Friday, July 30, 2010

The Bronze Age: Part Deux?

FRIDAY'S EDITOR'S NOTE: Continuing my theme of New Columnist Week, today we have a guest column by MattComix, a name many of you may recognize from the comments section of this blog. If the name is unfamiliar to you, then read on for a true introduction...

My name is Matt. I write, I draw, and I dream of heroes. ...and who disguised as a mild-mannered bookseller for a major retailer fights a never ending battle for truth, justice, and other cool stuff!

Seriously though, as a child in the hazy days of the late 1970s my Grandpa would walk to the corner store every morning and while getting the morning paper he would pull a random comic book off the ol' spinner rack to bring to me. So before I could really even read I had begun to develop this insatiable admiration of superheroes and a love of animation, movies and of course comic book art. It was not only the idea of having that freedom to summon power that would break the bonds of our earthly limitations, but also having the courage to use such power to protect life.

When it comes to superheroes whether they are classic American heroes or from other shores like the dynamic henshin-heroes of Japan, my adventures within these wild and colorful fantasy worlds always remind me to do one thing in real life: look up in the sky.

...Welcome aboard Matt! - Jim

The Bronze Age: Part Deux?
In comics fandom, it can be very difficult to have a conversation about current comics or the direction the genre has taken over the course of the past few decades. If you disapprove of what's going on in comics now, people will tell you that you hate change and just want nostalgia. This argument has heated up more than ever thanks to the resurrection of popular Silver Age characters like Hal Jordan and Silver Age status quos like an unmarried Peter Parker. I think changes like this strain believability beyond any reasonable limit, even by the standards of superhero comics, but other people would say that DC and to a lesser extent Marvel are just doing whatever shameless thing it takes to appeal to the nostalgia of older fans like me.

Honestly, I'm not sure who is supposed to find this stuff appealing. Guys like me, who grew up at the end of the Bronze Age and saw the early days of "modern" comics or the current fans, who've been taught since their comic-reading birth that everything was like Superfriends until Miller and Moore descended from the heavens to bless our undeserving world with serious superhero books? It doesn't make sense either way.

I think the big superhero publishers do assume fans that came out of the Bronze Age of comics want these resurrections to work and are against any form of change whatsoever. I think the publishers believe the easiest way to get back in a Silver or Bronze Age fan's good graces is to reverse everything that happened after the 70s or 80s. At the end of the day I can only speak for myself, but I don't think this is true. I think the issue is not that things changed too much but rather that publishers weren't careful about how they transformed characters and status quos. As Uncle Ben tells Peter Parker in the first Spider-Man movie, "Be careful what you change into."

I think any Bronze Age fan is well aware that some degree of change is inevitable. The problem is when the changes we're asked to accept in our favorite characters are just stupid or require silly explanations mired in boring corners of continuity. These clumsy fixes could be avoided if writers asked themselves some simple questions:

  • Does an idea for a character change make sense?
  • Is it a good idea on its own merits?
  • Does it add something to that character over the long-term instead of being a gimmick?
  • Is this a change being made just because its "different or "edgy," something to gain cheap heat that might generate a temporary sales boost that'll go away quickly enough.
  • Does killing a character truly have any storytelling benefit past the shock and angst of their demise? In fact, is there really anything wrong with a given characters status quo in the first place?
Put simply, I think many Bronze Age fans recognize that tradition and innovation don't have to be mutually exclusive. I think that’s the heart of what Bronze Age fans really want. I don't think many of us necessarily wanted to see Wally West dethroned in favor of Barry Allen, especially since all things considered Barry got one of the better write-outs in comics.

For all that various Silver or Bronze Age characters and concepts may be re-appearing in modern comics, it's still the same bands playing the same song. We're still under the same editorial regimes that green-lighted questionable projects like Identity Crisis and Civil War. Marvel can talk about a Heroic Age all it wants, but its output is still full of bloated event stories, pornographically detailed violence, and pretentions of "realism" and "relevance"

Isn't that just the same old grim n' gritty nonsense? It feels like business as usual. The big superhero publishers act like they want to do the time warp again, but are still ashamed of a simple three-letter word that at some point became verboten in the comic industry: fun.

