Friday, July 30, 2010

Not shown: the action figure packaging thrown under my desk, for some reason...
Hmm. That's a photo from last year, but I think a lot of the papers, definitely all of the toys, and probably a lot of the dust are still there. And that's...sort of good, right?

Anyway, I'm on vacation next week! But does that mean I'm leaving this poor blog unmanned? Well, yeah; but there'll still be some posts up. Monday and Tuesday, we take a look at a couple of WWII veterans and their post-war careers; and you can decide what's cover story and what's Superboy-punch. Thursday, more JLApe!

As I write this, I haven't finished Wednesday's strip, and I just realized I hadn't used the "homemade posts" tag in a while either. I'm usually a good two weeks ahead on those, at least; and I've been busy. Wait, got 'em! Have a good week!
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Thursday, July 29, 2010

JLApe part five: Flash Annual #12, "The Apes of Wrath"

This issue, and the rest of JLApe, was set during a transitional period for Flash comics. Wally had apparently disappeared (for about the fiftieth time) and the current Flash's identity was a mystery. Mystery-Flash revealed his identity to Old Flash Jay Garrick, who would vouch for him with everyone else; and Superman would do the same for the JLA. None of this really matters, since Mystery-Flash is a gorilla for a good chunk of this story; I'm mentioning it in case you're wondering why his suit looks different.

This is also when there were multiple super-speedsters running around the DCU: senior members Jay Garrick and Max Mercury, junior rookie Impulse, and Jesse Quick, the girl. The four are chasing Flashorilla, who lures them into a trap; and Gorilla Grodd, out on the front lines for the first time in JLApe, has them turned into apes. In fact, all over Central City, apes in hard hats are turning the populace into apes.

Grodd plans on using the speedsters to power his huge, satellite ape-ray, and places them all on treadmills. "Chimpulse" is having problems, though. Unlike his usual hyperactivity, he's got "existential ennui," and seems to recall Grodd's son trying to kill him back in the prologue of this thing. Unfortunately, he's distracted by bananas, and starts running.

At Central City police headquarters, scientist Angela Margolin continues Central's proud tradition of the police scientists being the only useful members of the force: seemingly trapped, she escapes with a homemade flamethrower and steals an ape flier.

Meanwhile, Chimpulse's ennui is acting up again: he doesn't think the apes should be fighting the natural order and trying to rise up. Grodd's scientists try to force him back to work, and the speedsters rally around their own. Flash and Impulse also manage to restore themselves to normal, by vibrating through a wall, their molecules went back to where they're supposed to...

Hey, an ad for a Sony MD minidisc player! I still have one, and love it. So what if it's antiquated...I'm keeping it, my VCR, my Flintstones car...

Anyway, the satellite weapon has enough juice now to fire, but the Flash overloads it, forcing Grodd to flee. He picks up a psionic amplifier his ladies had been working on for him, and fights Flash to a standstill, before Angela hits him with her flier. Grodd takes Angela hostage, and starts climbing the tower...because tradition, that's why. The tower isn't in good shape either, since apparently Grodd was trying to power the ray with pure Speed Force, as opposed to the electricity you could generate with five super-speedsters running on treadmill-generators. Flash grabs Angela, and offers to save Grodd, who of course would rather die...or escape on his own.

The other speedsters having returned to normal, Central City is still full of apes; and the heroes are left to wonder if Grodd's satellite was charged or not. A battle is won...but not the war.

Most of the Flash comics I've read have been post-Crisis, with Wally; and for some reason I thought Grodd was 'dead' for a lot of that time. I really haven't read a lot of comics with Gorilla Grodd, and have probably seen more Super Friends and Justice League cartoons with him.

Five double-page spreads this issue, or close to it: one has a narrow panel of the Flash running up a wall. The effect makes the whole issue seem to fly by. I like Doug Braithwaite's art, but he's improved by leaps and bounds since this issue. Scans from "The Apes of Wrath" Written by Brian Augustyn, pencils by Doug Braithwaite, inks by Robin Riggs. Next time: Superman Annual #11!
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Wednesday, July 28, 2010


Does anyone else remember an X-Men or New Mutants or possibly even X-Factor Annual from the late 80's, maybe early 90's, wherein the crappiest New Mutant Cypher gets the crappiest afterlife ever? Poor dead Doug doesn't go to Valhalla, or a big casino, or even hell: he's just a ghost, sitting on top of his gravestone and apparently not allowed or able to go anywhere, and with only the other nearby corpse-shades to talk to. And the others weren't even mutants, since Doug got buried in a normo cemetery. They were depressing stories about the pointlessness of life, since Cypher sucks so much...

