Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Ozzie Smith (1992)

Ozzie Smith (1992)
"The Kid Who Could!"
Writer - Your Guess is as Good as Mine!
Pencils - Joe Staton & Angelo Torres
Inks - Mike DeCarlo

Alright gang, got something a little... well, a lot off the "beaten path" today.  You know me, I have a weird love of the weird and novel things DC has produced.  That might not always (or ever) translate into "views", but... dammit, it's a lot of fun.

Today, we're going to look at the first (of three) issues of "Tony's Sports Comics" from Kellogg's, Sports Illustrated, and DC Comics.  These are going to be weird and obscure... and I haven't the foggiest idea who wrote, drew, colored, or lettered a single one of 'em!  If you have any ideas about the creative team... or, if perhaps you are part of the creative team, please shoot me a line!

SAME-DAY UPDATE: Thanks to the intrepid readers for hunting down some more information on the creative team for this issue!  Joe Staton and Angelo Torres provided pencils, while Mike DeCarlo was on inks.  Still don't know who might've written this bugger though!


Our issue opens with a young fella named Peter having "part of a complete breakfast" with, I'm going to assume, his little brother.  They're watching an... early-morning Cardinals game, you know Major League games usually start at 6 in the morning, right?  I dunno, maybe they're playing in Japan or something.  Anyhoo, out the window, Peter sees the other neighborhood kids gathering to play some ball themselves.  He'd really like to be a part of this... and so, he shovels what's left of his Kellogg's Frosted Flakes down his gullet and heads outside to join in the frivolity.  Only one problem with that... looks like the mastermind of the Neighborhood League, Andrew thinks that our Peter is too puny (wow, that's not a comfortable sentence to type out).  Enter: A giant cat beast.

Turns out, as luck would have it, Tony the Tiger just so happened to be hanging out in St. Louis... and he's down to just hang out and watch some neighborhood kids play ball for a few hours.  Anyhoo, after the game (which poor Peter sits out), Tony asks the gang if they'd like to meet a friend of his... a "little guy" who'd become a "giant" in Major League Baseball.  They agree... hop into Tony's windowless van, and are never seen agai--, err, they're taken to a nearby ball field where some of the St. Louis Cardinals are practicing... including the man of the hour, Ozzie Smith!

After the practice session, Tony introduces Ozzie to his new friends.  Ozzie is cordial, but confused... though, in fairness, he was just approached by a giant bipedal tiger beast.  They decide to give Peter the opportunity to show 'em he's a tiger... show 'em what he can do, and so Andrew is ordered to the mound to throw some pitches.  Whattayaknow... Peter just murders the ball with every swing!

After proving he can hit, Ozzie decides it's time for Peter to show his prowess on the field.  Andrew is remanded to the mound again to pitch to the Wizard of Oz.  Ozzie hits a few pitches in Peter's direction, but the poor kid winds up pullin' a Bill Buckner!  Whoops!  Ozzie shouts some words of support at the kid, and sure enough, Peter picks up on it quick!

As the sesh wraps up, Andrew's all "Yeah, Peter's pretty good... but, he's still too small!"  Jesus, Andrew... whatta you want from this kid?  He can't just decide to grow!  Tony decides to intervene again... and gives the two kids tickets to the next Cardinals game.  This really feels like it's building to a "don't talk to strangers" lesson, doesn't it?

Before we know it, Tony, Andrew, and Peter are at the game... and hanging out with Ozzie while the teams warm up.  Ozzie and Tony decide to waste away the minutes before the game by... quizzing the kids on baseball!  There are a lot of words on these pages, maaaan... no joke.  It's neck-and-neck in the quiz-off, until Peter is able to answer a question that Andrew doesn't know!

Ozzie steps away to, ya know, play the game... and says Tony should continue quizzing the kids.  It's here where Ozzie delivers the line of the book: "If they pass the test, they'll have a perfect score!"  Da hell?  First, that don't make no sense... Second, Andrew's already missed a question!  Pay attention, Ozzie man!

