“It’s fan service above and
beyond the call of duty.”
Today on the program we discuss the absolute gloriousness that is the Marvel/DC crossover epic JLA Avengers written by Kurt Busiek, and art by the mighty George Pérez. It is a bonanza of comic book wonder, a masterclass by Pérez, and a pretty good story overall. You want easter eggs? This comic has you covered.
In addition, we talk about George Pérez and what he means to comics and to us.
“…a well-told, layered story with
complex ideas and themes about a
guy in a mini-skirt who fights robots.”
Today on the program we discuss the flagship title that launched Valiant Comics – Magnus Robot Fighter. This is the story of a man named Magnus …that fights robots …in a mini-skirt …which to be fair was the style at the time. Written by Jim Shooter with art by Art Nichols this is a surprisingly complex comic that deals with politics, and poverty, and even touches on gender identity, and all this coming from Jim Shooter who was not known for being – sensitive – in those areas.
In addition, we talk about the complicated legacy of Jim Shooter. A giant in the industry for sure, but also a controversial one as well.
Go to any or all of those places and leave a comment and let us know your thoughts.
And as always thanks for listening everyone!
Keep reading comics. Be well. Cheers.
In 1954, at the height of McCarthyism, the comic book industry was under scrutiny for being a corrupter of youth and an inciter of crime. And according to the book Seduction of the Innocent by Fredric Werthram all of the issues of teenage delinquency could be traced back directly to the reading of comics. Senate hearings were held, angry parental protests were arranged, boycotts initiated, and it seemed as if the comic book industry would be federally regulated to stop all the bad influence being disseminated to the youth of America.
In response, the Comics Code Authority was formed to self-regulate and impose a draconian set of rules to stop all the bad influence being disseminated to the youth of America. Restrictions on the depiction of violence and sexuality, and a whole slew of other subjects were imposed, and as a result comics from the late 1950s and on through the 1960s were a lot tamer and kid-friendly. In short, many were just lame.
This had a huge impact on horror comics which was a thriving sub-genre at the time. With the Comics Code restrictions, horror comics simply could not produce the kind of art and stories that are required to tell a horror story. Many companies that were primarily publishing horror comics went out of business or were absorbed into larger companies and a Golden Age of horror stories was lost for over a decade.
Then in the early 1970s, the code restrictions were lifted…slightly. This was in large part due to the changing social atmosphere at the time and an older reader demographic. And so the code was revised to allow more depictions of criminal behavior, sex, and in the case of horror in particular, “vampires, ghouls, and werewolves…when handled in the classic tradition such as Frankenstein, Dracula, and other high caliber literary works written by Edgar Allan Poe, Saki, Conan Doyle and other respected authors whose works are read in schools around the world”. And so an abundance of Draculas, Werewolves, Mummies, and Frankensteins were unleashed upon the comic book world.
Marvel Comics went all-in on this trend releasing multiple titles such as Tomb of Dracula, Werewolf by Night, The Living Mummy, and (to get to the subject of this essay) The Monster of Frankenstein.
The Monster of Frankenstein is an odd duck of a comic. It never seemed to know what it wanted to do with its premise. Whereas other titles came out of the gate (for good or ill) knowing exactly what it wanted to do – Tomb of Dracula for instance had the titular vampire revived in present-day coming to terms with the modern era with a team of vampire hunters close on his heels – The Monster of Frankenstein, by contrast, consisted of several fits and starts.
The series starts with a retelling of the Mary Shelly original novel with some embellishments added here for there and then continued his story into the 1890s. This run written by Gary Friedrich was a bit dry and wordy if I’m honest, but held together with the wonderful art of Mike Ploog. Ploog drew the monster more like a human corpse, wanting to shy away from the Karloff version of the 1930s (still, he gave him the awesome furry vest from Son of Frankenstein something he would keep throughout this incarnation’s run). That being said his backgrounds and landscapes do invoke the German impressionistic feel of the Universal films while at the same time crossing it with the gothic style of the novel. Ploog elevates what could have been an average comic to something more dynamic and exciting; adding grand visuals to run-of-the-mill storytelling. If you get nothing else from this article, know this: Mike Ploog is great and everything is better when he is involved.
