Wednesday, April 29, 2009

I Love Atlas Comics #4: "The War of the Worlds"

Continuing my look at the weird and wonderful days of Atlas Comics, I bring you one of the many text features which appeared in comics from the late 30s to the mid-60s. These text pieces, usually two pages in length, were necessary in order for comic companies to receive distribution through mail services. Credits are rarely available for these tales (which is probably a good thing for the writers involved). The story I've chosen to look at hails from Adventures Into Weird Worlds#3 (1952) and is entitled...

Wait...what?

Uh, I think this title might have been used before. Regardless of your story's subject matter, you don't want to draw comparison to one of the all-time great science fiction novels, do you?

At any rate, "The War of the Worlds" tells us of Kara, a man who lives thousands of years in the future. Kara wants to conquer the Solar System and wields a time machine to assemble the greatest generals of history to lead his forces; his generals include Alexander the Great, Achilles, Hector, Julius Caesar, Attila the Hun, Napoleon Bonaparte, Hannibal, Oliver Cromwell and George S. Patton. Initially, the generals fought with each other.

"Napoleon insulted Cromwell, who would have attacked him, there and then, if General Patton hadn't intervened, warning that America would never stand by and allow an Englishman to be attacked."

Uh, except for when they did, Georgie.

Anyway, the generals don't want to work for Kara, so they kill him. Then they discover that Kara was really a Martian! Informing the governments of the time (presumably the USA) based out of the superoctogen, their information enables humanity to launch a war against Mars which obliterates them. The generals watch all of this and brood, then return to their own times. Having seen all of this, they lose their appetite for conquest.

Actually, this wasn't too bad - goofy but fun. Late in the story its pointed out that the generals can't comprehend futuristic warfare or the magnitude of destruction which armies can unleash. That being the case, why did Kara think they would be ideal in conquering the Solar System to begin with...?

In stores today: Proof#19

The latest issue of Proof came out today, written by Alex Grecian and drawn as usual by my friend Riley Rossmo. This is the second part of a storyline set in the 19th century which pits the Bigfoot protagonist Proof against the notorious Springheeled Jack! Also included is a very funny newspaper facsimile, a Dover Demon story by Grecian and Dave Casey and the start of a new Archie Snow serial by Kelly Tindall.

If you haven't read Proof before then...this is not really the place to start. Go back and get #18. Better still, go get the first trade, yah?

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The Parker Bump

In his latest interview with Comic Book Resources, Jeff Parker was kind enough to randomly drop my name:
"My man – Number One Assistant Editor Supreme Jordan Delight White – is in charge of numbering the universes. Sometimes the Handbook guys like Michael Hoskin will run in and figure a good place to put a certain earth too. And he does save that info for just such a book."

He's a gentleman, that Jeff.

Friday, April 24, 2009

This weekend: The Calgary Comic & Entertainment Expo

To all Calgarians - please come out this weekend (25th & 26th) to the Calgary Comic & Entertainment Expo. There are plenty of interesting guests lined up, including yours truly. Look for me at Another Dimension's booth (703-705) and help me to feel like a celebrity.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

I Love Atlas Comics #3: "Trench War!"

Time for another look at why I love Atlas Comics; this time it's a war comic - Battle#28 (1954) and the story "Trench War!" by John Severin.

The opening two pages tell a brief history of warfare so it takes a while to get to the main plot. Then again, it's illustrated by Severin, so who's complaining?

Eventually we meet our mysterious narrator, who turns out to be an inanimate object.

That's right, the trench itself tells the story of World War I. It's a very French trench at that, as it has no love for the Germans who wind up occupying it late in the story.

Finally, the arrival of the US forces to drive the Germans from the trenches and the establishment of tanks brings an end to World War I.

So, it's a happy ending...? Happy in that trench warfare is no more, but I don't know how pleased those missile-filled skies with a mushroom cloud make me feel...

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

In stores tomorrow...

Tomorrow sees the release of Wolverine: Weapon X Files, the latest Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe. I blogged about it here.

I Love Atlas Comics #2: "A Thousand Years"

Continuing from yesterday, once more I'm returning to Astonishing#19. Come to think of it, this is another post about Cat People too.

Timothy Wurnel is a scientist trying to perfect a gamma ray device which will place humans into suspended animation. He tests it out on a cat.

Satisfied, Wurnel turns the machine on himself, hoping to awaken in an era which will be free from war and death. He sets the machine to make him lie in suspended animation for 1,000 years. When he awakens, he finds that the Earth is indeed a utopia - but there are no humans. The Earth has been overrun by Cat People!

These civilized Cat Men (check out the suits) thought they had purged the Earth "of all the living but cats!" Whoa, even cattle or anteaters? What'd they ever do to you Cat People? Anyway, a Cat Man announces "By the power invested in me by the Cat Kingdom, I sentence you to death!" They have to take Wurnel to a museum to find an execution device and on the way they point out another exhibit.

You maniacs! You finally did it!

The surprise twist of this story is obviously that we should abandon the use of animals in the laboratory, lest they rise up and overthrow us. Free the lab cats now!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Review: Archie Snow - the First Fifteen Hours

Like the previous entry, this is about something I picked up at the Emerald City Comic Con - the latest Archie Snow mini-comic by fellow Canadian Kelly Tindall.

I reviewed the first mini-comic back on my old blog so it seemed right to continue the tradition (look for the next Archie Snow mini-comic in 2011 on Section 247). In the two years since then Kelly has become a contributor to Image's Proof, where he often tells an Archie Snow tale in the back pages. When I saw Kelly was selling the new mini at Seattle I was all too eager to take it; it was going for $2, so I gave Kelly a twoonie. "Where am I supposed to spend this?" he griped.

Kelly hasn't revealed a great deal about Archie in his stories up until now, but it's pretty easy to grasp what the character is - he's part man, part cat and he fights monsters. It's not so far removed from Hellboy (or Proof); I even noticed some Mike Mignola-like lines in the first mini-comic.

The First Fifteen Hours tells "the true story of the first fifteen hours of the life of Archie Snow." So, there are answers to be found here for those who seek them, but with only 8 pages there's a limit to how much can be told. If you aren't up to speed on Kelly's previous Archie Snow stories then I don't know what you'll make of this - it might as be written in Sanskrit for the uninitiated. Archie's origin is recounted but in a cryptic, non-linear fashion. If you've read the most recent Archie Snow serial in Proof, you'll get more out of the story.

Of course, even if you can't follow the story there's the art to consider. Kelly's influences seem less obvious to me now (though when Archie squints his eyes he could almost pass for Usagi Yojimbo). Some of his human faces look dodgy here (not usually a problem with his art), but most of the 8 pages are concerned with Archie - who looks fantastic - and the monsters he fights, which are all rather interesting and visually diverse considering how quickly they're dispatched.

As an artist's showcase, this is worth the $2.

I Love Atlas Comics #1: "Back From the Grave"

Back at the Emerald City Comic Con, I bought a number of old Atlas Comics. "Atlas" was the name Marvel Comics went by in the 1950s and I always enjoy trying the type of stories they published in that era, only because they're so different from what Marvel's published since the 60s.

For instance, there's Astonishing#19 (1952) and the story "Back From the Grave" by Stan Lee and Fred Kida. It's set in Czechoslovakia and concerns scientist August Gottlieb and his son Carl. When August dies at the hands of the Soviets, Carl turns to Ivan, a local sorcerer and asks him to restore his father to life. Ivan betrays Carl to the Soviets who kill him, but August is resurrected (even though Ivan thought the spell wouldn't work). August goes on a rampage.

But he doesn't stop with just the men who killed Carl - he goes to Moscow and kills the colonel who orchestrated the affair. Still not satisfied, he goes after Uncle Joe himself.

They didn't just go there, did they?

Yes, they did.

A cautionary tale, to be sure.

More on my love for Atlas tomorrow.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Marvel in June

I just about forgot to post these:

OFFICIAL INDEX TO THE MARVEL UNIVERSE #6
Written by VARIOUS
Continuing the chronicle of the Marvel Universe, starting with Spider-Man (from AMAZING SPIDER-MAN ANNUAL #18 on), Iron Man (from IRON MAN #183 on) and the X-Men (from UNCANNY X-MEN #253 on). Follow the history of the Marvel universe as it unfolds month by month with the All-New Official Index to the Marvel Universe. Each issue provides synopses for dozens of individual comics, including back-up strips, introducing you to the characters, teams, places and equipment that appeared within, providing vital information about first appearances, where they last showed up and where they appeared next! 64 PGS./Rated A ...$3.99

