Post by codystarbuck on Dec 25, 2016 15:13:09 GMT -5
Merry Christmas, everybody!
Santa has brought us a little mystery...
Santa was aided by his two elves, Mike W. Barr and Adam Hughes. The Ghost of Christmas Past takes us back to 1988 and Comico, The Comic Book Company. Comico was founded in 1982 and quickly established a name for publishing alternative material to the mainstream. While DC and Marvel were churning out superheroes (though both companies had other material, especially DC), Comico was publishing things like Matt Wagner's Mage and Grendel, the Pander Bros. Ginger Fox, Mike Gustovich's Justice Machine (a superhero book), Bill Wiilingham's Elementals (ditto), Fish Police, Robotech, Jonny Quest, and a new comic from ex-DC writer/editor Mike Barr. Actually, Barr may have been freelancing at this point. He had come off of an acclaimed run on Detective Comics (including Batman: Year Two), Batman: Son of the Demon, and a run on Batman and the Outsiders. One notable thing about Barr's Batman work was emphasis on his detective skills, as well as his physical prowess. Barr came to Comico with an idea for a new series, drawing on that past; but, going back futher to the source material. he wanted to do real mystery/detective stories and he wanted to do them in the tradition of Dashiell Hammett and Ellery Queen. Thus was born the Maze Agency.
Barr built his series around two of the best characters in comics: Jennifer Mays and Gabriel Webb. In the grand tradition of Nick and Nora Charles, they were a crime-solving couple, linked both professionally and romantically. Jennifer is a tough, smart and attractive ex-CIA agent, who grew tired of dirty espionage work and went into dirty private investigative work. She is joined in her cases by friend and romantic partner, Gabriel Webb, who writes sensationalistic true-crime stories; but, longs to write more cerebral material. He has a brilliant deductive mind; but can be a bit scatter-brained and he refuses to officially join Jennifer in the agency, as he feels their romantic relationship makes it inappropriate. However, he is always glad to lend a hand in a case, especially an intriguing one.
If this all seems to be an odd choice for a comic book series, when superheroes dominate the industry, you have to consider the times. Two of the most popular tv shows of the 1980s were Moonlighting and Remington Steele.
Both of these hugely successful series were built on the premise of a smart female detective and her male co-hort. Moonlighting featured ex-fashion model Maddie Hayes, who had bought a detective agency as a tax write-off, and David Addison, the chief detective of the money-losing agency. David convinces Maddie to rebrand the agency and the build it into a high-end detective agency. Remington Steele has licensed PI Laura Holt try to open an agency; but, finds sexism leaves her with no clients. She renames her agency as the Remington Steele Agency and creates a fictitious boss and detective, while she actually solves the crimes. Into this world comes a mysterious con artist, who assumes the role of suave Remington Steele. Both series revolved around romantic tension and intriguing mysteries. This was nothing new, as Dashiell Hammett did this back in the 30s, with Nick and Nora Charles, made even more famous by the Thin Man series, with William Powell and Myrna Loy.
Barr threw in a bit of a twist, though. In Moonlighting and Remington Steele, the female was the brains and the male, more often than not, was the muscle. Now, that isn't exactly true, as both male characters were reluctant fighters and Laura Holt, especially, was an experienced detective and a crack shot. However, the guys usually got the physical scenes. In Maze Agency, Gabe is hardly the muscle. Jennifer's spy background has given her deadly skills and when the defecation hits the oscillator, she's the one who gets physical.
The other influence in all of this is Ellery Queen. The Ellery Queen mysteries were known as "play-fair" mysteries; the writers provided the clues that the reader could piece together to solve the case. However, as one of the creators put it, the readers can solve them if they are a genius, like Ellery Queen. Barr tried not to take it that level and presented you with clues that you could actually link and find a solution, if you paid attention. It was a writer's book.
Now, you may say, well how did something that revolves around the plot and writing gain a cult following, in a visual medium? The answer comes in the form of Adam Hughes.
Hughes was a rookie artist, with only a couple of stories under his belt, when he took on the art for Maze Agency. This is the series where he first built a name. It was perfect for him. It was light-hearted which fit the soft touch in his artwork. It featured a beautiful woman, who is both sexy and strong, lending itself well to his penchant for cheesecake. It also featured different locales, situations, and set pieces that let him develop his various talents to the fullest. On one page he might be drawing a fight in an alley, the next he is drawing a conversation in an office. This gave him a far better grounding in a variety of material than most of his contemporaries in the superhero field. When he did enter that field, with JLI, he showed how much he had learned.
Jennifer and Gabe were the funnest couple in comics, since Ralph and Sue Dibny. What made it even better is that it was more mature, without superhero gimmicks to distract from the great writing and characterization. It was fun; but, it was fun for adults (without being solely for adults). It was also one of the best drawn books out there:
Alas, the series was to face two hurdles. Just as it was building momentum and attention, Comico went bankrupt. However, rescue came in the form of Dave Campiti's new company, Innovation. Maze Agency picked back up where it left off; but, hurdle two came into play. Adam Hughes got big offers to work in mainstream comics and he took them. He still did covers; but, the interior art was handed over to other hands, though Rick Magyar stayed as inker, lending a consistency to things.
Alas, Innovation ran into cash flow problems, which led to bankruptcy. Maze Agency would return in 1993, at Alpha Productions, in the one-shot The Detectives.
It would return in 1997, at Caliber, for 3 issues, with art by Gene Gonzales, who kept the look consistent with the past. It returned in 2005, from IDW, with art that didn't, as much.
A few favorites from the series:
Issue #1, which sets the tone and the characters, as a retired art thief makes a warning about stealing paintings, then only the frames are stolen. The case involves a divorce and a court injunction, preventing the sale of said paintings, the murder of an art forger, the shooting of a guard, and the "framing" of a suspect. It's a neat little mystery and a great character play. There are tons of great little moments, including Jennifer bedside with the wounded guard and his wife, while Gabe comforts their terrified son, in the hallway (in a nice silent piece, we see Gabe looking sorrowfully at the sobbing boy, then getting him to smile with a piece of candy). There are nice romantic moments and Hughes gets to dress up Jennifer in a slinky gown and have her display her tough attitude, with a gun.
Issue #3 revolves around the theft of a new concept sports car and introduces us to Jennifer's 1958 Corvette and rival investigator Ashley Swift, who would return in later stories.
Issue #4 revolves around a Jack the Ripper copycat, and gets into the history of the real Whitechapel Murders.
Issue #6, with art from Joe Staton (who dabbled in mystery, with Mike Mauser) involves a locked room murder.
Issue #7 delves into Jennifer's past, including her time in the CIA.
Issue 9 gives us a team-up of Jennifer & Gabe, and one of their inspirations, Ellery Queen.
Issue #13 gets into Jennifer's childhood and sees her in costume, as her favorite comic book character, Justice Girl, while also bringing back rival Ashley Swift.
The Maze Agency Special, from Innovation, features several stories, with different artists, including Joe Staton, the Pander Bros. and Alan Davis.
The Maze Agency Annual features a nice Spirit homage, from Eisner-disciple Mike Ploog.
Hell, they're all favorites! Next, I will look at a particular one, with an appropriate theme.
Post by codystarbuck on Dec 25, 2016 16:51:46 GMT -5
The Maze Agency #11, from Innovation, Mike W. Barr, Robb Phipps & Rick Magyar, with a cover by Alan Davis.
Our cover is suitable Christmassy, with decorations and a couple, with a newborn swaddled in cloth. Cue up Nat King Cole...
Our story begins at the office, as Jennifer is decorating the Christmas tree, suitably standing on a chair and leaning forward, so we can see her legs, fabulous figure, and pretty face, all in one go! Gabe and Jennifer exchange gifts, before Gabe hops on a plane for Ohio, to visit family. Jennifer gives Gabe a wind-up watch, with exposed gears, saying she knew he would love the mechanical nature and it reminded her of his mind. gabe gives Jennifer a beautiful pendant, with a sapphire stone, Jennifer's birthstone. The card says "All My Love," and Gabe reminds Jennifer of his previous proposals. Jennifer is afraid of commitment, with a series of bad relationships in the past, and her parents own horrible example. Jennifer suggests that Gabe stay and they spend Christmas together; but, Gabe has made promises, leaving Jennifer alone for Christmas, and also leaving his watch on a desk.
Our story shifts to the Delgado Family, a literal family, as well as a crime family. There is a stool pigeon in the nest and fingers are being pointed. Daughter Rosa excuses herself, saying she doesn't feel well, showing us that she is very pregnant. Husband Gary Crandall follows to check on her. She reveals that she knows he is the informant and he confesses. She loves him and urges him to leave with her, so they can start a new life together, away from family, as she loves him more. They escape out a window and head off into the winter's night.
In the Delgado house, Clara finds her husband Lawrence shot. He is whisked away by ambulance and taken to a hospital. Arriving later is Lt. Bliss (another regular, who often runs up against Jennifer and Gabe). She wants more information about the shooting, though John Delgado says to talk to his lawyer, Mr Parkhouse. Bliss replies she thought his son-in-law, Gary Crandall was his attorney. The hoods leave the cops behind. Delgado orders his men to find his daughter and son-in-law, no matter what. They confirm that he wants Gary killed and head out. Delgado says to check with his brother, Alessandro (who left behind the crime family), who works at the Blue Ruby. The couple might have headed there.
Jennifer is hosting the office Christmas party, at the Blue Ruby. Alessandro informs her there is a guest without an invitation, who says Jennifer will vouch for him. It is Gabe, who says he forgot his watch. The couple has a nice moment as they dance and Alessandro leaves them to check on the kitchen. There, he finds his niece and her husband, who tell them they are on the run. Gary tries to contact the Attorney General's office; but no one is there. Over the radio comes a news bulletin about the shooting of Lawrence Delgado. Gary grabs Rosa, to head out. Alessandro, who informed Jennifer about the couple, and Jennifer run out the back, after the couple have disappeared. She says they have done the worst thing and decides to call in Lt. Bliss. She tells them to get down to the hospital.
Jennifer and Gabe drive to the hospital. While stopped at a red light, they are assaulted by a horn repeatedly honking, wondering what the problem is? It turns out to be Tony Delgado. They beat him to the hospital and use the hospital computer to locate Delgado's room, in the Green Wing, and find Lt. Bliss. Suddenly, a nurse says there have been shots and the police find an empty room, in the Red Wing and bullet holes. The lab says the bullets match the gun that shot Delgado; but, the police can't figure out why the assailant shot up an empty room. The rest of the Delgado family arrives at the hospital and Jennifer shoots down John's claim that Gary was the shooter, as he didn't try to take out John, as well. She plants the seeds of dissention, pointing out other motives, including inheritance and infidelity. Outside, Jennifer confides to Lt. Bliss that she did that to buy time to find Gary and Rosa, though they don't have much, as John checks with his hoods.
In the hospital waiting room, the Delgados start in. Lucia, wife of John, is singled out by Clara, wife of Lawrence, as having an affair with her husband. Lucia admits the affair and says that John would have killed them if he knew; but, points fingers at Clara, saying that Lawrence wanted to divorce her; but, if he dies, she stands to inherit the money that would allow her to leave and return to her New England roots. Tony points out that his cousin would also inherit and Clara says that he would inherit the position of lieutenant, which he couldn't earn.
We cut to the hoods checking missions and hostels for the couple and leaving behind sizable donations. We also see the couple turned out by a hotel, as Delgado closed off their credit cards. They walk the snow covered streets in search of shelter, as Gary urges his wife to return to her father. She refuses, saying she is a Crandall and so is her unborn baby. Jennifer and Gabe try the missions and learn of the hoods searching. They have ruled out hotels and missions and decide that they might be hiding in a restaurant; but, that there are dozens. Jennifer sends out her own Baker St. Irregulars, as she pays some kids ten bucks each to search for the couple, and offers $20 for the one who finds them. The couple, meanwhile, have taken refuge in the Star Diner. Rosa is having contractions and Gary tells the waiter to call an ambulance; but, the phone is out. One of the kids spots them and gets Jennifer, who arrives with Gabe to find Rosa going into labor. She takes over and tells the men to get towels and hot water. She delivers the baby, a beautiful boy. She presents him to the proud parents, when the Delgado hoods burst in. he accuses Gary of shooting his brother and endangering his daughter. gabe speaks up and asks if he shot up the empty hotel room?
