All-Star Squadron #1

first cover

A long time ago, when my brother and I were young our church had a Christmas fair. It was usually a good time; one of the parishioners dressed up as Santa Claus, there were gingerbread cookies, and games. Since there were games, there were prizes. One year, one of the prizes that my brother or I received was a comic book. Not just any comic book, but a early issue of All-Star Squadron.

I do not remember exactly which issue it was, but I do remember loving it. I know that my brother and I read it multiple times. The earliest comics I can remember reading are the Whitman Disney comics and Shogun Warriors. This was probably one of the earliest superhero comics that we ever read and it opened a whole new world to us. My brother reminds me that this was the first comic we collected. This was back before we had a local comic shop, we were still buying everything off the spinner racks or at the local stationary store.

All-Star Squadron has special place in the pantheon of comics that I love. This and Who’s Who in the DC Universe easily make the top ten of all time favorite comic series for me. All-Star Squadron was something my brother and I shared. We had a mutual love for the characters and the stories. We would take turns reading the issues. We both loved Dr. Fate, Amazing Man, Hawkman, Johnny Quick, and Liberty Belle and their adventures battling Per Degaton, Baron Blitzkrieg, and Tsunami. We got to meet the Seven Soldiers of Victory, the Freedom Fighters, and loads of other Golden age heroes.

Even after All-Star Squadron ended we continued to follow the characters as much as we could. My brother collected Infinity Inc, and there was also The Young All-Stars, JSA, Starman, JSA Classified, Stars and S.T.R.I.P.E, and even Earth-2 in the new 52 to name just a few. To this day I would pick the JSA / All-Star Squadron over the Justice League.

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(I don’t have a copy of Justice League of America 193 so here’s a cover from a great JSA comic I do have)

All-Star Squadron premiered as an insert story in Justice League of America #193, one of many DC previews done this way, see Captain Carrot and the Amazing Zoo Crew and the New Teen Titans. These previews were released in DC’s most popular books and were a great way to introduce new comics to their readers.

On the final page of the first issue of All-Star Squadron is an open letter from Roy Thomas to the readers in which he explains how the comic came to be. DC Comics was looking to get the JSA characters back into publication. Their previous comic, All-Star Comics was cancelled in 1979.

Thomas describes his love for these characters from when he was a kid reading their adventures. He goes on to say that he didn’t just want to revive the JSA in a new comic, he wanted to do more. The JSA were not the only superhero game in town during the golden age. They were not the only ones to fight Nazi’s during World War II, there was also Superman, Wonder Woman, Captain Marvel and Plastic Man. Many other heroes debuted in this era and Thomas wanted to use them.

He wanted to bring in the Quality characters, like Plastic Man and the Freedom Fighters. Quality comics was a competing comic publisher in the golden age that had a great stable of characters (Blackhawk, The Spirit) and creators (Jack Cole, Will Eisner). When Quality went out of business in 1956 their characters and trademarks were acquired by National Periodical Publications (now DC). DC has used many of the Quality properties over the years with quite a few of them showing up in All-Star Squadron.

DC continuity at this time was still very important and very complicated. In order for the book not to become a mob scene, as Thomas describes, they would downplay the use of Earth 2 characters who had Earth 1 counterparts (Superman, Green Lantern, Wonder Woman) and would instead use lesser known characters or new ones like Robotman, Johnny Quick, and Liberty Belle.

team

Roy Thomas is well known for writing dense, historical stories and the All-Star Squadron would be no exception. In the letter he details how footnotes would be as brief as possible as to not overwhelm the page and that while obviously superheroes did not bail our grandparents out of the war it would try to be historically accurate whenever possible. Finally, he asks the readers to write in and let them know what they think of the comic. He ask the reader to tell them what they like and don’t like, if they want more woman characters or minority characters.

Reading this letter it is quite clear how important this comic was to Thomas and that it was a real labor of love. Now let’s take a look at the first issue.

All-Star Squadron #1 – The World on Fire

opening splash

Creators:

Writer – Roy Thomas (co-creator)
Penciller – Rich Buckler (co-creator)
Inkter, Embellisher – Jeremiah (Jerry) Ordway
Letterer – John Costanza
Colorist  – Carl Gafford
Editor – Len Wein

The story begins by informing the reader that they are on Earth-2, almost two years after the Justice Society of America was formed. Hawkman, with his awesome double beaked helmet, thinks that something is wrong. He enters the JSA headquarters and is quickly grabbed around the ankle. He strikes his assailant with a swift left hook. After turning on the lights he finds that he has decked Plastic-Man. Plastic-Man explains that he’s there on official FBI business looking for the JSA.

A radio broadcast explains that most of the members of the JSA have been attacked and captured by mysterious villains. When Plastic Man asks why Hawkman wasn’t captured he replies that Doctor Midnight, The Atom and he were indeed attacked by a villain called The Monster, but when they defeated him the monster disappeared and changed back into a normal man and spoke a single word, Degaton. Yes, that’s some good ol’ fashioned foreshadowing.

hawkman fight

Hawkman and Plastic-Man decide to head to DC and meet up with Doc Midnight and the Atom. On their way they are attacked by flying men, led by the King Bee. As Hawkman and Plastic man take out each flying man they disappear similar to the way The Monster did. When Hawkman punches out the King bee, he explodes, knocking Hawkman unconscious. Plastic Man saves him and we segue to a couple of men in suits, inside the White House, discussing the disappearance of the JSA.

We segue again to The Shining Knight riding his flying horse Winged Victory. The reader gets a brief origin recap of the Shining Knight and his membership in the Law’s Legionnaires (precursor to the seven soldiers of victory). He is somewhere over the Pacific when he comes across a smoldering volcano that he decides to investigate. When he lands on the volcanic island he meets Danette Reilly, a geologist studying the location. She explains that she is investigating the weird tremors of the volcano. The Knight decides to assist and strikes the side of the volcano revealing a man made tunnel.

Shinning knight

Upon entering the tunnel Shining Knight and Danette are attached by Solomon Grundy, born on Monday, and Professor Zodiak. Grundy and the Professor make short work of our heroes and bind them. Another villain, Wotan, joins the others and helps bring the heroes before the main antagonist of the story Per Degaton. Per Degaton starts to explain his plans for World Domination as the scene shifts to a couple of navy men, at the U.S. Pearl Harbor naval base.

During the course of the conversation between the two sailors we learn that one of the men, Rod Reilly (hmm, that’s the same last name as our geologist heroine), is the alter ego of the masked hero, Firebrand. He has recently joined the navy in order to defend the country. We also learn that it is the morning of December 7th, 1941, and Pearl Harbor is under attack from Japanese Zeros. As the naval base is attacked Rod Reilly is gunned down.

Meanwhile back in Washington Doctor Midnight and the Atom are at a Washington pro football game. Midnight tells Atom that in the past few minutes an army general, Navy admiral and other top military brass have been paged over the PA and that they ought to check it out. They join a three way call with the military leaders, J. Edgar Hoover, and a radio man in Hawaii where they all learn that the Japanese are attacking their base.

robotman

In what is a very odd situation, the fastest way out of the stadium appears to be through a steel door that no one can open. No one that is except the stranger in the room, who reveals himself to be none other than Robotman. He breaks down the door, that is never explained as to why it is locked, and carries the Doctor and Atom as fast as he can to the White House to see the President. They are spotted by reporters Johnny Chambers and Libby Lawrence who follow them.

As Chambers and Lawrence arrive Hawkman and Plastic Man are landing on the other side of the White House fence. Robotman and the other heroes leap over the fence. Belle and Chambers try to get in but are denied entrance. They both dash of to hiding spots and pull a quick change revealing themselves to be the masked heroes Liberty Belle and Johnny Quick. Since they are not known members of the JSA they are again denied access to the White House. Quick isn’t having it and he picks up Belle and races past the guards to catch up to the Atom and the others.

After a couple of introductions Plastic Man vouches for the pair and they all head into the oval office to speak to the one and only President Roosevelt. The President explains that he’s asked the JSA to mobilize as many of the nation’s costumed heroes as they can to form a new group, a “sort of All-Star Squadron” reporting directly to him. He wants them to be ready in the coming days to deal with the struggle against the Nazi’s.

closing pic

Their first order of business now though is to get to the west coast and prevent any further attacks. Before the group rushes off Liberty Belle makes a quick phone call to Philadelphia and asks her friend Tom Revere to ring the liberty bell. As this happens her belt buckle vibrates and she says she is fully charged. They all then head off  ready to defend the nation.

The final page of the comic shows Per Degaton and his prisoners, the Shining Knight and Danette Reilly aboard a large submarine in San Francisco bay getting ready to launch and attack. Next issue “The Battle of San Francisco”.

All-Star Squadron #1 is a fantastic launch to the new series. The writing and art are excellent. There is a lot of great action, but there is also some wonderful story telling. There are a couple of memorable ads for Bubble Yum, Life-Savers, Hostess Fruit Pies, and the Icee Bear Club. All in all it is a wonderful comic that is a lot of fun.

I’ll close with a quick story about meeting Jerry Ordway last year at the Baltimore Comic Con. I got in line when it was pretty short, there were only three people ahead of me. The line did not move very quickly though. Each of the people in front of me had small stacks of comics to get signed but that was not made it slow, it was the time the he took with each fan. He actually signed the comics pretty quickly, but he took the time to talk to everyone. He was really glad that they were there and he genuinely engaged with everyone, answering questions and telling stories. When I finally got my chance I told him him the story from the beginning of this post and what All-Star Squadron meant to me. Since I only had one comic I asked if he would personalize it and sign it “To Jeremiah”. He was happy to oblige and even signed it Jeremiah Ordway, instead of Jerry. He was a real gentleman and I was very glad to meet him and have him sign such an important comic to me.

autograph cover

 

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Top of the Pile – Week of May 2nd 2018

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May continues to be a big month for DC with more Action Comics coming as well as their summer event preview. With the big “Metal” event finally wrapped up and most of the new age of heroes books being a few issues in the hype has shifted to Bendis, Superman,  and the big Justice League stories. It all starts with the DC Nation 0 issue. This week I’m also featuring not one, but two Rick Remender books.

DC Nation #0 Three All New Stories for 25 cents

(I forgot to take a pic of the cover for this one, but it’s only a quarter, go pick one up)

Creators:

Your Big Day

Writer –  Tom King
Artist – Clay Mann

Office Space

Writer – Brian Michael Bendis
Penciller – Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez

No Justice Prelude

Writer – Scott Snyder, James Tynion IV, Joshua Williamson
Artist – Jorge Jimenez

I did not feel the need to type the entire creators page for a 25 cent preview comic, that being said I am looking forward to this. Tom King has been building to the Batman wedding for awhile now and his kicking the new arc off here with a Joker story. The Bendis hype has become pretty ridiculous but hey, the Superman story has Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez on art and that alone makes this comic worth buying and reading.

The story I am most looking forward to is the No Justice prelude. I am excited about the new Justice league launches. Despite the awful name, Justice League Dark, was one of the new 52 books I enjoyed the most. Sure most of the those characters shouldn’t have been in a team book, and it was truly awful when they referred to themselves as Justice League Dark, but the stories were usually fun and the art was good. I enjoyed Metal and I think these three guys can really put something special together.

