Saturday, February 28, 2015

This Cover Made Me Buy This Book!

Doug: How about this blast from your past, circa the beginning of the school year in 1975? I'd have just turned 9 and entering the 4th grade. We lived in Milwaukee at that time (South 78th St. School), but would move back to home base in April of 1976. I don't remember where I bought this, but know that I had it. I thought the Griffin was one bad dude, and very cool-looking. I'd been enjoying the Beast in the Avengers mag, and of course everything Spidey was "must-read". So who had this, and what do you think of this cover as a selling point?

This is from the Comic Book Database, not a personal copy. But I love that it looks like it is!

Friday, February 27, 2015

Breaking News - Leonard Nimoy has Passed

Doug: Multiple news outlets are saying that famed Star Trek actor Leonard Nimoy has passed away at the age of 83. Karen will be along later to shepherd the conversation.

Karen: It probably sounds trite to say a TV character taught me a lot about life, but it’s true. Mr. Spock, so brilliantly portrayed by Leonard Nimoy, doubtless appealed to many adolescents. The half-human, half-Vulcan Science Officer reflected the turmoil boiling just below the surface  that so many of us felt growing up. His calm exterior and tremendous self-control were to be envied, just like his incredible intellect. But it was the moments when we saw deeper into the character that we really remember –and Nimoy managed to get across such nuance in his performance that it hit on so many levels. Years later, after Star Trek: The Motion Picture, Spock had finally made peace with the two halves of his heritage –and again Nimoy gave us a wonderful depiction of a more mature, changed Spock.

There are many great quotes from the character, but the one that really stands out right now, at the time of Mr. Nimoy’s passing, is this: “I have been –and always shall be –your friend.”

Thank you, Mr. Nimoy. Your many friends shall miss you.

2/28 -
Karen: I sat this evening looking through an old album of photos I took at various conventions I have attended over the years and came across a couple I'd like to share. 

In 2003 I saw Leonard Nimoy and William Shatner at the Star Trek Grand Slam Convention in Pasadena. The two came out on stage together and were terrific, sharing stories and trading barbs. But the highlight was when Carrie Fisher (in a rare con appearance) came out and went right past Shatner to give Nimoy a big kiss! The Shat was distraught, and Nimoy loved it. One of my fondest convention memories.

Childhood is Fleeting

Doug: This post began as an ode to spring, and when I got to thinking about what I like most about spring, my idea morphed into a bit more expansive topic.

Doug: I was going to begin by saying the advent of baseball season was one of the things I always looked forward to the most, coming out of the (usually) long winters that Chicagoland is known for. But as my mind came to rest on that, it occurred to me that not only do I look forward to baseball at the Major League level, I really miss my sons not playing any more. Around this time of year -- probably for 10-12 years -- I'd begin shopping for whatever baseball equipment they would need for the coming season. It may have been some equipment for around the house, such as a hitting stick or a screen to use with a tee. I loved searching for bats -- never the new, expensive models of "this year", but always on eBay for last year's models. Big-time savings there. And gloves. Nothing better than getting a new glove and breaking it in. We used this shaving cream-type of product that absorbed into the leather while baking in the oven. No kidding -- three rounds of application and a few hours of catch and it was amazing how pliable the leather would become. Man, I'm getting a little misty just thinking of this.

Doug: So today let's turn it to you. What do you recall of your own childhood as winter began to loosen its grip? Were there certain rites of spring that you treasured? It may not have been athletics -- was it the freedom of bike riding, or of playing cops and robbers through your neighborhood? How about the planning of and anticipation for a family vacation once school got out? And for those of you with grown or almost-grown children, what do you miss about their youth at home? As always, thanks in advance for your memories!

Doug's youngest, 2007 Little League. Nine homers in the regular season.

The boys at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania in 2009

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Bronze Age Babies Bulletins: Free Starlog and Graffiti is Back

Karen: Just passing this on: Starlog magazine, that wonderful source of so much sci-fi/fantasy info for many of us back when the internet was just a gleam in a DARPA scientist's eye, has made all of their issues available for download. You heard me right. Any issue you want to get your hands on, you can! Just go to this site: and check out all the great articles from over the years.

Karen: This week the latest Led Zeppelin remaster came out: Physical Graffiti, almost 40 years since the original release. These have been uneven releases -some of the bonus material has included out-takes that sound barely different from the songs we know so well. In this case, the bonus disc has a few surprises; still not the live performances one might have craved (only the Led Zeppelin first album remaster has had that so far), but these rough versions of familiar songs are worth a listen. "Sick Again" is only instrumental, with no vocal track, and the opening sounds a bit different. The version of "Houses of the Holy" proves the old adage of less is more, as it is burdened with both a clunky cowbell part and weird backing vocals. An early version of "Into the Light," titled "Everybody Makes it Through," sounds almost like a different song, with what might be a harpsichord playing a prominent role. But beyond the bonus material, this is a great album, one of their best, and it sounds wonderful. With songs like "Kashmir," "Ten Years Gone," and "Boogie with Stu," it's an example of Zep's versatility and talent.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Comic Book Guest Stars - Cover Version

Doug: Last Friday Karen hosted a lively discussion on our favorite guest stars appearing across our comic book collections. She opened with Triton's appearances in the 1968 Sub-Mariner series, as well as Hercules frequent guest appearances in Thor's mag. You took it and ran with it, and we discussed everyone from Black Widow to the Man-Thing to Dracula! Today I'd solicit your favorite covers, and here are a few to whet your appetite. Time allowing, I will do a follow-up post with your suggestions (yes, I know I said that the last time we did this drill and then bagged it...).

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Discuss: Characters You Like, But Know Next-to-Nothing About

Doug: Take Adam Strange here for example. What's not to like? Cool costume, outer space adventures, hangs with the Justice League of America... But beyond that, I got nuthin'. And that's today's topic, as you saw in this post's title. Name characters -- any characters -- that for whatever reason you think are cool-looking, want to know more about, etc. But at this point, you'd fail any quiz.

Monday, February 23, 2015

A Time of Marvels: Marvels 1

Marvels #1 (January 1994)
"A Time of Marvels"
Kurt Busiek-Alex Ross

Doug: What's this? A comic book review that's not in our "Arc of Triumph?" series? Yep -- we told you that in our revised "anything goes at any time" schedule we'd try to get back to doing our famous (shoot, world-renowned!) partner reviews. So here you go. And no, we didn't pick this just to rile the Alex Ross haters among our regulars... Although we'd lie if we didn't say we joked about it back in the planning meeting! We don't know how long it will take us to get through these four issues, but we can tell you we're looking forward to taking another look at this landmark series.

Doug: As I was getting myself mentally prepared for this write-up -- you know, brain calisthenics and such -- I was struck with the notion that this series may have been every bit a part of the 1990s and all that was wrong with it. I don't mean that in the sense that this was a sub-standard story (as much of the 90s was filled) or that the creators were "trendy". Instead, I was thinking about the format. You'll peek back to the top of the post and see the cover date was the very beginning of '94 and I'm wondering if this book was the first to sport a "premium" cover (not a variant, but a fancier material)? If you've never owned the periodical version of this story, you may not know that each issue featured a full-page painting by Ross (in today's case, of the Original Human Torch) layered over by an acetate cover that featured a black printed border with the appearance of die-cut lettering at the top. Of course numerous knock-offs ensued -- lots of painted books, and Marvel copied itself with the acetate overlays for a couple of issues in the big "Atlantis Attacks" annuals cross-over.

Karen: I'm using the hardback edition from 2008, which includes Marvels #0 as well as numerous sketches, promo art, and photo references. I nearly forgot about the goofy acetate covers! Before I started reading I tried to recall my mindset at this particular time. I was only buying comics occasionally, having a hard time getting back into regular series. Like many other people, my mind was completely blown by Alex Ross' art. I couldn't believe he was painting comics! The absolute realism of it all sucked me right in. And Kurt Busiek's history wrapped up in an everyman tale was handled masterfully.

Doug: I am reading from the trade paperback that has Giant-Man on the cover -- not sure of the year, but it also includes the Torch story from Marvels #0 (which I just love). Hey, how exciting was it when the Torch was spied in one of the early scenes of Captain America: The First Avenger? Anyway, I really don't remember how or why I bought the first issue, but I do recall meeting Alex Ross at a small comic show near O'Hare right after the first issue came out. In fact, he was giving away the promo poster for the series, which featured the cover of Marvels #2 (the Angel taking flight). I had a nice chat with him, and he autographed the poster; it still hangs on the wall of my comic room. I agree about Busiek's script -- there is just so much detail! No way this was done "Marvel method" -- Ross must have received exhaustive notes from Busiek. Of course, knowing Alex's appreciation for comics history, I am sure he had a mighty hand in the plot and execution of this story.


Karen: There are so many things we could talk about here, just with the first issue. Of course, through-out the series we are peppered with cameos, of both celebrities and sort of displaced comic book characters. I just love getting to see a very young J. Jonah Jameson as a beat reporter back in 1939, already annoying everyone around him.

Doug: I am pretty certain that ol' JJJ is never named in this story. I can check again, but I made a conscious effort when reading this last week to see (because my memory told me that on previous readings he had not been identified). But of course we all know who he is. I thought it was a nice homage to Marvel in general to make Martin Goodman the publisher of the Daily Bugle. And Ross's depiction of Goodman was spot-on. I also enjoyed the cameos in this first issue, including Clark Kent and Lois Lane, and what looks to be a very young Billy Batson peddling newspapers. Those sorts of "Easter eggs" really made this a visual treat on top of your aforementioned praise of Ross's realistic paintings.

Karen: You're right, JJJ is never named as such, but that haircut, the mannerisms, little phrases ('when I run the Bugle') -it's pretty much obvious, and delicious. But Busiek makes him more than a caricature; JJJ earns his stripes, chasing down stories and facing the catastrophes these 'Marvels' bring. It actually provides some depth to his later hatred of Spider-Man and other super-heroes, if you consider he saw Namor nearly drown all of New York! Two other notable cameo appearances are Popeye (why?) and a young Nick Fury, not in the war yet. I like how Ross draws him with a shadow over his left eye. Another great Easter egg of a sort is Ross' homage to Edward Hopper's 'Nighthawks' painting when Sheldon and JJJ have a run-in with the Torch late one night.

Doug: Of course the story also had a few "weirdities", such as Namor prancing around in his birthday suit. I have a reprint of Marvel Comics #1 (which actually reprinted the Crown Prince's first appearance from Motion Pictures Funnies Weekly) and the Sub-Mariner was wearing his trademark trunks throughout. So in spite of a heaping helping of his naked butt, I did enjoy the way Ross drew his ankle wings. They were huge! And c'mon -- if they actually were going to be used for flight, they'd have to be larger than the way we've generally seen them depicted. The panel where the Torch engages Namor and they wrangle over a steel girder is a lot of fun, and I've always loved the 2-page spread of the tidal wave crashing onto New York with a tiny Human Torch streaking across the top of the image.

Karen: Yeah, naked Namor...I did a little research and came back empty handed, so to speak. I couldn't find anything from Ross that indicates why he chose to do that. I suppose the logical conclusion would be that someone living underwater wouldn't wear clothes. But it did surprise me when I first saw it. Interestingly, in the back of my book, hand-written next to some of the sketches for Namor it says 'Freddie Mercury' but I don't think he wound up looking much like Queen's lead singer in the finished product.

Doug: Busiek did a solid job of making Phil Sheldon an interesting protagonist. I think his point-of-view is very believable, as an ordinary man who has come through the Great Depression with a renewed optimism, yet distressed at the coming events in Europe. But the arrival of the "Marvels" makes him feel small, and insecure as a man. His worry about being able to protect his loved ones, and whether it is wise to even consider bringing children into such an unsettled future drew me in. But his reverence for Captain America was noteworthy. As remarked in the story, he was "one of ours", and that set him apart from the Torch and Namor. 

Karen: The American public, ever fickle. It was completely believable to me that the crowd was swayed by the newsreels to suddenly accept the Torch and Namor as "our" boys. And then Captain America come on the scene -so big and strong, perfect chin, wrapped in the red, white and blue -well, he was manufactured to be The American Hero. Don't get me wrong, from childhood to now, I've loved Cap and that sense of honor, justice, morality, all the qualities that made Steve Rogers a hero regardless of the Super-Soldier formula. But let's face it, he was a pre-fab hero, before there was even a Madison Ave marketing racket to push him out. 

Doug: I think in Busiek playing up the hot/cold aspect of the crowd he was playing along with a trope Stan Lee had used throughout the Silver Age.

Doug: So you're saying Cap was a forerunner of the Monkees? 


Karen: Ha! You and I have been doing this so long, we're so in synch -I almost said "like the Monkees!" But yes, the way Cap is built up for the public, it's PR at least, propaganda at worst. Phil Sheldon's concern over both the war in Europe and the rise of the super-beings is understandable. But his decision  to delay marrying his girlfriend Doris -I don't know, maybe because I'm a woman, it all seemed rather foolish. The idea of having to "protect" her, and not being able to do that in the face of these new beings, diminishing him, making him unworthy -he really had an inferiority complex going on here! Not that it's an impossible reaction but it seemed a bit like he was running away to me.

Doug: I agree that Sheldon seemed off base with his line of thinking. Why wouldn't he feel better about protecting Doris if he had married her and could be around her more? You know, above you talked about how quickly the crowd turned, but Busiek does a nicely subtle job of showing really how their world turned. At the beginning of this first issue Sheldon remarked how they'd beaten the Depression and how everyone's spirits were up -- they were invincible. Yet just a few months later Hitler had become a serious focal point in all their lives, and the advent of the Marvels complicated life even more. I think Steve Martin's album "Let's Get Small" could have been a mantra. But hey -- if Phil hadn't decided to abandon Doris, we'd have not had the pleasure of being introduced to Willie Lumpkin!

Karen: I did smile when I saw Willie Lumpkin -or 'Bill.' And hey, Mickey Rooney was in the theater audience too.

Doug: Alex Ross flirted with racism just enough to really give some of the war scenes a bit of Golden Age authenticity. His depiction of the Japanese soldier bordered on caricature, but stopped short of crossing that line. Busiek did include the term "Japanazi", which again was a nice throwback to a different time.

Karen: Was "Japanazi" a term that people actually used back during the war years? I've often wondered if it was something made up in the comics... I don't know if I've seen it anywhere else. ...OK, I looked it up and apparently it was a term used on war posters of the time period (I saw a few, including one with Popeye), so I suppose it's legit.

Doug: I have all of the Fleischer Superman cartoons on DVD, and I think the term is used somewhere in those. But I could be misremembering (that's so Brian Williams...). So what did you think of that last scene -- the assault on the Nazi stronghold? Sort of made the Invaders look like the minor leagues!

Karen: It's a breath-taking scene! I love the high, overhead angle -I know we've talked about Ross overdoing it recently on some covers with the odd angles but this one really works for me. I could identify eight of the ten heroes but had trouble with two of them. The ones I recognized were Cap and Bucky (and this Bucky is quite obviously a kid, being carried by Cap the way he is), Namor, the Vision, the Destroyer, and the Black Widow (none of these three related to the later Marvel versions), the Blazing Skull, and the two Torches. From the reference section in the back of my book, I found the identities of the other two: the Thunderer and the Black Marvel. These are some pretty cool-looking cats. More appealing than most of the Liberty Legion! I know some of these characters have been brought into current or recent books, like the Skull and original Vision.

Doug: Yes, Ross's depiction of the very young James Buchanan Barnes does fly in the face of Ed Brubaker's thoughts on the character's age during the war. Personally, I always thought of him as Ross does. However, I fully accepted that he must have been closer to 16 in the Liberty Legion story that ran through Invaders #s 5-6 and Marvel Premiere #s 29-30. And in regard to the coolness of those Golden Age heroes: I have so tried to get into that material but it's just so difficult. The art and the stories are so crude as compared to the stuff we focus on (late 1960s-mid 1980s) that I just can't do it. I've several times been ready to pull the trigger on the Golden Age volume in the Marvel Firsts series but have always talked myself out of it.

Doug: In our next installment, we'll delve into Marvels #2 and the dawn of the Silver Age! No promises when that will be, but this has been fun getting back into the "what we do around here" of comic reviews.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Writers Assemble!
Doug: Hello, and Happy Sunday, everyone. At the risk of killing a good conversation, I'm going to interrupt this weekend's discourse on Aquaman (and sandwiches) and briefly discuss some questions that have come up via email. Karen and I have received three separate inquiries about follow-throughs on our request for guest posts. That is very exciting for us, and in conversation with our three prospective guest-reviewers I have to say that I can't wait. There will be some new ground broken on this blog and that has to be a positive. So here are a few random thoughts for everyone who may yet take us up on our offer:

  • The 5000-word limit we alluded to in our original post offering this opportunity was just a joke. There's no minimum or maximum. You'll know when you're done.
  • Concerning art samples, that's really up to the author. We did have a criticism a long time ago about referencing certain panels or plotlines in a book and not providing a visual reference for our readers; we try to make sure that doesn't happen. We would suggest that sending images full-size is best, and if you have to do that in several emails or use Dropbox, we'll make it work.
  • Full reviews of arcs or mini-series are fine; but if you want to dive in and do an issue-by-issue thing like we do we would not be opposed to that at all. Whatever fits your style and time.
  • Some of the topics that our guest writers are hitting on are not necessarily Bronze Age material, but stuff that falls into that spirit. That's great! Frequent commenter William has long advocated Mark Waid's recent Daredevil series. Works for us if you feel that it's sort of a throwback. We do want to stay close to our mission.
  • As mentioned above, you can send the text and any art you'd like included to the BAB Yahoo address (see the sidebar on our main page). We'll dress up a post and let you know when it will run. Doug will promote it on Twitter in the days around the post's running. If you also happen to have your own blog, feel free to publish in both spaces and we'll promote your other blog as well.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Aquaman -Now with More Macho

Karen: So late Thursday night  Zack Snyder, director of the upcoming Superman vs Batman: Dawn of Justice  film, dropped this image on Twitter:

That, friends and neighbors, is Jason Momoa as Aquaman -I know, you might have thought it was Conan with a trident, but you'd be mistaken. Obviously DC/Warners are doing everything they can to move as far away as possible from the more popular image of the Sea King:

I have to say, I didn't expect a literal interpretation of the old costume, but I am surprised they didn't  make him blond. I guess he has blond highlights. It's certainly a strong, provocative image. I told Doug I thought that not only was DC trying to make us forget the old 'Superfriends' Aquaman, but I think they are trying to out bad-ass Sub-Mariner before he hits the big screen. Who knows, Aquaman could wind up the breakout star of this film. Let's hear what you think.
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