Wednesday, December 07, 2016

Today in Comics History: The JLA claims Delaware through the cunning use of flags

Delaware variant cover of Justice League of America (2013 series) #1 (April 2013), pencils and inks by David Finch

366 Days with J. Jonah Jameson, Day 342: This Is Fine

Panels from The Spectacular Spider-Man (1976 series) #174 (March 1991), plot by Gerry Conway, script by David Michelinie and Terry Kavanagh, pencils and inks by Sal Buscema, colors by Joe Rosas, letters by Rick Parker

Tuesday, December 06, 2016

366 Days with J. Jonah Jameson, Day 341: Friendly Rubbery Spider-Man

Well now, let's wander over to the Daily Planet Building in beautiful downtown Manhattan and see what Peter Parker and J. Jonah Jameson have in store for us todAIIIEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE

Panels from Spider-Man: Quality of Life #1 (July 2002), script by Greg Rucka, computer art by Scott Christian Sava, letters by Richard Starkings


It is, in fact, Spider-Man: Quality of Computer Art Life, an atypical foray into all-computerized artwork in a mainstream superhero comic book. It's also...not a complete visual success. Even though it's less than 15 years old, it's lightyears away from today's comics created using computers. The art often looks over-shiny and rubbery, like a very early videogame cutscene, and occasionally a panel (like the second one below) challenges you to define exactly what you're looking at. Izzat is left knee, or his calf, or...?

Panels from Spider-Man: Quality of Life #2 (August 2002), script by Greg Rucka, computer art by Scott Christian Sava, letters by Richard Starkings

Maybe it's unfair in an era of stylized work by artists like by Chris Bachalo and Humberto Ramos to look askance at a digital version of anatomical exaggeration, but...whoa, who poured the Diet Gingold into Doc Ock?

Panel from Spider-Man: Quality of Life #1

The four-issue limited series spotlight's Spider-Man's ongoing battle with The Geico Gecko:

Panels from Spider-Man: Quality of Life #3 (September 2002), script by Greg Rucka, computer art by Scott Christian Sava, letters by Richard Starkings

No, wait, it's actually about Spider-Man versus Lara Croft:

Quality of Life certainly isn't the first comic with computer artwork. With Shatter, Mike Saenz gave us the burgeoning field of MacPaint for comic books, waaaaaay back in that far-off historical era of 1985, the age when Mr. Mister, the original NES, and Rocky IV roamed the earth like...some great roaming things.

Cover and panels from Shatter (1985 one-shot) #1 (June 1985), script by Peter B. Gillis, computer art and lettering by Michael Saenz

Shatter was spun off into a series later in 1985, eventually notching up a respectable 1980s-indie run of fourteen issues. In a few years Saenz brought his MacStylin' to Marvel for the hardcover color graphic novel Iron Man: Crash.

Panels from Iron Man: Crash graphic novel (1988); script, computer art, and letters Michael Saenz

And in 1993 Saenz is scripting (though not fully creating the art) of the aptly named cyberpunk thriller/girls in tight vinyl one-shot Donna Matrix. Sorry, folks, I know you think I have everything...but I don't have this comic!

Cover of Donna Matrix #1 (August 1993); pencils, inks; computer imaging, and 3D modeling by Norm Dwyer

Meanwhile, over at DC, Batman Goes Electric in Pepe Moreno's Batman: Digital Justice, featuring a robot Alfred Pennyworth. While I'm waiting, you can say that again to appreciate the cool futurism of it all: Robot Alfred Pennyworth.

Panels from Batman: Digital Justice graphic novel (1990); story and computer art by Pepe Moreno, art assists by Bob Fingerman

Let's see if we can avoid mentioning the unfortunate "gritty and adult" Marvel Max miniseries U.S. War Machine 2.0...whoops, I stepped right into that hot steaming landmine.

