It's an ALPHA/OMEGA day at TOT Central. Inspired by Monday's look at stories starring Steel Sterling and the Fox, we're looking at the beginning and end of a super-hero title that was a reliable "B" performer during the Silver Age of Comics.
ADVENTURES OF THE FLY #1 [Archie Comics; August, 1959] debuted a new character by the legendary team of Joe Simon and Jack Kirby. Tommy Troy was a courageous orphan who looked out for his friends and worked harder for his guardian than a kid should have to work. Finding a mystic ring from another dimension, Tommy was recruited by the beings of that dimension to fight evil on Earth as the Fly. The ring turned him into an adult super-hero possessing the powers of the insect world. Comics historian Don Markstein called the Fly a mingling of Cinderella and the original Captain Marvel...and the similarities to the latter are indisputable. Most of the issue is by Simon and Kirby, but a four-page tale is drawn by George Tuska, who recently celebrated his 90th birthday.
Simon packaged the first four issues of ADVENTURES OF THE FLY. Archie Comics brought the book in-house with the fifth issue and it would never again have the raw energy of those earlier issues. The similarities to Captain Marvel were largely obliterated as, between issues #4 and #5, Thomas went from orphan boy to successful lawyer. They grow up so fast.
The title underwent another transformation in the mid-1960s. FLY-MAN #31 [May, 1965] gave the Fly a new name and began a series of issues which attempted to copy the newsstand success of Marvel's super-heroes and the mass adoration for the campy Batman TV series starring Adam West.
"The Fly-Man's Partners in Peril" by Jerry Siegel (writer) and Paul Reinman (artist) teamed Fly-Man and Fly-Girl with the Shield, the Black Hood, and the Comet as the Mighty Crusaders. Somewhere along the way, Fly-Man picked up the ability to grow to giant-size, much like Marvel's Ant-Man became Giant-Man.
Archie launched THE MIGHTY CRUSADERS in their own title, but it only lasted seven issues. FLY-MAN extended its run by changing its name and format.
MIGHTY COMICS #40 [November, 1966] kicked off an 11-issue run showcasing an assortment of super-heroes. First up was the Web, a college professor and criminologist who took up costumed criminal-clobbering and who, amusingly, was endlessly henpecked by his wife. The issue's two stories were by Siegel and Reinman. Frank Giacoia inked the second one.
None of these showcase appearances made much of an impact on comics readers. MIGHTY COMICS #50 [October, 1967] closed the title that had launched as ADVENTURES OF THE FLY two decades previously. The cover story starred the Black Hood; the back-up tale teamed the Web with Inferno the Fire-Breather. These stories were, naturally, written by Siegel and drawn by Reinman.
Archie revived the Fly for a nine-issue run in 1983, but the series suffered from too many editors and no real direction. Under a lease deal with Archie, DC Comics published a new version of the Fly in 1991. Written by Len Strazewski and drawn by Mike Parobeck, THE FLY lasted 17 entertaining issues, which wasn't a half-bad run in that turbulent era.
The Fly and his heroic buddies were never super-stars, but I recall them with fondness. During their best years, they had great names, solid origins, and decent super-powers and/or motivations. If I were ever offered an opportunity to bring them back again, I'd probably go for it. Maybe with a manga vibe.
Watch for more ALPHA/OMEGA covers/comments in future editions of this column.
7 DAYS TO FAME
Buddy Scalera's 7 DAYS TO FAME #3 [After Hours Press; $3.99] concludes his tale of a reality TV show about suicide. Here's some back story:
Marc Figliano hosted a live late-night talk show not long for this world. So he changed format, devoting a week of shows to the life of an old woman dying from terminal cancer. They talked about everything - she held back nothing - and, then, during the week's final show, the woman put a gun to her head and shot herself on live TV. In the first issue, Scalera left unanswered whether or not Figliano knew this was coming, but also raised suspicion that the talk-show host did know.
Unemployed at the start of the second issue, Figliano and his producer Richelle were approached by a wildly successful website to do another live show:
"We want you to get more people to kill themselves, so we can post it on our website!"
As the third issue opens, Figliano is an online superstar and Richelle is having a crisis of conscience. The show's finale is to feature the suicide of Raymond DeSimone, a famous race car driver. Unlike previous guests, DeSimone is in terrific health. He's just bored with life...and them's all the plot details you're going to get out of me.
It takes 40 full-color pages, but Scalera and penciller Dennis Budd provide a solidly satisfying conclusion to their edge-of-your-seat and edgy-without-being-sensationalistic story. The actions of the characters are believable. The tension mounts wonderfully. If Hollywood hasn't already started bidding on the film rights to this book, it's only because they don't like what they see in the mirror Scalera holds up to them.
With kudos to inker/letterer Joe Caramanga and colorist Wilson Ramos, 7 DAYS TO FAME earns the full five Tonys.
I'm more interested in inner space, as in the relatively down-to-Earth conflicts of Marvel's CIVIL WAR story, than I am in outer space. However, given the vastness of the Marvel Universe, I can and do appreciate the creative impulse to do a space-spanning saga like ANNIHILATION.
March saw the release of ANNIHILATION PROLOGUE #1 [$3.99] by Keith Giffen with artists Scott Kolins and Ariel Olivetti. In this first of 23 comic books running through several limited series, a terrible force erupts into our universe, leaving unimaginable death and destruction in its wake.
The force has a name...Annihilus. The insectoid invader has escaped from the Negative Zone. He commands a murderous army and, in pursuit of immortality, deems all living things as a menace to his continued existence. Kudos to Giffen and crew for taking this second-string Silver Age villain and recasting him as a believable threat to the entire Marvel Universe.
Appearing in this prologue are such space-faring characters as Thanos, Nova, the Nova Corps, and Drax the Destroyer. Though I'm admittedly weak when it comes to Marvel Universe space history, the 42-page story was fairly comprehensible to me, due in part to the five pages from the Nova Corps Database also included in the issue. Thanks to editor Andy Schmidt and his assistant editors for giving readers a leg-up on this vast conflict.
Outer space is not my place, but the spectacle and grimness of this prologue certainly grabbed my attention. If subsequent issues are as exciting and intriguing, the "cosmic event of 2006" may just win me over. For now, I'm giving ANNIHILATION: PROLOGUE receives a perfectly respectable three out of five Tonys.
Assuming I can borrow those subsequent issues, you can expect month-by-month coverage of the event from me.
THE BATMAN STRIKES!
When Solomon Grundy appeared on the current Batman TV series, the swamp-creature was actually Clayface in disguise. But, in the comic-book spin-off from the series, we get the real Grundy, roused from his swampy slumber by the illegal dumping of toxic wastes in his soggy surroundings.
THE BATMAN STRIKES! #19 [$2.25] has a whiz-banger of a cover, albeit one that doesn't accurately reflect where Batman and Grundy do battle. Inside the comic, we get "Born on a Monday" by writer Bill Matheny, penciller Christopher Jones, and inker Terry Beatty. The visuals are wonderful, the story less so. More depth and maybe more pages would've allowed Matheny more room to build the suspense and develop his characters. There are no appreciable bumps in the road between the start of the story and its conclusion. The Batman doesn't get to shine as either detective or fighter, the villains aren't clever enough to be a threat, and Grundy barely registers on the scary meter. It's a thin story, as is often the case with this book. The best I can do for BATMAN STRIKES! #19 is a disappointing two out of five Tonys.
COMICS IN THE COMICS
I love comic strips with comic-book/comic-strip guest stars. I love self-referential comic strips. I love them so much I try to share as many of them as possible with you, my loyal legions of TOT readers. I give and I give and I give.
I have dozens of examples of COMICS IN THE COMICS in my files. Today's strips are the most recent. We have Greg and Mort Walker's BEETLE BAILEY from yesterday...
...and Jim Meddick's MONTY from the same date:
Look for more COMICS IN THE COMICS in future TOTs.
Keep watching this space - as opposed to MYSPACE - for all the latest announcements of where you can get more Tony. I am large, I contain multitudes.
Every week, we solicit your opinion on a variety of comics and entertainment-related issues by posting new questions on our TONY POLLS page. In late March, the subjects of those questions were V FOR VENDETTA and ULTIMATE AVENGERS.
Here's how you voted.
Have you seen the V FOR VENDETTA movie?
If you have seen the V FOR VENDETTA movie, how would you rate it?
If you haven't seen the V FOR VENDETTA movie, do you plan on seeing it while it's still in the theaters?
If you haven't seen the ULTIMATE AVENGERS movie, do you plan on seeing it in the near future?
Your friendly pollster didn't see either of these movies, but I plan to view them on DVD. That will mean a bit of a wait for V FOR VENDETTA, but ULTIMATE AVENGERS is hovering near the top of my Netflix queue and could arrive at Casa Isabella this week. Watch for a review shortly thereafter.
This week's TONY POLLS questions represent the third week of our four-week Eisner Awards questions. While these aren't official Eisner votes, they will certainly help me fill out my own ballot. It's not too late for comics creators and publishers to send those donations to my TIP THE TIPSTER campaign.
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: