Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Return to the Silver Age?

Today, Pierre gives his thoughts on the news that the JSA will be coming back in the DC relaunch (or DCnU as he calls it) and what that might mean for the whole DC Universe.

I am one of those who had a fun time reading Flashpoint even before the HISTORIC announcement that it would be the starting point of the DCnU. I loved the main series… and most of the tie-ins. Citizen Cold has to be my favourite…. And I loved the Flash issue before that that was labeled as The Reverse-Flash Rebirth (The Flash issue #8). I really got a kick out of it. Many compared Flashpoint to the Age of Apocalypse at Marvel…. or worse… House of M (yuk) but I think it was better than both of those events.

But then DC threw us a curve ball…. and announced that Flashpoint would lead us into the New DC Universe…. or DCnU. One question that keeps on popping up since then…. “What do you think of DCnU??” Although for non-comic readers… the question is more like… “I hear they are going to change Superman?? What do you think of this??” Well… once more… I think we see history repeat itself. I have this sense of déjà vu like when DC had their Crisis 25 years ago. And it seems like they are still repeating some of the same mistakes they made 25 years ago.

Since they are re-launching the whole line with new #1 issues…. They should also reboot the entire line. By rebooting most of the line… but not the Batman or Green Lantern comics…. They are asking for trouble. It will be a mess to keep track of what comics are still part of continuity… and what comics no longer matter. Since they are renumbering the whole line… why not reboot the whole line so that the continuity can start fresh in every title?? But the answer is quite simple…. money. They do not want to re-launch comics that have strong sales for fear of risking losing those sales.

So let’s restart those comics that don’t sell as much as we would like…. And keep those that do sell as they are. It makes sense not to fix what isn’t broken…. But now the continuity will be a mess from day one. So just like with Crisis…. They will keep on needing to try to fix/explain all the contradictions that there will be in their new timeline. So be prepared for more attempts to fix the timeline like Zero Hour…. Or tales like Who is Wonder Girl/Donna Troy? to try to explain stories or characters that no longer match within the DCnU.

Heck… as an example… from what we understand so far…. Nightwing will be almost as old as most of the Justice League members… and especially Superman. What does that make of all the tales where Dick was a kid and met Superman as Robin?? Did those tales happen?? And did Superman… this kid barely older then Nightwing… still inspire him to take on the name of Nightwing?? Or will DC need to come up with a new tale explaining how Nightwing got his name?? Will we end up with a new “Who is Nightwing?” tale… like the mess with Donna Troy?

That would have been so easy to avoid that mistake by simply rebooting everything… and starting every series fresh from day one… and move on from there. Oh well.

As for re-numbering Action Comics with a new #1…. not too crazy about that. This close to reaching the venerable number of #1000 issues?? Could they not have Action Comics and Detective Comics skip the re-launch?? Have them skip being published the month where DC has all their shiny new #1 issues… and have them continue in October on their way to their #1000 issue.

This way… DC could have had their 52 new #1 comics in September…. and Action Comics and Detective Comics could have kept going in October until their 1000th issue. Would that have been so hard to do?? Oh well…. I have no doubt that by then… they WILL renumber both Action Comics and Detective Comics so that they can have their sales boost from those magic 1000th  issue numbers.  But it seems that DC threw us another curve ball this week-end by announcing that we would get more tales of the JSA…. on Earth 2. And now…. It all makes sense.

We knew that there was an event in the works called “Multiversity” (or something like that by Grant Morrison)… having something to do with the Multiverse. But now that the Earth 2 announcement has been made… it fits perfectly within what seemed to be the game plan at DC for some time. Ever since Green Lantern Rebirth…. It has been clear that DC was trying to return their comics to the status quo of the Silver Age. First the return of Hal Jordan in Rebirth… then the return of Barry Allen… the return of Barbara Gordon as Batgirl… etc… and now the return of the dynamic between Earth1 with the Silver Age heroes, and Earth 02 with the heroes of the Golden Age. I predict that there will be some sort of Crisis on 2 Earths tale before long. Mark my words. If it was me… I would start things off with a new Flash of 2 Worlds tale… but that is just me. ;)

Although we don’t know what the DCnU Earth will be called yet. I doubt that it will be Earth 1 because they already have their line of Original Graphic Novels that is called “Earth One”. So what will they call it?? Earth Prime?? Earth 00?? We don’t know yet. But it does illustrate a desire for DC to return to the Silver Age status quo.

Strange since the DCnU reboot was to streamline their line to make it less confusing to new readers… but they are bringing back the Earth 02 that was removed because it apparently was too confusing to new readers 25 years ago. Personally… I never bought the excuse that it was too confusing to begin with. I was 10 years old when I read the tale “Flash of Two Worlds”… and if to was not confusing to a young 10 year old like me… I fail to see how it was too confusing for anyone else. But maybe that is just me.

And heck… I did not even mention the digital angle… the costume designs… the new logos of the re-launch yet… but I will have to keep this for a future blog… because this one is getting long enough as it is.  So as I write this… we are still waiting for the conclusion of Flashpoint… and the start of the DCnU with the new Justice League comic. Will it open up fresh new story possibilities?? Will it increase sales/readership and make DC tons of money?? Will it save comics as we know them??

It could be.

Or will it be a mess?? Will the Doomsayers be correct?? Will it be a disaster of EPIC roportion and put not only DC comic… but the whole industry out of business??

We will have to wait and see.

Until next time.


Monday, August 29, 2011

Green Arrow Controversy

Last week, an article on Bleeding Cool spawned quite a bit of back and forth among commenters and it mostly revolved around this picture by Brett Booth.

The gist of the controversy is that there was a fan who took issue with how Booth drew the picture, citing several things wrong with the way Green Arrow was holding the bow and arrow. Booth then responded in a manner, that given the way information can disseminate on the internet, was probably not the wisest way to respond. (Cursing the fan and citing a lack of interest in the subject and a tight deadline as the reasons the picture may have been less than accurate.)

However, to his credit, once he cooled down, Booth followed up with a very better explanation of his frustration to the fan.
Don‘t you think it makes me cringe every time I see a really, really badly drawn dinosaur in a comic book? Or a dog with five joints in each leg? Do you think these people don‘t ‘care’ about their work? Do you think I contact the artist to tell them they need to look some stuff up? No: I know that not everybody is going to spend hours looking things up to make an accurate portrayal: I don‘t even have time to do that for some things, because I’m asked to tum it around too fast: And you know what? Most people don‘t notice anyways:

My wife has a background in illustration and design: Her degree is in illustration: The comic book industry absolutely appalls her because virtually ‘nobody’ uses reference, and it’s not even expected by an editor: Because most people ‘don‘t notice’ anyways.
What I found interesting was how many fans wanted to dogpile on Booth for not looking up how archers hold bows on Google, calling him slack. I think it's unfair to call Booth lazy because that implies he dropped the ball on a detail that was critical to the enjoyment of the image. I think it's safer to assume that Booth, like most comic artists, is more concerned with the overall cool factor of the image and nailing down the exact details of how one holds a bow isn't a driving factor in the success of this illustration. Saying it is assumes that the average reader knows AND cares about such things.

