Saturday, June 25, 2016

No Doom Patrol in Justice League of America

Back in the 60's, the Justice League of America was the hot title for DC characters to appear in. During this time, they had a number of guest stars that joined the league. Yet in all that time, the Doom Patrol never guest starred. Check out this timeline:

I don't know why this might have been the case, but I can speculate on a few reasons:

1) Editors weren't used to the idea of books crossing over.
2) Having so many characters in a single title probably sounded daunting for both the artists and writers
3) The JLA editors probably just thought of featuring guest stars that were perspective members

For whatever reason, the Doom Patrol wouldn't end up guest-staring in the Justice League of America until 2004.



This was a lead in that introduced the team to a new generation of readers. In a perfect world, it would have given John Byrne a perfect kickoff for his take on the team.

Unfortunately, Byrne's take on the team just didn't click with readers at the time and the book was cancelled by issue 18.

Since then, there have been a few other attempts to revive the team, but they haven't been very successful either. Now we have a new version coming out written by Umbrella Academy's Gerard Way:

And while the version probably won't please the purist, I do think it will be worth checking out. The
Doom Patrol is a group that you can use to tell stories that might seem out of place in your typical superhero comic. I think that's a core trait to the team that has survived even into this jaded age.

- Jim

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

How Neal Adams Improved DC's Colors

This weekend, I was at HeroesCon 2016 where I got to meet Neal Adams who kindly signed my Deadman hardcover.


I took this opportunity to ask him about a remark another guest (the incredible Ramona Fradon )  had made about how Neal had improved DC's colors in their comics.

Neal told a wonderful story about the early days of comic production that I will condense and illustrate for you today.

First, to follow any of this, you need to understand that comic books used to be printed using just 3 colors: Red, Blue and Yellow with very limited tonal difference (100%, 50% and 25%) This gives us Nine (9) colors to work from:
Why the lightest shade of each color was designated with a 2 rather than a 3 is beyond me, but that appears to be how it was done.

While this doesn't seem like a lot of colors, when you combine them in various ways (like using R2 with Y1) you get a range of 64 colors as this chart which I got from Todd Klein's site demonstrates.

With me so far? Good. Because here's where it gets crazy.

DC was not using all 9 of the base colors. This caused them to only have access to 32 of the 64 colors. Here's an version of Todd's chart showing which colors DC was able to print.



Because of this limited selection, you'll notice (among other things) that the skin tones in Marvel comics look better than they do in DC books during the 60's.


The reason is this: DC was using TWO antiquated rules from the 40's to color comics in the 60's when printing press improvements had rendered those rules unnecessary.

First: DC was not using Y2 and Y3.

And while it might not seem like a big deal, removing 50% Yellow and 25% Yellow cut their color palette down quite a bit. (Look at the chart above and see all the places where Y2 and Y3 appear.) Now, the repetitive nature of the Legion of Superheroes costumes starts to make sense, aye?

The explanation for *why* DC was not using Y2 and Y3 seems to be lost to the ages, but there is a suggestion that it was an accounting decision made some time in the 40's or 50's that was never revisited.

Second: DC was not using any combination of colors that totaled more than 200%.

This means that while the could print Superman Red (Y + R = 200%) just fine, they could not print a deep rich brown (Y + R + B = 300%) - until Neal came in and changed the game:


How Neal did this was through some skilled office politics involving the then current Production Designer Sol Harrison, Carmine Infantino, Joe Kubert and Jack Leibowitz wherein Neal convinces them Marvel is getting a better deal than DC. He then used that as the fulcrum to get DC to revoke its antiquated coloring rules. That part of the story isn't something I can really illustrate, but if you are interested in the full details, you can read a transcript from an interview with Dave Sim here.

I gotta say, if you ever get the chance to see Neal Adams in person, get him to tell this story. His version is a rousing, pejorative laced tale which will keep you glued as he describes some of the people working at DC at the time, often supplying voices.

It was easily my favorite FAN moment of the con!

btw - we got a lot of cool photos from HeroesCon which you can check out on our NorthStars facebook group. 



Have a great day.


