Saturday, January 7, 2012

PILGRIMAGE TO TOKYO

Martin Arlt, the editor and publisher of Mad Scientist, is a good
friend of mine.  Yet I am close to being insanely jealous of Martin
and his lovely wife Pam.  I’ll get back to that in a bit.

Mad Scientist #24 [$5] sports a monster-rific cover and new logo by
Mark Maddox.  Its 44 interior pages contain five equally terrific
articles.  Arlt is the author of three of them: a history and spot-
on analysis of Godzilla vs. Hedorah (Godzilla vs. the Smog Monster)
and the latest installment of his ongoing series discussing Doctor
Who.  He’s up to the seventh season of the latter.  That’s two and
I’ll tell you about the third in a bit.  You can feel the suspense
building, can’t you?

The learned Allen A. Debus contributes “Lovecraft’s Paleontological
Time Travels,” an intriguing study of the ancient history of those
who walked the Earth before man.  Comics writer John Rozum adds a
fond remembrance of Movie Monsters: Monster Make-Up & Monster Shows
to put on, a 1975 Scholastic Book Club offering.  Two more reasons
to recommend Mad Scientist #24.

Then there’s the third Arlt article, the one that has me insanely
jealousy: “Mad Scientist Meets the Oxygen Destroyer.” It’s a trip
report of Martin and Pam’s experiences with G-Tour 2, a journey to
Japan with other Godzilla devotees.  Even though, as pastor of the
First Church of Godzilla (Reform), I should be above jealousy and
other negative emotions, I lost it when I saw this:
That’s Martin holding the freaking Oxygen Destroyer that allegedly
dispatched my Lord and Master in the first Godzilla movie.  Also in
the article is a photo of Martin holding the diving helmet worn by
the tragic Serizawa in that legendary film. 

I’m monster-green with envy of Martin and Pam’s Japanese adventure.
The article only covers the Godzilla-centric portion of their trip,
but I would love to read more (as in “all”) about it.  If my dream
of visiting Japan remains unrealized, maybe I can vicariously enjoy
it through my friends.

Mad Scientist remains one of my favorite magazines.  For ordering
information, visit the website.

******************************

I just started reading Showcase Presents Batman Volume 5 [$19.99],
but, one story in and I already wanted to gush about it.  The book
reprints Batman stories from Batman #216-228 and Detective Comics
#391-407 from 1969-1971.

The story I read was “The Gal Most Likely to be Batman’s - Widow”
by Frank Robbins with art by Bob Brown and Joe Giella.  The cover
for that issue - Detective Comics #391 - is by Neal Adams. 

Let’s talk about the cover first.  Under a “1963 Class Predictions”
header, we have “photos” of Ginny Jenkins, her marrying Batman, and
her standing at his grave.  Even in black-and-white, the design and
content of this cover is intriguing and inviting.  Today’s pin-up
covers can’t hold a candle to it.

The story? What a pleasure to read a Batman story in which he isn’t
a psychotic douche bag.  I like this Batman.  He’s both smart and
compassionate...and he’s pretty much a supporting character in his
own story as Robbins skillfully makes Ginny and her would-be beau
the focus of the tale.  Brilliant.

Bob Brown?  I have loved his art since he followed Jack Kirby in
took over Challengers of the Unknown.  He drew a muscular
and rugged Batman that worked well with Robbins’ more realistic
scripts.  The Denny O’Neil/Neal Adams team did outstanding work
during this time, but guys like Robbins, Brown, and Irv Novick also
did some first-rate comic books.

Showcase Presents Batman Volume 5 is definitely recommended.  I’m
looking forward to revisiting these great stories.

******************************

Bloggy thing reader Mike Chary asked:

“What about the moral rights of Ditko and the others who created
the characters Watchmen was based on?”

That’s a good question and one I had not given a lot of thought to.
Now that I have...

While those Charlton characters were admittedly the starting point
for Watchmen, there were only superficial similarities remaining by
the time Watchmen was published.  Doctor Manhattan’s origin is more
like Gold Key’s Doctor Solar than Captain Atom’s and, beyond the
origin, there’s simply no comparison.

Nite Owl bears the closest resemblance to Blue Beetle, his Charlton
counterpart, but I don’t see anything of Nightshade in Watchmen’s
Silk Spectre.

The Peacemaker and Thunderbolt are starting points for the Comedian
and Ozymandias, but the personalities and histories of the Charlton
heroes aren’t remotely like those of the Watchmen characters.

