Thursday, September 29, 2011

Trailer Thursday: Batman Versus...

Gotta love this one. Not really a trailer, but so funny I couldn't pass it up.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Moments That Made the Bronze (and Modern) Age: Crisis On Infinite Earths

In the mid-80's, DC took a bold step and admitted it had a problem. They just had too many different Earths floating around out there! Initially it was used to explain how the Justice Society of the 40's could exist and still work with the JLA 20 years later, which was a good idea. Unfortunately, they soon started creating new worlds whenever they needed a convenient excuse, giving us Earth 3 with the Crime Syndicate, Earth X with the Freedom Fighters, and many more.

The time came for a clean-up, and DC gave it to the world in a big way. Creating a 12-issue maxi-series, giving it to one of their best artists ever (George Perez), and deciding it was time to kill some major heroes, DC boldly stepped forward and blew my mind with every issue. But the one that truly blew me away had to be the death of my favorite hero at the time: The Flash.

Now I've mentioned Barry Allen's death before in other posts, but that pivotal moment in the series changed the landscape of the comic book world for me. This was years before the Internet, so finding exact issues where other heroes had died wasn't something I'd been able to do with regularity. Yes, I knew the Batman of Earth 2 had died somehow, and I'd seen the JLA issue where Mr. Terrific died, but most hero deaths were stuff that happened in books I would never get to read. The Flash's death, however, I held in my trembling little hands and couldn't believe as I sat in the floor of the drug store in front of the magazine rack.

The Flash's death was preceded by Supergirl's in the previous issue, but I'd never been a big fan of her's so it didn't bother me nearly as much. I kept waiting for the next issue to come out and say that Barry was alive somehow, but it never happened. Wally West stepped in and became the first major sidekick to take on the role of his mentor.

Marvel didn't sit on the sidelines though, as they unleashed Secret Wars and tried to make some changes. They gave us the symbiote Spider-Man suit,, the suit was cool. They just weren't able to pull off the universe-altering effect DC did with this series.

Another favorite of mine who died was the original Dove, Don Hall (his death is pictured in our blog's title image). Again, I'd hoped for a return, but it never happened. Even up to this day, Don has never come back, even though Supergirl, Barry Allen, and even the Crime Syndicate has found their way back to the land of the living. Oh well, if I ever get the chance to write for DC...

The thing that makes this series stand out is that the changes here were long-lasting--for comic books anyway. Wally West stayed the Flash for the next 20 years as Barry Allen stayed dead. We had just one Earth to deal with, but all the heroes were on it.

Then someone got the stupid idea to try and write a sequel to this hit and we ended up with the "Phantom Menace" of the comic book world: Infinite Crisis. That series decided the hero of the last maxi-series should actually become the villain of the new one. Fortunately for them, Grant Morrison took everyone on such a mind trip in the follow-up Final Crisis, that he was able to make IC look almost readable.

All cruel words aside, Crisis on Infinite Earths was, to me, a pinnacle for the 80's. I still hold it as a standard I judge other miniseries by and think DC really knocked it out of the park with this one. I consider the Absolute Edition of this story a must-have simply because seeing George's artwork in the larger-than-life format is a real treat.

I have just a couple more stories to mention over the next two weeks, and then I want to dive into the black hole decade of the comic book world as we discuss what went horribly, horribly wrong in the 90's. But first, next week: A guest shot in another comic had this hero defeated in his first fight, but his next appearance in the comic world helped create one of the most popular titles of all time...

Monday, September 19, 2011

Moments That Made the Bronze (and Modern) Age: The Death of Elektra

There are so many moments to look at in comic history that grabs me, but this particular comic death didn't affect me so much as a kid when I first read it, but the comics that followed actually got me hooked on Daredevil for a short period of time.

I grabbed this one off a spinner rack in a strip mall in Birmingham while my mom was shopping (yeah, I read a lot while mom shopped), read the entire issue, but for some odd reason didn't buy it. I loved the story, but neglected to spend my precious allowance on this issue. Given the current value of it now, it was a big mistake on my part.

What made this issue so interesting to me? It as that amazing showdown between Elektra, a character Marvel had introduced just a few short issues before with the sole intention of killing her off as a major pivot point in the DD series, and Bullseye, a villain who could turn anything he got his hands on into a weapon.

Frank Miller and Klaus Janson were magic in this time of the series. Their gritty art styles worked perfectly for this down-and-dirty fight to the death between two warriors.

The biggest kick-in-the-face moment of the fight for me? That had to be Bullseye using Elektra's own sai to kill her with.

You might not realize how important that scene was until you consider the catastrophic failure that was Ben Affleck's Daredevil movie.  The only potentially saving grace of that film was how it tried to give us this one Elektra storyline including that final death scene using actual dialogue from the comic, and it managed to stay fairly close to those few pages. Say what you will about that movie, they did get that one scene right.

Of course, Daredevil got his revenge later in the story. If this story had been published today it would have taken him the better part of six issues to find Bullseye, confront him, and deal out his brand of justice. In the 80's though, we were blessed with a complete story in that one double-sized issue.

Daredevil, usually a straight-arrow in the Marvel universe, beat Bullseye down and eventually let him drop to a bone-crunching finale. It looked like this cool villain was done for, but we know of course that he came back and became a regular in comic titles everywhere.

But reading that comic at the time, I was stunned by how Daredevil just let him drop. Actually, I was stunned by how graphic Elektra's death was drawn. Seeing it today in light of the gore-filled comics you find everywhere it looks tame, but back then it was a powerful moment simply because you didn't see that sort of stuff unless it was one of Marvel's magazine titles.

As I mentioned, this storyline led to DD becoming involved with ninjas galore and a guy named Stick, and even to eventually bringing Elektra back to life. That was good stuff and I followed this comic for a while after this issue. When Miller left, I did too. It was hard to imagine this gritty character being drawn by anyone else for me.

That Marvel moment grabbed me and didn't let go. I just regret not purchasing that issue when I had the chance. Even though I didn't buy it, I consider it a pivotal issue in Marvel history.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Trailer Thursday: Luke Cage

Now here's a Marvel movie you probably won't see made any time soon, but you have to admit the guy does a good job of bringing out the essence of the character. Just kidding! Just for fun...enjoy...

Monday, September 12, 2011

Moments That Made the Bronze (and Modern) Age: The New Teen Titans Begin

In the 70's and 80's, there were a few comics that I consistently picked up as much as my allowance would allow. Spider-Man, Marvel Team-Up, Uncanny X-Men, and then another title came along that pulled me to the DC side of things: The New Teen Titans.

In the 70's I had read a few issues of the Teen Titans, mostly when I saw Hawk and Dove in there. When DC decided it was time to recreate the team, they supplemented a few other comics with a special preview of the New Teen Titans comic.

There were those I recognized instantly (Robin, Kid Flash, Wonder Girl) along with new faces that I didn't (Changeling, Starfire, Cyborg, and Raven). But this series had so much going for it that it couldn't lose in my eyes.

First, the artwork. George Perez knocked it out of the ballpark with every issue he drew. The addition of Changeling's new name and costume (formerly Beast Boy) really caught me. I had never seen him before in his Doom Patrol days, but his ability to turn into animals intrigued me. I have never been a big fan of Cyborg, but this is where he got his start.

This series also launched a few other famous DC characters' careers. Deathstroke the Terminator was introduced in the second issue and quickly became a staple in the DC universe. Looking at how he's crossed over into so many titles (and now thanks to the reboot even has one of his own) it's hard to imagine his humble roots as a new villain from Teen Titans.

Another favorite DC character of mine was the Vigilante, introduced in the second Teen Titans Annual. He was DC's answer to the Punisher (who was Marvel's answer to the old Executioner novels) and had some pretty cool weapons going for him, including gold nunchaku and various guns. He got a series of his own that lasted for 50 issues or so before DC had him commit suicide to deal with all he'd done as Vigilante. That decision sucked, by the way.

Eventually, Robin even underwent quite the life-change by becoming Nightwing. And hey, who could ever forget "The Judas Contract", a storyline in which one of the team--Terra--actually betrayed them to Deathstroke and was eventually killed by the end of it all. That particular story was so powerful that twenty years later Geo-Force (Terra's brother) faced off against Deathstroke and tried to kill him for turning Terra and having a hand in her death. That, my friends, is a grudge!

There are so many other moments in the series that deserve noting, but taking it all back to the beginning I have to say picking up that sampler and eventually the first issue made me a happy camper in the 80's.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Moments That Made the Bronze Age: Days of Future Past

In many of these Bronze Age moments, the story is so powerful that I vividly remember where I was when I read it for the first time as a kid. In the case of this week's post, I was actually in a grocery store called Food World, patiently waiting for my mom to get her groceries while I poured over the spinner rack (remember those?).

The two-issue storyline "Days of Future Past" blew me away as a kid. I realize now that this story probably seems very anti-climatic because of how many times it's been referenced and revisited in various comic book stories. Looking at it for the first time with fresh eyes, however, it's a fairly impressive story for its day.

Basically, we get a glimpse of the future, as in 2013. Mutants and heroes are hated, hunted, and killed. A small band of heroes, including Wolverine, Colossus, Storm, Rachel Summers (our first introduction to her), Kitty Pryde, and Franklin Richards, try to stop this horrible future by sending Kitty's consciousness into her past self on Halloween 1980 to stop the assassination of Senator Kelly. His death paves the way for this horrible, mutant-hating world.

We get an introduction to the new Brotherhood of Evil Mutants (much later Freedom Force) led by Mystique. An epic battle ensues with the X-Men in our present, while in the future the X-Men remaining are killed one by one by Sentinels.

What made this story so special? I guess the thing that got me in the first issue was the dreary future that I was seeing portrayed. My heroes, the X-Men, were not heroes anymore. They were hated by the world. One image in that comic shows a line of headstones with various hero names on it. It was sobering stuff.

I could barely wait for the next month, and I was planted in my same spot reading the follow-up issue, which boldly proclaimed "This issue: Everybody Dies!". And there, on the cover, Wolverine is toasted by a Sentinel!

Again, I can appreciate how reading this today seems boring because, let's be honest, Wolverine has been toasted now probably a dozen times over the years. It seems like everyone who wants to kill him off in some variant or future-based storyline goes for the faithful "burn him alive" routine. However, this was the first time for me.

One by one, my beloved X-Men are killed off in the pages of this comic, even as their present selves fight to stop Kelly's assassination from taking place so the world will not turn out so badly.

In this end, this DOFP world was revisited a number of times in many different ways. The Fantastic Four were a major part in "Days of Future Present", where Franklin Richards came back from that timeline (before he was killed) and tried to recreate things. The four-part storyline was far inferior to the original though.

This storyline was even touched on briefly in the X-Men animated cartoon series of the 1990's, though their truncated version was different in many ways. That just shows how powerfully this particular two-issue venture resonates with the comic world.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Trailer Thursday: Jonny Quest

While this isn't technically going to be made...ever--but I still remember seeing this cartoon in reruns when I was a kid in the 70's. Plus the fact that this guy has some incredible talent in creating this stop-motion stuff.

Jonny Quest Opening Titles from Roger D. Evans on Vimeo.

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