Monday, April 30, 2018

Super Heroes Stamp Album #1 (1998)

Super Heroes Stamp Album #1 (1998)
"Book I: 1900 to 1909!"
Writer - Doug Moench
Pencillers - Paul Ryan, Angelo Torres, Joe Orlando, Joe Staton, Dan Jurgens, Norm Breyfogle, Jim Aparo, Dick Giordano, George Pratt, M.D. Bright & Ernie Colon
Inkers - Doug Hazlewood, Josef Rubenstein, Tom Palmer, Mike DeCarlo, Bill Sienkiewicz & Bob Smith
Colors - Tom Ziuko, Rick Taylor, Patricia Mulvihill & Bob LeRose
Letterer - Gaspar Saladino
Postmaster General - Marvin Runyon

Alrighty folks, today we have what might be one of the more bizarre... and boring books we're ever going to discuss here.  This one was made in cooperation with the United States Postal Service in order to promote their line of Celebrate the Century Stamps.

These were ten sheets of stamps, one for each decade of the 20th Century... with 15 stamps on each highlighting important events in semi-recent United States History.

What this has to do with superheroes... well, you got me.  Though, to be fair, it looks like Superman will get his own stamp in Book III.  This line of comics was supposed to be an actual "stamp album", just like it says on the cover.

You were supposed to collect the stamps, and put them in their proper spot inside this very book.  We really got into that sort of thing around the turn of the century... ask anyone who collected the 50 State Quarters!

Anyhoo, this piece will likely be a bit lighter on commentary than usual, because... there's no story here.  It's just several of our late-90's DC Comics favorites dropping knowledge on us.  As always, we'll do the best that we can!


We open with Superman beginning our tour through the 20th Century.  Are you excited?  I know I'm excited.  Hell, even Batman's sorta smiling!  For our first stop, Superman "The Action Ace" introduces us to Theodore Roosevelt "The Action President".  We learn of young Teddy's health problems, and his service with the Rough Riders.  Also, the circumstances which led to his becoming President of the United States.

The next stop on our tour is hosted by Wonder Woman... and she's taking us to Ellis Island.  She informs us that in the first decade of the 20th Century alone, nine million immigrants came through New York Harbor... with 4,000 passing through the Ellis Island Processing Point on an average day.

Remember Theodore Roosevelt?  Well, we're not done with him yet.  This time Robin tells us the story of the first Teddy Bear.  Ya see, legend has it that Theodore Roosevelt refused to shoot a bear cub while on a hunting trip... he considered it "unsporting".  When this story spread, a toy shop owner crafted a stuffed version of this bear to sell.

Back to Superman, and the story of the first World Series... well, after he shows off some of his powers for us, by cracking a ball into orbit... and speeding up to catch it.  It was a best-of-nine series that took place in 1903, pitting the National League's Pittsburgh Pirates against the American League's Boston Pilgrims (later Red Sox).  The Pilgrims would win it in eight!

Off to Muir Woods with Connor Hawke, where we learn a bit about preservationist John Muir.  Dude quit his job and walked 1,000 miles across the country.  He had founded The Sierra Club in 1892 in attempt to preserve the Yosemite Region from loggin and whatnot.  He even became pals with the aforementioned (several times) Teddy Roosevelt.

Back to Robin for the quick and dirty on Crayola Crayons.  Did you know that crayons are made out of chalk and oil?  Well, you do now.

Over to Wonder Woman for a look at "the ideal woman"... and no, we're not talking about Diana.  This is the Gibson Girl... a creation of an artist named Charles Dana Gibson that appeared in a humor magazine.  Homeboy got paid, and her look became "the" look many women would aspire toward.

Next stop, Kitty Hawk... where Superman tells us all about Orville and Wilbur Wright's first flight.  He's probably the most fitting hero to discuss these fellas, no?

Then Kyle Rayner tells us all about the first American blockbuster film, "The Great Train Robbery".  Anyone ever see it?  I haven't.  Looks like it's only 12 minutes long... I guess it might be worth a look.

Okay, 12 minutes and 10 seconds.  Anyhoo, Kyle informs us that movie-goers actually freaked out when the gunslinger in the film started firing off shots toward the camera.  Imagine living in a time like that?

Off to St. Louis so Wonder Woman can tell us all about the 1904 World's Fair.  Looks like there were a whole lot of important concepts and ideas introduced, including such mundane things as ice cream cones, iced tea, and hamburgers!  What a time to be alive!

Batman then fills us in on the 1906 Pure Food and Drugs Act.  A story that begins with an old favorite of mine, the Snake-Oil Salesman.  Looks like these potions and tinctures weren't as harmless as you might think though... many were laced with stimulants.  I'm sure that wasn't always a bad thing for the patrons, however.