Also, Let's face it - a lot of finer details of reality of archary are sacrificed for the sake of said cool factor. (Boxing Glove arrows?)

Also, one of the things Booth's detractor took him to task for was the way the bow rested on Green Arrow's thumb, but you'll notice Kirby drew it in a similar fashion. Compare is Booth's drawing of Green Arrow to this Jack Kirby 1950's version of the character?

With that said, I'll close with today's Free Comic - another Jack Kirby Archer comic from the 50's but one I've never heard of: Bullseye: Western Scout!

I just happened to discover this comic in alt.binaries.comics this weekend and I'm low on details about this character, so please feel free to expand in the comments section if you know anything about the history of this character.

btw - that is neither how you ride a horse or hold a gun. ;)


- Jim

Friday, August 26, 2011

Flashback Five On: Post Crisis Superman

Today Matt introduces a new series here to the FBU, the Flashback Five. In these articles, we will cover 5 cool (or uncool) things about a comic or run of comics. Matt starts this series with 5 things he liked about the Post Crisis Superman Reboot!

I've never at any point found Superman to be an unrelatable character. Seriously.

Why? Because I related to Clark Kent. Clark was awkward, clumsy, and hid certain aspects of his true self from others. Deep down, he just wanted to tell a girl he liked how he really felt about her. Clark Kent is who we are in our everyday lives. People might judge us by our looks or underestimate our abilites. Superman is the truth of our potential and the dream of how cool it would be if, just as easily as Clark rips open his shirt to reveal the \S/, we could peel away our everyday selves to reveal the very best of who we really are. Even if Superman is the "real" person it's not about a god making fun of humans, but rather a seemingly ordinary person casting off the mundane to reveal extraordinary truth within.

So while I was a fan of Superman before the first issue of John Byrne's Man Of Steel hit the stands, I can still appreciate the dramatic value of Byrne's "Clark Kent is the reality" approach. The Post-Crisis version presents a Superman who in addition to his battle for truth and justice must also constantly defend his own humanity from forces that seek to control or corrupt him, including the ghosts of his own alien heritage. Byrne also scaled his powers back to a considerable degree from what they had become, both in the more humor-oriented stories of the Silver Age and in the Bronze Age where Supermans god-like power levels were readily embraced.

So as we are about to embark upon (or endure) the current DC Relaunch, this is a perfect time for a Flashback Five on the last Superman reboot!

1. THE LOOK: While I would later gain a better appreciation for the artwork of Curt Swan, as a kid I found myself wishing Superman could just be more dynamic-looking. Part of this was influenced by seeing the work of greats like Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez or Neal Adams on covers and Superman merchandise. Often I wondered why art this cool was not in the actual Superman comic book. Garcia-Lopez, for example, drew DC Comics Presents. That book was a blast, but why would you not bring a talent like that to the big show for a regular gig?

I think this is part of why John Byrne getting Superman was as huge as it was. Byrne had just come off his popular stints on X-Men and The Fantastic Four. What he brought to Superman in visual terms was, in my opinion an interesting way of giving Superman all the handsomeness and genuine sincerity of Christopher Reeve while simultaneously giving him a physique that put him on par with 80s action movie icons. In fact, his Superman looked like he could snap Rambo and The Terminator in half like twigs even without his cells acting as solar batteries. Rather than changing Superman's costume, Byrne enhanced what was already there. He redesigned the shield in a subtle but noticeable way and made the emblem a larger element of Superman's chest. Superman's hair fell naturally into that signature curl rather than it looking spit-shined into place. He drew the way the cape lays from his collar to his shoulders in a fuller, more regal way. Many of the artists who followed Byrne (among them George Perez, Kerry Gammil, Bob McLeod, Dan Jurgens, and Tom Grummett) preserved this new look.

2. CLARK KENT: As previously stated I enjoy and even relate to the nerdy version of Clark and I have no real issue with Superman being "real person". However mild-mannered doesn't necessarily mean nerdy. Byrne inspired by George Reeves created a more extroverted and assertive Clark Kent who uses his wits in his investigative reporting. Byrne balanced this by wisely having Superman never mention that he has a secret identity at all. Nobody has any real reason to think of Clark as anything but a regular joe.

Indeed, in a later "post-Crisis" issue where the reader is made privy to a bit of the average person's view of Superman, the idea that he would have a day job doesn't seem to occur to them at all. Why would it? One cab driver even theorizes that Superman just chills out in some secret hideaway with a poker table and a giant bowling alley, playing against other heroes until duty calls. The only part about this that doesn't work as well for me is when Clark begins to become a more public figure after having published a bestselling novel and winning a Pulitzer. Clark doesn't necessarily have to act like a klutz for the secret identity to be plausible (within the fantasy context), but at least one of the two identities needs to be relatively low-key and out of the spotlight.

3. MA AND PA KENT: While it was very counter to the first comics I read and my memories of the Kents, especially in the first Superman movie, I find the idea of keeping the Kents alive to be a benefit to the character.

Superman having aging parents exists as a reminder to Clark of how short and fragile human life is, just in a much more subtle way than his original "double orphan" back story. Plus I think many people can relate to having a life in the big city, while going back and forth to the old quiet hometown to visit their folks. Ultimately it goes back to the whole thing of Superman needing to protect his humanity. The Kents act as an anchor not only for the threats coming from aliens and Kryptonian artifacts, but also from the often dehumanizing grind of everyday life.

4. AS THE DAILY PLANET TURNS: After Byrne leaves the three (eventually four) Superman titles begin to run interconnected stories that feel almost like a weekly tv series. This helped to build a lot of momentum and let the audience feel like something was always happening.

The writers were also pretty good about picking up old plot threads or referencing plot elements from the very beginning of the reboot. In that respect, the eventual Death of Superman story seems almost like a season finale while the Return story feels like a season opener, like Star Trek TNG's Best of Both Worlds. This has the downside that always occurs when a superhero comic emphasizes narrative instead of done-in-one issues for an ongoing monthly: the story can't end. You can only ever have a beginning and an increasingly-complicated middle.

5. CEO LEX: Early on, this version of Lex was frequently compared to the Kingpin, especially since Bryne initially drew a heftier Luthor. Later, the character cloned his way to a better physique after having slowly poisoned his original body by wearing a Kryptonite ring. Luthor is always the dark side of the American Dream that Superman represents, even the Gene Hackman Luthor of the Donner films. The new Lex Luthor personified a new take on that and the fundamental idea of Lex as a man who abused his own genius. Instead of the pursuit of evil for its own sake, or out of being mortified about losing his hair the new Lex used his genius in endless pursuit of personal gain.

