Friday, August 29, 2014

Unearthed: Justice, Inc.#2

Before I begin the review, let's talk about the Avenger; he's a pulp hero who appeared in Street & Smith magazines from 1939-1942 - a fairly brief tour of duty, yet he's been brought back via the medium of comics several times, courtesy of DC Comics. Most recently, he appeared in 2009's First Wave; he also appeared in DC's Shadow comic books and in his own mini-series around 1989; the series we're looking at began in 1975 and lasted only four issues. Launching as a companion book to DC's Shadow series, it seems as though whenever someone dusts off the Street & Smith back catalog he's given a mandatory revival. His DC books have been called Justice, Inc. after the Avenger's team, rather than himself - probably because of potential difficulties from either Steed & Ms. Peel or the Maria Stark Foundation.

Although I haven't read the Avenger's pulp stories, nor have I read issue #1 of this series, I don't think that's a necessarily a problem. Not being a comic book character by origin, the Avenger comic book incarnations have to seek new audiences by matter of necessity as his original demographic are all either in rest homes or cemetaries. Also, the first issue was written by Dennis O'Neil & Al McWilliams while as of this second issue Jack "King" Kirby is the man on deck. "Kirby is here!" should have been proclaimed on the cover. Let's check out that cover now, yeah?

Kirby's name isn't advertised per se, but you can't miss it - this is during the years where Kirby's signature had become an obtrusive seal. This is a good cover, although I don't think the pose of the "Sky Walker" is quite correct - he seems to be simply hovering mid-air, not walking. Oh, right, I should also mention the Avenger, the series hero - he's the man on the left.

We begin this fast-paced action-packed tale with a title splash page, something Kirby had mastered about 30 years prior (but seldom used in the Marvel super hero books) while the story begins on page 2. Helpfully, the title page informs us this is an adaptation from a story by Kenneth Robeson. We open on a train which derails due to someone sabotaging the track. The Avenger and someone named Smitty happen to pass by in their airplane and land to help the survivors. However, they find a gang of looters pillaging the bodies of the dead train passengers. After being roughed up, the looters admit they weren't responsible for the derailing but simply took advantage of the situation. However, they're all distracted by the presence of a man walking on the sky above them. As the skywalker disappears into the clouds, the Avenger tells Smitty they need to fly their plane to Chicago.

At the Chicago manor of inventor Robert Gant, we meet his African-American butler & maid, Josh and Rosabel. A gang of men in trenchcoats enter the manor and shoot Gant to death; seeing this, Josh tries to fight the killers bare-handed; he's helped by the Avenger & Smitty. Introductions are made and although at first Josh changes his dialect to a "minstrel show" voice, the Avenger recognizes Josh is wearing a Phi Beta Kappa Key on his suit, meaning he's actually quite intelligent; resuming his normal voice, Josh begins to learn about the Avenger and both he and Rosabel are welcomed to join Justice, Incorporated as they hunt the men responsible for Robert Gant's death. In an aside, Smitty tells Rosabel how the Avenger is really Richard Henry Benson and how his face was frozen in grief after his wife and daughter were killed. We're beginning to learn about the Avenger, although we still don't know why the derailed train and skywalking man led him here.

Checking Gant's laboratory, the Avenger learns Abel Darcy had been financing Gant's experiments and Darcy owned the train which was derailed. The foursome head downtown to confront Darcy, but mid-transit they see the Skywalker, just as a skyscraper suddenly collapses into rubble. The Avenger tells Smitty, Rosabel & Josh to help the survivors while he carries on to Darcy. The Avenger bursts into Darcy's office and questions him about Gant. Darcy says Gant had been developing a new type of steel for railroads; this was evidently all the Avenger needed to know and he exits, enters a hotel and uses a makeup kit to disguise himself as Darcy. When Darcy leaves his office, the Avenger takes his place there and searches the office, finding documents which explain everything (unfortunately we're still in the dark), but a gang of hoodlums enter the office, having ascertained "Darcy" is really the Avenger; thus, a fight breaks out.

The Avenger's makeup takes a bad dent during the scuffle, but Josh arrives (disguised as a janitor) to join the fight; however, the gang overcome the two men with a gas grenade. The gang tie the men up and leave, playing a message for them from Darcy (I guess Darcy knew the Avenger would return and recorded this immediately after their encounter?). Darcy informs him the Skywalker will be coming to destroy the building housing Darcy's own office. Darcy intends to extort Chicago for millions by threatening to destroy their skyline. The Avenger & Josh get our of their ropes and leap from the building to its neighbour before the Skywalker destroys it.

At last, the Avenger explains what's been going on: Gant created a sound ray which can cause steel to vibrate into pieces and Darcy tested it on the rail which was destroyed. Darcy also ordered Gant's death to protect the secret (although since the Avenger somehow knew Gant was the inventor of this sound ray without any sleuthing, that was a waste of time). Gant's other great invention is an invisible metal which has been used to create an invisible airplane - that's what the Skywalker has been standing upon (and now Paradise Island will lose their monopoly on invisible jets!). In fact, the Skywalker is Darcy himself.

The Avenger returns to his airplane and pursues the Skywalker, firing armor piercing shells which hit the Skywalker, causing him to accidentally activating the sound ray; the sound ray destroys his plane from the inside and the Skywalker falls to his death.

Following the story, there's a text piece "Justice Inc. in the Movies?" Although author Allan Asherman is confident the Avenger would soon have his own feature film, 40 years later it remains a pipe dream. The article is mostly fan-casting the film because in the primitive days of 1975, there was no Wizard magazine.

Thoughts: Kirby delivers an excellent series of action-filled panels, but there's way too much plot in this book, probably because of its origins as a novel. The trail which led the Avenger from the train crash to Chicago isn't apparent and it takes too long to connect the train crash, death of Gant, Darcy and the Skywalker together. Kirby's fine action-based story is not complimented by O'Neil's dense mystery-based plot.

Additionally, we don't get a very good look at the Skywalker because he barely appears in the story and is always at a distance, seen from the heroes' perspective until the finale, so the revelation he's actually in an airplane is interesting, but unprecedented. We're also never given a proper introduction to Smitty, nor is Rosabel ever seen to possess a talent or knowledge which justifies her membership in Justice, Inc. If the mystery were toned down - perhaps by omitting the train crash & robbery and instead opening at Gant's manor - there might have been more room to better establish the protagonists and antagonists.

So far as the story goes, I most enjoyed Josh's brief turn to "minstrel show" dialogue and his quick reversal when the Avenger found him out as a college man. That was a neat touch of period race relations.

I can't overstate Kirby's contribution to this comic; I fear with a lesser talent - an artist incapable of delivering information in a concise, energetic, highly visual manner - O'Neil's laborious plotting would have rendered this book impenetrable.

Next time: More of Kirby and the Avenger in Justice, Inc.#3!

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Unearthed: The Destructor#3!

Welcome back to my examination of Atlas Comics' 1975 series the Destructor! Having covered issue #2 last time, we're on to issue #3!

For the third time in a row, Larry Lieber handles the cover art. Here we have our hero being attacked by the Huntress and her giant kitties while a stadium of businessmen cheer her on. I don't think anyone would seriously think for a minute that the Destructor is going to be defeated, but at least this cover sells this issue's villain - it certainly sells her more effectively than Deathgrip on the previous issue's cover. She actually looks formidable and avoids Deathgrip's awkward posture. As always, simplicity serves this comic best.

Perhaps the most important thing to note are the white fringes which have appeared on the Destructor's boots and gloves, evidently to give his appearance about 5% more pizzazz while still remaining pretty generic. The new design is found within as well.

We open "In the Hands of the Huntress" to note that while writer Archie Goodwin and penciler Steve Ditko are back again, inker Wally Wood is MIA. Sadly, now that the series finally has a significant female character to be drawn, Wood has tapped himself out. The actual inker is uncredited, but the Grand Comics Database attributes the role to Frank Giacoia.

We're back to the Combine, the faceless masters of last issue's villain Deathgrip; they're no longer quite as faceless, as one member - Dr. Shroud - is identified as the one who designed Deathgrip's hand. Shroud is working on something called the Darkriver Project, but believes they should deal with the Destructor at the same time (having evidently forgotten that the entire reason they involved the Destructor last time was to pit him against their rival Big Mike Brand). Noticing from films of his fighting style, Dr. Shroud believes the Destructor possesses enhanced animal-like senses; to that end, he has brought in an expert tracker: the Huntress! She demonstrates how her "laser-lash" weapon generates a crackling energy whip, boasting "there's practically no limit on what it can do!" Truly? Can you use it to fill out your tax return?

We return to the deserts of New Mexico... no wait, the pine forests of New Mexico where Big Mike Brand's ranch is located. From the Destructor's dialogue about his wounded arm, it seems this is indeed soon after last issue - no explanation as to why he changed his costume. To sneak back into Brand's ranch... because he couldn't walk in through the front door as Jay Hunter why, exactly? - the Destructor flings himself over the security fence by using one of the newfound pine trees as a catapult. Wow, after two issues of no particular storytelling issues, suddenly there are a lot of little things turning up.

While the Destructor takes a nap to let his left arm finish healing, Angela confronts her father about his career as a criminal, which she learned about from Deathgrip. Big Mike insists he's been preparing to confess his activities to the authorities, but Angela notes he lied to her about his life for 19 years - it's hard to trust him now. Big Mike's right-hand man Pepe notes he's been looking into Jay's background and learned about his connection to the Destructor (from issue #1), but Big Mike is too distraught by the conversation with Angela to pursue this train of thought.

The Destructor wakes up at night for a little Destructor: After Dark on Cinemax, as evinced by Angela heading to Jay's room in her nightie; Jay switches back to his civilian clothes in time to greet her and his arm is fully healed now. Angela is so clearly distraught that Jay helpfully speaks one of her speech balloons for her (above).

After hearing Angela's story, Jay heads out the next day as the Destructor, revisiting the auto yard Deathgrip used ("yesterday," he claims; I guess the police have already cleared up the crime scene?) to find out if the site owner had been working with Deathgrip. However, the Huntress (somehow) anticipated this and the Destructor sets off a trap which gasses him unconscious. The Huntress collects her quarry alongside Lobo, her Wolverine-before-it-was-cool-to-be-Wolverine sidekick. Returning to the Combine in Las Vegas, Huntress tells them she's caught the Destructor but rather than simply kill him, she intends to let him go free and hunt him, while cameras capture the event for the Combine's pleasure. The Combine point out this is not what they asked for and it makes more sense to kill him while he's helpless, but the Huntress is in love with this Most Dangerous Game homage.

