When I saw the cover of ACTION COMICS #206 [July, 1955] on the DC HISTORY MAILING LIST - posted there by long-time TOT friend JON KNUTSON - my first thought was "Hey, that looks like the cover of ACTION COMICS #484 [June, 1978]!"
Well, to be honest, I didn't think in either capital letters or brackets and I had to look up the issue number at the good old GRAND COMICS DATABASE. The 1955 cover is by Win Mortimer; the 1978 cover is by Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez and Dick Giordano.
The second thought that came to my mind was "I don't think I have ever seen ACTION COMICS #206, or read the story represented by the cover."
I had to ask myself:
"Is it a dream, a hoax, or an imaginary story?"
For the answer, I turned to THE GREAT SUPERMAN BOOK by Michael L. Fleisher [Warner Books; 1978], perhaps the best reference work on the Golden and Silver Age Superman ever. Here's what the book had to say about this story:
In July 1955, Lois Lane falls asleep and dreams that she has finally become engaged to Superman. As the wedding day draws ever closer, Lois becomes painfully aware that there are "disadvantages to being Superman's sweetheart" - such as being constantly mobbed by curiosity seekers and interrupted by emergencies requiring the attention of Superman - but, nevertheless, Lois continues to look forward to the big event with eager enthusiasm. And finally the wedding does take place, with Clark Kent as best man and Perry White and Jimmy Olsen among the guests. It is only after the ceremony, as Lois begins to cut into the wedding cake, that the alarm on her bedside table goes off, informing her that her long-awaited marriage to Superman was only a dream.
The GCD [www.comics.org] doesn't include a writer's credit for this story as this time, but it does identify Wayne Boring and Stan Kaye as penciller and inker. Backing up Superman in this issue: Tommy Tomorrow (by Otto Binder and Jim Mooney), Congo Bill (drawn by Ed Smalle), and various gag and public service pages.
The story in ACTION COMICS #484 was not a dream, a hoax, or an imaginary story. "Superman Takes a Wife" was a flashback showing the wedding of the Earth-2 Superman and Lois Lane. It was written by Cary Bates with art by Curt Swan and Joe Giella. This was the 40th anniversary issue of the title.
The DC HISTORY mailing list is notable for the covers posted by its members as well as the sparkling conversation and fellowship to be found there. It has an open membership, but posts from new members must be approved. To sign up, go to:
No Archie Comics reviews today. Instead, I wanted to let you know about a trio of special issues shipping in February.
BETTY AND VERONICA SPECTACULAR #69 [$2.19] receives a makeover with this issue. It's going to look more like a magazine and, in addition to the comics, present "the scoop on the coolest clothes, hottest celebs, and latest trends from Betty and Veronica. Not to mention advice on how to avoid the mean girls and win the hearts of their favorite boys."
As you can see from the new look's debut cover...
...the first issue will feature hot spring fashions, the best prom dresses from readers, and a personality quiz to determine if you are a Betty or a Veronica. It ships February 9.
Two Archie digests hit milestones in February. LAUGH DIGEST #200 [$2.39] also ships on February 9. It's all-new lead story by George Gladir and Stan Goldberg has the Riverdale High cheerleaders competing to win a new science lab for their school and guest-stars Sabrina the Teenage Witch and Josie and the Pussycats.
JUGHEAD WITH ARCHIE DIGEST #200 [$2.39] ships on February 23. Gladir and Goldberg are on hand with a new lead story for this one, too. It's "The Big Feud" and the feud-ers are best buddies Archie and Jughead! Not a bad scenario to track their years of friendship and what that friendship means to them.
Knowing we both had busy weekends in front of us, my son Eddie and I decided to kick back on Friday night and watch the digitally-remastered DVD of GODZILLA VS. HEDORAH [$24.96]. The 1971 film was released in the USA under the title GODZILLA VS. THE SMOG MONSTER. In many ways, it was the most overtly "socially relevant" Godzilla movie since the original GODZILLA .
We were impressed by the presentation of this 50th anniversary edition. Details which were murky or invisible in earlier editions - a burn on the young hero's hand, a whale in a drawing of Hedorah, the effects of the monster's sulfuric acid exhaust - were downright vibrant in this DVD.
