The Mignola fill-in, based on Rob’s layouts.
I only bought it for the cover!
I can just imagine how many Liefield fans were disappointed opening up this comic! Mignola at his superhero best.
Yes! I love that they use Mignola for the flashback with the Liefeld bookends. It just made for a perfect contained issue within the longer arc.
I was a huge Liefeld fan at the time but really loved how they used Mignola’s art for stylistic and story purposes.
Mignola has a couple great fill-ins on Superman in the 80’s as well.
Yes, DC put out a hardcover a few months ago of his DCU stuff not including Cosmic Odyssey. I got a Dracula sketch from him when he came to a con in London in the early 90s and he’d draw anything apart from Superman. Hated drawing him!
That’s funny. I really love his Superman.
With Marvel reportedly punking up Dazzler for her update, I’m revisiting the first four of the original series.
The last time I placed an order through Mile High or some similar site a few years ago it was to grab pretty much every non-Hellboy Mignola issue; they’re mainly 1-2 issue fill-ins but all very pretty.
An interesting quirk that I’d not really noticed is that Mignola never does top-down shots like the bottom left panel suggested by Rob here:
There are other similar cases; he avoids them every time and if you look at any of his pages it’s consistent.
Dude. That panel of Kane saying, “Stay frosty Cable.” was burned into my young mind. I love that issue. It’s easily in my top 5 single issues of all time.
I think he’s scared of heights.
Adventure Comics #322
‘The Super-Tests of the Super-Pets’
By Edmond Hamilton and John Forte
I love the Super-Pets. And the main reason I love them is that, as animals, they are loyal, brave, guileless, and completely free of the faults that the human(oid) members of the Legion often exhibit. Krypto will fly into the face of certain death to save his master, Superboy, and won’t expect any thanks for it. Streaky doesn’t need a giant statue to validate him, Super-Horse doesn’t need a parade.
Which is why I’m not terribly happy with this story, because it doesn’t put the Pets in a good light at all.
To start at the beginning: the Legion is embarking on a grand undertaking, to crack the Iron Curtain of Time (as seen in several previous issues) and confront the Time-Trapper. This is an excuse for several panels of the Legion (and the Subs) showing off their powers as the construct the ‘mighty scientific weapons’ they will need for this. Because, you know, even when you’ve got Superboy and Mon-El on your side you can always use more mighty scientific weapons. (Why didn’t they summon Supergirl too, if things are that desperate?)
But the story isn’t about the Legion, it’s about the Super-Pets they will leave behind to guard the clubhouse while they are away.
Appointing the Pets as guards is clearly a mistake, because they immediately become too big for their boots, as we see when Proty asks to join them:
Just look at those scornful faces! This isn’t what we expect from Super-Pets.
Proty gives an interesting potted origin for his race, explaining how they got their shape-changing powers. And really, his power is pretty great: he can mimic anything, plus he has telepathy, so he’s just as powerful as Chameleon Boy and Saturn Girl combined. Maybe it’s not quite the same as being a Kryptonian dog, but if he were a human(oid), it would be enough to get him in the Legion proper! Come to think of it … shouldn’t he be trying out for the Legion anyway, rather than the Super-Pets? Hmm. No, despite being fully sentient and intelligent, he’s a pet. The Legion is obviously humanoidist, in addition to the various other faults.
Anyway, on with the story. The Pets climb down off their high-horse (a horse on a high horse… hmmm…) and relax their no-blobs rule but only if he can pass their stringent initiation tests. Good grief, they’re getting more like the Legion with each passing page!
The tests are the meat of the story. We see this type of story a lot in Legion comics, and they’re always good fun. Proty is faced with a an ingenious problem which seems to be completely beyond his abilities, but each time he cleverly thinks of a way to put his power to use to solve the puzzle and pass the test.
So that’s Proty pretending to be Chameleon Boy pretending to be Proty. Are you following this? There will be a quiz at the end.