Gabe uses logic and deduction to calm Delgado, pointing out the errors in his thinking. He points out that the bullets in the hospital room matched the gun that shot Lawrence. Gary couldn't have been at the hospital and on the run with Rosa. The shooter wanted Delgado to think it was Gary; but, got the wrong wing, because he or she is color blind. He points out that the room numbers were the same, just the colors of the wings were different. He points out that Clara navigated the halls, following colored lines, so she can see color. Her daughter was wearing a color-coordinated outfit, so that rules her out. Lucia recognized Jennifer's green eyes, so it isn't her. Tony is the shooter. He was honking at the light, since he couldn't tell it was a red light and ignored the position of the light, due to stress. Tony denies it, then Jennifer holds up two Christmas ornaments, one green, one red; and, asks Delgado to ask his son which is which. Delgado tells Rosa to have the police take her to Manhattan General and that he will visit her later. Rosa tells him that the baby is to be named John. Delgado takes his son out, leaving everyone else behind. Lt Bliss and her men arrive and take the couple to the hospital.
Later, we see Jennifer and Gabe coming out of Midnight Mass. Gabe says he didn't know Jennifer was Catholic and she says she's not sure she is anymore; but, loves the ceremony. They return to her place for hot chocolate and she gives Gabe his watch again and points out an addition. Gabe sees the inscription, "To Gabe, 12-25-89, I love you always. Jennifer." The story ends with a loving embrace.
The issue is wonderful, as we get more of Gabe and Jennifer's relationship and some romantic moments. We have a mystery to solve, with clues parcelled out along the way. We have tension, as the couple try to find sanctuary, with the impending birth of the baby and killers following them. We have the intrigues of the Delgado family and Jennifer and Gabe's desperate search to find the young parents-to-be, before the hoods do. We also have a parable to the story of the birth of Jesus, as a couple seeks shelter, with birth imminent. The find refuge under a star, which points the way for others to find them. We get a tender ending, as Jennifer is able to tell Gabe how much she truly loves him, after weathering her doubts about the duration of relationships. It's a brilliant piece of writing, with some wonderful art that captures the humanity of the story.
This is typical of the brilliance of the series. All of the issues are filled with great character moments, excellent art, fun mysteries, and wonderful moments. The issue aren't that expensive. The earliest Comico ones are relatively cheap, probably due to the trade paperback collection that reprints them. the Innovation issues run around $5-6 for mid-grade and $10-12 for Mint. the Comico issue feature Adam hughes' art, though he did some in the Innovation run (mostly covers, though he did a few stories). My guess would be scarcity more than anything else. The Caliber issues are black & white and less expensive and the IDW ones are pretty cheap.
Why no one has turned this into a movie or tv series is beyond me, other than the previous examples of Moonlighting and Remington Steele. however, with talk of reviving them, you'd think someone would recognize that you can do the same here, for less money.
If you enjoy shows like moonlighting, Remington Steele, Columbo, McMillan and Wife, Hart to Hart, or the many great british mysteries, or the Thin man series, you will love this. if you like sexy art, you will love this. if you love great characters, this is your book. If you like humor, ditto. There is something here for everyone.
Post by codystarbuck on Dec 28, 2016 3:36:40 GMT -5
The Forever War, by Joe Haldeman, adapted by Haldeman and Marvano.
The Forever War is the seminal science fiction novel, by Joe Haldeman, which won the Nebula, Hugo and Locus awards, back in the 70s. The story itself is an allegory of the Vietnam War, the young men who fought it, their battles against an often unseen enemy, their alienation when they return home, and their attitudes towards the politics involved and the media covering the war. Haldeman had earlier written a novella, War Year, that was a more literal account of his experiences in Vietnam, as a combat engineer. He then adapted those experiences into a science fiction allegory, while at the Iowa Writer's Workshop. The novel is a purely anti-war tale, though one in the vein of All Quiet on the Western Front, where the anti-war stance is based on the experiences of the author, translated through fictional characters. It reads like a real account, as it is informed with real combat experiences, rather than fantasized by an author with more imagination than first-hand knowledge. It is a perfect counterpoint to previous military science-fiction works, like Robert Heinlein's classic; but controversial Starship Troopers.
In 1988, Haldeman and Dutch artist Marvano (Mark van Oppen) adapted it into a three album series, published in English and color by NBM, and also serialized, in black & white, by Dark Horse, in Cheval Noir (#14-23). The series is to be reprinted by Titan, beginning in February.
Volume one follows draftee William Mandella through his recruit training, to more advanced training in space and on a border world, near a collapsar jumpgate. We see the outright cynicism from the start, as much of the training revolves around fighting a human opponent; but, no one has seen the enemy Taurans and lived to tell the tale. The Taurans encountered humans on another world and attacked, with images sent back to Earth. Earth launched a vengeance campaign (similar to Starship Troopers). A draft is instituted, in which IQ counts for more than physical prowess, as this war will be fought in space and on other worlds, by astronaut/soldiers. Mandella and his team come to Aleph, where they spend their time building a base, patrolling, and furthering their training.
The encounter local wildlife and wound one, which unleashes a psychic backlash, teaching them that they have to proceed more cautiously, as they are encountering new life and their tactics weren't built around them.
They eventually encounter Tauran soldiers and a firefight begins. Their commander invokes a post-hypnotic suggestion which causes beserker rages in the soldiers and they go on a kill frenzy. Their own casualties are inflicted by friendly fire. It turns out that the Taurans were mostly unarmed and Mandella finds himself disgusted at their conditioning and the ease at which humans will kill.
This first volume sets up the mood and features their first engagement with the mostly unknown enemy. Like the soldiers of Vietnam, they build their own Forward Operating Base and then extend operations from there. The unseen enemy is like the Viet Cong, forever a menace; but, rarely seen or understood. The kill frenzy reflects events where soldiers, in response to attacks, inflicted heavy casualties on villages, often innocent or at least not directly involved in attacks, as well as outright atrocities, like My Lai. Woven into this allegory is actual physics, as the Earth and Tauran ships make collapsar jumps and move at relativistic speeds, creating time dilation. As such, their timeline is slowed, relative to their family back on Earth. The comic and the novel is one of the most realistic portrayals I have seen of the military, in any form. People grumble, many question their missions; but, their training builds professionalism and they carry out their missions efficiently, with good leadership. the idea of an IQ draft is intriguing, as it suggest brains being more important than brawn, a twist on normal military recruiting. Haldeman, as an engineer, had some college under his belt and worked with men with greater technical skills than the average soldier. In the Navy, a similar idea is the make-up of nuclear submarines. Almost every member of the crew has gone through nuclear power school and has extensive training, well beyond the average.
Marvano's art is not flashy; but, it captures the mood and shifts between mundane conversations to combat with equal skill. He excels at detail, which is a mainstay of "war" comics.
