Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Break Time

The Flashback Universe will be taking a little break from posting.
Everything is fine, I'm just busy with other projects. Thank you

Monday, November 8, 2010

Public Domain Digital Slider

Thanks to the guys at Golden Age Comics UK, I recently discovered this neat Public Domain Digital Slider. How it works is you slide the arrow on the right to the year(s) in question, and it gives you a summation of copyright law for that time period (in another panel not captured in this screenshot)

Used in combo with this site, The Rutgers Copyright Renewal Reference, and this site: you begin to see that there may be more comics in public domain than you think. [ Thanks to Trey Causey for the suggestion of adding ]

A lot of comics don't show up on the Rutgers search site, and I think that might be cases where the characters are trademarked - but what about cases where the companies were unable to trademark the characters, as with comics based on celebrities? What is the public domain status of those comics? If I had to guess, I would say that while the comics might be in public domain, you would be unable to republish them without the expressed consent of the celebrities in question.

So, as an open question to readers today - does anyone know the public domain status of the old Bob Hope, Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis comics from the Silver Age? I know that in both cases movies and radio shows featuring these comics have fallen into public domain, so I'm inclined to say that the comics have as well.

So inclined, that today I offer up a couple of Jerry Lewis and Dean Martin comics for today's Free Comics Monday!

[ Dean Martin & Jerry Lewis 35 ]

[ Dean Martin & Jerry Lewis 36 ]

- Enjoy!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Captain Comet: Doombringer

Seems like everyday in comic news, there is some new sales statistic, company shakeup or industry innovation that gets tongues wagging on the oncoming death of paper comics. However, there is an omen of ill portent that the soothsayers have been ignoring: Captain Comet!

If you aren't familiar with Captain Comet, I'll give you a quick lowdown before explaining my theory...

He first appeared in 1951 in Strange Adventures 9 in a story called Air Bandits From Space! Created by Julie Schwartz, John Broome and Carmine Infantino he was the first Mutant Superhero in DC Universe. (Much like Namor is the first mutant in the Marvel Universe) During his run in the title, he would usually appear on the covers, but in 1954 his appearances were discontinued. After that he was mothballed until 1976 when he would return and begin his role of harbinger of doom.

In 1976, Gerry Conway revived the character for use in the Secret Society of Supervillains 2 (a series I've covered here before.) He was a mainstay in SSOSV for the run of the title during which his popularity grew among readers.

According to DC Answer Man Bob Rozakis, Captain Comet came in second in a reader poll to determine who the next member of the Justice League should be. But then tragedy struck the industry when the DC Implosion caused the cancellation of more than two dozen titles including SSOSV. And while it's hard to really say what caused the DC Implosion, witnesses will attest to seeing a gun wielding mutant at the scene.

From there the character drifted in a sort of DC limbo appearing with Superman in DC Comics Presents and making a cameo appearances in other titles like All-Star Squadron.

Note to DC - in the 80's you had a comic book where Superman teamed up with other superheroes for fun done in one stories. Now you have a comic where Superman just sort of walks around issue after issue. How's that working out for you?

Anyway, check this out:

Captain Comet's last appearance in DC Comics Presents was issue 91.
The series was cancelled 6 issues later.

Captain Comet's last appearance in All-Star Squadron was in issue 53.
The series was cancelled a year later with issue 67.

Yeah, I know, not really a smoking gun, but let's keep going...

After this going so long without a real home title, Captain Comet was added as a member of L.E.G.I.O.N. in 1990. Actually, the character meant for the spot in the title was Adam Strange, but there was this really bad prestige series that going to feature Strange, and DC didn't want there to be a conflict in continuity or sales focus or who knows what. As a result Comet was a regular character in the title even following it's change in title to R.E.B.E.L.S. until the title was cancelled in 1996.

It was right around this time that the 90's comics speculator boom ended and almost destroyed the industry. Coincidence? I think not! Perhaps it Captain Comet and NOT too many foil covers that actually led to the 90's collapse.

If you still don't believe me, consider recent comic events. Up until 2005 Captain Comet disappeared off the comics radar until Jim Starlin used the character for his Rann-Thanagar War and Mystery In Space mini-series.

And 2005 is exactly the same time that Marvel and DC started having constant crossover events which have been burning out readers left and right. Chilling, isn't it!

And now Captain Comet is a featured character in the new REBELS series written by Tony Bedard (who I've always liked).

