Thursday, October 25, 2012

THE CRUELEST WORDS I EVER HEARD

My Own Romance #21 [March 1952] hit the newsstands in the month of
my birth, December 1951.  The spiffy Atlas Tales website attributes
the cover art to Al Hartley.  All the information from this opening
bit, except for the parts I make up, comes from Atlas Tales.

Atlas published 73 issues of My Own Romance from March 1949 to July
1960.  The title continued its numbering from My Romance and then
its numbering was continued by Teen-Age Romance.  The catchy title
given on the cover isn't used on the interior story that the cover seems
to have been taken from.. 

Here’s everything I know or made up about those stories...

“See You Around” (5 pages, pencil art attributed to Mike Sekowsky
and inks to Chris Rule). I’m guessing the cover scene is from this
story which involves the heroine’s lover leaving her for a cougar.

“My Heart’s Desire” (5 pages, signed by Morris Weiss). She wants a
man with a slow hand.

“Love Gets a Lift” is a single-page text piece about the benefits
of cosmetic surgery.

“A Guest in the House” (6 pages, written by Ed Jurist and pencilled
by Jay Scott Pike, both of whom signed the story).  The heroine is
smitten by her father’s business partner and tries to seduce him.
The surprising ending: “Oh, my darling daughter, I never told you
he was my business partner!”


“Love is a Winner” is another single-page test piece.  This one is
a testimonial from a woman who had the cosmetic surgery discussed
in the earlier text piece.

“The Sacrifice Of Sheila Storm” (6 pages, pencil art attributed to
Mike Sekowsky).  In one of the biggest goofs in Marvel history, a
horrific story intended for Adventures into Terror was published in
this romance comic instead.

Keep watching this bloggy thing for more vintage comic-book covers
from the month of my birth.

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

Cold War #1-4 [IDW; $3.99] is an espionage thriller by John Byrne
set in the 1960s.  Rebellious former MI6 agent Michael Swann takes
on odd jobs for Her Majesty’s Secret Service.  In this four-issue
series, it’s “The Damocles Contract” and it involves British rocket
scientists and the alarming news that one of them may be defecting
to the Soviets.

Comparisons to James Bond will be inevitable, but the similarities,
which I didn’t find as great as some reviewers, didn’t bother me.
Byrne did a fine job with the genre and time period.  The writing
was solid, the characters worked for me, the art and storytelling
were smooth and even the coloring was more to my liking in that it
served the story rather than distract from it.

I’ve come to prefer Byrne working with his own creations instead of
the overused toys from DC and Marvel...and his work on movie and TV
properties like Angel and Star Trek.  I’m delighted to see him so
active in the field.  Too many other talents from my generation are
absent from our comics racks.

I recommend this four-issue series.  I also hope we’ve not seen the
last of Cold War.

****************************** 

No one writes better Conan comic books than Roy Thomas.  For that
matter, outside of the Cimmerian’s creator Robert E. Howard, no one
writes better Conan stories than Roy Thomas.  If further proof of
this is needed, I direct your attention to Conan: Road of Kings #7-
12 [Dark Horse; $3.50 per issue], which issues comprise the second
half of a 12-issue series.

Conan is traveling the fabled Road of Kings, the pathway to many of
the great kingdoms of the Hyborian Age.  Seeking to sell his sword,
Conan finds himself working as a bodyguard to an obnoxious prince
who seeks to claim a crown.  Of course, before the prince can wear
that crown, it must be taken from its current wearer.  The strange
party of conspirators includes a woman whose husband was murdered
by the current king, her young daughter, a courageous soldier and
a priest.  The four-issue arc features monsters human and inhuman,
lots of action and cliffhangers and wonderful character moments for
Conan.  Artists Mike Hawthorne and John Lucas (issues #7-8) and Dan
Panosian (issues #9-10) deliver commendable art that compliments
the fine writing of Thomas. 

Issues #11 and #12 find Conan in the city of Argos where, as usual,
it doesn’t take look for the warrior to find himself at odds with
the king’s guards and a hanging judge.  More thrilling action and
wry dark humor make for a great story with Hawthorne and Lucas on
the art. Like I said above, no one writes better Conan comic books
than Roy Thomas. More, please.

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

Men of War was one of the first titles cut from DC’s “New 52.”  I
read and sort of enjoyed the first issue, but the friend who loans
me his new comics after he reads them dropped the title after that
first issue.  I recently read the entire eight-issue run of Men of
War
and have a few thoughts about it.

War comics have been a tough sell since the Vietnam War.  I think
that as readers have learned more about the horrors of modern wars,
sometimes from friends and family members who have served in them,
there is less interest in war as entertainment.

As I noted in my review of Men of War #1, I was intrigued by there
being super-beings in whatever war Joe Rock was fighting.  Though
I thought the series, which ran in the first six issues, was good,
it never came together enough to rise above that.  The back-ups in
those issues were interesting as well, one short story was drawn by
Richard Corben, but they were also “just good.”

There’s nothing wrong with “just good" comic books.  Especially at
a time when so many comic books, including around half of DC’s “New
52" titles, don’t rise to that level.  However, when those comics
cost three or four dollars per issue, readers have every right to
expect more than “just good.”

Men of War #7 featured two done-in-one tales, one written by James
Robinson with art by Phil Winslade, the other by J.T. Krul with art
by Scott Kolins.  I enjoyed both, but, again, they didn’t knock me
out.  The title never found its identity or the level of quality I
think its $3.99 cover price required.

Men of War #8 was a book-length adventure teaming Frankenstein and
the G.I. Robot.  Written by Jeff Lemire and Matt Kindt with art by
Tom Derenick, it was my favorite issue of the title’s run...and it
could just have easily been a fill-in issue of Frankenstein, Agent
of S.H.A.D.E.


I’m glad DC isn’t giving up on the war genre.  I recognize making
such a title work in today’s marketplace is an enormous challenge.
I live for such challenges, but, since no one is likely to hire me
to develop such a title, I hope someone else meets that challenge.
War is, sadly, too big a part of human history and experience to go
under-represented in the comics marketplace.   

I’ll be back here tomorrow with the first of three special bloggy
things.  Most of which aren’t about comics.  You have been warned.

© 2012 Tony Isabella

1 comment:

  1. I had hopes for MEN OF WAR and bought the entire run as it was published. Have to agree with you regarding the level of the stories, but I still found the book more interesting than over half the initial New 52.

    I wish the Rock stories had not used super-heroes, since it made the regular soldiers almost irrelevant. I think that DC may have turned off those readers looking for an actual 'war' book and super-hero fans have enough other stuff so they would hardly be drawn to this title.

    I think a well-done comic with a war theme (perhaps an anthology with stories from different eras and wars) might have some success, although publishers should not expect X-Men like sales figures.

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