Monday, November 13, 2017

Thor: Ragnarok creator credits

Once again, here's a list of where all the comic book elements in a Marvel Cinematic Universe originated from. Corrections & additions are always welcome! My master list is kept here.

Jason Aaron: co-creator of Doctor Strange wearing a buttoned-down version of his blue shirt (Doctor Strange #1, 2015); of Thor having a sister he didn't know of (Original Sin #5.1, 2014); of Thor with his hair cut short (The Unworthy Thor #2, 2017)

Chris Bachalo: co-creator of Doctor Strange wearing a buttoned-down version of his blue shirt (Doctor Strange #1, 2015)

Daniel Berman: co-creator of Fandral and Hogun perishing in the events of Ragnarok (Thor #82, 2004); of Thor losing an eye during the events of Ragnarok (Thor #84, 2004); of Thor permitting Surtur to destroy Asgard so that he could vanquish a greater threat; of Volstagg perishing in Ragnarok (Thor #85, 2004)

Robert Bernstein: co-creator of Frigga, queen of Asgard, mother to Thor & Loki; of the Valkyrie, an order of Asgardian warrior woman who ride flying horses (Journey into Mystery #92, 1963); of Thor's ability to channel lightning through his body even when separated from Mjolnir (Journey into Mystery #93, 1963); of Loki trying to usurp Odin's throne (Journey into Mystery #94, 1963)

John Buscema: co-creator of Ultron, the Avengers' enemy (Avengers #54, 1968); of Quinjets, the personal aircraft of the Avengers (Avengers #61, 1969); of Odin having only one eye (Thor #274, 1978); of Gungnir, Odin's great spear (Thor#275, 1978)

Sal Buscema: co-creator of Grandmaster, a cosmic being dressed in yellow clothes with pointed white hair and blue colouring; Grandmaster's obsession with games, often pitting superhuman people against each other (Avengers #69, 1969); of Valkyrie and the Hulk as allies (Defenders #4, 1973); of Valkyrie's enchanted sword Dragonfang (Defenders #12, 1974)

John Byrne: creator of Thor called "Odinson" (Namor the Sub-Mariner#13, 1991)

Olivier Coipel: co-creator of Thor with his hair cut short (The Unworthy Thor #2, 2017)

Gene Colan: co-creator of Doctor Strange's Sanctum being located at 177A Bleecker Street (Doctor Strange #182, 1969)

Gerry Conway: co-creator of the Man-Thing, a monstrous character (Savage Tales #1, 1971)

Tom DeFalco: co-creator of the Revengers, a team named in reaction to the Avengers (A-Next #12, 1998); of Mjolnir being shattered by an immensely powerful foe (Thor #388, 1988)

Steve Ditko: co-creator of Doctor Strange, a sorcerer based out of a sanctum in Greenwich Village who wages war against mystical forces of evil; Strange wearing a blue shirt and orange gloves; the Sanctum's window bearing a symbol with two curved lines pierced by a third line; of Doctor Strange's golden amulet (Strange Tales #110, 1963); of Doctor Strange wearing a magical cape (Strange Tales #114, 1963); of Doctor Strange opposing Loki (Strange Tales #123, 1964); of Doctor Strange's red Cloak of Levitation and round amulet (Strange Tales #127, 1964); of Banner transforming into the Hulk during periods of high emotional stress; of the Hulk having a savage or childlike disposition (Tales to Astonish #60, 1964)

Andrea DiVito: co-creator of Fandral and Hogun perishing in the events of Ragnarok (Thor #82, 2004); of Thor losing an eye during the events of Ragnarok (Thor #84, 2004); of Thor permitting Surtur to destroy Asgard so that he could vanquish a greater threat; of Volstagg perishing in Ragnarok (Thor #85, 2004)

Steve Englehart: co-creator of the Black Widow as an Avenger (Avengers #111, 1973); of Valkyrie and the Hulk as allies (Defenders #4, 1973); of the Bi-Beast, a two-headed creature (Incredible Hulk #169, 1973)

Al Ewing: co-creator of Thor having a sister he didn't know of (Original Sin #5.1, 2014)

Ron Frenz: co-creator of the Revengers, a team named in reaction to the Avengers (A-Next #12, 1998); of Mjolnir being shattered by an immensely powerful foe (Thor #388, 1988)

Gary Friedrich: co-creator of Hulk's stated desire to be left alone (Incredible Hulk #102, 1968)

Lee Garbett: co-creator of Thor having a sister he didn't know of (Original Sin #5.1, 2014)

