The Threshold

Spotlight Sunday 2.11.18

A record number of votes that seems like something that could only happen in an alternate universe means that there are spoilers ahead for…

Elseworlds: Superman Vol. 1
Writer: Steve Vance, Roger Stern, Howard Chaykin, Dave Gibbons, J.M. DeMatteis, Roy Thomas
Artist: Various, Michael Lark, Gil Kane, José Luis García-López, Eduardo Barreto
Cover: Eduardo Barreto
$34.99
DC

In Elseworlds, heroes are taken from their usual settings and put into strange times and places – some that have existed, or might have existed, and others that can’t, couldn’t, or shouldn’t exist. The result: stories that make characters who are as familiar as yesterday seem as fresh as tomorrow.

It’s an Elseworlds kind of week for me, I guess. A few days ago, I watched the animated Batman: Gotham by Gaslight, a very loose adaptation of the very first Elseworlds graphic novel of the same name, in which a 19th Century version of the Batman takes on Jack the Ripper.

(The movie was just okay. Mostly, while I found it interesting, my affection for certain characters – the non-Elseworlds versions, anyway – led me to feel as though the movie did them a disservice. But that’s not what this is about.)

While that first Batman vs. the Ripper story launched the Elseworlds line, the concept can trace its lineage back to the “Imaginary Stories” of old, which appeared in the various Superman books over the years, and which gave us this bit of oft-used promotional hype:

Not a hoax! Not a dream! Not an imaginary story!

Of course, they’re all imaginary stories, but in this context, the term meant that it was a story that doesn’t fit into the existing continuity and has no impact on the status quo. Many of the imaginary stories in the Man of Steel’s history focused on what might happen if Lois finally managed to rope him into marrying him, and, apart from that jumping-off point, didn’t differ much in terms of content or location in the way that Elseworlds stories often do.

Over on the Marvel side of the aisle, a similar concept existed in the form of What If…?, a series that provided answers to questions like, “What if Spider-Man had joined the Fantastic Four?”

Where What If…? differed, though, was that the jumping-off point was a moment in an existing, in-continuity story and exploring what might have happened – or rather, what did happen in an alternate universe being observed by Uatu, the Watcher, who served as something of a host for the book – if events had played out a bit differently.

So you might see what happens in a reality in which the Punisher’s family isn’t killed (they just end up getting killed at a later date and he ends up more-or-less becoming the Punisher), or if the Avengers had lost their battle with the cosmically-powered Korvac (that one is a personal favorite).

It also differed in that it was a regular series, whereas Elseworld stories were generally presented in one-off specials, though there was one year in which the Annuals for each series DC published at the time featured an Elseworlds story.

Presumably, those Superman Elseworlds stories will be collected in a later volume, but this one only contains stories from the one-off specials.

Most of them came out during the period in which I wasn’t buying comics, so I’m only familiar with the story Kal, in which we are presented with a story in which young Kal-El’s ship arrives not in modern Kansas, but rather in feudal England. Raised by peasant farmers, the young Kryptonian is ultimately drafted into service as a blacksmith’s apprentice in the village of Lexford, where he becomes smitten with the Lady Loisse, daughter of the area’s rightful ruler, who is being held hostage by the Baron Luthor, who killed her father and took control of the region. After winning a contest of strength at a tournament held in honor of her birthday, the handsome lad catches Loisse’s eye, too, and earn the hatred of her captor.

In time, Luthor and his men find and claim Kal’s ship, buried on his parents’ farm, and Kal is tasked with creating a suit of armor for the Baron from the unnaturally strong metal. As payment for his service, Kal asks for – and receives – Loisse’s hand in marriage.

Many Elseworlds stories have less-than happy endings, which is, I suppose a natural consequence of writing a story that, unlike those in the main continuity, are able to have a definitive end, and there is the opportunity to turn an entire mythos upside down.

Of course, these are Superman stories, so it’s not really easy – or natural, at least – to tell a story that is entirely devoid of hope.

Much of Kal proves to be bleak and brutal – on the night of the wedding of Kal and Loisse, Luthor hauls Loisse away to his bedchamber, as is his right according to feudal law, and when Loisse will not give in to him, he beats her to death. As Luthor wears about his neck a mysterious green gem that fell from the sky, Kal is unable to use his great strength to overthrow him, though, at the cost of his own life, he is eventually able to kill him using a sword he secretly forged for himself from the metal of his ship, thereby avenging the death of his beloved and setting free the people of Lexford.

Before finally succumbing to his mortal wounds – we learn from the now much older Jamie Ollson, who had been Kal’s friend in his youth and is telling this tale to his young apprentice, a boy named Merlin – Kal put the sword somewhere for safekeeping so that one day another hero might pull it forth in a time of great need.

Distant Fires tells a similarly bleak-yet-hopeful story in which Superman finds himself haunted by the ghosts of his loved ones as the last survivor of yet another planet after a full-scale nuclear war destroys the world. Rendered powerless by the radiation, in time, he finds that other heroes – and villains – also survived and are similarly bereft of their powers. Together, they set about the task of rebuilding civilization, and eventually find their powers returning. The resentment Billy (Captain Marvel) Batson feels towards Superman, who was always his better in their previous lives, and whose arrival throws his new life into disarray, ultimately leads to a war between the survivors, and to the utter destruction of the Earth. The note of hope arrives in the form of the cycle beginning anew, as Superman uses a Green Lantern ring to build a ship to send his son, Bruce, the result of his marriage to Wonder Woman, to the safety of another world.

Speeding Bullets is a much more explicitly hopeful story, one that finds Kal-El’s ship landing just outside Gotham City, where it’s found by Thomas and Martha Wayne. As in the normal continuity, this Bruce Wayne loses his parents to a gunman, and in time pus on the cape and cowl of Batman, but, in time, with the love of Lois Lane to help guide him, he moves beyond the pain that had defined him and driven him to acts of vicious brutality, and rather than working to inspire fear as the Batman, chooses to inspire hope as Superman.

A Nation Divided finds young Atticus (a nice touch) Kent taking up the cause of the Union during the Civil War, and in short order brings the conflict to a close, but after learning his true origins he discovers an even greater destiny.

Superman, Inc., tells of a foundling adopted by the Suderman family, but by the time he turns five, young Dale loses both of his parents. The trauma of the loss of his mother – she panics and falls down the stairs when he shows her that he can fly – leaves him socially and emotionally isolated, until he realizes that his powers can be used for, well, not good, but gain. He becomes the world’s greatest athlete – nicknamed “Superman” by the press – and lives a life of shallow excess, until finally learning that there is more to life, and to himself and his powers, than the pursuit of wealth and fame.

And finally, drawing on the coincidental timing of the debut of Action Comics #1 and the infamous Orson Welles radio broadcast in 1938, War of the Worlds tells the story of a Martian invasion occurring within the original continuity of Superman, back in his leaping tall buildings in a single bound days.

The challenge of crafting an Elseworlds story lies in the finding a way to recontextualize characters but doing so in such a way that they are still recognizable, despite the unfamiliarity of their surroundings and their circumstances. After all, what’s the point of writing a story about Superman if he’s not, well, Superman, at least in the broad strokes? And so, even when Superman is Batman he’s still Superman.

It’s not simply a matter of having the powers, it’s the very core of the character. Even the shallow, fame-seeking Dale Suderman eventually finds his center – and does so, in the very on-the-nose manner, of eventually taking on the identity of Clark Kent – and Bruce Wayne and Atticus Kent realize that they have more to offer the world than what they accomplish through their initially narrow focus.

Many people argue that Superman is boring, because he’s too powerful, and too good, and while it’s true that the very nature of the character imposes limitations on the narrative, I’m off the opinion that, at the best of times, anyway, these limitations challenge and inspire the writers – and the readers – to strive harder and to think more broadly, and to be better.

Which is exactly what Superman does.

Here, the writers have varying degrees of success in that regard – A Nation Divided is the weakest of the lot, in my estimation, as it presents an interesting alternate history, but does very little to raise the narrative stakes – but they’re all worthy efforts. Even Chaykin, who can be problematic as a writer, provides some interesting insights in Distant Fires, as we see the former Man of Steel forced to violate his beliefs about the sanctity of life to survive as a non-super man in a hostile environment, but provides an explanation for why that former idealism was so vital when he did have his godlike powers.

(For a clear illustration of that point, I recommend watching the Elsewords-ish animated movie Justice League: Gods and Monsters in which we see just how pants-shittingly terrifying it would be to have a Superman who, while still mostly on the side of the angels, has no qualms about killing.)

The story’s metatextual examination of the relationship between Superman and Captain Marvel, while in many ways reflective of the real-world conflict between the owners of the characters and the impact that the appearance of the Big Red Cheese on the newsstands had on Superman’s sales, and the legal conflict that ensued, feels somewhat tacked-on, as Chaykin’s approach to Billy Batson misses the mark when shooting for that retention of the character’s core that I believe is so vital in these kinds of stories.

The good news is that, across the board, the art is fantastic. It’s difficult to fail to deliver in that regard when two of the stories are illustrated by the late, great Eduard Barreto – one of my all-time favorite artists – and another two are illustrated by José Luis García-López, who is, as I am wont to say, a goddamn national treasure.

The Chaykin-penned story features art by the legendary Gil Kane paired with Kevin Nowlan, and the result is utterly gorgeous.

Michael Lark is no slouch either, managing to perfectly marry a more modern sensibility with the original simplicity of the work of Joe Schuster in the era in which War of the Worlds is set.

While they don’t technically fall under the Elseworlds imprint, I hope that some of the imaginary stories of old manage to find their way into future volumes, or at least into their own collections.

As a kid, I first encountered “imaginary stories” in a digest collecting some of the best, and I literally loved it to death – I read and re-read it so many times that it fell apart. (At a comic show a couple of years back I even picked up the original comic in which one of the stories appeared. This one.)

There is a wealth of material, such as the stories included in that long-lost digest – one of them even featured Clark Kent becoming Batman…before eventually becoming Superman – the main features that ran in old Superman comics, and some of the back-up stories that ran in the comics of my youth. One such back-up, like Speeding Bullets, told of a world in which young Kal-El was found by the Waynes. There was another story, set in the unimaginably distant future of 2020 that focused on Superman III. No, not the terrible movie with Richard Pryor, but Superman the Third, the grandson of Superman, who for some reason decided to make his life even more complicated by maintaining two separate secret identities.

Given the disdain that so many writers and readers feel for the constraints of continuity, one would think that there’d be quite a market for imaginary stories of the Elseworlds variety, but, apart from a handful of specials, the line has been relatively dormant for quite some time. Perhaps – as indicated by this volume and the adaptation of Gotham by Gaslight (such as it is) – we’re due for something of a resurgence. I believe that strange times and places in which imaginary versions of what are already imaginary stories can, will, and should exist.

Recommended Reading:

KINGDOM COME 20th ANNIVERSARY DELUXE EDITION – One of the ultimate Elseworlds epics that gets to the heart of what makes heroes, and comics, great. In the near-future world of KINGDOM COME, superheroes are ubiquitous, but heroism is rare. After decades as Earth’s champions, the members of the Justice League have all retreated out of the public eye, replaced with a new generation of crime-fighters whose brand of harsh justice leaves humanity terrified, rather than inspired. But with the planet’s future in jeopardy, Superman, Wonder Woman and Batman must come out of retirement to make one last stand for truth and justice. Collects KINGDOM COME #1-4 and more than one hundred pages of sketches, annotations and other extras!

SUPERMAN & BATMAN: GENERATIONS, AN IMAGINARY TALE – John Byrne crafts a tale that starts in 1939 and follows events as they unfold in real time, without reboots, or infinite universes, showing the lives and careers of the original Superman and Batman as they progress through the ages, each book focusing on a particular era, and presented in a style that mirrors the dominant style of comic book storytelling of the time.

SUPERBOY’S LEGION – Young Kal-El, as he usually does, arrives on Earth after being rocketed from the doomed planet Krypton – in the 30th Century, where he is found and raised by R.J. Brande, the richest man in the universe.

ALL STAR SUPERMAN – Not, strictly speaking, an Elseworlds story, but…come on, everyone should read this.
Witness the Man of Steel in exciting new adventures featuring Lex Luthor, Jimmy Olsen, Lois Lane, Bizarro, and more! The Man of Steel goes toe-to-toe with Bizarro, his oddball twin, and the new character Zibarro, also from the Bizarro planet. And Superman faces the final revenge of Lex Luthor – in the form of his own death! Writer Grant Morrison teams with artist Frank Quitely on this spectacular reimagining of the Superman mythos, from The Man of Steel’s origin to his greatest foes and beyond.

That does it for this week’s Spotlight Sunday. It was nice living in this alternate reality in which the Weigh In got so many votes. If it had been like this every week I…would still have to get a job, because the ad revenue boost was minimal, but it would have at least made the effort feel a little bit more worthwhile, so thanks to everyone who had a hand in crafting this Elseworlds version of the Weigh In.

You still have at least one more chance to be part of it, so check back on Wednesday.

Special thanks go out to Comic Logic Books & Artworkmy Local Comic Shop. Remember to support your LCS (find one here, if you don’t already have one).

And support OpenDoor Comics on Patreon! (If you do, we may be able to revive/maintain the Weigh In.)



Weigh In Wednesday 2.7.18

Love is in the air – or is that just Swamp Thing funk? – for the Young Monsters of the DCU, Swampy makes a second appearance this week in a tribute to his creators, Superman and Son head off into space to save a planet that wants to die, the Man of Steel takes on different roles in a collection of Elseworld stories, Cave Carson no longer has a Cybernetic Eye, Mystik U makes a belated Weigh In appearance, and the Wicked + Divine team takes us back in time to 1923.

The Weigh In is here, but not for much longer, so be sure to vote while you have the chance! (Which, in this specific case, is before 12 AM Eastern on February 11th.)

Which comic should be featured in this Spotlight Sunday?

  • ELSEWORLDS: SUPERMAN VOL. 1 (DC) (TPB) - In these reimagined versions of Superman, the Man of Tomorrow becomes a medieval knight, a grizzled loner fighting to save the planet, a Dark Knight, and more. (55%, 11 Votes)
  • MYSTIK U #2 (DC) - (Yeah, I know: I should have bought this last week.) With classes in full swing, Zatanna starts to realize that celebrity will only get you so far at MYSTIK U! (20%, 4 Votes)
  • THE WICKED + THE DIVINE: 1923 (IMAGE) - Basically, a bunch of 1920s gods based on major modernist figures stuck in the middle of an Agatha Christie murder mystery. (15%, 3 Votes)
  • YOUNG MONSTERS IN LOVE #1 (DC) - Sparks will fly and hearts will be broken when the ghouls and ghosts of the DC Universe assemble to bring you the Valentine’s Day Special that no one saw coming! (5%, 1 Votes)
  • SUPERMAN #40 (DC) - “SUICIDE PLANET” part one! Far away in a distant solar system, a world stands on the brink of destruction, much as Krypton did so many years ago. (5%, 1 Votes)
  • SWAMP THING WINTER SPECIAL #1 (DC) - Tom King and Jason Fabok pay tribute to the legendary creators of Swamp Thing, writer Len Wein and artist Bernie Wrightson. (0%, 0 Votes)
  • CAVE CARSON VOL. 2: EVERY ME, EVERY YOU (DC/YOUNG ANIMAL) (TPB) - Cave Carson has a cybernetic eye! Or more accurately, he had one. (0%, 0 Votes)

Total Voters: 20

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TPB = Trade Paperback, a volume containing a longer original story, or collecting multiple issues of a regular comic.

HC = Hardcover, a volume containing a longer original story, or collecting multiple issues of a regular comic.

The featured image showcases what I feel is the best cover of the bunch, and is not intended to sway your vote.

One person, one vote. If you vote more than once, all of your votes for that Weigh In will be discarded.

Special thanks go out to Comic Logic Books & Artworkmy Local Comic Shop. Remember to support your LCS (find one here, if you don’t already have one).  And support OpenDoor Comics on Patreon! (Especially if you would like to see the Weigh In continue and allow me to avoid becoming a commuting cubicle jockey.)



Sellout Sunday 2.4.18

Because I didn’t buy any comics* this week, there was no Weigh In this past Wednesday.

As I’ve mentioned a few times, this might be the sign of things to come, as I was getting closer and closer, after nearly a year out of it, to re-entering the workforce.

Well, that possibility has become reality and I’ve accepted a job offer. Given that my new life as a cubicle jockey will entail at least fifteen hours of commuting every week, on top of the actual working hours, the odds don’t favor me having the time and energy to devote to the Weigh In/Spotlight feature.

I certainly don’t see the Weigh In surviving, as when I get off the commuter bus in the park and ride lot midweek it’s unlikely that I’m going to want to get it into my car to make a trip to the comic shop rather than just heading straight home.  I’ll probably move to picking up the week’s comics on Saturday mornings, and I suppose I could still have a vote that day, but…ehh. It’s possible that I will continue the Spotlight feature, if I can muster the energy, opting to write about whatever comic I feel like writing about rather than what the voters dictate.

Ultimately, I suppose, even if I don’t continue, it’s no great loss, and it’s not as though the Weigh In and Spotlight posts were essential to the mission and purpose of OpenDoor Comics.

To the best of my ability (which…well), I’ll continue to occasionally post my shitty comics, and work on my not-as-shitty comic, but more importantly, I’ll keep the door open for people who want to post comics of their own, and I’ll help them in any way I can.

In any case, despite the lack of any new comics to talk about, I thought I should post something, and given the big event that is apparently taking place this evening, I thought it would be fitting to post something that relates to the essential purpose of the cultural phenomenon that it represents.

What? No, not football: commercials!

With that in mind, while I don’t have any sponsors, and no one is throwing millions of dollars my way to advertise here,  I’m providing a list of links to things you can buy – I would get a few shekels tossed my way should you buy any of them – but it’s not an exercise in completely crass commercialism, as they are things that I legitimately think are relevant to fans of comics and useful to any would-be comics creators out there.

