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Old Comics Thread


#302

Top stuff as usual @davidm. I have quite a strong dislike for silver age stuff but I must say I do enjoy your reviews. You read the comics so I don’t have to! That kind of leads me onto some books I started recently.

I own a complete run of Mark Waid Flash comics (I think it’s something like 62-150) but I’ve only ever read from 80 up. I decided to start at the beginning of his run with issue 62. 8 or so issues in and I really don’t like it all. It’s so cheesy and hokey and silver-agey that I ended up skim reading most of the issues. I assume Waid wrote it in this style on purpose or was he just starting out as a writer and just wasn’t very good at this stage in his career?

The thing is, I remember really liking from 80 up when I read it first time round. Maybe the tone and style changes. We’ll see.


#303

Interesting. I loved Waid’s entire Flash run, though I haven’t re-read it since so maybe it doesn’t hold up well. Maybe he did adopt a hokey, silver-age style on purpose, but clearly that wouldn’t have been a problem for me :smiley:


#304

Outside of Knightfall and Death of Superman, this was the first DC series I ever put on my monthly standing order at the LCS due to word of mouth on Waid (I think I started around issue 92). Wally became one of my fave characters although I had zero knowledge of who Barry Allen was.

Barry has just turned up back from the dead in the latest issue of my reread and he’s a chump. I can see why he was killed off. But then as a DC reader of the 90’s I like Kyle and have no time for Hal.


#305

Lol, I could copy & paste your last post and claim it as my own without changing a single thing. Flash 92 was my first issue too. :sunglasses:

Having heard the Waid hype, I jumped on board with Impulse’s debut. The next couple of years were great fun. I’ve hunted down all of the earlier back issues, but haven’t read them yet either. They were some of Waid’s earliest work as a writer though, so maybe he was still learning the ropes and only hit the next level when he teamed up with Ringo with #80.


#306

As much as I’m not enjoying the current portion of my reread I am looking forward to the time period I remember.


#307

I’ve been reading early X-Men lately. There’s a great error in one issue. The X-Men have been taken to the hospital after a battle. The Professor’s very keen to tell them that they can’t let their identities be revealed and nor can anyone know that Xavier is the X-Men’s leader. Immediately after telepathically warning Beast about that, in the same panel, Xavier calls him “McCoy” in front of a doctor.

What I love about that is that is that Stan’s clearly conscious that the Professor needs to act like he’s not familiar with Beast, so thinks “oh, he can call him by his surname rather than just Hank”, without twigging that it completely contradicts the whole plot point.


#308

Maybe Stan let his brother Larry write that issue.


#309

Larry was actually pretty good at scripting things. He just didn’t have the bombast of Stan and was always working from Stan’s plots (on the early super-hero stuff), so wasn’t ever given much freedom beyond doing the bare essentials like “I have to touch my hammer in 60 seconds!”


#310

That’s why it’s so Thor. Leave it alone.


#311

I’m reading Just Imagine If Stan Lee Created the DC Universe, which is enjoyable, but sometimes feels like Stan is stuck in the Silver Age


#312

I only ever bought and read the Wonder Woman one, for the Jim Lee art. It was a from a weird period in Jim Lee’s career where he wasn’t so popular; I’d lump it in with his WildCATs/X-Men issue and to a lesser extent the Divine Right series.


#313

Superman’s Pal, Jimmy Olsen #72

‘The World of Doomed Olsens’
By Jerry Siegel and Curt Swan.

I don’t usually review (or even read) Jimmy Olsen comics, but
this is quite a key one so I’ll have to make an exception.

The issue starts with Jimmy on a TV show, showing off all
the crazy transformations he’s been through—Elastic Lad, Wolf Boy, Human
Porcupine, Giant Turtle Man, and, er, Fat Boy. Ok …

Suddenly, an alien called The Collector turns up and kidnaps
Jimmy, whisking him off to an alien world where, as punishment for some unspecified
crime, he is to be tormented by physical manifestations of all his weird forms.
Giant Turtle Man almost stomps on him, Elastic Lad tickles him mercilessly, and
Fat Boy, er, doesn’t do anything because he’s too busy eating. Ok …

Jimmy is terrified by all this, and uses his signal watch to
call Superman for help. But Superman doesn’t do anything!

