Saturday, September 29, 2018

Chew the Fat: Newspaper Comic Strips!

Redartz:   Once upon a time, many of us started the day off with a newspaper. For years the daily paper was part of my morning routine, providing an entertaining and educational accompaniment to breakfast. And the paper came with a reward for wading through pages of news, disasters, politics, editorials, and weather reports: the comics.

Newspaper comic strips served as an origin for comic books themselves: the first comic books were composed of reprinted newspaper strips. And they also provided an entry into sequential art for this reader: I was following the adventures of "Mandrake the Magician" long before I ever heard of "Dr. Strange". 

So, it's long past due that we give some love to these daily strips; old and new. Adventure strips and gag strips. Dailys and Sundays. And to start off, here's a few of my personal favorites; from 'then' to now...



Mandrake the Magician

The Phantom

Calvin and Hobbes


The Far Side



Well, it's almost a paper's worth. So, what strips were your favorites? Which ones did you skip over? What effect did new creators have on the strips when replacing the original (say, Bud Sagendorf following up on E.C. Segar's "Thimble Theatre")? Do you still follow any newspaper strips? Do you read any online? What strips would you recommend to others? The column is now yours...

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Short Cuts: "You CAN Take it With You"...

Redartz:  Good day, everyone! Today we offer a quick and easy exercise, tinged with just a little bit of demented morbidity. Got your attention?   Excellent; after all, Halloween isn't that far off...

Our premise this episode:  our time has come, the Boatman has arrived to take us across to our Eternal Rewards. But it's all good, we're ready, peaceful, and what's more, They tell us that we can take One (and only one) favored comic or collectible along with us. I know, farfetched; but just  humor me. Aaaaanyway, what is the comic or special collectible item that you would you 'take with you'?


As I step onto the boat, I'm holding tight onto my aged copy of Not Brand Echh! 5. Why, you may ask? Not a valuable book, or rare. But it is meaningful to me in several ways: it was one of the first comic books I ever bought as a child. It was the first back issue I ever bought as a pre-teen neo-comic collector. I still love the book, and the three classic hilarious stories held within. It featured the Hulk and Thing,  Captain America and the Avengers  (okay, "Bulk and Thung", "Charlie America and the Revengers"), and Forbush Man. And although my favorite hero Spidey doesn't appear inside, he is on the cover (on a "Spidey-Man" t-shirt). So this comic kind of summarizes my whole comic experience; with a loony humor that is most appropriate for my goofy self. So, that's why I'm "taking it with me". 

What's going with you, and why?

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Follow the Leader: Episode 92: Missed Opportunities and Hidden Treasures!

Martinex1: It is once again time to Follow the Leader! Last week we had some scintillating conversation concerning comic book artists and their evolution over time...what will the topic be today?

Let's find out!  Somebody get us started please! Cheers!

Monday, September 24, 2018

Two Questions: Bronze Age Sports and Clubs?

Martinex1: Two questions to kick off the week! ("Kick Off" may be the appropriate expression today!)

QUESTION 1: What sports did you play back in the Bronze Age?  Was it common in your neighborhood to pick up a game?  Were you on an organized team?  Little League? Soccer? Football? Basketball? School sports?  Intramural? Hockey? Tennis? Golf? Miniature golf? Ping Pong?

QUESTION 2: Or were you more involved in clubs or other activities back in the Bronze Age?  Chess club? Theater? Yearbook? Boy Scouts? Girl Scouts? AV Club? Explorers? Glee Club? School Paper? Speech or Debate? History Club? Band?

Tell us some of your stories; let's see if we share any common ground!  Cheers!

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Rank and File: The Year's Best Comic Stories, 1975!

Redartz:  1975; what a year! Marvel was still putting out the "Giant-Size" issues, as well as Marvel Value Stamps. Atlas Comics were trying to make a go of the comic business. DC was debuting numerous new titles and characters. It was an exciting time to be a comic reader, which leads us to our topic today: the best stories of that fine year. 

I've pored over loads of issues, and prodded my memory to recall my favorites. So, as always, this subjective list; based upon a combination of personal preference and historical impact. Your list my vary. Order is random. No deposit, no return. Void where prohibited. 

Ok, now that the formalities are complete, on with the countdown:


1. Defenders 33- "Webbed Hands, Warm Heart" by Steve Gerber, Sal Buscema and Jim Mooney. Inspired lunacy from Mr. Gerber with 'musical brains', the Headmen and a very angry baby deer.


2. Detective Comics 457- "There is no Hope in Crime Alley" by Dennis O'Neal and Dick Giordano. A nice closer look at the Batman's origins by a couple of his best storytellers. Oh, and uncredited backgrounds by the great Terry Austin.

3. Warlock 11- "How Strange My Destiny, Pt. 2" by Jim Starlin and Steve Leialoha. Starlin's epic tale continues the exploration of Adam Warlock. Great cast, great art, great story, great comic.

4. Tomb of Dracula 41- "Re-Birth" by Marv Wolfman, Gene Colan and Tom Palmer. Dracula returns, in another fine issue of this fine series. Wolfman, Colan and Palmer just keep it rolling.

5. All-Star Comics 58- "All-Star Super Squad" by Gerry Conway, Ric Estrada and Wally Wood. Power Girl debuts in this engaging revival of the classic DC title.


6.  Howard the Duck 1- "Howard the Barbarian" by Steve Gerber, Frank Brunner and Steve Leialoha. A very imaginative,enjoyable first issue, Brunner and Leialoha rock visually. A fun guest appearance by Spidey, and a tower of credit cards. 

7.  Amazing Adventures 34, "A Death in the Family" by Don McGregor and P. Craig Russell. A dramatic high point in this excellent series. Phenomenal art, as usual. 

8.  Avengers 142- "Go West, Young Gods" by Steve Englehart, George Perez and Vince Colletta.The Avengers in the old West. Absolutely wonderful. Another Kang war, Immortus, the Brand Corp., Thor and Moondragon on a train, and Hawkeye having way too much fun. How did they pack so much into one issue?

9. Giant-Size X-Men 1- "Second Genesis" by Len Wein and Dave Cockrum.There are better stories of the 'new team', but this classic giant introduces us to the group that became a pillar of the Marvel Universe. Wein and Cockrum get things started with a bang.

10. Giant-Size Man-Thing 4- "The Kid's Night  Out" by Steve Gerber, Ed Hannigan and Frank Springer; "Frog Death" by Steve Gerber and Frank Brunner. A  personal favorite, with a rather emotion-laden lead story. A bit preachy perhaps,but quite impactful to a shy fourteen year old comic fan. And it's offset by the return of Howard the Duck in a Brunner-illustrated short. Loads of fun, the scene in the cigar store is a blast.

Incidentally, if Will Eisner's Spirit stories in the Warren magazine had been 'new', they would certainly have made the list. Those "Spirit"s were high on my buying list all that year. And this year, it seems, was a very solid one for Marvel (and for one Steve Gerber). But, that's just my take. What think you?

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Panel Discussion: Great Penciller / Inker Teams of the Bronze Age!

Redartz: The annals of the Bronze age are filled with comic tales illustrated by immensely talented creators. Many of those creators worked at times as solo artists, laying down pencils and then inking over their own work. Names like John Buscema, Barry Smith, Joe Kubert, John Byrne- all did notable work in this manner. But more often, a penciller was paired up with another artist, an inker; who would enhance  the pencilled art with inked lines in a blending of two individual artistic styles. Some pairings, predictably, were more successful than others. 

Today we will consider  the more effective examples. Which pencillers worked the best with which inkers?  Some teams have become iconic over the course of comics history; but that can be a subjective question. Here are four of my top teams, just to get things started.

Neal Adams / Dick Giordano

Talk about a history-making combination. Adams and Giordano were the hands behind many of DC's best stories and characters, producing truly classic tales of Batman, Deadman, Green Lantern and others. Here's a dramatic opening page from one of the Green Lantern solo back-ups in Flash comics, circa 1974...

Flash 226

John Byrne / Terry Austin

This could be, possibly, the single greatest artistic team in comic art history. In my opinion, it very well may be. Byrne and Austin made magic out of whatever they worked on together. Their art styles were flawlessly matched. Many of my top favorite comic stories came from their drawing boards, including this incredible panel with Kitty Pryde and Wolverine.  
Uncanny X-Men 131

Sal Buscema / Klaus Janson

Sorry about the black/white reproduction, the "Essential Defenders" doesn't feature color. But it does feature some fabulous stories, several of which are by Sal and Klaus. Janson's heavy shadows and detailed linework add solidity to Sal's pencils, and the results are spectacular.

Marvel Treasury Edition 12

Gene Colan / Tom  Palmer

These two have been paired many times, on many books; due doubtlessly to their absolutely perfect melding of styles. Palmer's polish beautifully enhances Gene's cinematic pencils, anytime, anywhere. And this page highlights two characters intimately associated with them...
Dr. Strange 14

Next, here's two examples of rather unusual pairings that  I found appealing...

 Carmine Infantino and Klaus Janson

Infantino seems to channel a bit of his old Silver age Flash skill here, showing off DD's aerial technique. And speaking of technique, you can't beat Janson's moody inks here. A different look, but very solid. 

Daredevil 152

Barry Smith and Frank Brunner

Two excellent artists, known for highly detailed work. One might think they wouldn't quite blend visually, but this page is excellent. You get Smith's design sense and Brunner's finesse. That last  panel close-up is incredible.

Marvel Premiere 4

Each of the above-mentioned artists also did phenomenal work with other artists, and there are dozens of others to add to the list. That's where you come in. What other great combos can you name? How would you rank them? Which pencillers do you feel looked better with their own inks?  Which inkers most effectively meshed with a variety of pencillers? What unorthodox pairings of pencil and ink found approval in your eyes? Sharpen your pencils, open that ink bottle and let's talk art!

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Follow the Leader: Episode 91: Mighty Morphin’ Pencil Opinions! Praise and Pans!

Martinex1:  George S. Patton once said, "Lead me, follow me, or get out of my way."  He would have enjoyed our Tuesdays here at Back in the Bronze Age!  Who will lead today?

Monday, September 17, 2018

Panel Discussion: What's in the News Today? (Comic Book Style)

Martinex1: Newspapers have been a mainstay in the comic book world throughout its history.  From the Daily Planet in Superman to the Daily Bugle in Spider-Man, the idea of the newspaper industry, reporters, investigative journalism, and photographers has been glamorized and positioned as a central motif in our favorite medium. 

Clark Kent, Lois Lane, Jimmy Olson, J. Jonah Jameson, Perry White, Peter Parker, Ben Urich, and many others have become memorable characters.  Along with detectives and the police, the reporter career path for comic characters seems to be a common aspiration.

And physically our comic books (particularly those from the Bronze Age and prior) were published using newsprint paper, with all its limitations and beauty.  And let's not forget that many of our favorite characters also appeared in the newspaper funny pages as well.

In modern times, newspapers are dying.  With the internet and easy access to 24 hour news cycles, the daily and Sunday papers are disappearing.  I am certain that future generations will look at newspapers in the same way we view gaslights and horse-and-buggies.  What does this mean for the characters and roles in comic books? 

One trope that I always enjoyed in comic art is the use of a newspaper or headline to bring the reader up to speed in a rather dramatic way.  The gritty news article or expose was flashed on the splash page to get our interest piqued.  Take a look at these images and ponder if this will soon be art from a bygone era.  The world is changing; how will comic books keep up?


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