In my view, one of the cooler things about Bronze Age comics had a lot to do with how the stories were approached. Superhero comics had come out of the (arguably) more comedic style of the Silver Age thanks to Marvel, but the industry and the fandom were not yet required to worship at the First Church of Watchmen. Bronze Age books took on a more dramatic tone and had a greater focus on action, but they were still bright, bold, and... well, comic booky as ever. Superhero comics of that era had what I like to refer to as equilibrium, something that won't come back just by resurrecting old characters or resetting your continuity.

Have a great weekend

- Matt

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Lost Universe: Defiant: Warriors of Plasm

Editor's Note: Today we are proud to feature an article by RKB, a friend of the Flashback Universe who has has proven himself a fan of comics old and new with some fantastic Golden Age articles on his Pigs In The Industry blog. In his own words, he says...

I first became a fan of comics with Green Hornet #2, but stopped reading them completely eventually due to my disappointment in the story and schedule of some of the Image titles. Ten years later on a lark I go into a comic book store looking for back issues of From Hell, and notice Jim Lee is drawing Batman. Catching up on what I missed left me with more of a appreciation for forgotten, ignored, or independent comics works, and even less appreciation for Marvel or DC company wide 'events'.

We would like to welcome RKB as a contributor on the FBU and hope you enjoy his look at another great Lost Universe. - Jim

In 1993 I was too young to appreciate the difference between a ’Shooter’ book vs. a lot of what was on the stands, but I knew it was there. First I read the rumors, then the reports, and finally the full page ads that Jim Shooter was returning to comics. Jim Shooter decided to start over from his exit at Valiant by creating a new company, and a new universe.

That company’s name was Defiant, and its universe was begun in the lynchpin first title Plasm.

Well actually the title was changed to Warriors of Plasm to avoid a lawsuit from Marvel, but Solicitors of Evil are Jim Shooter’s archenemies so he got sued anyway.

Terry Stewart (then Marvel president) said the suit was for trademark infringement over a planned title called Plasmer.

Plasmer was about a woman who distilled out her good and bad halves. The ‘good part’ going on to become a super-heroine combination of Plastic Man, Metamorpho, and Short Order from Tribe. Marvel representative Gary Guzzo said it was “not a big deal” and Marvel had agreed with Defiant to change the name to avoid a suit, but then they didn‘t like the new logo.

The ‘Warriors of’ part of the logo appears to be pasted on, since it is smaller than and colored differently from the rest of the emblem.

[p 20, Wizard #27]
As might be expected Jim Shooter remembers the fight over the font differently:

When their lawyers came after us, our lawyers said, we'll change the name, what do you want? They said, if you just add some words to the name, so that it doesn't seem like one character, that'd be OK. We offered them Warriors of Plasm. and they said, give us a couple of them and we'll pick from them. We offered them Warriors of Plasm and a couple others and they didn't reply. This is May. They didn't reply. Our lawyers said, we can't get them to reply, so here's what we'll do. We'll do the change unilaterally, because as far as we agreed, if we do the change, we'll be OK. Warriors of Plasm had worked for me. What they did was they waited for the day the book was shipping and they waited for a temporary restraining order. Well, we anticipated that. My publisher at Quebecor had arranged for our shipment to be interlaced with Marvel shipments. they couldn't stop [our] books unless they stopped theirs. So our books shipped. [Part 2, Comic Book Resources Interview]
Defiant won the lawsuit at a cost of $300,000 in legal fees. Defiant also lost a anticipated $9 Million dollars worth of licensing fees for their properties due to concerns over possible future lawsuits. With the drop in sales as the comic boom went bust, Defiant bleed out of cash/went out of business before they had the chance to do their company wide cross-over story Schism. Comic book cards were popular back in the 90s, so it was a innovative decision on Defiant’s part to bring out the #0 issue of Warriors of Plasm as a trading card set. It also included various character cards and limited chase cards to collect. Warriors of Plasm would run for 13 issues, along with a one-shot graphic novel, and every title Defiant published would either tie-in, or be a spin-off.

