Monday, February 29, 2016

Happy Birthday, Superman!

Back in Action Comics #149 in 1950 it was revealed that Superman (though, not Clark Kent) is a leap year baby.

So here's a hearty quadrennial Happy Birthday to the Man of Steel!

Celebrate the Super way with a Crystal Birthday Cake!
From the Official DC Super Hero Cookbook
From the Official DC Super Hero Cookbook
In honor of the Big Guy's Birthday I'm going to try and keep this week's reviews Super-Centric.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

DC Direct Currents #53 (1992)

DC Direct Currents #53 (August, 1992)

I do so hate to generalize... however, I feel as though comic book fans, especially those who are tied to the more physical and tangible aspects of the hobby (read: not digital) may possibly, maybe, sorta, kinda have... pack rat tendencies.

There is an entire room in my home dedicated to my comics addic... collection.  The room is packed so full I actually find myself fearing the structural strength and integrity of the second story of my house.

While 99-point-something percent of the collection hoard is comics, trades, and manga there is that point-whatever percent that consists of the odd comics ephemera that I just can't bear to part with for one reason or another.  I've got the Official DC Comics cookbook, Lex2000 campaign pins, Lantern rings, dolls, hundreds of Previews catalogs and Wizard Magazines dating back to the early nineties, hundreds of Comic Shop News pamphlets, and... as we'll begin to look at today, a decent trove of DC Direct Currents freebies.

The Direct Currents freebies were among the first things I'd ever gotten from a comic book store for free.  Back in the early-nineties, it seemed as though everything had a price.  My local shop even charged a monthly fee to keep a hold-box... could you imagine that today?  Today, hold-boxes usually come with a semi-significant discount on your purchases...

For me it is always fun to revisit old comics news and solicitations.  It serves as something of a time capsule.  I hope others enjoy this as well.


 I do remember being mighty excited for The Hacker Files.  Never actually read it though.  That cover looked so high-tech in 1992.  Oddly prescient as well... is that a tablet in the bottom right?

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Wild Dog #1 (1987)

Wild Dog #1 (September, 1987)
"Who is Wild Dog?  Chapter One: We Interrupt This Program..."
Writer - Max Collins
Penciller - Terry Beatty
Inker - Dick Giordano
Letterer - John Workman
Colorist - Michele Wolfman
Editor - Mike Gold
Cover Price: $0.75

Who says the costume doesn't make the hero?  Does anyone actually say that?  Just sounded like a good way to start this one.  Wild Dog was a character that I became interested in solely due to his interesting laughing-red-dog jersey.  My first encounter with the character was in an issue of Action Comics Weekly that I somehow found myself in possession of in a time well before collecting that series was of any interest to me.  None of the other characters or stories really interested me, though... Wild Dog... that shirt, that mask... as an impressionable preteen, I was interested in this guy.

That interest like many before it and since, was fleeting  I likely forgot about Wild Dog as soon as I put the issue down, and it wouldn't be until many years later that I would bump back into the character in the quarter-bin of some local bookstore.  Could Wild Dog live up to my childhood expectations?  Well, let's go back to where his story began and find out...


We open with a news report hailing from the Quad Cities of Iowa.  Broadcast Journalist Susan King is there to report on the opening of the River City Community Center.  It is a fluff piece which King makes clear once the cameras are off.  She laments the fact that she will never become a news anchor (wresting the position from "that no-talent slut Coleen" no less) doing stories like that.

Once the cameras are back on, King conducts an interview with Mr. Newell of the Committee for Social Change.  During the exchange, Newell detonates a bomb inside the Community Center.  During the fracas, he takes Ms. King and her cameraman hostage and promises an informal press conference.  He takes her to a nearby theater where, with several gun-toting masked men in tow he is revealed to be a "home-grown terrorist".

At the theater Newell and King restart their interview.  Newell states that society has deteriorated and it is time for a new beginning.  Four men are shown to be watching of listening to this interview, Police Lieutenant Andy Flint, Reporter Lou Godder, Mechanic Jack Wheeler, and Graham Gault.  While the police discuss how to handle the ongoing hostage situation we observe somebody about to don the Wild Dog mask.