The next several pages feature Ozzie Smith kickin' butt on the field... making amazing catches and even scoring the winning touchdown run!

We wrap up with Andrew finally relenting and, with a wink to the reader, allowing Peter to play in his neighborhood league.


Not since we joined LeBron James on his quest to find "the flava", have we read such a weird sports story here at the site... and, for the most part... it was pretty fun!  Dumb, borderline creepy, and somewhat inarticulate... but fun!

It's definitely one of those books that "defies analysis"... and so, I'm not going to go too deep.  I also feel like, looking back with (urgh) 2020-vision, this could be viewed a bit differently than it was intended... maybe?  I feel like there's a fair amount of "innocence" we need in order to to "buy-in" and fully appreciate this... but, call it jadedness, cynicism, or just a tendency toward black humor, and this one could go sideways at any moment.

The "lesson" taught here isn't anything all that novel... and really, why the hell am I even going down this path?  It's a feel good story facilitated by a cereal mascot.  I really ought to just let it be.  The art was good... Tony's depiction was especially "spot on".  Yeah, I guess that's all I really have to say!

Overall it wasn't...

... but, it wasn't the worst thing either!  If you come across this thing for a buck-or-below (like I did), I'd encourage you to snag it for the novelty alone!



Monday, March 30, 2020

Robin #42 (1997)

Robin #42 (June, 1997)
"Crock Around the Clock"
Writer - Chuck Dixon
Pencils - Jason Armstrong
Inks - Robert Campanella
Colors - Adrienne Roy
Letters - Tim Harkins
Associate Edits - Jordan B. Gorfinkel
Edits - Denny O'Neil
Cover Price: $1.95

Howsabout a little "old school" Chris is on Infinite Earths today?  Just going to snag a random ol' issue off the stack, and give it a go!

Was planning on continuing the To Catch The Predator series... but, I accidentally threw out the "key" to my longboxes.  That is to say, my code-key, where I can tell which box holds what.  The only labeling I do to my longbox library is numbering them, since series' often outgrow their home-boxes, I'm hesitant to just write what titles are in each one, know what I mean?

Anyhoo, can't remember where all my Green Lantern books are... and I dug through for a good twenty-minutes without any luck.  We'll get there... just not today!

For today... we've got a weird li'l issue of Robin!


Our story opens with a supermarket being held up... by a giant crocodile?  Not just any crocodile, mind you... this is the cleverly-named Crocky Crocodile.  This is a Barney-esque character who performs on PBS in the DC Universe.  News of this crime spree spreads, and it's not long before Tim Drake is hearing all about it.  He's beside himself with grief that someone would commit a slew of robberies wearing Crocky's costume!  Alfred looks on, and... gotta say, he's really bringing the "droll" this issue.

Like, really... Alfred's being kind of a jerk here.  He's acting very cheeky here the whole time.  Robin even gives him a look like "What the hell, man?".

Tim hops in the Redbird and gets to scootin'.  Alfred remains in the Batcave and watches some more of the coverage.  At that moment, on the Cassie Josie talk show (think Sally Jessy Raphael), Mr. Bingo is being interviewed.  Now Bingo was the "big show" on PBS until Crocky came on the scene.  Anybody else's Spidey-Sense start tingling just now?

Meanwhile, at... I dunno, a halfway house (?) a disheveled fella is watching the same program... he begins cracking up and has to excuse himself to his room so he can hug on his Crocky.  And, no... that's not a euphemism, shame on you for thinking it was!

Now, this Crocky-spree has done a lot to hurt the reputation of, ya know, the actual Crocky.  Parents don't want their kids watching the show anymore... there are demonstrations in the streets.  You'd almost think there was nothing else of note going on in Gotham City at the time!  I mean, doesn't the Joker still hang out here?