The post-Crisis Lex became a symbol of unremorseful lust for power and Lexcorp became an icon of corporate greed. Having Superman's opposite be someone concerned with status, money, and power as well as someone who was cynically jealous of Superman really works. It also meant Luthor could appear more regularly in the books, since his money could make him completely above the law. The only drawback to this is that I think it has a shelf life. It's a great way to bring Luthor into the story but after awhile it gets old seeing Superman losing out to a bald dude in a business suit.

While there is much I think did not work with the post-Crisis reboot of Superman, even aspects of it that I'm still on the fence about after all these years there was also a lot that I did enjoy and I wish this version had gotten some sort of proper send off that would have been a satisfying conclusion to what Byrne started. For me though I kind of like to think of Clark and Lois being married as a good place to end. Afterall what better way to conclude a version of Superman whose humanity was so central to the stories than by letting him have the only thing he ever asked for himself, to be with the woman he loved.

Have a great weekend!

- Matt

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Holy Green Bee!

After yesterday's earthquake, Pierre emailed me to see if we were okay. I told Pierre we were fine. Both Gina and I felt the quake, but down here in Columbia, South Carolina, it was very mild and only lasted a few seconds. One thing it did shake loose was the memory that I have a blog post from Pierre that I haven't posted yet. Enjoy!

I typically buy DVDs (or Blu-Rays) to watch rather than rent them. As you might imagine, this limits my movie viewing a bit to things I'm really interested in or highly anticipating. On the rare occaision, I will sometimes watch a movie a friend has downloaded and passed on to me on recommendation.

Just yesterday I saw the movie Ironclad thanks to one of my friend. Loved it.... and I would have never watched it in a million years if not for my friend. And now that I have seen it.... you can be sure that I will get the Blu-Ray when I get the chance. It is a low budget film.... but damn I loved every second of it. And once in a blue moon.... I will borrow a DVD from a friend. In this case... a friend of mine just bought the Green Hornet DVD... and since I had not seen it... I figured that I might as well finally see it.

... and it was....

Damn that was a fun film. I can almost understand that people... who from now on expect every super-heroe movies to be a rip-off of the Dark Knight... were dissapointed from a lighter movie such as the Green Hornet. But damn... that was fun.

Why did I not see that film before??? Pretty much the same reason why it took me forever to see the Spirit film. The reviews. Although once I got my hands on a Blu-Ray copy of the Spirit for $5... I HAD to agree with the critics. Damn... that was all sorts of bad. But when I finally saw the Green Hornet movie.... not unlike with Green Lantern.... I ended up scratching my head wondering why the critics were so hard on that film.

Yes... all the characters act like immature teens.... but when you look at the extras... all the crew who worked on that movie seems to be immature teens.... although they are no longer teens. ;) So they pretty much wrote characters that acted like the people in their circle of friends. I can understand if that was a turn off for some... but I did not mind that. Heck I know more then a few people like that.... so sometimes I would recognise a friend on two in those immature characters.

Seth Rogen and his gang seem to be stuck as eternal teenagers.... and it is reflected on how they have their characters act in the movie.... and on how they made that movie. That film is pure escapism. A lot of that movie is made up of what some immature teenagers would find cool. But a lot of it actually is cool. Does that make me am immature teenager?? ;)

I liked everything about it: The over the top action scenes with Kato. The over the top gadgets. Heck even the over the top insecure villain.

So yes I get that many didn't like how childish and immature the characters were acting.Yes it might have been fun to have seen Seth Rogen in a more serious role... but once you knew that Seth Rogen would be the Green Hornet... it was to be expected that he would bring his "naivete" to the film.

It reminds me of how people were pissed that Will Smith was cracking joke in Independence Day. But as soon you knew that Will Smith would be in the film.... what did you expect?? Heck even in the trailers he was cracking jokes. So why expect the movie to be different??

Although... I did not watch the Green Hornet TV show as a kid. So I have no idea to how faithful they were to the source material.

I learned of the Green Hornet a few decades after it was on TV... and I never read the comic. So I do not have any nostalgia... or childhood memories attached to that show. So if it is drastically different from the show.... I don't really know. So if some fans hate the film for not being faithfull to the show.... that went right over my head... because in that case.... I don't have a clue.

So depite what the critics said.... I had a great time watching that film and the extras. Guess I will have to add it to my list of films to buy right next to Ironclad. ;)

So if you did not see it yet do yourself a favor... ignore what the critics have said... and see the film. It is a fun ride.

Until next time.


Monday, August 22, 2011

Ibis and Sargon

I've talked about Ibis The Invincible here before, but today, Clayton shares his thoughts on Fawcett's favorite wand waver.

It will never cease to amaze me that with the wealth of characters that DC Comics acquired from companies like Quality and Fawcett, that so very few were ever given a chance to recapture their former glory.

Heroes such as Ibis the Invincible, who first appeared in Fawcetts Whiz Comics #2, 1940 and lasted until the early 1950's. This was the last Ibis was seen until Justice League of America #135 in the 70's. As part of the Earth-S Squadron of Justice.

This was my first encounter with this guy, and right away, I could see all kinds of possibilities for the hero which had this mystical Ibistick that to me, could do almost anything!

But didn't happen. He was given a few appearances, but for some reason I always felt they downplayed what he once was, and could have been again. I mean, this was Prince Amentep! The guy who Beat the Black Pharaoh before putting himself and his love Taia (who was wounded by a poison arrow during this battle) into suspended animation for centuries!

OK, just a little side note here before I continue my rant...If I was like him, and woke up in a museum dressed in mummy wrappings, that would be embarrassing! I can think of soooo many possibilities for just this part of the story alone!

What I think would have been cool is if they had bothered to explore the relationship between Ibis and Sargon the Sorcerer! Sargon was another long forgotten mystic in the DC who first appeared in All-American Comics 26 in 1941.

 Long forgotten during the Silver Age, he was reintroduced to Bronze Age readers in Justice League of America 98 in a classic Mike Friedrich/Dick Dillan story. (Editor's note: He would be forgotten after that until the Dark Age of comics when he was killed multiple times, as it the way of things.)

They were both similar characters. Ibis had the Ibistick, and Sargon had the Ruby of Life. They both wore suits and turbans. They were both magicians. This would have been a cool mini-series! Especially if they had brought back (or heck, Sargon appeared the year after in 1941 it could have been a great WWII team-up) Ibis villains like the Flying Dutchman, or Dr. Hookah (I can only imagine what would have happened if they had updated this last one).

