Monday, November 26, 2012

Kamandi 100 Page Super Spectacular

About 10 years ago, I became obsessed with collecting back issues of the old DC 100 Page Super Spectaculars. (For the uninitiated, check out to see what I'm talking about.) And while I was able to collect a good many of them, I eventually gave up. The thicker bindings makes finding ones in good condition difficult and pricey.

However, my fascination with the format has never waned, and today I'm introducing a new series on the FBU - Lost 100 Pagers! The idea is to present versions of 100 Page Spectaculars that never existed (but could have) featuring artwork from talented artists from the internet. With all that said, I present our introductory offering to this series:

The Kamandi 100 Page Super Spectacular

The main panel artwork here comes from Nick Damon. Nick is a writer/artist who has worked in the film industry, the toy industry and had the immense pleasure of working with Disney’s Imagineering on two projects for their theme parks. He has just released his new novel, Shadow of Oz available here: 

If you like Nick's Kamandi's artwork, check out his other work at his website and his Deviant Art page.

He's got some incredible samples that I'm sure will bring a smile to your face is it did me.

I'll leave you with this question:
Are there any Lost 100 Pagers you would like to see in particular?

- Jim

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Pierre vs The Great Darkness Saga

Editor’s Note: Today Pierre presents a review of the Deluxe Edition of the Great Darkness Saga and shows how it reveals lazy storytelling is in new DC 52 Justice League. Warning: If you haven’t read the original story, there will be some spoilers in his review. - Jim

I can't say that I am a fan of the Legion of Super-Heroes comic book series. I bought the occasional LoSH comics here and there, but I never bought their comic on a monthly basis.

I first discovered the LoSH in some treasury edition showing the wedding of Lightning Lad and Saturn Girl, and damn how that was a great comic. It had action, intrigue, and was filled with over a score of super-heroes for you to discover.

This was my first Legion comic, and although I only knew Superboy, I had no problem understanding who the main characters were, as there was a nifty Who's Who at the end of the comic. Damn how I loved that comic.

Then the next time I saw the LoSH (at least some of them) was in the pages of the Karate Kid comic which featured the Legion’s master martial artist stranded in our own time.

There were also some Legion short stories as a back-up feature in Kamandi. Those were some cute tales, although the story with Karate Kid and Nemesis Kid joining the Legion was kind of spoiled for me from reading the Karate Kid comic.

Then I finally got a LoSH comic, the first issues were a 3 parter which told how R.J. Brande started the Legion. It seems those stories were from a comic called Secrets of the Legion of Super-Heroes. And then the series continued with what was issue 284 of the Legion comic. But somehow I ended up missing a bunch of issues until I got the last 2 issues of The Great Darkness Saga (TGDS) by Paul Levitz and Keith Giffen.

In Canada, the LoSH comic was merged with the New Teen Titans comic, and that is how I got to read the end of TGDS, as the second half of the Legion of Super-Heroes/New Teen Titans comic. Talk about a Fan-tastic combo!

 And although I missed most of the TGDS story, I was still able to understand what was going on. However, I always regretted that I had missed the beginning of the saga. So imagine my delight when over a decade later, I got my hands on TGDS TPB, and at last I was able to read the whole story…or so I thought. It was incomplete in a number of ways which I discovered when I recently got the Deluxe Edition of TGDS.

The Deluxe Edition starts about half a dozen issues before the TPB, and ends a couple of issues after the TPB. Although it is missing the story The Curse that was at the end of the TPB that seems to be setting up a possible sequel to that story. I recall a story that was called The Quiet Darkness Saga. Forgive an ignorant fool, but, was that a sequel to "the Great Darkness Saga"? (Editor's Note: Not really. Written by Al Gordon, it is viewed more as a thematic sequel.)

Also there are some pages that are not quite as I remember them. In issue 291, there is a short story called Leaders and Lovers that is not drawn quite like what I remember. It almost looks like they redrew those pages for the TPB.

About 3 decades later, it is easy to see why this remained one of the defining moments of the Legion. It was an Epic tale that felt BIG and important at the time - but it did not start as such. It started slowly but surely with Bouncing Boy reminiscent of his fallen comrades. Then the tale continues with Timber Wolf who wants to undergo a procedure to look more human. Not sure why, I loved Timber Wolf's look, but I would not be surprised if this was done in an attempt to distinguish him from a certain mutant from the Great White North who was starting to be popular at the time. ;)

And from there, it keeps on building, very slowly. Through the adventures of the Legion, we get some nice character moments, but we also get the bits and pieces that would lead to TGDS as they are slowly put into place.

The first minions are put into play, and then the mystery of this mysterious enemy that is pulling the strings from the shadow, until we get the great reveal: The master of the great darkness is Darkseid!

