Sunday, July 23, 2017

365 Days of Defiance, Day 196: No, Mister Bond, I expect you to defy

Panels from Licence to Kill graphic novel (Eclipse, June 1989); script by Richard Ashford; breakdowns by Mike Grell; finishes by Chuck Austen, Tom Yeates, and Stan Woch; colors by Sam Parsons, Sally Parsons, Mel Johnson, and Reuben Rude; letters by Wayne Truman

365 Days of Defiance, Day 195: No one you can save that can't be saved

Panels from Yellow Submarine one-shot (Dell, February 1969), script by Paul Newman, pencils and inks by Jose Delbo

365 Days of Defiance, Day 194: What's left in your arms when the static clears?

Tomorrow Woman! She's the woman of! As featured in a comic book of yesterday.

Panels from JLA #5 (May 1997), script by Grant Morrison, pencils by Howard Porter, inks by John Dell, colors by Pat Garrahy, color separations by Heroic Age, letters by Ken Lopez

She's the first new recruit to the all-new, all-iconic Justice League, which only goes to prove: you didn't have to be on Super Friends to join the JLA. What her teammates don't know and we, the omniscient, all-powerful, and devilishly handsome audience know, is that Tomorrow Woman is a robot. An evil robot created and programmed by T. O. Morrow and Professor Ivo, charter members of the League of Evil Scientists Whose Names End in the Syllable "Oh"! She's been designed to betray and destroy the JLA from within their creamy, nougaty center.

But — you guessed it — Tomorrow Woman the robot is more human than some humans, partly because she's been programmed to evolve by proud father T.O. Morrow, but also because she's been hanging around with Superman and Wonder Woman and Green Lantern and all those other good guys and with all that goodness and heroism, it just plain rubs off on her. Meanwhile, on the island of Doctor Morrow, he's kind of proud of his surrogate daughter.

The moment of truth: a tense mission where, as it does in all issues of Grant Morrison's JLA, the fate of the earth rests upon the actions of the Justice League. So this would be a dandy time for her to do the big splodey-thing and kill off the JLA, the greatest heroes of this world! And Wally West.

Of course, as happens in stories like this, Tomorrow Woman sacrifices herself to save humanity (and Wally), and despite the failure to destroy the JLA, T.O. Morrow is actually kind of happy to see her evolve. Happier=, certainly, than when Batman bursts into their HQ and beats him and Ivo to a pulp, but allow the poor guy a moment of triumph as we shed a non-snythitic tear for Tomorrow Woman, the greatest Justice Leaguer we never remember.

NEVER FORGET TOMORROW WOMAN. Also, never forget, so that we might never repeat, Electric Blue Superman.

Thus finishes the finest JLA robot-becomes-human story, made even finer by the fact it doesn't contain Red Tornado.

365 Days of Defiance, Day 193: And now the shock surprise ending of Secret Empire

Panels from The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl (March 2015 series) #5 (July 2015), squript by Ryan North, pencils and inks by Erica Henderson, colors by Rico Renzi and Erica Henderson, letters by Clayton Cowles

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

365 Days of Defiance, Day 192: Hey OMAC, who's your favorite '80s singing duo?

Panels from OMAC (1974 series) #3 (January-February 1975), script and pencils by Jack Kirby, inks and letters by D. Bruce Berry, colors by Jerry Serpe

Monday, July 10, 2017

365 Days of Defiance, Day 191: Wonder Woman jumps kicks the shark

Panels from Wonder Woman (1942 series) #156 (August 1965), script by Robert Kanigher, pencils by Ross Andru, inks by Mike Esposito, letters by Gaspar Saladino

Sunday, July 09, 2017

365 Days of Defiance, Day 190: Doctors are strange when you're a stranger

Doctor Strange #3 (1974) boldly features (and apologizes for) a case of the Dreaded Deadline Doom, where, a handful of issues into the (bi-monthly) series, artist (and co-plotter) Frank Brunner couldn't get in the art on time. Today, they'd just postpone the issue another month or two and make us wait for it. Not in those days! The standard modus operandering of 1970s Marvel was to print a fill-in inventory story if the schedule was interrupted in any way — or, frequently, a reprint of an older issue. In those days, at least, if you couldn't hunt down back issues, the only chance you had to see the original stories was reading a reprint, but that's got to be a disappointment when you pick up a new issue.

Still, you can't say that Marvel didn't give us good reprints. (Go ahead: it's actually physically impossible to say that, right?) Most of the issue is a reprint of Doc's big-ass battle with Dormammu (yo mammu!) with classic Ditko art, and that story contains this vitally important debut of Doc's paramour Clea and a definite Declaration of Defiance!

