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!

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Super Blog Team-Up: Red

The holidays are upon us and it is time for another edition of Super Blog Team-Up! Super Blog Team-Up, or SBTU, is an event where like minded bloggers and podcasters join forces to write and talk about a common subject that we all share a passion for – comics and the pop culture surrounding them. As 2020 draws to a close we are doing something a little different this time out. In the vein of the much maligned Valiant & Image cross-over mini-series, Deathmate, we are color coding the Team-Up into two topics aptly named SBTU Gold and Red. The Gold Team is going to take a What if? approach to one of their favorite characters or stories and come up with an alternate perspective to examine what might have been. The Red Team is going to look at the people behind the characters and stories that we love and write about some of their favorite creators.

I’ve decided to join forces with Team Red and write about one of my all time favorite creators, Sergio Aragonés. I honestly cannot remember when I was first exposed to his work but I expect it was probably in the margins of Mad magazine looking at the tiny cartoons drawn in between the panels on the page. I really got to know him best, though, in Groo the Wanderer. The cheese dip loving warrior has been a favorite of mine for as long as I can remember. For me the choice to join Team Red was an easy one because it would give me an excuse to delve into the world of Sergio Aragonés comics and share what I love about his fantastic career.

A couple of years ago I had a discussion with my brother and friends about comics that have always been consistently good and always had one creator or creative team. Comics like Kurt Busiek’s “Astro City”, Jeff Smith’s “Bone”, and Bill Willingham’s “Fables” were all discussed, and rightfully so. My addition to the conversation was Sergio Aragonés “Groo the Wanderer”. Along with Mark Evanier (co Writer), Stan Sakai (Letters), and Tom Luth & Gordon Kent (Colorists) that creative team has been making Groo comics since 1982. They have been published by Pacific Comics, Eclipse, Marvel, Image, and Dark Horse. I think it is incredible that a team like that has worked together for over 38 years making comics about a goofy barbarian and his friends and that is why I chose to write about Mr. Aragonés today.

I’m not going to do a Wikipedia bio on Sergio Aragonés, that information can be found in better places than this blog. What I do want to say is that I have learned a lot about him from his own pen. Creator rights and creator control have always been important to Sergio and when you are as talented as he is, and can sell as many comics as he has, sometimes you get to write about whatever you want. What I am getting at is that Sergio has written a lot of material that is autobiographical. The first page of Groo the Wanderer #1 from Pacific comics features a cartoon version of Sergio introducing Groo and how the creator owned title came into existence. Since then Sergio has been drawing himself into the funny pages always sharing things about himself, his career, his adventures, and his life. One of the places I got to know him best was in the pages of “Sergio Aragonés Funnies”, published by Bongo comics from 2011 – 2014.

Funnies was an excellent comic filled with stories about Sergio’s life, amusing looks at history, hilarious one page gags, and even puzzles and games. I learned Sergio was first published in the newspapers in Mexico, that his father was in the movie business, and that every year the management at Mad magazine took the staff on trips together as a thank you for all the work they did. Funnies was all Sergio with colors by Tom Luth & others, lettering by Karen Bates, and edited by Bill Morrison. The comics were filled with great material but the best thing about it was the reader got a real close look at the man himself and what he loved about his work. Reading each issue, solving the puzzles, or laughing at the gags you really start to appreciate that the guy at the desk with the pen simply wants the reader to have a good time and maybe be a little happier than they were when they put their money on the counter for his comic.

Let’s take a closer look at the introduction to issue #6 of Funnies and hopefully you’ll understand what I mean what I say how much Sergio put into the comic. In the first panel Sergio welcomes us as family. He is in a Christmas tree lot bringing home his tree, he is wearing a “Did I Err?” tee shirt, one of Groo’s catch phrases, and is being followed by the dog Ruferto, Groo’s sidekick. In the next few panels he shares a quick story about a holiday market in Germany filled with wonderful sights, sounds and smells. The story ends with a gag that the great aroma is actually smoke coming from a small machine powering some of the toys. In the final panel Sergio is home with Ruferto, the tree is up, and he has unknowingly dropped a box of ornaments on the ground because he is holding the box upside down. That’s five or six jokes and a fun little story all on page one of the comic. It does not get much better than that if you ask me. I could go on and on about Funnies, but there is so much more to talk about.

Sergio Aragonés has been working continuously at Mad Magazine since 1963. Despite what people might tell you, Mad Magazine is still being published. As a matter of fact, the most recent issue, No 17 cover date Feb 2021, features “Sergio’s Mad Travels”. The issue is filled with new and old work of his and of course there are marginals everywhere. Two of Sergio’s longest running features in Mad are the “A Mad Look At…” and “The Shadow Knows”.

“A Mad Look At …” consists multi-panel strips, always without anyone saying anything, that examine whatever the subject might be, for example “A Mad Look At Cars”, or “A Mad Look At Horror Movies”. There are no limits to the number of things that would be lampooned. The brilliance of the feature though is that it never has dialog. The jokes are always made without anyone speaking and usually there is some ironic twist to drive the point home. The feature is usually very satirical (as Mad is in general) but is always funny.