Each of the four Super-Pets sets Proty a different test, and despite his self-doubt Proty always comes through, of course. That’s the whole point of this kind of story: to show that you don’t have to be Superboy to succeed, you just have to be clever, and brave, and persistent.
I think my favourite moment is when Proty is challenged by Super-Monkey to keep the entire Legion out of their club-house for a hour. He does this by ransacking their store-rooms and assembling a completely random machine out of what he finds:
Uh, no, Proty, that will never work.
Correct, this is insane, there’s no way the Legionnaires will fall for—
—Uh, ok, but Brainy will instantly see—
Honestly, this is one of my top 10 moments in all Legion history! Proty’s a genius!
And then in his final test he not only outfoxes Krypto, he also saves him from accidental kryptonite exposure.
If you didn’t love Proty before, you have to after this. It’s a pity the rest of the Pets come out so badly, but other than that this is a wonderful story, not only full of the usual sense of wonder that we expect from the Hamilton/Forte team but also full of heart and full of fun.
I’m ready for a big battle with the Time Trapper next issue now, though!
Superman #247 - I like dipping my toe into standalone Silver Age Superman issues especially ones that are interesting with a good reputation. I think I first heard about this one from a story Jeph Loeb told. Evidently, Elliot S! Maggin was a family friend of the Loebs and young Jeph suggested the story idea one night while Maggin was over for dinner. The story was subsequently recommended by @Mark_Millar. So I’ve been keeping my eye out for a decently priced reading copy to give it a shot and finally found one at C2E2.
The book consisted of three stories, the one connected to the cover image written by Maggin, a tale of Clark Kent written by Denny O’Neil and a reprinted story about a future Superman written by Edmond Hamilton with art on all three stories by Curt Swan. The Maggin story introduces the idea that maybe Superman shouldn’t try to fix everything on Earth in order to help humans fend for themselves. This is introduced by way of the Green Lantern Guardians who are ironically in full on overbearing, manipulative bully mode that they would come to be know for. It really speaks to some of the ideas that Maggin (and Millar by extension) hold to be intrinsic to the character. The second story oozes Dennis O’Neil with Superman in his Clark Kent persona talking thuggish youth out of a life of crime and onto the straight and narrow. The third story was probably the most interesting staring Superman XX of the year 2966 who looks remarkably like Gregory Peck. This was likely the seed for a lot of Morrison’s ideas for the Superman dynasty as it visits several of Superman XX’s ancestors and their arch enemies leading up to a battle with his own.
The issue was fun but maybe ultimately a bit of a let down due to the time I’ve been looking for a copy and the subsequent expectations. I definitely wouldn’t pay the $20-60 prices I’ve seen for the issue but it was probably worth the $6 I paid.
Alan Moore’s Youngblood
Judgment Day: Aftermath
Awesome Holiday Special #1
Awesome Adventures #1
Alan Moore’s Awesome Universe Handbook
Given how little of Alan Moore’s Youngblood actually got published, it’s pretty impressive that it’s split across so many different titles. Only two issues of the main Youngblood book made it to press, but those were just two of five Moore Youngblood tales from Awesome.
The first, chronologically, was a short story in the Awesome Holiday Special that showed the team being formed (something that might have been nice for readers of the main series to see!). There was also a short vignette that was meant to be a teaser for the main series, in Moore’s Judgment Day: Aftermath one-shot, but which ended up being published much later than the other stories, just as Awesome was going bankrupt. And the story originally planned for Youngblood #3 ended up being published in a new title, Awesome Adventures, which folded as soon as the first issue was published, thus ending Moore’s Youngblood on a cliffhanger that would never be resolved.
This weird publishing history is by far the most complicated aspect of what is otherwise a very conventional superhero comic, and intentionally so - the series proposal published in the Awesome Universe Handbook (alongside the proposal for Glory and some nice Alex Ross sketches of Supreme and Suprema) makes it clear that Moore was aiming for a classic team-book feel, with a small enough roster that you could develop the characters sufficiently (I think most of them were new creations from Moore), and a regular slew of different done-in-one threats and storylines to keep things fresh and fast-moving, even as longer-running soap-opera subplots played out.