Action Comics Special

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Creators:

Jurgens
Russell
Landis
Conrad
Thompson
Manapul
Quintana

There is no title page listing who did what. I don’t even remember this book being solicited. The cover promises that Lex Luthor’s dark secret will be revealed. Could it be that Jurgens is going to tell us what Lex Luthor has been playing for the last year and half while dressing up as Superman, trying to be good guy to Metropolis? I guess I’ll find out soon enough.

Black Science #35
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Death or Glory #1

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Creators:

Writer – Rick Remender
Artist – Matteo Scalera – Black  Science
Artist  – Bengal

Black Science has been one of the Remender books for Image that comes out fairly regularly. There was that long gap where artist Matteo Scalera was recovering from a broken arm, but generally speaking we get new Black science consistently. This series has been fantastic, easily one of the best science fiction comics I have ever read. Whenever a new issue comes out I look forward to reading it.

The new series Death or Glory looks like it could be a lot of fun. I already know this new series is going to be slow in coming out, I am not sure that the third issue has even been solicited yet. I’ve enjoyed so much of Remender’s work that I am willing to give any new story a go.

Last Week’s Picks Revisited

X-men Blue #26 – I actually have not gotten to this yet, I went to movies twice last week and spent a lot of time reading America vs the Justice Society and prepping for JLMay reading the first couple issues of The Silver Age.

Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps #43 – This was fun and really delved into the Darkstar story quite a bit.

The Terrifics #3  – This was exactly as enjoyable as I thought it was going to be. The humor was excellent and the set up for the series was laid out.

The Prisoner #1 – I enjoyed this, it was nowhere near as confusing as the old DC mini series. I’m glad I picked this up.

 

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Top of the Pile – Week of April 25th 2018

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Last was a big week for Superman with Action Comics #1000 and Superman #45. This week I’m pretty excited about a ‘new’ book from Titan comics, something pretty ‘Terrific’, something blue, and something green. Let’s get right to it.

X-men Blue #26 – Cry Havok part 4

xmenblue

Creators

Writer  – Cullen Bunn
Penciler – R.B. Silva
Inker – Adriano Di Denedetto
Color Artist – Rain Beredo
Letter – VC’s Joe Caramagna
Editor  – Darren Shan
X-men Group Editor – Jordan D. White

Over the last few weeks I have being getting caught up on X-men Gold and Blue. I have enjoyed both series so much that I picked up the Jean Grey Resurrection mini-series and the first couple issues of X-men Red. All of these books have been fun. I’ve pretty much always enjoyed reading X-men comics but they were never really “my” comics. When I was young I read my brother’s Uncanny X-men, New Mutants and Alpha Flight comics. In college I read the X titles my girlfriend was getting. When Gold and Blue were launched in 2017 I read a couple good reviews and decided to check them out. They were a good time so I’ve stuck with them.

I think I like them as much as I do because they lean heavily towards the older characters that I am familiar with, Kitty Pryde, Colossus, Nightcrawler, Storm, etc. I’m not someone who was so heavily invested in what came before that thinks anything published now is garbage. I can appreciate the nods to the past while telling new stories.

In the current X-men Blue story, Cry Havok, the original five; Jean Grey, Cyclops, Angel, Beast , and Ice Man, are lost in space. See the “Venomized” miniseries. On Earth; Magneto, Polaris, Jimmy Hudson and Bloodstorm are dealing with Havok, the White Queen, Ms. Sinister, and Bastion who are trying to release a mutant growth hormone into the world that will turn people into mutants and enhance existing mutant powers. This is all being done to make mutants the dominant race on the planet. Magento opposes this because of the side effects to existing mutants. Havok, the White Queen, and the rest of mutants responsible for this hormone cannot understand why Magneto won’t join them. They believe they have the same goal he always did when he was fighting for mutant domination.

I’ve been digging the conflict between Magento and Havok in this story and I am looking forward to see what happens in this issue.

Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps #43 – Darkstar Rising prelude part 2

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Creators

Writer – Robert Venditti
Penciller – Rafa Sandoval
Inker – Jordi Tarragona
Colorist – Tomeu Moery
Letter – Dave Sharpe
Assistant Editor – Andrew Marino
Edit – Brian Cunningham

Despite Hal Jordan being listed in the title, this book is really a Green Lantern Corps book. Sure Jordan gets a lot of the focus, but John Stewart, Kyle Ryner, and Guy Gardner all get their moments in the spotlight. It is really a team book and Venditti does a nice job spreading the wealth around.

Issue 42 wrapped up the Zod story-line nicely with the Guardians, who are running the Corps again, deciding to let Zod and the planet he is ruling be left alone for the time being. Now the Controllers are back, they showed up in a previous arc, with new toys. They have resurrected the Darkstar armor and it is a problem. I’m not familiar with the Darkstars but it seems to be a cross between the original Manhunters and the Green Lantern rings.

Venditti is really building on things that he has written about previously which is nice. It gives the stories a cohesiveness that is enjoyable if you’ve been reading the series all along. At the same time though each arc has enough backstory explained that if you were just getting on board you don’t have to have read the previous 41 issues to be able to follow it. There is a fine line here and Venditti has done a good job with it.

I get the feeling this Darkstar story is going to be a big one so this issue should be fun.

The Terrifics #3 – War Wheel of Doom

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Creators

Storytellers  – Joe Bennett & Jeff Lemire
Inks – Sandra Hope, Jamie Mendoza, Art Thibert
Colors – Marcelo Maiolo
Assistant editor – Andrew Marino
Editor  – Paul Kaminski
Group Editor – Marie Javins

The Terrifics is easily the New Age of Heroes book I was looking forward to the most and so far it is also the one I have enjoyed the most. It has Jeff Lemire writing. If you’ve looked at previous installments of the top of the pile you’ll know that he is one of my favorite writers currently. The comic has Mr. Terrific, Plastic-Man and Metamorpho. As much as I enjoy DC Comics in recent years one thing that has been missing is the Justice Society and related characters. In general there has been a severe lack of silver and bronze characters in DC books. Earth-2 was decent, but it didn’t cut it. I have nothing against Harley Quinn, I know she sells, but I think that there could be a little less Harley Quinn and a lot more Plastic Man in the DCU.

This issue has the War Wheel on the cover with Plastic Man and Metamorpho trying to stop it. The War Wheel dates back to Blackhawk 56 from 1952. I’m sure I must have read something with the War Wheel, maybe an issue of All Star Squadron or DC Comics presents, because I knew exactly what it was when I saw the cover. The series is still in the early stages of introducing the characters and the team and it has been fun and exciting, no doubt this issue will be as well.

Plastic Man! The War Wheel! YES! Get some!

The Prisoner #1 – The Uncertainty Machine

prisoner

Creators

Writer  – Peter Milligan
Artist – Colin Lorimer
Colorist – Joana LaFluente
Letterer – Simon Bowland
Editor and Original Plot – David Leach

Created by Patrick McGoohan and George Markstein

Cover Artist – Jack Kirby
Inks – Mike Ryer
Colors – Mike Allred

The Prisoner was a TV show from the 1960’s that I believe was a bit of science fiction crossed with psychedelic drama. I cannot say for sure because I have never seen it. I did however read the four issue mini series that DC published in the eighties, which I did not understand. Despite all that I remain very interested in the Prisoner.

This comic is supposed to be based on and incorporate a unreleased Prisoner comic that Jack Kirby and Gil Kane worked on but was never released.

There is not really much for me to say about this story since I know so little about it, but I am very curious to see what it is.

Last Week’s Picks Revisited

Future Quest Presents #9 The Herculoids part 1 – This issue was exciting and action packed. The writing and art were great and it looks like it will be a fun story.

Mister Miracle #8 – Another fantastic story. I still say something big is going to happen and that we are being presented with might not really be happening, despite being shown how the war is going. That was something that strongly led me to the thinking that we not be getting the full story.

Action comics #1000 – This was a good time. There were a lot of fun stories and great art. Supergirl shows up in the Bendis teaser so that could be fun.

I’ll close with an honorable mention from last week, Superman #45. This was a fantastic cap to the Tomasi / Gleason run. These guys really proved that you can still write comics today that do not have to have a fight in every issue and there can still be good stories told in a single issue of a comic. The issue features quote from the Robert Frost poem, “Nothing Gold can Stay”. Very fitting.

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Dragonslayer – The Official Marvel Comics Adaptation

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I grew up when VCRs were just becoming common in people’s homes and video rental stores were springing up in every neighborhood. Popular movies still circulated in theaters multiple times over the years. It was a time when it was not common to see movies more than once. Novel and comic adaptations of movies we prevalent as they were a way for people to enjoy the stories long after the movie had moved on from the local cinema.

Marvel comics published many movie adaptations. The adaptations were published in the Marvel Comics Super Specials either in magazine sized comics or over sized tabloids. They were also printed in regular sized comics. More often than not these comics were released after the movie and were faithful adaptations meant to capitalize on a movies popularity. This was not always the case though.

tabloid size

In some cases the comics were released before the movie as away to build hype and excitement. Occasionally scenes that were part of an early script would make there way into the adaptation only to have the scene from the movie end up on the cutting room floor. One famous example of this was in the first issue of Star Wars. There was a page that contained a scene between Luke and Biggs on Tatooine that did not appear in the movie.

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Creators

Script – Dennis O’Neil
Pencils & Colors – Marie Severin
Inks – John Tartaglione
Editor – Jim Shooter

The Marvel comics official movie adaption of the Paramount / Disney movie was published in two formats. It was released as issue #20 of Marvel Comics Super Special magazine as well as a two issue series in a regular comic format. It is a very faithful adaptation as it follows the movie very closely and contains a good amount of dialog right from the script.

The story begins with several travelers approaching a Wizard’s keep seeking an audience with Ulrich the sorcerer. The want him to slay a dragon (not just fix a wagon). After the wizard agrees and they are getting on their way they are interrupted by several newcomers, Tyrian of Urland, a knight in the king’s guard. He demands a test of the sorcerer in order to prove he is the man for the job. Ulrich sends Galen, his apprentice, to get a dagger. The dagger is given to Tyrian who is commanded to stab the wizard, who states that he cannot be hurt. Tyrian drives the dagger home and Ulrich appears to be killed.

ulrich killed

After Ulrich’s funeral Galen is cleaning up when an amulet he had put in a box suddenly appears in a glass flask. Galen believes that this an omen, that he is to complete the work that Ulrich had agreed to, and that he is to slay the dragon. He takes the amulet and decides to find the travelers who came seeking the wizard. Once he catches up with them he appears in smoke filled flash and tells them he will do what they had wanted his master to do.