First up, in case anyone has wondered and doesn’t already know, the comics – both shitty and not-as-shitty – that I make are done 100% digitally. It’s been decades since I’ve done any sort of work in traditional media, and while there are drawbacks to the way I work, the advantages, for me, outweigh them.

I do pretty much everything on a Microsoft Surface Studio. There are multiple confifuration options available, and they’re all incredibly expensive and out of reach for most people. The Studio has some definite disadvantages, but…man, that screen is just something else.

Still, the overall Surface line from Microsoft has a wide range of options and device types, and some, like this one, are much more affordable. (Though still not cheap.) They’re great as general purpose devices, but are of particular value to artists.

Not to be a shill – even though that’s what this post is about – there are some pretty significant ways in which Microsoft devices, products and services factor into my workflow, and I may do a future post focusing on my “process” that gets into it. (Now, to be a shill, as I mentioned, I don’t have any sort of sponsors, but just so you know, Microsoft, I wouldn’t be averse to you throwing some money and/or devices my way…)

While Surface products are growing in popularity, Wacom is the go-to hardware source for most digital artists. Most of what they make isn’t cheap, but they do have some inexpensive options to help you dip your toe into the world of digital art. Like Microsoft, they provide a wide range of options that includes Surface Pro-like mobile computing devices, and, of course, the Cintiq line of touch and pen-enabled screens. Prior to making the switch to the Surface Studio, I used a Cintiq, and while I decided that the Studio was the right choice for me, there’s a reason why Wacom is an industry leader.

On the software front, the two main programs I use for creating comics are the gold-standard in image-editing, Adobe Photoshop (Adobe: See my message to Microsoft), and Clip Studio Paint (also known as Manga Studio). Clip Studio Paint comes in two versions; the EX version I linked to, which I use, is more expensive and fully-featured, but the Pro version would serve you well. It’s designed specifically for creating comics, and is where I do the bulk of my work (drawing, inking, come coloring). I use Photoshop for some additional color work and for adding effects, lettering, and making touch-ups. It’s definitely something you could use from start-to-finish to make comics – and the same holds true for Clip Studio Paint, but I find the drawing tools and UI of Clip Studio Paint a little better-suited to the work.

(In the interest of full disclosure, you’ll find more and better – that is to say, cheaper – purchasing options for Photoshop and other useful Adobe products directly from Adobe, and Clip Studio Paint from Smith-Micro. Of course, then I wouldn’t get a cut, but I don’t really expect you to care about that, and as much as I’d like to make some money, I’m really just trying to help you out here.)

There are a lot of resources for aspiring comic-creators who are looking to learn the trade and understand some of the theories and principles behind graphic storytelling, such as the venerable Comics and Sequential Art, which is part of the line of instructional books by the great Will Eisner, Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art, in which Scott McLoud examines the many aspects of what goes into comics, how they came about, and how they work, The DC Comics Guide to Creating Comics: Inside the Art of Visual Storytelling, which is part of a line of books from DC, each of which explores the different components and their respective tasks that go into making comics, and finally, while some of the examples may seem dated, with Stan Lee and the legendary artist John Buscema as your guides, there’s a reason that How To Draw Comics The Marvel Way, in addition to being one of the first books of its kind is still one of the best.

“Okay,” you say, “but what if I just want to read some comics?”

Well, you can’t really go wrong with Planetary, which provides a rich metatextual exploration of the history of comics, and is also just a damned fine comic in its own right.

Or how about Saga, which expertly blends science fiction and fantasy and puts them into a beautiful package?

Maybe you’d like Lazarus, which is kind of like a science fiction version of Game of Thrones that provides a dystopic vision of the future that which each passing day seems increasingly – and uncomfortably – familiar?

Maybe something fun, that’s suitable for all ages, like Tiny Titans is more your speed.

And ultimately, you can’t really go wrong with literally anything written by Ed Brubaker.

Anyway, that does it for Sellout Sunday I. I hope that, even if you don’t buy anything, you found this helpful and fun.

While their days are numbered, there will be a Weigh In Wednesday this week, so be sure to check back for that.

In addition to buying via the links provided here, you can also pick up comics – and books about comics – from your local comic shop, the way I (usually) pick up comics from my local shop, Comic Logic Books & Artwork.

Enjoy your big sportsball recital tonight – GO SPORTS TEAMS! …no, really. Go. Far away from me.  – and the orgy of consumerism that will be much more over-the-top – but probably more entertaining – than this post.

And remember that now – and perhaps doing so now is needed more than ever – you can support OpenDoor Comics on Patreon!

*I learned afterwards that the second issue of Mystik U, which isn't on my pull list, but which I had intended to pick up, did come out this past Wednesday and I apparently missed it as I passed by the shelves multiple times looking to find something to buy. Sorry about that, but it's worth noting that it was kind of easy to miss, as this issue didn't really have the logo prominently displayed on the cover.



A Grim View Of A Dark Future

I went to the comic shop today, and it went something like this:

No new comics = no Weigh In Wednesday

I tried to find something to buy, but nothing appealed to me. I considered providing some sort of alternative in this post, but decided instead to give everyone a taste of the nightmare scenario that will result from me having to get a job. This Weigh In-less week will be your week every week if that comes to pass.

But, like Kate Pryde having her consciousness sent to the past to prevent the hellish future in which she lived, you can prevent this dystopic vision from becoming reality, and you don’t even have to switch minds with your younger self.  It can be as simple as supporting OpenDoor Comics on Patreon and encouraging others to do the same, making your own comics and posting them on an OpenDoor Comics site, and just generally telling everyone you know about this awesome site that they should visit. (I’m not encouraging you to lie to people but… okay, yeah, go ahead and lie to people if you need to.)

This week’s lack of comics is entirely on me, and is no fault of Comic Logic Books & Artworkmy Local Comic Shop. Remember to support your LCS (find one here, if you don’t already have one).



Spotlight Sunday 1.28.18

A relatively decisive win this week means that there are spoilers ahead for…

Only The End Of The World Again
Writer: Neil Gaiman (Adapted by P. Craig Russell)
Artist: Troy Nixey (Layouts by P. Craig Russell)
Cover: Troy Nixey
$19.99
Dark Horse

The other day I was thinking about actor Rutger Hauer.

Except I wasn’t really thinking about Rutger Hauer, because I could not, for the life of me, remember his name.

I remembered that he portrayed Roy Batty in Blade Runner, that he was in Sin City, and that he was the topic of discussion on more than one occasion in some of the books in Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles.

But as to the actual name of the star of Hobo With A Shotgun, in that moment, I didn’t have the first clue.

In an earlier time, I would have set my subconscious to working on solving this problem, and likely awoken with a start at 4 AM some morning saying, “Rutger Hauer!” But this is a post-internet world, so I simply looked him up.

The point is, my memory isn’t what it once was, not that it was ever that great, and the mental skills that I once used to compensate for (once somewhat less-frequent) lapses in memory have withered and atrophied to a large degree.

I mention this because when I picked up this adaptation of a Neil Gaiman story, I knew that it was a story I had read in some collection of his work (Smoke and Mirrors, for the record), but beyond that…nothing.

This is no reflection on the story itself, nor am I suggesting that it’s not memorable, even though I couldn’t remember it, because, well, Rutger Hauer.

As I read the adaptation, though, the vague recollection of having read the original came more sharply into focus, and soon I found myself actually remembering it in the way that, before the internet, I might have eventually come to remember a particular Dutch actor.

The setting of the story is the Lovecraftian town of Innsmouth, where a man named Lawrence Talbot has taken up residence and works as an adjustor. Lawrence is having a bad morning, particularly given that it’s actually late in the afternoon, mostly because he’s waking up after having an even worse night.

Talbot is a werewolf, and this is the day after his monthly transformation, a day that starts by vomiting on the bathroom floor, and noting that, contained in the vomit, are the fingers of a small child.

He stops at a bar on his way to work, and once he’s in his office is surprised to find an old man there sleeping, though the man doesn’t allow the fact that he’s asleep from talking to Lawrence about the imminent – but then again, isn’t it always imminent? – end of the world.

From there, he heads next door to visit a fortune teller (it doesn’t go well), then, noticing that there are men waiting to ambush him in his office, he heads back to the bar.

After noting the absence of the patrons who had been there earlier, Lawrence learns from the bartender the other customers are up at the cliffs performing a ritual to bring about the end of the world.

Lawrence, accompanied by the bartender, makes his way to the cliffs, where he finds the old man who was in his office, as well as the men who had been waiting to ambush him. In the waters below are the townspeople, including his landlady, who have assumed froglike forms.

The fortune teller is also in attendance, and it seems that Lawrence is the guest of honor, as the stars are in the right alignment to summon the Elder Gods and end the world, and all that’s required is the sacrifice of a werewolf. And, of course, the easiest way to kill a werewolf is when he’s not in his lupine form.

