Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Batman #448 (Early June, 1990)

A disfigured hunchback was beaten and left alongside a road. The Penguin and Lark found him, and took him in. Harold turned out to be a technological genius. The Penguin had Harold create a device that could control birds, which Cobblepot then employed to disrupt the Gotham Stock Exchange. The Penguin caricatured the Dark Knight as a fascist to Harold, and claimed Batman despised the disfigured-- just look at his villains.

Oswald later played online chess with a longtime, unidentified partner before watching the soap opera Heartstrings. Oswald adored the character Heron, a lovely schemer and murderess after his own heart.

After the successful trial run, the manipulated birds were set upon Gotham City in general. A death toll mounted with citizens struggling through the chaos. Batman finished playing a round of online chess, then headed to work.

The Penguin used his birds to kidnap Sherry West, the actress who portrayed Heron, with the Caped Crusader in pursuit.

To Be Continued in Detective Comics #615...

"Pawns," part one of "The Penguin Affair" by Marv Wolfman, Alan Grant, Jim Aparo and Mike DeCarlo.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Aquaman Commission by Ramona Fradon

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Fradon, the Sea King and an affectionate octopus. What more could you want? More Detroit Leaguer coverage outside Aquaman, Batman and Zatanna? I'm working on it...

Saturday, March 27, 2010

2010 Zatanna Commission by Rob Liefeld

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How's this for a bizarre turn-- I'm going to the Houston Comicpalooza tomorrow, and thought if it didn't cost too much, it would be hilarious to get a Rob Liefeld Martian Manhunter head shot sketch. Since I already had attendee Liefeld on the brain as I attempt to knock out this quick Zatannaday post, I figured I'd run a search for both. Sure enough, here's a brand new image just released to Comic Art Fans yesterday. How's that for synchronicity (and/or Liefeld hitting a bunch of cons?)

Monday, March 22, 2010

Amazing Heroes Preview Specials: Aquaman (1985-1986)

Beginning in 1984, Amazing Heroes magazine offered special preview issues twice yearly of everything to be published in the near future. You can imagine the folks gathering these previews calling up editors throughout the industry, offering them the chance to push their upcoming product to direct market customers. What I love most about these issues isn't the stuff that saw print, but all the behind-the-scenes machinations, and especially the intentions that were never realized.

For instance, here's January 1, 1985's Amazing Heroes #62, published at a time when Aquaman's four-issue mini-series miraculously materialized without a stated editor (i.e. someone to proofread spearhead Pozner...)

written by NEAL POZNER
edited by [undetermined]
published by DC COMICS
four-color. 75 cents, monthly Mini-Series (four issues)

Following in the footsteps of The Atom, one of DC's oldest charac­ters, Aquaman, will get another shot at greatness with a four-issue mini-series that will change his life around.
Under the helm of new talents Neal Pozner (who has been working as DC's Design Director for several years) and Craig Hamilton, Aqua­man will focus on the fantastic aspects of Atlantis, and will provide new insight into Aquaman's origin and his relationship with his brother, The Ocean Master.
A strong effort will be made to tie Aquaman in with the rest of DC's continuity, both past and current. To insure the former, Pozner has gone back and read every one of Aqua­man's appearances since his crea­tion in the '40s—and as for the lat­ter, the mini-series will be closely tied in with Justice League of America; Pozner also hopes to link it to the upcoming Crisis on Infinite-Earths series.
As for the plot of the series, Pozner says, "The Ocean Master attacks Aquaman in New Venice. It is the struggle between the two of them that is central to the whole series. Their conflict serves to show aspects of each of their personali­ties, and as they come into conflict, they're forced to question things about themselves, so their personal­ities and perceptions start to change as a result of that."
Pozner will also be dealing with all the diverse Atlantis-associated civilizations that have been created in DC. "There is a whole universe of different cultures that exists down there, and we're going to try to play off that."
Craig Hamilton, who is drawing the series, is a new discovery. In fact, Pozner discovered him twice without knowing it: First he saw some of his art at his friend Klaus Janson's house, and suggested that he would be terrific for the Aquaman mini-series. A week later, in Dick Giordano's office, he ran across some other pages he liked and sug­gested to Giordano that this artist would also be ideal for the series —and this turned out to be Hamil­ton's work as well!
It should come as no surprise, then, that Pozner is very happy with the way the work has been going— and with Hamilton's deep involve­ment in the series. "He's even gone so far as to reason how the Atlantean drapery would hang in a room —or float" Pozner relates. "He's got steel balls hanging at the bottom of his curtains." Hamilton is also be­ing careful to avoid drawing any nor­mal household items that would be useless underwater—such as cups and drinking glasses.
"The Aquaman who emerges at the end of the series," Pozner pro­mises, "will be a very different one from the one who begins the series." That promise alone should make most old-time DC fans want to pick up the series. —JC

Nothing wrong there, but things take a dubious turn in the Summer 1985 Amazing Heroes Preview Special #1...

