Friday, April 29, 2016

The Spinner Rack - May 1973


Doug: Since we are literally full from tomorrow through next weekend, I thought we'd hit May's Spinner Rack post early. You know how it works - head over to Mike's Amazing World of Comics to see the offerings cover dated May, 1973, and then get yourself back over here to leave us some thoughts. My guess is that for most of us we'll be on the outside looking in, commenting on which of these books we've read as part of collections in this -- the Golden Age of Reprints. By clicking on the date below you'll be taken to the Comic Book Database. Have fun!






AND...


We at the Bronze Age Babies are really excited for the coming week -- actually eight days beginning tomorrow. Come back each day for All Civil War, All the Time, as PF Gavigan, Redartz, Martinex1, Colin Bray, and your proprietors cover the topic front to back and even sideways. We hope you'll enjoy!

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Who's The Worst...Top Tier Villain?





Martinex1: There is an old adage that the villain makes the hero. If the bad guy is nuanced, complex, abundantly evil, scary, manipulative, and potentially stronger than the protagonist, the conflict becomes much more intense because the outcome is unknown and the hero is going to have to be on his "A" game.

 

Sometimes, I dismiss a comic book story simply because of the nemesis. When the mastermind of mayhem doesn't look like he could manage to swipe a stick of chewing gum, I question the headliner's abilities. Seeing Spider-Man fighting the local purse snatcher for a six issue arc would not convince me to keep buying the book. But somehow, some of the weakest, weirdest, and most off-beat villains make it into a hero's main gallery of rogues.  How that evolves I don't know. So I pose a simple question to you, who is the worst top tier villain? Who is portrayed as a world class threat, but you are pretty sure could be handled by the local chapter of the Cub Scouts?
 
I supply some examples here that I would classify as head scratchers.  How about you?





Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Star Trek at 50: The Conscience of the King


Season 1
Episode 12: The Conscience of the King
Filmed: September 1966
First Air Date: December 8, 1966 (13th episode aired)

Karen: "The Conscience of the King" is an episode I happen to like that seems to not be very popular, and I can understand why. It is talky. There aren't any space battles, and not any real fist fights to speak of. But this story gives us a glimpse at Kirk's past, and also shows us how Kirk responds when faced with choices -about justice, and vengeance. This is also a story about the burden of guilt.



Karen: Kirk gives passage to a travelling band of actors, although he has suspicions that one of them, Anton Karidian,  is actually Kodos the Executioner, a man who ordered the deaths of 4,000 people on Tarsus IV some 20 years prior. Kirk is one of the few survivors of the incident, along with Lt. Kevin Riley, also among the Enterprise crew. While Kirk investigates  Karidian, he finds himself attracted to Karidian's daughter, Lenore, also part of the acting company.

Karen: This is a murder mystery -one of Kirk's old friends, another survivor, is killed early in the episode -and Kirk proceeds on his own with his investigation, until Spock confronts him regarding it. Kirk is not even sure at first that there is anything to it, until someone attempts to murder Riley. Once convinced, he relentlessly pursues his investigation, even using Lenore, although he had genuine affection for her. It isn't a good side of the Captain.

Karen: Karidian, played by Arnold Moss, is a hollow, haunted man. For a while, we are left to guess -is he or isn't he? Kirk eventually confronts him, and we know -yes, this is Kodos. But far from being a ruthless killer, this is a man who made a terrible decision as governor of a starving colony planet, resulting in the deaths of half the colony. He has changed his identity, gone into hiding, but his actions have destroyed him. It is only his daughter Lenore that keeps him going now. 

Karen: Lenore, played by Barbara Anderson, is certainly one of the more enchanting women the Captain has romanced. The brilliant Jerry Finnerman, director of photography, again sets a romantic mood on ship. Although there might be some eye-rolling at Lenore's remark to Kirk, "And this ship, all this power, surging,and throbbing, yet under control. Are you like that, Captain?"


Karen: This episode also sees the second (and last) appearance of Lieutenant Kevin Riley (Bruce Hyde), who we met in the episode "The Naked Time." There, a temporarily unhinged Riley drove everyone on the ship nuts by singing -badly - the song "I'll Take You Home Again Kathleen" over and over. Here, he is serenaded over the intercom by Uhura, who surprisingly is playing Spock's Vulcan harp. It's a nice chance for Nichelle Nichols to show off, and again, we get to see some of the crew in their off-duty hours.