DARK REIGN: ACCEPT CHANGE TPB
Written by BRIAN MICHAEL BENDIS, JONATHAN HICKMAN, JEFF PARKER, GREG PAK, ADAM FELBER, JIM MCCANN & MATT FRACTION
Penciled by STEFANO CASELLI, DANIELE RUDONI, CARLO PAGULAYAN, LEONARDO MANCO, PAULO SIQUEIRA, DAVID LOPEZ, ALEX MALEEV, MIKE DEODATO, MITCH BREITWEISER & DANIEL ACU√ĎA
Cover by JOE QUESADA

The Invasion is over, and the shape of the world has changed, with new and returning players now center stage. Get the lowdown on what's going on across the Marvel Universe as we enter DARK REIGN. In DARK REIGN: NEW NATION, we meet the Secret Warriors, the Skrull Kill Krew and other Marvel players as they embark on their own adventures in the wake of Secret Invasion. Then DARK AVENGERS #1 kicks off an explosive new era in the Avengers mythos. Who are the Dark Avengers? A simple question with a shocking answer! Plus, learn the truth about Emma Frost’s secret past in UNCANNY X-MEN ANNUAL #2. Collecting DARK REIGN: NEW NATION, SECRET INVASION: DARK REIGN, DARK AVENGERS #1, UNCANNY X-MEN ANNUAL #2, DARK REIGN FILES and MARVEL SPOTLIGHT: DARK REIGN. 256 PGS./Rated T+ ...$24.99 ISBN: 978-0-7851-4140-2

MARVEL PETS HANDBOOK
Written by MICHAEL HOSKIN, MADISON CARTER, SEAN MCQUAID, STUART VANDAL, GABRIEL SHECHTER, DAVID WILTFONG, RONALD BYRD, ERIC J. MOREELS, JACOB ROUGEMONT, MARKUS ETTLINGER, JEFF CHRISTIANSEN, MARK O'ENGLISH, MIKE O'SULLIVAN, CHRIS BIGGS & ROB LONDON
Cover by KARL KERSCHL
Rein yourself in for the Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe you thought you'd never see! A marvelous menagerie of mirthful mammals and more materialize! From the high-flying Falcon's pet Redwing to the ever-familiar Ebony to Speedball's cat Niels to Kitty's dragon Lockheed to Daredevil's dog Deuce to the Mole Man's monsters to Devil Dinosaur and all manner of Asgardian beasts! Cosmo says: "Buy one for me, comrade! Is good!" Lockjaw says: "Woof!" Can you say no to those puppy-dog eyes? 48 PGS./Rated T+ ...$3.99

The Marvel Pets Handbook has already elicited some comment on the web, such as this from J. Caleb Mozzocco:

"Honestly? This is the Marvel comic I'm most looking forward to in June. I can't wait for this."

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

In stores today: Dark Tower - Guide to Gilead

I don't know Stephen King from Dean Koontz, but I know what I like. And what I like is to promote my friends' work. In stores today is Dark Tower: Guide to Gilead, written by my friend Anthony Flamini. It's the latest in a series of guides Anthony has written which have included the Gunslinger's Guidebook and End-World Almanac. If you're a fan of the novels or comics of the Dark Tower universe, you should pick it up!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

My Five Day Roadtrip: To Seattle and Back Again

DAY ONE

- In the morning I rose, dressed and packed my only travel bag. Realizing that I probably wouldn't have lunch and needing to eliminate food which would otherwise spoil, I took in a large breakfast. I left the house to catch a bus to Edmonton.

- On the way to the bus I made a brief excursion to look for shoes; all of my sneakers had been worn out and discarded and I realized that my boots would be too much for traveling around Seattle. However, the store I visited had nothing to interest me.

- I caught the Red Arrow bus to Edmonton. Red Arrow remains the superior bus between Calgary and Edmonton; I can't believe that Greyhound hasn't got an express.

- I was received in Edmonton by Olav, who was providing his car for the roadtrip. Olav brought his Calgary Flames jersey along, even though we planned to stop in Vancouver. After gathering Earl, the third member of our entourage, we departed from Edmonton.

- It was a long drive that evening. During the trip, the "check engine" light came on in the car, even though Olav had left the car with the mechanic before the trip. Unable to find any clue to the problem and not experiencing any unusual performance, we carried on. Had supper at A&W's.

- We arrived in Kamloops and stopped at a hotel for the night.

