Aug 29, 2011

Bride of Unstable Molecules

So far on Unstable Molecules, we've covered "civilian" clothing only - stuff people wear when they're not off fighting Galactus or whatever.  That's because it's hard to decide what a ridiculous superhero costume is: all superhero costumes are ridiculous.  Outside of a comics convention or Halloween, you're never going to see anyone dressed like Spider-Man wandering the streets - but nobody would ever put Spider-Man's costume on a "worst costumes" list, because it is a great superhero costume.

(And even some costumes that are ridiculous, like Captain Ultra's amazing Technicolor dreamcoat, are supposed to be that way.  So to qualify as an Unstable Molecules candidate, someone has to inadvertently dress funny.)

But anyway.  Sometimes, a character has a costume that's so ridiculous that it stands out, even in the context of superhero comics.  One such character is Medea.

Nice attention to detail with those hanging pockets.
(art by Steven Butler and Randy Emberlin)

Aug 28, 2011

Hunka hunka burnin' Hitler

Originally, I learned much of what I know about the ins and outs of comic book continuity by perusing quarter bin-scavenged issues of  Who's Who and The Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe. One tidbit that always stood out to me was something included in the entry for Jim Hammond, the original Human Torch (an artificial human from the 1940s, not the doofus on the Fantastic Four with the horrible sense of fashion). His write-up established that, at least in the Marvel universe, the Human Torch had been the one responsible for killing Adolf Hitler.

I'd always assumed that this fact was made up for a later story involving the character, maybe something that Roy Thomas (self-established champion of "Golden Age" characters, for better or worse) had done. But a year or two back, I picked up The Golden Age of Marvel Comics, a trade paperback reprinting a bunch of '40s and '50s Marvel superhero stories - and there, in the middle of 1953's "The Return of the Human Torch", I was greeted by this surprise.

The Flaming Hitlers would be a great terrible
band name. (Art by Russ Heath.)
So... huh. The original Human Torch really did kill Hitler in a Golden Age story. I was not expecting that. You'd think that would earn him an award, maybe a statuette or something. But, so far as I know, fans mostly know of him for the confusing history he shares with the Vision, a character whose only appearance I care about was the side-scrolling Avengers arcade game. (Also, that portrayal of the Torch's origin on this page is pretty crazy, even for 1953).

In summation: Jim Hammond, the man robot ambiguous artificial life form for all your Hitler-barbecuing needs.

Sal's Sunday Punch #9

What's better than a regular Sal Buscema Punch?  Why, someone Sal Buscema Punching a Nazi, of course.

From Spectacular Spider-Man #196, courtesy of JM DeMatteis and Sal Buscema, geneticist/jerk Baron (Helmut) Zemo has captured Edward Whelan (who he'd mutated into the cannibal rat-man Vermin) and Whelan's psychiatrist Ashley Kafka.  He's trying to make Edward turn back into Vermin, and he's also stopped wearing his mask, letting everyone see his gross melty face (courtesy of a dip into a vat of boiling glue). It all goes pear-shaped, and he tried to make his getaway, but Spider-Man is not about to let a Nazi face go unpunched.

Don't worry, he looked like that before Spider-Man punched him.
It ends well for pretty much everyone - Whelan gets cured, Spider-Man gets to punch a Nazi and also doesn't get eaten by a horrific man-rat, Dr. Kafka de-ages like 20 years and loses 40 pounds before the next time she turns up (seriously, it's weird), and even Zemo, a few years later, sets himself on a path to become...well, an anti-hero at least, as leader of the Thunderbolts.

Aug 27, 2011

The Archie Experiment: Spire Christian Comics.

Oooo! Take that,, uhhh... unnamed girl.

So, a few posts back I told you about the late 1980s, early 1990s Archie experiment. It wasn't, however, the first. Not by a long shot. Hell, Archie's been experimenting since the 1940s. But today I want to tell you about something that's from the 1970s (And into the 1980s), Archie's experiment into Christian comics publications.

