Friday, June 26, 2009

Friday Night Fights! G-7! Off the Wall!

I can't say I was the biggest Michael Jackson fan ever, but I'd be hard-pressed not to admit he came up with some good tunes. As a tribute to Jackson, and the Vigilante's battle in issue 31 of his 1980s series (by Paul Kupperberg and Chuck Patten) I give you: "Off the Wall"
Do what you want to do
There aint no rules its up to you (aint no rules its all up to you)
Its time to come alive
And party on right through the night (all right) continues to spin the wax, weekly!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

STAR SPANGLED WAR STORIES 199: "The Crime of Sgt. Schepke!"

Disguised as the unfortunate Georges Ronsard in Avignon, the Soldier is immediately spotted by the Nazis, confirming he was, indeed, set up for the murders at Allied HQ. After a quick getaway, the scene switches to the hidden-behind-a-waterfall HQ of one of the famous French rebel fighters, Mlle. Marie and her men. Intelligence reports the Soldier must be found and stopped, and Mlle. Marie is hot to kill any traitors to France. She's on the hunt.

Meanwhile, the Soldier kills a Nazi in an alley, a Leutnant Holbach, and "steals his face."

At the moment, Sgt. Schepke reports to his superior, who informs Schepke he is being dishonorably discharged for his incompetence. Schepke begs for his position, but the Colonel has no choice. Schepke leaves, weeping and eating a candy bar.

The false Lt. Holbach arrives, seeking Schepke, and freely searches the munitions factory. As he's passing a mop-woman, Holbach is struck from behind by the mop. The attacker is Mlle. Marie herself, along with her Maquis fighters. Revealing she deduced the Soldier's identity by the fact that his mask does not sweat in the factory heat. Before Marie can kill him, the Soldier breaks free and begins fighting the Maquis hand to hand, as gunfire will alert the Nazis all around them.

Simultaneously, Sgt. Schepke is in his quarters, cleaning himself up, regretting his sad existence. He puts on his best uniform, contemplatively.

The Soldier stems the tide of battle by convincing Mlle. Marie that he was set-up, though she remains highly skeptical. The Soldier assures her he can produce "the man who did it." As Holbach, the Soldier leads Marie and her fighters to Sgt. Schepke's quarters just as a shot rings out. The Soldier breaks in to find Sgt. Schepke, and his alibi, dead. Mlle. Marie draws a bead on the Soldier with her machine gun, to dispense justice.

Things just seem to be getting worse for the Soldier, as this is the end of Part Two. The inclusion of Mlle. Marie is a nice touch, as she's a recognizable historic figure within the DC Comics universe, created in 1959 by Robert Kanigher and Jerry Grandenetti

David Michelinie and Gerry Talaoc produce another solid winner here...the worst that can be said is that most of these stories are too short. At the time, and for whatever reason, the War Comics had back-up stories, usually of far inferior quality. On some of these back-ups you'll recognize some future stars of comics, like Frank Miller for instance. In general, the back-up stories tend to prevent us from getting even more Unknown Soldier story, which is a shame.

Out of Five 3D Men.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009


The Unknown Soldier is a prisoner awaiting trial for, you guessed it from the story title, treason.

The story opens with the Soldier being locked up, and thinking back on his mission prior to his traitorous acts. Hours before, the Soldier had been receiving orders from Marshall Letain, an officer of the Allies in charge of the French Front. The Allies' "Operation Anvil" is ramming the Nazis back toward Paris, but the Axis has plans to counter-attack with a new weapon "said to make standard explosives obsolete." However, no one knows exactly what the weapon is, but it's the Soldier's job to find it and destroy it.

The Soldier parachutes into a small Occupied French town called Avignon, where he uses his make-up affects to become a standard peasant. He locates the munitions factory, but hasn't a clue how to get inside. At that moment, while having a beer in a watering hole listening in to a clutch of Nazi guards off-duty, the Soldier sees his opportunity in the form of a Sgt. Schepke, a sad, plodding little guard whom the others mock. Sgt. Schepke nervously gobbles one of his chocolate bars, leaving the derisive laughter of the other guards. Schepke runs into a Frenchman named Georges, who is Schepke's friend. The two discuss Schepke's helpless indulgence of the other men's cruelty, and Schepke admits he is a career soldier with nothing else to endeavor for. Georges is a widower and a toy-maker, whose only joy is in the faces of happy children in his shop. The Frenchman and the German are fast friends because of their mutual powerlessness against the external forces battering them.