- Jim

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Metamorpho Lost 100 Pager

Before we get to this weeks Lost 100 Pager, I have a public service announcement. Next weekend I will be at HeroesCon promoting NorthStars. Feel free to come by and say Hi! I will be in booth 423.

With that out of the way, here is today's Lost 100 Pager featuring the Malleable Metamorpho with artwork by the Randy Valiente (who gave us the amazing Aquaman 100 Pager)

 Here is Randy's Original in it's full glory:
I added a background to break up the colors by using an old page of the Saturn Knight comic Pierre and I worked on many years ago. If you haven't read that comic, check it out on our downoads page.

If you want to see more of Randy's art, check out his website and deviant art page at:
www.randyvaliente.carbonmade.com  and www.randyvaliente.deviantart.com

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Fabulous Five Thoughts on a Doc Savage Movie

This week it was announced that Dwayne Johnson aka The Rock, is going to star in Shane Black's Doc Savage movie.



Most of the reactions I saw to this announcement were positive, like my own. However, as I started thinking about it, a couple of things occurred to me.

1) Johnson's track record is sort of hit and miss isn't it? I mean for every San Andreas, there's a Hercules.


2) Director Shane Black is the guy responsible for Iron Man 3, which I sort of thought was a complete mess. I liked the stuff between Tony Stark and the kid who helped him rebuild his Iron Man suit, but that was really about it.

3) Was the old 1970's Doc Savage movie really that bad?

I haven't seen it in a long time (I think I was 11 when it came out.) I know it wasn't well received because it was seen as too campy. That's going to be something this movie will have to avoid as well.

4) The script of this movie is going to have to do a LOT of heavy lifting. I think that Doc Savage's name recognition is NOT very high among Mom and Pop America. I would place it somewhere between Solomon Kane and Fu Manchu.


So since a lot of people (especially the youngsters who are the primary movie audience) aren't going to know who Doc Savage is, that's gonna mean the trailers will be about 90% responsible for getting people excited about the move. Look for a very Guardians of the Galaxy feeling trailer on this one.

5) Will it be a period piece? I don't think so. I think it will be set in the present day. There *might* be some flashbacks to the 1930's, but that will probably be all we get.

Nor do I think we will see the original Fabulous Five in this movie. For one thing, they were all a bunch of white guys, which was fine in the 1930's, but that country club roster won't fly in the 21st century. Look for this version's Fabulous Five to be less WW II and more CW crew.


With that said, I think you could actually just dump a lot of the original Doc Savage stuff and still have a successful movie. I know. Heresy. But hear me out. In a world where Dwayne Johnson is also set to star in The Janson Directive because the success of the Jason Bourne series has prompted Universal to decide to create a Ludlum Cinematic Universe, I don't think adherence to source material is that necessary. People more or less just want to see a big action movie. And let's be honest, before those Bourne movies, how many people really knew who Jason Bourne was?

Also, you look at the BBC's Sherlock series as a good example of a character who was moved successfully into the modern era.

So, on paper it sounds like a workable proposition which could turn into a successful movie franchise.

Or, it could be a complete disaster.

I guess we'll have to wait and see.

- Jim


Saturday, May 28, 2016

This Captain America Hail Hydra Thing

A lot of people (including a lot of non comics readers!) have been asking me about this, so I'm addressing this here. For those of you not in the loop, Marvel put out a story that wants us to believe Captain America has been a Hydra Sleeper agent all this time.
First a disclaimer: Writer Nick Spencer is one of those new Marvel guys who I really like. His Superior Foes of Spider-Man was a fantastically inventive and witty comic that kept me going for 20+ issues.


And I fully realize that in this day an age, it's hard to come up with headline grabbing ideas for mainstream comics. New writers probably have to wrangle corporate agendas, event schedules and editorial directives that would make, oh, I don't know, something like Rich Buckler's Deathlok run an impossibility today.

With that said, I can't really wrap my mind over what a misstep this Cap story is. For one thing, we all know it can't be a real thing. It would be like a story where Batman saves his parents from dying.