I was setting this strip up to tie into the return of Thanos in Guardians of the Galaxy, and then didn't post it until after two issues of the Thanos Imperative. It's too early to say if this is a classic like Infinity Gauntlet, but I've enjoyed it so far: actually, I wish like the Infinity books of the 1990's, Imperative had some crossover books, but none of the cosmic characters have their own books right now. Which does add to some of the tension: any number of those characters may not make it out.

Thanos has returned, but it wasn't his idea. He's not especially keen on being alive, since he was happy and at peace dead. Unwilling resurrections have been done before (Buffy the Vampire Slayer had a notable one) but it really makes sense here. Conversely, even though he'd vastly prefer being dead, Thanos still isn't the type to just lay down and die. Since he considers just about every living thing his inferior, he can't just let any old thing kill him...
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Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The one guy in Gotham pants-fillingly afraid...of Hawkman.

Sorry, had computer trouble yesterday, and was working on a new Bastards of the Universe strip. Oh, and I forgot last week's at Articulated Discussion!

Today's scan is from Brave and the Bold #186, "The Treasure of the Hawk-God's Tomb!" Written by Dan Mishkin and Gary Cohn, art by Jim Aparo. The Fadeaway Man gives Batman and Hawkman a lot more trouble than you'd expect; and Bruce Wayne doesn't appear since Aparo draws Carter Hall exactly like Bruce. (To be fair, that's not unlike half of the Avengers being square-chinned blond guys.) Another one from towards the end of B&B's run, and not the best, but there is a Nemesis back-up.
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Monday, July 26, 2010

NASA's gotta be rethinking the space monkey thing now...

When the mission is so deadly, so dangerous, that NASA's willing to send their AWOL werewolf-astronaut back into space...that's pretty damn dangerous.

After losing contact with a space-station, and with budget cuts leaving only one ship available--hey, this could be written today!--erstwhile Man-Wolf John Jameson is offered a pardon to go up there and see what's what. (It's handwaved that the ship in question is John's, from a previous mission.) This is a bad idea, made worse by John not getting there in time and Man-Wolfing out in space.

Instead of exploding in space, Man-Wolf is brought on board the station; which seems like a bad idea, bringing a werewolf on board which has been commandeered by a group including an armored warrior and a barbarian. They also seem to know more about the "Weirdstone" on John's neck than he does, to boot...

There's also a few subplots brewing, with Nick Fury, John's fiance Francine and a guy calling himself "God," and John's dad J. Jonah Jameson. Subplots and supporting casts...seems so old-school, now.

From a thrashed copy of Creatures on the Loose #36, "Weirdstone" Written by David Kraft, art by George Perez and Frank McLaughlin. Slowly putting together a run of these...
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Friday, July 23, 2010

Yard sales this weekend...that'll be better than any stupid ol' Comic-Con...sniff!

The San Diego Comic-Con is in full swing, and as usual...I'm not there. I was going to say I'm a million miles away, but that bit of hyperbole would actually be better: A million miles away, I'd be in space or something. As is, I'm a mere 1300 and change miles almost due north. At a desk.

While I'm envious of those in attendance, I know more of us don't get to go to Comic-Con than do. And I can't say I have a burning, lifelong need to get there, like a salmon flopping its way upstream. I also know my level of patience with that much crowding would run thin, and I would ever have to have almost unlimited budget for stuff or I wouldn't want to go at all...still, it'd be nice to go to "Nerd Prom," instead of drinking out back by the dumpsters, angrily muttering that you didn't want to go anyway. Figuratively speaking. Maybe figuratively speaking.

