Friday, April 8, 2016

APRIL HORROR BLOCK: The opening


YAY! It arrived! Cool beans!

 The unveiling is ready.

 Wow! This box looks packed with stuff.

The T-shirt is Sadako from The Ring. That's pretty funky.

 A zombie door stop. Oh man...that's fucking cool! I'll use it for our door at work.

I'm not a big Walking Dead fan, but this mini-toy is neat.

I will keep this fuckery by my bed. It is extremely bloody handy!

 Meh. I'll give this to my mate AW.

An oven glove????? Oh yeah, finally! A gift I can give to Helen. 

 This keeps getting better and better. This gross tension doll is fun to squeeze, but when you do so, its "brains" get squished to the top of its head.

I had a flick through the mag before passing it on to AW. There were a few good articles this time round: a look back on Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 (a woefully under-appreciated horror film) plus some cool reviews. Good stuff.

OVERALL THOUGHTS: Eight items and only one dud among them, so this was awesome value for money. Well done, HorrorBlock. I can't wait for next month's package.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

COMICS READING FOR MARCH: “The horror...the horror...”


* NOW WITH STAR RATINGS (ala Wrestling Observer Newsletter PPV reports) *

NEW! HOW I RATE THE COMICS VIA THE GRANT MORRISON SCALE
*****     All-Star Superman, We3
****      New X-Men (the early issues), Batman Inc., Batman And Robin, Dare, Arkham Asylum
***        Zenith, Seven Soldiers
**         Final Crisis, Flex Mentallo
*           Marvel Boy
DUD (or lower) Nameless, later New X-Men and any of his hippy-dippy, pseudo-mystical crap

1.-8. The Sandman Vol. 1: Preludes and Nocturnes (DC, 2010) ****½
- originally published in The Sandman #1-8 (DC, 1988-89)
Writer: Neil Gaiman/Artists: Sam Kieth, Mike Dringenberg and Malcolm Jones III (interiors); Dave McKean (covers)
9.-20. The Walking Dead Vols. 1-2 (Image, 2004) ***½
- originally published in The Walking Dead #1-12 (Image, 2003-04)
Writer: Robert Kirkman/Artists: Tony Moore (#1-6), Charlie Adlard (#7-12)
I had a first print copy of The Walking Dead #1 back in 2003. Do you know how much it’s worth now at Lone Star (mycomicshop.com)? $20,000. TWENTY THOUSAND DOLLARS!!! Fuck my life. I stopped buying this series after #25 and sold the lot for $25 on eBay. Fuck my life! I got sick of the torture porn and the never-ending bleakness. TWD was (and still is by all accounts) fucking depressing. Basiclaly, everyone’s gonna die and become zombies – nothing can save them. Rick is fucked up. God knows if any of the original support cast are still alive. Even if they were I’d never recognise them because Adlard is arguably the worst artist in the world. But I rebought the first 12 issues as trades a few years back and I just reread them in one hit. Kinow what? The early issues weren’t too bad. Pity Kirkman’s into torture porn. Fuck that guy. And, still, fuck my life.
21.-26. Bad Planet Vol. 1 (Raw Studios, 2010) ***
- originally published in Bad Planet #1-6 (Image, 2005-08)
Writers: Thomas Jane and Steve Niles/Artists: James Daly III, Lewis LaRosa, Tim Bradstreet and Dave Kendall (interiors); Basil Gogos (cover); Dave Stevens, Berni Wrightson, etc (other art)
27.-31. Chew Vol. 2: International Flavor (Image, 2010) ***¾
- Chew #6-10 (Image, 2009-10)
Writer; John Layman/Artist: Rob Guillory
32. Nailbiter #20 (Image, 2016) ***¾
Writer: Joshua Williamson/Artist: Mike Hendeson
33.-36. Marvel Zombies 3 #1-5 (Marvel, 2008-09) ***¾
Writer: Fred Van Lente/Artists: Kev Walker (interior); Greg Land (cover)
37.-40. Marvel Zombies 4 #1-5 (Marvel, 2009) ***¾
Writer: Fred Van Lente/Artists: Kev Walker (interior); Greg Land (cover) 
41.-45. Marvel Zombies Return #1-5 (Marvel, 2009) ***½
Writer: Fred Van Lente/Artists: various (interior); Arthur Suydam (cover) 
46.-50. Marvel Zombies 5 #1-5 (Marvel, 2010) *****
Writer: Fred Van Lente/Artists: various
51. Marvel Zombies: Evil Evolution #1 (Marvel, 2010) ***
Writer: Karl Kesel/Artists: various
52.-56. Marvel Zombies Supreme #1-5 (Marvel, 2011) ***½
Writer: Frank Marraffino/Artists: Fernando Blanco and Jason Paz (interior); Michael Komarck (covers)
57.-61. Zombies Christmas Carol #1-5 (Marvel, 2011) **¾
Writers: Charles Dickens and Jim McCann/Artists: David Baldeon and friends (interior); Michael Kaluta (covers)
62.-66. Marvel Zombies Destroy! #1-5 (Marvel, 2012) ***
Writers: Frank Marraffino (#1-2); Peter David (#3-5)/Artists: Mirco Pierfederici (#1-2, #4-5 interior); Al Barrionuevo and Rick Magyar (#3 interior); Mike Del Mundo (covers)
67.-78. Black Hole (Jonathan Cape, 2005) ****¾
- originally published in Black Hole #1-12 (Fantagraphics, 1995-2004)
Writer/Artist: Charles Burns
---------------------------------------------

79.-83. Tokyo Ghost Vol. 1: The Atomic Garden (Image, 2016) ***¾
- originally published in Tokyo Ghost #1-5 (Image, 2015-16)
Writer: Rick Remender/Artist: Sean Murphy
84.-85. Stratu’s Diary Comix Nov.-Dec. 2015 (self-published, 2015) ***
Writer/artist: Stratu
Stratu’s epic diary is completed! And he’s inspired me to do my own comic in 2016. Wish me luck!

DIGITAL COMIX!
86.-91. Epochalypse #1-6 (Legendary Comics, 2014-15) ***
Writer: Jonathan Henesey/Artists: Shane Davis (#1-6 interior), Pete Woods (#6 interior); Shane Davis (#1 cover), Steve Mannion (#2 cover), Dave Johnson (#3-6 covers)
This series – about a time catastrophe that saw 600 years of history compressed into one time period – had a really strong start as time cops hunted down citizens who held anachronistic objects that could jeopardise the world’s fragile state. But the series dropped in quality as the issues continued and various sub-plots arose that only muddied the central storyline. The last two issues were confusing and unsatisfying .Henesy clearly plotted this series to run more than six issues, but #7 hasn’t surfaced in more than a year so I suspect Epocalypse is...ahem, history.

JOIN THE CARAVAN OF LOVE
I receive free Aussie comics every week courtesy of caravanofcomics.com, but I haven’t reviewed any of them, so here are my brief thoughts on a slab that I read the other day.