What is interesting is that DC sort of just sat on both of these characters (as well as Dr. Fate) for the better part of 3 decades while Marvel had some limited success with Dr. Strange in just about every age of comics. I suspect that science minded Editor Julie Schwartz at DC in the Silver Age is the reason. Instead of a Dr. Strange, you get a space-bound Adam Strange. Outside of The Spectre and Phantom Stranger, DC never really had much luck with their supernatural characters, at least not up until you get into the Vertigo era and at that point one might argue it's the more adult type of stories that are the key to success and not the arcane angle of the comics.

Alas, we can still enjoy the classic adventures like today's free comic thanks to the dedicated scanners at Golden Age Comics UK who are doing such a great job archiving old comics so they won't be lost to the ages. This issue is another amazing scan from Jim Vadeboncoeur, Jr. and if you enjoy it, please consider donating to his Postage Fund which he uses to cover the costs of such scans.

- Have a great day!

Friday, August 19, 2011


Today Trey Causey shares with us more of the magazine article he recently discovered that unearths the truth about the Fantastic Four. You can read part one here.

“Together we have more power than any humans ever possessed!”
- Reed Richards, as depicted in Fantastic Four #1 (Marvel Comics, 1961)

Before the abortive spaceflight and its amazing aftermath, before they were the Fantastic Four, they were just four; four disparate individuals brought together by chance—or perhaps, destiny.

Reed Richards was born in 1920 to Nathaniel and Evelyn Richards.  Like his son, Nathaniel Richards had a brilliant scientific mind.  Unlike his son, he shunned the public eye, and few of his accomplishments are known.  Undoubtedly, they were substantial, as Nathaniel Richards became a billionaire from the fruits of his genius.

He was also extremely involved in his work and spent little time with his family.  When Reed was seven, Evelyn Richards died.  Nathaniel Richards grieved, but didn’t halt his experiments for long.  His young son was left with the domestic staff and a succession of tutors.

Though Reed Richards and his father have always had a somewhat distant relationship, he does not seem bear him any strong resentment.  Perhaps he understood the drive to achieve goals and push the boundaries of science, heedless of the effect on others.  Certainly, Reed Richards has appeared to possess this kind of singleminded personality himself.
Nathaniel Richards was not there to see his son’s spacecraft launch.  He had disappeared mysteriously in 1957, about three years before the fateful takeoff.

Reed Richards entered college at fourteen at Caltech.  By the time he was eighteen, had had obtained four degrees.  It was when he was working on his fifth at State University in Hegeman, New York, that he would meet two men with whom he would forever be linked—one as best friend, the other as greatest enemy.

The soon-to-be enemy was a foreign student in the United States on scholarship.  Like Richards, he was a scientific genius with a great deal of ambition.  He came from the tiny eastern European country of Latveria.  His real name has never been revealed; Lee would give him the suitably villainous nom de guerre of Victor von Doom.  

Doom would start out as Richards’ roommate, but would storm out within minutes of their first meeting.  No sooner had Doom left, than Richards met his replacement.

Benjamin Jacob Grimm was born in 1920, a second-generation American of German-Jewish descent.  He grew up in poverty on Yancy Street in Manhattan’s Lower East Side.  His father Daniel was an alcoholic who had difficulty keeping a job.  His mother was in poor health and freequently ill.  Young Ben spent most of his time tagging along with his brother Daniel Jr., who was member of a local street gang, and whose illegal activities were the main source of income for the family.  Daniel, Jr. died when Ben was eight.  In a few years, Ben Grimm was in his brother’s old gang.

He might have ended up like his brother, if fate hadn’t intervened.  Eventually his father drank himself to death, and his mother succumbed to an illness.  Still a minor, Ben went to live with his Uncle Jake and Aunt Alyce.

Jake Grimm had worked his way out of poverty and become a moderately successful physician.  Jake and his first wife Alyce provided the stable home environment the boy had never had previously, but only by getting him involved in high school football was Jake able to get his nephew out of street gangs.  Ben was star at his high school, and got a football scholarship to State University in 1938.

Ben Grimm’s freshman year roommate would turn out to be Reed Richards.  Despite the vast differences in background and temperament, the two would become lifelong friends.  Richards must have sensed this at their first meeting, because the normally reserved Richards confided in Grimm his intention to build a spaceship—maybe even a starship.  Grimm responded jokingly, prophetically, that if Reed built it, he would fly it.

These plans would have to wait.  In December following their graduation, Pearl Harbor was attacked and the United States entered World War II.  Richards and Grimm both wasted no time in volunteering.  A decade would pass before they saw each other again, but in the intervening years both would go on to become heroes.

Ben Grimm became a Marine aviator.  He saw intense fighting as a member of the “Cactus Air Force” based at Henderson Field on Guadalcanal.  After the war moved closer to Japan itself, Grimm flew in combat over Okinawa.

Reed Richards was recruited for the O.S.S.  The full extent of his actions during the war has yet to be revealed.  The official record mentions working with Italian partisans to obtain intelligence on the Germans.  Certainly, there are clear accounts of Reed Richards—ever eager for “hands on” action—doing fieldwork behind enemy lines.  It is likely, however, that he spent most of the war analyzing and finding ways to counter Axis technology, matching wits against Nazi geniuses Armin Zola, Heinrich Zemo, and the Baron Von Blitzschlag.

After the war, Richards traveled the world, pursuing his own scientific interests and perhaps intelligence interests of the United States.  Before embarking on his years abroad, he returned for some post-doctorate work at Columbia University.  While boarding at a house in Manhattan, he would meet the third member of The Four.

In our next installment, we will meet the other two members of this fantastic four!

- Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Superman/Batman: Apocalypse

I have become a sucker for them direct to DVD movies that DC has been putting out. Since New Frontier, excepted for the Wonder Woman one... I got all of them movies. Of the whole bunch... the Spectre short has to be the very best of them all. Damn that was good.Since DC have been including them short movies... I am sorry to say that the short movies are usually the best part of the Blu-Ray. The Spectre one was AWESOME!!! I did not care much for the Jonah Hex one... but the Green Arrow one included in the Superman/Batman: Apocalypse Blu-Ray is pretty good.

I cringed at some of the design work... I could not help but think that thanks to his "armor" (shoulder pad) Green Arrow was "well protected" :).... but other then that .... it was a fun little story that was well told and pretty well animated.

As for the main feature...

It was not bad.... but it was not good either. It was very.... "meh" in my book.

There was a really cool sequence with Wonder Woman, Big Barda and the Female Furies. The best action sequence... heck the best sequence in the whole film. But the sequence with Darkseid in the end was dragged on for too long.

Not only did it make it seem like Darkseid's Omega Beams are week/useless... but also it paled comparing to some of the awesome work that was done in their previous JLU tv series. Especially the last episode of the JLU tv series and the showdown between Superman and Darkseid in that last episode. Damn that was good.

But the sequence in Superman Batman??? Not even close to being as good. It felt like seeing a very lesser version of a very awesome sequence that we had already seen before. And the design work in general was iffy at best.... it was a strange mixture of JLU... Crisis on 2 Earths... with a pinch pf Michael Turner thrown in to tie the project to the comic that is being adapted. You could tell that the artists had a tought time... especially with Superman.

He was pretty inconsistent through the whole thing. He sometimes was Turner-esque... and sometimes more like the design they used for the Crisis on 2 Earths project. And sometimes an odd mixture between the two. And take a close look at the "S" shield.... it was very funky in some scenes.

And the same is true with most of the design work. It's as if there was a tug of war on the production... half the people wanting to make the designs like Turner's artwork... and the  other half wanting the designs like the ones from the Crisis on 2 Earths movie. And it fell somewhere in between.

(Editor's Note: I thought they did a nice job with Big Barda. )

For the story... not having read the comic... I don't know if the weak parts in the story come from the comic or from the movie itself.   Batman and Wonder Woman trying to kidnap Supergirl?? Really?? Could they not simply ask to take her to Paradise Island for training?? And what if they had been successful kidnapping her?? How would they have kept her there???... by force??? How would they have kept Superman from looking for her or from getting her back?? Made no bit of sense.

I was also dissapointed with the extras. As I mentioned... I bought the Blu-Ray version... and some Superman episodes were included in the extras of the Blu-Ray... but of very piss poor quality. The line work is so pixelated that it makes the episodes pretty much unwatchable on my HD TV.

So is Superman/Batman: Apocalypse worth it??
In one word....
You can have the Green Arrow short in the DC Showcase Superman/Shazam Blu-Ray. Get that instead.

Until next time.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

A Shazam Omnibus?

I have a love/hate affair with the DC Archive series (which may or may not be defunct.) On one hand, it's awesome that they were able to compile some of the early Silver Age Brave and the Bold and Metal Men stories in the nicely bound volumes. On the other hand, I think their chronological approach to what they published robbed us of seeing some classic Bronze Age stories. Unless I'm mistaken, only the Legion of Superheroes and Kamandi volumes actually make it as far as the bronze age.

The other place I think this publishing strategy robbed us was we only got a very small taste of the classic Fawcett Captain Marvel issues. So today, I propose a solution to this last problem. DC should publish a nice big Omnibus in the same vein as the Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko volumes. But this one should be dedicated to that master of minimalistic superheroe action: CC Beck! Here's my mock up of such a volume.

I don't know that there is really as big a market for such a book as the Kirby or Ditko volumes, but when you consider that DC was considering a collection of the Monster Society stories, it suggests they think there is *some* people out there who might be interested in the early Captain Marvel stories.

Outside of my imaginary collection, the next best hardcover collection of Captain Marvel stories would have to be the one published by Harmony Shazam from the 40's to the 70's.

I have a copy of this classic tome which I bought with my hard earned allowance back in the day. At the time, I was predisposed to reading mostly superhero fight books, so the more whimsical approach that the Fawcett writers took with their stories took really threw me for a loop - in a good way!

Some people dislike this book because most of the pages are in black and white, but I'm fine with it because all of the classic linework still looks amazing.

My only regret now is that the cover on my volume is a bit raggedy as I didn't really take care of my books when I was a kid. I've toyed with the idea of making a new cover for the book by find a print on demand printer who can handle such a printout with such large dimensions has been a challenge.
If anyone knows of a printer that could handle such a one off request, please let me know.

With that, I'm going to leave you with today's Free Comic - a story I first read in the Harmony book, which was later reprinted in the pages of DC's Shazam series from the 70's. This story is a full issue length extravaganza and features all of the Captain Marvel Family versus all of the Sivana Family in a battle that takes us back to the sinking of Atlantis and then continues well into the far flung future!

[ Marvel Family 10 ]

I hope you enjoy it as much as I did when I first read it!

- Jim

Friday, August 12, 2011


Today, Matt tells us why he thinks modern comics are devolving.

I guess it's fair to say tastes change over time. Part of my earliest comic reading experiences were pouring over hardcover collections like Superman From the 30's to the 70's, forerunners of modern-day reprint collections.

So even as a child I caught on pretty quickly to the idea that these iconic superheroes that have been around for ages and change through the years. But, to quote Uncle Ben in the first Spider-Man movie, "Be careful what you change into."

Growing up reading comic books, I don't think my tastes changed so much as branched out. I developed a willingness to seek out other things as an addition to the colorful world of the superhero comics and cartoons that I was enjoying. In the Silver and Bronze Ages, perhaps even more accurately in answer to the "Marvel Age," comics were wiggling free from some of the sillier restrictions of the Comics Code. They started slowly but steadily appealing to older readers, but kids were still wisely considered part of the audience for superhero comics.

I think this had a way of allowing a comic book to grow with you. I felt that I got more out of the superhero comics I purchased as a kid when I reread them as an older person, rather than less. When you're a kid and you pick up an issue of The Amazing Spider-Man it's just cool that Spider-Man exists, even if it's only in your imagination. He's in his costume, spinning webs, crawling up walls, talking smack to the bad guys before webbing them up or punching them out and it's all so gloriously awesome!

 As you get a little older, you start to figure out why you like what you like. You attach names to artists and writers. You may reread that same issue and you still love that Spidey is being awesome, but now you're becoming a little more invested in the Peter Parker side of things. As you become a teenager, you see parallels between what Peter is going through and your own life experiences. Coming back to that same issue as an adult, perhaps you see some flaws, or how a few aspects might seem dated, but you can also now see the story mechanics and metaphors the writer was trying to get across. The understanding of those things enhances your enjoyment of the story even more. 

That's a fair bit of mileage to get from a single issue of a Spider-Man comic book that may have only cost a quarter or 75 cents to begin with. So why do publishers now have kiddie titles and adult titles as totally separate experiences at opposite ends of the spectrum? I mean in general they lean heavily adult because the focus is more on presenting violence rather than action. Now Vertigo is inherently an adult line and it doesn't really use mainline superheroes (at least when it's not connected to DC mainline). But take Cry For Justice, to my knowledge that wasn't part of some alternate line of books.

Why not publish superhero comic books for a general audience that readers can keep coming back to at any age? They can not only relive what they liked about the story the first time, but discover something new about it.

Have a great weekend!

- Matt

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

FBU Roundtable: Darker/Edgier Green Lantern?

Now I know that comicdoms reaction to the Green Lantern movie was, ahem, mixed but I think Warner Bros. President Jeff Robinov seems to have found a way to unite us all by promising to make the sequel "darker and edgier"

Needless to say, when I saw that, I quickly called an emergency meeting of the Flashback Universe Blog Squad to discuss this development. Here is what we had to say. (Note: the covers are just there for spacing.)

JIM: Yeah...because that's what the audiences enjoyed in the first Iron Man Movie - all the Dark and Edgy stuff in it. Wait...there wasn't any was there? Look, I get it; The Dark Knight made a lot of money. But isn't it just possible that a dark edgy movie might fit Batman because he's that type of character? (I also think Ledger's performance and death contributed to the box office as well, but that's another topic for another day.)

