It's another Blonde Phantom day here at TOT Central and we're celebrating with BLONDE PHANTOM #17 [Spring, 1948]. Edited by Stan Lee, this is another of those incredibly wordy covers that ran on so many Marvel comics of the era. To make sense of them, you have to read the speech balloons counter-clockwise starting with the one spoken by the deadly diva on the left.
"Now, for the last time---are you going to tell me where I can find the Blonde Phantom, or---!!!"
"I'll never tell---you'll never lay your filthy hands on the Blonde Phantom---NEVER!"
"All right, wise-guy---this is it!"
"You can call your gorilla off now, sister! You wanted me, and here I am!"
Miss Manners says, "Always wash your filthy hands before you even think about laying them on a crime-fighting cutie in a crimson evening gown!"
The GRAND COMICS DATABASE [www.comics.org] credits the cover art to Ken Bald (pencils) and Al Bellman (inks) while Greg Gatlin's ATLAS TALES [www.atlastales.com] opines that it's the work of Syd Shores, the Blonde Phantom's first artist. I'm inclined to go with Gatlin on this one, mostly because one of the GCD's other credits for this issue seems suspect to me.
Here are the GCD credits for this issue:
The Blonde Phantom in "Best Man For Murder!" (8 pages, pencils by Shores, inks by Mike Sekowsky);
The Blonde Phantom in an untitled 4-page story (drawn by Vince Alascia);
Sub-Mariner in "Case of the Deep Sea Swindle!" (8 pages, drawn and written by Bill Everett); and,
The Blonde Phantom in "The Cop and the Kid!" (7 pages, pencils by Shores, inks by Bellman).
It's the Sekowsky inking credit I find suspect. I have been under the impression that Sekowsky was so fast and so valuable as a penciller that he didn't do much - if any - inking. Gatlin lists only Shores for the art on both that story and the one whose inking the GCD credits to Bellman.
Two things to keep in mind: one, I haven't seen these stories, and, two, I'm not an expert at identifying artists. I'll leave it to others to resolve these credit disputes.
What would a near-mint copy of BLONDE PHANTOM #17 set me back if I wanted to explore these questions further? According to the OFFICIAL OVERSTREET COMIC BOOK PRICE GUIDE, we're talking a grand. According to the consumer-friendlier COMICS BUYER'S GUIDE STANDARD CATALOG OF COMIC BOOKS, it would cost $500. However, since there are no copies of this issue currently or recently offered on eBay, and none at either Heritage Comics Auctions or Mile High Comics, it might just be that, in this instance, Overstreet is closer to the mark than the Standard.
Watch for more BLONDE PHANTOM in upcoming columns.
INFINITE CRISIS COUNSELING
There was certainly no shortage of DCU or DCU-related comics and books for the week of December 7. I counted 18 items before I started cutting things from my review list.
The online comments on ALL-STAR BATMAN AND ROBIN have led me to put off reading the book as long as possible; a special edition of the first issue was the first to go. BATGIRL: KICKING ASSASSINS and SUPERMAN: IN THE NAME OF GOG were trade collections by writers whose work on those titles never impressed me, so they were next to get the boot. I haven't yet received GOLDEN AGE HAWKMAN ARCHIVES VOL. 1, which would not have made the cut anyway, simply because it wouldn't have much to do with the current DCU.
I could have knocked a few more items off the list, but I was anxious to get to the reading/reviewing. Make yourself comfortable and we'll start the session.
BATMAN AND THE MONSTER MEN #2 [$2.99] continues Matt Wagner's expansion and retelling of the first Professor Hugo Strange story. The mad scientist is building "monster men" and he'll go to extreme lengths to get the money he needs for his work. Batman is starting to become aware of the new horror facing Gotham City while, in his Bruce Wayne identity, he's enjoying his romantic relationship with socialite Linda Madison. In this issue, the story advances slower than I would prefer, but I love the pulp magazine atmosphere, the brief scene with Batman and Jim Gordon, and Wagner's treatment of Wayne as a person and not just a mask. I'd like to see the story move a little faster, but I'm still giving this issue four out of five Tonys.
