Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Follow the Leader: Episode 101: Not from the Big Two...

Redartz:  Greetings, all; and welcome to another weekly dose of bountiful Bronze age badinage! You all know the routine; the first commenter names the topic of the day. But before we get to the action, here's a little personal tidbit. Recently my wife and I have been nosing around flea markets and  antique malls , all part of holiday shopping (that's my story and I'm sticking to it). One one such visit recently, in a small town antique shop, I happened to come across a small wicker basket. In said basket lay a stack of bronze age comics! Notable in that they were in pretty nice condition, I leafed through them; most were nothing of interest. But I did pick out two comics from the long-defunct Atlas/Seaboard line, an issue of Iron Jaw and the first issue of Howard Chaykin's Scorpion. I've never read any of those Atlas books, so a dollar each seemed a safe price for the experiment. I'll let you know how it comes out...

And now, the mike is yours! What shall we discuss today...

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Follow the Leader: Episode 100: Thankful for Thanksgiving!

Martinex1: We have made it to our 100th Episode of Follow the Leader!  Who is the lucky commentator to get us started today?  And what will the fun-filled, action-packed topic be today?

Let's find out! Cheers all!

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Follow the Leader" Episode 99: Following Stan...

Following the Leader...

Redartz:  Hello, friends. Today we interrupt the usual "Follow the Leader" post to pay tribute to a Leader dear to us all. Yesterday the news went out that Stan Lee had passed. Yes, Stan Lee; writer, editor, publisher, promoter, personality. Stan Lee, who co-created most of the Marvelous characters the whole world has come to know and love. Stan Lee, who pretty much originated the "Marvel Style", and laid the foundations for the House of Ideas. Stan Lee, who's hype and enthusiasm fired the excitement and devotion of Marvel Comics fans for decades. Yes, Stan Lee has Moved On, but his legacy will be known forever.

I first came to know the name of Stan Lee as a boy, reading all those great Silver Age Spider-man and Fantastic Four issues. Unlike DC, Marvel comics had credits for the writers and artists, and so the prominent name of Stan Lee quickly became recognizable. And as most of the comics I read had his byline, he became synonymous to me with Marvel. 

Years later I followed his monthly posts in "Stan's Soapbox" (as a little kid, I never read the Bullpen or letters pages). Through those regular doses of Marvel Mania, countless Marvel devotees became familiar with Stan and his florid, manic yet intimate style. Stan made us all feel like part of the gang, like we were 'in on the plot'. And it worked; from the Merry Marvel Marching Society to FOOM to the legions of Marvel fans anonymously reading his tales and watching the films, Stan led them all. Stan was the human face of Marvel, recognizable to the public at large (certainly not to minimize the importance of Kirby, Ditko, and all the others, who were as vital to Marvel's success but not as accessible publicly).  Indeed, Stan became the face of comic books in general in a way that Eisner, Infantino, Kirby or any of the other giants of the medium never really could. Stan was Marvel, and Marvel was Comics; so Stan was Comics.  

Stan, you led me through childhood and into adulthood like a Pied Piper of print. For all your stories, your hyperbole, your craziness, I thank you. If for nothing else than Spider-Man, I thank you (remarkable and poignant that both of Spidey's creators left us this year, Lee and Ditko). Rest well, Stan, I'll still be following you. 

The rest of today's post is in your hands. Share your thoughts, memories and reflections about Stan the Man. 'Nuff Said.


Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Follow the Leader: Episode 98: Presidents in Comics!

Martinex1: Well, here we go off on a brand new adventure! Starting today, we continue our once per week Follow the Leader on our now once per week blog!   Please get us started with something Bronze and something fun!  Movies, television, comic books, creators, art, music, trends, and Bronze Age culture are all fair game.

Redartz and I appreciate you coming back for a regular dose of friendship, conversation, and witty banter!  Cheers!

Redartz:  What he said! Welcome to the new era in the ol' BitBA. A weekly dose of Bronze Age nostalgia, trivia, fun, goofiness. discussion, debate, or what-have-you. Glad to have you with us again. Best wishes to all; now let the topic be named!

