Wednesday, August 31, 2016

COMICS READING FOR AUGUST: “The things we do for family”


* NOW WITH STAR RATINGS (ala Wrestling Observer Newsletter PPV reports) *

NEW! HOW I RATE THE COMICS VIA THE GRANT MORRISON SCALE
*****     All-Star Superman, We3
****      New X-Men (the early issues), Batman Inc., Batman And Robin, Dare, Arkham Asylum
***        Zenith, Seven Soldiers
**         Final Crisis, Flex Mentallo
*           Marvel Boy
DUD (or lower) Nameless, later New X-Men and any of his hippy-dippy, pseudo-mystical crap

1.-25. Showcase Presents Amethyst, Princess Of Gemworld (DC, 2012) ***
- originally published in Legion Of Super-Heroes #298, Amethyst, Princess Of Gemworld #1-12, Amethyst Annual #1, DC Comics Presents #63, Amethyst #1-11 (DC, 1983-85)
Writers: Dan Mishkin and Gary Cohn/Artists: Ernie Colon, Rik Estrada and friends
26.-39. Marvel Ultimate Super Hero Collection (Marvel/Scholastic, 2016) ***¼
- collecting Spider-Man, Iron Man, Thor, Nick Fury, Ant-Man, Avengers, Black Widow, Captain America, Hawkeye, Guardians Of The Galaxy, Wasp, Ultimate Spider-Man: Team Heroes, Falcon, Hulk
Writers/Artists: various
This 14-part series (with a free slipcase) came as a two-week promotional deal from the trashy Murdoch tabloids – in Sydney’s case it was The Daily Telegraph and The Sunday Telegraph. So I sold my soul for 14 days and bought the comics for $2.60 apiece each day, so the kids could enjoy them. And they did.
After going to all that effort I decided to read them, too. Turns out they were all Marvel Adventures strips, some dating back more than six years. I remember reading a few of them the first time round in the cheap digests that collected them at the time. The tales ranged from mediocre to fun and were definitely geared towards kids, with a cute little moral at the end of tale. Sadly, because the comics came from a range of series over a long period of time, there was little cohesion. Characters changed personalities from issue to issue. Some of the Avengers-related strips had a story arc where Loki was trying to destroy the team after stealing powerful artefacts belonging to Odin. However, this storyline was dropped without a conclusion with the Falcon comic. It wasn’t even mentioned  in the Hulk book. All in all, a mish-mash, but at least the kids got a real kick out of them.
40. Small Things by Mel Tregonning and Shaun Tan (Allen & Unwin, 2016) ****¼
A beautiful, wordless hardcover book about a boy who feels alone with his worries. But he eventually learns there are people around him who can help him. He also learns that everyone has worries – his classmates, his big sister, everyone. It’s a beautifully drawn and told tale – made more poignant by the knowledge that Tregonning took her own life before this book could come to fruition. Kudos to Tan for finishing the job. It’s a wonderful book.
41.-43. Timely Comics: Squadron Supreme #1 (Marvel, 2016) ****
- originally published in Squadron Supreme #1-3 (Marvel, 2016)
Writer: James Robinson/Artists: Leonard Kirk, Paul Neary and Scott Hanna (interior); Alex Ross (cover)
44. The Soldier Legacy (Black House Comics, 2011) **
Writer/Artist: Paul Mason
45. Stray Bullets: Sunshine And Roses #17 (Image, 2016) *****
Writer/Artist: David Lapham
46.-50. Starve Vol. 2 (Image, 2016) *****
- originally published in Starve #1-5 (Image, 2016)
Writer: Brian Wood/Artist: Danijel Zezelj
51.-56. Super Zero Vol. 1: The Beginning (Aftershock, 2016) ****
- originally published in Super Zero #1-6 (Aftershock, 2016)
Writers: Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti/Artists: Marcelo Maiolo (interiors); Amanda Conner (covers)
57.-62. Citizen Jack Vol. 1 (Image, 2016) ****½
- originally published in Citizen Jack #1-6 (Image, 2016)
Writer: Sam Humphries/Artist: Tommy Patterson
Donald Trump has made this political, satanic-tinged parody into a thinly-veiled factual account of The Donald’s rise to within a pussy hair of the US Presidency.
63. Superman/Batman: “Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice Day” Special Edition #1 (DC, 2016) ***½
- originally published as Superman/Batman #1 (DC, 2003)
Writer: Jeph Loeb/Artist: Ed McGuinness
This was good enough to convince me to buy the first trade collection.


64. The Banana Splits (Western Publishing, 1971) *
Writer/Artist: unknown
This is a curious lil’ B&W Aussie reprint. It’s unnumbered but the photo cover is from The Banana Splits #5 (Gold Key, 1971), while the contents come from issue #6. Sadly, the comics are uninspired, unfunny dross, with the second yarn bordering on offensive racism even by 1971 standards when it comes to its depiction of modern Native Americans. Still, I loved this TV show as a kid, so I’m glad to have a copy in my collection.

THE LAST HURRAH
I swore I’d never do it, but a few weeks back I went back to Comic Kingdom to pick the bones in its 50% off closing down sale. There wasn’t much left, but here’s what I found for a handful of change.
65. Dave Stevens Selected Sketches & Studies Vol. 2 (Bulldog Studios, 2003) *****
Limited edition sketchbook. Sadly, unnumbered and unsigned.
66. Avengers Rough Cut #1 (Marvel, 1998) ****½
Writer: Kurt Busiek/Artist: George Perez
Perez’s unlinked pencils are exquisite.
67. Starlord, June 10, 1978 (IPC Magazines, 1978) ***
Writers/Artists: various
I loved Starlord far more than its more successful, more established counterpart 2000A.D., probably because it was produced on better quality paper (2000A.D. was printed on toilet paper around this time). Most of the stories were frankly lame, especially the execrable Mind Wars, while Planet Of The Damned was designed to be offensive and little more. Timequake – with its time-travelling cops trying to stop disruptions in the timeline – was better, but the strips that showed the most staying power were Ro-Busters and Strontium Dog. They benefited from better artwork – Ian Kennedy and Carlos Ezquerra, respectively – and successfully survived the merger that inevitably came when 2000A.D. absorbed the poorer-selling Starlord.
68. Wally Wood’s T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents #5 (Deluxe Comics, 1986) ***½
Writers/Artists: various
It’s a pity this series never got off the ground – a problem constantly faced by Wood’s creations no matter who publishes them – as the stories were intriguing and they had an impressive list of creators involved, including Keith Giffen and Jerry Ordway.

Off the eBayz
I bought a bunch of comics off eBay as I hadn’t done so in years. Let’s see what I picked up for relative peanuts.
69. 22 Brides #3 (Event Comics, 1996) *
Writers: Joe Quesada, Jimmy Palmiotti and Fabian Nicieza/Artists: Scott Lee and Jimmy Palmiotti
Shit sub-early 90s Image wannabe, guns’n’babe, makes-no-sense crap. Considering who’s involved in this project, this is a major disappointment. That said, this is the gorgeous Mitch O’Connell variant cover, signed by Quesada and Palmiotti. Which is the only reason why it earns one star.
70. One Life (Topps, 1996) ****
Writer: Neil Gaiman/Artist: P. Craig Russell
I still stumble across oddball Neil Gaiman pieces that I didn’t know existed. This is appears to be an adaptation of a Neil short story, which is the lead-in to a new Elric series published by Topps. Whimsical, thoughtful, disturbing tales of an adolescent coming of age in a private boys’ school and all the horrors that entails. His one beacon of hope in a strange world? Michael Moorcock’s body of work, particularly the albino prince Elric. Really lovely work by Gaiman and Russell.
71. Untold Tales of Spider-Man ’96 (Marvel, 1996) ***¾
Writer: Kurt Busiek/Artists: Mike Allred and Joltin’ Joe Sinnott; lots of friends
If only all superhero comics could be this fun and pure.
72. Spawn #11 (Image, 1993) *
Writer: Frank Miller/Artist: Todd McFarlane
Everything that sucks about early 90s Image and Frank Miller, all rrolled up into one neat package. Still, a cool centrefold from Geoff Darrow, so I’ll bump it up to one star. 
73.-75. Murder Can Be Fun #2, #8, #11 (SLG, 1997-98) ***¾
Writers/Artists: various
Good, clean, murderous fun.
76. Worlds Collide #1 (DC/Milestone, 1994) DUD
Writers/Artists: various and shit
I only bought this crap for the free stickers. Godawful crossover – no wonder Milestone folded. It should stay folded.
77.-113. Legionnaires #0-5, 8-12, 15-22, 33-34, 38, 42-43, 47-48, 51-53, 55-56, 58, 67-71, 78, Annual #1 (DC, 1993-99) **
Writers/Artists: various
Every Legion of Super-Heroes title since Crisis On Infinite Earths has been problematic. No writer – not even the great Grant Morrison – has known how to resolve the many contradictions, anomalies and general mess that the Legion has accumulated in the past 30 years. This early 90s series is a classic example. Cloned younger versions of the LoSH (or are they the REAL version) have various misadventures and give of vibes as the creepiest, most annoying super-powered teens of all time, especially misogynistic Live Wire (aka Lightning Lad), Inferno (Sun Boy) and Matter-Eater Lad, whose creepy filming of female team members in the shower is treated as lighthearted humour and not the sexual assaults they actually are. I want to blame Tom and Mary Bierbaum, but other more accomplished writers like Mark Waid also stumble with the incredibly clunky plot and dozens of one-dimensional cast members.
And then......
In issue 16, Zero Hour rears its misguided head and fucks EVERYTHING. Suddenly, old LoSH members ar emerged with the newer team members, then their entire history is retconned. Add the fact that DC had TWO Legion-related titles at this time, running alternate fortnights and they were interconntected means it was impossible for me to follow any of the storylines because I was literally missing out on half of them.Characters who were integral to the early issues – like Catspaw – vanished, only to be mentioned in passing as minor characters 50 issues later. Dead characters were suddently alive again – and vice versa.
The most radical change was Chameleon. In the pre-Zero Hour issues, he had been revealed to be LoSH benefactor RJ Brande. Post-Zero Hour, they were two separate characters again.
As for the artwork – except for some nice early work by Chris Sprouse – it was done by a series of increasingly incompetent hacks who infested DC and Marvel during the first half of the 1990s. Just godawful, although Roger Stern and Abnett/Lanning seemed to be getting a grip on the characters in the later issues. Still, this was a hard slog for me and I’m a LoSH fan.

And...finally....something really enjoyable to end the month
114.-119. Deadpool & the Merc$ For Money Vol. 0: Merc Madness (Marvel, 2016) ****½
- originally published in Deadpool & the Merc$ For Money #1-5 and Deadpool: Masacre (Marvel, 2016)
Deadpool & the Merc$ For Money: Writer: Cullen Bunn/Artists: Salva Espin (interior); Declan Shalvey (main covers)
Deadpool: Masacre: Writers: Gerry Duggan and Brian Posehn/Artists: Scott Koblish (interior); Francisco Herrera (cover)


Sunday, August 7, 2016

COMICS READING FOR JULY: “Wrestling with greatness..?”


* NOW WITH STAR RATINGS (ala Wrestling Observer Newsletter PPV reports) *

NEW! HOW I RATE THE COMICS VIA THE GRANT MORRISON SCALE
*****     All-Star Superman, We3
****      New X-Men (the early issues), Batman Inc., Batman And Robin, Dare, Arkham Asylum
***        Zenith, Seven Soldiers
**         Final Crisis, Flex Mentallo
*           Marvel Boy
DUD (or lower) Nameless, later New X-Men and any of his hippy-dippy, pseudo-mystical crap

NOTE: For all your online comix purchases, I suggest you head to Comixology (www.comixology.com). For hard-copy purchases of back issues at a very cheap price, it has to be Lone Star Comics (https://www.mycomicshop.com/).

