Thursday, April 29, 2010

1986 Vixen fan art by Rob Liefeld

Click To Enlarge Through Gallery

I know what you're thinking: given how little work Rob Liefeld produced for DC in the 1980s, and how well he's avoided actually drawing the many projects he's been attached to at most every other company, I couldn't possibly spring another Detroit-related art post by him on you guys. Ah, but you forget, he was a fanboy once too! I found this Vixen piece amongst the "Early Years" portfolio images at the official Rob Liefeld Creations web site, and went "holy crap, that's so gloriously random!" Sadly, Steel and Vibe were not also represented, although if you squint you can maybe pretend Boom-Boom or Skids could have been Gypsy with a die job. All in all though, doesn't it look more like Jim Valentino's work?

Monday, April 26, 2010

The Sea King is Dead! Long Live the Sea King!

I have always respected Aquaman. There’s a hierarchy to super-heroes after all, so when one breaks into the public consciousness, it matters. Someone like Captain Marvel might not mean much today, but at one time he outsold Superman, had his own movie serial, and was a universal point of reference on a sitcom whose lead character routinely exclaimed “Shazam!” Aquaman never had that degree of success, but his claim to fame is tenacity, and that's sustained him in a way the Big Red Cheese couldn't touch.

Aquaman spent most of the 1940s as a mild mannered Sub-Mariner knock-off, but while bigger names ceased publication in the lean years following World War II, Aquaman’s strip kept chugging along. The Sea King managed to stay in continuous publication through into the 1960s, which led to the greatest boon of his career, co-founding the Justice League of America. The increased visibility granted by that popular title saw Aquaman graduating out of anthologies and into his own book, which in turn generated a memorable animated series. While Aquaman could maintain neither in the end, the 1970s saw him in the long-running Super Friends cartoon, a continued presence in JLofA comics, and even several revival attempts.

As a child, I owned a Mego Pocket Hero action figure of Aquaman, and was plenty familiar with him through his cartoons and merchandising. While the Sea King had never reached the true gold standard of super-hero popularity, the live action adaptation (Dr. Strange notwithstanding,) he was clearly amongst the upper echelon. However, for this young fan, Aquaman lacked representation where it mattered most, in the actual comics. Growing up in Texas, the newsstands and flea market booths so strongly favored Marvel Comics, I rarely even tumbled upon a Justice League comic, much less anything spotlighting the hero solo. I would see impressive house ads in the DC books that did manage wide circulation, like the New Teen Titans, but actually reading about Aquaman proved next to impossible.

By the early ‘90s I had regular access to comic shops, but by that point DC had seemingly abandoned all support for the character. There was an ill-fated relaunch I could have ordered at the time, but upon finding that underneath the fantastic Kevin Maguire covers were unknown creators clearly out of step with the times, I took a pass. Finally, in the mid-90s, it was announced that one of the biggest writers in comics, Peter David, would be taking the character on. David was a personal favorite of mine going back to his earliest days on Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man and Marc Hazzard: Merc, plus his Incredible Hulk was a current hit. Promising Aquaman would experience an earth-shattering event along the lines of the death of Superman, breaking of Batman, and so on, I decided to finally take the plunge.

I started buying anything Aquaman I could find. The brief Skeates/Aparo revival looked great and was exciting, despite underwhelming villains and overwrought melodrama. The various anthology appearances that followed left me cold, so I quickly dropped my pursuit of them. The 1986 mini-series that introduced the blue camouflage costume looked fantastic, but after years of heightened expectations, actually reading its amateurish script was a painful experience. A dull follow-up special seemingly designed to negate the mini-series only compounded my chagrin.

The book that finally turned me into a fan was the one-shot The Legend of Aquaman. While this revisionist origin story borrowed heavily from Tarzan and outright stole the background of Aquaman’s sidekick Aqualad as his own, the marriage of epic fantasy and super-heroics sold me. For the first time, I felt the majestic scale of Aquaman’s odyssey, the sense that he was the center of his own section of the DC Universe. Unfortunately, most of the same creative team then produced a six-issue mini-series that only made Aquaman seem small and insignificant, forever ruining his relationship with wife Mera, and pitting him against ridiculous looking alien invaders. I continued into the aforementioned ‘90s series, which on second assessment proved a much better thought out and entertaining book than most anything that had preceded it. Unfortunately, it had been canceled in part due to the anticipation of Peter David’s relaunch, and given a few months lead time as a lame duck, which was how it read at the end.