Next, our man Steel tells us about William Edward Burghardt DuBois... which includes such concepts as Jim Crow Laws... and leads to race riots and the eventual formation of the NAACP.  Steel ends his tale by informing us that, prior to his passing, W.E.B. DuBois renounced his American citizenship and spent his final days in Ghana, Africa.

Off to... maybe Metropolis, where Superman takes a break from attending to a city-full of crumbling skyscrapers to tell us all about Frank Lloyd Wright.  All I knew about this fella was his more Arizona-centric dealings... and the fact that we have a major road named after him out this way.  I used to work over the road, and had to visit his Taliesin West (which he used as a "winter home") several times.  Unfortunately his vision didn't help Arizona all that much... as we're still very much "cookie cutter" as far as housing, at least in the major metropolitan areas.

Next up, the Flash tells us about the Model T Ford, and how Henry Ford launched the second Industrial Revolution in America.  Wowsa!

The final stop on this tour is guided by Batman, as he slinks down the back alleys to tell us about Ash Can Printing.  As comics enthusiasts, we've no doubt heard the word "ashcan" before... but this is a bit different.  This is an art movement, where folks would paint "plain or ugly subjects"... gritty realistic images which may include things like "dirty alleys or garbage cans".  In comics, I think we just call that the 1980's.

And so, we've made it through the first decade of the 20th Century!  Are you excited for the next ten years?  Well, Batman certainly is!  Just look at that grin.


Well, that was kinda dry, wun'tit?

It's difficult to really analyze something like this... so we're not going to.

Upon reading this, I feel like these were neat little succinct looks at American History... which, I think any interested young person (or adult, I guess) could get something from.  All told, not a bad package insofar as the delivery of the information.  It was easy to read, and (just barely) more engaging than a textbook.  Probably not the worst way to introduce a youngster to the material.

The art... was kind of a mixed bag.  Doesn't really feel like anybody involved on that side of the table (outside of a couple) really brought their "A" Game.  I'm never really a fan of "jam" issues, however, considering what this book is all about, I suppose I could live with it.

Overall... a pretty strange little novelty.  It might not be worth your time to read... but, as an interesting piece for your collection, I'd say it might just be worth having.  I definitely wouldn't spend more than a buck or two... though, I might nudge up if the book came complete with stamps already included.

And so, we wrap up April... when you come back tomorrow, you might wanna wear shades because our future's so... well, you know.


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Sunday, April 29, 2018

Outsiders (vol.3) #21 (2005)

Outsiders (vol.3) #21 (April, 2005)
"Silent Partner"
Story - Judd Winick
Art - Carlos D'Anda
Colors - Guy Major
Letters - Nick J. Napolitano
Associate Editor - Tom Palmer, Jr.
Editor - Eddie Berganza
Cover Price: $2.50

After finishing up the America's Most Wanted tie-in story arc yesterday, I was interested in seeing if there would be any follow-up in the pages of the next issue of Outsiders.  What I found was a romance story featuring Indigo and Shift.

I can't say that I was terribly interested in any of that... however, toward the end of the issue, there was a bit of a reveal.  Optitron, the company that has been funding the Outsiders... is owned by... Bruce Wayne.

Well, this really ticked Dick off... and that's where we begin today.  You know I'm always a sucker for Bat-Family drama... here's hoping this one delivers!

Also, how ya like that DYMO label on top of our Outsiders logo?  Something awfully familiar about that...

... eh, I'm sure it's just a coincidence.


We open with a quick and dirty introduction on Optitron... which, for those just joining us, ends with the reveal that Optitron is a subsidiary of Wayne Enterprises... and also the wild spoiler that the owner of Wayne Enterprises, Bruce Wayne is actually... Batman!  In the present, Nightwing is positively fuming... he's upset that Batman didn't believe in him enough to consider that he could maintain this team without his interference.

And as if that wasn't bad enough, Roy drops the other shoe.  Ya see, he's known that Batman was in charge the whole time, and has even gotten intel reports from him.  Dick charges out of the room... and it's becoming pretty clear from the dialogue (over the past few days) that Winick's idea of "maturing up" language is adding a bunch of G-D's.

We shoot over to Wayne Manor where Nightwing demands an audience with the master of the house.  He heads down to the Batcave and starts reading Batman the riot act.  Batman just stands there and lets him run wild.

When Dick runs out of steam, Batman finally speaks.  Yes, he's funding the team... but he's only doing so because he believes in Dick.  Teams need money... he's got money, so what's the big deal, right?

