Saturday, February 6, 2016

TONY'S TIPS #145

This week in TONY'S TIPS at Tales of Wonder...Graphic Ink: The DC Comics Art of Darwyn Cooke, Awkward by Svetlana Chmakova and Doctor Strange!

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

TONY'S TIPS #144

This week in TONY'S TIPS at Tales of Wonder...How many different Avengers teams does it take to confuse (and delight) Tony? Find out at: http://blog.talesofwonder.com/tonys-tips-144/

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

RAWHIDE KID WEDNESDAY 72

The Rawhide Kid is my favorite western comics character and one of my favorite comics characters period.  Something about the short of stature (but big on courage and fighting skills) Johnny Clay spoke to the short of stature (but big on comics-reading skills) teenage Tony Isabella.  After rereading the Kid’s earliest adventures when Marvel Comics reprinted them in a pair of Marvel Masterworks and an Essential Rawhide Kid volume, I wanted to reacquire every Rawhide Kid comic, reread them and write about them in this bloggy thing of mine. This is the 72th installment in that series.

The Rawhide Kid #87 [May 1971] is an all-new issue with a cover by writer-penciler Larry Lieber and inker John Tartaglione. If you’ve been reading my Rawhide Kid columns, you know I think Tartaglione was one of Lieber’s best and most compatible inkers. Tartaglione is also the inker of this issue’s story.

“When the Spoilers Strike” (19 pages) is the equivalent of a rare off day for Lieber. It’s a by the numbers tale that doesn’t really take full advantage of a somewhat unusual setting: a possible gold mine being worked by a old man and his pretty granddaughter.

SPOILERS AHEAD
SPOILERS AHEAD
SPOILERS AHEAD
SPOILERS AHEAD
SPOILERS AHEAD
SPOILERS AHEAD


Rawhide is just passing through when he is bushwhacked by Charlie and his never-named-in-the-story granddaughter. They think the Kid is a claim jumper, but give him the benefit of the doubt. He rides away and heads for a town just a couple miles away.

There’s no warrant out for me in this territory! So it’ll be safe for me to rest up here in town a few days before I push on!

Yep, once again, Rawhide is in a place where he’s not wanted by the law. Once again, he doesn’t even think about settling down in the place. The boy just ain’t right.

Charlie and Goldilocks - she’s a blonde - come into town to pick up some supplies. A couple of hooligans taunt Charlie and lay hands on his granddaughter. When Charlie fights back, they knock him around enough to break his arm.

Rawhide intervenes, taking both thugs down in five panels. Because Charlie won’t be able to work his mine for a couple weeks, the Kid offers to help out. Goldilocks likes the idea and accepts. That’s the closest thing to a romantic spark we see in the story.

They strike gold. Charlie goes to town to celebrate with the Kid. The oily Bret Claymoor decides to take the mine for himself. With several gunman in tow, the villain follows Charlie and the Kid back to the mine. Though they are spotted, they open fire on Rawhide and friends, forcing them to take cover in the mine.

Bret grabs some dynamite from Charlie’s and tosses it on the rocks above the mine. The explosion traps Rawhide, Charlie and Goldilocks inside the mine. Charlie is concerned:

We’ll never be able to dig our way free before we run out of air! We’re goners!

Rawhide isn’t about to call it quits. He searches every inch of the mine until he sees:

That water -- it ‘pears to be coming from under the wall! This may be our answer! I’m gonna try to break thru the wall!

Charlie pitches in. They break through to a cavern and follow the air to the entrance. Now it’s time to settle a score.

Charlie wants to ride with Rawhide, but the Kid says:

I do this kind of chore better on my lonesome!

Rawhide rides into the town and it’s time for a gunfight. He takes out two killers - one of them on a roof - by firing at them at the same time. A third killer wings him and gets dead for his trouble. Claymore jumps on his horse and rides.

Claymore realizes his horse isn’t as fast as Rawhide’s. He shoots at the Kid. Rawhide shoots back. It’s the last page of the story, so one bullet is all the Kid needs to kill the villain.

