Beware #8


The Monsters are Coming!

‘Tis the Halloween season. It is time for stories of ghosts, ghouls, and things that go bump in the night. I picked up this issue of Beware over the weekend at the Baltimore Comic Con (hopefully more on that in another post). Beware is an anthology comic and, at least in this issue, contains all reprints from older Atlas and Marvel comics. I’ve read a fair amount of horror anthologies and I have to say this one was really good. Very often the stories are pretty predictable with twist endings that the reader can see coming a mile away. That was not the case with this comic.

The Helping Hand

Pencils – Vernon Henkel
Reprinted from Marvel Tales #129 (1949 Atlas Comics)


The story begins with a couple standing in front of a creepy old house with a for sale sign in front of it. The man is telling the woman that the house is perfect because it is far from the neighbors and the police will never find them there. The woman is not so convinced and does not like the house. The couple are quickly identified to the reader as George and Jean, and that they are on the run from the law. Time passes and George fixes up the place enough to make it livable.

Meanwhile Jean is still unhappy and explains to George that she feels as if she is being watched. She is so disturbed that she forgets to do the shopping and they run out of sugar. Just as George is berating her for doing nothing while he breaks his back to fix the house up there is a knock at the door. George starts to freak out thinking it’s the police but when he answers the door it is just a friendly neighbor with some sugar to give them. George and Jean are both worried about how that happened so quickly, the neighbor showing up just when they needed something.


After more and more occurrences of people showing up with items that they needed almost as soon as they need them George and Jean are getting pretty distraught. Jean wants to leave but George has to know what’s going on. He decides that they will throw a party and invite the neighbors. On the night of the party, after dinner, George mentions that he wants his pipe but cannot find it. One of the older guests tells him that it is behind the desk where it had fallen. When George confronts the old man on how he knew that the old man simply states that he knows everything that goes on.

After all the guests have left George is all the way freaked out and thinks their neighbors are aliens in human disguise and says he’s calling the cops. At this point the reader must know this will go poorly for George but let’s see what he does.


The police show up and surround the house. They call for George to come out and he does so, happily, and proceeds to tell the officers about the aliens in the town. The head of the squad does not believe George and asks for one of his men’s binoculars. He’s able to easily confirm his suspicions about George and decides to show him what he’s found. When George looks through the glass he sees one of the neighbors spying on them with their own binoculars.  

It seems George and Jean had come across a very small town where the residents have nothing to do but spy on each other and newcomers. George, like many small time hoods, starts to recant and complain about being framed and tricked as he is lead away in handcuffs.

Black Dungeon


Artist – MIke Sekowsky
Reprinted from Mystic #2 (Atlas comics 1951).

The Black Dungeon is the longest story in the issue and is also the most reminiscent of the “golden age” of horror comics with large narration dialog boxes at the top of each panel above the word balloons and illustrations. It is the most engaging story in this issue largely because of Sekowsky’s beautiful and dynamic art. The opening splash is a eerie picture of a dungeon door surrounded by hooded and masked figures. There is a dragon and woman in a pink dress who appears to be curious about the dungeon door. There are grim warnings about secrets and death, all of which have no actual bearing on the following strip.

The story begins in some Eastern European village where a small disfigured man with a hunchback is being tormented by the local youth. The heroine of the story, Helga, chases the young men off and asks the picked on man, Otto, if he is okay. She then offers to care for Otto and let’s him live with her father and her. Otto feeling indebted goes everywhere with Helga and helps her with whatever she needs.

Helga informs us the reader that she loves everyone in her village with the exception of one man who happens to be the richest man in town and the local tailor, Herr Gruber. Of course Herr Gruber becomes interested in Helga and asks her father for permission to marry her. Helga does not want to marry Gruber and Otto does not want him to marry her either. Otto decides he’s going to take matters into his own hands.


Otto takes Gruber out to the cemetery, to Gruber’s family mausoleum, and tells him that he’s found gold and jewels inside and since it is his family Gruber should have them. Greed, a common failing in golden age villains, is too much for Herr Gruber. Inside the crypt he’s digging when Otto attacks him with a shovel. Gruber turns the attack around on Otto, repeatedly strikes him with the shovel and locks him in the crypt. Helga, who followed her companion, has witnessed the whole thing and is quickly discovered by Gruber. As Gruber drags Helga from the cemetery they are followed by the screams of Otto cursing Gruber that he will always protect Helga.


Soon after Gruber and Helga are married and he takes her away to America. They move into a large creepy house where Gruber keeps Helga isolated from the outside world telling neighbors that his wife is an invalid and by doctors orders she is not to have visitors. In Helga’s boredom she eventually comes across a storage room and finds one of Gruber’s old tailoring dummies. The dummy has a face that reminds her of Otto. She decides to dress the dummy up and treats it a little bit like a doll. She spends time with it and talks to it. This makes her happy which makes Gruber suspicious. When he interrogates her, thinking there is another man, she says that she never leaves the house. He hits her.


She does not return to her “companion” until the next day when she thinks her husband has left the house. She tells the dummy everything that has happened. Gruber has tricked Helga though and bursts into the store room. When he sees the dummy dressed like Otto he attacks Helga. Helga cries out Otto’s name and the dummy comes to life. It attacks and kills Gruber. Helga says that just before collapsing to the floor she could swear that she saw the dummy smile. In the final panel Helga tells us that the police attributed Gruber’s death to a prowler. This is happening as she is talking to the Otto dummy and showing him the new sweater she has made him.

The Things that Stalks Skull Valley


Artist – Mort Lawrence
Reprinted from Mystic #37 (Atlas 1955)

This story is the weakest of the bunch. The premise is that a bunch of obnoxious New Yorkers are being lead on a tour of a Grand Canyon type location called Skull Valley by a Native American. The guide tells the tourists about the gods and spirits that were worshiped in the valley and they scoff and make fun until they are proven wrong at the end. The whole story is very insensitive to Native Americans to say the least.


The best part of the story is the end, when after making fun of Native American culture for three pages, the tourists actually see one of the ancient gods. In fact they only see the foot and it’s never really said as to what they see, it is left to the reader’s imagination.

They Walk Thru Walls!