The series is up to issue 21, so Bedard seems to be wrangling the Captain's curse well, but with so many recent appearances of DC's favorite Space Mutant, can there be any other reason for the current slump in comic sales? And what can these ongoing appearances portend for the future of comics?

So there you go. It's not economic recessions, digital sales/piracy, event fatigue or high prices that are killing comics. It's the first man of the future born a hundred thousand years before his time!

I guess the future isn't a great place for paper comics. ;)

Have a great weekend!

- Jim

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Darkoth The Death Demon

Most of my entries for the Collected Comics Wishlist are serious suggestions which I think would actually stand a chance of getting collected and might actually sell pretty well. This one not so much...for today, I put forth the burning question: Where is a collection that brings us all the great stories featuring Darkoth, The Death Demon?

Now if you are unfamiliar with Darkoth, don't feel bad. I think the only people who really remember this character are me and Pierre. To me the character has always sort of typilified the sort of interesting creativitity that was going on during the bronze age. He's a man who was turned into a demonic creature by Doctor Doom via some amalgamation of science and magic (which is why he looks like a demon, but has those trademarked Rich Buckler shoulder bolts)

When I first saw the character, I instantly assumed he'd become another recurring character in the FF mythos like, say, the Inhumans, however, that's not how it played out. After his initial appearance, he shows up one last time (drawn by George Perez) and then doesn't show back up in the FF ever again. Outside of that, we see him only 3 more times in the Marvel Universe. His last appearance was in Excalibur 39 (which I don't have a cover scan for)

Since the Excalibur issue, he's been completely forgotten. While I could see Jonathan Hickman resurrecting the character for his run on the Fantastic Four, I don't know that I would hold my breath waiting. Now, he's the sort of character you bring up to get a smile out of Erik Larsen at conventions. (Larsen loves the bronze age probably more than me.)

Speaking of Erik Larsen, that brings up another Collected Comics Wishlist entry, but this one is more serious. Why has Marvel never collected the Worlds Greatest Comics Magazine mini-series that Erik Larsen and Eric Stephenson worked on?

This was a fun series that was designed to sort of be an imaginary wrap up of the Kirby/Lee run on the Fantastic Four with art and story that fits perfectly for the time period. Am I mistaken in thinking it's never been collected? Maybe the timing was just wrong. It's not old enough to be fondly remembered by fans today and it's not new enough that it was automatically collected into a trade (like current runs.) It's also an awkward size (12 issues) whereas current trades clock in around 6 issues.

Still, hasn't Avengers Forever been collected several different ways? That was 12 issues and came out at about the same time.

I guess I have another question for Erik Larsen at next year's HeroesCon. :D

- Jim

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Warlord of Mars

If you've got $1.00 and are looking for the best way to spend it - look no further than Dynamite's introductory issue of Warlord of Mars!

I'm a big fan of the Edgar Rice Burroughs tales of John Carter of Mars, so usually, I find myself having very high expectations for comics based on the series.I've seen some good adaptations - like Marvel's from the 70's which Dark Horse is collecting in one oversized TPB.

And I've seen some bad ones - like the DC version, which strangely enough Dark Horse is also collecting...

For Completist Dark Horse is also collecting the Jesse Marsh version from Dell

But back to the newest version - normally, I cringe when I see comics based on classic adventure stories, simply because so many seem to just miss the mark (like DC's current Doc Savage series.) However with this first issue, I can tell that writer, Arvid Nelson has decided to take his time and reveal the character of John Carter in a way I've never seen before. We see more of John Carter's time on Earth than we ever do in the books. And while such a thing might sound boring, Nelson found a way to introduce us to the character with an ERB level of action.

As you can see artist Stephen Sadowski has done a spectacular job illustrating the comic and his version of John Carter could be my favorite comic version yet.

In addition to the nice backstory we get on John Carter, Nelson also juggles a subplot with Tars Tarkas that's quite interesting as well.

So in keeping with the spirit of the book, allow me to give it 4 thumbs up! ;)

For today's Free Comics, I'm going to present two ERB related downloads that while not comics are definitely worth checking out.

The first is a PDF of the first John Carter of Mars book, which is rightly in public domain.

[ Princess of Mars ]

The other is cbr of The Martian, the collected newspaper strips from 1958 which recounts the story of Princess of Mars.