However, even though it’s ahead of schedule, Lawrence transforms, and attacks the fortune teller, finding himself battling her underwater – where she has also transformed into something…else – and after emerging victorious, thus disrupting the ritual. The enraged bartender who remained behind during the struggle, lunges at the wolf, who simply moves out of the way and allows the bartender’s momentum to carry him over the edge of the cliff.

The old man provides some exposition to the wolf – it was, somewhat ironically, the propitious celestial alignment that brought about the change in Lawrence that prevented the end of the world – and soon though the man continues on, telling him important things, the wolf grows bored and restless and heads into the forest to find a late-night snack.

In the morning, Lawrence wakes, and after a hawk flying overhead drops a small, dead squid on the ground in front of him, turns his (naked) back on Innsmouth and walks away towards the nearest city.

That straightforward summary of the plot – which skips a few details – doesn’t really tell the whole story, of course. The more interesting elements are in the interactions between Lawrence and some of the townsfolk, most notably the nonchalant manner in which pretty much everyone he encounters, out of the blue, offers advice and suggestions – pretty much all of which involve dying – for how to deal with the curse of lycanthropy.

The setting itself is a significant part of the story as well. As I’ve mentioned in the past, horror isn’t really my genre, so my familiarity with the works of Lovecraft are largely the result of cultural osmosis and from reading things – like this – that were inspired by his work. Still, I’m familiar with the gist of the mythos, and one of the things I find interesting in works set in a Lovecraftian universe is the way the familiar is made unfamiliar. In the broad strokes, the world is just like ours, but it’s when you get into the details that you notice that things are a bit askew, such as when Lawrence reads a note from his landlady – she leaves him a lot of notes – talking about the Book of Revelations [sic], which, honestly, wouldn’t be all that odd in our world, but specifically talking about how it mentions the Elder Gods rising up from the oceans. I don’t recall John of Patmos mentioning that. Not in those terms, at least.

The theme suggested by the title is present in the stories, both in telling and in showing, as the sleeping man informs Lawrence that the world is always coming to an end, and the end is always being averted, often through the simplest of actions. For example, simply stepping aside when someone charges at you with a ritual dagger.

The story originally appeared in an anthology of stories set in Innsmouth and was inspired in part by the novel A Night In The Lonesome October by the late Roger Zelazny, which is another story I have a dim recollection of having read – there is very little that Zelazny wrote that I haven’t read, after all – but can’t remember in the particulars. (See:  Hauer, Rutger)

(It’s also worth noting, as some of you most likely did, that Larry Talbot was the name of the original Wolfman.)

I’m not familiar with Troy Nixey, but I like his art here, as it combines a strange sense of anatomy – fitting, I suppose, for the subject matter – with a tremendous amount of attention to small details. It would be interesting to see the style used in animation, and an adaptation of this story, with this style, would have been a good fit for MTV’s Oddities, if the show were still around and were more of an anthology-style series than it was back when it existed.

This volume is a new printing of the existing comic, originally printed by Oni Press, and as a very interesting bonus, in the pages that follow the story proper, it includes scans of the original layouts by Russell side-by-side with scans of Nixey’s inked art. Pretty neat.

Neil Gaiman first made a name for himself in comics, but it’s been some time since he’s done any proper comics, so it’s nice to see some of his prose work being adapted in this fashion, so that comics-readers can get a Gaiman fix. Some other examples of this are linked in…

Recommended Reading:
NEIL GAIMAN’S HOW TO TALK TO GIRLS AT PARTIES – From the Locus Award-winning short story by Neil Gaiman–one of the most celebrated authors of our time– and adapted in vibrant ink-and-watercolor illustrations by the Daytripper duo of Gabriel Bá and Fábio Moon, this original hardcover graphic novel is absolutely not to be missed!

FORBIDDEN BRIDES OF THE FACELESS SLAVES IN THE SECRET HOUSE OF THE NIGHT OF DREAD DESIRE – A celebrated send-up of gothic literature, beautifully adapted into a dark, brooding, and oddly comical graphic novel. Somewhere in the night, a raven caws, an author’s pen scratches, and thunder claps. The author wants to write fiction: stories about frail women in white nightgowns, mysterious bumps in the night, and the undead rising to collect old debts. But he keeps getting interrupted by the everyday annoyances of talking ravens, duels to the death, and his sinister butler.

THE SANDMAN VOL. 1:  PRELUDES NOCTURNES – I mean, duh, of course I’m going to recommend Sandman.

Bonus:

Does anyone really want this?  Really? Okay, but I’m getting pretty close to dropping this book.

Anyway, in Bettie Page #7 we discover that Bettie was sent to Cannes to retrieve an artifact from her now-dead Russian contact. Said artifact being the odd jewel in the necklace she had back in Hollywood that powered the flying saucer that was part of the commie plot to convince the US of A that an alien invasion was underway. It turns out that the jewel was found inside the crater left behind by the Tunguska Event.

Bettie finds the artifact in her late contact’s room, and she and her partner narrowly avoid getting caught by the Reds…or do they?

Before we wrap things up this week, I just wanted to add something of a programming – and personal – note. I don’t want to jinx things – or do I? – but it’s looking as though I’m on the verge of getting a job. From the perspective of forcing me out of my current reclusive lifestyle, and, you know, bringing in income, this is a (potentially) good thing, but it could be deleterious to OpenDoor Comics in general, Worldtamer in particular, and downright deadly to the Weigh In and Spotlight, given the demands that having a job again would place on my time and energy.

Maybe I could continue doing Spotlight Sundays, but my commute for this (potential) job would mean that I probably wouldn’t pick up my comics at all during the week, which would mean less time for voting, less time for reading, and less time for gathering my thoughts by Sunday.

I say this not to prepare you for the day on which I make an announcement about how I’m shutting this feature down, but to ask you to do whatever you can to make sure that I don’t have to.

So, once again, consider all the ways that you can help keep the dream of OpenDoor Comics – which extends beyond these weekly write-ups – alive, and make it possible for me to avoid having to dash myself against the rocks of being a cubicle-dweller in pursuit of the siren song of collecting a regular paycheck.

So tell people about OpenDoor Comics, make a donation, maybe actually buy something in the Recommended Reading, as I would get a small cut of that, become a patron, or, best of all, start making comics of your own using the platform I’m trying to provide.

Okay, with that out of the way, that does it for this Spotlight Sunday. Be sure to come back for Weigh In Wednesday (While it lasts!) to see what I bought and to cast your vote for which comic you want me to ramble on about next week!

Special thanks go out to Comic Logic Books & Artworkmy Local Comic Shop. Remember to support your LCS (find one here, if you don’t already have one).



Weigh In Wednesday 1.24.18

This week brings us a fun(ko) collection of the further adventures of Cliff Secord, while over at another publisher Cliff’s best girl Bettie heats up the Cold War, a comic book adaptation of a non-comic book story by comic book legend Neil Gaiman about the humdrum – especially these days – subject of the end of the world, Superman and Booster facing the wrath of the Son of Zod, Wonder Woman facing the wrath of the Silver Swan, Batman: Beyond facing the wrath of Stalker, most likely some wrath-facing for Etrigan and company, too, and finally, those kooky young Sex Criminals face the wrath of having broken up six months ago.

And now it’s time for you to face the wrath of the Weigh In, and cast your vote by 12 AM on 1/28/18.

Then come back and face the wrath of whatever book wins on Wrathday Sunday!

Which comic should be featured in this Spotlight Sunday?

  • ONLY THE END OF THE WORLD AGAIN (DARK HORSE) (HC) - An adaptation of a Neil Gaiman story by P. Craig Russell, Troy Nixey, and Matthew Hollingworth. (44%, 4 Votes)
  • THE BEST OF ROCKETEER ADVENTURES: FUNKO EDITION (IDW) - Some of the finest creators in comics came together to pay tribute to Dave Stevens’ iconic pulp-inspired hero, and the results were amazing. (22%, 2 Votes)
  • WONDER WOMAN #39 (DC) - While Wonder Woman reckons with the savage descent of the young woman she put her faith in, her brother Jason is left wondering if Wonder Woman will always be there for him. (11%, 1 Votes)
  • ACTION COMICS #996 (DC) - Superman and Booster Gold are out of time, and they’ve found themselves marooned on a strange planet sometime in the future. (11%, 1 Votes)
  • SEX CRIMINALS #21 (IMAGE) - Up is down and black is white and the sex isn't happening—neither is the crime. WHAT IS THIS BOOK EVEN? (11%, 1 Votes)
  • THE DEMON: HELL IS EARTH #3 (DC) - After the horrific acts of last issue, the highly unstable team of Etrigan, Jason Blood and Xanadu must face a new threat. (0%, 0 Votes)
  • BATMAN BEYOND #16 (DC) - “The Long Payback” part three! Stalker has arrived in Neo-Gotham with one mission: bring down Batman! (0%, 0 Votes)
  • BETTIE PAGE #7 (DYNAMITE) - Bettie's trip to the Cannes Film Festival turns the Cold War hot...as the KGB tries to put the "red" in "red carpet." (0%, 0 Votes)

Total Voters: 9

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TPB = Trade Paperback, a volume containing a longer original story, or collecting multiple issues of a regular comic.

