Monday, 22 August 2011

Green Lantern: Willworld

(re-issue cover)

Written by - J.M. DeMatteis
Art by - Seth Fisher

Green Lantern: Willworld was originally published by DC Comics in 2001 and has just recently had a reprinting. Willworld is the story of how a young Hal Jordan came to master the use of his power ring, set in a world created entirely by the imaginations of other Green Lanterns.

The story was originally developed from artwork by Seth Fisher after he pitched ideas with some concept art to Joey Cavaleri; it was decided that the art style would be the starting point for a Hal Jordan story. Seth Fisher stated that, " I wanted a writer that would shrug off some of the spandex clich├ęs that I was worried could limit my art, but still tackle the fantastic. I wanted it to be surreal and yet grounded at the same time.", he also went on to say, "We wanted a book where I could squeeze my imagination for everything it was worth and 'Green Lantern' just seemed to have the most potential that way."

(original cover)

For me, Green Lantern: Willworld, is almost certainly all about the art; it is the driving force behind the story and the characterisation. That's not to say J.M. DeMatteis' writing isn't up to scratch; in fact the writing perfectly compliments the imagery and brings a subtle level of humour that is required to guide the reader along. The world that is created by Seth Fisher is Green Lantern crossed with Alice in Wonderland and Yellow Submarine viewed with a head full of mescaline; a surreal psychedelic playground combined with mind-boggling quantum physics.

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Eclipse Monthly, No.5

Story, Art and Cover by Doug Wildey

Eclipse Monthly is an anthology style comic printed in full colour by Eclipse Comics, Issue #5 was published in 1984 and features two stories; the first is 'The Masked Man' by Barney McAllister and the second (and the one I'm more interested in) is called 'Rio' by Doug Wildey.

Douglas S. Wildey was born in 1922 in New York. During World War 2 he was stationed in Hawaii, where he began his art career as a cartoonist for the base newspaper. Following the war he freelanced for the magazine and comic book company Street and Smith Publications. He then went on to draw mainly Western Stories including Buffalo Bill, Gunsmoke and Indian fighter; it seemed at this time, Wildey had produced work for almost every publisher except EC (the good one).

In 1952 Wildey and his family moved to Tucson, Arizona. In 1954 he began to produce work for Atlas Comics (a forerunner of Marvel Comics) which were mainly composed of Western stories. Around this time his work also began to appear in some Atlas horror-fantasy comics such as; Journey Into Unknown Worlds, Marvel Tales, Mystic, Uncanny Tales, Mystery Tales and Strange Tales.

In 1964 Doug Wildey became involved in the creation of the Hanna-Barbera animated series 'Jonny Quest' which ran for one series until 1965. Following this, Wildey returned to comics drawing mainly western stories for many more publishers, including the following story 'Rio' which is from 1984.

Sunday, 14 August 2011

Astonishing Tales, No.2, Featuring Ka-Zar and Dr. Doom

Written by - Roy Thomas
Art by - Wally Wood
Letters by - Jean Izzo
Editor - Stan Lee

Published in October 1970 by Marvel Comics comes 'Astonishing Tales' which, initially, featured to stories per issue at 10 pages a story. Featured in Astonishing Tales #2 is 'Ka-Zar' the jungle lord, and 'Dr. Doom' the master of menace. The Ka-Zar story is written by Roy Thomas with art by legend Jack Kirby. However, it is the Dr. Doom story I am most interested in, which is again written by Roy Thomas but this time the art is supplied by Golden Age master Wally Wood.

Wallace Allan Wood started drawing comics from an early age and claimed that following a dream in which he found a pencil that could draw anything, he knew early on what his future held for him. Wally Wood is probably best known for his work during the 1950's that he did for EC comics, particularly his work on Weird Science and Weird Fantasy (science fiction comics that he himself convinced EC publisher William Gaines to produce). Between 1957 and 1967, Wood also created a host of cover images for great science-fiction writers such as; Isaac Asimov, Jack Vance, Jack Finney and Philip K Dick.

Throughout the silver and bronze age, Wood created art for many different publishers including; Marvel, DC, Warren, Avon, Charlton, Fox, Gold Key, King and Atlas. It was during this period that Wally Wood pencilled and inked issues #5-8 and inked #9-11 of Marvel's 'Daredevil', which established Matt Murdoch's distinctive red costume.

Continuing from the previous issue, Prince Rudolfo (leader of Latervia) has escaped from his cell, Dr. Doom confronts him and reveals that he knows he's isn't the real Prince but a robot clone; a Doombot then destroys the robot. In a cave, the real Prince Rudolfo plots to overthrow Dr. Doom and take back his kingdom with the help of an alien creature known as the Faceless One...

Friday, 12 August 2011

Miracleman, No.1

Written by - Alan Moore
Art by - Gary Leach

In 1939, writer Bill Parker and Artist C. C. Beck created the character Captain Marvel; he made his first appearance in Whiz Comics #2 (1940). Captain Marvel is the alter ego of Billy Batson, a young radio news reporter who was chosen by the wizard 'Shazam' to be a champion of good. By speaking the wizard's name, Billy is instantly changed into Captain Marvel by a bolt of lightning which gives him the power of six legendary figures. In Grant Morrison's book 'Supergods', Morrison states that, "If Superman was science fiction, and Batman was crime, Captain Marvel planted his flag in the wider territory of pure fantasy." he continues, "His origin story detailed an out-and-out shamanic experience of a kind familiar to any witch doctor, ritual magician, anthropologist, or alien abductee." (p.31)

Based on sales figures, Captain Marvel was the biggest selling superhero comic of the 1940's, out selling the likes of Superman and Batman by quite a margin. It was only in 1953 that publication ceased due to a copyright infringement suit by DC comics that Captain Marvel was in fact an illegal infringement of Superman. It is from this point onwards that the history of the original Captain Marvel became embroiled in lawsuits and litigation. 

Originally Len Miller & Son had been publishing reprints of the original Captain Marvel series in the UK. When the run came to an end following the first legal battle, they turned to Mick Anglo to continue the series in which he created the character Marvelman, which ran from 1954 until 1963.

Next to step up to the plate was Alan Moore in March 1982 which was published in Warrior magazine; a collection of stories by various authors which also featured Moore's 'V For Vendetta'. Marvelman continued up until issue #21, August 1984. Eclipse Comics then picked up the title in August 1985, reprinting just the Marvelman stories over 6 issues. However, the 'Marvel' trademark was now owned by 'Marvel Comics' and so when it came to reprinting said issues, the name had to be changed once again to Miracleman; each story having all it's titles and references changed to read correctly.

Following the reprints in issue #6, Moore wrote 10 further issues up to issue #16. Towards the end of the run the story heads into very dark territory, arguably some of Moore's darkest work. Following Alan Moore came Neil Gaiman's run which later fell into further legal disputes over ownership which went on for many years.

In the first issue of Alan Moore's Miracleman there are four stories entitled; 
Chapter 1: 1956, 
Chapter 2: 1982 Prologue - A Dream of Flying, 
Chapter 3,
Chapter 4: When Johnny Comes Marching Home

The first chapter is a retelling of an old story that features the Science Gestapo who travel back in time from the year 1981 to wreak havoc on the earth, and so Miracleman and Young Miracleman head into the future to the point just before the Science Gestapo travel back to stop them. The final page of this story features a quotation from "Thus Spake Zarathustra" by Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche which reads "Behold, I teach you the Superman: He is this lightning. He is this madness.", which is placed over an ominous zoom in to Miracleman's eye.

Chapter 2 starts in 1982 and Michael Moran no longer remembers who he once was but keeps having severe migraines and reoccurring dreams that frighten him but doesn't know what they mean. Whilst reporting on the opening of a new power-station in the Lake District, it is sabotaged by terrorists trying to steal plutonium. Michael's migraine worsens and is doubled-up on the floor; just then he sees the word atomic reflected in glass which reads 'cimota' (or kimota). It this word that brings it all back to him, he says it out loud and is instantly transformed into Miracleman.

Chapter 3 deals with Michael coming to terms with his forgotten history and trying to convince his girlfriend Liz that he's telling the truth.