DAY TWO

- Departed Kamloops in the morning and headed for Vancouver. We didn't stop for breakfast so I made do with a muffin from a gas station

- Delayed while entering the city when an accident tied up traffic. When we passed the scene of the accident, I was stunned to see that one of the cars was a blackened, smoldering wreck.

- Went to meet Olav's friend Nathan for lunch. Nathan was attending a Stargate convention in Vancouver and Olav thought it might be funny to attend the convention. When we learned it was $200 at the door, we thought better of it.

- By now, Olav's Flames jersey was winning him some colorful remarks (and occasional warnings) from the locals. We met Nathan at a Red Robin's for lunch. When Calgary had a Red Robin's I frequented it often with Craig; I was amazed to find that the franchise still existed on the west coast. It was a good thing I had a harty meal because we didn't have supper that night.

- Earl & I dropped Olav off to visit some relatives, leaving the two of us with the car. We tried our best to navigate the city and finally found a mall where I bought two pairs of sneakers. With plenty of time to kill, Earl offered to treat me to the film Fast & Furious. Since he was paying, I accepted.

- We met up with Olav again in the evening. I was ashamed to admit I had gone to see Fast & Furious and was evasive about what we had been up to. When Olav noticed that the "check engine" light had gone off, he assumed that Earl and I had done something to the car, possibly taken it to a garage. Earl and I played along with this idea, neither confirming nor denying Olav's assumptions. This would later prove to be a BAD IDEA.

- We decided to continue on to Seattle that night, but getting out of Vancouver and on to the correct highway was a lengthy and difficult task. We experienced no problems crossing the border, but Olav tired out before we could reach Seattle; we stopped at a hotel 30 minutes from the city and remained there for the rest of our stay.

DAY THREE

- We all slept in, missing the complimentary breakfast I had hoped to catch. We traveled on to Seattle, located the convention center where the Emerald City Comic Con was being held, then took a quasi-breakfast/lunch at the Cheesecake Factory. Concerned about the number of meals I was missing, I took in another big lunch.

- At last, we went on to the convention. We traveled the floor both together and separate. Olav was most interested in acquiring new Robocop on a Unicorn sketches, while I had a lengthy list of autographs to seek out.

- Passing Gail Simone's table, I was surprised when Earl expressed ignorance of her work. I cajoled him into buying a Birds of Prey trade from her.

- Olav and I stood in Paul Smith's line for a lengthy period; I only wanted some autographs, but Olav was hoping for a sketch. I conversed with another person in line for most of the wait and he showed me a sketchbook full of great images which had been gathered over years, including the likes of Gulacy, Eisner & Kaluta. Smith was funny and gracious, but declined to sketch Robocop on a Unicorn.

Proof's Alex Grecian, Kelly Tindall and Riley Rossmo

- I visited the Proof table to see the book's complete creative team. Although I've known Riley Rossmo & Kelly Tindall for some time, I had never met writer Alex Grecian before. I collected autographs and admired a Dr. Who sketch Kelly was working on.

- I visited Stan Sakai's table to collect an autographed poster and receive his autograph on Usagi Yojimbo#99. I introduced myself as a friend of Texcap and related how Tex had convinced me to purchase the single issue. I mentioned that I was waiting for the collected Usagi trade so that I could follow the title from its beginning. "Oh, you're one of those." Sakai replied.

- I introduced myself to Christos N. Gage, collected some autographs and chatted about his work. I also apologized for not following his Wildstorm work, telling him that I couldn't follow Wildstorm's continuity. I also told him how I had used my blog to help promote the recent Avengers: The Initiative Featuring Reptil#1.

Jeff Parker

- I spent a ridiculous amount of time (1.5 hours?) at Jeff Parker's table, chatting him about Interman, Mysterius and others. Jeff kindly introduced me to one of his fans as "the guy who keeps me from making mistakes." I spent a great deal of time admiring the sketches Jeff drew for fans. I asked Jeff for a Robocop on a Unicorn on Olav's behalf and he supplied one.

- I met Jay Faerber and purchased a new copy of Dynamo 5 Vol.1 (Olav lost my copy) and the not-even-in-stores-yet Noble Causes Archives Vol.2 from him. I also apologized to him for insulting him at comicboards.com about 10 years ago.

- I also collected autographs from Khoi Pham, Ben Templesmith and Greg Horn.

- I finally went through the vendors and found myself searching for 1950s Atlas comics. One vendor had an amazing stock of Atlas books at reasonable prices; I walked away with a $50 stack of books.