Personally I have never been a serious collector of Mad magazine but I have always enjoyed it. Some of my favorite features were Dave Berg’s “The Lighter Side of…”, anything Don Martin did, and Spy vs Spy. Without knowing it was Sergio Aragonés though, “A Mad Look at …” is also something I have always loved in Mad. Learning that it was one of Sergio’s features makes me wish I still had all those old magazines so I could go back and just peruse them to see all the things he “looked at” over the years.    

Here are several examples of the strip from recent issues of Mad:

A Mad Look at Racism
A Mad Look at Harassment
A Mad Look at Captain Marvel

Taking a look at some of Sergio’s other heavily satirical work let’s talk about his roasts of the biggest names in comics and pop culture. I’m talking about “Sergio Aragonés Stomps Star Wars” (2000), “Sergio Aragonés Destroys DC” (1996) and “Sergio Aragonés Massacres Marvel” (1996). I’ve got the Star Wars and DC ones in my collection and am still searching for the Marvel one. In these comics Sergio works with his long time collaborator Mark Evanier, another creator I could have written for this SBTU, but I’ll save that work for another day.

Together Mark and Sergio totally lampoon the characters, the companies, the fans, and the culture surrounding the properties. With Mark’s witty writing and Sergio’s ability to fit so much material into the page these comics are chock full of hilarious looks at Superman, The Legion of Superheroes, Lucasfilm and much, much more. I can only imagine what they do in the Marvel issue. The picture above is a great gag from the last page of the Destroys DC book where Sergio is telling Mark how much he loves DC, while looking at a pile of comic books, all of which are Marvel parodies.

Sergio does not always do his storytelling strips with no dialog and funny pictures. He is a talented writer as well. One of the gems I’ve been able to add to my collection over the years is the underground comix “Quack” #2. The lead story “Newton, the Rabbit Wonder” is a clever science fiction story written by Sergio with art duties going to Steve Leialoha. Steve had an extensive career, most as an inker, working on titles such as Howard the Duck, Spiderwoman, and Star-Reach. The story features a courageous, anthropomorphized, rabbit named Newton who is selected to go to Earth in a parallel dimension where the only evolved animals are humans, i.e. “our” world to rescue Fenton the monkey.

The next book I want to discuss is something I found a few years ago while digging through the bins. “Plop! The Magazine of Weird Humor”. Plop was one of DC’s humor magazines, but it was not just straight up funny jokes. Like the tagline says, it was weird. There was an edginess to it, the humor was pretty dark. The main gag that ran through the series was that when something bad happened to someone or something it went Plop!. Picture a couple walking down the street and the gentleman offers his hand to his female companion to help her cross a large puddle. As soon as the woman steps across a small child comes around the corner, jumps in the puddle, and splash the guy is soaked. That’s Plop!

The first nineteen issues of the series featured covers with oddball characters drawn by Basil Wolverton or Wally Wood framed by “margin-esque” drawings by Sergio Aragonés. The comic was an anthology of jokes, and short stories hosted by Cain, Able, and Eve from the Houses of Mystery and Secrets. Sergio drew the introductions, jokes, and a lot of the stories. Steve Skeates, Wally Wood, Joe Orlando, Paul Levitz, and Sergio did most of the writing. Alex Toth and quite a few others also drew for the series. Joe Orlando was the editor. Look at those last couple of sentences again, they read like a hall of fame of comic creators.

I had only previously heard of the series from the Cosmic Treadmill Podcast. When I read the first issue I had found, issue #14, I wrote about it here. I was ecstatic when I pulled it from the bins as it was instantly recognizable as Sergio’s work on the cover. It was filled with twisted jokes and good stories. I loved it. I soon set out to collect a full run of the series. One thing I found out pretty quickly is that nice copies could be pretty pricey, after all it is more than 45 years old, had a pretty short run, and had some of the biggest names in comics working on it. This was not dollar bin fodder. I have since managed to put a set together, at a decent price, but I’m always on the lookout for good copies. It is a seriously fun comic and I would highly recommend it to any fans.

That brings us to the big guy, the comic Sergio has been working on most of his professional life, Groo the Wanderer. Groo was a character that first was published in Destroyer Duck #1 and his first series with Pacific Comics, but that is not where he started. Sergio had been working on getting Groo published for quite some time but he wanted to own the character, not allow the publisher to own it. It never worked out until the Pacific Comic company came along.

Pacific Comics started out as a distribution company that eventually got into publishing. They had a unique idea at the time. They brought in talent by allowing creators to own their creations and PC got the publishing money. Their first creator was Jack Kirby. They got him and his Captain Victory comic. He had full creative control and rights and PC got to publish the book. They also published work by Mike Grell, John Bryne and Steve Ditko to name a few. Mark Evanier and Sergio got their first issue of Groo published in 1982. Pacific Comics publishing was pretty short lived, running from 1981 to 1984. The final Groo stories that were supposed to be published by PC actually ended up in the pages of the Eclipse Groo the Wanderer Special #1. That did not stop Sergio, Mark, and the rest of the team though. They eventually found a home at Marvel comics.

