Saturday, October 3, 2015

#Inktober -- Big John Buscema

Doug: As the new month dawned, I noticed lots of tweets and retweets with the hashtag #inktober. Artists displayed their wares, and enthusiasts posted inked pages or sketches. It's been fun to see the variety of work. So, ever the thief of ideas, I thought we'd spend our weekends this months admiring the work of some of our favorite artists. To kick it off, who better than the "Michelangelo of Comics" himself, Big John Buscema? Enjoy the master.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Thursday, October 1, 2015

What Are You Reading?

Doug: I think it's been a long time since we've checked in with each other concerning what lies atop (or a'bottom for that matter) the reading pile. I know I never feel like I read enough, although at the end of any day I guess I've read quite a bit either in the context of work, checking Twitter a few times throughout the day, or a daily newspaper early in the evening. But in terms of some seriously dedicated reading, I always feel deficient. So in the interest of prying into your personal lives and interests, here goes:

Doug: Presently I find myself in the middle of no less than four books, and that's a lot of plates to be spinning for me. Academically, I'm a few chapters into Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin by Timothy Snyder and Hitler's Beneficiaries by Gotz Aly. Both are quite interesting and each book fills in my knowledge for the purpose of my teaching but also in regard to my "summer job" at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Each of these books is engaging, and neither appears to be a slog to get through. I just seem to never find a decent run of time to dedicate to really digging into them with the attention that I need to give in order to truly internalize the material.

Doug: On the lighter side of fiction, I've mentioned a few times that I began A Princess of Mars over the summer. It really never grabbed me, and although close to 3/4 of the way through I am not very eager to return. I think I'd rather re-read The Return of Tarzan, or perhaps return to The Complete Chronicles of Conan. Those short stories were nice, and as we remarked earlier Robert E. Howard seems to stay away from some of the formulaic storytelling tropes employed by Edgar Rice Burroughs. I especially enjoy reading one of those short tales and then finding the adaptation in my first four volumes of Essential Savage Sword of Conan. It's great to see the words of REH set to the comic medium.

Doug: Comics-wise, you know I've been enjoying the Marvel Pocketbook edition of The Astonishing Ant-Man: Origins; the last story I read was the 3-parter with the Hulk that originally ran in Iron Man #s 131-133. David Michelinie, Jerry Bingham, and Bob Layton paid homage to Avengers #s 93 and 140 in IM #133. I've also returned to Ed Brubaker's Captain America, finishing the Red Menace: The Ultimate Collection and now well into The Death of Captain America: The Complete Collection. Brubaker's writing is simply excellent, and the cadre of artists who illustrated these stories are top shelf.  I must declare that when I've sat down to read one of these trades I do not want to put it down. It is so entertaining. And there aren't a lot of comics that I read that are like that - page-turners. James Buchanan Barnes has really become a complex character for me, rather than the one-dimensional sidekick I'd previously believed him to be. We remarked about it earlier, but Brubaker has respectfully touched on elements of war that had been glossed over for decades. That Captain America never killed in WWII? Foolish, and Brubaker deals with that. Again, as we've said (we do have an abundance of conversations around here, don't we?) in the past, I will pass on the modern coloring for a brighter palette. But I don't let that kill my pleasure from soaking in the narrative. And I've come to employ a tactic encouraged by our friend Edo Bosnar -- in regard to the return of Bucky Barnes I just treat these as a sort of What If? or Elseworlds tale and leave it at that. I just want to find enjoyment without the continuity baggage, and Brubaker et. al accomplish that for me. I've also recently purchased the collections of Captain America: Reborn and The Winter Soldier (purchased in Lima, OH last Saturday). Once I'm done with this massive "Death of" trade, I'm hoping to get into my soon-to-arrive copy of The Monster of Frankenstein, Vol. I. I've only read the first issue and some other appearances of the Monster, so am looking forward to digging a bit deeper. And, another hardcover I need to get off the shelf is Legion of Super-Heroes Archives, Volume 13 -- gotta love some Bronze Age Superboy!

Doug: Your turn -- let's hear about your triumphs, shortfalls, and wish lists!

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Face-Off: Martian Mayhem!

