Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Americomics Special #1 (1983)

Americomics Special #1 (August, 1983)
"Sentinels of Justice"
Plot & Story - Dan St. John
Script & Art - Greg Guler
Backgrounds - Matt Feazell
Colorist - Bill Fugate
Cover Price: $2.00

Welcome friends to our humble home's TWO YEAR BLOGGIVERSARY!

What's more... it's also a day in which I get to share blog posts from my friends in what is a sorta-kinda Super-Blog Team-Up.  It's not the real thing, of course... you may remember, we all died last time around... but, close enough!

I was initially planning on either forgoing or at least putting off taking part in this go-round... until I sez to myself, "Self, Super-Blog Team-Up is some of the funnest days of the year"  So, why not celebrate both our anniversary here... and take the opportunity to take part in a project with my pals?

So, that's just what we're gonna do.

The (definitely not) Super-Blog theme this time around is putting together a "dream" version of a superhero team... Justice League, Avengers... whateva ya want.

Since that's the theme... and at the end of this post I'm going to throw together a version of the Justice League, I figured I'd discuss another time when a team was "thrown together".  In the interim between Charlton Comics going out of business... and DC Comics taking ownership of the Action Heroes line... Blue Beetle, Captain Atom and the gang took a brief stop at... Americomics.  Ameri-what?

Glad you asked!  Reggie and I actually discussed this when we did our two-part Weird Comics History on Charlton Comics... if'n you're interested, give 'em a listen!

And, yeah... we're kinda "cheating" the system here in talking about a book that isn't published by DC Comics... but, way I look at it... it's close enough!  In the past we discussed Wildstorm properties while they were still under the Image Comics umbrella... so, we'll think of it like that.*

*he says, pretending he won't lose sleep over this.


We open in Hub City where Vic Sage is delivering the news on his nightly broadcast.  Looks like there'd been a string of tech-related crimes of late... and the thieves have been identified as members of the terrorist organization known as the "Madmen".  Little on the nose, but we'll allow it.  We shift scenes to the baddies' secret lair where they are being instructed by... the Manipulator.  Wow, these names you guys!  Staying with the Manipulator for a bit, we see him deliver his plans to steal a solar battery to a conference table full of... well, dudes.  Of note, he looks to be doing so in front of a portrait of Tom Selleck.

In an odd bit, the Manipulator then... removes his hood/helmet thing, revealing him to be................. nobody we'd recognize.  Nobody I recognize anyway.  He's just a blonde dude they refer to as J.B.

We next shift to the... uh, Beetlecave, where Ted Kord is brought up to speed on Dr. Rockwell's solar battery... he plans to attend its unveiling... however, he receives a call from Captain Fisher and has to "suit up" for duty.  The Sentinels of Justice are needed!

Fast-forward to Police Headquarters where Beetle meets up with Captain Atom... and eventually Nightshade and the Question.  They are given a presentation from Dr. Rockwell about how they're going to lure the Madmen out when they present the solar battery.

And so, the next evening, Nate and Eve attend the Rockwell gala in their civvies while Beetle and Question monitor the situation from outside.  Suddenly, a hover tank comes roll... er, hovering down the street.  It's the Madmen, natch!  Led by the Manipulator, they bust in and cause all sorts of mayhem.

What follows is like a dozen pages of fighting.  Really not much to say about it... it's a fight scene.  Captain Atom eventually gets the better of the Manipulator... which only causes ol' J.B. to announce a ten-million dollar bounty on his head... and that, as you might imagine paints quite the target on Nate.  Well, it might have... if more than one of the Madmen heard him.

Eventually, the Manipulator calls in his "ace in the hole"... the Banshee!  Boy oh boy... what a geek.

The Banshee nails Ted with a stun-bolt... and the Madman known as Ironarms (I think) continues to work on procuring that ten-mill bounty.  Unfortunately for him, Nightshade sneaks up behind him and smashes him with the solar battery.  Not sure why this caused him any more distress than had she hit him with a cinder block... but, we'll allow it for "science" sake.