- Near the end of the day, Olav mentioned that he had seen Lars Brown at the Oni booth and mentioned I was here. I sped to Oni, only to find Lars had left. Right then, I knew I would have to return the next day.

- After the show we wandered around looking for a place to have dinner. We finally chose a Mexican grill.

- We returned to the hotel reasonably early that night and spent some time reading the comics we purchased before bed.

DAY FOUR

- Earl and I rose early enough to take in the free breakfast.

Science Fiction Museum/Hall of Fame

- We went back to Seattle and rode the monorail to the Science Fiction Museum/Hall of Fame (rock n' roll) facility. Olav had free passes.

- The sci-fi museum was interesting - it displayed costumes, props and models from the likes of Star Wars, Star Trek, Terminator, Outer Limits, Battlestar Galactica, Planet of the Apes and so forth. There was also a lot of emphasis on sci-fi novels, with many of them displayed in cases throughout the exhibits.

- Unfortunately, the museum gift shop was a major letdown. It's a rather small shop with only a few shelves of books and most of them the sort of sci-fi books you can find at any Chapters. Given all the acclaimed and hard-to-find books on display at the exhibit, you would think the curators would use the gift shop to seize an opportunity for people to read the books for themselves while the titles are fresh in their minds. I just may write a complaint letter.

- The Hall of Fame wasn't that interesting to me; the exhibits included a history of guitars, a history of Seattle-area music and a display of local concert posters. Borrrring. But free.

- We took in lunch at the Cheesecake Factory again. While Olav and Earl went off to explore more of Seattle, I went back to the con to see Lars and other guests I had missed.

- Lars was the first person I sought out on arrival; we caught up briefly (we had been side-by-side at the 2007 Calgary Expo) and I bought an autographed copy of North World Vol.2 (not available at any of my local shops).

- I sought out a few autographs from Kurt Busiek and apologized for insulting him at comicboards.com about 10 years ago. This was a good weekend for my karma.

- I also obtained autographs from Mike Mignola, Stuart Immonen and Matt Fraction; that made everyone on my list.

- I visited the Proof table again while Riley was doing a Dr. Who sketch. I asked Riley for some paper and a pen: I had a special mission to undertake; when Riley learned what it was, he threw in a crayon. This would prove vital.

Wil Wheaton

- I stood in line for Star Trek's Wil Wheaton, although he was absent from his booth when I arrived. Ahead of me was an attractive woman named Madison who was an exuberant Wheaton fan; when he finally arrived she began shrieking and jumping about. Without any paper for him to sign, instead she had him autograph her left breast; sayeth Wil: "I feel like a rock star." She loaned me her camera to take their picture.

- And now it was my turn and I presented Wil with the paper, pen and crayon along with my request for a sketch. Without flinching, Wil went to work with the crayon, commenting on the picture as he drew, much to the delight of his onlooking fans. Wil completed his masterpiece and I gratefully returned the pen and crayon to Riley, allowing the Proof team a chance to soak in Wil Wheaton's Robocop on a Unicorn.

- I went back to the vendors and picked up a Usagi Yojimbo poster, Fell trade and Losers trade, all for Earl. For myself, I found a $0.50 bin full of my own Marvel Universe handbooks; I took them all.

- I met up again with Olav and Earl at the end of the con. We had originally intended to visit a Travis concert in the evening, but Olav suggested that we start back toward Alberta instead. We agreed.

- We crossed the border back without incident and took in supper at a White Spot.

- It was on the drive back that the "check engine" light came on again. Earl and I confessed that we hadn't been to a garage as Olav had assumed, earning us his ire.

- We stopped again in Kamloops, albeit at a different (cheaper) hotel.

DAY FIVE

- Again we started out without taking breakfast. Lunch was spent at a Denny's.

- I should mention that aside from some snow & fog on the first night, this trip was full of clear, sunny weather. Certainly not what Seattle's reputation led me to expect.

- Olav & Earl dropped me off in Calgary after 6 PM. And so, the trip is finally over.

TALLY

Number of Autographs Collected: 15 different creators Number of Meals Missed: 5 Number of Vehicles Used: 5 (2 buses, 1 LRT, 1 car, 1 monorail) Number of Bad Vin Diesel Movies Seen: 1

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Out this week

In stores this week is the Official Index of the Marvel Universe#4, the latest issue of our new series; I blogged about it here.