Warriors of Plasm took place on the living sentient world the Org of Plasm. Imagine the Gaia hypothesis twisted into a nightmare where everything on the planet (and the planet itself) is made out of living Plasm. The people, their houses, their weapons, are all alive. Most of the people/plasmoids have no concept of being a individual they just want to be one with (I.e. dead fodder for) the Org. Mix and mangle the mindsets of hardcore socialists with homicidal religious cultists, on a planet-wide scale. A few plasmoids rebel against those ideas and plot to overthrow their society, one of those is lead character Lorca. He falls in love with a ’heretic’ who believes in individualism named Laygen. She is killed by Lorca’s rival Ulnareah, so Lorca plots to take over the planet in revenge.

Turns out Earth is hidden ‘beyond the veil or reality’, but Lorca has discovered it. He brings 10,000 humans to Plasm to genetically reengineer as his rebel army, 9,995 die, but the other 5 receive their super powers:
Mrs. J./Glory -grandmother who received super strength/invincibility became one of the most powerful characters. She also had a lot of octogenarian sexual tension with fellow revolutionary Preach, and was slated to receive her own series before Defiant folded.

Preach -older man and church bishop who had the ability to absorb and manipulate light into energy.

Nudge - department store counter-girl who gained telepathic powers she struggled to control.

Shooter - named after the company founder, former military man who gained enhanced strength/speed and the ability to turn invisible. Shooter got his own spin-off series Dogs of War that lasted 5 issues.

Mouse/Caution in keeping with Shooter’s tradition of heroes sporting the ‘regular guy look’ an overweight one-armed contemplative auto-mechanic who gained super strength/invincibility -but not as powerful as Glory. He got his own series with a human woman/ass kicking warrior he met on Plasm called Prudence. Prudence and Caution lasted 2 issues.

Later in Warriors of Plasm it was revealed just what was really going on. All the dreams of humanity was expressed in energy that created a place called the Dreamtime. During the time of the Black Death on earth all the sorrow and suffering was wrecking havoc on that dream world. Two characters Arhq Tsolmec and his wife Zahnree Phla created a ritual to save their world. It went wrong and Arhq ended up as a symbol of death in his own Defiant title called War Dancer.

Zahnree was devoured by a serpent and became the soul of the Org of Plasm. The Dreamtime was cut off from earth and became it’s own separate world. Meanwhile, humankind still dreamed and that energy created the ‘quantum substratum’ a shadow reality populated by demons. Michael Alexander was the hero who fought them in his own title Dark Dominion for 10 issues.

Lorca’s lost love Laygen taught him each person is unique, they live once then never again. Over and over, Lorca clones Laygen because he is so desperate to see her again. Over and over, he has the clone destroyed, or does it himself, because he knows that betrays her memory by going against her beliefs. Finally Lorca is given a choice: be the ruler of Plasm, or have a non-clone, free-thinking, reborn Laygen returned to him.

Warriors of Plasm had a solid -if standard- fantasy/Sci-fi-/Super-hero set-up. What made it great was all the fantastic allegory and pathos. Lorca could be any would be revolutionary leader, willing to compromise his principles, betray his supporters, in pursuit of power. Until he found out how powerful the ‘Plasm 5’ were, Lorca wanted them killed to hide his involvement, and to feed the people of earth to the Org. Lorca started instituting his changes with their help, until they returned to earth and Lorca’s backsliding begin.

The series was a good example of how well Jim Shooter could wield the basic narrative principles and interweave them with finer elements of storytelling. Alongside the central story in Warriors of Plasm, one will fine more complex themes like: Ingénue idealism, self-serving noblesse, the burden of duty and self-mortification.

If you get a chance, dig through the back issue bins at your local comic shop, or check out ebay for a complete run of the series. At current market prices, you'll get a great bargin!


Sunday, July 25, 2010

The Top 10 Public Domain Heroes?

Today, I need your help in deciding - Are these the most popular Public Domain Heroes?