Well, you can’t really argue with that!

All hope seems lost, until an unexpected clue allows our plucky
hero to work out the puzzle. These manifestations are all members of the Legion
of Super-Heroes in disguise! Mon-El is ‘The Collector’, Colossal Boy is Giant
Turtle Man, the shape-changing Chameleon Boy is Elastic Lad (more fuel to add
to the ‘does he have the super powers of the person he transforms into?’
debate), the shape-changing Proty is the Wolf Boy, Cosmic Boy is the Human
Porcupine, firing steel needles, and Bouncing Boy is Fat Boy because he’s, er,
fat. Ok …

Even Superman is in on the trick!

But what’s it all for?

Simple. In the hands of Jerry Siegel, the Legion’s favourite
pastime is playing tricks on people they want to induct into the club. Yes,
Jimmy Olsen is made an honorary member due to his amazing Elastic Lad powers.
(Not because of his Fat Boy powers, obviously.)

This is such a bizarre story, I don’t know what to say about
it. There’s nothing here to actively dislike, but it’s … really not a great
story. Nice art from Curt Swan though, obviously.

Actually I’m being unfair to Jerry Siegel. I can see how
this works as a sort of wish-fulfilment story. There’s nothing special about
him, he’s just a good boy who got lucky and was able to join the greatest team
in comics. As Siegel hammers home in the last panel of the story:

(The the second time the forum has taken one of my panels and turned it sideways. I have no idea why it does that.)

Putting myself in the shoes of the young reader of the time,
Superboy might be a good role model but I know I’m never going to join the
Legion like he did because I wasn’t born on Krypton. Jimmy, on the other hand,
he’s just like me. And if he can do it …


#314

Adventure Comics #313

‘The Condemned Legionnaires’
By Edmond Hamilton and Curt Swan

This splash page is all you need to see to know that this is
going to be the greatest comic ever:

Does it live up to its promise? Oh yes. This comic is
wonderful.

The story starts dramatically, with every girl in the Legion
falling sick, victim of a mysterious red (that’s a clue, if only I had realised
it!) plague. I’m immediately suspicious that this is a ploy by Edmond Hamilton
to get them out of the way, because I’ve noted before that he doesn’t like using
the female cast members. But female characters are very much central to the
story. First of all we’re introduced to Satan Girl:

Is this a potential new member? No, it turns out she’s the
villain of the piece, and with all the powers of a Kryptonian to boot. With
half their members sick, and Superboy and Mon-El carefully written out back on
page one, how can the Legion possibly oppose this threat?

Yay, send for Supergirl!

But notice the problem with Cosmic Boy’s statement? ‘Supergirl
would be free to come from the 20th century, for she promised to
visit us about this time.’ This makes no sense. If she can travel through time,
how can she not be free when they need her? If she was busy when they
called, she could wait a hour, a week, a year even, and still travel to the
point in time when they needed her!

This has been a consistent problem in how the Legion writers
treat time travel and it niggles me slightly. Edmond Hamilton is a better SF
writer than that. I can only assume he’s glossing over the more paradoxical
aspects in order to make it simpler for his audience. But I wish he wouldn’t.

It doesn’t detract from the story, though, because look,
Supergirl!

I like how Curt Swan draws Supergirl; there’s an elegance to
his art which is very different to Jim Mooney’s (regular artist on Supergirl)
cartoony style and John Forte’s (usual artist on the Legion) stiff figures. And
he draws dynamic battle scenes that I don’t think Forte could ever pull off:

The story progresses with Supergirl trying desperately to
defeat Satan Girl before she kills the Legionnaires.

They are physically equal, so Kara tries to deduce who or
what Satan Girl is so she can find her weakness. She is apparently not Kryptonian
(though this turns out to be a cheat on Hamilton’s part, and a bit unfair on
readers trying to guess the answer) nor Daxamite, nor a super-powered android.
And worse, she seems to know Supergirl’s every thought, anticipating her every stratagem.

