Friday, October 25, 2013

The Demon vs The Phantom Stranger

Continuing my Halloween themed Lost 100 Pagers, I present a cover featuring two of my favorite Bronze Age arcane adventurers:  Jack Kirby's Demon and the mysterious Phantom Stranger.


The art for this cover was designed and created by FBU Goto Artist Reno Maniquis, who came up with the interesting notion of Etrigan trapping the Phantom Stranger in a pentagram (which strikes me as something that might actually work given that the Stranger is often alluded to as being a fallen angel of some sort.)

Here is the original artwork without my 100 Pager embellishments:


As I was working on this cover, I thought about how many times DC has presented the Demon in a regular title. As a refresher, here's what I recalled:

First there was his initial run by creator Jack Kirby (click to see this page in full size)


Sadly, Kirby's run didn't last nearly long enough. After Kirby left DC to go back to Marvel, the character would languish only appearing in a few Brave and the Bolds (which is where I discovered him.)

His next solo series - which I was eagerly waiting for upon first hearing about in the mid 80's was with rising star Matt Wagner, creator of Mage, an independent series I had enjoyed.

 

I had high hopes for this series, but was greatly disappointed by it at the time. To be honest, I don't remember much about it (I have a vague memory of the Etrigan and Jason Blood being separated, which is always a mistake) but other than that, no details stand out. I should check it out again to see if it was really as bad as I my younger self thought.

From there, the character would make a few cameos in some 80's comics with his most notable being in Alan Moore's Swamp Thing run. It would be awhile (1990) before he got another run in a full blown series - this time written by Alan Grant and pencilled by Val Semeiks.

I tried a few issues from this run, but it never really struck a chord with me. It may have been a bit too jokey for my tastes (perhaps emulating the jovial tone of Giffen's Justice League?) On the other hand, I've seen it convincingly argued that this version of the Demon is this most definitive (outside of the Kirby run) and my tastes in comics and art have changed quite a bit in the last 20 years, so it's possible I would enjoy the series more now. I will probably round up the first 12 issues and give it another go.

Next up is another near miss I'm afraid (based on the short length of the run) when John Byrne took a shot at the character.


This run wasn't bad (as most Byrne stuff tends to be pretty solid) but the title didn't really ignite with modern readers, most of which were only familiar with Byrne as that crazy guy who is always getting his rather incendiary message board post reported on Bleeding Cool.

The last entry in the list presented a non-rhyming Etrigan who was mostly Demon In Name Only. Paul Cornell's Demon Knights.

The premise of this series really had me excited but the overly large cast of characters (none of which really seemed to actually IN character) grew wearisome. The series felt a bit like it was a story Cornell had dreamed up with other characters and he was shoe horning elements of the DC universe into it to fulfill his monthly obligations.

Which brings us to now? With so many incarnations of the Demon having come before (and only the 90's version lasting very long) one has to wonder what will the next one be like? And how long will it last?

Only time will tell.

Happy Halloween!

- Jim

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Aquaman (and Namor) vs the Creature of the Black Lagoon

Here's one of two Lost 100 Pagers I'm presenting this month in honor of Halloween. This one features the undersea battle we would a like to see but probably never will: Aquaman vs The Creature of the Black Lagoon!



The artwork for this cover comes to us from the talented Randy Valiente who was recommended to me by Reno.

Here is the actual art without the cover embellishments:


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

Bonus: While looking for reference materials for this cover artwork, I stumbled across what looks like someones mock ups for a Sub-Mariner vs Creature of the Black Lagoon movie. Does anyone know the origin of these images:




I also found something I remembered seeing before - some panels from a actual Sub-Mariner comic story (Sub-Mariner #35 published in 1954) in which he fought a CotBL looking opponent.


On the DC side, the closest approximation or analogue to the CotBL didn't appear in Aquaman (as far as I know) but rather in the Legion of Super-heroes issue 202...

Where we were introduced to the Dave Cockrum designed Devil Fish (albeit, this creature lacks a lot of the distinctive elements of the Universal sea beast. I suspect that was partly intentional.)

If anyone knows of a better DC cameo by the Creature please let me know.

- Jim

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Super Born: Seduction of Being Interview

Months ago, I posted some reviews of some superhero novels I had enjoyed. This post put me on the radar of new novelists who wanted to let me know about their new Superhero novels. Today, I present an interview from one such novelist, Keith Kornell, the author of Super Born: Seduction of Being



FBU: What is Super Born: Seduction of the Being about?
KK: The Super Born are a group of normal average women born during a time of Cold War performance enhancing experiments who develop super powers in their thirties challenging the lives that had come to know. This book revolves around a Journalist's obsessive search for one of the Super Born who has chosen to risk her existing life to use her powers in public service.

FBU: What are the powers of your main character?
The woman the Journalist searches for is known as the B.I.B. and her powers are similar to that of superman; speed, flight, strength with the addition of fashionable shoes, nurturing motherhood, and vulnerability.


FBU: If you had to compare her to other super-heroines, who would you say she's most like? (Personality, Powers)
It would be a tough stretch to compare her to other super-heroines who are typically women given male characteristics and stylized female bodies. Being that she had an average life for 30+ years and only recently has developed powers she can't understand or sometimes control, she is some what uniquely feminine and somewhat real compared to other heroines.


FBU: What comics inspired you to write this book?
I think a super hero novel is a natural extension of the roots of super hero in the comics. The book was a work of inspiration whose source is mostly unknown even to me.  It's source was a simple conversation I overheard about women complaining about the childlike nature of the local men and how they felt very powerful and strong compared to them.  


