Thursday, December 31, 2015

Goals Achieved, and New Resolutions

Doug: Here we sit, on the cusp of a New Year. I generally don't pay much attention to "special" days like January 1st. To me, it's just a date on the calendar. Take my birthday for example. I know some people get all bent out of shape if they don't get the family out to dinner on THE DAY. Me, whatever whenever. So while I might be in the minority on such things, this time of year seems a time to regularly reflect on what just was as well as look forward to what might be. Here in BAB land, that might have a little something to do with comics, music, DVDs, etc.

Doug: One goal I sort of achieved was the dissolution of my comics collection. While I still have around 125 books staring at me, the project I started in August of 2014 is basically done. As I mentioned yesterday I am moving now into other things. You want some Slurpee cups? Stick around -- those may just hit eBay sometime in 2015. Another goal I had was to read The New Frontier by Darwyn Cooke. While I generally enjoyed it, I found it a little different than I'd anticipated. Previously I'd only seen the DVD of the same name -- to say it condensed the story would be an understatement. Lastly here, and I've said this a bunch, my decision to finally seek out Ed Brubaker's Winter Soldier material was a wise one. I'm looking forward to continuing that exploration in the coming weeks and months.

Doug: So what else is on my horizon? Some of you are going to laugh, some will be incredulous... I want to read Don McGregor's "Panther's Rage" storyline. I have never read it. I came to Jungle Action after that long arc had concluded. I bought the Black Panther Marvel Masterworks a few years ago (it's a massive book), and have never committed to plowing through it. I really want to check that off my to-read list in 2016.

Doug: I want to commit to myself to continue reading stuff that's out of my normal superhero wheelhouse. I've remarked over and over how much I enjoyed Marvel's Monster of Frankenstein series, and my first foray into Swamp Thing was intriguing. I'd like to get back into the two Adam Strange Archives that I purchased. And I still have quite a few Joe Kubert Tarzan stories to read. What's on my bookshelves right now could keep me pretty busy.

Doug: The cinema will beckon several times, as the next Captain America flick, The Legend of Tarzan, and Dr. Strange will be slam dunks. I will most likely see X-Men: Apocalypse. But I guarantee that I am totally up in the air on whether or not to see Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice as a first-run film. My enthusiasm is virtually non-existent for that one.

Doug: OK, enough of my musings -- what are you thankful for and/or looking forward to as 2015 yields to 2016?

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Summer 1989 - When We Were Bat-Maniacs

Doug: So I pack-ratted a bunch of Batman stuff. What's it to you?

Doug: I've been taking advantage of my holiday break to move past comic books and into other books and memorabilia in my attempt to "cull the herd", so to speak. In fact, here's a plug for my auctions -- lots of new stuff goes live tonight (12/30) at 7:00 pm CT here in the States. In addition to the lot you see above, you'll find some Marvel Masterworks, various trade paperbacks, comic history books, etc. But back to this stuff -- yeah, I was that guy who grabbed whatever I could in a fit of Batmania ahead of the June 1989 release of Tim Burton's first Batman film. I was so excited that Bats was going to get the silver screen treatment. I had just loved Superman: The Movie and Superman II and had very high hopes for the Batman movie, too. Count me among those who were skeptical about Michael Keaton as the choice to play our hero... Now some 26 years later, he looks even better in the role!

Doug: But the real reason -- the real reason -- I wanted to discuss Batmania today was the hidden gem you see below. Yes, I saved the funny pages out of the Chicago Sun-Times from Sunday, November 12, 1989 when Marshall Rogers's newspaper strip began. The plot spun out of the events of the first Bat-film. NOTE: You may notice that the image is spliced -- my scanner was just a wee bit small to accommodate the width of the paper. But this is awesome! Who doesn't love themselves some Rogers Batman? Please enjoy.

