Sunday, November 3, 2013

Holiday Break

Looking at my calendar over the next few months, I see I'm going to be pretty busy with holiday events and other projects, so I'm going to take a break from posting for a bit.

I hope everyone has a safe and enjoyable holiday season!

- Jim

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:  and

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

This summary is not available. Please click here to view the post.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

No More New Comics?

A year ago I asked How is your comic shop doing? as I was noting some troubling signs at Heroes and Dragons (HD) the biggest comic shop in Columbia. (Below you can see the huge Dragon that hangs from the roof.)

To me, it was clear the shop was having a problem of some sort that if not corrected would eventually lead to it closing. Another sign was the often near empty parking on the weekends. In the past this parking lot would have been overflowing with cars, but since the store stopped letting people play Warhammer, Magic and other games in the shop...well, you can see the results.

And now the shop has said it will no longer be selling new comics.

What makes this even more noteworthy is the size of HD. According to store owner Chris Foss, Heroes and Dragons is physically the largest comic store on the East coast. These pictures don't really give you a sense of the full scale of the shop, but trust me, it's massive.

I've heard many stories of people driving several hours across South Carolina to get to this store. For over several decades, it's been pretty much acknowledged as the best comic store in South Carolina with a staff that has included many comic luminaries (Chris Sims, Chad Bowers, ect...)

So taken on face value, the news that the shop is going to stop carrying new comics is pretty jaw dropping. However, word has reached me from several sources that the current plan is for the store to continue offering subscriptions to some of the bigger weekly subscribers. However, most of the longtime patrons I've spoken to have expressed some practical concerns about picking up their subs at a place where they can no longer browse for new comics.

As MoSFan4Ever told me, he just didn't see any way he could practically use previews to plan out his comic purchases 3 months in advance every month. He's used to being able to look at some iffy titles on the new comics rack to help decide if he should buy them.

I suspect even with those customers who take Heroes and Dragons up on their offer to continue their subs, there will be churn in two ways:

The Loyal Customer who fades away
People who try to continue at HD because they have store loyalty but over time will gradually find themselves buying more stuff from a shop where they can get new comics. These people may find themselves even starting a second sub at their secondary shop. As new titles come on the market, they will add them to that sub, not the HD sub. And given the way titles are cancelled and rebooted, it wouldn't take long before the HD sub is down to the bone.

The Timid Customer who just disappears
People who want to quite outright but are not bold enough to say so (you’d be surprised how many comic buyers fall into that category, but I’ve seen threads on Bleeding Cool where many fans confess to not being able to tell their dealer they want to leave the shop) This group can be a killer as sometimes they just let their stuff pile up in folders until it reaches a dollar amount they can no longer pay. Then they just quit coming to the shop altogether.

With all that said, I totally get why a shop might throw in the towel on new comics. I think this recent news article from the New York Daily News on the closing of SunnySide Comics says it best...

Comic shops are struggling to compete with video games, online retailers and eBooks.
[Sunnyside] sales plummeted 80% since the height of the comic book craze in the early to mid-90s, he said. And they’ve fallen another 35% in the last 18 months, he said.
From the article we get this quote from Comic Book Collecting Association President Steve Zarelli:
Comic shops are struggling to compete with online retailers, which can sell the books at a fraction of the price of brick-and-mortar stores.
Comic shops are fighting a two front war. On one side are slicker, more efficient ways to buy new and used comic books:
  • Ebay
  • Amazon
  • Comixology
  • Discount Comic Book Service
On the other side are the unpredictable business practices of the big two comic companies that have resulted in some hard to gauge product launches and 90's style variant cover barrages like:
  • Forever Evil (both the event and the 3D covers)
  • Marvel Now's variants
  • Marvel's twice a month publishing schedule
  • Marvel's Tron and Fear Itself variant covers
Currently, not counting HD, there are 6 other comic shops in Columbia:
That sounds like a pretty healthy number of stores for a burg the size of Columbia, but one has to wonder. If a store as large and fabled as Heroes and Dragons no longer thinks it's worthwhile to carry new comics, how are the smaller stores faring?

- Jim

Monday, September 23, 2013

How would you revamp the Legion of Superheroes?