HC = Hardcover, a volume containing a longer original story, or collecting multiple issues of a regular comic.

The featured image showcases what I feel is the best cover of the bunch, and is not intended to sway your vote.

Once again, it was a toss-up this week – I decided to go with the one I did because it was more fun – so here’s the alternate choice:

One person, one vote. If you vote more than once, all of your votes for that Weigh In will be discarded.

Special thanks go out to Comic Logic Books & Artworkmy Local Comic Shop. Remember to support your LCS (find one here, if you don’t already have one).  And support OpenDoor Comics on Patreon!



Spotlight Sunday 1.21.18

Even as the total number of votes continue to drop, a victor still manages to emerge, and so there are spoilers ahead for…

Super Powers by Jack Kirby
Writer: Paul Kupperberg, Joey Cavalieri, Jack Kirby
Artist: Jack Kirby, Various, Mike Thibodeaux, Greg Theakston, Mike Royer
Cover: Jack Kirby
$39.99
DC

I had a lot of toys as a kid, I suppose. Fewer than some kids, more than others. Quite a few action figures of various types, with the majority of them tied to popular franchises like the Star Wars movies, G.I. Joe, and Masters of the Universe, with a few odds-and-ends here and there that either weren’t part of the merchandizing for any particular movie or TV show, or just weren’t particularly popular or otherwise notable.

I didn’t have a lot of super hero action figures, however.

This wasn’t by choice; obviously, I would have loved to have had some cool action figures based on my favorite comic book characters. The problem was that, by and large, there just weren’t any to be had.

Eventually I reached a point in my young life at which I decided the time had come to put away childish things, and so, with a certain amount of ceremony, and after one last night of playing with them, I got up on a Saturday morning, grabbed a big box, put all my toys into it, and hauled the box down to the basement.

It’s worth noting that, with a significant amount of anxiety over the thought of it, at around the same time I considered also giving up comic books. Ultimately, it was the letter pages of comics that kept me from doing so, as in those pages I saw letters from people who were in college, and who were even older than that, who still read comics, and if those sophisticated adults could do it…

(Eventually, about a decade later, for various reasons to related to wanting to be a grown up, I did give up comics for a long, long time, but that’s a story for another day.)

Shortly thereafter, the first issue of the new mini-series Super Powers came out, and on the back cover there was an ad for a new line of action figures and toys that tied in to the comic. Superman! Batman! Wonder Woman! Green Lantern! All in action figure form, just as I’d always wanted!

I considered that box full of toys down in the basement, and reflected upon my solemn pronouncement before God and my parents that I was too old to play with toys, and I thought, “Son of a bitch.”

(I had a similar reaction upon seeing that Marvel had released a line of action figures to tie in with their Secret Wars maxi-series.)

I’ve mentioned before that I was rather late to the party in terms of appreciating the work of the King. When Super Powers hit the stands, I was probably still getting ready for the party, so that may have contributed to my lack of interest, at the time, in picking up any of the subsequent issues after the first, but I think the main reason I didn’t have any interest was that I was bitter as hell about the action figure thing.

Reading it now, though, it seems that being more interested in the work of Kirby likely wouldn’t have made much of a difference, as the majority of the work on the first four issues was done by others, with Kirby simply providing the plot.

The scripting chores fell to Joey Cavalieri, with Adrian Gonzalez – doing a poor job of aping Kirby’s style – providing the art. Kirby himself writes and illustrates the final issue, which proves to be better than the issues that precede it, but even so…it’s not great.

Before I picked this volume up, I hadn’t even realized that there had been a second Super Powers mini in 1985. That one was written by comic veteran Paul Kupperberg, but Kirby provided the art throughout.

It’s also not great, and it’s kind of weird in that it doesn’t seem to fit anywhere in continuity, whereas the first one seemed to (mostly) fit right into the then-current continuity.

In fairness, DC’s continuity was in a state of flux at that point, but I don’t think that’s what’s behind the oddness; I think it’s meant to be in its own continuity – despite the connections to Kirby’s The Hunger Dogs graphic novel, that was part of the main continuity – one that hews a little more closely to the universe of the cartoon.

Oh yeah, the cartoon. I’ll have more on that in a bit, but tied in with the comic and the toy line was a relaunch of the long-running Super Friends TV show, which added new characters to the SF line-up, and was called Super Friends: The Legendary Super Powers Show.

In any case, in the first mini, the evil Darkseid sends four “Emissaries of Doom” to Earth to eliminate Earth’s super-powered defenders in preparation for an invasion. After each of the four Emissaries is imbued with a fraction of Darkseid’s power, they travel to Earth to complete their mission.

Except…well, the first one gets the bright idea that as much as he wants to do the job, especially given that Darkseid will kill him if he doesn’t, there are others who are much more committed to the destruction of Earth’s heroes: Earth’s villains.

He seeks out Lex Luthor, and, hoping to benefit from Lex’s monomaniacal obsession with killing Superman, amps up the power of Lex’s alien warsuit, granting Lex a fraction of the Emissary’s fraction of Darkseid’s power.

It’s not clear if there was any sort of consultation between the Emissaries or if each of them hits upon the same idea independently, but the others do the same thing with the Joker, the Penguin, and Brainiac, giving each of them a target to focus on.

For the Joker, it’s Batman and Robin, of course, but Hawkman also gets caught up in the scheme, finding himself trapped with the Caped Crusaders in a “psychoactive dimension” in which anything the Joker imagines becomes reality.

Superman, meanwhile, is engaged in a charity race with the Flash when Luthor attacks with a time distortion power that causes the two speedsters to slow to a crawl relative to the rest of the world (and, more importantly, to Lex).

Aquaman and Green Lantern find themselves the victim of Penguin’s newfound mental might which allows him to take control of birds – causing the birds to launch attacks on cities across the United States – and to disrupt the heroes’ own minds, inhibiting Green Lantern’s control of his ring and Aquaman’s control over the denizens of the deep.

Brainiac, meanwhile, in his endless quest for knowledge, is about to nope on out of the universe in a journey through a black hole to see what he can see. However, the final Emissary approaches the villain with the offer of the opportunity to perform an experiment. He grants Brainiac the ability to bring “racial memories” to the surface, causing people to regress to a more primitive and savage state, and suggests using it on the Amazons and then observing the chaos that results from setting these powerful warriors loose upon the world.

This part is…there are a lot of problems with it, most notable of which is that the Emissary granting the ability to resurface “racial memories” and turn people into savage primitives is black. It’s all just…yikes.

Still, the timing of reading something in which the Amazons are driven to conquer the world just as women were preparing to take to the streets in record numbers across the nation was somewhat amusing.

In any case, Superman and Flash get away from Luthor – Superman uses his heat vision to make Flash hot and excite his molecules in order to get him back up to his superhuman levels of speed and this sounds very much like some kind of slash fiction, Flash gets free of the time distortion, rams into Lex from behind, and it sounds even more like slash fiction – the freed Flash helps out Aquaman and GL, and Superman goes off to answer an outdated Justice League distress signal from an old friend.

This part gets confusing; it’s not clear what “old friend” Superman was referring to, but when he follows the signal to its source, he’s surprised to discover it’s originating from The Daily Planet, sent out by Lois. Lois then berates him for how he’s mistreated him over the years, but then complains that as bad as it’s been having Superman stringing her along, it’s even worse being “strung along” by the Joker, at which point she turns into a puppet, and it’s revealed that Superman is in the Joker’s “psychoactive dimension.”

I’m just confused about the timing. Joker brings Superman into his dimension because the Emissary pops up and tells him to, because Luthor had failed to destroy the Man of Steel. But Superman heard the signal before that happened, so then who was phone?

Anyway, while trapped with the Joker, and the perpetually-falling Batman, Robin, and Hawkman, because that’s the best thing Joker could come up with to do with them, Superman detects another heartbeat. It turns out that Joker brought his therapist from Arkham along for the ride, because why not, and after freeing her, she goes back to analyzing Joker.

(As an aside, the earlier scene with her brings to mind Harley Quinn, as the Joker talks about how the majority of his therapists have ended up being just as nutty as he is.)

She theorizes that Joker is the way he is because his mom and dad were mean and played pranks on him when he was a kid. (We see this visualized with a baby Joker and a Mr. and Mrs. Joker.)

Joker admits that it’s true, is rendered sane as a result, and they all pop back into the normal reality.

Joker gets Boom Tubed away by the Emissary, to join the other failed villains who are going to get their hash settled by the Emissaries later on, and neither Joker nor Penguin is interested in sticking with the program once they learn that the Emissaries plan to subjugate the Earth.

Brainiac begins his experiment by causing an explosion at a nuclear reactor not far from where Paradise Island would be if it weren’t in a different dimension. The explosion pierces the veil separating the island from Man’s World, and the regressively aggressive Amazons view this as an attack by men.