Keith Giffen: co-creator of Valkyrie wearing silver armor (Defenders #47, 1977)

Steven Grant: co-creator of the Grandmaster holding a "Contest of Champions" in which superhumans are pit against each other for the sake of his games; Thor and Hulk as contestants in the Grandmaster's game (Marvel Super-Hero Contest of Champions #1, 1982)

Mark Gruenwald: co-creator of the Grandmaster holding a "Contest of Champions" in which superhumans are pit against each other for the sake of his games; Thor and Hulk as contestants in the Grandmaster's game (Marvel Super-Hero Contest of Champions #1, 1982); of the name for the Kronans, an extraterrestrial race of rock-like creatures (Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe #5, 1983)

Don Heck: co-creator of the Black Widow as an Avenger (Avengers #111, 1973); of Tony Stark, a wealthy industrialist who became a hero (Tales of Suspense #39, 1963); of the Black Widow, alias Natasha Romanoff (Tales of Suspense #52, 1964)

Dan Jurgens: co-creator of Loki impersonating Odin to claim the throne of Asgard (Thor #16, 1999)

Gil Kane: co-creator of the Soul Gem, from which the Infinty Gems were derived (Marvel Premiere#1, 1970)

Jack Kirby: co-creator of the Avengers, a team of super heroes including Thor, Hulk & Tony Stark, Loki battling the Avengers (Avengers #1, 1963); of Hulk battling Thor (Avengers #3, 1964); of the Hulk, Bruce Banner, a physicist who transforms into a massive, brutish creature with superhuman strength; the Hulk describing others as "puny" (Incredible Hulk #1, 1962); of the Hulk having green skin (Incredible Hulk #2, 1962); of the Hulk traveling vast distances by leaping (Incredible Hulk #3, 1962); of Thor, Asgardian god of thunder whose hammer Mjolnir can control weather and has a worthiness enchantment which prevents others from lifting it; Thor's silver helmet, red cape and blue bodysuit; Thor encountering extraterrestrials made of stone (Journey into Mystery #83, 1962); of Jane Foster, Thor's mortal love interest (Journey into Mystery #84, 1962); of Loki, Thor's evil brother who possesses the power to cast illusions and wears green/yellow; Loki's horned helmet; Asgard, home of the Norse Gods which connects to Earth via the rainbow bridge Bifrost; Heimdall, guardian of Bifrost; Odin, father of Loki & Thor (Journey into Mystery #85, 1962); of Thor's ability to channel lightning through his body even when separated from Mjolnir (Journey into Mystery #93, 1963); of the Frost Giants, creatures from the Nine Worlds; of Surtur, the immense fire demon who an enemy to all of Asgard (Journey into Mystery #97, 1963); of Sif, female Asgardian warrior, love interest to Thor; of Hela, Asgardian goddess of death; Hela's green costume, cape and large black headdress (Journey into Mystery #102, 1964); of Asgardians piloting sky ships; of Skurge the Executioner, an Asgardian warrior who wields an axe, wears blue armour and opposes Thor; Skurge's black beard and tattoos (Journey into Mystery #103, 1964); of Laufey, Loki's father, a giant; of Odin adopting Loki as Thor's foster brother; of the Hulk's fans waving banners and signs in a Hulk vs. Thor contest (Journey into Mystery #112, 1965); of Thor and Loki being friends in their youth (Journey into Mystery #113, 1965); of the Fenris Wolf, an immense Asgardian wolf (Journey into Mystery #114, 1965); of Volstagg, a red-haired, overweight and jovial Asgardian warrior; Hogun, a mostly-silent grim-faced and dark-haired Asgardian; and Fandral, a blond-haired dashing, adventurous Asgardian clad in green (Journey into Mystery #119, 1965); of Loki seeking to rule Asgard; Asgard possessing advanced technology (Journey into Mystery #120, 1965); of Tony Stark, a wealthy industrialist who became a hero (Tales of Suspense #39, 1963); of the Black Widow, Natasha Romanoff (Tales of Suspense #52, 1964); of the Cosmic Cube, a massively powerful artifact (Tales of Suspense #79, 1966); of Earth referred to as Midgard by Asgardians (Thor #126, 1966); of the prophecies of Ragnarok in which Asgard will be destroyed (Thor #127, 1966); of Surtur being the one to finally destroy Asgard at Ragnarok (Thor #128, 1966); of Ares, god of war (Thor #129, 1966)

David Anthony Kraft: co-creator of Valkyrie wearing silver armor (Defenders #47, 1977)