The Destructor wakes up inside of a cage somewhere in the wild and smashes through the bars. The Huntress observes and sets after him with Lobo and her two pet mountain lions Siva and Kali. We now learn Lobo is infatuated with his mistress, but she is adamant that he's merely the "back-up man" and isn't physically attractive (as Wolverine had yet to make hairy comic book trolls sexy). The Huntress tells Lobo he can only hunt the Destructor if she fails, but she won't. Me-ow! I'd say she had him whipped, but if she tried her laser-lash would kill him.

The Destructor finds no way out of the valley the Huntress deposited him in as there's a force field encasing the area. Siva & Kali attack him but he dives into a pool to flush the big kitties away. His costume torn and scratched-up, the Destructor runs right into the Huntress! He manages to get past the laser-lash by throwing a piece of kindling at her, causing her to strike it with the lash and thus leaving her open to a punch, but Lobo intervenes to try and save the Huntress, causing the Destructor to run away. The Huntress throws two of the giant claws from her headband at him and the claws explode. She prepares to resume the hunt but Lobo insists on going ahead to prove he's "man enough" for her. Lobo follows a trail of blood to a cave and blindly opens fire with his gun into the mouth of the cave, but the Destructor's wounds have already healed and he snuck out of the cave, knowing it would bring someone there; with Lobo having wasted his amoo, the Destructor easily trounces the less-than-bright flunky.

The Destructor again tries to get through the force field, but this enables the Huntress to catch up. One of her lash blows strikes the force field as she tries to strangle the Destructor and the backlash hurls the Huntress over a cliff to her death (not that we readers knew they were standing on a cliff). With the force field shorted out due to the lash, the Destructor escapes, leaping himself away from the Combine. The next day the Combine scour Las Vegas to find the Destructor, reasoning his wounds would be severe enough to give him away in his civilian guise; of course, their men go right past Jay Hunter, whose body has again completely healed.

Thoughts: It's not as good as before, and not only because Wally Wood is gone (it doesn't help, anyway). The Combine have gone from being clever schemers who utilize the Destructor as a pawn against their enemies to a typically brain-dead criminal organization whose wealth of resources can't handle a lone man who barely knows they exist. Big Mike has gone from being possibly-good to essentially a reformed mobster, which makes him a lesser threat to the Destructor. And while the Destructor's terrific sensory powers would have been well-served in the Most Dangerous Game pastiche this issue, instead the Destructor seems to get through problems by relying on his healing factor (put he and Lobo together and you've got Wolverine!). Earlier issues were generic, but well-handled. This issue is just plain generic.

Next time on Unearthed: Something completely different; having looked at three obscure 70s Ditko comics, let's visit the King himself: Jack Kirby's Justice, Inc.!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

R.I.P.: Lauren Bacall

Back in the 1990s, I once began a conversation about Humphrey Bogart films with a co-worker. He was an older man, having easily 40 years over me. He more-or-less liked Bogart's pictures but complained about "all those movies he made with Lauren Bacall." I didn't have a retort prepared for him because I could only recall three pictures Bogart & Bacall made together (Dead Reckoning, Key Largo & the Big Sleep). In fact, there were only four Bogart-Bacall pictures.

Still, there was some kind of backlash against Bacall, a perception from outsiders that she had profited on her marriage to Bogart and Bogart's legacy, rather than being a talented actress in her own right. That was certainly how many critics reacted to her 1994 performance in Pret-a-Porter. Personally, I haven't much effort into seeing Bacall's roles outside of the four she made with Bogart (the only non-Bogart picture from her filmography I've seen is Harper).

Now that Bacall is dead, everyone is free to praise her again - just as the public originally loved her in To Have and Have Not (the fourth Bogart-Bacall film I couldn't think of in the earlier anecdote). There is very little about the film which is memorable, but for those moments when Bacall smoulders her way into the scenes. It fits perfectly with director Howard Hawks philosophy: "A good movie consists of three good scenes and no bad ones."

As an OTR fan, I should also make mention of Bacall's appearances in radio comedy & drama (almost always at Bogart's side). Although she and Bogart had their own syndicated show - Bold Venture - I can't really recommend it. It's okay, but every episode tends to sound alike. Instead, check out this fun episode of Jack Benny (mp3 at archive.org) where Bacall guest stars (naturally with Bogie tagging along).

Lauren Bacall will be remembered primarily as Bogart's better half, but she seemed to serve the role admirably (certainly better than his previous wives). One more piece of Hollywood's great past has been lost.

Monday, August 18, 2014

R.I.P.: Bob Hastings

I don't often comment on the deaths of old-time radio personalities - their ranks being (sadly) both small and finite - but there are some who certainly shouldn't be overlooked. Such a person is Bob Hastings, a talented performer whose career meets at an intersection between two of my interests - comic books & old-time radio. He passed away June 30th.