Well, for me at least the drinking is figurative this weekend: last weekend, I realized I can't drink ten, eleven beers in a couple hours anymore. Which brings up today's comic! The new Hellboy: the Storm #1, the latest chapter in HB's ongoing saga from Mike Mignola and Duncan Fegredo. Show of hands: how many here did a big "Awwwww!" when Mignola announced he wasn't going to be drawing Hellboy for a while, in order to get more writing done? And now Fegredo's done Darkness Calls and The Wild Hunt and that's no longer an issue.
'Yeah, yeah, headless nun...we've all heard it, Red.'
In this story, the noble dead of Britain are beginning to rise from their graves, as evidenced by some opened tombs and a glimpsed figure in armor. Hellboy, with new girlfriend Alice, tries to play it off as the work of "thieves. Really big thieves." Even with Hellboy there, that's easier to believe than the truth.
'Geez, HB, that nail inna head was like five years ago. Let it go already...'
Hellboy bags out of getting a drink, saying he's quit drinking. This leads to a quick walk through of events since he quit the B.P.R.D., and Hellboy's interpretation? Got drunk, something terrible happened, repeat. (The best thing about that? Mignola could've written Hellboy getting drunk and punching monsters forever, and that would've been just fine. Instead, he moved on with it, and it's better.)

Still, this is Hellboy we're talking about: it's pretty obvious something terrible would've happened if he'd been sober as a judge, anyway. And, to prove the point...
Figure Hellboy's expecting something like this, every day...
Fluff, I hate going to GCD and seeing a Hellboy thing I don't have. But I still love this series, and I love how it started way over there and has somehow got to where it is. I feel like I must be the last person still buying single issues though, but if you have to wait for the trade, still worth it. If you haven't kept up, or maybe only know Hellboy from the movies, get back in there.
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Thursday, July 22, 2010

JLApe part four: Wonder Woman Annual #8, "The Thin Gold Line"

We're just about up to the halfway point of JLApe, and I don't want you to think I'm petering out, but today's will probably be the shortest writeup. Partly, because I'm doing it mostly from memory, and partly because it wasn't very good: Wonder Woman Annual #8, "The Thin Gold Line" Written by Doselle Young, pencils by Brian Denham, inks by Jon Sibal.

Briefly: a rank-and-file, "normal" talking ape narrates, as the ape witch Abu-Gita leads a confusing mission: apparently, they're going to go through the Amazons' island of Thymscara, to Olympus, and the lands of mythology; in the hopes of freeing the Rakhasas, demons of ape lore, to use in the war against humans. But the Rakhasas aren't ape lore, they're part of Hindu myth: the narrator has realized that somehow, the apes' entire belief system has been cobbled together from human sources, like the writings of H.P. Lovecraft. Yet somehow, because the apes believe it, they're able (or at least willing) to travel across the river Styx and hijack the boatman Charon...

I have no idea what the current, official answer is to the question, "How long as Gorilla City been there?" This issue says a hundred years or so, previous stories have said "eons," and we mentioned that Green Lantern story where the Gorillas are really aliens.

The ape-ifyed Wonder Woman is there, but shortly reverts back to normal. To avoid using 'somehow' again, it's because she's not a "baseline human." Wonder Girl Cassie makes a brief appearance, former replacement-WW Artemis is there, so is Amazon librarian/historian/bookworm Shim'tar (she wears glasses in a couple of panels so you know), and so is Nu'bia. Who was patrolling hell, or something...

There's some lines about how reassuring and great Wonder Woman is, but I'm hard-pressed to tell you what she actually did this issue. There's a germ of an idea in the belief in a fake mythology taking a life of it's own; but it doesn't go anywhere. Not good. We'll take a second to flip through this again, anything else...?

Next week? Flash Annual #12! Read more!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

"Cobra Widow."

As usual, click to enlarge!

I do have to apologize for the bases visible in this one: I have a lot less trouble keeping bigger figures standing for pictures. I seem to recall Destro being a problem there, but most of the Neo-Vipers stood like champs. The Cobra branding is surprisingly low key on them, so they'll make a good, all-purpose batch of evil thug minions. I ended up with eight of them, paying $12.32 for 'em: not bad at all, since I think they retailed for $6.99 ever since...however long it's been since they came out for G.I. Joe: the Rise of Cobra.

I finally saw that a couple weeks back, and...I don't know if it was as bad as Transformers 2, but it wasn't great. Seriously, it doesn't seem like it should be rocket science to make a decent movie out of those, and yet here we are.

