Saturday, November 28, 2009

See my name in close proximity to Jeph Loeb's!

A preview for Fall of Hulks: Alpha has been released. You may recall that I blogged about this comic a while ago, but I didn't know if I would have a credit for my assistance in this issue. If you check the preview's credit page, you'll find my name at the end of the special thanks!

More about this book later; a few things have changed since it was first solicited!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Due tomorrow: Handbook volume 11!

Tomorrow is the release day for volume 11 of the Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe A to Z hardcover series. I blogged about volume 11 here.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

The handbook returns in February!

For most of the past two years there haven't been many all-new Marvel handbooks because of our focus on the hardcover bound collected edition. However, now that the hardcover set is nearly wound up, we're getting back to the old format of all-new content and this time there will be all-new art as well!



The most comprehensive guide to the Marvel Universe marches on in 2010! This 64-page handbook features the first handbook of ALL-NEW PROFILES since 2007, and spans the width and depth of the Marvel U: New characters! Never-before profiled characters! Golden Age! Cosmic! Teams! Mutants! Westerns! Dimensions! And because you demanded it: EXCLUSIVE ORIGINAL ART for dozens of profiles! This issue contains everything you need to know about Blue Marvel (Brashear), Cyttorak, Gladiator (Kallark), Googam, K'un-Lun, Midgard Serpent, Nimrod, Percy Pinkerton, Rockman, She-Hulk (Lyra), Western era Tarantula (Riley), Veranke, Xemnu, the Young Gods and dozens more! 64 PGS./Rated T+ ...$3.99

Friday, November 20, 2009

Index in February

We may have run out of issues of Iron Man & Uncanny X-Men to cover, but the Index isn't over yet!


Continuing the chronicle of the Marvel Universe, starting with Spider-Man (from AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #580 on), Iron Man (from WAR MACHINE #15 on) and the X-Men (from CLASSIC X-MEN #20 on). Follow the history of the Marvel universe as it unfolds month by month with the All-New Official Index to the Marvel Universe. Each issue provides synopses for dozens of individual comics, including back-up strips, introducing you to the characters, teams, places and equipment that appeared within, providing vital information about first appearances, where they last showed up and where they appeared next! 64 PGS./Rated A ...$3.99

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Dr. Thor is right - I'm running a fever

Sorry that the blog's been silent lately - between having a feverish workload from Marvel and an actual fever for the past few days, my priorities have been scuttled. I hope to have posts resume shortly.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Great Comic Book Supporting Characters: Rev. Craemer

One of my all-time favorite comic books is Suicide Squad, which ran for 66 issues under the authorship of John Ostrander. It concerned a secret squad comprised mainly of super villains who were sent on suicide missions by the US government in exchange for clemency. The Squad was run by the pragmatic Amanda Waller and based out of Belle Reve, a prison in Louisiana. In issue #10 (1988), we met Belle Reve's new chaplain, Father Richard Craemer:

Although most of the Squad members were unrepentant villains, there were also some heroes on the team and the nature of the Squad's missions often took a toll on them; Craemer was there for everyone on the team:

Although initially the Squad had a psychiatric staff to treat the team's often-warped members, the staff eventually resigned in protest of the way Waller treated the inmates. Craemer stepped up as the team's defacto counselor and issue #31 (1989) followed a day in his life as he looked in on the Squad's members and support staff, a format called "Personal Files" which had been used in previous issues back when the psychiatrists were around:

The highlight of the issue was Craemer's confrontation with Waller, where he serves as her conscience:

This last week, Ostrander returned to Craemer in Secret Six#15, where ex-Squad member Deadshot seeks help in controlling his homicidal urges:

Boy, it was great seeing Craemer again! Ever since 1988 he's been one of the best Christian characters in comics, and as a revisit--

Wait, he's Episcopalian now?!

Huh. Well, if he can't be Anglican, I'll take that. Cool.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Another book splurge

The other day the library held a book sale, offering up discards and duplicates (many of them 100+ year old hardcovers) at bargain prices, nothing more expensive than $1. Now, I was present to help set up, maintain and take down the sale, but that also meant I had fine opportunities to look over the wares and set aside whatever I was interested in. I didn't buy everything I was interested in, out of consideration for my bookshelves. I was interested in a copy of H.G. Wells' autobiography, but doubted that I would ever read it. Restricting myself to books I wanted as reading material, not shelf decorations, I came up with:
  • The Confessions of St. Augustine, 1838.
  • The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde, 1891.
  • The Complete Works of O. Henry, 1928.
  • Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll, 1932.
  • The Devil and Daniel Webster by Stephen Vincent Benet, 1937.
  • The Heart of the Matter by Graham Greene, 1948.
  • Escape or Die by Paul Brickhill, 1952.
  • Spark of Life by Erich Maria Remarque, 1952.
  • The Flying Inn by G.K. Chesterton, 1958.
  • Eyeless in Gaza by Aldous Huxley, 1961.
  • This Gun for Hire by Graham Greene, 1982.

I'm in good shape in terms of reading material for the next few months!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Anthony Castrillo on Dynamo 5#25!

It was a pleasant surprise to find that one of the back-up stories of Dynamo 5#25 was drawn by Anthony Castrillo, one of my all-time favorite artists. Witness the wonder!

Boy, even though I first saw Castrillo's art in the days of his Fantastic Four run, it was when he became the writer/artist of Superman that I took notice of him; by the age of ten, he was the one artist I knew by name and could usually identify by sight. In the years since then I followed him to Sensational She-Hulk, Namor the Sub-Mariner, Next Men and Superman/Batman: Generations. Even when his run on Spider-Man was being savaged by fandom, I still thrilled to Castrillo's work on Marvel: The Lost Generation. More recently, I loved the black and white treatment his work received in Angel: Blood and Trenches. Now, I will admit that his inking seems rushed, bu--


Oh, no, you're quite mistaken. I certainly do know who Anthony Castrillo is. Just look at this gorilla from Dynamo 5#25!

If he's not a twin to Castrillo's Grunt from Doom Patrol, then my eyes need to be examined.


You say Anthony Castrillo is simply homaging John Byrne's art?

Wellll...maybe it's a pseudonym! Yeah! Byrne's an anti-Stratfordian, he understands that sometimes creative people have to hide their name...

You say Anthony Castrillo has his own website? But it could be an elaborate hoax! The comics version of Chris Gaines! It just can't...oh, bother...

Well, I suppose congratulations are in order for Mr. Castrillo, who has certainly performed an admirable job of aping Mr. Byrne. It's no small wonder to find an imitator in comics these days, what with Ian Churchill and Dan Panosian having both given up on drawing like Liefeld.

Still, it was once a tradition in the comics that every great artist have an imitator or twelve caught in his wake. Barry Smith started out as a Kirby clone:

But within a few years of Conan he'd sprouted a new name, Barry Windsor-Smith and developed a style worthy of this more pretentious nom de guerre:

Similarly, Bill Sienkiewicz started out looking quite a bit like Neal Adams:

He, uh, hasn't been mistaken for Adams in a very long time:

Today's artists who need a shortcut to honing their style seldom seem to adopt the styles of another artist. In these times, the cool kids seem to prefer Photoshop.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Index#11 tomorrow!

The Official Index to the Marvel Universe#11 comes out tomorrow in all finer comic book stores! More details about it here!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Warlord of Io #2 is out!

Slave Labor Graphics' website has released Warlord of Io#2, the third chapter in James Turner's saga which began in Warlord of Io and Other Stories. As with issue #1, the comic is available as a pdf file you buy and download from the SLG site.

We pick up where issue #1 left off: recently deposed Emperor Zing who ruled Io for approximately one hour is being chased by members of the military coup who ousted him. His only allies are his bodyguard Urk and lady friend Moxy Comet. Zing's only hope is his faith in video game logic and the occasional stupidity of his pursuers.

Highlights in this epic space battle issue include suicide torpedoes who lack the incentive to give their lives; giant aliens who smuggle weapons by pretending they're toys; and instructions on how to defeat a capital starship: send them a space mail with a virus attached.

Warlord of Io#2 costs a measly $1 at Slave Labor Graphics! Buy it here

Sunday, November 1, 2009

How Halloween made me a fan of Jack Benny

I spoke yesterday about my interest in old-time radio horror programs. When I first became a fan (I was about 13) I was primarily interested in the horror, mystery and science fiction anthology shows, programs like Inner Sanctum, Suspense, Escape, Dimension X, X Minus One, Lights Out, the Whistler...the only detective show I liked was the Shadow. Each night when I turned on QR77 I would listen carefully to which programs would be broadcast that night. If nothing interested me (re: no horror shows), I turned the radio off. When I had heard whichever programs I was interested in, I would turn it off.

I had some tolerance for detective shows (Sam Spade) or movie adaptations (Lux Radio Theater), but the one genre I wouldn't touch was comedy. To me, nothing in old-time radio seemed more dated than the comedy shows; many of them even grated on me*.

I would make an exception on certain occasions. In December, the days leading up to Christmas Eve would feature Christmas-themed shows and I would even listen to the comedy shows then. And every October 31st there would be a Halloween-themed lineup. Each year I would make a point of sitting up to listen, hoping for some show I hadn't heard before (the Weird Circle episode "Curse of the Mantel" was one I first heard on a Halloween), or at least the Mercury Theater's War of the Worlds adaptation (although having heard it dozens of times since then, it's lost a little potency for me).

And so, one Halloween I heard an episode of the Jack Benny Program. I don't think I had ever sat through a full episode before, but I considered it worthwhile just to get to the horror shows coming up afterward. The episode (from November 2, 1947) opened with some Halloween-flavored jokes, then went into a sketch where the cast parodied the Humphrey Bogart film Dark Passage.

"Why do they always have such good singers in prisons?"

At the time, I hadn't seen Dark Passage. I considered myself distinguished just for knowing Bogart. This did not matter. There were no real jokes about the film, as the sketch was mostly prison jokes (in the film, Bogart springs prison in the opening scene) and then plastic surgery jokes (which is what Bogart does in the next sequence). There weren't even jokes specifically about Bogart. Complete ignorance of the film had no impact on the sketch's effectiveness, which is certainly a statement when you consider how much of modern comedy relies on unusual pop culture references.

The part of the sketch which won me over to Jack Benny was this:

BENNY: "The guard took me to the warden. I'll never forget that harrowing walk down the long, long corridor. As I passed the condemned cells, the guard said:"

GUARD: "Poor devils; they're doomed."

BENNY: "As I passed the solitary cells, the guard said:"

GUARD: "Poor devils; they'll go crazy."

BENNY: "As I passed the women's cells, the guard said:"

GUARD: *whistles*

BENNY: "As I passed the work cells, I stopped and went back for the guard."

And so, my resistance against old-time radio comedy was broken. For a long time, Jack Benny was the only program I made a point of listening to, but I learned to enjoy other programs of the day like Life of Riley, the Stan Freberg Show and Burns and Allen. I owe it all to having listened to that one episode of Jack Benny. You can hear it here.

(* and many still do; I can only take so much of high-pitched or squeaky voices used on shows like Father Knows Best, Aldrich Family or Portland on Fred Allen. And Lucille Ball? Only in small doses.)

Happy All Saint's Day!