Karen: This is also the last episode that Yeoman Rand would appear in. Returning to Marc Cushman's excellent sourcebook, These are the Voyages, Vol.1, there's a complicated picture of what happened to Rand and the actress who portrayed her, Grace Lee Whitney. On the surface, the problem appeared to be financial: Desilu wanted to cut costs, so they were looking at reducing the cast. Rand seemed like an obvious choice. Many were not happy with the character anyway, as she seemed to put a hamper on Kirk's romantic proclivities. But Whitney had stated that a studio executive had made sexual demands of her, which she refused, and she believed that was why she was let go. Like so many things, we may never know the whole truth. But for her final episode, she is barely noticeable in a scene on the bridge. 

Karen: I think there are a lot of effective moments in this episode, which I have to  credit to director Gerd Oswald. Oswald had fled Nazi Germany and came to Hollywood, where he was constantly in work. Before Star Trek, he had helmed 14 episodes of The Outer Limits, so he knew a thing or two about science fiction. The ending, when Kirk confronts father and daughter, is particularly thrilling. When Lenore grabs the phaser and there is a tight focus on her eyes, it appears as if there are tiny stars of light in them -again, I'm sure Finnerman had a hand in this -and her madness is palpable. I love the attention to detail that went into these first season episodes. They weren't just cranking out shows -they were making beautiful shows.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Discuss: If Retcons Were True Back Then


Doug: Last Friday afternoon our friend Aaron Meyers (@Aaronmeyers) posted the cover of Marvel Two-In-One #11 as one of his recent acquisitions. I immediately tweeted back at him, wondering if the retcon of Ben Grimm being Jewish would have made a difference in that story told 40+ years ago. So of course, that got me to thinking of other retcons that we know about and how certain stories, storylines, or elements of characterization would have been played differently.

The floor is open for nominations and discussion. Go!


Monday, April 25, 2016

Send In the Clowns - Batman: Mad Love



The Batman Adventures: Mad Love (February 1994)
"Mad Love"
Paul Dini-Bruce Timm

Doug: No, we're not trying to milk any traffic from the Suicide Squad flick that releases toward the end of the summer. Shoot - I'm not even going to see it (I can't speak for Karen, though). Rather, we're here today because this is one of those Batman stories that often turns up on Bat-fans' favorite stories lists. I'd say it rests within my list, which has never been formerly compiled, I should add. But this is a good one, and for those among our readers who hold Batman: The Animated Series in high regard, it will be a trip down memory lane. Paul Dini has been praised on this space before for his collaborations with Alex Ross on the oversized DC storybooks of the 1990s; Bruce Timm provided the art on the very-fun Avengers 1 1/2 that many enjoyed. But these guys made their "claim to fame" by crafting the Batman cartoon, one of the very high points of comics-related material in that decade. Today's comic, if you've never read it, is a PG-13 story from Earth-BTAS.


Doug: Back in the early 1990s I had a recurring recording set on the VCR for Batman: The Animated Series. When our first son was an infant and on into his toddler years, it was a little easier to find time to watch my tapes. I'm pretty certain that I've seen every episode from the show's first few seasons. But when it evolved to The Adventures of Batman and Robin and beyond, it became more difficult to make the time. I really can't think of any clunkers in the inventory -- BTAS was consistently great. So later on I gave the four-color The Batman Adventures a try, and found it to be one of the best Batman books available at the time. Collecting the trade paperbacks from that series is on my "to do" list, primarily due to the timelessness of the stories told without the weight of continuity and "trendiness". To the book at hand, I don't believe I'd heard any publicity ahead of the release; but when I saw this square-bound beauty on the shelf at my LCS, I knew it was going home with me. Shall we check out a 100-Word Review of the plot?
Batman barely saves Commissioner Gordon from death in the dentist chair at the hands of the Joker and Harley Quinn. But in the melee the Joker finds out that Harley had left a joke as a clue; he neither found it funny nor appropriate that he hadn’t been the one to make it. Woven among vignettes of Harley’s origin, we watch her scheme against the Batman in an effort to win the Joker’s heart. We learn that she has truly given herself to the notion of being “Mrs. Joker”. Of course the plot fails and the Joker di-… does he?


The Good: Right from the beginning, the tagline atop the cover of this book just cracks me up: "Psychotic Mass-Murdering Clowns and the Women Who Love Them". And while that would make for a clunky title as compared to "Mad Love", it truly is the gist of the story. Sure, Batman and the Joker are the main attractions here, but this is really a tale of Harley's "mad love" for the Clown Prince of Crime. And what a Joker this is. Many have felt that the Joker of "Hunt the Dark Knight", Arkham Asylum or The Killing Joke is the most over-the-top DC has presented. I'd argue that despite being presented in the animated style, this Joker is as maniacal and unpredictable as Heath Ledger's turn in the film The Dark Knight. I recall feeling very uneasy whenever the Joker was on screen during that movie. Although not the same sense here due to the different medium, in retrospect this Joker is every bit as impulsive, violent, egocentric, etc., etc. as anything Ledger showed us.


