Why Did I Buy This – The Invisibles #1

I’ve been working on cataloging my comic book collection for years now. It is a long, time consuming, but extremely enjoyable process. As I go through my boxes, bagging, boarding, and entering comics into my database, I sometimes wonder, “Why did I buy this comic?”. Tonight I came across just such a book when I was going through a box of mid nineties DC books, mostly from the Vertigo line: The Invisibles #1.

Generally speaking I think of Vertigo books as being “high brow” comics meant for people who like sequential art but want something more than funny animals, superhero beat ‘em ups, or giant robots. My problem is that there are very few Vertigo series that I have bought and read and been happy about it when I was finished. Warren Ellis’s “Transmetropolitan” was something my brother turned me on to and I really enjoyed. I ended up reading the entire series. More often than not though I find Vertigo to be a pretty boring line of comics. That is not to say I think they are bad comics, after all some of the most talented creators have worked on Vertigo lines, Neil Gaiman’s “Sandman”, Garth Ennis’s “Preacher”, and Grant Morrison’s “Doom Patrol” are some of the most well regarded comics ever published.

While I think The Invisibles is not quite in the same company as Sandman and 100 Bullets, it definitely has its fans. Personally I’m not one of them and that is why I wonder why I bought this in the first place. I suppose it could have been that I knew that Grant Morrison was, and is, one of the top writers in the business. It could have been that I liked Transmet’ so much that I thought I should try other Vertigo titles. It even could have been that my brother said it was going to be good and I acted on his recommendation, something that if you were to ask him now, I have never actually done. Heck, anything is possible I suppose, but for the life of me now I cannot remember what the impetus was that made me buy this comic.

Creators:
Writer –
Grant Morrison
Artist – Steve Yedwell

I own the first five issues of The Invisibles. I remember reading them and not understanding a blessed thing. I re-read the first issue before writing this and I still don’t understand what the deal is. I can understand the angst of one of the main characters, Dane McGowan, and that he is being recruited but that’s about it. I don’t understand why there is a grenade on the cover, why a young John Lennon and Paul McCartney show up, or who and what the heck King Mob is. The art is good and not nearly abstract as the cover might indicate and if I didn’t find the story so boring or confusing I might have given it more of a chance than I did. As it is I only bought five issues and after looking at them now I still don’t care enough to give the series another chance and really go down that rabbit hole.

I’ve read enough about The Invisibles now that I know many people consider it some of Morrison’s finest work, that it is challenging, that you just have to “go with it” to appreciate and enjoy it. The three volumes of the series have been collected several times including a massive 1500 page omnibus so it can easily be enjoyed by new fans. I respect Morrison’s ability to get his story published, for the most part how he wanted to. If you’re reading this and you were a fan of The Invisibles let me know, I’d love to know what you liked about the series and why. For me these are just five comics in my collection that I cannot recall why I bought way back when. 

Posted in Why Did I Buy This | Tagged | Leave a comment

My First Comics – Shogun Warriors #4

I’ve written on this blog that I’ve collected comics for most of my life. When I was a wee lad it wasn’t so much collecting as it was just buying comics and reading them. My brother and I would look at the comics at the Springdale Stationary and get to pick one after church on Sundays. Like most kids we would read them over and over, not caring about preserving them for the future. They got bent and ripped but that didn’t matter, we still enjoyed the heck out of them. Some of our earliest comics were Disney and Looney Tunes comics, Battlestar Galactica (we loved the TV show), and Shogun Warriors.

I mentioned that we didn’t care about keeping our comics in great condition, we weren’t thinking about the future, but that doesn’t mean we didn’t keep them. Many of the things from our childhood have long been gone from our lives as we moved and grew up but not our comic books. We’ve managed to hold on to those well worn treasures to this day. Look at the picture above. Notice the creases in the cover, the rips and worn edges. Check out the spine of the book, the cover is practically coming off. It has been warped from folding it back so the comic could be read holding it with one hand*. Just looking at this comic brings me right back to 1979, to that stationary store, kneeling on the newspapers with my brother eagerly going through that lower shelf of the magazine rack where the comics were kept.

*Editor’s note – when we were a little older and actually started collecting comics the practice of folding the comic around itself was the first habit we had to break to be “serious” collectors.

Creators:

Writer – Doug Moench
Artist – Herb Trimpe
Inker – Dan Green
Letter – Jim Novak
Colorist – Andy Yanchus
Editor – Al Milgrom
EiC – Jim Shooter

The open splash page has the reader at Shogun Sanctuary where the amazing Shogun Warriors are being recharged with solar power. Dr. Tambura is working with his staff on preparing the mechs for their next adventure and their pilots are training on how to control them better. Elsewhere the villain, Maur-Kon, is working on a plan to defeat the doctor and his “giant robots” by using science instead of his evil magic.

As the new group of pilots get to know each other better we get some background on one of the pilots, Ilongo Savage, an oceanographer. Story-time is interrupted by Dr. Tambura as he takes the team, Richard Carson, Genji Odashu, and Savage to review their last battle. They need to learn more about the machines they are piloting and how to best use their abilities. There is a pretty cool explanation of what Carson could have done better against the Rok-Korr elementals they faced in the last issue.

