Category Archives: Comics

Monster hunters, murder solvers and heroic swordsmen: books read

SCOOBY-DOO TEAM-UP: Doomed by the usual team of Sholly Fisch and Dario Brizuela has Scooby and friends help Supergirl when she’s haunted by the ghosts of Argo City, assist Dyno-Mutt when Blue Falcon goes off his rocker and in my favorite story, assist a small town threatened by DC’s gorilla villains, from Monsieur Mallah to Pryemaul the Nazi vampire gorilla (that’s him on the Brizuela cover). The line “It’s the Gorilla Boss of Gotham City and the Mod Gorilla Boss, together!” for some reason had me convulsed with laughter. A shame there’s only one TPB of this series left.

CAITLIN KELLY, MONSTER HUNTER by Theresa Glover has a Vatican-sanctioned Slayer looking to vacation in New Orleans with her nerdy best buddy, Matt. However the local counterpart is dead and a demon dog is eating the Big Easy’s ghost population so Caitlin’s vacation gets postponed. Plus she has to work with her handler Sister Betty, a nun lesbian Caitlin has an intense crush on. This was competent but not much beyond that (though I might have liked it better if I were a bigger urban fantasy fan), and counting Warrior Nun it’s the third Catholic-sanctioned demon-slayer I know of (which has prompted me to start a story with a Jewish slayer sneering at the Catholics as mere parvenus).

My friend Sherry Harris has branched out from her Sarah Winston garage sale cozies with FROM BEER TO ETERNITY: A Chloe Jackson Sea Glass Saloon Mystery. Chloe is a Chicago librarian honoring a request by her late BFF to move to Emerald Cove — a fictitious community just east of Destin, where I used to be a reporter — and help her friend’s grandma, Vivi, running her beachfront bar, the Sea Glass. Vivi doesn’t want Chloe there but when it looks like Vivi stabbed an annoying local eccentric through the throat, Chloe starts digging … I honestly can’t evaluate this as a mystery because for me revisiting my old home was a lot of fun. We have white sand beaches, pine woods, tourist traffic, development squabbles, oddballs … it’s like revisiting home without the suffocating heat. HEROIC FANTASY, edited by Gerald W. Page and Hank Reinhardt, was a sword-and-sorcery collection from the late 1970s, selecting from what I think of as a talented B-list rather than the big names such as Fritz Leiber or Michael Moorcock. That’s not meant as an insult because the results are very good, including an Andre Norton Witch World fantasy, a Cyrion story by Tanith Lee, one of Charles Saunders’ Imaro tales and a story of the Voidal by Adrian Cole. The last was particularly fun to reread because at the time I had no way to find the small-press volumes in the series but now, in the Internet age, it’ll be easy. This collection does tend toward the grim, and the heroes are overwhelmingly white (except for Imaro) and male (except for Norton’s), but I like it nonetheless. There are also good, informative essays on swords, armor and heroism that I enjoyed rereading.

#SFWApro. All rights to images remain with current holders, book cover art is uncredited.

1 Comment

Filed under Comics, Reading

Some comics covers for Wednesday

A dynamic cover by Herb Trimpe, one of “my” Hulk artists along with Sal Buscema.Jack Kirby provides one of his monster covers—This one is by (probably) Dick Giordano. But seriously, doesn’t everyone over 14 know a teenager’s heart can break? We’ve been there.And another romance cover (by Nick Caputo), showing how long “no means yes” has been around.#SFWApro.

Leave a comment

Filed under Comics, cover art

Avengers, Batman and Superman: it’s the A-list but is it their A-game?

SUPERMAN: The Golden Age Volume Three by Jerry Siegel, Joe Shuster and several other artists continues in the vein of the first two volumes. We have Lois’ relentless hunt for scoops (reckless, but so much more competent than when I was a kid years later), social issues (can a spoiled heiress realize her duty to her employees?), Luthor and a few other supervillains and an increasing number of fifth columnists and Sinister Foreign Powers, carefully not specified (this was the prewar period when pushing for war against Germany was still a touchy subject). These are entertaining, though not consistent — Superman flies in one story, then goes back to jumping, and some stories still hinge on people never hearing of the Man of Steel. Fun, but definitely not up to Batman in the same era.

Speaking of the Darknight Detective, BATMAN: Universe is surprisingly fun despite being written by Brian Michael Bendis (art by Nick Derington), whom I’m not fond of. This is a light-hearted romp that starts with the Riddler stealing a mysterious Faberge Egg that’s more than it seems. Tracking the egg sends Batman up against Vandal Savage and bouncing through the DC Universe from Rann to Gorilla City to the Old West, fighting alongside Green Lantern, Nightwing, Adam Strange and Jonah Hex. Lightweight but very enjoyable.

AVENGERS: Masters of Evil by Roy Thomas and various artists (most notably John Buscema) follows up Once An Avenger as the team battle Dragon Man, Diablo, Magneto, Typhon the Terrible, the Super-Adaptoid and the sinister communist super-weapon the Psychotron.There are some really good stories in here (YMMV depending on your taste for the Silver Age) and many things I like, such as Thomas constantly referencing what’s going on with Captain America, Thor and other Avengers or former Avengers in their own books.

On the downside, there’s also a whole lot of writing that indicates Thomas was still learning his craft or just overworked. A new heroic Black Knight (replacing a villain of the same name) shows up but a couple of issues later the Avengers forget that he’s not the same as the villain. The Avengers’ butler Jarvis betrays them for dubious reasons, but they take him back without thinking twice. The Magneto plotline stretches out way longer than it should have. The Black Widow gets a kickass arc helping thwart her former communist masters, then becomes a whiny girlfriend for the rest of this volume (and a good while afterwards).

On the plus side, the book wraps up with an emotional one where Cap uses time travel to determine if Bucky survived the way Cap did, and gets his heart ripped out watching him die again (little did he know …). Then when the Avengers return to the present they enter an alternate timeline where the original team have turned into dictators; can they stop a physically far more powerful Avengers team? There are some clever touches in the scenes where they take down Earth’s other superheroes, such as Thor trying to figure out why Daredevil’s a superhero when he doesn’t apparently have any powers.

#SFWApro. Top cover by Derington, bottom by Buscema, all rights remain with current holders.


Leave a comment

Filed under Comics, Reading

Devil dogs, Welshmen and more: books read

Despite the cover copy, THE HAVEN by Graham Diamond is actually a post-apocalyptic (though we don’t learn that until late in the book) fantasy adventure. The Haven is the city that rules over a human empire surrounded by a vast, seemingly endless forest (one character waxes rhapsodic about how vast the Haven’s domain is — OMG, twenty miles across!) populated with talking beasts: birds (human allies), feral dogs (enemies), wolves (neutral) and venomous bats (enemies). Now a supreme dog overlord has arisen, plotting to sweep all humanity away: can the Haven survive? Can Lord Nigel succeed in his quest to find land outside the forest (something the Havenites aren’t sure exists)?

This blew me away when I first read it in the late 1970s or early 1980s. Not so much now — not that it’s bad, I’ve just read so much more and it’s harder to impress me. I did enjoy rereading it though, but I do think the post-apocalyptic aspect should have been seeded better (it turns out there’s at least some awareness among the learned in Haven, but this never comes up until near the end).

THE REVOLT OF OWAIN GLYN DWR by R.R. Davies does a good job on one of those historical figures I know Of but not About — though Davies notes there’s really very little anyone now knows about Glyn Dwr (best known to most people as Shakespeare’s braggart rebel Owen Glendower) besides his revolt (in contrast to many historians who face that problem, Davies admirably restrains himself from padding his book by speculating). What we can reasonably guess is that conflicts with an English neighboring landowner mixed with longstanding Welsh resentment at English dominance led Glyn Dwr set himself in revolt against Henry IV, a war that benefited from Wales lack of a strong administrative English state, pressure on England from France, Scotland and Ireland, as well as internal English unrest (resolving these various problems led to the revolt’s collapse, though contrary to Shakespeare Glyn Dwr was a much more formidable foe than Hotspur). Reminiscent of History in Three Keys, Davies shows that Glyn Dwr’s memory endured because he could be adapted to multiple agenda: the English stereotype of the hotblooded Welshman, the mystic who calls spirits from the vasty deep (Glyn Dwr never claimed magical powers, but did invoke Merlin’s prophecies as justifying his revolt) and later the heroic father of Welsh nationalism. Good job, though very dense (Davies covers Welsh life and culture at the time in great detail).

WELCOME TO MARS: Politics, Pop Culture and Weird Science in 1950s America by Ken Hollings was my second unsatisfying reference-read for my McFarland Alien Invader book (though it’s head and shoulders above Them or Us). Going year by year through the decade, Hollings argues that the 1950s were as open to weird and unconventional ideas as the two decades that follows: UFOs appeared and obsessed America, the CIA dabbled with LSD, the Bridey Murphy story made people think about reincarnation and technology took the first step into space. Unfortunately the execution is a mess, Hollings never being as clever as he thinks he is (like an early argument we can think of the United States as the lost continent of Lemuria — as Lemuria isn’t imaginary, can’t it be anywhere?). The movie reviews aren’t very good either; Hollings’ review of Invasion of the Bodysnatchers focuses more on snarking about suburbia (sure the pod people are placid and complacent, but that’s because they’ve moved into such a nice suburb!) than anything substantial.

GREEN LANTERN: Intergalactic Lawman by Grant Morrison and Liam Sharp has Hal trying to stop God from kidnapping the Earth, battling the sinister Blackstars and going undercover on a mission for the Guardians, but it doesn’t really click with me. Part of that is that like a lot of 21st century comics writers, Morrison’s fond of cosmic technobabble (“The Ubomb will condense and bind all matter in the universe to a quark core, instantaneously.”) which feels more Babble to me than Cosmic; part of it’s just that the story felt really choppy, nor does Hal’s character come across strongly.

#SFWApro. Cover by Wayne McLoughlin, all rights to image remain with current holder.


Filed under Comics, Reading

Covers for (mostly) classic specfic

An effective, though uncredited cover for a Ray Bradbury classicVictor Kalin does the cover for this short-story collection.Victor Olson does the next one, which I’m guessing is not a classic, and definitely isn’t specfic. Though it is, apparently, harsh and pitiless.Powers does the next cover.And Mitchell Hooks for Matheson’s excellent novel.And I’ll close with a good cover for a non-classic book, a blatant knockoff of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Barsoom novels.#SFWApro.

Leave a comment

Filed under Comics, Reading

Nerds and dreams: books read

QUEENS OF GEEK by Jen Wilde is a Y/A romance focusing on three teen Aussie nerds attending a massive U.S. con. Taylor is overweight, Asperger’s and suffering acute social anxiety but desperate to meet the author the Queen Firestone fantasy series (which has a devoted Harry Potter-like fandom); Charlotte is bi, Chinese-Australian, a vlogger and there to promote her breakout film; Jamie is Latino and in love with Taylor, who feels the same but can’t read his feelings and is nervous to express herself. Will they finally get together? Will Taylor meet the author? Will Charlie start a new romance with another female vlogger or will her obnoxious co-star and ex-boyfriend throw a spanner in the works?

As I’m long past 18, it’s pleasantly surprising how enjoyable a lot of this was. Wilde also does a great job conveying what social anxiety is like and capturing the feeling of being totally, utterly in love with a book or series (which makes it surprising that Tay’s description of the books comes off very bland). On the downside, this is really lacking in conflict; several problems I was anticipating never arose, and while the book acknowledges fat-shaming, cyberbullying and crazy fan behavior, almost everyone we actually meet is incredibly nice (Skyler, the Firestone author, reacts to Taylor like she’s just met her new best friend). While I’m happy to have an overweight lead who’s not being fat-shamed, it still feels there needed to be more of a challenge that the girls’ own insecurities.

SANDMAN: The Doll’s House by Neil Gaiman and various artists is a good follow-up to Volume One. We meet Dream’s sister Death, visit a serial killer’s convention, catch up on various runaway dream-entities and learn how the Bronze Age Sandman fits into Gaiman’s mythos (it’s clever, though I blame the story, perhaps unfairly, for rendering Roy Thomas’ character Lyta Trevor useless). Weaving through it all is Rose Walker, a young woman searching for a lost relative, stumbling into danger and ultimately having closer ties to Morpheus than either realizes. A pleasure to reread.

#SFWApro. Art by Dave McKean, all rights remain with current holder.

Leave a comment

Filed under Comics, Reading

Bats and Witches: this week’s reading

Along with cutting into the work week, setting up all those bookcases cut into my reading time as well. Plus some of my reading was Doc Savage pulps which will get their own post next week.

Surprisingly BATMAN: The Golden Age Omnibus Volume 7 by Bill Finger, Dick Sprang and multiple others (which I finished this past week after reading for several months) doesn’t accelerate the steady shift into the 1950s style that I noticed in Volume 5 and 6. Even though it ends in 1951, it doesn’t show an uptick in SF stories, and doesn’t add many new gimmick villains. The new bad guys are Killer Moth (despite his dumb name he has a neat concept, becoming an anti-Batman who protects crooks from the police, for a price) and Deadshot, a rival crimefighter who plans to kill and replace Batman, then use his role to secretly run the underworld.We see a lot of Joker and Penguin stories, including the Joker’s origin (the Red Hood cover above). There’s not much Catwoman and while we do get an origin for her, it involved her going straight for a while, then going back to crime and finally vanishing for a decade (Tim Hanley suggests that a sexy, whip-wielding Bad Girl was too edge for DC after the Comics Code was established). One of the high points is “The Joker’s Comedy of Errors” in which (as Brian Cronin recounts) the Joker gets upset when Gotham City makes fun of his boner — sure, it’s in the sense of “dumb mistake” but the jokes just write themselves.

We see a great many human interest stories, ordinary (but cunning) criminals, deranged madmen and baffling mysteries. While YMMV is always the rule for something 70 years old, this has become my favorite era of Batman. I look forward to V8.

THE HERALD OF DAY: The Boar King’s Honor, Book One by Nancy Northcott opens well as Miranda, a witch in Restoration England, watches helplessly as an innocent woman is hung for witchcraft. A dream leads Miranda to send a summoning (quite eerily done) to Richard, a nobleman and wizard who takes her off to London for training and introductions to “Gifted” society. At which point the book slowed to a crawl: while weird stuff is happening (time itself is changing, with freak events as a side effect) we spend way too long on Miranda’s personal-growth arc and it’s pretty generic, as is the magic itself and the Council of Wizards (you could plug them into a contemporary fantasy without much change). While I like a lotof the historical detail, the story just didn’t hold me and the villain is a two-dimensional Voldemort/Magneto type (homo superior shall rule!).

#SFWApro. Art by Lew Sayre Schwartz (top and middle), Dick Sprang at bottom. All rights remain with current holder).

Leave a comment

Filed under Comics, Reading

Superheroes, sex and corruption! This week’s reading

THE FLASH: The Silver Age Omnibus Vol. 3 comes with a variety of creators (John Broome, Carmine Infantino, Ross Andru, Robert Kanigher, Frank Robbins) which underlies what a transitional era the late 1960s were at DC. Marvel was kicking their butts in sales (though the interest in Batman from the TV show made up for some of that), veteran Flash artist Infantino got promoted to publisher and many of the company’s creators were fired after asking for a better financial deal.

Thus the first year or so is standard Silver Age Flash (I consider this a plush). Then we get Ross Andru and inker Mike Esposito replacing Infantino and they don’t work at all. Frank Robbins, a veteran comic-strip writer/artist and later a great Batman writer, became the new writer for a while and he just didn’t click at all. John Broome provides a few more stories and Cary Bates (who wrote Flash in the Bronze Age) contributes one landmark story (it established we live on another world in the DC multiverse) but this is overall weaker than Volume 2 (I’m currently working through V.1)

THE SPIRIT ARCHIVES Vol. 6 is also disappointing: not horrible but these stories came out when Spirit creator Will Eisner was in the Army so they were all ghosted. Admittedly when your ghosts include Manly Wade Wellman and Golden Age artist Lou Fine, that’s pretty impressive, but they aren’t up to Eisner’s average. And a couple of yarns where the Spirit uses his sidekick Ebony as a glorified gofer are really uncomfortable to read.

THE SILENT SEVEN was the sequel to the Shadow novel The Death Tower, which revealed the villainous Dr. Palermo was one member of this mysterious crime cartel (they apparently replaced Palermo between books as they’re at full strength here). Gibson has an ingenious plot here: rather than a straight Shadow vs. Seven fight, he has a schemer replace one of the members to enlist their resources in his own crime plans. It’s fun, but the Silent Seven never seem as formidable as Palermo in the previous story.

I felt oddly nostalgic reading THE PLAYBOY BOOK OF SCIENCE FICTION as it brought back the days when Playboy not only existed, it was a honking big deal, and not just for the playmates; for all the jokes about “I read it for the articles” I have female friends who did just that. Hugh Hefner knew sex + sophistication would sell better than sex alone and he paid for quality. Thus we have stories by Ray Bradbury, Harlan Ellison, Kurt Vonnegutt, Doris Lessing and some non-genre names such as Donald Westlake and Billy Crystal. A good collection though like most anthologies it has some stories I didn’t care for (Doris Lessing’s bored me) and some that are just bad (Vonnegut’s Welcome to the Monkey House has the protagonist raping drugged-out future women to make them see Sex Is Wonderful!)

ALL THE KING’S MEN by Robert Penn Warren is one of TYG’s favorite novels, and I can see why. Narrator Jack Burden is a former historian, former reporter, now right-hand man to Willie Stark,, governor of an unnamed Southern state (Warren resisted the assumption Willie was modeled on Louisiana politician Huey Long). The noirish tale bounces through Jack’s and Willie’s past and future, showing how both men’s idealism has drained away in politics, though Stark is no worse than the people he’s up against and in some ways better (he taxes corporations who don’t want to be taxed) — but only some. As the power struggles come back closer to Jack’s own life, he has to figure out what the hell he’s going to do.

This is more a dark character study than a political drama and it’s strikingly written:

“It was the kind of apartment house where the bulb burns out and nobody ever puts a new one in and there is always a kiddie car left on a landing and the carpet is worn to ribbons and the air smells dankly of dogs, diapers, cabbage, old women, burnt grease and the eternal fate of man.”

And switching to something more fun and much less serious or literary, over at Atomic Junkshop I blogged this week about how I love Scooby-Doo Team-Up.

#SFWApro. Flash cover by Carmine Infantino, the other by Paul Gamarello. All rights remain with current holders.


Leave a comment

Filed under Comics, Reading


I’ve no idea why doomposting is a big deal but I figure if I get in on the trend, I’ll get extra clicks. So here we go — Doomposting!

Then we have Victor’s fifth cousin Bob Doom, the evil dentist (not kidding)!Next, some Doom (Patrol) postingAnd some Droomposting—And Dragoom-posting—

And Goom-posting—And Googam Son of Goom-posting—I shall now relax and await my 15 minutes of internet fame.

All covers by Jack Kirby except She-Hulk (Dale Keown) and My Greatest Adventure (Bruno Premiani). All rights remain with current holders. #SFWApro.

Leave a comment

Filed under Comics, cover art

Pulp heroes, comics heroes and movie reference: this week’s books

THE RED SHADOW by Robert J. Hogan (a pulp author better known for writing aviation whiz G-8 or the sinister Wu-Fang) was the first in his short-lived Secret Six series. It starts well as King, a pilot framed for the Red Shadow deaths ( “The coroner says everyone in the house was strangled, but there are no marks on the throat.”)breaks out of prison alongside the cherubic Bishop and master lockpick “Key” to find the real killer (why yes, they do recruit three more allies!). Hogan doesn’t, however, have the touch that elevates Walter Gibson and Lester Dent’s work to the pulp crimefighter A-list; the murder method is too obvious (the cops should really have figured it out) and having King take on a pidgin-spouting black muscleman sidekick who calls him “master” really hasn’t aged well.

Back in the 1990s, writer/artist Alan Grant’s Clandestine introduced the metahuman Destine clan who live clandestinely in the UK (get it?), hiding their powers — which becomes more complicated when the youngest members, thinking they’re mutants (their powers are more magical in nature) decide to become superheroes just like the X-Men. The delightful series didn’t take off but Grant revisits them in CLANDESTINE: Family Ties, a combination of a limited series with a trio of crossovers (Fantastic Four, Daredevil and Wolverine). The story wraps up some old plotlines from the original series and introduces another Destine, Vincent, who was killed in a brutal family feud but has now returned. Like the original series this is a lot of fun though I’d recommend starting with the TPB of the original run.

The sixth volume of SCOOBY-DOO TEAM-UP by Sholly Fisch and Dario Baizuela continues in the same vein as the previous five as the kids and Scooby help out the Legion of Superheroes, the Birds of Prey, Atom Ant, Yogi Bear and the Jerry Lewis March of Dimes telethon (or as close as they could come), the latter story including most of DC’s Silver Age comedy lineup (DC published a Jerry Lewis comic book at the time). The usual mix of whimsical comedy and Easter eggs.

While I won’t start writing my McFarland Alien Visitors book for a couple of months, I am doing some advance reading on the topic. Unfortunately my first pick was Patrick Lucanio’s THEM OR US: Archetypal Interpretations of Fifties Alien Invasion Films. Luciano means “archetypal” quite literally, arguing that these seemingly ridiculous films embody Jungian archetypes, so when the hero of Invaders of Mars tries to warn people about the invaders it actually represents “the eruption of the self archetype into consciousness.” Nothing of use to me there, and I disagree with Luciano lumping in non-invader films such as The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms (though I suppose from a Jungian viewpoint the distinction may not matter).

After treating myself to that Amicus DVD set a few months back, I wanted to learn more about the company. Brian McFadcen’s AMICUS HORRORS covers their entire output (it’s not a huge list) starting with when producers Milt Subotsky and Max Rosenberg were putting out rock and roll picture such as It’s Trad, Dad (directed by Richard Lester who of course went on to A Hard Day’s Night) before Beatlemania meant non-Beatles rock films were dead in the water. McFadden shows Amicus was just as tough about spending money as America’s AIP films — anthology films were a way to cut costs because a segment with Christopher Lee would cost less than using him for a full-length movie — but used the savings to produce higher quality films, something AIP never worried about. Along with roc and horror, Amicus also gave us Peter Cushing’s two Doctor Who films, the John Brunner-scripted The Terrornauts (one where the budget was low and it showed) and even a Harold Pinter adaptation; McFadden unfortunately falls into the common film-reference delusion that as we know now where Amicus’ strengths lay, clearly attempts to depart from horror were a mistake. Despite that, this is a great read if you’re into the studio.

#SFWApro. All rights to images remain with current holders. Covers by Davis and Baizuela.


Filed under Comics, Reading