UPDATE: Many readers in our comments section have noted that they did not know this strip even existed. Well, after a not-too-strenuous Internet search, I've found a blog with lots of great scans. Enjoy, courtesy of Scans Daily.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

BAB Classic: The Most Appalling Comic You Ever Read

NOTE: This post was originally published on February17, 2012

Karen: We usually discuss comics we like here. Sure, we may come across a dud now and then, but all in all, we like what we read. But I came across a story so appalling recently, that I thought I would throw open a discussion of comics that you may have read that you found revolting. I'm not necessarily talking about graphics that sicken you, but rather a storyline that you found morally reprehensible. The book that spurred me to write this post was Gunhawks #1, from 1972. I'm not a Western comics fan, but this issue was included in Marvel Firsts: The 70s, volume 1 trade paperback. It's the story of a pair of youths, one black, one white, who both fought in the Civil War -on the Southern side! There's this rambling soliloquy by the black character, Reno Jones, that just turned my stomach.

Reno: You see, not all the plantation owners were cruel masters with whips and chains! The man who owned me, for instance--he was a good man--treated me like a son--clothed me--educated me!...My mother was the chief cook in the mansion, and the kid's father had me tutored right along with his own son...It was a happy life! There was never any mention of slavery...and all the blacks there came and went as they addition to being paid for their work!
aren: I don't know if it is willful ignorance at work here, revisionism, or some terrible attempt at putting a different spin on things, but whatever it is, it's horrible. I couldn't read any more of this crap. While I am sure some slave owners were less brutal than others, the fact of the matter is, they owned people. There's not much you can do to justify that or pretty it up. Black slaves did not have an idyllic life! What's even more odd about this tale is that it appeared in 1972 -the same year we got Luke Cage, Hero for Hire! Black culture was everywhere and yet we get this apologist drivel. It was written by Gary Friedrich, drawn by Syd Shores, and edited by Roy Thomas, and I think they all should have known better.

Karen: Another title that comes to mind in this category is the much-maligned
Avengers #200, where Ms. Marvel is mysteriously impregnated, gives birth in three days, is later revealed to have been mind-controlled into having sex with her assailant (ie. raped), and then at the end goes off with her rapist to live happily ever after. Her fellow Avengers act like a bunch of twits and let her go, even though they know she had been mind controlled. Fortunately Chris Claremont stepped in with Avengers Annual# 10 a bit later and thoroughly chastised the Avengers (and by default, the creative team on Avengers #200).

Karen: Are there any comics you've read that have made you feel appalled?

UPDATE - Doug: Although it's almost four years since this post originally ran, I thought I'd bring it forward for the purpose of adding to Karen's original question. For Christmas I received a hardcover copy of Captain America: Forever Allies, which reprints the four-issue mini-series of the same name as well as the Young Allies Comics 70th Anniversary Special and a full reprint of Young Allies Comics #1 from 1941. It's the latter that struck a major chord with me.

Doug: Roger Stern, author of the 2010 mini-series, took great pains to right a wrong perpetrated in America for much of its history, and that is the portrayal of Blacks in popular culture. Of note are the caricatures of Blacks that permeated print media from the early 20th century. The images below come from that Young Allies comic, and are of "Whitewash" Jones:

Doug: You'll note that Jones exists solely as the butt of jokes. He is a bumbling oaf, scared of a challenge, and superstitious. When he is successful it is an accident. He is rarely portrayed as a fighter, usually kept in the background. Likewise, the antagonists pay little attention to him. He is a non-person as a character in Young Allies Comics #1.

Doug: If you have time today, I'd like you to take a jump to the Marvel Wiki page for Washington Carver Jones, a member of the Young Allies -- but more than that, retconned to be a member of the Tuskegee Airmen and a WWII hero. The wiki page basically summarizes the Forever Allies mini-series; I think Stern's treatment certainly serves him better. And here is the art to prove it:

Doug: And by the way, a 'thank you' to Edo Bosnar for heartily recommending the Stern Young Allies book. It was a fun read overall, and very nicely rendered. I enjoyed it (until the end of the book, that is...). I will finish by saying that Marvel did the right thing by not hiding from their history. That editorial chose to include the racist literature alongside the revisionist treatment served the new material -- it brought to light our negative past and treated the subject with dignity. I commend the folks at Disney Company and Marvel Entertainment for owning this.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Why Can't We Be Friends? Tales to Astonish 100

Tales to Astonish #100 (February 1968)
"Let There Be Battle!"
Stan Lee-Marie Severin/Dan Adkins

Doug: You don't mind if I submit Exhibit A in the conversation of "The Cover Was Way Better Than the Book", do you? Today's review has as its subject a comic I've long wanted to read -- the cover does it for me, right? About a year ago I picked up the second paperback volume of the Marvel Masterworks Incredible Hulk. I now have reprints of the original 6-issue series as well as the entire Tales to Astonish run. What I'd love to do is get my hands on affordable reprints of the Hulk ongoing that commenced during Marvel's expansion on the cusp of the Bronze Age. Anyway, I read this story around a week ago in preparation for today's presentation. I think we have a case here of the cover being so enticing that it really would be tough for the interiors to hold up. So why...?

Doug: To begin, my judgement of the book is framed not by any first impression. The title is typical late-Silver Age bombast from Stan Lee, and the splash page is interesting if overly crowded by text boxes (a whopping seven of them -- count 'em!). Hey, here's a great comic book question for you, that sort of ties into current events: You know how there's political talk that Americans (and citizens of other nations, too) have ceded some of their civil rights in the post-9/11 world, what with all of the surveillance cameras that permeate our public spaces? That cannot be a 21st century phenomenon, can it? Here we see Namor checking out the Hulk in the American southwest, and you know Dr. Doom, Reed Richards, the Avengers, and lord knows who else were always on some visi-screen creeping on a guy (good or bad). My impression of this mag was really carved out by the first half of the story. It's just such a fabricated story -- it certainly smacks of "Hey, it's our 100th ish, and what would you think of having the stars of both halves of the book tussle in a full-length brouhaha?!" Let me give those of you who've not read it a few specifics --

Doug: Namor decides to ally with the Hulk, basically because he'll be twice as menacing with the Green Goliath beside him. He swims off in search of ol' Greenskin, but encounters an experimental hydrofoil that fires on him. Game on. The ship's crew radios their "master", and we don't have to wait to see who it is -- it's none other than the Puppet Master. And what a rendition of Phillip Masters Mirthful Marie Severin gives us! Wow, man -- imagine if Mr. Clean, Lex Luthor, and Wilson Fisk somehow had a child (I know...blech!!). And to make it worse, the get-up he wears, with the big "P" on the front. Oh, my. So Masters is mad that Namor mixed it up with the sailors and ended up wrecking the hydrofoil he was in the process of stealing. Revenge, revenge, revenge -- because that's what super-villains do. Masters decides, since the Hulk is on the news, that he'll craft a puppet of that beast and use him to pay back the Sub-Mariner. So long story short, this is how our two combatants are brought together. The cover touts this yarn as an epic 22 pages (double-sized from the usual 10-pagers enjoyed by Hulk and/or Sub-Mariner fans); Namor and the Hulk fight for 16 of those pages! If I was 10, I'd be beside myself. But as a stodgy middle-aged connoisseur of slugfests, not so much. I should mention that as the Puppet Master gains control of the Hulk, Rick Jones gets mildly knocked around by the purple pantsed one. This of course continues the running subplot of "Thunderbolt" Ross and Major Glenn Talbot needing just one more reason to persecute the Jade Giant.

Doug: OK, so what was not to love? Severin's art was fine. She was never one of the top shelf talents in Marvel's bullpen, at least to my eyeballs. But she was solid and steady -- certainly capable and she delivered the goods here. The fight scenes have some power, emotion, and even a little tension. A criticism I'd make is that she draws the Hulk on the small side -- in fact I'd argue that she draws him smaller here than even the Thing should be drawn. If the accepted tale-of-the-tape for Monster-Banner was 7 feet tall and 1000 pounds, then this Hulk looks closer in size to his alter ego. She also does a nice job of conveying that Namor is generally out-classed by his adversary, and thus does a good job of changing locales of the battle, being sure to incorporate some water scenes. Her various facial expressions are nicely rendered.

Doug: So it's not Marie. It must be Stan's script then. And here is where I think my problem rests. We have a 22-page story with a 10-page plot. I really think that this possibly could have been designed for one half of the book and then Stan decided to fill it out to a cover-to-cover clash of titans. I'm not keen on the Puppet Master as the catalyst, either. C'mon -- a grade-Z baddie? Why bother? All Namor would have to do is look at the Hulk wrong and they'd start fighting. So that the Puppet Master was employed didn't get it with me. Stan's script overall just wasn't up to his Silver Surfer, or Fantastic Four or Amazing Spider-Man that he'd have been writing at the same time. Nope -- this effort seemed like it came from a guy who viewed the assignment as perhaps down his list of things to do. So while this wasn't the worst story I've ever read, I think I'm just so colored by my expectations of the potentiality.

Doug: But that's a sweet cover, isn't it?

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Star Wars: The Force Awakens (FULLY-SPOILED)

Doug: Time it is. Spoil you must.

Karen: Howdy folks. While Doug and his boys are going to see it today, and we'll hear from him soon, I've seen it twice now, and I want to chime in with some thoughts. 

First, I did enjoy it. I felt it was in the spirit of the original trilogy and was visually stunning, and thankfully did not have the synthetic, over-CGI look of the prequels. I am so glad they decided to film in real locations, and use film stock. The story also is much more personal and relatable than the whole trade guild mess from the prequels -as soon as the beginning crawl said, "Luke Skywalker has vanished" I felt like the story would be focused in the right direction.

The new young protagonists were interesting and likable, if still somewhat mysterious, I am assuming we will learn more about Rey's parentage in the next film. I am still wondering what made Finn break his conditioning and rebel -is there something going on here that will also be revealed?

I have to be honest and admit that the moments that brought me the greatest joy were those with cranky old Han Solo and Chewbacca. Seeing those two together again, and seeing the Millennium Falcon soaring across the screen, were enough to make me go home with warm fuzzies. I've been asking myself how much of my good will towards the film is due to nostalgia, and I'm sure that is a nice chunk of it. Perhaps with some time it will be more clear to me if I like The Force Awakens on its own merits or just because I get to see my childhood heroes in it. I think there's enough in the film to like it beyond the nostalgia factor -but let's not kid ourselves: it's a heavy factor.

Not that everything was perfect (none of the Star Wars films are). I felt there were too many call backs to the original films. Another Deathstar? Why? Even the movie seems to poke fun at this, when the Rebels are planning their attack and Han sort of sarcastically says something along the lines of "There's usually a way to blow these things up." We have a youngster on a desert planet who has a greater destiny. A robot carrying secret plans. A cantina with a bunch of strange-looking aliens. A character who leaves winds up coming back to help. The mentor to the younger characters just felt like there were too many parallels. It's obvious it was intentional but much like Superman Returns, it felt like overkill to me. 

I also have mixed feelings about Kylo Ren. Obviously he's not meant to be Darth Vader; by the time we first saw Vader, he had been in his position for a couple of decades and was largely in control of himself -his was a simmering anger that he was able to direct with a laser-like focus. Ren on the other hand is all angst and fury, confused as hell and perhaps even psychotic. While this comes across there are also some odd moments of humor, when he throws his tantrums, that make him far less menacing and more pathetic. I suppose the true villain here is the Emperor stand-in (another call back), Supreme Leader Snoke -a terrible name - who seems to be manipulating Ren. I wasn't surprised by the revelation that he was Han and Leia's son, but I do wish we'd had a little more build up to it. The way it was revealed seemed rather off-handed. 

I suppose Harrison Ford finally got the death scene he's been wanting since The Empire Strikes Back. No wonder he's been so happy to do all these TV shows and press junkets -he's finally free! Maybe I'm too hard on him. He seems like a decent guy, just not enamored with the whole 'Star Wars' life. In any case, I thought he did a great job in the film. He really brought back Han Solo -all the ego, the humor, and the subtlety too, he pulled it off. I was very happy to see Chewie get featured quite a bit. I just wish he'd had a scene with Leia after Han's death. I also wish Ford and Mark Hamill had gotten a scene together, but barring flashbacks, this appears unlikely.

Carrie Fisher didn't get a lot to do this time around -and Hamill even less! - but I'm sure we'll see more of them next time. There are still so many unanswered questions about what has happened between Return of the Jedi and this film. And why the heck do jedi always run off and go into hiding when they have a problem? Yoda and Obi-Wan did it, and now Luke is too? Geez guys, how about dealing with your problems?!

Despite any quibbles, I am excited to see where the story is going.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays from the Bronze Age Babies

Doug: We want to wish all our readers the very best of the season, and that goes right on into the New Year. Thanks for spending time with us each day. Peace to you and to your loved ones.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Discuss: Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree...

Karen: A big part of the holiday season for me is music. I start feeling that Christmas spirit when I hear any of the tunes off of the Vince Guaraldi "Charlie Brown Christmas" album. That has to be my number one, all-time favorite Christmas music. But there are a lot of other songs I really enjoy. I like the  traditional tunes like "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" and old crooners like Bing Crosby and Nat King Cole, but it's great hearing traditional songs with a twist. Surf guitar slingers  Los Straitjackets have a great album, "Tis the Season for Los Straitjackets," where they combined traditional Christmas tunes with classic surf songs like "Pipeline" and "Walk Don't Run" to create unique sounds. I absolutely love this album, as it hits two of my favorite genres.

Karen: Last year I was thrilled to run across a little gem in Best Buy - "A Christmas Gift for You from Phil Spector." This album is a real beauty. It has holiday classics performed by The Crystals, The Ronettes, Darlene Love, and Bob B. Soxx and the Blue Jeans. If you're a Phil Spector fan, or a girl group fan, or just a fan of 60s pop singing groups, this is a terrific album.

Karen: There have been a lot of original songs over the years that I've grown fond of, but none rocks harder than the Kinks' "Father Christmas."

Karen: There are so many more I enjoy -"Little Saint Nick" by the Beach Boys, the schmaltzy synth of "Wonderful Christmastime" by Sir Paul, "Merry Christmas (I Don't Wanna Fight Tonight)" by The Ramones, "Christmas Is" by seems like everyone has put out a Christmas song. What are your favorites?

Monday, December 21, 2015

I'm Looking at the Man in the Mirror -- JLA: Earth 2

JLA: Earth 2
(the Deluxe Edition)(2013; originally (c) 2000)

Grant Morrison-Frank Quitely

Doug: I wish there was such a thing as a graphic novel library. Sure, I know some libraries carry a nice selection of such things, but my local public libraries are not very large, and I am pretty certain that if the two local colleges have any such selections it's minimal as well.

No, I'm talking about going into one of the super-nice LCS and being able to check out or even rent their wares. I'd have done so with the book we'll be discussing this day. I've had my eye on it since, well -- it's release 15 years ago (and that is mind blowing, etc.). I first encountered the Crime Syndicate as an 8-year old, reading a reprinted tale lurking within the pages of Justice League of America #114 (Nov/Dec 1974), and liked them from the start. Last month I was able to score a copy of the edition I've pictured above on the Black Friday sale at I paid only $6 for a paperback copy and I'm glad I now own it, but thankful that I didn't pay full price. I really do think it's the sort of book I'd read more than once; the pictures are pretty and the story was thought-provoking. It's not the best Justice League story I've ever read (the Paul Dini-Alex Ross big book might be...), but it was pretty good -- particularly for its publication date.

Doug: I guess DC has gone through 2-3 reboots since this story originally saw the light of day. I'm not really up on all that, but was struck by author Grant Morrison's theories on the then-forbidden fruit of the multiverse. Here Morrison gives a different take on the Marvel concepts of Counter-Earth, or the Earth of the Squadron Supreme, and the DC notion of Earths that vibrate at different frequencies. In Morrison's tale, the Crime Syndicate of Amerika inhabits what they call "Earth", which is part of an anti-matter universe. There everything is wrong -- Benedict Arnold is on currency, there are monuments built to Adolf Hitler, and crime is normal and even upheld. Ultraman rules the planet like a god with the assistance of his partners: Owlman, Superwoman, Power Ring, and Johnny Quick. Each of them uses their powerset to bring havoc to the citizens of the planet. For those scoring at home, these characters used to inhabit Earth-3, with the Justice Society of America hailing from Earth-2 and of course "our" world being Earth-1. Here, the hero of Earth is one Alexander Luthor, complete with that awesome green and purple battlesuit.

Doug: Luthor "escapes" the confinement meted out by Ultraman and makes his way to our Earth, a place that Ultraman will later call "Earth 2". The basics of the plot, without any exhaustive recollection here, is that Luthor has been wanting for quite some time to overthrow the Crime Syndicate. He's come to our planet to enlist the aid of the Justice League. Superman and his six pals are of course skeptical, but this Lex wins them over. After Luthor explains his plans, the JLA meets to decide if they should go through with this jump to the anti-matter Earth. Conveniently, it is decided that J'onn and Aquaman should stay behind on our Earth -- you see how that sets up a one-to-one fight with the Crime Syndicate. But, you'd be wrong, as that never materializes! And I think that's where Grant Morrison scores with this story. There are quite a few things that you might think are going to happen, but then it doesn't come off that way. Conversely, there are some lines of dialogue and/or plot details that give the reader pause.

Doug: Ultimately the JLA is faced with defeat; not at the hands of the Crime Syndicate, but a philosophical resignation to Morrison's posit that good cannot exist against abject evil (the contrary notion also true). And here I found myself putting the book down for a few seconds to ponder that. Although by now almost 15 years old, I wondered if Morrison had any idea how much more negative our world would become and the pessimism that sometimes seems to permeate our feelings, our perceptions. Morrison wrote pre-9/11, pre-War on Terror, pre-Great Recession... but his extreme position of pure good cannot triumph over pure evil (simply put, there's no reference point for an inroad) sure seems a topic for discussion in 2015, almost 2016. This wasn't the sort of book I'd expected when I cracked open the cover.

Doug: Frank Quitely's art is some sort of cross for me between that of Ed McGinnis and later Frank Miller. I draw those comparisons due in large part to McGinnis's affinity for chunky (read: thick) forms and Miller's faces. I find Quitely's art pleasing, and certainly fitting for the story. The coloring, for being "modern" is OK. I think from some of the scans I've provided you can see that it's not muddy, but does have some brightness here and there. Everyone's costumes seem to look "right".

Doug: My edition of the book comes with over 20 pages of goodies, notably Morrison's pitch for the project. What's cool about that is the fact that at some point Quitely doodled the heck out of the script, so there are some really cool thumbnails. There are also character designs.and Quitely's "storyboards" for much of the graphic novel. I always enjoy those "DVD extras" in the back of a trade or hardcover. Nice bonus. So if like the JLA, if you yearn for those multiverse days of yore, then I'd urge you to check this out. And who knows -- you might even be able to borrow a copy.


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