1.-4. Black Jack Ketchum (Image, 2016) *
- originally published in Black Jack Ketchum #1-4 (Image, 2016)
Writer: Brian Schirmer/Artist: Claudia Balboni
“If David Lynch did a Western...” wrote one critic. Well, if it was one of David Lynch’s crappy movies, then yes...Black Jack Ketchum is very Lynchian. A huge disappointment. Being confusing, lacking logic and having a non-ending doesn’t make you clever, it makes you SHIT. Or maybe it’s just me.
5.-10. Saga: Vol. 6 (Image, 2016)
- originally published in Saga #31-36 (Image, 2016) *****
Writer: Brian K. Vaughan/Artist: Fiona Staples
The best comic series out there continues to bring me great joy. After a few missteps in volumes four and five, this one is a fine return to great form. Just perfect. Sci-fi, romance, war stories, erotica and, now, Orange Is The New Black makes this the genre mash-up to beat all mash-ups.
11. Howard The Duck #1 (Marvel, 2016) ****
Howard: Writer: Chip Zdarsky/Artists: Joe Quinones and Joe Rivera
Gwenpool: Writer: Christopher Hastings/Artist: Danilo Beyruth
Joe Quinones (cover)
12.-17. The Vision Vol. 1: Little Worse Than A Man (Marvel, 2016) ****
- originally published in The Vision (Marvel, 2016)
Writer: Tom King/Artist: Gabriel Hernandez Walta (interior); Mike Del Mundo (#1-4 covers); Marco D’Alfonso (#5-6 covers)
This was recommended to me by a lord and I’m glad I took his sage advice. This was pretty damn good.
18.-23. Jupiter’s Circle Book Two (Image, 2016) ****½
- originally published in Jupiter’s Circle Vol. 2 #1-6 (Image, 2015-16)
Writer: Mark Millar/Artists: Wilfredo Torres and Chris Sprouse
24.-28. Paper Girls Vol. 1 (Image, 2016) ****¼
- originally published in Paper Girls #1-5 (Image, 2015-16)
Writer: Brian K. Vaughan/Artist: Cliff Chiang
29.-33. Stringers (Image, 2016) ***½
originally published in Stringers #1-5 (Image, 2015)
34.-36. Scarlet #8-10 (Icon, 2016) ****
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis/Artist: Alex Maleev
It’s been a long wait, but Bendis is finally back to complete the second arc of his gruelling tale of police corruption and one broken woman’s attempt to fix the problem. A lot of cop-killing, public unrest and general terrorism ensues. This is probably the most interesting book Bendis is working on right now.
37.-40. Uncanny X-Force Vol. 1: The Apocalypse Solution (Marvel, 2011) ***½
- originally published by Uncanny X-Force #1-4 (Marvel, 2010-11)
Writer: Rick Remender/Artists: Leonardo Manco (Wolverine: Road To Hell); Jerome OpeƱa (Uncanny X-Force #1-4)
Somewhat overrated.
41.-46. Patsy Walker, A.K.A. Hellcat! Vol. 1: Hooked On A Feline (Marvel, 2016) ****¼
- originally published by Patsy Walker, A.K.A. Hellcat! (Marvel, 2016)
Writer: Kate Leth. Artists: Brittney L. Williams (#1-5 interiors); Natasha Allegri (#6 interior); Brittney L. Williams (covers)
47. Spider-Man Magazine (ACP Magazines, 2012) **
Writers: Stan Lee & Steve Ditko (plot), Todd Dezago/Artists: Logan Lubera & Craig Young (interior); Todd Nauck (cover)
48. Stray Bullets: Sunshine And Roses #16 (Image, 2016) *****
Writer/Artist: David Lapham
49. Briggs Land Ashcan (Dark Horse, 2016) ***
Writer: Brian Wood/Artist: Mack Chater (interior); Tula Lotay (cover)
Domestic terrorism and white supremacy. So this is a funny book, I assume.
50. Ginger Meggs Sunbeams Book (Shakespeare Head Press, c.19??) ****
Writer/Artist: Jimmy Bancks
A coverless comic I picked up in Paringa for $2. The Sunbeams Book was an annual reprint of full-colour Sunday newspaper strips. With the cover missing, I can’t tell what year it’s from, but they were published every year from 1924-59. I suspect it’s from the 1950s. The art is glorious while the scripts are kinda dated but still interesting from an historical perspective.
51. Bluey And Curley Annual (The News, 1946) *
Writer/Artist: Les Dixon
An annual collection of newspaper strips that I bought in the same Paringa junk shop for $1. Pretty much in mint condition. Sadly, the strip has dated badly. These are “dad jokes” of the very lowest, unfunniest variety. In fact, some gags are bafflingly stupid.
52. Australian MAD #496 (Next Media, 2016) **½
Writers/Artists: the usual gang of idiots
My friend AW gave me his copy and it was a light read. A few gags made me smile, but most of the content left me cold. I was surprised how heavily reliant the magazine’s become on American material. There’s very little Aussie content now (due to lack of money, I assume).
Still, there’s ots of talent on display in this issue including Box Brown, Peter Kuper and the seemingly immortal Al Jaffee, but the “Superheroes Unite” toons by Sergio Aragones and a TED Talk pisstake by Samuel Ferri were the highlights. The lowlight was a dreadfully unfunny feature titled “The 50 Worst Things About Superheroes And Villains”. Just terrible.
An act of cost-saving desperation can be seen with the mag reprinting an old strip from the 1950s: Kurtzman and Elder’s off-key misfire “Woman Wonder”. This strip’s ending made me uncomfortable as a child in the 70s, but it’s just so much more horrible reading it in 2016: man-on-woman violence and hideous misogyny played for laffs. It wasn’t cool in the 1950s when it was produced and it isn’t cool now. I’m surprised the magazine showed such poor taste in reprinting this trash, as there’s so much better stuff in the vaults.
All in all, MAD continues to be a mixed bag artistically, but at $6.95 (or FREE when friends give me their copy), it’s still pretty good value for money.
53. The Wild Party (Pantheon Books, 1994) *****
- originally published in 1928
Writer: Joseph Moncure March/Artist: Art Spiegelman
Incredible re-release of a classic poem about a debauched party. Art has done so many illustrations for this version that it’s practically a graphic novel. So I’m including it here.
54. The Phantom #1755 (Frew, 2016) ****
Writer: Norman Worker/Artists: Carlos Cruz (interior); Gary Chaloner (cover)
I bought this comic for the exquisite Chaloner cover, but the story (a Euro-reprint) is entertaining – and pretty accurate when it comes to its depiction of Australia both now and in the 19th century.
55. MillarWorld Annual 2016 (Image, 2016) ****
Writers/Artists: various
56. Image Firsts: I Hate Fairyland #1 (Image, 2016) ***½
- originally published in I Hate Fairyland #1 (Image, 2015)
Writer/Artist: Skottie Young
57. Deadly Hands Of Criminal (Image, 2016) *****
Writer: Ed Brubaker/Artist: Sean Phillips