Panel from Doctor Strange (1974 series) #3 (September 1974), reprinted from "Duel with the Dread Dormammu!" in Strange Tales (1951 series) #127 (December 1964); plot, pencils, and inks by Steve Ditko; dialogue by Stan Lee, colors by Stan Goldberg, letters by Sam Rosen

...and it's got a page and a half wrap-around bookend by Brunner which ends with this bold bravado:

Panels from "Amidst the Madness" in Doctor Strange (1974 series) #3 (September 1974), script by Steve Englehart, pencils by Frank Brunner, inks by Alan Weiss, colors by Jan Brunner, letters by Tom Orzechowski

After that it's even pretty easy to forgive Frank Brunenr for missing #3's deadline, because here's the sort of art he created for issue #4:

Page from "Amidst the Madness" in Doctor Strange (1974 series) #4 (October 1974), co-plot and script by Steve Englehart, co-plot and pencils by Frank Brunner, inks by Dick Giordano and Bob Wiacek, colors by Linda Lessman, letters by Tom Orzechowski


Here's the bad news: obviously Brunner couldn't keep up with the schedule, because issue #5 is his last. He's replaced by Gene Colan, and '70s Colan is about as appropriate for Doc Strange as cookies are for your little stuffed truly.

Letter page segment from Doctor Strange (1974 series) #5 (December 1974)

Sadly, I don't think the Englehart/Brunner Fu Manchu project ever materialized, but Frank continued to do artwork for Marvel on Howard the Duck, Conan, and others, and co-created the classic First Comics series Warp. I've always felt we never got enough of Brunner's stunning art, but his work on Doctor Strange for Marvel Premiere #11-14 and Doctor Strange #1-5 are stone cold classic. Here's to you, Frank!

Saturday, July 08, 2017

365 Days of Defiance, Day 189: It's hard to bury the hatchet holdin' a chainsaw

Panels from Fight Like a Girl #1 (Action Lab, November 2014); script by David Pinckney; pencils, inks, and colors by Soo Lee; letters by Adam Wollet

Friday, July 07, 2017

365 Days of Defiance, Day 188: Batman gets knocked down, but he gets up again

Panels from Batman (2016 Rebirth series) #20 (early June 2017), script by Tom King, pencils by David Finch inks by Danny Mik and Trevor Scott, colors by Jordie Bellaire, letters by Deron Bennett

Thursday, July 06, 2017

365 Days of Defiance, Day 187: Heavens to Murgatroyd

Panels from "House Fires" in Suicide Squad/Banana Splits Special one-shot (May 2017), script by Mark Russell, pencils and inks by Howard Porter, colors by Steve Buccellato, letters by Dave Sharpe

Wednesday, July 05, 2017

365 Days of Defiance, Day 186: Time for Defiance

Panels from Back to the Future: Biff to the Future #4 (April 2017), story and script by Bob Gale and Derek Fridolfs, pencils by Alan Robinson, inks by Alan Robinson and Jaime Castro, colors by Maria Santaolalla, letters by Shawn Lee

Tuesday, July 04, 2017

365 Days of Defiance, Day 185: Mr. Batman Goes to Washington

Panels from "Batman Goes to Washington" in Batman (1940 series) #28 (April-May 1945), script by Alvin Schwartz, pencils and inks by Jerry Robinson, letters by Ira Schnapp

No one would definitely call Batman a patriotic character (aside from that one time where he dressed up as Star-Spangled Batman), but during World War II it was pretty much required for you to not only be patriotic but to turn in your old comics for scrap paper to...uh...I dunno, build tanks out of. I'm sure Bruce Wayne converted many of his ball-point pen and rubber glove factories to making big-ass guns for the Allies, and he likely spear-headed several local Gotham City events and rallies to buy bonds, but Batman himself (and, oh yeah, Robin) certainly had adventures that inspired a proud tear as you salute the ol' red stripes and White Stripes and all 48 good old American contiguous states. No foolin' though, Batman would salute as soon as Alaska joined the Union. Hawaii, though, as far as Batman was concerned — heck with it.

This is a story of defiance, not against the government ( — goodness no, National woukldn't dare in the '40s), and not even against the Axis powers, tho' there were plenty of cover images devoted to that, most infamously and wrongly Action Comics #58. No, this is about not only fighting criminal organizations rampant during the war (through use of a government crime database) as well as giving reformed ex-cons a chance to work in the wartime society. It was definitely a simpler time — let's face it, Batman's pride in the government crime database doesn't fit with his modern "don't trust nobody" ethos. But it's done with such a light touch it's forgivable, and give yourself the suspension of disbelief in a comic book world where the government is trying to help us all and bad guys can reform. Remember: once upon a time Gotham City was bright and cheerful and sunny and while clowns and quizzers freely roamed the streets, they were carefree pranksters who would have fun on top of giant appliances and really no more harm to anyone than one of those rubber-masked monsters those meddling kids chased down.

Bruce Wayne ponders the plight of reformed ex-cons who have gone straight but can't get jobs. Hmmm, too bad there aren't any main industries in Gotham for them to apply to. Instead, put on the old cape 'n' cowl and start a social media movement. Social media, in this case, meant that Batman asked to interrupt The Jack Benny Program to lecture on the radio for thirty minutes about his new employment idea. Gotham City warmed to the idea, but Don Wilson was furious.

Ex-cons reduced to doing nothing but sitting around, playing cards, and on average wearing one-third of a green suit like the idea, and Batman reads his fan mail after Alfred has already opened up all the envelopes and removed the snapshots that weren't appropriate for Robin to see.

