Friday, 29 January 2016

The Thing & Man-Thing... Together!

Ok, so Steve Gerber's gotta figure out a way to get Benjy & Manny together for the inaugural issue of Two-In-One. Hey, what if ol' Ever Lovin' Blue Eyed gets annoyed that another monster's stolen his moniker? Huh? And double huh? Couldn't he just be in the Everglades collecting rare plants for Reed or something?
Well, I guess even Gerber had the occasional off day.
Once past this fairly shaky start though, this is more fun than should be strictly legal, as Steve brings in the more complicated than he first appears Son Of The Molecule Man, dispenses with the obligatory team-up fight scene in less than a page, puts in a needlessly creepy scene with a ( sort of ) Reed, and is much more interested in the two man-monsters reverting to their human selves.
And doesn't Ted Sallis take the news that he's been a galumphing man-beast for the last couple of years well? Me, I'd be screaming like a maniac.
Still, how typically Gerber that our heroes win completely by accident. And the art's by Gil Kane and Joe Sinnott, which is pretty much as good as it gets.

Wednesday, 27 January 2016

The Spider

The Spider was a truly great character in British comics, one of the darkest and weirdest heroes of an era where every hero was dark and weird. He was introduced with no backstory or explanation, just sold to us as a master criminal who was so convinced of his own genius, he took to battling other criminals he considered beneath him.
Was he an alien? A mutant? A young Basil Rathbone?

We didn't know, and his mystery was always part of his appeal. But the stories he appeared in have a couple of problems, for me. Firstly, they mostly consisted of The Spider fighting low-rent villians like The Android Emperor, Mr. Mysterioso and The Exterminator, none of whom were a match for the self-appointed King Of Crooks, and secondly each episode consisted basically of he and each bad guy trading boasts as to who was more powerful.

And there was the fact that each tale usually went on way, way too long. But then these stories were never meant to be read en masse, but week by week, and were clearly made up on the fly. Not that I noticed any of this as a kid, of course. All I knew was that The Spider himself was always cool, fun and a little bit scary. Plus, there was some incredibly unsettling imagery in this strip. Like this:

And this:

And as if all that wasn't enough, he was mostly written by no less a name than Jerry Seigel.
Here's a done in one tale that sidesteps those issues, from the 1977 Valiant annual, as The Deathmaster unwisely challenges our anti-anti-hero to a duel to the death. The pitiable fool. None can challenge the might of The Spider!

Thursday, 21 January 2016

Cobalt 60

Vaughn Bode: " I set up the Cobalt 60 strip and found myself uneasy, restless and wandering toward fluttering creative excitements. It's flowing out of me again like water...I can really identify with the dusty future of Earth... where I will be part of the quiet hissing afternoon dust..."

Cobalt 60 is one of the darkest, if not THE darkest, projects in Vaughn Bode's work. A post-apocalypse punch in the face, it's grim, ultra-violent and despairing, and comes with a killer ending that, like Bode's earlier The Man, shows The Cartoon Gooroo's mastery at delinating big themes with a minimum of words. He was an artist who wrote, rather than a writer who drew, and that's never clearer than here.
Vaughn originally created Cobalt 60 in 1959, but the death dealing mutant didn't see print until 1968, in the above issue of Wally Wood's Witzend, in the process winning him the Hugo award for Best Fanzine Artist of that year.
He created a whole world for Cobalt to move around in, along with a full cast of characters, but ultimately found the series too depressing to continue with and abandoned the idea. It was also a major 'influence' on Ralph Bakshi's Wizards, a film Bode was reportedly none too happy about.
As nice an idea as Bode in animation is, his work kind of doesn't need it, being the closest thing to 'static' animation there is, and Cobalt 60, in particular, is a strip that could only be in presented in black & white anyway. Here it is:

Vaughn did try one more time with Cobalt 60, with this unfinished piece posthumously published in Junkwaffel #4. This one is even darker and more uncompromising than it's predecessor, and you do get the feeling that even Vaughn felt he'd written himself into a corner.
Which is presumably why, when son Mark Bode took up the character in 1984 for a new series in Epic Illustrated, he went in a completely different direction. We'll get to that series, of course, but here's the original.