Friday Funny Pages: Stake ‘Em With Mjolnir!

If you’re going to drive a stake into a vampire’s heart what better tool to use than the hammer of the Norse God of thunder, am I right?

Today starts a month of spooky themed Friday Funny Pages in honor of my favorite holiday, Halloween.  I was out doing yard work this morning in preparation for putting out my Halloween decorations.  I dragged everything up out of the basement and began the process of turning my domicile into a haunted house.  Afterwards I sat down and finally watched Francis Ford Coppola’s Dementia 13, a horror movie of some renown which up until this point has eluded me.  Needless to say when I sat down to write this blog I was in a very eerie Halloween-ish kind of mood.  As I briefly pondered on which image to use for today I came across this one and immediately ceased my search.  With a quick look at some of the others I have lined up I decided it’s going to be a Halloween themed month of Friday Funny Pages!  Hurray!

Ok so this image obviously comes to us from Thor #333 with art by good ol’ Bill Sienkiewicz.  Thor VS Dracula.  What more needs said?  I love Dracula in the Marvel universe he’s really established himself in the comics and has made appearances across the spectrum of big name Marvel titles.  Sadly I have never actually had the pleasure of reading this particular issue and if anyone sees it out there in the quarter bin pick one up for me!  I’m purely a fan of the concept of various heroes doing battle with the lord of the undead himself, Count Dracula.  I’ve always enjoyed the supernatural elements in comics and one of my favorite heroes, Dr. Strange, has had several encounters with Vlad Dracul, each of which have been an enjoyable read.

Hmmmm that gives me an idea about what I’m going to write about next week . . . . until then . . . .

That is all!

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Friday Funny Pages: The Horror!

My sister sent me a stack of comics that she found at a yard sale last year, it was about the same time I decided to start doing Friday Funny Pages so I went through them searching for amusing panels.  This image comes from an issue of Captain America that she sent me.  In the issue Cap was fighting his ol’ Nazi vampire nemesis Baron Blood.  I have since filed away this comic among my several long boxes and I don’t remember any of the other details, and am too lazy to go searching for it.  So I apologize for my lack of background information this week!  I’ll try and make up for it next week.

Anyway I just really enjoy this panel for a few reasons.  First, Cap’s expression here is just great.  Second, the words.  When you pair the words in this panel, with Cap’s face in this panel . . . . I just find that combination really amusing.  Lord Falsworth, destroying vampires, comic book gold.  Third, Captain America fighting vampires.  When you think of heroes who battle the supernatural your thoughts turn to Dr. Strange, Blade, or Dr. Fate but not generally Captain America.  Of course Cap has actually met up with several paranormal threats during his time, you’d be hard pressed to find a hero who hasn’t had a close encounter with the paranormal, but it’s still funny to think about.

So that’s it.  Just a quick one this week, and as always keep reading those comics and if anyone comes across some chuckle worthy panels point me in the right direction and I’ll post em here!

That is all!

(Oh and if anyone was wondering, the one way to totally destroy a vampire is to cut it’s head off, which Cap does here with the edge of his shield.  Badass.)

Friday Funny Pages: Super Doom

     So here it is the last in our Friday Funny Pages crossover series, but it is also the perfect time to kick off a Dr. Doom series!  That’s right for the next couple of weeks Friday Funny Pages will spotlight everyone’s favorite tyrannical dictator of small eastern European countries, “Doctor” Victor VonDoom.  Three cheers for Doom! (As mandated by Latverian state ordinance 616B: Three cheers are to be given in response to any public mention of the name Doom or VonDoom.)

     This last of the panels from the Crossover Classics starts our Doomfest with a nice little confrontation between Doc Doom and Superman himself.  This image comes from the second Superman/Spider-Man team up brought to us by Jim Shooter’s words, and John Buscema’s pen.  There were of course also a bunch of other names attached to this DC/Marvel crossover, like Walt Simonson and Marv Wolfman.  The plot revolves around a villain brainstorm between Parasite and Dr. Doom.  Superman and Spider-Man remember one another from their previous encounter with Lex Luthor and Doc Ock, so they skip the usual hero standoff and subsequent battle and get right down to helping each other out.  This panel shows Superman making a trip to the Latverian embassy in Washington D.C. in order to get a few answers from Dr. Doom about some recent suspicious activity.  Of course Dr. Doom, the ever prepared evil mastermind is expecting the man of steel and has fortified his embassy with features to help nullify Superman’s powers, like lead-lined walls to counter his x-ray vision and kryptonite powered laser banks installed in his office.  As we see in this image Doom really has Supes by the short hairs simply by reminding the man of steel that Doom is the legitimate ruler of Latveria, and by being within the Latverian embassy he has to follow his rule.  As Dr. Doom so eloquently puts it later in the story “Pitiful fool!  Your vaunted strength holds no terror for me!  Your hands are shackled by your own naive morality!”  A good wordy smack down from a haughty supervillain is often times more fun then an epic raging brawl.

     Another fun little part about this crossover is that Peter Parker and Clark Kent take part in a newspaper exchange program of sorts and get to spend some time working at the other heroe’s place of employment.  Peter has a few good moments at the Daily Planet working with the admirable Perry White and putting up with the douche bags who regularly taunt naive Clark Kent.  Clark on the other hand has some great moments over at the Bugle dealing with the raging madness of J. Jonah Jameson who at first was excited at the prospect of a new star reporter but gradually gets more and more pissed with the borrowed Kent who mysteriously vanishes at random times throughout the day, and seems to be a bumbling goofball.  That crossover within a crossover was a really nice touch, and gave the second Superman/Spider-Man installment a completely different feel.  

     Anywho, now it’s time to say farewell to the crossovers and give a snappy salute to the approaching Dr. Doom goodness that will be coming your way within the next couple weeks.  Until then, stay holed up in your embassies, stock pile that kryptonite, and take a few lozenges to prepare your throat to yell “Curse you Richards!”  over and over again, cause Doctor Doom is coming to town, and as usual he’ll be in a surly mood!

That is all!      

Friday Funny Pages: They Grow Up So Fast

     More from the Marvel/DC Crossover Classics!  Today we get a sampling from the X-Men/Teen Titans team-up.  Written by Chris Claremont with art by Walter Simonson, this tale had a hell of a creative match up as well.  There was a great deal going on in this story, Deathstroke of course makes an appearance, and there’s a great X-Men training scene in the Danger Room, but the main gist of the story revolves around an epicly cosmic pairing of Darkseid and Dark Phoenix armed with a plan to conquer the entire universe!  With such massively powerful supervillains working together you’d think the various comic universes would send their heaviest hitters like Superman and Thor or at the very least Green Lantern and the Fantastic Four, but no.  Instead DC/Marvel send in the angsty teen squads to clean up this mess!

     There really isn’t anything inherently funny in this full-page spread.  Here we have the moment when the Teen Titans and the X-Men officially join forces, we see the two leaders, Cyclops and Robin, of course hashing it out with a handshake, while the other heroes have a few individual moments.  What I do find funny is that looking back at this page, nowadays none of these characters are portrayed as kids anymore.  For the most part all of these heroes have taken their rightful place in the pantheons of Marvel and DC and sadly many of them have been relegated to teachering positions, instructing their hipper, younger, and even angstier team replacements.  Of course some of them have gone on to do other things, Storm and Nightcrawler occasionally manage to get away from the X-Mansion, and Dick Grayson and Cyborg are now brushing shoulders with the big guys. 

     Basically I’d like a huge framed print of this, with no dialogue, to hang at the entrance of my house.  That way people would walk into my home and the first thing that would catch their eye would be the Teen Titans shaking hands with the X-men on a giant asteroid in the middle of an insane cosmic weirdscape.  I think that would really get some good conversations started, don’t you?

That is all!

Comic Books Through the Ages, According to Me

Several posts back I talked about the new age of comic books, the current era, which has been quite unique in its style and media presence.  I called our modern comics era the Mercury Age due to its fast paced storytelling and penchant for drastic change.  Today however I would like to go through and further define the various stages of development of the comic book industry as I see them, and offer up my suggestions for the eras that have for the most part gone undefined.

The Golden Age of Comics– 1930’s to early 1950’s

The Golden Age is very familiar with most comic book fans, it is the age that started it all.  The Golden Age produced many of the icons of comics that are still around today, characters that are pillars of the entire industry.  Detective Comics was the powerhouse of the day, and established the indelible style of that company.  I would describe this era as a highly imaginative time where creators worked hard to set their characters apart from other heroes.  However though the character designs were very stylized and unique the plots of this era seem fairly interchangeable.  Initially almost all superhero characters dealt exclusively with street level crime, gangsters, corrupt businessmen, etc.  Even supernatural and science fiction elements that were employed by villains dealt primarily with petty crime or personal gain.  During the time of World War II comics of course gained a very distinct patriotic tinge, practically becoming propaganda.  This worldly shift in tone lead to a larger scale in the stories being told.  Having the comics take place overseas or showing heroes aiding the war effort on the home front helped broaden the superhero scope.  Inspired by the media of the time this era can best be described as radio dramas with pictures, heavy on narration and very flat, interchangeable stories.  Though the individual heroes were quite outlandish there came to be a general pattern which most comic books ascribed to.  With the advent of television this style of storytelling became less and less popular.

Golden Age Green Lantern before the changes of the Silver Age

The Golden Age Comics: Radio Dramas with pictures.

The Silver Age of Comics– 1950’s -1960’s

After a short lull in comics after WWII when there was no longer the need for such enthusiastic patriotism there came a reinvigoration of comics with a new focus; high adventure in the atomic age!  New characters were popping up all over with origins dealing with radiation and scientific achievement.  Old characters were being altered and reinvented, doing away with vague mystical elements and tweaking powers and origins to include more plausible, science based logic.  The cold war and the space race kick started some of the most outlandish and memorable tales in comics history.  The mysteries of space and the wonders of atomic power fueled the imaginations of comic book writers and the nation as a whole.  Fear and wonder during this time were also put to use selling alien invasion stories and horror comics.  Several comic book publishers rose and fell during this highly creative era, which saw the rise to prominence of Marvel comics which had its own golden age during this Silver age.  Here is where the concepts of continuity and the development of in-comic universes began to solidify.  The various publishers tightened their focus while at the same time widening their scope laying out their own distinct views of the world as it was in their comic book stories, during this period there was a discovery through storytelling.  The comic book industry was still figuring itself out and didn’t exactly take itself serious, but there were crucial developments in style, art, and writing.  Overall I would describe this era as high concepts, with low execution.

The Fantastic Four propelled Marvel Comics into the Silver Age

The Bronze Age of Comics– 1970’s – early 1980’s

An important time in comics.  This era saw a greater development of the comic book industry and its established characters.  During this time writers spent a great deal of time explaining earlier concepts and aided the various universes to flesh themselves out with a great sense of continuity.  There was a desire to experiment during the bronze age.  Established characters were put into new and unusual circumstances and new characters were introduced who had more socially relevance, continuing the evolution of the stories told in comic books.  A new time of zaniness emerged, reminiscent of the Golden Age, but with a much greater self awareness.  There was a more satirical tone during this time, with more social commentary not often found in comics prior.  Social change and political unrest were rampant in the country at this time and though these issues are not always directly addressed in the comics of the Bronze Age there was a much greater use of comics as a platform for addressing cultural concerns.  The two major comic book universes at Marvel and DC were broadened to their greatest scope.  During this time comics start to become a more commercial outlet featuring movie comic book adaptions and other comic book tie-ins.  The comics of this time range from street level crimes, to interstellar wars, to mystical realms, and classic horror stories.  There are many new developments during this time but the major work of this era deals with building up and reinforcing the established comic book universes, while at the same time providing greater insights and cultural awareness.

The Bronze Age brought humanity to the super human

 

The Tarnished Age of Comics– 1980’s -1990’s

Here is where we get into uncharted territory, this time period is most commonly referred to as simply the modern age of comics, which I believe at this point is a bit passé.  Here begins a time of pessimism and realism in comic books.  The same familiar comic book universes that were established in the decades prior were now given a distinct patina across their once shining exteriors.  During the tarnished age the comic book industry starts to mature, due in part to an increasingly older readership.  Comics are no longer simply kids stuff and those who read comics as kids continued reading and were interested in more complex stories.  This is an age of darker tales, more realistic premises, dynamic events, and humanistic plots that do not shy away from depth, complexity, or social commentary.  Continuity becomes more important than ever and a new generation of readers and writers delve into angsty character driven plots.  This period is also tainted by company arrogance from the big comic publishers, which are at this point are becoming large corporations.  This era saw the height of the commercialism of comic books and the extensive use of variant covers, and special rereleases to boost sales.  Fueled by the booming collectors market for older comics publishers believed they could make a substantial profit by encouraging their readers to buy up the plethora of exclusive and “hard to find” printings that were being cranked out.  This lead to a comic book collectors bubble of sorts which eventually imploded discouraging comic fans and nearly bankrupting the bloated comic book industry.  This of course lead to a rise of new upstart comic publishers that attempted to break away from the corporate mindset of the old guard at Marvel and DC allowing their writers and artists to retain all rights to their creations and allow for a wider range of subject matter and grittier, more mature reads. Dark Horse and Image comics are byproducts of this era.

One of the most memorable moments of the Tarnished Age

The Mercury Age of Comics– 2000’s to present

This is the age that is still in development, an age like no other.  I call this age the mercury age due to the fast paced mutability of the comics industry nowadays.  Comics are now completely corporatized; both DC and Marvel are now parts of enormous corporate media conglomerates.  The smaller comic book publishers like Dark Horse and Image are now firmly established as the alternate choices for fans who are tired of the “same old thing” while also providing some of the most creative and dynamic comic books and graphic novels.  Independent comic writers now gain substantial popularity and notoriety, so much so that they are highly sought after to be part of the creative teams on titles at the big two publishers, effectively turning the tables on the once dominate superhero genre.  In the mainstream DC and Marvel universes small intimate character driven stories are all but forgone in favor of larger cross title arcs that have a wider impact.  Few titles, even books based on single superheroes, actually deal with just one hero instead they incorporate any number of various characters from across their respective universes.  Characters are dealt with more realism than ever.  With the advent of the internet and the fast paced flow of information in our modern day, comic books have learned to adapt along these lines as well.  Superheroes no longer simply fight crime, the characters are portrayed with a great sense of self awareness and the characters are written with more concern for how they are portrayed in the media and with a greater understanding of manipulation of information technologies.  At this point there seems to be a greater inkling that everything has already been done in the superhero genre and so therefore the landscapes of the major comics universes need to be shaken up.  This is one of the most prominent features of the mercury age, change, death, events, additions, and topsy turvy stories that skew the idea of the status quo and continuity dominate the comics landscape.  To make things interesting and to develop original plots creators seem urged to tear apart the established universes, and effectively deconstruct the superheroes.  However the changes made in these events are often inconsequential, fleeting, and either quickly reversed or completely forgotten about almost immediately afterward.  Congealing and separating like mercury.   

Event books dominate the comic book landscape of the Mercury Age

 

Independent comics take their place in the industry during the Mercury Age

As I’ve said these are simply my thoughts on the subject, and though I might seem to be casting some kind of judgment on certain time periods, I’m really not.  I can respect all points in history of the comic book industry and I understand that it is a constantly evolving and changing medium that will/must find new ways to attract more readers.  Also these definitions are of course in broad general terms and there are countless examples of titles from each era that go against those generalizations.  If you don’t agree with what I’ve laid out here, or have some additions/corrections you’d like to make, feel free to leave me your thoughts in the comments.  Since there is probably no chance that I will ever be able to contribute directly to the developing comic book universes, maybe there is a chance that I can indirectly affect the business by defining these previously undefined eras.  So if you agree with what I’ve got here do me a favor and start dropping the phrases “Tarnished Age” or “Mercury Age” into your everyday conversations with your fellow comic book fans and when they give you a confused look just pretend like it’s an established thing, and that they should already know what you mean.  I don’t need any credit, let’s just get this started!

That is all!

Friday Funny Pages: Do You Even Need to Ask?

 

This week features the spirit of vengeance himself, Ghost Rider.  This panel is taken from the Howard Mackie/Javier Saltares/Mark Texeira run of Ghost Rider, collected in a trade titled Resurrected.  I’ve shown a couple other panels from this trade in past Friday Funny Pages, you might remember the one a few weeks back featuring infanticide?  Check the archives, you can’t miss it. 

This panel is just great, and the thing that makes it great is the exclusion of an exclamation mark and the inclusion of a question mark.  So simple and understated yet with a multitude of humorous possibilites.  What exactly is Ghost Rider questioning?  Is he putting forth the existential ponderance of “what is vengeance?”  or perhaps he’s asking “would you care for some vengeance?” maybe he’s questioning his role as a super hero “I deal in vengeance?” or it could be he just didn’t hear what someone said.  Whatever it is Ghost Rider is questioning this is just one of those panels that I would love to have on a shirt, or find some excuse to post in a forum as my only response to leave other readers dumbfounded.  If you are reading this I encourage you to find some excuse to use this image and deal out some “vengeance?” of your own!

That is all!

Friday Funny Pages: Nick Fury’s Favorite Shirt

 

Christ!  This week has really flown by.  Yard work, cleaning up old toys, and dressing as a viking (don’t ask) have really made time fly as it were.  Here it is, Friday already and time for another Friday Funny Pages!  Todays panel comes to us all the way from the 1960’s and Strange Tales #151.  This was the first issue for a young up and coming comic book artist named Jim Steranko!  Based on layouts by Jack Kirby and written by Stan Lee this issue was of course destined for greatest.  Jim Steranko would later go on to take over both the drawing and writing credits for the book, making Nick Fury into what he is today (Samuel L. Jackson?).

When I was searching through my comics for fodder for this segment this particular panel made me chuckle.  Out of context you see Nick Fury waking up after apparently being captured by HYDRA, and the first thing that springs to mind is “I needed them clothes!”  Not the fact that he’s trapped, captured, and surrounded by bad guys.  Though I guess the security deposit on a tux is pretty astronomical.  That’s exactly why James Bond doesn’t rent his tuxedos.

Anyway, of course the real reason he needed his clothes was due to the fact that they were lined with SHIELD crafted spy gear to assist him on his mission and without them he was going to have to rely on his wits to see the mission through, that is if he ever makes it out of HYDRAS glass box of death!  Will he?  Won’t he?  You’ll have to read the issue to find you!

Till next time dear readers!

That is all!