When Georges returns home, he is greeted by a pistol pressed to his temple. The Soldier shackles Georges hands and hangs the man from his wrists, to keep him from touching the floor while the Soldier fashions a mask of Georges' face. Now "Georges," the Soldier departs, leaving the real Georges to attempt his escape. Georges knows the Soldier is a spy, and fears he will harm Schepke. Valiantly, Georges struggles to slide his shackles along the length of the wooden bar he is suspended by. But when he drops, he is impaled by one of his own toy-carving knives.

The other Georges, meanwhile, goes to Schepke while he's on guard duty and asks if he might have an escort about the munitions factory. Though forbidden, Schepke agrees to show his friend what he can.

The two men watch, hidden, during a test of the new weapon the Soldier is searching for. In a field are a herd of sheep. From the ground rise small extended mechanisms all around the sheep. In less than a minute, all of the animals convulse and immediately die. Schepke points out to Georges that the new weapon is "shell(s that) don't explode--they emit sounds waves that disrupt the nervous system, bringing death in seconds!"

During the test, Schepke had been eating one of his candy bars, and dropped the wrapper. Later, Nazi guards discover the wrapper, leading the Commandant to the identity of the watcher. Schepke is confronted and tries to deny it, but the Commandant uncovers the sheeted corpse of the real Georges. Schepke must reveal what he knows of the espionage agent who has impersonated Georges.

The Georges double, unknowing, breaks into the munitions offices, to steal the "sonic shell" plans. He even finds a "wave transmitter", a small box-like device, which he takes for the Allied scientists to study. The Soldier sneaks out of the town, making his way back across Allied lines. However, the Soldier's journey is intercut with the Nazi Commandant at a radar console, watching his progress. At Allied H.Q., the Soldier and Marshall Letain enter a scientific lab, where a Dr. Forster is busy analyzing the wave transmitter in hopes of designing a jamming signal for the weapons. Too late, Dr. Forster realizes the device isn't a transmitter, but a bomb, which is detonated by the Nazis.

The Soldier is farthest from Letain and Forster, who are both killed. The Soldier has been set up, and he is presented as a double agent having succeeded in murdering an important stradegist. Back in the present, the Allied guards have returned to haul the Soldier before a court martial, but they find an empty cell. Also, the Soldier has retrieved his make-up kit. Orders are issued by Allied command that the Soldier be apprehended, "dead or alive!"

More of the usual excellence from David Michelinie and Gerry Talaoc, as this is Part One of yet another multi-part story, which Michelinie is doing more and more by this point in the run. I don't think at any other point in the Unknown Soldier's original stories were there any multi-part stories. Mostly in keeping with the War Comic traditions of one-and-dones, but Michelinie kinks the formula to produce some of the best war stories of the era.

Out of Five 3D Men.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Friday Night Fights! G-7! See Ya Later, Alligator!

Ted "Wildcat" Grant gets a measure of ass-kickery on Killer Croc, with an awesome explanation of exactly how to beat down the murderous man-monster. This comes from the pure fun mini-series BATMAN/WILDCAT by Chuck Dixon and Beau Smith, with Sergio Cariello and Art Thibert on art.
This rumble gets scored by Bill Haley and the Comets, and their quite obvious smash hit: puts the brisket in the basket...

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

I've Got Hellfire Pants for Hellboy!

Wielding the Right Hand of Sock, this seriously stylin' little fellow is courtesy a young lady named China Delius
If such as these interest you, check out the arty dame's shop at and invest in manly icons done just so damn cute.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Characters I Want To Write! Four to Grow On!

Of course we'd all like to be writing comics, when in reality we'd rather be drawing comics. Perhaps I might have had the latent talent to draw, but not now. Writing is an arduous process, denying one the hope of ever being confident in your chosen craft. I'd rather be a metallurgist or something viable like that.