From here, things really start for fall apart for the baddies.  The Madman known as "Icer" holds Dr. Rockwell aloft... and threatens to kill him, however at the last moment he throws the Doc at the Sentinels and escapes.

The police arrive and begin making arrests... and Captain Atom attempts to track down those who got away (including the Manipulator).  He comes up empty... which only proves the point that the Sentinels of Justice will always be needed.

We conclude with an epilog(ue), in which we learn that the Manipulator (who must have escaped at some point) is being... manipulated by a shadowy man with but one goal... Destroy the Sentinels of Justice!  If by "destroy", he means make it so this comic never comes out again... well, then mission accomplished pal, cuz this is all she wrote!


Well... as far as "milestone" issues go, this was a bit underwhelming.

We'll try and be brief, because really... there isn't all that much to say.  This was a very old-school comic book... and it feels like it would've been something of a relic even back in 1983.  There's odd uses of science... a group of terrorists who call themselves "Madmen", thereby just accepting that they are, in fact, evil... and over half the thing is comprised of an overlong fight scene.

What I'll give it is... it's heart.  There's a real feeling of love for these Charlton Action Heroes here.  This feels very much like a passion-project, and not... whateverthehell The L.A.W. would be twenty or so years later.  This feels almost like a fan-fiction... and I mean that in the best possible way.  This is as though me and a group of friends got together in high school and created a full-color homage to our favorite comics characters.  Pushing that a bit further... I couldn't help but smile when I saw a credit for "backgrounds".  That definitely brought me back to drawing and writing comics as a kid... we'd always try and "stick" someone on backgrounds... because nobody wanted to (or could, really) draw them!

Overall... kind of a dud, but not bad.  I wouldn't tell you not to pick this up should you come across it.  Quite the opposite!  If you're a fan of any of the Charlton Action Heroes... or just comics history in general, I'd definitely urge you to grab this one.  It's an interesting piece of history... and the kind of thing we just don't see anymore (and probably never will).  By the way, this series didn't continue not because of our shadowy friend up there, but because, DC Comics bought the characters shortly after this one came out.  Unless... Paul Levitz was the shadowy man!  Record scratch...

Now... with the comic out of the way, I can get all sappy like I usually do when I come to a milestone post.  Two years ago today... I started a blog.  I wrote about one of my favorite comics of all-time in Tales of the Teen Titans #55... I did so because, well... I was facing some horrible writers block, and couldn't bring myself to complete a certain forensics assignment... I went into detail about this in my first anniversary post.

I still remember sitting there after publishing... hitting the "refresh" button on my stats page to see if anybody somehow wandered across my words of wisdom... and that weird feeling several hours later when somebody had!  I've since gotten over all that... nowadays, I only check like every five minutes or so... kidding, my time is now spent hitting refresh on the Chris and Reggie Podbean page.  Ahem.  Forget I said anything.

As always, I want to thank everyone for reading... for interacting... for inviting me onto your sites and shows... for inviting me into your eyes and ears... in the, ya know, least creepy way possible of course.

A huge thanks to our great friend Justin over at DC in the 80's, who... put together an amazingly touching piece discussing this very blog.  I encourage everyone to head over and check it out... and while you're there, do some poking around... lots of great stuff there... some even written by yours truly.  I've already read his piece like a dozen times... and I still can't get over it.  It's truly one of the nicest things anyone's ever done for me... and despite my rambling, I actually cannot put into words how much it means to me.  So, I'll leave it with... THANK YOU, JUSTIN.

Whew... what say we leave the sappiness there, and press forward into some fun CioIE stats!  Whoo-hoo, everybody loves stats!  And, of course... if you scroll passed the (incredibly interesting) stats, you'll find my "Dream" Justice League.

