Tuesday, November 2, 2021

"And That's the Way it Was..."


Redartz:  Time is a strange phenomenon. Five years can be a very short time; it may also be a rather long time. In five years you can start  college and graduate. You can, possibly, witness three different US Presidential administrations. You can buy and read 60 issues of a monthly comic book, assuming you don't miss one here or there. You can also have a lot of fun, make a lot of friends, and generate a lot of blog posts. This last item is what brings us to where we stand today. 

Five years ago, Martinex 1 and I left the fondly-remembered Bronze Age Babies and opened a new path here at Back in the Bronze Age.  We didn't really know where this road would take us, or how far. Most importantly., this road has been a very enjoyable one, traveled in the company of the finest, friendliest group of companions the internet could offer. Together we've examined countless subjects,  debated many questions,  laughed a million laughs, shared several lifetimes worth of memories. All things considered , that's a pretty rewarding expenditure of any span of time, even more so five years' worth.

Funny thing about time,  it's kind of a relative thing. I stated above that 5 years can be short , and long. It's hard to believe how quickly so much time has passed,  and yet it also seems that after such a stretch it's time to turn the page; to finish the story. There are other roads to take , other responsibilities to fulfill,  other adventures to experience. Every one of us needs a break now and then, when we know the time is right.  And so, with this post,  "Back in the Bronze Age" is concluding. 

Concluding, yes, but with this important caveat: our Twitter feed continues,  wherein Martnex1 remains at the reins, bringing you topics, trivia and much more. Additionally, although there will no longer be new posts appearing here, the site will remain up, giving you access to all the archived posts from our five years together. Comments can still be left , should you be so inclined.

Before riding off into the virtual sunset, there are some people to thank.

First off:  many thanks, and much respect, to Doug and Karen- the creative powers behind "Bronze Age Babies". It was there that my blog career began, and without their guidance (and the high bar they set as examples) I'd never even have considered this endeavor. You two are the best. Incidentally, if you haven't, check out Karen at "Planet 8 Podcast". You'll be glad you did. 

Next, a huge "Thanks, buddy" to my partner and friend Martinex 1. Marti carried the heavy load of designing this site, handling the Twitter posts, and most of the practical elements of the blog. Not to mention the multitude of entertaining posts he created, many emailed consultations, and most importantly, his friendship. Here's to you, Marti; there wouldn't be a BitBA without you. 

Additionally, a big "Thank You" to all of you fellow bloggers: Dr. O, Mike W, Steve DC, Groove, and all of you who fill our screens and heads with pop cultural wonderment. You have all been supportive, helpful, and inspirational; I salute you all. 

Finally, here's the deepest, most heartfelt thanks to all of you who have visited, perused, commented (or not commented) and truly formed the community that is BitBA. You've always made the efforts seem worthwhile, you have never failed to entertain and educate with all your observations. Your attitudes have been impeccable; your  manners flawless, you are a credit to the Net. And more, you have all been friends; a wonderful group with which to have traveled this nostalgic road. 

Therein lies the most bittersweet part of this ; I will greatly miss our ongoing conversations. It has truly been a pleasure. But this isn't 'goodbye'; I'll be seeing many of you over at "Steve Does Comics", and at some of the other various fine blogs that we've always listed on the side.  Plus I hope to encounter any of you who may haunt the realms of Facebook and Twitter (and obviously on our Twitter feed). Will this blog ever return? Who can say; let's see where the road takes us from here. And so, until next we speak, take care, and bless you all. 

And here's one final Bronze Age byte: the test pattern! We all remember seeing these appear on tv at the end of the broadcast day. Accompanied, generally, by a rather creepy "ooooooooooooooo" tone. Of course I don't wish to creep anyone out, so we'll do with just the image. And so we conclude our Bronze Age day...


Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Panel Discussion: Just Sharing a Few Favorites...


Redartz:  Over the years, from time to time, I've mentioned several comics that hold a high position in my status list. Today we're going to take a brief look at several of those favorites; consider each one a hearty recommendation! Each one is a potential source of  discussion' additionally  for this 'round table' everyone is encouraged to describe/ recommend / flaunt a choice book or books that you think everyone else would enjoy. 