Batman gets a letter inviting him to speak in front of the Senate, and WHOO HOO ROAD TRIP! This issue marks the first appearance of the Batmobile's famous Bat-Trailer, and NO I AM NOT KIDDING ABOUT THAT

Unfortunately, some real and unrepentant criminals want to pressure the Senate from voting for Batman's Jobs for Ex-Cons Bill. Rich private organizations trying to pressure and influence the government through shady means? Man, I'll believe in Superman, but this is a little crazy. Meanwhile, Batman gives the ex-cons a patriotic tour of Washington, prompting them to stand up straight and be as rock-steady as the Giant Ape sitting in the Lincoln Memorial WAIT A MINUTE GIANT APE?!? YOU BLEW IT UP! DARN YOU ALL TO HECK!

Time to visit FBI Headquarters and see how their patented 3 by 5 card system helps stamp out racketeers and fifth-columnists across the country! Crime cards! Collect 'em all!

Then they see the almost photographically detailed Capitol Building — eriously, nice job, Jerry Robinson! I'm sure if Bob Kane had done the Capitol it would have been red. Meanwhile...suspenseful caption strikes!

Batman and Robin are coshed by the bad crooks and that robot from Planet Express and spirited away to a warehouse, which only goes to prove: Golden Age Batman and Robin must have had some serious head injuries. Also: hash is settled.

And the good ex-cons hunt for and release Batman! To be fair, it was six days later, and they'd put 3,300 miles on the Batmobile joyriding around the Capitol area, but in the end they did the right thing.

And now, in the spirit of Batman Returns and Batman Forever...Batman Filibusters! Happy Fourth of July, everyone!

Monday, July 03, 2017

365 Days of Defiance, Day 184: Bob Dylan never knew it would be this easy

Last issue, we saw Peter Parker dramatically declare "BITE ME, WORLD!":

Panels from Amazing Spider-Man (1963 series) #70 (March 1969); plot and layouts by John Romita, Sr.; script by Stan Lee; finishes by Jim Mooney; letters by Sam Rosen

Well, we all know that sooner or later Peter will return to his senses and become the Humble Spider-Man, protector of everybody else and all-around, not-at-all self-centered good guy, but just how long with this startling plot twist last? twelve issues? Two issues?

How about until the next page?

And for those of you who tuned in because this feature is called "365 Days of Defiance," let's check in with the student protest subplot.

Huh. That...that was easy. Well, I guess it proves that tensions between the races and you ng and old can be solved if you just sit down and rap. First issue of the day, I think: Hey Robbie where'd ya get that green suit?!?

So all's well that ends well, except for Mr. Parkewr, as usual. Because he didn't take part in the student protest (because, let's face it, he already has a cool pad he shares with Harry Osborn and his Fantastic Fu-Manchu Mustache and Drug Addiction), Gwen Stacy, queen of our hearts, slams Pete for ducking out. Frankly, this relationship could stand a little more open communication, because Peter could open up, express his concerns, pay attention to the sensational Ms. Stacy instead of being lost in his own thoughts, possibly even trust her enough to open up and ask her why she's cosplaying Disney's Pocahontas.

Later, Spider-Man kills J. Jonah Jameson, so that's something.

Tomorrow! Something different, and definitely not Amazing Spider-Man #71.

Sunday, July 02, 2017

365 Days of Defiance, Day 183: I feel like slapping a henchman today (slap slap)

Yesterday we examined the beginning of Spider-Man's Crisis on Campus/Great Tablet Saga, and today (and in the next issue) the story continues, as it is wont to do. hey, why not let Spidey explain it all for you? He's good at that.

Panels from Amazing Spider-Man (1963 series) #69 (nice) (February 1969); plot and layouts by John Romita, Sr.; script by Stan Lee; finishes by Jim Mooney; letters by Sam Rosen

Meanwhile, over at the subplot, Kingpin continues to plot the theft of the mysterious tablet. Also: he is a wee bit touchy about one subject.

Whoa, a bit of a reflexive reaction there! Still, no harm done:

In the last issue, Randy Robertson and the student protestor have been arrested, and it's surely time for Matt Murdock, The Only Lawyer in New York™ tio make an appearance. Or maybe not! Complicating matters: the police and other authorities think the protest gang were responsible for the bombs thrown by the Kingpin. Dad Robbie Robertson takes some time from his busy schedule of recording at Big Pink to counsel his son.

And everyone's favorite go-go girlfriend of the 1960s argues with the protestors (now picketing the police stand where Randy and the others are being held). WHOA another jerk slap! That's two in one issue! And that's why Stan proudly declared Amazing Spider-Man "The World's Slappiest Comic Book!"

Spider-Man tracks down the famous MacGuffin Tablet...

...The Kingpin gets trapped and captured by the police...

...Kingpin implicates Spidey in the tablet theft...

...forcing Peter to vow that from now on, it's every Spider-Man for himself!

Tune in tomorrow, next Spider-time, same Spider-Channel (WASM-8, Passaic, NJ), to see the all-new, all-vicious, Menacing Spider-Man! he's savage and surly and he don't care who knows it, baby!