[ The Martian ]


- Jim

Friday, October 29, 2010

Two Monsterous Halloween Treats

Today we are preparing for Halloween at the La Maison de Shelley, so I'm going treat readers to two appropriately themed free comics today.

The first is one I presented during this year's Free Comics Day, but I think definitely deserves another appearance in light of the season:

hell-bent: Infamous Monsters
Written by Trey Causey and illustrated by Diego Candia, this is a western story which fans of the old Universal monsters will definitely enjoy. This illustrated comic was originally meant to be a promotional tool for a hell-bent zuda entry (which Reno was working with us on.) However, since zuda is now defunct, and digital comics venues seem more difficult to crack than one would like, we decided to release this story on its own. Click the image below to read the story.

Next up is The League of Monsters: By Butterfly Betrayed!
Written by me and illustrated by Pierre Villeneuve, this was our second FBU comic and it's gone on to be our most downloaded comic ever!

If you are new reader to this blog, then I think you'll be enjoy this early story as it's a good example of the type of lighthearted fun and fast action that I long for in modern comics.

And with that, I will will wish that everyone has a happy and safe Halloween!

- Jim

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Collected Wishlist: I...Vampire

So in keeping with the Halloween, classic monsters theme I seem to have started with Monday's post, today I will present another collection I would love to see from DC - a nice omnibus of the entire I...Vampire run which appeared in House of Mystery from 1980 to 1981.

For those of you unfamiliar with the series, it was originally started as a continuing backup in House of Mystery by J.M. DeMatteis and Tom Sutton.

Here's my twitter synopsis of the series:

Lord Andrew Bennett is turned into a vampire in 1591
He turns his lover Mary Seward into one
He has remorse for his actions when she becomes corrupted by her vampirism
She bands together with other vampires in a group called the Blood Red Moon
Blood Red Moon vow to take over mankind
Andrew Bennett vows to stop them

The series became popular enough to move from a backup to the frontrunner and quickly become the cover feature of House of Mystery (not a hard feat actually as the 80's wasn't a good decaded for random Horror comics.)

There were 24 issues and one Brave and The Bold story which is where I was introduced to the character. After seeing Lord Bennett in BatB, I was able to hunt down a lot of the old House of Mystery stories at Heroes Aren't Hard To Find, in Charlotte (though I was never able to track down all the issues.)

In addition to DeMatteis and Sutton, a few other creators of note on the series were Ernie Colon, Dan Miskin and Bruce Jones. (Jones in particular made a very good showing in the 80's on this series. Not sure what happened to him as his stories of late have sort of failed to connect with today's readers.)

I don't know that we will really ever see such a collection as I suspect the series may have been created during the time when comic companies were tweaking their work for hire contracts and reprint fees, so DC might be hesitant to do anything with the character. I think it was a similar issue that saw a Showcase collection of the old Secret Society of Supervillains killed. Still in this age of True Blood and Twilight mania, I think it would be worth whatever trouble it would take to see this excellent series collected!

- Jim

Monday, October 25, 2010

Is Frankenstein in Public Domain

Now the easy answer to the question I'm using as today's blog title is: Yes.

Without a doubt, the book by Mary Shelley (no relation btw) is indeed in public domain, even by European standards. So, you can publish your version of the classic story again in any manner you want. Like both Bernie Wrightson and Neal Adams have done in the past.

However, what is NOT in public domain are certain specific VERSIONS of the Frankenstein monster - most notably, the Universal Pictures version.

What seems to be the distinguishing feature is the neck bolts, as all comic representations of the monster either remove them or move them. (Though I'd be interested to read the legal precedent where this distinction was determined.) Here are some examples of how comics have avoided infringing on Universal's rights over the years..

And as wonky as the Dell version is, I gotta give the prize for WORST rendition of the monster to the Dean R. Koontz version(which I understand is a complete reinterpetation, but c'mon - isn't the whole point of the story that he's somewhat monsterous looking?)

In honor of the upcoming Halloween, I thought I'd use today's Free Comics Monday to present two issues of the Prize Comics version of Frankenstein!

Drawn by Dick Briefer, this comic was sort of stuck in that awkward stage for comics during the 50's when it seems publishers weren't quite sure what to do with horror comics as they grappled with the new realities of the comics code. Unlike Vampires, Werewolves and Zombies, the Frankenstein monster wasn't explicitly prohibited by the comics code but without the liberty to cause his usual violence, you get stories with the Frankestein Monster fighting Dinosaurs...