Wonder Woman arrives on the island and is initially attacked by her sisters until she, too, surrenders to the old ways and declares herself their leader in their war against men.

The Amazons conquer a small Central American nation that is home to a missile base and launch their missiles at the US of A. The various heroes – minus Robin, who got stuck on monitor duty on the JLA satellite – show up and mop the floor with the Amazons, and as Superman takes out the missiles and then deals with that pesky nuclear power plant explosion, Brainiac changes tactics and zaps Superman with the regression ray, turning him into the Kryptonian equivalent of a Neanderthal, who then promptly beats the asses of the other heroes, leaving only Aquaman standing.

Aquaman surprises…well, no one, and is about to get crushed by the Caveman of Steel, until Green Lantern regains consciousness and traps Superman in a power ring bubble. Being inside the bubble protects Superman from the ray’s effects, so he reverts back to his usual self.

(There’s an inconsistency here in that when the Amazons regressed they didn’t physically “de-evolve” the way Superman does.)

GL then traces the ray back to its source and transports all of the heroes to Brainiac’s ship, which is where the Emissaries dumped the other villains. They fight, despite the protestations from Joker and Penguin about having a common enemy, and they all get Boom Tubed to an almost-empty Apokolips, where Darkseid taunts them and tells them that this was the plan all along, and now that they’re stuck on his shitty planet, he’s going to begin his assault on their shitty planet.

Some trace of energy was left behind at the scenes of the villains’ defeats when they were Boom Tubed away that makes it easier to open BIG Boom Tubes that will allow Darkseid to transport his troops to each location, from which they will work their way towards each other, conquering everything in their path.

However, after Darkseid leaves, the heroes find an odd device that transports them to multiple, increasingly bizarre locations, until they finally arrive in the presence of Metron, who has a plan to defeat Darkseid’s armies.

He hooks them all – heroes and villains alike – up to a big machine, then uses their energy to redirect Darkseids troops as they attempt to Boom Tube to their insertion points. One group is redirected to the far future, where they are handily-destroyed by Earth’s super-advanced weaponry. Another is sent to the distance past and also zapped with Brainiac’s “genetic regression” ray, as Metron calls it (this one’s written by Kirby, so he probably liked that better than “racial memory”), and in their primitive fury, they all murder each other. Another group is Boom Tubed straight into the ocean’s depths, left to drown just on the outskirts of Atlantis. And the final group is sent to a “psychoactive dimension,” left to spend eternity going mad.

This issue was pretty brutal, frankly. Defeated, Darkseid Boom Tubes back to Apokolips, Metron wipes the villains’ memories of the whole thing and sends them on their way, and the heroes get a good laugh about how those assholes were forced to do something good for once in their rotten lives and won’t even remember it, which is just as well, because they’d be so mad if they knew that they’d been do-gooders!

Metron allows them their levity, but warns them to stay on guard, because Darkseid is going to be so pissed about being defeated, and then sends the heroes home.

I’ll spend less time on the follow-up mini, as it’s even less good, as Kirby had no involvement in the actual story, so it’s lacking some of the big Kirby ideas and the philosophizing about man’s place in the universe and how one day we won’t be subject to the caprice of indifferent and implacable cosmic forces like Darkseid and Metron, or, on a less metaphorical level, our baser instincts and our own cold indifference to the suffering of others. Or something.

Anyway, after being deposed in a revolution, Darskeid flees Apokolips and sets up base – with his underlings DeSaad, Kalibak, Steppenwolf, and Mantis – on Earth’s moon. Craving a world to rule, he sets his sights on Earth, and towards that end launches five strange seeds/pods that begin sending roots down towards the Earth’s molten core. The plan is to release the magma from inside the Earth to reshape the world to Darkseid’s choosing, destroying most of the population, and leaving the remaining survivors beaten and ready to come to heel.

This one adds Dr. Fate, Green Arrow, Firestorm, and the Martian Manhunter to the mix, and as they split up into teams to try to destroy the pods.

Here, they actually refer to themselves, collectively, as “The Super Powers.” This seems like a nod to the cartoon. Prior to this, DC had a comic book version of the then-current Super Friends cartoon – a comic book based on a cartoon that was based on comic books – in which the heroes referred to themselves as “The Super Friends.” This comic also has them meeting at the “Hall of Justice,” which was not a part of the regular continuity.

An additional attempt at tying in with the cartoon is the explanation that after Darkseid and crew use it one last time to escape Apokolips, they can no longer create Boom Tubes. After that, they nstead rely on something new developed by DeSaad called a Stargate, which is what they used on the cartoon.

The presence of Dr. Fate, at a point at which he still, in the main continuity of the comics, lived on an alternate Earth, also suggests to me that this is yet another, separate continuity, specific to the cartoon.

If I recall correctly, the cartoon was on ABC, and unlike previous iterations, old episodes of it weren’t rebroadcast on the CBS affiliate that was the only station we could reliably pull in with our antenna. I don’t believe Green Arrow, Dr. Fate, or Martian Manhunter were on the show, but I do remember that Firestorm was, and I think Cyborg was as well.

(The CBS station would air Super Friends before the regular CBS cartoons started. I would regularly get up at 6 AM to watch it when I was a kid.)

Attempting to destroy the pods sends each team back in time – except Superman and Firestorm, who travel back in time under Superman’s power – in pursuit of a different minion whose task it is to protect each pod.

This includes a particularly dumb story in which Wonder Woman, Dr. Fate, and Green Lantern end up being responsible for the creation of the moai, the giant stone heads on Easter Island.

Oh, and also, Batman, Robin, and Flash travel not to the past, but to the future, a future in which Darkseid was triumphant and rules the Earth.

Turns out that having the heroes travel through the time portals that the pods open up allows the pods to use the heroes’ energy as “fertilizer.” Superman discovers this when he and Firestorm return and find that the pod they were trying to destroy has withered and died. Alas, it’s too late to do any good, as the other pods are ripe and ready to go.

The heroes head to the moon, fight Darkseid’s goons, get captured after facing stone-face himself, only to escape just in the nick of too late, as Darkseid gets into his device, which has an impenetrable force field, which will use his Omega Effect to trigger the pods.

Superman and Dr. Fate manage to stop the beams before they can hit the pods, and it turns out that DeSaad engaged in a bit of not-particularly sudden but completely inevitable betrayal of his master when he built the device, and Darkseid is apparently destroyed by some kind of energy feedback.

Day is saved, hooray.

One thing I find interesting is that while, in terms of his character, Kirby’s Darkseid is terrifying – though not so much here, where he’s kind of Darkseid Lite; he never once mentions the Anti-Life Equation, which is a big part of what makes him so horrific – Kirby’s physical depiction of him is considerably less imposing. He looks kind of buffoonish, what with the bulbous nose and the one bulging eye, in a way that he typically doesn’t when depicted by other artists.

Kirby never really based characters on anyone in a conventional sense, but there were people who served as inspiration for characters. Typically, they had some quality that would serve as a spark. Many people have claimed that for Darkseid, actor Jack Palance provided that spark, though clearly there’s no obvious resemblance between the two.

(In terms of personality, it’s believed that Kirby looked to Nixon when creating Darkseid. Kirby absolutely hated Nixon, which shouldn’t come as any surprise. After all, in his run on Captain America, Kirby had Nixon kill himself.)

Anyway, yeah, it seems I didn’t miss much when I skipped out on this after the first issue 34 years ago.

Despite the brutality of the last issue of the first mini, I think another of the reasons I called it a miss back then was that even then it felt kind of old-fashioned and childish. Which makes sense; it was a tie-in with a line of toys and a shitty cartoon.

That was especially true for the second mini-series, which lacked that brutal ending, and while it was more in line with the somewhat less restrictive standards of comics than of Saturday morning cartoons – people died, for instance – it still felt rather tame, even for a Code-approved book.

This would have been particularly unappealing to me then, given that, as evidenced by my casting aside childish things, I was growing up, or at least taking some initial, halting steps towards playing at being grown up.

Beyond that, whereas for much of my early life I would happily read any comic just because it was a comic, by then I had developed a somewhat more sophisticated taste in comics and had begun to read them more critically, favoring comics with more depth and complexity that were more serious and, well, grown up.

There was nothing here that could compare with the complex story structures and long-simmering subplots of X-Men, or the interpersonal dynamics of The New Teen Titans, or the angst and melodrama of The New Mutants (and there was plenty of angst and melodrama to be had in the other two titles I mentioned).

Hell, by then I was reading Moore’s Swamp Thing.

I’m glad I picked it up now, mostly because I’m glad that DC has put so much effort into bringing some of the King’s work back into print for a new generation to discover (and hopefully be at the right age to enjoy). Ultimately, reading it engenders a kind of bittersweet sense of nostalgia for me, even if the comics themselves aren’t the source of it.

It also reminds me that I am still pretty pissed that the goddamn toys couldn’t have come out a year or two earlier.

Recommended Reading:

FOURTH WORLD BY JACK KIRBY OMNIBUS – In honor of this extraordinary talent’s centennial, DC Comics is proud to present an all-new edition of this towering achievement in graphic literature. THE FOURTH WORLD BY JACK KIRBY OMNIBUS collects, for the first time in a single hardcover volume, Kirby’s complete chronicles from the pages of SUPERMAN’S PAL, JIMMY OLSEN, THE NEW GODS, THE FOREVER PEOPLE and MISTER MIRACLE, as well as the climactic graphic novel THE HUNGER DOGS. This transformative tome also includes illuminating essays from acclaimed author (and former Kirby apprentice) Mark Evanier and celebrated comics talent Walter Simonson, as well as a special section of Kirby pencils, profiles, pinups and more!

JACK KIRBY 100TH CELEBRATION COLLECTION – Collects The JACK KIRBY 100 THE BLACK RACER AND SHILO NORMAN SPECIAL #1, DARKSEID SPECIAL #1, MANHUNTER SPECIAL #1, THE NEW GODS SPECIAL #1, THE NEWSBOY LEGION AND THE BOY COMMANDOS SPECIAL #1 and THE SANDMAN SPECIAL #1. (March 6, 2018)

Bonus:

We’re that much closer to the end, as Wonder Woman/Conan #5 strides heroically towards the finish line.

It’s cleared up once and for all that Diana is not the Yanna that Conan remembers, as we move forward in time to find that the Amazons have been searching for their missing princess. Discovering that the Corvidae have sent her to the past, a team of Amazons is sent back in time to find her, only to end up in conflict with the Corvidae upon their arrival. Conan and Diana, meanwhile, are still making their way to save the villagers from the wrath of the Corvidae, and to cement their bond, Diana gives Conan the gift of one of her bracelets. “That can’t possibly fit,” Conan says, as she attempts to place it on him. Diana counters, “Then it will impossibly fit.” And it does.

Not long after, they run into the Corvidae, who tell Diana they have what she’s looking for: her golden lasso. Unfortunately, it’s currently wrapped around the throats of her captive sisters. Still, Diana won’t give the Corvidae what they want, so they try another approach: revealing to Conan that Yanna is alive and is their prisoner.

Regretfully, Conan does what he must, and attempts to fight Diana to save Yanna. He doesn’t have a chance, as Diana’s strength has mostly returned. Still, he does all right for himself, though that’s mostly because Diana doesn’t want to hurt him. Distracted by the fight, the Corvidae don’t notice that the Amazons have managed to free themselves, and one of the freed Amazons puts an arrow in the eye of one the Corvidae. The Corvidae vanish, taking Yanna with them, though Conan and Diana know where they’re headed. However, as much as she wants to, Diana knows she can’t go with Conan and that she has to return to her own time with her sisters. She embraces Conan, wishes him luck, and tells him that while she can’t go with him, she’s leaving a piece of herself with him.

In the final panel, we see Conan holding the golden lasso.

That does it for yet another Spotlight Sunday. Come back on Wednesday for the thing. With the voting. You know. The thing.

Special thanks go out to Comic Logic Books & Artworkmy Local Comic Shop. Remember to support your LCS (find one here, if you don’t already have one). And support OpenDoor Comics on Patreon!

Weigh In Wednesday 1.17.18

The legendary George Pérez spins an epic tale of women who will save the galaxy – if they can remember who they are, in the hour of Asgardia’s greatest need its mightiest hero is missing in action, Wonder Woman and Conan fight to save innocent lives, Superman grants some wishes, Damian’s mom pops in for a visit, a collection of Justice League tales from the King himself, Sonja has made it back in time, and is the demon that drives Dylan to Kill (or Be Killed) just in his head or is it something more?

I know you’re busy preparing for your big  “THE MOST DISHONEST & CORRUPT MEDIA AWARDS OF THE YEAR” party at “5:00 o’clock” tonight – I’m betting that it will be a clean sweep for CNN; I really think this year is their year, and that the judges will favor them – particularly since you had to scramble to reschedule it, but you have until 12 AM on 1/21/2018 to cast your vote in the Weigh In.

It’s not #FakeNews: you really can come back here on Sunday to read about the winning comic!

Which comic should be featured in this Spotlight Sunday?

  • SUPER POWERS BY JACK KIRBY (DC) (TPB) - These stories are the only time in his long career that Kirby would draw the Justice League, elevating these stories to legendary status. (50%, 4 Votes)
  • SIRENS (BOOM!) (HC) - Comics legend George Pérez (Wonder Woman, The New Teen Titans) writes and illustrates his biggest adventure yet. (38%, 3 Votes)
  • MIGHTY THOR #703 (MARVEL) - Where is Thor? Where is Jane Foster? Without their mightiest hero, who among the Asgardians can face the wrath of a billion murdered beings--and survive? (13%, 1 Votes)
  • SUPER SONS #12 (DC) - “SUPER SONS OF TOMORROW” epilogue! The past rears its ugly head to haunt Damian Wayne—in the form of his mother, Talia Al Ghul! (0%, 0 Votes)
  • WONDER WOMAN/CONAN #5 (DC/DARK HORSE) - The road to Shamar is long—and thralls of the Corvidae threaten every step. (0%, 0 Votes)
  • SUPERMAN #39 (DC) - Superman fulfills the unique wishes of some special children. (0%, 0 Votes)
  • KILL OR BE KILLED #15 (IMAGE) - The next arc of BRUBAKER and PHILLIPS' bestselling series is a blockbuster! Dylan is forced to confront the reality of his violent actions and his sanity. (0%, 0 Votes)
  • RED SONJA #12 (DYNAMITE) - Leaving a world of fast motorcycles and cold beer, Sonja returns to a more familiar setting of swords and magic and mead. (0%, 0 Votes)

Total Voters: 8

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TPB = Trade Paperback, a volume containing a longer original story, or collecting multiple issues of a regular comic.

HC = Hardcover, a volume containing a longer original story, or collecting multiple issues of a regular comic.

The featured image showcases what I feel is the best cover out of the bunch, and is not intended to sway your vote. This week’s variant cover by Neal Adams shows why he’s a legendary figure in comics…as an artist.

One person, one vote. If you vote more than once, all of your votes for that Weigh In will be discarded.

Special thanks go out to Comic Logic Books & Artworkmy Local Comic Shop. Remember to support your LCS (find one here, if you don’t already have one).  And support OpenDoor Comics on Patreon!



Spotlight Sunday 1.14.18

There were more options to vote on this week, but fewer people voting. Still, one book managed to eke out a victory, meaning that there are spoilers ahead for…

Barbarella #2
Writer: Mike Carey
Artist: Kenan Yarar
Cover: Marcos Martin
Rated Mature
$3.99
Dynamite

Beyond being dimly aware that it had been a French comic strip, my only real familiarity with Barbarella is limited to the 1968 movie starring Jane Fonda.

Apart from its opening Zero-G striptease sequence, I don’t have any particular fondness for the movie, so I might have otherwise passed on this comic if it weren’t for the fact that I do have a particular fondness for the work of Mike Carey.

Carey has, after all, written two of my favorite comics from the past decade – The Unwritten and Suicide Risk – in addition to having done excellent work on other comics such as Lucifer (upon which the TV series is, in part, loosely-based; the comic itself is built on ideas established in The Sandman).

I’m not certain whether a greater familiarity with earlier Barbarella stories would be useful here; the story starts very firmly in the midst of things, but it’s unclear if anything that came before actually has any bearing on where we find ourselves.

Certainly, there seems to be a deliberate air of mystery about Barbarella herself, and the circumstances in which she finds herself seem to be just as unfamiliar to her as they are to us.

To recap: After finding herself in the aftermath of a brief skirmish that saw the destruction of a fleet of ships from Earth, Barbarella is captured and brought to the surface of the planet Parosia, a theocratic society that eschews the very concept of desire. As they have found a non-sexual way to procreate, they’ve resolved the problem of desire by removing the organs associated with it. For carrying “bio-contraband” on her person, Barbarella is sent to the “body looms” to have the offending parts removed, then sentenced to prison.

While in prison, she informs her cellmates that there’s more to pleasure than simply stampeding to the -now non-existent – clitoris, and those assembled take the lesson to heart. One of her cellmates, a woman named Jury, reveals herself to be an undercover operative from Earth who has been sent to Parosia to find a rumored doomsday device. With the gadgets kept in Jury’s artificial leg, the two women escape, and make their way to a ship, only to be attacked and sent hurtling to their presumed deaths by a flock of drones called “razor-doves.”

This issue opens with the two of them falling, but Barbarella saves them by grabbing hold of one of the razor-doves, and slowing their descent enough to keep them in one piece. Unfortunately, the path of their descent brings them back into the city.

Jury notes that, given her durability – the razor-doves run very hot – there is clearly more to Barbarella than meets the eye.

They sneak out of the city by disguising themselves as nuns, and Jury gets a message to her local contact, a man calling himself Ix Pendrum. Pendrum doesn’t approve of Barbarella’s presence.

“So your proof of good faith is that you’re a criminal. I’m struggling with the logic a little, but fine. Just stay out of my way and speak when you’re spoken to.”

