Our opening rotation brings us to an ALPHA/OMEGA day and our covers are Lev Gleason's DAREDEVIL COMICS #1 [July, 1941] and #134 [September, 1956]. Gleason was a quality-conscious publisher, so we would have gotten around to this title sooner rather than later. We're running them today in honor of comics writer Virginia Bloch, who, as reported by Maggie Thompson of COMICS BUYER'S GUIDE, died April 15, at her home in Woodstock, N.Y. at the age of 92.
Daredevil had made his debut in SILVER STREAK COMICS #6 a year earlier [September, 1940], battling the monstrous Claw. Created by the Jack Binder Studio and editor Jack Cole, this Daredevil was a man who, as a child, was rendered mute after witnessing the crime that made him an orphan. His origin changed over time - I believe the "mute" bit fell by the wayside rather quickly - but he fought crime with his athletic abilities, his boomerang, and a passion for justice. He soon graduated to his own title.
DAREDEVIL COMICS #1 - also known as DAREDEVIL BATTLES HITLER - was a book-length adventure teaming DD with Silver Streak and back-up feature heroes Lance Hale, Dickie Dean, Cloud Curtis, and Pirate Prince in his war against the Nazi dictator. The Claw even showed up long enough to double-cross Hitler. The cover was pencilled by Charles Biro and inked by Bob Wood.
Interior credits are far from definite. Biro is the likeliest writer for the Daredevil scripts and, with Jack Cole, the penciller of those chapters. Bob Wood wrote and drew "The Man of Hate," a 9-page biography of Hitler.
Other back-up features would appear in DAREDEVIL COMICS, among them London, Pat Patriot (drawn by Reed Crandall), Real American, and others. Issue #13 saw the introduction of the Little Wise Guys into the Daredevil feature and, with the arrival of those scrappy kids, the super-hero took on the additional role of mentor. That might not have been his best career move.
Daredevil last appeared in issue #69 of his own title. After that, the Little Wise Guys were the stars of the book and remained so until its finish. They starred in the title in only
four fewer issues than its namesake.
The Grand Comics Database [www.comics.org] credits Biro with the writing of the Little Wise Guys stories in that final edition. However, according to the information posted by my dear pal Maggie on the CBG forums [www.cbgxtra.com], Bloch wrote "much of the later content of Biro's DAREDEVIL and BOY COMICS under the name Virginia Hubbell." Carl Hubbell, her first husband, drew comics, including Daredevil. Bloch's obituary also credits her with creating Witch Hazel and Little Itch for Dell's LITTLE LULU comics.
Lev Gleason comics represent an unfortunate gap in my comics knowledge. I've only read a handful of reprinted stories here and there, though the concept of the Little Wise Guys fascinates me so much I paid homage to Biro's kids in the MARVELS COMICS: DAREDEVIL one-shot I did with Eddy Newell in the summer of 2000, a comic that also saluted youthful heroes created by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby in the 1940s and 1950s.
Reprints of Gleason comics occasionally appear in Bill Black's AC Comics titles (AMERICA'S GREATEST COMICS, BEST OF THE WEST, MEN OF MYSTERY, etc.). The Golden Age Daredevil, his name changed to Red-Devil to avoid conflict with the Marvel Comics character, makes the odd guest appearance in FEMFORCE and other original AC Comics titles. All are worth seeking out.
Watch for more ALPHA/OMEGA covers in upcoming TOTs.
Timed to hit the stands with the premiere of the latest X-Men movie, ALTER EGO #59 [TwoMorrows; $6.95] features Mark Sparacio's painting of the Gil Kane cover rough of GIANT-SIZE X-MEN, the 1975 comic which kicked off the ultimately most successful incarnation of the mutant heroes. Inside A/E, we get a trio of articles on the X-Men film that never was, a movie script written by A/E editor Roy Thomas and Gerry Conway back in 1984. The pieces offer a sometimes jarring inside look at Marvel's Hollywood history.
As always with A/E's hundred pages of comics goodness, there is much more to this issue. Thomas C. Lammers writes on Bob Brant and the Trouble-Shooters, who starred in Timely/Marvel's MAN COMICS in the mid-'50s. Will Murray explores and compares obscure Marvel villains Rabble Rouser and the Hate-Monger. Jim Amash conducts an interview with 1950s artist Vic Carrabotta. Michael T. Gilbert and Ray Cuthbert bring us legendary artist Russ Manning's pre-pro work. Fawcett writer and artist Marc Swayze examines a particularly heavy romance comics story he drew in the '50s. All these and more keen features are included in the magazine.
So great is my admiration for what editor Roy Thomas and crew do with A/E issue after issue, that it shouldn't surprise anyone that ALTER EGO #58 earns the full five out of five Tonys.
ANNIHILATION IN APRIL
My hope is to review all of the Big Two "events" this summer. That includes Marvel's ANNIHILATION and CIVIL WAR, the leftovers of DC's INFINITE CRISIS, DC's ONE YEAR LATER, and, back at Marvel, the wedding of Storm and the Black Panther, and the fallout from the X-books' DECIMATION. I also hope to review comics and books from the rest of the industry's publishers as well. Man's reach should ever exceed his grasp...
Most of what you need to know about ANNIHILATION can be summed up thusly: a more-powerful-than-ever Annihilus has escaped from the Negative Zone and seems likely to eat the universe. You can check out my review of ANNIHILATION: PROLOGUE here:
ANNIHILATION: SILVER SURFER #1 [$2.99] is one of a quartet of four-issue series covering the next phase of the Annihilus buffet. Written by Keith Giffen, this issue has the Surfer encountering the carnage left in the wake of the Annihilation, meeting up with Air-Walker (who, like the Surfer, is a former scout of Galactus), being horrified by said carnage (which is saying a lot for a former scout of Galactus), and learning that Annihilus and his forces are very interested in former Galactus scouts.
This issue gives readers a handy recap of the Annihilation-to-date and appropriately grim art from Renato Arlem, while continuing to bring home how scary and widespread this situation is. As with the PROLOGUE issue, fact pages from the "Nova Corps Database" offer helpful background to the featured players. I wasn't knocked out, but the issue does earn a solid three Tonys.
ANNIHILATION: SUPER-SKRULL #1 [$2.99] was my favorite of the month's four issues. Writer Javier Grillo-Marxuach did a wonderful job playing title hero K'lrt as a cantankerous old warrior whose many defeats at the hands of Earth's heroes have dimmed his legend considerably. He's at odds with most of the Skrull Empire and yet determined to do everything in his power to save them from the "big bad" who's eating the universe. Despite the horror, scenes between K'lrt and a hero-worshiping young Skrull, and also between the old warrior and Reed Richards are honestly funny. Kudos are also due artist Gregory Titus for keeping the various Skrulls distinctive as the tale requires. Action, horror, and humor don't combine easily, but Grillo-Marxuach and Titus pull it off. That's why this issue earns four Tonys.
Earthman Richard Rider seems to be the only surviving member of the Nova Corps in ANNIHILATION: NOVA #1 [$2.99]. Indeed, for all intents and purposes, the Xandarian Empire is dead. To preserve the Xandarian culture, the Worldmind, the political and spiritual leader of both the Xandarians and the Nova Corps, has no choice but to download itself and the Nova Force it commands into Rory...with the full knowledge that the last Nova to possess that kind of power went murderously insane. I'm beginning to remember why I've never been a Nova fan.
Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning do a creditable effort documenting what I guess will prove pivotal events in the overall Annihilation saga. Artists Kev Walker and Rick Magyar do likewise. But, since I'm not interested in Rory, I'm not as interested in this series as the other three. However, I'll give all hands points for the back-and-forth between Rory and the Worldmind as the latter attempts to minimize the effects of the shock and trauma suffered by the young hero when he watched *everything* around him get blown to bits by the Annihilation Wave. Let's give this issue two Tonys.
He made his first appearance years before 2000 AD introduced its craggy-faced lawman of the future, but Ronan the Accuser looks to be getting his Judge Dredd on in ANNIHILATION: RONAN #1 [$2.99]. Ronan has been on the run since he was convicted of treason against the Kree Empire. However, while on the run, he's still dispensing justice as he sees it. The story is set months after Annihilus and his hordes burst into our universe, but, beyond the "previously in ANNIHILATION" text that opens this issue, that overwhelming threat isn't mentioned. I'm intrigued to see when the menace will impact this mini-series, but, at the moment, RONAN feels like "red skies" padding to me.
Writer Simon Furman and artist Jorge Lucas provide serviceable work, but I'm simply not sold on RONAN. I'm afraid this issue must also settle for just two Tonys.
One final ANNIHILATION note for today's TOT and that's a tip of the tipster's hat to editor Andy Schmidt. He took on a really big job with this event and, though not every issue has scored with me, I'd admire the hard work and obvious effort that goes into the series. I'm on board for the entire ride.
Look for ANNIHILATION FOR MAY in a near-future edition of this column. In the meantime, thanks for spending part of your day with me. I'll be back on Friday 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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