The next scene begins with Wild Dog crashing the scene in his red pick-up truck (license plate: ROVER).  He drives straight into the theater and begins blowing away the terrorists.  Wild Dog does not give a damn.  The officers ponder if they just witnessed another terrorist enter the fray while the 'Dog continues blasting away at the terrorists.  He does not mess around.

Wild Dog launches a wired arrow into the stage where Newell is holding his hostages and zip-lines down from the rafters... blasting all the way.  Newell holds his pistol to Ms. King's head... to which, Wild Dog simply kicks the gun out of his hand.  Wild Dog still gives nary a damn.

He rescues the hostages and exits the theater where he finds several guns have been drawn on him.  He holds his gun to Ms. King's head takes her hostage himself.  He loads her into his truck and drives her to the outskirts of town, where he lets her out unharmed.  During this scene an officer inadvertently gives our man his name when he orders his men to "shoot him down like a Wild Dog in the street!".

Once released, Susan King sees Wild Dog as her ticket to broadcast stardom.  He is the story that will make her career.


I've seen Wild Dog derided as a Punisher clone, and often only mentioned in passing as a punchline.  This comic taken on its own, was pretty fun.  Wild Dog is perhaps a bit too cool under fire, and his arsenal may have been a tad convenient for this mission, but it was mindless street-level action fun.

Wild Dog's identity is kept secret to even the reader at this point.  We are to believe that one of the four men featured prior to Wild Dog's appearance is the one under the mask.  I like that they did this.  We have all the same information that Susan King has when all is said and done.

The writing is well done, and the non-evil, non-Wild Dog characters all come across as natural.  We are given a bit of insight as to Ms. King's personality and professional struggles.  I would imagine we can expect her to become something of an ally/thorn in the side for Wild Dog in issues to come.  The art, while certainly serviceable comes across as somewhat stiff during the action scenes.  Wild Dog's movements are not smooth, and he sometimes appears as though he were a posed action figure.

This title, along with Vigilante give the reader a pretty decent idea of how DC would do the Punisher.  Worth checking out for the novelty of seeing a very non-DC character in the DC Universe.  This book is not available digitally, and though I could have sworn they announced a collected edition of this mini-series, I cannot seem to locate it online.  This one may be a single-issues only situation, though it definitely won't break the bank... you'll likely find the entire 4-issue mini in the cheap-o bins.


Interesting Ads:

Ads like this are sorely missing from comics today.
Guys in their thirties and forties need these, right?
I love these ridiculous ads.
Morbid curiosity makes me wish I would have taken advantage of these at the time.
The volume of Doom Patrol that would bring us the excellent Grant Morrison run.
Chips Ahoy cookies taste so much worse when you're a grown-up.

Friday, February 26, 2016

ElfQuest: 25th Anniversary Special (2003)

ElfQuest: 25th Anniversary Special (September, 2003)
"Fire and Flight"
by Wendy & Richard Pini
Cover Price: $2.95

I suppose I should get it out of the way straight off... Yes, I'm using the technicality that DC Comics once held the publishing rights to this title as justification to be able to discuss a bit of ElfQuest on this here blog.  The DC Bullet is on the cover, so I suppose it's fair game.

ElfQuest will always hold a very special place in my heart, as it was to thank and/or to blame for this quarter-century terminal fixation I have had with comic books.  My first time ever walking into a "comic book store" was to find anything I could with ElfQuest in the title.  This book served as something of a "gateway drug", that introduced me to the X-Men... who kept me coming back to the shop (at least) weekly ever since.

It was the late eighties, and I was around 8 years old.  I was new to town, and never did have an easy time making friends.  A friend I did manage to make rather quickly, however, was named Brett.  We would hang out at each others houses, play video games, ride bikes... ya know, all that stuff.  One thing we also found is that we shared a love of writing.  We wrote some very light fantasy "novels", which were basically bits and pieces of the Legend of Zelda, Dragon Warrior, and Final Fantasy with us and our friends acting as the heroes.  Our stories were heavily illustrated, and likely featured no more than a few hundred words, all told.