I talked about DC ending the Legion of Superheroes on this blog a few months back, but I've never talked about how I revamp or continue the brand. Here are a couple of ideas I had or talked about with friends. This first one is probably going to be the most disliked, so let's get it out of the way now.

Idea 1: Full On Archie Legion

The idea here is completely ditch most of the superhero aspects of the series altogether and make it more like a high school teen drama.

There could be some mystery and adventure in the stories (about the level you might see in an Archie comic) but the stories would primarily focus on the romances and relationships between characters. I would have an artist like Amanda Connor draw the stories.

If this doesn't like the Legion comic for you, the long time fan, that's because it isn't meant to be. This is an attempt to find a new niche for the legion since it's becoming painfully apparent that modern comic readers have zero interest in the characters.

I will say this, it's well known that the Legion fandom is second only to the X-men with the number of female fans amongst its ranks, so it's possible a more romance-centric comic might be the way to go.

Idea Two: A Continuity Love Letter 

This idea would be a 12 issue mini-series. The series would be the story of a future legion member we have never met (Kid Chrono) who has the power to jump back and forth between time. He discovers the existence of a heretowith unknown legionnaire (Laser Lass)...

...who seems to have been a long time member, but for which no records or memories exist today.

To find out more about Laser Lass and why no one remembers here, Kid Chrono uses his powers to jump back in time to examine several key Legion apocryphal events which long time fans may have heard about, but never read (like the first battle against Mordru the Merciless or the death of Power Boy.)

These adventures would all be drawn in the style of the era they take place (or as close to it as possible) with several key legion artists from the past being employed to work on the series (Mike Grell, Keith Giffen, ect...)

I suspect this story idea might not appeal to current DC editorial as the notion, on the surface, is not one that sounds "new reader friendly." However, I think it could work in the same way as All Star Superman which often tips it's hat to old 50's and 60's stories without alienating new readers.

Idea number three isn't from me but comes from Trey Causey. When I made my original post about the Last Legion comic, I mentioned this ideas I had on how I would you fix the legion to Trey who replied with this cool idea:

Idea Three: Trey Causey's Heroes Awakened

The Legion are the teen heroes of the future Earth. They're celebrities who lead charmed lives.  Maybe too charmed. A glitch reveals the truth. Their  idyllic world is nothing but a computer simulation. These laboratory created, super-powered children are the creation of the eccentric (and long dead) billionaire, RJ Brande, who believed the future needed saving from itself.

Escaping their somewhat malfunctioning AI minders, the kids emerge into a future much darker than anything they've know--and much more in need of them.

What I like about Trey's idea is that it sort of gives you your continuity cake and lets you eat it too. With that idea, you could have this new Legion encounter revamped versions of old threats like the Fatal Five who are markedly different, but still similar in some ways, to the ones they encountered in their simulated adventures.

With that, I must end this post with a question: How would YOU revamp the Legion of Superheroes? Or do you think that it's just not a concept that could be saved in any way in this day and age?

- Jim

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

The List of Marvel Bronze Age Licensed Comics

Over the weekend, I was looking for a complete list of all the Marvel Licensed Property (LP) comics from the Bronze Age and after a few minutes of unsuccessful searching I decided to put one together myself.

To narrow things down, I am not going to include one off Movie adaptations or Celebrity novelty comics. I will also not include any of the Star line of comics which included Defenders of the Earth...

... because I plan to write an article on that line in the future. (Note: Fans of the old King Features characters should check out the new King's Watch series written by Jeff Parker from Dynamite comics. I got the first issue and was quite surprised how good it was.

During the 70's and 80's, Marvel was more inclined to publish Licensed comics than they are today. (Though one could argue that since Disney now owns all of Marvel, the entire line is one big licensed entity.)

Star Wars

I bought the first issue of Star Wars at an Eckerd's Drug Store several months before the movie came out IIRC. The words on the cover of issue 1 exclaimed that it was soon to be a Major Motion Picture! At the time, I figured it would be just another one of those cheesy sci-fi movies that no one would like, because there was no way anyone could make a movie that looked as cool as this comic book. When the movie opened, I went and saw it with my folks. I remember thinking, "Holy Smoke! They actually did it!"