Elsewhere you join a group of men with torches leading a horse drawn cart with a young woman, all in white, chained to two large posts in it. Apparently there is a lottery where young, virgin women are chosen to be sacrifices to the dragon in exchange for not destroying the kingdom. As the young woman tries to free herself from the bonds the dragon appears and after a little drama eventually consumes her.

virgin and dragon

We rejoin our travels as they are breaking camp in the morning. Galen is sent to get the leader of the group, Valerian. He finds him bathing in a small lake. Galen says that he’ll join him for a swim but Valerian refuses saying he’d rather swim alone. Amazingly enough Galen figures out that Valerian is “not A BOY”! In the movie this was a fairly amazing scene because Galen figures out that Valerian is a woman when he dives into the water and sees her naked body. In the movie we see both actors naked bottoms as well the actresses exposed breasts. This was significant because the movie was rated PG and was a joint release with Disney. This type of nudity would not been seen even in a PG-13 movie today.

youraboy

Eventually the band of travelers make it back to their kingdom and have to pass by the dragon’s lair in order to get home. Galen decides to impress everyone and he uses his magic to cause a landslide to bury the entrance of the dragon’s cave and imprison the beast. Much to his own surprise he does it. Back in the village Galen shows off his magic some more, this time while chastising a monk performing a baptism. One of the things I found interesting about this comic is that the early Christian elements are featured multiple times and they come off as a little overt. The same scenes are in the movie, but because of the nature of it being a comic they are more apparent and definitely stand out. One of the major themes of the story is that the old ways of wizards and dragons are disappearing, being replaced by new beliefs.

All of Galen’s magical boasting gets the attention of the authorities and the king’s guard, including Tyrain, who killed the old wizard. They take Galen from the village to be brought before the king. The King makes Galen perform several tricks while also questioning him about what he did to the dragon. Throughout the scene the king is very unimpressed but he does deduce that Galen’s magic comes from the amulet he wears around his neck. The amulet is taken by the king and Galen is thrown into a dungeon cell.

galen and king

While Galen is imprisoned he is visited by the princess Filia Regis. She tries to convenience Galen that the King is not so bad that he is only trying to protect the kingdom. Galen fires back that he is not protecting the kingdom while the lottery exists and that is not not even fair because the rich men’s daughters names never go into the pool of names. The princess does not believe this and goes to ask her father about it. She finds him trying to use the stolen amulet to turn lead into gold. He dismisses her questions but she persists and eventually learns the truth. Suddenly the kingdom is overcome with tremors. We don’t see what causes them but they do make Galen’s cell door open. As he tries to find his way out of the castle Tyrian finds him and chases him. Galen makes his way to the stables, steals a horse, and rides it into the castle. After wrecking some havoc Galen finds a hole in the castle’s wall, caused from the earlier tremors, and rides to freedom.

In the meantime the monk, the one Galen made fun of earlier, leads a small crowd of people up to the dragon’s lair. He is taking them there so that they can pray and send the demon monster to hell. The dragon seems to have different ideas. The ground shakes and opens up as the dragon emerges. The monk still believes he can defeat the monster. The dragon seems curious about the monk at first but decides that enough is enough. He kills him with a blast of fire and then flies off.

monk and dragon

Galen is back at the village and after being hidden from the king’s guard by Valerian and her father, the blacksmith, he says he has to slay the dragon. Valerian’s father gives Galen a spear that he has been saving for just such an occasion. Back at the castle a new lottery is being done to try and appease the now super pissed off dragon.  When the name is drawn the king is shocked to hear the princesses name being read. He calls for another name to be chosen and again it is the princess. The princess comes forth saying all the names are hers because of the injustice of having been left out all these years.

As this is going on Galen has gone back into the castle to find his amulet. The distraught king discovers Galen and gives him back to the amulet so that he can go kill the dragon and save his daughter. Galen gets ready for his task by sharpening the blade of the spear with the blacksmith. While this is happening Valerian sneaks off to gather dragon scales from the ground in the dragon’s cave. She is going to make a shield for Galen. When she is in the cave she is set upon by large green lizards, baby dragons. She gets away and finds Galen. When they meet they profess their love to each other.

galen and valerian

Finally Galen goes to the cave where the princess is being chained up to be sacrificed. Galen demands that she be set free. Everyone runs off except Tyrian who is sick of Galen and decides to end this nonsense. The princess is set free in the battle and sneaks off to the dragon’s cave anyway. Galen eventually kills Tyrian. By the time Galen gets to the cave he is too late. The baby dragons are feasting on the princess. In a rage befitting of a young jedi attacking sand people, Galen slaughters the dragon babies.

Galen finds the dragon and they battle. The shield that Valerian gave him earlier withstands the fire blast from the dragon. Galen gets the upper ground on the dragon and and drives the spear into its neck but it is not enough to kill it. The dragon shakes Galen from its neck and he is able to get away. Valerian finds him and cleans him up. Valerian’s father tells Galen and his daughter that they should leave this kingdom, there is nothing else to be done.

dragon and galen

While Valerian and Galen are canoodling in the woods the sky begins to darken. When Valerian asks what is happening Galen explains that it is an eclipse. Looking at how the eclipse changes the reflection on the water Galen suddenly realizes what needs to be done and rushes off with Valerian to the dragon’s cave. In the cave, standing at the edge of the fire lake, Galen holds the amulet and say some magic words. His long dead master, Ulrich, appears before him, all in white, alive again.

The wizard leads them out of the cave, where he will battle the dragon. He tells Galen to destroy the amulet when it is time and that he’ll know when it is right. The wizard fights the dragon and is eventually grabbed by the dragon’s giant claws. As the dragon flies off clutching the wizard, Galen smashes the amulet causing the wizard and dragon to explode in the air. As the dragon’s corpse lies smoldering on the ground the king comes up to it and ceremoniously stabs it while declaring that he has slayed the dragon.

dragon exploding

Our heroes Valerian and Galen wander off on foot. Valerian wishes for a horse and suddenly one appears. As a final nod to note that maybe the age of magic and sorcery isn’t dead Valerian asks if Galen made the horse appear. He responds that it is easier to believe the horse was just wandering nearby than in magic, isn’t it?