Stan Lee: co-creator of the Black Widow's red hair (Amazing Spider-Man #86, 1970); of the Avengers, a team of super heroes including Thor, Hulk & Tony Stark, Loki battling the Avengers (Avengers #1, 1963); of Hulk battling Thor (Avengers #3, 1964); of the Hulk, Bruce Banner, a physicist who transforms into a massive, brutish creature with superhuman strength; the Hulk describing others as "puny" (Incredible Hulk #1, 1962); of the Hulk colored green (Incredible Hulk #2, 1962); of the Hulk traveling vast distances by leaping (Incredible Hulk #3, 1962); of Thor, Norse god of thunder, defender of Earth, wields hammer Mjolnir which can control storms, always returns to his hand and can only be lifted by those who are worthy of its power; Thor's silver helmet, blue costume, bare arms and red cape; Thor encountering extraterrestrials made of stone (Journey into Mystery #83, 1962); of Jane Foster, Thor's mortal love interest (Journey into Mystery #84, 1962); of Loki, Thor's evil brother who possesses the power to cast illusions and wears green/yellow; Loki's horned helmet; Asgard, home of the Norse Gods which connects to Earth via the rainbow bridge Bifrost; Heimdall, guardian of Bifrost; Odin, father of Loki & Thor (Journey into Mystery#85, 1962); of Frigga, queen of Asgard, mother to Thor & Loki; of the Valkyrie, an order of Asgardian warrior woman who ride flying horses (Journey into Mystery #92, 1963); of Thor's ability to channel lightning through his body even when separated from Mjolnir (Journey into Mystery #93, 1963); of Loki trying to usurp Odin's throne (Journey into Mystery #94, 1963); of the Frost Giants, creatures from the Nine Worlds; of Surtur, the immense fire demon who an enemy to all of Asgard (Journey into Mystery #97, 1963); of Sif, female Asgardian warrior, love interest to Thor; of Hela, Asgardian goddess of death; Hela's green costume, cape and large black headdress (Journey into Mystery #102, 1964); of Asgardians piloting sky ships; of Skurge the Executioner, an Asgardian warrior who wields an axe, wears blue armour and opposes Thor; Skurge's black beard and tattoos (Journey into Mystery #103, 1964); of Laufey, Loki's father, a giant; of Odin adopting Loki to be Thor's foster brother; of the Hulk's fans waving banners and signs in a Hulk vs. Thor contest (Journey into Mystery #112, 1965); of Thor and Loki being friends in their youth (Journey into Mystery #113, 1965); of the Fenris Wolf, an immense Asgardian wolf (Journey into Mystery #114, 1965); of Volstagg, a red-haired, overweight and jovial Asgardian warrior with a wife and several children; Hogun, a mostly-silent grim-faced and dark-haired Asgardian; and Fandral, a blond, green-clad, dashing, adventurous Asgardian (Journey into Mystery #119, 1965); of Loki seeking to rule Asgard; Asgard possessing advanced technology (Journey into Mystery #120, 1965); of Doctor Strange, a sorcerer based out of a sanctum in Greenwich Village who wages war against mystical forces of evil; Strange wearing a blue shirt and orange gloves; the Sanctum's window bearing a symbol with two curved lines pierced by a third line; of Doctor Strange's golden amulet (Strange Tales #110, 1963); of Doctor Strange wearing a magical cape (Strange Tales #114, 1963); of Doctor Strange opposing Loki (Strange Tales #123, 1964); of Doctor Strange's red Cloak of Levitation and round amulet (Strange Tales #127, 1964); of Tony Stark, a wealthy industrialist who became a hero (Tales of Suspense #39, 1963); of the Black Widow, Natasha Romanoff (Tales of Suspense #52, 1964); of the Cosmic Cube, a massively powerful artifact (Tales of Suspense #79, 1966); of Banner transforming into the Hulk during periods of high emotional stress; of the Hulk having a savage or childlike disposition (Tales to Astonish #60, 1964); of Earth referred to as Midgard by Asgardians (Thor #126, 1966); of the prophecies of Ragnarok in which Asgard will be destroyed (Thor #127, 1966); of Surtur being the one to finally destroy Asgard at Ragnarok (Thor #128, 1966); of Ares, god of war (Thor #129, 1966)

Larry Lieber: co-creator of Thor, Norse god of thunder, defender of Earth, wields hammer Mjolnir which can control storms, can only be lifted by those who are worthy and always returns to his hand; Thor's silver helmet, blue costume, bare arms and red cape; Thor encountering extraterrestrials made of stone (Journey into Mystery #83, 1962); of Jane Foster, Thor's mortal love interest (Journey into Mystery #84, 1962); of Loki, Thor's wicked brother who has the power to cast illusions; Loki's green & yellow clothing, horned helmet; of Asgard, the realm where Thor lives; Bifrost, the rainbow bridge which connects Asgard to other worlds; Odin, lord of Asgard, father of Thor and Loki; Heimdall, guardian of Bifrost (Journey into Mystery #85, 1962); of Tony Stark, a wealthy industrialist who became a hero (Tales of Suspense #39, 1963)

Ron Lim: co-creator of the Infinity Gems, six all-powerful stones wielded together as the Infinity Gauntlet (Thanos Quest #1, 1990)

William Messner-Loebs: co-creator of Odin being temporarily stranded on Earth in a mortal identity (Thor #497, 1996)

Bill Mantlo: co-creator of the Grandmaster holding a "Contest of Champions" in which superhumans are pit against each other for the sake of his games; Thor and Hulk as contestants in the Grandmaster's game (Marvel Super-Hero Contest of Champions #1, 1982)

Gray Morrow: co-creator of the Man-Thing, a monstrous character (Savage Tales #1, 1971)

Michael Avon Oeming: co-creator of Fandral and Hogun perishing in the events of Ragnarok (Thor #82, 2004); of Thor losing an eye during the events of Ragnarok (Thor #84, 2004); of Thor permitting Surtur to destroy Asgard so that he could vanquish a greater threat; of Volstagg perishing in Ragnarok (Thor #85, 2004)

Carlo Pagulayan: co-creator of Sakaar, an alien world which has a portal that has drawn various people from across the universe to the planet; the Hulk brought to Sakaar; Miek, an insectoid gladiator warrior on Sakaar; slaves on Sakaar controlled with discs pinned to their skin (Incredible Hulk #92, 2006); of Korg, a Kronan serve as a gladiator on Sakaar; Korg encountering Thor, Hulk and Miek (Incredible Hulk #93, 2006); of the Hulk donning full gladiator regalia including a feathered helm (Incredible Hulk #94, 2006); of Korg and Miek becoming revolutionaries; of the Hulk encountering an old ally from Earth in Sakaar's gladiator arena (Incredible Hulk #95, 2006)

Greg Pak: co-creator of Sakaar, an alien world which has a portal that has drawn various people from across the universe to the planet; the Hulk brought to Sakaar; Miek, an insectoid gladiator warrior on Sakaar; slaves on Sakaar controlled with discs pinned to their skin (Incredible Hulk #92, 2006); of Korg, a Kronan serve as a gladiator on Sakaar; Korg encountering Thor, Hulk and Miek (Incredible Hulk #93, 2006); of the Hulk donning full gladiator regalia including a feathered helm (Incredible Hulk #94, 2006); of Korg and Miek becoming revolutionaries; of the Hulk encountering an old ally from Earth in Sakaar's gladiator arena (Incredible Hulk #95, 2006)

Keith Pollard: co-creator of the planet Xandar (Fantastic Four #205, 1979)

Don Rico: co-creator of the Black Widow, Natasha Romanoff (Tales of Suspense #52, 1964)

John Romita: co-creator of the Black Widow's red hair (Amazing Spider-Man #86, 1970)

John Romita Jr.: co-creator of the Grandmaster holding a "Contest of Champions" in which superhumans are pit against each other for the sake of his games; Thor and Hulk as contestants in the Grandmaster's game (Marvel Super-Hero Contest of Champions #1, 1982); of Loki impersonating Odin to claim the throne of Asgard (Thor #16, 1999)

Luke Ross: co-creator of Odin being temporarily stranded on Earth in a mortal identity (Thor #497, 1996)

Marie Severin: co-creator of Hulk's stated desire to be left alone (Incredible Hulk #102, 1968)

Walter Simonson: creator of Beta Ray Bill, an extraterrestrial warrior whose skull is shaped like a horse (Thor #337, 1983); of the Eternal Flame, a mystical flame in Odin's custody; of Surtur needing to forge his sword in the Eternal Flame in order to destroy Asgard (Thor #349, 1984); of Odin dying before Loki and Thor's eyes (Thor #353, 1985); of Hela reclaiming her power without Odin to oppose her (Thor #354, 1985); of Thor forcing Loki to undo one of his spells by holding Loki by the neck while summoning Mjolnir to return to his hand (Thor #359, 1985); of Skurge the Executioner having a change of heart and giving his life to hold a bridge against Hela's army of the dead, dual-wielding two machine guns to destroy the dead soldiers, then wielding them as clubs when his ammunition runs out; of Skurge seen clubbing the dead from atop an immense pile of soldiers (Thor #362, 1985); of Loki's magic transforming Thor into a frog (Thor #363, 1986); of Thor wearing a beard (Thor #367, 1986)