BLOOD OF THE DEMON #10 [$2.50] opens with three members of the supporting cast in the Old West. They are there to find an earlier version of Jason Blood, who seems to be an extremely dead skeleton in our time. A dead Jason means that spells he had cast to imprison various creatures he fought when he was Etrigan the Demon are kind of wearing off, releasing those creatures. This is not good.
Plotter/penciller Byrne paces the story nicely, covering vital back story without sacrificing the intensity of the current danger. Aided and abetted by scripter Will Pfeifer and inker Dan Green, he even includes a pair of unexpected (but welcome) guest stars from another corner of the DCU. Though there's no mention of INFINITE CRISIS, one can choose to assume that some of what's happening here is because of the magic mishigosh going on in the DCU proper. Me, I'm just enjoying this comic book regardless of whether or not it's part of the big picture.
BLOOD OF THE DEMON #10 earns four Tonys.
DETECTIVE COMICS #814 [$2.50] concludes the 12-issue "City of Crime" serial. As I wrote in my non-review of the previous issue, this story doesn't appear to be a contemporary Batman tale and, as with that previous issue, this one doesn't really give me much of a sense of the overall adventure. I am disturbed by what seems to be Batman's wholesale killing of dozens - perhaps hundreds - of his foes, but, as there was an indication these foes were constructs and not actual human beings, I choose not to worry about that until I have the time or inclination to read the entire serial. That I am so ambivalent about "City of Crime" makes me wonder if I'm being generous giving this issue an "incomplete" rating.
GOTHAM CENTRAL #38 [$2.50] brings the career of one detective to an end while perhaps setting another on the road to a better and happier life. Though I have only read a handful of recent issues of GC, Crispus Allen, Renee Montoya, Manny Esperanza, and even the vicious James Corrigan are real to me, a tribute to how well writer Greg Rucka utilizes their individual flaws and strengths. Kano and Stefan Gaudiano bring a similar reality on the art. I look forward to reading - hopefully sooner rather than later - the entire series from start to finish.
GOTHAM CENTRAL #38 earns the full five Tonys.
The snarky little devil on my shoulder keeps telling me that the rationale behind JLA CLASSIFIED: COLD STEEL #1 of 2 [$5.99] is that writer/painter Chris Moeller wanted to draw mecha versions of the Justice League. The kindly little angel on the other shoulder points out that the heroes don't suit up until this issue's final pages. The beloved reviewer between them says that, whatever the intent, Moeller succeeded in creating aliens that are truly alien and in placing the JLAers in the middle of an intriguing conflict. I like how the heroes are interacting with the aliens whose cause they have championed and I like that I'm not at all certain they've chosen the right side in that conflict.
COLD STEEL appears to be set before the events of IDENTITY and INFINITE CRISIS, but, while it doesn't have any bearing on current DCU events, it's still an interesting, thoughtful story. It earns a respectable three Tonys.
JONAH HEX #2 [$2.99] doesn't have anything to do with current DCU events either, but I liked the first issue so much - it earned five Tonys in the January 25 edition of TOT - that I didn't want to wait to read it. Truth be told, so many of the DCU issues I have read recently seem to be just marking time toward whatever changes the finale of IC will bring that I hunger for stand-alone stories. HEX feeds that need.
"Bullets of Silver, Cross of Gold" isn't as good as the first Jonah Hex story by Jimmy Palmiotti, Justin Gray, and Luke Ross, but it's still satisfying. A bad man betrays the priest and villagers who raised him. Jonah tracks the killer to a silver town run by a "fellow Confederate" just as vicious as his prey. This tale could have used a few more pages, but it's still excellent.
JONAH HEX #2 gets four out of five Tonys.
