Tuesday, October 6, 2015

1970's Flashback: The Guardians of the Galaxy

Marvel Super-Heroes #18 (Jan. 1969)
The original Guardians of the Galaxy first appeared in Marvel Super-Heroes #18 (Jan. 1969), written by Arnold Drake and penciled by Gene Colan.  Despite that standalone tale, most of the published adventures that set them on the path to later cinematic glory were released in the bronze age in such series as Marvel Two-In-One #4–5 (July–Sept. 1974), Astonishing Tales (April 1975), and Giant Size Defenders #5 and Defenders#26–29 (July–Nov. 1975). In each case, other heroes such as Captain America, the Thing, and the Defenders aid them in their war against the alien Badoon. The Guardians next received their own featured series running through Marvel Presents #3–12 (Feb. 1976 – Aug. 1977). This was followed by another round of guest appearances in Thor Annual #6 (1977), The Avengers #167–177 (Jan.–Nov. 1978) and #181 (March 1979), Ms. Marvel #23, Marvel Team-Up #86 (Oct. 1979), and Marvel Two-in-One #61-#63 & #69 (Nov. 1980).

For all intents and purposes that signaled the end of the inaugural team as well received reboots in the 1990’s (which ran for 62 issues and again in 2008) both reimagined the characters and concept beyond the intrepid band of freedom fighters who comprised the founders: Major Vance Astro, Yondu Udonta, Martinex and Charlie-27 (later joined by the fire-haired Mercurian Nikki and the combined being called Starhawk). The blockbuster 2014 Marvel Studios film [based upon the 2008 comic book series] depicted another team comprised of different Marvel universe characters, with only a cameo version of Yondu presents.

Original Guardians by Alex Ross

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

1970's Flashback: Cerebus

Cerebus created by Canadian writer-artist Dave Sim published from December 1977 until March 2004, is a title that can’t be easily summed up. Beginning as a parody of sword and sorcery comics, it later moved into seemingly any topic that Sim wished to explore: power and politics, religion and spirituality, gender issues, and more over the course of a 300-issue, 6000 story-page series.

The series stands out for its experimentation in form and content, and for the dexterity of its artwork, especially after background artist Gerhard joined in with the 65th issue. However as the series progressed, it increasingly became a platform for Sim's controversial beliefs.  Sim was a frequent marijuana user, began using LSD, taking the drug with such frequency that he was eventually hospitalized. He eventually cut all ties with his family and virtually all of his industry colleagues apart from Gerhard in order to finish the work. He has had very public fallings-out with some of his peers. Sim became a believer in God while gathering research material for "Rick's Story". However, rather than following any established religion, Sim follows his own personal belief system cobbled together from elements of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam; all of which impacted Cerebus in his final story arcs, segments of which are extremely misogynistic towards women.
Starting with the acclaimed “High Society” storyline, the series became divided into self-contained "novels", which form parts of the overall story. The ten "novels" of the series have been collected in 16 books, known as "Cerebus phonebooks" for their resemblance to telephone directories. He had originally angered many retailers who felt that their support had been instrumental in his series' success in an industry generally indifferent to small publishers — by offering the first printings of the phonebooks via mail order only (a highly lucrative decision that paid off well for Sim).

Friday, September 25, 2015

1980's Flashback: Captain Marvel

Monica Rambeau made her debut within the pages of The Amazing Spider-Man Annual #16 in 1982. Her energy generation, absorption & manipulation powers allow Monica to convert her body into any form of energy within the electromagnetic spectrum and travel at speeds up to the speed of light while in her energy form (including through the vacuum of space). This makes her a pretty tough individual, and she has proven herself to be a capable leader within the ranks of the Avengers.

Unfortunately she seems to suffer an inconvenient name change every decade. She was dubbed Photon in 1996, and was again rebranded as Pulsar in 2005. Lately the former “Captain Marvel” received her latest heroic identity as Spectrum (um, did Marvel forget their other versions of Doctor Spectrum too)? Additional aliases that she has endured are Daystar, Sceptre, Lady of Light, Monica Marvel, and Sun Goddess. Maybe one of these days at least one of these monikers will permanently stick. The character was co-created by Roger Stern and John Romita Jr.

Friday, September 11, 2015

1970's Flashback: Ghita of Alizarr

1984 #7 (Aug.1979)
Ghita of Alizarr is a sexy female barbarian warrior like Red Sonja (creator Frank Thorne previously drew Red Sonja for Marvel Comics), but her adventures have a sexual nature. The character first appeared in 1984 #7 (Aug.1979) published by Warren Magazines. She continued her adventures in a handful of issues released by Eros Comix in the 1980’s too. Today Ghita serves as both a late 1970’s Flashback and also as a quick “Gal” Friday, since it has been a while since I posted one of those. Enjoy and have a great weekend!

Thursday, September 10, 2015

What's the "alternative?"

I'm not a fan of the current massive wave of alternate covers that most comic book publishers drown us in. Some are quite nice and usually those bring back former greats to remind us all of their talents or to add a nostalgic aspect to a current property. But face it, tiger; most of these damn things are produced solely to give some shop owner the option to charge even more dollars for the same comic that everyone else is reading at the original cover price. WTF??

Here is a recently solicited cover by the terrific Dale Keown for the upcoming relaunch of Marvel Comics Red Wolf series. Of course the impending series is likely going to be depicted in a modern setting, but the thing is if the Keown version was how they intended Red Wolf to be presented and if it was drawn by Dale Keown, I would so be there for that title. A careful reading of the incoming creator credits quickly dashes that small hope, so again what is the point of this type of cover - other than to let the shop owners charge a premium price to acquire it? Basically this image is not representative of anything accurate to either the upcoming monthly or the original bronze age hero (a character that I liked and have all of his appearances in spiffy mint condition). Oh well, if this is what floats your boat, have at it! I do NOT buy a comic simply to get the cover, even when it is as highly desirable and nice as this one is.

Monday, September 7, 2015

"So say we all!"

I've just returned from a weekend in Atlanta, Georgia attending the annual Dragoncon, along with seventy thousand other people. I've regularly visited this multi-media show since 1991, and it always impresses me how accessible the celebrities are at this convention. Not counting dozens of popular authors, comic book industry favorites, and all manner of experts from the fields of science, technology and various creative arts, there are usually no less than seven dozen or so actors from virtually every genre type series or film that you could name. I'm a huge fan of the reimagined Battlestar: Galactica televisions series which aired between 2004-2009, and I had met or seen everyone from that cast multiple times, other than Grace Park. So it was very nice to finally have her at the show, and thus I opted for the group shot of all cast members who were there this  year. In the photo [standing; left-right]: Aaron Douglas (Galen Tyrol); James Callis (Dr. Gaius Baltar); Tricia Helfer (Cylon Number Six); Grace Park (Sharon "Boomer" Valerii/Agathon); Michael Trucco (Sam Anders); Edward James Olmos (Admiral William Adama) and then seated Jamie Bamber (Captain Lee Adama) and myself (in place of Col. Tigh). Enjoy and/or eat your heart out!

Thursday, September 3, 2015

1970's Flashback: John Stewart

John Stewart originally debuted in the pages of Green Lantern vol. 2 #87 (Dec. 1971) when artist Neal Adams came up with the idea of a substitute Green Lantern as the first African-American hero in the pages of DC Comics. John Stewart has become a major recurring character in the Green Lantern mythos and he became the primary Green Lantern between issues #182 through #200, when Hal Jordan relinquished his role within the Green Lantern Corps (1984–1986). Stewart has continued to star in various iterations of the title such as The Green Lantern Corps, Action Comics Weekly, and Green Lantern: Mosaic.
John Stewart was featured as one of the lead characters on the televised cartoon Justice League from 2001 until 2004 and its sequel, Justice League Unlimited. Going from "semi-obscurity in the mainstream to absolute name recognition" thanks to his starring role in the acclaimed Justice League cartoons in 2011, John Stewart starred in the “New 52” relaunched Green Lantern Corps alongside Guy Gardner, and eventually became the sole lead character (until the series' cancellation in 2015). That series was soon replaced by Green Lantern: The Lost Army, which again stars John Stewart as the lead hero.
Green Lantern #87 (Dec.1971)

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Dragon Age: Inquisition comes to its conclusion!

I've been a huge fan of Biowares fantasy rpg from day one, following along with each new protagonist since 2009's Dragon Age: Origins to Dragon Age 2 in 2011 and last years Dragon Age: Inquisition. Whether as the Warden aka The Hero of Ferelden, Hawke aka The Champion of Kirkwall or our current Inquisitor, each entry into this acclaimed franchise has upped the stakes for fans. Bioware just announced that on September 8, 2015 (not quite a year from its original launch last November), they will offer "Trespasser" billed as the final DLC for their award winning entry.