In the mid eighties independent comics were booming and at the same time specialty comic shops were opening like crazy. It was a real growth era. Marvel saw the writing on the wall, and  instead of losing shelf space to these independent comics, they figured why not bring them in house. The Marvel Epic line was first launched as a magazine which turned into a full comic imprint. Epic was started by Jim Shooter and then edited by Archie Goodwin and Al Milgrom. The imprint allowed the creators to retain the rights to their creations. It was a perfect fit for Sergio and Mark’s dim-witted barbarian and the full cast of characters. Groo the Wanderer ran from 1985 to 1995, one hundred and twenty issues, with two full sized graphic novels; The Life of Groo and the Death of Groo.

The general idea of the series is that Groo goes on adventures meeting new people and recurring characters, and traveling all over the world, all the while having crazy adventures. More often than not Groo will make several serious mistakes only to eventually fall ass backwards into a happy ending. This was usually facilitated by someone smarter than he is giving him a nudge or two in the right direction. It is always a good time. Early in the series the stories were pretty much self-contained with different characters like the wise Sage or the bandit, Toranto, crossing paths with Groo again and again. In later issues, and quite a few of the Dark Horse comics, the stories had arcs that crossed a couple of issues. Even then though you could still pick up any single issue of Groo, understand what is going on, and enjoy the comic.

While at its heart Groo is a satirical humor comic, there is really a lot more to it. There is action, adventure, fantasy, humor, love, and sadness all wrapped up in twenty plus pages of sequential art. There is great storytelling, poetry and singing. There is something for comic fans of all ages. That is what drew me to the book and has kept me reading it ever since. After wrapping up their time at Marvel, Sergio, Mark and the rest of the crew took their stories to Image comics, and finally Dark Horse where it has been published ever since. All that would not have been possible if Sergio had sold his character to the first publisher who offered him a deal. It took a strong will, determination, and talent to be able to retain those rights and do what he wanted with his creation. As far as I know, no one other than Sergio has ever drawn Groo for a published comic or magazine and that is quite an accomplishment.

I could go on and on all day about the countless number of comics Sergio Aragonés has worked on, but there is no need for that. While I have barely scratched the surface of Sergio Aragonés extremely prolific career I hope at this point I have demonstrated how talented Sergio Aragonés is. I could write all day about how he is a true master of the one page gag, or review his superhero satire The Mighty Mangor, but instead I will close this piece sharing the page of my autograph book that Sergio signed for me when I met him at the Boston Comic-Con in 2014. He was a real gentleman and I was very glad to have the opportunity to tell him how much enjoyment he had provided me with over the years.

That’s not quite all though. Since you’ve made it this far I implore you to check out the other great bloggers and podcasters who make up the Super Blog Team Up Red and Gold teams. Check out the Red team to read about the creators behind Scrooge McDuck and Blue Devil. Also check out the closer looks at Steve Gerber, and Kurt Schaffenberger. Once you are finished with those folks check out what the Gold Team is doing with their “What If!” looks at The Sinister Dr. Phibes, Captain Confederacy, the Ultraverse, Speedball & Spiderman (???), and Arak the Son of Thunder.

Team Red

Between The Pages Blog – Scrooge McDuckTales Woo-oo!
https://www.betweenthepagesblog.com/2020/12/scrooge-mcducktales-woo-oo.html

Daves Comics Blog – Blue Devil Creation 
https://davescomicheroes.blogspot.com/2020/12/blue-devil-creation.html

Doc Strange – Comic Book’s Unsung Heroes! Steve Gerber!
https://magazinesandmonsters.com/2020/12/15/gerber/

In My Not So Humble Opinion – Kurt Schaffenberger, The Definitive Lois Lane Artist of the Silver Age
https://benjaminherman.wordpress.com/2020/12/15/kurt-schaffenberger/

Team Gold

Pop Culture Retrorama – Super Blog Team-up: What If The Sinister Dr. Phibes Had Been Produced!
https://popcultureretrorama.com/2020/12/10/super-blog-team-up-what-if-the-sinister-dr-phibes-had-been-produced/

Source Material – What If Captain Confederacy
https://www.spreaker.com/user/5870686/sm-sbtu-cpt-confed-1

Comic Reviews by Walt – What if the Ultraverse Had Continued
https://comicreviewsbywalt.com/2020/12/16/sbtu-gold-what-if-the-ultraverse-had-continued/

Charlton Hero – What If Peter Parker became Speedball instead of Spider-Man?
https://charltonhero.wordpress.com/2020/12/16/super-blog-team-up-gold-what-if-peter-parker-had-become-speed-ball-instead-of-spiderman/

The Telltale Mind – Arak, Son of Thunder – A Lost Adventure
https://thetelltalemind.com/2020/12/16/arak-son-of-thunder-a-lost-adventure/

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Action 2020

It is pretty rare these days for a middle aged man like myself, who collects comic books, to walk into a store, see something on the new release rack and genuinely be excited about it. At least it is in my world. But that is exactly what happened to me last weekend when I walked into Newbury Comics.