At the Station, the toughest cop around Shotgun Smith is getting an earful about the evil-alligator... er, crocodile.  He decides he's going to take care of this himself... which is kind of adorable.  Outside the Precinct, he runs into Robin who offers to help out with the case.  It doesn't take much in the way of convincing for Smith to hand over all they've got on the Crocky-crimes.

Over at Gotham PBS, a bunch of suits are in a conference room trying to figure out how they might spin this situation.  Licensing season is about to kick off and they don't need their top cash-cow (cash-crock?) in such a state.  The geeks put their heads together and decide it best to figure out who's actually committing these crimes... turns out, they already have a pretty good idea!

Back at the Batcave, Robin is checking out some evidence... and looking through a magnifying glass for extra-detectiveness.  Alfred is still lurking about acting like there's something up his butt... makes me wonder why he's not just leaving Tim to his analysis.  We learn that the Person of Interest in this case is Dexter Crabtree... the original Crocky Crocodile, who was kicked to the curb after a contract dispute over money.

Before we know it, Shotgun Smith is kicking in Dexter's door... he ain't home though.  All's we see is a Crocky doll... so, we might assume Dexter's the dude who was going crackers for Crocky earlier?

Back at the Cave, Robin's doing some audio-analysis... and comes to some sort of conclusion that he doesn't really explain to we poor readers.

We hop to the Crocky set, where Shotgun is questioning one of the Executives.  He (and we) learns that there were two Crocky suits stolen from wardrobe... so, mayhaps there're a pair of Crock-Crooks?  Wouldn'tcha know it, just a few moments later... a pair of Crocky's enter the scene!

One heads to the set to perform... the other walks over to that Executive, Ellen Anders to chat with her.  She judo-throws him down, and digs her knee into his throat while calling for Shotgun and Company to arrest this reptile!

And so, they do!  Check this out though... it turns out, it wasn't the Bad Crocky!  It was the other one who was makin' with the crimes!  Heavens to Murgatroyd!

Robin swoops into the scene and delivers a flying kick to the crook... and after, woof, like four pages of fighting... it's revealed that - bad Crocky was: *gasp* Mr. Bingo!  Why in the hell did it take Robin four-pages to beat up an old man?

Anyhoo, that's a wrap... Bingo's arrested, Dexter's back in the suit... and Robin heads back to the Batcave, where he reveals that the audio analysis tipped him off to who was the real "bad Crocky"... annnnnd, he's once again mocked by Alfred.  Really, Alfred... what is up your ass today?!


Well.  This wasn't all'at great, was it?

Definite "filler" feeling here... what with the low-stakes story and the guest artist.  Pretty underwhelming all around, with an ending I think we could all see coming from a mile away.  The Dexter subplot reeked of "red herring" from the get-go... and, I never had any doubt that Mr. Bingo was the true baddie.  Wow, I'm forty years old, and I just wrote that sentence.  What am I doing with my life?

The art... for a fill-in, wasn't half bad.  I enjoyed the sorta half-in half-out "manga influence" that started hitting western comics in the mid-late 90's.  I definitely like the way Robin is depicted inside the book more than the "smelling something bad" face he has on the cover.

One thing that really stands out to me here is... Why is Alfred being such a prick?  Like, did Tim do something to tick him off or something?  There was really no call for such drollness and snark.  I mean, if you don't wanna hang out with Robin... just don't hang out with Robin.  This felt weird and out-of-character for Alfred... though, maybe there's some obvious context that I'm neglecting?

Overall... you really don't need to break your back nor bank seeking this one out.  Unless Crocky's revealed as the Joker's next girlfriend in an upcoming "super-rare eBayable misprint" issue, there's not much to worry about here!  It is available digitally... for about a buck fifty more than I'd recommend paying!


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Sunday, March 29, 2020

Action-Plus: The Atom (AC448 - 1975)

Action-Plus: The Atom (June, 1975)
"Nightmare in Gold!"
Writer - Martin Pasko
Pencils - Dick Dillin
Inks - Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez
Edits - Julius Schwartz
From: Action Comics #448

It's gonna be a short one today... uh, no pun intended.

Wasn't planning on dipping back into the Action-Plus well quite so quickly, but this weekend has turned into a podcasting X-Travaganza... and I just didn't have the time to dig for the next installment of the "To Catch the Predator" series of Green Lantern posts.

On the podcasting front... if you do follow my audio exploits, I got somethin' cookin'... I can't say with certainty that it's going to be "big", but I can tell you, it's going to be "long".

Stay tuned, my friends!


It's time for some Action-Plus, starring the Atom!  We pick up with the Ray Palmer starting to turn into gold... a result of his lab assistant, Enrichetta (groan) Negrini dreaming about him.  Ya see, anything she dreams of (for the time being) transforms into gold.  Luckily, Ray transformed into the Atom... which halted his transformation.  Ya see, Enrichetta (groan) was thinking about Ray not the Atom.  Ya dig?

The Atom follows some coffee stains to the basement door and down a flight of stairs, whereupon he finds Enrichetta... dreaming, and surrounded by a pair of nogoodniks... and plenty of gold.  She begins dreaming of the bad guys... which begins their gilded transformation.

The Atom uses this to his advantage, and proceeds to beat the bad guys up.  Worth mentioning that Ray's arm is still golden, so his punches pack a bit more of a wallop right now.  Ray notices that Enrichetta is wearing a Philosopher's Stone that once belonged to an Alchemist... and deduces that must be the reason for the gilding.  He yanks it from her neck... and it gets stomped on by one of the baddies... reversing the spell.

The day is saved, Enrichetta reunites with her boyfriend Roberto... and Ray hangs up on Jean Loring when she suggests they see some movies with "gold" in the title.  Wonk wonk wonnnnnk. (wow, twice in one post!)



This back-up... ehhhhhh... you know how I sometimes feel about back-ups, and this Atom short did nothing to change my stance.  This seems like a decent enough idea for a story, but it isn't given any room to breathe.  The whole story could've been told in a single page... even forfeiting the bottom panel to shill Hostess Cup Cakes.

Saturday, March 28, 2020

Green Lantern (vol.2) #181 (1984)

Green Lantern (vol.2) #181 (October, 1984)
"Take this Job--and Shove it!"
"One Night in a Bar on Lawrel-Hardee XI"
Writers - Len Wein & Paul Kupperberg
Pencils - Dave Gibbons & Don Newton
Inks - Mark Farmer
Letters - John Costanza & John Clark
Colors - Anthony Tollin
Edits - Len Wein
Cover Price: $0.75

When I decided to "change format" to covering shorter-subjects back in February of 2019 so I could focus on Grad School, I left a few "projects" incomplete.  I did so out of either necessity, burn-out, or... in the case of today's feature, the fact that I didn't actually own a particular issue.

Now, looking at today's cover... I'd have bet my lucky dime that I'd not only owned the issue... but, had actually already covered it here on the site!  Perhaps I'm stuck in some sort of odd Mandela Effect... and on the Infinite Earths site... on one of the actual Infinite Earths, I did cover it.  But, on our actual Earth-Prime, it turns out... I have not!

The "project" I wanted to explore was something I was calling "To Catch The Predator"... obviously inspired by the old Dateline segment hosted by Chris Hansen (before he went wonky), where we'd examine all of the appearances of the weird pre-Crisis saga of... well, The Predator.  This is a character/concept that has confounded many... myself included!  I'm looking forward to picking up where we left off o'so long ago.

If you need to catch up, which considering I dropped the ball on this series about a year and a half ago you just might (I know I did!), you can check out the first two parts of this "epic" by clicking the covers below!

If/When we get a few more chapters under our belt, I'll set aside a dedicated TCAtP page in the sidebar.

Before we hop right into it, a warning.  Some of what you're about to see is explicit...ly weird.  Reader discretion is advised.