92. If You Follow Me On Instagram by Andrew Fulton (self-published, 20??) **½
Four-in-one panels that evaporate as you read them. Some panels are profound, others not so much.
93. Legend Of The White Stag by Alex E. Clark (self-published, 2013) **¾
Cute lil’ horror tale about a mermaid in a creek in what I assume is rural Australia.
94. Lars The Last Viking Goes To The End Of The World by Matt Taylor (self-published, 2011) **¾
Nice art, but the story about a death metal-playing lonely viking was too cutesy and a bit lame.
95. If A Tree Falls by Nic Lawson (self-published, 20??) ***½
A short, sweet tale about a lumberjack who has a change of heart.
96. Inscapes by Safdar Ahmed (self-published, 2015) ***¾
A powerful collection of strips and drawings detailing the frustrations of a Muslim dealing with getting hammered by the destructive actions of Islamic terrorists on one side and Islamophobes who seek to blame ALL Muslims for the actions of a few extremists. Powerful, thought-provoking material. From the website: “Safdar is a Sydney-based comic artist, academic and co-founder of Refugee Art Project, for which he conducts art workshops with refugees and asylum seekers. In 2015, Safdar won a Walkley Award in the artwork category for his documentary webcomic, Villawood: Notes From An Immigration Detention Centre.
97. Judee by Lachlan Conn (self-published, 2015) ****
Beautifully surreal comic about a giant cavewoman. Very Crumbesque/Weirdo comic-style artwork. An unexpected gem.
98. Imagined Mysteries by Anthony Woodward (self-published, 2015) ****
The death of Leonard Nimoy is the starting point of Anthony’s thoughtful look at religious intolerance, man’s inability to see the bigger picture and what Mr Spock represented to humanity. Strangely moving, powerful comix.
99. Combat Trousers by Jonathan King (self-published, 2015) **¾
Just silly stuff from this NZ creator. A war yarn where a pair of trousers leads a platoon.
100. Not Quite Right by AzzaMcKazza (self-published, 201?) ***½
Wacky, well-drawn humour strips. I liked it a lot.
101. Darkest Night #1 (Siberian Productions, 2012) **¼
Writer/artist: Hayden Fryer
Poorly written, amateurishly drawn romance comic that’s the first in a trilogy, apparently. I’ll skip the next two instalments, I think.

102. Lucha Underground: Rey Mysterio #1 (El Rey Network, 2016) ***
Writers: Justin Ortiz, Christopher DeJoseph, Fabian Rangel Jr/Artist: AC Osorio
103. Lucha Underground: Mil Muerte #1 (El Rey Network, 2016) ***
Writers: Justin Ortiz, Christopher DeJoseph, Fabian Rangel Jr/Artists: Tony Gregori (interior); AC Osorio (cover)

104. Howard The Duck: The Newspaper Strips Vol. 1 (self-published, 2016) ***
- originally published daily by Marvel, 1977
Writer: Steve Gerber/Artist: Gene Colan
The first chapter of the are HTD newspaper strip can be found at http://bronzeageofblogs.blogspot.com.au/2015/02/howard-duck-newspaper-strip-pop-syke.html. I saved the high-res JPEGs and laid them out into an 18-page zine that I then printed out. You can read the first chapter at the blog and you can contact me at danhelen@idx.com.au and I’ll send you a copy of my zine (with colour front cover featuring rare fan-commissioned art by Val Mayerik).
To learn more about Howard’s strip and its troubled short life (it ended in 1978 and didn’t appear in many newspapers at all), check out http://nemsworld.com/howard/.

105. -106. Marvel: Five Fabulous Decades Of The World’s Greatest Comics by Les Daniels (Harry N. Abrams Inc., 1991) ****
- features the following strips: “Vengeance!”, Sub-Mariner #35 (Marvel, 1954); “Duel To The Death With The Vulture!”, The Amazing Spider-Man #2 (Marvel, 1963); “This Man...This Monster!”, Fantastic Four #51 (Marvel, 1966); Wolverine in “The Hunter” (technically unpublished, 1987)
Writers: Bill Everett, Stan Lee, Chris Claremont/Artists: Bill Everett, Steve Ditko, Jack Kirby and Joe Sinnott; Marshall Rogers and Randy Emberlin
I’ll have an upcoming podcast reviewing Les’s book, along with his other book looking at 60 years of DC Comics.


107.-108. I Am A Hero Omnibus 1 (Dark Horse, 2016) ****
Writer/artist: Kengo Hanazawa
- originally published in I Am A Hero Vols. 1 and 2 (Shogakukan, 2009)

Zombie manga! I’m so glad this got sent to me. I’ll discuss it more in my next podcast. J


Tuesday, March 1, 2016

COMICS READING FOR FEBRUARY: “The Meh 52”


* NOW WITH STAR RATINGS (ala Wrestling Observer Newsletter PPV reports) *

NEW! HOW I RATE THE COMICS VIA THE GRANT MORRISON SCALE
*****     All-Star Superman, We3
****      New X-Men (the early issues), Batman Inc., Batman & Robin, Dare, Arkham Asylum
***        Zenith, Seven Soldiers
**         Final Crisis, Flex Mentallo
*           Marvel Boy
DUD (or lower) Nameless, later New X-Men and any of his hippy-dippy, pseudo-mystical crap

1.-3. Worlds’ Finest #6-8 (DC, 2013) ***¼
Writers: Paul Levitz/Artists: Kevin Maguire (#6-7 Huntress sequence); George Perez & Sandra Hope (#6-7 Power Girl sequence); George Perez, Cafu, Cliff Richards (#8)
4.-6. Earth 2 #6-8 (DC, 2013) ***¼
Writer: James Robinson/Artists: Nicola Scott & Trevor Scott (#6); Yildiray Cinar & Trevor Scott (#7); Yildiray Cinar, Ryan Winn & Ruy Jose (#8)
7.-15. Batman Incorporated #6-13, Special #1 (DC, 2013) ***¾
Writer: Grant Morrison/Artists: Chris Burnham & friends
16.-19. O.M.A.C. #5-8 (DC, 2012) **¾
Writers: Dan DiDio & Jeff Lemire/Artists: Keith Giffen & Scott Koblish
20.-26. Catwoman #6-12 (DC, 2012) ***
Writer: Judd Winick/Artists: Guillem March (#6); Adriana Melo & friends (#7-12)
27.-36. Frankenstein, Agent Of S.H.A.D.E. #5-12, 0 (DC, 2012) ***¾
Writer: Jeff Lemire (#5-10); Matt Kindt (#11-12, 0)/Artists: Alberto Ponticelli & friends
37. Men Of War #8 (DC, 2012) ***
Writers: Jeff Lemire & Matt Kindt/Artist: Tom Derenick
38.-44. Animal Man #6-11, Annual #1 (DC, 2012) ****
Writer: Jeff Lemire/Artists; John Paul Leon, Travel Foreman & Jeff Huet (#6 interior); Steve Pugh, Travel Foreman & Jeff Huet (#7-8 interior); Steve Pugh (#9-10 interior); Alberto Ponticelli & Wayne Faucher (#11 interior); Timothy Green II & Joseph Silver (Annual #1 interior); Travel Foreman (#6-10, Annual #1 covers); Steve Pugh (#11 cover)
This is the prelude to the “RotWorld” storyline that ran through several titles, and it’s still damn creepy. Second-string superhero Buddy “Animal Man” Baker learns that his 4yo daughter Maxine is a powerful elemental, an “Avatar for the Red”. But the Avatar for the Rot – who’s revealed in the final panel of #11 as old Swamp Thing foe Arcane – wants to get his hands on Maxine. On the run from an army of rotting zombie animals, Buddy and his family go searching for the Avatar of the Green, Swamp Thing, so they can fight Arcane and restore balance to the world. Many hardships and personal tragedies ensue, not least of which is Buddy Baker’s death (don’t worry, he gets better).
The art teams change regularly but maintain a remarkable uniform style, but it’s Lemire’s terrific writing – building layers of dread and suspense – that make Animal Man far and away the best series in the New 52 line. Bring on the crossovers and mini-“event”.