I don’t have a “real” comic shop close to me, but I do have a Newbury Comics where the folks running the store are all big comic people and really do their best to keep a nice selection of comics, trade paperbacks, and anime in stock. When I get the chance, I’ll talk to whomever might be around about the new releases, the things we are reading, or the latest movies we saw. It may not be a full fledged LCS but it’s pretty darn close.

On this particular Sunday afternoon I was looking at the shelves with last week’s books and there on the bottom was a copy of Action 2020, the cover promising Mayhem and Danger! I snatched it up and quickly tried to figure out if it was what I thought it was, a new issue of the British comic magazine, controversial for being overly violent. It was so controversial that the October 23rd (1976) issue was “banned” and copies were pulped before making it to the newsstands. After checking the comic out for a minute or two, I realized it was exactly that and I made my purchase.

When I got home I did a little research and I learned that earlier this year Treasury of British Comics released Action 2020 as a one shot. I expect they were trying to capitalize on the nostalgia for the original series and it’s checkered past. They even sold the printed copy of the new magazine with a reproduction of the Oct 23rd issue that was never released. I’ve since been searching online for a copy of that bagged issue for a week now without success. In that same time I also managed to read the actual comic.

Before I get to the stories I want to mention how I even know what Action! is. One of my all time favorite podcasts is Chris and Reggie’s Cosmic Treadmill. Episode #137 of their show covered the book and the folks who worked on it. They also discuss the era of British culture, why the comic was “banned”, and the video “nasties”. I’ve got a real fondness for seventies history, British history, and comic history so this episode was a trifecta for me. I would encourage anyone that might be interested to check the episode out. Now with that out of the way let’s get to the DANGER!

Kids Rule O.K.

Creators:

Created by: Chris Lowder & Mike White
Script – Ram V
Art – Henrik Sahlstom
Letters – Petitecreme

The story opens with a young person in jeans, a hoodie, and goggles dragging a large metal sheet through the streets of London. The editorial boxes tell the reader that there was a plague in 1986 that killed all the adults and old people, leaving just the children of the world to survive and carry on. The kid reaches his destination, a large ramshackle metal structure, and is greeted by several other kids in hoodies and goggles. The plan is to add the new scrap to whatever it is they are building.

Off in the distance comes the sound of engines. A motorcycle gang approaches and one of the kid builders sounds the alarm by ringing a bell. Several older and larger teenagers grab guns and a giant ax and get ready to rumble with the motorcycle gang. A very brutal and gory battle commences. The small group of defenders inflict some serious damage on the gang, including a massive headbutt into the nose and face of one of the bikers, that sends the surviving members of the gang off and running. The story closes with the teenagers reflecting on why they fight and what they are fighting for as they watch the younger kids try to put out a fire that was started on the structure they were building.

Hellman at the Twilight of the Reich 

Creators:

Created by: Gerry Finley Day & Mike Dorey
Script – Garth Ennis
Art – Mike Dorey
Letters – Rob Steen

1945 and three children are standing around a car with the hood open. Suddenly a Panzer tank bursts out of the woods pulling in front of the car. The brother tries to comfort his sisters telling them it is a German tank, one of their own, nothing to be afraid of. A German officer, Kurt Hellman, gets out of the tank to find out what the trouble is. The children, whose parents have most likely been killed, are trying to escape from the encroaching Russian forces. Hellman tells one of his men to get working on the car and explains to the children that they must have got lost because they were headed straight towards them.

Max, the crew member of the tank working on the car, complains that they need to get moving. The young boy, Erich, is enamored by the war hero Hellman, and explains to his sisters about the stories of victories in battle that he’s read about in the paper. Hellman can barely pay attention to the children but does seem to genuinely care about their welfare. Erich’s sister, the older one, Greta, is not quite so taken with the soldier or the tank crew. She understands that the Germans are losing the war.

One of the tank crew calls Hellman telling him that Russian tanks are approaching on one side and soldiers on the other. Max tells the kids to get in close to the tank and cover their ears. The solitary Panzer makes short work of the Russians. After the battle Erich is even more star struck by what’s just happened. His sister Greta fells differently and gives him a good talking to about the reality of the war and what they just saw. The story ends with Hellman sending the kids off to find the first British or American troops they can to surrender too and the tank crew heading off to finish their mission.

Hell Machine

Creators:

Created by:  Henry Flint
Script – Henry Flint
Art –  Henry Flint & Jake Lynch
Colours – JIm Boswell
Letters –  Simon Bowland

A young woman is waking up, trying to remember who she is. As she starts to recall her past we get some exposition that she was born illegally, her mother never paid to get pregnant, so they had to become outlaws and live outside society. The woman remembers her own name, Tase. Named after the fact that she was born when the police tasered her pregnant mother during a riot. Tase eventually figures out she is on a treadmill with hundreds of other people being fed into the hell machine. What follows is a dystopian adventure of a young woman trying to escape a giant meat grinder where it is unknown what happens to the people who manage to survive the hooks and buzzsaws and get through the HELL MACHINE.