Here's one that is probably in the top 10 list of everyone's favorite Liscensed character comics, ROM is a comic that actually outlived the toy that inspired it. To this day the character has a huge fan following and the Knights of Galador have recently returned in the pages of Marvel's Infinity.

The only thing that has held ROM back from making a reappearance all these years is the complicated matter of Toy rights ownership. With Toys, often a skilled toy designer may negotiate ownership rights with the manufacturing company. When that happens, if there is any doubt about clear secondary market rights, the ambiguity can hold up production in those areas. Many comic luminaries (such as Robert Kirkman) have pursued negotiations to produce a new ROM comic, but to no avail.


This Mego LP comic found inspiration in Star Wars but quickly found its own voice thanks to the fantastic team of Michael Golden and Bill Mantlo.


Most people probably don't remember Marvel's short lived Tarzan comic. A quick scan of the covers will explain why as it seems that Marvel was unable to think of any cover ideas other than Tarzan fighting some sort of jungle creature (which must've looked pretty lame compared to the rest of Marvel's lineup at the time.) They should have explored the Hidden/Lost City themes in the books more IMO.

Star Trek

This series didn't last very long. It was probably the one two punch of an expensive license coupled with a movie that didn't quite meet fans expectations. I think I only bought a few issues before I deemed it not really my thing. I'd be curious to review the series again to see if was as boring as my teenage self thought it was.

Shogun Warriors

One of THREE Herb Trimpe pencilled books on this list. Why these guys have not reappeared in some form during this age of Transformers movies is a bit beyond me. Perhaps the Transformers so successfully stole the Big Robot thunder that Mattel never felt it was worth it to relaunch the property?

Doc Savage

The four color adventures of Doc Savage didn't last very long, being about as successful as The Man of Bronze movie in 1975. Marvel also put out a black and white adventure magazine featuring Doc and his five compatriots, but that had even a shorter lifespan. Over the years, many companies have tried to turn the Man of Bronze into gold, but it seems to be a tough thing to do.

Partly, I blame the approach because I think the general tact is to do the stories as straight adventure stories, which totally makes senses except that like with Tarzan, the adventure stories that fit with Doc Savage all seem a bit tame by todays standards. I think it is no coincidence that Altus Press, the current publisher of Doc Savage stories, has begun taking a more exotic approach with the newer Doc Savage stories.

With that said, Dynamite seems to have successfully turned the Shadow into an ongoing franchise, so I would be interested in seeing how they would approach Doc Savage.


This series is unique in this list as it is the only one for which Marvel was able to publish an Essentials edition. (Click the image to see the Essential version on Amazon.)

Herb Trimpe's tenure on the Incredible Hulk made him the perfect artist to draw another big green skinned goliath who loved to smash things. It didn't hurt that Doug Monench came up with some creative kaiju for the king of monsters to wail on either.

Conan (and all of the other Robert E. Howard properties)

Without a doubt, easily the most successful of all LP comic series Marvel ever published lasting several decades and creating an entire new comics genre. Over the years we would see Kull, Red Sonja and Solomon Kane also get some time in the Marvel universe.

Battlestar Galactica

Despite having some fine artwork from Walt Simonson, this series tends to get forgotten by Bronze Age fans. That may be in part to the darker, horror theme stories which didn't really sync up with the grand space adventure ( Star Wars ) roots of the television series. All in all, the series ran for 23 issus before being cancelled, so it wasn't a total failure.
This incarnation of the property would actually see a comics revival by Dynamite in later decades thanks to the revamp sy-fy series.

Master of Kung Fu (Fu Manchu)

While the Master of Kung Fu himself is indeed a wholly Marvel creation, the reason we don't see any MoKF Marvel Masterworks of Essentials is because the series prominently features Shang Chi's father, Fu Manchu...

Created by Steve Englehart and Jim Starlin, this series was created the comic book rights to Sax Rohmer's villainous Dr. Fu Manchu AND the rights to the Kung Fu television series. Instead of making two separate comics featuring each property, Marvel combined the concepts into one fully fleshed out world which would click with readers for a full 125 issues, making it the third most successful LP comic series on this list.