Yup, that's right, the super-secular comic company, run by a dynasty of Jewish publishers, decided to license their characters for use in Christian comics! How the hell does that happen?

Aug 26, 2011

How to Read: Jack Kirby.

All the images used for this page are from
Captain Victory #1 or Silver Star #1, both
from Kirby's time with Pacific Comics.
 So lately I've been chatting with my friends about Jack Kirby comics and I thought I'd write you up a five step guide to getting started reading Jack Kirby comics.

Kirby is one of the greatest artists ever to pick up a pencil. I don't just mean in comics, I mean ever. The guy was so creative it seemed to be bursting from his every pore. It's hard to think of another single creator who did more for American comics than Jack Kirby did. Everything he ever did was influential, or at least really powerful.

But some modern readers find his work hard to get into.

I can understand it. Kirby's work, while wide-ranging is also very much of a style. If you don't get into Jack's art style, it can be hard to get into reading his works. Which is really unfortunate because you're missing out on so much. So the goal of this guide is to give you the tools to be able to immerse yourself in Kirby's world. To just let yourself go.

Aug 24, 2011

Phantom's in the window, again!

I'm so jealous! Why couldn't I win this
uhhh... "awesome" art?
So recently I bought a pile of 25 Phantom comics from a second hand store. Out of all of them, only two had classic Phantom stories from the newspapers. Almost all of them were Team Fantomen stories. (I talk more about that in this post, if you're confused.)

So out of 25 issues only two had newspaper stories. Out of 25 issues how many had a classic image of Phantom in a window? One. One of the newspaper issues.

This is why I hate Team Fantomen stories! They just don't honour the classic Phantom iconography!!

Fortunately, Sy Barry? Sy Barry knows what he's doing!

This story is actually a really typical Phantom story. It's about secrets. Secrets are really important to the Phantom, and to the Phantom mythology. A lot of Phantom stories are about either uncovering ancient secrets (a really common theme in Team Fantomen stories) or guarding secrets against people who just wouldn't understand.

Aug 23, 2011

It Came From The Dollar Bin: A Boy And His 'Bot

Hope you brought insulin!
When I was in high school, I spent far too much time in used book shops scrounging for out-of-print Lensman paperbacks and trying to complete my set of the original Marvel run of Transformers. I thought it would be an amazing place to work. I would sit behind the counter going through boxes and boxes of obscure books and comics and CDs, never knowing what apocryphal bit of nerd history I would find next. It was my 15-year-old idea of heaven. Then I grew up, got a job at a used book shop, and spent 95% of my time explaining to people that their old John Grisham hardcovers aren’t actually worth anything.
There were gems, though, and once a week I’ll be highlighting the obscure and notable things I’ve found over nearly twenty years of scrounging through the dollar bins. I’d like to inaugurate this feature with a comic that warmed my grungy little teenage heart, a small press one-shot “Holiday Special” from 1987 called A Boy and His ‘Bot written and illustrated by Gary Thomas Washington.

Spider-Mannotations: Spider-Island: Spider-Girl #1, Venom #6

Welcome to the third installment of Spider-Island Spider-Mannotations!  Light week this week, with only two books, but that's giving me time to finish up the Gwen Stacy clone article promised in our last installment!

Spider-Island: Spider-Girl #1

Not to be confused with Horrors of Spider-Island: Spider-Girl.
(art by Patrick Zircher)

Aug 21, 2011

Sal Buscema Punch #8

So let's get back into some good old fashioned Hulk style punching. So we have this story in Hulk #211 where this old wizard dude (named, I shit you not "Maha Yogi") is holding gladiatorial matches, mostly just to get his jollies. He has this champion called Mongu who is insanely powerful, and Mongu has beaten just about everyone.

Then this happens:

Continued after the read more button, more like.
Well... you just know it wasn't going to end there.

Aug 19, 2011

The Archie Experiment: Jughead's Diner.