Karen: In honor of the recent announcement about the discovery of liquid water on the surface of Mars, we give you the opportunity today to throw your support behind one of two books that each dealt with the red planet: In War of the Worlds, Killraven and his band of rebels fought back against invading Martians in a dark future, while John Carter, Warlord of Mars followed the adventures of the Edgar Rice Burroughs character as he rescued princesses and battled six-limbed martians on Mars itself. Which book survives this interplanetary death match?

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Discuss: Your Favorite Characters In Your Favorite Stories

Doug: The title is a little wonky. Here's what I'm getting at today, and I guess I'll use an example or two to get the ball rolling. Let's say one of your favorite characters is the Vision. What's your favorite issue with a plot line that heavily features the Vision? If I were to claim him, I'd probably want to discuss the iconic two-part intro. in Avengers #s 57-58, or maybe the last issue of the Count Nefaria arc (Avengers #166). If my favorite character is Captain America then I'm thinking there's a heckuva lot to choose from. But you cannot beat Cap (literally) in the concluding chapter of the "Under Siege" arc, Avengers #277.

Doug: So who you got, and where you got 'em?

Monday, September 28, 2015

Bronze Age Babies Guest Review – Marvel-Con ’76 Program

Karen: Today our regular commenter Colin Bray has a special treat for us: a review of the program for the 1976 Marvel Comic Convention! Many of you might not have even been born yet (!), and for some of us, New York was pretty far away, so attending this show was just a dream. But through artifacts like this, we can at least get a sense for what it might have been like. So without further ado, here's Colin -

Colin: Welcome to a guest review of the second annual Marvel-Con ’76 Program!

This in-house Marvel convention was held at the Hotel Commodore between April 23 and 25. At the time I was a five year-old Londoner so picked up my program copy a little late at a London convention back in 2002 or so.

The program itself is fascinating, being 48 pages in length - and card covers aside - printed wholly in black and white. The contributing artists are listed as Neal Adams, John Buscema, Tony DeZuniga, Frank Giacoia, Al Milgrom and Mike Nasser.

Intriguingly the program is not published by Marvel comics but rather by Vince Colletta directly. I would be interested to know how and why that publishing deal came about, it seems quite unusual.
The contents page can be seen below, including a nice variety of blue-chip Bronze Age themes and material, from Conan to martial arts to the bicentennial focus on Cap. Beyond this, Marvel are clearly using the program to appeal to both fan and trade markets as this review will make clear.

Enough with the preamble let’s look at the features of particular interest, starting with those aimed at the trade market. I am curious about this emphasis because with no direct market in ’76 who was Marvel talking at precisely?

Statement of Market Share

So, the Curtis Circulation figures show that in 1975 Marvel sold 41.9% of comics in the market, and by 1976 this went up to 45.6%. The latter figure is nearly double the DC share of 23.4%. Surprisingly, at least to me, Archie had 13.8%, Harvey 10.5% and Gold Key 6.7%.

Marvel liked this data so much that they triumphantly repeat it elsewhere in the program with Cap declaring that ‘we’re number one!’

Marvel Comic Advertising Rates

This is a lot of fun – for $182.00 you could purchase one-half inch in the entire Marvel Comics group (“11,000,000 ABC circulation”). All you needed to is submit a “camera-ready” ad. The page gives copy deadlines and closes with – ‘think of the incredible return on your investment.’ Indeed.


The program includes adverts for the Aaron Banks New York Karate Academy (I believe they laid on a demo at the Con), John Buscema’s Art School, Ivy Film 16 (film distributor) and both large/small ads for then-current Marvel comic titles.


Reprint of the first Cap story – Case No.1 Meet Captain America (1941)

Clearly reprinted to tie into the bicentennial, this black and white reprint is a somewhat tough read due to the demands of the small A5 format shrinking the original 40s art. But it must have seemed cool to an audience starved of GA reprints.

Spidey at the Marvel Comics Convention ’76

This is a two-page curio, in which Spidey attempts to sneak into the convention (for reasons unknown) only to be scared off by ‘too many spirited fans’. Odd. Art by Thomas Sciacca and Frank Giacoia, Letters by ‘P.C.C’er’. I’m guessing the writer and letterer didn’t care enough to be identified with the strip.

Selected Features

Jack Kirby – The Man Who Is King

Written by Thomas Sciacca, this two-page article coincides with Kirby’s return to Marvel and must have been an attempt to connect Kirby with all the super-young fans at the convention. Not at all interested in raking up old controversies, I’m still struck by the claim that:

‘there was a time that only Stan, Jack, Sol Brodsky and the late Art Simek were Marvel comics, with Jack drawing almost every feature, occasionally helped by Sol and Larry Lieber.’

