Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Superman #257 (1972)

Superman #257 (October, 1972)
"Superman Battles the War-Horn!"
"The Greatest Green Lantern of All!"
Writers - Cary Bates & Elliot S! Maggin w/Neal Adams
Pencils - Curt Swan & Dick Dillin
Inks - Murphy Anderson & Dick Giordano
Editor - Julius Schwartz
Cover Price: $0.20

Being as though I am an avid "cheap-o bin" diver... I don't always come to the surface with pristine copies.  Such is the case today.  If you look at the cover (just over Superman's head), it looks like a vendor re-priced this issue at a nickel.

That might annoy some, however... I can't help but to find it kinda charming.  I love the idea that this issue has a little bit of "story" to it.  Plus, the way the price was rubbed out, it almost looks like Superman is wearing a cute little wizard hat... so, it's got that going for it too.

Anyhoo, today we're discussing a pretty important issue... and, get this, the important part comes in a back-up!  A The Fabulous World of Krypton back-up, no less... and those are usually the worst!

Let's get to it!


Our story opens with Lois, Clark, Jimmy and Perry enjoying a day out at the Metropolis Pier.  It's been awhile since they'd all been together... as this is shortly after Morgan Edge swooped in and took over.  After a long-overdue lunch, the foursome are witness to a strange glowing humanoid form careening into the water.  Clark ushers the rest into a cab (using the city ordinance of only three passengers to a cab) to "legally" sneak off and "supe up".  He destroys a bit of the pier in the process, but it's not like we're keeping score or anything.

In the drink, Superman comes across a... well, rather generic looking DC alien.  The kind of alien that would drive me directly into the waiting arms of a Marvel comic.  Anyhoo, he has a strange apparatus on his back, which we soon learn is his "war-horn".  He uses it to whip up an underwater torrent which sends Superman off.

The water jets actually carry him thousands of miles over to the western coast of Africa!

As he makes his way back to the States, we shift scenes to a pair of children playing "monster" in the woods... and no, that's not a euphemism for anything (shame on you for thinking that is was).  Anyhoo, they run into... War-Horn, who scares them off.

Clark returns to the Galaxy Building, and Jimmy shows him some film of fish acting weird.  Also, the report of a pair of young fellas reporting having seen a hulking alien figure.  Well, I dunno about "hulking", he looked a bit more lanky to me.

Clark rushes off to "supe up" and next thing we know, he's in a forest that had recently burned to ashes.  He then gets a "mental chill" that tells him War-Horn is near.  Never knew Superman had a "spidey-sense", but whattayagonnado?  Either way, War-Horn is hanging out underground... just like the cover, only without the boys clutching Superman's legs.

War-Horn bursts from the ground, and uses his... uh, war-horn to surround Superman with earth... from which erupts a volcano.  This being Superman, such a thing isn't terribly effective.  He socks War-Horn in the mush, causing him to attempt to flee.

As Superman gives chase, he finds himself entangled in some vines.  After shaking them off, he comes across a camper... who claims that he is responsible for the forest fire.  Ya see, he struck a single match... and "whoosh" - the whole forest went up.  Superman decides to engage his Infra-Red vision, which reveals... precious little Nitrogen in the air.

He deduces that War-Horn's mission is stealing Earth's atmospheric Nitrogen... and, get this... it turns out, that's exactly what he's here to do!  War-Horn then surrounds Superman with a storm-cloud... claiming, if he were to break out of it... the resulting thunderclap would deafen everybody on Earth.  Also, the only way to stop War-Horn... is to kill him!

Rather than risk "stepping out", Superman just freezes the cloud with some Super-Breath.  He then creates a hail stone... and pelts the geek in the chin with it.  With War-Horn on the ropes, Superman reels back and readies himself to deliver a fatal blow!

Before the punch connects, however, the (actual) war horn activates and whisks War-Horn (the alien) back to wherever the hell he'd come from.  Ya see, that was exactly what Superman had hoped would happen... the device would do anything possible to protect its wearer.  Kinda risky... but, it did the job.  And honestly, worst case scenario if it didn't... we have one less generic murderous alien in the DC Universe.