BlackTerror100x100Black Terror
First Appearance Exciting Comics #9 (May 1941)
Original Publisher Nedor
Created by Richard E. Hughes; Dan Gabrielson
FA Silver Streak Comics #6 (Sept 1940)
Original Publisher Lev Gleason
Created by Jack Binder; Jack Cole
Amazing Man
FA Amazing Man Comics #5 (Sept, 1939)
Original Publisher Centaur
Created by Bill Everett
FightingYankFighting Yank
FA A Startling Comics #10 (Sept 1941)
Original Publisher Nedor
Created by Richard E. Hughes; Jon L. Blummer
FA Funny Pages #6 (Nov 1936)
Original Publisher Centaur, Quality
Created by George Brenner
FA Crash Comics #4 (1940)
Original Publisher Holyoke
Created by Irwin Hansen
Uncle Sam
FA War of 1812(term)/ 1852(art)
Original Publisher US Government(poster)
Created by US Folk Lore/J. M. Flagg(poster)
Blue Beetle
FA Mystery Men Comics #1 (1939)
Original Publisher Fox Features
Created by Charles Nicholas
American Crusader
FA Thrilling Comics #19 (Aug 1941)
Original Publisher Nedor
Created by Max Plaisted
FA Air Fighters Comics #2 (1942)
Original Publisher Hillman
Created by Charles Biro, Dick Wood, and Al Camy
I culled this list together by comparing 3 lists on the Public Domain Heroes site. These list were: Editor's Picks, Most Visited (pages) and Highest Voted. Albeit, not the most scientific method to divine this information, but as far as I know, that's the best I've got at the moment.

As one might suspect, the Nedor Heroes dominate, in part no thanks to their renewed exposure from Project Superpowers. Black Terror, Daredevil, and Fighting Yank showed up on all three lists. Not sure how Amazing Man got in there. Poor Green Lama didn't seem to make the cut at all, only appearing on one list. (Others who came close to the top ten were American Eagle, Silver Streak and Doc Strange)
I was also surprised to only see one Quality character show up on more than one list (Uncle Sam). One of my favorites, The Human Bomb, is missing.

So I ask you - who would you add to this list? Which of your favorite Public Domain characters is missing?

Anyway, today's Free Comics feature the winner of this little exercise: The Black Terror.

[ Black Terror 14 ]

[ Black Terror 15 ]

- Enjoy!

Friday, July 23, 2010

World Building

We all know or can name at least one great fictional world built for our favorite characters to live and interact within: The Rebellion using the force against the Empire (Star Wars), Middle Earth (Tolkien), The Matrix (The Matrix, Johny Mnemonic), 007 (James Bond with his license to kill), and many more.

Those are major examples, often created by multiple participants over years and years of product releases (Novels, Comics, Games, Movies etc etc). Some are game changers paving the way for nearly everything that may come after them (Middle Earth), while others are more archetypal (Star Wars) and while they are fantastic worlds filled with amazing characters the core elements are not all that new.

Those listed aren't the only examples, in fact I'd argue that there are ten times as many smaller fictional worlds built for every single large fictional world that everyone all ready knows by name.

When ever you write a piece of fiction you indulge in at least some world building. You may not even realize your doing it: such as making up a couple of fictional streets or re-naming a building or two that your story can take place in. Sure it's slight, but it's still world building.

We indulge in world building here at Flashback Universe, each of the FBU Zuda Pitches existed in their own worlds, and all of the FBU characters exist in a particular shared world of Jim's design.

I'm in the process of creating a new fictional world now. I'm writing an e-book (or two), a bit of a departure from comic books for sure but I'm enjoying it, and my goal will be to have it read like an adventure pulp magazine of old (like The Shadow, The Spider, and Doc Savage before it) with just enough illustrations inside to allow the reader to get a picture of what the world looks and feels like (hopefully showing it's comic book roots as well).

Since I began world building for my self, this project as well as others, I've began studying how other authors build their fictional worlds and just how much details go into them. There are both good and bad fiction that come from both fictional worlds designed with immense detail and those that are not.

I'm intrigued by what I'll call gray worlds (because 'generic' doesn't really fit and has a negative critical feel to it). Maybe it's a lack of skill or motivation on the creators part, but I'd like to think that setting your characters in a gray world is done on purpose as a choice.

A gray fictional world is smaller in scope, lighter than a fully developed fictional world. As a couple of examples the worlds that Star Wars and Star Trek play out in HUGELY developed fictional worlds encompassing entire solar systems with a multitude of races, each with it's own culture clashing with another culture or two.

The fictional world that Firefly plays out in isn't anywhere near as huge. While it's still scifi where there are many colonized planets in our one solar system everyone you run into (until the movie Serenity) is a human and there are really only two government bodies to speak of clashing with one another.

Joss Whedon (creator of Firefly, Buffy, Angel, & Doll House) could have filled the Firefly universe with alien species and crafts, completely different cultures, advanced weapons and more but he didn't need to. In point of fact Firefly is supposed to take place in a little more primitive of a world and it works, but it also benefits from the larger worlds of it's predecessors regardless if its even intended or not.

Whether Whedon wants us to or not he knows that scifi fans enjoy the genre and will make certain leaps of logic, based on the scifi genre as a whole, when neccissary while watching his show. Hoban "Wash" Washburne (Serenity's pilot) and Kaywinnit Lee "Kaylee" Frye (Serenity's mechanic) never get into any of the legendary heavy tech talk that we experience on Star Trek.

While there are ship and engine troubles all the time there's never really any talk of warp coils, sub space, plasma injectors, data gel packs, or any of the really intricate technology dialog you find in Star Trek and Star Wars.

Firefly is still scifi with space ships, blasters, and colonists. The ships in the Firefly universe still travel from world to world through space. The cultures in the Firefly universe still clash. All of that can, and does, happen on a smaller scale without the need for an explanation regarding every gadget held by a character or terminology uttered by an actor on the engineering stage.

Why? perhaps it's because Whedon knows that it's all ready out there. Chances are, if your a fan of Firefly then you're probably a fan of Star Wars, Star Trek and Battlestar Galactica. As a fan you have a built in repository of scifi related knowledge that you can apply to anything that isn't fully explained to you as the viewer.

You may be the kind of fan that really digs that element and yearns for it in Firefly or you may be the kind of fan that really could care less but either way you've experienced it before (in some capacity) and can apply what you've seen before to what you are seeing now.

There are countless examples of Fantasy fictional worlds with not much more character development than titles given to characters in the stories such as "Ranger", "Wizard", or "Elf". We know what these are and can apply them instantly upon hearing the title relying on that genre repository again (fantasy this time).

A third and final example would be Splinter Cell where Sam Fisher, who is an operative for Third Echelon, a secret branch of the NSA isn't (in the first game at least) characterized by much more than the word "operative" and the stealth suit he wears covered with weapons and gear. We don't need to know much more about him because of characters like James Bond and Jason Bourne who have come before him.

I actually like reading stories that take place in gray fictional worlds because I get to decide what kind of logic leap I'm going to make and which genre source I'll leap to. When I'm listening to the podcast: Deck Gibson and the Far Reach Commanders (stories told in the vein of Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon) I get to decide how the unexplained elements play out in my head, making it a bit more of an interactive story for me as the reader/ listener.

Is 'control', the mysterious voice that shares Deck's life on board his far reach star ship a hologram? An A.I.? An Alien creature? A figment of Deck's imagination? This fact is never confirmed in the small series of podcasts. If she's a hologram then I immediately leap to Star Trek and can remember some information I've picked up while watching STNG regarding photons and data matrix's. If she's an alien creature then I get to let my imagination run loose thinking about what kind of being she is while Deck Gibson is blasting and killing in the podcast.

Matt Wallace (the creator of Deck Gibson) doesn't need to stop the action in the story in order to explain it to the reader, in fact in some cases I'd be willing to bet authors choose not to on purpose expecting their intelligent fan base to make any logic leap they choose to so that they understand and move on.

That's how I consume genre pieces (read, listen etc) and that's how I'm writing them as well.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Captain Britain

I mentioned how now I was an Omnibus addict. Luckily for me... there aren't that many Omnibuses. Otherwise... I would probably live in a cardboard box in an alley by now.  ;)

But I got a few more Omnibuses lately... one of them being the Captain Britain Omnibus

I have been a fan of the character since I first saw him in Marvel Team-Up issue 8 in 1984.

