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!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Marvelous Rumors from the Bullpen

Today we'll turn a recently added feature (where we discuss television series that would make great comics) on it's head to examine some of the recent rumors of Marvel properties being developed for the small screen.

HEROES FOR HIRE (focusing on ex-con Luke Cage offering to take on bad guys for a price)
DAUGHTERS OF THE DRAGON (a dynamic female duo, one with a bionic arm and the other a granddaughter of a samurai, open a private-detective agency)

I combined these two.  While Luke Cage is probably a strong enough character to build a series around (with or without Danny Rand) I don't think enough people even know who the DotD are and since Luke will need a supporting cast it makes sense to combine them (unlike the next category). 

I think this could really be enjoyable to watch and if they paired it with the correct show it could work.  If I were producing I think I'd start with a reverse Remington Steele approach and have the DotD all ready in business but lacking street cred so they bring on Luke Cage who's been recently let out of prison under "mysterious circumstances".  I'd leave Danny's guest appearance for the season ending cliff hanger of the second season.

MOON KNIGHT/ THE HOOD (a low-rent criminal discovers a cloak that gives him superpowers)

These two characters are not alike at all.  This leads me to believe that either a.) these two characters were never actually in the running or b.) the people in charge have only the slightest inkling of the characters they chose to develop.  If I were asked to produce it I might go with...

MoonKnight is always being compared to the Batman so to change things up I'd have Marc Spector not be the main character.  Actually that's the name of a long dead soldier who once died while under the influence of the "curse of Khonshu".  Other people who died while under the influence of the curse: Steven Grant and Jake Locksley who all now reside in the head of the main character of the television show - who's the latest person to fall under the "curse of Khonshu" which releases the vengeance of the fist of Khonshu: MoonKnight.

An entity that The Hood had been seeking for quite some time, in his battle to maintain control over New York's gangs.  Now that this new civilian has fallen under the curse and controls MoonKnight the battle between these two characters is on!

THE PUNISHER (one man wages a war on crime)

This television program would have to be cable or it would suffer from the A-Team's "many bullets, few deaths" syndrome.  If I was asked to produce this show I might....

Start things off with a Frank Castle all shot to hell.  He's powerless (and all out of ammo) to keep a federal task-force from breaching his compound and bringing Frank Castle in.  Can they escort this unique prisoner all the way to a judge and jury of his peers so that he can have his day in court?  Will Frank escape?  Will he be broken out?  If he's loose on the street will he kill again?  If so will it be a "bad person"? 

I'd insert a lot of "Cat & Mouse" into this concept much like "The Fugitive".

CLOAK & DAGGER (two mutant children, with interlinked powers of dark/light, struggle to find their place in the world)

As the resident "DC Loving" member of the FBU staff Cloak & Dagger have always been one of my faverites.  I'd personally go "balls to the wall" with this concept.  There would be so many special effects that this show couldn't afford to run weekly.

As "odd" as it sounds I'd really turn this into a mutated "Highway To Heaven" but instead of a good christian escorting an actual angel around the country righting wrongs I'd have Dagger (with her blades of solid light) continue to push Cloak (with his cloak of night) around the country - all the while trying to keep from feeding on human emotion (which their powers almost demand).

THE HULK (Bruce Banner flees when he's hunted for murdering.....himself )

I personally don't think this can work.  Let me provide you with a list of why not:
  • The Bill Bixby/ Lou Ferrigno television show/ telefilms is still fresh in a lot of our minds.
  • The two big screen movies made were not huge successes and failed to resonate with fans
  • The Bruce Banner character's suffered from a few reboots as of late with the Hulk showing up in the Marvel "Ultimate" line of comics/ animated features.

Have a great weekend,


Wednesday, October 13, 2010

OPP - Other Peoples Projects

Recently, Caine asked me why the Flashback Universe has been so quiet on the comics scene, in that it's been a while since we've made any new comics around here.