A Load Of Rot
45.-63. Animal Man #12, Swamp Thing #12, Animal Man #13, Swamp Thing #13, Swamp Thing Annual #1, Frankenstein, Agent Of S.H.A.D.E. #13, Swamp Thing #14, Animal Man #14, Frankenstein, Agent Of S.H.A.D.E. #14, Animal Man #15, Swamp Thing #15, Frankenstein, Agent Of S.H.A.D.E. #15, Animal Man #16, Swamp Thing #16, Animal Man #17, Swamp Thing #17, Animal Man #18-19, Swamp Thing #18 (DC, 2012-13) **¾
Writers: Jeff Lemire, Matt Kindt & Scott Snyder/Artists: various
Basically, a piss-poor preview of the highly overrated and frustrating Future’s End maxiseries that ran a year later. A nightmare future, loads of weird groupings of superheroes with former villains, and former heroes with supervillains. A nonsensical Batman invention that saves the day (seemingly pulled from the writers’ collective arsehole), then the inevitable “we’ll send you back in time so you can stop this horrible future from ever happening” – and they do. The only thing that salvages this crossover is the downbeat, surprisingly human ending, particularly in Animal Man. Buddy Baker goes through hell to save his family and the planet, but still ultimately fails to save his son from death. If only the rest of “Rotworld” could have been that powerful.

64. Frankenstein, Agent Of S.H.A.D.E. #16 (DC, 2013) ***
Writer: Matt Kindt/Artist: Alberto Ponticelli

65.-76. The Shade #1-12 (DC, 2011-12) ***
Writer: James Robinson/Artists: Cully Hamner (interior #1-3), Darwyn Cooke & J. Bone (interior #4), Javier Pulido (interior #5-7), Jill Thompson (interior #8), Frazer Irving (interior #9-11), Gene Ha (interior #12); Tony Harris (covers)
The Shade was one of the most intriguing characters from Robinson’s run on Starman in the 1990s, so I was happy to buy this 12-issue maxiseries. It starts strongly with Shade surviving an assassination attempt by Deathstroke and setting out to find the man who hired him, which turns out to be one of his descendants. From there, we get a potted history of The Shade with individual stories and arcs that vary in quality. Artistically, the three-issue run by Irving looks fantastic. But the storyline lost my interest near the end and the conclusion (a brief origin story) felt oddly rushed...as if Robinson intended this series to be more than 12 issues, but got told to wrap it up early (due to poor sales, I presume). The final issue even has a heading that states its the first chapter in a longer arc, yet it’s all over 20 pages later. Odd.

77.-78. Deadpool & The Merc$ For Money #1/Spidey #1 (Marvel, 2016) ****
[Deadpool] Writer: Cullen Bunn/Artists: Salva Espin (interior); Declan Shalvey (cover)
[Spidey] Writer: Robbie Thompson/Artists: Nick Bradshaw
79. Guardians Team-Up #5 (Marvel, 2015) ***½
Writers: Andy Lanning & Andy Schmidt /Artists: Gustavo Duarte (interior); Humberto Ramos (cover)
80.-85. Guardians Team-Up Vol. 2: Unlikely Story (Marvel, 2016) ***¾
- originally published in Guardians Team-Up #6-10 & Deadpool Team-Up #883) (Marvel, 2011, 2015)
Writers/Artists: various

86. Sidekick (included in Comic Heroes #22) (Future, 2014) ***
Writers/artists: various
87.-89. Stratu’s Diary Comix Aug.-Oct. 2015 (self-published, 2015) ***
Writer/artist: Stratu
The mundane, the fascinating, the horrifying, the melancholy...it’s all here in Stu’s daily diary.
90.-95. Prez Vol. 1: Corndog-in-Chief (DC, 2016) ***¾
- originally published in Prez #1-6 (DC, 2015)
Writer: Mark Russell/Artists: Ben Caldwell & friends
A decidedly witty, subversive, non-DCish series that updates and smartens up the old 1970s Prez series. Lost its way a little in the middle, but overall a big thumbs up on this title.
96.-101. Spider-Man’s Tangled Web Vol. 1 (Marvel, 2001) ****
- originally published in Spider-Man’s Tangled Web #1-6 (Marvel, 2001)
Writers/Artists: various


Thursday, February 18, 2016

The return of Terra...er, Tami: the John Jacobs saga continues

A CHANCE comment from Chris Pitzer at Adhouse Books led me to these two 1989 comics, The New Power Stars and The New Partners In Peril, published by Tami Comics (via Blue Comet Press).
For anyone who knows about my decades-old obsession with Dr Peculiar and the many other strange titles (including Power Stars and Partners In Peril) published by John Jacobs' Madison Comics in the mid-80s, then you would understand why I was so thrilled to pick up these comics from Mile High (and for next to nix).
They are a continuation of the bizarre superhero universe created by Jacobs and they're nearly as mad as the original books.
The Christian vibe has been toned right down and the perverse sexual violence excised, but there's plenty of regular old weirdness to go round.
When we last left the Madison Universe, Astroman and his brainwashed/drugged ward/former enemy Tami (a thinly disguised rip-off of Terra from DC's New Teen Titans) were chilling in Antarctica (see what I did there? Boom!).

But in The New Power Stars #1, America is now run by a Communist, Russian-backed government, led by the evil and oddly schoolmarmish President Rose Kenman. In the first yarn ("Tami Unbound", writer: Dave Marchman/artist: Steven Hughes) the Prez forces Astroman to do her bidding to disperse illegal rally-goers, which pushes him to the edge of killing Kenman. Meanwhile, Tami is kidnapped by government agents for some nefarious experiment. In the process, the wristband that controls her psychotic urges is broken. She goes on a rampage before being rather quickly subdued by Astroman, who whacks another armband on her to keep her placid and compliant. The artwork by Hughes is perfectly fine, but the storyline (which I assume Jacobs had a hand in) is kinda batshit crazy. When and how did the Commies take over America? Did I miss something in Jacobs' original series?
The next chapter ("American Vengeance", writer: CA Stormon/artists: Brian Pimenta & David Mowry) sees Astroman and another old Madison character Black Atlas take on anti-Commie vigilante American Vengeance.
The last strip ("Astroman vs Super Soljer", writer: John Jacobs & Duval Stowers/artist: Duval Stowers) has a similar storyline with ultra-patriot Super Soljer battling Astroman, who he mistakenly believes is a traitor. This is the only "to be continued" yarn with Soljer getting blown up by MIG fighter planes on the final page. Oh no...will he survive? Well, we never find out.