Hastings' was already a radio performer by age 14, beginning a career in voice acting which lasted 70 years. Hastings' first great role from the comic book genre came when he portrayed Archie Andrews on the radio (for about eight years). Unfortunately, it's a pretty awful radio show. Many radio shows of the day which featured comedic adventures of teenagers cast members used "funny voices" - actors whose voices cracked and broke. Archie's radio show was easily the most egregious offender against one's hearing (even the adult characters' voices crack). It's generally affirmed that Archie is one of the lousier old-time radio programs.

Fortunately, there was a lot more of Hastings on the radio in those days. Probably his greatest gift to we OTR fans were his appearances on NBC's Dimension X and successor program X Minus One, two great science fiction anthology shows. My favourite episodes with voice acting by Hastings are (links will take you to an archive.org mp3 file):

  • Cold Equations Tom Godwin's infamous tale of a woman who steals aboard a spaceship and the horrible reprecussions of her actions. Hastings portrays the husband of the doomed woman.
  • Marionettes, Inc. A swell Ray Bradbury story where men purchase android duplicates of themselves so they can escape from their wives. Hastings has a minor role as a bank clerk.
  • Junkyard A weird, almost equal parts funny and horrifying story about men setting their starship down on a world where people constantly lose knowledge, leaving the crew unable to recall how to activate their engines. Hastings plays a crewmember.
  • Skulking Permit A funny story about a colony which has been cut off from Earth for far too long; as Earth reestablishes contact, they're desperate to prove they're just like the humans they've read about in books, unaware Earth is now a tyrannical dictatorship. Hastings plays one of the complacent colonists.

Although he played Superboy on a 1960s animated series (his voice still quite able to achieve the teenage tones he'd used as Archie), Hastings' most beloved voice acting role came in 1993 with the launch of Batman: the Animated Series. His voice now roughened up by the passage of time, Hastings portrayed Commissioner Gordon. On the program, Gordon rarely got to be more than a stooge to the show's titular hero, but Gordon got in a few good lines from time to time and in one memorable outing - "Over the Edge" - went through an emotional rollercoaster which pit his brain and nerve against Batman himself.

Hastings remained with the program through 1999 and for many of us, served as the definitive Commissioner Gordon. Thank you for sharing your gifts with us, Bob!

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Unearthed: The Destructor#2

Not content to give up after issue #1, I'm back for more of Atlas Comics' generic-yet-appealing super hero the Destructor!

Again we open with a Larry Lieber cover because - inexplicably - Atlas Comics did not realize advertising the fact Steve Ditko served as the series' artist might bring in more readers (of course, covers were always done early; p'rhaps Lieber drew all of the series' covers before Ditko had even been hired). Take notice of the words "All New No Reprint" in the top right corner. By 1975, the comic book industry had certainly been overrun with reprinted stories and the publishers usually disguised the fact that said reprints were not all-new material. In fact, it's been alleged that the entire reason for Marvel expanding the number of reprint titles in their library was simply to crush Atlas, forcing them off their newsstands (theorizing that vendors could more easily sell reprints of Don Heck's Avengers or Werner Roth's X-Men than gamble on an unknown quantity such as Morlock 2001 or Demon Hunter). If the direct market had been a force in those days, Atlas might have stood a better chance.

Anyway, the cover also serves to introduce the issue's villain: Deathgrip. He doesn't seem that formidable here (if his right hand can emit crackles of destructive energy, why is he bothering with that hook in his left hand?) and the woman hanging off the girder is needless clutter. The previous issue's cover was a touch generic, but it did a better job of selling the Destructor.

This story is called "Deathgrip!" and is again brought to us by writer Archie Goodwin, penciler Steve Ditko & inker Wally Wood. We resume the Destructor's tale by visiting the fallout from the first issue. While Destructor's primary foe Max Raven is dead, his lieutenant Lash and his mob are still a concern. There's a nice Daredevil-like bit where the Destructor's superhuman senses alert him to a truck trying to drive him over while he's in the midst of a fight. With the rest of Lash's men down, the Destructor moves in on the leader, but Lash points out if he's brought down, the Syndicate will simply bring in another leader, just as Lash replaced Raven. He suggests the Destructor should strike at the Syndicate's leader Big Mike Brand, who lives on a ranch in Ransom, New Mexico. The Destructor swallows this story and sets out to investigate Brand.

Once the Destructor leaves, Lash meets with a shadowy figure (soon revealed as Deathgrip) as they conspire over how they've tricked the Destructor into bringing down the Syndicate so their true masters the Combine can take over. While Jay Hunter briefly flashes back over his origin story, Deathgrip hints at his own origin (apparently the Combine supplied him with his bionic right hand) while being self-aware enough to note "Subtlety can hardly be the stock-in-trade of anyone called Deathgrip!" However, Deathgrip isn't with Lash simply to conspire - the Combine wants Lash killed. Deathgrip does so, apparently by burning through Lash's throat with his hand (Ditko cuts away for matters of discretion). "See Lash? No subtlety!" Deathgrip remarks. Again, while the Destructor is a fairly average series, Goodwin's scripting is well above average.

While Jay sets off to New Mexico, thinking how prior to his father's death he used to idolize Big Mike Brand, Deathgrip checks in with the Combine. The Combine want Deathgrip in Las Vegas for a new assignment, but he insists on following the Destructor's actions. The Combine agree, provided he serve only as a last resort - the Combine don't want Brand's death to be traced back to their agents.

In the New Mexico desert, Jay catches a rattlesnake and uses it to startle Brand's horseback-riding daughter Angela, giving Jay an opportunity to win Brand's confidence. One can't help but notice inker Wally Wood always wakes up when it's time to ink a pretty girl (and all girls are pretty in Wood's comics). Jay's plan works and Brand invites him back to the ranch, although Brand's top bodyguard Pepe is suspicious of Jay. For good measure, Jay fouls up Brand's car so he can save the day again through his mechanic training.

Jay soon accepts a job offer as Brand's chauffeur and intends to tear Brand's empire apart from within. As a continuing premise, this isn't too bad; if Jay's double identity/purpose is discovered by these people, it's worse than losing a secret - it would mean his life. And you thought Aunt May gave Peter Parker a lot of grief! Over dinner with the Brands, Jay meets Angela's boyfriend Glenn Thorne, whose curly perm suggests an underlying menace.

That evening, Jay dons his costume and breaks into Brand's office where he discovers Brand no longer has anything to do with the Syndicate operations Lash had been dealing in. The Destructor is seen by Brand's guards before he can leave and they shoot him, but his healing powers again save his life. Elsewhere, Deathgrip hears about the break-in and fears the Destructor might know Lash lied to him; he decides to go against the Combine and strike immediately.

The next day, Glenn takes Angela for a drive to an auto dump, where he removes a mask and wig to expose himself (in a fully-clothed manner) as Deathgrip tells of his origins as a cardsharp who lost a hand in an auto wreck. He again uses "subtle," this time to describe his ability with cards, but notes with his new hand "I can never be subtle again!"

Soon, Deathgrip sends a message to Big Mike: get out of the country and don't turn anything over to the authorities, or Angela will die. Jay overhears this and has begun to think Brand might not be the terrible gang lord he once was; Jay decides he'll rescue Angela. At the auto yard, Deathgrip shows off the compactor and has Angela locked inside a car, planning to crush her if her father doesn't comply with his demands. Fortunately, the Destructor arrives. Although Deathgrip's bionic hand causes Jay terrible pain, his quick healing enables him to stagger through and eventually he manoeuvres Deathgrip under the compactor's crane; Deathgrip's metal hand causes him to cling to the magnet and the Destructor releases him in the compactor, crushing him to death. The Destructor leaves the auto yard with Angela, still wondering if he'll have to kill her father.

Thoughts: Not bad. Again, average and I didn't find Wood's inking as energetic as before - the first issue had a kind of softness about the lines, whereas this issue feels almost glossy. Still, I'm one of those who always enjoys Ditko's layouts and Goodwin is virtually unbeatable as a scripter, so it's still a decent package. This is a minor treasure - worthwhile for any fan of Ditko, Goodwin or Wood.

In the next installment of Unearthed: The Destructor#3!

Saturday, August 16, 2014

"There is still honor in war!" Usagi Yojimbo: Senso#1 review

Stan Sakai's Usagi Yojimbo has been on hiatus since 2012 and won't truly return until next year, but at least some brand-new Usagi material has finally emerged: Usagi Yojimbo: Senso, a six-issue mini-series set about 20 years into the character's future.

For a fan such as I, there's a lot to enjoy in this book - Usagi and his old rhinoceros friend Gen are now employed by the Geishu Clan (something Usagi had avoided in the regular series), Lord Noriyuki is now fully-grown, Jotaro is now an adult warrior and the series' top antagonists Lord Hikiji and Hebi appear in full armour (Hebi's snakey body always makes armour on him a little hysterical to see). Heck, Hikiji appearing on-panel is an awfully rare occurrence!

In the midst of this showdown between Noriyuki & Hikiji's forces, there's a scientist named Takenoko who has developed a turlte-like tank for Noriyuki's side; this is the first hint of the science-fiction elements in this story, which are later enhanced by the arrival of a giant metal cylinder from space, which we readers already know from interviews will contain Martian invaders! Will they have tripods? I can't wait to find out!

Senso#1 is filled almost completely with action sequences, beautifully composed by Sakai. We've seen large battlefield scenes in this series before, but here Sakai has the room to fill the pages with details - it's all too-too great and we know there's more to come! The crash of the Martian cylinder is a particularly well-caught burst of energy. Senso may not be set within the same continuity as the regular Usagi Yojimbo tales, but I'm pleased as punch with this first outing.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Creator credits for Guardians of the Galaxy

I decided not to cheat myself out of a good time with my friends and so, relented in going to see the new film Guardians of the Galaxy, then placing a donation to the Hero Initiative greater than the sum of my ticket.

Besides which, I eased up a little on the film because I had heard in advance that there was particular emphasis on the creators (notably Steve Gerber & Val Mayerik for Howard the Duck) and because Marvel chipped in to give bed-ridden Bill Mantlo a private viewing of the film.

Rather than my usual means of grouping entries together by the comic where they originated, instead I'm grouping these by the creator, from most-used to least. It's difficult to know which creators were responsible for which ideas which wound up in print, hence my crediting the writers and artists in every instance - yet, in some cases the idea could have originated with the inker, colorist, letterer, editor or someone whose name didn't even appear in the comic.