Stop me if you've heard this one... our issue opens with Hal Jordan on his way to Oa to give the Guardians a piece of his mind... and quit the Green Lantern Corps!  Yeah, that's more or less just "Tuesday" for our man, Hal... but that's exactly what he's headin' off to do.  He thinks about how his off-world exploits have kept him from keeping Carol Ferris, the love of his life, safe.  The panel layout here makes it look like Carol's got a Ben Franklin/Void Indigo haircut.

Hal continues his space trek, all the while waxing philosophical about whether or not he's making the right choice in quitting the ring-sling.  His inner monologue is interrupted, however, when he is pummeled by an errant meteor storm.  Well, maybe it's not that errant...

Back on Earth, Carol is interviewing John Stewart to see if he'd be interested and able to repair the recently destroyed Ferris Aircraft.  She tells him he comes highly recommended, and learns that flattery will get her everywhere.  John signs on for the rebuild.

Over in Washington, D.C., all-around pain-in-the-butt Congressman Bloch is wondering what might be in his future... the Monitor (yeah, that Monitor) hasn't gotten back to him, and he worries that the Demolition Team will turn him in for contracting them to fubar Ferris.  He enters his office, and much to his surprise... he's about to have a run-in with: The Predator!

Oh yeah, he's probably unaware that the Predator is going to kill him too.  A bloody Bloch shambles out of his office... and collapses at the feet of, of all people, Diana Prince and Steve Trevor.  He whispers something about Hal Jordan being Green Lantern before perishing.  Wonder Woman insists to Steve that Bloch's last words didn't mean anything.  Fair enough...

Speaking of Hal Jordan, we rejoin him in space... where we learn the cause of that meteor storm: Hal's fellow Green Lanterns!  They know of his plans to quit the Corps, and are here to attempt to talk some sense into him.  Katma Tui takes this especially hard, and even wallops Hal with a construct-fist when it doesn't look like they're going to be able to change his mind.

All Hal can do is ask them to a) understand, and b) forgive him.  He leaves the Corpsmen on an asteroid, and continues his lonely (final?) flight to Oa.

Back in Los Angeles, we pop in on Clay Kendall's hospital room where he's recovering from a broken back.  April is there, trying to convince him that it won't be long before he's back on his feet... we get the feeling, however, that Clay ain't buyin' none of this.

Hal arrives on Oa... and is shocked to see that the Corpsmen he abandoned have beaten him here.  Tomar Re begs Hal to take this one last moment before stepping in front of the Guardians to truly consider his actions.  Hal tells 'em to bug off and barges into the Guardians' Council Room.

Of course the li'l blue guys know exactly why Hal is here... they claim that, due to recent outbursts, they've been monitoring him pretty closely.  Our man delivers the "You said 'jump'... I said 'how high'." spiel, and basically tell'em to go suck an egg.  The Guardians give him a moment to reconsider... so, dude's getting a whole lot of chances to let cooler heads prevail... but, Hal's adamant that he's doneski.

Next we know, Hal Jordan is rendered ringless and, by extension, powerless.  The rest of his Corps pals rush in... and say what might be their final goodbyes to the former "best of them".  Funny, Hal calls Arisia "little sister" here, which only makes their statutory romance all the more gross.  Looks like this is an issue with two Predators in it!

Back at Ferris, Carol's father is holding a meeting to introduce John Stewart to the team.  He also... uh, celebrates... the murder of Congressman Bloch, which... I gotta say, probably isn't the best look.  Anyhoo, the meeting is interrupted by the arrival of... a man called Smith!  Could this be our Predator?  Might it be a red herring?  Well, the story is over thirty-years old, so we already know the answer to that.

We wrap up later that evening at Carol's beach-house.  Hal arrives and lets her know that he's kicked the ring-habit and he'll never leave her again.  The story closes with Hal wondering if he's done the right thing.  If only he was given more opportunities to reconsider... right?