Saturday, November 3, 2018

This & That: To All of You, From Both of Us...

Redartz:  Hi gang; gather 'round and have a seat. It's time to do a bit of sharing. Sharing some news, that is. After two years (man, has it been that long already?), we're a little bit tired. Okay, a LOT tired. I know my friend and partner Marti has stretched his time pretty thin, and I most certainly have too. I've had a few health issues to deal with, and some other areas of life are starting to beckon pretty emphatically. There are books to read, paintings to complete, trips to take, experiences to have. And so, with a bittersweet smile, the time has come to 'lay down the mantle'. 

I spoke above of sharing. Right now, that sharing means telling you how much I've enjoyed sharing this space with each one of you. Hearing your thoughts and memories each day has been great reward indeed for the efforts taken to put a few words down. Some posts have been easy to produce, others have been more, er, challenging. But you all have never failed to jump in and expound upon whatever we have here to offer. You have unceasingly made the efforts worthwhile. You have enlightened me (and many others, no doubt) to comics, films, and music that I'd never experienced. And you have always maintained a phenomenal level of politeness, of camaraderie, of fun. You have all made BitBA the pleasant place of discussion that it has always seemed to be. And so: Charlie, Edo, HB, Colin J., Colin B., Mike W., William, David b, Dr. O, Groove, Prowl, Graham, TC, Disneymarvel, Yoyo, Killraven, J.A., Selenarch, and all the others who my faulty memory missed, THANK YOU. To all those 'anonymous' folks who have followed along but not commented, THANK YOU. To all of you who have submitted ideas for posts, and to those stalwart souls who have actually given us guest posts: THANK YOU! It's very much a truth that we never would have made it without you all. 

Next, I'd like to share another "Thank You" to Doug and Karen, our mentors from the ever-hallowed Bronze Age Babies. Writing articles online, and especially co-hosting a blog, would NEVER have occurred to me without their inspiration, guidance and education. The BAB was infectious in it's fascination, and the opportunity they gave to participate was irresistible. They made it look so easy, despite the obvious sweat they poured into their posts. And Doug, your help and support along the way with BitBA has been HUGE, and greatly appreciated.

Finally, a huge "Thank You" to my partner Marti. From day one of this blog, you've done amazing things with headers, titles, and editing. You have always come through with a post when the deadline loomed. You have been easy to work with, easy to communicate with, and a matchless teammate. And you have basically carried the "Twitter" end of the blog on your own capable shoulders (my Twitter skills are pretty limited). My hat's off to you, pal. One of the great highlights of our tenure on this blog was the chance to actually meet you, along with Doug and Charlie. That trip to C2E2 will live forever among my best comics experiences. Yes, that was another side benefit to the time spent here with BitBA! Indeed, it's been an honor and a pleasure. 

And while this may be a closing, it isn't a goodbye. This community is a wonderful, rewarding thing, and in that spirit we'd like to continue the Tuesday "Leader" posts for awhile to see how things go. Kind of like having a weekly club meeting, and everyone's invited. 

Additionally, I greatly encourage you all to check out the many fine blogs listed alongside our columns, several of them produced by members of our own community here. I will be checking in on many of them, and commenting, and visiting; I hope to see many of you there along the way.  

Again, many many thanks for sharing this time and space. And if you spot a fuzzy gray haired fellow poring over the dollar boxes at your local flea market, come over and join me in the eternal search for more Bronze age goodness!

Martinex1:  For once I am largely at a loss for words.   I can only echo the message that Redartz has so eloquently outlined above.   It is definitely a busy time in our lives and it is difficult to keep up at the level we have been playing.  I too want to thank all of our regular commentators who have challenged and inspired us along the way.  It means much to us. Considering that most of us have not met, it is wonderful that friendships can evolve through the written word.   Pen pals, if you will, are no less friends because of distance.  In this day and age, the civility and camaraderie are greatly appreciated.  Thank you Red for your patience and for your willingness to jump in.  Thank you Karen and Doug for getting us started.  Thanks to all for the kind words and participation.