Thanks again for reading... and sticking with me!


Two-Year Anniversary Chart:

Not gonna lie, being kind of a mark for stats... I've been itching to put this together for quite some time.  In looking at it now, I gotta say... that's pretty much exactly how I imagined it'd look!

We have some pretty big spikes in the late 1980's... which I definitely saw coming, with a sort of steadiness throughout the 1990's, before spiking again around 2008... lotsa "Nebulous Interim" Superman and Justice Society of America (Volume 3) in there.  It's probably why Geoff Johns sits atop my "most talked about" comic creators with... holy cow, eighty-two books!  Speaking of which...

Top Ten Creators (by post count):

1. Geoff Johns (82)
2. Dan Jurgens (40)
3. Marv Wolfman (38)
4. Curt Swan, Gerry Conway & Keith Giffen (29)
5. George Perez (27)
6. Cary Bates (24)
7. Jim Aparo & John Byrne (19)
8. Bob Rozakis & Jerry Ordway (18)
9. Dale Eaglesham & Joe Staton (17)
10. Denny O'Neil (16)


(Not the) Letters Page & Pin-Ups:


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A "Dream" Justice League:

So, we're going to place our Justice League on Infinite Earths in the aftermath of Infinite Crisis... this way, Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman are completely off the table.  Now, we're not "trinity-less", however... we're going to start with one of our own.

I don't know about anybody else, but whether they're Travelling Hard or Crying for Justice, I've always seen Green Lantern (Hal Jordan)Green Arrow, and Black Canary as a secondary trinity.  They'll pull together in the absence of the "big three"... knowing there's a need for a Justice League... but not knowing fully where all the "pieces" have landed.  They know that, at the very least... they can trust one another.  They plan to work as equals... however, it's basically understood that Dinah's running the show.

After a few adventures, they realize the size of the task before them, and the shoes they're going to need to fill... and so, they open up recruitment.  Their first "get" is Stargirl... who in between stints with the Justice Society, is... like really bored maaaaaaan.  The only action she'd seen of late was tending to a smoke alarm in the girls' bathroom at school... which was set off courtesy of the cigarette smoke of Freefall.

In honor of the WildStorm Universe receiving a multiversal designation (Earth-50), Roxy will become part of our team.  She will mostly serve as a foil for Courtney... a girl she sees as "perfect", just like her own half-sister Caitlin (Fairchild).  Roxy will also be a really fun thorn in the side for Ollie... I'm already picturing her thumbing her nose at his chili.

In say... issue #4 of our new series, the JLA is called to Beverly Hills where it appears that a cult of poodle-skirted teen-agers have taken over the town.  Upon investigation, our team is led to a diner where they've been playing the same record over and over again... a pretty hip record, if you catch my drift, cats and kittens.  The proprietor of the diner claims to have found the record in his storage room.  Upon turning off the turn-table, the teen-agers return to "normal"... for better or worse.

Courtney heads to city hall and learns that this diner was built on the ruins of a... malt shoppe back in the late 1960's.  Ollie and Hal begin to poke around... and discover an industrial freezer buried several feet underground.  Upon excavation... they find a frozen man inside a block of frozen malted.  When it thaws we see that this is our next team member, Super-Hip!  Super-Hip will be our team's "fish out of water" character, not unlike Captain America when he was unfrozen.  Super-Hip, of course, is the alter-ego of Bob Hope's nephew.  I can see him having no idea of "current year" social mores... leading to some very interesting situations with Courtney and Roxy.

Some time passes and the League is contacted by... Arkham Asylum.  Seems there's a fella there making a lot of racket... a fella who now occupies the Psycho Pirate's old padded cell.  We are in the aftermath of a Crisis... so, it's only fitting.  They head over to check it out... and find a man in the fetal position repeating over and over "they don't want me... nobody wants me... they don't want me... nobody wants me".  Turns out, this is... Access!  I know what you're thinking, "what a loser"... annnnnd, you're right!  But, he's important for what's to come.  Access is in Arkham due to overwhelming depression... he's a man who can travel between worlds, but can call neither of them home.  Because, as he says... nobody wants him.

