Friday, June 30, 2017

Chew The Fat: Bronze Age Nostradamus - Predicting Comic Futures!

Martinex1:  Do superhero storylines jump the shark when they mirror imaginary stories or alternate world stories like those in What If?  Were the Bronze Age creators creative in their predictive tales?   Or is that sequence of events a normal progression of continuous periodical storytelling?   Have characters gotten too long in the tooth?   Or is it fun to explore these odd paths in a longer form?  The imaginary future is now in the past  - Chew the fat!

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Short Cuts: Summer Outings to the Museums and Zoos!

Martinex1:  I remember several outings to the museums and zoos over the Summer months while growing up.   My dad would pack us into the car on a weekend and we'd make our way to the city to the museum campus in Chicago and visit the Field Museum of Natural History or the Museum of Science and Industry.   Occasionally we would go to the Adler Planetarium or the Shedd Aquarium or the Art Institute of Chicago.
Museum of Science and Industry

Adler Planetarium

Some trips were successful and others not so.   I think the success of the trip depended on the age and the relative interest of the many kids and personalities involved.  I gravitated toward the Museum of Science and Industry where experiments were demonstrated, visitors had access to a WWII submarine, and most every exhibit was hands-on.  It is still a favorite today. There you can ride through a coal mine or experience a tornado; they often freeze balloons in liquid nitrogen and have interactive exhibits.  The Field Museum however had the T-Rex bones, historical artifacts, and many detailed displays, but it is a little too dry for the kid still inside me.  I can remember some complaints of "boredom" during walks through ancient jewelry and statues.  When I go with my kids, I still hear that echo of childhood frustration.
Dinosaur "Sue" in the Field Museum atrium

Submarine in the Museum of Science and Industry
On other days we would make our way to the zoo.  Chicago has two zoos with the sprawling Brookfield Zoo in the nearby suburbs and the Lincoln Park Zoo near the city lakefront.  That zoo was featured on the morning kids-targeted Ray Rayner Show as well.  While I liked the zoo, I cannot say it was my prime choice for an outing.   However, my youngest son loves monkeys so we do go and see those occasionally.

Ray Rayner and Friends

The sprawling campus of the Brookfield Zoo

How about in your city or town; are there museums and zoos you gravitate to year after year?  What do you recommend?  Are these types of outings still popular with your family?  Or were there school field trips that are memorable?  What was your favorite educational attraction?   Cultural and intellectual outings to zoos and museums are the focus of Short Cuts today!

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Rank and File: The Year's Best Comic Stories, 1978

Redartz: To all, greetings! In this edition of "Rank and File", we shall start something a bit different. It was inspired by the recent column on digests, wherein mention was made of a particular DC digest. "The Year's Best Comic Stories" was a digest collection that DC put out for several years, gathering some of what they considered that year's most noteworthy tales. But of course here at BitBA, we have to push things a bit further. So we shall pick a year (for today, 1978) and 'nominate' ten comic stories released between January and December. This means cover dates Apr. 1978 (on the stands in January) to Mar. 1979 (on sale in December). Your job is to assess and comment upon our choices, and to inform us of any other tales we you feel should be considered. Then name the top three (Gold, Silver and Bronze). And one final detail: the nominees shall be single issues, even if part of an extended story arc. So, for example, if you are considering the "Korvac Saga" in Avengers, you might go with the finale, issue 177.

All clear? Then let's look at our nominees, in no particular order:

"Superman vs. Muhammad Ali ", by Dennis O'Neal, Neal Adams, Dick Giordano and Terry Austin. Aliens, boxing, oversized Adams art, and much much more.


 Avengers 181- "On the Matter of Heroes" by David Michelinie, John Byrne and Gene Day. There were many issues of Avengers that could have made this list, but I chose this one. Excellent characterization, humor, drama, great art, and Henry Peter Gyrich.

Marvel Team-Up 79- "Sword of the She-Devil" by Chris Claremont, John Byrne and Terry Austin. Spidey and Red Sonja? Mary Jane in a pretty far-out role. Staggeringly beautiful artwork. Perhaps my favorite issue of this title's entire run.


Showcase 100- "There Shall Come a Gathering" by Paul Kupperberg, Paul Levitz and Joe Staton. An immensely enjoyable, fun mashup of every character that appeared in Showcase. And it works. One of the best anniversary issues ever.

Uncanny X-Men 114- "Desolation", by Chris Claremont, John Byrne and Terry Austin. As with Avengers, many issues here could have been nominated. But this one is a beaut, story and art. And what a cover..


Fantastic Four 200- "When Titans Clash" by Marv Wolfman, Keith Pollard and Joe Sinnott. One of the best showdowns with Dr. Doom.

Micronauts 1- "Homeworld" by Bill Mantlo, Michael Golden and Josef Rubinstein. A fine start to a terrific series, by a stellar team of creators. I recall being amazed how good it was for a 'toy book'.

What If? 13-"What if Conan the Barbarian Walked the Earth Today" by Roy Thomas, John Buscema and Ernie Chan. A fascinating, and touching, story with many nice touches. Perhaps the best "What If" ever.

Adventure Comics 462 - "Only Legends Live Forever", by Paul Levitz and Joe Staton. Death of the Earth Two Batman, and he goes down fighting.


Iron Man 120- "The Old Man and the Sea Prince" by David Michelinie, John Romita Jr. and Bob Layton. Shellhead's premiere team takes him to new heights, and with Namor to boot.