Note: if you like this sample of Golden Age craziness, feel free to check out Trey Causey's: One Panel Adventure Seeds.

Enjoy today's Free Comics!

[ Frankestein 21 ]

[ Frankenstein 22 ]

- Jim

Update: Unbeknownst to me, Trey posted about Frankenstein this morning too, so check out his post on From The Sorcerer's Skull for more on Mary's Monster

Friday, October 22, 2010

The Once and Future Caine

You know, this was the first place on the web where I allowed my posts to be signed by my real name.  Everywhere else online I go by BlaqueSaber (deviant art, twitter, aim, posterous, wordpress).  In fact, I didn't sign the first post at all, that was Jim's editorial influence.  :) 

I don't remember Exactly how I found the FBU web site.  I do remember sort of "discovering" digital comics read through a software rather than over the web and I must of stumbled on to the FBU through a search.  There weren't as many people doing digital comics back then, now you do a search for digital comics and you get the phone book, but I think Jim was an early adopter.

After I read most of Jim's comics I came back here to the website to learn more about it.  On the download page, at the bottom, there's an ad for: "The 3 origins of the RuneWraith."  It's labeled "coming soon" and it's been labeled that way since before I ever discovered this web site.  Jim and Pierre have their reasons for why it's not actually come out.  I'm sure I was told them but it didn't pique my curiosity so I donated to the FBU web site in order to get a peak behind the curtain and surprisingly the guy running this site, Jim, emailed me back. 

If only Jim had known what he'd been getting into when responding to my email.  :)

Now that I had Jim's email I began to continually ask about more comics (RuneWraith in particular).  When could we get more?  How could I help speed p the process?

I began making suggestions!  I suggested that he 'brand' a comicbook reader software and have it pre-populated with links to this site; it's comics, and it's updates (thankfully Jim didn't waste any time on this).

Still, I wanted more FBU content and felt that there was more somewhere....

I asked him about the character bio pages and if he had any more?  I suggested that he could do another downloadable comic filled with them (like a who's who) and I think I piqued Jim's interest with that one as I was suggesting how he could offer more content to the fans of this blog (not just me).  It turns out he's not a huge fan of the bio comic books, but you never know until you ask right?

I started sending him technological posts (straight out of google reader) about gadgets that I thought would fit in his "Paper Comics Death Watch" posts.  Things that could be used to view digital comics, or make them.

Soon Jim stopped responding with "thanks" and started responding with "do you want to write something about this?" and I became a blogger here.  I've held the Friday spot for quite a while now.  In addition to that I've written a story or two, helped script a comic book, and helped letter a comic during my time here at the FBU.

Which brings me to the purpose of this post.  This will be my last "regular" Friday post.  I've REALLY enjoyed my time working for/with Jim & Pierre and am really very fond of the FBU in general.  I'm sure I have a few posts left in me here or there and I've let Jim know that if he needs any help from me in the future all he need do is reach out and I'll help him with whatever.  Who knows, maybe there will be more comics.  I hear tell that Pierre may have some more free time in the near future.

I'm going to focus my time/energy on creating serialized fiction as web content.  Whether that's going to be comics, podcasts, flash animation, or e-books I haven't completely decided or limited my self to as of yet.  I all ready have some content up now such as the PALADIN BRIGADE that we didn't get finished in time for Zuda's colapse and the characters of APOLLO CITY that I created last year for two different writing events.

I have one comic book written, one podcast (audio drama style), and one third of an ebook written so we'll see where it goes and which milestone I hit first.

If you're interested in following me and catching up on what I'm doing you can always do so at  or hit me up at BLAQUESABER.COM on TWITTER.COM/BLAQUESABER

The first thing I have on my plate will be the #30Character challenge Tyler James is putting on again this year.  We're creating a character a day in November, which is no small feat let me assure you.  Last year I was also attempting to do nanowrimo in November as well (that's the 3rd of an ebook I mentioned earlier) so it was hectic but I'm a little more sane this year. 

Have a great weekend,


Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Collected Comics: The Liberty Legion

Continuing with my Collected Classics Wishlist, here is another collection I'd like to see from Marvel - a collection of all the bronze age appearances by The Liberty Legion.

The Liberty Legion was a sort of retconned superteam of existing Marvel Golden Age heroes who first appeared in the Invaders and then later made guest appearances in Marvel Two In One. They ended their bronze age career with two issues of Marvel Premiere. My wish would be to collect all their bronze age appearances (adding Fantastic Four Annual 11 as it ties into their appearance in Marvel Two In One Annual 1)

While I've never read the actual history of how the Liberty Legion went from the pages of the Invaders to appearing in Marvel Premiere, I've always assumed they were championed by Roy Thomas whose love for Golden Age heroes is well known. I suspect the seeds for this team were first planted in Thomas' mind with the resolution of the Kree-Skull War, and the Invaders gave Thomas the stage to play the idea out fully. The team consisted of:

The Blue Diamond (introduced Daring Mystery Comics #7, April 1941)
Jack Frost (USA Comics #1, Aug. 1941)
Miss America (Marvel Mystery Comics #49, Nov. 1943)
The Patriot (Human Torch Comics #3, Spring 1941)
Red Raven (Red Raven Comics #1, Aug. 1940)
The Thin Man (Mystic Comics #4, July 1940)
The Whizzer (USA Comics #1, Aug. 1941)

For the most part, after the Marvel Premiere issues, the heroes were forgotten. However, the Whizzer appeared in Avengers Annual 6 and from then on had a short recurring role in the title before retiring after a humbling defeat at the hands of Count Nefaria.

In the 90's they made a brief reappearance in an Invaders mini-series which was pretty bad, so the less said about that the better.

Later, one of their members The Thin Man appeared in the short lived New Invaders series which was published in 2005.

Most recently, Miss Marvel and The Whizzer appeared in the 70th Anniversary edition of the All Winners.

Also, and my memory is failing me, but I'm pretty sure at least one of their members (The Patriot) also appeared in The Twelve one-shot that came out recently called Spearhead.

Part of me would love to see something new with the Liberty Legion, but after the gloomy mess that was JMS' The Twelve, I'm a little hesitant to see what Marvel would do with such a concept.

- Jim

Monday, October 18, 2010

Not So Uber Allies

Last week, Marvel announced they were cancelling Young Allies. Not only cancelling it, but stopping the publication of the book at issue 6 even though they had solicited sales for issue 7. (Not something that happens very often.)

I was not reading Young Allies, but it had its champions - chief among them being Chris Sims. And yet, I don't think the books cancellation comes as any surprise as it seems just another in a long list of comics that were launched with little to no buzz and then allowed to flounder (unless you count putting it under the umbrella of the Heroic Age as promotion.)

Young Allies 1

The reason I wasn't reading Young Allies was it sort of looked like exactly what it turned out to be - a fun comic with absolutely no chance of surviving in the marketplace. With no real idea of how long it would be published, who wants to put down money on what could end up being a rush or unfinished storyline? This is the same thing that's kept me away from Doom Patrol, Gorilla Man and Atlas.

I don't think the problem is new comics can't be successful. I think the problem is a new ongoing superhero comic has less appeal than a mini-series with a clearly defined beginning and end. Of the recent comics I've started following, one that stands out as an example of this is The Return of Bruce Wayne.

I don't normally follow the Batman titles, but the premise of this Grant Morrison mini-series sounded promising, so I picked up the first issue. Even though it had its roots firmly implanted in recent DC continuity (Final Crisis) the story turned out to be exceptionally accessible and incredibly fun. It's Morrison having fun with an assorted odd lot of old DC characters and time periods, and so far, it has lived up to my expectations with amazing gusto.

In all honesty, I sort of think the RoBW should become the template for all comics from now on. Instead of trying to foist another ongoing Flash or Green Arrow series on us, why not feature those heroes in mini-series built around high-concept ideas? Here's an example off the top of my head:

The Flash - A Million Miles to Run

The Flash finds himself transported to the other end of the galaxy by an unknown foe. Using his superspeed and knowledge of alien cultures acquired from his adventures with the JLA, The Flash trades out superspeed services in exchange for rides from one planet to the next on his long journey home. Guest starring Captain Comet, Adam Strange, Ultra the Multi-Alien, Space Cabbie and a host of other Silver Age space characters.

Now, doesn't that sound a little more enticing than the unsure promise yet another directionless Flash ongoing?

Anyway, enjoy two comics from a time when the idea of ongoing superhero comics was in its infancy. America's Best Comics!

[ America's Best Comics 01 ]

[ America's Best Comics 02 ]

- Enjoy!


Related Posts with Thumbnails