Jul 232014
 
So, Hermes Press has just collected their Buck Rogers miniseries by Howard Chaykin. I didn't read the individual comics, but I pre-ordered it in trade, and expect it to arrive in a week or so. I don't always like Chaykin's comics, but when I do, I tend to like them a lot. In the 80s, I adored American Flagg, and the writer/artist is responsible for creating one of my all-time favorite comics characters - Atlas Comics' The Scorpion. I also dug his 80s Shadow miniseries (and will probably pick up his recent return to the character eventually), among many other titles.

I've read online that this version of Buck Rogers hews more closely to the original Philip Francis Nowlan pulp novellas, Armageddon 2419 A.D. and The Airlords Of Han.... and I think that's a great approach. Hey, I love the 70s TV series as much as anyone (and more than most), but it's about time to get back to the character's roots.

Here are Chaykin's covers for the four issue miniseries.

Jul 182014
 

My Femme Noir collaborator, Joe Staton, will be appearing at the Baltimore Comic-Con, September 5 -7. At the show, they’ll be distributing a charity Yearbook with art by the guests. Those artists with creator-owned characters were asked to draw them interacting with Matt Wagner’s character Grendel. This is Joe’s contribution, with colors by Matt Webb, pitting The Blonde against the Hunter Rose incarnation of Grendel, among the rooftops of Port Nocturne.

I’d love to see this crossover become a reality… but only if Wagner writes it.

A Birthday Comics Bounty

 Comics  Comments Off
Jul 142014
 
As I am not steadily employed, and comic book trade collections can be so pricey, I can usually only afford to get new comics twice a year - on my birthday and at Christmas (pending familial largesse). Well, my birthday was last week, and the family was very generous this year, so I hit Amazon and started carving away at my Wish List. This is this year's birthday bounty: two Astro City trades, the third (and final) volume of the great Russ Manning's classic Magnus Robot Fighter, The Rocketeer & The Spirit: Pulp Friction, and two Conan volumes (only one pictured above). Still have some catching up to do with those Dark Horse Conan books, though...

Of the comics I got in that Amazon order, I'm most looking forward to reading this one. DC has finally collected the 1988 four-issue miniseries Cinder And Ashe. This crime comic is one of the best things Gerry Conway ever wrote for the medium, and features utterly gorgeous artwork by Jose Garcia-Lopez.

I bought three of the four issues when it first came out, but could never find issue #4 (and I've searched a lot of back issue bins since '88!). 


I can't tell you just how eager I am to find out how the story ends... after 26 years!

And just to put some frosting on that comic book bounty goodness, I was surprised today to find yet another box of comics in the mail -- a package of books by my friend, comics writer Chuck Dixon, who very generously gifted me a bunch of his recent work, including a couple of G.I. Joe: Special Missions trades. Now, I've never really been a fan of the G.I. Joe franchise, but Dixon is a master at military-styled action adventure comics, and it turns out that these are drawn by Paul Gulacy, one of my favorite comics artists, ever... so I'm actually eager to check them out.

And speaking of all-time favorites, Chuck also sent along the first Airboy Archives volume from IDW. Back in the 80s, Airboy was one of my top three comic series (along with Grimjack and Scout), and I'd been wanting to get the new collections for my library, but was daunted by the cover price. 

What can I say? It's good to have friends, and while my so-called comics career has always been spotty, at best, it has made me a lot of good friends. Thanks, Chuck!
Apr 232014
 
I know I haven't been posting to this blog much in the last few months, but Spring is here and all the distractions that plagued me over the Winter From Hell™ are receding in the rear-view mirror, so it's time to get back to the "shameless self-promotion and pop culture commentary" this site promised.

Let's begin with  the "self-promotion," and a long-overdue look at the Atomic Pulp line of webcomics. If you're reading this, then your almost certainly aware that I write, and publish online, three weekly, serialized webcomics (did I mention that they're free?): Gravedigger, Perils On Planet X, and Femme Noir.

Gravedigger is more than halfway through its action-packed second continuity, "The Predators." Over the last couple months we've had some scheduling issues due to various circumstances on both my part and multiple-award-winning artist/co-creator Rick Burchett's, but it looks like we're back on track now, with new installments every Monday. Once "The Predators" wraps, we plan to move right into the third - and biggest - Gravedigger caper, tentatively titled, "The Abductors." Like "The Predators," this one is brand-new, and has never been available in any format before.

Every Wednesday sees an episode of Femme Noir, drawn by my pal, Joe Staton, who is currently shaking up the funny pages as the artist on the Dick Tracy newspaper strip. At the moment, we are re-presenting previously-published stories while we gear up to produce a new graphic novel.

The most popular of the Atomic Pulp webcomics (in terms of monthly traffic) is Perils On Planet X, which updates on Fridays. This swashbuckling interplanetary adventure, which is illustrated by the immensely talented Gene Gonzales, and colored by Ian Sokoliwski, has updated like clockwork for more than a year now, with no missed weeks. We're about a third of the way into Chapter Three of the first storyline, "Hawke Of Terra," and looking toward the future. We're working on plans for a collected volume (and maybe some crowdfunding to pull it off) of this first "Book," as well as discussing future stories.

We appreciate all comments and feedback from our readers. We also appreciate every link and referral, because the more readers we have, the easier it is justify keeping them going. So thanks, to everyone who's helped spread the word... and if you haven't read them yet: why not?
Mar 202014
 
Up until now I've known Andrez Bergen primarily as a novelist with a distinctive, entertaining voice, as is evident in TOBACCO-STAINED MOUNTAIN GOAT, WHO IS KILLING THE GREAT CAPES OF HEROPA?, and DEPTH CHARGING ICE PLANET GOTH, among others. But he also writes comics, and BLACK/WHITE, a new anthology title he's produced with several different artists, is just out. Most of the stories in this
Mar 172014
 


ruckawriter:

So, here’s Seth Meyers’ show from Tuesday night, March 11. He’s doing the funny, and then around minute 20, first guest Rachel Maddow comes out. And around minute 23 and 30 seconds, they start talking comics.

I’m still in geek-fugue about this. It’s always flattering to get a shout out, but to get a shout out from not one, but two people I hold in such high esteem…

…yeah, I’ll be over here in the corner, grinning and giggling.

Rachel Maddow admits to Seth Meyers that she gives copies of Greg Rucka’s Queen & Country to members of Congress, saying “It’ll give them helpful insight for their jobs.”

I wonder how Greg Rucka’s forthcoming novel, Bravo, would go over!

Nov 142013
 
Normally I don't blog about single issues of a comic book, preferring to wait until there's a collected edition available, but I'm going to make an exception for VELVET #1, the first issue of a new spy series written by Ed Brubaker and drawn by Steve Epting, the team responsible for some of the best Captain America stories in the past twenty or thirty years.

According to Brubaker, he wants VELVET to be a cross between the more over-the-top secret agent stuff like James Bond and The Man From U.N.C.L.E. and the grittier espionage fiction of authors such as John Le Carre. I think he's succeeded admirably in this first issue.

Set in the late Sixties and early Seventies, the story centers around the activities of Arc-7, a top secret, ultra-hush-hush spy agency with headquarters in London. I'm not sure if it's supposed to be a British agency or an international one like U.N.C.L.E., but that doesn't really matter. One of their agents is murdered while on a mission, and the leaders of the agency quickly decide that there's a traitor in their ranks, a former top field agent who now trains other agents.

But Velvet Templeton, the secretary to the agency's director, believes that the man being blamed for the leak (who happens to be a former lover of hers) is actually being framed, so she sets out to do some investigating of her own. And Velvet has some secrets in her past that make things even more interesting, so that by the end of this issue Brubaker has thrown in some very intriguing twists along with plenty of action.

Since I was a huge fan of all the espionage novels, movies, and TV shows from the Sixties, VELVET is right in my wheelhouse. Brubaker is one of the best writers in the comics business, and I've always enjoyed Epting's stylish artwork and top-notch storytelling. This first issue also includes a fine essay by Jess Nevins, "A History of Spy Fiction Through the Cold War". I really enjoyed this one and look forward to the next issue. Whether you read it as it goes along or wait for the hardback or trade paperback, VELVET gets a high recommendation from me.


Nov 062013
 

In 1975, writer/artist Howard Chaykin created a character for the short-lived Atlas/Seaboard comics company called The Scorpion. In the two issues under that title produced by Chaykin, The Scorpion was a mysterious, swashbuckling adventurer named Moro Frost who operated in 1930s Hollywood. Due to creative differences, Chaykin left the title after those two issues, and a third issue of THE SCORPION by different creators and featuring a different character was published before Atlas/Seaboard collapsed. The company put out some pretty good comic books during its short life (I read most of them), but my favorite was probably Chaykin's version of THE SCORPION.

A short time later, the second issue of Marvel's black-and-white magazine MARVEL PREVIEW featured a story called "The Power Broker Resolution" that starred a mysterious, swashbuckling adventurer in 1930s Hollywood named Dominic Fortune. The writer/artist who produced that story? None other than Howard Chaykin. Yep, Dominic Fortune was a reworked version of The Scorpion, with little changed except the character's name. I enjoyed it as much as I had the two earlier issues.

The story didn't lead to much, though. A few years later in one of Marvel's color comics, MARVEL PREMIERE #56, Dominic Fortune surfaced again in a story called "The Big Top Barter Resolution", with art by Chaykin and Terry Austin and script by David Michelinie. This is a fun story that features a pre-Howling Commandos appearance by Dum Dum Dugan. But again it didn't lead to an ongoing Dominic Fortune series.

Over the years other writers and artists used Fortune as a guest star in various stories, filling in his back-story as they went along, something with which I'm not totally in agreement. (The urge to produce "origin" stories is a plague that afflicts mainly Hollywood—the movie version of SOLOMON KANE, anyone?—but it crops up in the comics industry, too. As far as I'm concerned the worst thing that Marvel ever did with Wolverine was to give him a detailed origin. I much preferred the mystery that surrounded his early appearances.)

But back to Dominic Fortune. A few years ago, Chaykin wrote and drew a Fortune mini-series for Marvel's MAX imprint, which means it has a lot of cussin' and nekkid women in it, two things to which I'm not opposed in principle, but it's easy to go overboard on them and that's almost the case here. Not quite. "It Can Happen Here and Now" finds Fortune being hired by a movie executive to ride herd on three drunken, washed-up ham actors who are still valuable to the studio. In trying to keep them out of trouble, Fortune winds up in the middle of a Fifth Columnist plot to assassinate FDR. This story aspires to be a fun romp, and most of the time it is. It's a little too heavy-handed in its politics for my taste, but overall I enjoyed it.

The trade paperback DOMINIC FORTUNE: IT CAN HAPPEN HERE AND NOW reprints the MAX mini-series, the two early Dominic Fortune stories from MARVEL PREVIEW and MARVEL PREMIERE, and a six-part Fortune serial that previously was available only on-line. This story, written by Dean Motter and drawn by Greg Scott, is excellent, a globe-trotting adventure in which Fortune is hired by a young woman who wants him to prove that her sister's deadly leap from the top of the Hollywood sign was murder, not suicide. In the course of the story, Fortune visits Berlin, where he encounters Barons Strucker and Zemo and the young S.S. officer who will become the Red Skull; Latveria, where he meets gypsy healer Werner von Doom and his pregnant wife (no points for guessing who that kid turns out to be); and a tiny country in Africa called Wakanda. There's also a cameo by Howard Stark. The story is a lot of fun for a long-time Marvel fan like me.

Dominic Fortune certainly isn't one of Marvel's top-tier characters, but I like him and I enjoyed this collection. If you're a fan of the character or of Howard Chaykin's work, it's well worth reading.


Oct 302013
 
Click To Enlarge
What coulda/shoulda been: Back in the late 1990s, my pal James Chambers and I briefly had our own comics company called Shadow House Press. We published five issues of our horror anthology title Shadow House ('natch!) before we ran out of money and had to call it quits.

This gorgeous wrap-around cover by Kirk Van Wormer and Kevin Nowlan was intended to grace our (ultimately unpublished) Shadow House Halloween Special and features our horror hostess character, Autumn, offering some tricky treats to Jim's creation, the Lil' Ghoul Gang....