Each mini review will also feature a page from the tale to give you a little sample, just to tantalize. So here we go, in no  particular order:

Batman / Spirit, by Jeph Loeb and Darwyn Cooke

. This teamup of two of my favorite characters would be a natural for my 'best 'list. Even more so when rendered by the wonderful Darwyn Cooke. His retro style perfectly captures the classic feel of the classic villains abounding herein. And abound they do; many of both Batman's and the Spirit's most famous foes are involved. Loeb's story is very entertaining, and winds around a fascinating crossover between Jim Gordon, Commissioner Dolan, P'Gell and Pamela Isley. Not going to spoil it for you, but it's a hoot. And, the interplay between the two main protagonists is likewise hilarious. Any fan of either Bruce Wayne or Denny Colt will love this.

Spirit Jam, by Will Eisner and just about everybody...

Will Eisner's most famous creation gets two appearances today, and he certainly deserves it. This phenomenal tale appears in Kitchen Sink Comix' "Will Eisner's The Spirit" issue 30, from 1981. Most of this series  presented reprints of Eisner's revered work, both of the Spirit and occasionally of other subjects. But this special issue brought together an unbelievable team of creators; too lengthy to go into ; but you can get an idea from the cover. Suffice it to say that the representative page here was done by Frank Miller and Terry Austin. 

As for the story, it involves an untold Spirit adventure, wrapped in a framing sequence tying in the very creation of the story itself! As in Batman/Spirit, many of the Spririt's rogues gallery are included. The story abounds in adventure, humor, and a bit of  the risque as well. It's great fun, and a big kick trying to identify the various artists' work from page to page (if you need to cheat, there's a breakdown on the letters page). 

This book can be had for a comparative pittance, but it's worth it's weight in gold (or perhaps golden age books?).




 Jonny Quest #2, by William Messner-Loebs, Wendy Pini and Joe Staton.

 The first two reviews were pretty light-hearted; this book is one of the most heartrending comics I've ever read. It gives us both the story of how Jonny's mother died, and also how Race Bannon came to join the Quest family. As  you would expect, Race keeps the requisite amount of excitement topped off, but the real focus here is the drama. Bill Messner-Loebs truly masters this ; with the most sensitive portrayal of Benton Quest you'll ever see anywhere. The level of characterization in this issue is off the charts, and it's impossible to read without a tear or two. But fear not, Loebs finishes the tale off with an optimistic air, and it's a most satisfying read. 

Artwise, it's nice to see Wendy Pini's take on the Quest group, and Joe Staton's inks are perfect for her pencils. 

Comico's "Jonny Quest" series was quite good in it's entirety, but this issue is the capper. A masterpiece of comics at their most human.





 Sensational Spider-Man Annual 1, by Matt Fraction and Salvador Larroca.

This book came out in  2007 as part of the ongoing "Back in Black" storyline in Spider-man, following immediately on the heels of the events of  "Civil War". I did enjoy "Civil War", not so much the soon-to-follow "One More Day" story. But regardless, this book, while being a part of that controversial arc, is actually a loving tribute to the classic Spider-Man (and Peter Parker) of the Silver and Bronze age. In "To Have and to Hold", Matt Fraction tells the story of an investigator trying to get hold of Peter through his then-wife Mary Jane. But MJ isn't about to betray her Pete, and proceeds to relate story after story of their past relationship. We are treated to some very nice moments with characters we've known and loved for years, and it's a gem. 

Artist Salvador Larroca does a phenomenal job with the visuals, giving each flashback sequence  a sense of the original artists. The page I've shown here channels John Romita Sr.,; he also does a very nice Ross Andru. 

This is one of those Annuals that can stand alone on it's own merits, as a testament to the classic Spider-Man of the past. And it's portrayal of Mary Jane shows why she's still my favorite match for Peter.



Sugar and Spike 25, by Sheldon Mayer.

I could have picked almost any issue of this series, but chose this one with it's charming Halloween cover as appropriate to the upcoming holiday. Anyone who has followed this blog probably knows of my fondness for Sheldon Mayer's two tempestuous tots. These stories are warmhearted, fun, amusing, cute, and an absolute pleasure to read. There were generally a couple multi-page stories in each issue, with a short or two included as well. Then there were the '"Pint-Size Pin-Ups" pages, with reader-submitted outfits for the kids. These pages were often cut out, which means of course that finding intact copies of an issue of "Sugar and Spike" can be challenging. But it's worth the effort. These are comics that children can read, but that adults can enjoy equally (if not more). It may be some testament to the book that while I've been parting with many comics in recent years, reducing the size of my collection, I still search out issues of "S & S" in hopes of someday completing the run. Partly because the only reprinted collection available had the first 10 issues, the next 90 are available only as originals. And the search continues, to which I can only add "Glx Sptzl Glaah"...