Although advertised as a “Year One” story, Peter David’s Time & Tide mini-series respected and avoided covering the same ground as Legend. Instead, David applied elements of his little read earlier mini-series The Atlantis Chronicles, and explored events in Silver Age Aquaman stories which would by necessity have to be altered by the Post-Crisis continuity, but had yet to be addressed elsewhere. While an attractive looking book, the expansive ground covered and fractured chronology of the telling left me a bit out of sorts with the result. Eventually, an ongoing series arrived, and any reservations I had after Time & Tide were compounded.

In a Wizard Magazine interview, Peter David offered a one word tease for his upcoming plans: “piranhas.” Of all the imagery that could conjure up, who would have expected it would refer to a villain with a nigh-unpronounceable name holding Aquaman’s left hand underwater while it was eaten off? Bad enough Aquaman had seen his son’s death go unavenged, but to just sit there going “ow—quit it” while losing an appendage did nothing for his image. A beard, the infamous “Golden Mullet,” a new costume sewn from scraps of Sub-Mariner’s ‘70s get-up, a laughable hi-tech harpoon-like prosthesis, a snarling bad attitude and a plodding direction added up to a historically long but not exactly redemptive ongoing series. After David was driven off the book before its fiftieth issue, Erik Larsen and Dan Jurgens had runs where, when distinguished, were such due to their ill-advised nature. Another relaunch and more revisions followed, none sticking for long.

Here we are, nearly twenty years since I started reading Aquaman comics, and better than fifteen since Peter David’s alterations began a chain reaction of misguided steps, until the reset button has finally been pushed. Following a death and resurrection, a familiar and whole Aquaman walks amongst us again, with a few reasonable tweaks to his classic costume to mark the occasion. Unfortunately, there isn’t much left for him to return to. Atlantis has been destroyed, virtually his entire supporting cast (Aqualad/Tempest, Dolphin, estranged son Koryak, Aquagirl, Vulko) is dead, and only his homicidal maniac ex-wife is left to greet him. While cutting ties with such a suffocating past might be best, Aquaman still seems in the grip of the melancholy that has haunted him since his son’s death 33 years ago, and there are many questions about where to go from here. Personally, I’m looking forward to the future of the Sea King for the first time in ages, and hope in conjunction with his renewed popularity in outside media (now including live-action,) we can finally have the iconic Aquaman we deserve. After all, we wouldn’t want him to end up like poor Captain Marvel, a half-wit forever in Superman’s shadow…

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Detroit Delays

Sorry for the delays in posting this past week. I kept thinking I would find time to do a series of Aquaman write-ups, but it never quite worked out. The worst part is I actually do have material prepared related to other characters I could have run, like a really curious Vixen pin-up, and no shortage of Zatannadays. I just didn't, in hopes I'd get this Aquaman thing knocked out instead. Since I get a reasonable amount of hits but almost no comments at this blog, I'd like to ask visitors to drop me a line and help decide what to do. I've got a test I must study for today, and a final in two weeks. Should I try to get the Aquaman week done somewhere in between, or serialize the material over 5+ weeks and get posts for other members flowing again? I warn you, there's fan fiction involved, so votes of "forgetaboutit" will be considered. Also, the "Penguin Affair," I've been synopsizing on BaTuesday is on hold, because I only owned the first part, and was counting on a long down & possibly permanently out online source to finish that one off. For you Martian Manhunter fans at The Idol-Head of Diabolu, I thankfully "banked" a nice batch of Miss Martian material thanks to that site...

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Motor City Links

Sorry "Aquaman Week" still hasn't started, and likely won't until Thursday, pushing aside BaTuesday and Zatannaday in its wake. Production on all my blogs is slowing to a crawl this week, I'm afraid.

Not much news has been coming out of the 2010 Chicago Comics & Entertainment Expo, as all the big announcement will likely wait until San Diego. The creators of "Brightest Day" responded to fans who jokingly asked about changes to characters including whether there'd be an explanation for why the Martian Manhunter now has pants (Tomasi teased an upcoming "Ralph Loren tie-in" issue as a joke,) and I believe the only response to an Aquaman query was that he's always had nice hair (which isn't true at all, thinking on the "golden mullet" made infamous by a G4 gaming award. Something more concrete to look forward to? "Vixen will be coming back in a very specific arc" of "Justice League," Robinson said.