Brett was also heavily into tabletop/pen-and-paper role-playing games.  Try as I might, I was never able to get into them.  I never seemed to be able to sit still long enough to get truly involved.  It did look fun, however.  I did help his campaigns out by illustrating the characters he had created on his photocopied character sheets.  One day, he showed me a character sheet he'd illustrated himself, and I was taken aback by how awesome the character looked.  He told me he traced the outline of the character from a book he'd grabbed at the public library.  This was the first time I would ever see ElfQuest, as he traced his character out of the ElfQuest Gatherum (volume two).

from The ElfQuest Gatherum, Volume Two
Our next several dozen characters would be variations of the same 8-10 body types featured in the book... that poor thing was absolutely falling apart by the time we were done with it.  One day, when we must have been incredibly bored, we decided to actually read the rest of the Gatherum.  So blown away by the art and what must have been an epic story, we were on our way to being completely obsessed with the property.

The local public library at the time did not feature a very large comics/graphic novel section.  I have not been in a library for well over a decade, so I cannot with any authority say that it's gotten much better... though, I have a feeling it has.  Back then, you would be lucky to find at most a half-shelf of comics... this includes Peanuts and Garfield collections, by the way.  Our library had a copy of the Complete ElfQuest volume 2 "The Forbidden Grove", the aforementioned Gatherum, and the Complete ElfQuest volume 4 "Quest's End".  Well, we each grabbed one, and we were off.

In the back of the "Complete" books, it showed the various covers of the issues contained within... including the Marvel/Epic versions.  We now knew these were originally comic books... These were older, so we were unlikely to come across them at the 7-11 or pharmacy... so, we had to find a place that specialized in comic books.

We managed to find one such store in the next town over.  With our little fists packed full of unspent lunch money and a gleam in our eye, we headed out.  This comic store was the size of a... larger utility closet.  It was cramped, and had the tiniest back-issue area.  When asked, he told us he doubted he had any ElfQuest books, but pointed us in the direction where they would be.  Much to our (and his) surprise, he did have a few on hand.  Unfortunately, his whole selection were from the two books we'd just gotten from the library.  They were $2.00 each, and we each picked one.  I still remember, the issue I grabbed was ElfQuest #10 from the Marvel/Epic run, the very same copy I still have today.

My ElfQuest #1's
WaRP Graphics / Marvel-Epic / DC Comics
We would revisit that shop a few times a week from that point on, even getting other friends of ours into the series.  Eventually, Brett got the line of "Complete" trades for Christmas, and gave me his single-issues.  I kept collecting the singles, and would grab a trade on special occasions/holidays.  I still have ElfQuest on my pull-list to this very day, in the form of "The Final Quest" currently being published by Dark Horse Comics.  It's amazing to consider that though I have strayed a time or two from this series, it is still there for me to come back to almost thirty years later.

I'm glad I had this excuse to discuss a seminal event in my young life that led me down the primrose path of comic book fandom.  If you are still reading, I thank you.  Now, on to the "review":


After a brief retelling of how the elves came to inhabit the World of Two Moons, Wolfrider Chief, Cutter and his companion Skywise look on as one of their tribesmen, Redlance the tree-shaper is about to be sacrificed to the God Gotara by a group of humans.

Coloring Differences:
Left-Father Tree Press (1988) Center-Marvel/Epic (1985) Right-DC Comics (2003)
The Wolfriders spring into action before the sacrifice can be made.  Killing the human (Tabak) who is about to stab Redlance, they are able to stop the proceedings.  They flee back to their Holt, and advise Redlance's lifemate, Nightfall that they made it in time.

Meanwhile, the human tribe mourns their fallen Tabak, and plan their revenge.  They will burn the elves out of the forest.

While Cutter and Skywise stargaze and reflect on the days events, Cutter's wolf Nightrunner approaches with information... Humans are coming, and with them they bring fire.  Cutter "sends" this information among the Wolfriders, and they prepare to defend their home.

Cutter and the human chief have a contentious exchange.  Cutter warns that if the woods burn, both tribes will die.  Maddened by grief and fueled by revenge, the human chief does not care.  He proceeds to begin burning the woods, the Wolfrider's Holt with it.

The elves collect themselves, and at Cutter's direction head toward the Caverns of the Trolls.  Once there, we meet the cantankerous Picknose, who initially refuses to aid the elves.  With a little persuasion in the form of a dozen wolves simultaneously growling, he gives in... he will take them to speak with troll King Greymung.