In chapter 4, Michael realises that his old friend and sidekick Johnny Bates is still alive. They meet up and discuss the past, Michael finds it hard to believe how Johnny lost his powers and tests him which reveals Johnny was lying and he is still Kid Miracleman.

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Marvel Premiere, No.61, Star-Lord

Written by - Doug Moench
Pencils and Inks by - Tom Sutton
Colours by - Glynis Wein
Cover Art by - Tom Sutton

Today's offering features a little known character called Peter Quill (Starlord). The comic was published by Marvel comics in August 1981 and features under the Marvel Premiere banner; an anthology title that was used to showcase new characters that didn't have their own series.

All of the art in this book is by Tom Sutton (check out his Wikipedia page for more info: The cover for this issue is particularly striking with a superb layout that guides the eye from the title of the book, down Peter Quill's ensnared body, to the life-sucking writhing mass of tentacles beneath him.

Peter Quill is an explorer who travels across space looking for new worlds with the aid of his trusty 'Ship' (think Knight Rider's Kitt car crossed with a winged version of the ship from Flight of the Navigator). As you can imagine there is not a whole lot of dialogue in this book due to Peter only having a couple of AI's he can communicate with, so the majority of the story is told through his inner dialogue. It is clear that travelling through the depths of space alone for long periods of time are starting to take their toll on Peter's mind. After being nearly eaten whole by a giant Venus Flytrap, Peter muses to himself, "I actually found myself wondering if Venus had ever spawned a plant called an Earth flytrap..." to which he then states "Too much time in the void of space, I guess".

This particular issue finds Peter Quill on what he originally believes to be a young planet at the start of it's creation of life. Only after exploring a little deeper does he realise that isn't the case and something a little more sinister is at work. After fighting off several assaults from plants and what seems to be the planet itself, Peter is presented with a history of the planet where he witnesses a species evolve and head towards its own destruction. He learns that this planet that has spawned life also needs to feed on this life to survive. The extinction of this ancient race means that Peter is the first life-form to appear in some time and the planet needs to feed. But yet the planet is not aggressive in its manner and demonstrates that it needs Peter to want to be absorbed by the planet. Peter escapes back to 'Ship' where he debates whether he should put the planet out of its misery by destroying it or just leaving it be. He finally decides to leave it alone but feels that he may have made the wrong decision.

It's a shame that Star-Lord never really took off as a comic as this issue has really great art and a well written story with great philosophic debates throughout. Maybe if I ever get the chance to write for Marvel I could do a series of Star-Lord...

Monday, 8 August 2011

Invincible Iron Man, No. 80

Written by - Mike Friedrich
Pencils by - Chic Stone
Inks by - Vince Colletta
Colours by - George Roussos
Cover Art - Jack Kirby & Al Milgrom

It's been a while since my last blog entry but I'm back again to write about comics I've been reading; today's is 'The Invincible Iron Man' no. 80 from 1975. The beautiful cover art is by Jack Kirby in which he presents Iron Man filling the width of the cover elbow-to-elbow, giving Iron Man a sense of strength and weight; locked into the middle of the page almost having to carry the weight of his name upon his back.

The story is entitled 'Mission into Madness' and on the opening page at the top it states "The dreaded deadline doom has broken up our storyline far more than it should, but we're back on track now, and we're gonna see our story on to its smashing climax! Onward!" I couldn't find any extra information about this, but I guess it suggests that the book was late on its release due to missing tight deadlines for whatever reason.

The first few pages are a recap on previous issues in which it explains how Iron Man has done battle with foes such as the Yellow Claw (who was secretly an explosive automaton), the Death Squad and Modok. The start of this story finds Iron Man chasing Firebrand and the Black Lama through inter-dimensional space. They arrive in Black Lama's home dimension and are attacked by castle guards. I fight ensues and then Iron Man and Firebrand are taken to a secret hiding place by Princess Susan and her father King Jerald (the Black Lama) who goes on to explain how he isn't a bad guy but temporarily insane. Iron Man doesn't believe him and so Firebrand attacks and escapes. Iron Man defeats some Nulatron robots, catches up with the Black Lama and agrees to help him suppress the revolt, but the longer he has to stay in this dimension, the more insane he will become.