As much as I might disagree with much of Ditko’s political twaddle,
Rorschach is not the Question.  Rorschach is a social misfit unable
to interact with the normal world around him.  The Question is able
to function very comfortably in the normal world.

Now, if you’re talking my sense of morality, I think DC should give
a taste of the Watchmen financial action to the creators of those
Charlton characters whose creators are known to us.  But if you’re
talking Ditko’s sense of morality, I just don’t know.  Some of his
past statements seem to indicate that he doesn’t believe work-for-
hire creators are entitled to any further compensation beyond their
original paychecks.  But, without seeing any recent Ditko statement
of creator rights, I’m not really sure where he stands.

I’d love to hear how other comics professionals and readers would
answer Mike’s question. 
    
Thanks for spending a part of your day with me. I'll be back
tomorrow with more stuff.

© 2012 Tony Isabella

8 comments:

  1. I'm just a guy who reads a lot... no idea about the legal ramifications.

    But as far as the moral thing goes, about who should be compensated for what derivative thing... my feeling has always been that the measure should be, "Would this new piece have existed AT ALL IN ANY FORM without the original creation?" And even that gets tricky. Would WATCHMEN exist without the Charlton characters? Probably not. But I will bet any amount you name that Alan Moore would have done SOME variation of a team of flawed super-people whose very presence in the world twists the history we know into something dystopian. It's something he was already doing in Marvelman, you can see him playing with changed perspectives on the DC superheroes in Swamp Thing... he'd probably have got there. I think to suggest that Watchmen is just a riff on the Charlton heroes is like suggesting that Batman was just a riff on the Shadow, or that Salem's Lot is just a riff on Dracula.

    That said-- I think letting someone else do a sequel or something based on WATCHMEN isn't AUTOMATICALLY a bad idea. There was an RPG module or something that someone else wrote, that was very consciously trying to do a new story with those same characters and with the same themes. From what I've read, that was pretty good, and Alan Moore signed off on that one. I'm not sure it's about morals... at least, not strictly artistic, utopian ones. I think part of it, honestly, is that Mr. Moore doesn't trust the current DC to do a good job artistically or to treat the finances fairly. I am just guessing, of course, but I bet a lot of the objections aren't so much moral ones, but rather just have to do with the specific people that are taking it on.

    My two cents.

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  2. Thanks for the kind words, Tony! For what it's worth, in the background of that photo is Haruo Nakajima, the man in the Godzilla suit from 1954 into the 1970s!

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  3. On the Batman Showcase book: Keep going. This is the Batman that I grew up with. Not an unbalanced psychotic, not a crazed vigilante, he's a man who has been visited by the worst kind of tragedy, and instead of letting it destroy him, he has focused his anger into a sense of justice and uses it skillfully to help others. While I appreciate the artistry of Frank Miller's Dark Knight, I was a bit saddened that my hero had been transformed into something short of being a criminal himself. In my opinion, this period of Batman was the one that truly defined the character and the man within the costume.

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  4. I agree 100% with your assessment of early 70's Batman vs contemporary Batman. To be honest, I don't even recognize the character anymore. If I were to over-generalize, I would say that today's writers are very good a plot and a bit weaker on characterization. In my humble, inexpert, opinion.

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  5. Late Night FerengiJanuary 8, 2012 at 3:21 AM

    As far as Ditko is concerned I think (it's only speculation on my part) that Ditko embraced the objectivist Rand beliefs after he was treated so poorly by Stan. You would think that if Ditko wanted to take Spider-Man in a different direction he could in an alternate universe title. It's been done so many times with DC comics and Marvel.

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  6. The moral thicket here can be complicated, but anyone who wants to support Steve Ditko should buy his self-published comics. I just got "A Ditko" #15, 32 pages of brand new original comics by Mr. D. He's been putting out three or four of these a year and they're fascinating. Info on Ditko's self published works is available at:

    http://ditko.blogspot.com/1990/01/ditko-books-in-print.html

    (Hope it's okay to mention that here, Tony!)

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  7. It's perfectly okay, Mark, but I must point out that "fascinating" doesn't necessarily mean "good." I've been buying these comics to support a creator whose past work means a lot to me, but they are among the worst comics being published today.

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  8. Yes, I used the word fascinating advisedly. But I don't think Ditko's current books are among the worst comics out there. At the very least they often offer a strong point of view, albeit one with which I totally disagree. And I appreciate the quirky home-made quality of the entire affair. Given it's from the guy who co-created Spider-Man, it's interesting that Ditko's later work has essentially become the comics version of outsider art...

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