If anything, Green Lantern needed to be more fun. I don't know that any kids (or adults not familiar with the character) that watched that movie really got a sense that having a power ring would be fun or cool.

Matt, Have you seen any kids picking up GL stuff in the bookstore?

MATT: We had a table and endcap set up with GL stuff. There's even these beginning reader type books that had little files on all the various aliens and of course Hal himself. I haven't checked actual sales numbers but it doesn't look as though a lot of it moved.

I agree with you about it being more fun and I think spending much more of the movie on Oa would have helped with that. Earth would be fine as a way to bookend the thing but the experience should have been following Hal into this brand new world and his training.

"Dark and edgy" possibly the only phrase more tiresome in regards to superhero comics than "post 9/11 world". Seeing the movie versions adopt that as the default solution to everything would be pretty pathetic. Besides, do these people really think Green Lantern had an excess of joy and that's what killed it in theaters?

CLAYTON: Ok I confess to being maybe the only Green Lantern fan out there who has not had to time to se the movie as yet! I hope to be able to do so when I take my vacation around the first week of October.

With that being said, Green Lantern did come in basically last in line of the super hero movies this summer. At least from what I have read. But there is not one person who I have talked to that didn't like the movie.

From what I have seen, most of comicdom has the "darker is better" mindset. So it doesn't surprise me in the least that it would carry over to their moves as well. In my opinion, Green Lantern is not the Dark Knight, and shouldn't be treated as such. I know they are going off the Sinestro War, but seem to be forgetting that when they turned GL into Parralax (which I may have spelled wrong), the readers didn't seem too fond of it.

PIERRE: I am not surprised by that direction. It is pretty typical from producers.

They see how Green Lantern under-performed.... and without really understanding why.... they try to conjure up an answer. In short.... they don't have a clue as to what happened.

They figure that Dark Knight was successfull because it was dark. Not because people might have thought it was a well made... well wrtitten... well filmed movie with good actors. It HAD succeeded because it was dark. So if Green Lantern did not succeed... it must have been because ot was not "dark enough"... right??

It cannot be because the editing was choppy because they took out a lot of scenes at the last minute. Or because they repeated the Galactus mistake from the 2nd FF movie and made the main villain a big cloud. Or because they tried to introduce to many characters/elements in the first movie.

It HAD to be because it was not dark enough. Sounds like a lot of BS talk from the producers to try to save face. A producers will never admit that a project did badly because they failled to do their job properly.

They have to assign the blame elsewhere. In this case... the it's not "dark enough" excuse/comment. Personally... I loved the Green Lantern movie.... but I am not blind to it's flaws. The flaws did not keep me from enjoying the movie. But it seems that it kept a LOT of people from going to see that film.

I understand where they went wrong.... but sadly if all they can come up with to explain the poor performance of the Green Lantern film is that it was not "dark enough".... I fear that they will make a lot of the same mistakes in making the sequel.

I guess we will have to wait and see.

CAINE: I wouldn't mind a "darker and grittier" GL movie, but for the right reasons, not because a producer thinks it's the golden ticket to success that they seem to think it is.

First off you can't do "Dark & Gritty" with Ryan Reynolds, he's a comedian with spot on timing.  He would have made an AWESOME FLASH but he just wasn't right for the GREEN LANTERN.  If they are going to do "dark and gritty" Reynolds will simply have to go.  On that note, with HAL JORDAN representing "The Best of us" (us being the lantern corp) then HAL probably has to go as well, unless they are telling a story where he's loosing it and going insane - then they may be able to pull it off.

The key(s) to making a successful GL film are as follows:

  • Decide if the movie will be about the "Corp" or a solitary lantern
  • Focus on which ever you decide from the first point
  • Leave Earth and normal humans who do not possess a GL ring out of the movie (with the possible exception of a human GL's significant other) and keep it in space
  • What ever you do, which ever lantern you focus on, insert a 2nd lantern for the b story and be ready to focus the next movie on that character
Oh, and if the producers MUST MUST MUST have Earth in the movie then let us focus on FATALITY, she's an awesome GL vila

TREY: I can’t immediately say that “darker” or “edgier” wouldn’t help, but I’m wary of the idea that what is successful in comics is what mainstream theater audiences want to see.  The article suffers from a bit of “this is what I like, so of course it will be popular!”  Fans (me included) would make different superheroes films than the ones we get—but I think its an unproven  assertion that that would make them more economically successful.

The only non-comic book fan opinion I have (a friend in the film industry) sited the “silly” aliens and heavy CGI as what he didn’t like about the film.  These are the very things the article suggests should be played up.

After Dark Knight, Watchmen was a product of the idea that darker sales tickets.  After Watchmen’s under performance, WB decided to move away from darkness.  Now they’re going back.  It seems like flailing.

My thoughts on Green Lantern’s cool reception: it followed the same basic character arc as Iron Man (the same arc as followed by Thor basically) but with a less compelling lead, and just good old fashion audience fatigue at getting told the same story with the same stock character archetypes over and over.  The film tried to do too many things (it’s science fiction! it’s romance! it’s daddy issues drama! It’s action!) and got muddled.  Now, I don’t see enough difference between Thor and GL to account for the box office returns, but I think its part of a downhill arc of too much reliance on formula in supers films that Captain America reversed.

Well, that's our thoughts on the matter - what do you think?

- Jim

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Three Black Orchids

I have to admit, back when I started reading super hero comics (early 1970's), I always favored the super heroine! Yes, I grew up in a very different time, and the idea that a girl could not only hold her own in a fight, but look so darn good doing it! So between my love for the heroines, and little known characters, I admit to my favorite being DC's Black Orchid!

(Adventure Comics #428, 1973) Not only was she strong, bulletproof, and had a really cool costume (which we did actually see much of in her adventures), but she was a master of disguise as well! I think this is what really attracted me to this character; she was different, more original. Almost like 1930's pulp hero. Nobody knew who she was, and nobody even saw her coming until they were caught.

She only appeared in 3 issues of Adventure Comics, then ran as a back-up in the Phantom Stranger for 10 issues. Then she basically disappeared for many years, and believe me the character has never been the same. She had a few guest spots or cameo appearances before joining the Suicide Squad for a few issues.
When DC announced that there was going to be a new Black Orchid Mini-series in 1988, I was beside myself with excitement! I though “Finally!!” Well, I thought that until I saw it. All I can think of the new Black Orchid was...why? Why would they take a great pulp heroine, and turn her into a plant elemental?? My exact thoughts really should never be printed but lets just say I was sorely disappointed and leave it at that, shall we?

The potential of the Black Orchid has never left my mind!

