"Seems Like Even The GODS Have Their ACCIDENTS!" COMICS! Sometimes The King Is Still Dead!

“Tarru!” to you, too!! Just look at the creators on this thing! It’s like the comic book equivalent of one of those Irwin Allen films where Steve McQueen and Paul Newman jockey for top billing, Fred Astaire tumbles burning out of a lift, Michael Caine shouts about bloody, bloody bees and Gene Hackman tells God off with his steam blistered fists raised. It isn't a movie, but is it a disaster?  photo JPLeonB_zpsb5f63aca.jpg TALES OF THE NEW GODS by John Paul Leon, Kevin McCarthy, John Workman & Tatjana Wood

Anyway this… TALES OF THE NEW GODS Pencilled by Steve Rude, John Byrne, Walter Simonson, Ron Wagner, Frank Miller, Dave Gibbons, Erik Larsen, Howard Victor Chaykin, Rob Liefeld, Art Adams, Jim Lee, John Paul Leon, Allen Milgrom, Eddie Campbell & Steve Ditko Inked by Mike Royer, John Byrne, Walter Simonson, Ray Kryssing, Frnk Miller, Dave Gibbons, Al Gordon, Howard Chaykin, Norm Rapmund, Art Adams, Scott Williams, John Paul Leon, Klaus Janson, Eddie Campbell & Mick Gray Written by Mark Evanier, John Byrne, Walter Simonson, Eric Stephenson, Walter Simonson with Howard Victor Chaykin, Jeph Loeb, Kevin McCarthy & Mark Millar Lettered by Todd Klein, John Byrne, John Workman, Clem Robins, Ken Bruzenak & Richard Starkings Coloured by Anthony Tollin, Lee Loughridge, Noelle Giddings, Sherilyn Van Valkenburgh, Tatjana Wood, Buzz Setzer & Drew Moore Collecting stories from Mister Miracle Special, Jack Kirby's Fourth World #2-11,13-20, and Orion #3-4, #6-8, #10, #12, #15, #18-19. Plus, a never-before-published short story by The Socialist Mark Millar with art by Steve Ditko and Mick Gray DC COMICS, $19.99 (2008) The Fourth World created by Jack Kirby Superman created by Jerry Siegel & Joe Shuster

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In 1970 Jack Kirby, finally tiring of Marvel’s inability accord him decent treatment, chose to go to DC Comics. It was there that he began the greatest phase of his many great phases of work, a phase I have taken the liberty of dubbing with fierce precision “1970s Jack Kirby”. While at DC this phase encompassed his majestically epic work on The Demon, Omac, The Sandman, Kamandi, First Issue Special, The Losers and of course, and most pertinently, Jack Kirby’s Fourth World books. Jack Kirby’s Fourth World concept took the form of an interlocking suite of books (Jimmy Olsen, New Gods, Mister Miracle and Forever People) which were intended to be collected in a series of bound volumes for bookstores and, thus, a wider audience. In 2015 this is common practice for any old trex but in 1970 this kind of thing never happened. And it didn’t happen with Jack Kirby’s Fourth World either.

 photo MillerB_zpsd119c243.jpg TALES OF THE NEW GODS by Frank Miller, John Workman & Sherilyn Van Valkenburgh

Controversy still smoulders regarding whether these books were successful or not but it’s all a bit moot as the last of them was cancelled in 1973. Short lived but much loved, Jack Kirby’s original Fourth World work is currently available in a series of four TPs from DC Comics. Sometimes they are even seen in bookshops as Jack Kirby originally envisaged. Post-Kirby DC has attempted periodically to revive the various Fourth World IPs with, to be kind, varying levels of success. Remember that time Jim Starlin inflated the New Gods’ thighs and killed them all? No, me neither. But, you know, that’s what comics companies do; no harm, no foul. And if they make good comics while doing so, then everyone wins. Tales of The New Gods reprints, somewhat haphazardly, some of the best illustrated attempts at being Jack Kirby. The results are variable, but as awful as a couple of them are they are all better than my attempt at being Jack Kirby, an attempt which starts and ends with not being able to drive.

 photo ChaykinB_zpsd1857224.jpg TALES OF THE NEW GODS by Howard Victor Chaykin, Walter Simonson, Ken Bruzenak & Sherilyn Van Valkenburgh


 photo RudeB_zps6ced5e7b.jpg Mister Miracle Special by Steve Rude, Mike Royer, Mark Evanier, Todd Klein & Anthony Tollin