The Wolfriders are there to call in a favor from the trolls for all the times the elves have shared meat and conducted trade with them.  Ultimately Greymung agrees to help, telling the Wolfriders that the over end of the tunnel opens to "green and peaceful" woods.  This is also the scene wherein Skywise procures his trademark Lodestone shard, which until now was a part of a larger stone Greymung had been using as a footrest.

The trolls guide Cutter and the Wolfriders to the other end of the tunnel, only to find that the tunnel opens to a vast desert wasteland.  They have been tricked.  Picknose causes a rockslide, blocking the elves from returning.  Cutter and his tribe look toward the desert, and wonder what lies ahead.


Okay, what is there to say?  It's ElfQuest #1.  It's amazing.

This may be the single issue of a comic book series that I have re-read more than any other.  Initially because it was the only series I collected, admittedly, however it is one that I do not tire of.  This issue is so masterfully crafted, we not only meet these character... we already begin to feel for them as well.  So much occurs in the span of this issue.  We are introduced to a cast of characters and a status quo only to have the rug pulled out from under us.  We are left just as disoriented and fearful of what's to come as the Wolfriders themselves.

Not to gush (too much), but the writing is fantastic.  From the elves we meet, they each have a distinct voice.  Cutter in particular, has several "inflections" he uses.  We observe him talking to humans, his tribe, his best-friend, and the trolls.  He speaks differently to each, as though he allows certain aspects of his personality arise based upon who he is with... that is a very, apologies here... human, character trait, and it is put to use beautifully here.

The art?  Now, really... what can I say about Wendy Pini's art?  Other than, even over a quarter-century later she is still in my Top Five artists of all time?  This is a vast cast of characters.  They all have their own distinct facial features and even body language, this book is always an absolute treat to behold.
WaRP Graphics (1978)
Epic/Marvel Comics (1985)
Father Tree Press (1988)
DC Comics (2003)
This new DC Comics edition brings with it new coloring and new lettering.  The quality absolutely shows.  The new coloring is stunning, and the lettering is much cleaner.  I would assume this recoloring would be featured in the (long out of print, and quite pricey) DC Archives Editions.

This book wraps up with some text pieces including an interview with the Pini's about bringing their property to DC Comics for distribution.  They also discuss how DC (and Marvel) initially turned down publishing ElfQuest once upon a time.

This is most definitely recommended (shocking, I know).  The entire ElfQuest library (minus the current "Final Quest") is available digitally... for free at  If digital ain't your thing (it ain't my thing) there are a number of print options available, all at very fair/reasonable prices.


Interesting Ads (all ElfQuest Edition):

Manga-sized Black & White chronological retelling of ElfQuest
The Pricey beasts...

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Bat Lash #1 (2008)

Bat Lash #1 (February, 2008)

"Guns and Roses, Chapter 1: Splendor in the Sage"
Writers - Peter Brandvold & Sergio Aragones
Artist - John Severin
Letterer - Pat Brosseau
Colorist - Steve Buccellato
Editors - Rachel Gluckstern & Michael Wright
Cover Price: $2.99

During the late 2000's, I had kind of given up on my hopes of ever being a professional writer of any sort.  I was rapidly approaching my thirtieth birthday, and it just felt as though if it were going to happen... it already would have.  I have very little confidence in my writing ability and doubt very highly that anything I'd ever write would have any appeal to anyone other than myself.  At the time I was managing a branch of the company I worked for, and decided to curb my creative pursuits and go "all in" on my profession.

A good friend of mine noticed that I had stopped maintaining the blog I had been writing on for a few years prior, and reached out.  I was fairly unresponsive, too creatively depressed to even entertain doing any more writing.  It was late in the year 2007 when he told me to gear up for the upcoming Nanowrimo event.  I figured I didn't have anything to lose, and said I'd give it a shot.

In the lead-up to November, I decided to stretch my writing muscles by writing comic book reviews.  I didn't want to pursue anything wholly creative, as I was saving that for my attempt at the Great American Novel... I figured reviews would be a fun writing exercise.

