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Wonder Woman Vol. 2,
Year One

DC Comics, writer Greg Rucka and artist Nicola Scott have managed to do something no other Wonder Woman creative team has ever done: chronicle how Wonder Woman (Diana) made the transition to the modern world.

Having spent  all of her life on Paradise Island (Themyscita) Diana knows nothing of the world, save that told to her  by her immortal sisters.

‘The Wonder Woman Vol. 2, Year One’ trade paperback is comprised of several of the early issues of the new Rebirth Wonder Woman comic book series for DC Comics.

In this collection readers learn about Diana’s early life, her education, training as a warrior and life as a princess of the Amazons.

Although steeped in the knowledge of the Amazons and their history, Diana is naïve when it comes to the ways of the world.

Her life changes dramatically when the aircraft carrying Steve Trevor crash lands on her island.

Having never seen a man before, especially one from the outside world, Diana is both fascinated and afraid.

Having been taught about the abuses her sisters suffered at the hands of men, Diana has preconceived notions about the nature of men.

That all changes when she realizes that Steve is near death and yet is still concerned about the other passengers on the aircraft-unfortunately all the others have died.

Taking Steve back to their city, the Amazons nurse him back to health and discover to their horror the condition of the outside world.

Kudos to the writer who parallels the life of Steve and Diana in an opening sequence.  It’s easy to see why they are so drawn to each other, considering their similarities.

Once healthy enough to get about Steve is treated as an honored guest.  While on the island he witnesses the Amazons society and their peaceful existence.

Still, the outside world beckons and Steve insists upon returning home.  Dismayed by the events in the outside world and the discovery of their island it is decided by the queen 0t send a representative of the Amazons to the outside world.

That task falls to Diana.  She is granted great physical powers by the gods along with special Amazonian warrior artifacts to aid her including her famous wrist bands and rope.

She, along with Steve, return to Steve’s military base aboard her invisible jet.

Once arrived Wonder Woman is taken back by her reception.  Suspicious and cautious of her motives she is placed under guard until her story checks out.

The story does an excellent job of showing how young, naïve and courageous Diana is.

She is truly a ‘stranger in a strange land.’

Customs, laws, and protocol –everything is new and strange to her.

What will she do?  Where will she live? What shall she do for a living? How will she fit in?  All of these challenges and more face her.

But, her time of adjustment is short-lived when Ares The God of War appears.  It is up to her, with the help of Steve, to stop his evil plans and become the true heroine she is meant to be.

The story is a well thought-out and executed tale of a young woman, completely alone, who must adapt to her new surroundings and ultimate triumph.

 

The Greatest Adventure #1

It all started when writer Alan Moore presented ‘The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen’ via Wildstorm/ABC Comics.  In the two mini-series, Moore selected famous literary characters and combined them as a team that went on adventures.

The mini-series were a resounding success. 

Never one to let a great concept go to waste, various comic book companies attempted to duplicate Moore’s success.

Unfortunately none were able to recreate the magic of such a concept-until now.

Dynamite Entertainment and writer Bill Willingham and artist Cezar Rezak present 'The Greatest Adventure #1’, that combine the characters created by Edgar Rice Burroughs.

Join John Carter, Jason Gridley, Tarzan, Dejah Thoris, Korak, Jane Porter and over a dozen other literary figures as they team to thwart a would-be world conqueror.

Things start out with a bang when an alien spacecraft crash-lands in Tarzan’s domain.

Rushing to the crash site Tarzan rescues the pilot, Jason Gridley, who escaped from a madman who plans on using his Gridley’s Gridley Wave device to conquer worlds.

Fortunately Gridley escaped in a desperate attempt to gather others to help him stop the madman.

Together he and Tarzan gather heroes from around the globe to pilot their own spacecraft to stop the threat.

I don’t want to give too much away other than to say that the story had me hooked from the first panel and kept me glued to its pages through the issue.

I can hardly wait for this epic to unfold.

Captain America #109

The story goes back that in 1969 when artist/writer Jim Steranko was penciling and writing his now famous run on Marvel Comics’ Captain America that he was behind on schedule.

Jim Steranko was and is the consummate artist and refuses to rush his work or compromise its quality.

So, it was not unusual for him to be behind on Captain America.

When Stan Lee hired Jim Steranko he knew the risks of Jim’s tendency to drag his feet.  Still, deadlines are deadlines and something had to be done so that Captain America #109 would be printed and delivered on time.

Stan called on the one person he knew could make the deadline-Marvel’s mainstay artist: Jack Kirby.

Together Stan and Jack, with able assist by inker Syd Shores, turned out what is now considered the definitive origin of Captain America.

Over the decades since Cap’s introduction his origin had been tweaked and modified at the whim of various artists and writers.

Stan and Jack successfully combined all the elements of his origin into a cohesive whole that includes Cap’s induction into a secret government program, the introduction of key figures in his legend and much more.

Years later artist John Byrne and writer Roger Stern would build upon the story Stan and Jack created to bring Cap’s origin even more up to date.

But to me Stan and Jack’s version is the template for all that followed in Cap’s illustrious star-spangled crime-fighting career.

I my opinion Captain America #109 is a ‘key issue’ that every person who names himself or herself a comic book collector needs to add to their collection.

Power Man #48

An unusual phenomenon has occurred over the last ten years or so.  The ‘Big Two’: Marvel and DC Comics, have successfully translated their characters to TV, movies and animation.

DC Comics has great success on network TV and animated cartoon series and movies while Marvel has conquered cable and Netflix and the movies.

Both companies have their strengths and weaknesses but are highly popular with fans.

The Marvel Comics Netflix universe has introduced viewers to Jessica Jones, Daredevil and recently Luke Cage with Iron Fist and The Defenders soon to follow.

Luke Cage was introduced in the Jessica Jones show and has become a hit on its own merits.  Rumors are that Danny Rand: Iron Fist, will be introduced on Luke Cage or Jessica Jones.

Way back in the late 1970s during the Bronze Age of comic books Luke Cage was created.

While in prison under false charges Luke is given the opportunity to reduce his prison term if he agrees to take part in an untested scientific experiment.

Something goes wrong and Luke finds himself with super powers: super strength, near invulnerability and increased stamina.

Escaping prison during the fervor Luke takes up the moniker of Power Man: Hero For Hire and proceeds to use his new abilities to fight crime in the ‘The Hood’.

During one of his adventures Luke encounters Iron Fist and a fight ensues due to a massive misunderstanding.

Issue #48 of Power Man began the three-part saga introducing the two characters to each other an ultimately resulting in them teaming up to fight crime with a title change to Power Man and Iron Fist.

Issue #48 is a key issue for a number of reasons from their initial introduction to each other, their love interests and some of the early artwork provided by penciller superstar John Byrne.

Longtime X-men scribe Chris Claremont provided the script.

Mycroft Holmes And The Apocalypse Handbook #1

Mycroft Holmes: Sherlock's older, and smarter, brother.  He is a spoiled, privileged, obnoxious and brilliant college student who prefers to challenge, mock and spar with his professors, drink and party to excess and have sex with married women-preferably his professors' wives.

After a one-on-one with his Philosophy professor, Mycroft proceeds to seduce the professor's wife.  After several bouts of love-making Mycroft's younger brother: Sherlock, arrives soaking wet.

Having arranged for Sherlock to witness his first naked woman, suddenly masked men smash trough the door and subdue Mycroft with an electrified glove and leave.

Sherlock is not impressed-he credits it to another of Mycroft's carefully crafted and orchestrated pranks.

Mycroft awakens to find himself hanging upside down and bound head to toe.  A masked man assaults him with his fists and then sends in hungry hounds.

But, are things as they seem?  Who are the men who abducted him? What do they want to know?  What have their actions have to do with a mysterious mechanical device that exploded in a nearby museum killing many?

Titan Comics and Kareem Abdul Jabbar (yes, that Kareem!), Raymond Obstfeld, Joshua Cassara, Luis Guerrero and Simon Bowland present a Victorian adventure like no other as Mycroft and Sherlock reluctantly team up to discover the secrets behind the Apocalypse Handbook. 

It's the Age of Steam like its never been seen before!  Great story, awesome art and spectacular colors make a combination that will please any Holmes fan. 


 

History Of The DC Universe Book One and Two

They're at it again!  Way back in the early 1980s DC Comics found itself in a dilemma.  Several decades earlier a decision was made to explain how there could be two Flash, two Green Lantern, etc.

Someone came up with the clever idea of introducing alternate realities (a common sci-fi device) so that multiple characters by the same name and powers could exist simultaneously.

It worked perfectly-at first.  But, sometimes a good thing can be stretched too far resulting in disaster.

Fast forward to the early 1980s.  DC Comics' editorial and writing staff found themselves bogged down in so many alternate realities continuity nightmares that something had to be done.

The solution was DC Comics' Crisis On Infinite Earths maxi-series which melded all the alternate Earths into one cohesive Earth thus effectively cleaned house.

It was a stroke of genius and DC Comics sale increases proved it.

But, it wasn't too long before continuity problems resurfaced.  DC tried to reboot once again with minimal success.  This would go on for several more decades with DC Comics periodically trying to revamp and reboot its universe.

The last such effort was labeled 'The New 52'.  Some fans loved it, some hated it.

After DC Comics initially revamped and condensed its universe with Crisis, writer Marv Wolfman and artist George Perez created a two volume set that brought the entire DC Universe into one timeline and cleverly wrote the history of the DC Universe so fans could have a ready available reference to understand DC's new continuity.

Titled 'The History Of The DC Universe Book One and Two' the squarebound set, through prose and pictures, led readers through a coherent, logical and detailed account of the DC Universe and its history, characters and pivotal storylines.

I consider it the bible of DC History and prefer it over all other DC Universe manifestations since its creation.

Captain America #247

Marvel Comics' Captain America has starred in three movies from Disney Studios that are some of the most successful in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. He's also costarred in three Avengers movies with two more in the works.

Marvel and Disney are to be commended on how well they've handled their hero 'out of time.'

When Jack Kirby and Joe Simon introduced Captain America just prior to WWII Cap was an instant success.  When the war hit he became the red, white and blue symbol for everything America stood for.

After the war ended Captain America disappeared in the pages of comic books until an unsuccessful short run during the height of the Cold War Commie Scare.

It wasn't until the early 1960s that writer Stan Lee and artist Jack Kirby brought Cap back.

Discovered in a block of ice, frozen and in suspended animation, Cap was revived by the newly formed Avengers and soon became their leader.  Cap would go on to star in his own series, most notable by his creator Jack Kirby and writer Stan Lee.

For a number of years afterwards nobody really knew what to do or make of Cap-until writer Roger Stern and artist John Byrne took over Cap's title.

Stern and Byrne captured the essence of Captain America as a man out of time.  The reestablished him as a viable character, brought in a new love interest, established him in a career and gave him a new life in the 20th Century.

That's not to say they ignored his past.  In fact in the first issue of their run Cap faces off against one of his most deadly foes: Baron Strucker-or did he?

S.H.I.E.L.D. and Nick Fury have Strucker incarcerated, only to have him escape and attack Captain America in Fury's flying car.

When the battle is over and Strucker recaptured and he is destined to spend his remaining years behind bars he gives a quick Nazi salute and explodes!

To everyone's surprise Strucker is a robot.  But who sent him and why?

In later issues Cap tackles Baron Blood, Mr. Hyde, Dragon Man and various other bad guys and even is urged to run for president!

Unfortunately Stern and Byrne's run on Captain America was short as creative and editorial conflicts with then editor-and-chief Jim Shooter resulted in Stern and Byrne leaving the title.

Their run on Captain America is credited as being one of the most influential in the series by making Cap a fully-realized and viable character.  Much of their influence can be seen in later issues by other creators and in Cap's screen adventures.

Hellboy In Hell #10

WOW!  Say it ain't so!  It's a trick, right!?

Are you telling me that Hellboy becomes who he was always was meant to be?  Was his whole 'small child' demon, raised by humans a sham?  He broke off his horns for a reason?

That's just a few of the questions raised by Mike Mignola's written and drawn 10th issue of Hellboy In Hell from Dark Horse Comics.

It's great to see Mike back drawing Hellboy.  His dark and moody, steeped in shadows delineations of Hell and things that go bump in the night are second to none.

It's some of the best work he's ever done. 

I don't want to spoil it for you so I suggest you pick up a copy of Hellboy In Hell #10 and read it for yourself.  I guarantee you'll be blown away, just as I was. 

The Legion Of Super-Heroes #294

During the late 1970s the comic book industry was struggling.  Newsstand sales were down, distribution was limited and coupled with lackluster stories and art and missed deadlines the 'Big 2' (Marvel and DC Comics) found themselves struggling to survive.

While it was true there were bright spots of unprecedented creativity within each company, generally speaking comic books were not very exciting and were loosing an audience.

Fortunately the Direct Sales Market changed all that.  By selling directly to retailers the comic book companies eliminated the newsstand distribution middleman, did away with the return policy and were able to streamline their  production by producing only the amount of comic books that would sell.

Comic book fans embraced the Direct Market, comic book companies saved money and as the businesses flourished and improved so too did the quality of art and stories of the comic books.

During the late 1970s and into the early 1980s DC Comics successfully recreated itself.  No long considered 'the establishment' comic book publisher, DC Comics' editorial staff began to take chances and completely transformed the company.

Artists and writers were encouraged to 'rock the boat' and create stories that were more complex and 'outside the box'.

One title underwent a complete transformation under the creative reigns of artist/writer Keith Giffen, writer Paul Levitz and inker Larry Mahlstedt.

In the past the Legion of super-Heroes (while popular) consisted of stories set in the 31st Century that usually guest-starred Superboy, tackling would-be world conquerors and other super-powered or magically enhanced foes.

Granted some good solid stories were produced but it wasn't until the aforementioned creative team took the reigns that the LSH really shone.

In fact, the LSH became so popular that it consistently ranked number two behind DC Comics' best seller: The New Teen Titans.

The LSH really hit its stride when its creative team introduced the five-part Darkness Saga, climaxing with issue #294.

In a nutshell the LSH encountered beings calling themselves the Servants of Darkness.  They scour the known populated sector of space stealing powerful artifacts of energy, freeing beings who yield great power and transporting away to an unknown location and master.

In issue #294 it was discovered that Darkseid, the dastardly god of destruction is siphoning off the accumulated power in his bid to take over the universe.

Only the combined might of the LSH and other heroes (and two unexpected allies) managed to stop Darkseid.

What made this issue so important is that it reinstated Darkseid as a powerful and viable force of evil not seen since Jack Kirby's Fourth World Saga.

It proved the immortality of Darkseid and how despite the efforts of heroes in the past attempts to stop him or destroy him, he survived.

The Darkness Saga established Darkseid as ever present danger and as one of (if not the premiere) villains of the DC Universe.

Airship Enterprise Issues 1 & 2

I love the original Star Trek TV series and Steampunk.  Thanks to Antarctic Press I get to enjoy both with its Airship Enterprise 4-part mini-series.

Join the captain and crew of the Airship Enterprise as they attempt to find the crew of the research vessel Christiaan Huygens.

Captain Janis Tibbs orders the crew of the Airship Enterprise to begin rescue operations as they search for spaceship in distress.

Following the Christiaan Huygens' distress signal they collide with a long cornucopia-shaped living spaceship.  Two of the Airship Enterprise's Outriders are dispatched to the living ship that attacks them and threatens to pull them to their deaths.

Only the quick thinking of the captain saves the Outriders which crash into the giant ship.

Once inside the ship the Outrider occupants discover the crew and wreckage of the Christiaan Huygens-they also discover the occupants of the ship.

The organic ship's 'crew' are part of a hive mind and their High Priestess Aido Quedo wishes to 'assimilate' both the crew of the Airship Enterprise and Christiaan Huygens into the alien ship.

If some of this sounds familiar, it should.  Do I detect hints of the Borg and other Star Trek references?  Doomsday Machine anyone?

Airship Enterprise, as written and drawn by Brian Denham, is a clever (and original) take on a familiar sci-fi series with elements of Steampunk thrown in for good measure.

Great story, great art and awesome colors.  I can't wait for issues 3 and 4!


Daredevil #168

For years Marvel Comics' Daredevil title produced lackluster stories.  It had its high points of course such as when Gene Colan and Barry Smith illustrated the title.

For a short period Daredevil teamed with the Black Widow so both heroes shared the title.

During the late 1970s Daredevil sales were dipping dangerously close to the point that the title would be cancelled until a young artist (and soon to be writer) started on the title.

That writer/artist was Frank Miller.

Barely into his twenties Miller revitalized Daredevil's book.  A huge fan of film noir movies and crime novels and of Golden Age artist Will Eisner's Spirit comic book character, Miller transformed Daredevil into a dark, edgy title whose hero fought crime in dirty back alleys and less than savory criminal settings.

Suddenly Daredevil became hot and before long Daredevil ranked as Marvel Comics second best-selling title behind The Uncanny X-Men.

This came about in no small part by Miller's scripts and shadow-laden and dynamic art assisted by the inks of Klaus Janson.

Daredevil hit its artistic high when Miller introduced Elektra, one-time lover of Daredevil's alter ego, Matt Murdock.

Bitter after the murder of her father, Elektra turns to crime.  She trains to become an assassin, who eventually faces off against Daredevil.

Still in love with her Matt reluctantly fights Elektra and in the end realizes that their love is doomed as they are on opposites side of the law.

Interesting enough on the cover of issue #168 Elektra's name is spelt wrong as Elecktra.

Some issues later Elektra is killed by Bullseye only to be resurrected even later. Over the past few decades she has wavered between being a heroine or villainess.

Daredevil #168 is on the 'must have' list for serious comic book collectors.  


Suicide Squad #1

The comic book community is all abuzz about the new Suicide Squad movie coming out late in 2016.

Many fans are excited because the popular DC Comics villains Harley Quinn, The Joker and Deadshot will appear in the film along with other DC villains.

The Suicide Squad #1 issue from 1987 is now on everyone's 'must have' list: written by John Ostrander, drawn by Luke McDonnell and inked by Karl Kesel.

The new film owes much of its premise to the series.

The Suicide Squad appeared first during the Silver Age, albeit in slightly altered forms: first as a band of ordinary intervals battling super-villains and threats and then as paramilitary group fighting during WWII.

Neither series struck a cord with fans, had limited issues and were relegated to second-tier status in the DC Universe-until 1987.

Issue #1 of the Suicide Squad, as it appeared in 1987, consisted of a band of malcontents (Deadshot, Captain Boomerang and Bronze Tiger among them) who are given the opportunity to shorten or eliminate their jail time if they agree to work for a covert government agency, headed by Amanda Waller, fighting super-powered or conventional threats to the U.S. and the world.

There's one catch though: each Suicide Squad member wears a bracelet that will explode and either kill or severely injure them should they decide to try to escape.

Without going into specifics the Squad performs its first task, somewhat haphazardly, and reluctantly bands together to accomplish their assigned goal.

While super-villain team-ups have existed in the past they were never formed to help people and defuse volatile situations.

If the premise works in the upcoming movie then expect to see more SS adventures and other comic book based movies following a similar formula.

Wheelie And The
Chopper Bunch #1

He became a comic book artist superstar in the Bronze Age, continued to work through the Copper Age and still publishes today.

He revitalized Superman, updated the Spider-Man mythos, reworked the Wonder Woman legend, broke the 4th Wall with She Hulk, made the X-Men excellent, brought the Avengers up to date, took Alpha Flight to new heights, put the 'fantastic' back into the fantastic Four. He has drawn almost every major comic book superhero from DC and Marvel Comics, created his own small press titles and tackled a large percentage of small press characters.

He's outspoken, opinionated, talented, an excellent writer, a cutting-edge artist, a comic book historian and is not shy about taking on controversial subjects and other writers and artists.

He's John Byrne and there was a time when he was an unknown talent from Canada hoping to break into the comic book field.

John got his start professionally at Charlton Comics on a Hanna-Barbera licensed property based on a Saturday morning kid's cartoon show. In Wheelie And The Chopper Bunch #1, dated May,1975, John provided both pencils and inks.

While the stories were less than memorable, John's style was already starting to assert itself, even though the comic was drawn in a more cartoonish style befitting the title.

For any fan of comic books, or of John's work, this is a pivotal issue in that it contains the first work of an artist/writer who during his career changed the face of comic books much more than he is given credit for.


Fantastic Four #232

It's no secret that artist John Byrne and writer Chris Claremont were often at odds with each other when it came to the stories and their contents during their historic run on The Uncanny X-Men.

Not long after they finished their stellar storylines of The Dark Phoenix Saga and Days Of Future Past both artist and writer came to a creative loggerhead.

Claremont's prima-donna attitude tended to rub Byrne the wrong way because he considered himself just as important as Claremont when it came to plots and character development.

When Claremont decided to take the characters in a completely different direction than Byrne agreed with, that was the final straw that broke the camel's back.

Byrne quit The Uncanny X-Men and requested to be both writer and artist on Marvel's flagship title: The Fantastic Four.

Byrne believed, and rightly so, that the FF no longer held the magic and wonder it did during the Lee/Kirby years.  The sense of wonder, adventure and especially its daring had been lost over the intervening years.

Considering that the FF was responsible for introducing so many important storylines and characters, the title had devolved into little more than a superhero soap opera.

Byrne changed that with his very first issue as writer/artist: issue #232.

Byrne brought back one of the FF's classic villains: Diablo.

With its stunning cover showing effigies of the FF lit aflame by Diablo, illuminated in light with heavy shadows, the book hits the ground running as Diablo lets loose his elementals, matching them against the FF's individual powers.

Only by switching elemental opponents does the FF win the day.

Often this issue is overlooked in its importance.  Having just come off the X-Men's ground-breaking run, Byrne's FF work tended to take a back burner.

And yet, if you examine each issue's storylines you'll discover how the glory of the FF is brought back to the forefront.

Many old and familiar characters are brought back, new ones introduced and galaxy-spanning storylines were hatched that still affect the Marvel Universe until this day.

In fact, Byrne's FF run rivaled the sales figures of the X-Men, at times almost matching it or overtaking it.

For a true re-igniting of the fantastic that is the Fantastic Four John Byrne's run is almost as impressive as the Lee/Kirby classic issues.



Eight
HOT Titles

With the plethora of existing comic book movies and TV series, and upcoming projects, certain character first appearances in comic books have escalated in price.

How many do you have? 

They include:

First Gambit: The Uncanny X-Men #266
First Apocalypse: X-Factor #6
First Deadpool: the New Mutants #98
First Rocket Raccoon: Incredible Hulk #271
First Thanos: The Invincible Iron Man #55
First Harley Quinn: Batman Adventures #12
First Suicide Squad: Suicide Squad #1
First Luke Cage: Luke Cage, Hero For Hire #1

 

Doctor Strange #53

Back in 1982, at the tail-end of the Bronze Age, a pivotal event happened in a second-tier Marvel Comics' title: Doctor Strange #53.

In the story Doctor Strange must hunt down the shard of a piece of the soul of a young woman he loves.

The fragment of her soul is traveling back in time skipping centuries to reside in her past lives bodies.

Unless the process is stopped mankind will stop dreaming thus ending the existence of the Marvel villain Nightmare.  It is Nightmare that has sent Strange on his time-spanning quest.