It’s all over! I’ll head back to the mine and tell Charlie that the score is settled! The claim jumpers are finished!

I’ll patch up my shoulder and mosey on...to another place...and another day.


Because God forbid the Rawhide Kid stay in a territory where he’s not a wanted man and where he probably stands a pretty good chance with the hot and soon-to-be-rich blonde. Oy vey!

SPOILERS OVER
SPOILERS OVER
SPOILERS OVER
SPOILERS OVER
SPOILERS OVER
SPOILERS OVER


The half-page “Mighty Marvel Checklist” appears following page six of the story. My pick of that long-ago month is Amazing Spider-Man #96, which brought back the Green Goblin and lead to the anti-drug stories that were so pivotal in changing the Comics Code to reflect the more modern sensibilities of the 1970s. Other listed titles included Fantastic Four #110, Thor #187, Avengers #87, Hulk #139, Captain America and the Falcon #137, Daredevil #75, Iron Man #37, Sub-Mariner #37, Amazing Adventures #6, Conan the Barbarian #5, Creatures on the Loose #11, Sgt. Fury #87, Where Monsters Dwell #9, Western Gunfighters #5, Where Creatures Roam #6, Kid Colt Outlaw #153, Fear #4, Two-Gun Kid #98, Ringo Kid #9 and My Love #11.

Last week, I was premature in announcing the demise of Marvelmania. This month, the organization was pitching its Marvelmania Official Stationery Kit consisting of a 40-sheet scratch pad, 10 envelopes and 10 letter size sheets featuring 10 super-heroes. The cost was $1.75 for the package and included a free club catalog.

The issue’s paid ads are for the usual comics dealers and a sample issue of The Comicollector fanzine. New is an offer for Snoopy and Red Baron cloth emblems for only a dollar each. They are said to be colorfully made and durable.

The Marvel Bullpen Bulletins page is back. The lead item announces Savage Tales #1, Marvel’s first R-rated publication. Other items: a documentary on Herb Trimpe, Stan Lee featured in a nationally televised interview on CBS, the launching of a new title starring Robert E. Howard’s King Kull. I remember being pretty excited about all of the above.

The “Stan Lee’s Soapbox” was another one I almost certainly rewrote a bit and used in Marvel’s British weeklies a few years later. It talks about Marvel mentioning real-life issues in its comics...and how whatever they wrote angered about half the readers. Which, as Stan saw things, was how it should be.

The “Ridin’ the Trail with Rawhide” letters page is also back this month. Reader Craig Ashley of Makanda, Illinois wanted to see new material in all the western reprint titles.

Melissa Nasser of Danville, Illinois wanted to see the Rawhide Kid go to Hawaii. I thought that was a great idea, but, sadly, it never  happened. Karen Henry of Henryetta, Oklahoma won a no prize for pointing out that the cover scene of a recent issue showed a somewhat different action scene than was in the story. Ask me that’s setting a pretty low bar for earning that most coveted of non-awards.

The best letter was from Rene Garcia of Tucson, Arizona:

I enjoy all the Westerns you guys put out. But I feel that you’re leaving out the bravest men in Western history. The Negroes of the Ninth and Tenth Cavalry, known as the “Buffalo Soldiers.” I further feel that Blacks played a far greater role in taming the West than the white man.

I am Mexican-American myself, and I’ve done a lot of research on the Negro Cavalry in the West. Someday, I’d like to see a mag about these brave men. Maybe you could call it TOP SOLDIER, or maybe have it feature one man and call it CAPTAIN BUFFALO, after a Negro who was the supreme fighting soldier. Thanks for reading my comments.

                                                                          

The final editorial material of the issue was the full-page “2 More Triumphs from Marvel” ad pitching The Ringo Kid #9 and Two-Gun Kid #98. Both had May 1971 cover dates.