JSA #80 [$2.50], the third and concluding chapter of "Lost and Found" by Keith Champagne and Don Kramer, is no more friendly to a new reader than the previous issue. Half of the JSA is duking it out with Mordru, half with Jakeem and the Thunderbolt he controls. I'm still not sure what's going on here - Is that Aquaman's Qwisp? Is Hector Hall really dead again? - but I'm a sucker for a stirring speech like the one given by Mister Terrific and what seems to be a happy ending, so I'm giving this issue a respectable three out of five Tonys.
Here's another comic with no connection to the DCU of INFINITE CRISIS, but how could I pass up JUSTICE LEAGUE UNLIMITED #16 [2.25] when the heroes are wearing Santa-caps on the cover? Guess who is also a sucker for holiday stories?
"Smashing Through the Snow" is as predictable a holiday tale as they come...and I still loved it. Kudos to writer Adam Beechen, penciller Carlo Barberi, and inker Jim Royal.
Two questions. In the JLU cartoons, isn't Power Girl an evil clone of Supergirl? Does this title diverge from the continuity of those cartoons?
JUSTICE LEAGUE UNLIMITED #16 gets three Tonys.
It's a matter of record that I don't much like Judd Winick's interpretation of my Black Lightning character. What I'm beginning to realize is that I don't much like how he writes many of the DCU super-heroes. In OUTSIDERS #31 [$2.50], it's Katana, the character created by Mike W. Barr for the original and much superior BATMAN AND THE OUTSIDERS, who just doesn't seem right to me.
This is another of those "marking time" issues I mentioned a few paragraphs ago. The Outsiders spend half an issue complaining about their ships getting destroyed, then some of them go out into space with Donna Troy and Starfire. Some stuff blows up and then Blackfire, evil sister of Starfire, makes a last-page entrance to reveal she now has the power of a god. I'm sure the way-Outsiders will acquit themselves bravely next issue, but, to be honest, I'm just not caring one way or the other.
Keep moving. There's no Tonys to be seen here.
In SUPERMAN #224, writer Mark Verheiden plays with one of the two Lex Luthors currently operating in the DCU. Luthor's battles with some OMACs is the main focus of "Focus," so much so that the finale of Superman's battle with the new Blackrock takes a decided and deserved back seat. But that's okay with me; the Luthor part of the story is far more interesting.
The Tom Derenick/Wayne Faucher art is pretty good, but I can't keep from rolling my eyes whenever they draw former intern "Kelly" strolling around the Daily Planet offices in clothes inappropriate for such an establishment. It's past time for Perry White to have a stern talk with her about the Planet's dress code. I don't have any problem believing a man can fly; it's the notion that the paper doesn't have a dress code that I can't swallow.
SUPERMAN #224 earns three Tonys.
SUPERMAN SECRET FILES AND ORIGINS 2005 [$4.99] is a bit pricey for its 52 pages, but it is helpful for catching up on what's been going on in Superman's world. I especially appreciated the updates on Ruin and Lex Luthor. They gave me more of an "in" to the issues of the various Superman comics I've read recently.
The ish leads with "Superman Is Weak!" by Devin K. Grayson and Ariel Olivetti. I haven't been fond of Grayson's NIGHTWING work, but this story is a thoughtful examination of how Superman might be seen by others. It's a welcome feel-good tale that really stands out from the increasingly dark DCU.
The short "Lois and the Big One" shows the moments just before the reporter's first meeting with Superman. Lois doesn't come off well, but I'll give the benefit of the doubt to writer Jami Bernard and assume her intent was to suggest that Superman's existence made Lois a better person. Eventually.
"Bizarro: Birthwrong" is a mere two pages, but I was impressed by the emotional punch of Christine Boylan's script. I'd like to see more and longer stories from her.
SUPERMAN SECRET FILES 2005 earns four Tonys.
I'll be holding INFINITE CRISIS COUNSELING sessions all week long, but that's all I have for you today.
Come back tomorrow and we'll look at the DCU comics from the week of December 14.
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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