FBU: Were you a big comic fan growing up? If so, what comics were among your favorites?
I was more of a James Bond Novel fan at a young age, writing secret agent style stories. However, a great respect for women has always put strong female characters in my stories.  I think making them Super Heroes is just a natural extension and maybe exaggeration of that concept.


FBU: Do you read comics now? If so, which ones do you like?
Sorry, I am not much of a comic reader. I prefer writing novels and making film productions.  We have numerous Super Born videos.


FBU: Do you plan on writing more superhero themed books?
Yes, Super Born is a multi-book series.  This is the first and concerns the search by the Journalist for the B.I.B.  The second book concerns the Journalist's relationship with the B.I.B. and the B.I.B.'s relationship with the other Super Born.  I would like to turn the complete series into a feature film or possibly a TV series.


FBU: Have you read any other superhero themed books that have come out now or in the past?
When I went to a Barnes & Noble and asked where the Super Hero Novel's were, I was directed to the graphic novels section.  Most super hero characters have come out of the comics and graphic novels. So even finding a super hero themed book is difficult.  When I wrote Super Born I had no idea that would be the case.


FBU: If they were going to make a movie out of Super Born: Seduction of the Being, who would you see cast as the main characters?
Now you are talking, because I have given a great deal of thought to producing Super Born and have made a low budget film version of the book's first chapter for promotional reasons. Logan, the journalist is a humorous romantic lead, so my first thought for him has been Ashton Kutcher as he can do comedy and is attractive enough to be a lead.  I have a great deal of trouble with the B.I.B. mostly because of age.  If Elizabeth Banks were younger she would do well and if Gillian Jacobs were older she would do well. The woman who starred in my video was Amy Brenckle.  She did an excellent job in the film, is the right age, and has moved out to Hollywood just recently to work on a project. Of course I have been spoiled by the model who did my book cover.  She is not an actress but embodies the look of both the Super Hero side and the single mother side of my book's main character.  Anyone playing the B.I.B. in my film will have to live up to that.


FBU: Thank you for this interview. Is there anything else you would like to tell people before we go?
KK: I think the relationship between super hero comics and novels such as mine, is a natural extension of the same base.  Writing the novel gives me the opportunity to add depth and humanity to the characters by showing all the sides of the character via their thoughts and feelings. Doing this has allowed me to make the B.I.B. a heroic yet 'real' character. She has to deal with the eternal questions that define all true heroes, as well as practical real life concerns Superman never had to concern himself with, such as if I go into this death defying battle what happens to my daughter if I don't come back out? In that way extending the comics with a novel adds depth and a more real, less fantasy, sense to the work for the reader to enjoy.
- Jim

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Marvel Monster Makeovers

Last year, when I posted my popular Ten Lesser Known Bronze Age Monsters, one commenter asked about Man-Wolf (who probably should have made the list, but that's the problem with Top Ten lists. There's only so much room.)

Thinking about Man-Wolf though, it occurred to me that when he appeared in his first solo outing in the pages of Creatures On The Loose...


He was still in full-on werewolf mode. However when he later appeared in his second solo outing in the pages of Marvel Premiere 45...

... the monsterous element was no longer an essential part of the character. He was more of a sword and sorcery character who just happened to look like a werewolf.

This caused me to ponder: What other creature characters had undergone a similar personality or appearance metamorphosis wherein they evolved into something less monstrous?

The first and best representative of this group has got to be the Fantastic Four's Thing. Originally, Jack Kirby DID play up the monstrous aspect of Ben Grimm:

But by the time the Bronze Age rolled around, his appearance and personality had changed. His face became more expressive and his lumpy clay hide became the trademarked rocky scales.

John Byrne dramatically demonstrated the differences in his early appearances when he had The Thing travel into the past to adminster a cure to his younger self in the pages of Marvel Two-In-One 50.

Later, when he became the regular writer on Fantastic Four, John Bryne tried to revert the character back to his roots in the 80's, but I think my reaction as a kid was like most fans, so that was quickly rectified. Over the years, other people have tried to tinker with his appearance...

...but those alterations never stick.

Now another character who went through a different monster-makeover is Deathlok.
When he first appeared in the pages of Marvel Spotlight, his decayed facial appearance and futuristic army outfit made for a striking contrast.

But most recently, Marvel has revamped (or is it a retcon?) the character to where he now pretty much looks like Cyborg from Teen Titans.

And while I'm not wild about losing so much of the original look, the latest version is a far cry better than the Marvel M-Tech version that appeared for a few issues in the early 2000's.

Another example of a personality makeover is Werewolf By Night. When Jack Russell's furry alter ego first appeared, there was no mistaking his grisly intent.

But as the series continued through the years (and the Bronze Age Monster fad lost its charm) the beastial nature was downplayed as Russell gained control of the werewolf aspect (except on nights with a full moon.)

Over the years, attempts have been made to revitalize this character by bringing him back to his roots. The most recent being the 2009 Dead of Night limited series:

But ultimately, I think these attempts to revitalize the monster characters by restoring their roots fail because when the creatures all first appeared, their hook was the suggested potential for violence and terror which they had by dint of their monsterous nature.

Now, however, in a world where Wolverine routinely stabs 30 people in an issue of X-men and DC can't go 7 pages with someone getting a sword shoved in their back...

...a flesh rending werewolf and blood sucking vampire seem a bit quaint.

- Jim

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