I can't say I have a passion for collecting comics; they just seem to accumulate around me. But, among the very few items I seek out when finances and opportunity allow - monster comics Gorgo, Konga, and Reptisaurus; Harry Sahle's Candy; the issues of Lassie with photo covers of my friend Jon Provost - my favorites might well be the American reprint comics published in England by Alan Class from the 1960s through the 1980s.
Class licensed material from several publishers. Issues might contain material from Marvel, Charlton, ACG, Tower, Archie, King, or any combination thereof. Many of the stories, especially those from the Marvel comics of the 1950s, have never been reprinted in the United States. Each Class comic I acquire is like an adventure unto itself.
Creepy Worlds #130 was likely published in the early to mid-1970s. The Class comic books didn't carry dates, presumably to extend their shelf life.
"Captives of the Deadly Duo" was the cover feature, reprinted from Fantastic Four #6 [September, 1962]. Written by Stan Lee with art by Jack Kirby, Dick Ayers, and, on about a page-and-a-half, Joe Sinnott, the 24-page thriller pitted the FF against their greatest foes to that date, Doctor Doom and the Sub-Mariner. Doom had been introduced one issue earlier. Namor, who had been a title character in the 1940s and, briefly, the 1950s, had been slightly revamped and reintroduced two issues earlier.
My introduction to the Fantastic Four came an issue later than this one...and I didn't care for that particular story. Rereading "Captives of the Deadly Duo," I wonder if my initial reaction would have been different if it had been my first FF story. Certainly, the Sub-Mariner was a far more interesting foe than "Kurrgo, Master of Planet X," but Doc Doom hadn't yet achieved his full potential at that time. When I eventually got hooked on the FF and acquired the back issues, I found the Reed/Sue/Namor triangle more dramatic than the Lois/Superman/Lana stuff at DC.
I was also impressed by the Sub-Mariner being the true hero of this particular issue, making amends for his foolish alliance with Doom by saving them all. Small wonder I've since written more than a few redemption stories myself.
Filling out the issue was a selection of "mystery" tales from Marvel and Charlton titles of the mid-1950s.
Three of them came from Journey Into Unknown Worlds #51 [November, 1956]. The Sinnott-drawn "Who Is Nokki?" is one of many vague supernatural menace stories from that era. It was only four pages long and the Comics Code wouldn't allow readers to experience anything too frightening. More effective was "I'm Afraid To Shut My Eyes!" - drawn by Robert McCarty - in which a sleeping artist is drawn into the strange paintings of the fellow artist who owned the home before him.
The unmistakable Wally Wood art for "He Was Nobody!" is keen to gaze upon, but the story of a town about to be flooded and a mystery man who inspires its people to survive and rebuild doesn't make much sense. No matter how tightly these four-pagers might be written, they didn't always work.
The inside front cover of this issue is "The Sixth Sense," a single-page filler that's definitely from Charlton. It reads more like a "strange-but-true" feature than an actual story, though it's not at all convincing.
"The Sorcerer," a two-page prose story that I didn't read for this piece, comes from Journey Into Mystery #72 [September, 1961]. I didn't read these as a kid and I rarely read them today. My apologies to their anonymous writers.
From Journey Into Unknown Worlds #50 [October, 1956], "The Fog" is a familiar tale of a man inexplicably whisked back in time, where he is considered insane and brought to an asylum. When he escapes back to his own time, his cruel jailer pursues him, but now it's the jailer who is considered mad. Drawn by Paul Reinman, I'm sure I've seen another version of this story somewhere, likely by another artist. That wouldn't have been unusual for the Marvel "mystery" titles of the late 1950s and early 1960s.
"The Strangeling" is another Charlton story, one which dances around some sensitive material. A strange child, later revealed to be extraterrestrial, is born to an Earth woman. I'm thinking alien abduction and embryo implantation. His Earth family does love him and he fits in at school about as well as any different kid would. He excels at the sciences, sucks at his other classes. He has some girls for friends, but they won't date him. Eventually, he wanders into the desert, vents his loneliness to the skies, and gets picked up by a flying saucer. Taken to a world of folks like him, he's an instant hit with his peers and with the ladies...and probably much too busy to pick up a space-phone and let Earth-Mom and Earth-Dad know he's okay.
I couldn't find "The Strangeling" in the Grand Comics Database [www.comics.org], and I'm no great shakes at identifying artists, but I *think* this seven-page story was drawn by Rocco Mastroserio. Feel free to correct me if you know better.
Alan Class comics are part of the TOT opening rotation, so you can expect me to write about them once or twice a month.
Three Civil War books hit the comics shops the week of October 18, 2006, including the fourth and final issue of Civil War: X-Men. Though my regard for the overall epic does remain high, I was somewhat disappointed in these issues.
The finale of the X-Men mini-series has Bishop and the Office of National Emergency working with Cyclops and the original X-Men to free a group of mutants from a Tony Stark-built-bunker that has become a death trap due to the schemes of traitorous General Lazar and mind-controlling mutant Johnny Dee. The racing against certain doom is exciting...with even war criminal Stark and his stooge Ms. Marvel coming off well. O*N*E founder Val Cooper has to make some tough and entirely illegal decisions along the way, but I do like the resolution of the conflict: the Xavier Institute is now akin to a Native American reservation with mutants allowed to come and go as they please without supervision. There are some definite story possibilities in that situation.
Civil War: X-Men #4 was the best of the three issues with solid writing from David Hine and equally solid art by Yanick Paquette (pencils) and Serge LaPointe (inks). I would have liked more of a resolution to Johnny Dee's story, especially one ensuring we've seen the last of him, but that won't stop me from giving the issue four out of five Tonys.
Writer Brian Reed has turned Carol Danvers into a thoroughly unlikeable and unsympathetic character. Her super-hero persona is driven by ego and not any discernable desire to help and/or protect people. She is a good little "just following orders" soldier who shows no regard for the civil liberties she's trampling beneath her boots. When she expresses a fleeting moment of sorrow for having beaten and arrested a young girl's mother in front of the girl and then dragged the mother away to a Negative Zone gulag, her idea of making it up to the girl is to maybe pay a tuition bill or two. On the last page of this issue, Rogue of the X-Men appears and seems likely to give Danvers a beating in the next issue. I have never in my life more wanted to see one super-hero kick the holy crap out of another super-hero.
Ms. Marvel gets but a single Tony...and that's because it succeeds in showing the vileness of the Superhuman Registration Act is and how those who so violently enforce it must be considered criminals themselves.
Wolverine #47 was a disappointing end to Logan's quest to bring justice, however rough, to the actual perpetrators of the Stamford tragedy. Though I have had quibbles with elements of this six-issue story, I have generally enjoyed writer Marc Guggenheim's portrayal of Wolverine as he tracked down Nitro and the corporate villain who utilized Nitro as a kind of rainmaker for his financial interests. Logan was out of his element contending against someone like Walter Declun of Damage Control, the aforementioned corporate villain, and that could've been an interesting struggle. But, when it came to the big finish, Declun drinks some super-steroids to go mano a mano with Wolverine. A few pages later, Wolvie puts his claws through Declun's head. Big whoop.
Oddly enough, the issue ends with Logan describing his battle to Miriam Sharpe, the mother of one of the Stamford victims and a leading proponent of the Superhuman Registration Act. She was last seen telling Tony Stark that it was okay that Bill "Goliath" Foster got a fatal lightning bolt through his torso. Whereas Logan wanted the real villains brought to justice, Sharpe isn't that selective. Her presence here makes no sense to me.
The art? Though I recognize his talents, I'm not enamored of penciller Humberto Ramos' style. I can overlook that when a story is really good, which isn't the case here.
Wolverine #47 gets one Tony for bringing this story to a conclusion, however unsatisfyingly. However, I will take that one Tony back if Declun doesn't stay dead.
More Civil War reviews next week.
COMICS IN THE COMICS
Dan Piraro's Bizarro might just be my favorite of the newspaper comics panels, both for his wacky sense of humor and his frequent use of comics characters in his work. This first of the three panels I'm posting today is from April 3, 2006:
This one ran on August 3 of last year:
And this one is from September 2, 2006:
Keep reading TOT for more "Comics in the Comics."
GET MORE TONY
One of the wacky things the Marvel Comics bean-counters used to do in the 1970s was add new titles to the schedule without ever giving a thought as to who the editors would get to write and draw them. "Come on," I imagine the money-changers saying, "can't those overpaid writers and artists of yours skip 'Happy Hour' and knock out a funny book or two?" Thus it came to pass that Giant-Size Defenders appeared on Marvel's 1974 production schedule with - to put it exceedingly kind - insufficient time to actually write or draw the longer-than-usual story needed for a giant-size anything. And there's where I came in.
There was no way editor Roy Thomas was gonna allow the first issue of a giant-size title hit the stands without any new material whatsoever. He hit upon the idea of writing and drawing a framing sequence, a sort of mini-story, and wrapping it around reprints of short Hulk, Sub-Mariner, and Doctor Strange stories. We picked the reprints together and I wrote the framing sequence for artists Jim Starlin and Al Milgrom to draw. It came in ahead of schedule and everyone was happy...
...until the bean-counters decided to expand the page count of the giant-sized titles.
And, yes, of course, Giant-Size Defenders #1 would need more pages. Since the Silver Surfer was something akin to a member of the team at the time, we added a reprint of the solo Surfer tale from the 1967 Fantastic Four Annual and a double-page pin-up of the Defenders to the contents. Art Director John Romita added a Surfer figure to the already-drawn Gil Kane/Mike Esposito cover. The bean-counters looked upon our works and said:
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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