evident that they must work together to accomplish each other's goals. I think this story holds up just fine.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Discuss: Thought-Provoking Song Lyrics

Is a dream a lie if it don't come true
Or is it something worse?

The River, Bruce Springsteen
The River, 1980

Friday, March 23, 2012

Pre-Bronze Teen Titans: The Whole Neal Adams Enchilada!

With Today's Reflections, the Bronze Age Babies Surpass 300 Comic Books Reviewed!

Teen Titans
#'s 20-22 (March-August 1969)

"Titans Fit the Battle of Jericho!"
"Citadel of Fear!"
"Halfway to Holocaust"
Neal Adams/Dick Giordano-Adams/Nick Cardy (covers by Cardy)

Doug: Last Friday we had a pretty in-depth discussion on comic book art -- what works, what doesn't, who our faves and foes are, etc. In the midst of the conversation some Neal Adams detractors arose! Gasp! The thought of it -- that it would be heresy to hold such a position as a commenter on this blog was set forth by one of our visitors. Well, today's a day we hope will generate a lot of discussion as well, as we're going to throw the whole Neal Adams hog atcha -- writer, artist, colorist, general tinkerer -- you name it! Using the hardcover DC Universe Illustrated by Neal Adams, let's have a peek at a 3-parter he created using an inter-dimensional gang of invaders as his antagonists.

Doug: Since this is a 3-issue review, I think I'm going to use a different format than Karen and I usually toss your way. I'll be very honest with you right up front: if you like Silver Age DC's, then you'll like this long tale. If you, like us here at the BAB, prefer your comics from the Silver- and Bronze Age House of Ideas, then you're going to find this yarn lacking. A lot. In fact, as I said last Friday, this is a prime example of a dumb story that still leaves me with pretty pictures. Since Adams wrote and drew this, he has no one to blame but himself for a script that leaves the reader wanting more (more sense, more detail, a better conclusion, some advancements in characterization, etc.). But at the end of the day, at least for my money, Neal Adams' art is still Neal Adams' art and that's OK. So rather than bore you with a long plot summary for a bad story, I think what I'll do is provide several 2-page scans that will allow you to pick this apart yourself. Maybe this will be somewhat of a do-it-yourself critique, with me playing host. What I (we) want is for you to tell us what is good and bad about Adams' storytelling from an artistic point of view. And I guess if you really think you like his script, then you can be an apologist for that.

Doug: As an aside, before you start your criticisms, those not "in the know" may be interested to see the backstory behind the first issue in this series, "Titans Fit the Battle of Jericho". What you are about to see is nowhere close to what was intended. You can check out this article, which originally ran in Comic Book Artist #1. It's pretty interesting, given what we'd see from Dennis O'Neil and Adams just a few short years hence in the pages of Green Lantern.

Doug: Let's lead off with our first example of two consecutive story pages. This first sample is from pages 2-3 of Teen Titans #20. The teens' HQ has been breached by a dude who, to us Bronze Age Marvelites, bears a striking resemblance to Moon Knight! The sidekicks soon learn that this invader doesn't want to be touched!

Doug: After simmering down long enough to talk, Joshua tells the Titans that he's come to enlist their aid. It seems there's a group of teenagers who've fallen under the influence of some ex-cons -- and the baddies are supplying them with guns. As one of the teens was arrested yesterday, the whole group is going to demonstrate... firearms along! Joshua leaves in some souped-up vehicle that resembles the TV Batmobile and the Titans follow (with Wally unexplainedly whipping up an updraft and carrying the other three aloft at a speed to keep up with the car ahead of them. Huh?).

Doug: Below are pages 7-8 from the same issue.

Doug: The brawling continues on the next page, and Joshua rescues the Titans one by one. Once on a rooftop, the young heroes grill their benefactor on exactly what is going down. Joshua insists on remaining mysterious, and bolts. We then cut to the kids from the gang, who are now in the presence of some organized crime-types. The leader, a fella named Fat Cat, muses to himself that the Titans may ruin Operation Jericho, and that he'd better let NG3 know. We then see a bunch of dudes discussing some gibberish and the Titans get a death sentence.

Doug: The above scene is from pages 13-14 of TT #20, and if you look at the link to the article posted above, you'll see that these scenes were at the center of the controversy and a major reason why the story as originally intended was rejected. As Robin says, it's a trap, they do indeed get ambushed, Joshua saves them again, and then the bottom falls out. The kids in the gang start spreading some green paint all over and what do you know? A monster erupts out of it! Yep. Silver Age DC. We did, however, find out that Chuck, the leader of the "bad kids", is really the brother of Joshua -- but we get no explanation of who Joshua is or how he got all of his gadgets and heightened physical prowess. Then we find that there are some aliens from another dimension whose only means of invading our planet was through the organized crime guys. Ahem.

Doug: Hawk and Dove guest-star in TT #21, and join the plot right on the splash page. Below are pages 4-5 from that issue. At this point, let's take an art break. Nick Cardy had penciled the original story that would have run in TT #20; I don't know about this issue's origins, but don't you see Cardy in some of the Titans' faces? Robin for sure. How about the inks, though -- scratchier than you'd assume Cardy would do?