The plot and script of this story are very well done. The pacing is perfect, and every scene either fills in some backstory (in the case of Harley's origin) or moves the "present" along toward the climax. Nothing is wasted in terms of page count or my time as a resource. I mentioned above that this is a bit racier than the stories we'd find in the regular four-color series about the animated world. The violence is ramped up, as is the sexual tension. Harley spends a fare amount of page time in nothing but a red teddy; however, it is inferred that although she chases the Joker for physical love he seems disinterested. As to the violence, as one might assume a fair degree of explosions, gunplay, and so on. You'd be right. There are also a few scenes that would definitely qualify as domestic violence, the whimsical style of the art aside. I thought about shifting that aspect of the plot down to "The Bad", but as it's important to the characterization of both the Joker and Harley I left it here. It fits.


While the themes are adult, the story is still told like a cartoon. Yes, it's violence is off the charts, but even that is so ridiculous that you really do feel like you're watching an old Looney Tunes. It's not good at all when the Joker knocks Harley out a 5th-floor window, and her landing is hard... but to the point where you expected to see an exaggerated "Splaaaat!!" Tastefully, it isn't that.

Lastly, it was nice to see a Batman story where he is a) solo and b) heroic. There is no line-crossing here, no gray area. This is the Batman we grew up with. Sure, he's slightly darker due to the tone of the story -- even here you can feel the impact of the works of Frank Miller and Tim Burton. But it's done better, taking the good aspects of the latter-day Batman mythos and combining it with the Bronze Age Batman of O'Neil, Adams, Englehart, Rogers, etc. And the ending is just right.


The Bad: As I said, the domestic violence aspect is something to be wary of. But then again, the overall violence level in this story would make me keep it out of the hands of a child. This isn't a "roll it in your back pocket and get on your bike" sort of comic book.

The Ugly: I guess I am hesitant to review comics where I'd really fill up this section. I find myself often leaving this blank. In fact, I'm basically typing this text so it won't be blank! But truly, there were no plot points that irked me, no blatant mischaracterizations, or anything overtly offensive about this book. You couldn't say it was "good, clean fun", but you could say it was fun.

"Mad Love" has been reprinted a few times, so it's not too difficult to find a copy if you've not previously read it. Again, like the Batman Adventures series, if you're a fan of classic Batman stories you will not be disappointed. If for some reason you're put off by the art style, I believe you'll put that behind you very shortly -- the stories are that good.


Friday, April 22, 2016

Guest Post - Who's the Best... Bronze Age Batman Artist?


Doug: Thomas F. has a way with connecting the Friday's to the Monday's at the BAB. Today he's asking you about a topic near and dear to all our hearts: artists. And Batman -- we like that, too. Monday I'll be reviewing the Batman one-shot "Mad Love" featuring the animated versions of the Joker and Harley Quinn. Enjoy today's conversation -- I'm looking forward to it.


Thomas F.: Presented here in all their glory are ten Batman covers illustrated by ten different Batman artists from—yep, you guessed it—the Bronze Age. (Regret is expressed for any fan favorites I’ve missed). Of these virtuosos, which do you think is best, and why? Which are your favorites?

COVERS SELECTED: 
Batman #234 (Neal Adams)
The Brave and the Bold #124 (Jim Aparo)
Detective Comics #432 (Nick Cardy)
Detective Comics #461 (Ernie Chan)
Detective Comics #510 (Gene Colan)
Batman #321 (José Luis Garcia-López)
Detective Comics #457 (Dick Giordano)
Detective Comics #526 (Don Newton)
Detective Comics #475 (Marshall Rogers)
Batman #366 (Walt Simonson)

These Seventies artists built upon the creations of the legends who preceded them and paved the way—Bob Kane, Dick Sprang, Jerry Robinson, Irv Novack, Carmine Infantino, et al. Granted, some of these Seventies Batman artists had their start in the Silver Age or even the Golden Age, and some are still producing artwork even today. Nevertheless, the selections of artwork I chose are all from Bronze Age; i.e. 1970 to 1983. (Some feel the Bronze Age extends to 1984 or even 1985, and I will not dispute this).

The legion of talented pencilers who came afterward—Alan Davis, David Mazzucchelli, Mike Mignola, Norm Breyfogle, Jim Lee, Brian Bolland, Kelley Jones, Tim Sale, Frank Quitely, Greg Capullo, and Paul Pope, just to list a handful—were undoubtedly inspired by many of these Bronze Age Michaelangelos.










Thursday, April 21, 2016

If I Had a Buck...The Aluminum Age

Martinex1: Here at the Bronze Age Babies' site, there is an obvious love for all things from the 60's, 70's and 80's, so don't judge me too harshly when our virtual spinner rack carries us unabashedly into 1990's comic book territory for a $1 shopping spree challenge.

While I, perhaps more than others, have an affinity for comics from my adolescent days I did continue reading and collecting until the turn of the century and beyond.  In my opinion, I was still able to find some good and even great superhero stories after the Bronze Age.  The art was changing quickly on the heels of the Image movement, and the writing was becoming more decompressed as titles clogged the racks, big special events seemed to pop up every month, and variant covers started to appear.  But there were still some gems amongst the dreck of the disposable decade.

Below are 15 titles that I found some hope and enjoyment in during those days.   I felt there was some artistic aspect worth recommending in each.   In retrospect, some truly survived the test of time better than others.  They all had a sensibility or heroism that I recognized and liked from previous generations of comic work.  There are definitely comics worthy of a re-read, and others that should find their way to a recycling bin. 



These comics were cover-priced far too expensively for our normal game, so once again they reside in the quarter box (much like in reality).   Four for a dollar.  As always, share your selection and your thoughts; share your cheers and jeers. Thanks again to Mike's Amazing World of Comics site for the extensive cover archives and credits.

So listen to some Nirvana, Eminem, or Guns N Roses; pop in your VHS tape of  Herman's Head or Quantum Leap, enjoy a cold glass of Crystal Pepsi and make your picks and comments from the Aluminum Age.

Kirk Busiek's Astro City #11 (Nov 1997)  The covers, writing, and art in this series were top notch.  I enjoyed to modernist take on archetypes I loved.
Force Works #11 (Mar 1995) An evolution of the West Coast Avengers with writing by the clever team of Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning.   This Spider Woman had some nice moments.
Ghost Rider #15 (July 1991) Danny Ketch was the new Ghost Rider and that had pros and cons to it.   The art by Mark Texeira had some good aspects; this cover is an example. 
Guardians of the Galaxy #8 (Jan 1991)  Can you believe this was 25 years ago?   Not their best outing, but I love the characters and the future history that this book expanded.
Hourman #7 (Oct 1999)  I didn't read it at the time, but I have to give kudos to the robotic Hourman and the writing of Tom Peyer and the art of Rags Morales.  This cover is by Scott McDaniel.
Impulse #20 (Oct 1996) Mark Waid's Impulse had a ton of humor but also a lot of heart.  
Incredible Hulk #387 (Nov 1991)  I only read the Hulk sporadically (sorry HB) until Peter David took a turn writing, and then I explored the massive back catalog.
Journey Into Mystery (Featuring The Lost Gods) #506 (Feb 1997) During the period that Thor was "gone"  Red Norvell and a new group of gods fought the Egyptian god Set.
JSA #2 (July 1999) The old and the new brought together in the great DC tradition; the originals and their legacies fight for justice.  
The New Warriors #4 (Oct 1990) A brand new team for a new generation,The Warriors had some familiar tropes but improved on some lesser known character properties under the guiding hands of Fabian Nicieza and Mark Bagley.
Spider-Man 2099 #4 (Feb 1993) The 2099 brand had some hits and misses, but Peter David crafted some decent tales as Miguel O'Hara took on the identity in the far flung future and a fancy new suit.
Thunderbolts #11 (Feb 1998) Spoiler Alert!  In a bold move the Masters of Evil play hero in a bid for world domination.  Kurt Busiek and Mark Bagley establish a whole new approach for some classic villains.
Ultraforce #6 (March 1995) Gerard Jones and George Perez created a hero team for Malibu's Ultraverse with oddballs like Pixx, the Ghoul, and Prime.   The first arcs are highly underrated in my opinion, and the art is amazing.
X-Factor #71 (Oct 1991) Well, Peter David is at it again.  This time he puts his twist on a mutant team with some great characterization for the likes of Madrox and Quicksilver.  The art by Larry Stroman had some really over-the-top 90's flair.
Quasar #37 (Aug 1992) This series was a fun cosmic romp written by Mark Gruenwald in a very traditional way.

So that is a rundown of the "new" stuff.  Enjoy the covers!






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