On to the back-up... which, to me, is actually this issue's "main event".  This is one of those (very few) important ones... which really adds to the lore of both Superman... and the Green Lantern Corps.  We open with Tomar-Re preparing for his retirement.  Before he is deactivated, however, the Guardians of the Universe have assembled to finally tell him the story of a certain planet he had been responsible for overseeing.

That planet, of course, was Krypton.  The Guardians speak of a Kryptonian specimen who would make the finest Green Lantern... the offspring of a scientist named Jor-El and an astronaut named Lara.

The Guardians had received word of Krypton's pending doom... however, were helpless to stop it from happening.  All they could do is send a member of their Corps, Tomar-Re out Krypton way to delay the inevitable long enough for the Kryptonians to realize the danger and colonize on another planet.  Why they couldn't just tell the Kryptonians themselves... I dunno.

In fact, our friend Tomar-Re doesn't know either!  Though, he deduces that if the Guardians got involved and facilitated the Kryptonians safe passage, it would do irreparable damage to their culture/way of life... or something.  Anyhoo, Tomar-Re is tasked with gathering the element known as Stellarium... which, will somehow delay Krypton going boom.  There are apparently nine "Krypton Years" left.

On Krypton, just as the Guardians had predicted... a certain scientist realized the extreme danger the planet was facing.  He prepared for a planet-wide evacuation via a Space-Ark.  Unfortunately, Brainiac stole it (along with the City of Kandor).  Around this time, Lara gave birth to the "Star Child" we all know as Superman.

At this point, the rest of the science council decided that Jor-El was just a kook, and they weren't going to waste their time chasing the doom he foresaw.  One of the jerks is even yawning in Jor's direction.

Back with Tomar-Re... as he exhausts a sector's supply of Stellarium, he is so absorbed in his work that he doesn't even realize that a nearby star (called Ariel) was just about to go nova!

This would render Tomar-Re temporarily blind.  He'd use his radar-guide to attempt to remain on task, however, with the state he was in... it wasn't exactly a direct flight back Krypton way.

Then, just as his sight returns... the first thing he sees is, the destruction of the planet Krypton!

The Guardians continue their tale... Tomar-Re was left in a state of shock which took several days to recover from... during which time, the Guardians themselves were responsible for guiding Kal-El's spacecraft to Earth.  Geez, the gall of these guys, taking the credit for everything.

We wrap up with Tomar-Re of Xudar being retired with honors.


Well, that first story was kind of a stinker, wasn't it?  Just Superman versus a generic alien.  I've said it before, and I'm saying it now... it's stories like this that kinda slid DC Comics into "second place" for me growing up.  Very little stakes... just some alien with an apparatus who makes a one-off appearance, never to be seen again.

Why would I read this instead of a Marvel book... where the heroes were fighting villains we actually had an investment in?  Well, that's neither here nor there, I guess.  Over at Marvel these days, I can't recognize the heroes, let alone the villains.

The Nitrogen thievery feels like something out of the Silver-Age (especially the page of Superman looking at the "spectrum").  Though, I mean, this was only 1972... not so far removed from the silly sci-fi Silver-Age.  Superman risking actually murdering War-Horn was about the only sorta interesting part of this one.  Overall, a skippable affair... really not much more to say about it.

Now, although the opener was skippable... the issue overall most certainly isn't... because, mark this date down, because a back-up finally delivered!

I have always loved the idea of Tomar-Re being (tangentially) involved with the last days of Krypton.  I feel it's a little thing that adds so much to both the lore of Superman and the Green Lantern Corps.

It also answers a few questions.  If the Green Lantern Corps has representation in every sector in the known universe, it would stand to reason that Krypton would be in one of those sectors.  It would also stand to reason that the Green Lantern Corps would somehow be involved with their plight, even in just a "clean up" effort.

What I don't quite understand is why the Guardians couldn't just offer their assistance to the people of Krypton.  We get kind of a weak answer in that it would somehow hurt Kryptonian culture... but, that feels like a complete cop-out.  In fairness though, we are working within the constraints of a story that happened.  It's not like we can have a story where the Corps actually intervenes and either A) Saves the Kryptonians or B) Fails the Kryptonians.

So, within the story constraints, I feel like they did the best they could.  A temporarily blinded Tomar-Re is unable to deliver the time-buying Stellarium... and so, Krypton goes boom.  When we think about it though, Tomar-Re very likely did buy Krypton just enough time for Kal-El to be born, and blasted in the approximate direction of Earth... so, we actually have him to thank for Superman's arrival on Earth.

Not sure I'm buying the Guardians taking full credit for "guiding" Kal-El's ship to Earth... but, whattaya gonna do?  They always seemed like self-important jerks... and this is just another log for the fire.

Overall... this is one I'd suggest tracking down.  The opener was just kinda "there" (though, it's got Curt Swan on art, which is nice).  The backup is really what you're grabbing this one for though.  Not only is it an excellent story, but it's also got some fantastic Dick Dillin art.  The back-up has been reprinted a number of times, most recently in Superman: The Many Worlds of Krypton.  This issue is also available digitally.


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Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Gross Point #1 (1997)

Gross Point #1 (August, 1997)
"Welcome to Gross Point"
Story - Mark Waid & Brian Augustyn
Pencils - Sean "S.M." Taggart
Inks - Roger Langridge
Colors - Patricia Mulvihill
Letters - Rick Parker
Editor - Martin Pasko
Cover Price: $2.50

Welcome to a "sort-kinda" installment of #boohauntedblog.

Gross Point is one of those books that totally flew under my radar back in the long ago.  Just looking at the cover tells me this probably isn't my kind of book... let's find out together.


We open with the Pickett family as they drive into their new home town, Gross Point.  Looks like Howard (the father) finally found himself a job that doesn't involve bagging groceries.  His wife, Charmaine is supportive, but not all that happy that he appears to be falling asleep at the wheel.  In the back seat, we meet their children, teen-age twins Terri and Andy... who are at each other's throats over a pair of dead batteries, and a missing hair dryer.

As they drive, we can get a look at how strange this little town is.  There's a boy delivering papers from a wagon being pulled by a little were-beast.  A Policeman appears to have a whistle growing out of his face, a reptilian child is being pushed in a baby carriage... they also pass a "Jiffy Mortuary" where your passed loved ones can be laminated while you wait.  What I'm saying is, this is an odd place.

They finally pull up to their new digs, which is right next door to a house shaped like a rubber duck... only to find that it's still being worked on.

Their robotic realtor explains that the place ain't quite ready for them yet (they've got some "howling" to deal with), and sends them to the nearby Hotel DeKaye for the night.  As our Picketts pull away, we can see that another one of their neighbors is dealing with a tentacled horror.  Nobody notices this.

At the Hotel, the Picketts are "greeted" by a pair of surly siamese conjoined twins.  Their bags are taken by a rabid monkey bellboy named Klepto.  Yeah... this is starting to wear on me a bit.

We join Terri and Andy in their room... where they argue some more about the blow dryer.  As Andy tries to fall asleep, he realizes he is in direct beam of a nearby lighthouse (there are no bodies of water around, by the way).

The next morning, the Picketts wake up late.  Ya see, Klepto stole their alarm clock.  This means that Howard Pickett is late for his first day of work.  Whoops.  The kids are left to their own devices for the day... Dad heads in to work anyway, and Mom trudges down to the Employment Office, where she meets a Fortune Teller of some stripe, because of course she does.

We follow Howard into work at Septum International Corporation )(SIC), where he has his first meeting with his new boss, Mr. Septum.  The boss has a gigantic nose... and thinks the name "Pickett" is a joke about it.  He renames our man "Peckman".  He dismisses Howard with a supersonic sneeze, which leaves him in a bad way.

We shift scenes to the Gross Point Mall where Andy and Terri are... well, loitering for a bit.  A lot of low-hanging "weirdness" is afoot... and it feels like we've been reading this for several hours at this point.

They head into an arcade where Andy almost plays a game of 9-Fingered Dave... which involves sticking one's hand into a hole (and probably taking it out one finger short).  Thankfully (?) Terri realizes the gimmick, and we don't find out.

Their next stop is a fine eatery... okay, the food court.  They eat, and they puke.  After an argument (during which Terri invokes the dreaded "Scrote-Azoid" insult) they part company.

The return to their new home (separately)... and are both forced to break in (again, separately... so, now the house has two busted out points-of-entry).  They run into one another inside, and nearly scare the "scrapple" out of each other.

To further that fear, they then hear that howling the robo-realtor warned them about.  Then... out of nowhere, a weird little hunchbacked handyman appears.  He puts together a makeshift flamethrower and heads into the basement to deal with... whatever the hell is howling.

Quick as he arrives, he vanishes... back into the cuckoo clock?  Okay.

The issue (finally) ends with the twins making nice and the family moving into their new digs.  Oh yeah, also with the realization that they're still in the direct beam of the lighthouse.  Wonk wonk wonkkkk.


Well, this felt endless.

Like I mentioned during the pre-ramble, this is one of those books I don't remember ever seeing on the racks.  One of those oddities you discover in the bins, and you you're so surprised that you actually attempt to triangulate your fandom around where you were when this book came out.  It's like, yeah... I was buying comics... so, why in the hell do I not remember this?!

Well, it doesn't seem like 17 year old Chris missed out on all that much.  This was (in my opinion)... pretty weak, poorly paced, and... ultimately, I feel it overstayed its welcome.  There were plenty of neat and clever little "bits" here... it's just that they were buried among just so many that missed the mark.  Speedy-Mortuary equipped with a laminating machine?  Clever.  Big-nosed CEO?  Not so much.

It's not that the trappings were bad... I'm always down for a "fish out of water" story... plopping an ordinary family into this quirky, unreal town of Gross Point... should be a slam dunk.  But, it's not.  I dunno, maybe it's me.  None of the characters come across as all that likable... seems like if even one of 'em were, there might be something to "grab" me... give me something to root for.

The art here is pretty neat... it reminds me of that short-lived show, Mission Hill.  Even a little bit like that (also, short-lived) Clerks. animated series.  The art is definitely the highlight (at least for me), and is doing all of the heavy-lifting.

Overall... well, I couldn't flat-out tell ya to "avoid" this... just that I didn't much care for it.


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Monday, October 29, 2018

Nathaniel Dusk #1 (1984)

Nathaniel Dusk #1 (February, 1984)
"Lovers Die at Dusk"
Writer/Co-Creator - Don McGregor
Artist/Co-Creator - Gene Colan
Letters - John Costanza
Colors - Tom Ziuko
Editor - Alan Gold
Cover Price: $1.25

Sort of a timely entry with Nathaniel Dusk.

If you're reading the (excellent) Doomsday Clock maxiseries, you'll be familiar with the name.  If you're not reading it (and you really should be), Nathaniel Dusk films are seen from time to time running in the background of some of the scenes.  Kinda reminiscent of how those "Tales of the Black Freighter" bits lent some "flavor" to the original Watchmen series.

From Doomsday Clock #2 (February, 2018)
(w) Geoff Johns / (a) Gary Frank
It's a super neat touch... and, also... for an "everything matters" nut like myself, very much appreciated!

I'm assuming if you're following (or even just popping in on) a blog like mine, you're already aware that Nathaniel Dusk was the star of a couple of miniseries back in the long ago.  If not, get ready to meet him!


We open on January 31, 1934 with Nathaniel Dusk going for a midday walk.  As he makes his over way to chat up a neighborhood vendor named Oscar, we can see that he is being watched by a couple of nogoodniks.  They watch while Nate and Oscar talk about the latter's Polio-afflicted son.

After chatting and picking up some snaps from the photo lab, Nathaniel heads back to his office to meet with a client... a Mrs. Grant Morrison (heyyy), who has hired our man to check up on her husband and see if he's been cheating on her.  

Annnnnd, turns out... he is!

Mrs. Morrison is pretty ticked, as you might imagine.  Just ten a young lady named Joyce Gulino enters the office.  She tries cheering up the jilted Midwestern Morrison... which doesn't go all that well.  The client chucks some cash at our man Nate before storming out.

At this point, it's made pretty clear that Ms. Gulino is Nate's love interest.  She throws herself into his lap, and kinda ruffles his feathers about being a Private Investigator instead of remaining on the police department.  He spins a tale of corruption, abuse of power, and general unpleasantness which led to him leaving the force.

Nate changes into his casual clothes, and the couple head out for an evening on the town.  They run into a Wolf of Wall Street turned shoe-shine man named Freddie Bickenhacker, and chat about his shifting of fortunes following the big crash.  Those creeps from earlier are still keeping an eye on Dusk.

One of the baddies even gets out of the car to pursue Nate and Joyce on foot.  He winds up getting tripped up by a dog on a leash before slamming into another pedestrian.  At this point, Nate and Joyce run into an acquaintance of her's named Arthur Squire.  The resulting chat is brief... and awkward.

We rejoin Nate and Joyce at a restaurant, and they're talking about contraception as a precursor to infidelity (or something).  We then learn a bit more about Joyce... her past isn't something she really discusses.  We find out that her parents and husband have passed away, and she lives with her two young children.

Just then, Nate catches a glimpse of that same hearty-looking fella who has been following him around all day.  He heads over to find out why the goof's been keeping an eye on him... and in a neat little touch, the baddie is reading an upside-down menu.  Not sure if that's a sign that he can't read... or just a really bad attempt at looking conspicuous.  Either way, I thought it was pretty neat.

Nate "questions" the man... which, is to say... gets in his face and throws a drink at him.  This causes the goof to lunge, and after a brief skirmish, throws Nate out the front window of the joint.  The baddie takes this opportunity to escape into a waiting car.

After the police show up to take a report, we follow Nate and Joyce back to her place.  It's here that we meet her children... and learn that the voices of Amos and Andy on the radio are actually white guys.  Nice "flavor" of the times, I suppose.

After the kids head to bed, Nate and Joyce spend a little "quality time".  Rather than stay over, and risk making the children uncomfortable, Nate decides to head back to his office.

... only to find those voyeuristic nogoodniks waiting for him!

They talk a little King Kong, and take Nate to a tall building (which might be the Empire State... it's definitely near it).  From there, they toss our man, and that's where we leave him!


Quite enjoyed this one.  It was a different sort of animal for me.  I'd hate to use words like "Noir", because... honestly, I'm not entirely sure what it even means!  I'd guess this is noir, but I've put my foot in my mouth before.

For my first read through, I was a bit confused with the way we were (or weren't) getting all the information I felt we might need... but, considering this is a finite story, I suppose it makes sense to leave things somewhat nebulous... at least during the opening chapter.

I appreciated all of the Depression-era "flavor" included here.  Discussions of contraception facilitating infidelity, a "Wolf of Wall Street" reduced to shining shoes, Polio being a thing pre-Jonas Salk, radio shows being a primary form of entertainment... all really cool to see.

Nate seems like a likable sort of fella... with a strong moral compass.  His integrity led to his leaving a corrupt police force, and going out on his own.

We still know little about Joyce... and I'm not entirely convinced that she's trustworthy at this point.  I mean, this is (I think) noir... and femme fatales were yet another flavor of the day.  I almost feel like we're being lured into a false sense of security with her... though, I've never read this all the way through, so I can't be sure.

I'm torn on the art here.  While I like it, it's almost a bit too "loose" insofar as it being sequential art.  There were a few pages I had to look over more than once... though, I'm always open to the possibility that that might be due to my own density than any flaws in the artwork.

Overall... a different, but fun kind of comic book.  If you have any interest in pot-boiler detective stories... or if you just wanna know a little about the fella who's being name-dropped in Doomsday Clock, you'll probably want to give this a look.


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