WRESTLING/MMA COMIX
* My thoughts on all these wrestling comics can be found in a new podcast HERE.

58.-61. Cage Hero (Dynamite, 2016) ½*
- originally published in Cage Hero #1-4 (Dynamite, 2015-16)
Writers: Kevin Eastman, Ian Parker and Rik Hoskin/Artist: Renato Rei
Beyond horrible. A confused mish-mash of superhero-infused MMA action with a confusing plot, sketchy heroes with minimal character development and ill-defined powers. Badly written (and there were THREE people involved in the process!), weird “let’s be inspirational” dialogue (“The hero comes from within!” every fucking character cries throughout the book). Hoskin has no idea how Australians talk or that we don’t have fucking “middle school” in this country, making the Aussie character in this graphic novel utterly horrible. Cage Hero is as bad (if not worse) than any of the WWE/Chaos! dreck shat out in the late 1990s.
62.-66. Ringside Vol. 1: Kayfabe (Image, 2016) ****¼
- originally published in Ringside #1-5 (Image, 2015-16)
Writer: Joe Keatinge/Artist: Nick Barber
And then I read this book and my faith in wrestling comix is restored. This is really fucking good. The mix of in-ring action (not that we see much of that) and backstage politics, combined with a brutal crime noir sub-plot makes for a compelling book. Even non-wrestling fans would like Ringside, but wrestling fans will get a real kick out of it.
67. Super Pro K.O.! Vol. 3: Gold For Glory (Oni Comix, 2016) ****¾
Writer/Artist: Jarrett Williams
IT’S been a long wait but it was worth the several-year delay to finally peruse Jarrett Williams’ third volume in what is arguably the best wrestling-based comic out there. Well, not really comic – this is a friggin’ graphic novel in the form of a classic Japanese manga. It’s frenetic, funny, action-packed, poignant and gripping as hell. It was literally a page-turner while reading Super Pro K.O.!: Gold For Glory.
Mid-way through the book I was invested in the two main storylines. First up, I was rooting like crazy for Joe Samiano to pin that arrogant newcomer Romeo Colossus. And I was hoping his dad would stop being a jerk and watch his son’s big match on TV.
And even though he’s a dick, I did not want to see Ric Flair’ish champ King Crown Jr get pinned by psycho challenger Bad Bad Butch O’Rowdy.
The flashback to Crown Jr’s troubled relationship with his legendary wrestler father helped add depth to a guy who could otherwise be dismissed as an arrogant heel.
Yeah, a faux wrestling manga could do that to me because it’s created with passion and that passion was passed onto me, the reader.
The occasional imperfection (speech balloons not pointing to the person saying them was a bugbear at times) brought this graphic novel down a fraction. That said, Super Pro K.O.! continues to be as near as perfect a wrestling comic currently being published. It captures everything I love about the best that pro wrestling has to offer.



68. Headlocked: The Last Territory Vol. 1 (Visionary Comics, 2014) ****½
Writer: Michael Kingston & friends/Artist: Michel Mulipola & friends


69. Ultimate Muscle: The Kinnikuman Legacy Vol. 2 (Viz, 2004) ****
Writer/Artist: Yudetamago (English translation)
70. Ultimate Muscle: The Kinnikuman Legacy Vol. 26 (Shueisha, 2004) ***½
Writer/Artist: Yudetamago (Japanese oriiginal)


71. Ayre Force (BDG Entertainment Inc., 2008) **¾
Writers: Adam Slutsky and Joseph Phillip Illidge/Artist: Shawn Martinbrough
BODOG was an online gambling company run by Calvin Ayre, which sponsored a bunch of MMA fighters, poker players and musicians. He also ran his own MMA company, BODOG Fight, in the late 2000s. He lost a ton of money, but before he quit the MMA biz, he produced THIS: a bizarre graphic novel featuring BODOG stars working for Ayre as some kinda SHIELD-like team battling an evil company torturing bears (seriously!). Great art by Martinbrough, but the story is pretty bad. Of curiosity value only.
72.-74. Blackmask #1-3 (Eastern Comics, 1988) *
Writers: Franz Henkel and Jong-Jin Lee/Artist: Jong-Jin Lee
75. True Sport Picture Stories Vol. 4 #6 (Street & Smith, 1948) ½*
Writer: Al Klein/Artist: Bob Powell
I bought this extremely dry, lifeless comic for the strip on women’s wrestler Mildred Burke. It’s basically a bunch of illos drawn straight of photos. The whole comic is like this.
76. The Fifth Force featuring Hawk & Animal #2 (Antarctic Press, 1999) -*
Writer/Artist: uncredited
Easily the worst wrestling comic ever produced. Overpriced, stupid, pointless.
77. American Flagg! #32 (First, 1986) *½
Writers: Howard Chaykin and Steven Grant/Artists; Mark Badger and Randy Emberlin (main story); Joe Staton and Hilary Barta (back-up)
A wrestling plotline can’t salvage this comic.
78.-79. El Gorgo! #1-2 (Gorgo A-Go-Go, 2008-09) ***
Writer: Mike McGee/Artist: Tamas Jakab
80. WWE Kids #88 (WWE/DC Thomson, 2014) ***
- features a few kid-orient strips. Mostly harmless.
81. House Of Raging Women (Penguin Books, 1992) ****
- originally published in various issues of Love and Rockets (Fantagraphics, 1984-89)
Writer/Artist: Jaime Hernandez