Secondly, it seems to fly in the face of the fans of the MCU which Marvel has spent over a decade kissing up to. Don't get that last part? Well, look at the Captain America in the picture above. Does he look like the classic 70's/80's Captain America? Where are the wings on his mask? (like in this image below)
 

Oh, they got rid of those because, y'know, they didn't match the movie version. Which is all find and dandy, but then Marvel go and write a story that completely dismisses this contingent, and now over half the internet is flipping the fuck out because they don't know how to reckon with the zaniness that sometimes comes with traditional comics. This has led to some half ass attempts by Marvel to say, "...uh...wait and see. It's just a story...don't flip out..."
It's unfortunate that it's made so many people so upset, but I think the actual story that we're telling is something that we can stand behind. ~ComicBookResources
That's Marvel's SVP of Publishing Tom Brevoort sounding about 80% sure he's okay with this story. Then he goes on to explain how people shouldn't think the story has anti-Semitic undertones. That's always how you want to close an interview - dismissing accusations of racism.



Now, if we are honest with ourselves, this is ostensibly just be another shaggy dog Marvel continuity moment no one will remember in 3 years. However, I think what happened is that Marvel wanted to try and steal some of DC's Rebirth thunder, so they were originally going to hype the hell out of the issue, but then backed off. (I suspect they caught wind of some early backlash.) Unfortunately, pre-release chatter had them talking about this issue as the type of revelation that would have "long lasting repercussions." What we really have here is another Spider-Baby moment.

Unfortunately, Captain America's popularity is at an all time high now. So, writing a story that plays havoc with the MCU zeitgeist rightly gets a lot of people talking negatively about you. I don't want to come off as one of those Joseph Campbell Power of Myth sycophants, but that line of thinking isn't without some merit.

Sometimes, it's just enough to write a story where Cap wails on a bunch of Hydra guys.

Why is that so hard to understand?

- Jim


Sunday, May 1, 2016

Is Wonder Woman a Xena Rip Off now?

Remember when only comic fans discussed comic characters? Yeah, there was once a time when some bit of comic book news would only be discussed on comic book message boards. Now, just about every sub culture news site post news articles about comic books and movies. And while this has democratized the discussion of comics and characters, it also allows people to perpetuate false information about comics much in the same way that FaceBook lets your mom warn people about Herpes from toilet seats.

One of the things I see pop up a lot that bothers me is the notion that Wonder Woman is now just a Xena rip off. Usually, the poster is implying that a sword/shield bearing Wonder Woman only exists because Xena exists.


 Let's put that falsism to rest today.

First, she was shown using a sword in the Golden Age

AND there are some instances where she used a sword in the Bronze Age

But, the sum total of both are probably less than the number of times Batman used a gun in the Golden Age.


The real game changing stories are the ones George Perez created just after the Bronze Age. When Perez rebooted the character for the Post Crisis era, he gave Diana and the Amazons a very distinct warrior makeover. This is in 1987, 12 many years before Xena [ appeared on Hercules ].

Later, in 1995, John Byrne would add to this by presenting a Justice Society of America with a more warlike Wonder Woman. Again, this precedes Xena's television appearances. UPDATE: This actually is about the time Xena started appearing on Hercules, so while it's possible that John Byrne might have been influenced by Xena, the precedent set by George Perez was already well in place as a more likely influence.

IF you wanted to find one glimmer of truth in the whole Xena/Wonder Woman aspersion, then I would say that Xena may have popularized the visual imagery of women warriors in a way that has helped Hollywood feel more comfortable with the character.

But that's a far cry from just being a Xena rip off.

- Jim

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Zatanna Lost 100 Pager

It's been a while since I've presented a new entry in my Lost 100 Page Super Spectaculars, but at the request of some of the guys in the Back Issue Facebook group, I decided to commission my favorite Lost 100 Pager artist, Reno Maniquis to come up with art for a Zatanna 100 Pager! (Click to see the full sized version.)




This time, Reno went the extra mile and came up with dialogue for the cover, so the clever play on the word Fate is his idea. Here is his original artwork. 

We actually ended up with two versions of this cover because Zatanna wore several different outfits during the Bronze Age. Here is a second version in a different outfit.

We both said we disliked the black jump suit/pony tail combo. While it's probably more true to the Bronze Age, it was just a horrible design.  Here's how it looked on the cover of Justice League in the issue it was introduced.

 As you can see, it was better off the way it was.

- Jim

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