While creators Englehart and Starlin would leave the title early on, new writer Doug Monench and artist extraordinaire Paul Gulacy would bring the series to a new level of success with stories filled with foreign intrigue, superb art and old movie sensibilities and callbacks. So beloved is the series that in 2010, it was voted number 6 in the list of all time great 1970's Marvel series by the folks at

GI Joe

I'll be honest, this comic came during one of my "out of comics" phases so I know zilch about it, nor have I ever been that interested in any of the newer incarnations. So, with that said, here's what wikipedia as to say about GI Joe:

It was unique at the time in that it was a comic book series that was promoted on television commercials which also supported the toy line. This 155-issue series is considered to be one of the longest-running comic book tie-ins to a toy line. Much of its success is to be credited to Larry Hama, who wrote the entire series save for a few issues with guest writers. Rather than treating the stories as a mere promotion for the toys, Hama wrote the series with seriousness and infused it with doses of realism, humor, and drama. Other than Transformers, no other series was able to duplicate its success. Notable artists include Herb Trimpe, Ron Wagner, Rod Whigham and Marshall Rogers.

At 155 issues quite a number of spin offs and special issues, GI Joe is easily the second most successful LP comic.

John Carter of Mars

Our second Edgar Rice Burroughs entry in this list, this series ran for 28 issues and 3 annuals, all of which take place within the timeframe of the third and fourth paragraphs of chapter 27 of A Princess of Mars

Drawn by Gil Kane, Carmine Infantino and Larry Hama with stories by Marv Wolfman and Peter B. Gillis, this fine series has been collected in a hardcover omnibus (most likely to capitalize on the hoped for success of the JCM movie.)

Long time followers may remember I once posted a Golden Age version of the John Carter comic previously on this blog.


What began as a 4 issue limited series proved so successful that it lasted over 6 years, a point not missed by Marvel editorial as the last issue proudly proclaimed #80 IN A FOUR ISSUE LIMITED SERIES! Originally helmed by Bill Mantlo (who did such a fine job with the Micronauts) Jim Salicrup and Bob Budiansky saw the book through the first year with Bob taking over sole writing chores until issue 55 when UK Transformers writer Simon Furman took over. Furman would remain on the title until its final issue.

I'll wrap this up with two final LP Comics that started out as movie adaptations but grew into something more.

 Logan's Run

Logan's Run was more like a sprint as the series only managed last 7 issues. While the first five issues initially recapped the movie the book continued Logan's story with original content for a few issues after.

Art afficianados take now: The recap issues were pencilled by George Perez.
Also of interest is a Thanos solo back up story that appears later in the series.

2001 A Space Odyssey

2001, helped by the incredible Kirby artwork survived a bit longer thanks mostly to the introduction of a more interesting character who wasn't in the movie at all: Aaron Stack aka Machine Man. (Note: how many of your readers how there recognize Machine Man's alias as a pun on the early computer syntax warning Error On Stack?)

Two final notes:

In review of the post, I see I took a rather scattershot approach to my commentaries leaving out the creators and series length in many cases. I'll get around to fixing that in time.

Also, if I missed a series, please let me know in the comments section below!

UPDATE: Sharp eyed commenter ShadZ noticed I had left off Marvel's Indiana Jones series which apparently ran an impressive 34 issues.

From wikipedia:

 In 1981, Marvel Comics published a three-issue adaptation of Raiders of the Lost Ark. In January 1983, they gave the character his own monthly series, named The Further Adventures of Indiana Jones, which ran for 34 issues until March 1986. The series had Marcus Brody and Marion Ravenwood in regular supporting roles, and Sallah, Katanga and Short Round also appeared. A three-issue adaptation of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, and a four-issue adaptation of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, were also published.

Thank you ShadZ!

More Updates from several new comments reveals quite a number of comics I forgot:

First, Jean-Paul Jennequin reminds me that Dr. Who had a short run in the pages of Marvel Premiere.

Jean-Paul also asks would I include comics like Kiss and Alice Cooper, but I think I will save those type of comics for another article.

 DD Degg calls forth one I forgot that I'm both shocked and embarrassed to admit - Marvel's Planet of the Apes series!

This series also had a run in the B/W Magazine format (as did Doc Savage)

Degg also brings word that Thongor was a licensed comic featuring a Lin Carter creation, which up to now, I never knew.

I'll try to round up some details about this newly added comics soon. In the meantime, keep the suggestions coming!

- Jim


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