Given it’s written by Mark Evanier this volume opener is, as you might, expect, an exercise in respect. It doesn’t do anything new but then it doesn’t want to. It’s kind of a primer on Mister Miracle, as though the whole run were truncated to one book. It could work as a self-contained summation of that whole Mister Miracle deal or as a scene setter for a new series. Either way it’s a hectic romp filled with knowingly cornball humour, tinges of darkness, flamboyantly ridiculous death traps and inexplicable escapes from certain death. Mostly though, it’s all about Steve Rude’s art which here is as much of a politely inflamed (sometimes even a tentatively frenetic) collision of Kirby and Toth as it ever has been. It’s wild and wacky stuff adroitly sold. But Rude’s art, like Evanier’s script, as madcap as it all gets remains too tethered to reality to ever risk lifting both feet clear of solid ground and floating “out there!!!” like the King. It’s still wonderful stuff, just different. It lacks the irreverent insanity Kirby would suddenly plunge into without warning. Basically there’s nothing like that bad guy called “Merkin” but then to be honest I’m entirely comfortable with the idea that Jack Kirby knew what a pubic wig was. Rude & Evanier’s strip is happy enough to be a tribute and homage to Mister Miracle and I’m happy enough to have it be such. GOOD!

JACK KIRBY’s FOURTH WORLD #2-20 (pages 43 - 147)

 photo ByrneSeidB_zps7bf81b8c.jpg TALES OF THE NEW GODS by John Byrne & lee Loughridge

In 1997 John Byrne started vigorously emitting issues of a series entitled Jack Kirby’s Fourth World. This was a dream come true; for John Byrne anyway. I’m not saying John Byrne seems to have an unhealthy fixation with bettering Jack Kirby but it wouldn’t surprise me if he was often mistaken in the street for a 1975 John Huston movie adapted from the works of Rudyard Kipling and starring Sean Connery, Michael Caine and Christopher Plummer. Phew! While John Byrne’s no Jack Kirby (who is? No one.) he’s very definitely John Byrne, and John Byrne is a talented man in his own right. So there’s a certain level of fascination in watching him get stuck into Kirby’s mythology. And then fascination turns to dismay as you realise he is actually stuck in Kirby’s mythos. While (I assume) the main stories in his series progressed Kirby’s mythos what we have here are the back-ups and these are more concerned with regressing and filling in the background to The Fourth World. John Byrne, sadly, suffers from Roy Thomas Disease and so that goes someway to explaining why he backfills the backstory of Scott Free, Metron and The Forever People for example, but only a truly unnerving level of hubris can explain the fact that John Byrne gave Darkseid an origin.

 photo ByrneTalkB_zps15dbc2bd.jpg TALES OF THE NEW GODS by John Byrne & Noelle Giddings

As origins for Darkseid go it’s not bad; there’s even a surprise - it turns out to be someone else’s origin too. Unfortunately, and fundamentally, I don’t think Darkseid needed an origin. I think Darkseid works better as a granite faced mini-skirted embodiment of the fascistic darkness ready to pounce when civilisation becomes complacent. Which, to be fair, none of which Byrne has changed, but after reading his origin the looming brute is forever after diminished by the thought of the henpecked sneak he came from. What’s important is (simply) that Darkseid IS not (convolutedly) who Darkseid was. Whether by design, sheer forward momentum, or a fortuitous combination of the two, Kirby left loads of spaces both within and around the Fourth World; spaces for the imagination of his readers to fill. Kirby’s creations invited reader participation because Kirby believed indiscriminately in imagination. John Byrne also believes in imagination, but only in his. Again and again, with a fixity of purpose that stifles any imaginative flex Byrne returns to the spaces within Kirby’s stories and starts filling them in, like graves.

 photo CollageB_zps49764de1.jpg TALES OF THE NEW GODS by John Byrne & Noelle Giddings

Of course Kirby would also go back, when able, to show what was past. But when he did it we got The Pact; when he did it they were revelations not explanations. Kirby’s additions opened up his narrative, Byrne’s additions all feel like a door has been slammed shut somewhere. As Byrne’s pages pass there’s a sense of narrative claustrophobia as the characters, characters who more than most characters should have access to the infinite, run out of room, they risk becoming entombed in their own narrative. Visually this impression is also, unfortunately, true; great wodges of stilted and circumlocutious dialogue hem his figures into his badly planned panels with dismaying frequency. Which is a shame because I like John Byrne’s art here, when I can see it. It has an appealingly loose and impromptu aspect which invests it with more energy than can be entirely stifled by the narrative slog it inhabits. Sometimes Byrne will surprise, with the early Apokolips scenes being visually lively, or by drawing more birds in the sky during the old timey scenes, which feels right (I don’t know, I wasn’t there). Then he’ll dismay with a character called Francine Goodbody, and the sudden threat of John Byrne penning some period sauce about dirty earls and bosomy maids turns your ears scarlet with dismay. Byrne's fatal miscalculation is to let Walter Simonson provide one of the backups, whereupon Simonson shows how it should be done. Thanks to a lightness of touch and his usual impeccable storytelling wizardry Simonson explains how Kanto came to dress like a Borgia in tale which is both hilariously obvious and melodramatically arresting. It’s a bit of a shame really as Byrne’s clearly into this stuff. He even goes so far as to update the Kirby collage technique with a couple of images combining his drawn figures with CGI of the time. By the end of this section though we have found a talent capable of invigorating Kirby’s mythos anew. Unfortunately it wasn’t John Byrne. OKAY!

 photo SimonsonB_zps8dc11d13.jpg TALES OF THE NEW GODS by Walter Simonson, John Workman & Noelle Giddings

Orion #3-4, #6-8, #10, #12, #15, #18-19. (Pages 148 - 207)

No, in a bitter twist worthy of The Source itself , it was Walter Simonson! In 2000 Walter Simonson began his Orion series. This focused on the angry pup of Darkseid while also flopping happily about in the wider Fourth World concepts. As is usual in Comics quality had nothing to do with sales and it ended in 2002. Taking his cue from Byrne’s series there was a main strip and then a backup. I guess Walter Simonson is a lot more amenable than John Byrne because a cavalcade of comics creators muck in to help him out on them. I know because I typed all their names in up there. That’s my free time that is; you’re very welcome. Rather than the main strips then it is these backups which are presented here. Unfortunately while Simonson made the more sensible decision to have his backups inform and augment events in the main strip rather than compete directly with the King, that does mean that reading them here, divorced from their original context can be less than satisfying.

 photo CampbellB_zps7740a955.jpg TALES OF THE NEW GODS by Eddie Campbell, Walter Simonson, Pete Mullins, John Workman & Tatjana Wood

Some stand alone and read well such as Frank Miller’s typically, and appropriately, brutally drawn birth of Orion which, again opens up rather than closes off story possibilities. The John Paul Leon strip is his usual wonderful balancing act between extremities of light and dark with a script by Kevin McCarthy which is a nice bit of business about fathers, sons, and the place of art under Darkseid (beneath his boot). Mostly though they are just a bit of fun where you enjoy the performance as much as the story. Howard Victor Chaykin characteristically provides pages involving a blue skinned sexy lady which involve domination, badinage and a messy ending. Of most interest there is the crucial part Ken Bruzenak’s letters play in deciphering the climax and the way the printing serves Chaykin so poorly that the climax has to be deciphered. Otherwise Eddie Campbell draws Darkseid, Arthur Adams channels Jean Giraud and, well, it’s just nice seeing most of these folk having fun. There’s a whole two duffers which isn’t bad by any stretch. Liefeld & Loeb remain inept and as much love as I have for the work of Steve Ditko either he isn’t really trying here or the thick inks by Mick Gray destroy any of his signature fluidity. In fact the best bit of this final (previously unpublished!) strip is that Ditko is teamed up with Mark Millar. Pairing someone as ideologically resolute as Steve Ditko with, well, Mark Millar is a black joke worthy of Darkseid his bad self.  Overall this section Is VERY GOOD! which by my calculations makes the whole book - GOOD!

(NOTE: But the whole Simonson Orion run is shortly to be released by DC as an Omnibus. Knowhumsayin’? Because that thing will be fat with - COMICS!!!)

Must Watch Direct Market history video

Follow this link to Mark Evanier's site and watch this video of the Mike Douglas show and see video of DM founder Phil Seuling discussing comics on national TV in 1977. Astounding footage! I never had the pleasure of meeting Seuling, or, prior to this ever even seeing video of him -- so this was a fabulous and fantastic find for me. Thanks Mark!!

I especially like how they're just taking the old comics and flapping them around -- "Oh, look, a FAMOUS FUNNIES #1; here, catch!"

Without that guy you almost certainly wouldn't be reading blogs about comic books today... except maybe in the most nostalgic way.



"Aimed Like A Spear-Head At Your VITALS!!" COMICS! Sometimes They Beggar Belief!!

Did the Pharaohs crave eggnog? The riddle of children and adults – could “aging” hold the answer? Revealed – The Treasure Map of The Cosbys!!! Disease – Could it be caused by creatures too small to see!!! Are “facts” just very popular lies?!? Did YOU man the concessionary stand at Ford’s theatre that fateful April Friday in 1865?!? The Bermuda Triangle – what if you did look at it from Barry Manilow’s angle? Even on its best day Science will be helpless to explain how in 1971 Jack Kirby predicted Jeff Lester's beard of 2013:  photo SP_JEFF_001_B_zps61800595.jpg

Who's laughing now, Science! WHO IS "LAUGHING" NOW?!? Anyway, this...

SPIRIT WORLD Art by JACK KIRBY with Mike Royer & Sergio Aragones Inked by Vince Colletta & Mike Royer Written by Jack Kirby, Mark Evanier, Steve Sherman and Sergio Aragones Cover by Neal Adams Originally published in Spirit World, Forbidden Tales of Dark Mansion #6 and Weird Mystery Tales #1-3 (1971,1972) DC Comics, $39.99 (2012)

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In Comics Publishing the greatest spur to innovation is, it seems, low sales, and by innovation I mean running around throwing faeces at walls and seeing if you have captured that lucrative Brown Dollar ( See: The NU52.) Low sales in the early ‘70s led to DC actually implementing some of Jack Kirby’s ideas for more mature magazine format product. (Jack Kirby was a visionary in content and format. He was The King). There were to be three initial titles; IN THE DAYS OF THE MOB (soon to be collected), SOUL ROMANCES (too awesome to ever be seen by human eyes) and SPIRIT WORLD (here in my hands). According to the informative text piece by Mark Evanier (a living witness; a gentleman) the SPIRIT WORLD magazine was intended to be a bold new approach to newsstand bedazzlement in the brash and bombastic 1970s Kirby style.


By the time it saw print though the process of whittling and denuding the initial concept endured resulted in a much diluted product. This slim, costly volume reprints the single published instance of SPIRIT WORLD magazine, together with content intended for the second issue which later appeared in other places. You don’t physically get a lot for your money but creatively you get something wonderful. Because most of what’s on these pages is by 1970s Jack Kirby. What isn't by 1970s Jack Kirby is - the cover by Neal Adams, a page of Aragones funnies, one story with Royer working over Kirby backgrounds and a fumetti by Evanier & Sherman.

 photo SP_JFK_001_B_zps00920542.jpg "The President Must Die!" by Kirby & Colletta

The level of DC’s faith in The King can be seen in the fact that they got Adams to redo Kirby’s cover, dropped the intended colour and went with a weird blue wash effect and, best of all, cancelled the book before sales on the first issue were in, not that they had adequately distributed the issue in the first place. As bold new thrusts into the heart of the marketplace go it was a bit feeble and lacked conviction. The premise of SPIRIT WORLD is basically a magazine version of THIS. Now a lot of people have a lot of time for the supernatural, and I think one of the reasons for this is they have all my time, because I haven’t any time for it so it must have gone somewhere. So, for me, this book is basically a load of preposterous balderdash. It is, however, EXCELLENT! Because, well, because 1970s Jack Kirby. If you aren't keen on 1970s Jack Kirby then take it down to OKAY! because of the price gouge.


Yes, it’s 1970s Jack Kirby! Hawt Cawfee and Bagels!!! I don’t know if you’ve picked up on this yet but I’m quite partial to 1970s Jack Kirby. Like anyone sane I like all the Jack Kirbys but 1970s Jack Kirby is the Jack Kirby I like da mostest! Obviously, all the Jack Kirbys have something going for them and I don’t wish to denigrate any of the Jack Kirbys by my personal bias. Some folks go for 1940s Jack Kirby. Who, after all, worked with Joe Simon creating (or at least promulgating) the Child Endangerment genre of comics exemplified by The Boy Commandos and The Newsboy Legion and, also, a certain Captain America. He did a lot more of course, in fact he did so much more that he was able to stockpile enough pages that he could go off and give that paper hanger in Berlin a shiner without Comics noticing he’d even left.

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"Children Of The Flaming Wheel" by Evanier & Sherman

People still argue about whether the Allies were justified in dropping Jack Kirby on the Axis. Ha, ha, ha! Just joking! It’s okay, don’t worry, he had a terrible time, nearly losing his extremities to frostbite and generally seeing enough of War’s horrors that some of the starch got knocked right out of him. 1950s Jack Kirby dusted himself down split from Joe Simon and headed out solo for pastures new. These being, unusually for pastures, located in the offices of DC Comics where he seemed (judging bythe JACK KIRBY OMNIBUS Vol.1)  a bit lost really with his most significant creation being, with Dave Wood, The Challengers of The Unknown.

 photo SP_FIRE_001_B_zpse6fab134.jpg "The Lorca File" by Kirby & Colletta

Then 1950s Jack Kirby jumped to Marvel. Initially, he seems to have been roped in to draw mostly tales in which ludicrous monsters were defeated by pipe smoking men with unconvincing science. It’s possible that this entertaining but basically repetitive fare primed ‘50s Jack Kirby for his transformation into 1960s Jack Kirby who… unleashed a colossal quantity of creative energy and unprecedented innovation resulting in the co-creation (with Stan Lee, Steve Ditko, Bill Everett. Larry Lieber et al and etc) of the keystones of the Marvel universe. Keystones which continue to provide employment for thousands and earn hundreds of billions of dollars across a wide range of media platforms…did some Work-For-Hire for Marvel. Having (apparently) given his imagination the 1960s off to act as the facilitator for Stan Lee’s singular creative visions Jack Kirby’s mind was wide open and fresh as a baby wipe, ready for new challenges. Certainly after his treatment by Marvel 1970s Jack Kirby was willing to entertain any notion, no matter how outlandish. But then again he always had been. This natural enthusiasm for the offbeat came in handy when The King produced SPIRIT WORLD, which contains some world class baloney. Hokum for the ages!


Kirby envisioned it as a colour magazine rather than the blue wash on the pages reprinted here. Perhaps that’s why the best stuff here is from the aborted second issue, printed at the back in B&W. Kirby’s ‘70s artistic apex is on full show in “Toxl” and “Horoscope Phenomenon or Witch Queen of Ancient Sumeria”. It’s on these pages, of all the pages in the book, that the bizarre glamour of ‘70s Jack Kirby shines most clearly. In comparison the previously published Kirby pages are (dis) graced by the inking of Vince Colletta.  Kirby’s dynamism is sapped softly by the apathy Colletta’s powdery finishes always evoke. Even allowing for that there’s something subdued about the layouts, as though Kirby is restraining himself; more intimidated by the maturity of the intended audience than invigorated by the immaturity of the subject matter. It’s wonky stuff but it mostly works, and it mostly works because of the dynamism of the delivery.

 photo SP_TOXL_001_B_zps15791379.jpg "Toxl" by Kirby, Royer & Evanier

In the ‘70s even calmer Kirby work moved like a beast in heat. In a strange act of balance the text takes up the unaccustomed artistic slack in impact. I understand people have been prone to mock the words of Jack Kirby, I believe such people to be in error. Some sophisticated individuals have been known to criticise Jack Kirby in that his work was a bit too on the nose sometimes. Perhaps, but then a pivotal figure in the life of Jack Kirby was a man called Goodman who didn't behave like one. Sometimes life can be a little on the nose too, is what I’m saying there. I think perhaps the accessibility of Kirby’s work post '60s Marvel is more of an assumption than a fact. Because most comic readers are so familiar, so early with Kirby there’s a tendency for his work to be taken as the norm; a tendency to be inoculated to the very eccentric complexity of his work. Take KAMANDI; why, land sakes, that’s just the hi-energy adventures of a cute lil cut-up in cute lil cut-offs in a wacky anthropomorphic world of stirring adventure. Okay, but it is also at one and the same time savagely violent and bleak; as much Hanna Barbaric as it is Hanna Barbera. By the 1970s Jack Kirby had found his definitive voice. It was a very strange voice but it was very definitely a LOUD voice. A BIG voice because 1970s Jack Kirby was telling BIG stories.



In SPIRIT WORLD Kirby takes this operatic bombast and turns it down a notch, but not by much. And it works like GANGBUSTERS!!! Here Kirby’s dealing with Joe Soap rather than Gods but all the same these pieces posit that people are at the mercy of forces beyond anyone's comprehension; forces which at any moment could pick them up and throw them around like mad dog with a rag doll. The clinical detachment of the paranormalist Alden Mass who presents each episode is just a feint; swamping both he and his rational accoutrements of pipe and beard is a tsunami of tintinnabulation; beyond his elbow patches a tone of almost hysterical mania practically punches you in the face on nearly every page turn. Kirby blares these tales at your slack face in the manner of Coney Island barker! Inducing the screaming meemies in all but the most inert of minds!! And why not! A woman who knows the President will die but NONE WILL BELIEVE!?! A woman re-visiting a past life, in a time before bras, where she is BURNT AS A WITCH!!! People who combust SPONTANEOUSLY!?! Ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances!?! Science become LIES!?!? Nonsense become SENSE?!? OF COURSE HE’S SHOUTING!!!

We hear him still.

If you like 1970s Jack Kirby you’ll like this, is what I’m saying. Otherwise it's very expensive and you're best off getting it from the library. But I'm glad I got it because, for me, 1970s Jack Kirby is – COMICS!!!

And, yes, there are Kirby collages:

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"...Achieving Liberal Ends By Fascist Means." COMICS! Sometimes They Fight To Make Men Free!

...and it stank like it something had crawled up it and died! What? I'm on? That's a bit ahead of schedule. Caught me on the hop a bit there, let's see what we can do. Hold on...let me check my pockets...right! Harumph! This'll have to do. Here goes. Welcome, International Comrades! In this exciting post I will be treating the eyes of all to the sight of many comic covers. Yes! These coruscating covers adorned the 1982-4 run of BLACKHAWK; a run written by Mark Evanier and drawn by Dan Spiegle with back ups from a heavenly host of talents. Pleasure for all viewers ensured as I have mastered the scanner! Technology is yet servant to the flesh! Yes! So, unlike the measly Luis Dominguez scans so unworthy of your mighty gaze these scans provide plenty of artistic acreage for your eyes to graze upon! Also, get ready to meet your new favourite artist Mr. Dan Spiegle! Anyway, this...  photo Blackhawk_Top_zps29308ce7.jpg

"It (BLACKHAWK) was about achieving liberal ends by fascist means." Howard Victor Chaykin amusingly summing up the concept in Comic Book Artist #5 (2005)

You don't know this (because you aren't psychic) but even when you can't see me I'm working. Sometimes I'm even working at the job I'm paid to do or, on rarer occasions ,working to be a decent father and partner but mostly, let's face it, I'm working on something to do with comics for you and you only! At the minute I'm invisibly having a pop at something on BLACKHAWK. A bit like I did for John Carter, you know - how it's changed over the decades. Anyway, I've got loads of stuff and it's all a bit overwhelming but work continues a(snail's)pace. Don't, you know, hold your breath or anything is my advice.

So, a I'm ploughing my way through this particular run of comics; a run I was previously unfamiliar with. And what gets me right from the off is the quality of the covers so I thought I'd share 'em. Now, I don't want to spoil anything I may later write but this series is solidly written by Mark Evanier in a slightly updated romantic adventure strip style. I like that, that's pretty good but Dan Spiegle? Dan Spiegle is a revelation. I will come back to this run even if I don't do the glutton's portion of BLACKHAWK, and I will do so for Dan Spiegle. No offence to Mark Evanier whose work is sturdy and entertaining but Dan Spiegle is...well, words you know, failure of.

Basically, in case I never finish the writing part I didn't want these covers to go to waste as some are sizzlers!  and there was a gap in the content. What does nature abhor? A lack of free content! So,  while you probably came for the Chaykin, Kane or Cockrum, I think you may find you stay for the Spiegle.

Anyway, some BLACKHAWK covers for your pleasure.  I hope you enjoy them.

And now, our Feature Presentation:

BLACKHAWK was created by Chuck Cuidera, Bob Powell and Will Eisner.

 photo Blackhawk251_B_zpsdfac7243.jpg Art by Dave Cockrum

 photo Blackhawk252_B_zps719f25eb.jpg Art by Dave Cockrum

 photo Blackhawk253_B_zps08dd02ac.jpg Art by Dave Cockrum

 photo Blackhawk254_B_zps0be58621.jpg Art by Dave Cockrum

 photo Blackhawk255_B_zps873879d5.jpg Art by Ed Hannigan & Dave Cockrum

 photo Blackhawk256_B_zpsb791247b.jpg Art by Ernie  Colon

 photo Blackhawk257_B_zps607e577c.jpg Art by Howard Victor Chaykin

 photo Blackhawk258_B_zps2c7e006e.jpg Art by Howard Victor Chaykin

 photo Blackhawk259_B_zpsda4a2902.jpg Art by Howard Victor Chaykin

 photo Blackhawk260_B_zps066c260e.jpg Art by Howard Victor Chaykin

 photo Blackhawk261_B_zps8626a92a.jpg Art by Dave Cockrum

 photo Blackhawk262_B_zps69c429a5.jpg Art by Howard Victor Chaykin

 photo Blackhawk263_B_zps1a23964a.jpg Art by Gil Kane

 photo Blackhawk264_B_zps5b33e8b2.jpg Art by Gil Kane

 photo Blackhawk265_B_zps36f86ee0.jpg Art by Dan Spiegle

 photo Blackhawk266_B_zps77167e4f.jpg Art by Dan Spiegle

 photo Blackhawk267_B_zpsbc487fda.jpg Art by Dan Spiegle

 photo Blackhawk268_B_zps97fb0f4a.jpg Art by Dan Spiegle

 photo Blackhawk270_B_zps0da69b16.jpg Art by Dan Spiegle

 photo Blackhawk271_B_zpsf95536b3.jpg Art by Dan Spiegle

 photo Blackhawk272_B_zps5cb280bc.jpg Art by Dan Spiegle

 photo Blackhawk273_B_zpsaf6403f8.jpg Art by Gil Kane

Blimey O'Reilly! I think we can safely say those were - COMICS!!!

Wait, What? Ep. 111: Things That Go Wrong...

PhotobucketIt's....not easy to explain. Trust me.

Oh, man.  Remember all the questions you guys asked us and we didn't get to?  Well, don't say we didn't start 2013 right!

After the jump:  Show notes,  no more terrifying photos, still kissing with saliva, etc., etc.

0:00-12:00:  Greetings!  Before the comics talk, Graeme and Jeff catch up with what they did during the holidays.  Unsurprisingly, Jeff got sick and moped.  Even less surprisingly, Graeme worked. And worked.  And worked.  Other exciting topics covered:  inadvertent tech problems, deliberate tech problems, Cocoa Pebbles, Cocoa Puffs, and Cocoa Krispies and Honey Monster, the Sugar Puffs mascot. 12:00-29:03: Jeff talks about the first season of American Horror Story, which is another "what we did during the holidays" topic, and that leads into a discussion about things that go wrong, TV, and includes mention of The West Wing and Agatha Christie's Tommy and Tuppence.  And, just as we almost start talking about comics, we swerve and talk about Misfits about which, in a weird reversal of the status quo, Jeff is caught up on and Graeme is not.  Also, you will never know how much coughing I had to edit out to make this sound at all listenable, but it was kind of a lot.  Some of them I had to keep in so we could (sort of) hear Graeme.  Sorry about that. 29:03-36:16:  Graeme lists the comics he's read! Hey everybody, we're talking about comics!  Well, starting to talk about comics! Well, almost…starting to…talk… 36:16-36:52: Intermission Uno! 36:52-38:52:  Hey, who has two thumbs and has been interviewed again by Canadian Television? This guy….Graeme McMillan, whom we all know.  Yes, CL Cool Graeme (Canada Loves Cool Graeme) is burning up the airwaves. 38:52-56:58:  Comics!  We were supposed to talk about all those books Graeme listed so of course…we don't talk about them.  Instead, we talk about Amazing Spider-Man #700. 56:58-1:05:35: And from there, we talk a spot of news--the promotions of Bob Harras and Hank Kanalz over at DC. Also, those great lists of CE's top-selling books for 2012. 1:05:35-1:05:50: And so…we finally get around to talking about the list of comics Graeme bought!  Or….do we? (Hint: we don't). 1:05:50-1:06:38: Intermission Two! 1:06:38-1:07:23: And we're back…and the sound is a bit hinky for some reason? Have we thanked you for continuing to listen to us recently?  We really should! 1:07:23-1:23:23:  Remember that list of comics Graeme mentioned way back when?  Here it is! A delightful batch of old issues Graeme picked up at his local comic book shop's sale: Batman and the Outsiders Annual #1 (1984); DC Comics Presents #60 (Superman and Guardians of the Universe);    Machine Man #10 by Marv Wolfman and Steve Ditko; Micronauts Annual #1 (1979); Mr. Miracle Special by Mark Evanier and Steve Rude (1987); and the DC Comics Mystery In Space DC Presents One-Shot (2004) featuring Elliot S! Maggin & J.H. Williams III, and Grant Morrison & Jerry Ordway. 1:23:23-1:39:12: Also, something comics-related(!):  Graeme and I talk Final Crisis since both of us (weirdly enough) had re-read it in the last month or so:  ccontinuity, the New 52, reverse time, and issues of race, are among the subjects of our conversational hand-wringing. Then…techpocalypse forces us to cut things short in mid-convo and try again. 1:39:12-1:39:32: Intermission 3! 1:39:32-1:42:35: And we are back! (After a few failed attempts, which were a bit on the crazy-making side of things?)  So it's back to more Final Crisis talk--where are those Batman issues?  What about the Legion of 3 Worlds? 1:42:35-end: And now on to some quick chat about new comics--Flash #15 and its amazing second half by Francis Manapul; New Avengers #1 by Jonathan Hickman and Steve Epting (including a shout-out to Abhay's fantastic commentary on Hickman's Secret); Sachie-Chan Good!! by Akira Toriyama and Masakazu Katsura (which inspires Graeme to recount the "Miss Universe" pitch from the Downey Files podcast); Batman Inc. #6; Saga #8; Wonder Woman #15; Fatale #11 by Brubaker and Phillips; Prophet #32; Godzilla: The Half-Century War #4; Witch-Doctor: Mal Practice #2; and (digitally) the first volume of Kikaider by Shotaro Ishinomori (sooooo good!)  And then a little after the two hour mark--we are finished!  For now. [Cue ominous music...]

As I'm a bit out of practice, a bit sick, and staring down the barrel of an early wake-up call, let me just cut through the niceties and say: it's good to be back!  (Hold up, brain: isn't that a nicety right there?)  And blah blah blah blah iTunes, but also right here, and so on:

Wait, What? Ep. 111: Things That Go Wrong

Ah, but no worries we will be back next week--here is to a Happy New Year to all and, as you may have guessed, we thank you for listening!

Hibbs and the Read Comics All Day Day

See, for me, EVERY day is "read comics all day" day!

I actually have two modes of reading comics, however, and this is kind of the "working in a candy store" problem -- most of the times I read comics, it is sadly "professionally" reading them. It's part of my job and function to have a general handle on what's going on in comics, so I like HAVE to read them. I order to properly ORDER and SELL comics, I feel like I have to read a lot of stuff that, really, I'd rather not read. I need to read, say, every other issue at least of virtually every "mainstream" comic so I know what they are and where they're going.

(More after the jump!)

Every week there are comics that I WANT to read, of course, but because of the way they arrive in the store (that is: all at once), I usually either intersperse or leave for last the comics I WANT to read (say, DETECTIVE or BATMAN & ROBIN or KNIGHTS OF THE DINNER TABLE) inbetween all of the stuff I'm much less enthusiastic about (Say, most DARK REIGN: COLON or FINAL CRISIS AFTERMATH: COLON titles) because otherwise I can't bring myself to read the less-desirable stuff.

And this means that I probably don't get as much out of the stuff I DO like, y'see?

It's all "professional" at that point.

The second mode of reading is when I'm at home, and I'm just reading for pleasure. Nine times out of ten that therefore becomes REreading for pleasure, if you follow?

Because of having a small son (Six Years Old tomorrow, YAY!), my "me time" is more and more limited -- I've just come downstairs after reading to him, and it's like 9 PM, yeesh, and I've got maybe 3 hours to "me" tonight before I have to fall asleep again. So a lot of my "pleasure" reading is in the "inbetween moments" -- in the bathroom, maybe, or taking a comic with me when I go out to sneak a smoke -- little 10 and 15 minute breaks and that's all I've got.

Which brings us to the topic of this column -- this week, in taking my breaks, and sneaking my sneaks, I've been rereading Sergio Aragones' GROO THE WANDERER.

These are PERFECT "break" comics -- they usually are fast reads, but they absolutely encourage you to linger in particular panels. Can you spot the hidden message? What has The Minstrel's top-of-his-lute characters metamorphosised into this time? What's the funniest background gag Aragones has snuck in? And so on.

This week I've been reading through the Dark Horse collections, most specifically from THE GROO HOUNDBOOK to THE GROO NURSERY, or that is to say from v8 to v14, if my fingers are counting correctly. Which further makes between issues #32 and 56.

This is a great period for the book: Groo is given a permanent partner in Ruferto, his faithful dog, which added a ton of storytelling possibilities; and a huge chunk of the recurring humor is established in these issues (most notably the "I Am The Prince of Chichester" gag) -- you can tell that Aragones' (and Evanier and Luth and Sakai) are all having a ball, and are really hitting their stride as a finely oiled team.

What I like the most about GROO in this incarnation is that most of the stories are completely self-contained in terms of introduction and execution of plot -- everything you need to know is always explicitly laid out for you, naturally, in the course of the story, and they all come to a nice moral point at the end. Even if they're multi-part stories -- each chapter comes to its own, separate conclusion. In short, in reading each issue, you really feel like you got an issue's worth.

That's a great feeling, especially compared to today's comics.

Seriously, these guys are master of both compacting the content so that you really feel like you got a full experience, as well as streamlining it so there's seldom anything extraneous or wasted. These are absolutely dead-on perfect 22 page entertainment packages, and there's not a creator alive who probably couldn't benefit from reading a few issues of GROO and paying attention to the Lean Density on display. This is really masterclass stuff, even if it is just silly comics about a stupid barbarian.

(As a further aside, I read these in BACKWARDS publication order -- from N to H -- and they read perfectly well that way.)

Ben is really starting to read now, so I have to keep a certain amount of prudence in what I leave lying where now -- not so much with GROO. Those I left right out where he'd spot them too, and he's been happily immersed in them. This is what makes it an even better comic -- it is absolutely entertaining for both kids AND adults. (While it is a crazy-over-the-top violent comic, it is of a level of LOONEY TUNES violence, which I think personally is just fine for kidlets)

I'm less enthralled with the last 3-4 mini-series of GROO because they, it seemed to me, were more about the message of the story, being structured as 4-part stories, then about here's-an-awesome-22-pages-kiddo. Most of the GROO THE WANDERER collections are out-of-print (and either way, I think they only ran to just a hair past the halfway point) but Evanier has said on his great blog there will be omnibuses coming from Dark Horse later this year. Hopefully the color ones that DH does, but maybe not in that smaller trim size because GROO is not a book that will be served by shrinking it. I'd be just as happy with B&W "ESSENTIAL-style" newsprint ones, really -- more issues at a time that way, too. It would be about 11 volumes in the color format, and something more like 7 in the ESSENTIAL format...

Anyway, I hope this period comes back into print soon, as it really is EXCELLENT.

As always, what did YOU think?