The movie itself hammers the audience with its anti-pollution message. Hedorah comes to Earth in a meteor shower, inert bits of mineral which come to life in sludge, merge with other bits, and grow to tremendous size. It feeds on pollution and then creates an deadly smog wherever it goes. The body count is in the thousands in this movie, but the deaths are rarely the result of the typical buildings collapses and monster stomps.
The heroes are a scientist, his wife, his son, a friend of the family and her boyfriend, and Godzilla. The Big G shows up for no other reason than to save the Earth from Hedorah. Along the way, we get genuine horror mixed with silly sermonizing. At one point, while Hedorah is on the loose, the boyfriend throws a countryside party to protest man's mistreatment of the environment. Under the terms of the Patriot Act, Hedorah - who looks like Dick Cheney in some scenes - crashes the party.
Well-intentioned as this movie was, the "silly" takes over the action. The boyfriend, clearly high as a kite, hallucinates while watching dancers at a club. Hedorah is like a monster Transformer, changing shapes from giant tadpole to walking garbage bag to what looks like a sentient stealth bomber. Godzilla uses his heat-ray to fly through the air.
My advice is to watch the movie in the original Japanese with the English subtitles - the dubbed voices are grating - and go all MYSTERY SCIENCE THEATER 3000 on it. The film also goes well with pizza and popcorn.
Enjoying this movie with my son: priceless.
However, on our usual ratings scale of zero to five, GODZILLA VS. HEDORAH picks up a paltry one Tony.
SOULSEARCHERS AND COMPANY
The Claypool Comics titles cover-proclaim they are "comics for people who love to read comics." There's more truth than hype to that claim; these are intelligently-written comics with more wit than most, a firm grasp of characterization, and a complicated-yet-consistent universe. The best evidence I can offer of the latter is that Count Dracula can be a fearsome figure in the vampiric soap opera DEADBEATS, get laughs in ELVIRA, MISTRESS OF THE DARK, walk a very fine line between the two extremes in SOULSEARCHERS AND COMPANY, and be recognizable as the same individual in all three of the titles.
Save for an occasional issue of ELVIRA, I am a lapsed reader of Claypool's comics. It's no fault of the comics themselves; it's just a consequence of a chaotic existence which demands I juggle parenting, housekeeping, writing, with too little time for leisure reading. To correct that in small measure, I read SOULSEARCHERS AND COMPANY #63-67 ($2.50 each) over the course of one typically crazy day.
The Soulsearchers are ghostbusters for hire, which I admit is a simplification of the wide variety of cases with which they get involved. I genuinely enjoyed these issues, which represent near an entire year's worth of the title, but found myself frustrated by the limitations imposed on the creators by the format and frequency of the series. Rather than give you an issue-by-issue review, I've opted to let my critical comments fly and hope I don't accidentally put someone's eye out in the process.
Amanda Conner and Steve Leialoha do a swell job on the covers. I like covers with a visual or a verbal hook. Most of the covers from this run have the former, some could use the latter. The only cover copy per se is the announcement that an obscure character is guest-starring in an issue. Beloved though that character may be, I doubt the blurb sold any extra copies. Covers are advertisements and should strive to sell the comics to the potential new customer; hopefully, you've already hooked your regulars.
I realize that many comics shops do NOT carry Claypool titles at all and I suspect those that DO order few copies beyond whatever advance orders they have. That makes it all the more imperative to create covers designed to sell those rare shelf copies to that very important new customer.
The inside front cover offers a quick-and-handy guide to the Soulsearchers. It's good information, but it needs to be updated frequently. As it currently runs, it makes no mention that Bridget Lockridge (team leader) and Baraka (Arabic fire demon) are married. It also fails to include new member Gabriel, a teenager gifted by Heaven with an evil-zapping gun. It took me four issues to learn what his deal was.
About the characters:
I like them. I really like them. They have their quirks and all, but it's easy to get in their corner and root for them. This is quite a contrast to, say, the Batman, who is being written as a complete jerk in his current comics. The best thing about reading these five SOULSEARCHERS issues in a row is that it gives me a bit of momentum to keep reading the new issues.
In these five issues, Bridget and Baraka are honeymooning in Europe and attracting all sorts of supernatural pains in the butt. Back in the U.S., the rest of the team is searching for kidnapped friend and witch Greta Bartok.
