Archie's pal Jughead is my favorite of the RIVERDALE players, probably because he's the most confident in his life and identity. To a lesser extent, the same can be said for Betty and Reggie, but they both have far more moments of indecision and self-doubt than Jughead. Betty's friendship/rivalry with the formidable Veronica gives her pause while Reggie's lack of confidence reveals itself in his schemes to make Archie look foolish. But, Jughead? Even when someone or something does get to him, he almost never changes his course to accommodate the situation.
I found the cover of JUGHEAD #79 [December, 1961] notable for its depiction of the Creature from the Black Lagoon. Archie comics often featured representations of cinema monsters, filtered through the Archie house style. They would portray a vampire, a werewolf, a monster resembling that created by Frankenstein, but the monsters wouldn't look like Bela Lugosi, Lon Chaney, or Boris Karloff. But, on this cover, the dweller in Veronica's pool is a dead ringer for the prehistoric survivor who appeared in three movies in the 1950s (1954, 1955, and 1956).
The 1960s were a good time for kids and monsters. Darn near every major city in the United States had "horror hosts" showing classic monster movies on TV. In 1961, Aurora launched its line of monster model kits with the Frankenstein Monster from the Universal Studios films and the kit was an immediate sensation and success. The covers of Silver Age comics (humor, "mystery", science fiction, super-heroes) prominently featured monsters of one sort of another. Kids loved these monsters; the figure emerging from Veronica's pool would have been immediately recognizable to them.
I'm surprised by such an exact likeness appearing on the cover of an Archie comic. However slightly, the company routinely alters the appearance and names of celebrities and fictional characters appearing in its books. For example, a "Sharon Stone" might become "Rhonda Rubble" or some such. On this cover, they used the "real" Creature From the Black Lagoon. While the cover is certainly fair usage, it's still surprising.
Look for more classic RIVERDALE covers in future editions of this column.
INFINITE CRISIS CONCLUSIONS?
Save for the stragglers, which include the remaining issues of INFINITE CRISIS itself, the week of March 1 saw the last of DC's IC issues hit the comics shops. The week also saw the first of their "One Year Later" books, but I haven't yet decided if I'm going to write blow-by-blow reviews of those titles. TOT has lived with IC for months and I need time to recover from the diminished returns inherent in that company-wide event.
With my usual warning that there may be SPOILERS ahead, let's proceed to the reviews.
Things happen in INFINITE CRISIS #5 [$3.99]; some of them are kinda interesting, some of them are dumb. Falling into the latter category is recasting of Mr. Terrific as a costumed Terry Thirteen. Thirteen was a skeptic whose deal was finding rational explanations for seemingly supernatural events. That played just fine when he had his own strip in the 1950s. When he became a supporting player in the revival of the Phantom Stranger, he came off someone whose mind was so tightly closed he constantly denied evidence so clearly before him. In IC #5, Terrific dismisses the Spectre and the other DC supernatural beings as "unique energy." I agree with those DC fans who found this in direct opposition to the intelligence which has always been Terrific's deal.
In other IC news:
Booster Gold introduces the new Blue Beetle to Batman. One of the Lex Luthors - I lost track - is trying to heal the murderously psychotic Superboy of Earth-Prime. The Earth-Two Lois Lane dies. The Earth-Two Superman has a punch-up with the Earth-One Superman. Wonder Woman of Earth-Two calls on the Wonder Woman of Earth-One. Batman gathers a team to go after Brother Eye. Alexi Luthor - he's the younger one with the curly red hair, right? - begins destroying variant Earths. Nightwing and Connor Kent meet at Titans Tower to gaze fearfully at all the exploding Earths. The Flash - not sure if it's Wally or Barry - pops up to warn everyone psycho Superboy is back. Things happen, but it didn't seem as if those things did anything besides set up next issue where, hopefully, more important things will happen. Issues like this are why IC often strikes me as a bait-and-switch con in comic-book form.
The Geoff Johns writing is decent enough for an issue with so many characters and plot threads. The multiple artists routine - there are five in this issue - has gotten old, but the issue still looks good. However, ultimately, what we have here is a comic that earns a perfectly acceptable and simultaneously disappointing three Tonys. The individual chapters of an universe-changing event like INFINITE CRISIS should be better than this.
The logo of ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN #649 [$2.50] reads THE LAST ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN, which is as pointless as what lies within the issue. The SUPERMAN title launched by John Byrne back in the 1980s which assume the numbering of this, the original solo Supes title, with its next issue. Inside, we get many pages of Superman punching it out with Superman interspersed with horrific scenes of what happens when a Superman makes bad choices. If I had to guess, I'd say the intent was to bolster the company line that things are so bad in the DCU it needs to be remade yet again. Which may well be the case, but getting to that remake has gotten tedious. This issue gets a generous one Tony.
BATMAN ANNUAL #25 [$4.99] explains Jason Todd came back from the dead via pseudo-scientific magic, i.e., Superboy of Earth-Prime punching reality. We are then expected to believe that Batman had put sensors in Jason's coffin that were designed to alert him only if someone broke into it and not out of it. We're not supposed to wonder why Batman would do that. Then we're asked to believe there are no fingerprint records anywhere for Bruce Wayne, Dick Grayson, Alfred Pennyworth, or Jason Todd, mostly so there's no way anyone can let Batman know Robin II is still alive.
The brain-damaged Jason ends up in the care of Talia and Ra's Al Ghul. Talia pushes the kid into the Lazarus Pit to bring back his mind or a reasonable facsimile thereof, gives him an open-mouth kiss for no apparent reason other than to creep me out, and sends Jason on his way to get all pissed off and murderous because Batman didn't kill the Joker for killing him. Now, as much as I'm all for killing the Joker, that's a long way to go for a months-long story arc that never delivered a satisfying conclusion. At this point, I think even Mr. Terrific might be thanking God that current writer Judd Winick has finally left the Batcave and that new writers are coming aboard.