Strange soon finds himself in ancient Egypt standing atop the Great Sphinx.

To his amazement he discover that the Sphinx contains advanced futuristic machinery.

Upon closer inspection the Doctor soon finds himself trapped and taken prisoner by a mechanized security system.

Freeing his bonds using his Astral Form, the Doctor travels to the Pharaoh's chamber only to discover the Fantastic Four held captive and unable to use their powers.

Coincidentally he Doctor has traveled to the same time the FF traveled to the past to witness their current predicament.

As the story unfolds Strange finds his love's past form and manages to free the Thing by focusing the cosmic rays from the Sun transforming the Thing into Ben Grimm, who escapes his bonds and in turn frees the other members of the FF.

Doctor Strange #53 shares almost an identical cover with FF #19.  If it were not for the aid of Doctor Strange the FF and quite possibly the Marvel Universe as we know it would not exist.

Marshall Rodgers and Terry Austin provide the stellar art aided by the clever Roger Stern script.

I consider this issue one of the most important comic books in Marvel Comics' history .  It deserves to be a 'key issue' in any Marvel Comics collection.

 

Batman #251

During the duration of the Batman TV series and several years afterward into the early 1970s the Batman was considered little more than pop culture joke. 

Several writers and artists attempted to bring the 'dark' back to the Dark Knight with limited success.

Even Batman's once notorious 'Rogue's Gallery' of villains were little more than pathetic parodies of their once former villainous selves.

One of the artists who slowly and meticulously brought Batman back to his dark roots was Neal Adams.

His stellar work on DC Comics' Brave And The Bold titles. which teamed Batman with various DC heroes. garnered praise from fans.

His depiction of Batman reestablished Batman as 'The World's Greatest Detective' and 'Dark Knight'.

Adams drew Batman as a dark mysterious figure, often cloaked in shadow, who was a master of multiple forms of combat and possessed an analytical and logical mind that rivaled Sherlock Holmes.

Successive stories cemented Batman's transformation.  But one thing was missing.

Batman's arch nemesis: The Joker, was stilled depicted as nothing more than a bumbling, comical 'Clown of Crime'.  That is until writer Denny O'Neil and artist Neal Adams reintroduced him in Batman #251.

In that landmark issue the Joker was transformed back to his original maniacal, madman persona as he was originally presented when he was first created.

Literally insane, the Joker was portrayed as a ruthless, blood-thirsty killer with no regard for human life, an ego-maniac and the polar opposite of Batman. 

The concept that the Joker could not exist without the Batman and Batman without the Joker persists to this day.

In this ground-breaking story the Joker meticulously eliminated former members of his gang whom he believed let him down or betrayed him.

In a desperate race against time Batman finds himself one step behind the Joker ultimately resulting in a near fatal final meeting with the mad menace.

Many credit this issue ushering in the new 'dark' era of the Batman and elevating the Joker to the head of the list of classic villains.


X-Men #108

 

In this day and age it may seem hard to believe that Marvel Comics’ X-Men was at one time a middle-tier seller.

 

The X-Men had never been one of Marvel’s top selling titles during the Silver Age even after Roy Thomas and powerhouse penciler Neal Adams took over the title.

 

Circulation numbers were still low and the title (while not canceled) began publishing reprints starting in the low 60s issues though the early 90s issues.

 

When Giant Size X-Men #1 was introduced with the new X-Men team the title slowly began to pick up readers and eventually began publishing bi-monthly.

 

The title’s young writer (Chris Claremont) and penciler Dave Cockrum infused the X-Men titles with plenty of pathos, angst and a soap opera setting along with plenty of action to pique readers’ interest.

 

Some little known interesting facts behind the title may surprise some readers.

 

Chris Claremont’s favorite characters were Colossus and Nightcrawler.  He considered Wolverine a second-string character with very little potential-nothing more than a thug.  In fact, at one time it was bantered about that Wolverine would be a teenager and that his claws were actually in his gloves.  There was even talk that he was a mutated Wolverine!

 

Penciller Dave Cockrum had left DC Comics where he penciled The Legion Of Superheroes.  Many of the character designs he created for the X-Men were originally intended for use in the LSH: Storm, Colossus and Nightcrawler for example.

 

As the X-men slowly garnered more readers Cockrum had a difficult time completing each issue’s pencils-he was a slow and meticulous penciler best known for his costume, character and setting designs.   Cockrum penciled the X-Men through issue #107, which introduced the Starjammers and the Shi-ar Imperial Guard (Marvel’s version of LSH), pitting them against the X-Men.

 

Take note that in issues # 107 and 108 many of the events that would later go on to define the X-Men were first introduced such as Phoenix’s power and Wolverine’s ferocity.

 

Unable to keep a consistent penciling schedule Cockrum reluctantly quit the X-Men and a new artist, fresh off Marvel’s Spider-Man Team-up, Ironfist and other fill-in issues took center stage.

John Byrne began his impressive penciling run with issue #108 and the X-Men changed forever.

 

Unlike Claremont Byrne loved his fellow Canadian Wolverine and in years to come would successfully define the berserker X-Man.

 

His boundless imagination gave new life to the X-Men with his vast alien landscapes, innovative character desigsn and his unfailing eye for page composition and story pacing.

 

He, and Claremont, would go on to co-plot the X-Men through its most impressive run until the mid-140 issues when Claremont’s and Byrne’s creative visions clashed, resulting in Byrne leaving he X-Men.

 

Ironically Dave Cockrum would begin a second run on the title, which eventually fell to the penciling talents of John Romita Jr., Paul Smith, Marc Silvestri and Jim Lee.

X-Men #108 is not the easiest issue to find and is considered by many collectors as the spark that ignited John Byrne’s career.  He, along with inker Terry Austin, brought a new realism to comic books with their collaborative attention to detail.  Their team-up would forever change the face of comic books and would go on to influence a whole new generation of comic book artists.

 


 

Steampunk Snow Queen #1 & 2

Disney's animated movie Frozen was the most successful computer animated movie of all time.

I won't bore you with the story because unless you've been buried in a cave somewhere you've at least seen or know about the movie.

But...and that's a big but.  What if the story was tweaked and expanded, slightly darkened and given a whole new twist by being set in a Steampunk world?

That's exactly the premise behind Antarctic Press's Steampunk Snow Queen #1 & 2 as written, drawn, colored (and who knows what else?) by the uber-talented Rod Espinosa.

Rod throws in some intrigue, romance, politics, Steampunk technology and a stellar cast of characters that put Frozen to shame.

If this series was made into a movie you better bet I'd go see it.  It's that good.

Rod's command of drawing pencil, inks and color is second to none and his imagination when it comes to costume design, environments, technical accessories, transport and weapons has to be seen to be believed.

Where does he come up with this stuff?  Why other comic book publishers have not tried to grab him up is a mystery to me.  Antarctic Press is very lucky to have his tremendous talent behind many of its titles.

Pick up both issues (and the entire series). You'll be glad you did.


Superman #1

Artist/writer John Byrne got his start in the comic book profession working at Charlton Comics in the mid-1970s.  After a couple of years Marvel Comics took notice of his talent and offered him work.

For close to a decade John was a Marvel Comics company man.  His work revitalized the Uncanny X-men, The Fantastic Four, She-Hulk, Namor The Submariner and The Incredible Hulk, along with a few other second tier titles.

Speculations abound that John managed to alienate a few people at Marvel Comics, he grew tired of Marvel characters , he just needed some much needed breathing room or the chance to spread his creative wings-whatever the reason, John quit Marvel Comics and moved to DC Comics.

At that time DC Comics had successfully revamped its comic book line with its Crisis On Infinite Earths maxi-series.  Many of its titles (particularly Batman) took on a more serious dark tone.  Imported artists and writers from overseas infused DC Comics with new life and vitality.

Fans were clamoring to DC Comics and a new age had begun for DC Comics who had at one time been considered the 'establishment' comic book company.

DC Comics offered John a deal he could not refuse: a total revamp of the world's first and greatest superhero: Superman.

John agreed, with the stipulation that he would have almost total control of the transformation.  DC Comics agreed, with minor concessions.

To introduce the revamp John wrote and drew The Man Of Steel 6-part mini-series that redefined the Superman origin, scope of powers and supporting cast.

John was then to head up the entire Superman line of comic books: Superman, Action and The Adventures Of Superman.

John agreed to write all three titles, draw Superman and Action and let artist Jerry Ordway draw The Adventures Of Superman.

The launch of all three titles was a huge artistic and commercial success.

John's sweetheart title was Superman and beginning with the first issue he brings back Metallo and creates one of the most dynamic and explosive fight sequences seen in comic books up to that point.

John was at his creative peak and it shows in his page layouts, tight pencils (inked by longtime collaborator Terry Austin) and his powerful script.

John would continue on the Superman titles for several years until (like at Marvel Comics) he left for his own reasons.  Regardless of his decision to leave, his run on Superman re-ignited the 'super' in Superman and revitalized the red and blue boy scout's titles.  

 

 
Green Lantern #172

Back in the early 1980s DC Comics decided to shake things up a bit and canvas for new writing and artistic talent outside of the United States.  This was lauded by some and loathed by others, nevertheless, DC proceeded.

Some of its earliest foreign talent was from England which included writer Alan Moore and Grant Morrison, among others, and artists Brian Bolland, Alan Davis and Dave Gibbons who would later go on to pencil Alan Moore’s ground-breaking series; Watchmen).

Gibbons had garnered himself a solid reputation as a competent and reliable artist in England.  Drafted by DC Comics Gibbons would do a few single issues of various titles to prove himself with his first full series assignment was on Green Lantern. 

At the time Green Lantern was a second tier title at DC Comics and although it had a loyal following its print numbers were not impressive. 

Writer Len Wein was an excellent storyteller but for some reason Green Lantern did not jell with many of DC Comics’ readers.

Dave Gibbons was placed on the title in the hopes that its readership would increases and after a few issues it did in no small part due to Dave Gibbons artwork.

Although not as polished or detailed as his later work, Gibbons had a talent for creating interesting page layouts, character designs and well-designed environments and accouterments.

In his first issues (#172) Gibbons and Wein bring Green Lantern back to Earth, reestablished him back among friends and rekindled his love affair with Carol Ferris.

A short Green Lantern Corps tale was also drawn by Gibbons.

I encourage those who read Green Lantern to pick up the early Dave Gibbons issues to see how the popularity of Green Lantern was given a boost in the right direction thus making it one of DC Comics more popular titles today.

Five Comic Books To Boast About

If you've been a comic book collector as long as I have you've seen a lot of changes in the industry: how to purchase comic books, where to find them, the diminishing ability to find old comic books at yard sales, flea markets, etc. and the ever increasing price of new and old comic books (especially Key issues.)

E-Bay has especially made finding old comic books at a decent price almost impossible.

Did you notice I said, "Almost impossible."

Along comes http://www.mysterycomicshop.com/ that brings back the fun and adventure of finding old comic books.

Each month comic book fans can purchase different packages (at varying prices plus S&H) that are guaranteed to contain one #1 issue and some Modern and Bronze issues.  Occasionally Silver Age and Key issues are included.  You never know what you'll get.  That's what makes it so exciting.

Here's an example.  My first pack containing the following Modern Age titles: Fall Of Cthulhu #1, X-Men #157 and three Bronze Age titles: Peter Parker The Spectacular Spider-Man #29, Fantastic Four #194 and Avengers #151.

Exciting!  With each package you are guaranteed to get you money's worth, you can cancel at anytime and even better:  all books are very good or better in grade.  Occasionally expect to get some real winners!  Heck, for the price you pay you always get winners.

What a great concept!  I'm excited to see what I receive each month.  Why waste your time trudging all over town for the best deals or getting price shock on E-Bay when you can get some great comic books and the thrill of the unexpected and all for a great price.  Check it out.


Four Doctors Doctor Who #1

Ouch!  My brain hurts!  As if watching or reading about Doctor Who's adventures isn't taxing on my mind enough when it's just one Doctor.

But, throw four Doctors into the mix and it's time for some serious headache medicine!

In Titan Comics' Four Doctors Doctor Who #1 the fist part of a weekly Doctor Who event starts.

It seem that the latest Doctor's traveling companion, Clara Oswald, has been doing a little sleuthing under the Doctor's nose without him knowing about it.

While on one of their 'outings' Clara happens upon 'The Museum Of Terrible Fates'.  Investigating, she asks about the Doctor and The Museum responds-urgently!

It seems that somehow four Doctors will meet resulting in the end of time and existence.  Using the information she obtained for The Museum, Clara takes the Tardis and arrives at a cafe in Paris where two of the other Doctors and their companions will meet. 

She arrives early to warn the companions only to have their Doctors and her Doctor all arrive.

Time paradox! And who shows up when a time paradox occurs?  The Reapers of course!  And that's just the first issue!

For some delightful time travel paradoxes and a Doctor dilemma don't miss this event from the creative team of Paul Cornell and Neil Edwards.  Great story and art-who could ask for more?


Ms. Mystic #1

Back in the early 1980s comic book distribution was going through a tremendous change.

Newsstand distribution of comic books was dwindling and the newly created direct market was replacing it.

The direct market allowed publisher to sell their books directly to the comic book, game and specialty shops on a no return basis.

As direct market sales increased several small publishers entered the market selling exclusively to the direct market.

One such company was Pacific Comics.  One its first direct market comic books was Neal Adams' Ms. Mystic.

Ms. Mystic was a sort of a female Captain Planet.  Pacific Comics printed only a few issues.  A few years later Neal Adams own company: Continuity Press, would continue her adventures, along with a few other Continuity properties.

Ms. Mystic was a 300 hundred old witch that had been banished to another dimension and through the conflict of environmentalists against an industrial mega-company was released from her dimensional prison and took up the mantle of Earth's protector.

Heavily infused with Neal Adam's political and environmental views Ms. Mystic was still a lot of fun to read and off course a real kick to look at considering it was drawn by Neal himself.

While few people today remember the title it was nonetheless one of the pioneers of today's direct market/sales, creator-owned properties.

Later on Pacific Comics would introduce two more memorable characters as back up stories in two of its titles.  They were Groo The Wanderer by Sergio Aragones and The Rocketeer by Dave Stevens.

 


Dreadstar #1

The universe-spanning, end of the universe epic is a mainstay of today's comic books.

Even now Marvel and DC Comics (and few other smaller publishers) are in the midst of universe-altering mega-events that promise to 'change everything' and 'shake things up'.

In truth it's just a clever ploy to reinvent companies and draw in new readers while trying not to alienate current readers and collectors.  After all, if things change too much current comic book readers and collectors might bail because nothing of the old universes still exist.  The result, fewer readers, a dwindling collectors' market and no sense of history or continuity.

As I mentioned in a past review Marvel Comics' Galactus Trilogy set the standard by which a comic book 'epic' was created.

Both Marvel, DC and countless other publishers have used that concept to good use...but.. there is one individual who has honed it to perfection.

Jim Starlin began his professional comic book artist and writer career at Marvel Comics in the 1970s.  During the Bronze Age Jim successfully established himself as the 'epic' creator.

His runs on Warlock and Captain Marvel are still lauded today and for good reason.

Both series introduced readers to powerful cosmic forces, evil empires and casts of characters that are as popular today as they were when they were first created.  Gamorra and Drak The Destroyer (amongst others) ring any bells?

No one could compete with Stalin's mastery of the mega-epic.  In fact, each summer nearly all comic book companies create an epic mega-series that ties in its various comic book titles.  Case in point: Marvel's current Secret War epic and DC's Convergence and Divergence.

Creating epics for comic book companies are one thing.  After all, creating characters while on a title makes that character(s) property of the comic book publisher.

During the early 1980s artists/writers took notice of the direct sales market and the growing phenomenon: creator rights.

While Jim Starlin could be counted on to create stellar comic book tales for whatever company he worked for at the time the itch was still there to own his own creations.

When Marvel Comics introduced its Epic Comics line Jim was first in line to come up with his own property: Dreadstar.

He created a true epic, spectacular n its scope and if you were savvy enough to notice Jim slipped in a few references to his previous galactic-spanning prose seen in Warlock and Captain Marvel.  Dreadstar was fist introduced in a graphic novel and then its own series.

The story was a simple one.  Dreadstar, the sole survivor of a destroyed solar system, wanted only to live in peace.  Unfortunately powerful evil forces force him to take a stand and so, he, and a band of misfits, take on the dark forces that rule the universe.

Jim's story-telling and artistic creation shined-his work had never been better.

Unshackled by the Comics Code or editorial dictates of a mother company Jim let his imagination, art and prose explode. 

Dreadstar, like Jim's earlier work on Warlock and Captain Marvel, set the bar high for creative excellence.

Recently it was announced Dreadstar is making its return.  Over the years Jim has continued to work for various companies (his Dreadstar found a home at the now defunct First Comics with an impressive run).

His talent for turning convention on its ear is legendary.  Currently he is best known to comic book readers as the father of Thanos and the various 'Infinity' storylines.

Regardless the title he works on Jim Starlin continues to pump out universe-altering epics.

 


X-Men # 101

Every comic book collector and reader worth his or her salt knows that Marvel Comics' X-Men is the biggest selling title in comic book publishing.

But that was not always the case.

When Jack Kirby and Stan Lee introduced Marvel Comics' X-Men in their own title in the 1960s sales were good-but not great.

After about 60 issues the sales were plummeting and in a last ditch effort to save the title Marvel Comics put superstars penciller Neal Adams and writer Roy Thomas on the title.

Granted their run was phenomenal but it did not translate to higher sales numbers so the title was cancelled.  At least as far as new stories were concerned.  It struggled on for about 20 more issues consisting of reprints and finally bit the dust.

In the mid-1970s the All-New, All Different X-Men were introduced in the revived title and while sales weren't stellar they were good enough to eventually push the title from a bi-monthly to a monthly print schedule-in no small part due to the scripts and art of Chris Claremont and Dave Cockrum.

After completing an assignment in space the X-Men are aboard a damaged and plummeting space shuttle.  It crashes into a body of water and everyone survives-except Jean Grey.  Or so it was supposed.

Issue #101 introduced a character whose influence can still be felt today throughout the Marvel Comics Universe.

Having assumed Jean died in the crash the X-Men are startled and astonished when the water about them begins bubbling and suddenly a green and yellow clad Jean Grey emerges in a lightshow of energy proclaiming she is the Phoenix.

It was thought that Jean's mutant abilities came to full fruition when the crash triggered some sort of hidden power surge.

In later issues it was revealed that Jean possessed the cosmic power of the Phoenix.  Unfortunately the power soon corrupted her and she became the Dark Phoenix, devourer of worlds.

The first appearance of the Phoenix would set in motion a decades long string of stories that forever changed the Marvel Universe.  The Phoenix (Jean) would go on to become the Black Queen of the Hellfire Club and eventually die sacrificing herself rather than turning into the ravenous and insatiable Dark Phoenix.

Later still it would be revealed that the Phoenix wasn't Jean Grey but a being of immense power who took on her appearance.  Jean was still alive in a protective cocoon at the bottom of body of water the space shuttle crashed into and would be revived.

Jean's fate and that of the Phoenix would be intermingled over the following years and the power of the Phoenix would rival that of Galactus himself.

We've not seen the last of the Phoenix or its dark manifestation and I dare say not the last of Jean Grey.

 


Camelot 3000 #1

The late 1970s and early 1980s brought huge changes to the comic book industry.

Before then comic book publishers sold their comics through magazine and book distributors.  That meant that comic books (like magazines) were sold on newsstands across the country.  Every drugstore, five and dime and mom and pop shop carried comic books if they carried magazines.

Like magazines, retailers could return unsold comic books to the distributor who in turn would send them back to the publishers for a refund.

As the price of magazines rose comic books rose too, but a slower rate.  Magazine distributors took notice that their profit on comic books was much lower than on comic books so distributors started to cut back on comic books. 

Comic books often were not placed on shelves or only a few scattered titles.  Comic book publishers found their profits dropping as distribution dried up.

Along came the direct sales market that allowed comic book publishers to sell directly to comic book shops with no return policy.  Numbers began to climb and publishers recognized that developing product that sold only through direct market sales could turn a profit.

Marvel and DC Comics began producing direct sales titles.  About that same time small publishers began to pop up that sold exclusively to comic book shops via direct sales.

Since comic books sold mostly to serious collectors (many who were getting older) both Marvel, DC and other publishers began producing titles with more 'mature' themes and stories.

In 1982 writer Mike Barr presented a new story idea to DC Comics.  It updated the Arthurian legend and was aimed at an older audience.

At first DC balked and turned down the idea but soon relented.

Accompanying Mike Barr was British artist Brian Bolland who provided the pencils. Few knew of Bolland's work, except those who read Britain's Judge Dredd.

Since DC Comics was importing many of its writers and artists from the British Isles Brian was a perfect choice.

This was time when the internet and e-mail did not exist.  Inter-continental mail and package delivery was in its infancy. While coordinating the writing and art proved somewhat difficult-resulting in missed deadlines-the series did see completion nearly a year behind schedule.

Camelot 3000 is important for a few reasons.  First, it was printed on more expensive Baxter paper and on Letterpress.  It was one of DC Comics' first direct market series and its very fist maxi-series limited to 12 issues.

The series was a huge success.  Fans loved the story and especially Bolland's ever improving artwork.

DC had a hit on its hands and soon other direct sale series would follow.

 

Back in the mid 1960s Marvel Comics' writer Stan Lee and
Fantastic Four #51

How do you follow up a classic story that changed the face of comic books forever?

Back in the mid 1960s Marvel Comics' writer Stan Lee and artist Jack Kirby created a trio of comic book issues that revolutionized and altered the world of comic book publishing forever.  Its effects can still be seen and felt in comic books today.

I'm referring to the ground-breaking 'Galactus Trilogy' that introduced the world to the World Devourer, the Silver Surfer and the Cosmic Storyline.

Never before had a comic book series tackled such a large all encompassing scope of a story.  It had everything from a godlike antagonist, universe-spanning adventures, strange and exotic worlds and locations and a thrilling story.  How do you top that?

Somehow Kirby and Lee did.

Just after the three issue run (#s 48, 49 and 50) Kirby and Lee opted for a simpler more personal story.  They succeeded in what many consider the 'best' Fantastic Four story ever written and drawn. 

Issue #51 involved a scientist who was insanely jealous of Reed Richard's success.  He succeeded in stealing the Thing's appearance and powers and planned to kill Reed Richards.

But after witnessing the friendship and family bond of the Fantastic Four the scientist sacrificed his life to save Reed from the Negative Zone.

It is one of the most touching and poignant FF stories ever told and rightly deserves its place in comic book history.

What the Galactus Trilogy did for universe-spanning stories issue #51 proved that comic books were more than just big fights and grandiose stories, they could also be heartfelt and touching.  

The cover features the Thing with head down and arms spread with the story's title printed in green in a black box.  It reads 'This Man...This Monster.'  A true classic. 

 

DC Comics Presents #26

George Perez switched alliances to DC Comics from Marvel Comics in the late 1970s.  The soon-to-be comic book artist superstar was persuaded to work for DC when promised that he would be the penciller on the Justice League of America.

After several fill-in issues on various titles proving he could deliver the goods George began his run on the JLA.

As DC Comics sales began to fall behind Marvel Comics sales it was decided that changes had to be made in order to compete.

Noticing the sky-rocketing sales of Marvel's Uncanny X-Men, DC management wanted to tap into that burgeoning market with a title of its own.

Writer Marv Wolfman and George Perez felt that a revamped Teen Titans might just be the ticket.  DC bosses balked at the idea pointing out that the Teen Titans had been re-launched before and failed miserably.

George and Marv persisted and convinced DC to give it one more try.  They produced the first issue of the New Teen Titans and DC executives were so impressed that they green-lighted the series on one condition.

Wolfman and Perez would create a 16-page pre-New Teen Titans #1 insert that would be printed in DC Comics' DC Comics Presents titles. It was an industry first.

The creative duo complied and not long after DC Comics Presents #26 hit the newsstands.

DC Comics Presents was a showcase starring Superman with different DC heroes guest-starring each issue.  Issue #26 teamed Superman and Green Lantern by Jim Starlin.

But what really caught readers attentions was the New Teen Titans insert.

The 16-page story centered on Robin who when investigating a crime is suddenly transported to another place and time.

While there he meets other teenagers who would eventually team up with him to form the New Teen Titans.  They included Changeling, Cyborg, Raven, Wonder Girl and Starfire.

Eventually Robin finds himself transported back to his original location convinced that the whole thing was a dream, unaware that Raven had arranged the whole future encounter.

The story was a hit and when the New Teen Titans came out fans bought it in record numbers.

Eventually the New Teen Titans would match the sales numbers of Marvel's Uncanny X-Men.  DC had a hit on its hands.

 

The Avengers #57

It's no secret that writer Roy Thomas loves the Golden Age of comic books-specifically the superheroes of the Golden Age.

Back in the Silver Age of comic books when Roy was an up and coming writer for Marvel Comics he reintroduced a number of Marvel Comics Golden Age characters in the pages of many of the comic books he worked on-especially The Avengers.

While many of the Golden Age characters retained their original appearance and powers Thomas would sometimes 'tweak' or 'modify' their overall persona.

Case in point.

With issue #57 of The Avengers Thomas introduced readers to The Vision, albeit a modified version of the Golden Age character.

Originally The Vision was Aarkus, an alien law enforcement officer who came to Earth to fight crime.  Many similarities are shared between Aarkus and the new Vision.  Both wear long flowing capes with a high collar.  Both have odd-pigmented skin and pupil-less eyes.  There is where the similarities end.

The new Vision was a creation of Ultron, the diabolical and infamous robot created by Henry Pym.  Ultron obtained self awareness and became hell-bent on destroying Pym, his fellow Avengers and taking over the world.

In issue #57 Ultron sends The Vision to destroy The Avengers.  After a memorable tussle The Vision is captured and as his lost memory begins to reassert itself he stops his aggression towards The Avengers.

When Ultron attacks The Avengers The Vision stands against him and ultimately Ultron is destroyed-or at least that version of him was.

The Avengers #57 is important for a number of reasons, chief among them the introduction of The Vision.

Artist John Buscema, who was at the height of his creativity, portrays The Vision as noble creature, out of place, isolated and yet longing for companionship.  This issue also proved to Roy Thomas and Marvel that Marvel's entire stable of Golden Age heroes and villains could be recycled and used.

Thomas would later introduce a whole slew of Golden Age heroes in his Kree/Skrull War epic.

Marvel Comic Book readers would later go on to discover that The Vision's body was that of the original Human Torch and much of his personality was swiped from Wonder Man.

The Vision and the Scarlet Witch would develop a romantic relationship and eventually marry and have two children.  Sadly, the children would prove to be a manifestation of The Scarlet Witch's hex power since it was impossible for The Vision and the Scarlet Witch to have children on their own.

The recent Avenger movie showcased Ultron and introduced movie goers to The Vision.  Although the cinema Vision's origin is different than his comic book version he does have a striking resemblance to his namesake and similar powers.

The Avengers #57 is considered one of the 'key issues' to collectors of Silver Age comic books.

 


Watchmen #1

DC Comics' Watchmen 12-part maxi-series changed everything!

Back in 1986 writer Alan Moore proposed a revolutionary new idea for a comic book series to DC Comics' executives.'

DC Comics had purchased the rights and characters from the defunct Charlton Comic Book company.

Key characters DC purchased were Captain Atom, The Question, Peacemaker, Blue Beetle, Nightshade and Thunderbolt.

Moore wanted to stir up things a bit and outlined a story were the Charlton heroes acted, reacted and often behaved badly like ordinary people did. 

He also wanted to emphasis the point that people with super powers can make foolish, bad and dangerous decisions and are as fallible as the ordinary guy on the street. What would real super-beings be like if they existed?

At first DC embraced the idea.  But, as with most corporate politics, the decision was made to stay with the status quo.  Meaning that DC bigwigs didn't want to soil the Charlton characters.

Moore then proceeded to create his own characters based on the Charlton characters.  They were The Comedian, Ozymandias, Dr. Manhattan, Silk Spectre, Nite-Owl and Rorschach- all members of the Watchmen.

In issue #1 Rorschach investigates the death of The Comedian who was thrown out of a high rise upper floor and plummeted to his death.

As the story progresses Moore skillfully introduced the members of the Watchmen  and their reactions to The Comedian's death and offered a hint to as yet an unknown conspiracy.

By doing so Moore compelled readers to follow the story each issue offering just enough clues to whet readers' curiosities.  In addition the back-up stories about the original Watchmen and a parallel pirate story added to the mystery and suspense Moore so skillfully laid out.

Artist Dave Gibbons (another Brit brought to the United States by DC) provided the art.

Gibbons had garnered quite a reputation for himself on his stellar work at DC, among them a lengthy run on Green Lantern.

With Watchmen Gibbons let his creative energies run wild.  Every panel evoked a darkness and complexity mirroring Moore's script.

Visual clues were sprinkled throughout the max-series, culminating in one of the most talked about final issues ever created for comic books.

With Watchmen Moore and Gibbons ushered in (with fellow writer/artist Frank Miller) the 'Dark Age' of comic books.  Suddenly heroes became almost indistinguishable from villains and villains from heroes.

It would be nearly a decade later before a gradual change back to a defined line between good and evil was reestablished. 

Even today superheroes cross the line.  Comic books had suddenly grown up and the fan base ate it up.

 


Alpha Flight #1

Fresh off his successful run as penciller on Marvel Comics' The Uncanny X-Men, back in the late 1970s and early 1980s, John Byrne began writing and penciling Marvel's flagship title: The Fantastic Four.

While on his run on the X-Men both he, and writer Chris Claremont, introduced a Canadian superhero team that Wolverine originally belonged to until he left and joined the X-Men: Alpha Flight.

Alpha Flight caught on with Marvel Comic book readers and at the urging of Marvel John Byrne introduced the team in its own comic book of which he wrote, drew and inked.

In the book readers were introduced to the team members, among them Vindicator, Sasquatch, Aurora, Northstar, Puck, Snowbird, Marrina and Puck.

The first issue also pitted against the team against their first foe: Tundra.

It was also in this issue that each member of the team was given their due.  Backgrounds, kinships and the entire dynamic of the team were shown. 

Considering the amount of pages in the first issue, John Byrne did an excellent job covering such a broad area.

Over the following issues Byrne would guide the team through a series of adventures, even the death of one its members.

Alpha Flight continues to be a part of the Marvel Comics Universe but it has never regained its popularity that it had under Byrne's creative guidance. 


Crisis On Infinite Earths #1

The DC Comics Universe was a mess.  For years DC writers and artists had thrown continuity out the window.  To make matters worse during the Silver Age the concept of alternate universes and Earths was used to maximum effect.

So many Supermen, Wonder Women, Batmen and other DC heroes and villains existed readers needed a score card just to keep track.

Meanwhile Marvel Comics', DC's chief competitor, sales numbers continued to increase.  While DC's Universe lacked consistency and continuity, Marvel thrived on the fact that it had both.

Something had to be done.

Writer Marv Wolfman (along with penciller George Perez) pitched the idea of a massive event that would 'clean the slate' of the DC Universe and kick-start it with a whole new beginning.

DC execs agreed and in 1985 DC Comics' Crisis On Infinite Earth maxi-series was launched.

The series found the entire DC Universe in a state of flux.  Entire alternate Earths and universes were destroyed by a devastating ant-force.  Billions died, including many of DC's alternate heroes and villains.

The series tied into all of DC's titles and as Crisis progressed changes swept the DC Universe. 

The first issue set up the 'Crisis' and introduced several key players: most notably the Monitor, Pariah, Harbinger and a mysterious dark force.

Later key DC heroes would die: the Flash and Supergirl among them.

Once finished the series would alter and condense the DC Universe into a manageable cohesive entity.

Several important mini and maxi series would occur during the 1980s,  Besides Crisis, The Dark Knight Returns, The Killing Joke and Watchmen would forever change the DC Universe and greatly affect how comic book sorties were told.

 


Magnum Robot Fighter #1

It's been said that great things always start small.  And in the case of comic books getting a huge resurgence in popularity and readership, it's true.

Not long after he was ousted (fired, quit, retired) form Marvel Comics as its Editor-In-Chief, Jim Shooter still wanted to be in the comic book industry and shake up things a bit.

With a few financial backers, Jim started Valiant Comics and acquired the rights to publish comic books based on Nintendo properties.

While the sales numbers were respectable, Jim wanted to get back into mainstream comics.  He was able to acquire the rights to the old Gold Key characters, Magnus Robot Fighter, Turok and Doctor Solar.

Helming the writing chores, Jim launched a limited print run of Magnus Robot Fighter with the assist from artist Art Nichols with inks by Bob Layton (another former Marvel Comics artist) and Kathryn Bolinger, colorist Janet Jackson, letterer Jade and editor Don Perlin.

I remember ordering the book through Diamond's Preview catalog as I was a big fan of Magnus growing up.  The book garnered enough advance orders to justify a print run.

Suddenly Shooter had a hit on his hands.  The initial 4-issue 'Steel Nation' storyline resonated with fans of the old series and new readers, pleased with the writing and art, rushed to find an issue.

Being that the print run was small (approximately 20,000) there were not enough issues to go around.  The series became hot!

Shooter also instituted something that made the books even more sought after.  In each of the four issues a set of four trading cards were included as 'coupons'.  Fans could send in all four sets and in return receive by mail a special #0 Magnus.

The response was phenomenal.  It also made complete early Magnus Robot Fighter issues even more valuable and sought after.

At about that same time Image Comics came into being and taking a clue from Valiant, it too began offering 'special' incentives and 'limited edition' special covers.

The comic book glut of the early 1990s was soon in full swing.

Speculators began snatching up huge runs of comic books hoping they would escalate in value.

Problem.  The more copies of a book printed, the less the value.  When the speculators went to 'cash in' on their investments they discovered that the books were worth (in most cases) less than they paid for them.

Speculators pulled out and suddenly comic book companies were stuck with huge print runs of comic books that no one was buying.

As a result many companies went under (Valiant included), shops, stuck with inventory no one bought, closed their doors and the comic book industry almost died.

It is true that big things start small. But, in the case of Valiant Comic Books what started out as a publishers' desire to create great stories and art, grew to an infectious monster that almost destroyed the health and life of an entire industry.

The blame should not be placed only on Valiant's doorstep.  Greed took its toll on publishers, speculators, investors, collectors and the entire industry.

Under new management, Valiant is back in the comic book publishing business and is doing quite well.

 


The Saga Of The
Swamp Thing #21

It's that time again.  Time for a another comic book history lesson.


Since I've seriously curtailed my new comic book purchases I thought it would be interesting and informative to go back over the last few decades and write about certain comic books that changed people's perceptions of comic books, pivotal moments and first appearances of key characters.


Back in the early 1980s
 DC Comics'  bigwigs decided that they needed some new blood and talent to shake up DC's titles and boost sales.


One of the key factors was to travel to the British Isles and draft a whole slew of new writers.  Alan Moore was one of those.


Moore had garnered a name for himself with his stories in British comic books.  His quirky, insightful and unique scripts were just the thing DC Comics needed.


Moore accepted DC's offer and after a few random stories he was offered the writing reins on The Sage Of the Swamp Thing beginning with issue #19.


Issues 19 and 20 saw Moore getting his creative writing feet under him-sort of feeling out the character and then came issue #21!


In that one issue Moore set the entire world of The Swamp Thing on its collective ear and totally shocked the comic book fan base as well as many of the professional employed by DC, Marvel and a handful of other publishers.


In the story a captured, and supposedly dead Swamp Thing has been taken back to a laboratory for study by Dr. Woodrue (astute comic book collector's should recognize that name).


While there The Swamp Thing's body is frozen, preventing it from defrosting and springing back to life.


In an orchestrated 'accident' The Swamp Thing revives and discovers that it is not a man who turned into a plant but a plant that thought it was a man!


For years it was thought that Dr. Alex Holland's consciousness had been transferred to swamp plants after his body was consumed in flames and chemicals that somehow let the transference happen.


When The Swamp Thing discovered who he really was, his reaction was not pleasant, especially toward the man who was responsible for his capture.


After issue #21 hit the stands and the fan base and comic book creators took notice, a notable change occurred in the quality of stories found in comic books. 


Other British writers were drafted and encouraged to follow their own muse and before long an entire industry changed.

 

Moore would later go on to write his ground-breaking Watchmen series, several key DC issues, his own imprint: America's Best Comics, and successfully pave the way for the 'Dark Age' of comic books along with his fellow British scribes and another writer/artist who managed to shake things up: Frank Miller.

 


Nick Fury, Agent
Of S.H.I.E.L.D. #1


Comic books have become a mainstream pop phenomenon.  Or rather, the comic book characters themselves have entered the collective consciousness of the public's minds.  Superheroes especially.  Many movie goers have never picked up a comic book.

People still buy comic books, but in dwindling numbers.  Which probably partially accords for the increase in costs.  Now that I'm retired I can no longer afford to buy new comics in any quantity.

The majority of today's collectors know very little of the history of comic books and how they have evolved over the decades.

Like any other medium comic books changed with the times.  Comic books have always been on the cutting edge of societal evolution.

Marvel Comics' Nick Fury, Agent Of S.H.I.E.L.D. #1 is a perfect example.

Back in the mid to late 1960s artist/writer Jim Steranko virtually recreated comic book story-telling on his own.

After a brief stint at Harvey Comics Jim brought his portfolio to Stan Lee at Marvel Comics.

Stan was so impressed by Jim's work that he assigned him to take over the creative chores of Nick Fury, Agent Of S.H.I.E.L.D. seen in Marvel's Strange Tales.

With a little layout guidance from veteran comic book artist Jack Kirby Jim totally transformed the title into comic books' version of James Bond.

Steranko introduced Op Art, Pop Art, visual effects, striking perspective and point of view panels, experimental color schemes and much more.

His stint on Fury became so popular and profitable that Stan and Marvel graduated Nick Fury up to a full issue series of its own.

With issue #1 Steranko let loose his creative muse.  The story stats out with several pages with no dialogue and proceeds at breakneck speed to introduce a new villain (Scorpio) and pits Nick against his own organization.

It presents a stunning visual cinematic story.

The series would continue to revolutionize comic book graphics and writing for several issues until Steranko couldn't keep up with the monthly schedule.

Steranko would then go on to revitalize Captain America, the X-Men and the occasional single issue.

Steranko's body of comic book work was relatively small but highly influential.