The Ringo Kid #9 had a terrific new cover by Herb Trimpe. Inside, there are three Ringo Kid stories drawn by John Severin, originally published in The Ringo Kid Western #8 [October 1955]. Filling out the issue was “It Happened In Gunsmoke” (4 pages) by Stan Lee with art by Vic Carrabotta. This tale first appeared in The Outlaw Kid #11 [May 1956].
                                                                                 

Two-Gun Kid #98 had another great new cover by Trimpe. Inside, the Two-Gun Kid stories were just a few years old. “Six-Shooter Jury” (9 pages) was written by Denny O’Neil and drawn by Ogden Whitney.  Whitney wrote and drew “Revenge Rides the Rails” (8 pages). These tales were from Two-Gun Kid #92 [March 1968]. As someone who’d been reading the title for several years, I recall being a little miffed. over these reprints. But I likely got a kick out of “The Man Who Wouldn't Fight” (5 pages) which came from The Outlaw Kid #5 [May 1955] and which featured art by John Romita.

Look for another Rawhide Kid Wednesday next week and some different bloggy thing stuff before then.

© 2016 Tony Isabella

Monday, January 25, 2016

CAVE WOMEN ON MARS

Cave Women on Mars (2008) is one of an entire series of movies by Christopher R. Mihm in which the director/writer emulates the low-budget science fiction and horror movies of the 1950s. I was kind of sort of aware of Mihm, but never actually watched one of these films until a bloggy thing reader sent me this one. Wretch than I am, I cannot find or recall the name of that generous individual. If he contacts me again, I will tell him personally what I tell all of you today. I owe him for 73 minutes of big gooey nostalgia with a heaping side order of chuckles and guffaws.

The movie is set in the far future of...1987! Mars-1 is mankind’s first visit to Mars. The spacecraft is commanded by Captain Jackson (Josh Craig). The other crew member is Lieutenant Elliott (Daniel Sjerven). On landing, they find Mars is so Earth-like they can do without breathing devices. They split up to cover more ground.

Elliot makes an even more astounding discovery. The area of Mars in which they have landed is ruled by two warring matriarchal warrior societies. The dark-headed women treat their captive men as slaves. The blondes treat their men like children. Elliot is unlike any man they have ever seen.

The copy on the front of the DVD case nails the excessive hype of the 1950s. It proclaims the viewer will see...

INTERSTELLAR ADVENTURE!
PRIMITIVE MARTIAN BEAUTIES!
RAMPAGING ALIEN BEASTIES!
OUT-OF-THIS-WORLD ROMANCE!
WONDERS NEVER BEFORE SEEN ON THE SILVER SCREEN!


The reality? Not so much. But if you’re expecting me to rag on this movie, you’re going to be disappointed. I loved it.

Yes, the dialogue made me grit my teeth in pain a few times. Yes, the acting was somewhat less than Oscar-worthy. Yes, the beastie - there was only one - looked like a man wearing a particularly worn rug. Yes, the other “special” effects were comical in their utter lack of impressiveness. I don’t care about any of that.

Mihm is clearly my brother from another mother. If you had told me Cave Women on Mars was an actual low-budget flick from the 1950s, perhaps one that only played in the theaters of backwater villages in which indoor plumbing was a luxury, I would have believed you. If you had told me this was the lowest budget film imaginable, I’d have bought that as well. I don’t care about that.

What I care about is that Cave Women on Mars is a film I could have seen being hosted by Ghoulardi on Cleveland TV when I was not quite a teenager. Mihm watched these kinds of films with his late father and that’s the ambiance he seeks and finds in his own productions. I feel like he’s opened a doorway to a part of my childhood that I never knew existed before this.

Do not mistake the above for my telling you Cave Woman on Mars is so bad it’s good. That’s not what I’m saying.

What I’m saying is that this is a fine little film that brought me pleasure. It wrapped me in its low-budget cinematic arms and made me feel good. If you have seen Cave Women on Mars and have snark to share, save it for someone else.  I love this movie with absolutely no reservations...

...and it will not be the last Mihm film I watch.