And the stories actually live up to this pretty well. There’s nothing particularly special about them, but nothing bad either - and Steve Skroce’s artwork is generally very good (this is shortly before he went off and worked on the Matrix movies). It’s a shame we didn’t see more of this take on the team, but it doesn’t feel like a great lost opportunity for Moore either. It’s a fun, fast-moving superhero book with some occasional clever effects that take advantage of the comics medium (particularly for the team’s speedster - shades of Quicksilver in Ultimates here) but which largely plays things pretty safe.
The only issue which really adds something special and unconventional is the Judgment Day: Aftermath issue, and that’s only really because of the framing sequence.
With Judgment Day having cleared the decks for a Youngblood relaunch and the introduction of loads of other books besides, this Aftermath issue provides several vignettes that were meant to tee up these new titles. And to bind them all together, Moore comes up with a framing sequence that features the book’s artist Gil Kane himself, as a freelancer in the “imagineering corps”, channeling all these weird ideas into something more tangible and real.
It’s funky, imaginative stuff, and as one of the final books Gil Kane ever worked on, it makes a nice epitaph for his career.
Mileage varies for the other non-Youngblood stories in this anthology. Glory is interesting (and I’ll come to her own series later) and the Spacehunter story that’s almost entirely in an alien language works great for a short (although I don’t know how well it would have held up in its own series). But everything else is fairly forgettable, and as with all these comics, Awesome’s characteristic production errors (especially when it comes to typos) make things feel a bit amateurish at times.
On to Glory next!
Yeah, I liked Youngblood a lot and would’ve liked to see more of it. it felt a bit of a shame that the Awesome revamp by Moore went nowhere. But then again, things turned out for the better with his ABC work.
Bizarre Adventures #31
The main reason I tracked this old comic down is that the lead story (by Denny O’Neill), “The Philistine”, features art by Frank Miller. But even aside from those two big names, the issue boasts an impressive roster of creators: Larry Hama, Mark Gruenwald, John Byrne, Bill Sienkiewicz, Herb Trimpe and Stephen Bissette all contribute work here, among others.
As a gimmick, editor O’Neill’s decision to theme this special issue of the anthology title around ‘violence’ is a bit of a weak one: violence is not exactly an unusual concept for comics stories, and the ideas that form the basis of the individual tales have so little in common that there isn’t really any sense of an overarching cohesive concept binding them together.
That doesn’t really matter though, because the stories here are all pretty good regardless.
“The Philistine” is a story about art and violence that doesn’t really have a particularly profound point to make, but features some great Miller art. The book came out in 1982, which means you get some action scenes that evoke his classic Daredevil:
As well as an opening page that shows that 1982 Frank Miller was already experimenting with the kind of high-contrast abstract techniques that he would refine with Sin City.
There’s even a page that evokes specific layouts from Ronin.
But this isn’t just interesting in terms of its relationship with other Miller work; it’s a decent story in its own right.
The other stories are decent too. There’s a Hangman story by Gruenwald and Bill S that features a movie critic and a murder plot involving the people behind a terrible horror movie who get killed for their sins.
There’s also a pretty good John Byrne two-pager with minimal text that addresses moral hypocrisy and (again) violence in the context of art.
And a pretty cool short story by Larry Hama with art by Ralph Reese, which I saw someone describe as being like a Judge Dredd story if Dredd was a little kid, and that’s as good a description as any.
I won’t go through all the other stories but these were my favourites.
Again, reading this book has made me wish that the Big Two ran anthologies like this today, to give their creators a chance to cut loose with slightly more offbeat stories between their more mainstream books.
Alan Moore’s Glory
Judgment Day: Aftermath
Alan Moore’s Awesome Universe Handbook
Thankfully, piecing together Moore’s Glory is a lot more straightforward than putting together his Youngblood run.
Although the original ‘Awesome’ comics appearances of Glory consisted only of a teaser story in the Judgment Day: Aftermath issue and a short story in a #0 issue (as well as the original pitch document in Alan Moore’s Awesome Universe Handbook), further issues eventually saw the light of day when Avatar got hold of the right to print the series - including reprinting the #0 issue as well as debuting the unseen issues #1-4 that never came out from Awesome.
Unfortunately, these deals don’t always go smoothly, and despite Avatar intending to print the project in full, they only got as far as issue #2.
(Rumours suggest it was halted due to a disagreement with Rob Liefeld that related to him still having the right to sign off on the book’s art team, but I don’t think that has ever been verified.)
So all we have of Moore’s Glory is that Avatar run of issues #0-2 (as well as a ‘preview’ issue that offers a preview of pages from issue #1 and a load of covers, all in black and white), the Judgment Day: Aftermath story, and Moore’s original pitch (which is interesting to read, but doesn’t really offer much in the way of detail beyond what we see in the comics themselves).
The Aftermath story, “A Trick of the Moonlight”, is a decent enough teaser, but there’s not a huge amount to it. We see an origin of sorts for Glory in her new form: granted a rash wish to share her life with a regular human on Earth, a diner waitress called Gloria Jones. It’s one of many similarities with the later Promethea, but it makes for an interesting setup for her solo adventures under Moore, and Gil Kane draws the story very nicely.
Then issue #0 shows us Gloria (now renamed Gloria West for some reason) breaking off from her shift in the diner to talk to her mother, Demeter, recapping Glory’s history on Earth and setting up some new story elements that will play into the main series.
The art by Brandon Peterson is really good, and Moore and Peterson make use of some clever techniques to bring Glory’s earthly existence into contact with the divine world of the gods, including showing characters holding conversations across panels (and across worlds)…
…and insetting story panels from the ‘real world’ into a gallery of paintings that hang in the divine realm.
It’s the kind of thing that Moore would later return to in his Lovecraft-based work for Avatar, particularly The Courtyard, but it works even better here to clearly signify the divide between worlds.
Glory #1 kicks off Moore’s first story arc proper, “Glory and the Gate of Tears” with a first chapter entitled “The Seventh Dagger”. Marat Mychaels is now on art, and Melinda Gebbie illustrates the flashback sequences. These make use of a comic-within-a-comic story device to show Gloria reading old stories about Glory in an almost trance-like state, sometimes allowing the comics to even communicate with her directly.
Gebbie’s art for the flashbacks works really well. It won’t be surprising if you’re already familiar with her art, but she combines a strong focus on femininity with a lack of excessive ‘male gaze’, making these flashbacks feel fitting for the character and also (intentionally) anachronistic, given the contrast with the style of Mychaels’ art.
The book also continues to play around with panels during moments when the real world collides with the world of magic.
Issue #2 is interesting, in that Gebbie doesn’t continue to illustrate the flashbacks - she’s instead replaced by Matt Martin (the same illustrator who did the new Avatar covers in my top picture).
Unfortunately it’s a completely different style of art, that stands in stark contrast to Gebbie’s - it’s much more cheesecake-y and exploitative (standard '90s Image-style stuff really) and as such doesn’t evoke the feeling of a retro Wonder Woman-esque comic at all.
Feeling charitable, this could be suggesting a subjective element - because the person reading the comic-within-the-comic in the second issue is a man (a guy from the café that Gloria hooks up with), rather than Gloria herself - but that might be being overly generous. Especially as there are other weaknesses with this flashback section too: a group of four gal-pals that hang around with Glory are written as having distinctive individual characteristics (including one being gluttonous and overweight), but are drawn virtually identically by Martin as lithe pneumatic types.
As I mentioned earlier, the rumours around the cancellation of this series are that Liefeld withdrew approval for issues #3 and #4 to be published, based on this change in flashback artist. I guess that could be the case, but it also feels like one of those internet theories that gets cooked up because we’re not privy to the real reasons and it seems like it could be vaguely plausible. So who knows for sure?