Hook Jaw

Creators:

Created by: Ken Armstrong, Pat Mills, & Roman Sola
Script – Quint Amity
Art – Dan Lish

Right off the bat I’ve got to believe that the name “Quint Amity” is a pen named for the writer who obviously loves Jaws (Captain Quint, Amity Island…get it?). The five pages of wordless story feature a fishing crew in the Arctic ocean who has taken a live Polar Bear onboard. The Polar Bear gets free from it’s cage when during a storm, the giant great white shark, Hook Jaw, slams into the hull of the ship. The polar bear kills the crew in glorious fashion eventually diving into the ocean following the last of his captors overboard. The climax features the polar bear and great white dismembering the fisherman at the same time and then attacking each other.

Dredger

Creators:

Created by: Kelvin Gosnell, Pat Mills, & Horcio Altuna
Script – Zina Hutton
Art – Staz Johnson
Colours – John Charles
Lettering – Agent PC

This is a pretty standard, but action packed short, about a spy sent to recover stolen data, who gets double crossed but eventually comes out on top and completes his assignment. This one feels like a chapter in a larger story that I haven’t read but would enjoy if I could. 

End note – I could not bring myself to post the final panel of the Hook Jaw story here. I understand I wrote about what happens at the end of the story in the synopsis but the final splash page is something that a comic reader should be allowed to see and experience for themselves without me spoiling it here.

Wrap Up

I cannot fully explain how excited I was when I saw this magazine on the stands at Newbury. It was that elated feeling you get when you come across something that you didn’t know existed but now have the opportunity to dive into and enjoy. It is like taking a hike in the woods and coming across a beautiful waterfall you didn’t know you would see that day. That may seem a little melodramatic when talking about a comic filled with war, dystopian futures, and killer sharks but I think if you have that collector bug inside you, and are reading this piece, then you probably can understand what I’m getting at.

The comic itself was really enjoyable. The Kids Rule, Hellman, and Hook Jaw stories were the real standouts.  Each story was a well done chapter that felt like they were part of a larger story but were still good tales on their own. That kind of story-telling, where the reader can pick it up in the middle and get an idea for what came before, but still enjoy what is presented in this chapter takes some real talent to tell. The art was good across the board but the black and white Hellman story drawn by Mike Dorey was especially well done because it made it feel like a comic magazine story from the seventies.

All in all this was a terrific magazine that I’d love to see resume publication. I’ll close with the pin up from the back cover and hope that you are ready for Action!

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Where does the time go…

All the way back in March and April when the plague really started spreading quickly and Massachusetts rolled out it’s lock down and stay at home orders I thought I’d get a lot of reading and writing done. I turned the dining room into a comic sorting den. I wrote a bunch of short quick posts based on the things I was reading like random Who’s Who issues, Skateman, and some X-Men comics that I got a great deal on. Things changed as the virus quickly spread  across the country and the rest of the world.

Due to complications caused by Covid-19, comic publishing ground to a halt as did my sorting and writing. My wife and I were working longer hours and were more worn out at the end of the day. DC Comics suddenly announced that they were cutting ties with Diamond Distribution. Everything seemed to be up in the air and no one really knew what was going on. New comics eventually started getting printed and shipped again but there was still a lot of uncertainty. Some stores were able to weather the challenges with what was happening while many could not.

My comic guy, his shop closed years ago but he kept his business running for his most faithful customers, was having a hard time getting any news out of his Diamond contacts. Most of us bought DC books, with only a few Marvel, Image and other publishers thrown in. We collectively decided it wasn’t worth it for us and him to pay the outrageous shipping costs just for the handful of comics we would be able to get from Diamond and then try and work out how to get DC books. It was over. 

Since I stopped getting comics from my guy I have gone to a couple of shops to pick up a handful of new books. But that has only been a few times. I still don’t like going out much beyond the most necessary errands so I’ve missed buying plenty of issues and will have to fill in quite a few holes eventually. On the flipside, I haven’t actually missed reading piles of new comics. While I still enjoy Daredevil, Superman, and the stuff I was reading regularly, it’s been easy to let keeping up with stuff slide. I had pictured spending hours filling out orders with Midtown comics or some other website where I could get a subscription of some kind but that never happened for many reasons, laziness, lack of desire, depression, whatever you want to call it, I didn’t do that.

Finally in August I filled out an order with DBCS for October release comics. This first order was a test to see if I wanted to keep going through them. It was easy and the price was great. The order arrived tonight and due to how great the whole process was, if I decide to keep buying new comics I’ll definitely be going with them. There is something wonderful about getting a box of comics in the mail. I decided to wait until after work and dinner to open it and really savor the moment.

Opening the box was a joy. They packaged everything really well. All the comics, magazines and digests were bagged and the comics boarded. Everything was surrounded by foam to hold it in place and prevent anything from getting dented, bent or crushed. On top of the pile were a couple of Archie digests. Under that were the comics, followed by a couple of magazines and finally the Previews catalog. A new copy of Previews is a little magical, I mean how could you not love looking through a catalog filled with comics, toys and games?