Speaking of the Lady Fox, Vixen will receive the "Batman: The Brave and the Bold" treatment in the episode "Gorillas in our Midst!" She's getting a retro redesign that makes her look like a '70s Legionnaire, and will be voiced by Cree Summer, a.k.a. Foxxy Love in Drawn Together. It airs Friday, April 16 at 7:30 p.m. on the Cartoon Network, and CBR provides a video preview...

On sale JULY 7
On sale JULY 21
32 pg, FC, $2.99 US
1:25 variant cover by IVAN REIS
Deadman discovers the truth behind the formation of the White Lantern and what it means to the twelve returnees and the rest of the DC Universe. Plus, Aquaman, Martian Manhunter, Hawkman, Hawkgirl and Firestorm discover the price for their resurrections...and why they may be doing more harm than good to the world.
Retailers please note: This issue will ship with two covers. Please see the Previews Order Form for more information.

The hugely successful BLACKEST NIGHT action figure line continues!
Included in this seventh installment of the series are: Black Lantern Superman, back from the dead…again; Sinestro Corps Member Arkillo, dissenter defeated, forever forced to wear his traitorous tongue around his neck; Red Lantern Mera, with a rage-filled heart, she allows the Red Ring of Power to drown her; Black Lantern Terra with Scar, resurrected to prey on the hearts of her former team members, Terra teams with near-death survivor Scar in an effort to eradicate all emotion in the Universe.
All five figures feature multiple points of articulation and include a display base. Character-appropriate accessories are also included.

Red Lantern Mera - 6.5” h
Sinestro Corps Member Arkillo - 7.5” h
Black Lantern Superman - 6.75” h
Black Lantern Terra with Scar - 5.5” h (Terra), 4.5” h (Scar)
4-color clamshell blister card packaging.
On sale November 24, 2010
Action Figures

On sale JULY 7
40 pg, FC, $3.99 US
Co-feature written by JEN VAN METER
Art and cover by FREDDIE WILLIAMS II
Co-feature art by TRAVIS MOORE & DAN GREEN
The All-Stars are on the trail of a bizarre drug cartel consisting of genetically altered jungle animals! The insanity leads the young Justice Society team to a confrontation with actual gods & goddesses – welcome to the big leagues, All-Stars!
And in the co-feature: It’s Hourman and Tigress together while Liberty Belle and Icicle join forces in an all-out effort to stop the mysterious enemy who has led the mismatched hero/villain teams on a globe-spanning wild goose chase!

On sale JULY 21
32 pg, FC, $2.99 US
Written by PAUL DINI
1:10 Variant Cover by BRIAN BOLLAND
Until now, Zatanna and Brother Night have sparred from a distance – but that all changes when Night targets Zatanna’s closest friends, provoking a magical brawl like nothing you’ve seen before! San Francisco might never be the same!
Retailers please note: This issue will ship with two covers. See the Previews Order Form for more information.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Zatanna Gallery by Cedric Poulat

2009 Z E E by *J-Estacado (Click To Enlarge)

While bopping along on the internet, I stumbled upon the art of a Frenchman named Cedric Poulat, whose internet handle is *J-Estacado, presumably after the Top Cow character The Darkness. Poulat has quite a fondness for Zatanna, so I figured a Deviant Art enabled gallery was in order. Since Deviant's embeds will redirect you to their site if you click on the pictures, I recommend using my links above each to open them in a new tab/window, if you want to browse each pic from here. If you'd like to see Poulat's entire gallery, there's your link.

First up, Zee as a Pussycat Doll while the disinterested Superman and Batman thumb wrestle in the background. Ooooo-kay...

2006 Zatanna-cabaret by *J-Estacado (Click To Enlarge)

This is a really nice piece of a vulnerable Zee with a much stronger design element than anything else here. I like the "Oz" Z at the center.

2007 Zatanna 2 by *J-Estacado
Zatanna 2 by *J-Estacado on deviantART

Let's be real here: this is just Gina Gershon in a top hat and corset, amiright?