When asked why he's been lying to him all this time, all Batman can do is... apologize.  He suggests Dick not place that much faith in him... or anybody, for that matter.

Dick realizes that something's definitely up... and presses Batman for some answers.  Batman doesn't really have any, however... he actually sort of spaces out.  There's a single-panel flashback to... something.  I know Winick was also writing Batman at this point, but I'll level with ya... Winick writing Batman led to my no longer reading Batman... so, I haven't the foggiest idea what he might be referring to.

Dick begins to come around... and since the intel he's been feeding Roy has been so helpful, he sees no reason why that shouldn't continue.  At this point, Batman reveals that he hasn't seen nor spoken to Arsenal in over a year!  Uh-oh.

It just so happens, at that very moment Arsenal is speaking to... Batman?!  He reveals to his informant that the news is out... he told Nightwing and Starfire about their clandestine meetings.  Then, Roy's communicator begins to buzz.

It's Dick... duh... who is pretty surprised to learn that they're both standing next to Batman!

Well, that's because... clearly, one of them isn't.  The Batman with Roy proceeds to beat the hell out of our favorite Dorito-chinned archer.  Unfortunately none of his strikes are strong enough to knock that damned crumb off his chin.

We close out with that Batman unmasking... revealing himself to be, Slade Wilson... Deathstroke!



I think my expectations always shoot up a bit too high when we brush up against good ol' Bat-Family Drama... and this one more or less fell flat for me.

It really just feels like an advertisement for Winick's Batman work.  We're left here with "Why is Batman acting so weird?  Maybe I should check out his book.", when really... Batman should be doing what it can to prop this book up!  This could've (and perhaps should've) very easily been an issue of Batman... and I'd bet it would've drawn its fair-share of new eyes to the Outsiders book!

Though, checking the Comichron numbers for this month... Batman didn't really outsell this book by all that much.  Just over 10,000 copies.  I guess I wasn't the only one to "check out" when Winick took over Batman!

Oh well.

Keeping with Winick for a bit... his dialogue is pretty weak, and I tire of the overuse of G-D.  I mean, I'm not known (offline anyway) for watching my language, but this just feels like a silly attempt to make the book feel more "mature".  I'll never understand how a concept like "mature" has morphed into cursing and gore.  I certainly don't feel more mature for having read this!

I thought the Deathstroke reveal at the end was pretty neat... though, does this mean that he knows some things he shouldn't about Batman?  I mean, he'd have to know that Wayne Enterprises owned Optitron, right?  And he would only dress as Batman to trick Roy if he already knew Bruce Wayne was Batman, right?  Maybe I'm thinking too hard... or maybe I just missed something.  Wouldn't be the first time!

Overall... not a bad issue, but also not likely to be one that'll rock your socks.


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Saturday, April 28, 2018

Outsiders (vol.3) #19 (2005)

Outsiders (vol.3) #19 (February, 2005)
"Most Wanted, Part 3"
Story - Judd Winick
Art - Carlos D'Anda
Colors - Sno-Cone
Letters - Pat Brosseau
Associate Editor - Tom Palmer, Jr.
Editor - Eddie Berganza
Cover Price: $2.50

Today we'll wrap up "Most Wanted".  You think Roy and the Gang will get there in time to save Lian?  Well, of course they will silly... they've gotta save her in order to kill her five years later!

And just check out that cover... some prominent placement on that nasty Dorito crumb on Roy's chin.  Yeeuck...


We open in Roy's apartment, where the Outsiders are checking out the crime scene.  If you recall, the place had been left rather a mess, with the almost execution-style hit on the nanny.  Worth noting that Dick kinda manipulates the body... lifting its arm.  Doesn't seem like something he ought to do... but, what do I know?  I wasn't trained by the world's greatest detective or anything.  Off to the side, Roy is on the phone with Ollie and he's absolutely freaking out... not that I can blame him.  Ollie doesn't appear to think this situation is as urgent as Roy is making it out to be (whaaaaa?).  Dick tells him to settle his tea kettle... when maybe he ought to be telling him "Just call Cheshire", because she could probably crack this case faster than any of them.

After questioning Roy's neighbors, the Outsiders learn that there was a strange black van bearing a bird logo in the neighborhood... which is, ya know, pretty convenient.  It's not enough for Grace however, she's still pretty dour on the whole thing.  Off to the side, Dick gets a call from our man John Walsh who has a hot-tip.  Remember that guy who recognizes Roy and tipped off Tanner last issue?  Well, he's being transferred to another facility... and if the Outsiders just happen to intercept him... well, you know.  Worth noting that Dick is almost dismissive of Mr. Walsh here... which, I dunno... doesn't seem right considering Dick dragged him into this to begin with.