Written by NEAL POZNER; pencilled by CRAIG HAMILTON; Inked by STEVE MONTANO; edited by ALAN GOLD

32 four-color pages on Mando newsprint; 75 cents; newsstand distribution; published monthly by DC COMICS, INC.; concludes with the 50th issue

Writer Neal Pozner hopes to make the continent of Atlantis more of a coherent fantasy world, like a high tech Emerald City, in his four-issue Aquaman mini-series. "It's a roman­tic environment," he says, "where you can never forget you're under­water." Artist Craig Hamilton draws Atlanteans' hair and clothing mov­ing and, except for the first part of the first issue, all of the action takes place in the sea. Pozner feels that minute details, such as having metal ball bearings at the bottom of Atlantean curtains to hold them down, demonstrate that "more thought has been given to the fact that this an alien environment."

The mini-series is "very heavy on Atlantis politics," Pozner says, "and the ramifications of a civilization that for 4,500 years has been in isolation." He makes the analogy between the cultures of Atlantis and 19th century Japan before Commo­dore Perry opened it to the West. Aquaman decided, back when he was king, to open up Atlantis's civilization to the oversea world. Since Atlanteans were not used to the influx of new ideas, a cultural backlash is beginning to take place.

In the course of the adventure, Aquaman "becomes involved with two other undersea cultures, one from the old Skeates-Giordano days, and one new. Several new characters are introduced that, in my feeling, are going to become im­portant parts of the DC Universe." Old characters also make appear­ances, such as Aquaman's half-brother Orm, the Ocean Master, and his wife Mera.

In no way, says Pozner, do the ideas introduced in the mini-series contradict continuity, but at the same time you don't have to know what's gone on before. People who do remember the Aquaman series of the '50s, '60s, and '70s "will have this added plus of saying, 'hey, I know him.'"

The mini-series is tied in with Aquaman's appearances in The Justice League, and features a small cross-over with Crisis on Infinite Earths. Pozner notes that JLA writer Gerry Conway has been playing up Aquaman's self-impor­tant qualities in preparation for the mini-series.

As for Aquaman himself, "I've never found him a very likeable character the way he is now. He's been a snotty, arrogant person, and we're trying to figure out why. In the series he has to face some things about himself that he's never had to face before." The third issue flashes back to Aquaman's origin, to "re-examine who he is. It's an amplifica­tion, not just a listing of what's hap­pened to him in the past. It makes the character three-dimensional and gives him motivation and expla­nation."

Pozner has nothing but praise for artist Craig Hamilton. "Craig has just finished pencilling #2, and his pencils are getting better and better with each page. Everyone has been real pleased with it up at the office. It's really beautiful stuff." The first issue has been inked by Steve Montano, who's doing "a real nice job."

What that "concludes with the 50th issue" at the top means would require speculation. Maybe the mini-series was meant to be extended to a  fifth part, in which some of the promises made above were actually paid off.  I'd think most anyone who read this painfully written mini-series could attest to the dashed hopes and simple badness within. Just ask The Comic Treadmill, which eviscerated issue #1 through issue #4.

Let's continue to Amazing Heroes Preview Special #2 from Winter 1986...

 DC's Sea King will be finishing up his current mini-series run in the next two months. According to Aquaman editor Bob Greenberger. "Issue #3 is a retell­ing of Aquaman's origin, set against the current conflict in which he is caught. Neal [Pozner, series writer] has gone out of his way to clarify Aquaman's rela­tionship with his parents, particularly his father. Before, all we knew was that he was a lighthouse keeper—now we know much more about him and his relation­ship with his wife [and Aquaman's mother] Alanna."