Wolverine isn't my first choice for an Avengers roster...hoo, boy, he's probably behind Hellcat and Triathlon. To be fair, that's not really Wolvie's fault: I just haven't cared for a lot of Avengers stories with him in them. And if I wanted to read Wolverine stories, I could read about two dozen other books: in my Avengers, I want to see USAgent and Quasar and Yellowjacket and Quicksilver and Tigra...yeah, that list could just keep going.

I'm OK with Spider-Man as an Avenger, though. Yeah, that I don't mind at all. Hmm.

At any rate, I don't necessarily plan to do a lot of strips with three-and-three-quarter inch figures, but every so often. For more, check out a favorite of mine: Ages 25 & Up! His hundredth strip is coming up, and I'm looking forward to it!

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Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Man, I'd kill for an Arkon figure...

Colorblind bastard.
...and I hate Arkon. I think I've hated just about every story I've seen him in, except for JLA/Avengers, where he's blown up. Sadly, he comes back.

Arkon is what you get if you were to make Conan the Barbarian an Avengers villain, by giving him stupid ass lightning bolts to throw and taking away all his charisma. In every story he shows up in, whatever super hero team is there, the lead female is inexplicably attracted to him; whether it's Storm, the Scarlet Witch, or the Invisible Woman; even though Arkon's got a creepy vibe and is from a planet of smelly barbarians. He's also the king of his extradimensional planet, and does the arrogant douche-king so well, he makes Namor look like Prince Charles. Although he's not so much a bad guy, just about every time he shows up it's a fight.

In this issue, West Coast Avengers #75, after some violence, kidnapping, and brainwashing; Arkon hooks up with Thundra. What's that expression about mixing five gallons of ice cream and five gallons of manure?

Yeah, and Thundra was maybe two gallons of ice cream at best. From "Hostages to Fortune" Written by Roy and Dann Thomas, art by Herb Trimpe, inking assist by Charles Barnett.

But even though I hate Arkon, man, an action figure of him would be absolutely perfect for Bastards of the Universe. Such a jerkass...I wish he had shown up for his beating in ROM (he never did, did he?) or Micronauts or Crystar.

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Monday, July 19, 2010

Yer aht of ordah!

Actually, I guess as an American, I'd be "Gahd Dammit!"

Adventures in the Rifle Brigade isn't my favorite Garth Ennis book; hell, it's probably not even in the top ten. That's not to say it doesn't have it's moments. A spoof of World War II action movies and comics, AitRB is vulgar, violent, and possibly a bit homophobic. There's more than a few gay-jokes, but you'd have to decide for yourself whether they're any more inappropriate than any of the others, and the allegedly, probably gay character is never portrayed as incompetent.

That said, even though this is a spoof, most of the characters aren't fleshed out. Most of the Brigade has a single phrase of dialog, like "Ey-oop!" To be fair, that's not too far removed from the stock characters of your average war comic or movie. And I laughed at the above bit, where the Brigade dispatches a band of German soldiers (who were thinking about deserting at the time...) then dresses up in their blood-soaked uniforms as 'disguise.'

The Nazis are the usual stereotypical baddies, although I liked the skirt-chasing (to be polite) tank commander, who has a few good lines. Again, not my favorite of Ennis's, but still, not bad. From Adventures in the Rifle Brigade #1, "Once More Unto the Breach" Written by Garth Ennis, art by Carlos Ezquerra.

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Friday, July 16, 2010

Even if it got -3 miles per gallon, I'd still drive it...

New Bastards of the Universe up at Articulated Discussion! This week, a vehicle we've seen here before makes an appearance, and I think it's a perfect fit for it's driver.

On that note, I'm out of here for what's going to be a long weekend, even though I don't get any more time off: I'll be driving about 400 miles to my high school reunion, where I just might have time to say 'hi' before I have to drive back. Then, I was supposed to have Monday off; instead, I'm working ten hours. Yay...! Read more!

Since we've got axes in mind this week...

Aw, I thought the Surfer had Terrax's axe on this cover, not Morgs's. Morg sucks. Oh my goodness, when I googled him to get his background info, I just finally realized his name is supposed to be like "morgue." I thought it was just a short, alien kinda name, like Mort or something. Well, he's dead now, so who cares.