Artist – Paul Reinman
Reprinted from Astonishing #56

This was another gem and is the only story in this comic where the creator is credited.  The story begins right away with two men in overcoats and hats walking through a wall behind a megalomaniac character going on and on about their organization ruling the United States. The men warn the guards to not draw their guns, that they only want their leader, Clayton. The men who walked through the walls indeed take Clayton and bring him to an airfield where they board a plane headed toward a mountain top compound.


While on the plane the men explain to Clayton that they are guardians of mankind dedicated to the “cause of peace and contentment”.  They explain that Clayton will be kept at the compound for the world’s safety, that he’ll be treated well, but he’ll never leave. As they are bring him in Clayton suddenly rebels, attacks his captors, and runs off. They warn him that they are miles from civilization but they don’t pursue him. After some time passes Clayton finally gets to a road and is picked up and is brought to a hospital.

As Clayton is recovering he is recounting the story to his doctors including about how the men walked through walls. His doctor thinks he is crazy and refuses to release him until he agrees to be examined. The new doctor hears Clayton’s story and tells him he believes that he is sane and will have him released. Instead he meets with Clayton’s doctors and tells them the exact opposite and that he is to confined indefinitely. As the good doctor is leaving he leaving he thinks to himself that he feels bad for Clayton but that mankind must be protected and he proceeds to walk through the wall.


Final thoughts

Despite the caption on the cover about monsters coming there are almost no monsters in the book. Instead Beware collects reprints of some really excellent golden age thrillers. All the stories with the exception of the Skull Valley story feature well written and well drawn tales of suspense.

I particularly enjoyed that the Black Dungeon story featured a female character as the narrator and focus of the story. As I said Mike Sekowsky’s art was fantastic and went a long way to keeping the reader engaged.

The final story, They Walk Thru Walls, felt like something right out of the Twilight Zone. It was short but really packed a lot in. I really felt like the Clayton character was a real threat, similar to the way Johnny Smith feels when he meets Greg Stillson in the the “Dead Zone”

My copy of this comic is beat to heck and the cover came off but I still had a great time reading it. If I were to find other issues in this series in the wild I would pick them up.

I’ll close with a couple of great ads.

The first is for Bronze Marvel coins featuring Spiderman, The Hulk, and Conan the Barbarian. Please note that one of the holders that can be purchased is a belt buckle and another is a bolo tie. Imagine being a 12 year old in 1974 wearing a bolo tie to school with the a Conan Bronze medallion on it.


The second ad is a pretty standard ad for toy soldiers. What makes this one exceptional is that one of the sets you can buy is for exploding tanks. I have no idea how they accomplished that with heavy card stock flat soldiers.



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The Age of Apocalypse and the Power of Comics

A couple of weeks ago Chris and Reggie released their 100th episode of the Cosmic Treadmill podcast. The topic was the Marvel event – Age of Apocalypse. After listening to the first episode I hardly remembered the story in the comic. I talked to my brother about it and he had a completely different experience with that series. This a special guest post that he wrote and I hope he’s inspired to write more. Enjoy.


A few weeks ago my brother and I talked briefly about Marvel’s Age of Apocalypse X-books. This was the five or so months back in the mid 90’s where all the X-books ran a story-line where Legion, Professor Xavier’s son, went back in time to kill Magneto and accidentally kills Professor X. His death leads to a change in the timeline where Magneto turns good and Apocalypse takes over the world. My brother had very little memory of the event. He remembered it happening but couldn’t recall many of the details. I, on the other hand, have very vivid memories of the story-line because I read the first few issues in the hospital.

In early 1995 I had managed to flunk out of Boston University, was living in an apartment in Boston (technically Allston), and working in a liquor store. It was not the happiest time in my life. In early February I began losing vision in my right eye and the doctors eventually diagnosed the cause as a brain tumor. I had had extremely bad headaches for a long time and had problems concentrating and focusing at times and that all turned out to be related.

At the time I had not been reading comics for about five years. I stopped reading them around my freshman year of high school. I had a buddy who worked in a comic shop, and my brother started reading them again around the launch of Image, so I wasn’t completely unaware of the comic world, but was pretty separated from it.


The day after the surgery my friend Bernie came by the hospital to visit me and he brought a familiar brown bag. In it was Robin V4 #15, and two of the first issues of Age of Apocalypse. I’m not 100% clear on which two, I think it was X-Calibre #1 and Astonishing X-Men #1. I read the whole series so many times over the next few months that it’s a little fuzzy. I remember being confused as to what was going on with the whole thing, but falling in love with it immediately. Bernie came every day I was in the hospital, which is something I’m eternally grateful for, and single handed got me back into comics.

It’s hard to overstate how profound an effect reading comics again had on me over the next couple of months. It was winter in Boston, I was out of school, depressed about the surgery and the effects the tumor had had on me, feeling like a failure, broke most of the time, and just generally in a very dark place. I didn’t even get along with the twerp I shared an apartment with. Bad as things were, each week I got to look forward to a couple of new issues of Age of Apocalypse books.


Every Wednesday during my lunch break at work or after I would go down to the New England Comics that used to be on Harvard Ave and pick up the new issues and maybe one or two other things depending on what I could afford. When I think back on that store and those weekly trips it fills me with a happy feeling that’s more than nostalgia. I remember after one trip back home during those months my mom had given me a few bucks. It wasn’t a ton and was meant to buy food, but I ended up using it to buy the trade paperback of X-Cutioners song at Comicopia in Kenmore Square. My logic at the time was food wouldn’t last, but I could read the trade over and over. It probably wasn’t my best ever decision, but I stand by it.

I mentioned that I worked in a liquor store at the time. It was a place called Marty’s. I was 19 at the time and not old enough to drink, but working in a package store it wasn’t hard to get guys to buy for me. I did that once in a while, mostly because I wanted to save my money for comics. Given my depression at the time, I often wonder if Bernie bringing me those comics that day keep me from a much darker path. Given my addictive personality I’m pretty sure he did. Bernie and the Age of Apocalypse.


Comics have always had a healing and comforting quality in my life. My parents got divorced when I was very young and it was not too long after that comics became a part of my life. I don’t remember exactly how I started reading but I remember moments like reading a stack of 70’s Hulk and Thor comics at a family friend’s house, or picking up issues of All Star Squadron at ‘The Stationary’ in Springdale Connecticut where I grew up. I remember getting our first issue of G.I. Joe with my dad from a drugstore we stopped at on the way to visit a friend of his on one of our weekend visits.