For more on Mihm and his movies, visit his official website. I’ll be back soon with more stuff.  

© 2016 Tony Isabella

Sunday, January 24, 2016

ALTER EGO #137

Roy Thomas’ Alter Ego is my favorite magazine bar none, but I would be less than forthright with my beloved readers if I didn’t report that pages 3-31 of issue #137 [January 2016] were problematic for me. Those pages feature an interview with Jim Shooter and Shooter’s alternate reality view of his career and character.

Long-time readers of this bloggy thing are well aware that I have taken issue with Shooter’s version of comics history. Indeed, for  years, one of my most viewed blog entries was “Jim Shooter's Pants Are on Fire.” It has only recently dropped to tenth place on that list, kicked down a few spots by recent entries on Black Lightning and The Best American Comics.

As I’ve written on several occasions, we are all the heroes of our own stories. I’m not particularly surprised that Shooter attempts to relate past events in a manner designed to cast him in the best possible light. It’s when he outright lies that I take notice and exception to his retelling of history. I find no fault with ace interviewer Richard J. Arndt. He asked the questions, but Shooter is responsible for the answers.

Without mentioning yours truly by name, Shooter characterizes me as “a Christian {who was] writing Christian comics instead of super-hero comics.” This is undoubtedly a reference to his tampering with the ending of my two-year run on Ghost Rider, a story designed to remove the supernatural elements from the title and make it more of a super-hero title. Shooter has been trying to either justify that action of his or blame it on someone else for years. He comes up short both ways. Read my earlier blog for the details.

I wrote super-hero comics, as anyone familiar with my Marvel work in the 1970s can attest. Heck, I added super-villains to the Living Mummy strip and made other super-villains Hydra department heads in Daredevil. Some of those moves might not have been the best ideas, but I think they are proof of my super-hero leanings.

As for whether or not I was a Christian...I was raised in the Roman Catholic faith, but hadn’t been a practicing Catholic since before I moved to New York to work for Marvel Comics. I did take a run at a more evangelical Christianity, but I found it as wanting as I did the Roman Catholic faith. In any case, my adding of a Jesus Christ figure to Ghost Rider had nothing to do with my religious beliefs. It had everything to do with believing there should be some sort of supernatural opposition to Satan and all the Satan-like figures in the Marvel Universe and my recognizing people of faith were seldom represented in our comics. Diversity includes a broad spectrum of human beings. Comic books should represent that.

The part of the Shooter interview that gave me the most pause was his cowardly attempt to diminish the late Sol Brodsky, a fine man revered by just about everyone who ever worked with him. Shooter’s characterization of Brodsky’s history with and worth to Marvel is a fiction. That Brodsky’s department was largely beyond Shooter’s reach and a haven for creators who didn’t much care for Shooter or his methods may account for Shooter's dismissal of the man. 
 
Take a shot at me and it’s no big deal. Take a shot at people I love and you’re asking for it.

The saddest thing about Shooter is that his actual history includes some stellar achievements, some real benefits to creators and more than a few humanitarian actions. He has every right to be proud of those. Yet, such is his character that he can’t live with even the slightest blemish to his concept of his history. So he lies and, because he's been caught in so many lies, I find myself questioning everything he relates. Thus, he does himself the greatest disservice.

No one of us is perfect. Stan Lee, who taught Shooter and virtually every other writer of our generation how to do it, used to tell us that no villain is 100% bad and no hero is 100% good. The same is as true for human beings as it is for fictional characters. Maybe someday Shooter will recognize that truth and learn to accept it. He’ll be a better person for it.

There’s lots of other good stuff in Alter Ego #137. The conclusion of Alberto Becattini’s study of legendary comics creator Dan Barry is a balanced examination of the man. Michael T. Gilbert gives us a look at some of his earliest comics work...and he’s a much braver man than I am.