I can hear the hordes of Captain Britain fans scream that I got the wrong issue.

But over here on Earth 2... comics were often printed out of order.... and with the "wrong" issue number. At least wrong compared to their American counterpart. I don't know what the American numbering is... but here... Marvel Team-Up issue 8 had a tale with Spider-man and Captain Britain.... half of a tale of the Invaders VS the Liberty League... and another tale of Spidey and the good Captain. (Editor's Note: For a $1.25, that sounds like a damn good comic!)

So those two issues by Claremont/Byrne/Hunt with Spidey, Captain Britain, and Arcade.... were my first exposure to Captain Britain.... and I loved it. I loved the look of the character.

Sadly the only other time I would see that look would be in the pages of How to draw the Marvel Way where we see one page with the Captain by Buscema. The next time after that that I saw the character was in Germany in 1988. I had bought a digest comic with half a dozen Captain America stories.... some of which guest starring Captain Britain by Carlin, Janke and Paul Neary. I screamed "blasphemy!!!" right there and then.

How did they dare change Captain Britain's look like that?? My German being limited to reading the menu in restaurants, and ordering some food... I had a tough time fully understanding the tale, but I can tell you that I was not happy about that new version of the character. It took me a while to get used to the change... and it was with Excalibur issue 43 that I finally got used to that version of the character. Although by then... the character's look had changed once more.

But only then was I ready to get the 2 Captain Britain TPBs that were available at some point. And from these 2 TPBs.... I was able to witness somewhat how the character changed from the version that I knew... into the version we now had in Excalibur. Why somewhat??

Because the TPBs that I had were missing some of Captain Britain's early tales.

But now I have most of them tales in my Omnibus... although I wish we had ALL of the Captain's adventures... but the stories from before Marvel Super-Heroes No 377 are not included in the Omnibus.
Sad... but it's okay. The Omnibus contains not only both TPBs... but also 60 pages of stories that weren't included in both TPBs.... some back-up features .... and a lot of extras. Love them extras.Also I really got a kick to see the never before seen covers... and seeing how the reprints in the UK were as messed up as our comics here in the Great White North.

You can see some Avengers tale by Byrne... then two by Buscema from years before... then it was back to Byrne. So in the UK... it seems they had to follow the continuity in a very non-linear way just like we had to over here. And thanks to the Omnibus... I even got to properly read the Captain America comics with Captain Britain in it. After more than 20 years... I would say it was about time. ;)

There are some other tales from some New Mutants Annual that I got in another TPB...and an X-Men Annual that I know I have... I just can't recall in what TPB??? I will have to look it up. And a buttload of extra, sketches, back-up features, and covers. I was almost expecting the book to end with the Excalibur one shot The Sword is Drawn... but it was not included. They may be saving it for an upcoming Excalibur Omnibus??

We shall see. Overall.... a very nice book that not only Captain Britain fans... but everyone could enjoy.

It is a tale of alternate realities... fear... hate... betrayal... mysteries... love... and the idea that it's okay not to do everything on your own. That you do not need to carry the weight of the world by yourself... there are others who can carry a little bit of it with you.

So it is a book that I would recommend to everyone. It is a really nice book... with some solid artwork and stories. Although Alan Davis' artwork is not as sleek and polished as what he does now... it is still some solid work from the early days of his career. And it complements well the stories by... amongst others... Alan Moore and Jamie Delano

And you even have two covers to choose from for the Omnibus. Personally... I chose the cover with his original costume....
...but I am sure that most of you had guessed that by now. ;)

Until next time.  

- Pierre

Monday, July 19, 2010

Atlas Fugged

This week the first issue of Jeff Parker and Ken Hill's Gorilla Man came out. This series is being marketed as a Spin-off of the Agent's of Atlas series, which begs the question:  Who is green lighting these Agents of Atlas comics, and why?

Don't get me wrong - I love the first limited series featuring these characters. I consider the hardback collection one of the best hardcovers I own, what with all the extra golden age comics included in it.

And like a few of you I suspect, the old What If story where the characters originated is one of my favorite What-Ifs (from volume 1 of the series. Volume 2 of What If seemed to focus too much on what was going on at that moment in the Marvel Universe to my taste.)