I like Terrax better: he's a bloodthirsty, amoral butcher. Morg is like your extreme bloodthirsty, amoral butcher. More 90's. Actually, while he's a jerk; Terrax is usually a jerk that can be manipulated or worked with, and is occasionally written with some rudimentary sense of honor. Morg is simply an axe-psycho. I do kind of see how a writer may have thought Morg was somehow necessary, since Terrax was jobbed out a few times to the New Warriors, Dazzler, and at one point, the Kyle Rayner Green Lantern.

Still, I like Terrax's "Axe of Vengeance!" as he proclaimed it in New Warriors. I was going to find it for Monday's strip, but didn't. And it would've been a bit small anyway, since Terrax's one action figure was back in the Toy Biz's Fantastic Four line maybe fifteen years or so back. Scans from Silver Surfer #80, "Awakening" and #74, "Negotiation" Both written by Ron Marz, pencils by Ron Lim, and inks by Tom Christopher.
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Thursday, July 15, 2010

JLApe part three: Aquaman Annual #5, "20,000 Apes Under the Sea!"

The individual chapters of JLApe came out weekly, and some of these annuals may have figured not everyone is going to read the whole event; so they needed a recap. The recaps lose something when you read the whole set in one sitting, but I can see why they were there.

This time around, the gorilla Admiral Trafalgo and the sub Kong are on their way to Atlantis, to get the macguffin Eye of Poseidon, for their little ape master plan. Even apeified, Aquaman is still King of Atlantis, and he won't let that stand.

The apes attack Atlantis with their ape-rays, turning many of the rank-and-file citizens into water-breathing gorillas loyal to the cause. Mera, currently estranged from Aquaman but leading the palace guard, is able to block the rays with her hard-water powers, but Tempest and Vulko are turned into "sea-monkeys." Look, she said it, I didn't.
Anything that goes 'Bwomp!' is just cool.
Arthur arrives on a whale, and starts taking it to the Kong, then the unfortunate whale is apeified. (It can still breathe underwater, but that can't be...comfortable.) Trafalgo's crew cheers, but he states he's merely doing his duty; he doesn't want to mess with the whales. Arthur then saves Mera. For himself.

He's not just king of the sea, Arthur is also prime ape! In establishing his dominance by claiming Mera, Tempest challenges him...because that's what apes do in DC Comics, that's why. They sure as hell can't fling poop at each other...and I don't know how that would work underwater anyway. It is kind of weird that they're basically fighting over Mera, when Tempest's knocked-up girlfriend (wife?) Dolphin is right there. Dol and Mera break up the fight, before they and Aquaman are forced to flee, leaving the dazed Tempest behind.
Why did Mera shed her dress?
While the heroes regroup at the old Aquacave, Trafalgo kills an Atlantean as an example, forcing Tempest to get the Eye, a giant emerald-thing. Aquaman arrives with the trident of Poseidon as "a symbol of my office," and rallies Tempest and the citizens. Playing a hunch, Arthur channels the power of the trident, through the eye--a guess, since the apes planned on using it for a big ape-making ray--and restores himself and the Atlanteans to normal. It even turns the apes that were outside the ship into Atlanteans! Arthur welcomes his new citizens, before attacking the Kong again.

Trafalgo is forced to electrify the ship's hull, then retreat. Aquaman gives Mera the trident, then takes off after them. And now I'm wondering if that whale-ape was returned to normal, or if it's still floundering around down there, trying to stuff krill in its head-holes...

There are some things about Aquaman comics (or Namor the Sub-Mariner, or any underwater story) that are going to be dicey as a given: unless there's some in-story reason for it, for example, wouldn't the bottom of the sea or an underwater city like Atlantis be dark as hell? But this issue has a big one: apes, particularly gorillas, can't swim! I had to look that up, since I vaguely recalled it from a Planet of the Apes movie. (Possibly the terrible remake?) Now, I can buy Aqua-ape being OK under the water, but submersion would have to be fundamentally terrifying for even intelligent apes. 'Sea-monkeys' indeed.

Today's scans from "20,000 Apes Under the Sea!" Written by John Ostrander, 'delineated' by M.D. Bright, 'made legible' by Dick Giordano. So far, I think this is the best chapter of JLApe! Will it keep that position against next week's installment, Wonder Woman Annual #8?

Yeah. Yeah, it will. See you then!

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Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Axe of Hordes, Dread Axe of Darkness, Slicey McCutyaone...