The New Partners In Peril focuses on the members of super-team Power Stars. We get the origin of Astroman (writers: John Jacobs and Dave Marchman/artist: Steven Hughes), which basically rips off Superman's origin.
"You Say You Want A Revolution" (writer: Dave Marchman/artists: Mitch Byrd & Louis Paradis) sees the team split up over idealogical reasons when discussing whether or not they should overthrow America's Commie government.
"Communisim is a disease, evil, a corruption of human thought!" snarls a Captain Atom rip-off.
"Hey, back off, man! Communism ain't the worst thing - look at Adolf Hitler as proof!" growls some other hero who's so inconsequential that we never see his face, let alone find out his name.
So the Captain Atom rip-off  - we later find out he's called "Neutron" - snaps and quits the Power Stars.
He joins the rebel movement and attempts to assassinate the Prez. However, his attempt is thwarted by his ex-team mates. After being defeated, Neutron suddenly comes to his senses and it's revealed he was being mind-controlled by aliens known as the Gibblers. It's all very clunky and mediocre fare, but not the off-the-wall crazy you'd expect from Jacobs.

The final unnamed strip (writer: Dwight Decker/artist: Francis Mao) sees the Power Stars take down a sinister gulag in Alaska. However, they are captured and it's up to Tami to rescue the team using her earth-based powers. Unfortunately, in the process, her wristband gets shattered and she goes psycho once more, before Astroman again easily subdues her. So the storyline is basically a repeat of what happened in the other comic.

Reading and rereading these two titles, it just makes me think, "Man, John Jacobs REALLY hated Communism." It's such a surreal idea to have America in the grip of some Red Dawn scenario. It must have been very confusing for the few hundred people who actually picked up and read these comics to be confronted by this fully-formed (well…semi-formed) alternative universe that's kinda loco. 
A bigger question is why Blue Comet Press got involved with a kook like Jacobs (although he was loaded, so I guess the cash helped).
Sales must've been poor as these were the only Tami Comics titles published...and as far as I know, the comics were not revived again.
Still, as bad as they are, I'm perversely thrilled to have them in my collection.

AND ON A RELATED NOTE...

JOHN JACOBS couldn't write and he could barely draw when he put out Madison Comics, but his amateurish pencils were helped immeasurably by the inking of Ken Landgraf (who actually did some mainstream work as well). Ken, who still sells his original artwok on eBay, also produced his own comics around this time. I recently found a copy of Starfighters #5 (Landgraphic, 1983) for a coupla bux in Comic Kingdom in Sydney.

There's a lot of overt Christian imagery going on (which maybe explains Ken's affinity with Jacobs) plus some heavy Wally Wood influences in his artwork (I could call them swipes, but I'll give him the benefit of the doubt). The main feature is about a band of rebels the Starfighters fighting an evil despot. Sure it's cliched, but I bought this for Ken's artwork, not his writing.
The back-up tales of "Axe McChord" and "Alien Squad" (with additional inks from semi-pros Willie Blyberg, Sam De La Rosa, Armando Gil and friends) have nice art, but they make zero sense. Who exactly Ken was trying to appeal to with this comic is beyond me.

What I found more interesting were the house ads Ken ran, including the above full-pager for a Punisher-style character called Night Slayer.
The real ads are even better. The fact that the fan club of heavy metal "legend" Thor got the inside front cover (below left) made the $3 I paid for Starfighters totally worthwhile.
A local hairdresser got the inside back cover (below right), which I found hilarious. I wonder if it's still in business.
Someone needs to interview Ken - with John Jacobs' passing a few years back, Landgraf is the only person who can shed some light on what the hell was going on with John and Madison Comics. Hell, Ken's creative output over the decades would be worth an article by itself.
I'll have to look into this.



Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Best Of The Worst: reviews of books about Aussie comics rogues Maxwell Newton and Phillip Wearne



MAXWELL NEWTON and PHILLIP WEARNE were both fascinating, controversial figures in Australian politics, the media and society. They were ratbags, scoundrels, drunkards, drug addicts and, let's be blunt, criminals. They were also two of the more interesting figures connected with the Australian comics industry.
Two books (well, an ebook and a small-press booklet, to be precise) by veteran Australian writer and researcher Daniel Best examine the two men's stories and their legacy in both the local comics industry and this country in general.
Maxwell Newton
FOR Australian kids in the mid-1970s who read comics, Newton titles were a huge bargain. For 30 cents (only five cents more than American comics) you got 44 pages of great 60s Marvel reprint action (admittedly B&W, but it was classic Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko, so who cared?), plus a poster, and maybe a swapcard (or a T-shirt iron-on transfer), plus the chance to win prizes. They even had our very own letters page for Aussie comics fans to connect with other fans.
And then, all too quickly, the dozens of Newton titles that flooded our local newsstands were gone.
As Best's exhaustive tome Newton Comics: The Amazing Rise And Spectacular Fall reveals, the company was really a failed attempt in 1975 by Melbourne newspaper publisher Maxwell Newton to make quick money, ripping off Marvel in the process, before a lack of sales and general management chaos (due to a boozed-up and drugged-out owner) drove the company out of business in 1976.
The heavily illustrated book covers every aspect of Newton Comics - particularly its owner's chequered history before he got into publishing and his fascinating post-life career (including a brief stint as a pornographer and pimp). The day-to-day operations of the comics' production make for fascinating reading.
Every title is listed (with covers and contents wherever possible), plus every collectible that Newton released (or promised to release). Like I said, it's an exhaustive account and is recommended to anyone who loved reading these mags as a kid.
Newton Comics: The Amazing Rise And Spectacular Fall was published in 2014 as an ebook courtesy of a Kickstarter campaign that I contributed money to. I think there was a hard-copy version proposed, but that never materialised. I struggle with ebooks, which is why it took me so damn long to get around to reading it, but I'm glad I finally did. Best has an entertaining writing style and his research (particularly court documents) is meticulous. A small bugbear would be that there is some facts repeated several times throughout the book, probably because some chapters had been previously published on Best's website, ohdannyboy.blogspot.com, which is where the repetition crept in, I suspect. But overall, I'm happy I played a small part in getting this book off the ground.

MUCH shorter but just as fascinating is last year's The Strange, Strange Story Of Phillip Wearne, which manages to pack in a huge amount of crazy in barely 40 pages.
Wearne was a competent cartoonist in Adelaide who published his own comic at age 17 in 1942. The Legion Of Space ripped off a sci-fi novel published eight years earlier, but people took a long time to realise that. Wearne also took shortcuts with his art, reusing the same panels over and over. Somehow, he parlayed this into a career of sorts.
Wearne would soon leave comics, however, and embark on a long, spotty career including a stint in the RAAF, some tawdry criminal endeavours and ripping off the union movement while producing their various trade newspapers.
His greatest claim to fame was his ongoing feud with Scientology, which eventually saw him catch the eye of the spooks in ASIO.
In many ways, the lives and temperament of Wearne and Newton seem identical - they were like evil twin brothers who were cut from the same cloth. I'm surprised their paths never crossed - now THAT would have been a drinking session worth attending!
* Both books are available from Daniell Best's website - as are many others - and I suggest you head there and check them out.