Why wasn’t Ditko on that list?

Saving America in 15 Chapters

This is a review of the 1944 Captain America serial and accompanies a showing at the convention. Interesting personally because I previously didn’t even know the serial existed, and more generally because this is no whitewash piece. The writer (‘James Glen’) pretty much dismantles the series for contemporary fans, criticising in particular the way the series deviated from its comic book origins. A familiar lament until the modern Marvel Studios. An aside – the series can be found in its entirety on YouTube.

Spider-Man Live!

A photo-heavy piece about a 1974 16mm student film based on Spidey that was also shown at the convention. The article includes several stills but little other useful info.

After a bit of digging I discovered the film was called ‘Spider-Man Versus Kraven The Hunter’,based on Amazing #15 and was apparently pretty well-made. However, the film has apparently never been seen online because the producer, Bruce Cardozo, refuses to release it. So if you were at the ’76 Convention you remain in select company…

For reasons of space, the following pieces aren’t reviewed here:

Introduction to Kung Fu (written by Thomas Sciacca)

Captain America: Great Symbol of America (written by Jim Burns)

Conan the Barbarian: A Profile (a Buscema art page)

A Day with Stan Lee (not as interesting as it sounds)

Roy Thomas Profile (ditto)

Comic Collecting Article (written by Dominick Corrado)

Autograph Page (sadly, in my copy this page is empty)

Photos from the convention are surprisingly difficult to find but a good selection can be seen here

To conclude…

While some of the content in this ‘76 program is slight, taken as a whole it is a fine emblem of the High Bronze Age. I’m gripped by the themes, the creators, the picture of fandom and most of all how Marvel sought to portray itself, on the cusp between the super-creative, but sometimes chaotic early 70s and the gradual transition to Jim Shooter and a more corporate approach as the 70s became the 80s.

Were any Bronze Age Babies at this convention or own this program - or indeed, know anything about the first, 1975 Con?

And can any good people here add to our knowledge of its occasionally obscure content?

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Contemporary Comics Consumerism

Doug: DATELINE - Lima, Ohio. Hand-written on a tag on a rack of comics and trade paperbacks was this sign:

"Looking for an entry point to the Marvel Universe? Try Civil War!"

UPDATE: So I whipped this post up in about two minutes right before my wife and I headed out the door. Just wanted to get some conversation going this Sunday. When I got back home, Osvaldo had left the first comment. I'll give my further explanation, which I intended to do anyway once I got home (which I now am). Got that? Anyway, he said:
Dr. Oyola said...Not sure what your point here is. . . that this is a bad point of entry? (I'd agree).

Anyway, it made me think of this article about how much it'd cost to get all the issues of the current Secret Wars series and related title tie-ins.

Short answer? Over a thousand bucks.

September 27, 2015 at 1:14 PM

Doug: Friday my wife and I took 1/2 personal days so that we could make the trek out of Illinois, across Indiana and into western Ohio to watch our son play soccer. We spent the night in Lima, Ohio (home of Ben Roethlisberger and Phyllis Diller -- how's that for a combination?). On Saturday we decided just to explore the town for a few hours before heading for home. I noticed that they had what appeared to be a nice looking LCS in the downtown area, so we went. Alter Ego Comics was indeed a great little full-service store. They had a little bit of everything, and their displays were very attractive. Nice staff on site for assistance, and they didn't seem to be hurting for customers. So if you're in the area, they have my recommendation.

Doug: To the question at hand... I at first had a wry smile cross my lips when I read the sign and was tempted to scoff aloud. And then I stopped myself. Looking around, it hit me that comic book consumerism in 2015 really isn't geared toward me. While they had a fair back issue section, it didn't seem like they had an abundance of Silver or Bronze Age back issues. They had no, to my recollection, back issues on the walls as shops often do. So I said to myself that today's comic fan probably is up on current events at the Big Two, and is probably fully-immersed in the lore of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. And, given that Captain America: Winter Soldier was one of Marvel's biggest pictures and that next spring's Captain America: Civil War promises to be huge, maybe -- just maybe -- Civil War is a good entry point to the Marvel Universe.

Doug: Because as we've said, this really isn't my Marvel Universe, not any more. So that's where I was going with this. 
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