Friday Funny Pages: Can I Touch It?

This happens every time Peter and Mary Jane stop by to visit Thor.

This image is just so perfect for several reasons.  First off Mary Jane’s comment of course, she just seems so very interested in the subject.  Next is Thor’s suspicious side-eye.  You can almost see the God of Thunder asking himself the same question we are, “Is she really asking about my hammer?”  Lastly just take a look at Peter Parker’s face.  What more needs said?

Ah, poor Spider-Man never quite able to ever keep up with the big guys, whomp, whomp!

Friday Funny Pages: Mighty Marvel Meatloaf Marching Band

 

I don’t know about you, but I love old ads from classic comics.  Me and several of my friends consider ourselves connoisseurs of fine advertisement cheesiness!  For my money the best ads can be found among the pages of comic books heralding from the 1970’s and early 1980’s.  A plethora of goodies can be found in those decades, from dynamic video game adverts to epic promotional toy campaigns!  All of them more outlandish than the last.  If you think about it comic book ads have to be crazy and eye-catching or how else do you expect to distract a reader away from super powered heroes doing battle with brightly colored villains long enough to even glimpse at your product.  Perhaps the most effective are the advertisements that incorporate the heroes of the comic company into the ads, momentarily tricking the readers into thinking the ad is just the continuation of the issue they are reading.

Like the legendary Hostess Fruit Pie ads in Marvel comics.  You’re flipping along reading your X-Men comic when suddenly Captain America bursts onto the scene, or Dr. Strange appears out of thin air.  Suddenly things just got interesting!  What are they doing in this X-Men comic?  And wait, is that Dr. Doom?  What’s behind him in that crate?  What’s going on??  Wait, what??  Fruit pies?  Captain America is rescuing a stolen shipment of Fruit Pies in my X-Men story?  Oh wait, Ha ha!  This is an ad!  Got me again Marvel!

Well here’s something else along those lines, except here you turn the page to find Meatloaf rocking out hard, while at the same time voicing his concerns about the funding and support of the 1987 Special Olympics.  A typical Wednesday for him.  But seriously, look at that first panel, ol’ Meatloaf is really giving it his all, and how the hell is he holding that guitar?

And here’s another question:  What era was Meatloaf popular in?  He’s one of those guys who always seemed eternally old to me.  It was like he was popular at some distant time, but had moved on.  I don’t really know anyone who is a hardcore Meatloaf fan, and trust me I know a lot of people with many varying musical interests and stemming from various musical eras.  I guess it’s because he’s been an actor for so long too, and to me it seems like any musician who turns to acting has passed their musical prime and gone on to other things.  I don’t know, Meatloaf is weird.

That is all!

Friday Funny Pages: Phantom Limb Syndrome

. . . . but his leg simply vaporizes in the attempt!

 

So apparently I’m still catching up from that time warp I was caught up in last week because somehow Friday sneaked right past me!  Today is Monday, who knew?  Oh well here’s another Friday Funny Pages, better late then never right?

Today’s image comes from a Spider-Man comic the specifics of which I have totally forgotten.  What I do remember is that this kid was tied up in a chair and good ol’ Spidey was on his way to rescue him.  The little rascal however worked his restraints loose and tipped his chair over freeing himself but took a bad spill in the process.  Now by the looks of this panel it appears that the kid ripped his whole damned leg off, earlier when he was sitting in the chair he clearly had two limbs attached to his hips but here it seems one has just mysteriously vanished.

This is obviously just an awkwardly drawn image, and later on in the issue Danny has both his legs again, I just thought it was amusing that he takes a bad tumble, hurts his leg, and in the panel it appears that his leg is completely missing.  Maybe it’s just me, but I found it pretty funny.

What’s that you say?  You think I’ve had funnier panels?  Well that might be, but you can shut the hell up!  If you were nonplussed by this Friday (Monday) Funny Pages, well have no fear I have some upcoming goodies in store that are manifest hilarity!  I’ve gathered together some classic comic book ads that are sure to amuse even my harshest of critics!  It all starts next Friday with a (now) aged rocker, the special Olympics, and some familiar faces from the Mighty Marvel Marching Band!  So until then . . . .

That is all!

Friday Funny Pages: Dazzler’s Daddy Issues

Oh hello there!  I’m being told that this post is late, that it isn’t actually Friday, and that I’ve really slacked quite a bit this week.  My apologies, earlier this week I was tapped to be the starter at a race between a Delorean and a phone booth and when those suckers took off I was caught up in their backwash.  The tachyon eddies that resulted created a temporal vortex which sucked me through time and space sending me on a whirlwind adventure through the ages.  So technically as I’m posting this it is indeed Friday, though to all of you individuals who are firmly grounded in the present it might appear that this is actually being posted on Saturday.  Sorry for the inconvenience.