Doug: Below are pages 10-11 from the same issue. I wasn't buying that Wally could create hurricane-force winds by whirling his arm in a circle. Tough on the joints, ya think?

Doug: Here's a scene seemingly ripped from the pages of Amazing Spider-Man #33. Speedy's become trapped under a giant ant-like robot. Hawk and Dove are going to help him get out of the pickle he's in. These are pages 18-19.

Doug: On to our final issue (thank goodness!). In a summary caption box at the top of the splash page, we get the plot synopsis (I'd have liked to have been in the editorial meeting with Adams, Cardy, and Dick Giordano on this one. Hoo-boy!) for the previous two issues. It reads:

"We learned that the creatures from Dimension X controlled an international crime syndicate in order to gain entry to our dimension by utilizing the syndicate's facilities and manpower. Their plans foiled by the interference of the Teen Titans, they captured Robin and Kid Flash in the hopes that they could provide the means of entry into Earth's dimension!"

Below are pages 2-3 from TT #22; this final installment is only a 16-page story.

Doug: Our last sample today comes from pages 11-12 of TT #22.

Doug: So there you have it: A complete story told over three issues, with Neal Adams as the pilot -- scribe, penciler, colorist. Hopefully the means in which we brought you the art today, with two consecutive full pages of story (as opposed to smaller panel samples), will give you enough on which to gauge your opinion. What we'd like to hear from you today are your thoughts on Adams as a visual storyteller. Some commenters on our blog have said that Adams is slick, photo-realistic, all style and no substance, a master, etc. Chime in with your take on Adams as his work would slide across an artists' continuum of effectiveness. And thanks for making the comments section our favorite part of the day!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Memorable Covers

Karen: The cover of a comic book is the entry point, and frequently, the selling point of the book. A cover used to display an image that was representative of what you would find inside. Sure, it might have been a bit misleading at times, but it gave you a sense of what the book was about. But it also had a chance to dazzle you, to entice you with its art.

Karen: Every comics fan can rattle off the covers that have really stuck with them, for whatever reason. I'll get the ball rolling with a few. One of the earliest covers I saw that really blew my socks off was Tales to Astonish 93, by Marie Severin and Frank Giacoia.Take a look -I still think it's fantastic! The Surfer, hurtling towards the reader; the Hulk, grabbing him; and those flames all around them -if that isn't dramatic, I don't know what is! I first saw this in my uncle's collection and it's been ingrained in my noggin ever since. There's a real sense of power and majesty to it.

Karen: Another cover that's burned into my brain is the cover of New Teen Titans 13, with Robotman hanging apparently lifeless and damaged in an old ruin, with a warning sign hung around his neck, as Robin, Kid Flash, and Cyborg look on in shock and dismay. There's just something very visceral about that cover, seeing this old time hero hung up like that. Sure, he's a robot (cyborg? He has a human brain...) but even so, it's alarming and makes you wonder immediately what happened to him. It's a great way to hook someone into buying the book!

Karen: So what are some memorable covers for you?


Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Wow. That'll Leave a Mark... Or Will It?

Doug: Today you'll need to put on your "thinking cap" (how many of you ever watched a kiddie program called Romper Room?) and wipe away some years. I want you to journey back in your mind to the time when you were a 6-, 7-, or 8-year old comic reader; hopefully I didn't disqualify too much of our audience. If I did, feel free to circumvent my scenario. Anyway, here's what I'd like to find out from you today -- as a child, what was your perception of violence and destruction in comics?

Doug: To be quite honest, I guess I never gave it a second thought. I don't think I had any perception of death or debilitating injury since the same heroes appeared in the next issue. As to bad guys, I'm thinking it was out-of-sight-out-of-mind until they returned again. Concerning property damage, and this may sound shallow or naive... until the 1989 mini-series Damage Control (which I've never read, but fully understand the farcical premise) I don't think it ever occurred to me because the Baxter Building and Avengers Mansion almost always looked the same from tale to tale. Below is a page from Marvels; how long do you think it took the Big Apple to dry out from this attack??

Doug: Of course, the first time I laid my eyes on Amazing Spider-Man #122 (a few years after its publication -- and ASM #90 was way before my time), my concept of death was forever altered; ditto with X-Men #95. In those stories, and afterward, it was apparent that death in comic books was real, that characters' lives could be affected, and that future storylines would be influenced by dark events of the past.

Doug: When you read comics now (old or new), do you get any sense of the amount of property damage or potential loss of life that takes place? I thought that the first volume of The Ultimates addressed these issues; I'm sure other modern comics have done so as well. When did your personal Age of Innocence end, and was there a definitive moment that led to your awakening or maturation?

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Discuss: Battlestar Galactica

Karen: We're talking about the original Battlestar Galactica here, the 1970s series that capitalized on the immense popularity of Star Wars. While visually stunning (for the time), it always seemed to be missing something. I think a lot more could have been done with the premise, what with the lost tribe, the whole Egyptian motif, and so on. Also, I think the idea of having our heroes always running away might have rubbed people the wrong way on some level. But it's still fun to look at, and it inspired the new series, which many folks consider to be one of the best sci fi shows ever.

So what say you all on the adventures of the Galactica?

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