Panels from U.S. War Machine 2.0 #2 (September 2002); script by Chuck Austen, computer art by Christian Moore, letters by Randy Gentile

And of course, let us never forget that this traditionally 2D character made a foray into the third dimension in 1995:

Anyway, to sum up and in the interest of fairness, here's a somewhat positive review of Spider-Man: Quality of Life, and here's more background on the book. This CBR interview with artist Scott Sava is good inside background on the creation of the series. I do enjoy Sava's recent work a lot more than I did Quality of Life, so I'll be fair and say that it's just my opinion that the artwork didn't work for me, or that the technology wasn't just quite there yet in 2002. After all, most contemporary comics are at least partially drawn, colored, and/or lettered using a computer! Also: I'm very indebted to Chris Garcia's article "The Dawn of Computer Comics: Shatter" in researching this post.

Still, I woulda hoped that a storyline featuring the death of a long-running Spider-Man supporting cast member and the wife of one of his greatest enemies, woulda been featured in a story that would have involved fewer giggles than this:

Monday, December 05, 2016

Today in Comics History: Rob Liefeld proves he cannot draw bootleg Bart Simpson

Panels from New Mutants (1983 series) #98 (February 1991); plot, pencils, and inks by Rob Liefeld, script by Fabian Nicieza, colors by Steve Buccellato, letters by Joe Rosen

366 Days with J. Jonah Jameson, Day 340: Earth-1610 Jonah was smarter than Earth-616 Jonah

Panels from Ultimate Spider-Man #155 (May 2011), scrip by Brian Michael Bendis, pencils and inks by Chris Samnee, colors by Justin Ponsor, letters by Cory Petit

Today in Comics History: First appearance, Cable's gigantic area

Two-page spread from New Mutants (1983 series) #98 (February 1991); plot, pencils, and inks by Rob Liefeld, script by Fabian Nicieza, colors by Steve Buccellato, letters by Joe Rosen
(Click picture to pouch-size)

Sunday, December 04, 2016

366 Days with J. Jonah Jameson, Day 339: Fresh as today's headlines

Oh no! That scion of journalism, J. Jonah Jameson, has been taken in by the law-and-order (dun dun!) lies of conservative candidate Sam Bullit, the only people's choice endorsed by the Punisher simply because of his name. Naturally, Robbie Robertson reminds him that the "good ol' days" were quite so good for everyone. In other words, that shill vowing to "make American great again" may be playing on your worst instincts, Jonah!

Panels from Amazing Spider-Man (1963 series) #91 (December 1970), script by Stan Lee, pencils by Gil Kane, inks by John Romita, Sr.

Luckily, by the next issue, Jonah has had a journalist's epiphany (and has gotten his back up over Bullit's heavy-handed tactics), leading him back onto the team of good guys! As I occasionally say in the labels, J. Jonah Jameson is Sometimes a Decent Man.

Panels from Amazing Spider-Man (1963 series) #92 (January 1971), script by Stan Lee, pencils by Gil Kane, inks by John Romita, Sr., background inks by Tony Mortellaro, letters by Artie Simek

Lunatic hate groups! That's what Bullit meant by "law and order." Also, he's a stinkin' bigot and racist. I'm pretty sure his candidacy was endorsed by The Sons of the Serpent! Boo! Hiss!

And Jonah doesn't even need Spider-Man to crash through the window and punch Bullit in the face. You go, girl Jonah!

And that, kiddies, is how Franklin "Foggy" Nelson became our newest and greatest President of Manhattan.

This parable for our modern times has been brought to you by Stan Lee, The Amazing Spider-Man comic book, and the shame lots of journalism ought to be feeling right about now.

Today in Comics History: All that emphasis on high heels and Liefeld barely draws her feet

Panels from New Mutants (1983 series) #98 (February 1991); plot, pencils, and inks by Rob Liefeld, script by Fabian Nicieza, colors by Steve Buccellato, letters by Joe Rosen

Saturday, December 03, 2016

From the 1970s Recipe Cards of Mama Bull: Saucy Twist Pork Dish

If you're in the mood for a Crock-Pot® full o' cheesy, tomatoey, macaroniesque undercooked pork products, boy, has Mama Bull got the dish for you:

It's Saucy Twist Pork Dish, and there's a lot of it. And it's in every popular 1970s shade: Harvest Gold, Avocado, and Rose. Yes, if you liked Mad Men, you'll love this...pot o' pork. Because when you think about pigs, you automatically think...corkscrew-shaped pasta.