As Red indicated, Tuesday's Follow the Leader will continue and perhaps at some point some itch will strike where we will post again - but for now see you on Tuesday!  So get ready!  Oh, and you can call me "Mike!"   Cheers all!

Thursday, November 1, 2018

This & That: Micronauts 7; Micronauts and Man-Things...

Micronauts 7;  July 1979
Cover by Michael Golden and Neal Adams
Writer: Bill Mantlo, Pencils Michael Golden, Inks Josef Rubinstein

Redartz:  Hey folks! For many months we have planned to do a review of a Micronauts issue, and in this Halloween season, what better issue to feature than one guest starring the macabre Man-Thing? So what are we waiting for, let's get started!

To begin with, here's the capsule summary of the action (there's so much going on in here, I don't think a 100-word review will suffice). 


The main storyline opens with the Micronauts (Commander Arcturus Rann, Marionette, Prince Acroyear, Biotron, Microtron and Bug) in the company of young Steve Coffin, the son of former astronaut Ray Coffin. Long story short, they are fishing at the Coffin's Everglades retreat while hiding out after escaping from H.E.L.L.(the Human Engineering Life Laboratory) at Cape Canaveral. Steve's father worked there and fell into the Promethius Pit (a dimensional interface) and disappeared. Take my word for it.

Anyway, Steve is grieving for his missing, and feared dead, father. But recall, this is the Everglades, and therein lurks a denizen particularly sensitive to such strong emotions: the Man-Thing. Manny is attracted by Steve's grieving, and makes his way to the fishing shack. Steve, emotionally distraught, runs from the shack right into the presence of the Man-Thing. 

Of course his first reaction is terror, and as we all know, "whatever knows fear burns at the touch of the Man-Thing". The Micronauts rush to Steve's defense, but prove pretty ineffectual against the walking slime bog. 


Steve finally pulls himself together and is determined to make a stand; he fires up the swamp buggy and essentially puts the Man-Thing through a blender. Of course this doesn't harm the creature, but he feels Steve's courage and wanders off into the swamp.

Oh, and there is also a brief retelling of the Micronauts' origin...


We also follow up on Ray Coffin, who fell into the Microverse with Dr. Promethius. Promethius has gone nuts and is discovered by the villainous Baron Karza who plans to possess Promethius' body in order to invade Earth in search of the Micronauts. Also, Ray himself has been transported to the presence of the mysterious Enigma Force. Then we catch up with the rebels on Commander Rann's home world, Homeworld.  And finally, it appears Baron Karza has succeeded in reaching Earth!

Yes, all this in a  32-page comic. This would require a six issue arc, these days...
Martinex1: I could not agree more Red.  One of the things that made The Micronauts one of my favorite books was the complexity of the storytelling.  It may not be Shakespeare, but Bill Mantlo and the artistic teams sure piled a lot into every issue.  I really wish comics were still like this.  At the very least it gave me a good long read; at best it drew me into the detailed plots and intricate characterizations.   I know that the book does not carry the cache of The Avengers or The X-Men, but back in the Bronze Age this book was on par with the greats.

The Cover:

Redartz: One of the biggest attractions to this comic. This is a truly incredible cover, rich with detail and swampy moodiness. Golden's art is wonderful to begin with, and having Neal Adams inks just puts 'extra sprinkles on the frosting'. Man-Thing looks great, and that snake in the foreground could slither right off the cover.
Martinex1: I agree.  How could this not be a "must buy book?"  Golden's style has changed a bit over the years, but I really liked this era in his career.   His characters had a style that was distinct and there were always levels to the detail. Both here and on ROM Spaceknight covers, his work stood out for me.

The Story:

Redartz: First off, I love the title "Adventure into Fear." An homage to Man-Thing's first 32-page comic series. A nice touch.

As noted above, there's a lot of material in this story. Mantlo does a fine job interweaving the myriad storylines together, and there are several. Karza's pursuit of the Micronauts, Ray Coffin's disappearance, the revolt on Homeworld, and the teaming of Steve with the Micronauts themselves. 