It was years later when I finally got a light at the end of my tunnel. I was researching what heroes were in public domain, and what ones that weren't currently in use, and I came across a familiar name: The Black Orchid! And I considered myself doubly blessed, because there was not just one, but two! (And for all you other writers out there, I call dibs!)

First, in 1943, there was one I call P.I. Black Orchid. She was created by George Tuska and appeared in Harvey Comics' All New Short Story Comics #2.

She was really Judy Allen, Private Investigator. She had a partner by the name of Rocky Ford. Now the rest of her story strikes me as the pilot for the Golden Age Green Lantern/Harlequin relationship, yet a bit different.

It turns out that Rocky Ford was really the super hero known as the Scarlet Nemesis, and apparently teamed up with the Black Orchid before. In their adventure called “The Case of the Crumbling Skyscrapers”, and I counted 2 times Black Orchid saved the Scarlet nemesis, to the 1 time he saves her. Not that anybody is keeping score.

At the end of the story, both Judy and Rocky think to themselves in a “if he only knew who I really was” kind of way.

This was the only appearance of either Black Orchid or Scarlet Nemesis. Too bad, it would have been a great on going series!

The second golden age Black Orchid I mentioned appeared in Tops Comics Top Comics (1944) No that is not really a repeat, That is what the comic was called, and it didn't have an issue number. I think I will call her secretary Black Orchid.

I confess, that I haven't actually read her story, simply because I can't find a downloadable issue of Tops Comics. But she really intrigues me and here is why:

She was really Diana Dawn secretary of District Attorney by day, glamorous costumed detective by night. She fought zombies and a villain by the name of Dr Arso (and I thought I had a bad name) in the only adventure I know she had.

Now this one had an interesting gimmick. I would say that she was both the most over dressed and under dressed heroine of her time. She wore what looks like a heavy sports coat and knee-length skirt. But the funny thing is her jacket and skirt always got damaged and had to be removed, so she ended up fighting in what looks like a nice little teddy.

Obviously she was created to appeal to the gentleman-type of reader.

I can only hope that somebody somewhere can bring these two heroines back, because I feel like their stories are far from over.

Check out this issue of 1944 issue of Consolidated Comics to read about Diana Dawn! Thanks to Narfstar and Richard B for the scan!

- Clayton

Friday, August 5, 2011

Secret Origins: The Fantastic Four

Editor's Note: Today, FBU is pleased to bring you an interesting find.  Trey Causey brought to my attention a magazine article that appears to be from the Marvel Universe itself…

In 1961, to all appearances, the Soviet Union was winning the space race.  After a string of firsts, Yuri Gagarin officially became the first human in space on April 12.  The next month, NASA, playing catch-up, would launch Alan Sheppard on a suborbital flight.  Sheppard would be proclaimed as the first American in space.

The official story is wrong.  What is not widely known is that the first Americans in space were civilians, flying an unauthorized test of an experimental spacecraft designed to take humans to Mars before the end of the decade.  What’s more, their flight pre-dated Gagarin’s by months.  This was a secret part of America’s space program—the strange twin to the more conventional and image-conscious Apollo program.  It was an attempt not only to beat the Communists but also to send a message to the alien species that had taken an interest in the Earth over the past decade.

These pioneers would become publicly lauded heroes but of a different sort.  Their strange adventures are widely celebrated, though not always believed.   Their true contributions to history would be publicized predominantly in the pages of a comic book.

This is the true story of how it began: the real story of America’s first space flight and the heroes it created.

In May of 1961 (as the story goes), Jack Liebowitz, publisher of DC Comics, had a golf game with Martin Goodman, his counterpart at Atlas (soon to be Marvel) Comics.  Liebowitz bragged about the success of the Justice League of America, a comic book presenting the exploits of fictional superheroes (Or so it was widely believed.  Gardner Fox, and eventually Julius Schwartz knew better).  The Justice League was part of a string of titles DC had that exploited the renewed interest in superheroes.

Goodman’s company, like most comic book companies, had no superhero-theme titles at the time.  Superheroes had fallen out of favor in the early 1950s at the height of the Cold War.  The anti-superhero climate had lead to congressional hearings on the subversive influence on America’s youth of superhero comics themselves, instigated by Dr. Frederic Wertham.

What Goodman’s company specialized in was schlocky horror tales of monsters and aliens.  Some of these were based on news reports or rumors.  Others were completely fictional.  Almost all exaggerated the size and destructive nature of the unusual creatures involved.  The company had westerns and romance comics as well, but all of these added up to only moderate commercial success.

When Leibowitz told Goodman the sales figures on his first two issues of the Justice League, Goodman decided superheroes might be just what his company needed.  At the soonest opportunity, Goodman summoned his cousin-in-law and comic book editor-in-chief, Stan Lee, to his office and told him: “maybe we oughta do some superheroes.”

Lee’s first attempt rushed into print the fictionalized exploits of a sorcerer and monster-fighter he called “Dr. Droom.”  This unlikely nom de guerre was necessary to help fictionalize the adventures of Dr. Anthony Ludgate Druid, whose permission Lee had not obtained before using his likeness.  Lee reportedly got what real information he had on Dr. Druid from an eavesdropping employee of the exclusive club where Druid and the other self-styled “Monster Hunters” met.  Never particularly popular, the Dr. Droom series came to an end around the time Lee introduced the world to the group that would form the nucleus of the nascent Marvel Comics empire.

A newspaper article from Los Angeles would suggest to Lee a superhero comic to rival the Justice League.  The now-famous photo shows a group of four non-costumed but obviously superhuman individuals in action against a monster, bursting up through the street.  A striking image to be sure—but what particularly got Lee’s attention was that one of these superhumans was a flying man with a body of flame.  A human torch.

The adventures of the original Human Torch had been published by Goodman’s company (then called Timely).  Goodman had, at the time, paid an honorarium to Phineas Horton for inside information on (and the rights to) stories about his creation.

Goodman still held the rights to the name since the original bearer had disappeared, and in any case, was an android with unclear legal standing.  Lee decided “The Human Torch” was the perfect name for this new superhuman—and with that idea, he had a plan.  Lee called a journalist contact he had in California to see what he could find out about these new heroes.

It only took a couple of days for Lee to find out the identities of some of the people in the picture.  The man with the stretching powers was well-known, at least in scientific circles.  He was Reed Richards.  The monster-man wasn’t easy to recognize, but the reporter told a Lee that this was Benjamin Grimm, former test pilot.

Lee was shocked.  He had heard of both these men!  Richards he had read about in magazines.  Ben Grimm he had heard about from a sometime Atlas employee—one who had actually met the man.

Jack Kirby, who would become the artist for Lee’s new comic, had grown up in Manhattan’s Lower East Side.  At a high school party, Kirby had met another Jewish kid from the neighborhood—a football star named Ben Grimm.  Though the two had only a chance meeting, but Kirby had followed Grimm’s football exploits at State U, and his wartime adventures in the South Pacific through the neighborhood grapevine.