After Ploog left he was replaced by John Buscema (no slouch himself) and Marvel being Marvel it was decided to put the Monster on ice (literally) and revive him in the modern era with Doug Moench taking over as writer and Val Mayerik penciling. At this point the series title was changed to The Frankenstein Monster and saw the creature battling street punks, fighting mutated science experiments, and teaming up with counter-culture buddies to combat spy rings and criminal organizations. At one point the monster attempts to teach a robot what living really is when they are attacked by angry goblins. In other words, it was a 70s Marvel comic.
Now don’t get me wrong, I love this stuff. Marvel comics in the 1970s are a mish-mash of over-the-top wacky premises combined with sincere attempts at social commentary, and it yields wonderfully bizarre and entertaining results. The Monster of Frankenstein/The Frankenstein Monster is a fine example of that. But its various tonal shifts and changes in direction seem cobbled together from spare parts, much like the monster himself. And had the series been given one overarching direction perhaps it would have had a longer life.
As it is Frankenstein was canceled after 18 issues and other than a handful of appearances in crossover comics the monster would be put down for over a decade only to be revived in the 1990s and 2000s for more cameos and one-offs.
In the end, The Monster of Frankenstein is an anomaly. A time capsule of sorts showcasing a new creative freedom for an industry stagnated under repressive restrictions. And while it wasn’t a literary classic like its source material, it was a hell of a lot of fun for what it was…the return of the monster comic.
“In 1985, with the publication
of Beauty and the Beast,
history officially died. ”
Today on the program we wade into the infamous end of the pool. Beauty and the Beast by Ann Nocenti and “art” by Don Perlin. It tells the story of the love affair between Hank Mccoy’s Beast and – the disco-inspired mutant Dazzler. Is it good? Well, no. But does it have redeeming qualities? Maybe. It does have excellent covers by Bill Sienkiewicz, so that’s something.
Also, we briefly discuss the failed 70s/80s disco extravaganza Dazzler the Movie that would have been – if it had been actually made – simultaneously the worst and greatest movie in history.
“…in Black Monday Murders
Hickman actually out
Today on the program we discuss The Black Monday Murders by Johnathan Hickman and Tom Coker – which should be a breeze. It’s…complicated. We have an interesting time trying to explain what is actually happening. Because the Black Monday Murders can be a bit daunting for first-time readers of Hickman’s work. And the sheer wealth of information being presented to you can be overwhelming. But the story being told is rich, its world-building extensive, and with a little patience and persistence, it will reap rewards in the long term. And it does bring up some interesting topics for discussion as well.
Also, we talk about Image employees unionizing. Hooray!
“A hero’s journey writ small…
with cosmic implications. ”
Today on the program we discuss the classic run on Starman written by James Robinson and art by Tony Harris. This is a beloved run on the character (and deservedly so) with lots of phallic imagery. Also, Paul and Brian have differing ideas on the true nature of Jack Knight – is he a jerk or just misunderstood? Disagreements abound!
This also serves as our 2021 end-of-year episode where we give our picks for our top 5 best comics of the year.
A personal note from Paul: Thank you to everyone who has continued to be supportive and patient in what turned out to be a very haphazard and difficult year for me personally. And here’s to a new year of what I hope will be just plain normality. Happy New Year and I hope you enjoy this episode and stick with us for some exciting things being planned for 2022.
“There are heavy ideas going on in this comic, but
also this is a noir detective comic. and that’s pretty cool. ”
This time we talk about the grand epic, neo-noir detective comic about hybrid animal-human people, Elephanmen: Wounded Animals written by Richard Starkings and drawn beautifully by Moritat. Set in a world post-pandemic (yikes) this story deals with some pretty deep and disturbing issues while telling compelling, if somewhat fragmented, tales of a bizarre yet somehow relatable future.
In addition, we talk about the “new” series Sweet Tooth and Loki.
“…immerses the reader in nostalgia.
A nostalgia for something that never happened.
Or did it?”
The year 2000 mini-series that introduced the very first and most important hero in the Marvel universe that you never heard of, or maybe did hear of but can’t remember. That’s right, it’s The Sentry. The dark tale of false memory, and forgotten heroes. Written by Paul Jenkins with art by Jae Lee, this series had an innovative and now infamous marketing campaign that both impressed and angered readers. does it still hood up? Find out!
In addition, we talk about the upcoming Sandman series for Netflix and, Paul changes his opinion on a previous comic.