Usually when asked such a question, homegrown comic creators like myself fall on the sword of economic and/or health related problems. And while I suppose I could place some blame on the economy - the real answer is way more positive. I've been involved working on project for other people.

Currently, I've got about three other projects I'm working on. One is a cool comic featuring a lot of new and Public Domain superheroes coming from our friends at Popbox Entertainment - the name of the comic is called The Agency, and I'm lettering the pages for them. The story is by Clayton Neal (who has written articles for this blog before) with art by Celso Ricardo of Rascunho Studios

I've been enjoying lettering this comic as the dialogue and characters have a nice bronze age feel to them.

Another project I'm excited about is from FBU Contributor Trey Causey. It's an Roleplaying Game based on a rather interesting concept. The idea is a RPG world based on the tropes of the Weird/Hard Boiled Pulp Era rather than traditional Sword and Sorcery. It's called Weird Adventures, and my role in the project has been as sounding board, logo designer and graphic designer (typesetting)

This project in generating a good bit of buzz about it as Trey has been posting teaser text, snippets and artwork for the project on his blog. One such piece of art was cool Doc Savage homage from FBU friend Reno.

Finally, the last project I've been helping out with is Five Dollar Mail - an ongoing Romantic Adverture set on a Pony Express Station. My wife Gina is the author of this story, and while Romance stories aren't really my cup of tea, I've been amazed at how may people come to her blog every week to read a new chapter. Currently, Gina's written a staggering 85 chapters so far, with a few side chapters contributed by fans. My assistance in this project has been as art wrangler as Gina wanted art for the story, but didn't really know how to handle working with artists via the internet. Here is illustration from Diego Candia of Saint, one of the characters from Five Dollar Mail.

Current plans are to take the first storyline (which should wrap up in another 15 to 25 chapters) and roll it up into a book from a print on demand site. Because of the awkward way blogger formats text, I suspect she'll need my help formatting the book when that time comes.

So, between Pierre's promotion (which has saddled him with a good bit more work) and these extra projects, we haven't gotten around to working on any new comics here at Flashback Universe. However, I think as things settle out and our plates clears up, I'm pretty sure Pierre and I will be itching to work on a new project!

Have a great day!

- Jim

Monday, October 11, 2010

Deluxe Thunder Agents

In the comments of last weeks Collected Comics Wishlist, regular commenter BrittReid said he would like to see a collection of the excellent, but short run THUNDER Agents comics put out by David Singer and Deluxe Comics back in 1985. Here's my idea of what such a collection would look like (if DC were chosen to publish the series, which seems as good a choice as any since they published the THUNDER Agent archives.)

This is a good choice for a collected edition, as these comics had a veritable who's who of creators working on them. From wikipeidia...

In 1984, David M. Singer's Deluxe Comics began publishing a new series, Wally Wood's T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents, featuring some of the best artists of the era, including George Pérez, Dave Cockrum, Keith Giffen, Murphy Anderson, Steve Ditko, Rich Buckler, and Jerry Ordway. Singer claimed the group was in the public domain. A lawsuit by [John ] Carbonaro claimed otherwise. The lawsuit was eventually decided in US District Court in favor of Carbonaro, with Singer acknowledging Carbonaro’s registered copyrights and trademark. Under the decision, Carbonaro also received, among other things, an assignment of all rights to “Wally Woods T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents,” previously published by Singer, and an undisclosed sum of money. Deluxe Comics closed its doors in 1986, when several major distributors failed to pay sizeable past-due invoices

While on wikipedia, I saw this bit of harrowing news...

At the 2009 San Diego Comic-Con, DC announced that T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents will be brought into the DC Universe, as they have recently done with the Milestone Media and MLJ Comics heroes.

Considering what royal cluster both of those two *mergers* were, I hope DC has decided against this idea.

Anyway, while the fate of the THUNDER Agents is in doubt these days, for today's Free Comics Monday, I present two comics featuring another agent from Tower heroes - The Undersea Agents!

[ Undersea Agent 1 ]

[ Undersea Agent 02 ]

- Enjoy!


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