From my extensive research into the 1970s Recipe Cards of Mama Bull, it was illegal to cook something without a can of Campbell's Cream of Mushroom Soup.

This recipe serves a family of four to six, or two hobos.

Today in Comics History: Muggsy and pal finally have their romantic dinner date

"Casey the Cop" from Detective Comics #265 (March 1959); script, pencils, inks, and letters by Henry Boltinoff

366 Days with J. Jonah Jameson, Day 338: Jonah's best appearance in videogames since "Paperboy"

There's been plenty of Spider-Man games, and J. Jonah Jameson has been in some of them. But they haven't always done his distinctive personality any justice.

Luckily, for all your J. Jonah Jamesoning hand-held computer gaming action we now have Avengers Academy, a game for your cell phone, pad device, internet-equipped blender, or the robot in your life (attention Vision: that's just a little holiday gift hint for the lovely wife Virginia). Avengers Academy places the heroes and villains of the Marvel Universe, all suitably teen-aged, into a high-school level boarding school where they learn battle techniques, study books of knowledge in a very crowded library, play pool one at a time against each other, and even get down on the dance floor. Also: there is quite a bit of funny dialogue between the characters and NPCs, like AA-JJJ:

Here's an extended bit between Avengers Academy MVP Wasp and our favorite cranky newspaperman:

So remember: you may be paying for extra bits in your freemium game, but you get all this J. Jonah Jameson content for free!

Friday, December 02, 2016

366 Days with J. Jonah Jameson, Day 337: JJJ rant exiled to bottom cover of front page

Two-page spread from Marvel Treasury Edition #1 [The Spectacular Spider-Man] (September 1974); script by Gerry Conway, pencils and inks by Marie Severin
(Click picture to tabloid-size)

Thursday, December 01, 2016

That Time David Cassidy Almost Got Sued by Walt Disney

Charlton Comics! They were the Avis Car Rentals of the comic book industry, because just as Avis said "We're Number Two...we try harder!", Charlton's motto should have been, "We're Number Eight!...behind Marvel, DC, Archie, Harvey, Gold Key, Kitchen Sink, Warren...wait, we forgot Atlas Seaboard and Skywald..."

Anyway, Charlton was the little company that tried harder, expanding its line in the 1970s with a number of licensed comics (i.e., the one Western/Gold Key didn't want anymore) and media tie-ins. Never forget that Charlton not only had a comic book but also a magazine of NBC-TV's Emergency! (the groundbreaking series that introduced exclamation points to network television, for which What's Happening!! and Sledge Hammer!! would forever be grateful). Holy cow, though, that's some great art by...Joe Staton and Neal Adams? Whoa, Charlton, nice talent!

Cover of Emergency [comic] #2 (August 1976), painted art by Joe Staton;
Cover of Emergency [magazine] #1 (July 1976), painted art by Neal Adams

Naw, I kids the Charlton Comic Group, because despite their eventual 1980s out-of-business-ness, they really were throwing pretty much everything up against the wall to see what stuck, including attempt to reach young audiences with series that'd appeal to teens like its comic The Partridge Family, based on the very popular ABC-TV sitcom, and its spin-off comic David Cassidy, spotlighting the romantic misadventures of the teen idol star of The Partridge Family! I'm not certain any other comic book company would have done this at the same time. Why that would be like Marvel giving us a Black Widow comic book and also a monthly Scarlett Johansson series. (Say...!)

Cover of The Partridge Family #13 (November 1972), pencils and inks by Don Sherwood;
Cover of David Cassidy #2 (March 1972), photo cover

Everybody loved David Cassidy as Keith Partridge, the real-life stepson of TV mom Shirley Jones as Shirley Partridge. And if we know David's middle name, we can see what he has in common with another with another popular 1970s TV character! Oh, if only Charlton could have then published a companion comic for The Hardy Boys Mysteries and the accompanying Shaun Cassidy comic to feature the life and loves of David's half-brother, it wouyld have truly been The Age of Cassidy Comics!

Here's one of the typical exploits of David Cassidy, and see if you can spot any of the tiny, almost imperceptible copyright infringement attempts made in the story, okay?

Panel from "A Date with David" in David Cassidy #2 (March 1972); pencils, inks, and letters by Sururi Gumen

Note: the "Malibu" song appears to be fictional, despite my many Google attempts to fidn out if it was a real song. Let's just pretend he was singing this classic radio hit instead, shall we?

Please count the number of times the word "chick" is used to indicate a woman in this story. I hope you have enough fingers! David's TV mom Shirley Jones should not be involved in David's sex life, and yet there she is, while David attracts women like flies. ("So that's why all his women look like flies!" wisecracks TV brother Danny Bonaduce.) Intent on making sure David doesn't score (because helping him do that would be just wrong even for a stepmother), Shirley sets up David with Vicky, The Small Wonder young pre-teen Carrie Scott, who has the teeth of Squirrel Girl but is polite enough not to mention Shirley Jones's clown makeup.

While David asks Carrie out of a "date" (and I'm gonna keep putting it in quotes), ani-gals strike curious poses around him, trying to attract his attention like the unnamed female foreground figures in an Archie story. It's no good, girls, he only has eyes for Carrie.

Forget everything you might think about a twenty-two year old guy taking a pre-teen out on a "date," I'm sure it's all on the level and...wait, they're going unaccompanied by a chaperone? And they're going to live out David's "fantasy land?" AIEEEEE STOP IT COMIC

Oh, whew, it's just a thinly disguised version of what could be any other possible generic theme park that might happen to be located right there in Anaheim, California, located directly at 1313 Disneyland Drive Main Street. And then Barney Rubble appears which makes me think maybe David should not have partaken of the wacky weed before driving a car with a kid in it.

Oh, well, sure, a theme park with a big castle at the center of it is sure to have meet and greets with popular cartoon characters that all the kids love:

I'm sure Charlton just chose those characters by completely random choice out of a hat for their completely casual, uncalculated guest appearances.

It's off next to popular iconic park rides like "The Spinners" and "The Flying Farm Tour." Here they are, and just to be able to picture them in real life, I've included some completely fictional made-up photoshopped images of what they might possibly look like if they were based on real tourist attractions, rather than being the completely original creations of Charlton Comics.

Hey, how about a leisurely cruise on an old-timey riverboat, perhaps named after a famous nineteenth-century American figure all the kids love, like Herman Melville or William Jennings Bryan?

Ooooh, spooky! A, or dwelling, or if you will...manor.

Later, at the combination Mule Ride/Balloon Exhibit, swinging chicks gather to watch the hot burron action!

Suddenly: Susan! And Debbie, and Carol, and Bernadette, and I'm betting the hippie girl is named "Sunflower" or "Freedom" or possibly "Chastity" or something like that...naw, that'd be too ridiculous a name to give your daughter in the 1970s.

Carrie is not pleased. And if you've read your classic '70s literature, you know that when Carrie is unhappy, people die.

But David's a cool dude with a nice 'tude after all, if we might be permitted to use some slang from the eighties ten years earlier. He palms off to Carrie a 8x10 glossy photograph of himself, signed earlier by Reuben Kincaid, as a memento of "one of the nicest dates that David Cassidy ever had with any chick." Later, Carrie became an activist for the ERA and threw this photograph in the trash, but who are we to cast an ugly shadow on what was pretty creepy all along?

Immediately afterwards, David burnt rubber back to Fantasyland and had himself the best night of his life with all those swinging chicks. What do you think of that, Shirley Jones?