Friday, August 22, 2014
Elfquest was and is an important comic from the Independent era of comics which erupted with the development of the direct sales market. Wendy and Richard Pini have been able over the years to largely control the destiny of their creations at a host of publishers including Marvel and Dark Horse. But it all began in the late 70's in a rough and tumble comic titled Fantasy Quarterly.
That story was later represented as Elfquest #1 from the owner-operated WaRP Graphics (Wendi and Richard Pini). The saga of Wolfriders has proven to be a potent and viable fantasy yarn. Wendy Pini's artwork is attractive and the storytelling is exquisite. And the story itself was a charming addition to an era which was brimming with quality fantasy adventure. I once upon a time winced at the somewhat cute characters, but the passage of time has made me regard with more affection.
I long ago traded away my original comics, so it was with some anticipation that I got hold of the recent Dark Horse reprint of the original saga which ran from 1978 through 1984. The original was in glorious black and white and this presentation is too. I was both surprised and very pleased by the high quality of the paper stock on this volume which offers up an ideal way to read this fascinating tale of adventure. It will go along nicely with the outstanding one-volume black and white volume of Bone.
Here are the covers of the comic magazines contained in this nicely priced volume.
Thursday, August 21, 2014
Recently got hold of Godzilla -- The Series at my new favorite store Half-Price Books for a very nice price. This collection of 1998 cartoons spins out of the critically panned 1990's U.S. Godzilla movie. Now I'm on the record as liking this movie okay. It's not aged especially well in places, but I found the movie logic of the monster pretty compelling and the nature of the slow reveal was pretty impressive. Riding the wave of dinosaur success prompted by the Jurassic Park movies, this movie paid homage to that flick with the little Godzillas in the Madison Square Garden showdown. But it's the big G who makes this flick work. Pounding around NYC, Godzilla is pretty impressive with special effects that convince.
Now the cartoon picks up the tale right after the end of the movie and with surprising subtlety creates a varied and interesting cast who find themselves aligned with one of the little 'Zillas which has survived the final attack in NYC. The pacing of this cartoon is excellent, with rarely a slow moment. Sometimes the requisite twenty-two minutes of a cartoon can be pretty burdensome with lots of nothing preceding a few minutes of dandy action. But this cartoon has good scripting which makes the people interesting and realistic enough to pay attention to while the monsters reveal themselves.
The cartoon is in the final analysis entertaining. Whatever you think of the original flick, I'd have to recommend you give this one the nod if you can find it cheaply enough.
Wednesday, August 20, 2014
Recently picked up Shadows Over Innsmouth and Weird Shadows Over Innsmouth, two handsome and highly readable volumes edited by Stephen Jones and reprinted by Titan Books featuring Lovecraft's infamous New England fishing village. They are full of some weird new spins on what happened in Innsmouth before and after the events related by Lovecraft's notorious narrator.
I first encountered this tale in middle school when I got my mitts on this handy volume of misbegotten lore. Lovecraft sank deep into my imagination and I've been a fan since, especially of the story "The Shadow Over Innsmouth". If you haven't read it before, then by all means take some time to read one of Lovecraft's moodiest longer stories. It builds, like all his good stuff, with a steady beat of weird and weirder.
I discovered recently that this story might well have been inspired, at least in part, by the story "Fishhead" by Irvin S.Cobb, a Kentucky writer of some note from the early 20th century. This story also has some echoes of The Creature from the Black Lagoon too. Here's a link to read the whole odd thing.
Tuesday, August 19, 2014
Recently finished the eight-issue run of Doc Savage from Dynamite Comics. Let me hasten to say that sadly I was much disappointed. The story thrums along and the artwork tells a story, but rarely if ever is there any true excitement in this decades-spanning yarn, which seemed more than anything to be a set-up for future Doc stories set anytime in the last eighty years.
We meet a Doc who never looks like himself (save on the covers by Alex Ross) but rather some button-nosed poser. He battles evil rightly enough, but finds that in the modern world that evil might well be himself when his rather special crime college is brought to light.
The Doc Savage in this story gets hold of a plant which induces exceedingly slow aging and he gives some to Pat Savage, his beautiful cousin. But before he can share with his five loyal followers Monk, Ham, Renny, Johnny, and Long Tom he looses the power. So we follow a seemingly immortal Doc down through the decades as he builds and expands his world-saving project, replacing his aides when necessary and bringing in new faces. The storyline jumps about ten or so years each issue and brings with it the technology of its time. I was chagrined how so much of it felt contemporary to me, proving my advanced decrepitude.
Sadly despite this rather sprawling storyline, it never catches fire. Or perhaps it's the scale which forbids any single installment from gathering momentum. The finale was a bit underwhelming as well, despite a decent set up. This saga seemed to focus so much on characterization that it rather lost its sense of a coherent plot.
I wish I could recommend it, but this one is, sadly, for the most devoted Doc collectors only.
The covers by Alex Ross are delicious though as usual. Below is a gallery.
Monday, August 18, 2014
Here is Doc Savage in all his tattered glory on the first paperback of the immortal Bantam series. This iconic image was painted by James Bama, the American artist who did for Doc what Frank Frazetta had done for Conan, turned him into a phenomenon.
And here is that Bama image swiped and used on this French comic for rather less sophisticated reasons than saving the world. Here our Doc wannabe glowers as a naked dame with I'd guess rather ignoble intentions.
Sunday, August 17, 2014
Eventually the Gunmaster series in Charlton's Six-Gun Heroes was thought to require a boost, and it got it in the addition of the then-obligatory boy sidekick, another element which pushed the series to the superhero side of things. Bob Tellub (ahem...really?) learned of Gunmaster's dual identity and almost immediately was brought into the fold as "Bullet the Gun Boy". He did add a dash of action and the series featured some of the best covers Charlton had to offer thanks to the art of Dick Giordano, Rocke Mastroserio, Pete Morisi and others.
Eventually Gunmaster and Bullet were given their own self-titled comic which lasted four issues.
But given that this is a Charlton publication, it needed some added confusion to the numbering so without missing a beat nor a month, the series adopted the numbering of the old Six-Gun Heroes series in mid-stride.
The series came to an end in 1966 in time to make way for another master of fighting, a martial artist set in World War II by the name of Judomaster. We're familiar with him around these parts.
Gunmaster did not go gently into that goodnight though and one year later in 1967 one more issue of the series was published. And in vintage Charlton fashion they numbered it eighty-nine, a number they'd already used for the debut of the Judomaster series two years earlier.
Sigh. This did prove to be the last hurrah for the western superhero who had managed to eke out an existence on the comic racks for nearly a decade, no mean feat.
To read some delightful Gunmaster and Bullet Boy adventures go here.