We read this comic so much these pictures are familiar to me forty years later.

Back at Maur-Kon’s volcano lair his techno-mages have created the awesome Mech-Monster. A giant purple and yellow machine that looks a bit like a dragonfly with a bull’s head. The team gives Maur-Kon a demonstration of the weapons on the monster, canons on the side of its head and a laser blaster built into the tale. Maur-Kon is pleased and tells his mages that they’ll test the monster against the Shogun Warriors tomorrow. Meanwhile his lieutenant, Magar, who believes in magic over technology, has other plans for the fearsome machine. He takes control of it after everyone has left and brings it to the “Pool of Dark Life”, a lava pool that will be used to convert the machine into some unknown terror. He is interrupted by some guards and loses control of it, but his goal is achieved. The Mech Monster is transformed into a living, breathing, creature that still seems just as powerful as the original creation.

At Shogun Sanctuary the team has wrapped up their training and Genji decides she wants to take Combatra out for a test drive to see if she can put some of her newfound knowledge to practical use. Dr. Tambura gives her the thumbs up and she heads off into the night. While Genji is out she comes across the nearby city which is engulfed in flames. The living mech monster has attacked and now has its sights on Combatra. Genji calls back to HQ for assistance and prepares to defend herself and the city. She splits Combatra into the five individual ships that form the giant robot in an exciting cliffhanger that will lead right into the next issue.

Wrap up

As far as the story goes this is a really good example of a kids comic of the era. There was a Shogun Warrior toy line that the comic was meant to support and after reading this comic I don’t know how any kid wouldn’t be asking their parents for a new toy. The Shogun Warriors are prominently featured but there is a lot of character development and exposition to support an actual story.

It’s been a long time since I read one of these comics but I got everything I needed to know about the characters in this single issue, or at least enough to understand what is going on. The leader is the brainy scientist Dr. Tambura, the crew features a diverse team of young professionals, and the villain is the menacing Maur-Kon who uses science and magic to accomplish his goals. We learn about the abilities of the Shogun, that Radian is powerful and Combatra is actually a collection of vehicles that form the big warrior. That particular idea would be featured in much of the programming my brother and I enjoyed in the era from Voltron, to the Transformers, and the Gobots just to name a few.

This particular copy of Shogun Warriors #4 is an artifact from my childhood. It is a saddle stapled newsprint periodical that my brother and I managed to hold onto for forty one years. Despite the fact that most of the things that were part of our childhood are nothing more than memories now my brother and I never threw out our comics. They were more than advertisements for toys or disposable bits of entertainment to us. They were a shared experience. They were gateways to other worlds. They were what fueled our imaginations and they were important to us.

I’ll close this out this trip into the long boxes with a picture of the cover of the next issue that features Raiden battling the Mech Monster.

Posted in My First Comics | Tagged , , , | 5 Comments

Awesome Covers: Suicide Squad #15

When I was young John Romita Jr. (or JRJr) was one of my favorite artists. Sure I loved Carl Barks, Sergio Aragones, and John Byrne, but JRJr was different. He had a style that had a lot of lines in it, there was a lot of detail to his work. For me it was new, fresh and different enough from his contemporaries that his work always stood out in my eyes. I first remember him from when he was working on Daredevil. He helped create Bullet, Typhoid Mary and Blackheart. His work can be decisive, I think he is the kind of artist that you either love or hate.

His style wasn’t always like it is now, or even when he was working on Daredevil. His earlier work was more reminiscent of his father’s work. Take a look at the page below from Dazzler #1. It is much more traditional. Even his work on the X-men was not quite in the style that would become his signature look. As much as I love his early work now, it is his line filled style that is familiar to most readers that I really love. He may have lost a bit to his touch over the years but I still like picking up a comic, like this Suicide Squad issue, and finding his name in the credits.

As an added bonus the scene on this cover actually happens in the comic. It is probably the best scene in the issue and actually makes the overly sexualized Harley Quinn funny for a brief moment. For all those reasons I think that this cover by John Romita Jr. is an awesome cover!

Posted in Awesome Covers | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Awesome Covers: All-Star Squadron #60

I have been a fan of the All-Star Squadron for almost as long as I have liked comics. The Justice Society and the All-Star Squadron characters are some of the greatest ever created. This cover features some of my favorites, Dr. Midnight, Starman, Hawkman, and Wonder Woman all drawn by the amazing Jerry Ordway. The characters pop off the page. Ordway’s style is classic and isn’t flashy. The figures are clean, well proportioned, and strong. The colors of the costumes really shine on the blue, star filled, background. This is the kind of cover that I’d love to own as a poster. All in all it is a classic comic with an awesome cover and I love it.

Posted in Awesome Covers | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Christmas Parade

Painting by Carl Barks

This Christmas is going to be an odd one, no doubt about that. The season will be filled with virtual visits with family, mailing gifts instead of hand delivering them, and no Christmas parties with deviled eggs and meatballs in a crock pot. Even with all the things that we’ll do without, there is still plenty to be thankful for. My wife and I have had fun keeping up with the traditions we can do like hanging Christmas lights, putting up the tree early (because it’s artificial), mailing Christmas cards, and seeing her family on Christmas eve. One more thing I can be thankful for is Christmas comics, they don’t risk spreading the plague.