The old What If was partly responsible for introducing me to the wonders of the Golden Age Marvel universe. It even made the 3D Man seem a little cooler (though I now *get* that he was a tip of the hat to the Golden Age Daredevil)

So why do I question the decision to make a Gorilla Man comic? Well, the sales numbers on the Atlas comics just don't seem to suggest it is a good idea. From ComicsBeat, here are the past sales for Agents of Atlas and all it's incarnations:

05/09 Agents of Atlas #4 - 25,377 (-14.7%)
05/09 Agents of Atlas #5 - 25,207 ( -0.7%)
06/09 Agents of Atlas #6 - 22,579 (-10.4%)
07/09 Agents of Atlas #7 - 23,217 ( +2.8%)
07/09 Agents of Atlas #8 - 20,540 (-11.5%)
08/09 Agents of Atlas #9 - 20,828 ( +1.4%)
09/09 Agents of Atlas #10 - 17,877 (-14.2%)
09/09 Agents of Atlas #11 - 17,529 ( -1.9%)

10/09 X-Men vs #1 of 2 - 32,743 (+86.8%)
11/09 X-Men vs #2 of 2 - 25,222 (-23.0%)

12/09 --- 01/10 Avengers vs #1 of 4 - 21,777 (-13.7%)
02/10 Avengers vs #2 of 4 - 17,998 (-17.4%)
03/10 Avengers vs #3 of 4 - 16,482 ( -8.4%)
04/10 Avengers vs #4 of 4 - 14,900 ( -9.6%)

05/10 Atlas #1 - 22,756 (+52.7%)
This latest series (with the help of 2 variant covers) was only able to get 22K sales with its first issue. And that's after they (theoretically) got more exposure with the help of the X-men and Avengers minis. I can sort of see how Marvel might think launching a new Atlas title makes sense, but it seems like they may have jumped the gun on making a spin off title.

Part of me wonders if maybe bringing the Agent's of Atlas into the Modern Marvel Universe was a bad idea? If they had kept them in the 50's, it would have made the series more unique. Now they are just super-team number 78 taking their place beside The Order, Next Wave, SWORD and Runaways (all different in style and tone, but still just more heroes in an already crowded universe.) I think this is where the concept got fugged up.

For those of you interested in the question of How Was Gorilla-Man?

Well...if this is the sort of thing you like:

...then this is the sort of thing you will like.

Anyway, after envoking his name while talking about 3D Man, it seems only fair that todays Free Comics be two issues of the Golden Age Daredevil!

[ Daredevil 10 ]

[ Daredevil 11 ]

- Enjoy!

Friday, July 16, 2010

Tracking The Demon

"Change! Change! O' form of man! Release the might from fleshy mire! Boil the blood in heart of fire!

Gone! Gone! --- The form of man-!

Rise, the Demon Etrigan!!
I first read those words in Action Comics issue #587 by John Byrne.

I loved that little rhyme. Although only now can I realize that Byrne had changed slightly the rhythm of that rhyme. I got a kick from seeing the Demon in the comic. But it would take a while until I would see more work with the Demon in it. I think the next time I saw the character.... it was in the Demon ongoing series of the late 80s or early 90s. I tried a few issues and was not too crazy about it. So I did not become a regular reader of the book.

But I later got the Cosmic Odyssey TPB with the Demon in it... yes I know... I got that TPB pretty late. Somehow I missed it the first time it was on the shelves of the comic shops.

I got a better version of the character though in Cosmic Odyssey... although the demon plays only a small role in that mini-series. But then I became a Jack Kirby Collector addict and saw some of Jack's pencils for his Demon series. Loved seeing those pencils.

And at some point... I was fortunate to be able to get my hands on some of the Demon's issues by Jack. I got them comics for next to nothing... but them comics were in pretty poor condition. But I did not care... I could at least read some of Kirby's original Demon comics.
It was quite a treat.

Then some time ago, Jim sent me Superman: The coming of Atlas which conatins a the old DC First Issue of Atlas drawn by Kirby. This put me on a real Kirby kick for more so, the hunt was on.

I started going from comic shop to comic shop hunting down that darn Demon Omnibus. Why the Demon and not maybe "The Fourth World"??

Well... I already own a copy of some New Gods, Forever People, and a couple Mister Miracle TPBs in black and white. So I figured I should start with the Demon since I barely owned a couple of issues... and keep the Fourth World for another time.

Sadly... when I was asking around for a copy of the Demon Omnibus... no one seem to have a copy of the trade... and I was told that they could not order it. I had been told the same about the Captain Britain Omnibus. But after a bit of running around the Canadian wilderness, I finally found a store with a copy, and it was well worth the hunt! The book is filled with pure Kirby goodness.

It contains the storytelling, panel compositions, designs, energy, action, drama, bold artwork that only a Kirby comic can contain. And they did a wonderful thing in keeping the bright coloring of the time that I sorely miss in today's comics.

Heck... it's no coincidence. Why do you think that we use such bright colors in our FBU comics?? We miss them bright colors of yesterday's comics. But I suspect many of the readers of this blog feel the same way sometimes judging by comments I've seen posted here.

This book also includes some of Kirby's penciled work. And from what I understand... there even are some pages in this book that were never printed before. The one bad thing... the one bad comment that I can mention.... is that it is printed on newsprint. Although Kirby's work looks stunning on newsprint, I can't help but wonder what it will look like in 20 years once the pages possibly turn yellow.

I guess we will have to wait and see. Although until then, I have some formidable Kirby comics to read and to admire.

Have a great weekend,

- Pierre

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Great Zeus Have Mercy!

So posting this week has been sort of a wash, as I got back online Tuesday only to have another Summer storm take out my wifi router. So for those of you keeping score, electrical surges this week took out my:

Cable Modem
Cell Phone Micro Tower
Wifi Router
Digital Phone Modem

Of those, my out of pocket expense is just for the wifi router, so all in all, it could be worse. To prevent this happening again, I bought a better(?) surge protector. Hopefully that will help things.

Tomorrow, I will have a post by Pierre and we'll get back on track with our regular posting schedule Monday. Today, I've got to answer a kajillion emails and comments here.

Plus all those farmville invites won't delete themselves. ;)

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Stop with the Damn Goggles

Remember how all heroes wore leather jackets back in the 90's?

I think we can all agree that was a fashion trend run amok. And while it still shows up in X-men (or Wonder Woman) I'm inclined to let it slide because there is another trend that I think overshadows it now: Goggles.

Yesterday, I flipped through three comics and this is what I saw.

A Vampire Terrorist from X-men: Curse of the Mutants

A house ad from the same comic:

An unnamed character from Action Comics 890 (the comic I suspect that made Mark Waid give up on Superhero comics recently*...)

Another unnamed character from the same comic (and this instance is less annoying than the others because the goggles are smaller)

And finally, this example from Green Arrow 1 - I can't decide if this is a truly horrible character design or a truly brilliant one. And I mean brilliant like the Styx Mister Roboto album brilliant.

That's 3 comics and 5 sets of goggles - and I really did just pick these up in random order. My luck of the draw would have probably run out if I picked up a few other comics, but the point remains - people are using goggles as short-hand to imply the character is interesting when we all know damn well, they're not.

Here's a tip for today's creators - if your character doesn't really *need* goggles, you probably shouldn't use 'em.

Alas, horrible design choices started in the Golden Age, and perhaps the best example of this is another hero with unfortunate fashion sense: Dr. Diamond a man who got his powers from a mysterious black diamond given to him by a Tibetan Monk who lives on an uncharted island who found the diamond after it been lost for a thousand years in egypt. Once given the diamond, our hero gains the strength of 50 men, but loses his shirt.

In his defense, Dr. Diamond didn't start life as a shirtless wonder. In his first appearance, the top part of his costume was red.

But somewhere down the line he lost his shirt and just never went back. We all know someone like that, don't we?

Anyway, he appeared in the first 4 issues of Catman Comics, of which the first two are today's Free Comics...

[ Catman 01 ]

[ Catman 02 ]

- Enjoy!

*btw - I think it was the appearance by Mister Mind that made Mark Waid flip out, but that's just a guess.


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