Volume 2 finds Mandella and his cohorts riding a ship to a new destination, when they are attacked by a Tauran ship. They are helpless, as they must be in special chambers for the maneuvers at near-light speeds. the battle is fought by computers and the ship is unable to avoid a missile and suffers major damage and casualties. It returns to Earth, where Mandella and Margay Potter, his love interest and fellow soldier are mustered out, having served their tour, thanks to their relative timeline. They find Earth to be a strange place. Mandella's younger brother is an older, middle-aged man, and their mother is very old and infirmed. She is classified as "Condition Zero," which means she is cut off from vital medical resources, as she is considered surplus to requirements. Mandella gets her black market oxygen tanks; but finds his efforts futile. meanwhile, in years past, homosexuality was encouraged as a means of population control. Large segments of the population are in homosexual relationships. The veterans also find themselves the subjects of media interviews, where their reality and cynical attitudes are edited into propaganda and pro-government statements. They do not understand the world they encounter and do not fit in. They are not qualified to work and can only look forward to subsisting on welfare payments. They decide to re-enlist, with Mandella and Marygay promoted to officer rank. They are promised a training billet, on the Moon; but, soon find that military promises are hollow. they are immediately sent on a combat mission, where their shuttle is hit while approaching for a landing and both sustain amputation wounds, due to self-sealing life support systems. They are sent to Heaven, a rehabilitation planetoid. They are then split up, with Marygay sent on a space mission, while Mandella is tasked to train and lead new recruits; recruits who won't be available for a century.
This volume reflects the alienation that many Vietnam vets (and many veterans form WW2 and Korea) felt, upon returning home. They had lived through violent and harrowing experiences and returned to a world untouched by it. they are unable to communicate with those who stayed behind, as they have no common frame of reference. they find their specific military skills do not translate to a civilian environment. The find themselves used for political expediency and though called heroes, are quickly abandoned by those they served. Many veterans(myself included) have found themselves hailed as heroes for wearing a uniform and serving in a combat zone, whether they carried out heroic acts or not, yet sit in angry frustration as they encounter a veterans administration that is so underfunded and inefficient it can't carry out its mission. There is a long history of forgetting veterans when the fighting is done and broken promises (not just this country), with events such as the Shays Rebellion, the Bonus Army, the horrendous experiences of many Vietnam-era vets had with the VA, and more recent problems of lack of psychological counselling and proper medical care. All of that appears here, as well as the heartbreak that Mandella and Marygay face, as they are split apart, now to exist on separate timelines. In essence, the military has taken their love away from them and eliminated their future together.
The idea of homosexuality as the majority orientation is there more as a symbol of the alien world, rather than any real statement on the subject. It is never really explored, apart from presenting Mandella is an outsider, in the third volume, when he leads new recruits who are the products of genetic engineering, as well as totally homosexual. Beyond that, little attention is paid.
Volume 3 finds Mandella trained for command and leading his new recruits. His alienation from them is magnified and his outsider status endangers him,as his troops are wary of him. He also harbors pacifist leanings and is reluctant to assume his command, though he does so. At one point, he is attacked by one of his own soldiers. he faces the decision of court martial and execution of the attacker, or leniency and the possibility of losing respect and discipline. The matter is mooted, as the attacker dies while under medical treatment, probably due to deliberate action by the medical officer.
A battle is fought in space, as Mandella and his troops watch helplessly from the ground. They must fight their own battle against the Taurans. They have a stasis field, which prevents the use of energy weapons, reducing both sides to more primitive weapons, like swords and axes.
I won't spoil it; but, eventually the war comes to an end. We find out the reason behind the war and the consequences of fighting it, while we also see the time dilation and Mandella and Marygay's separation addressed.
The third volume covers well the burdens of command, especially when self-doubt affects leadership. It also shows the helplessness of combat troops, when the combat is directed against their support network.
There is a brighter ending in all of this, though it does help hammer home the futility and stupidity of war, and the wounds it creates on the inside, as well as the outside. The work stands with the best or Joe Kubert and Robert Kanigher, Eric Maria Remarque, or just about any other fictional military drama you care to name. Marvano's art is affecting and inspiring, while Haldeman is able to translate his vision into a visual medium. It both captures the greatness of the novel, while adding a new wrinkle to the story.
Marvano went on to do his own little sequel to the story, while Haldeman followed it up some 20+ years later (after the original novel) with a literary sequel, Forever Free, which looks at Mandella and a community of veterans, after the war, and the thematic-but-not-direct sequel, Forever Peace, which looks at similar ideas, in an updated setting, which reflected more recent wars (the Persian Gulf War and missions in Kosovo and Somalia). The novel was optioned by Ridley Scott, in 2008, with multiple script drafts. Warner obtained the rights in 2015 and is developing it as a vehicle for Channing Tatum. The former was promising, the latter troubling.
The NBM editions can be found at decent prices, though volume 2 is tougher to find and pricier. The Cheval Noir issues are relatively cheap; though the book never had huge sales. The Titan reprint is probably the best way to go.
Post by codystarbuck on Dec 29, 2016 22:25:19 GMT -5
So, you may be asking, "Why should I care about a minor superhero book, from a little company, that lasted 6 issues, two specials, and appeared in a company-wide crossover?" Because I told you too, dagnabit! Smart aleck kids think you know everything!
Not good enough? Okay, how about because it was pretty cool? Prove it? Okay, give me time. Here are two reasons to really care, though. Reason one is Tom Lyle. Lyle was an excellent and dynamic artist who zoomed through comics and then disappeared into teaching. Along the way, he got to work on Starman (with Roger Stern), the Comet, for the DC Impact line, featuring the Archie superheroes, and some guy called Spider-Man. Lyle was a darn good storyteller and had a dynamic and tight line. He also drew sleek characters, rather than the bloated behemoths of the Image crowd. Okay, he had a penchant for mullets (I seem to recall he was sporting one, when I met him); but, it was the late 80s. I always felt he was one of the under-appreciated guys in comics and his brief work period adds to that.
The second reason is the writer, Chuck Dixon. Yeah, that Chuck Dixon. This series (and Dixon's work on Airboy and some of the Scout spin-offs) helped get Dixon's foot in the door at DC (Lyle, too). Airboy and Scout were adventure comics, with a hefty dose of realism and pulp sensibility; Strike! was superheroes. Dixon crafted an interesting tale, as well as pulled a pretty good con.