Joe Sinnott: co-creator of Frigga, queen of Asgard, mother to Thor & Loki; of the Valkyrie, an order of Asgardian warrior woman who ride flying horses (Journey into Mystery #92, 1963); of Loki trying to usurp Odin's throne (Journey into Mystery #94, 1963)

Jim Starlin: co-creator of the Infinity Gems, six all-powerful stones wielded together as the Infinity Gauntlet (Thanos Quest #1, 1990)

Roy Thomas: co-creator of Ultron, the Avengers' enemy (Avengers #54, 1968); of Grandmaster, a cosmic being dressed in yellow clothes with pointed white hair and blue colouring; Grandmaster's obsession with games, often pitting superhuman people against each other (Avengers #69, 1969); of Doctor Strange's Sanctum being located at 177A Bleecker Street (Doctor Strange #182, 1969); of the Night-Crawler, an otherworldly creature (Incredible Hulk #126, 1970); of Valkyrie, an Asgardian warrior woman who encounters the Hulk (Incredible Hulk #142, 1971); of the Soul Gem, from which the Infinty Gems were derived (Marvel Premiere #1, 1970); of the Man-Thing, a monstrous character (Savage Tales #1, 1971); Odin having only one eye (Thor #274, 1978); of Gungnir, Odin's great spear (Thor #275, 1978); of Thor and Hulk joining forces to battle Hela (Thor #489, 1995)

Herb Trimpe: co-creator of the Night-Crawler, an otherworldly creature (Incredible Hulk #126, 1970); of Valkyrie, an Asgardian warrior woman who encounters the Hulk (Incredible Hulk #142, 1971); of the Bi-Beast, a two-headed creature (Incredible Hulk #169, 1973)

Len Wein: co-creator of Valkyrie's enchanted sword Dragonfang (Defenders #12, 1974)

Marv Wolfman: co-creator of the planet Xandar (Fantastic Four #205, 1979)

M. C. Wyman: co-creator of Thor and Hulk joining forces to battle Hela (Thor #489, 1995)

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Remembering Bert Christman

Today being Remembrance Day, as a comic book scholar the most appropriate person to think of must be Bert Christman. Many comic book creators entered the military during World War 2, some even saw combat - but Christman is the only one I know of who lost his life.

Christman's career in comics was a brief one as the medium was only in its infancy when he left it. In 1936 he created a feature titled "The Spinner" in which a police detective would relate unusual cases from his career to listeners. The Spinner spun about into various magazines under the Centaur imprint and others.

The big development for Christman's career in 1936 came when the famous photorealist artist Noel Sickles left his newspaper strip Scorchy Smith, an adventure series featuring the titular maverick pilot Scorchy. Christman replaced Sickles.

While still creating Scorchy, in 1938 Christman created an adventure hero of his own for DC Comics: The Sandman, a figure garbed in a gas mask who would put his enemies to sleep by use of a gas gun. It proved to be a popular enough feature during the war and the character would become a permanent part of the developing DC Universe through his membership in the Justice Society of America, but Christman would never know Sandman was his artistic legacy; in 1938 he left Scorchy Smith & Sandman behind and joined the US Navy's American Volunteer Group. Like Scorchy, he became a pilot, serving in the group known as "The Flying Tigers."

On January 23, 1942, Christman's squadron went into battle over Rangoon, Burma against a much-larger attack group of Japanese fighter planes. During the combat, Christman's plane was hit in its engine. It wasn't the first time Christman had lost a plane to combat and been forced to bail out. Once again, Christman bailed out and opened his parachute, but a Japanese pilot strafed him mid-air; one of the bullets went through his neck and killed him before he reached the ground.

Here's to you, Mr. Christman.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Do Not Panic! Steve Ditko is 90!

This week Steve Ditko celebrated his 90th birthday! Ditko is one of the few living comic book creators who can unequivocally be termed "living legend." Although best-known for being the creator of Doctor Strange and co-creator of Spider-Man, Ditko's unique artistic styles have keep him a perpetually devoted (albeit shrinking) fanbase. He still publishes comic books to this day, as I have occasionally pointed out on this blog. Ditko's unique perspectives, his way of depicting alien realms, his lightness of touch matched with grotesqueries and, of course, those expressive fingers he draws have made their mark upon my mind. If Jack Kirby was not the greatest comic book artist of all-time, then surely Steve Ditko is.

One of my early favourites is the story "Do Not Panic!" which first appeared in Strange Tales #95 (1962), although I first encountered it as a reprint in Curse of the Weird #1 (1994). Stan Lee was scripter and signed his name, as he often did on Ditko tales.

From a worm's eye perspective we see people panicking as an otherworldly craft descends from the skies. From there the perspective moves to people indoors listening intently to radio broadcasts of the craft's descent; people lock their doors. A squad of tanks arrive to encircle the craft at its landing sight. It's very much in the spirit of The Day the Earth Stood Still.

A lone astronaut emerges from the craft, clad from head to toe in a spacesuit. The wary soldiers demand he drop his gun belt; the astronaut politely complies. Offering friendship, the astronaut removes his helmet to reveal he is a normal-looking human man. The soldiers are Martians and the setting has, from the start, been upon Mars rather than Earth.

"Do Not Panic!" is only four pages and it's the right length. The story has a very simple premise and the tale gets in and out right on cue. Ditko was very careful to avoid depicting the Martians' faces until the last panel, but he did so in ways which would not tip the readers off to the twist - the lack of faces simply adds to the sense of paranoia gripping the populace. This tale is representative of many of those which Ditko produced for Atlas (nearly all of them scripted by Lee). These tales were almost all based around a very simple twist ending, but sometimes that twist could be unclear or require too much explanation at the climax. Here, the twist is told entirely through visuals, not text and that makes this a particularly special thing in comic books, a medium where all-too-often emphasis is placed on text instead of image.

Do enjoy your ninetieth year, Mr. Ditko.

Friday, November 3, 2017

Imagination and Action

I haven't written much on this blog about my most recent trip to Angola, but I have been giving a few talks in and about Calgary. Last Sunday I was the guest speaker at my church, Holy Trinity, and you can hear a recording of my talk here. I hope to compose something for the blog eventually.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

"...As of a person in strong excitement." Ghost Stories of an Antiquary Vol. 2 review

The fine folks at SelfMadeHero have released a new collection in their series Ghost Stories of an Antiquity. Like the first volume (reviewed here) volume 2 features four adaptations of stories by M. R. James, adapted by writers Leah Moore & John Reppion with a different artist on each tale. This time they chose four stories which I think are four of the absolute best: "Number 13," "Count Magnus," "Oh, Whistle, and I'll Come to You, My Lad," & "The Treasure of Abbot Thomas."

Beginning with the last entry, "The Treasure of Abbot Thomas" was my high school introduction to the works of M. R. James, although I didn't note the author or title of the story at the time and for years afterward would wonder where I could find that story. In this comic book adaptation, artist Meghan Hetrick renders the story with lush, bright colours which almost look like a child's storybook; then, of course, the terrible creature lurking in the well puts in its appearance and the visuals are quite a bit more ghastly!

"Oh, Whistle, and I'll Come to You, My Lad" is drawn by Al Davison with very crisp, clear lines well-suited to the material. However, the adaptation lacks much of the whimsy in the original story, as the original was written in a very breezy narrative style, while the adaptation leans more heavily into dramatics. It looks fantastic, but I was disappointed each time I realized a favourite passage of mine had been adapted out.

"Count Magnus" is drawn by Abigail Larson and while the colours (by Al Davison) are vibrant, the story yet manages to appear appropriately gloomy. It's sometimes called a "vampire story" as it involves a man returning from his coffin. This adaptation captures the suspense of those scenes - the slow build-up to the eventual opening of the coffin. Very well done.

Saving the best for last, "Number 13" is drawn by George Kambadais. This too features crisp art and colours and breaks down the original story in such an elegant, faithful manner that every beat of the story is well-preserved here. This is the story of a man staying in a hotel where sometimes there's a room numbered '13' and sometimes there isn't. All the scenes where the occupant of 13 is glimpsed are simply perfect, giving away enough to provide horror while holding back to leave suspense. "Number 13" opens the book and has my highest recommendation of the four.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

The Thing about barf bag movies

When I was young I placed a great deal of stock in what film critics had to say. My family's copy of the Roger Ebert film guide was a massive doorstopper, but I read it cover-to-cover - more than once! I would quote from it to my family! One review of Ebert's which made an impression upon me was his review of the 1982 film the Thing by director John Carpenter. Ebert summed up the film as a "great barf-bag movie."
"'The Thing' is basically, then, just a geek show, a gross-out movie in which teenagers can dare one another to watch the screen."

I trusted in Ebert's opinion and that persuaded me to avoid this picture. I mean, I felt I had a pretty weak constitution where horror films were concerned to begin with. I liked horror films a lot, but ever since seeing The Wolf Man as a child and being freaked out by the transformation scenes, I had realized how easily my imagination could be set off by horror films. Further, I grew up in the age of the gross-out slasher flicks, a genre which Ebert had great disdain for. In fact, although Ebert tried to from time to time to present himself as a film buff who enjoyed a good crass & exploitative film, nearly every horror film in his guide received a withering review. I bought a copy of the Howard Hawks version of The Thing (which Ebert deemed "better") and decided that was about the level of horror that I wanted - don't give me any of that blood & gore!

I was that kid who read the newspaper every morning and flipped straight to the entertainment section to read film reviews. I was that kid who watched Siskel and Ebert every week. But over time I began to realize I didn't always agree with the authorities and there were certainly times where Ebert would display a level of ignorance in his reviews which stunned me - I thought he was infallible within his career! But eventually I had to admit, he wasn't always well-informed and his tastes weren't necessarily my own.

When I received a subscription to the horror channel Scream I found myself flipping there quite often. Many of their films were pure trash. However, from time to time movies I had always been curious about would appear. So too would pictures I had assumed I would never watch because they were surely too disturbing for my imagination. And yet, one day I caught the last half of Day of the Dead, watched the cast get eaten alive in the climax and went, "Huh. That was disgusting, but not scary." Then Scream aired The Thing and I went, "Wow. That was disgusting and scary."

I've since realized my constitution is actually pretty strong. My imagination tells me I can't handle certain visuals, but then I encounter them and manage just fine. Reality is always so much easier to digest. Just this last summer I spent a few weeks helping in an operating room and was startled to realize that nothing actually startled me - I could sick my hands inside people bodies and take it just fine. I could be bathed in blood from mask to shoes and not be fazed. What I'm saying then, is that I'm not a good person to advise others as to what is or isn't disgusting - 'cause it turns out I have very high tolerance. But what's scary? That's a little harder to define.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Dracula Month Day 31: Unearthed: Fright #1!

Happy Halloween!

Welcome to the end of Dracula Month and another installment of my occasional series Unearthed wherein I delve into forgotten comic books of the past. Once again I'm going back into the archives of the 1970s Atlas comics; before I begin, here's what I've previously featured:
The Destructor #1
The Destructor #2
The Destructor #3
The Destructor #4
The Hands of the Dragon #1
Morlock 2001 and the Midnight Men #3
Tigerman #1
Tigerman #2
Tigerman #3

Today it is Atlas' one-and-only Dracula comic, natch. Said comic book is Fright #1 with the feature 'Son of Dracula'! This was the only issue of Fright, printed in June, 1975. By the time it came out Marvel Comics' Tomb of Dracula was well underway and had proven there was an audience for a monthly dose of the ol' count. Let's get started!

The cover depicts Dracula's image looming over that of his son while said son is trying to neck with a lady. "Spwaned in Hell to stalk the night! The strangest vampire of all!" Note the chalk-white skin on the son, which is also how Marvel initially coloured Dracula in their comics before granting him fleshy tones. The story is entitled "And Unto Dracula Was Born a Son" by writer Gary Friedrich and artist Frank Thorne. Friedrich is no stranger to Atlas or this feature, having also written Morlock 2001 and the Midnight Men. Frank Thorne remains best-known for his lovely renderings of Red Sonja. This is another Atlas book with a perfectly fine creative team; again, this publisher had all the resources they needed to succeed.

We open in rural Transylvania as some villagers who look like they came straight from Universal casting are trying to burn a supposed witch to death upon a brier. Dracula sees and judges them "Fools! Such a waste of young beauty -- of fresh blood!" Dracula swoops in and easily frightens the villagers then carries the woman back to his castle in the form of an immense bat. Some spectacular horror art from Thorne ensues as his giant bat is rendered as something perfectly monstrous.

As Dracula examines the woman he discovers a mark upon her breast which he identifies as "the mark of my family." He determines the woman is his only living relative and decides to spare her life (the mark is not depicted on-panel). When she awakens Dracula greets her as his cousin, identifying her as his fourth cousin. However, the woman knows what Dracula is and is afraid of him. Dracula offers to transform her into a vampire but she offers him something better: "A son, cousin!" Yes, inbreeding is popular amongst hillbilles, royalty and vampires. The woman's only condition is that Dracula not transform her into a vampire, then he can have their son to raise as his heir. The duo are seen "hours later" in what is supposed to be a post-lovemaking session (but although this is Thorne it's tasteful).