Okay, there you have five books that keep me a comics reader. Feel free to share your thoughts on them, and to spill the beans about any particular comics that will always have a special spot in your heart!

Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Follow the Leader: Halloween, Guy Fawkes and Other Fall Follies...


Redartz: Greetings! Yes, time again to turn to BitBA Assembled to provide us all with a suitably inspiring topic for discussion. More specifically, the first noble commenter to step out and offer a suggestion sets the agenda! The field is open, the time is nigh, the podium is yours...

Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Sound and the Fury: Music with a Message...

Redartz:  Nobody enjoys a fun, swinging song more than I. Be it Rock, Pop, Dance, or whatever, a bit of fluff music is always a welcome thing. Nevertheless, there are times when one might want more from a song than a good beat. Popular music history is filled with singers, songwriters and bands who have used the stage as a soapbox. From the folk of Woodie Guthrie to the punk of the Clash, many great tunes have filled the airwaves with thought-provoking, cautionary, introspective, or even sometimes angry lyrics. 

In High School, I listened to protest songs from the 60's alongside then-current acts like ABBA and Wings. In college I sat around late nights with other art students (man, those Bohemian days of yore) listening to, and discussing, the musical proclamations from the Police , Heaven 17 and U2. In more recent years I've discovered so much more meaningful musings from the worlds of blues, jazz, and soul. It continues to be a most rewarding exploration.

You're probably waiting with great anticipation for a few examples. Well, wait no more; here are three songs which have moved, inspired, and engaged me: one from before our Bronze age, one from the Bronze, and one from after the Bronze (just to cover all the bases, you know). 

Sam Cooke; "A Change is Gonna Come"

I'd known Sam Cooke only from his pop songs (which were great). Upon hearing this for the first time, I was mentally staggered. Which is more powerful, the lyrics or Cooke's heart wrenching performance? Impossible to tell, but this song still chills me to the very soul. 



Three Dog Night:  "Out in the Country"

This song got to me (and still does) on a very personal level. TDN seemed to be singing for me: "...Out where the rivers like to run, I stand alone and take back somethin' worth rememberin'." In my youth, when I was hurting or upset, I sought the refuge of the woods, away from people. Nature remains a source of healing, and this song evokes that well.



Michael Jackson:  "Earth Song"

MJ's greatest song, in my opinion. Rarely has this world's painful afflictions been so effectively skewered.  As the video shows, the suffering is borne by, and the hope rests upon, the ordinary people all over. I can never hear this, or watch this video, without being brought to tears. Agonizingly amazing.



All these songs, and these performances, hit me deeply. But it's a good hit, and it's an impact that is good for the soul. They make me think, make me feel, make me want to try to make the world a little better. It may be naive or corny, but our world sure needs a little prompting to it's better nature. 

And now,  it's time for your input. What songs, what performers, have truly moved you; pushed you, made you sit and think in the dark?  Let's hear about the music that hits close to home for  you...

Tuesday, October 5, 2021

Two Questions: When We Want to Treat Ourselves a Bit...


Redartz:  Greetings; this week we are engaging again in a bit of `get to know each other' . Our two questions are somewhat related,  and over the years we have possibly touched upon this area. Nevertheless,  this week we take a good look at how we spend our time and money when we can spoil ourselves a little.  Everyone needs a little 'me time', and it doesn't hurt to give yourself a treat now and then. In that spirit,  here's our questions:

1. When you have the opportunity to splurge a little on yourself these days,  what do you do / buy ?

2.  Looking back over your life, other than comic books, what hobbies/ pastimes did you/ do you indulge in?  

As always,  I wouldn't ask you to answer anything that I wouldn't,  thus here are my responses:

1. Lately I've been busy on Ebay. Splurging generally involves the purchase of a vintage comic,  especially a "Sugar and Spike", or a Silver Age horror anthology. . While my collection overall  has been shrinking,  I still pick up a book here and there. Of course I'm also splurging on music, adding cds to my collection at an unprecedented pace. At this point in time cds seem to be priced dirt cheap, and it's a great opportunity. Just picked up a 5 disc boxed set of "Ken Burns Jazz" for 4 dollars and change. Figure it's just a matter of time before cds become the next hot retro item...