Dragonslayer is a very good fantasy movie with one of the best Dragons ever created for film. The story is a fairly standard hero’s journey, but also deals subtly with the conflict between organized religion and magic. The comic adaptation is very well done and extremely faithful to the movie. The art is excellent and just like the movie the dragon steals the show. I never knew this comics existed when I was a kid and am super glad to have found it as an adult.

I want to wrap up with several of the ads from this comics, because they feature some of the greatest comic book ads of all time, ads for toy soldiers and sales offers where the reader can earn fabulous prizes. These are ads that my brother and I poured over, when we were kids, dreaming about the amazing offers. These advertisements are instantly recognizable and if you would like to learn more about them I would suggest heading over to the Cosmic Treadmill and download their Weird comics history podcast episodes #19 and #26 where they discuss the history and specifics of these ads. They are really excellent and worth your time.

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Top of the Pile – Week of April 18 2018

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Here we are again, a little later than normal because I was out of town. For this installment of top of the pile I had to make some hard choices to limit the list to three. Of course the big book of the week, Action Comics 1000,  made the cut, now let’s see what else did.

Future Quest Presents #9 – The Herculoids

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Writer – Rob Williams
Penciller – Aaron Lopresti
Inker – Matt Ryan
Colorist – Hi-Fi
Assistant Editor – Michael McCalister
Group Editor – Marie Javins
Gloop Wrangler – Joey Cavalieri

The Future Quest line of Hanna-Barbera comics have been some of my favorite comics that DC has published recently. The Jeff Parker maxi series from 2016 – 17 was dynamite. It brought the Hanna-Barbera characters into the modern age and combined them all into a fantastic story seamlessly. Future Quest Presents is an anthology series where the different issues focus on specific characters back in their normal settings.

The first few issues were a Space Ghost story written by Jeff Parker and drawn by Ariel Olivetti. That was followed up by a Space Ghost and the Galaxy Trio one shot, also written by Jeff Parker and drawn by the one and only, super friendly, Ron Randall. The next story-line was three issues of Birdman, written by Phil Hester with art by Steven Rude. Finally we got a one shot with Mightor written by Jeff Parker and drawn by Steve Lieber.

The big difference between the Future Quest series and the other current Hanna-Barbera titles is that the Future Quest stories are fun adventure stories in the same vein as the original cartoons.  The Flintstones was also similar to the source material, but contained subtle and excellent social commentary. Scooby Apocalypse, while awesome, is a zombie apocalypse story with the characters from Scooby-Doo. The other Hanna-Barbera books focus on using old characters as vehicles to tell modern stories with heavy social commentary. None of that is meant to be a complaint, it is just how the titles differ.  The Herculoids are probably my favorite of the Hanna-Barbera characters and I am stoked for this series.

Mister Miracle #8

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Writer – Tom King
Pencils, Inks, Colors – Mitch Gerads
Letterer – Clayton Cowles
Associate Editor – Brittany Holzherr
Editor – Jamie S. Rich

Mister Miracle created by Jack Kirby

It is a well known that Jack Kirby wanted creators to be original and not tell the same stories that have been told before. I think that “The King” would be pleased with what Tom King has done in his Mister Miracle series because there is no denying that it is something different. The series has been extremely popular, based on how many printings each issue has seen. The art has been amazing. King and Gerads are quite a duo having worked together previously on the Sheriff of Babylon and Batman.

The story so far features Mister Miracle and his wife, Big Barda, trying to deal with their own life on Earth and an ongoing war between New Genesis and Apocalypse. I honestly think there is more to the story. I think King has been building to something. We have not seen any of this war, we’ve only heard about it through interactions that Mister Miracle has with Orion, Light Ray and the Bug. Along the way amazing things have occurred but always with a little bit of a question (at least in my mind) of “is this really happening?”

I really believe that all the events so far may not be real. That Mister Miracle is trapped somewhere and that he is trying to escape. I think it is possible that he is a prisoner on Apocalypse and that everything that has happened is in all in his head. It might be some kind of defense mechanism he is using to keep himself sane while plotting to free himself, or I could be completely way off base. Either way the story has be very entertaining and I cannot wait to see what comes next.

Actions Comics #1000

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Creators – An all star line of writers, and artists too numerous to bother listing

This is it. This is the big one. The one they have been building to for months. The beginning a of new era of Superman.  Along with the amazing lineup of writers and artists this issue also kicks off the Brian Michael Bendis era at DC and on Superman. It has been hyped for months with “Bendis is Coming” ads that are a nod back to when the original King of comics broke ranks with Marvel and came to join DC. This is it, the Bendis run begins now.

For all my trepidation about what Bendis is going to do with the character and my wishing that Jurgens and Tomasi had been allowed to continue their great runs on the Rebirth Superman titles I am looking forward to this comic in particular. There is a lot in it and lots of great talent so it should be a good time. It had better be at eight dollars a whack.

Last Week’s Picks Revisited

Immortal Men #1 – This was a bit of dud. The art was only okay, the story left me confused and I don’t know who anyone is. I’ve got the next couple of issues on order but if it doesn’t get better quickly this might be the first new era book I drop.

Robocop #1 – The first issue was fun and I am looking forward to what happens in the series.

The Flash #44 – The Grodd finale was fun and satisfying. Like the rest of the stories that Williamson has done in this series the story wraps up but leaves plenty of room for more to come later.