Anyway, onto the comic book goodness!  Today’s panels come to us from way back in 1981 and Dazzler #2, with words by Tom DeFalco and art by the legendary John Romita Jr.  The cover of the issue reads “Last Stand In Discoland!”  and this is early on in the elaborate mythos of Dazzler, as the readers were still being introduced to her character.  As with most of Marvel’s heroes, young Allison Blaire, though she is a superhero she has her own real world hangups.  Here we discover that although Dazzler has mutant powers, is a rising pop star, a roller disco champ, a part-time superhero, and she’s friends with the X-Men, Spider-Man, and the Fantastic Four, she receives little satisfaction from these achievements because her father is a curmudgeon.  In the grand scheme of things she’s doing really well for a superhero.  At least her father isn’t dead, she’s not an alcoholic, she isn’t haunted by demons (either figuratively or literally), she’s not trapped in a world she never created, and she’s not some conflicted triple agent trying to do the right thing in a bad system.

So her father thinks she should drop the song and light show routine and get a real job?  Big deal.  In a few issues she’ll be fighting Galactus (Dazzler #10) and I’m sure he’ll totally forget all about the other stuff then!  Also as a mutant Dazzler has really lucked out.  She’s already dodged a bullet by not being one of those grotesque mutants whose mutation effects their outward appearance  AND  her mutant abilities (transmuting sound waves into patterns of visible light) work out perfectly with her chosen profession! She can easily display her powers without drawing the suspicion of bigoted normals.  Heck, with the plethora of X-Men movies on the horizon Dazzler could even find herself portrayed on the big screen one day!

I say Dazzler needs to buck up!  She’s really got the world by the balls, and in this post-feminism age there’s no reason she should feel guilty, or postpone her dreams because of some arcane impression that she needs some type of male approval for her choices.  Am I right ladies?

I have no idea what I’m talking about, perhaps that time rift has effected me more than I previously suspected . . . .

That is all!

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!      

A Requiem For Comic Books OR Enter the Mercury Age

So it has been awhile since I’ve bought comics regularly.  Money is tight these days.  The wife and I recently bought a house, there is a financial crisis lurking around, and when it came to saving my hefty weekly comic book fund was put on the chopping block.  A shame to be sure, but I kept up as best I could by reading a few forums and checking out the publishers official sites and browsing sites like Newsarama and others.  I’ve picked up a few trades now and again but it’s been almost two years now since I’ve stopped reading comic regularly.

Well the other day a few friends and I paid a visit to our once regular comic shop.  We were making the journey to see what was new and to help point out some good X-Men trades for one of our group who was just getting started down the long winding X-Men path.  While we were pointing out trades and suggesting writers from the X Universe that she might enjoy, she made the off-handed comment that Wolverine seemed to be in a lot of these books.  The more veteran comic enthusiasts among us had a good chuckle.  Someone mentioned Wolverine’s apparently unspoken ability to warp time and be in every place at once, and I joked that Marvel should just make a new title that consisted of nothing but Spider-Man and Wolverine and just get it over with.  We chuckled and sighed.

However after I said that, one of the shops other patrons, who just happened to be lurking around nearby, walked up to us and said “You joke, but that’s actually on about issue three now.”  It took me a moment to realize what he was talking about, but then he walked over to the shelf and pointed down to a book entitled “Astonishing Spider-Man and Wolverine #3

Grueling hours of writing must have been put into creating this concept . . .

My only response was “You have got to be shitting me.”  But alas he was indeed not shitting me.  There it was plain as day, selling out incarnate.  Upon further inspection I saw that it is only a 6 issue story arc where Spidey and the runt get caught up in some crazy whirlwind adventure that takes them all over the Marvel universe.  I also realized that the series is written by Jason Aaron and Adam Kubert which are some names with some clout.  When it comes to Jason Aaron I could take him or leave him, but Kubert has some pretty impressive artistic credentials.

From the few reviews I’ve parsed through dealing with this series it sounds like fans are enjoying it for the most part, even though many had the same trepidations about its selling out potential.  The only real complaint I’ve been able to gather is that it is constantly late, I guess it’s taken about five months to get the first three issues out, but then again what good Wolverine mini-series doesn’t take years to complete?

Going back to one of my earlier blog posts about the death of Johnny Storm, and the hint at several more main hero deaths to promote book sales, and now this; literally a clichéd joke come to life, it makes me worry about the future of the comic books industry.  I long for the days when creators were creating and building up the comic universes they wrote within.  Writers like Simonson and Gerber introducing crazy characters, that when you try to think of them off the page seem to be insane, but when they laid it out in the panels and ink they brought something new, imaginative, and at the same time tried to make a point and actually speak to the readers.  Today however writers simply struggle to put “hot” characters into some sort of mildly adventurous and entertaining plotline that will sell books. Or barring even that level of creativity writers seem to enjoy tearing apart the history of past creators to make use of the easy concept of “dealing with change” while at the same time being able to avoid the burden of actually coming up with some sort of point. 