During my original reading of the story, I had not yet read the New Gods, so I was unfamiliar with Darkseid. Yet, while this was my first encounter with him, Levitz still was able to convey a great sense of epic evil in the character such that even a newbie like myself understood what a dire menace he was. You really got the impression that the Legion were in way over their head. Ultimately, it took no less than the entire Legion, and a whole planet of Supermen (Daxamites) just to make him retreat.

Since that was MY introduction to Darkseid, I cannot help but think of the GDS every time I see the character. This results in the unfortunate comparison to any story he is in and the GDS.

That is probably why when I saw what was done with him in the pages of the NU 52 Justice League, I could not help but feel how it diminishes this once great character. Nothing in that Justice League story makes us feel that Darkseid is any threat.

Geoff Johns tried to use the DCU's biggest badass (as the kids would say) to make the League look formidable, but it’s just not that easy. Simply putting all the toys on the table does not make a great story. In those NU 52 JLA’s we aren’t really shown why Darkseid is a credible menace. Compared to our memory of a Darkseid from BEFORE the NU 52, this incarnation of the character comes across weak and damaged.

Darkseid was made into this HUGE threat in the LoSH. He was made into a galactic level threat. But not out of thin air, through his actions. He made a clone of Superman, a clone of a Guardian of the Universe, and others to test the might of the Legion. Then he took control of Daxam and arranged for the planet to be under a sun yellow, turning them into a whole planet of Supermen.

He was established as a galactic level threat before the reveal of his identity was even made.

But how was he revealed in the NU 52 Justice League? When he had done nothing more than send in random Parademons to attack the Justice League. They completely diluted the character. He was there just to get his ass kicked and show how badass the League was supposed to be. Johns relies too much on our own memories of who Darkseid is to create drama in the story without ever taking the time to properly establish the character as a true cosmic threat.

DC was too busy wasting splash pages with the Justice League fighting each other and acting like immature teenagers to try and properly establish Darkseid as some sort of a threat.

So, as fun as it was to reread the GDS, it had the unfortunate side-effect of reminding me how sorry most comics are today.

And it is not just with DC, the same thing is true with Marvel. Take the Sentry for example, they were so busy telling us that he had the power of a million exploding suns (whatever that means) but they never showed him doing anything important. (Editor’s Note: Not until way late in the game.)

To modern comic’s writers, I would say this: Show. Don't Tell.

When Wolverine first started, no one was saying how badass/cool he was. He was just Wolverine, and through his actions,. the readers decided that he was badass, that he was cool. And only then did they start describing him as the best there is at what he does, but what he does best isn't very nice.

TGDS is a great example of a multi-issue storyline that is masterfully told. If you don't already own a copy of it in some form, then I highly recommend the Deluxe Edition. DC has put a lot of love and care into this edition. The colors look impressive with the higher grade paper and hard bound cover.

In my opinion, this is one of the best mainstream comic stories ever told. It can hold its own against Jim Shooter’s Korvac Saga (from the Avengers), Claremont and Byrne’s Dark Phoenix Saga and Wolfman and Perez’s The Judas Contract.

Until next time.

- Pierre

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Ten Years of Failed Super Teams

This week saw news that Marvel is relaunching Defenders as an all female team called Fearless Defenders.

My first thought was, "Good luck with that." As Marvel just got finished cancelling their  latest incarnation of Defenders written by Matt Fraction which only managed to last 12 issues. (It had one of the most precipitous second issue falls in the history of comics.) Part of me wants to say people just aren't interested in the Defenders anymore (and that may be true) but as I thought about it, I realized - Most Team Books have failed during the last ten years.

Check out this bandwidth hogging list of cancelled team books that have come out in the last ten year:

Yes, I know we all love the old John Byrne Alpha Flight, but you can't go back.

The Outsiders title will appear on this list in several incarnations I'm afraid.

 These next three comprise a hat trick of failure. DC just won't give up on the Doom Patrol will they?

There is Guardian's of the Galaxy movie coming out in 2014, so that should mean we'll see the next version of this title lasting longer than its predecessors.

This revamped Infinity Inc. came and went so quick, I have no idea how good or bad it was.

This title had the unfortunate duty of following up a really good revamp/incarnation (Justice League: Generation Lost) As it was, this title was so bad, it was in the first wave of DC 52 causalities.

Nextwave was an interesting book at first, but a little Warren Ellis goes a long way.

The announcement of this version of Outsiders caused a bit of a ruckus over at Newsarama where a reviewer by the name of Jess Lemon (a pseudonym for a famous blogger) had the temerity to suggest that it was filled with tired and retreaded ideas. At the time, Lemon's words are heresy, but ten years later, it turns out she was right.

I have a soft spot for The Power Company simply because Busiek found a way to ressurect Simonson's Manhunter.Unfortunately, my soft spot was not enough to keep the title around for long.

 Secret Six was a Gail Simone's take on the Suicide Squad, and I have to admit, it was pretty good at times. Not good enough to make it into the DC 52 relaunch though.