Dan Parent and Bill Golliher are my heroes!
It's hard to think of Archie comics as being particularly experimental. After all, they're such incredibly formulaic comics. Believe it or not, though, Archie comics do go through some really experimental phases.

The one I'm most familiar with is the late 80s, early 90s Archie experiment. During this period there was an explosion of new, experimental, often insane titles. New aesthetics were experimented with. Character dynamics were experimented with. Some things were successful, some things weren't, but it was an exciting time to be reading Archie comics.

Don't believe me? Don't think they would have been brave enough to mess with the formula for familiar, iconic characters?

Well, my friend, during this time Jughead Jones acquired not one, not two, but three new love interests. (All of them were redheads, and one of them was actually Archie's descendant from the future in the comic Jughead's Time Police. Yeah... that's an entire other post in and of itself.)

One of my all time favourite Archie experiments, though, was Jughead's Diner. Jughead's Diner was a fantasy sci-fi comic set in a surreal 1950s diner setting, starring Jughead as basically the chosen one, meant to save the world. No... seriously.

The Greatest Robots in the World: Epsilon

The Greatest Robot in the World is Andrew's favorite Astro Boy story, and his retelling of it to me may have been what got me to pick up Osamu Tezuka's Astro Boy manga in the first place.The Greatest Robot in the World is considered to be one of the best Astro Boy stories (if not the best Astro Boy story), and has been adapted at least four times since its inception. Each time, the cast of international robots that feature in it have been adapted in different ways. I had planned to make collages of all of them to showcase these different adaptions - partly because I am very fond of collages - but as it happens, I only got as far as Epsilon, the Australian solar-powered robot.

Epsilon in the original manga, the 1980s TV show, and the 2000 era
TV show. After growing a nose, he decided becoming a girl was the
next logical step.

Andrew doesn't actually like Epsilon because he thinks he's a wuss. He's not very Australian, for sure, but I found his part of the story touching in its own way, because I am a sucker for melodrama.

Unfortunately, I couldn't find an encode of the 1960s TV adaption of The Greatest Robot in the World (which was never dubbed into English), and haven't actually read Naoki Urasawa's Pluto yet despite owning all of it, so those two versions are not present in this collage.

To me, the cream and brown accents of the '80s version don't really come across as good colors for Epsilon, given the florid stylings they went with - he's a very fancy robot with very utilitarian colors. I question the color design there. The '00 version is... well, nothing like how he was originally at all, but it was animated prettily. I guess that counts for something?

Maybe I'll go back and do some more collages. Maybe not! We'll see.

Aug 17, 2011

Godzilla vs The Essential

I've known Godzilla a long time. I was practically raised on Godzilla movies playing on Creature Features every Saturday morning as a child. I own every Godzilla movie ever made on DVD or VHS and in some cases both. As I type I am within spitting distance of three different Godzilla figures. I've read Marvel comics all my life. So why the hell have I never read Marvel's Godzilla: King of the Monsters? I have no idea either. Let's start reading.

With a purposeful grimace and a terrible sound.

Aug 13, 2011

Spider-Mannotations: Amazing Spider-Man #667, Spider-Island: Cloak and Dagger #1, Spider-Island: Deadly Foes

Spider-Island continues!  There's a lot less to explain in this week's Amazing Spider-Man #667, so I'll also be covering the two Spider-Island tie-in books that came out this week: Spider-Island: Cloak and Dagger #1, and Spider-Island: Deadly Foes!

Amazing Spider-Man #667

Somewhere in Rhode Island, a Hasbro executive is drooling.
(art by Humberto Ramos)

Aug 8, 2011

Four of the Best: Marvel Masterworks FF #1

So lately I've been reading Marvel Masterworks Fantastic Four. The first volume, handilly numbered #1, contains the first 10 issues of Fantastic Four, in glorious remastered colour. It's the first time I've ever read these stories in colour -- well, most of them (I own issue 8, and a repro issue 1). For a huge Fantastic Four fan like me it's a joy to have an excuse to enjoy these stories again.