Whatever the reason, though, it leaves Glory abruptly truncated, with #2 as the final published issue. It’s especially unfortunate as the cliffhanger involves our hero - having been tricked by her nemesis Lilith into leaving herself vulnerable to some sex-related magic (this is an Alan Moore book after all) - essentially being swallowed up by the ground and left for dead.
I’m sure there would have been a clever way out of this predicament in issue #3, but given that we never got to see that story, this is the last image of Moore’s Glory that we’re left with.
Still, it was all worth it if you view Glory as a sort of dry-run for Promethea, which makes use of quite a few similar ideas but does so with a lot more sophistication and style.
Sometimes these false-starts are for the best in the end.
The Abyss #1-2
I didn’t even know this comic existed until a couple of months ago. A two-issue adaptation of James Cameron’s 1989 movie written by Randy Stradley with art by Mike Kaluta, it’s an interesting oddity that is in places very good indeed, but doesn’t quite manage to fully capture the wonder and grandeur of the movie as I would have liked.
That’s partly because it’s so limited in length - I haven’t counted the pages but these are two fairly regular-sized issues, with a chunk of backmatter in both of them (really cool stuff actually - behind-the-scenes stuff on the movie that includes loads of concept sketches, including work by Moebius, blueprints of some of the undersea craft, and commentary from the filmmakers). So that’s maybe 50 pages to squeeze in an entire 2+ hour movie in - including a fair bit of stuff that was only in the longer director’s cut, such as the climactic giant wave sequence.
In the end, though, it turns out to be an interesting lesson in how comics can compress time where necessary. For example, the opening page gets a lot of exposition out of the way in its narrative captions, dropping us straight into the story (compared to the slightly more measured buildup of the movie).
Inevitably, there isn’t time to explore the various supporting characters as much as there is in the movie, so some favourites (like One Night) are reduced to little more than sketches of their full personality. But it’s a necessary process to fit the meat of the story into this space.
Even big setpiece sequences from the film are almost tossed-off here - the famous ‘water tentacle’ scene, for example, is covered in barely a page.
That said, there are moments where the comic actually slows things down to give us a more measured, almost slow-motion take on action from the movie, like this great page.
Or does the opposite and jumps through time much more quickly, as with Bud’s descent into the abyss towards the end of the story.
And one of my favourite sequences from the film - the scene with the flooding submersible, the rescue swim back to the main platform, and the kiss of life - feels like it is fully done justice, despite taking just four pages.
In general, the art is really good. I’ve appreciated Mike Kaluta’s work on other books, but this might be my favourite project of his. He has a knack for incorporating the movie’s design choices in a way that works for the comic, like this scene.
And he manages to compress fairly epic scenes into a small space without losing their sense of scale.
My only complaint is that the colouring occasionally seems a bit ‘off’ and over-saturated. I don’t know if the high-quality paper stock that this book uses was new for Dark Horse and didn’t absorb the colours as much as expected, but there are points at which the characters take on an almost Trumpian hue.
Outside of the story itself, some final observations on the issues. The backmatter is really excellent as I said above, and required reading for fans of the film, even if the first issue’s choice of benday-dot style blue circles as a background makes the text borderline-unreadable in places.
The second issue is much better in that respect.
There’s also an interesting ad on the back that I found amusing from a historical point of view, with Dark Horse moving to reassure readers that not all of their books were black-and-white!
And finally, something to really bother collectors who like things to be orderly and consistent: despite coming out just a matter of weeks apart, the two issues manage to sport two different publisher logos.
In the end, this is a very decent adaptation of the movie that I wish could have had a bit more space to stretch out a little bit, and flesh out the characters and the epic scale of the story. Still, it does a very good job given the restrictions it’s operating under, and is worth checking out for the art alone.
And appears to be an adaptation of the special edition too.
Yes, that’s what I meant by Director’s Cut, sorry.
There’s actually an explanation in the second issue’s afterword where they talk about divergences from the movie as released in cinemas, and that being due to the script for the comic being based on an early story treatment rather than the final finished movie. At that point (the comic was released in August and September 1989) audiences would only know the regular theatrical version.