FROM THE DIGITAL WORLD of COMIXOLOGY
82. Aski – Rumble in the Lost Temple #1 (Lucha Comics, 2014) DUD
Writer: Roberto Mercado/Artist: Kundo Krunch
I don’t ask much from a wrestling comic except be well-written and well-drawn. Aski fails in both categories. But even bad artwork can be forgiven if a story makes sense and is fun to read. But this comic is just shit on every level. Poorly structured action scenes that succeed in both being mundane and predictable. A plot that hinges on our hero’s friends being two of the dumbest arseholes on the planet is also a turn-off.  When a luchador says, “Don’t go into the jungle – it’s full of criminals and dangerous animals”, don’t then deliberately ignore him, get attacked by a deadly animal and kidnapped by criminals. That doesn’t make you plucky and gutsy adventurers, it makes you FUCKWITS. Anyway, this comic is terrible.
83. Headlocks and Headaches #1 (Dean Stahl, 2014) *
Writer/Artist: Dean Stahl
Confusing webcomic that’s been published as a “real comic”. It starts with a none-too-thrilling tale about kids at a birthday party preparing to watch an IWF PPV, then jumps without warning into backstage politics at the IWF, then a long-winded and confusing flashback, which ends abruptly with a final-page revelation about some evil guy preparing to crash the IWF PPV. Frankly, I found it hard to follow.
84. Misfit Wrestling Federation #1 (Bombshell Comics, 2015) *½
Writer/Artist: Michael Jasorka
I bought this digital comic off Comixology.com because Jasorka’s artwork was reminiscent of Tom Motley’s classic Steel Pulse wrestling comic. But once I read it, I knew this was no Steel Pulse. A confusing introduction to supposed territorial wrestling in Florida in 1973. There was a weird Christian undertone that I didn’t like either.
85. AWF: Amazon Wrestling Federation #1 (Xigency Studios Inc., 2013) -*
Writer/Artist: Joe D. McFee
This weird, slightly fetishy comic shows the very worst of what’s on offer at Comixology. Poorly drawn, badly written tale about an Amazonian college basketballer in love with a nerdy tutor who wins a wrestling promotion in a poker game (I’m not kidding here). At the same time, the basketballer decides to become a pro wrestler. The sheer amateurishness of this comic is positively painful. Somehow, this comic reached four issues!





86. Calavera De La Justicia #1 (On Target Network, 2015) ***¾
Writer: Carlos Serrano/Artist: Tom Rogers
And then there’s something like this. A really fun, well-drawn adventure featuring in-ring action, a heroic luchador looking for his kidnapped family and a chupacabra! Think the very best monster-themed eps of The X-Files crossed with Warren Ellis’s Fell and you have the feel of this series. Sadly, this was the only issue released. Stupid Comixology readers. Support the right damn comics, why don’tcha?


87. Hardcore Luchador #1 (Hardcore Luchador Entertainment, 2013) ***½
Writer/Artist: Angelo Gines Jr
Mindless wrestling/monster/superhero madness featuring the Hardcore Luchadores, El Fuego and El Muerto, Tag Team Champions of the world! I enjoyed it, but guess what? This was the only issue. Aaaaarghhhh! Crap survives and fun stuff dies a quiet lonely death. Not fair!


88.-91. Palooka #1-4 (Person of Merit Comics, 2014-15) ***½
Writer: Casey Van Heel/Artist: Ger Curti

92. The Unmentionables (Retrofit Comics/Big Planet Comics, 2015) ***½
Writer/Artist: Jack Teagle
93. Robots Fight Dirty: Poems of an Insensitive Fighting Machine (Zeph Zero, 2014) ***½
Writer/Artist: Zeph Zero
Robot wrestlers, racist Nazi tag teams, time travel, sex, killer toasters and haikus. A curious combination.
94. The Crippler's Son (Fantagraphics, 2013) ****½
Writer/Artist: Max Riffner
Adrian Tomine meets pro wrestling. Very good indeed.

95. Street Fighting Woman Vol. 1 (Kloob Comics, 2015) ***¾
Writer/Artist: Steve Thompson
Weird. Bear-headed monsters, 1920s women’s wrestling, self-mutilating villains. Confusing but intriguing.



Monday, June 27, 2016

Marvel Collector Corps: Women Of Power box...the opening


THE Women Of Power box arrived last Thursday. I was excited, as I'd heard good things about it.


I opened it up and... Hell, the box art itself is amazing...


Nice patch and pin. Not that I collect them, but they're cool.


Aaaaah.....a Spider-Gwen T-shirt. Didn't particularly grab me, but I managed to sell it to someone else, so it's all good.


An alternative-cover version of Civil War II #1. Noice!

 Mini-Pop dollies. She-Hulk and Captain Marvel? Very cool.


But this......THIS.......is the fucking money shot! Oh my fucking God! SQUIRREL GIRL!!!! Awesome!!!!!