SOULSEARCHERS is scripted by Peter David and edited/co-written by Richard Howell. They pack a lot of story - sometimes too much story - into each issue and generally keep the gags flying fast and furious. If I have a complaint in that regard, it's a minor one: the more cerebral gags don't always work on a visual level and, when you have too many of them in a row, they can slow the stories down. On the other hand, this minimal peeve pales into oblivion in light of David and Howell's most stunning achievement:
THEY MADE MIMES FUNNY!
Oh, sure, everyone loves to see anvils dropped on mimes or see mimes eaten by dinosaurs. What David and Howell have done is make mimes funny without resorting to cheap emotional ploys like those. They have integrated them into their stories and - bow down before them - made me laugh with them.
I'm darn near speechless with admiration.
Likewise, I get a kick out of David's leaning against - not breaking - the fourth wall. When clarity demands exposition, the characters recognize they are speaking expositionally. When Greta is rather anti-climatically found and rescued, the home team knows that as well. Such gags can become old fast; making them work as well as they work here requires a keen sense of balance.
The stories themselves?
In the space of five issues, we get someone seeking revenge on an do-go organization which used to worship demons; travels through time and literary works; Gabriel's evil twin; and an encounter with Dracula. Not a bad dance card.
The stories are drawn by John Heebink (pencils) and Al Milgrom (inker). I love the overall look of their art, but some panels and pages have so much happening in them - and so much dialogue - that they overwhelm a reader. This is where the frustration I mentioned above gets taken out for an airing.
Economic and scheduling considerations would almost certainly prevent Claypool from doubling the page count of SOULSEARCHERS AND COMPANY. Yet almost every one of these issues could have run twice a long. On the one hand, getting so much story in the current page count it quite a bargain for readers. On the other hand, I'd love to see Heebink and Milgrom - not to mention David and Howell - have more room to do that voodoo that they do so well.
On a similar note, I wish SOULSEARCHERS was a monthly title. At the bimonthly frequency, the Bridget/Baraka honeymoon will last over a year. I don't believe their team has earned a paycheck over that same span of time. It's true it hasn't been a year in *their* time, but it has been a year for the readers. Willing suspension of disbelief needs all the help it can get in the wild and wondrous world of comic books.
No one should read too much into any negative comments I have made here. I think SOULSEARCHERS AND COMPANY is a terrific comic book. I wouldn't devote so much space to it if I felt otherwise. I long for it to be all that it can be...and find the much larger audience it deserves. It will likely have to go outside the comics shops to find that audience.
With 67 issues of SOULSEARCHERS in the hopper, might there be interest in a series of manga-sized paperbacks reprinting the title from start to finish? The key question there is whether or not the pages will look and read well at the smaller size, but I think the quality and subject matter of the series would lend itself to such a publishing program.
Has Hollywood come a'knocking yet? SOULSEARCHERS AND COMPANY is a property which deftly combines action, comedy, and spookiness, something which isn't currently being offered on the small screen. It also offers great roles for actors in a cast ranging from teens to older adults. Not to mention a prairie dog who was born to be voiced by Lewis Black. I'd watch it.
Here comes the big finish. SOULSEARCHERS AND COMPANY earns an impressive four Tonys.
And I want to write a MIMES spin-off.
Thanks for spending a part of your day with me. I'll be back tomorrow with more stuff.
ZERO: Burn your money before buying any comic receiving this rating. It doesn't *necessarily* mean there's absolutely nothing of value here - though it *could* - but whatever value it might possess shrinks into insignificance before its overall awfulness.
ONE: Buy something else. Maybe I found something which wasn't completely dreadful in the item, but not enough for me to recommend it when there are better comics available. I only want what's best for you, my children.
TWO: Basic judgment call. I found some value, but not enough to recommend it. My review should give you enough info to decide if you want to take a chance on it. Are you feeling lucky today, punk? Well, are you?
THREE: This denotes something I find perfectly respectable. There are better books out there, but I wouldn't regret buying this item. Based on my review, you should be able to determine if it's of interest to you. Let the Force guide you.
FOUR: I recommend anything earning this rating. Unless you don't like the genre, subject matter, or past work of the creators, I believe you'll enjoy this item. Isn't it uncanny how I can look right into your soul that way?
FIVE: Anything getting this rating is among the best comicdom has to offer. You should buy/read this, even if the genre/subject matter doesn't appeal to you. It's for your own good. Me, I live for comics and books this good...but not in a pathetic "Comic-Book Guy" sort of way.
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