Characters I'd love a chance to create stories for, in some kind of's four of 'em.

Frankly I find it almost offensive there isn't a regular monthly SAVAGE SUB-MARINER comic available. Here's one of the cornerstones of Marvel Comics, a character who's been around since the 1940s, relatively unchanged to this day. He's the inspiration (and superior) to Aquaman. One of the first legitimate "anti-heroes" in comic book history, Namor has fought hero and villain with equal ferocity in his existence. The Avenging Son has pasted every major Marvel character in the kisser at least once, which has to be some kind of precedent.

I think the thing to remember about Namor as a character: he's just not going to do what anyone thinks he should do. Namor needs to be arrogant and proud, uncompromising, and to that end he should be teamed up with other characters. A nice, simple unit of secondary characters would offset Namor's belligerence, if that's the sore point for "today's" readers.

The Creeper is a character I've gotten wood for, and the connective tissue for me if the Creeper's mishmash of influences, all of them cool. If you took the Shadow and turned him into a Steve Ditko Spider-Man with an ape-sh*t color scheme, then you have the Creeper.

I think, as you can see, the Creeper wasn't designed to be a "clown" character. He's crawling down walls and laughing like a maniac, but it's all an act. What isn't an act is how he scares the hell out of everybody. Frankly, if you think of the Creeper running on all fours at you, I think you'll understand my meaning.

Here's another yellow-garbed character who really gets yanked through the smarmy "too cool" school of comic book fan. Known as "The Whizzer", this character was also created in the 1940s, with the unbelievably Pulpy/comic book origin of gaining his powers, as a child living in Africa, from an injection of mongoose blood. That's right, folks. Super-speed from mongoose blood. The cool thing is, I like the origin. You could do something with the origin, whether you know it or not. It's downright entertaining. But here's the deal: Robert Frank is a speedster, and the good thing about him is there's no "Speed Force" at Marvel (that's right, the "Speed Force"...which is supposed to explain why there are so many speedsters at DC Comics, as they all "tap into" this "Force." Sounds kind of like something else that a bunch of mid-late 30s age men fondly recall from a certain Blockbuster Movie of their early childhood.) What I'm saying is, the Whizzer is like any other character: he could be cool. He could be awesome. Somebody just has to see him that way. And that would be yours truly.

The Question is a woman nowadays, but back in the 1960s he was a man (created, as was the Creeper, by artist Steve Ditko) who expounded the black/white worldview of Objectionism. Reporter Vic Sage's quest for justice enabled him to wear a special featureless mask designed by his friend Professor Rodor. The Question is a character with two fists and a very clear, very defined sense of right and wrong. "A is A." There is no middle ground, there is no "gray area" where it concerns morality and ethics. Either you ARE a criminal, or you are NOT a criminal. You make the choice.

I love the Question, his spooky visual, his even more disconcerting judgement. What the Question does is remove any notion of chance or are what you are. And you must face the consequences for your choices. Often as not, the cowards who cannot face themselves end up dead by their own hand, or while trying to escape. The Question continues on.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Friday Night Fights! G-7! Bang-A-Boomerang!!!

Yeeaahhh-hh-hhhh! In INCREDIBLE HULK 295 by Bill Mantlo and the great Sal Buscema, there's absolutely no doubt:
"Like a bang, a boom-a-boomerang
Dum-be-dum-dum be-dum-be-dum-dum
Oh bang, a boom-a-boomerang
Love is a tune you hum-de-hum-hum
So give it away, I think you'll learn
You'll get love in return
So bang, a boom-a-boomerang is love
A boom-a-boomerang is love" -ABBA says, "Love is waiting for you, just come on back like a Boomerang for my love!"

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Like I'm not Going to Buy It: ROBOT 13!

First off, it's a robot named Robot 13. Then, it's a robot named 13 with a skull floating around in a tank with its own consciousness. And then it's a robot named 13 which isn't a model number but a number carved into the skull's forehead. And it's a robot named 13 who fights giant monsters and other stuff straight out of my skull.
In light of all this, plus the obvious Mike Mignola (HELLBOY) style to this thing, I'm now thrilled to have something else to get thrilled about!
Here's a couple of links: for the writer's blog. for them who publish the thing.
I already saw one complaint about "too much like Mignola." Too much like Hellboy and the Goon. Listen, you can never have enough cool robot heroes, or gnarly finned fish-men, or brutish gorilla-built guys who punch squirmy monsters. Some people claim you can, but I'm not one of them. Same with zombies, still love'em. You can overexpose them, you can make them banal, but you can't completely exhaust them of story possibilities. It just takes someone with a variation on a theme to make the icons brand-eye new again.
So take a chance on ROBOT 13, because more robots vs monsters in a world full of reality television and economics is sorely, vitally required!

Sunday, June 7, 2009

PARKER is Almost Here

There isn't a project in any media I'm more excited about than PARKER by Darwyn Cooke. : this is a nice interview with Cooke and Ed Brubaker, colleagues who have grand affection for the Parker series by Richard Stark. (The link seems to take a minute or so to load, but it's worth it.)
To me, this project is sort of the whole reason for comic books to exist, in their most evolved state. This fusion of talent and talent, and one of the most iconic characters in literature, is unprecedented, in my mind. This is not only an interesting project for Darwyn Cooke, but a responsibility to Stark/Donald Westlake's memory, and his legacy. So many great writers have been influenced by Westlake, so many filmmakers and artists found their tone through Westlake's prose, his evergreen ideas. In a world where people get congratulated for being complete idiots, Westlake's humble views of his influence only make him more revered.
Buy THE HUNTER, friends. And tell everyone: Parker is almost here.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Friday Night Fights! G-7! Deathlok's Bluest Heaven!

Rolling out of ASTONISHING TALES (ish 26?) as one of the better ideas in the 1970s was Rich Buckler's wicked creation, Deathlok, a reinanimated future Super Soldier/cyborg up against a Totalitarian regime. Scripts by Doug Moench and later, Bill Mantlo. In all that bloodshed, it speaks to the humanity of the man codenamed Deathlok, Luther Manning, who once had a wife and son he is too grotesque to ever hope to regain. Manning understands poignantly that Molly and baby did indeed make three, and losing "My Blue Heaven" makes him want to send a lot of folks to a very red hell, courtesy of the great Fats Domino thinks it doesn't matter where you go when you die, just that you die hard.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Pulp Hero(es): AGENTS OF ATLAS

Short and sweet: AGENTS OF ATLAS is one of those comics you folks must support.

Especially now, because there's a "new" artist doing the book, named Gabriel Hardman, who is fast becoming one of my favorites. Kudos to whoever at Marvel for realizing this guy is the artist for this comic book about heroes from the 1950s. Hardman ain't too shabby on heroes from the 1940s either, as evidenced by his Sub-Mariner stage left.
The other major reason, among many, is not only the writing of Jeff Parker, who is the best comic book superhero writer right now, period, but the Agents themselves. An immortal talking gorilla, a super-strong Atlantean chick, a literal god, a secret agent, a Uranian, and a 1950s robot with a death ray...I just don't know what else you could need/want from a superhero comic book. Even while weighted down with the latest crossover at Marvel ("Dark Reign"...whatever) the book still managed to be readable. That in itself is almost unheard of.
Please do yourself a favor and pick up AGENTS OF ATLAS, which is a monthly ongoing. We may not see its like again for some time.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Genre: Pulp

Generally, I see myself as a man who'd enjoy writing Pulp type stories, about a Pulp type character, imbued with enough "timeless" qualities that they could be mistaken for more than they are, but still gratefully exactly what they are.

To that end, I've begun to put pressure on myself to accomplish a tough feat in today's "modern" culture: write books for men, about men, doing men kind of things. Right now, the publishing industry is rife with fiction for, about, and catered to women, particularly suburban women with children who turn Oprah's latest preferred author into a million seller overnight. All well and good, I've been told, and really I can't blame the publishers for targeting the one sure audience they are guaranteed in these here United States, particularly the East and West Coasts: women.

Popular fiction for men has dwindled steadily since the 1980s, the zenith of the "macho" novel series by writers like Don Pendleton and Warren Murphy, as well as the core of action movie cinema, both of which had taken on hysterical aspects until nothing was left but those aspects, such as the movies of Michael Bay (THE ROCK, THE ISLAND, BAD BOYS.) The "stay at home" mother tested her might by vaulting Stephen King into a stratasphere of popular success unrivaled in the 20 years following the cruel pelting of Carrie White with sanitary napkins on the first page of King's first published novel, CARRIE. Every girl's worst fear was realized, and King's innate ability did not specify gender views, but tapped into them. Men and women readers saw themselves in King's words, thus King remained one of the only writers of the modern era to successfully cultivate both the reality of American rural/suburban life and the fictional Pulp iconography of his childhood 1950s in an undeniable product. Where the Pulps may have arrested the attention of the pre- and post-War Americans prior to the arrival of the greatest threat to the written word in every American home (television), Stephen King's work in the selfish "Me Generation" of fast-food and easy-access became a compulsion in an already overstimulated society.

I've seen, in my near-forty years, a slow damning of the Pulp ideology, which in turn created the sort of genres that boys could understand, like the Superhero. As has been pointed out ad nauseum wherever finer books are sold, without Doc Savage and the Shadow, in particular, Superheroes would not exist. Doc Savage and the Shadow were genetic fathers of Superman and Batman; their motifs spawned the Fantastic Four, which began the "Marvel Age" of comics. Today these characters are produced in movies which encapsulate hundreds of individual careers and generate tens of millions in revenue.

Yet still does the idea of Pulp, from pulse-pounding adventure to lurid exploitation, find itself tethered to a male-centric stigmata. At this point in time, Pulp itself has begun to take on a shape, to form itself as its own genre, identified by a construct of forgotten memory, of late-night B-movies and Kung-Fu Theatres on Saturday afternoons, and the more poignant formulas of short, tersely-thrilling novels and tattered comic books from long ago.

There's been a barricade of technology obscuring the sweaty unknown dangers of Pulp, a barricade of pop literature and celebrity accessible at all times to a hungering public. And yet the technology itself, the Playstation and the Xbox, lean heavily on the archetypal Pulp storylines and characters, their clarity and honesty. Audiences transport themselves into the core characters of video games who themselves are cyphers for adventures, both the pulse-pounding kind and the lurid. The technology supports the possibility that the Master Chief or the Hitman are Pulp archetypes as inviting and informing as the Shadow or the Whistler on radios of the 1930s.

Of course I want to write books anyone can pick up and read, but I really want to write books anyone will pick up and read because there's a lot of crazy Pulp between its covers. Though steeped in formula, the Pulp novel/comic is as predictable as a tsunami...but still as powerful in scale. The potential to make an impact on the minds and hearts of readers is important to every writer, but the Pulp writer is maintaining a legacy which has existed at least since the Murders of the Rue Morgue. It's an important position, which requires a humble, dutiful attention, not slavish but inspired.

A lot of my favorite writers, Richard Stark and John D. MacDonald for instance, took a lifetime of Pulp and infused it with an inevitable brilliance. The results were Parker, professional thief, and Travis McGee, salvage expert, respectively. The Pulp character had been electro-shocked by Stark (Don Westlake) and MacDonald's talent into a new, shining life, complete with literary import. Meanwhile, the movies, as they have always done, physicalized the Pulp Hero and made it even more palatable, in the form of Indiana Jones' and Luke Skywalker's eternal portraits.

Recently there's been an upsurge in the genre of Pulp, as a genre in itself. Comics have spear-headed the movement, from Mike Mignola's inspired Hellboy to Eric Powell's wondrous Goon, to Ed Brubaker's CRIMINAL series. Along with them has come a fleet of new Pulp-inspired artist/writers, operating in the various theatres of technology, the Internet, the digital medium. All of them perceive the Pulp Genre, the iconography of Pulp as an art form. It's a fascinating status for Pulp in general, which of course I'd like to take the Nestea Plunge within myself. And I always have, since I was nine years old writing and drawing a comic book adaption of RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK. I never finished it, and it became something else, something of my own. And I'm still trying to figure out how to finish what I started. It was a contract, an agreement signed in the blood of snakes and Nazis...and I must fulfill it.