OK. This MCC box was amazing. A total winner and value for money even BEFORE I sold off the T-shirt. Colour me impressed, MCC. :)

Sunday, June 26, 2016

BOOK REVIEW: Crites' Coloring Book (Headpress, 2016)

I AM now the proud owner of my very first adult colouring book and I couldn't be happier. It is a fitting tribute to the very talented Tom Crites who tragically took his own life in 2013.
I'd known Crites on a casual basis for more than 20 years. I sent him copies of my zine BETTY PAGINATED, which he reviewed in his excellent review zine PANISCUS REVUE (it later moved exclusively online where people from around the world could now read Tom's glowing reviews of my publication).
Crites also sent me copies of his dark-but-brilliant comics/art anthology MALEFACT, equal parts awesome and disturbing.
Over the years, I'd irregularly write to Crites (later we exchanged emails and later still PMs on Facebook). I'd send him my zines and, occasionally, Australian-made bags of pork rinds (he was a pork rinds aficionado and his reviews were both entertaining and comprehensive).
We had what was, to me, a perfect "ziney" friendship, similar to dozens of other overseas/interstate friendships I've built up over the decades with artists and zinesters. Maybe it wasn't exactly friendship, but I liked and respected Crites and I hope he felt the same way about me.
News of his death shocked and saddened me - as did finding out that he'd had mental health issues for many years. It also hit home how superficial our relationship had been. He was a nice guy, a supporter of my work and yet we knew so little about each other's personal lives. 
That's how the zine community works, I guess.
That said, I miss Tom and I miss the fact he's not there anymore to talk to or to send him my zines for feedback.
I'm happy that Crites' incredible body of artwork is being celebrated and brought to the attention of a larger audience courtesy of this new book from Headpress (purchase it HERE).
Crites never produced his work to be coloured in, I imagine, but his clean, crisp artwork suits the new craze perfectly.
Not that I'm colouring any of the drawings myself. This will take pride of place in my bookcase, a fantastic tribute to a wonderful, sorely missed creator.
To read more about Crites the man, read an interview with one of his friends HERE.


Saturday, June 4, 2016

MAY HORROR BLOCK: The final opening.......




 IT'S here! The last of my NerdBlock Horror Blocks. Let's see what we've got.


Looks pretty full this month.

 A vinyl soundtrack of The Omen. That's very cool.

 A copy of the first issue of the Titan property, based on the popular TV series. Cool.

I'll read this, then pass it onto my friend AW. There's always something worth reading in Rue Morgue


A funky pin.
 A nifty Blu-ray. This will be added to my Halloween Horror Month's viewing.


Pocket Pop!s - kinda funky.

A Gremlins T-shirt? Looks great, but I'm not a  fan of the flick, so I'll pass it on to my sister-in-law who's a big Gremlins fan.

FINAL THOUGHTS: Probably the perfect time to quit this scheme as this was the least satisfactory of the three boxes I received. I guess if I'd received another T-shirt that I liked, then I'd give this box a higher mark. Ah well.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

COMICS READING FOR MAY: “Keep It Civil – Captain America vs Iron Man (Part 1)”


* NOW WITH STAR RATINGS (ala Wrestling Observer Newsletter PPV reports) *

NEW! HOW I RATE THE COMICS VIA THE GRANT MORRISON SCALE
*****     All-Star Superman, We3
****      New X-Men (the early issues), Batman Inc., Batman And Robin, Dare, Arkham Asylum
***        Zenith, Seven Soldiers
**         Final Crisis, Flex Mentallo
*           Marvel Boy
DUD (or lower) Nameless, later New X-Men and any of his hippy-dippy, pseudo-mystical crap

1.-9. Captain America: War and Remembrance (Marvel, 1990) ****
- originally published in Captain America #247-255 (Marvel, (1980)
Writer: Roger Stern/Artists: John Byrne and Joe Rubinstein
I expected this to be a bit painful – and God knows Stern’s goofy, pseudo-patriotic dialogue that he gives Cap is awful at times – but, surprisingly, I found myself enjoying this tasty nine-issue run by Stern and Byrne. Byrne is at his artistic peak here and the tales are rollicking, featuring Cap taking on the likes of Baron Blood, Batroc the Leaper, Mr Hyde, Baron Von Strucker, Dragon Man and MachineSmith.
10.-18. Captain America #193, 195-199, 203, 210-211 (Marvel, 1976-77) ***¾
19. Captain America Annual #3 (Marvel, 1976) ***½
Writer: Jack Kirby/Artists: Jack Kirby and friends
The King’s last run with Marvel has been unfairly maligned. Sure, his writing style was bombastic and of another era, but his “Madbomb” epic is actually a lot of fun as he puts Cap and the Falcon through their paces as they battle a traitorous “elite” intent on destroying the USA during the Bicentennial celebrations. Kirby’s artwork is as epic as ever. In fact, it’s quite surprising now to realise that some readers were more concerned about Jack’s art than his writing ability. A letter from future Marvel staffer Ralph Macchio talks about having “nightmares” in anticipation of Kirby’s “uselessly large panels”, only to be relieved that he’s kept most of his panels small. What a douchebag. Thankfully, Kirby was happy to use plenty of double-page and single-page spreads to get across the majesty of his work.

20. Captain America #115 (Marvel, 1969) ***
Writer: Stan Lee/Artists: John and Sal Buscema
21. Captain America Annual #6 (Marvel, 1982) *
Writer: JM DeMatteis/Artists: Ron Wilson and Vince Colletta
What should have been a fun tale about the four Caps (Spirit of 76, The Patriot, the insane 50s version and the real Cap) being brought together by Mr Buda (last seen in the oversized Bicentennial Treasury) is very ordinary and painfully forced. The concept of the four Caps fighting together is actually really confusing as it’s just four guys in the same uniform and they’re hard to tell apart. Ron Wilson’s art is bad and Colletta’s inking makes it even worse. As for JM, this isn’t his finest work. His attempt to showcase the 50s Cap’s racism is offensive, especially when he has him using words like “darkies” and “jungle bunnies”. Hideous.
22. Captain America #221 (Marvel, 1978) **
[main story] Writers: Steve Gerber and David Kraft/Artists: Sal Buscema and Mike Esposito
[back-up tale] Writer: Scott Edelman/Artists: Steve Leialoha and Al Gordon
I bought this comic at the time, but sold it years ago. But I rebought it recently because I’d always liked the back-up yarn about Rick Jones becoming “Captain Avenger”. It’s a dreaded “it was all a dream” story, though.
23. Captain America #221 (Marvel, 1982) *
Writer: David Kraft/Artists: Alan Kupperberg, John Beatty and friends
A bizarre wrestling tale – part kayfabe, part real. Really one of Kraft’s poorer efforts, although the wrestling yarn is fun, considering it takes place before the rock’n’wrestling boom, which came three years later.
24.-27. Captain America: Forever Allies #1-4 (Marvel, 2010-11) ***¼
Writer: Roger Stern/Artists: Nick Dragotta, Marco Santucci and Patrick Piazzaguta (interior); Lee Weeks (cover)
28.-30. Captain America: The 1940s Newspaper Strip #1-3 (Marvel, 2010) ***½
Writer: Karl Kesel/Artists: Karl Kesel (interior); Butch Guice (cover)
31. What If...Captain America Were Revived Today? #44 (Marvel, 1984) ***
Writer: Peter Gillis/Artists: Sal Buscema and Dave Simons; Bill Sienkiewicz (cover)
32. Captain America Book and Record Set (Power Records, 1974) *
- originally published in Captain America #168 (Marvel, 1973)
Writer: Tony Isabella/Artists: Sal Buscema, John Tartaglione and George Roussos (interior);Sal Buscema and John Verpoorten (cover)
33.-34. Captain America #27-28 (Marvel, 2004) ***½
Writer: Robert Morales/Artists: Eddie Campbell and Stewart McKenny (interior); Dave Johnson (cover)


35.-53. The Invincible Iron Man Vol. 1 (Marvel, 2010) *****
- originally published in The Invincible Iron Man #1-19 (Marvel, 2008-09)
Writer: Matt Fraction/Artist: Salvador Larroca
Fucking awesome mature (as in MATURE) superhero action. First, Tony Stark faces his worst fears when terrorists use Iron Man technology to create bloody mayhem around the world. Seems an old enemy’s son has decided to target Stark. Then, following the Skrull invasion, Stark and SHIELD are out, Norman Osborne and HAMMER are in. Tony decides to stop Osborne from accessing top-secret documents by storing them in his brain, then slowly deleting the info using Iron Man tech. Only problem is, the process is making him dumber and deader by the minute. How can Stark – using increasingly older and more outdated Iron Man armour – defend himself against the likes of the Sub-Mariner, Madame Masque, Crimson Dynamo and Osborne himself in the guise of the Iron Patriot?
This is amazingly well-written, beautifully illustrated comics. Sophisticated superheroes? Who woulda thunk it?
54.-67. The Invincible Iron Man Vol. 2 (Marvel, 2012) *****
- originally published in The Invincible Iron Man #20-33 (Marvel, 2009-11)
Writer: Matt Fraction/Artists: Salvador Larroca; Jamie McKelvie
68.-72. Hulk Smash The Avengers #1-5 (Marvel, 2012) ***½
Writers/Artists: various; Lee Weeks (cover artist)
Naturally, if we talk about Shellhead and Cap, then we have to talk about The Avengers. So I read this weekly miniseries and will continue with a big Avengers catch-up next month. The Civil War continues...

VALE DARWYN COOKE
Seemed like an appropriate time to read (and re-read) some glorious comics put out by one of the great storytellers of this generation.

73.-84. Graphic Ink: The DC Comics Art Of Darwyn Cooke (DC, 2015) *****
- originally published in a bunch of comics (DC, 1985-2015)
Read my blog review HERE.
85. Marvel Double-Shot #3 (Marvel, 2003) ***
(Fantastic Four) Writer: Jai Nitz/Artist: Gurihiru
(Ant-Man) Writer: Sean McKeever/Artist: Darwyn Cooke
86.-88. Batman: Ego And Other Tails (DC, 2007) *****
- originally published in Batman: Ego, Selina’s Big Score and other titles (DC, 2000-05)
3 comics
89.-92. The Twilight Children (Vertigo, 2016) *****
- originally published in The Twilight Children #1-4 (Vertigo, 2015-16)
Writer: Gilbert Hernandez/Artist: Darwyn Cooke
Darwyn’s final project and it’s a fitting tribute to his genius. Gilbert’s magic realism doesn’t always grab me in Love And Rockets, but here married to Darwyn’s extraordinary art helps take it to another level. Love, lust, betrayal, aliens, CIA agents and weird glowing orbs make this book a must-read.
93.-97. Catwoman: The Dark End Of The Street (DC, 2002) *****
- originally published in Detective Comics #759-762, Catwoman #1-4 (DC, 2001-02)
Writer: Ed Brubaker/Artists: Darwyn Cooke, Mike Allred and Cameron Stewart