2008 The Magician by *J-Estacado (Click To Enlarge)

2009 annataZ by *J-Estacado (Click To Enlarge)
annataZ by *J-Estacado on deviantART

She's quite the sweetheart for a chick who looks to have been a member of the Hellfire Club, right?

Here's a gratuitous butt shot I pushed toward "the end," as they might jest in a ribald British comedy, where I should have left it.

2008 Zatanna- A R T N O U V E A U by *J-Estacado (Click To Enlarge)
Zatanna- A R T N O U V E A U by *J-Estacado on deviantART

2009 Zatanna, number 100000oooooooo by *J-Estacado.

Zatanna, number 100000oooooooo by *J-Estacado on deviantART

For the most part, yeah.

Finally, here's a group shot which gallingly goes so far out of its way to exclude Vixen that it even drops in a Wonder Woman villainess.

2008 DC WOMEN by *J-Estacado (Click To Enlarge)
DC WOMEN by *J-Estacado on deviantART.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Detective Comics #615 (Early June, 1990)

Batman battled the weaponized fowl that terrorized Gotham City.

The Penguin wooed kidnap victim Sherry West, the actress who portrayed Heron on the soap opera Heartstrings. Although Cobblepot is usually written as sane, here he seemed unable to distinguish West from her television role as the villainous that won his heart. The Penguin also attacked one of his own men for a slight grievance in a manner more suited for the Joker. West was horrified, but decided it best to play along.

Batman fought off hoods taking advantage of the chaos, but was captured by a miniature camera on one of the marauding birds, and set upon by a flock at Penguin's command. Using a trash can lid as a makeshift shield, the Caped Crusader sought refuge in his Batmobile. More birds caused a plane crash, which also served to send the Batmobile into a body of water. The Dark Knight of course escaped, though Penguin forced "Heron" to trigger another bird attack once Batman emerged on land.

The detective made his way to the Batcave, but a mass of birds pursued him up into Wayne Manor. While Tim Drake and Alfred Pennyworth hid in a closet, Batman deduced microwaves interfered with the Penguin's control signal. Managing to reach and activate an ultrasonic projector, the Caped Crusader shut down the birds' attack. Alfred asked if, after catching the Penguin and before turning him in, Bruce could have him over to clean up the Manor.

Meanwhile, the downed plane seemed to unleash a jaundiced, cowled creature from out of the bowels of the Earth.

To Be Continued in Batman #449...

"Birds of Ill Omen!," part two of "The Penguin Affair" by Marv Wolfman, Alan Grant, Norm Breyfogle and Steve Mitchell.

Monday, April 12, 2010

No AquaMonday This Week

My plans for Aquaman last week were put on hold, and now I'm thinking next week should be Aquaman-themed, so we're taking a break this week. BaTuesday as Midnight!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

2002 Zatanna San Diego Comic Con Sketch by Rick Mays

Click To Enlarge

I've liked Mays since his early work on Nomad, and he did a nice job on the Zatanna "Everyday Magic" one shot a number of years ago.

Monday, April 5, 2010

2002 Aquaman Nude Pin-up by Darwyn Cooke

Sorry for the delay. More on Aquaman later in the week...

Thursday, April 1, 2010

2010 "Judd Winick Named DC Comics Editor-in-Chief" Promotional Art by Billy Penn

Click To Enlarge

I recognize there's was a lot of love for Denny O'Neil in the '70s for restoring Batman to "Dark Knight Detective" status and for coming up with Green Lantern/Green Arrow. An alternative view (mine) is that O'Neil was technically a terrible writer. I'd say he exemplified the growing pains between the Silver Age "middle aged white guys writing adventure stories for children" and the Bronze Age "twentysomething white guys writing adventure stories for man-children." Read today, O'Neil's scripts are cringe-inducing in their hoary dialogue, sensationalism and self-importance. In my opinion, it wasn't until O'Neil stopped drinking and embraced the hubris in himself and his characters that he finally earned his stature in the industry.

In a roundabout way, my point is that Judd Winick was the Denny O'Neil of the aughts, and maybe he should start drinking/drugging to improve his writing, before he drives his remaining audience to do so. Certainly, this news announcement has me wanting to call in sick to work and crawl into a bottle. Check it out.