Bill Schelly reports on the fiftieth anniversary panel of survivors of the very first comicon. There are heartfelt remembrances of the late Herb Trimpe that will make you feel the loss of this wonderful comics artist and man all over again. There’s a fascinating article on the British magazines that reprinted Captain Marvel and other Fawcett comics in the 1940s through the 1960s...and an informative and lively letters column.

My problems with the Shooter interview aside, I can’t imagine not recommending any issue of Alter Ego to my readers. I think it’s the very best magazine on comics being published today. If you have an interest in comics history, you should give it a try.

I’ll be back soon with more stuff.  

© 2015 Tony Isabella

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

RAWHIDE KID WEDNESDAY 71

The Rawhide Kid is my favorite western comics character and one of my favorite comics characters period.  Something about the short of stature (but big on courage and fighting skills) Johnny Clay spoke to the short of stature (but big on comics-reading skills) teenage Tony Isabella.  After rereading the Kid’s earliest adventures when Marvel Comics reprinted them in a pair of Marvel Masterworks and an Essential Rawhide Kid volume, I wanted to reacquire every Rawhide Kid comic, reread them and write about them in this bloggy thing of mine. This is the 71th installment in that series.

The Rawhide Kid #85 [April 1971] was an all-reprint issue, save for the new cover by Herb Trimpe. Despite my love of Trimpe’s art, this cover didn’t and doesn’t work for me. It’s only now, 45 years after I first bought this issue, that I realize why it doesn’t work for me. From a visual standpoint, it’s extremely claustrophobic...and that feeling of unease is increased by the three dialogue balloons crowding the logo and the top part of the action. However, my main problem with the cover has nothing to do with the art.

This issue reprints the first three stories of the Rawhide Kid as recreated by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby in issue #17 [August 1960] of the title. Since the first of those stories tells how young Johnny Bart - he didn’t assume his real name of Johnny Clay until several years later - became the Rawhide Kid and the third explained how he became an outlaw, the issue reprints the origin of the character. How did that probably sales-boosting information not make it onto the cover? Sheesh!

Inside the issue, the three stories were printed out of sequence. “Beware! The Rawhide Kid!” (seven pages) is followed by the 5-page “When the Rawhide Kid Turned...Outlaw” The second story from issue #17 - “Stagecoach to Shotgun Gap” (six pages) - follows the outlaw story. Go figure.

I discussed these stories in my very first “Rawhide Kid Wednesday”  bloggy thing on February 1, 2012. If you click on that date, you’ll be whisked away to that column.
                                                                              
    
Following the three Rawhide Kid stories in the issue, we get “Where Larrabee Rode!” The four-page story was originally published in The Ringo Kid Western #13 [August, 1956]. It was written and signed by Stan Lee and drawn and signed by Al Williamson. However, as would have been usual for the era, Williamson likely got some help from artist friends. I think I see Angelo Torres in there, but I’m far from a comic art detective. Here’s a summary of the Larrabee tale... 

SPOILERS AHEAD
SPOILERS AHEAD
SPOILERS AHEAD
SPOILERS AHEAD


From the hills overlooking a small ranch, two owlhoots are casing the place and planning to rob it. Jeb is nervous about this scheme and explains why:

This is the county where Marshal Lightnin’ Larrabee used to ride.

Ben, his partner and clearly the dominant member of their dastardly duo, is not worried:

How many times I got to tell you that Lightnin’ Larrabee ain’t marshal no more?! He ain’t been marshal fer years! Ain’t nothin’ to stop us from lootin’ that there ranch...

As the looters ride toward the ranch, the older couple who own the ranch spot them. Lucy doesn’t like the hard look of them. Martin, her husband, says she knows better than to judge a man by the way he looks. Sorry, Martin, but Lucy nailed this one.

The two outlaws push their way into the ranch house with their guns drawn. They want cash, which the couple says they don’t have. They talk about their itchy trigger fingers and scoff when Martin says there’s law and order in these parts.

Ben says the only lawman they were afraid of was Lightnin’ Larrabee and the marshal ain’t around any more. Then he repeats his demand for money. Martin reckons there’s a only one thing to do and, oh, heck, you know where this is going.