Journey back with us to the far-away time of the 1980swhere a new imprint – Epic – was being launched with the flagship title: Dreadstar! Written and drawn by the legendary Jim Starlin this tells the tale of Vance Dreadstar and his merry band of rogues. The battle despots, space armies, Darth Vader analogs, and “two-ton” aliens on the way freeing the galaxy from an oppressive religion by…creating a new religion? Sure, why not.
In addition, we talk about old SciFi movies and TV shows from the early 80s – some are actually good!
“It is harmless fun that seems as if the creators were having fun creating it. And sometimes that’s all that matters. ”
Today on the program we will be discussing the absolutely bonkers series from Marvel back in the late 70s Godzilla: King of the Monsters written by Doug Moench with art (for the most part) by Herb Trimpe. How bonkers? Well, Godzilla fights monsters, sure that’s a given, but he also tangles with cattle rustlers, a New York sewer rat, and goes to space. Seriously, Godzilla goes to space. The 1970s were weird.
In addition, we ramble on far too long about old adverts in comics. So if you like to hear two old guys talk about things “back in my day” you’re in luck!
“…a profoundly severe case of daddy issues comes
roaring to the forefront with tragic consequences.”
Today on the program we will be discussing Invincible – the inspirational story of a plucky bartender that gets to live his dream of playing football for the Philadelphia Eagles.
Oh wait, that’s not right. We will of course be talking about the comic book Invincible written by Robert Kirkman and artists Cory Walker and Ryan Ottley.
But before that – as is typical for this show – we will discuss a subject we know little to nothing about. In this case, it’s non-fungible tokens and cryptocurrency. But that dovetails nicely into a discussion about who owns the art that creators make and who gets paid. Spoiler: we don’t solve this issue.
“…a tight storyline of espionage, politics,
corporate dealings, and betrayal all shrouded in mystery.”
Today on the program Captain America: Winter Soldier the epic story written by Ed Brubaker and drawn by Steve Epting.
The story arc consists of a complicated plot led by a Russian oligarch, armed with a mystical cosmic weapon, and aided by a mysterious assassin – who might possibly be Captain America’s dearest friend. Spoilers: it is.
Brubaker’s epic run on Captain America redefined the character for the 21st Century. And the Winter Soldier arc in particular set the stage for a new direction for Steve Rogers, a path that he is still on, while at the same time introducing an old character that laid the groundwork for how old concepts can be revived and made new again.
Also, Brian tries to convince Paul why he should be watching Superman & Lois on the CW.
“…part soap opera, part cosmic adventure,
part horror story, and part existential crisis.”
Today on the program we discuss Black Hammer: Secret Origins the introductory collection of the ongoing series from Dark Horse that is some of the best comics being produced today. Beautifully written by Jeff Lemire and drawn magnificently by Dean Ormston this is a loving homage to Golden Age comics and a deconstruction of the superhero story while at the same time being a damned entertaining comic book.
And unfortunately, we discuss the Joss Whedon debacle. Man, what a disappointment. Note: that is an understatement. Warning: we use bad language when discussing this.
On a better note, we also talk about WandaVision which is a good thing that makes us happy.
Go to any or all of those places and leave a comment and let us know your thoughts.
And as always thanks for listening everyone!
Keep reading comics. Be well. Cheers.
Let’s get this out of the way right at the top…Man-Bat is ridiculous. Don’t get me wrong, I love it. The basic idea was to take the name Bat-Man, a man who dresses like a bat and reverse it to Man-Bat, a bat who dresses like a man. That is – as I said – ridiculous. But Man-Bat is one of those Silver/Bronze Age concepts that are so in your face silly it goes full circle and over time has become borderline sublime.
In the hands of good writers and realized on the page with a unique (and at times horrifying) design, Man-Bat has become one of the caped crusader’s more interesting villains. He’s been given a detailed back story, familial and romantic relationships, as well as a mentor-ish relationship with Batman, and has generally become a well-rounded and sympathetic character. Albeit one that looks like a bat wearing pants.
In the new 5-issue min-series from writer Dave Wielgosz and artist Sumit Kumar, we find Kirk Langstrom (Man-Bat’s alter ego) hitting rock bottom. His wife finds that he’s been secretly using the serum that turns him into Man-Bat and after confronting him about it, she leaves. This sets Kirk off on a mission of redemption, he will attempt to be a hero and show her what kind of a man he is. This goes horribly wrong.
Batman intervenes, attempting to reason with Kirk telling him that the serum is making him more and more feral with every use and that at some point he won’t be able to change back, he’d be too far gone to be saved.