Issue #4 will feature the final conflict between Aquaman and his half-brother, the Ocean Master, "Rather than a physical conflict, their confrontation goes onto an astral plane because of the Ocean Master's current command of magical forces. Everything comes to a head in the finale"

The final three Aquaman covers, pencilled by interior artist Craig Hamilton, will be inked by P. Craig Russell. What, then, will be Aquaman's fate once the mini-series is over? Will it be sink or swim time for the Aquatic Avenger? Says Greenberger, "The mail will dictate how Aquaman will be treated in the future. There are no immediate plans for him to return to the Justice League of America, though he will be on hand for their 250th issue celebra­tion. After that   . .?"    -mw-

The "mw" who covered this issue was future star scripter Mark Waid, by the way. Where things really get interesting is Amazing Heroes Preview Special #3 from the Summer of 1986...

Written by NEAL POZNER; illustrated by CRAIG HAMILTON; colored by JOE ORLANDO; edited by BARBARA RANDALL

4 or 5-issue mini-series; 32 four-color pages on Mando newsprint; 75 cents; newsstand distribution; published monthly by DC COMICS INC.

After the phenomonal response to DC's first Aquaman series, a sequel seemed a foregone conclusion. Well, here it is. The second mini-series will take place minutes after the first one ends, and will deal with the rest of the "Aquaman Family," as well as the star of the book. "Mera, Aqualad, and the rest of Atlantis did not show up much in the first series," notes writer Neal Pozner, "but they're very important to this series. In the first series, we were trying to change and restructure Aqua­man alone. Now we'll see how he's going to react to everybody else. The whole theme of the series is change, and how different people react to it. There have been radical changes in the lives of all the players, and we'll be looking at how those changes manifest themselves, and how each character deals with them. The three main char­acters will be Aquaman, Mera, and Aqualad, but we'll also be focusing on Makaira, Vulko, a new character named Tawna, Ronal, and (from Swamp Thing) the Sunderland Corporation."

As the series begins, we will find that Makaira (Vulko's wife), is ruling Atlantis in his stead, as he was injured in the fight with Ocean Master. Atlantis is going through a culture shock, as they have been isolated for two thousand years, and now they are interacting with the surface world. The surface world is finding that Atlantis is a great place to get rid of all the stuff it doesn't need and to get all the technology that they do need. Some Atlanteans are so taken with these new ideas, that they'll accept anything. "So they've got hula-hoops and Pac-Man and disco clothes that they're using underwater. There is even a fast-food restaurant that has been opened by the Sunderland Corporation, and the religious zealots use that as a focus for their protests against the sur­face worlds' imports. Makaira is caught between the religious zealots and the other Atlanteans, in her attempt to rule Atlantis."

Aquaman, meanwhile, is trying to deal with the fact that he loves his wife, and he also seems to love another woman. Also, every rule he's ever lived by, he doesn't believe in anymore, and he will catch himself reverting back to his old actions. "This is not going to be the pat super-hero-gets-a-cosmic-revelation. When he gets mad. he'll lose his temper, except he'll catch himself midway through. Mera is going to have a really hard time also, because the man she married is not the man that returns to her. She's going to have a hard time trying to help, because she was raised having everything she wanted." When Aquaman returns to New Venice, he finds that Mera has basically saved the whole town by herself. "Mera will be portrayed more heroically. In her own way, she is more powerful than Aquaman."

Aqualad will still be mourning Aqua-girl's death, and he will retreat from the surface world to Atlantis. He eventually meets a young girl named Tawna, whom he will fall in love with, "The focus of the series is primarily on Aquaman, Aqualad, and Atlantis, but there will be all these subplots running along in the background. All the sub­plots are relevant, and intertwined, to some degree."

In issue #2. Aquaman will return to the surface world to visit the Sunder­land Corp., at which time he will get his old uniform back. After a slight wimper from this previewer, Pozner pointed out that; "He realizes that he's going to be on the surface world for a while, and he needs his old suit because it's irrigated. Otherwise, he would pass out after an hour. We have a wonderful scene at the beach, where he comes walking out of the surf, and all these people are wondering who he is. When he arrives at Sunderland, they have set up a series of tests for him, to find out just how formidable a foe he will be. These tests show the readers exactly what the limits of Aquaman's powers are out of water. How he gets out of these traps is one of the cliffhangers of #2. The sec­ond will be that it appears as if the religious zealots have raised Poseidon to deal justice to the non-believers."

Craig Hamilton is still the artist on the series, which will premiere this fall.