One of things I enjoy most as Christmas is reflecting back on all the great holidays I had when I was a kid. I love to watch the old Christmas cartoons and movies, and remember how much of a treat they were for my brother and I when we were young. I think about how lucky we were when our Dad brought us into New York City to visit FAO Schwartz, Rockefeller center, walk down 5th Ave and look at all the great displays, and do something unique like go to the Empire State building or the Museum of Natural History. Reading old comics invokes those memories as well. I was recently organizing my collection and I came across Christmas Parade #1 from Gladstone, published in 1988.

This is prestige format book, you’ll have to forgive the worse than normal cropping on the photos

I would have been fifteen when this came out, in high school, and still a few years away from when I would take a break from collecting. Gladstone had been publishing Disney comics for a couple years at this point and this was a comic that my brother, my Dad, and I would have all read. The issue is filled with Christmas stories and, of course, the highlights are the Duck ones. There is a lot of Disney goodness crammed into this comic so I wanted to take just a brief look at some of it here. Maybe they’ll remind you of a happy Christmas you had when you were a kid!

You Can’t Guess

Creators:
Story and Art –
Carls Barks

The first story in the issue is a Carl Barks story. He was the “good duck artist” and one of the main reasons that Disney comics continue to be reprinted. When I was going through my comics I actually thought this issue of Christmas Parade was going to feature “Christmas in ShackTown” but I’m glad it didn’t. This story is one I have not read dozens of times over the years so it was a bit fresher. It was nice to revisit something not quite so familiar.

The story begins with Huey, Dewey, and Louie walking through a toy store realizing that they have all the toys they could possibly want. They decide to write a letter to Santa asking him to give their presents to other kids who don’t have so many toys. They put their letter in the mail and while walking home they see a store display with a metal building set (think Erector building toys). Suddenly they realize they don’t have a toy like this and change their mind about their letter to Santa. So much for altruism. They rush off to the mailbox only to see the mailman driving away with their letter. On the way home they decide to ask Uncle Donald for the building sets. They do just that and he makes a deal with them, if they can guess what he wants for Christmas he’ll get them the building sets.

The boys try to figure out what Donald wants and are completely unsuccessful. They visit Daisy, Uncle Scrooge and even Grandma Duck looking for help to try and figure out what Donald wants. They try hypnosis, mind reading, and all sorts of things. Each time they meet up with a relative they cannot figure out what Donald wants. They end up driving home and Donald’s car breaks down each time and the boys have to push. After exhausting all possibilities the boys decide that what Donald really needs is a new car and they call Grandma to ask her for one because she had said if they figured it out she would buy the gift for them. What ends up happening is that each relative they visited also decides Donald needs a new car and they’ll also buy the kids the building sets because they figure Donald won’t. The story ends with the boys receiving multiple building toys and Donald several new cars.

The Li’l Bad Wolf – Turkey Trouble

Creators:
Art –
Jack Bradbury

One of my guilty pleasures when it comes to Walt Disney Comics and Stories is Li’l Bad Wolf. I don’t know what it is about these stories but I simply enjoy the hijinks that Li’L Wolf, Zeke, and Br’er Bear get up to. I get a kick out of Li’l Bad Wolf doing good things and his dad Zeke getting frustrated with him. This story features Li’l Bad Wolf and Br’er Bear giving out Christmas gifts at Li’l’s club. Zeke is annoyed that Li’l spent his money on gifts for other people instead of turkey dinner for themselves. Zeke heads off mad to Brer Bear’s place and see’s all the turkey’s he’s got. Br’er Bear has to go deliver the gifts, dressed up as Santa Claus, but is worried that Zeke is gonna steal a turkey. After he gives out all the gifts he rushes back and finds a turkey missing and storms off to pound Zeke. Zeke didn’t take the turkey though Br’er Fox did.

Meanwhile one of the three little pigs has pulled Zeke’s name from hat as the winner of the charity turkey from the club. Li’l bad Wolf and the three little pigs head over to Zeke’s house and put the turkey in the oven as a surprise. Of course Zeke comes home with Br’er Bear chasing him, trying to deny that he took the missing turkey, only to find one in his oven. Br’er Bear doesn’t believe Zeke’s story about Br’er Fox and starts pounding him. Li’l Bad and the three little pigs burst in to save Zeke and explain what happened. In the end Br’er Bear heads out to find his turkey while Zeke, the three little pigs and Li’l Bad Wolf enjoy their Christmas dinner.

Wrap Up

Sure the stories are old, silly, and pretty trite, but they were also meant for little kids. They were meant to show that it is better to give than to receive. They were meant to be nice stories where good little kids who are kind and generous will be rewarded. They were meant to be, and still are, nice, simple Christmas stories. They remind me of the wonderful Christmases I had when I was younger and they make me appreciate what I have now, even in this most unusual of Christmas seasons. I’ll close with the image on the back cover and wish you all a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Posted in Christmas | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment