Sunday, March 29, 2015

Inaugural Post - 100-Word Review


Doug: A few weeks ago I challenged our readers to enter the Guest Writer arena and perhaps take a baby step by writing a 100-word review. Apparently fish aren't biting, but since I've long had today's story on my mind I thought I'd try this myself. So here goes -- and at the end I'll evaluate the experience. Was it easy or hard to hit that 100-word parameter? What could I discuss, and what did I have to leave out? We shall see.


Doug: My earliest Thor story was the Mangog epic reprinted in Marvel Treasury Edition #10. Awakened by Ulik, Mangog lumbered off to defeat Odin. The All-Father had beaten back an invasion by an alien race and imprisoned them in the form of Mangog, who then possessed the strength of billions! This 4-issue novel is replete with action, suspense, awe, love... Love? My major takeaway was Asgardian loyalty. Thor’s devotion to Sif, she to him, the valor of Balder and the Warriors Three, and everyone’s willingness to die for the Realm Eternal seemed genuine. If you’ve not read this arc, seek ye it!



Doug: My 100-Word Review landed on your computer at 101 words. Not bad. But certainly not easy. I decided to start with as brief a review as I could craft off the top of my head, and here is what I got:

One of the earliest Silver Age Thor stories I read was the Mangog epic as presented in all its giant glory in Marvel Treasury Edition #10. Jack Kirby’s engine of destruction would surely bring about Ragnarok in Asgard. Freed by his would-be master, the Mangog dominated Ulik the Troll before lumbering off to defeat him who he hated most – Odin. The All-Father had beaten back an invasion by an alien race and imprisoned them in the form of the Mangog. Now this creature possessed the strength (and hate) of a billion billion people! The Lee/Kirby juggernaut gave us a 4-issue novel replete with action, suspense, awe and love. Love? My major takeaway was how loyal Thor and his friends were to each other. His devotion to Sif and she to him, the valor of Balder and the Warriors Three, and their willingness to die for the Realm Eternal all struck me as genuine. If you’ve not ever read this arc, seek ye it!

Doug: That's not very long, is it? But at 163 words, it's pretty far away from our target. Why does it have to be oh-so-close to 100 words? Because that's the hook, the gimmick. And it became a war against myself to trim it as close to the goal as I could. I initially wanted to include thoughts on Loki, the Odinsleep, and the Odinsword, but I knew space would not allow me to touch on those major plot points. So not even going there, I was still challenged to communicate some sort of brief synopsis with at least one parting thought or recommendation. I think I did that, but you tell me.

But man -- that wasn't easy! Next! 

PS: By the way, I read this story for today's review from the new tpb Thor Epic Collection: To Wake the Mangog. The book is chunky, reprinting Thor #s 154-174 in full color. Highly recommended, as the Galactus origin is in that run. Great, great stuff from Stan, Jack, and Vinnie.

 

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Taking "Stock" of the "Poses"

Doug: A few weeks ago I and some other comics-loving folk engaged in a healthy debate on Twitter. The topic that day centered on Bronze Age artists and their styles. That conversation quickly became about "wow" factor, that "man, that blew me away when I turned the page!" sort of impact. Our pal Sal Buscema quickly came under the gun as an artist who, while steady, rarely "delivered" for some involved in the debate. So, being a guy who is always looking for fodder for the kind denizens of this blog, I thought I'd bring the spirit of that conversation over to our little corner of the Internet.

Doug: It was stated during the conversation that Sal relied too often on "stock" poses. A term Karen and I coined a long time ago was "Buscema blasted". You all know what that looks like, even without the exhibit I've included. And you know what? That's OK with me. That's Sal. Sal draws guys getting pummeled like that. Again, I'm OK with that. So if it's a stock pose, I'm going to wear it like a comfortable pair of jeans. Can we agree that sometimes Sal's faces look a bit too much the same? Sure -- I'll go there. But I think of those guys who are just below the masters (that upper echelon for me being Kirby, Adams, J. Buscema, and maybe a couple of others), such as Sal, and Jim Aparo, as gifted storytellers who really don't ever disappoint me.

Doug: So how does today's conversation strike you? Do you have expectations of particular artists that are usually met? How about that aren't met? When you can identify an artist's work, is it by the faces, or the postures of the characters? Who has certain "trademarks"? Thanks in advance for your input. Oh, and one more thing... I guess I got to thinking about my own "stock poses", my own mannerisms. And it made me think of the sort of things seen in the video below. Enjoy it.


Friday, March 27, 2015

Thank You for Being a Friend (Sort of)... Comic Book Cover Love



Doug: See, I told you I'd get back to the guest-star covers! It just took a little while. And why, you might ask? If you'll recall, the Groovy Agent himself took a shine to our little drill that day. Offline, we got together and started plotting a follow-up. Today's the fruit of that planning and labor. So, if you're landing here from Ol' Groove's blog, then we say "Welcome!" If, however, we happen to be your first stop on this Friday, then please exit these premises once finished and get yourself over to Diversions of the Groovy Kind for our companion piece.

Doug: Groove suggested that we split up all of the suggestions that our readers on the BAB had made back on February 25th, and then add to them. We drew lots, and your hosts landed on DC. No sweat -- we're going to look at some classic characters. You'll get your Marvel fix once you visit our partner's production.

Doug: I'll be honest -- I really thought there'd be a line, a definite demarcation between the sorts of covers we'd get featuring guest-stars in Marvel mags versus what we'll see today from the Distinguished Competition. But you know what? Those kids from National can't get along any better than the upstarts from the House of Ideas! So to tip this thing off, let's go ahead and examine some very Marvel-centric covers:



 

Doug: Next up we have covers where the superheroes actually seem to be collaborating. This is what I thought I'd find in abundance. Obviously I didn't do any sort of comprehensive search, but I did spend an hour or so looking through the files at Cover Browser. The main problem with DCs in the Silver and Bronze Ages is that so many of their big name heroes were relegated to the anthology books, or to back-up status in their main titles (like Detective Comics and Adventure Comics). It was tough to find anything in today's genre with Green Lantern, Hawkman, and so on. But again -- this isn't any sort of exhaustive display today.

Doug: Lastly, we have two covers that were nominated the first time we featured this genre. I guess I'd say that the affected characters are just together -- not really collaborating or really even interacting. But they're occupying the same space for sales purposes (one might assume).



Doug: So there you have it -- 23 covers that show the gamut of guest-starring at DC Comics in the Silver and Bronze Ages. While I don't know that any of these covers are as dynamic as what you'll find on Groove's blog today, there's no doubt that any youngster pulling one of these babies from the spinner racks would have felt like he or she was definitely going to get a bit more bang for the buck. Or quarter...

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Guest Post - When a Love Affair Is Over


Doug: Now I don't want to say that this Guest Writer thing is becoming commonplace or mundane, because it isn't. Every single post we've received has been exciting to open and peruse -- like a gift from a good friend. And the readers' responses to our fellows have been wonderful as well. But today... to say that today's post is just a bit out of the ordinary would be an understatement! I remarked several days ago that not a day goes by that I don't learn something either from our readers or about our readers. When I checked the BAB email account on the evening of March 17, I was simply blown away by one of your own.

Boy -- are you all in for a treat today! Without further ado, pfgavigan has the floor!






Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Who's the Best...Zombies?


Karen: With the Walking Dead finale this Sunday, and some recent talk of the ever-popular Marvel zuvembies, it occurred to me that we have never really discussed this topic in any depth. So take your pick, we can look at films, TV, books, comics -what's the best depiction of  zombies and/or a Zombie Apocalypse?





Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Guest Post - Archie at Riverdale High 1 Review



 

Doug: Good day, and thanks for dropping in on yet another wonderful post contributed by our readers. Today your tour guide is none other than Redartz, who is going to take us through something dear to all comic book lovers -- a #1 issue! In this case he's going to let us drop in on perpetual high school Archie Andrews and friends, circa the early 1970's. Now if that isn't prime BAB territory! So strap in, kids -- this one's sure to be full of light-hearted fun.









 


 Archie at Riverdale High #1 (August 1972) 



Redartz: We are venturing into some largely uncharted territory today, outside the realms of Marvel and DC, and also leaving the genre of costumed adventurers! In that spirit, I will begin with a little background information for those who may be less familiar with “America's Favorite Teenager”.


Archie first appeared in Pep Comics #22 (December 1941), making him of age with such Golden Age icons as Batman and Captain America. Throughout the following decades Archie, along with his growing cast of characters, appeared in many comic magazines. In fact, by the 70's, he was featured in so many titles he could rival Richie Rich for space on the spinner racks! One thing these many titles had in common (besides the main cast of characters, of course) was their format:  they generally contained two or three short humorous stories and a couple of  single-page gag strips.. From time to time there were  more adventurous tales, such as those involving Archie's superhero identity  “Pureheart the Powerful” ; yet these stories were still went for the funnybone.     

             
This brings us to our subject today. Archie at Riverdale High (or ARH, for brevity's sake) was intended to be a departure, featuring stories of adventure and drama more serious than had been previously attempted. Another title,  “Life With Archie”, had also begun to feature some weightier stories by this time. But in the case of ARH, this was the purpose from the get-go.
             
A brief interlude: for many years, the creators behind Archie comics were not credited in the books, making identification challenging. Many thanks to the Grand Comic Book Database for the information on the artists and writers for this issue. Indeed, even they are not certain of the identity of the cover penciler, speculating it likely was Stan Goldberg (a name familiar to Marvel fans as a colorist of note). Rudy Lapick is credited as the inker. 

The cover's top third is taken up with the logo (appropriately designed ; looks like they took it off the back of a jersey). The feature story is portrayed with a blue-bordered inset panel featuring Archie and “Pop” Tate ( owner/proprietor of the Choklit Shoppe, Riverdale's chief hangout spot); showing Pop as he tells Archie of the impending loss of the store. The resulting standoff is depicted in the main cover area. Artistically the linework is clean, and follows the traditional Archie house character design. Yet the cover strikes me as a little busy: five word balloons and a blurb! Also, that logo, while striking, might have been better served with a solid-color background. The figures and school building seem to add to the visual overload.


“You Can't Win 'Em All”, story by Frank Doyle, art by Harry Lucey



This is a fairly straightforward sports story, with rivals Archie and Reggie Mantle competing to win the company of Betty and Veronica at the planned Victory Dance following the championship baseball game against Central High.  Unfortunately for Riverdale's team, the Central players score in the first inning! Riverdale manages to prevent any further scoring through the succeeding innings, but is unable to score. To make matters worse, the news is spread that Coach Kleats will be facing a transfer if Riverdale fails to win the championship! So things look glum as the team trails heading into the 9th. Inning. At this point, things start to brighten for Riverdale (and Coach Kleats) as the team manages to load the bases. Then, with two out, Archie comes to the plate. Down two strikes, Archie launches a grand slam for the win!

Yes, the ending was pretty predictable; Coach's job is safe and Archie gets the girls. In a typical teen humor book, one really wouldn't expect anything different. Two points of interest about this story, however:

First, the description of the game action was pretty accurate. References to a sacrifice and working the pitch count show that writer Doyle is familiar with America's pastime. In fact, much of the story reads like the play-by-play from a radio announcer. I  wonder how many readers actually understood the term “Texas Leaguer”...

Second, the artwork by Harry Lucey is worth mention. I consider him the 'Sal Buscema' of Archie comics. Lucey's figures are simple and streamlined, and effectively express the exaggerated action of humor strips. He has a lightness to his line, his backgrounds minimal. Contrast this to Stan Goldberg ( perhaps we can call him the John Romita Sr. of Archie), who displays a heavier, curvier (?) style as shown in the second story. Lucey's artwork is frequently featured in Bronze age (and earlier) Archie stories, particularly when more physical action is depicted. 


“Second Chance”, writer Harry Doyle, pencils Stan Goldberg, inks John D'Agostino

The cover feature opens with Archie entering the Choklit Shoppe, only to find “Pop” Tate in despair. It seems the entire block upon which the shop sits has been condemned! Jughead enters, thinking it all to be a joke; but realizes the gravity of the situation upon reading the legal notices Pop has been given. When Jug asks how this can be, Pop informs him that the 'powers-that-be ' can do whatever they want (ah, cynical adulthood!).

The news spreads across Riverdale, bringing disbelief that the iconic Choklit Shoppe is soon to be history. It also brings Archie and his friends back to the shop to learn who gave the orders to level the building. They learn that the Greystone Building Corporation is responsible, and so proceed to pay the Corporation a visit. To the kids' dismay, however, they are informed that Greystone is committed to “progress”, in the form of a brand new building complex. In fact, the representative ushers the group out the door while dismissing their concern as “sentimental hogwash” (I presume this gentleman was not a public relations man..).



As if things weren't bad enough, upon hitting the sidewalk Archie's friend Dilton runs up to give them more news: Pop has barricaded himself in his shop and is ready to be demolished along with it! Indeed, the wrecking ball is ready, and the crew chief seems willing to put it to immediate use, Pop or no Pop (a bit melodramatic, yes; he could be Snidely Whiplash in disguise). Archie warns him that to proceed would amount to murder, so the wreckers decide to hold off for one more night. 

This gives Archie and friends a little hope- they head for Veronica's father, Hiram Lodge (the most powerful man in town). Surely he can prevent the destruction of the Choklit Shoppe! But no, when they first attempt to persuade him to intervene, he gives them the same answer they got from Greystone. That is, until they actually told Mr. Lodge the ultimate victim of said progress. Now Hiram gets on the phone to his troubleshooter, trying to track down the source of the construction plan. Even he has difficulty unraveling the trail of holding companies, so they take the final step: put it on the computer ( yes, that was a big step, in 1972; today five minutes with a smartphone could have clarified everything)!


Well, as it turns out, the man at the top of the command chain is Mr. Lodge himself. Thus a quick visit to the worksite sends the demolition crew packing, and the group into Pop's to celebrate. As with the first story in this issue, the ending could have been seen coming; we all know Pop's will continue to serve up sundaes and burgers till doomsday. Yet the story kept my interest, and I recall as a twelve-year-old reading it and enjoying the melodrama. Doyle and Goldberg played it straight, eschewing the jokes and gags. At the time this comic was on the stands, my favorite tv show was “Emergency”; I tuned in weekly to see what crazy rescues and potential disasters were looming. This title, Archie at Riverdale High, offered the same plate of ever-changing high drama ( soon to appear were stories featuring blizzards, broken elevator shafts, near drownings, etc.). So , at least for me, the book delivered what it promised. This was the first Archie comic I followed religiously, and actually the first comic I ever collected from issue #1. Of course, within two years I'd leave it behind for Marvel, but at the time this comic was tops on my list. It still holds a special sentimental spot up there, even now...



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