Keith Giffen Writer co-creator of the Kyln, an extraterrestrial prison (Thanos#7, 2004); co-creator of Drax's redesign with red body tattoos (Drax the Destroyer#3, 2006); co-creator of Moloka Dar, an inmate in the Kyln; Star-Lord held as an inmate of the Kyln (Thanos#8, 2004); co-creator of Groot's ability to regrow himself from a single piece (Annihilation: Conquest - Star-Lord#3, 2007); co-creator of Star-Lord building a team of agents out of a prison, including recruits Groot and Rocket Raccoon; Groot and Rocket Raccoon's friendship; Star-Lord's helmet with full faceplate, red goggles and breathing unit; Star-Lord favouring twin guns; Rocket favouring heavy artillery; Groot termed a "Flora Colossus" (Annihilation: Conquest - Star-Lord#1, 2007); co-creator of Drax wearing only pants; Drax preferring knives as weapons (Drax the Destroyer#4, 2006); co-creator of the Nova Corps operating as jailers (Annihilation Prologue#1, 2006); co-creator of Drax being held prisoner (Drax the Destroyer#1, 2005). Artist Co-creator of Rocket Raccoon, an anthropomorphic adventurous raccoon (Marvel Preview#7, 1976).

Jim Starlin Writer-Artist creator of Gamora, a dangerous green-skinned woman who wields knives (Strange Tales#180, 1975); creator of Gamora's name (Strange Tales#181, 1975); co-creator of Drax the Destroyer, a green-skinned man with great power and singular focus on hunting his enemies to their deaths; Thanos, a death-worshipping intergalactic warlord who inflicts genocide; Drax's vendetta against Thanos (Iron Man#55, 1973); co-creator of Thanos' quest for ultimate power (Captain Marvel#27, 1973); creator of Gamora's species the Zenwhoberis; Gamora adopted by Thanos; Gamora operating as Thanos' assassin; Thanos' base called Sanctuary (Warlock#10, 1975); creator of Gamora turning against Thanos (Avengers Annual#7, 1977); co-creator of Drax motivated by the deaths of his wife and daughter, which involved Thanos (Captain Marvel#32, 1974). Writer Co-creator of the Infinity Gems, six all-powerful stones; Thanos seeking the Infinity Gems (Thanos Quest#1, 1990); co-creator of Thanos travelling upon a hovering throne (Silver Surfer#34, 1990).

Jack Kirby Writer-Artist creator of the Celestials, immense intergalactic creatures who judge worlds (The Eternals#1, 1976); creator of the Celestial Eson (The Eternals#9, 1977); co-creator of the Skrulls, from whom the Chitauri were derived (Fantastic Four#2, 1962); co-creator of Ronan the Accuser, a Kree who wields the hammer-like Universal Weapon (Fantastic Four#65, 1967); co-creator of the Cosmic Cube, an all-powerful energy container (Tales of Suspense#79, 1966); co-creator of Him, an artificial being who emerges from a coccoon (Fantastic Four#66, 1967); co-creator of Groot, an immense tree-like being from Planet X (Tales to Astonish#13, 1960); co-creator of the Kree, an extraterrestrial race of conquerors (Fantastic Four#64, 1967); creator of Jemiah, one of the Celestials (The Eternals#7, 1977).

Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning Writers co-creators of Knowhere, a city carved from the interior of a decapitated Celestial; Cosmo, a Soviet dog in spacesuit who dwells on Knowhere (Nova#8, 2008); co-creators of Rocket Raccoon sticking Groot's remains in a planter to regrow him (Annihilation: Conquest#6, 2008); co-creators of Gamora, Drax, Star-Lord, Rocket Raccoon and Groot banded together as the Guardians of the Galaxy; the Guardians of the Galaxy on Knowhere; the Guardians of the Galaxy wearing matching uniforms; Rocket as the team's tactician; Rocket disliking Cosmo (Guardians of the Galaxy#1, 2008); co-creators of Groot's iterations of "I am Groot" having multiple meanings (Guardians of the Galaxy#17, 2009); co-creators of Groot's vocabulary limited to little more than "I am Groot" (Annihilation: Conquest#2, 2008).

Stan Lee writer co-creator of the Skrulls, from whom the Chitauri were derived (Fantastic Four#2, 1962); co-creator of Ronan the Accuser, a Kree who wields the hammer-like Universal Weapon (Fantastic Four#65, 1967); co-creator of the Cosmic Cube, an all-powerful energy container (Tales of Suspense#79, 1966); co-creator of the Collector, an extraterrestrial procurer of rare items, including sentient people (Avengers#28, 1966); co-creator of Him, an artificial being who emerges from a coccoon (Fantastic Four#66, 1967); co-creator of Groot, an immense tree-like being from Planet X (Tales to Astonish#13, 1960); co-creator of the Kree, an extraterrestrial race of conquerors (Fantastic Four#64, 1967); co-creator of Kraglin, an extraterrestrial criminal (Tales to Astonish#46, 1963).

Bill Mantlo Writer co-creator of the Nova Corps, an intergalactic force of peace officers comprising Nova Centurions (Rom#24, 1981); co-creator of Rocket Raccoon, an anthropomorphic adventurous raccoon (Marvel Preview#7, 1976); co-creator of Howard the Duck wearing pants (Howard the Duck#2, 1979); co-creator of Carina working for the Collector (Avengers#174, 1978); co-creator of Rocket Racccoon as a swashbuckling hero with the moniker "Rocket;" Rocket based in the Keystone Quadrant and Halfworld; Rocket's friend Lylla (Incredible Hulk#271, 1982).

John Buscema Artist co-creator of the Nova Centurions, Xandarian soldiers garbed in uniforms with chin-exposed helmets, a red starburst on their foreheads and a triangular star pattern on their chests; Dey, a Xandarian Nova Centurion; Nova Prime, title given to most powerful Nova Centurions (Nova#1, 1976); co-creator of Nebula, a blue-skinned villainous space pirate (Avengers#257, 1985); co-creator of Nebula related to Thanos; Nebula attempting the destruction of Xandar (Avengers#260, 1985).

Timothy Green II Artist co-creator of Groot's ability to regrow himself from a single piece (Annihilation: Conquest - Star-Lord#3, 2007); co-creator of Star-Lord building a team of agents out of a prison, including recruits Groot and Rocket Raccoon; Groot and Rocket Raccoon's friendship; Star-Lord's helmet with full faceplate, red goggles and breathing unit; Star-Lord favouring twin guns; Rocket favouring heavy artillery; Groot termed a "Flora Colossus" (Annihilation: Conquest - Star-Lord#1, 2007).

Marv Wolfman Writer co-creator of the Xandarians, an alien race very similar to humans (Fantastic Four#204, 1979); co-creator of the Nova Centurions, Xandarian soldiers garbed in uniforms with chin-exposed helmets, a red starburst on their foreheads and a triangular star pattern on their chests; Dey, a Xandarian Nova Centurion; Nova Prime, title given to most powerful Nova Centurions (Nova#1, 1976); co-creator of Xandar, homeworld of the Xandarians (Fantastic Four#205, 1979).

Mike Friedrich Writer co-creator of Drax the Destroyer, a green-skinned man with great power and singular focus on hunting his enemies to their deaths; Thanos, a death-worshipping intergalactic warlord who inflicts genocide; Drax's vendetta against Thanos (Iron Man#55, 1973); co-creator of Thanos' quest for ultimate power (Captain Marvel#27, 1973); co-creator of Drax motivated by the deaths of his wife and daughter, which involved Thanos (Captain Marvel#32, 1974).

Gene Colan Artist co-creator of Howard the Duck wearing pants (Howard the Duck#2, 1979); co-creator of Ronan depicted with blue skin; the Kree depicted with blue skin (Captain Marvel#1, 1968); co-creator of Yondu, a blue-skinned extraterrestrial with a red fin on his head; Yondu's yaka arrow, which is controlled by whistling; a team named the Guardians of the Galaxy (Marvel Super-Heroes#18, 1969).

Ron Lim Artist co-creator of the Kyln, an extraterrestrial prison (Thanos#7, 2004); co-creator of Moloka Dar, an inmate in the Kyln; Star-Lord held as an inmate of the Kyln (Thanos#8, 2004); co-creator of the Infinity Gems, six all-powerful stones; Thanos seeking the Infinity Gems (Thanos Quest#1, 1990); co-creator of Thanos travelling upon a hovering throne (Silver Surfer#34, 1990).

Mark Gruenwald Writer created the Collector's real name Taneleer Tivan (Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe#3, 1983); co-creator of Saal, a Xandarian Nova Centurion (Avengers#301, 1989); co-creator of Korath the Pursuer, one of the Kree Pursuers (Quasar#32, 1992); creator of Yondu Odonta's surname (Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe Deluxe Edition#5, 1986).

Steve Englehart Writer co-creator of Star-Lord, alias Peter Quill, a half-alien man orphaned at a young age who becomes a space-adventuring gun-wielding hero while searching for his origins; Meredith Quill, Peter's mother whose death leads him to discover his origins (Marvel Preview#4, 1976); co-creator of the Collector pursuing Infinity Gems (Silver Surfer#7, 1988).

Keith Pollard Artist co-creator of the Xandarians, an alien race very similar to humans (Fantastic Four#204, 1979); co-creator of Xandar, homeworld of the Xandarians (Fantastic Four#205, 1979); co-creator of the Pursuers, powerful Kree soldiers (Inhumans#11, 1977); co-creator of the A'askavarii, an extraterrestrial race (Black Goliath#5, 1976).

Sal Buscema Artist co-creator of the Nova Corps, an intergalactic force of peace officers comprising Nova Centurions (Rom#24, 1981); co-creator of Rocket Racccoon as a swashbuckling hero with the moniker "Rocket;" Rocket based in the Keystone Quadrant and Halfworld; Rocket's friend Lylla (Incredible Hulk#271, 1982).

Paul Pelletier Artist co-creator of Gamora, Drax, Star-Lord, Rocket Raccoon and Groot banded together as the Guardians of the Galaxy; the Guardians of the Galaxy on Knowhere; the Guardians of the Galaxy wearing matching uniforms; Rocket as the team's tactician; Rocket disliking Cosmo (Guardians of the Galaxy#1, 2008)

Mitch Breitweiser Artist co-creator of Drax's redesign with red body tattoos (Drax the Destroyer#3, 2006); co-creator of Drax wearing only pants; Drax preferring knives as weapons (Drax the Destroyer#4, 2006); co-creator of Drax being held prisoner (Drax the Destroyer#1, 2005).

Steve Gan Artist co-creator of Star-Lord, alias Peter Quill, a half-alien man orphaned at a young age who becomes a space-adventuring gun-wielding hero while searching for his origins; Meredith Quill, Peter's mother whose death leads him to discover his origins; (Marvel Preview#4, 1976).

Roger Stern Writer co-creator of Carina (Avengers#167, 1978); co-creator of Nebula, a blue-skinned villainous space pirate (Avengers#257, 1985); co-creator of Nebula related to Thanos; Nebula attempting the destruction of Xandar (Avengers#260, 1985).

Tom Raney Artist co-creator of Rocket Raccoon sticking Groot's remains in a planter to regrow him (Annihilation: Conquest#6, 2008); co-creator of Groot's vocabulary limited to little more than "I am Groot" (Annihilation: Conquest#2, 2008).

Arnold Drake Writer co-creator of Yondu, a blue-skinned extraterrestrial with a red fin on his head; Yondu's yaka arrow, which is controlled by whistling; a team named the Guardians of the Galaxy (Marvel Super-Heroes#18, 1969).

Roy Thomas Writer co-creator of the Soul Gem, from which the Infinty Gems were derived (Marvel Premiere#1, 1970); co-creator of Ronan depicted with blue skin; the Kree depicted with blue skin (Captain Marvel#1, 1968).

Don Heck Artist co-creator of the Collector, an extraterrestrial procurer of rare items, including sentient people (Avengers#28, 1966); co-creator of Kraglin, an extraterrestrial criminal (Tales to Astonish#46, 1963).

Chris Claremont Writer co-creator of Star-Lord journeying through space alone on his ship (Marvel Preview#11, 1977); co-creator of the A'askavarii, an extraterrestrial race (Black Goliath#5, 1976).

Wellinton Alves Artist co-creator of Knowhere, a city carved from the interior of a decapitated Celestial; Cosmo, a Soviet dog in spacesuit who dwells on Knowhere (Nova#8, 2008).

Doug Moench Writer co-creator of Bereet and her species, the Krylorians (Rampaging Hulk#1, 1977); co-creator of the Pursuers, powerful Kree soldiers (Inhumans#11, 1977).

Walter Simonson Writer-Artist creator of the Dark Elves (Thor#344, 1984); Artist co-creator of Bereet and her species, the Krylorians (Rampaging HulK#1, 1977).

Jim Shooter Writer co-creator of Carina (Avengers#167, 1978); co-creator of Carina working for the Collector (Avengers#174, 1978).

Carlo Pagulayan Artist co-creator of the Sakaarians, an extraterrestrial race with stone-like technology (Incredible Hulk#92, 2006).

Brad Walker Artist co-creator of Groot's iterations of "I am Groot" having multiple meanings (Guardians of the Galaxy#17, 2009).

Greg Pak Writer co-creator of the Sakaarians, an extraterrestrial race with stone-like technology (Incredible Hulk#92, 2006).

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

John Byrne Artist co-creator of Star-Lord journeying through space alone on his ship (Marvel Preview#11, 1977).

Scott Kolins Artist co-creator of the Nova Corps operating as jailers (Annihilation Prologue#1, 2006).

H.E. Huntley Artist co-creator of Kraglin, an extraterrestrial criminal (Tales to Astonish#46, 1963).

Steve Gerber Writer co-creator of Howard the Duck, an anthropomorphic sardonic duck (Fear#19, 1973).

M.C. Wyman Artist co-creator of Nebula's body reinforced with cybernetics (Silver Surfer#72, 1992).

Val Mayerik Artist co-creator of Howard the Duck, an anthropomorphic sardonic duck (Fear#19, 1973).

Pasqual Ferry Artist co-creator of Ronan as a servant of Thanos (Ultimate Fantastic Four#35, 2006).

Marshall Rogers Artist co-creator of the Collector pursuing Infinity Gems (Silver Surfer#7, 1988).

Greg Capullo Artist co-creator of Korath the Pursuer, one of the Kree Pursuers (Quasar#32, 1992).

Ron Marz Writer co-creator of Nebula's body reinforced with cybernetics (Silver Surfer#72, 1992).

Mike Carey Writer co-creator of Ronan as a servant of Thanos (Ultimate Fantastic Four#35, 2006).

Ralph Macchio Writer co-creator of Saal, a Xandarian Nova Centurion (Avengers#301, 1989).

David Wenzel Artist co-creator of Carina working for the Collector (Avengers#174, 1978).

Bob Hall Artist co-creator of Saal, a Xandarian Nova Centurion (Avengers#301, 1989).

Steve Epting Artist co-creator of Ronan working with Korath (Avengers#346, 1992).

Bob Harras Writer co-creator of Ronan working with Korath (Avengers#346, 1992).

Darick Robertson Artist co-creator of Saal's name (New Warriors#40, 1993).

Fabian Nicieza Writer co-creator of Saal's name (New Warriors#40, 1993).

Mark Millar Writer co-creator of the Chitauri (The Ultimates#8, 2002).

Bryan Hitch Artist co-creator of the Chitauri (The Ultimates#8, 2002).

George Perez Artist co-creator of Carina (Avengers#167, 1978).