Lee and Kirby managed to get in touch with Grimm, and through him Richards, and the Storm siblings.  Lee proposed a deal to help the new heroes and his comic company.  The Four would be paid for the use of their likenesses and exploits in what would be billed as “The World’s Only 100% Authorized Comics Magazine.”  Lee, with his gift for alliteration, even came up with a title—the Fantastic Four.

The association with Lee and Kirby may have benefited the newly minted superhumans in ways beyond the financial.  Perhaps it was the writer Lee, or maybe it was Kirby who had worked on the strangely parallel Challengers of the Unknown for the competition, who proposed that the four become a superhero team.  It certainly seems likely that the duo suggested the idea of costumes and codenames—as the quartet’s costumeless debut suggests.

There was just one problem.  The four had experienced some major financial difficulties in the first months of their career (the recession of 1960-61).  Casting about for funding, they had just signed a deal with S-M Studios to make a documentary film about their exploits.  This contract had turned over all media rights to S-M.

In a twist worthy of a Lee/Kirby yarn, S-M was owned by Namor, the Sub-Mariner.  Though Namor was an enemy of the four, perhaps he was more positively disposed towards Atlas, the successor to Timely, publisher of fictionalized accounts of Namor’s War World II exploits.  Whatever his motivations, Namor signalled his subordinates that they could make a deal with Lee.  The Fantastic Four was coming to comics.
NEXT WEEK: The Real Four…

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

High Rez Reviews 1 | Darkhorse Unleashed

Editor's Note: While I'm housesitting for my in-laws in their modem connected house, CAINE has returned to help me out by starting a new series of posts here on the FBU. Welcome back Caine!

It all started three years ago.  Jim, the editor and chief bottle washer around here, got it in head that comic books published on paper were simply going the way of the Dodo and he wasn't exactly alone in that revelation.  He started posting under a new column heading: PAPER COMIC DEATHWATCH and many many of those posts were filled with all sorts of possibilities regarding devices to create, publish, and read digital comics on (they didn't even have an official name back then).  Some of it we saw coming, some of it we called out right, and some of it missed the boat but digital comics are here to stay!

Today I'll be reviewing a comic purchased on my iPad from the DARKHORSE digital comic store: STARWARS: The Force Unleashed!  As a rule these High Res Reviews will be spoiler free unless we give you lots of warning of the contrary.  So to that end I'm going to steal the story overview from it's amazon page, no reason to reinvent the wheel here:

"Since childhood, Vader’s nameless agent has known only the cold, mercenary creed of the Sith. His past is a void; his present, the carrying out of his deadly orders. But his future beckons like a glistening black jewel with the ultimate promise: to stand beside the only father he has ever known, with the galaxy at their feet. It is a destiny he can realize only by rising to the greatest challenge of his discipleship: destroying Emperor Palpatine.

The apprentice’s journeys will take him across the far reaches of the galaxy, from the Wookiee home world of Kashyyyk to the junkyard planet of Raxus Prime. On these missions, the young Sith acolyte will forge an unlikely alliance with a ruined Jedi Master seeking redemption and wrestle with forbidden feelings for his beautiful comrade, Juno Eclipse. And he will be tested as never before–by shattering revelations that strike at the very heart of all he believes and stir within him long-forgotten hopes of reclaiming his name . . . and changing his destiny." ~Amazon

I've not played the game that is the basis for the comic, but I have read the novelization of this story as well as the comic and I have to say the comic is by far my favorite way to experience it.  The story is formulated very similar to the way the first three movie plots were formulated (particularly A New Hope and Empire Strikes Back) and we open up with a shot of deep space as a rag tag band with a rebellious nature are in search of something they very much need to begin an important quest.

The art team (Brian Ching, Bong Dazo, and Wayne Nichols) gives us a beautiful portrait of the STAR WARS universe panel by panel and done so in a "gritty" fashion the way A New Hope was grittier and dirtier than most scifi films before it.

Soon a droid is found, and as you might suspect, it plays a pivotal role in the story as well as the narration of the story focusing on Starkiller, Vader's secret Sith apprentice.  The reader is immediately whisked away on mission after clandestine mission as a tag along member of Starkiller's crew with no time to spare as Vader pushes his apprentice farther and farther, all the while expecting him to fail at each turn of the story.  The speed and pace of the action in the story is very similar to that of a video game and you can tell the author (Haden Blackman) very much intended it to be so.

As it takes place two years before the battle of Yavin (The Deathstar run from A New Hope) The Force Unleashed does an excellent job of tying the two trilogies together and utilizing popular characters we've all come to know and love.  It's a fast paced action adventure comic set in one of the most recognizable scifi environments ever to be published in.  The Force Unleashed delivers everything that Digital Comic fans and Star Wars fans alike have come to expect when they fire up their tablet or smart phone for graphic entertainment.  The Force Unleashed is done beautifully in full color and at 128 pages it's well worth the $5.99 price tag (11.00 cheaper than the novel and 10.00 cheaper than the game). 

The DARKHORSE digital comics store (and app) have been live for some time now.  This is my first comic actually purchased from the app which has some very nice features.

Before we go briefly into the features I should note that the DARKHORSE app is significant due to the fact that it's not been built/developed on top of ComiXology's own app as both MARVEL and DC's comic app have been.  DARKHORSE has in house developers and their app, while sharing some of the same options, is different from those others.

The DARKHORSE app is free to download and it includes a store, a book shelf, and archive (collection) sections.  The archive is set up for you to send your comics too in order to free up memory/space on your tablet or smart phone.  With one touch collected (archived) books can be moved back to the bookshelf section to be read again.  The store has a moderate selection of widely popular comics for free and then plenty more to buy.

One thing I really enjoyed about using the DARKHORSE app was how easy it was to navigate the comic pages.  By moving your finger across the screen pretty much any way other than to the left (or back) the comic moves forward for you.  It seems to "know" when you require a wider shot consisting of having more of the page showing on your screen and when you'll want it to focus on a panel or even a part of a panel.

From time to time this zooms in just a bit to far and begins to pixelate the image but the clarity returns immediately once it's stopped zooming in so far in on any one particular page.  The only real complaint I have about the app is the speed in which it loads, begins to expose books to you, and how fast it downloads a book that you've chosen to either buy or receive for free from the store.  The entire app seems just a tad too slow in nearly all areas until you get the comic downloaded to your machine.

Hardly an issue that would keep me from future purchases by any means.  Maybe I'll take a look at Firefly next.

Well that about does it for this round of HIGH RES REVIEWS.  What do you think?  Are you a tablet owner?  Are you reading comics on it?  If so are you buying comics on it?  Thoughts on the 5.99 price point?  We'd love to hear from you about this review, and about digital comics in general.  Feel free to leave any comments you may have.



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