Kirk cannot be reasoned with, however, and so is taken into custody (for his own good) but dramatically escapes in a closing cliffhanger.
As a first issue Man-Bat #1 admirably gets right to the point. There is no extended setup and introduction, rather it quickly explains the premise and goes straight for the action. And the action is pretty dramatic as only a leathery winged rodent-human hybrid in torn jeans can provide.
The obvious takeaway here is the metaphor of drug abuse and addiction. Langstrom’s use of the serum and the way it affects him are blatant in its symbolism but never going too far, walking the fine line that keeps the theme poignant without becoming a parody.
And there are some nice details with Batman serving as a kind of sponsor and initiating a sort of intervention. As well as Francine (Langstrom’s wife) telling him as she leaves that she’s been moving her things out for weeks without him even noticing, showing just how far gone Langstrom is by the time the series starts.
And while I won’t go so far as to say this is groundbreaking in any way, the story is told well and the art is engaging that it goes beyond its inherently silly premise and tells a story that has the potential to be a compelling tale of personal trauma and weakness. It remains to be seen if this will turn out to be a redemption story or a tragedy.
That alone is enough for me to come back for issue 2.
written by DAVE WIELGOSZ
art by SUMIT KUMAR
cover by KYLE HOTZ
variant cover by KEVIN NOWLAN
The Vision and Wanda Maximov (the Scarlet Witch) are two of the most intriguing characters in the Marvel Universe. They are fan favorites – they have unique designs and compelling personalities, rich inner lives, and dynamic power-sets. And their presence always brought something different and interesting to the stories they were involved in.
However, they are also two of the hardest characters to pin down as far as what their powers are exactly and how they heck did they come into being in the first place. Both characters possess fluid backstories that both compliment and contradict each other at the same time. To complicate matters further, someone decided they should be put together romantically. Now, this was either one of the most creative decisions in comic book history or a bat-shit insane idea that only caused massive problems and continuity errors for years and years to come.
Well, In 1985 the 12-issue limited series “The Vision and The Scarlet Witch” attempted to reconcile all the disparate backstories and origins while at the same time pushing their romantic relationship to a new level. Notice I say “attempted”.
Written by Steve Englehart with art by Richard Howell the series sees the titular characters resign from the Avengers to settle down and have a normal domestic life in New Jersey. Well, as normal as a synthoid man and a mutant witch can hope to achieve that is.
Because not long after starting their new life together the couple are beset on all sides by such threats as diverse as a wielder of hate, a voodoo master, zombies, an evil cabal of renegade witches, and – probably most horrible of all – Thanksgiving with the family!
From the suburbs of New Jersey to the habitable region of the Moon – Vision and The Scarlet Witch must deal with supervillains, magic, insufferable siblings, a mutant incel, nosey neighbors, and adultery.
And along the way, Wanda finds she has somehow become pregnant; a situation that will in no way cause any problems or have any ramifications in the future.
This series is essentially a soap opera, with all the stereotypical plotlines and situations you’d expect from a soap opera, albeit with supernatural and fantastic elements overlaid upon it. It is an 80s comic written with 70s sensibilities – that is to say, it can be problematic at times – but if you’re willing to put that aspect aside “The Vision and The Scarlet Witch” is a fun romp that borders on the ridiculous but also had surprising consequences for the Marvel universe still being felt today.
“…a fun romp that borders on the ridiculous but also had surprising consequences for the Marvel universe still being felt today”
Today on the program we discuss the 1985 12-issue mini-series The Vision and the Scarlet Witch. Written by Steve Englehart with art by Richard Howell the series sees the titular characters resign from the Avengers to settle down and have a normal domestic life in New Jersey. Well, as normal as a synthoid man and a mutant witch can hope to achieve that is. This is the one where Wanda becomes pregnant…somehow. Magic we assume. This is a situation that will in no way cause any problems or have any ramifications on the Marvel universe in the future. Anyway, this is a very 80s comic with 80s sensibilities, so we have fun with that.
Also, we talk about the first two episodes of the WandaVision series on DisneyPlus. Spoilers: we think it’s pretty good.