Trespasser will allow fans to have an entirely new adventure set two years after the main campaigns conclusion, so you will need to have completed the game to access this content. A chance to determine the final fate of the organization that you built alongside a party of friends and companions, with a new threat pending that will in all likelihood set up storytelling elements leading into their next sequel; plus the return of a former friend who factored heavily in the franchises first post-game credits scene. Previous dlc for Inquisition included:

Jaws of Hakkon - Discover the fate of the last Inquisitor and the powerful dragon he hunted. Enter an overgrown wilderness filled with Avvar, fiercely independent hunters who settled in the southern mountains ofThedas. Find an ancient Tevinter fortress that hides a dangerous secret.
The Descent - Explore the legendary Deep Roads, but ensure that you come prepared. A perilous journey awaits underground, where vast, darkspawn-infested caverns will challenge the Inquisition like never before
The Black Emporium; Spoils of the Avvar; Spoils of the Qunari; and multi-player upgrades such as Destruction and Dragonslayer.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

1980's Flashback: Grimjack

Although initially conceived to be the subject of a series of prose stories (set in a post-apocalyptic Chicago), Grimjack was the street name of John Gaunt, a sword-for-hire, ex-paramilitary, war veteran and former child gladiator. He actually operates from Munden's Bar in the Pit, a slum area of Cynosure, a pan-dimensional city to which all dimensions connect. Co-created by John Ostrander and Timothy Truman, although as indicated the general premise and setting had been set before Truman came on board, the character first appeared as a backup feature in Starslayer #10 (Nov.1983) published by First Comics. Grimjack #1 was later released in August of 1984 (with the series running for 81 issues).

Following the bankruptcy of First Comics in 1991, the legal rights to Grimjack became tied up with First Comics' other assets. After 12 years of efforts, all rights to Grimjack were released and a new company was founded, with legal ownership to the character. John Ostrander and Timothy Truman are said to have "substantial equity positions" in the venture.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

In Memorium: Yvonne Craig

On Monday actress Yvonne Craig lost her grueling two year battle with breast cancer. Of course everyone knew her as "Batgirl" from the classic 1960s television series, but she made memorable impressions on other well-loved series such as Star Trek, The Mod Squad, 77 Sunset Strip, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., The Wild Wild West, and many others. She appeared twice on film with Elvis Presley. Her trained dancers figure made her a popular glamor, pin-up and ad model during her heyday, and her long film and television resume belies the fact that she did not originally pursue an acting career.

Yvonne Craig benefitted from both her ballerina figure and her pixieish features and both aspects made her a great choice to bring the comic book heroine to life, inspiring many fans such as comic book writer Gail Simone to enter the industry. Ms. Craig was seventy-eight years old. The Catacombs extends its sincerest condolences to her family, friends and fans.

Monday, August 17, 2015

1970's Flashback: Night Rider

After introducing Johnny Blaze as their supernatural-motorcycling “Ghost Rider” Marvel renamed their earlier western hero to the unfortunate Night Rider (a term previously used in the Southern United States to refer to members of the Ku Klux Klan), during the mid-1970’s for a short run series. Carter Slade battled evil while dressed in a phosphorescent white costume, complete with a full-face mask, cape, and the requisite white hat. Slade had received this outfit and his white horse from Flaming Star, a Native American shaman. Eventually, the modern era Ghost Rider Johnny Blaze found himself transported into the 19th century where he met and teamed up with Carter Slade. Carter was badly wounded and Blaze took him to Flaming Star to be healed and then dealt with Carter's enemies. Carter recovered and Johnny returned to the present.
Night Rider #1 (Oct.1974)
After Slade's death in Western Gunfighters #7 (Jan. 1972), his sidekick Jamie Jacobs became the first of several successors, as in Marvel continuity after Slade's death, the name Phantom Rider was used retroactively for Slade and those who followed him. Carter Slade's spirit however returned in the modern era and possessed his descendant Hamilton Slade to make him a new Phantom Rider and rode out to rescue Johnny Blaze from certain doom.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

1970's Flashback: Vampirella

Vampirella #1 (Sept. 1969)
Vampirella initially appeared as a hostess-type character in Warren Publishing's b& w horror anthology Vampirella #1 (Sept. 1969), Forrest Ackerman created or at least had a strong hand in shaping the lighthearted "bad-girl story style" of the feature but Vamp was designed by veteran comics artist Trina Robbins.  Later the hostess aspect was dropped and the strip began focusing on the characters ongoing adventures, José González became the character's primary artist starting with issue #12. 

Vampi was not your typical supernatural vampire, as she hailed from the planet Drakulon, although she did possess various attributes related to vampirism such as shapeshifting, immortality, superhuman strength-speed-senses, enhanced night vision, a healing factor, flight, hypnosis and telepathy.

Her original series ended with #112 in 1983, although Vampirella has continued to be revived under the auspices of other publishers.