So I thought I'd pick out four of the very best panels from the TPB -- one for each main character -- to share with you. I'm sure other 80 Page contributors will copy this brilliant idea with other books, but let's be honest, it makes the most sense with Fantastic Four. So let us begin, shall we?

Aug 7, 2011

Sal's Sunday Punch #7

It's a very special CLONETASTIC Sal Buscema Punch!  In 1996's Spectacular Spider-Man #234, amidst the 6-part Blood Brothers storyline, Ben Reilly's been framed for arson after the Daily Grind, the coffee shop where he worked, burned down.  To clear his name, he's got to find the real arsonist - the Hobgoblin!  After fighting past his cyborg flunkies, he faces Hobgoblin, the recent recipient of a highly-unfortunate '90s cyborg makeover...

Save me, Tim Burton!
(Spectacular Spider-Man #234, written by Todd DeZago, art by Sal Buscema and John Stanisci)
Unfortunately, it turns out that the Hobgoblin isn't the real mastermind - he's working for the shadowy Gaunt!  Who it turns out was working for an even shadowier guy, but that's another story...

Aug 4, 2011

Let's talk about yuri: COME EMBRACE ME, SENPAI!

Remember, always read from right to left.

I was going to use this image instead,
but in the end, good taste prevailed. By
 which I mean wouldn't fit right.
If there's one thing that's really important to a compelling superhero origin story, it's having a good coming of age metaphor. Spider-Man is the most obvious (and also the most grossest). Sailor Moon was about the awesomeness of pre-arranged marriage learning to balance working and love. The X-Men are all about illustrating how homosexuality is exactly the same as shooting kinetic energy out of your eyes. And so forth.

A Lifeform in Puberty — Vega has a pretty similar setup, but a little less pretense about its own metaphor.

Let's talk about Australian Kids' Magazines.

All the images from this article
are from Krash #91. Krash is
known for its subtle covers.

As I pointed out in an earlier article there exists in Australia a wide range of magazines for children that celebrate and, let's be honest, shill youth pop culture. These are some of the only comics-related material produced exclusively in Australia for Australian children. They're available everywhere, and sell quite well.

Each one is filled to the brim with articles that barely hide the fact that they're actually advertisements for the most popular pop culture of the day. They're written directly to kids, they're colourful, and they're about things kids care about.

Also, they generally have comic pages as a backup in them! Actually that's probably stretching things. Most of them have a very small, teenie-tiny number of comic pages in the back of the issue, usually something like 6 pages of comics in a 100 page magazine.

The magazines are, frankly, incredibly crass. They try to write to kids on their own level, using 'young slang', and writing things in a way that sounds awesome and cool! Often using words like awsm and kewl. The result is that they're kind low on the literacy scales, and very hard to read if you're not 10.

Aug 2, 2011

Let's review Phantom #1607

In Australia Phantom has been published continuously since 1947 in a comic book format by Frew Publications. Frew's version of the Phantom comic is the longest running comic book based on the character in the world. Almost all the material in it is reprints of either newspaper strips or comic stories from the Scandanavian comic Fantomen.
I've be workin' on the... circus.

I've only recently gotten back into buying Frew Phantoms and I basically pick-and-choose, buying pretty much only the issues which have 'Phantom Classic' on the cover, because that usually means it's a reprint of a Lee Falk newspaper strip.

This comic isn't. It's a reprint of an old Team Fantomen story.

This post doesn't contain any sex

Remember, always read from right to left.
From 20-Year-Old Girl x 30-Year-Old Maiden, by Akiko Morishima.

Sorry, no review this week! I promise I'll have something good in a few days, though.

Aug 1, 2011

I'm the Zuggernaut, Bitch

Firestorm has a dismal rogues gallery. He just has a dirty closet mostly full of various furries and bondage fetishists. Looking through those weirdos a strange one just caught my eye.

"Where did my left leg go Torchman?"
Zuggernaut. *snicker* Seriously. That's the name you went with? Something about the design of this giant purple space roach is eerily familiar.