Steve Gerber and Mary Skrenes created Omega the Unknown, what I consider to be the Pulp Fiction of super hero books.

It’s like building a huge house for a family so that you can see the family grow and evolve and spark all these great events, only to come back later and tear it down just to watch them cry without really thinking beyond how cool it will be when you snap a heart wrenching photo of them in a sobbing embrace.

Perhaps that’s a bit of a melodramatic analogy, but I’m all worked up and pissed.   

With both of the biggest comics companies now under the boot of major corporate control (DC/Time Warner and Marvel/Disney) I have a gradually growing anxiety that the days of the comic industry are in their twilight.  With more and more corporate involvement, mixed media with large-scale Hollywood productions, and the digital revolution at hand I worry that the days of the small, privately owned neighborhood comic shops are on the way out.  Comics are becoming more streamlined, sticking to “popular characters” while letting others fall to the wayside, they’re experimenting less and less and the things we get beyond the printed pages such as DVDs, cartoons, and even movies are often rehashes of old concepts and storylines, despite how well produced they might be.  The comic book industry is like a band in the “Greatest Hits” phase of their career, which of course as we know often signals the end.  When the diversity of a company starts to slide people get bored.  Contrary to popular belief fans do enjoy seeing heroes other than Wolverine and Batman.

Green Lantern Mosaic a series cancelled not due to sales but rather executives not agreeing with the books tone.

Although I was not around during the 70’s I look at the comics from that era and pine for those days.  When heroes were aplenty, the Thing was the hot property of the Marvel universe, and there was at least a pinch of some sort of social, moral, or philosophical commentary mingled with our comic books.  Of course there were a great many shitty comics back then too, but even the shit seemed to have a heart.  Perhaps I have just grown too cynical about the current state of comic books.  There have been several periods in the past when people thought the industry was on its deathbed.  I realize there is still some great stuff out there today.   Green Lantern’s Darkest Night was epic, Marvel brought back some old school sci-fi adventure with Secret Invasion, and there are other great reads among the non-hero comics such as the Walking Dead.  I suppose I am just disheartened by the corporatization of the world at large and the comic book industry in particular.  Back in the day we humble comic fans dreamt of a huge geek revolution, where everyone knew the names of the Avengers and previously second tier heroes like Green Lantern could star on the big screen.  Oh but be careful what you wish for, for how many Mephistos must we bargain with to make our dreams come true?  How many hands will reach to reap the rewards of that popularity?  And how will our heroes change in order to maintain their corporate perceptions?

Thor #337 by Walt Simonson and the first appearance of Beta Ray Bill

I guess one thing I’m getting at is that each era of comic books has its own tone and general spirit, and that I am not a fan of this current up and coming era which I would dub the Mercury Age of comics, for its fast paced mutability that seems to run all over the place without maintaining any real substance.     

It all reminds me of the storyline from Doom 2099 where . . . . ah hell I’m done, I’d just continue rambling forever!

That is all!

My Pop Culture Ups and Downs

So as I sit here today miserable from my stochastic allergies which have decided to strike, I think about some of the current trends in some of my favorite realms of geekdom, namely the Star Wars universe and Marvel comics.  There are some great things happening, which I am very excited about, as well as some things that I’m not at all happy about and which in fact slightly infuriate me.

First let’s talk about the good.  Star Wars.  My favorite sci-fi universe in film, television, and comics.  I can not get enough Star Wars, and thankfully things are on a major upswing for us loyal Lucasites.  There of course was a great deal of grumbling during the prequel years, some of it justified I will admit.  However one thing I will argue is that Uncle George is not the money hungry tyrant some fans make him out to be.  From everything I can tell he is an excitable story-teller who has a plethora of yarns to spin in the epic universe he has created, and he enjoys pushing the boundaries of film making especially in the special effects department.  Has George Lucas in the past pushed progress too much to the overall detriment of story?  Perhaps.  But that’s not what I’m getting at, the point I am making is that I believe George Lucas’ true strong suit lies in the production aspects of his projects, not in the directing chair.  His ability to guide the design and art teams that bring his projects to life is phenomenal, he has a vision and he is able to get that across.  He puts out great ideas and places the right people in charge to bring it about, with a guiding hand that does far more good from a distance, with all due respect to him. 