More than all that though I remember my father bringing my brother and I stacks of comics whenever we were home sick from school. To this day when I get sick, all I want to do is lay on the couch and read comics.


For my ninth birthday, my father gave me the Smithsonian Book of Comic-Book Comics, which may be the most prized thing in my collection. It’s full of old comics from Carl Bark’s ‘Letter to Santa’, Superman, Little LuLu, and Captain Marvel. They’re printed on regular paper and not glossy, but it FEELS like a big comic book, and smells like old comics. It is directly responsible for my love of so many older characters and probably the reason I have eight Don Rosa Uncle Scrooge prints hanging in my bedroom.


I used to be really afraid of deep water, specifically being out on boats in the ocean. I’d seen Jaws 2 and 3 a lot and was terrified of sharks. A family friend had a sailboat and took us out on it once. I spent the trip with my head buried in DC’s Who’s Who #9, the one with John Stewart in the prominent spot on the cover. I could probably have recited the entry for Global Guardians by the end of that boat ride.

That still works for me today. Just the other night I watched a few episodes of the tv show ‘Channel Zero’ which completely creeped me out. Before I went to bed I read The Highest House #6 to take the edge off and it worked.

It’s not a stretch to say that comics are directly responsible for most of my very close friendships in a roundabout way. Outside of my wife (who I think the universe would have pointed me to even without comics), Bernie, and my brother, nearly every person I spend time with I met as a result of taking a job at First State Comics (may it Rest in Peace). It’s weird to trace things back and see why they worked out like they did, but it’s true. I moved to Delaware not too long after my surgery and started getting back into comics. After being here a while I needed a job that would allow me to go to school full-time and applied at the comic shop.

I got a call a few days later to come in for an interview and was soon hired. While working there I met one of my best friends, Steve, and also helped hire a woman named Liz. When the shop closed due to rent issues Liz went on to work for Borders Books. I eventually applied and, based on her recommendation, got a job there. At Borders I met a huge swath of people that I’m still very close with. One of them, Nick, moved on to my current company and talked me into applying. Based on his and another friend’s recommendation I was hired there. Everyone else I spend time with now I met through this job. When I got married in 2011 my brother was my best man, Bernie was in my wedding party, and everyone else I met either at the comic shop, Borders, or my current job. If Bernie hadn’t brought that bag of comics to me while I was in the hospital, and the Age of Apocalypse books never came out, my life would be completely and utterly different than it is.


Comics are like that. It’s a hobby that becomes a passion and maybe even a lifestyle choice. In a few weeks I’ll be going down to the Baltimore Comic Con for three days to immerse myself in comic culture with people who feel the same.

Every comic fan probably has similar stories, moments where comics were a much larger force in their lives than people might imagine. I’m not sure I’m writer enough to really understand why, but I think it’s probably similar to baseball in Field of Dreams. They’re something that connect us back to our past selves, but also something we know our future selves can look forward to. They give us something to collect and enjoy. We can endlessly debate characters and story-lines. In superhero comics, there’s often a pure form of morality that will always appeal to the good in us, and in the enormous variety of comics there’s something that we can all connect with, be it horror comics or good natured Archie comics, or sometimes both!

Comics make me feel better. They make me feel less sad. They make me feel less lonely. There’s a lot of problems in the industry, and with fandom, and with the world in general, but I think comics are a pretty positive thing. Stories have a power in our lives, and comics have a unique way of delivering stories that people may often write off as the realm of nerds, or kids stuff, but are so much more.

I know I’m grateful.


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Boston Fan Expo 2018


I went to the Boston Fan Expo over the weekend, Sunday August 12th, and had a really great time. Over the previous couple of years I thought this convention had really gone down hill, with last year being the least enjoyable of the now six or seven times that I’ve been able to go. Last year the convention seemed to focus too much on the television and movie celebrities and not enough on the comic book talent and dealers. This year was a vast improvement. More floor space was devoted to the artist alley so the writers and artists could spread out more and have better line management. There was also more room for dealers and other booths selling various wares. Finally there was still plenty of space to have the long lines for the TV and movie personalities. Overall it was a much more enjoyable year and I think the families, cos-players, celebrity hounds and comic nerds would all agree.

The Greg Capullo Fan Experience


This year I was finally able to meet Greg Capullo and get his autograph on a couple of comics and I really had fun doing it. A couple of years ago when he was signing in Baltimore, when the New 52 Batman run was at its peak of popularity, and his lines were way too long. Last year he had to cancel in Boston for a health reason. This year was the year though. This was also the case for several people in the line that I talked to, many of whom had purchased the fan experience last year. Mr. Capullo turned out to be a very nice guy. When he arrived he walked the line greeting all the fans. Once we were all seated in the room he started with a good thirty minute Q&A session.

He was asked some interesting questions and gave some interesting and funny answers. One person asked him how he got the job working on Spawn. He told a great story about starting out at Marvel and Todd McFarlane calling him offering him work on Spawn. At first he turned it down but when he did not get promoted at Marvel after becoming successful on Quasar he ended up leaving and going to work for McFarlane. He did a pretty funny impression of him as well. He talked about working with Scott Snyder and more than once called him crazy. After reading the first four issues of the new Justice League I can certainly believe that. When the Q&A finished the Fan Expo staff did a very good job of organizing us eager fans to make sure that everyone had a chance get their stuff signed and move along in a timely manner.


When it was my turn I had the chance to ask if the issue of What If? that I had brought was indeed his work. He said that it was one of the first things that he did at Marvel and that the cover wasn’t his, the new guy didn’t get to do the cover. I was okay with this, I like the idea of getting a writer or artists early work signed. I asked him if he was enjoying the convention and he said something that a lot of the creators I’ve met say. He told me that works in a very solitary job and that he really enjoyed getting out to meet the fans that enjoy his work. I think it is really great to have the opportunity to interact with these artists who appreciate the fans as much as we appreciate having the chance to meet them. It certainly makes me feel like I am not wasting their time. Overall I was very glad to have finally meet one of DC’s biggest artists in recent years and get a couple of comics signed while I was at it.

Wednesday comics


Over the years I heard a lot of great things about Wednesday Comics from DC and how wonderful they were. I’ve seen the over-sized collection but never really looked into it. Digging through a dealers cheapo bin I can across seven issues of the series. All were neatly bagged and were only a dollar each. I bought the lot of them and am excited to see what was so great about them.

Mark Texeira


I’ve never been a big fan of Texeira’s work but I did enjoy the first few issues of Black Panther that he worked on for the Marvel Knights line. It turns out he was a super nice and glad to chat with the fans seeking his autograph. He was pretty funny and really seemed to enjoy talking to the fans. What was especially nice is that he took the time to do a small sketch on the covers of the comics that people were giving him. It seemed like since he was asking for five dollars for a signature that the fans ought to get a little something for it. In the pic above you can see the Black Panther profile that he did in black and silver sharpie.

He also wanted to take pictures with the fans and the comics and post them to his Instagram account. So far I’ve been unable to find him on the app otherwise I’d link it here. I’m planning on bringing this comic to Terrific Con next weekend hoping to have it signed by Christopher Priest.   


Dragon Magazine and Ecto Cooler


Dragon Magazine and ecto cooler sounds like a perfect combination for a Friday night with friends. They also happen to probably the oddest things I picked up today. While strolling through artist alley I came across a large statue of a green outfitted superhero with four cases of Ecto Cooler in front of him. In case you were wondering Ecto Cooler is a delicious citrus juice made by HiC and re-released in the last couple of years to coincide with the release of the new Ghostbusters movie. In this particular case the makers of the comic Vortex Man were giving away cans of the fantastic fruit juice with the purchase of a comic. After talking to the gentleman promoting Vortex Man it was an easy decision to try the comic and obtain a can o’ juice.

The Dragon Magazines was a little more straight forward. Again while in artist alley I walked by a table that was covered in old issues of Dragon Magazines. With no one right behind the table I asked the closest person and it turns out they were indeed his. Whomever I was speaking to was previously professor at MIT. When he was younger he and his friends were apparently into Dungeons and Dragons and Dragon magazine was something they all read. This former MIT faculty however never actually played and was now interested in cleaning out his basement. I was able to pick up six issues of the magazine for twenty bucks including one issue with a dynamite cover by Tim Hildebrandt.


Peter Tomasi


It is no secret that I enjoy Peter Tomasi’s writing on Superman. The Superman Rebirth title was easily my favorite. I had the chance to meet Mr. Tomasi for a second time and ask him to sign my Action Comics #1000. Since there was not one waiting while he was signing my comic I was able to talk to him for a couple of minutes. I told him how much I enjoyed his work on Superman, Super Sons, and the Super Sons / Blue Falcon one shot. I also asked him about how he was able to get DC to let him write the way he did, the one and two issue story arcs, the issues where there is almost no fighting, and the not writing for trade paperbacks in general.

I told him how much I liked the county fair, Gettysburg / Washington D.C., Manchester Black, and Dinosaur Island stories. He told me that he really had to fight to get those stories in. He said his editors complained that there was not enough action or that Superman was not in costume enough. I told him that I did not think every comic has to have a fight in it, there are other stories that can be told occasionally and he agreed. We also lamented the cancelation of Super Sons and I told him I was glad it was coming back for a bit. He said that was a fight too. He said that he was able to get it back with the argument that it is one of their only entry levels books for younger readers. He’s not wrong about that. Not wanting to take up anymore of his time I moved on but it was a nice conversation, even if I did gush a little.

In search of…


I was able to find a couple of comics that I was actually looking for, as opposed to pulling out fun things from the dollar bins. The first item is something I’ve actually been looking for for a couple of years, Thanos Quest #2. I was able to get this one off a fifty percent off wall and was more than happy to pay ten dollars for it. I found issues #2 & 3 of 2001: A Space Odyssey. This is Jack Kirby’s trippy interpretation of the Stanley Kubrick movie. It’s truly a weird comic. Finally I found a great copy of Plop #1 and then later pulled Plop #9, 17, and 19. It’s always great to cross a few off the list when searching through boxes and boxes of comics.

Frank Quietly

I’ve saved the best for last. There were lots of great writers and artists I was looking forward to having something signed, Peter Tomasi, Michael Cho, and Sam Humphries to name a few. Frank Quietly was the guy I most wanted to get though. He rarely does conventions so this could have a been a once in a lifetime opportunity. I happened to catch him with a short line and was able to chat with him, the fans in front of me, and his handler.

I had All-Star Superman #1 for him to sign but I was also able to buy a wonderful print of Daredevil and Elektra that he did. When it was my turn in line he signed my comic and then started to sign the print. He suddenly stopped after writing “Vin”. He looked at his handler and then at me. He said he started to sign his real name. It turns out Frank Quietly is a pen name he adopted early in his career when he was doing an underground comic and wanted a name to, in his words, “hide behind”. I told him go ahead and finish signing his real name. The poster was for me and going up on my wall, not for sale or anything. I told him I knew who had signed it so what did it matter. I ended up with a great comic signed by a great artist and a cool poster signed by Vincent Deigham.


All in all I had great time this year at the Boston Fan Expo. I was able to meet some very friendly artists, put a couple more signed collectibles into my bins, and walk away with some real treasures. Next weekend I’m headed to Connecticut’s best comic convention, Terrific Con, and I hope to have another great report after that.

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Issue 50


Batman and The Flash each reached issue number fifty recently and I wanted to write about what I thought about each. One comic was exciting and riveting and one was not. One comic had a great build up and the other did. Let’s get to it, shall we?


Batman #45 – 50, Prelude to the Wedding parts 1-5


Writer – Tom King (Batman), Tim Seeley (Prelude)
Artist – Mikel Janin (Batman), Prelude (Various)
Colorist –  June Chung
Letterer – Clayton Cowles

Over the weekend I got caught up on Batman. I read “The Gift”, “Prelude to the Wedding”, “The Best Man”, and of course “The Wedding”. I’m normally a big Tom King fan, but I do not think this was his best work. While the lead up was interesting, I felt let down in the end. I thought the Prelude comics were quite good, but since they had no bearing on the outcome of what happened in the wedding issue and I felt like I got scammed. It was not all bad though, there were some good things, like Booster Gold showing up, Robin fighting his grand dad and breaking his favorite arcade game, and we find out Superman has a pocket universe where he can just go fishing.

“The Gift” runs through three issues and we get a story about Booster Gold and the wedding gift he gets for Batman. The gift we come to find out is Bruce Wayne gets to see what life would have been like if his parents were not murdered. Booster Gold has traveled to the past to change history and now the present is a mess. Gotham is constantly on fire, there are Jokers everywhere and Hal Jordan may have blown his mind out with his ring. The best thing about the story is great dialogue between Skeets and Booster.


My biggest gripe about the story is not the things that are wrong with the present in this reality or the very disturbing end of the arc, it is something small. At one point Booster is explaining what he did for the adult Bruce Wayne. In Booster’s explanation he references the Black Mercy from the classic story in Superman Annual  #11, “For the Man who Has Everything”. This is the story where Superman is trapped in his own mind, living out his greatest wish, that Krypton had not been destroyed. In the story Krypton is still dying and Superman knows it is wrong and even though he gets what he wants it still all ends up going poorly. Well Booster Gold thought the same “what if” scenario would be good for Batman, what if his parents had not been killed after the movie.

There are several things wrong with this line of thinking. First of all, Superman doesn’t really get what he wants and Booster knows that, but he still thinks Bruce Wayne might? Second of all, I don’t think DC can have it both ways. They cannot write stories with loose or no continuity with the old DCU, to make it easier for new readers and then reference parts of their history and ignore others. How can Booster Gold know about the Black Mercy but not remember when he tried repeatedly to prevent Barbara Gordon from being paralyzed by the Joker and failed because certain events in the time stream cannot be changed? I’m sorry but they don’t get to have that cake and eat it too.

I don’t want that to sound like I am against everything that DC is trying to do with Rebirth. I am totally okay with their goals of having less titles crossover all the time and having less continuity focused stories. I think these are great ways to encourage creativity and gain new readers. Moving on.


The Prelude to the wedding stories were generally pretty good. They all involve members of the Bat Family trying to help get things ready for the wedding. I thought the stand out stories were the Robin / Ra’s al Ghul and the Batgirl / Riddler issues. The Robin story was fun because I have not read many of the Damian Wayne comics and it was cool to see Ra’s show up. There is also a great moment at the end between Damian and Selina that was worth the price of admission alone. The Batgirl story was fun, again because I don’t read Batgirl, and it was great to see her save the Riddler’s victims while she deciphered his audio cassette riddles. I could easily appreciate these comics on their own and don’t hold my disappointment with the whole wedding arc against them.


“The Best Man” issues, number 48 and 49, were not my favorite issues in the series either. The Joker is doing everything he can to get “invited” to Batman’s wedding as we see in the DC nation zero and the Prelude issues. I found these two comics to be more violent than was necessary and the overly psychotic Joker to be getting a little old. Scott Snyder really pushed it with the Joker in his new 52 run, there is no need for King to try and top that. The one thing that these issues did for me is that they did explain why the Wedding was not going to happen in the next issue.

Finally, “The Wedding”, the big deal issue, what the previous forty nine issues have been leading up to. All I can say is wow, what a let down. Batman and Catwoman, don’t get married after all that. “I for one am shocked, shocked I say. Well, not that shocked.” King telegraphed his out in the previous issues. It was no surprise that the Wedding did not happen (even if you didn’t see the coverage before the comic’s release). Honestly it would have been a bigger surprise to the fans if the wedding had happened. The last issue is filled with some great art and pinups but not much else. The writing goes on too long and  the surprise ending is just a vague teaser for what’s to come. King has tried to assure the fans that there is more to come in the Batman / Catwoman saga. I enjoy his writing enough that I’ll keep reading and maybe in the end he’ll have put together such a great story that I’ll end up eating all these negative comments. Until then, let’s move on to The Flash.flashfifty

The Flash 49 – 50, The Flash War part 3 & 4


Writer – Joshua Williamson
Artist – Howard Porter
Colorist – Hi-Fi
Letterer – Steve Wands

I’ve been more caught up with the Flash so there were less issues for me to read. I am also not a long time Flash reader so there are quite a few references and other things I probably missed in this series. What I do know is that the Flash, Barry Allen, and the Flash, Wally West, are racing across the Earth in order to find Wally’s kids who are possibly trapped in the Speed Force. Or at least that is what Hunter Zolomon would have them believe.

Since the beginning of Rebirth and the return of Wally West, things have not been quite right. We received lots of clues that the heroes are remembering things from before the Flashpoint event. They are realizing that people are missing from their lives. Throughout this series Barry Allen has struggled with how to deal with Wally’s return, how to explain it to Iris West, and her current nephew Wally West and the current kid Flash. It has been quite a web that Williamson has been building.


The series of challenges that Barry and Wally have faced are finally all coming to head. In the Perfect Storm story Wally decides enough is enough, that Barry cannot control everything and protect everyone. Wally has to get out from under Barry’s protective influence if he is every going to figure out what is going on. Hunter Zolomon, Zoom, gives him the final push hinting that Wally’s kids, pre Flashpoint, are still alive, stuck in the Speed Force just like he was. As Wally starts to remember his kids he realizes how bad they must have it, because he too was stuck in the speed force. Barry tries to stop Wally from going back into the Speed Force. He tries to convince Wally that no good can come from what he is trying to do. Wally’s not having it, so they race, faster than anyone can go. As they race they are causing a lot of problems around the world. The Justice League tries to stop them but even Superman can not catch them.

As Wally tries to enter the Speed Force something goes wrong and they stop. Turns out they have done what Zolomon wanted all along. They broke the Speed Force and / or the force barrier and unleashed new forces on the world. Similar in the way that Metal introduced the Dark Universe, broke the Source Wall, and introduced Metal X, the Flashes have introduced the Sage Force and the Strength Force. Hunter Zolomon, Zoom, has tricked the Flashes and plans on using this new power to make the future as he desires.

The fiftieth issue has Barry and Wally trying to fix the problems they’ve caused. A lot happens that I don’t know what it means and the last couple of pages have some huge reveals. Barry and Wally realize that Zoom tricked them and that they have to fix that. Just like in Batman fifty the heroes reach the end of one journey and a new one gets launched.


King’s Batman and Williamson’s Flash have both been very engaging but very different reads.

King has been using seemingly unrelated stories to build to something; however, unclear that something is. There have been a lot of highs and lows in the first fifty issues with the art being the only consistently great thing about the series. King’s issue fifty ends a long running wedding story in the way he telegraphed throughout the run. There was no surprise, just a disappointing comic where almost nothing happened, that ends up being the stepping off point for the rest of the story.  

Williamson has been doing something similar, using shorter series to build one one big story. The difference with what Williamson is doing though is that each arc built on the previous one and advanced the story. In each series we get a little closer to the end game. As the story progresses, just like Wally West’s memories returning, we get closer to a Crisis / Flashpoint like event. We get more clues that things that are missing are meant to be found. Could this mean the return of the JSA characters? Maybe. Could it be an event that returns DC to pre-Flashpoint continuity? Maybe.


All we know at this point is that with each excellent story Williamson writes, we the readers, are getting closer to something that is probably going to be really great, and really significant. In King’s case many of the stories seem to be very well written but complex riddles that make the reader more puzzled than they were at the beginning and still wondering where it is all going at the end.

The one problem that both series have is that they are taking way too long to get where they are going. This pattern can be found all over DC. Metal was two issues too long and took too long long to come out. The Button Story was awesome but came out a long time ago at this point. Doomsday Clock is consistently late. I know that the object is to keep the reader coming back for more and that is what all these series do. For all the negativity, as long as DC has creators as talented as Tom King, Joshua Williamson, Mikel Janin, and Howard Porter I’ll be right there with them loving it, being disappointed by it, but having a good time on the journey.


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Summer Reading – The Micronauts

The Micronauts – They Came from Inner Space


A couple of months ago I picked up a complete run of The Micronauts Volume 1 from Marvel comics. I decided that it might be fun to challenge myself this summer and read one issue a day for the entire summer and get through the fifty-nine issue series, plus both annuals. As of this writing I am twelve days in and have kept up with an issue a day.

The series was licensed from the Mego corporation who was producing the toy line in North America. The Mego Corp licensed the toys from the Japanese company Takara. The Japanese toy line was call Microman. The toys were produced by Mego from 1976 to 1980 while the comic was not released until 1979. It ran for five years until 1984, well after the toys could be found on the shelf. Marvel comics would have a similar phenomenon with Rom, The Space Knight. The toy was produced in 1979 and had a fairly short shelf life while the comic ran from 1979 to 1986. Coincidentally Bill Mantlo wrote both series.  


The Micronauts were not just comic advertisements for the toy. They featured exciting full adventures that focused on the characters, several of which did not have corresponding toys. The Micronauts were part of the Marvel Universe, often having crossovers with other characters like Man-Thing and the X-men. When they did cross through the space wall between the Microverse and our universe they were on Earth 616, the “main” Marvel Universe Earth. The series featured great action and science fiction along with some wonderful character development.

The first twelve issues are one story arc where the Micronauts are trying to defeat Baron Karza who has enslaved Homeworld. Their adventures through these issues take the Micronauts from the Microverse to Earth and back again. Mantlo and Golden set out to create a real epic with multiple plot threads and some serious science fiction. With only a toy line to work with they were free to create the characters and do whatever they wanted with them. With that in mind let’s take a look at what’s happened so far.



Writer – Bill Mantlo
Artist – Michael Golden
Both are credited as the storytellers
Embellishing – Josef Rubinstein
Editor  – Al Milgrom
Editor in Chief –  Jim Shooter

The first issue begins with Prince Argon and Princess Mari, brother and sister, and several other soldiers on horseback fleeing from flying men. Over the course of the next few pages we learn that the King and Queen have been killed and that the prince and princess are trying to escape the Dog Soldiers and acroyears. Most of their party is killed but they get away, taken in by citizens loyal to the king and queen. Shortly after they are taken in the Prince Argon summons a time traveler, a being who uses something called the enigma force, to take Mari to safety. As the hideout is attacked by the dog soldiers we meet Shaitan, an acroyear, and Baron Karza for the first time.

In the second chapter of the comic a spaceship is coming in for a landing. The pilot Commander Rann and his roboid companion Biotron discuss how it has been a long time since they have been to Homeworld. Actually it has been 1000 years a handy caption tells us. Rann and Biotron think they are coming in to a heroes welcome, but the honor guard that great them turns out be a firing squad. Rann is shot but not killed. He wakes up surrounded by aliens in a prison cell. Still disoriented they explain to him that things are not going to go so well for him. Suddenly Rann is lifted out of the circle of aliens and there is a loud SVAM! The aliens are dispersed and Rann is greeted by an acroyear and Insectivorid and now Rann is really confused.


The Insectivorid, BUg, explains to Rann that while to him it feels like he just discovered their planets on his 1000 year journey, he was only traveling at light speed but while he was away warp drives were discovered on Homeworld and they made space exploration even easier. They also explain that almost as soon as the discoveries were made war spread throughout the Microverse with Baron Karza and the dog soldiers leading the charge.

The following day Rann, Bug, the Acroyear, and the other prisoners are put into a gladiatorial arena being watched by Karza, Shaitan, and the rich elite of Homeworld. The entertainment starts with Princess Mari disguised as a roboid and a small white roboid with a red-head. As that show comes to and end the next one gets started with a Deathtank rumbling right towards the group of prisoners. The acroyear and Bug attack the tank telling Rann to fall back, that they are there to protect him because he is the “x-factor” that Karza fears. A Time Traveler appears again, this time in front of Rann, telling him they must escape. Time Traveler explains to Rann that he is the enigma force, and that they need to escape now. As they make their getaway they find Rann’s ship, Biotron, Princess Mari (the marionette) and the small white roboid Microtron.


This first issue really does a fantastic job of world building and setting the stage for what’s to come. Since this comic was released in 1979 a lot of comparisons to Star Wars can certainly be made. There is a rebellion led by an unlikely hero. A powerful villain in black armor, with unknown power. There are kooky aliens, talking robots, spaceships that can travel faster than the speed of light, and a galaxy at war. And while those things are all true this story is different enough that it is still fun and exciting.