Strike! appeared in 1987, without much fanfare, but with a lot of promise. The series opens with Dennis Foreman, a young African-American man, living in Baltimore. He's working at Burger King and going to a community college, studying to be an engineer. His best friend is Korean-American Bobby Soong. He's a target of a local gang and he isn't afraid to stand up to them. They pound him into the ground, until Dennis' old friend, Parnell comes along. Parnell is now know as PJ and is big in the world of narcotics dealing, in and around the neighborhood. Parnell wants his friend to join him in easy living; but, Dennis doesn't recognize his friend anymore. Dennis' mother works hard; but puts up with an abusive/freeloading boyfriend. Dennis' refuge is the attic, where he can get some peace. It is there he comes across a diary, hidden under a floorboard, which tells the story of Russell Carlyle, aka Sgt. Strike. Russell relates how a meteor slammed into Siberia, devastating the area (which actually happened). A side affect was that people living some distance away began demonstrating special abilities. The Soviet government took an interest in the meteorite. They brought a team of Mongol slave laborers to the site and forced them to carry it out. thing was, the radiation was lethal, so the first on the scene died within minutes; but, they passed it to the next team and the next and so on. Each group died quickly in this hellish relay race. Soviet scientists studied it in a lab, with few results, other than finding a glowing egg-shaped core. Hitler got wind of this and dispatched a team of falschirmjaeger (paratroops) to grab it, which they did. It was brought to a camp in Poland, where prisoners were subjected to experiments with it. Thousands died; but, the Nazis found a way to harness the beneficial aspects of the egg, creating a harness. In 1943, Russell Carlyle was part of a commando team that infiltrated the camp. They made their way to the infirmary, where Carlyle found Nazi doctors conducting a vivisection. Carlyle emptied his rifle into them. They found the vault and a harness within. Carlyle put it on to get it out quickly, so they could make their rendezvous with a submarine, off the coast. However, the Germans brought up armor and the commandos were in a firefight. Russell turned a dial on the harness and was hit with a blast of energy that knocked him into a wall and unconscious. he awoke of a pit dug as a mass grave. His fellow soldiers were dead, as were hundreds of others. he snapped and attacked the Germans, killing all of them, while he was impervious to harm. He broke the prisoners out and headed to the woods beyond. Carlyle spent two months behind enemy lines, until he made his way back to England and offered his services to the Army, in a dramatic way: He stopped the jeep of a colonel and ripped its engine out. After that, he became a super-soldier for the Army, codenamed Sgt Strike. Carlyle carried out special missions until the end of the war, as well as in Korea and at home. However, McCarthyism reared its ugly head and his mentor, Col Matteson, was jailed and he was confronted by the government, who wanted the harness. recognizing its dangerous nature, he refused and drove off the armed agents, then went into hiding. That was the end, in 1954.
Dennis thinks it must have been a fantasy, until he digs some more and finds the costume and the harness. he tries it on and activates it and, like Russell, is thrown across the room and knocked unconscious.
So, I know what you are thinking; it sounds like Captain America. Well, it was. Dixon's idea was a Captain America that wasn't squeamish about killing and who found himself at odds with the post-War government. Rather than being frozen in time, he disappeared and his legacy is found by a new generation. This Cap is born of Nazi experiments and extra-terrestrial forces. It was Captain America, for the 80s.
In the second issue, Dennis comes downstairs, in the costume and rids his house of his mother's abusive boyfriend. He then takes out his college money and goes to a seedy bar, challenging anyone to a fight. His opponent breaks his glasses, so he can't see what he is hitting, so he hits just about everything and everyone. The newspapers carry a story about it, which alerts the CIA, who have been searching fro the harness for over 30 years. They start researching the known facts in the newspaper accounts. Dennis has figured out that the suit magnifies his strength and metabolism and reasons that if he works out, his strength will be increased by the harness. The harness magnifies the metabolic effect and his workouts increase his physique exponentially. He goes to the kitchen to find his mother sitting there, fearfully, when he is grabbed by agents, at gunpoint, without the harness.
Issue three find Dennis and his mother taken to the CIA man's house, where Dennis' mother is injected with a psychedelic, to force Dennis to reveal the location of the harness, after they couldn't find it in Dennis' house. Bobby had snuck out the window with it. He overheard the name Rickers and uses the phonebook to track down the man's house. There, he finds Dennis held prisoner, after being tortured. Bobby brings Dennis the harness and Dennis brings violent retribution to Rickers and his men. he casually tosses two of them out a second floor window, killing them. When he finally gets his hands on Rickers, he drops a truck on him, killing him. Bobby takes them to his home, with the CIA men spotting the name of the family's restaurant on the van that Bobby is driving. Rickers had been "off the reservation;" but, now, the Agency is directly involved.
Issue 4 finds Dennis in a new costume, sewn by Bobby's sister (which Bobby thinks looks like a suit from a "gay ski club." More on that in a minute). They are attacked by CIA agents, including one with an advanced strength-enhancing exo-skeleton. Dennis fights back and defeats them and decides he needs to get his mother to safety, then disappear. He uses the harness to attack Parnell and his drug dealing friends, ripping off their cash. he sends his mother away and provides for Bobby, too. Then, he hits the road. Meanwhile, a tracking station in Alberta spots an object on radar,, near the moon. We pull back to see a bug-like craft.
Issue 5 finds Dennis relocated in a new, rundown apartment (complete with bugs) and an idea of what to do next, thanks to the tv. There is a hostage situation and he goes down to help. he is rejected and sneaks in on his own, climbing from the sewers up through an elevator shaft, to stop a frantic and stressed woman with a gun, whose home had been repossessed. Just as he thinks he has solved the situation, the police SWAT team burst in with guns blazing, killing the disarmed woman. Dennis leaves, horrified by what has happened. nothing works like in comic books. he comes home to find more bugs, only these are man-sized and carry energy weapons. They work against the harness and he is transported to their ship, seen in last issue.
Issue 6 finds Dennis onboard the alien ship, where the aliens communicate, via a dead astronaut's body (it's a pretty creepy scene, with the astronaut being used like a ventriloquist's dummy). They tell Dennis about their race and their living starships, and how their race was decimated by a parasitic rival. They created the egg that powers dennis' harness. It was supposed to help create a new starship; but, the arrival of the parasite forced them to eject it to safety, where it landed in Siberia. Now, the parasites are back and they have Sgt Strike!