Got my Dread Axe of Darkness from Poe Ghostal and his Points of Acquisition! Then knocked this out on the fly: Bill and Conan are standing on my computer speakers there. (La-zy. Sorry, I worked overtime, and am watching Deadliest Warrior!) Last I checked, he was halfway to sold out, so hurry if you haven't already!

Just an evil looking axe: I absolutely picture it encouraging mayhem. The only downside to getting it? It inspired me to get out a lump of Super Sculpey I had for some reason, and try to carve out a sword, or ray guns, or a .44 Automag for the Warlord, or that Manhunter mask...and the only limit is my imagination my utter lack of sculpting tools and ability. Well, still kinda fun, and I do have a hankering to see I can cobble together a bootleg version of Stormbringer. Maybe next month, since I'm kind of all over the place for the next little bit.

Nice going, Poe, and thanks!
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Tuesday, July 13, 2010

A couple of Sláine pages, since I've been using the figure...

I'm not as familiar with Sláine as I am with other 2000 AD characters like Judge Dredd or Rogue Trooper. I have a few of the Quality Comics reprints, but I got those many years from their original release. The above page is from Sláine the King #22, but I figure it originally appeared in 2000 AD, and who knows when. I wish Quality had noted the original progs, since that's what future reprints would use. I don't think Quality's print quality for their basic books was the best, but they were cheap and I was glad to have 'em.

This story (and the next page we'll see) were written by Sláine's co-creator Pat Mills; with art by Glenn Fabry, whom I remember most for his Preacher covers.

That said, when I think of Slaine, I usually think of Simon Bisley, and his work on Sláine the Horned God, and I never even actually read that one. Between the ads and covers I've seen for Bisley's art style for the book--think a death-metal Frank Frazetta--I can picture it.

This scan is from #25, and here we see his main power: the 'warp-spasm,' wherein Sláine channels the power of the earth goddess into strength and battle-rage. Basically Hulking out, except his body always distorts in picturesquely grotesque ways.

As an American, there are a lot of references in Sláine that I'm lucky if I have a passing acquaintance with: Celtic goddesses, druids, the Gaels. If you are more familiar with them, those names are going to mean more to you than they would the average American reader, who might just be looking for a Conan-style barbarian.

The issues I have were among the last of their regular-issue reprints, and I'm a little surprised how little of the book was actually Slaine: all the issues I have include back-ups like Amadeus Wolf, Moon-Runners, and Summer Magic. Still, I'm pretty sure he still has a home in 2000 AD to this day.

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Monday, July 12, 2010

"And now, behind the scenes, with Conan the Barbarian."

As usual, click to enlarge!

Over at Poe Ghostal's Points of Acquisition, tonight his exclusive Spy Monkey Creations Dread Axe of the Hordes goes on sale! I'm ordering one, and heartily encourage you to do the same! (There is a two-axe limit, check it out for details.)

Now, I'm not just ordering one because I want it for Conan there, or to support Poe and Spy Monkey. No, I have a more selfish reason in mind: if sales of the Axe go well (and all indications are, they will) then they might give another weapon or accessory a go; and I'm hoping to get a Stormbringer-style sword, ala the cover of Michael Moorcock's Weird of the White Wolf. It's either that or sculpt it my damn self, which seems unlikely.

Best of luck, Poe! And everyone else, order soon! If you have any questions, 'axe' him! Ha-ha...I'm sorry. Read more!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

What's our secret? Volume!

New One-Shots up at Articulated Discussion! Four pages of G.I. Joe nonsense! I think I did that one before I saw the movie, but I kept getting marked-down movie Joe figures. And General Hawk just seemed endearingly war-mongery...

Check it out, and new strip here tomorrow!
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Friday, July 09, 2010

I thought Twitch's archenemy was going to be Raid or Orkin, but...

New Bastards of the Universe at Articulated Discussion! This week, Twitch may have met his match, and Conan vs. ninjas! Which is nowhere near as dramatic as you might think; he's Conan, and they're not very good ninjas.

I'm a few weeks ahead on my BotU strips, but I have too much fun doing them. Hope you like it!
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Lookin' good, Stan.

From Chamber of Darkness #2, "The Day of the Red Death!" Scripted by Roy Thomas, art by Don Heck, edited by Smilin' Stan Lee, and based on Edgar Allen Poe's "The Masque of the Red Death." Y'know, I've read that one more than once, and I never remember if there's anything more to it than "royalty tries to hide away from the plague and party, oops, now they're dead."

In this updated version, the Red Death is more literal, a chemical weapon that seemingly grows on the very air. The few survivors include the owner of the chemical plant that produced the gas, the scientist that created the air filter for the bunker, and some other toadies and terrible people. It goes about as well for them as you'd expect from the original, with a minor twist in the end, delivered again by Stan.

That suit is sharp though. I was thinking of it, since I was thinking about mine: I never have occasion to wear it, but my 20-year class reunion is coming up, a friendly reminder from the universe that I'm old and will die soon a chance to see how everyone turned out. And drink abusively, probably...

Next week: our homemade strip is Monday! For a reason, really! See you then!
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Thursday, July 08, 2010

JLApe part two: Batman Annual #23, "Jungle Rules"!

This chapter of JLApe has a strong pedigree: writer Chuck Dixon and artist Graham Nolan were regulars on the Bat-books. I'm not sure about the opening, though: Batman and Nightwing question the survivor of a mob hit, laid up in the hospital. The hitter was a huge, suited figure, who fired an anti-tank weapon into a mob meeting. Batman has a pretty good idea what's going on as he heads for the crime scene, but is all Johnny Tightlips with Nightwing.

After Bats and Nightwing leave, Lady Vic has her own questions for the hit survivor. I don't know much about her, but she's the honorable bad guy gunslinger, as near as I can tell. The hired gun you get with you can't afford Deathstroke but don't want a gun-psycho like Deadshot...

Bats and Nightwing check out the crime scene, which is chock-full of really big handprints, unusual fibers, and an odd odor. All of which would be interesting, if Batman didn't already know gorillas were coming to Bludhaven. This shouldn't be a surprise for him, unless maybe he just didn't want to assume: Bludhaven is pretty crime-infested, really. And there's no reason to keep Nightwing in the dark, either.

Meanwhile, a week ago, two Pulp Fiction styled gorillas are getting burgers in Bludhaven, getting ready to watch and see if Grimm's up to something he shouldn't be...

Lady Vic takes her information to Bludhaven's crime boss (and Nightwing's main villain for a good long chunk of his series) Blockbuster. Vic points out the giant shooter could well have been him, but BB isn't feeling tip-top, and is wearing a EKG monitor for a heart condition. He implies that he's working on it, as he puts Vic to work checking out a name on the hit list.

At Nightwing's...NightwingCave, a partially-converted garage; Oracle gives the boys the info on the fibers: gorilla. It's a surprise for Dick, but not for anyone else. At the same time, gorilla crime boss Grimm is leaning on George, one of Blockbuster's men, regarding a container ship coming into town. Batman and Nightwing knew George was at the mob hit but walked away, since Grimm was putting the scare on him: after a scuffle, Grimm escapes lugging George over his shoulder.

The Jules and Vern gorillas go to Grimm's place to wait for him, but are cut to pieces by Lady Vic, who initially believes them to merely be wearing masks. She calls it in, and Blockbuster is watching a recap of JLApe to date on TV. Everyone ends up out at the container ship for a showdown. Grimm makes two mistakes: trying to take Batman hand-to-hand, and letting George fire a molecular disruptor, with which he blows a good-sized hole in the boat. As Blockbuster fights Grimm, Bats and Nightwing abandon the sinking ship, with Dick winkingly suggesting that Lady Vic get out while the getting's good. (Dick has a couple asides to her, that make them seem rather chummy.)

Blockbuster and Lady Vic of course escape as well, dragging Grimm in tow. (Things aren't looking good for George...) Vic wonders why Blockbuster would save the gorilla that tried to take over his town, but Blockbuster seems to have an idea...that would come into play in Nightwing.

Not terrible, but the CSI stuff isn't necessary: we know it's gorillas, Batman knows it's gorillas, and it was on TV, so Nightwing should accept it more quickly than not. And the Pulp Fiction bit is thankfully stifled before going overlong. There is something to be said for Batman's wry smile here: he doesn't seem like he's having that bad of a time, and he is the only Justice Leaguer not covered in fur today. Still, JLApe isn't exactly winning me over yet. Scans today from "Jungle Rules" Written by Chuck Dixon, pencils by Graham Nolan, and inks by Mark Pennington. Next week: Aquaman Annual #5!
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