Opening that box was like reuniting with old friends, Archie, The Flash, and Alfred E Newman were all there. Sure, I have tons of unread old and new comics, but as a collector there is something special about brand new comics. As a lifelong comic collector, I’m always chasing that rush of buying some new adventure fresh off the newsstand. This also means I’ve got decisions to make, and sooner rather than later, but for the rest of tonight I’m just gonna be a happy guy on new comic day.

Posted in Collecting Stories | Leave a comment

Super-Blog Team-Up Expanded Universe The Further Adventures of Indiana Jones

The Super Blog Team Up is back and bigger than ever. A group of like minded Bloggers and Podcasters have banded together to talk and write about pop culture expanded universes. What are expanded universes you ask? Well it all starts with a franchise of some kind, whether it be a movie, TV show, book (or comic book), you name it, that eventually become so popular that the stories branch out to other media or forms of entertainment. It could be a movie that other stories are written in novels, or a toy line that also had a cartoon series and a comic book. I think you get the picture. We’ve all picked different franchises to write and talk about. Please take a look at all the wonderful contributors links at the end of this piece, I’m sure you’ll find some fascinating and wonderful blogs and podcasts.

I’ve chosen Indiana Jones for the universe that I wanted to write about. I’m old enough to have seen Raiders of the Lost Ark in the theaters and still remember the fear and revulsion I felt when Indy and Satipo entered the cave at the beginning of the movie and they had spiders crawling all over them. I have loved the Indiana Jones films my entire life and yet I know very little about the broader Indiana Jones Universe. I’ve never played the role playing game, I’ve never read any of the novels. Heck I’ve never even seen all of the Young Indiana Jones Chronicles! My brother and I had a couple of the toys so we certainly had our own adventures but that is neither here nor there. So what made me choose the swashbuckling pulp hero of eighties cinema?

The blu ray box set cover for the four movies

Well in the past few years I have picked up the Marvel movie adaptations for Raiders of the Lost Ark, Temple of Doom, and Last Crusade. Most recently I started working on putting together a complete set of The Further Adventures of Indiana Jones, also from Marvel comics. The comic series was released between January 1983 and March 1986. This means that it was released well after the movie Raiders of the Ark – 1981, and well before The Last Crusade – 1989. Temple of Doom was released in 1984 and the movie adaptation came out that summer as well. I do not have the whole Further Adventures series but in the issues I have read there are definitely some incongruities between the events of the comics and the third and *cough* *mutter* fourth movies. 

Marvel Super Special Magazine 30 – cover by Butch Guice

It is actually those incongruities that can make expanded universes so much fun for fans to explore and discuss. We love to compare what is considered canon and then pick apart everything that is “wrong” or “made up” in some other story. We love to look at adaptations of stories and find the differences or extras. In fact, a podcast I really dig, “I Read Movies”, does exactly that. Paxton Holly reads movie novelizations and then discusses the differences between the movie and the book. It’s a great time and I highly recommend checking it out. By the way he’s also joined the SBTU gang for this outing so make sure you check out his piece. Simply put it is a lot of fun to get into the worlds of our favorite characters and find them to be  fleshed out, wonderful places we can repeatedly visit.

Creators
Script and Layout – John Byrne
Finished Art – Terry Austin
Letter – Joe Rosen
Colorist – Bob Sharen
Editor – Louise Jones
EiC – Jim Shooter

That line up reads like Marvel royalty, but what is interesting is that Byrne only wrote the first issue and provided art for the first two. According to Keith Dallas in the “American Comic Book Chronicles – The 1980’s” John Byrne did not like the editorial process imposed by Lucasfilm. After completing the first issue and finishing the plotting the second one Lucasfilm requested changes to the already approved story. John Byrne left the series at that point and the second issue was completed without him.

That is certainly one of the challenges involved with expanded universes, the owners of the property can be very particular about the stories their characters are used in. In the comics industry Byrne is certainly not unique in being challenged by the demands of Lucasfilm. Roy Thomas created the character Jaxxon, a green bunny-like alien, that Han Solo recruits in the first Star Wars comic story after the adaptation of the movie was completed. Lucas apparently did not care for the character and after that initial storyline he was not heard from again until 2018 and has since become the poster child of Star Wars expanded universe eratta. That’s enough about green space bunnies and prickly writers though, let’s get to our hero, Indiana Jones in one of his earliest non-movie adventures.

The story begins at the university where Indy teaches, in his class, where he is practicing his skills with a bullwhip by knocking a cigarette out of one of his student’s mouth. It is quite over the top. Marcus has just come into the room and is horrified but he’s there to bring Indy back to his office to greet a former student Charlie Dunne. As Indy and Charlie exchange pleasantries we see a mysterious figure outside the office window with a very large dagger, that seconds later ends up in Charlie’s back. Charlie had just finished telling Indy he knows where the Ikons of Ikammahen are before he collapses on the desk. Indy doesn’t believe they are real and Charlie never gets the chance to prove him wrong.

Marcus and Indy do not give chase and instead start going through Charlie’s things before they call the police. They find maps and details about what Charlie was working on and right then and there Indy decides he’s off on his next adventure. When Indy arrives in Krikambo (Africa) he meets up with Charlie’s sister Edith. They get back to her hotel room only to find it ransacked and the perpetrators still hanging around. They fiends grab Edith and take off through a window. Indy cold cocks one of the men and then chases the other one who has Edith.