MY FREE COMIC BOOK DAY 2016 HAUL
98. Mooncop: A Tom Gauld Sampler (Drawn 7 Quarterly, 2016) ****
Writer/Artist: Tom Gauld
99. Indie Comic Previews (Boy In A Box Productions, 2016) *
Writers/Artists: various
100. Civil War II/Avengers (Marvel, 2016) ***¼
Writers/Artists: various
101. Serenity/Hellboy/Aliens (Dark Horse, 2016) ***½
Writers: various/Artists: Richard Corben and friends
102. The Phantom (Hermes Press, 2016) *
Writer: unknown/Artist: Jim Aparo
Reprints of dull Charlton tales from 1970. Disappointing and Aparo’s art is pretty primitive.
A curiosity and nothing  more.
103. March (Top Shelf, 2016) ****
Writers: John Lewis and Andrew Aydin/Artist: Nate Powell
A helluva interesting historic tale about Senator John Lewis and his experiences during the Civil Rights Era of the 1950s and 60s.
104. Attack On Titan Anthology (Kodansha Comics, 2016) ****¼
Writers/Artists: various
I NEED this anthology!
105.-111. Oni Press Starter Pack (Oni Press, 2016) ****
- originally published in The Sixth Gun #1, Letter 44 #1, The Bunker #1, Stumptown #1, Helheim #1, Kaijumax #1, The Life After #1 (Oni Press, 2009-14)
A handy tasting tray of seven classic Oni Press titles. I’ve read two – The Sixth Gun (great) and Kaijumax (offensive) – but I’d not read the other five series. So five comics for $5 was great value. I was impressed by all of them, except maybe The Life After. I’ll have to check them out.
112. Camp Midnight (Image, 2016) ****
Writer: Steven T. Seagle/Artist: Jason Adam Katzenstein
113. Bazza The Bogan Barbarian: Sydney Zombie Apocalypse (Silver Fox, 2016) ***
Creators: Sorab Del Rio and Don Ticchio
114. Suicide Squad #1 (DC, 2016) ***¾
- originally published as Suicide Squad #1 (DC, 2011)
Writer: Adam Glass/Artists: Federico Dallocchio, Ransom Getty and Scott Hanna (interior); Ryan Benjamin  (cover)
115. Steve Rogers: Captain America (Marvel, 2016) ***½
(Captain America) Writer: Nick Spencer/Artist: Jesus Saiz
(The Amazing Spider-Man) Writer: Dan Slott/Artist: Javier Garron


NINE COMICS FOR $27
116. Harley’s Little Black Book #1 (DC, 2016) ****
Writers: Jimmy Palmiotti and Amanda Conner/Artists: Amanda Conner, John Timms and Dave Johnson
117. All-New Hawkeye #1 (DC, 2016) ***¾
Writer: Jeff Lemire/Artist: Ramon Perez
118. The Sandman Overture #1 (DC, 2013) ****½
Writer: Neil Gaiman/Artist: JH Williams III
119. Secret Origins Featuring Phantom Girl #42 (DC, 1989) **¾
Writers/artists: various
120.-123. The Supernaturals #1-4 (Marvel, 1998) *
Writer: Brian Pulido and Mark Andreyko/Artists: Ivan Reis and Joe Pimentel (interior); Jim Balent (cover)
This Elseworlds-style miniseries kicks off with the “Chaos! Event” (Whoa ! Subtle plug there, Pulido!), which causes all non-supernatural superheroes to vanish. Fast forward 13 years later to Halloween. A second “Chaos! Event” is about to take place that will destroy the planet, so it’s up to Brother Voodoo to bring together a team of misfits: The Black Cat, Ghost Rider, Satana, Gargoyle and Werewolf By Night. Together they must battle Jack O’Lantern and various other evil critters including Frankenstein’s Monster, Dracula, Living Mummy, Fin Fang Foom, etc.
Whoa, this slice o’ late 90s cheese was too good (or is that “too bad”) to pass up. This weird weekly series sums up everything that stank comics during this period (particularly Chaos! Comics during this era). First up we have Brian Pulido as a writer. The guy just plain sucks. Ivan Reis – who has gone on to become a very good artist – draws in that horrible, cartoony style that Chaos! revelled in. All weird angles and odd panel construction that made little sense.
Finally, the covers are by Jim Balent! Sadly, they’re surprisingly cheesecake-free, which means they just simply suck.
I mainly picked up this series to get the free Halloween masks that came with each issue, including “the rare Ghost Rider mask”...which I scored in the first issue. Hardly rare, then.
124. Legion: Secret Files #1 (DC, 1998) ***½
Writers: Tom Peyer, Tom McCraw/Artists: various   

OTHER STUFF
125. Buried Treasure (self-published, 2016) ***
Writer/artist: Sarah Catherine Firth (www.sarahthefirth.com)
It’s a cute yarn – it’s meant to be profound, but falls a bit short.
126. Weird Worlds Vol. 1 No. 1 (Eerie Publications, 1970) *
Writers: unknown/Artist: Dick Ayers (maybe others)
Downloaded off the net. This is godawful sci-fi schlock, even by Dick Ayers’ low standards.
127.-129. And Then Emily Was Gone #3-5 (Comix Tribe, 2014) ****½
Writer: John Lees/Artist: Iain Laurie

130.-134. Atomic Robo: The Dogs Of War (Red 5, 2009) ***½
- originally published in Atomic Robo: The Dogs Of War #1-5 (Red 5, 2008-09)
Writer: Brian Clevinger/Artist: Scott Wegener
135. Patience by Daniel Clowes (Jonathan Cape, 2016) ****¼
136.-141. SuperGirl: Cosmic Adventures In the 8th Grade (DC, 2016) ***
- originally published in SuperGirl: Cosmic Adventures In the 8th Grade #1-6 (DC, 2009)
Writer: Landrey Q. Walker/Artist: Eric Jones
I bought this TPB for my kids and my five-year-old son Dash liked it so much that he asked me and his mum to read it. I found it a bit too try-hard as it tried to shoehorn a bunch of Supergirl and Superman mythology into a storyline that would also appeal to tweens (and younger kids like my son). It just missed the mark, then again, I’m not the target audience.
142. Powers #6 (Icon, 2016) ***½
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis/Artist: Mike Avon Oeming
143.-145. Race For The Moon (Canton Street Press, 2015) ****
- originally published as Race For The Moon #1-3 (Harvey, 1958)
Writers: unknown/Artists: Jack Kirby, Joe Simon, Bob Powell, Al Williamson and friends
Some classic Cold War Era sci-fi action with tons of amazing Kirby art. A rare gem. Shame about the cheap production, though – including misspelling Bob Powell’s name on the cover.
146. The Wizard King: Odkin, Son Of Odkin (Vanguard Productions, 2007) ***½
- originally self-published in 1981, parts reprinted in 1984 (Warren, mid-80s) and World Of Wood (Eclipse, mid-80s)

Writer: Wally Wood/Artists: Wally Wood with help from Peter Hsu, Jack Robinson and Randy Elliott