BATMAN ANNUAL #25 gets no Tonys.
GREEN LANTERN CORPS: RECHARGE #5 [$2.99] concludes the series with a climatic clash between the Corps and forces of intergalactic villainy. Writers Dave Gibbons and Geoff Johns do an excellent job bringing the scope of the battle down to human terms without ever sacrificing the vastness of that scope. I could quibble about the Corps getting apocalyptic with the Spider Guild, but enormous body counts in the DCU hardly register with me anymore. That's really sad, isn't it?
But I come to praise GREEN LANTERN CORPS: RECHARGE #5 and not to bury it. The writing is good, as is the art by Patrick Gleason (pencils) and Prentis Rollins (inks). I'm awarding this issue four out of five Tonys.
JONAH HEX is DC's best comic. As written by Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray, Hex has become as dominant a protagonist in these comics as are Conan, James Bond, Sherlock Holmes, Tarzan, and Zorro in their adventures. Yet, despite Hex being such a dominant force, almost every supporting player in his stories emerges as a distinct character and personality. That's great comics writing, even more impressive because every story to date has been utterly complete in one issue.
Issue #5's "Christmas With the Outlaws" is drawn by the first Jonah Hex artist: Tony DeZuniga. Watching him navigate the twists and turns of this tale while bringing to life its wonderful cast of Old West heroes, villains, and just plain folks trying to survive makes it clear he hasn't lost a step. Comics publishers should be lining up to beg him to draw more comics.
The story itself? All I'm going to tell you that it earns the full five out of five Tonys. JONAH HEX is as close to a sure thing as you'll find in comic books today.
I hope you've enjoyed these IC reviews during these past few months. Maybe I'll return to the DCU in a year.
The INFINITE CRISIS #5 cover with my review was drawn by Jim Lee. That's the cover on the issue I read. However, going to the GRAND COMIC BOOK DATABASE [www.comics.org], I see there was also a cover by George Perez. I don't know which - if either - version is considered the official cover. That's why you're getting both of them today.
COMICS IN THE COMICS
We boogie back to 2005 for a quartet of self-referential comic panels and strips. First up is John Deering's STRANGE BREW from October 10:
Next is Dave Whamond's REALITY CHECK from October 13:
Mort and Greg Walker get in on the "comics in the comics" fun with this BEETLE BAILEY strip from October 20:
I probably read close to a hundred comic strips each day, but there are many I rarely or never see. If you come across a "comics in the comics" candidate you think I might have missed, please send it to me at:
CORRECTIONS AND CLARIFICATIONS
Today's correction comes from PAUL ZUCKERMAN:
After recent your most recent "Second Batman and Robin Team" write-up, I went back to look at the older columns. In the second one [August 19. 2005], you wrote:
"Let's check in with 'the Second Batman and Robin Team' again, even though their second appearance didn't make the cover of BATMAN #135 [October, 1960]. The GRAND COMICS DATABASE [www.comics.org] credits the cover to Sheldon Moldoff (pencils) with a less definite inking attribution of Moldoff, Dick Dillin, or some combination of the two artists."
To me, there is no question the figures of the bad guy and the sky creature are by Dillin. For that matter, the poses of Batman and Robin look just like Dillin also when compared to his Blackhawk art of the same period. I would say that while Moldoff may have inked this cover, other than the head shots of the dynamic duo, he certainly did not pencil the figures!
Looking at the cover more closely, I'm definitely in agreement with you on the villain and his creature. I'm less sure about the Batman and Robin figures, but it would not have been uncommon for an editor or publisher to have figures of the main heroes corrected or completely redrawn to bring them "on model."
Oddly enough, the GCD has since deleted the Dillin credit from its notes on BATMAN #135. That makes no sense to me. Were it my call, I'd go with Dick Dillin as the primary penciller and Sheldon Moldoff as a possible co-penciller. I don't know if I'd be quick to name Moldoff as the inker, but, as I've said before, identifying artists isn't a particular strong point of mine.
I'll pass your comments on to the GCD and see what they have to add to the debate.
GET MORE TONY
Two more of my Gemstone Comics jobs have hit the comics shops in recent weeks. As regular readers of this column know, what I do on these stories is act as a sort of script doctor on Walt Disney comics from overseas. I smooth out the translations to make them more "American" and, when possible, add character bits, jokes, and the occasional "in" joke.
In between a classic Mickey Mouse story from 1948 and a Saran Kenney story of more recent vintage, MICKEY MOUSE AND FRIENDS #287 [$2.95] has a three-page Donald Duck tale called "That Darn Hat!" by original writer Ruud Straatman, artists Daan Jippes and Michel Nadorp, and yours truly. It was already a funny story before I got my mitts on it, but I do take some small pride in the new title I came up with for it.
UNCLE SCROOGE #352 [$6.95] leads off with a Carl Barks story from 1963. There are five additional tales, including a "Launchpad McQuack" written by my pal Don Markstein. My contribution was to do what I do to "The Bunny Song," a 12-page Donald Duck and Uncle Scrooge fun-fest. Gorm Transgaard was the original writer of this one and it was drawn by Vicar. It's a good one.
Gee, given the bonnet theme of "That Darn Hat!" and the Easter theme of "The Bunny Song," it occurs to me that these comics would make great additions to Easter baskets across this great country of ours. They'd also be so much better for kids than all that Easter candy, leaving that much more Easter candy for me. It's a win-win situation. In other words...buy these comics!
That's all for now. Thanks for spending 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.
Please send material you would like me to review to: