Thursday, November 3, 2016

When It's Not "Continued Next Issue"...

The Bronze Age Babies blog is suspended indefinitely. We invite you to use the various navigation tools under the masthead and on the sidebar to find your way to over 2200 posts, almost 700 of which are reviews of comic books, films, books, etc.

Karen and Doug thank you for stopping by and welcome comments on any of our posts. We will be notified of your comment, so feel free to continue any conversations that grab your interest.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

It Was Yesterday Once More

The first Bronze Age Babies masthead, c. June 2009

Doug: Karen started it. She did. In 2007 I am almost positive I'd never read a blog. Oh, sure -- I knew what a blog was. But I don't think I'd ever read one. She twisted my arm, though, and along with a third partner we embarked on the "Two Girls, a Guy, and Some Comics" site. Around 18 months later we landed here in this little corner of the Internet, where it's been childhood and teenage memories every day since. Here's what we said on June 16, 2009:


You've come across a blog that we hope will be a lot of fun.

Your hosts are Doug, a high school social science teacher based in the Midwest, and Karen, a research scientist based in the Southwest. We're about the same age, and despite our lack of geographic proximity, had some similar interests and experiences growing up throughout the 1970's-1980's. Lyndon Johnson was president when we were born, and Ronald Reagan was about to leave the White House (make whatever joke you feel is necessary right here!) when we were wrapping up college.

You'll see discussions of all things pop-culture. One week we might take a look at a film of the era (like Planet of the Apes or Logan's Run), another week it might be a review of a comic book story (Amazing Spider-Man #'s 121-122 -- the deaths of Gwen Stacy and of the original Green Goblin).

We'll tell you what music we were listening to at a given period of our childhood, and what toys we were playing with.

So stop by from time-to-time, and be sure to leave a comment or reminiscence of your own.
Doug and Karen

Doug: That was the only post we published that June. In July, we ran five.

Doug: In the succeeding 7 1/2 years we've published almost 2300 posts, 679 of which were reviews; we've also sent out almost 13,000 tweets. There have been 3.7 million pageviews on our blog (Holy cow!). And some of you have been alongside us almost every step (and occasional misstep) of the way. Today, for the foreseeable future, the Bronze Age Babies goes into hibernation.

Karen: This isn't an easy decision for either Doug or me. The BAB, as we've come to call it, has been a consistent part of our lives, and we truly value the community that has been created here. It's become much greater than anything we could have imagined or hoped for back in 2009, and we want to thank you all for contributing to it. Reading your comments and engaging with you, getting to know everyone -well, it's just been terrific. But a lot has changed over the years, and we're both at a point now where we have too many other demands on our time to continue the BAB with the care it deserves.

Karen: Personally, I want to say thank you for listening, as I've discussed all the geeky things I love, and for making me feel welcome. As a woman, and a girl growing up loving comics, monsters, and science fiction, this has not always been the case. So thank you from the bottom of my heart for treating me like "one of the guys" and either nodding along with me, or telling me when you thought I was full of BS, but always doing it in the spirit of good-humor and respect! It means a lot to me. I hope as I manage to come out from under what is currently an oppressive work load, I'll have more time to roam the various comics blogs and I'll see some of you out there. 

Doug: Karen said "to continue the BAB with the care it deserves". To some extent this blog has become like a child; certainly a member of the family. It's been in need of more care than we've been able to give it on our own, so we certainly don't want to leave this space today without a grateful nod to all those who've contributed as guest writers and guest reviewers over the past couple years. And even before that it was so helpful to us when our friends and readers left us recommendations in the Suggestion Box or during one of our requests for creativity. That was more valuable than you could imagine. But to Redartz and Martinex1 -- you guys were willing to come aboard as "staff writers" (you know Karen and I felt like big shots when we expanded this operation!) and truly take days of posting off our plates. Your presence as regular contributors added new life to the BAB, taking us into conversations that were uniquely your own. We have all been better for it. Thanks so much. And one more shout-out to Dr. Oyola for the professional-looking mastheads we've used over the past three years or so. He did good work, didn't he? Above and below are samples of what I used to cobble together with PowerPoint.

Doug: So what's ahead for me? I am going to read some comics without the mindset of writing about them and scanning from them, that's what I am going to do: just read. I had placed the graphic novel March on the sidebar as an upcoming review topic. I finished reading the third and final volume the morning of October 22nd. While you won't see any extensive thoughts from me here, I will just say "read it" -- in these turbulent political times, every American should; indeed, there is meaning for every human being regardless of race, creed, color, or national origin. I tweeted to Representative John Lewis (D-GA), the author of March, and told him that he is an American hero. I got a response, and I treasure that.

Doug:  But I am going to miss the conversations about comics. You all have been my "regulars" at the comic shop on a Wednesday new-arrival day. The community we sought when we began is a real thing in my life now -- you should know that you've left over 36,000 comments on this blog. That will be missed -- those days when some among you came back again and again to keep a conversation rolling... those were special times. You have come here over the years not to show off your knowledge or to argue; the opportunity for reflection of a shared experience will become a void for me, I know. So I will need to create a presence of my own on other blogs that do something similar to what we have done here -- perhaps among our Super Blog Team Up partners. And down the line? I've for years fancied a blog dedicated to comic books with art by John Buscema. Maybe someday...

Karen: I can echo Doug and say I will miss the conversations. Already, as I write this days before you all read it, I feel a great swell of emotion, knowing that I will no longer get up each morning and (because of the time difference) see your comments in my inbox. And even if I was too busy to participate in a discussion, I still was happy to know that the BAB was providing a few minutes of fun for you all. I know that you'll find new places to go - perhaps even hosted by a few stalwarts we know??  - but being able to help create this space is something I'm proud of. If I ever manage to get some spare time again, I might wind up blogging, but it might be about more free-ranging topics. I may have said all I have to say about comics. I mean, it's been 7+ years!

Karen: Before I lock up my desk and turn off the light, I want to give props to my partner. He has worked so hard on this blog, really taking on the role of publisher, and adding so much extra, like the Twitter feed, to create something special. I may have started us blogging, but Doug has been the driving force behind BAB for years. On top of that, he's just a flat-out good person, as I'm sure you've all gathered. There's no way we could have gone so long, done so many reviews together, without his hard work and good will. So cheers partner.

Doug: Stop it… you’re making me misty. Karen has also been a rock, even in those times when life threw her a few curveballs. She has stretched me as a writer (shoot, partnering with an author whose thoughts run in Back Issue? Give me a break…), and as I’ve said many times, I have read so many comics because of the BAB. I always appreciated the days when her posts ran, as her passion for topics on which I am not well-versed shined loud and clear. We've made a great team. And who knows? Maybe we aren’t finished talking comics. We have agreed to reach out to each other whenever we find a Bronze Age nugget worth discussing. But when that happens, those conversations will occur via email.

Doug: And to this day, believe it or not, the Bronze Age Babies have never spoken to each other.

Thanks for reading!

EPILOGUE: As Karen alluded above, our readers will have an alternative space to check out. Beginning tomorrow, November 3, 2016, Martinex1 and Redartz will be hosting a new blog. Please patronize them and leave them a comment at their new address, Back in the Bronze Age... You won't be disappointed, as we've already seen previews of several of their ideas. It is going to be fun!

Monday, October 31, 2016

If I Had A Buck... A Grave Concern!

Martinex1: It's the time of year for frightening thrills and morbid chills! Happy Halloween BABsters!

This round of our $1 Challenge focuses on the rather common cover theme of heroes in the cemetery.  Considering that super-heroes never stay dead, they sure spend a lot of time at the grave sites. For the Batman and Daredevil, it may seem like a more natural locale, while other covers may be more surprising.   Needless to say, both DC and Marvel seem to favor the setting.

So it is time to pay the ferryman - four quarters for four comics and safe passage.   Are these offerings tricks or treats?   Which do you think are the best?   Did you read any of the stories and did they live up to the dramatic covers?  Make your selections, share your choices and your greatest fears!  

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Night of the Laughing Dead: Man-Thing 5 and 6

Man-Thing #5  (May 1974)
"Night of the Laughing Dead"
Steve Gerber- Mike Ploog / Frank Chiaramonte

Man-Thing #6  (June 1974)
"And When I Died"
Steve Gerber- Mike Ploog / Frank Chiaramonte

Redartz: Good day, fright fans! In honor of the upcoming Halloween Holiday, today we will revisit an excellent 2-parter featuring Marvel's own denizen of the dismal swamps, the Man-Thing. Issue 5 was the first 'monster' book I ever bought (truth be told, at the time I only bought it for the Marvel Value Stamp- yes, they led this fan to spend extra quarters on unfamiliar comics). Upon reading this issue, and the subsequent one with the story's conclusion, I was hooked on ol' Manny, and followed his book for years...

As our story opens, we see a pretty downcast clown, Darrell, who proceeds to 'take the last train out'. 

The Man-Thing is attracted by the sound of the gunshot, and soon stumbles upon the tragic scene...

Prodded by vague memories of 'funerals', Man-Thing carries off the body. 

Meanwhile, Manny's friend Richard Rory and his companion Ruth Hart encounter Ayla, Darrell's love and fellow circus performer, along with Tragg (the strongman) and Garvey, the rather unsavory owner. 

Ayla flees the circus, along with Richard and Ruth. We learn that Darrell was devastated, mistakenly thinking Ayla had deceived him with Garvey. Ayla, fearful for Darrell' well-being, drags Richard and Ruth into the swamp , only to find his body being carried by the Man-Thing. Meanwhile, Garvey and his thug Tragg have followed them all. Unfortunately, they  wreck their truck after swerving to avoid what they thought was Darrell, dancing in the roadway. Garvey and Tragg follow the 'clown' and find the group gathered around Darrell's body. When Tragg tries to lay into the clown, Richard intervenes, and gets clobbered for it. Man-Thing goes to defend  his friend, and as he and Tragg trade slime, something distracts everyone:

At this point, Darrell's spirit rises from his body, and informs the group that they will all be actors, portraying the characters in Darrell's past life. The performance will be judged by the "critics",  who will then decide Darrell's soul's ultimate fate.


The spectral clown transforms the cast , Man-Thing portraying Darrell's 'inner demon'. Appropriately, as Man-Thing senses emotion, as opposed to understanding words, and can 'feel' Darrell's conflicts. The Spectral Darrell then directs  scenes from his past, from boyhood through teenhood, and into adulthood. 

 The reasons for Darrell's deep depression becomes apparent to everyone. However, the 'critics' decide he failed to justify his suicide and prepare to discard his soul. These 'critics' are revealed as representatives of Heaven, Hell and Purgatory. At this point Man-Thing intervenes (empathetically defending Darrell and his soul), and battle ensues. But Ayla ceases the clamor with her plea for Darrell, and  the 'critics' are finally convinced. And Darrell's corpse smiles.... 


Steve Gerber (one of my favorite Bronze age storytellers) approaches this title almost like an anthology series, with each story revolving around the supporting cast (primarily Richard Rory and Ruth Hart) and the particular new characters introduced for that specific tale. The Man-Thing himself often (but certainly not always) acts as a metaphor for justice, perhaps, or fate, or as a 'deux et machina'. In this story, he (literally) acts as Darrell's inner demon, and at story's end takes action to defend the soul he had shared.

The first half of the story, in issue 5, is mainly down -to- swampy earth creepy fare, introducing the colorful cast of circus members and following their conflict with and pursuit of the unfortunate Darrell. Incidentally, when I first read this at age 13, it seemed pretty intense- suicide being such a central element of this comic book story. Gerber excels at portraying conflicted, unorthodox, even convoluted characters. Many such characters are found in his Defenders and Howard the Duck books, often with a lighter (or more fantastic, anyway) tone. But in this story these characters are 'regular people' (ghost clowns being excepted, of course), and their turmoils seem deadly serious. When the Headmen face the Defenders, there is a distinct humorous touch. Conversely, when Tragg gut-punches Rory, it's no laughing matter. 

The second half of the story (issue 6) has a very different tone. Much of the issue is taken up by the mystical performance of Darrell's life by the transmogrified cast, and by the final battle with the emissaries of heaven, hell and purgatory. We aren't told how those transformations are done- it's just accepted as part of the spiritual events of the story. Just as we accept Darrell's spirit rising from the corpse, and we accept the appearance of the denizens of the Afterlife. The whole ghostly performance is a chance for Gerber to explore some issues of Troubled Youth (something he dealt with often). The two halves of the story complement each other nicely, balancing the earthly with the spiritual. 

As for the artwork: in a word, perfect. Mike Ploog gives an almost cartoony look to the scenery and cast, just ideal for depicting Gerber's slightly off-kilter world. His Man-Thing is terrific, his Tragg suitably thuggish. And his spectral clown Darrell is beautifully creepy. Frank Chiaramonte's inks work well. Not overpowering, letting Ploog's pencils shine, and also providing some nice use of blacks and shadow. 

Additionally, a point should be made about Ploog's renditions of people in general. His men and women look like 'ordinary folks', as opposed to appearing as eye-pleasing models rendered by, say, a John Romita.  Ploog's characters have wrinkles, sags, flaws. All the better to make them more identifiable and sympathetic to the reader, especially when placed in some pretty far-out situations such as Gerber creates. 

This little two-parter made me a Man-Thing reader for good. "Man-Thing" is, in a way, like Spider-Man: the supporting cast is as important as the main character. Richard Rory is one of those 'likeable losers', and his friendship with Manny is both heartwarming and quite odd. Those odd elements abounded in Gerber's books, and some worked better than others. In this tale, though, all those elements coalesced into a very eerie, very memorable, very enjoyable story. 
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