The Strike! vs Sgt Strike Special finds Dennis getting his harness back and transporting aboard the parasitic vessel. there, he battles the rival aliens to get to Sgt Strike, who is at the heart of their attack. he seems mindless; but, his weapons can hurt Dennis. he fights his way to Sgt Strike and manages to crush the skull of the alien controlling Shgt Strike. Sgt Strike eventually regains control and they work together to escape and destroy the parasitic vessel and get back to Earth. there, Sgt Strike tells Dennis he wants the harness back.
The series had been cancelled; but, the plot is resolved in Total Eclipse, Eclipse Comics' Tenth Anniversary crossover series (it was all the rage, after Crisis, as First also had a company crossover). By the end of that 5 issue mini-series, there was only one Strike left. However, that was also the last we would see of the character. Prior to that, Dixon and Lyle produced the one-shot, The Airfighters Meet Sgt Strike, where Russell Carlyle, on a mission, runs into Airboy, Valkyrie, Sky Wolf and Black Angel, where they team-up to fight baron Tundra, Sky Wolf's Nazi enemy, who has a new ICBM pointed at the Allies. It's a ton of fun, like Captain America meets Blackhawk. If you enjoy The Invaders and/or Blackhawk, you will enjoy this.
So, convinced? Chuck Dixon filled this with depth, as Dennis thinks along comic book lines and finds the world doesn't work that way. His own morality slips, though he still tries to do good. He finds being a hero endangers people and a happy outcome isn't always possible. He also comes face to face with his predecessor. It was a bit more mature than other superhero comics and fit the trend at DC, where deconstruction experiments were in vogue and grim and gritty were watchwords. Dixon infuses it with the kind of violence found in a Mack Bolan novel, yet dresses it in superhero clothes. Lyle is rough in spots; but, his art gets better with each issue. There are several jokes about the uniform looking like a downhill skier suit. Lyle created several costumes that had that look, at DC. The series isn't perfect; but it kept getting better and better, when the rug was pulled. Total Eclipse, which was a fine mini-series, brought a true end to it, though not one I found satisfying. i had hoped for more; but, Eclipse's financial woes got worse with each passing year and it would be dead by the mid-90s.
One troubling aspect of the series was the rather excessive use of gay slurs. It is lobbed as an insult to Dennis and Bobby, by the gang, but Dennis' mother uses it, too. Given recent era statements from Dixon, its use isn't surprising. It's a bit too casually used for my tastes.
Now, one aspect that really made this unique was a con that Dixon pulled. In the back of the first issue, he tells us that Sgt Strike was an actual Golden Age character from a company called Happy Comics, which was owned by the Jolly Farmer Food Company, which made cereals for sale in the Midwest. the comics appeared on the backs of their cereal boxes and Sgt Strike debuted in All-Thrill Comics #1, in July, 1943. i had never heard of this; but, I also hadn't heard of Mr Monster, which was an actual Canadian superhero. Dixon said the company started their comics when they couldn't license a character for their cereal. he also said they produced other comics, like Prairie Crimebusters, All-Kids Comics and Jungle Devils. They had characters like the White Lion (a Tarzan rip-off), the lightning Kid, and the rattler. Each issue reprinted some of the Golden Age adventures. I found this suspect. I grew up in the Midwest and had never heard of the cereal company nor the comic. I read every reference book on comics I could find (and the Univ. of Illinois library had about a half dozen, plus I had Ron Goulart's history and the Will Jacobs and Gerard Jones' The Comic Book Heroes). Also, the artwork on the Golden Age comics didn't look like something from the 40s. It wasn't Quality Comics level; but, it wasn't as primitive as the bulk of 40s comics. Then, in issue 6, Dixon admitted it was a hoax. He did so because people kept asking about the old comics and were hunting for them. I asked Tom Lyle about it and he said it was all Dixon's idea.
So, while this wasn't Miracleman or Dark Knight, it was pretty good and it stood out from the crowd, though few saw it. It was a nice concept that just didn't find an audience. Eclipse was having severe problems and they had trouble distributing their comics. They had depended on back issue sales for cash, which helped publish new comics. However, a flood destroyed most of their stock. They had cash flow problems from that point on, causing huge delays. Many shops were already ambivalent towards indie companies and an erratic one didn't get much attention, even with books like Scout and Miracleman. I was lucky to frequent a couple of shops that carried a lot of their line and collected a lot of their material and they had one of the most diverse lines of any company. If they had run things like newcomer Dark Horse, they might still be in business. Alas, it was nice while it lasted, over 10 years. The end was messy and Todd McFarlane ended up with their assets, despite higher bids for individual elements, from others. the bankruptcy court didn't want to deal with piecemealing the assets and McFarlane offered money for everything. In the end, he did little with it. Eclipse shared copyrights with creators, so some books found new homes, though some were caught up in the problem of Federal bankruptcy law superseding civil contract law.
The issues can be had pretty cheaply and are worth reading, with a forgiving eye to young talent.
I got to meet Tom Lyle after Starman began. He was great to talk to and shed some insight into this series and created a Sgt Strike sketch for me (he had to look at my comic to get the costume right). It's one of the few pieces of original art I own.
If you like something different, give it a try. If you like Chuck Dixon, it's well worth hunting down (as are the Airboy comics and spin-offs). It is very much of its time; but, it is also very creative.
Post by codystarbuck on Jan 3, 2017 12:35:54 GMT -5
Is that awesome or what? Best opening sequence of any Saturday morning cartoon, and one of the best in tv, period. You knew straight away that this was an adventure show. It would seem perfect for comics; but, during its heyday, there was only one comic..
Gold Key did a one-shot, adapting "The Mystery of the Lizard Men," and that was it. It would take 20 years and a new cartoon series to get a comic book series. The place was Comico, who were also licensing the Robotech cartoons. They worked hand in hand with Hanna-Barbera, as they launched a new syndicated JQ cartoon. Comico, however, wanted to do classic JQ and assembled quite a band to do it. The lynchpin of the series was writer William Messner-Loebs. If you thought his Journey was good, or his work on the Flash, try Jonny Quest. It was phenomenal! Not only did he capture the adventure and excitement of the series, he fleshed out the characters and gave them wonderful human (and canine) moments. Aiding him were a heck of a variety of artists, including Steve Rude, Dave Stevens, Wendy Pini, Joe Staton, Tom Yeates, Al Williamson, Dan Spiegle, Ken Steacy and series creator Doug Wildey. However, the (mostly)regular team of Marc Hempel and Mark Wheatley set the visual tone for the series; always faithful to Wildey's original designs, yet expanded. Wildey got to adapt his favorite episodes, in Jonny Quest Classics, and Adam Kubert added his pencils to an excellent 3 issue Jezebel Jade mini-series (featuring Race Bannon). There are so many great stories; but, I'd like to highlight a few.