Nine months later the woman shows off her newborn son to Dracula but informs him: "As soon as I'm able, you'll not see him again! He must never become one of your kind!" That wasn't part of the bargain she made which makes one wonder why she made the proposal to begin with - sure, it saved her life in the short-term, but why didn't she escape during those nine months when she knew what would happen at the end? Anyway, threatening a vampire never goes well and when she claims she'll smother the child if Dracula draws too close he determines "You are of no further use to me!" and lunges in to drink her blood to transform her into a vampire. However, although she's weakened from the assault she slips out of the castle with her baby the next morning and rides to the sea, entrusting her child to someone else for safekeeping. She places a charm around her son's neck and claims if anything happens to the charm, "the boy might die!"

Dracula catches up to the woman at the docks, noting that in one more night she'll be a vampire like him and he wants their son to join them (this is some odd vampire lore - usually vampire victims are dead while transforming into vampires whereas here they can apparently remain alive and human during the interval). The woman refuses to become a vampire and throws herself upon a sharp piece of wood, dying. Dracula vows to find his son.

Seven years later in Appalachia... because again, hillbillies, royalty and vampires have much in common... we see the woman who was charged with protecting Dracula's son (now called 'Derek') has kept the charm around Derek's neck and has him sleep with a cross in his arms each night. As Derek wonders why he must do these strange things, Dracula bursts in to explain. The adopted mother drives Dracula off with a cross but Dracula vows to return and claim Derek. Or rather 'Adam' because the adopted mother suddenly begun calling him that. Anyway, she seals Adam up inside a wine cellar then blows up the entrance with gunpowder so that Dracula won't be able to find him... so instead he'll suffocate inside the buried wine cellar? And how is it helping Adam to deprive him of his only caregiver and sole person who understood his condition as the son of Dracula? Pay no attention to those questions because once the explosion clears we jump ahead to Adam's adulthood.

It's now 1975 (present-day) and Adam Lucard (because the Dracula family has that terrible knack for choosing obvious aliases) is a teacher at Columbia University, New York City. Adam lectures his students abothe the occult and shows off his charm to the class as an example of supernatural belief. Adam's student Debbie Porter is quite hot for teacher and reveals she's a practising witch, but Adam is brooding for that evening he must seal himself up in his home with his cross to abate his thrist for human blood. Hold up, what? It seems even though Dracula didn't convert Adam into vampirism he has basically inherited it and must be eternally vigilant against it. A flashback reveals Adam only recently learned all of this when his 2nd adopted mother was on her deathbed and gave him a book which the 1st adopted mother had left with him, containing details of the occult powers of vampires.

While Adam is trying to sleep Debbie breaks into his apartment because she doesn't understand 'personal space.' Debbie sees Adam asleep with the cross on his chest and decides to awaken him with a kiss - but first removes the cross. The joke's on her as he awakens to kiss her - as a vampire! Yes, despite all the long decades of work done by Adam's mother, adopted mother and 2nd adopted mother it's all for naught - he's become a vampire and he bites Debbie in the neck for her blood. In his vampire form Adam doesn't even recognize Debbie.

Adam leaves his apartment to go hunting for more blood. It turns out Debbie brought a friend with her who was waiting down in the street and he attacks her as well. Adam returns to his apartment and falls asleep. He awakens in the morning as a human but at the sight of Debbie's body Adam realizes he must have lost control and claimed other people's lives. Adam drives a stake into Debbie's heart to prevent her becoming a vampire then ponders whether he should destroy himself to keep him from killing again. And on this somber note, the book ends.

Thoughts: This premise suggests not only that Atlas was looking to Marvel Comics' Tomb of Dracula but also to their hero Morbius, the Living Vampire, a similarly human who transformed into a vampire. It also reminds one of heroes who transformed into monsters at night such as Werewolf by Night and Gary Friedrich's own Ghost Rider.

There are glitches in the story - as noted, there is confusion about the Son of Dracula's name as it appears he was supposed to be 'Derek' with the 1st adopted mother and 'Adam' with the 2nd, but through a slip-up he was called 'Adam' before the 1st adopted mother's death. Frankly, I'm not sure why the entire scene of the 1st mother killing herself and burying Adam alive is even in the story - it necessitates the creation of a 2nd adopted mother who then dies herself in flashback and I have no idea how burying Adam alive was supposed to deter Dracula.

Still, as noted, this could have worked out in the same way other reluctant monsters such as Morbius, Ghost Rider and the Werewolf. This is a decent Atlas comic with great Frank Thorne artwork.

(Scans in this post from The Horrors of It All blog)