Our Tales of the Green Lantern Corps back up opens on the planet Lawrel-Hardee XI... which, I dunno, sounds like I place I'd definitely wanna hang out!  Probably pick up some hard-boiled eggs and nuts there.  Anyhoo, we're inside a bar that looks/feels a lot like the Star Wars cantina... where some Space Pirates are relaxing while playing some high-stakes somethin'rnother.

A little fella enters the bar, and bee-lines it over to the Pirates.  Looks like this critter's here to enforce some law, but he is shoved away by the baddies.  It's here that it's revealed that this ain't no ordinary Jawa... this is Green Lantern, Ch'p!

He's here because he witnessed the Pirates attacking and destroying a Luxury Liner in space... killing many an innocent in the name of plunduh.  Ch'p would'a taken them out right then and there... however, the Pirate Cruiser just so happened to be: Yellow!

And so, he followed them to Lawrel-Hardee XI... where he's fully prepared to beat the hell out of the lot of 'em, and well... that's exactly what he does.


A very important issue of Green Lantern... not that Hal quitting the Corps is especially novel (though, it was more so back in ye old '84), but still... a lot of pieces were put into place here.  There's a fair amount of "soapiness" here... which, as a life-long X-Men fan, I can't help but to enjoy.

Let's get the Predator out of the way.  The character only appears on a single page, and they kill Congressman Bloch.  Later on in the issue ol' Slender Smith saunters into Ferris.  Now, I don't wanna completely spoil the reveal (even though we actually covered that issue here on the blog back in the long ago), but I gotta assume the Smith appearance was intentional to allow us to make an assumption or two about the mystery baddie.

Back in 1984, that might've been a bit underwhelming a reveal... new bad guy and similarly-sized new civilian arrive on the scene around the same time... and are revealed as being two sides of the same coin.  Feels a bit "comicbook-lazy", dunnit?  Well, if you already know the actual reveal, you'll know that it's more than a bit "comicbook-insane".

I dig John Stewart entering the "main cast" here, and I feel like having him come in as the lead architect on the Ferris-rebuild project is a very creative way to do so.  John's a great character... and I really like him taking the job even without the guarantee of a salary.

Let's get to Hal.  He's wracked with guilt over not being there for Carol and Ferris Aircraft during the Destruction Team's rampage.  Now, Hal has some trouble in the calibration department... with him, it's always "all or nothing".  Rather than attempting to reason with the Guardians... maybe pleading a case for taking a break, or whatever... he heads to Oa and pulls out the tired old "When you said 'jump'..." baloney.

We've all had jobs before right?  A boss telling you what to do is kind of part of that whole scene, innit?  I always hate it when Hal complains that he has to answer to his bosses.  Just feels petulant and immature... which, I suppose might be the point?  Anyhoo, he gets what he wants... only to realize that he might've made a terrible mistake.

Our back-up feature... which, I wasn't actually planning on covering today.  Considering we're doing Action-Plus features these days, I just figured I'd save this for a one-off.  Well, when I saw that this one had a reference to Laurel and Hardy, I decided to make an exception.  Which brings me to my main criticism: If you're going to so blatantly reference Laurel and Hardy with the title... gimme a li'l something Stan and Ollie-related in the story!

The story was... ehh, not much to get excited about.  Ch'p tracks some pirates to a bar, and beats them up.  Yay?  I will say, however, that Don Newton's take on Ch'p was awesome!  Probably the best I'd ever seen the character drawn!  With a character like Ch'p, it's easy to take it to a cartoony extreme.  Conversely, it's probably just as easy to just draw an actual squirrel wearing a green ring.  Newton, however, blends the mundane and fantastical elements of the character superbly.  I really can't say enough how amazing Ch'p looked here!  It's too bad the story was kind of a dud.

Overall, this one was well worth a look... Predator-completionism or not!  Very important chapter in pre-Crisis Green Lantern lore, with wonderful art in both features.  This issue has been collected in the first of the Sector 2814 trades and is available digitally.


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