This leads us to our final team member... and, while it's a bit of a stretch... I think it's pretty fun.  Now, what our team is lacking is, quite frankly, a powerhouse.  We don't really have someone on the level of Superman or Wonder Woman... so, let's get one.  As the League tends to Access, a man they feel is completely delusional... he demonstrates his powers... sending the entire team to the Marvel Universe.

They arrive on 616 Earth just as... Galactus is about to devour it!  Our team just barely ekes out a victory... Access proves his worth by illustrating that there is a multiverse of planets out there to be "eaten"... and the purple giant, either falls asleep or heads off in search.  Whichever makes more sense at the time.  Anyhoo, when everything seems cool, our League is attacked by, Galactus' herald... the Silver Surfer.

We can have a bit of meta-commentary here... maybe a shot of the Daily Bugle where they joke about the Surfer rejoining Galactus from time to time... maybe a gag about there not being a Fantastic Four to save the day.  Really just me being pithy... let's edit that out.

Anyhoo, our League is able to bring the Surfer back to his senses, and he realizes that no matter how far he strays, he'll always be pulled back under Galactus' control.  And so, he decides to accompany our team back to the DC Universe where he can serve as the "cosmically powered" Justice League member.

And so... I present to you the Justice League on Infinite Earths!

Thanks for playing along, this was a lot of fun.  Just below, you can see what the rest of the Super-Bloggers had to say!


(Definitely not) Super-Blog Team-Up Continues:

Between the Pages

Coffee & Comics Podcast

Comic Reviews by Walt

Crapbox of Son of Cthulhu

Super-Hero Satellite
Chris is on Infinite Earths


Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Teen Titans: Year One #1 (2008)

Teen Titans: Year One #1 (March, 2008)
"In the Beginning... Part One"
Writer - Amy Wolfram
Penciller - Karl Kerschl
Inker - Serge LaPointe
Colorist - Steph Peru
Letterer - Nick J. Napolitano
Assistant Editor - Adam Schlagman
Editor - Eddie Berganza
Cover Price: $2.99

Here's one that's been lingering in the library for a decade!  For whatever reason, I bought... but never read Teen Titans: Year One.  It's not unusual for me to buy something with the intent of reading it "eventually"... but, for me to leave a Titans book lay... that's kinda odd.

Maybe I was subconsciously trying to rob myself of reading a great story... or, maybe it was out of self-preservation.  Guess we're about to find out which!


We open in the Batcave, where young Dick Grayson is trying to get a hold of all the "teen superheroes" in an online chat room... hmm, that kinda thing might get you investigated, pal.  Anyhoo, Batman arrives... and boy howdy, he's ticked off.  He tells Robin that he's wasting his time... and that they need to go.  Just as they do, we see that Kid Flash has responded to the call of duty.

And so, we shift scenes over to Wally's Blue Valley bedroom, where he's borrrrrrrred.  So bored, that he decides to run to France for some French Fries (get it?).

Meanwhile, unduh-da-sea... Aqualad seems to be scared of just about everything.  He also seems kinda sickly... which is likely just artistic license.  Anyhoo, Aquaman clops up riding a seahorse... and gives Garth a disappointing look.

Then... to the Big City, where Donna Troy seems to be looking for Wonder Woman.  In a neat nod to the past, we see that The Flips will be playing live that weekend.  Not paying complete attention to her surroundings, Donna walks smack into the chest of a... I dunno, high school/college student (who appears to be dating his mother).  She immediately expresses her love for him... which is, ya know... weird.

Back in Gotham, Batman and Robin have been surveilling an alley for several hours in search of a cat-burglar.  Batman is depicted as... well, an ass.  No nicer way to put it.  Thinking he's found his baddie, he swoops into action... and beats the holy Hell out of a delivery guy.

