Monday, 31 August 2009

Marvel Team-Up

Ok, so it's not anything to do with Bronze Age comics, but come on, DISNEY HAVE BOUGHT MARVEL?!! Is that...Is that...that's like the weirdest damn thing....It's like the craziest script that nobody would possibly ever come up with! I mean, where's Bob Haney when you need him?
Like probably all of you, my gut reaction was sheer, unadulterated horror and disgust. Then my second thought was: MarvelLand? That might be cool. Then my third thought was: Hey, maybe comics will start chasing the kid audience again. That'd be really cool. Sales'd go up, and people might actually become literate again. But the truth? One business has bought another business. In reality it probably won't change a thing. No one at Disney is about to worry about the level of Ultra-Violence instead of actual story in comics ( though certainly the comics should start doing that, 'cos it's incredibly boring and just one of the reasons I prefer the Bronze Age ).

Actually, I have no idea what I think about this, but the next few years might prove interesting, at the very least. In the meantime, here's the legendary Carl Barks with his version of Joe Quesada when he heard the news.

Sunday, 30 August 2009

Bugsy Malone


This comic version of Alan Parker's frankly bizarre gangster parody ( starring only kids ) came out in the UK in 1976, and doesn't seem to be a reprint from America, but something produced just for the British market.
It's a strange bird, seemingly put together for very little ankle biters, as seen in this dedication here.


And here.


The writing style is wildly variable ( and, if I'm honest, not particularly well done ) but the artwork, by Graham Thompson, more than makes up for it. Like here, in this stunning street scene.


I know absolutely nothing about Thompson, but judging by his drawing style, he clearly belonged to the venerable old school of british book illustrators prevalent in The Bronze Age. ie. He could really really draw.
Unfortunately, like I say, the writing kind of let's the art down, often belonging to The Dept. of Redundancy Dept. as in a few panels here, but it is a kid's book, I guess.


We've all seen the movie a million times, so I don't need to walk you through the plot. Just enjoy the art, which I honestly think is so good, it approaches Mort Drucker in places.


I assume Thompson had the same problem Marvel used to have to suffer with their movie adaptations ie. trying not to make the characters look like the original actors. But he does still get close with a few of the child stars in the occasional panel.



Like here with a spot-on Jodie Foster, in scenes that in the movie seem, well, a bit creepy these days. Leaving aside the fact that these are kids, it's Jodie Foster for flips sake.


Nice translation of one of the best gags in the movie here though.


And, of course, the whole thing finishes off with another great double-page spread from Thompson, that makes you dizzy thinking about the logistics involved in drawing the damn thing.



Great stuff absolutely from a bygone age. What a shame this kind of thing isn't available for kids now, eh?

Thursday, 27 August 2009

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

Shaman

Here's a literally fantastic piece from Paul Kirchner, the creator of The Bus. The style is still quite stiff in places, but that kind of works here, almost achieving the otherwordly look of something by Ditko. ( Although here we're obviously dealing with the imagery and concepts of an actual mythology from our world, which makes this a much richer work. ) It's hallucinatory, dreamlike and bloody bloody brilliant.









Monday, 24 August 2009

Mike Kaluta


It's Mike Kaluta's birthday today, and here's a great early piece to celebrate. Round about 1972, our Mike was regularly contributing to Joe Orlando's horror anthologies House Of Mystery & House Of Secrets, when Joe happened to mention that DC had just got the rights to all of Edgar Rice Burroughs' characters, and was there any one of them Kaluta fancied doing?
Natch, the words 'John Carter Of Mars!' leapt out of Mike's lips, but, as Orlando said: "No, no. Murphy Anderson has wanted to do that since he was a kid."
As a newcomer, Kaluta knew he wasn't going to get any of the big characters, so offered to do Carson Of Venus, as seen here from Korak, Son Of Tarzan ish 46 ( confusingly titled '1st DC Issue' on the cover. I never understood that. ) Anyway, it was a great series, and here's the brilliant first chapter.










Of course, we can't talk about Mike Kaluta without mentioning the Green Lantern / Green Arrow story he ( sort of ) appears in. Midway through Denny O' Neil & Neal Adams' legendary 'relevancy' run on the book, The Emerald Crusader finds himself in a plastic, manufactured city
of the future, when this happens:


The story goes that Adams needed a name for the McGuffin in that issue and, thinking Mike's name hilariously funny, decided to use it. However, when he showed that issue to his dad, Mr. Kaluta senior wasn't quite as impressed, and told Mike to tell Denny he was going to sue. Both Kaluta's ( or Kalooota's ) meant it as a joke, but O'Neil took them completely seriously and immediately went out and got himself a lawyer. So, if you're planning on using a pal's name in the next issue of Green Lantern, remember, always ask their dad's permission first.

Sunday, 23 August 2009

Alfredo Alcala


Today would've been the birthday of the master of pitch-black horror, Alfredo Alcala. I admit, as a kid, I hated Alfredo's art just as much as I hated that of Frank Thorne or Frank Robbins. At that age, his work was just too much to take in. It was dark, and evil, and everything looked like it'd been dipped in black tar, so unlike the safe, friendly world of a John Buscema or Jim Mooney. In an Alcala strip, even a sunny day looked like it was taking place in Hell.
Obviously, as an adult, I now know what a genuine master Alfredo was, and can't get enough of his stuff. Like on this unusual piece from Marvel Preview, drawn on chemical-toned paper in the tradition of Roy Crane:








Alfredo, of course, also did phenomenal work with John Buscema on Conan. And more on that another time.


But it was the horror stuff where Alfredo genuinely shone. Like in this story for Tales Of The Zombie 7, the only comic strip ever to give me recurrent nightmares. We'll also look closer at Steve Gerber's great forgotten undead character at another time, but here's the story ( which'll resonate with quite a few of you who grew up on Alcala's art, I'm sure. )
In 1974, aged nine, me & my family went on holiday to a caravan park in Somerset. Natch, the second we got there, I dragged my mum over to the campsite shop, to see what goodies they had on offer. Up on the top shelf, next to all those True Crime mags, was this little beauty.


As soon as I saw it, I had to have it. My mum ( as mum's throughout history have done ) told me it looked too scary, that I wouldn't like it, why not choose something else. But I wouldn't be swayed. I'd read Werewolf By Night. I'd read that issue of Tomb Of Dracula where the old vampire is skewered on the cemetery gates. I could certainly handle a Zombie, couldn't I?
The main story, written by Doug Moench and illustrated in best tar-black style by Alfredo is The Blood-Testament Of Brian Collier. It's basically an Agatha Christie style murder mystery, wherein The Zombie vaguely sort of wanders about in much the same way Man-Thing used to do in his stories, not having a great deal to do, until the end where he exacts a bloody revenge on the murderers.
Anyway, against the protests of my mum, I bought the thing and scurried back to our caravan to read it. All was going fine for a while. It was creepy stuff, but I could handle it, just. Plus The Zombie looked kind of cool. Then this happened:



As soon as I saw that old lady hanging by her eyes from the wall, that was it. That was the most revolting, awful, nauseating thing I'd ever seen, and this comic wasn't good, creepy fun anymore. I shut it up, and put it right at the bottom of the pile of other comics I'd brought with me, not daring to look at it again for the rest of the holiday. ( The abyss also gazes back. ) And when we left for home at the end of the week, I made damn sure Tales Of The Zombie didn't come with us.

I had nightmares for weeks after about that old lady, and remembered that scene vividly for the next 30 years, until I caught sight of Essential Tales Of The Zombie last year. I snapped it up, and went straight to The Blood-Testament Of Brian Collier to see if it'd still scare me. It doesn't, of course, but there is still the lingering memory of that dreadful moment when I first saw those panels, and my little nine year old self recoiled in horror and disgust. Now that's an artist. Wherever you are, Alfredo, I hope you're happy for scaring me to death!

The Incredible Bulk

These days, you literally have to pinch yourself at how many of our characters are appearing in their own movies. Imagine yourself back in The Bronze Age, and being told that there's an X-Men movie, an Iron-Man movie, even a friggin' Daredevil movie!! You just wouldn't believe a word of it.
Easy to forget then, just how exciting it was when the first full-length Incredible Hulk TV movie premiered. I never liked The Hulk much, never actively disliked him either, he just wasn't my kind of character. But when that show first came on, it was just about the most thrilling thing ever, at least until the limits of the premise became apparent even to a kid, and repetition set in week after week.
Mad, as usual, wasn't having any of it. Over to Lou Silverstone and the too little seen Angelo Torres, for their version. How many cameo's can you spot here?