During that time, I reached out to a few of the comic book news sites about submitting reviews to them.  To my surprise, most of those I contacted were actually interested in my writing for them.  I wrote reviews for a handful of sites for the next several months, and for the first time in as long as I remember I was enjoying writing again.  It all unfortunately came to an end when the company I worked for closed its doors and... for all intents and purposes, I kind of fell off the face of the Earth.

Why am I writing this?  Well, I recently came across my ancient 256mb thumb-drive (that I remember paying $50 for) that contained all of my old reviews.  I think it may prove a fun exercise (for me, anyway) to revisit some of them sporadically (not too often) to see if my impression of these books has changed or remained the same.  It will also afford me the opportunity to add pictures and some odd discussion.  I'd say maybe I could clean up the writing and grammar... but, I do believe that train has already left the station.  I write like I speak, and I most definitely do not speak grammatically sound.

This Bat Lash review was originally published on Broken Frontier during the week of 12/12/2007.  It is no longer accessible via their site, so I do not see the harm in reprinting it here...  First, however, a summary.


Bat Lash is playfully chasing his would-be gal Dominique Wilder across the West Texas landscape.  He finally catches her, and they fall into an embrace.  Nearby, Sheriff Brubaker (who believes Dominique to be his betrothed) and his men spy the proceedings and head off to nab Bat.

Bat's lassoed, and dragged to a nearby tree to be hung.  At the last moment, Lash is saved the the local Comanche tribe.  It is revealed that two years earlier, Bat had saved the life of a young Comanche tribesman from a buffalo stampede.

Brubaker visits with Dominique's father to inform him of the recent goings-on, and it is decided that Bat Lash will have to be killed.  Dominique overhears this conversation and mounts her horse in attempt to warn Bat about the pending attempt at his life.

Brubaker is able to catch her before she makes it to Bat, forcing himself on her before dragging her to a nearby cabin.  He stands before her, undoes his ammo belt and we are... [to be continued...]



Romance and Intrigue in the old West.  DC has brought back Bat Lash… but, was anybody actually asking for him?

Let me preface here by stating that I do not enjoy westerns… rather dislike them, actually.  I groan at the sight of them in film or print, and roll my eyes at the countless hours of Gunsmoke and Bonanza that clog up the weekend’s cable line-up.  All that being said, Bat Lash isn’t too bad of a book.

This having been my first exposure to Bat Lash, (and DC’s Western Comics entire library as a matter of fact) I feared I would find myself lost in ages-old continuity and not be able to keep up.  Fortunately, the issue starts off in an easily accessible en medias res… introducing the characters suitably, and giving them all decent little personalities for an opening chapter. 

The characters, are too be expected… a bit cliché.  This is after all, a piece of writing that is predicated by both its environment and its era.  In this case it’s the golden-haired “good” cowboy against the crooked sheriff of the county who’s clad in all black.  Both are vying for the affections of a sweet young thing that seems to have more of an eye for Bartholomew Lash than Sheriff Brubaker.

The art, provided by John Severin is perfectly suited for this type of story… some of the panels look as though they were pulled straight out of an old history book.  Walt Simonson’s cover is also a treat.

As I’d mentioned, I’m really not into Westerns.  That having been said, Peter Brandvold and Sergio Aragones have crafted a fun little story that left me a bit intrigued to see where this story’s headed.  Though, it’s unfortunately not so intrigued that I will actively pursue further issues of this series.  Great for what it is… just not for me.



Well, there's my review... warts and all.  Upon rereading Bat Lash #1, I find that I have a much better appreciation for it.  I cannot remember if my if my more dismissive (if not outright negative) 2008 review is a result of my genuine disinterest, or if I did not want to come across as too "easy" of a reviewer.  This was a fine issue, and honestly, I would not mind seeking out the rest of this mini-series at some point down the line.  This was a perfectly fine set-up issue, and had an intriguing cliffhanger.  DC's Digital Site has the entire series up at $0.99 each issue and Instocktrades has the collection in stock (currently at 45% off cover price).  Worth checking out if you're into Western Comics.  John Severin's art is such a departure from much of mainstream comics' output that it is a real treat to behold.


Interesting Ads:

I dream about one day transferring my collection from the 60 longboxes I've got them in to these drawers
Too bad the cost as much to ship as they do to buy...
Zuda: DC's relatively short-lived attempt at producing web comics.
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