Phillip Wearne

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Kirby Your Enthusiam. ep. 44: "The best and worst comics I read in 2015"


IN WHICH Dann talks about the best and worst comics he read last year (my podcast titles NEVER lie).
PODCAST HERE.

LINKS FROM THIS PODCAST:
Kings Comics
Elizabeth's Bookshop
Adhouse Books
Totentanz by Marcel Ruijters
Sticky Monsters by John Ken Mortensen
(I mistakenly refer to it as "Sticky Nonsense" on the podcast, but it's actually titled Sticky Monsters.)
Lone Star Comics


COMICS READ in 2013: 807

COMICS READ IN 2014: 1179
--------------------------------------------------
COMICS READ IN 2015:
JAN. 82
FEB. 106
MAR. 92
APR. 69
MAY 102
JUN. 75
JUL. 210
AUG. 101
SEP. 80
OCT. 108
NOV. 96
DEC. 101
Total comics and GNs read in 2015: 1222

BEST of 2015:
Stray Bullets: Sunshine And Roses #1-6 (Image, 2015) *****
Writer/artist: David Lapham
The perfect comic.

Savage Sword of Criminal (Image, 2015) *****
Writer: Ed Brubaker/Artist: Sean Phillips
This loving homage to Marvel’s B&W magazine line in the 1970s is glorious. Phillips slips in and out of his usual Criminal art style (which is the main story set in the 70s) to the more psychedelic, Spanish/Filipino-styled barbarian artwork we saw in Conan and even the Warren B&W titles. Phillips even apes a Joe Jusko-style cover. This is a fucking masterpiece.

Herbie Archives Vols. 1-3 (Dark Horse, 2008-09) *****
- originally published in Forbidden Worlds #73, 94, 110, 114, 116; Unknown Worlds #20; Herbie #1-23 (American Comics Group, 1958-1967)
Writer: Shane O’Shea/Artist: Ogden Whitney
Quite possibly the most extraordinary, bizarre, sad, desperate, loveable, strange comic I’ve ever read. An obese autistic child, who is bullied by his overbearing father and kids at school, fantasises that he is an omnipotent superhero who can travel anywhere in the universe, have amazing unreal adventures and is friends with everyone from the US President to the Queen and historical figures, who he visits whenever he travels back in time. Herbie uses the power of lollipops to achieve his fantastical aims as he loses himself deep in a fantasy world where he is loved and respected, unlike the real world. Well, that’s MY interpretation of this crazy comic and I’m sticking to it!

Minimum Wage: So Many Bad Decisions #1-6 (Image, 2015) *****
Writer/artist: Bob Fingerman
It’s back and I am sooooooooooooooooo happy! Even if I DIDN’T win that damn competition Bob was running.
The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #4-8 (Marvel, 2015) *****
Writer: Ryan North/Artist: Erica Henderson
The unexpected best comic Marvel is producing this year.
Solo #5 (DC, 2005) *****
Writer/artist: Darwyn Cooke
I can’t get enough of Cooke’s retro art. And he’s not a bad writer either. So this special devoted to Cooke was a joy to read. Maybe he should try his hand at some Marvel characters one day.

FREE COMIC BOOK DAY 2015 (listen to my podcast about it HERE)
2000AD (Rebellion) *****
Writers/artists: various
And Then Emily Was Gone #0 (Comix Tribe) *****
Emily writer: John Lees/Artists: Iain Laurie (interior); Ryan Stegman (cover)
Oxymoron writer: Tyler James/Artist: Alex Cormack

Hard Time: 50 To Life & Hard Time: Sixteen (DC, 2004, 2012) *****
- originally published in Hard Time #1-12 (DC, 2004-05)
Writers: Steve Gerber & Mary Skrenes (uncredited)/Artist: Brian Hurtt
This certainly wasn’t the last series Steve Gerber wrote before his untimely death in 2008, but it’s arguably his finest work (Howard The Duck, notwithstanding).
Ethan, 15, is sentenced to 50 years’ jail for a high school prank gone horribly wrong. He quickly makes plenty of enemies, including the Aryan Brotherhood and an insane fundamentalist Christian inmate. But Ethan has a secret – a powerful entity that lives within him that comes alive at night to do his violent bidding. This intense cross between TV’s Oz and DC’s own Johnny Thunder works incredibly well, mainly due to Gerber’s funny, powerful dialogue. Thankfully, he doesn’t write in that exhausting purple prose he used at Marvel in the 1970s. The writing here is more subtle, nuanced and, dare I say it, realistic. Hurtt’s artwork is great (as always). This is a hidden gem of a series that deserves more consideration from fans and critics. It’s tragic that Gerber was still peaking as a writer before he passed away. He deserves to be remembered for more than just a talking duck.

Sticky Monsters (Square Peg, 2012) *****
Writer/Artist: John Ken Mortensen
Post-it notes seem so innocent, but not in the hands of this Danish artist, who creates tiny horrific images torn from the nightmares of Maurice Sendak and HP Lovecraft.
Delusional (AdHouse Books, 2013) *****
Writer/Artist: Farel Dalrymple
Assorted bibs and bobs from my favourite alternative artist. Delightfully unsettling.

Totentanz (self-published, 2012-15) *****
Writer/artist: Marcel Ruijters
Wytches Vol. 1 (Image, 2015) *****
- originally published in Wytches #1-6 (Image, 2015)
Writer: Scott Snyder/Artist: Jock
Freaks #1-2 (Monster Comics, 1992) *****
Writer: Jim Woodring/Artist: F. Solano Lopez
A pitch-perfect adaptation of Tod Browning’s classic horror film. Beautifully illustrated by Lopez. Just about perfect.

Starve #1-3 (Image, 2015) *****
Writer: Brian Wood/Artist ;Danijel Zezelj
Cooking and comics – what a tasty fucking combination.
Airboy #1-4 (Image, 2015) *****
Writer: James Robinson/Artist: Greg Hinkle
The greatest comic revival EVER. The greatest meta comic ever. This is arguably the best comic of the decade!

The Sixth Gun Vol. 8: Hell And High Water (Oni Press, 2015) *****
- originally published in The Sixth Gun #42-47 (Oni Press, 2015)
Writer: Cullen Bunn/Artist: Brian Hurtt

Dark Corridor #1-3 (Image, 2015) *****
Writer/Artist: Rich Tommaso
Fucking brilliant film noir-style comics from the creator of The Horror Of Collier County. I’m so glad I picked up this title.
The Twilight Children #1 (Vertigo, 2015) *****
Writer: Gilbert Hernandez/Artist: Darwyn Cooke
$4.99 for the first issue? Fuck me! Good thing this is just about the best new comic I’ve read in 2015. Gilbert rises above his usual overrated, mediocre self to deliver a strong script and Darwyn is fucking ON SONG. But damn! $4.99 an issue? Yeah...you guessed it, I’ll wait for the trade.

The Fade Out #9-10 (Image, 2015) *****
Writer: Ed Brubaker/Artist: Sean Phillips
Now things are getting good.
Astro City #28 (Vertigo, 2015) *****
Writer: Kurt Busiek/Artists: Gary Chaloner & Wade Von Grawbdger (interior); Alex Ross (cover)
Chaloner rules!
Pope Hats #3-4 by Ethan Rilly (AdHouse Books, 2012-15) *****
Mort Grim by Doug Fraser (AdHouse Books, 2005) *****
UR by Eric Haven (AdHouse Books, 2014) *****

Saga Vol. 5 (Image, 2015) *****
Writer: Brian K. Vaughan/Artist: Fiona Staples
New MGMT #1/Mind MGMT #36 (Dark Horse, 2015) *****
Writer/Artist: Matt Kindt
Very sad to see this great series come to an end. Also, this ends my hard-copy single issue relationship with Dark Horse. Mind MGMT was the only comic I still bought from this company (the rest I get free from the company as digital copies).

Fear & Loathing In Las Vegas (Top Shelf, 2015 ) *****
Writers: Hunter S. Thompson (novel); Troy Little (adaptation)/Artist: Troy Little
The Bus by Paul Kirchner (Futura, 1987) *****
I loved this strip when I first read it in Heavy Metal in the early 80s. Earlier this year, I bought the latest Heavy Metal and found they were reprinting The Bus again. Not surprisingly, it’s easily the best thing in the mag. Kirchner’s surrealist take on the everyman experience enduring the daily bus commute was always entertaining. This strip collection is hard to find (as is the more recent reprinting). I’d given up on finding a copy till a friend randomly sent me a link to a website filled with The Bus strips. Inspired, I went straight to eBay and found this original edition of the book for only $13. Score!

WORST:
The Collector #21 (Bill G. Wilson, 1970) -**
Writers/artists: various
I bought a bunch of comics fanzines from the 1970s/early 80s for a buck each at Elizabeth’s in January. I’ve slowly worked my way through all of them and I will write my bloggy thoughts on them down the road.
But I do want to list a few here, because some zines ACTUALLY featured comic strips and I think that makes them count as comics.
The Collector’s editor and publisher Bill G. Wilson wrote and drew Hyperman, a sub-standard, three-pager featuring his hero posing against black backdrops, confronting a generic bald villain and knocking him out. I don’t know how, but Wilson managed to “write” and “draw” an eight-panel strip where every single panel bears no logical relationship to the panel that precedes it. What’s even more incredible, he somehow managed to get industry veteran Don Newton to ink this abortion. Maybe ‘cos Newton started out as a contributor to RBCC in the 60s, he felt a sense of obligation to a new generation, perhaps.

Reagan’s Raiders #2 (Solson Publications, 1986) -**
Writer: Monroe Arnold, David George & Rich Buckler/Artists: Keith royster, Rich Buckler & Scott Gladfelter
Godawful political superhero “satire”.
-------------------------------------------------------------

COLLECTED WORKS:
Showcase Presents All-Star Comics (DC, 2014) ****
- originally published in All-Star #58-74, DC Special #29, Adventure Comics #461-466 (DC, 1976-79)
Writers: Paul Levitz & friends/Artists: Joe Staton, Wallace Wood & friends
My New Year’s Resolution was to read a DC Showcase or Marvel Essentials book a month and I kicked off with this Showcase volume.
I loved this Justice Society of America series when I was a kid – when I first saw it, Joe Staton was drawing the series and I dug his artwork a lot. Years later, I tracked down earlier issues and marvelled at some of Wally Wood’s finest mainstream work. Even though I have most of the original colour comics, I bought this cheap trade to collect the JSA’s final stories after All-Star folded and they were relegated to Adventure Comics. Those issues are now prohibitively priced (I have no idea why), so this was a very cheap way of completing my collection. As is the case with all 1970s DC and Marvel comics, the writing is overblown and full of clich├ęs (e.g. Power Girl is an aggressive, unpleasant feminist while Wildcat is an out-of-touch, ageing male chauvinist pig). But I love that Superman (who is the original 1940s Superman of Earth Two and, therefore, the FIRST superhero) is regarded as the father of all superheroes – a man who can arrive at a site filled with warring costumed do-gooders and stop them fighting just by his presence alone. It’s fantastic imagery that got me hooked on the JSA for life. If nothing else, pick up this volume to appreciate Wood’s input. He was the inker on All-Star #58-62, then he main artist on All-Star #63-65 (he even co-wrote #65 with Paul Levitz). His final two issues on the series see the JSA take on Vandal Savage in the era of King Arthur, and they’re magnificent.
Marvel Masterworks: The Fantastic Four Vol. 1 (Marvel, 2009) & Marvel Essential: The Fantastic FourVol. 1 (Marvel, 2008) *****
- originally published in The Fantastic Four #1-20 & Annual#1 (Marvel, 1961-63)
Writer: Stan Lee/Artists: Jack Kirby & friends
This is kinda weird. Without a doubt, this is a classic superhero comic told by the industry’s two biggest legends. But there’s no doubt that re-reading them 54 years later does reveal some...shortcomings to the title. Lee focuses so much on dumb intra-quartet bickering that it wears thin pretty quick. Invisible Girl is depicted as truly feeble and worthless. The team’s origin is just so fucking dumb. Did NO-ONE notice that a scientist, his girlfriend and her 16yo brother were stealing a space ship to ‘beat the Commies” to outer space. Isn’t that a criminal offence?
Surprisingly, Kirby’s art comes across as quite primitive (compared to what he went on to produce in the mid-to-late 60s), not helped by some shoddy inking by the likes of Dick Ayers and Sol Brodsky (the one exception comes in FF #13 when the inking is handled by Steve Ditko, who does a “Wally Wood” and stamps his own inimitable style to Kirby’s pencils).
And while I should appreciate the relative diversity of super-villains on display in these first 21 issues (as opposed to, say, Fawcett’s Captain Marvel, which featured Dr Sivana practically every issue), there’s still waaaaaay too much Sub-Mariner and Doctor Doom in these early issues.
That said, I KNOW that these were revolutionary stories back in 1961, so I need to look at them from that perspective rather than my jaded 2015 perspective.
And y’know, if I do that, these stories fucking rock.
Herbie Archives Vols. 1-3 (Dark Horse, 2008-09) *****
- originally published in Forbidden Worlds #73, 94, 110, 114, 116; Unknown Worlds #20; Herbie #1-23 (American Comics Group, 1958-1967)
Writer: Shane O’Shea/Artist: Ogden Whitney
Quite possibly the most extraordinary, bizarre, sad, desperate, loveable, strange comic I’ve ever read. An obese autistic child, who is bullied by his overbearing father and kids at school, fantasises that he is an omnipotent superhero who can travel anywhere in the universe, have amazing unreal adventures and is friends with everyone from the US President to the Queen and historical figures, who he visits whenever he travels back in time. Herbie uses the power of lollipops to achieve his fantastical aims as he loses himself deep in a fantasy world where he is loved and respected, unlike the real world. Well, that’s MY interpretation of this crazy comic and I’m sticking to it!


Vampirella Crimson Chronicles Maximum Vol. 1 (Harris, 2008) **½
- originally published in Vampirella #1-2, 8-9, 11-37 (Warren, 1969-74)
Writers/artists: various (interior); Jim Silke (cover)
I’m not sure why I bought this B&W collection...probably ’cos it was selling cheap on Lone Star. I went into reading this book with some trepidation as I always considered Vampirella a badly written T&A horror series. It certainly kicks off that way with the goofy introduction stories written by Forrest J. Ackerman. But once Archie Goodwin comes on board, the storyline kicks into gear and the quality of writing improves dramatically with the alien bloodsucker Vampi battling the evil Cult Of Chaos, whose members worship a demonic bible known as the Crimson Chronicles. Vampi is aided by a drunken magician called Pendragon and is pursued by relentless vampire killers Conrad and Adam Van Helsing. Goodwin’s strong scripts are brought to life by Jose Gonzalez’ exquisite artwork. His splash panels of our scantily clad heroine each issue are beautiful and he gives the supporting cast real character. Goodwin ties in Vampi with the Dracula mythology, then turns it on its head by having a newly-brought-back-to-life Drac repent for his past sins and try to be good. It’s an interesting journey as he tries to mend his evil ways, but keeps failing. Goodwin’s departure from the strip sees the quality of storytelling plummet, particularly the run of Flaxman Loew, who dumps the Van Helsings and reduces Pendragon to a drunken bum cracking bad puns. Even Vampirella’s ongoing struggle not to kill people for their blood – which gave her a noble, tragic quality – is summarily dismissed by Loew, who has Vampi killing bad guys willy-nilly. It’s a complete destruction of Goodwin’s carefully laid foundations and helps leave a sour note as this collection comes to an end. Only the artwork of Gonzales (and later Jose Ortiz) salvages something from the godawful scripts. Goodwin’s return to the helm in the final few pages gives hope that Vampirella was set to return to its former glory. But as it’s unlikely I’ll never pick up Volume 2, I guess that will have to remain a mystery to me.
Seven Soldiers Of Victory Vols. 1&2 (DC, 2011) ****¼
- originally published in Seven Soldiers Of Victory #0-1, Seven Soldiers: Shining Knight #1-4, Seven Soldiers: Guardian #1-4, Seven Soldiers: Zatanna #1-4, Seven Soldiers: Klarion The Witch Boy #1-4, Seven Soldiers: Mister Miracle #1-4, Seven Soldiers: Bulleteer #1-4, Seven Soldiers: Frankenstein #1-4 (DC, 2005-06)
Writer: Grant Morrison/Artists: various
After the clusterfuck that was The Multiversity, I’d lost faith in the magician. But reading this earlier, sweeping series starring a bunch of C-listers and reimagined B-listers made me a Morrison believer again. Sure, the tale is convoluted, confusing in parts and resolved in a way that I didn’t quite understand (with too many rabbits pulled out of too many arses for my liking), but damn! I enjoyed the ride.
Some of the miniseries were fantastic in their own right, particularly Klarion (creepily illustrated by Frazer Irving) and Frankenstein (strong, visceral artwork by Doug Mahnke). Other series didn’t do quite so well, but only the unnecessary reimagining of Mister Miracle failed to impress me.
All in all, a fine effort by Mr Morrison and friends, showing he can juggle multiple characters and complicated story arcs without disappearing up his own sphincter.


Hard Time: 50 To Life & Hard Time: Sixteen (DC, 2004, 2012) *****
- originally published in Hard Time #1-12 (DC, 2004-05)
Writers: Steve Gerber & Mary Skrenes (uncredited)/Artist: Brian Hurtt
This certainly wasn’t the last series Steve Gerber wrote before his untimely death in 2008, but it’s arguably his finest work (Howard The Duck, notwithstanding).
Ethan, 15, is sentenced to 50 years’ jail for a high school prank gone horribly wrong. He quickly makes plenty of enemies, including the Aryan Brotherhood and an insane fundamentalist Christian inmate. But Ethan has a secret – a powerful entity that lives within him that comes alive at night to do his violent bidding. This intense cross between TV’s Oz and DC’s own Johnny Thunder works incredibly well, mainly due to Gerber’s funny, powerful dialogue. Thankfully, he doesn’t write in that exhausting purple prose he used at Marvel in the 1970s. The writing here is more subtle, nuanced and, dare I say it, realistic. Hurtt’s artwork is great (as always). This is a hidden gem of a series that deserves more consideration from fans and critics. It’s tragic that Gerber was still peaking as a writer before he passed away. He deserves to be remembered for more than just a talking duck.
Irredeemable Vols. 3-10 (BOOM!, 2009-12) ****¾
- originally published in Irredeemable #9-37, Irredeemable Special #1, Incorruptible #25-26 (BOOM!, 2009-12)
Writer: Mark Waid/Artists: Diego Barreto, Peter Krause & friends
Murder Me Dead hardcover (El Capitan, 2002) ****¾
- originally published in Murder Me Dead #1-9 (El Capitan, 2000-01)
Writer/artist: David Lapham
Avengers/Invaders #1-12 (Marvel/Dynamite, 2008-09) ***¼
Writers: Alex Ross & Jim Kruger/Artists: Steve Sadowski & friends (interiors)/Alex Ross (covers)
Beautiful covers are the major highlight of this quirky series that sees a displaced Invaders visit the modern Marvel Universe post-Civil War. There’s everyone here from the Red Skull to Ultron to evil SHIELD LMDs to modern Sub-Mariner duking it out with junior Sub-Mariner. Ultimately, it leads to nothing except the unnecessary revival of Toro, but at least it’s fun and pretty to look at.
Doom Patrol #1-22 (DC, 2009-11) ***¼
Doom Patrol: Writer: Keith Giffen/Artists: Matthew Clark & friends
Metal Men: Writers: Keith Giffen & JMDeMatteis/Artist: Kevin Maguire
Giffen’s attempt to repair the damage from John Byrne’s previous incarnation partially succeeds. It takes a while but this series was coming together...until The New 52 initiative killed it.
Much more fun was the Metal Men back-up feature in #1-7. The old Justice League (of 80s fame) team seem to be really enjoying their reunion.