As usual for Hamilton’s stories, this one is packed with examples
of his wild imagination, presented as incidental, throw-away ideas just to lend
colour to the science-fiction setting. I love things like this:

What purpose do they serve in the story? None! They’re just
there as cool ideas, and I love that about Edmond Hamilton.

The other thing I like in this story is how Hamilton
repeatedly illustrates how Supergirl is orders of magnitude more powerful than
the other Legionnaires: single-handedly repairing their smashed space ship, flying
unaided through space far faster than the ship can follow, swiftly fashioning an
exotic ray gun from ores and chemical she digs out of the ground. Kryptonians
are so far above anyone else it boggles the mind.

Finally, at her wits’ end, and dying of kryptonite poisoning,
a random clue tells Supergirl that Satan girl’s powers don’t work on animals
(for an unspecified reason). So there’s only one possible solution:

Super-Pets!

Super-Pets and Supergirl in one story! Comics don’t get much
better than this!

With the Pet’s help, Satan Girl is subdued and Supergirl
saved from the kryptonite. And then we get the revelation of her secret
identity:

Satan Girl is an evil duplicate of Supergirl, caused by
exposure to red kryptonite! It’s like good Kirk and evil Kirk after a
transporter accident, but without the benefit of dark eye-shadow to identify
the evil one!

Just after this revelation, Satan Girl’s 48 hours are up and
she merges harmlessly back with Supergirl.

I really liked Satan Girl as a villain. It’s an interesting
way to have an adversary of Kryptonian-level power without it being yet another
escaped Phantom Zone villain, and the twist of her having Supergirl’s mind and
memories was a good one, neatly confounding Kara’s attempts keep her friends safe.

And although her methods were clearly evil, I can’t help feeling
sorry for her. Her motivation was believable and sympathetic:

Points that I think the story failed on were first the fake kryptonite immunity—explained away, but still a cheat for the readers—and second the fact that it felt like Kara didn’t earn
the victory. Oh yes, she worked hard for it, but the clue to Satan Girl’s defeat
was stumbled across at random, which seems like another cheat.

And Hamilton missed a
chance to use a classic paradox, where Satan Girl would only be created when
Supergirl travels into the future … in order to help stop Satan Girl! He almost does it, but ultimately opts for a non-paradoxical explanation, and again I suspect he’s doing it to keep things simple for his readers, which is a pity.

But the important thing to remember about this story is:
Super-Pets!


#315

It was the Marvel Unlimited Book Club pick, so I read “Kraven’s Last Hunt” for the first time, having heard about it as a classic since… forever.

It was beautifully drawn, and sadly there’s not that much Mike Zeck stuff out there, but the story is super-slight and so drawn out; much of the narration reads like poor DKR-pastiche. If not for the gorgeous artwork, it would be a real slog to get through.


#316

I read Kraven’s Last Hunt a while back (it must have been Pre-Crisis Millarworld as I can’t find my review). I enjoyed it OK but your review is pretty apt.


#317

I like Kraven’s Last Hunt a lot, but it’s been a while since I read it. It is very serious for a Spidey story though.

Lovely art, I agree.


#318

Marvel Fanfare #18

Last night I read this story for the first time, a one-off Captain America story by Roger Stern and Frank Miller (with Miller art, finished by Joe Rubinstein). For reasons that will become clear, it feels kind of weird writing a reaction to it today, but I’ll go ahead anyway.

The main story in this issue, “Home Fires”, is a tale about Captain America being drawn into a conflict involving a group of disenfranchised working-class men who feel sidelined (economically and otherwise) by society, and are determined to set fire to it - literally in this case, as they’re arsonists who leave ransom notes by the scenes of their crimes, trying to extort their government into meeting their demands.

Captain America is tasked with saving the lives of those threatened by the arsonists, tracking the group down and apprehending them, and - eventually - trying to reconcile his understanding of the criminals’ complaints about society with his faith in American ideals.

Dated January 1985, the issue comes from a couple of years after Miller’s classic Daredevil run, and in many ways feels like a classic Miller-era DD story, just with Cap substituted in as the protagonist. Not only is Miller’s art style very similar at this point (so much so that I wonder whether this was an inventory story drawn a few years before the cover date), but the urban setting and gritty (sometimes tonally very dark) nature of the story also help to build the DD-esque atmosphere. We even see Cap hitting up dive bars for information and intimidating low-life crooks, Matt-Murdock-style:

The artwork is pretty great throughout (it helps that Marvel Fanfare was printed on unusually high-quality paper for the time, so even a fairly old original single issue like this still holds up today), with Miller employing some inventive layouts to help make an otherwise fairly straightforward story feel more lively and visually interesting. There’s a great page featuring a huge number of slim vertical panels (I think 15 or 18?) that feels akin to his DKR layouts, and which really works to invigorate the story at one of its tensest moments.

Miller also saves some of his most striking visuals for the conclusion of the story: a moment when Cap comes to the realisation that his enemies are just regular folk who have been twisted into wrong-headed actions by their vision of their country as something that is broken and wrong, and which owes them a living. So, in his way, he tries to explain to them where they’ve strayed off the path, and what America really means.

Because prompted by someone declaring that everyone who was in potential danger from a fire (started by the arsonists) is clear of a building, this happens:

It’s an undeniably cheesy moment, but it gives Miller a great opportunity to craft some striking, iconic images that convey the message of the story slightly better than the dialogue does. It’s a story about people coming to the realisation that they have to be responsible enough to build a better world for everyone rather than sitting back and waiting for the world to provide for them, and it ends up feeling more powerful than I expected after the reasonably unnoteworthy setup.

There are a couple of fun easter eggs scattered throughout the story too, like this one (check out the text on the billboard behind Cap):

And there are a couple of ‘portfolio’ sections at the end of the issue that provide a showcase for pin-ups by Kevin Nowlan and Terry Austin (apparently included because Chris Claremont was late with a back-up strip - well, according to the amusing one-page comic by editor Al Milgrom that opens the issue, anyway).

But the main attraction of this issue for me was definitely in seeing some prime-era Frank Miller art that I’d never been exposed to before, and which complements his Daredevil run nicely.


#319

John Carter, Warlord of Mars #18

I’m not a John Carter fan. I don’t really know much about the series. And I haven’t even read the first 17 issues of this title. But as part of my recent interest in checking out some early-era Frank Miller work, this 1978 book caught my eye - because it represents his first ever published art for Marvel Comics.

Usually it’s a reasonably pricey book (and as far as I know it’s only ever been reprinted in the big, expensive John Carter omnibus), but when I saw a copy in excellent condition on sale for just a couple of quid recently, I thought I’d check it out.

Knowing very little about John Carter or his world, the story (by Chris Claremont) didn’t hold a huge amount of meaning for me, but it’s interesting to look at Miller’s art and see just how fully-formed his style was even from this early stage. The action scenes are very bold and dynamic (in the vein of his early Daredevil work) - and you can see him using elements like foreground silhouettes to frame images and add extra dimensions to his illustrations:

Bob McLeod’s inking is quite delicate and precise, and helps to bring out the best in Miller’s work. Even when the comic makes slightly clunky use of (nowadays old-fashioned feeling) conventions like thought bubbles to provide an internal monologue during action sequences, there’s still a real sense of energy in panels like this:

Elsewhere in the issue, Miller gets to indulge in illustrating more feminine forms, notably during a subplot involving Dejah Thoris. Knowing that Miller would end up creating his own powerful, dark-haired, beautiful female character in the form of Elektra, it’s impossible not to look at pages like this and see echoes of the future:

But for the most part the issue is a fairly action-heavy affair that provides a good showcase for the young Miller’s talents, with occasional standout moments that are arguably up there with some of the best of his Daredevil stuff. This page in particular contains quite a few visual ideas that I remember cropping up later in that famous run too, particularly the disembodied hands clawing up from the floor:

It’s definitely an issue that is more interesting for its historical significance and for its place in Miller’s back catalogue than for the story in its own right, but it’s one that I’m happy to have finally checked out. I think it’s easy to see some seeds of Miller’s later greatness here.


#320

I never realised Claremont wrote the John Carter comics. He and Alan Davis parodied them in Excalibur in the early 90s, oddly enough:


#321

He only wrote #16-27 and an annual, apparently.