The most notable thing about The Order is it was originally going to be called The Champions (which might have given it more legs in the long run.) however a lawsuit kept Marvel from using that title. But a double whammy of then unknown Fraction and generic name spelled doom for this book.

Like the Doom Patrol, DC wants you to buy a Freedom Fighters comic. No matter how god awful it is. During the last ten years, they've had several ongoing and mini-series under that name.

I was reluctant to put this title on the list simply because in some ways, it's a bit like Neil Gaiman's  Sandman. It really couldn't be continued without the original creators. Still, its sales didn't justify it continuation so it makes the list.

Young Avengers might have last longer if the writer hadn't left in mid story (or whatever happened.)

It wasn't until I started making this list that I discovered Marvel had tried another go with New Warriors. It sure didn't last long.


Runaways was a nice attempt by Marvel to try and do something different, but it just never caught on.

Shadowpact was a DC Supernatural Character book written by Bill Willingham. Sounds like a slam dunk, doesn't it? Unfortunately, it just never caught on.

Currently, here are the list of new Team book that were introduced in the last ten years that have not been cancelled yet:

Secret Avengers
Birds of Prey
Suicide Squad (reintroduced)
Red Hood and the Outlaws
Teen Titans (reintroduced)
Avengers: The Initiative
Avengers Academy

Of the books on that list, only Secret Avengers, Teen Titans and (strangely) Red Hood and the Outlaws are really what I would call healthy.

So you can see why I have my doubts about the success of Marvel's Fearless Defenders. 

Looking at my list, were any of the comics listed one near and dear to your heart? (Like The Power Company was for me.)

- Jim

Monday, November 5, 2012

How are the Legends of the Dark Knight Collections?

Editor's Note: Today Pierre tells us about several Batman Graphic Novel's he's recently bought. - Jim

I have always been a big fan of Batman, or Batman-like characters like the Phantom, the Shadow or Marvel's Nighthawk, but for the past 10 years, I have not been getting many Batman comics. I think the last time I bought a monthly Batman comic was when DC published a Batman comic based on the Bruce Timm animated series or getting my Batman fix from the various Bruce Timm animated series or movies, or from older comics like the Brave and the Bold Showcases.

But lately DC has been releasing some comic compilations labeled Legends of the Dark Knight. I just got the Alan Davis one, and I did get the Jim Aparo one before that. Strangely enough, although I have been a big fan of Alan Davis since Wolverine: Bloodlust and his Batman: Full Circle, I only Had 2 Batman tales by Alan Davis.

The one issue he did that was part of the Batman Year Two TPB, and the Batman: Full Circle that serves as a sequel to Year Two. That was all the Alan Davis Batman that I had until now.

Did his Batman: Full Circle sell so poorly that it did not allow him to do more Batman One-shot?? Was Davis unhappy with the result that he did not want to do any more Batman comics??? II have no idea.

But there are about 8 comics and a short black and white short story in that book.

Reading that book was strange, it made me realize how much the Batman we actually see in Full Circle is pretty much the Pre-Crisis Batman. It highlights how much Batman did not change all that much after the Crisis. The biggest differences concerning Batman seems to have been the changes made to Catwoman, and the Joker being more of a homicidal maniac, but the Joker was actually changed with Killing Joke more than because of Crisis.

But it was fun to see where characters like McSurly and his Club actually came from. And the short black and white tale at the end was a fun and touching little story.

And there was a short tale with the Elongated Man by the Legendary Carmine Infantino. I loved his run on the Flash, and Elongated Man was a guest star on that book from time to time. It was fun to see what I assumed is the last Elongated Man tale by Infantino.

So although not that long, Legends of the Dark Knight by Alan Davis is a fun comic that is a nice contrast with the current Batman comics - worth every penny!

As for the one by Jim Aparo, Damn how the cover is god-awful.

They did a piss poor photoshop job putting that cover together, and damn the colors are way too dark. There wasn't much thought put into that cover. They poorly recolored a B&B cover and slapped the Legends of Dark Knight type on top of it.

The cover of the Alan Davis one was not colored as darkly as the Jim Aparo one, so that cover is not that bad. It is still a cover were they simply slapped the type on top of the cover, but it almost looks fine in this case.

Luckily, the inside artwork by Aparo is not as messed up as the cover. Although with the glossy/shiny paper, the colors are a little oversaturated, but that is a nitpick compared to the cover. I bought a Phantom HC by Aparo not that long ago where the printing was not of the best quality. But with the Batman one, the print quality is fine.

Just so you know how big of a Jim Aparo fan I am, I bought that Batman HC by Aparo even though I already own the same stories in the Showcase format. Damn how he is the PERFECT artist to draw Batman. And the good news is that this seems to be only the first volume of Batman tales by Jim Aparo. Let's hope we don't have to wait too long for the rest of Batman comics that he did.

There are many fine interpretations of Batman, Bolland, Davis, Giordano, Norvik, but Jim Aparo's Batman is the definitive interpretation of the character in my book.


Until next time.
- Pierre


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