Thanos #18 – The story ended well and unbeknownst to me it was the last issue of the series. Cates writes at the end that the series was not cancelled, it is just ending and that Thanos is moving on to other stories, namely the new Infinity Countdown mini series. This was disappointing to learn, I like Thanos having his own comic.

I’ll wrap up this week saying that there were a lot of other books I wanted to put at the top this week including Black Hammer Age of Doom #1, Daredevil #601 and Superman #45. It is going to be a good week of comics with all these great issues out.

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Marvel Graphic Novel #1

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Over the last couple of weeks Marvel has released several True Believer comics reprinting key Thanos stories, such as his first appearance in Iron Man 55 and the first issue of the Infinity Gauntlet mini series. Thanos has come to be of Marvel comics most popular characters. On April 26th the Avengers: Infinity War will be released and Thanos will undoubtedly become one of their most popular movie characters as well. All of this got me to thinking about one of Marvel’s other fantastic cosmic characters, Captain Marvel.

 

The Death of Captain Marvel

By Jim Starlin
Colors –  Steve Oliff
Letters – James Novak
Editor – Al Milgrom
Editor-in-chief – Jim Shooter

The Death of Captain Marvel was the first “issue”  of Marvel Graphic Novel. Marvel Graphic Novel was a series of magazine sized comics, square bound, and printed on heavy stock glossy paper.  These were stories that were too “big” for regular comics. They often featured Marvel comics most popular characters like the Avengers (MGN #27 Emperor Doom), Spiderman (MGN #22 Hooky) but they also introduced new characters like the The New Mutants (MGN # 4) and The Futurians (MGN #9). They also featured some of the biggest writers and artists in the business, like Walt Simonson (MGN #6 Star Slammers), John Byrne (MGN #18 She Hulk), Chris Claremont (MGN #4 and 5 The New Mutants and God Loves Man Kills), and Jim Starlin.

These comics are what define a graphic novel for me. They are sturdy enough that they belong on a bookcase. They are bigger than a normal comic. They feature stories that should not be interrupted by ads for twinkies and toys soldiers. They are stories that cannot be told over the course of several months while the reader waits for the next issue. They were unique at the time.

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Jim Starlin was born in 1949, served in the US Navy during the Vietnam war and has been working professionally in comics since the early 70’s. He has worked for both Marvel and DC. He has created numerous characters for the big two publishers, like Thanos and Mongul (co created with Lein Wein), as well his creator owned characters like Dreadstar. Some of his most renowned work at Marvel was on their cosmic characters. He wrote and / or drew some of the most well known runs on Captain Marvel, Warlock and Silver Surfer. He also did some fantastic work at DC including wiring the famous “Death in the Family” and the infamous “Cosmic Odyssey” mini series. Jim Starlin did two Marvel Graphic novels, one introducing his Dreadstar character and this one, The Death of Captain Marvel.

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The story begins with Mar-Vell, Captain Marvel as he is known on Earth, dictating his autobiography into a computer. Our hero describes his early life as a Kree Warrior and how he became Earth’s hero Captain Marvel. As he is wrapping up his monologue he is interrupted by StarFox, real name Eros, son of Mentor and brother to Thanos. It turns out that Mar-vell, Eros, and Mentor have journeyed to the edge of our solar system to collect the body of Thanos, dead, now a stone statue (see Marvel Two in One Annual #2 for details).

As they are about to collect Thanos to return to Titan when they are set upon by his followers and a battle ensues. After the fight Mentor and Eros are interrogating one of the crew, who explains that they are waiting for Thanos’s resurrection. Suddenly Mar-vell begins coughing and Mentor suggests a mediscan. Mar-vell replies ominously that his cosmic awareness has already told him what is wrong and that the computer will likely confirm it. We learn that Captain Marvel is dying of cancer.

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Mentor and Mar-vell discuss how this might have happened and how there is no cure. Mar-vell continues the dictation of his biography, detailing many of the events of his career; his time spent with Rick Jones swapping bodies using the Negabands, his fighting with the Avengers and other cosmic heroes, and finally defeating Thanos. He then begins the journey to tell the people he loves and cares about what is happening to him.

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He visits his love Elysius, and Rick Jones. Rick is angry and denies that there is nothing to be done. He goes to the Avengers and then word begins to spread of what is happening to this hero. The greatest minds of the Marvel universe come together to try and save the captain; The Beast, Mentor, Dr. Strange, Reed Richards. All of them eventually become frustrated as they realize there is nothing to be done.

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As Mar-vell lies in bed waiting for the end he is visited by his friends as they pay their respects. Finally, he is alone in the dark, and one more visitor appears. Thanos, seemingly back from the grave, comes to Mar-vell and challenges. There is a great battle that ends with the hero finally coming to understand what is happening as he finally looks Death in the eye (literally) and accepts her embrace. The story ends with Thanos and Mar-vell accompanying Death into the bright light.

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The story is touching and at the time groundbreaking. All of Earth’s mightiest heroes could not save Mar-vell, they could not defeat death. There is a very real sense of love and sorrow between the characters. There is drama not usual found in the standard fare of the time.  It is also one of the few times that a character dies and for the most part stays dead. Of course he’s come back a handful of time but since this story he simply has not been a major part of the Marvel pantheon. It has been said that no one dies forever in comics, except Bucky, and eventually that proved not to be true.

Will Captain Marvel, the Kree Warrior, ever return to the greatness he achieved when Jim Starlin was writing him? Who knows. For now we’ll have to enjoy our old comics, like Marvel Graphic novel #1.

I’ll close with a short story about the first time I had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Starlin at the Baltimore comic con. I thought he was very friendly and eager to chat with the fans looking for autographs. I have a hard time talking to comic creators so when it was my turn to have something signed I asked him what I ask most creators, “What are you currently working on?”. At the time it was mini series that Marvel had commissioned with the Hulk that they had later titled Thanos vs the Hulk. The problem was, as he explained, the original pitch only featured Thanos in the first half of the story, the second two issues did not involve Thanos at all. He was having to turn what was originally a Hulk story that had cameos of other characters into a Thanos story. Finally I asked him to sign my sketchbook / autograph book and he was kind enough to add a quick profile sketch of Thanos. Meeting Mr. Starlin was a real treat and one of my favorite interactions at a convention.

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Top of the Pile – Week of April 11 2018

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This is the second installment of my top of the pile column. Last week there was some really good books and I touch on them at the end. This week I’ve got a new DC book, a new comic from Brian Wood and some more Thanos goodness.

The Flash #44 – Perfect Storm Finale

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Writer – Josh Williamson
Artist – Carmine Di Giandonemico
Letters – Ivan Plascencia
Assistant Editor – Andrew Marino
Editor – Rebecca Taylor
Group Editor – Marie Javins

I am not a long time Flash reader. I started with this series because I tried all the Rebirth titles at launch and I liked the Flash so much that I’ve stuck with it. I am very glad I did. Williamson has done some good stories with classic characters like the Reverse Flash and he’s added some new ones like Godspeed. Each arc seems to flow right into the next, each story building on things from the previous one. Carmine Di Giandoncemico’s art is dynamite. I really love the lighting speed force that surrounds the Flash.

The Perfect Storm has involved Gorilla Grodd trying to steal the speed force all for himself. The story line has involved elements from most of the previous ones. The Black hole group has aligned themselves with Grodd. Godspeed is back. Wally West shows up and the new Kid Flash is there. It feels like everything that Josh Williamson has been building is going to cumulate in this finale. I am really looking forward to reading this.


Robocop: Citizens Asset #1

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Writer – Brian Wood
Art – Jorge Coelho
Colors – Doug Garbark
Letters – Ed Dukeshire
Editors – Eric Harburn & Sierra Hahn

Ever since I read The Massive by Brian Wood I’ve ordered everything that I could find in the Previews catalog by him. Much of what I’ve read so far has either been excellent science fiction dealing with modern themes. He has written about the environment, technology, and artificial intelligence. See The Massive, The Ninth Wave prequel, and Aliens: Defiance. He’s also a history lover and that is evident in the revolutionary war tales he did, Rebels: A Well regulated Militia and Rebels: These Free and Independent States. I’m not going to rattle off his complete bibliography, I’ll leave at I really like his writing.

I’ve enjoyed lots of things from Boom!; Garfield, Peanuts, the Jim Henson comics, and the Green Lanterns / Planet of the Apes mini-series. Boom puts out a lot of high quality original stories as well as their licensed stuff. I am excited and confident that this Robocop mini-series is going to be a good time.

Thanos #18

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Writer – Donny Cates
Artist – Geoff Shaw
Colors – Antoino Fabela
Letterer – Clayton Cowles
Editor – Jordan D. White
Editor in Cheif – C.B. Cabulski

April certainly seems to be Thanos month for Marvel. The Infinity War movie premieres April 26th. Last week the newest Jim Starlin Thanos graphic novel was released and this week we get the final issue of the Thanos Wins storyline.

Shortly after regaining his power and defeating his son Thane, Thanos is brought to the far future by a hilarious version of Ghost Rider that was once the herald of Galactus and imbued with the power cosmic. Thanos has been brought through time at the behest of the future version of himself. Future Thanos wants present day Thanos to help him obtain his ultimate goal, the love of Death.

The story has put a fun spin on a theme that has occurred in many different Thanos stories and I am looking forward to seeing how it concludes.

The Immortal Men #1

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Storytellers – Jim Lee, Ryan Benjamin, & James Tynion iv
Inkers – Scott Williams & Richard Friend
Colorists – Jeremiah Skipper & Alex Sinclair
Letterer – Carlos M. Mangual
Associate Editor – Jessica Chen
Editor – Katie Kubert
Group Editor – Jamie S. Rich

Immortal Men – Created by Jim Lee and James Tynion iv

I’ve ordered all the New Age of Heroes books. This is the fourth or fifth to be released. I’ve enjoyed each one to greater and lesser degrees. The Terrifics has been fantastic. Silencer and Sideways have been pretty good, Damage started off pretty weak. I think the Metal project and these spin offs are a big deal for DC.

It is hard to introduce new characters these days when a lot of what sells well is something that is already well established and have multi million dollars movies to accompany them. There is also not a lot of incentive for writers and artists to create new characters they do not own because of the way the business is now structured. I really hope that DC gives these new books a chance and doesn’t cancel them after one or two story arcs.

The Immortal Men is one of the New Age stories that I know the least about. I have not been reading the sneak peaks appearing the last couple of pages of other DC titles. I don’t know who any of the characters on the cover are. I know some of them showed up in the Metal series and that is about it. Oh, and I think that Vandal Savage will somehow be involved.

I know that James Tyrion iv is a very good writer and I still enjoy Jim Lee’s art, even though he’ll probably only be involved for a couple of issues, so I have hopes that this will be one of the better New Age of Heroes books.

Last Weeks picks revisited


Jetsons #6 – This was a good conclusion to the mini series and left me wanting more.

Superman #44 – The wrap of the Bizzaro storyline was excellent and touching. I want a Superboy & Bizzaro-boy series written by Peter Tomasi now.

Doctor Starr and the Kingdom of Lost Tomorrows #2 – A good story and I am really excited to see where this series goes.

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