Well anyway such is the case with The Clone Wars series.  This show has been very surprising, and continues to bring out the best of the Star Wars universe even as it continues to expand the epic sci-fi landscape.  Initially I was rather upset by the continued riffing on the whole Clone Wars aspect of the movies.  I thought the Tartakovsky Clone Wars was great, and was a little peeved they were going to more or less do away with the events of that series in order to create this CGI weekly cartoon.  I was also a little annoyed that Lucas wasn’t focusing on the long-awaited live action Star Wars show which is to take place between Episode III and IV.  All that being said the Clone Wars is awesome.  Not only have the storylines continued to evolve and experiment with different genres and aspects of the Star Wars universe, but the animation and art of the show has really grown more detailed.  The characters have evolved and have gradually come closer to their appearances in Revenge of the Sith.  And of course everyone is interested to know just what will become of young Ahsoka Tano, apprentice of Anakin Skywalker.  Surely there isn’t enough time between Episodes II and III to fully train the padawan into a full Jedi Knight?  Mysteries abound.

At the same time however mysteries are being revealed.  In the second half of this third season of the Clone Wars (which I have yet to see any episodes of, I’m waiting for the DVDs) we will get two cameos from two major Star Wars personalities.  First in an upcoming two-part storyline we will run into Captain Tarkin, yes that Tarkin, future Grand Moff and head of the Death Star, Wilhuff Tarkin.  Then in the multi part season finale Ahsoka runs into everyones favorite wookiee, Chewbacca.  Frankly I think Chewie’s uncanny ability to have run-ins with major players in the galaxy at key moments is a bit overplayed, and though I am more eagerly anticipating the added screen time of Tarkin, this wookiee cameo is also a welcome one.  Anything that ties the prequels closer together with the original movies is ok in my eyes.  The love and breadth of understanding director Dave Filoni and his team have for the Star Wars universe is immense and I have respected their ability to interpret the galaxy far, far, away as they tell their new and exciting stories.

Captain Tarkin as he appears in the Clone Wars

 

Now onto the bad . . . .

Marvel comics, my first loyalty when it comes to comic books, seems to be losing some of their foresight when it comes to storytelling and strategizing for future book sales.  They recently snuffed the Human Torch, bringing the Fantastic Four down to three.  This attracted a small amount of media attention, but nowhere near the amount when Captain America was killed off.  Without pause I thought this was a stunt, pure and simple.  Captain America’s death was something special, quite epic, and with a great amount of expert buildup to the event as executed by the awesome Ed Brubaker.  I couldn’t even tell you who’s witting FF at the moment.  Granted I have been out of comics for a while, due to monetary restraints, but the point is this came out of left field.  There was no previous buzz about the current Fantastic Four story arc, no tremendous waves of fans flocking to the series like Brubaker brought back to Cap.  A stunt pure and simple.  Now I know that these stunts are expected regular occurences in comics, I get it, and some times they even work and make for a good superhero tale, but I think not here.  Here’s how I see it.  FF sales were slumping.  Sue Storm died in a one-shot alternate universe issue recently, so can’t kill her, too expected.  Thing died in the Straczynski run of FF, so can’t kill him again.  No one cares enough about Mr. Fantastic (except me, love that character), so “Hey!  Let’s kill the Human Torch!  Ok sure.”  Blamo, team shattering event that will change the FF forever (aka sell a few books.)  But wait that’s not all!  What do we do when a new book is introduced OR when an old book is slumping?  That’s right send in Spider-Man!  Just a few days after Johnny’s death Marvel announced Spider-Man would be rounding out the FF (which now stands for “Future Foundation?”)

Now Marvel tells us this death will bring about some good, exciting new storylines dealing with the ramifications of the Human Torches death.  They try to convince us this isn’t a stunt, but rather a needed sacrifice in order to tell great stories.  Ah, bullshit.  Stunt!  Stunt I say!  And here’s the proof!

    http://www.comicbookmovie.com/fansites/GulfCoastAvengers/news/?a=29976

Yeah that’s right Marvel clearly and loudly declares that they intend to kill more major characters in the coming months, all in the name of sales . . . . er, I mean, story telling and the creative process!  

Things like this work for creating storylines in team books like the X-Men.  When Jean Grey died there was a great deal to write about with that scenario.  But unlike the X-Men, the Fantastic Four is not a team, they are a family.  The comic is based on a static roster of four characters who the readers have come to enjoy and expect to see when you read the Fantastic Four.  Characters in team books, come and go all the time.  The Avengers are always knighting new members into their ranks, Chuck Xavier is replacing X-Men left and right.  The Fantastic Four however, is the Fantastic Four, and is not the same without the Invisible Woman, Mr. Fantastic, the Thing, and the Human Torch.  The Fantastic Four don’t need stunts, they need good stories, and good adventures.  When I see something along these lines happen to a book such as this, I simply shake my head and think “Lazy writing.”  It’s always easier to take a chainsaw to a piece of wood then a pocket knife, but with the knife you can take your time and carve something cool to look at.

And PS they have just shown the first pictures of the FF + Spider-Man’s new costumes.  Awful.  That is all!

Ugh . . . .