Martin jumps Ben and sends him to the floor with one punch. Then, grabbing Ben’s gun, he shoots the gun out of Jeb’s hand.

Martin tells Lucy to ride down the road and get the town’s current marshal. Jeb never saw an old man move so fast. Ben berates Jeb for letting an “old jasper” outdraw him. Martin gets the closing speech balloon of the story:

Tweren’t his fault, Ben! I could outdraw a dozen like yuh! You shoulda asked muh name afore yuh barged in! It’s Martin Larrabee. Some folks called me ‘Lightnin’” before I retired.

SPOILERS OVER
SPOILERS OVER
SPOILERS OVER
SPOILERS OVER


The half-page “Mighty Marvel Checklist” appears following page six of the first Rawhide Kid story. My choice for pick of that long-ago month is Conan the Barbarian #4 with the Roy Thomas/Barry Smith adaptation of Robert E. Howard’s “The Tower of the Elephant.” Other listed titles included Fantastic Four #109, Amazing Spider-Man #95, Avengers #86, Thor #186, Captain America and the Falcon #136, Hulk #138, Iron Man #36, Sub-Mariner #36, Daredevil #74, Astonishing Tales #5, Sgt. Fury #86, Monsters on the Prowl #10, The X-Men #69,  Marvel’s Greatest Comics #31, Mighty Marvel Western #13, Outlaw Kid #5, Millie the Model #189 and Our Love Story #10.

Marvelmania is now gone for good, so the other half of the page has the covers of the “now on sale” Fear #3 and Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. #18. Both issues are 52-page reprint issues priced at a quarter apiece.
                                                                             

The cover of Fear is a reprint of the Jack Kirby/Steve Ditko cover of Strange Tales #88 [September 1961], featuring “Zzutak the Thing That Shouldn't Exist!!” The 13-page story was so exciting it had to have two exclamation points in its title.

The stories are written by Stan Lee and Larry Lieber. Sometimes, as with the short Ditko-drawn stories, Stan went solo. Other times, he plotted and Larry scripted. The artistic line-up for these stories is impressive: Kirby, Ditko, Paul Reinman, Joe Sinnott and, inking a Kirby-drawn monster tale, Dick Ayers.
                                                                             

Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. #18 has a new cover drawn by Marie Severin and Herb Trimpe in some combination. It reprints the Fury stories from Strange Tales #142-144. The Grand Comics Database has Kirby plotting most of the stories and doing pencils or layouts for them as well. Lee does all of the dialogue. Howard Purcell finishes the pencils on two stories and Mike Esposito does all the inking on them. This is the last issue of the title, ends on a cliffhanger, and, when S.H.I.E.L.D. reprints resumed a few years later, Marvel inadvertently skipped the conclusion of the serial.

Nothing new with the paid ads this issue. Just the same ad from the Monster Fan Club offering an “absolutely free, giant, life-size MOON MONSTER” poster and the same mail order comics dealers who had been advertising for months. Gone is the ad offering information on how “you can learn to draw comics at home from experts” and “earn big money.”

Also missing this time around: both the “Marvel Bullpen Bulletins” page and the letters page. However, by virtue of some rearrangement of panels on the last page of “Stagecoach to Shotgun Gap,” Marvel  includes the annual and, at the size it’s printed here, extremely hard to read “Statement of Ownership, Management and Circulation.” The average paid circulation of Rawhide Kid was 207,498 per issue. Sigh. Those were the days, my friends.

That’s all for this week’s edition of Rawhide Kid Wednesday. I’ll have another Rawhide Wednesday for you next week, but I’ll be back even sooner with other stuff.

© 2016 Tony Isabella

Monday, January 18, 2016

TONY'S TIPS #143

This week in TONY'S TIPS at Tales of Wonder...Groot by Jeff Loveness & Brian Kesinger, John Carter Warlord of Mars by Ron Marz and Americatown by Bradford Winters and Larry J. Cohen.