The second mini-series never came into being, as artist Craig Hamilton revealed in an interview at the Aquaman Shrine:
It took eight or nine months to do all four issues. Hot on the heels of that first series, they wanted me to come back and do a second one, and two months in, I only had like four or five pages drawn. I was exhausted, I was empty. Great pages--the drawing was so much better, the storytelling was so much better--but I just couldn't pull it out, and they canned it.

The mini-series was subsequently retconned out of continuity Post-Crisis. It's a curious thing, because if nothing else, the forward progress made with the character was embraced by fandom. For some reason, there's a lot of people who think Aquaman is lame. Many hate him on sight based on his costume, largely because of the color scheme. I don't see why he should wear blue any more than urbanites should wear gray, but the new suit quieted quite a few of the haters (even if hardly anyone could draw it correctly.) I guess DC's editors assumed the book sold on art alone, and having lost Hamilton, nixed the sequel. Feeling that way, you'd think they would have at least made a point of getting another promising new artist for the follow-up, but the pencillers who followed Hamilton on the sporadic Aquaman projects through the mid-90s were all box office poison. Ultimately, I'm glad a Pozner-written sequel never made it off the ground, as he couldn't seem to get his ideas down on paper outside of interviews, plus his dialogue and characterization were torturous. I do wish DC hadn't set Aquaman on a shelf for the rest of the decade, and had given him more care when they dusted him off for his odd appearances.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Zatanna Gallery by Jeff Moy

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Jeffrey Moy was one of the primary artists of the Post-Zero Hour reboot of the Legion of Super-Heroes, bringing a sweet-natured, doe eyed Japanese "manga/anime" sensibility to the more innocent, Silver Age influenced venture. Conversely, today he may be best known for his downright pornographic images of comic book and outside media super-heroines. His take on Zatanna falls somewhere in between, selling her as a good girl in the occasional naughty situation. You can see some of that at the Jeffrey Moy Sketchboard, but be warned that most of the women in the adult section are placed in rather graphically compromised situations. As an example, here's a 2007 non-nude bondage image of our Zee that I'd say still falls short of worksafe.

The top piece is a 2004 Mid-Ohio Con sketch grouping Zee with Marvel mages the Scarlet Witch and the villainous Enchantresses. Now that would be quite the match-up. I'd root for Zee, but her inconsistent powers makes her the sure loser of the three.

Next is the 2003 cheesecake piece below (Click To Enlarge)

Man, how do you get such a perfect circlar background in the midst of a Mega Con 2005 sketch (Click To Enlarge)

1998 Zatanna pin-up by Jeff Moy (Click To Enlarge)

This is the oldest and most realistic of the pieces here. I dig the "pick a card" background. The "top hat & tails" look hadn't really begun its comeback yet, so this seems to draw from the few late '80s appearances of that style.

2003 Zatanna Convention Sketch by Jeff Moy (Click To Enlarge)

I saved my favorite for last. Zee's cheekbones are a little too chiseled for her usual girl-next-door vibe, but I love that vaguely Bronze Age face, which could have been inked by Joe Rubinstein.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Batman #432 (April, 1989)

Batman investigated a break-in at a lawyer's office. The Dark Knight found Maxine Kelly, private investigator, checking a file on William Sanders. Batman allowed Kelly to leave, following her to her loft. Maxine Kelly in turn caught Batman trespassing in her home, going through a file on her current case.

William Sanders had been arrested in relation to the abduction of the then-three year old Josh Winston seven years prior. Sanders was acquitted and relocated by the F.B.I. After years and a dozen inadequate detectives, the former Mrs. Sanders' health had deteriorated.

Reminded of his deceased ward Jason Todd, Batman broke into the Federal Building to further the investigation. The Caped Crusader learned William Sanders' whereabouts after fighting through a phalanx of federales. Batman spent three days staring at coded information before calling on Commissioner Gordon, who refused any help on the matter. After another three days, Batman confronted William Sanders in a church, learning he had spent six years studying at seminary before becoming a priest.

Looking through old photographs, the Dark Knight Detective found a shot of a woman staring at Josh. This stalker checked out as a mother whose own child had been abducted, and Batman soon learned she'd claimed Josh as a replacement. Batman found Josh, who was taken to meet the true mother he never knew, Tina Winston, before she died.

"Dead Letter Office" was by James Owsley (A.K.A. Christopher Priest,) Jim Aparo and Mike DeCarlo.

Monday, March 15, 2010

2010 Red Lantern Mera Convention Sketch by Lori Hanson

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I don't want folks thinking this will just be an art blog now, so tomorrow's BATuesday will be a short story synopsis. Next week's AquaMonday will be epic length, so we'll then skip the following BATuesday to give it space.

I'd also like to avoid the "nostalgia blog" tag, so here's a Blackest Night tie-in image. I'm lining up my ducks to cover the Detroit League Black Lantern appearances here in coming weeks, so notice has been served. For more by this artist, check out the Lori Hanson gallery at Comic Art Fans.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

2004 Zatanna Convention Sketch by Steve Lightle

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It's my 200th post (written, not published, although the difference is minimal, especially compared to the 100 sitting in my Idol-Head queue!) To celebrate, and to offer a weekly spotlight for the heroines, Saturday will henceforth by Zatannaday! That's three (roughly) weekly features, plus whatever other Detroit business I come up with. A sight better than the days of no posts for weeks, right?

For the inauguration, here's the awesome Steve Lightle, who doesn't produce nearly enough comic work anymore (or ever, but especially now.) Steve's got some more risque stuff I'm debating posting in the future, but for now, how's this suit ya?

Thursday, March 11, 2010

2009 Black Lantern Ralph Dibny (Elongated Man) Custom Action Figure by StEvOtoys

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Here's another certified bad ass Google find-- a custom from the Figure Realm board. Here's the creator's comments:

I've never been big into the DC Universe beyond the usual classics; Batman, Superman, The Flash, etc. The only DC I read regularly was old Batman issues and Green Arrow. But now with the onset of "Blackest Night", I've taken a real interest in the world around Green Lantern. And so, my first DC comics custom.....

Ralph Dibny, aka Elongated Man, now one of the first of the Black Lanterns preying upon the hearts of the living throughout the DC Universe. Started with the simple choice of a movie Mr. Fantastic, specifically the one that had interchangeable parts to make him 12" tall. Swapped the boots out for ones in my fodder drawer. I replaced Mr. Fantastic's head with a retooled head of Banshee....used a blowdryer to heat his head up and clamped it tight to let cool off. This created his stretched face look. Then some sculpt to the hair and nose....hot glue to create drool (apparently he has a real drooling problem being "dead", don't believe me see Blackest Night #1). His wristbands were made from clear vinyl; I had originally sculpted them but the weight of the sculpt just kept pulling him down so changed pace. All of his flesh was painted with Rotten Flesh, and then drybrushed over with light flesh. Sculpted the insignia on his chest and painted the whole uniform with black, white, and silver. Details done to face and created a bloody mace (why? again, read Blackest Night #1) from Beta Ray's hammer, sculpt, and random blood bits I found in the fodder drawer.

Used a stand from one of the Playarts Final Fantasy figures. It has a nice interchangeable height and grabs the figure around the waist instead of a peg in the back. Needless to say this figure being so tall and made out of rubbery plastic makes him lean drastically so he really needs the extra support to stand.

And now he can menace over all my other works as being the tallest custom I've done, so far....

StEvOtoys actually has three pictures on display here, and you must check them all out! From the translucent drool to the gore on Hawkman's misappropriated mace, you can't miss this! Also, his Black Lantern J'Onn J'Onzz, complete with tentacle arm, can be seen at the Idol-Head of Diabolu blog.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Batman art by Neil Posis

More at a Click

As with yesterday's start of AquaMonday, here's your initial BaTuesday. Get it? Like The Batusi? Jeez, you Bat-fanatics have no sense of humor.

Also as with AquaMonday, we'll lean toward art posts, but also feature magazine articles, story synopsizes and so forth. Since we've established a pattern, how about another painting by Neil Posis? You can also scope out his gallery here!.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Aquaman art by Neil Posis

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Firstly, I apologize for the lack of real content lately. As you may have notice, a lot of my time has gone into reworking and cataloging this long neglected blog. I assure you this is in anticipation of an improved publishing schedule. For instance, I hope to begin regular theme days, which may be lightweight, but it at least assures regular posting of stuff I hope you'll like.

If all goes as planned, this is the first AquaMonday. Since I'm explaining the matter, today will be a simple art post, but I'll have heavier material like magazine articles and story synopsizes in the future. As it stands though, this is a pretty swell painting. You can also scope out Neil Posis' gallery.