Man, that wasn't easy. Way too many good choices , and loads left unmentioned. So, what do you think? Do these choices make sense, or did we miss some obvious alternatives? And which would you choose as the top three? Have at it, crew...

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Follow The Leader: Episode 27: Discovered Flops and Undiscovered Gems!

Martinex1:  You know what day it is - so let's Follow the Leader!

Just to repeat what we have said over the last number of weeks - here are some guidelines for any newcomers that may stop by..

1) Whoever gets here first (or even second) post a topic starter in the comments that others can jump on and discuss for the day; supply as little or as much detail as necessary to get the ball rolling.

2) The range of possible subjects is broad - comics, movies, music, television, fiction, hobbies, queries, etc.  Try to have the topic touch some aspect of Bronze Age nostalgia if possible.

3) Keep it clean and family friendly.

4) All others...follow the Leader! Your job is to keep the conversation rolling.   (As I said - follow the topic wherever it takes you; a conversation started about comics may lead to comments on jazz for all we know)!

Note:  There is one caveat... if Redartz or I notice that the suggested topic is something we already have in the pipeline, we will let you know and inform you of the projected date for that subject for discussion.  That is just so we don't double up.   Hey - great minds think alike, right?

We have had a great run of topics this Summer, with outstanding conversations around recommended reading, side jobs for cash, and the Beatles.   Anything even remotely touching the Bronze Age or shared experiences is open for discussion every Tuesday.  So carry on ... and cheers!

Monday, June 26, 2017

The Brave Or The Bold: Spider-Woman Or Dazzler!

Martinex1: We are exploring some new territory today as we compare and contrast some later Bronze Age creations - the heroines Dazzler and Spider-Woman.   While both Jessica Drew and Alison Blaire have their supporters, they never quite made the top tier list at Marvel in the late 70s and early 80s   Alternatively both had their own series that ran for respectable lengths and both had a fair amount of marketing support.  

Dazzler was originally created as a bridge between comics and the burgeoning disco movement; she was originally conceptualized to star in a movie before being repositioned as an X-Men guest star during the Hellfire Club arc. There are versions of the draft and script details pulled together by Jim Shooter around the ill-fated movie that are fun to read (definitely a time capsule in and of itself).  Dazzler was slightly reinvented and her first appearance was in the February 1980 issue of Uncanny X-Men, under the creation of Chris Claremont and John Byrne at their height. The character was a talented singer who could convert music (and other sound) into blasts of light.  She started out using her mutant power as a stage gimmick, but quickly put the talent to defensive use as a reluctant heroine.   The issue was fairly popular and an ongoing series was greenlighted quickly and debuted with a cover date of March 1981.   The series ran for 42 issues and along the way Dazzler fought villains that were significantly above her power class in foes like Doctor Doom and Galactus.  Late in her series she changed from her silvery disco togs and roller skates to a more standard hero look, but her original costume still gets a lot of cosplay attention.   Despite a big push from Marvel marketing the character did not have a lot of staying power.

Marvel of course had one of the most iconic comic characters ever in Spider-Man, and they hoped to capture some protection to the brand as well as some attention in the market with Spider-Woman.  Spider-Woman first appeared in an issue of Marvel Spotlight, and that characterization and origin did not carry into her later representation.  She was conceptualized as an evolved spider with some creepy attributes and ties to Hydra.   When she got her own title in April 1978, Jessica Drew was more stable and had a career as an investigator   She fought a strange group of villains that tended toward the horror genre.  Some of the character's strange attributes, like the eerie feeling she would trigger in men, dissipated.   Back in the day, she had her own cartoon series and often appeared in Marvel's house ads. Her series ran for 50 issues.   In modern times, she has become much more popular and even joined the Avengers.

There are some similarities to the characters and the approach Marvel took with their female leads.   Spider-Woman and Dazzler actually interacted on occasion and had some conflicts along the way.  So let's take a look at their Bronze Age impact, covers, and details. And then you can decide which you prefer and why.

Both characters made their way into mainstream books and onto the covers of X-Men and Avengers!

Both Dazzler and Spider-Woman had an opportunity for photo covers!

And they teamed up in Dazzler's book!
Dazzler's title started out with the creative team of Tom DeFalco and John Romita Jr., but was quickly turned over to Danny Fingeroth and Frank Springer.   That team stayed together for quite a run, with some contribution along the way by Mark Bright, Vince Colletta, Jim Shooter, and others. Archie Goodwin and Paul Chadwick finished the run. Covers along the way were designed by Springer, Romita Jr., Bill Sienkiewicz, and even John Byrne.

On Spider-Woman, Marv Wolfman and Carmine Infantino started the book with a decent run on the first eight issues..  Mark Gruenwald picked up the writing chores and Infantino continued until issue #19 when artists and writers started to rotate.  Frank Springer penciled some issues as did Trevor von Eeden.   Chris Claremont and Steve Leialoha had a nice run toward the end from issues #34 to #46.  Leialoha was the artist from issue #28 and following Infantino was the longest tenured artist on the book.  Covers were supplied by Byrne, Cockrum, Sal Buscema, Frank Miller and many others.

So now it is up to you BitBA fans - who did you prefer in the Bronze Age?   Alison Blaire or Jessica Drew?   The reluctant heroine songstress or the powerful arachnid investigator?  Did the down-to-Earth creepy adventures or the other worldly galactic outings attract your attention?  What about the art's impact on the books?   Do these characters have staying power or are they mired in the past?

Feel free to discuss anything related to the characters, their stories, the titles, the era, and your collecting habits today!  Cheers!

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