Barbarella doesn’t approve of him, either, particularly after he destroys a significant amount of farmland to cover their escape.

Parosia, it seems, is a world of contrasts; they have extremely advanced technology, but most of the people live as simple peasants. The technology, Jury tells her, is the legacy of a more glorious past, and there is no longer any innovation on Parosia. The focus now is simply on their religion, maintaining the existing technology as best they can, surviving, and making war, not love.

While Jury and Pendrum are focused completing their mission, Barbarella is willing to help, but her primary interest is getting her kajigger back.

However, it seems that the mission isn’t quite what Jury thought; rather than trying to find the doomsday device before Parosia can use it, she was unknowingly smuggling, inside of her body, the final component for the device, which Pendrum already has in his possession, and apparently intends to use against Parosia.

Barbarella objects, and Pendrum responds by shooting her.

In keeping with its origins, Barbarella has a distinctly European look and feel, seeming very much like some imported story you might find serialized in Heavy Metal, but without some of the idiosyncrasies that often result from being translated into English, given that it’s written by Carey, who is English.

It’s more a matter of look, than feel, I suppose, in no small part due to the rectangular word balloons, which are less common in American comics. That adds to the Heavy Metal-ness as well, given that the balloons would often need to be redone to accommodate the new text, and in some cases to cover over some of the more explicit components of the art that were deemed to risqué for American audiences.

Speaking of the art, I’m not familiar with Yarar, but his work here adds to the European look of the comic. While his approach to anatomy is uniquely his own, his linework is reminiscent of Milo Manara, with more than a hint of Michael Wm. Kaluta, and I want to say some traces of John Severin. His rendering in places reminds me of the work of Gary Frank (whose work is more decidedly in the American mold).

(No, they don’t actually sacrifice it.)

Again, it looks very much like something you’d see in an issue of Heavy Metal, which, in another time, is exactly where you might expect to see new stories featuring our spacefaring heroine.

Two issues in, the comic hasn’t really paused to take a breath and allow me to really assess what I think of it, but it certainly has proven interesting – with quite a few little clever asides in the dialogue – and while it’s not as completely campy as Roger Vadim’s movie version, there certainly are elements of humor, although the humor tends more towards arch than camp.

If nothing else, I have faith in Carey’s storytelling, so that’s certainly enough to keep me reading for the foreseeable future.

Recommended Reading:

THE UNWRITTEN: THE DELUXE EDITION BOOK ONE – Tom Taylor has spent his entire life as a hostage to his father’s literary legacy. Wilson Taylor’s wildly successful 13-volume series chronicling the adventures of a bespectacled boy wizard named Tommy Taylor made him the most popular author on Earth—and destroyed his son’s future. On the day that the 13th title was published, Wilson vanished, leaving young Tom alone beneath the shadow of his famous namesake.

SUICIDE RISK VOL. 1 – Heroes are dying, and cops are dying twofold. Humanity is underpowered in the face of their onslaught, and people are suffering untold casualties trying to stem the flow. After barely surviving a super-powered bank heist gone horribly wrong, beat cop Leo Winters vowed to try and find a way to stop them. Following a lead, he discovered two lowlifes who seemed to be able to grant a person powers…for the right price. Thing is: you don’t get to choose which power. It’s seemingly random, a crap-shoot, a risk. Will Leo decide to take that risk? And why is it that even the heroes in this world eventually break…bad?

LUCIFER BOOK ONE – Cast out of Heaven, thrown down to rule in Hell, Lucifer Morningstar has resigned his post and abandoned his kingdom for the mortal city of Los Angles.  Emerging from the pages of writer Neil Gaiman’s award-winning series The Sandman, the former Lord of Hell is now enjoying a quiet retirement as the propretor of Lux, L.A.’s most elite piano bar.

Bonus:

The two Bonus books this week have one thing in common: providing a straightforward recap of the plot doesn’t quite do the comics themselves justice.

That is true in both cases, however, for wildly different reasons.

First up is Mister Miracle #6, in which Scott and Barda travel to New Genesis and fight their way, level-by-level, to the throne room so that Scott can confront Highfather (Orion). Of course, just saying that’s what happens doesn’t let you know that much of the action is presented in a style that is something of an homage to old-school, side-scrolling fighting games, and it doesn’t get into the fact that all along the way the couple discusses Barda’s plans for redoing their condo, or the discussion they have about the different ways their similar childhoods shaped them, or the automated warning systems that inform them that they’re not allowed to be where they are and how they’re going to be killed for being where they aren’t supposed to be, or the talk of cigar boxes with naked ladies on them, or the way that we, not being super escape artists like Scott, can’t escape the inescapable conclusion as to what’s behind Barda’s desire to redo the whole condo, or the moment, in the midst of a battle with Lightray, when she finally tells him outright that she’s pregnant, or the moment when Scott enters the throne room and finds Orion sprawled on the floor, beaten to unconsciousness or death, and sees the face of God and is reminded of an important truth:

Darkseid is.

Then there’s Deadman #3, in which we learn that there are two never-before-mentioned Brand siblings in addition to Boston and Cleveland – a brother named Aaron and a sister named…Zeea – and that years before when Mrs. Brand fell ill a representative from the League of Assassins approached the elder Mr. Brand with an offer. The man – who is never shown in the light, but has the distinctive silhouette of Ra’s al Ghul – offers to heal Mrs. Brand, using the Lazarus Pit, in exchange for them giving the League their firstborn son. The Brands take the offer, but renege on their part of the bargain, and it’s apparent that Boston’s murder was not a simple initiation rite, but rather the consequence of his parents not delivering what was required of them after they went on the run – by joining the circus – and the League tracked them down. Further, it’s revealed that Zeea had left a note before disappearing, indicating that she had tracked the also missing Aaron down in the fabled land of Nanda Parbat, the home of the goddess Rama Kushna, who had raised Boston up from being a dead man to make him into Deadman.

That recap doesn’t tell you about the way that Boston – in possession of Cleveland – got into a fistfight with his dad, or that The Spectre compressed Boston into a ball and threw him into his father’s head, or give you a real sense of what an octopus of a thing this book is.

And with that, we reach the end of yet another Spotlight Sunday. Be sure to come back for…well, you know, and if you don’t know, you probably aren’t reading this anyway…

Special thanks go out to Comic Logic Books & Artworkmy Local Comic Shop. Remember to support your LCS (find one here, if you don’t already have one). And support OpenDoor Comics on Patreon!



Weigh In Wednesday 1.10.18

I’m posting this a little later than usual because I had a job interview today. This problem will only get worse if/when I get a job, so if you don’t want to see that happen, support OpenDoor Comics on Patreon so that I don’t have to get a job!

The Man of Steel and the Man of Gold try to repair time while Lois tries to repair her relationship with her father, a young woman’s esteem for Wonder Woman takes a swan dive, at least one Deadman can tell tales (though those tales are bizarre and don’t make any sense), Mister Miracle provides a “midseason” finale, Barbarella doesn’t necessarily trust her new allies, and a young Hellboy learns the ropes.

Tell your family! Tell your friends! Tell your enemies! Stand on a street corner and scream it at the people passing by*! The Weigh In is (finally) here!

Vote by 12 AM Eastern on 1/14/18, and come back on Sunday to find out whether or not you threw your vote away!

Which comic should be featured in this Spotlight Sunday?

  • BARBARELLA #2 (DYNAMITE) - Our spacefaring heroine may have been enlisted by Earth's underground, but that doesn't mean she trusts her new allies. (33%, 3 Votes)
  • ACTION COMICS #995 (DC) - Time is broken, and Superman and Booster Gold are in over their heads trying to repair it! Meanwhile, Lois Lane confronts her estranged father. (22%, 2 Votes)
  • WONDER WOMAN #38 (DC) - “SWAN’S SONG” part one! (22%, 2 Votes)
  • DEADMAN #3 (DC) - The Spectre, Etrigan the Demon and the Phantom Stranger smell death around Deadman—and they’ve come to get a whiff! (11%, 1 Votes)
  • HELLBOY AND THE B.P.R.D.: 1954 (DARK HORSE) (TPB) - No longer a rookie, Hellboy joins other Bureau agents in a series of far-flung mysteries. (11%, 1 Votes)
  • MISTER MIRACLE #6 (DC) - The hit miniseries reaches the emotional conclusion of its first arc! (0%, 0 Votes)

Total Voters: 9

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TPB = Trade Paperback, a volume containing a longer original story, or collecting multiple issues of a regular comic.

HC = Hardcover, a volume containing a longer original story, or collecting multiple issues of a regular comic.

The featured image showcases what I feel is the best cover out of the bunch, and is not intended to sway your vote.

One person, one vote. If you vote more than once, all of your votes for that Weigh In will be discarded.

Special thanks go out to Comic Logic Books & Artworkmy Local Comic Shop. Remember to support your LCS (find one here, if you don’t already have one).

*OpenDoor Comics is not responsible for any fines, legal fees, punches, embarrassment, or any other consequences resulting from standing on a street corner and yelling at strangers about the Weigh In.