Way to live up to your name there, Dick.
And so, the Outsiders head off to meet up with the transfer van... and it goes about as well as you might expect.  They make a big production out of it... likely endangering everyone in the area, when they could've probably just stood in front of it while holding a hand up.

Anyhoo, Jade yanks the goon out of the van with a construct hand, and dangles him in front of Roy who lines an arrow up about a half-inch away from his eye.

The goon squeals, revealing that Tanner has planes.  And so, we're off to an airport.  After a brief skirmish with Tanner's security, the Outsiders are able to locate Lian.

Grace is happy that Lian was saved... but cannot hide her disappointment that it seems as though Tanner has once again gotten away.  Then... she gets a call.

From here we get about four pages of Grace turning Tanner's face into hamburger meat.  It's pretty powerful, I'll admit... but maybe a bit long.  At the end of the beating, Grace realizes that no matter what this dude did to her, she cannot bring herself to kill him.  Instead, she strips him down to his undies and ties him to a parking meter... I'm going to assume the meter is outside the police station, but it isn't made clear.

We rejoin Grace in John Walsh's office, where he's kind of surprised... and a little relieved that she didn't kill Tanner.  Considering he's the one that tipped her off to the baddie's location, I suppose he'd have a little bit of the culpability.

We wrap up back at Roy's apartment, where it's made clear that... even though they saved Lian, they didn't exactly get the same one back.  She's now seen things... hell, she's been branded!  It's not something we think about much in comics... or are supposed to think about, perhaps... but even those who are lucky enough to be "rescued", aren't always "saved".


Pretty strong ending here.  A little convenient, perhaps... but plenty powerful.

I want to talk a little bit more about Lian's return... like what would come "post credits".  To Winick's credit... and I don't often give him much... focusing on Lian being altered... broken, even... upon return is one of those "inconvenient truths" that we just don't like to think about.

I mean, she very likely saw her Nanny get his brains blown out... then she was abducted... and had her lower back burned with Tanner's "brand".  This isn't going to be the same little girl who was overly-concerned with her "stupid-head" friend who blows his nose on his sleeves at school.

Not only is she irreparably damaged... we've also got Roy.  There's no way he can't blame himself for everything that happened.  Also... Dick.  If Dick never pushed for the Outsiders to "go public" and work with America's Most Wanted... would this have gone down the same way?  This is really a much deeper story if you care to look at it this way.

I feel like this is something that is downplayed in comics... and perhaps with good reason.  I mean, it would be difficult to look at our heroes the same way if we see evidence that even those they rescue still bear the scars of their trauma for the rest of their lives.  There's my pitch to DC Comics... a series where rescued civilians share their stories with a therapist.  That's a thousand-pennies idea right there!

But seriously, I feel like we purposely ignore concepts like that... just like in real life.  The "after" is never something we want to focus on, because... the "after" never ends!  We can draw a line under things like abduction, incarceration, injury, addiction... but once that "now" passes, these folks need to continue on with their lives.  We like to think about people "beating" their addictions, being released from rehab... but, that's kind of where we "stop" thinking about them.  We don't focus on the daily/hourly/minutely struggle that they deal with for the rest of their lives... because, let's face it, that's not a "nice" story.

And neither is the one we just read.  It's mean... nasty... cold... and unfortunately, all too real.  I give Winick a bunch of crap when we cover his books here.  I feel like he's too preachy... too soap-boxy... too pet-causey, but here... I think this one went the way it needed to in order to have the most lasting impact.

Let's talk dialogue... because that's another thing I usually grill Winick over.  It's strange how we kinda flip-flop between after-school special speak... Kevin Smith speak... and 80's Action Movie speak here.  In particular, there's that scene where Dick gets a tip from John Walsh... and he really lives up to his name by dismissively asking "How does that help us?".  Well, jackass... it's the only lead you've got... and it's being given to you by a guy who's risking his reputation by working with you... so, just take the damn tip and say "thank you".  A-hole.

Speaking of the tip... I get that this is a comic book, and we need "high action", but the way in which they intercept the transfer?  Totally wrong-headed.  It was overly dangerous... not only to the public, but to the very guy they needed to question!  If that fella got bonked in the head when the van was flipped, what good would he have been to the team?  What kind of information could you get from a dead guy?!  So dumb.

Overall... even with all the issues I had with this issue (and arc), I still can't get overly mad at it.  It's better than a "very special issue", but probably not as good as a "regular" issue.  I'd say it's worth a look.


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