At least it is not snakes

After a couple of panels with Indy following Edith’s kidnapper through the village he ends up in a booby trapped dead end. An Iron door falls in place behind Indy, trapping him, when another door below his feet opens and drops him down a chute into a room crawling with rats. The chase scene is very similar to the one from Raiders where Indy tries to rescue Marion. Indy eventually breaks through a locked wooden door only to find Edith being held prisoner in a throne room filled with gold. In said throne is a very large, well dressed man named Solomon Black. It turns out Mr. Black was expecting Edith’s brother Charlie, not the world renowned adventurer Indiana Jones. He wants the Ikons of Ikammanen that Charlie had discovered. Under the threat of Edith’s life Indy agrees to work with Solomon to find the Ikons.

We cut to a boat with Solomon Black, Indiana Jones, Edith, and a sea captain whose big, bushy, white beard would rival the Gorton Fisherman. They are reviewing the charts and the captain doesn’t believe there is land where Charlie’s maps indicate. Of course he is proven to be incorrect as they eventually reach the location only to find the island packed in dense fog. The island’s coast is littered with wrecked vessels so Indy, Edith and a couple of Solomon’s goons are forced to take a dinghy ashore.

The landing party finds the beach booby trapped with arrows flying at them as soon as they touch the dry ground. One of Black’s henchmen bites it while Indy knocks Edith to the ground. Indy and Edith eventually make it off the beach and into the jungle. Soon afterwards they reach a village in a valley surrounded by mountains. The village appears to be deserted but it is built around a huge structure that to me looks like a giant chimney but is probably a temple.

Indy and Edith explore the village and make their way to the temple and head inside. In the middle of the building is a round room lined with alcoves. In each alcove is a golden figure most of which have looks of extreme anguish and terror on their faces. Indy examines one of the figures pulling it from its resting place. When he does this it breaks at the ankles and human bones fall out. Before Indy even gets the chance to be horrified he is struck from behind. When he wakes up he’s tied to a chain, with Edith, suspended over a hole in the floor. Below them molten gold. In the room are several men dressed in ceremonial garb, waiting to lower their prisoners to their death and turn them into golden Ikons of Ikammahen!

What an ending! This is exactly what I would want in an Indiana Jones Adventure. Indy has to leave his dull, but necessary, work at the university in order to find a mysterious treasure. Throughout his journey he encounters one peril after another. Joining him for the fun is a beautiful woman. As an adventure story is a perfect fit for a comic book. Turning the story into a serial means the author can stretch it out, introduce new challenges along the way and end the first couple of issues with a cliffhanger keeping the reader engaged, wanting to buy the next issue to see how Indy escapes. Is there a better way to sell a comic book?

Even with all that awesomeness, there are a couple of flaws. The art, while excellent, suffers a bit in my mind because all the characters look like typical John Bryne characters. There is not a lot of uniqueness to them. The highlight of the art is once Indy gets into his adventuring gear, i.e. the leather jackets and fedora, he really does shine. The fact that Edith gets kidnapped and needs to be saved two minutes after meeting Indy is a little bit much with the whole female character needing to be rescued by the big, strong man. Overall though it is a really well done, pulp style adventure.

Creators
Plot and Script – David Michelinie
Pencils – Kerry Gammill
Inks – Sam Dela Rosa
Letterer – Joe Rosen
Editor – Louise Jones
EiC – Jim Shooter

I want to talk about this issue for a couple of reasons, only one of which is that I don’t have issue #2 to discuss and finish the previous story. Actually the reason I want to look at this one is that it has a bit more of an Indiana Jones feel to it than the one John Byrne wrote in my opinion.

The story begins with Indiana breaking into a French monastery in order to retrieve an artifact. There is a group of thieves that are posing as monks into order to cover up their operations stealing treasure and smuggling it to parts unknown. Indy gets what he came for but his escape does not go to plan as the gang of the thieves catch him in the act.

Once he is home safe and sound he learns from Marcus that the paper he grabbed to wrap his prize artifact in is actually a map that could lead them to the fabled people of Shintay. Marcus tells Indy that the Shintay are a legend, a tribe of people that left Atlantis and settled in sub Saharan Africa. Their conversation is interrupted by none other than star reporter Marion Ravenwood. After a small lovers spat Marion invites herself on Indy’s quest to see where the map takes them.

Once they are in Africa they are forced to continue their journey into the jungle without guides as all the hired hands joined an expedition that came though just before Indy and Marion arrived. In the depths of the jungle the raft that they are on is attacked by a pissed off hippo. Using his whip Indy is able to get Marion and himself to safety just to end up in a tree with a giant boa constrictor above them and hungry crocodiles below them. They swing away from those monsters but end up in quicksand. They are rescued though by the men from the mysterious expedition that hired all the help from the village.

The rescue is almost too good to be true and in fact is. Indy and Marion are brought back to the camp where they clean up and are offered dinner and a tent to spend the night. Indy is a bit suspicious and snoops around the camp when everyone appears to have gone to bed.

He discovers a tent filled with supplies that after a little poking around are in reality Nazi ammunition and not the medicals supplies the crates are labeled with. Just as Indy figures this out his hosts discover him and bum-bum-ba they are in their full Nazi uniforms. Lousy tricksters. Indy creates a distraction with his lantern, grabs Marion from their tent and gets out of the camp as quickly as possible. The find a small cave to hide in while the Nazi’s search for them. They are not alone in the cave though and the issue closes with a growling beast making its presence known as the Nazi search party passes by.

This story really has quite a few elements that really stand out and make it an excellent tale. First the issue begins with Indy already in the middle of a caper. The reader does not know how he got there or what he’s doing but we sure are along for the ride. It’s an action packed opening that really grabs you right away.

Marion shows up in this issue, but she is not in need of rescue or saving, instead she puts herself in the adventure working as Indy’s equal, a partner. When she’s in danger in the river later in the story Indy is as well. Instead of just Indy saving her and moving on, he is saving both of them and things keep getting worse until they both need help from the Nazi explorers.

Finally the antagonists are Nazis just like the first and third movies. Also like those movies there is a politeness to the adversaries because they are treasure hunters first and foremost and then evil would be world conquerors. All in all the characters in this issue are more dynamic and interesting then the one dimensional ones from the first issue. The story is another good pulp adventure that ends with a cliffhanger that really keeps the reader interested. Both stories are classic Indiana Jones adventures that I really want to find the next issues of so I can see how Indy, Edith and Marion get out of the jams they are in.

That wraps up my entry into the expanded universe of Indiana Jones. I cannot wait to get back out to the dollar bins and comic shows to see if I can track down the remaining issue of the series that I’m missing. Back in 1983 reading these comics off the newsstand would have been a great way for young kids and comic collectors to relive Indiana’s adventures while they waited for the Temple of Doom to be released.

Finally I want to Charlton Hero for leading the charge and the great graphics he provided for all us SBTU-ers. I also want to thank Between the Pages for coming up with the Expanded Universe idea for this event. It was fun writing this piece and working with the SBTU community.

Now, if you enjoyed this look at Indiana Jones beyond the movies I would like to direct your attention to the other entries in the Super Blog Team Up look at expanded universes, just click the links below to go on another amazing adventure!

Super-Hero Satellite: M.A.S.K.: The Road To Revolution
https://charltonhero.wordpress.com/2020/06/22/super-blog-team-up-presents-the-expanded-universe-of-m-a-s-k

Between The Pages Blog: Fantastic Forgotten Star Wars Characters
https://betweenthepagesblog.typepad.com/between-the-pages-blog/2020/06/super-blog-team-up-fantastic-star-wars-characters-that-youve-completely-forgotten.html


Comic Reviews By Walt: SBTU – Expanded Universe: Aliens and Predator

https://comicreviewsbywalt.wordpress.com/?p=17474

Dave’s Comic Heroes Blog: Logan’s Run Marvel Movie Adaptation
https://davescomicheroes.blogspot.com/2020/06/logans-run-marvel-movie-adaptation.html

The Telltale Mind: Archie Andrews – Superstar
http://thetelltalemind.com/2020/06/24/archie-andrews-superstar/

Radulich In Broadcasting: Flash Gordon Universe
https://www.spreaker.com/episode/30676120

The Source Material Comics Podcast: TMNT/Ghostbusters
https://www.spreaker.com/episode/32535480

Unspoken Issues: Mad-Dog (Marvel Comics, 1992)
https://www.spreaker.com/episode/32550135

Bronze Age Babies: Seven Decades of Apes-mania, and We’re Afflicted! https://bronzeagebabies.blogspot.com/2020/06/super-blog-team-up-seven-decades-of.html

Echoes from the Satellite – Tales from the Forbidden Zone – The Pacing Place
https://echoesfromthesatellite.blogspot.com/2020/06/super-blog-team-up-planet-of-apes-tales.html

Black & White and Bronze Comics – Beast on the Planet of the Apes Review https://blackwhitebronzecomics.blogspot.com/2020/06/super-blog-team-up-beast-on-planet-of.html

Pop Culture Retrorama: The Phantom Universe
https://popcultureretrorama.com/2020/06/24/super-blog-team-up-the-phantom-expanded-universe/amp/?__twitter_impression=true

MichaelMay.Online: Treasure Island Universe
http://www.michaelmay.online/2020/06/the-treasure-island-expanded-universe.html

DC In The 80s: The TSR Universe
http://www.dcinthe80s.com/2020/06/when-tsr-imprint-had-its-own-line-of.html

Cavalcade of Awesome – Jumper Universe
https://wp.me/p2NxJ-4aM

COMING SOON

The Daily Rios – Little Shop of Horrors
http://thedailyrios.com/

Lost N Comics Youtube – Expanding the Medium: Motion/Audio Comics
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCJXEjtBJ-mkUVVaA5oOFNlA/videos

Posted in Superblog Teamup | Tagged , , | 16 Comments