Speaking of which, Mantlo also succeeds nicely at giving voice to each unique character. Acroyear's dignity, Bug's wit, Microtron's subtle humor. What's more, Mantlo portrays the character of teenage Steve with sensitivity and perception. 

Another feature of Mantlo's writing here is the gradual exposition of the Micronaut's back story. The origin is revealed over the course of several issues, here Princess Mari (Marionette) learns some of that background from Rann's android friend Biotron (with whom Rann shares a mental link). One interesting feature of the Micro's tale is the depiction of Homeworld as a chain molecule. 
Martinex1: I love that molecular detail.  In later chapters we find that each world has a different climate, nature, or theme.  It was a very creative touch.
Redartz::This tale has just about everything: some humorous bits. The climactic scene of Steve putting Man-Thing through the swamp buggy could have come from an old issue of "Mad", when it still had that EC edginess. Of course there's plenty of drama and character development, and a generous helping of horror. That scene (shown above) of Bug trapped beneath Man-Thing's hand, burning alive with fear, is grimly chilling. Then there's that perfectly ominous final panel of Baron Karza emerging to Earth from the Promethius Pit; much stated in that single frame.

Martinex1: For those that don't know the Micronauts' lore, part of the story took place on their molecular homewold(s) and other sections occurred on Earth as the heroes traversed through a breach in the spacewall.  On Earth, the Micronauts were always about 6 inches tall.  In an early issue when they first arrived on our planet, the team marveled at a playground swing set.   They were trying to figure out what the structure was and they supposed it was perhaps a religious monument.  It was touches like that - their bewilderment of Earth - that expanded the entertainment for me.

The Artwork: 

Redartz: What is there to say? Michael Golden is phenomenal, and Joe Rubinstein's a premier inker. They make a very attractive, effective team here. 
Golden really shines at facial expressions, as seen in the panels above with Ray and Steve Coffin. With so much going on in this issue, it would be easy for things to get muddled; but Golden keeps the story moving with clear design and intricate (but not too-detailed) rendering. And speaking of rendering, Golden's depiction of the Man-Thing strikes me as very reminiscent of Mike Ploog's. And that is definitely a good thing. 

One minor negative, artwise: the art does suffer a bit from muddy printing. It may just be my copy, but some of the linework tends to get a bit lost. I'd love to see the original artwork from this book...
Martinex1: As would I.  When Michael Golden's work appeared in the first two issues of Marvel Fanfare, it was so apparent how a better printing process benefitted his details and lines. 

The Good:
Redartz: The artwork From the Microverse to the Everglades, each scene is unique and finely rendered. 
Martinex1: Also I think Mantlo must have enjoyed working on this title, because I feel that his characterizations and plots here were among his best.

The Bad: 
Redartz: Nothing really bad, but one little note: In the scene, shown above, where Marionette emotes concern over Bug's fiery fate, Commander Rann gets pretty wordy about his parent's background. It would seem more appropriate for a simple 'Holy Mackeral' as they rush to Bug's rather urgent need.
Martinex1:  Hah!  I agree, but that is also conversely what I so loved about the Bronze Age!

The Ugly:
Redartz: Once again, that panel of a burning Bug. It got to me the first time I read this, and it still creeps me out.
Martinex1: I have nothing here. 

Redartz: To sum up, a very good, solid Bronze age tale, well told and well illustrated. I would note that it might have been somewhat tough for someone starting the book with this issue, as so much is taking place and there's not much time for rehashing. But I'd recommend this comic, and indeed this title, to anyone. One of the Bronze Age's finest 'B' series. 
Martinex1: I think you already know where I stand, but to your point I would recommend that if you read this title that you start with issue #1 and definitely take in the first twelve issues.  That first year is really spectacular and tells an epic story.  It is too bad that this series does not get collected.  Later issues are great too as Pat Broderick takes on the art chores.  All in all, it was a great read with fantastic art.  I am anxious to hear what our frequent commentators have to say.  Cheers all!

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