Issue one sets the tone, with a desert adventure that recalls the best of the tv series, and art from Doug Wildey and Steve Rude, in separate stories.
Issue 2 gives us the origin of Race Bannon joining the team and what happened to Jonny's Mother. This one set the foundation for the humanistic slant to Messner-Loebs storytelling, as, in a few pages, he makes us fall in love with Mrs. Quest, as Jonny relates how they used to have "adventures" together, playing pirates or some other game, while we also see another side to Dr Quest. Even Dr Zin knew her and worshipped her and he comes to pay his respects, as she lies dying, in a Paris hospital (cancer). The story makes me cry when I read it, despite the mayhem from Race Bannon, as he foils an assassin.
Issue 5 brings the return of Jezebel Jade, the best femme fatale this side of the Dragon Lady (her inspiration). It also has a great Dave Stevens cover.
Issue 8 has some great Ken Steacy art and gives us a peek at an adult Jonny, through a set of circumstances that I won't ruin.
Issue 11 brings a wonderful tale, entirely from Bandit's point of view. He has been dog-napped by a group who use them for illegal dog fights. Bandit shows great courage as he is able to free the other animals and lead them to safety. It also gives us the animals' perspectives on their masters, some good, some not. Then, there is Jonny's frantic search for his beloved dog. The emotion of the loss is strong and Messner-Loebs is really at his height on this one. Every animal lover should read this and it gives you a new respect for Bandit, beyond comic relief.
Issue 22 is a hilarious tale, seen entirely from the POV of a video camera, recording events for a time capsule. Everyone mugs for the camera, including Race who shows up wearing a suit and tie.
Issue 26 centers on Dr Quest and his reputation, with snippets from the tv adventures. He uses this reputation to bluff his way out of captivity, highlighting how smart he really is and how daring. Post-modern looks at Dr Quest tend to focus on Race as the muscle, forgetting that Dr Quest was always in the middle of the fight. This one lets you know why.
Issue 30 adapts "The Invisible Monster," the scariest episode of the series. It links well with the three Jonny Quest Classics, from Doug Wildey.
Jezebel Jade had a 3 issue mini, where Race Bannon factors heavily, with art from young Adam Kubert, who invokes much of his father.
There were also two specials, which included evil Quest doppelgangers, in finest Mirror Universe traditions, as well as an adventure in the Soviet Union.
This is a series that slipped under most radars; but, it features some of the best pure storytelling and character work of the 80s. Dr Quest even gets a new love interest, which made for a couple of humorous tales, plus some nice romance (romance, in a comic?). If you enjoyed the cartoon, you will love this. if you love adventure, you will enjoy this. If you like liberal doses of good humor, this is for you. To top it off, most issues can be had dirt cheap. Only the last few command higher prices, with most issue falling below $5, at Mint grades.
Gold Key did a one-shot, adapting "The Mystery of the Lizard Men," and that was it.
Given the character's popularity, that's really astonishing. Has it ever been reprinted?
I'm loving the team in Future Quest.
Not to my knowledge. It seemed like the H-B comedy characters got more mileage in comics thann the adventure characters. Frankestein Jr also got a one shot, as did Space Ghost. There were 7 issues of the Hanna-Barbera Super TV Heroes.
However, no JQ in there. The Comico series really needs to be collected. I would assume that Hanna-Barbera owned the materials, which would mean Warner owns it and could reprint it via DC. That's an assumption, though, as some of these things didn't quite work that way. Wouldn't be surprised if some of the production material was gone, as I know Grendel had that problem, after Comico's bankruptcy. The Comico/Hanna-Barbera team-up also gave us the truly awesome Space Ghost one-shot, from Mark Evanier and Steve Rude (channeling his best Alex Toth)
"Fortunately, ah keep mah feathers numbered for just such an emergency!"
Post by codystarbuck on Jan 4, 2017 23:37:12 GMT -5
In late 1981, Mike Grell and Pacific Comics brought forth Starslayer, subtitled The Log of the Jolly Roger. Howard Chaykin wasn't the only one to dabble in intergalactic pirates, as Grell ventured into that world, too. His story features an ancient Celtic warrior, plucked from time and brought to the far future, where Earth's sun is dying. He is pulled into a mission to save it.
Grell had originally intended to publish this at DC, it was even mentioned in the letter pages of Warlord; but, a little thing happened to prevent that: the DC Implosion. In one fell swoop DC launched a mass cancellation of titles and put a halt to many new comics in the works. For Grell it was a blessing and a curse. He lost the income that would come with a new series, at a major company; but, he was blessed with control of his creation. Had DC published it, it would have likely been under work-for-hire terms; meaning, DC would own it. Grell was able to hang on to his baby and turned to Pacific Comics, an upstart started by the Schanes Brothers.
Bill and Steve Schanes owned and operated a chain of comic shops and distributed comics under the Pacific name. They decided to enter publishing after seeing the success Capital City had with the debut of the black & white magazine, Nexus. Grell was the first person signed up by them; but, the first work published was Jack Kirby's Captain Victory and the Galactic Rangers (Kirby was fast enough to beat Grell out of the gate). Pacific only asked for publishing rights and distribution; the creators maintained ownership and royalties.
Starslayer launched in October of 1981, with Scythian warrior Torin mac Quillon; and, son Brann, on a boar hunt. Brann makes his first kill and on the way home, they encounter Roman soldiers. Torin attacks and slays them; but, it is a sign of times to come. Torin hates the Romans and their lust for conquest and seeks to rally others to fight. The village chieftan, Torin's father-in-law, seeks peace with Rome. Torin argues and almost comes to blows, until his wife intercedes. They are leaving the village to live free. After leaving, the Romans come and bargain; but launch treachery. Torin returns to help and they fight, though the armies of Rome are too mighty. Torin faces capture and decides he would rather die free. He leaps to his death, as he plunges towards the crowd of soldiers, when fate intervenes. He is plucked away to the far future, where a woman sits and watches him materialize.
That first issue launches it with a bang, filled with action and fury that even Warlord wasn't quite allowed. it also has Grell's trademark sense of humor, as we meet a druid wizard, who seems to get younger, and has a special sword lying about, held for one who will come later. Of course, like Warlord, Grell's art tells as much of the story as his words and the splash pages and double-page spreads are things of beauty. Grell does his homework and gets the Roman armor and Celtic attire correct, invoking the spirit of Hal Foster, in Prince Valiant.
Issue 2 finds Torin facing the woman who plucked him from death. She is Tamara and she pulled him from the exact moment of his historical death. He reacts in violence and she stuns him. He has lost an eye in combat, in the past. She makes it functional via a cybernetic link to a lens, fashioned with a headband. He also has a mental link to SAM, Symbiotic Android Mindlink. SAM is a wisecracker, speaking in the rhythms of Humphrey Bogart, learned watching old movies. He teaches Torin about his new world. Tamara relates to Torin how Earth moved to colonize the other planets of the system, via genetic alterations, to adapt to the environment. As time passed, the Earth's sun grew into a red giant and the Venus was forced to abandon their world, heading for Earth. War broke out. Their mission requires them to find ancient medallions, entrusted to the original leaders of each colony. With it, they hope to activate a power source that can revive the sun. Tamara needed a warrior in a world without such people and went to the past to find one, hence Torin. Meanwhile, her bosses try a little test and send monsters to attack. torin destroys them, learning that they are genetic manipulations. Torin doesn't much like this world of the future. He is also introduced to the Jolly Roger, once a luxury ship, now a fighting vessel. it uses solar sails to power its flight, giving it the look of a sailing ship.
Issue 3 finds the pair fighting a battle droid in the wreck of the Venusian fleet, which had sought to invade Earth, to escape the destruction of Venus. The droid has the medallion and Torin must defeat it and take it.
Issue 4 sees Torin and Tamara orbiting Mars, where they become embroiled in a civil war. The men of Mars live like Arabs and one of the feuding royal brothers has grabbed Tamara. Torin launches a rescue mission, which brings him into contact with the other brother. Tamara learns her abductor is an honorable man and aids him and they rescue Torin. They help the man defeat his brother and gain the throne of Mars. he rewards them with his amulet, in hopes they can bring a better system.
Issue 5 brings them to Callisto, orbiting Jupiter, an ice moon. They find the remains of the Jupiter expedition, which used the lore of vikings as a guide to build their civilization. Their spaceships are viking longships and they worship the Norse gods. Tamara uses subterfuge to make the leaders believe she is a valkyrie, to charm away their amulet. They catch onto her and a fight breaks out. It is interrupted by a conqueror, from Titan, who just happens to have the other three amulets. With SAM's help , and an alliance with the space vikings, they secure the remaining amulets and kill the conqueror.
Issue 6 sees the climax of the story, as Torin and Tamara must fight Earth;s own forces to make it back and activate a machine to repower the sun, at a high price. There is action, intrigue and treachery.
It's all great swashbuckling fun, as Grell gets to play pirate and space opera at the same time. Each of the colonies represents a romantic idea of adventure. Venus is space battle, in the grand tradition of sci-fi. Mars is a desert environment, with Arab warriors, Callisto has her vikings. Into this world comes a spacegoing pirate ship and an ancient warrior, with a scantily clad partner. Grell is just having fun.
However, he wasn't having enough fun and soon departed his series. With the demise of Pacific, Starslayer came to First Comics. Grell wrote the first few issues, but didn't draw them. He then turned over everything, to concentrate on Jon Sable, Freelance. Starslayer continued; but with diminishing popularity, until it was put to bed, after 34 issues (the numbering continued on from the Pacific issues). It was notable in introducing Grimjack to First, as well as art from Tim Truman. However, it wasn't quite the same animal as Grell's story.
Grell also produced a limited edition portfolio, with black and white plates of the characters and scenery.
I have a copy and it's gorgeous.
Grells original story, plus part of his First Comics opener, was reprinted under Valiant/Acclaim's Windjammer creator-owned line, as the Starslayer Director's Cut. The art was taken from scans and had to be retouched by Clarke Hawbaker, a fan of Grell, who gained a name on Nomad, at Marvel (which had a few homages to Grell). The reproduction still wasn't the best; but, it reintroduced the series to a new audience.
Starslayer is also famous as the birthplace of The Rocketeer. Dave Stevens' creation graced issues 2 and 3, before moving on to headline Pacific Presents, for two issues. it then finished up its story at Eclipse and started a new one at Comico and Dark Horse (well travelled title!). Issue 5 brought the second appearance of Groo the Wanderer (which debuted in Destroyer Duck)
I confess I didn't keep up with Starslayer after Grell left, so I have no idea how it progressed. However, Grell's issues are worth seeking, if only for the swashbuckling art and the unbridled story. To get a taste of the series, check out the podcast Warlord Worlds, with Darrin and Ruth Sutherland. Each episode is devoted to the work of Mike Grell, where they cover the issues of Starslayer, Jon Sable, and Green Arrow.
The couple give excellent synopses of the stories and discuss the artwork in each story, painting pictures in your head. They are enthusiastic fans of Grell and two of the nicest people on the planet. Check 'em out and tell them Jeff sent ya'. They also have podcasts devoted to Ron Randall's Trekker (Trekker Talk) and Mark Shultz's Xenozoic Tales (Xenozoic Xenophiles).
Wow, those images of the absolutely stunning original Pacific covers brought back a flush of memories. I had all of those, and looking back on it, I think Starslayer was probably my favorite of the series Pacific was publishing back then; the art was beautiful, the stories were fun and it even had the best back-up stories (Rocketeer and Groo as you noted). Don't know what you have in your collection, but I hope you cover some of the other, more obscure titles put out by Pacific.
Wow, those images of the absolutely stunning original Pacific covers brought back a flush of memories. I had all of those, and looking back on it, I think Starslayer was probably my favorite of the series Pacific was publishing back then; the art was beautiful, the stories were fun and it even had the best back-up stories (Rocketeer and Groo as you noted). Don't know what you have in your collection, but I hope you cover some of the other, more obscure titles put out by Pacific.
I've got a digital collection of Pacific, so I can certainly look deeper into their wares, though Captain Victory is covered elsewhere. At the time, I didn't read much of their stable (discovered most well after they went belly up); but, I did stumble over Vanguard Illustrated and loved it. There is an early Mike Baron and Steve Rude story in there (an intergalactic encyclopedia salesman), plus the debut of Mr Monster. I had already planned, at some point, to cover Somerset Holmes and I would be remiss if I didn't take a peek into the demented world of Skateman! Neal Adams and a roller skating vigilante; how can it not be awesome?
Speaking of Adams, I have some Continuity stuff, so I will cover some of that wacky line, in the future.
"Fortunately, ah keep mah feathers numbered for just such an emergency!"