JLA/JSA Secret Files & Origins #1 (DC, 2003) ***½
100.-120. JSA #41-58 (DC, 2002-04); Hawkman #23-25 (DC, 2004) ****
Writers: David Goyer & Geoff Johns/Artists: Leonard Kirk & friends
This is the oldest comics I had in my collection in the sense that I’d never got around to reading them. I mean, 13 years is a long time. Not sure how I drifted away from JSA. I think I got sidetracked with life and the issues started piling up. After a while I had 20+ comics sitting there and I’d lost interest in the series. When a personal crisis hit in late 2003/early 2004 I made a decision at that time to cut waaaaay back on my standing order at Kings Comics. JSA was an easy cut at that point. Four years later, the JSA got rebooted, then a few years after they were retconned out of existence by the New 52. These decade-old comics gathering dust in my spare room seemed even less relevant than before.
However, in my attempt to reach my 200-comics goal, I decided to tackle them...and I’m glad I did. This was always a fun series with characters I really liked (I was a sucker for JSA in the 70s, Infinity Inc. and All-Star Squadron back in the 80s, too). The culmination of this run is the Black Reign storyline in both JSA and Hawkman, which leads to a big showdown between the JSA (and Hawkman) against Black Adam and his team of reformed super-villains and conflicted superheroes (including Atom Smasher) after they’ve violently liberated the African nation of Kahndaq (which is Black Adam’s homeland). Should heroes kill if it serves the greater need? The assassination of Kobra is an effective shock moment. This is a pretty powerful question and Johns (who was handling both books solo at this stage) is pretty much at his peak as a writer. Great stuff.

The Goon #30-39 (Dark Horse, 2008-12) ****
Writer/Artist: Eric Powell (except #35 where the writer is Evan Dorkin)
I’m not sure why I gave up on this series – it’s really very good. Funny, dark, violent and brilliantly drawn by Powell. Maybe it’s because the guy took FOUR YEARS to put out 10 issues. Yeah, maybe that’s it. Ya lazy fuck, Powell!

Powers #4-11 (Icon, 2010-12) ****
Powers Bureau #1-12 (Icon, 2013-14) ****½
Powers #1-5 (Icon, 2015- ) ****
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis/Artist: Mike Avon Oeming
Pretty cool catching up on five years of Powers in one hit. If you don’t read Bendis’ back matter, then you can rip through an issue pretty quick. The feeling I got by the end of these issues is that not only being a copy the WORST JOB in Chicago. But being a cop alongside powers detectives Pilgrim, Sunshine and Walker is the WORST JOB in the world. You are almost guaranteed of getting bitchily insulted by Pilgrim or Sunshine or winding up as dead collateral damage when some super-powered guy attacks Walker. Sucks to be a cop in Bendis’ world.
Also the three main protagonists have all spied, betrayed and lied to each other in the 25 issues I’ve read, so I can’t work out why they’re all still friends. Maybe Powers isn’t meant to be read in one massive 25-issue hit ’cos the plot flaws become too obvious.
That said, this is easily one of the best cop/crime/superhero series on the racks right now – and it has been for at least five years.

Essential Godzilla Vol. 1 (Marvel, 2006) ***
- originally published in Godzilla #1-24 (Marvel, 1977-79)
Writer: Doug Moench/Artists: Herb Trimpe & friends
Listen to podcast HERE.
Toho Productions’ gave Marvel a two-year run with Godzilla and it was bizarre.
Godzilla emerges from an iceberg in Alaska and goes on a rampage. He’s evil for the first three issues, attacking Seattle and San Francisco. But that quickly grows boring, so they make him a sorta good guy (like the Hulk).
Even though he kills thousands of people (even in Marvel’s PG world, there’s no way he couldn’t have wiped out oodles of folk in those cities he destroyed.
Dr Takiguchi, his niece Tamara and annoying grandson Rob create a giant Shogun Warrior-style robot to fight Godzilla.
After that, Godzilla fights alien monsters, battles rustlers, gets shrunk and fights New York sewer rats, then is sent back in time to fight dinosaurs.
Along the way, Godzilla tangles with SHIELD, The Champions, The FF, The Avengers and Devil Dinosaur. It’s weirdly stupid, kinda boring and ends with Godzilla getting written out of Marvel continuity.
At least it means there’s no more Rob, because he’s truly annoying.

Satellite Sam #1-15 & Satellite Sam Tijuana Bible (Image, 2013-15) ****
Writer: Matt Fraction/Artist: Howard Chaykin
An odd topic for Mr Fraction to tackle: the early days of TV. Still, this debauched crime noir tale builds to a satisfying climax after a slow start in the first three issues. Chaykin has the time of his life drawing near-naked women in sexy early 1950s lingerie. Really, the series is a cross between Mad Men and Chaykin’s own Black Kiss. Perversely entertaining.

The Rocketeer: Cargo Of Doom #1-4 (IDW, 2012) ***½
Writer: Mark Waid/Artist: Chris Samnee
The Rocketeer: Hollywood Horror #1-4 (IDW, 2013) ***
Writer: Roger Langridge/Artists: J. Bone (interior); Roger Langridge (#1 subscription cover); Walter Simonson (#2-4 regular cover)
The Rocketeer & The Spirit: Pulp Friction #1-4 (IDW/DC, 2013) ***
Writer: Mark Waid/Artists: Paul Smith (#1 interior); Loston Wallace & Bob Wiacek (#2 interior); J. Bone (#3-4 interior); Paul Smith (#1-2 cover); J. Bone (#3-4 cover)
I love The Rocketeer but these miniseries are only fair-to-middling – the first series is the best and the team-up with The Spirit is the least satisfying.

Invincible Vol. 1: Family Matters (Image, 2003) ***½
Invincible Vol. 2: Eight Is Enough (Image, 2004) ***½
Invincible Vol. 3: Perfect Strangers (Image, 2004) ***
Invincible Vol. 4: Head Of The Class (Image, 2005) ***½
- originally published in Invincible #1-19 & Image Summer Special #1 (Image, 2003-04)
Writer: Robert Kirkman/Artists: Cory Walker (#1-7), Ryan Ottley (#8-19) + friends
DO YOU KNOW HOW MUCH THE ORIGINAL COMICS OF THIS SERIES ARE WORTH?!!! Issue one alone is $1500 MINT! I had Invincible #1-25 and I sold the lot in 2005 for THIRTY DOLLARS on eBay!!! AAAAARRRRRGHHHHHH!
I stopped buying Invincible and sold my collection at the same time that I quit The Walking Dead (and yes, I sold the first 25 issues of TWD on eBay for a pittance, too). I’d had enough of the torture porn that Kirkman had turned both titles into – while I could sorta understand why he did in a zombie comic, I just couldn’t appreciate him taking the torture porn route in what was, essentially, a light-hearted superhero tale. To be honest, I started going off Invincible around #8 when Invincible’s dad Omni-Man was revealed to be a mass-murdering psycho from another planet. It wasn’t hard to quit the series when I did the same with TWD. Having just read the Wikipedia entry on Invincible, I’m glad I did, because Kirkman has taken the series into some truly dark territory. Still...a few years back i saw the first four volumes of Invincible for sale cheap on eBay. On a whim I bought them (along with the first two volumes of TWD...don’t ask). I didn’t know what to expect when I reread the first 19 issues. I will say that I still hate the dark road that Kirkman took the series in #8 when Omni-Man slaughters the Guardians Of The Globe. But much of the comic is endearing and Invincible is such a likeable teenager...well, he is at this stage anyway.
I won’t buy any further volumes, but I’m glad I reread it – Invincible was once a very enjoyable comic book. 



And how did I forget to include the epic Teen Titans arc that I read in September? I even did a podcast about it. :P