The next couple of issue take the Micronauts to Earth, to the backyard of the Coffin family in Daytona Beach Florida to be exact. As Commander Rann piloted the Endeavor away from the pursuing fleet of Baron Karza’s acroyear allies they reached the edge of the Microverse, the Space Wall and were able to pass through it thanks to the help from a Time Traveler.  This is both good and bad for the Micronauts it turns out. It works out for them because they escape from their closest attackers. The problem is that other ships can now get through the Space Wall the same way they did.

The Endeavor crashes into some plants and the Micronauts have some very “Honey I Shrunk the Kids” moments with Steve Coffin’s dog and lawnmower. The group of fugitives and rebels start working together to save each other from the new perils they encounter. Shaitan’s ship also makes it through the Space Wall and there is a small aerial dog fight in the Florida backyard. Steve Coffin comes the aid of the Micronauts and hits Shaitan’s battle cruiser with his rake forcing it to warp back to the Microverse.


Steve’s Father, Ray, comes home to find the backyard torn up with craters from the ship’s laser fire. While the Micronauts were able to teleport away Steve’s dad finds some of the wreckage from Shaitan’s downed ships. Meanwhile Shaitan warps back to Earth tracking the Endeavor to a Florida highway and renews his attack. There are more witnesses now as the fascinated drivers are caught in the crossfire from the attacking ships. The Air Force at Cape Canaveral picks up the space ships on their radar and dispatches several jets.

The Air Force pilots don’t find anything and the Police do not believe the witnesses about the small aliens fighting that they’ve witnessed. Steve’s Dad is also making plans to bring the stuff he’s found to NASA to have them examine it. Back on Homeworld Baron Karza’s forces are making short work of the rebels. We also learn more about Baron’s body banks. These are places where the poor are brought to be used as replacements for the rich and powerful elite of Homeworld when they get old or sick. We get to meet one of the new rebel leaders, Slug, who is going to be mixed in with the prisoners headed to the body banks. She is hoping to find Prince Argon and save the prisoners already in the body banks.


The Micronaut crew while working together are also arguing quite a bit about what they should be doing to save Homeworld. Rann needs to get the Endeavor fixed up in order to make it be able to get back to the Microverse. Acroyear (yup that’s also his name) wants to find Bug whom they were separated with in the Coffin’s backyard and finally Princess Mari thinks they are lollygagging too much and wants to go save Homeworld. While all the bickering seems very antagonistic at first it is really just the crew’s way of becoming closer and realizing they all have the same goals.

Ray, Steve, the family dog, all head to Ray’s old work place at NASA, the Human Engineering Life Laboratories (H.E.L.L) to have the aliens found in the wreckage examined. Bug also manages to tag along hidden from everyone except the dog. They will meet up with scientist Phil Prometheus, ex coworker turned mad scientist when he discovered the miniature aliens previously and used their bionic technology to combine man and machine to save himself after an accident in space. Phil has created the Prometheus pit that he hopes will allow him to travel to the Microverse. During the course of Phil revealing what he’s done to himself and manhandling Steve Coffin, questioning him about the battle and the Micronauts, Ray starts to realize that he and his son are in trouble.


Bug has made his way into the lab and the rest of the Micronauts are not too far behind. They’ve left the Endeavor at the Coffin house for Biotron to repair and used shuttles to track Bug’s energy signature to H.E.L.L.. Phil tries to send Steve into the Prometheus pit but the rest of the Micronaut team arrives in time to save him and attack the half man, half robot, guards Phil created. In the course of the battle Ray grabs Phil and they both fall into the pit. Steve, the dog and the Micronaut team, reunited with Bug, fight their way out of the lab and try to get Steve to safety.

Back on Homeworld Baron Karza tells Shaitan that he has failed and that he has no more use for him. He removes the mind wipe that allowed Shaitan to subjugate the acroyear people to support him and Karza and deny their true leader Prince Acroyear. Prince Argon also breaks out the cell he’s been held in, now transformed into a half man half horse, similar to on of Karza’s forms. He then storms the body banks where Slug happens to be a prisoner, looking to free the people.


Steve and the Micronauts make it back to the Coffin house only to find Biotron cornered by the family cat. Steve helps the Micronauts with the final repairs to the Endeavor and in the process of powering up the ship causes a blackout in the neighborhood. Steve is still very depressed about his father but he and the Micronauts realize that the police and Air Force are still going to be looking for him since they escaped the lab. They head down to the Everglades to hide out in the family cabin. While they are there they Micronauts gets some much-needed rest. During this time Biotron tells Mari about Rann’s adventures over the past 1000 years, about how when he left Homeworld he was considered a hero for the journey of exploration he was about to make. He explains that when they reached the edge of the Microverse the Endeavor was surrounded by glowing men (Time Travellers in case you were wondering) and they flooded Rann’s mind with “Awareness”. These glowing figures had imparted Rann with the Enigma Force.

Back in the Prometheus pit Phil and Ray continue to fall until they do indeed pass through to the Microverse. Similar to the way the Micronauts were tiny when they passed through the Space Wall to Earth and remained tiny, Ray and Phil are giants. As they are tumbling through space Ray begins to glow and disappears only to meet up with, you guessed it, The Time Traveler. He sure does come around when needed. Phil on the other hand gains the attention of Baron Karza. Slug and Prince Argon, now called Force Commander by the rebels make their escape from the body banks. They eventually meet up with another rebel group that is being led by one of Baron Karza’s Shadow Priests who explains that he is loyal to Homeworld, not Karza.


Back on Earth Steve Coffin’s sorrow and now fear of the future have attracted the creature known only as Man-Thing! The Micronauts try to protect Steve but their weapons have little impact on the muck monster. We get a neat appearance of the MicroCopter toy, while not named it is featured in several panels. This is one of the few appearances of something that corresponds to something from the toy line other than several of the main characters in the story. Steve and the Micronauts finally get it together to try to use the big fan on the wind boat to blow the monster away. Steve’s attitude change to bravery is actually what saves the day as Man-Thing hurls himself into the engine, no longer being attracted to fear. With the ship fully repaired and the Micronauts rested up they decide to go find Ray Coffin and take the war back to Baron Karza.

Baron Karza bonding with Phil has made his way back through the Prometheus pit and decides to try to conquer Earth, seemingly more powerful than the Air Force soldiers and guards he is encountering at H.E.L.L. With Baron Karza on Earth, Force Commander, the Shadow Priest, and the rebels decide now is the time to attack the Dog Soldiers. We find out what the Time Traveler has been doing with Ray Coffin. He tells Ray that the blood of heroes runs in his veins. Time Traveler tells Ray to relax, and dream, that when he awakens he will be the Hero Earth needs. Back on Earth the super-sized Baron Karza is making short work of the Micronauts and soldiers that are trying to stop him.


Suddenly a new player enters the fight, Captain Universe. He says he is there to defend Earth and attacks Karza. As this is happening Steve and the Micronauts realize Captain Universe is actually Ray Coffin! While Captain Universe and Baron Karza are fighting the Micronauts take the opportunity to leave Steve and head back to the Microverse through the Prometheus Pit. Karza realizing that he cannot win, ends his bond with Phil Prometheus and also heads back to the Microverse. The Time Traveler takes the power he loaned Ray back and seal the Prometheus pit. Steve and Ray Coffin are reunited and Phil is taken into custody. The Micronauts adventures on Earth have concluded for now, but they still have one more thing to do back in the Microverse.

The Endeavor enters the Microverse right in the middle of the acroyear battle fleet. They are then escorted back to the acroyear home world, Spartak. They are expected to be treated as prisoners of war but instead they are greeted as heroes, especially Prince Acroyear the rightful ruler of the acroyears. Karza renters the Microverse and resumes leadership of his battle fleet, leading them to attack Spartak. As he is bombing the acroyear home world Prince Acroyear says that they only thing that can save them is if he merges with the Worldmind, the being that embodies Spartak (think Ego the living planet). This is a very dangerous ploy and the Prince will most likely be killed but it is the only way. As he goes about this the Micronauts decide they cannot just stand by and they head out to face the Baron’s forces.


On Homeworld the rebel attack led by Force Commander faces strong opposition from the Dog soldiers and Phobos units, fighting roboids similar in form to Biotron but are black and red. The shadow priests join the battle and start to turn the tide. Back at Spartak Rann and Mari have been captured by Karza. Bug and Microtron try to help but an exploding Phobos unit seemingly kills Bug as he is blown out to space. Prince Acroyear completes his merge with the World Mind and together they destroy Baron Karza’s fleet. The acroyears on the surface defeat the dog soldiers and accept their surrender. Baron Karza does manage to get away with his two prisoners and heads back to home world.

Force Commander and the Shadow Priests have defeated most of the Dog Soldiers as the baron shows up with Rann and Mari captive. Karza says that with Rann captured, their hero, their x-factor, cannot win the battle for them. Force Commander is not having this and attacks Karza directly. Karza defeats Argon but hope is not lost. One of the Shadow Priests reveals himself to be none other than Time Traveler.


Time Traveler and Commander Rann bond and become the Enigma Force. The Enigma Force / Rann and Baron Karza go right at it. There is a quite a bit of back and forth between the two until Karza says that he is going to unleash the power of the great pit (coincidentally they are fighting right next to said pit) and use a massive Mindshock that will most likely destroy himself, Homeworld and maybe even the Enigma Force. In the end though the Mindshock only destroys Karza himself, leaving behind empty black armor. And for the cherry on top of the victory sunday the acroyear fleet arrives, led by Prince Acroyear, having destroyed the rest of Baron Karza’s warfleet. The Time Traveler breaks the bond between he and Rann saying that for now he is no longer needed.

The last issue in the arc serves as an epilogue. The Micronauts, with the exception of the possibly deceased Bug, Force Commander Argon, and Slug are all raised up as heroes by the citizens of Homeworld. Prince Acroyear heads back to Spartak to take his place as ruler of the acroyears. On Earth Ray and Steve Coffin are enjoying their time together. Some soldiers searching through the wreckage of H.E.L.L. find Philips Prometheus’s alien samples and turn them into a group of men that might be S.H.E.I.L.D.. The traitor Shaitan challenges Acroyear to a blood feud that ends in the death of Shaitan. The story closes out with Time Traveler showing the reader that Bug has been hurtling through space, alive, and then landing on the planet Kaliklak, home world of the Insectivorids.


That was quiet and epic story wasn’t it? Sure, there are plenty of similarities to Star Wars, but I found it to be different enough that it was exciting and enjoyable on its own merits. There are plenty of hokey things in the story, like Prince Acroyear sharing the same name as his race of people, or Baron Karza and Force Commander having half human / half horse forms, but overall the story is just a lot of fun. There is no overt push of the toy line, partially because it was reaching the end of its sales when the comic was published.

One thing I find interesting is that the initial story is exactly 12 issues long. To my knowledge this came out when mini-series and maxi-series did not come out regularly. I think it might be more likely that Mantlo and Golden had their story idea and thought they could spread it out over twelve issues, and if the comic was successful they would go on from there. The dialog is well done and the pacing is dynamite. Each issue has an exciting ending that makes the reader want to see what happens next month. And the way the last issue closes with Bug being alive I certainly want to see what happens to him and how he gets reunited with the rest of the Micronauts.

I suspect that Baron Karza will return at some point, I just hope that there are some other adventures introducing new characters and conflicts before they go back to that well. Something else that makes this series a lot of fun is that it takes place in the Marvel universe. I thought that when Man-Thing made his appearance it worked pretty well and it made me wonder if Bill Mantlo and Steve Gerber (Man-Thing’s creator) were buddies. I mean there had to be other, more popular characters that could have made a guest appearance. Finally I thought the Phil Prometheus character was done really well. He was a mad scientist with a cool origin and a great look. Michael Golden portrayed this character’s passion really well. He was maniacal and was a great foil for Ray Coffin. Later when Ray took on the Captain Universe persona and fought Karza who was bonded with Prometheus it was a great conclusion to that sub-plot.

All in all I enjoyed these issues and think I have picked out a good summer reading project. I’ll keep going with an issue a day and will have additional updates down the road. I’ll close this post with the cover to issue 13 featuring Bug and some other Insectivorids, hopefully you’ll join me again to see what happens.



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