The next day, Wally pays Dick a visit at his school... and they talk about how parents just don't understand.  Robin gets a text on his bat-phone (it actually has a bat on it) about some trouble going down at a jewelry store... and he heads that way.  He finds Batman getting pretty aggressive with a thief... and, of course... we get a reference to the pearl necklace (we tired of that imagery yet?).

Batman proceeds to pummel the perp... so much so that Robin intervenes to try and pull him back.  Batman responds with a backhand to the Boy Wonder, and a warning that their "team" is no more.

We wrap up with the owners of the jewelry store tending to Dick's bloody lip.

In a strange epilogue piece, the fish around Atlantis are warned (via Morse Code) that they are under attack.




This is a very pretty book!  The art is wonderful... really eye-catching and engaging.

Soooo, see ya tomorr-- oh, we probably ought to talk about the story, huh?

Uhh... not the best.  This really wouldn't be the book I'd give to a new-to-the-Titans reader.  I'm not sure if this is supposed to supplant the Titans original origin, or run alongside it... so, I really can't get mad at it for mucking with continuity... yet.

Still though, not a fan of some of the characterization here.  Let's start with Batman... I gotta figure there's some sort of mind-control or a top-secret plan he's formulating in order for him to act the way he's acting here.  I mean, he's hyper-violent, not acting very detective-like... and Hell, he backhanded Robin.  There's gotta be something amiss here, right?

Then there's Wonder Girl.  I mean, I get that we're seeing that she's never seen "a b-b-b-b-b-boy" growing up on Paradise Island... but her reaction here is a bit much.  Here she is, walking through the "Big City", are we supposed to believe this is the first boy she's seen?  Why isn't she running up to every fella on the street and pronouncing her love for them too?  Just really off-putting... and seemed to only exist to facilitate the joke of the dude nervously telling his girlfriend that he'd never seen this girl before.

So... um, no bueno.  The art, as mentioned, is fantastic... a real treat for the eyes.  It's too bad that the story doesn't really live up to it.  To be fair, I'm just one issue in... so, this might all come together beautifully at the end... but, after reading this... I really don't much care to stick it out til then.  If you're interested, this is available digitally for only a buck!

Be sure to come back tomorrow, when we celebrate TWO-YEARS of DAILY posting at our humble blog-home.


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Monday, January 29, 2018

Action Comics #870 (2008)

Action Comics #870 (December, 2008)
"Brainiac, Finale"
Writer - Geoff Johns
Penciller - Gary Frank
Inkers - Jon Sibal & Bit
Letterer - Rob Leigh
Colorist - Brad Anderson
Associate Editor - Nachie Castro
Editor - Matt Idelson
Cover Price: $2.99

It's weird... last week we discussed a five-part story in Day of Judgment, and today we wrap up another in Brainiac.  I swear it took us about three times as long to get through DoJ!

It's the same writer too, which makes it all the more weird.  I guess nearly a decade's worth of writing experience can really help out!

Anyhoo, let's burst through the finish line!


Picking up where we left off yesterday, Brainiac has "collected" Metropolis, and is set to send our Sun into super-nova... so that he's the only entity with the knowledge from (and of) the Earth.  What's worse is he's detained both Superman and Supergirl in the meantime.  Superman is finally able to focus after hearing the tiny voice of tiny Lois Lane.

Superman is back up and at'em... and bashes Brainiac in the face.  He rushes into the "collection room" and grabs both the Metropolis and Kandor domes.

He next rushes into the area where Supergirl is being kept.  He downs her captors and brings her up to speed.  It's going to be up to her to stop whatever it is that's heading toward the Sun.  Kara expresses that she's too slow... too scared.  Superman tells her that it's okay to be scared, and also that he has all the faith in the world in her.