“He opens up a brand new world of possibility,
juxtaposing his own creations within a larger context…”
Today on the program we discuss the 1989/1990 four-issue mini-series, The Books of Magic by Neil Gaiman with art by John Bolton, Scott Hampton, Charles Vess, and Paul Johnson. This is a project that started as simply a travelogue of magical characters throughout the DC universe, nothing more, nothing less. But Neil Gaiman took that assignment and, in typical Gaiman style, put his own spin on things transforming what was essentially a way to keep IPs from going out of copyright into a little mini-masterpiece.
He introduces Timothy Hunter, a tweleve-year-old boy that in no way resembles Harry Potter, as he takes a Dantesque journey through the past, the present, the other, and the future to explore the magical world and find his place within it. With all his usual flair and poetic storytelling, aided by the unique and beautiful art styles of his collaborators, Gaiman weaves a wonderous and frightening tale that rises far, far above the assignment given to him.
We have a lot to say about this one.
No opening discussion this time because the main topic runs long. But this will be released as a bonus episode at a later date.
Alien is a 1979 sci-fi horror film directed by Ridley Scott. It is – on the surface – a basic, by-the-numbers, base under siege, monster movie – with one major exception – the HR Giger designed double-mouthed, psychosexual, phallic nightmare that would eventually be called the Xenomorph.
The Xenomorph epitomized the idea of “alien.” It was unlike any monster depicted on screen before – slick and greasy, animalistic but intelligent, and just off-putting in a way that you couldn’t quite explain.
The Xenomorph immediately fascinated audiences – its look, the way it moved, even its reproductive cycle – these became the subject of speculation spawning sequel movies, novels, and of course comics.
These stories attempted to explain – not always consistently – the monster’s origins, its life cycle, and the way the creature was used to nefarious ends. And the Alien mythology evolved into a sprawling epic encompassing multiple worlds, multi-galactic corporations, and thousands of years. And yet in the midst of all this grand storytelling and universe-shaking events, small intimate stories could still be told…
Alien: Salvation is a 1993 graphic novel from Dark Horse written by Dave Gibbons with art by Mike Mignola.
It follows the story of Selkirk, a deeply devout crewmember on the cargo ship Nova Maru, as he narrates (unreliably) the aftermath of a Xenomorph infestation.
After crash landing on an unknown planet Selkirk and fellow survivors must make their way across an unforgiving landscape; to find a way to communicate a distress signal and call for rescue. All the while they are meticulously hunted by the vicious aliens. And along the way, there is madness, death, betrayal, even a little cannibalism.
Through it all Selkirk struggles to stay true to his fundamentalist convictions, to find meaning in the horror around him – and to rationalize his own failings as he himself commits acts of violence and betrayal. He attempts to excuse his actions to God while at the same time asks forgiveness – in doing so the narration is formed not simply as a recounting of events but as a kind of confession and at times almost as a form of prayer.
In the long, long history of the Alien franchise, Salvation is lauded as not only one of the great comics but as one of the great stories. One that is able to convey the innate horror of the Xenomorph and the political machinations behind the scenes, while at the same time telling a personal character, driven tale. An early entry in the Alien mythos, Alien: Salvation is still one of the best.
“The narration is formed not simply as a recounting of events but as a kind of confession and at times almost as a form of prayer.”
Today on the program we discuss the 1993 on-shot Aliens: Salvation by Dave Gibbons with art by Mike Mignola. In the long, long history of the Alien franchise, Salvation is lauded as not only one of the great comics but as one of the great stories. One that is able to convey the innate horror of the Xenomorph and the political machinations behind the scenes, while at the same time telling a personal character, driven tale. Horror and faith collide in this classic story with an ambiguous lead character and fantastic art. Also, Brian and Paul get a little deep trying to figure out what a grey area is.
In addition, we chat about DC’s Future State, what’s happening in Daredevil, and legacy characters in general. Do we ramble a bit? Of course we do.
“Hate stands as a very singular piece of independent work. That is both deeply personal and excessively caricatured. ”
Today on the program we discuss Hate.Peter Bagge’s early 90s independent comic featuring the trial and tribulations of Buddy Bradly. Please note: the themes and content of this comic are for mature audiences. While we are going to attempt to keep it clean there are subjects and situations that might not be suitable for all audiences. So fair warning to all – it might get rough.
This is an unflinching look at GenX life pre-grunge and starring people that you probably don’t want to know. Still, it is an important and influential comic that has the power to make you laugh and repel you at the same time. A fine line to walk for sure.
Also, talk about the second wave of firings at DC that has caused some to speculate on the direction of the company. And so, not to be left out, we speculate as well.