A few recent splurges...

2.  My father had many interests,  and he passed that trait on to his progeny. At one time or another I've collected coins, stamps, baseball cards,  leaves, rocks, fossils,  records and Hot Wheels. Most of those phases came and went. But I still enjoy studying fossils,  and have a big slab of Ordovician seabed (with crinoids, brachiopods, bryozoans and trilobites) on my desk at work.  And then listening to that music mentioned above is another treasured pastime. Add in the watercolor painting,  and reading- there's not really time for work, but I fit it in!

Now then, let's hear about all your interests and indulgences! 

Oh, for the benefit of anyone interested in fossils,  here is the fossiliferous slab from my work desk. Found in an outcrop near Cincinnati,  Ohio on a trip with a group of local rockhounds. A remarkable feeling, pulling such a piece from it's resting place and knowing you're the first creature to lay eyes upon it for some 200 million years plus...

Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Chew the Fat: Giant-Size Marvels!



Redartz:  Back in the Bronze age, specifically two memorable years in the mid 1970's, Marvel Comics engaged in a noble experiment in four color entertainment. 1974 and 1975 saw the publication of the Giant-Size Marvels! Extra-sized editions of many of Marvel's most popular titles, each appearing on a quarterly basis. Granted, Marvel had published bonus-sized Annuals in the past, and DC had been doing giants for some time; but this was still a leap of faith for Marvel. 

Although that 'leap of faith' lasted only about two years, it produced quite a few great stories, and one truly monumental one. Marvel's 'Giant Size' era began with "Giant Size Super Stars", a 35 cent gem featuring the Fantastic Four. This was immediately followed by "Giant Size Super Heroes" with Spider-man; both of these books hold fond memories for me. I'd just started collecting, and these two seemed like a reward for taking that 'leap' of my own! 

Marvel had originally planned to release books at the 35 cent level as well as a series of "Super Giant" titles, but apparently that all got too confusing; starting the next month the Giant Size titles all cost 50 cents for 68 pages. The format was a new 'novel length' lead story, followed by a reprint of a classic Marvel tale appropriate to the particular title. All the 'big guns' had Giant-Size editions: Spider-Man, Fantastic Four, Avengers, Defenders. Additionally, numerous other Marvel books got the Giant treatment: Master of Kung Fu, Dracula, Man-Thing. Even an attempt was made at another horror anthology with new stories: Giant-Size Chillers! 

As the  months went on, Marvel made the Giant format a means to debut new features: Super-Villian Team Up, with Dr. Doom and the Sub-Mariner; and Invaders- telling WWII stories of Marvel's Golden Age Captain America, Sub-Mariner and Human Torch. Then of course, the most monumental of all was the return and reboot of the X-Men by Len Wein and Dave Cockrum; a book that launched one of the most successful franchises in comic book history. 

But as 1975 wore on, it looked like the days of the Giants were numbered. The last round of Giants were all reprints, adding such titles as "Giant Size Thor" and "Giant Size Dr. Strange" in a sort of revival of the old Annuals. Those Annuals, incidentally, would return the next year in 1976, which helped offset the sting of losing those monthly Giants. 

My personal favorites? I mentioned the Spidey and FF issues above, another huge favorite was Giant Size Avengers 2: with the "Celestial Madonna" and Kang, it was one of the best Bronze age Avengers tales ever. Then there was Giant Size Defenders 3, with Daredevil guest starring; a cool story with the Grand Master. Yet another that I loved was Giant Size Man-Thing (you knew I'd fit that in somewhere, didn't you?) 4: a particularly intense Manny story by Steve Gerber, and the first solo story for Howard the Duck. I could go on and on, but you get the idea. It was a huge treat to see these big editions supplementing the regular four color fun we got in the 32 pagers. 

In conclusion, here's a selection of covers to prompt your memory and excite your eyeballs. What Giants were your favorites? How did they compare to DC's giants? What other characters should have had Gant sized books? For our UK contingent, did those stories ever see print across the pond? Were you ever fortunate enough to encounter any of the US Giants? This week, we're all Giants...








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