And so, she jets.  At this point, Brainiac has recovered... and is looking for a fight.  Unfortunately for him, he appears to have brought a knife to a super-breath fight.  Superman blows him right out of his Skull Ship with ease.

Brainiac SPLLLTTTs down face-first in an Earthen swamp.  It's really a cool scene.  He's suddenly overwhelmed by the amount of microscopic bacteria he's among.  I guess there might just be such a thing as "too much knowledge".  I wouldn't wanna know what kinda microscopic buggers might be hanging out in the neighborhood park... yeesh.

Wait'll you try a public pool, Brainy!
Superman curb-stomps him into the muck... at which time, Brainiac reveals that the containment domes will not hold forever... and so, Superman's going to have to return Metropolis to it's normal spot... and find a place to plop down Kandor.  After he leaves, we learn that Brainiac has figured out where Superman calls "home"... and decides to do something about it.

At this point things become really cinematic... which is really fun to read, but not so much to synopsize.  We'll do our best.  Superman drops Metropolis where it belongs... and it returns normal.  A rocket blasts into the American midwest.  Supergirl is still en route to saving the Sun.

It's soon clear that the rocket is heading directly for the Kent farm.  Ma and Pa see it coming... Superman, however, is at the Fortress of Solitude making a deposit.

The rocket hits the Kent home, but Pa is able to get Ma to safety.  Supergirl is able to save the Sun.  Superman is still otherwise engaged.

Everything seems to be hunky-dory... however, the stress has triggered a heart attack in Jonathan Kent.  He slumps down in Martha's arms while she frantically calls for their Son...

... who is still busy, with the no-longer-bottle city of Kandor.

Eventually, Ma's cries make their way to his ears... and he's off to Smallville.  Sadly, it's too late to even say goodbye.


Okay... we've got a bunch to unpack here.

Let's start with the ending.  Pa Kent saves Martha... then succumbs to a heart attack.  It's not as though we didn't see this coming.  Of course, we weren't quite sure of the "how", but I think we could deduce the "when".  This was telegraphed all throughout this arc... it was pretty clear ol' Pa wasn't going to make it out of this story alive.

Telegraphing isn't always a bad thing though.  I don't think it was a bad thing here asamattafact.  The closeness shown between Pa and Clark... while a bit "heavy", didn't feel out of line with the way they're normally written.

Also, there was enough subtlety to make these interactions feel natural.  I mean, it's not like we got Pa telling Clark, "Ya know, Son... I'm not always going to be here" and Clark didn't say, "I don't know what I'd do without you, Pa!" as they played catch... or were fishing or something.  Instead we get scenes of them appreciating one another... and we get a real understanding of how important they are in each other's lives.

So... yeah, telegraphed, but not blatantly so.

It is a bit troubling that Clark was busy dealing with Kandor when all of this went down... but I suppose that's a way to introduce some internal conflict.  I'm never all that keen on pushing guilt on characters (who aren't Peter Parker... that's his thing, after all)... but, I think I'm okay with it here.  The forthcoming New Krypton story should be chock-full of conflict for the Man of Steel... so, I'm cool with it.

I appreciated Brainiac going out the way he did.  Through all of his machinations and collecting, he made himself almost too aware.  Sensing all of the icky bacterium and whatnot in that nasty swamp threw him off just enough for Superman to get the drop on him.  On the face of it, he comes off looking like something of a chump, but in actuality... he wound up beating himself, so he doesn't look quite as bad taking the "L".

It's brief, but we get a bit on Supergirl coming into her own here.  She's petrified that she's not powerful enough to complete her task... but Superman's belief in her is enough for her to begin believing in herself.  She's able to save the Sun... and with it, the universe.  Pretty good showing!

Overall, this was a lot of fun.  I really enjoyed this the whole way through... and I'm left wanting more.

Of course, not too long ago... we discussed the issue this flows into:

So, if you'd like my thoughts on that... just click'a da cover.


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