Pinhead vs. Marshell Law
It’s ben a Hellraiser kind of year and I couldn’t resist sneaking one more reference in. I may be streatching the definition of “Best comics you never read” though….
It’s more weird. The Hellraiser comics were popular enough, with stunning cover art. A lot of people flocked to the awful Pinhead limited series, but this one kind of slipped under the radar.
Hellraiser is a niche audience. So is Marshall Law. Putting them both together gets you an even more rarified audience, no a wider one, so it’s no wonder this kind of came and went without notice.
I get the impression that there is far more Marshall Law influence here than Hellraiser, though it has some interesting ideas, it’s mnostly hack and slash drenched in satire and heavy handed social commentary.
It’s worth picking up out of a dollar bin for the sight gags and simply as a curiosity, but I wouldn’t go out of my way to seek it out.
I’ve made no secret that I wholly lifted the concept for my novel CONundrum from this, though past the premise the stories aren’t even close. The idea of a rom com at an annual convention though is just brilliant. It appeals to me at a very basic level because I’ve been going to conventions since I was 12. I started with Star Trek cons and moved on to horror. These days it’s evenly balanced between horror and comicons, with the occasional anime cone thrown in, but really, no matter what the subject matter is, the conventions experience is universal. I knew exactly what they are talking about in this series and honestly, this happens. You go to the same con every year, you keep running into the same people. You occasionally hobnob with the guests at the bar or in the restaurant. You might even fall in love (I’ve been to two weddings at Cinema Wasteland alone).
The story isn’t just a romance though, I’m not that big a girl. It’s honestly funny. You can tell the author has logged a whole bunch of hours behind a con table. The humor is respectful. She doesn’t make fun of the con experience, we’re in on the joke.
I initially found this in three single digest volumes at the Library, and then immediately ran over to Borders and bought them. Since then it’s been collected into one volume with a little bit of extra content. Go for that one, and if it’s no longer on the shelves, hit up Amazon. If you’ve ever spent time at a sci-fi, comic or anime con (especially if you were or are younger), trust me. This story is for you.
Okay, I’ll admit, this isn’t great space opera. It’s fun pulpy sci-fi trash, but I just can’t help but pick these up whenever I see them in the quarter bins.
It has a very 80’s style to it – sometimes almost an RPG look, with it’s dystopian space adventures, but that’s kind of the cool thing about it. Remember, this was being published at a time when sci-fi comics were like Atari Force or Omega Men or Guardians of the Galaxy – all spandex superheros in space. This is more like Mad Max in a starship…at least until we hit around issue 10 and it starts to get more spandexy…….
Still, it’s got some good imagery and tends to be a fun ride. The series ran 17 issues and is worth buying for .50 an issue, maybe even a dollar if you’re feeling generous. They’re getting harder to find though as the 80’s inches farther and farther away from us.
The Human Target
Vertigo was publishing a great Human Target series. Crictally acclaimed and featuring a beloved B lister from the classic backup stories of the silver age comics.
That’s not the series I want to talk about.
This cover was from a one-shot special based on the original TV series that was buried on ABC vs. the Olympics – but we’ll save that for later. Check out this month’s “In Defense of”. This is a much more straightforward story than the convoluted Humand target of Vertigo. You can see that the crew got some photos and maybe an advance script but not a lot of info beyond that. It follows the show’s formula though Chance doesn’t look so much like Rick Springfield as he does the classic Chance. Funny, I’m not sure which one I prefer….This Chance is different from the original in that he’s got a team working out of a jet instead of working out of a little office but the idea is still the same.
Nevertheless, this is a good little story that frequently finds itself in the dollar or less bins and serves as a nice edition to a TV series that was cancelled all to soon.
You’d think that was the end of the story wouldn’t you?
A decade and a half later, the Human Target came back to TV. This time even further removed from it’s source material. Ironic considering the entire reason the network picked it up was because they liked the Vertigo comic.
Like the previous series, this one spawned a comic book as well. Because there was more of an arch in the series though, the comic feels a little more out of place than the 90’s one did. It ran a couple of issues and was mostly forgettable. Grab the 90’s comic if you see it instead of this newer one. You’ll thank me.
Nomad is really kind of a guilty pleasure. He’s quintessentially 90’s with the long hair, the gun and sometimes-trenchcoat. Paste this persona on a pre-existing character with ties to Cap so he has some history and volia! We have a winner!
There isn’t much more to this than what it appears. Biker hero with a gun and stun discs who spends half the run taking care of a baby (nice twist). If you ever watched the syndicated TV show “Renegade” around the same time, you get the picture.
These aren’t bad stories. I pick them up when ever I see them in a dump bin. It’s fun reading from an era I remember fondly, but don’t go into it expecting any depth.
The Sandman Presents : Love Street
The Sandman was really the lynchpin of Vertigo in the early days, though we all knew it had a set expiration date. Neil Gaiman had said as much almost from the beginning. When it ended, Vertigo replaced it with the Dreaming, which had it’s moments but never quite captured the wonderful horror edged fantasy that Gaiman had set just inside the borders of the DCU. It was trying to hard to be the Sandman, whereas the Sandman never tried to be anything. It just was.
They also did a bunch of The Sandman Presents mini-series. most have a similar problem, but Love Street stands apart, likely because of the heavy Hellblazer influence. Many of the Dreaming characters are here, but John Constintine really anchors this piece which starts with him as a lad in the 60’s and then fast forewards into the present.
You can skip most of the Sandman sequals, but definitely check into this one for a fun mystic mystery and perhaps a better look at everyone favorite hellblazer.
The Muppet Show
One of the initial offerings from Boom! Comics, this comic really captured everything about the show that made it great. It didn’t ignore subsequent generations of Muppets (the way the more recent Disney films have) but it focused on the familiar, set it back at the theatre and really pushed to recreate the sense of fun and friends that we had wit the Muppets.
Boom really took advantage of this license, putting out side projects like Muppet King Arthur or Sherlock Homes alongside of the core title. They obviously got the characters and had great love of the source material.
Then Disney bought Marvel.
The Disney Licenses were yanked from Boom! which would have made sense…except neither Disney nor Marvel did anything with them. I would have understood if Disney was to start releasing it’s own muppet comics, but the closes they ever came to that was reprinting THESE stories in tabloid size editions.
If you’re a fan of the Muppets, hunt these down. They collected some into tades and those Disney collections are still around here and there. This is the best the Muppets have looked since the original TV show.
Spider-Man loves Mary Jane
I first discovered this at a Target in a tabloid edition. It was the first mini series (four issues) and cost about $5.00. I grabbed it thinking it was Spidey related and I’d save it for my daughters.
I never expected to get hooked.
See, Mary Jane is a tough sell for me. She’s far too often superficial, vacuous. Kirsten Dunst’s portrayal of her in the Raimi movies is a perfect example. I hate her. I know it’s the Nerd-gets-the-girl cliché, but I just can’t stand her.
This series takes a different approach. It’s the Spidey universe through the eyes of a High School MJ. She still lapses into superficiality sometimes but you can see there’s more there and it’s a really great look at the Spider-Man story from a different angle.
The characters are all there, Flash is still a jerk, Harry is a bit of an amalagam of the comics and the movies (which, to be fair, NEEDED to happen) and Peter Parker is a bit more a nerd than usual. Makes sense from MJ’s POV. Liz is actually a lot spunkier than I recall and Gwen Stacy is portrayed as a bit of a spaz. The differences work though and somehow, Sean McKeever REALLY pulls it all together in this engaging package that I just couldn’t put down, finding myself eagerly awaiting the next month’s issue.
The initial four-issue miniseries, Mary Jane, originally intended as an ongoing series, began publication in June 2004 under the Marvel Age imprint, a line of comic books by Marvel Comics aimed at younger readers. a second four-issue miniseries, Mary Jane: Homecoming, which began publication in March 2005. Unlike the first series, Homecoming was not published under the Marvel Age imprint, but as a regular Marvel Comics title, because Marvel Age had by then been restructured into the Marvel Adventures imprint. a second four-issue miniseries, Mary Jane: Homecoming, which began publication in March 2005. Unlike the first series, Homecoming was not published under the Marvel Age imprint, but as a regular Marvel Comics title, because Marvel Age had by then been restructured into the Marvel Adventures imprint.
Unfortunately the series ended with issue #20 when McKeever left for an exclusive DC contract. An attempt was made to revive it but it never felt the same. The last series was cancelled after five issues. I jumped ship after two. A real drag for me as well, because for two years this WAS my Spider-Man title. It was the only one I was getting. Better than anything going on in the flagship title.
Still you can find the first and second series in digest form and I really recommend them. I’ve even see the first one at the Library in the Manga section. You may want to check it out first before deciding if you want to commit to hunting down the last twenty issues of that third series…(but trust me…you do!)
The Marvelous Adventures of Gus Beezer
I always liked this title but it suffers far too much from comparison to Calvin and Hobbes. This isn’t Calvin and Hobbes, it lacks the satirical wit that was aimed at adults. This is far more kid driven – but it’s GOOD kid driven.
Gus is a little boy with an active imagination who loves comic books and superheros- of course t he big difference is that he lives in the Marvel universe where there actually ARE superheros!
He sometimes lets his imagination get away from him and it begins to intrude on his real life…playing with his sisters jump rope and pretending she’s the lizard…
It was a fine series and was reprinted in tabloid size under the Marvel Adventures banner to be sold in Targets but never went any further than it’s original four issue run. You may find some of these still floating around. It’s worth it just to see his tirade at J. Jonah Jameson over his Spider-man editorials…..
I just love this series so much. If there was ever a series that gave Ambush Bug a run for it’s money this is it.
Slapstick is actually a high school comic book fan who finds a magic cartoon glove that transforms him in the cartoonish hero slapstick. That’s really all you need to know.
I’ve never understood why this series wasn’t a bigger hit. Comedy is hard to do in comics, very few “humor” magazines actually are. Marvel’s “What The???” always failed to make me laugh, and I gave it multiple tries just because John Byrne was drawing it. Deadpool manages on it’s good days, but that’s still an action series as well. Ambush Bug was one of the only series that ever consistently made me laugh. Slapstick does the same with outrageous comedy…the events with Ghost Rider defy description…and yet …well it’s easier to just show you.
Yeah. That’s not going to end well.
This series lasted four issues and I never understood why it was never revisited. Even Ambush Bug shows up in the back of DC comics. Slapstick just slung his giant mallet over his shoulder and rode off into the sunset, never to be seen again.
This series is worth seeking out. You probably won’t find these in the dollar bins, and you’ll have to dig through a lot of dusty longboxes to locate it but trust me, you won’t regret it.
Ambush Bug Nothing Special
I really love me some Ambush Bug. It’s strange thogh, he seems like he belongs in the 80’s. Not necessarily becasue of a costume or anythign liek that, it’s just that’s when his greatest hits were. We didn’t see him too much in the Bronze age. Ambush Bug’s goofy optimistic humor just didn’t fit that well in the dark age full of gritty anti-heros, big guns and dark fantasy.
In fact it’s actually pointed out that Ambush Bug is in a special place here, neither alive or dead…possibly outside of continuity.
I actually wonder what the impetus for this special was. Keith Giffen, obviously, but I was never quite sure why they choose this particular moment to publish a new Ambush Bug story. Perhaps dipping their toe in the water? I honestly didn’t even know this was out until almost a year later when I found it in a quarter bin (where I found most of my Ambush Bug issues).
In this story, Buggy visits every corner of the DC universe in a vain attempt to get into the summer crossover. There’s a joke in poor taste about visiting the bathroom in each title. What’s really fun is that he not only visits the mainstream titles, he also visits the vertigo series. Not all of them but definately the big ones with better critical acclaim. He shows up in Doom Patrol which is actually really ironic considering that he’d actually become a part-time member about fifteen years later, shortly before DC rebooted everything in the New 52. He also shows up in the Dreaming with the Sandman and this is the source of some debate. Many Sandman and Gaimen fans take the position that this isn’t cannon – it can’t be because Neil Gaiman didn’t write it and at this time he wrote everything related to the Sandman (this changed when Sandman ended and vertigo commissioned several spin offs written by other people. Still Gaiman is the only one to ever write Sandman proper)
If you see this around pick it up. Of course don’t let that stop you from visiting any of Buggy’s other series, like Son of Ambush Bug, Ambush Bug, or Ambush Bug : Year None.
He-Man 2002 comics
When Masters of the Universe relaunched in 2002, Val Staples and his company MVCreations lobbied hard for the license, finally landing it after much deliberation. They originally published through Image but eventually moved to thier own imprint.
This series is worth it for the pencils by Emeliano Santaluca alone, the insane level of detail is amazing, not to mention the hidden eggs they would constantly throw in. This was the first time I saw a Wind Raider inthe new series. You might see the guards in Eternia firing the guns that came on the weapons rack in the vintage Castle Grayskull, or spot toys on the shelf of the faceless one’s lair….
Other details like a small crack in He-Mans chest plate, or the terrifying detail of Skeletor’s horrifying face. It’s a beautiful series. Much like the Sunbird Legacy that we review last month, it’s also a very violent series. There’s an image that stick with me, Beast Man charges the battlements and disembowels an Eternian guard. we see blood and tissue fly….these are the comics after all, and they have a wider audience, they don’t necessarily have to tone the violence down for the kiddies. it’s also a good reminder that these powerful brutes and creatures Skeletor has surrounded himself with are just that – monsters.
This series folded all to soon. Bad deals with the distributor, too many restrictions by Mattel and the cancellation of the cartoon series all formed the perfect storm, but I do still occasional see these in dollar bins and on eBay. They’re worth searching out, particularly if you’re a fan of He-Man.
He-Man : the Sunbird Legacy
This is an old one. I remember this being at school so I probably got it from the christmas shop at school, but I’m not sure.
This could possibly be the first graphic novel I ever got – It’s far more comic book than any of the other Golden books of the era. Interestingly enough, while this defiantely was written during the period that the cartoon was on, the imagry is strictly that of the toys. It still features characters lik the Socreress, and Prince Adam, looking a bit liek the cartoon, but King Randor looks far older and more regal. Many of the Golden books began to look more and more like the cartoon, they took great pains to replicate the look of the toys with this one. Teela is in her snake armor. Man At Arms is clean shaven, no moustache. Evil Lyn is bright yellow and she even turns into Screech – a character I don’t ever remember seeing in the cartoon.
The plot revolves around an ancient artifact that looks like a cross between a totem pole and a nuclear missile. It was disassembled and scattered across Eternia and it’s a race against the bad guys to reach it first.
Most He-Man fare from this era is very kid oriented, sometimes even silly ( the Marvel/Star comics immediately comes to mind). There’s some more serious mini comics in the first wave or two but after the cartoon defined the character the tone of the stories got a lot more watered down. This is surprisingly violent for the time period and for something so close to the cartoon. It’s refreshing actually, and one of the best stories from the time oeriod. I don’t see this getting reprinted any time soon, but you can frequently find these on eBay and I highly recommend picking this volume up.
I feel like I had to throw a full size house ad here, because you really have to be able to read this. This ad had me hooked from the word go.
I’m not sure if it lives up to that ad though- not that it isn’t good, or even as good as the ad….it’s just different. But let’s back up a moment, because some of you are too young to remember a time when Deadshot wasn’t popular.
Seriously, back before Suicide Squad, he wasn’t even a B-lister. He was nothing. Showed up in Batman here and there, but no one cared. John Ostrander took this character and gave him depth. Personality. In fact he noticed that over 1988 that he had TOO much he wanted to do with him, and he was afraid Deadshot may end up dominating the title unfairly so he came up with a plan- let’s do a mini-series.
I knew Deadshot from reading Who’s Who obsessively and the 13 year old me was really into min-series so this was perfect. I actually hadn’t been reading Suicide Squad at the time – this series got me into it.
It stats off simple enough. Deadshot’s son is kidnapped and the ransom is to finish a job from years ago. Instead he goes after his son. Standard superhero fare right?
Except…the kidnapper is his mother. The job is to murder his father, and the gang? this is a special gang. You pay extra fro them because one of the crew is a mentally handicapped child molester who tends to kill the kids he diddles.
How in GOD’s NAME WAS THIS NOT A MATURE READER’S title??? Seriously. It has the comics code seal on it. GENERAL AUDIENCES. Let me tell you, there was no way I should have been reading this at that age. Especially since….how do I put this?
Everything goes horribly wrong. EVERYTHING. As bad as you can imagine it, that’s what happens. By the end everyone is dead….well, not everyone, his mother is paralyzed, good as dead. This is not cheerful reading. There is NO happy ending, but this is a GOOD book and to this day I credit it with single-handedly making Deadshot the star he is in the DCU today.
Twenty years later there was a second mini-series. It’s a follow-up bot to this series (kind of) and to Kieth Giffen’s Suicide Squad (kind of). I almost wonder if this was a story Giffen was going to tell in his suicide squad before it got the axe. It’s not as raw or as gritty though. It follows fare more traditional comic lines, a safer story where the status qoe is restored at the end. A nice follow up and easy to get, but make no mistake, it’s just an epilogue to tell you what happened afterwards. The main event is the 88 series.
I occasionally still see these in dump bins, but even if you don’t I seriously recommend you go out of your way to find this. It’s one of DC’s great triumphs of the 80’s.
“Where the sidewalk ends, their story begins….”
Can I just say, DC used to have the absolute BEST house ads? The mid 80’s was a time for a lot of prestige projects, things like Sonic Disrupters, Skreemer, The Shadow, and all of these had great ads in the pages of mainstream books like Superman and they just made me want to read this stuff.
I first encountered Underworld in one of those ads, but never got my hands on a copy until I was an adult. Truth is, it’s a fairly standard cop drama, but that’s not a bad thing. it made it stand out in the really superhero filled era of the Silver or Bronze age.
There’s meant to be a serious undertone here, that this is all symbolic and going on in the author’s head, but the connection is never really developed or thought out well enough, and that’s okay. Cool cop drama works even if it never reaches the serious level of drama hinted at by those spectacular covers (which I imagine were done separately, possibly even before the series was written, like the Deadshot covers), and you spend the entire series rooting for them to grab that Midnight racer guy.
Grab it if you see it. I got mine as a bagged collection, and that worked perfectly. If I’d had to track these down individually I may not have made it….
Doctor Zero sometimes defies description.
He looks like a Superhero. He acts like one. Everyone calls him a hero.
Good. That’s what he wants to happen.
Zero is actually an immortal – less than a god (but don’t tell him that) who has spend history manipulating the course of human history. In the present day he takes the guise of a superhero because those are really the modern creatures of myth.
His intentions aren’t always altruistic, not always benevolent….because remember, just because it looks like a superhero, talks like a superhero and walks like as superhero, doesn’t mean it actually IS one……
This series would actually be perfectly at home in DC’s Vertigo imprint, and was really Marvel’s first attempt at creating a mature-themed line of superhero comics under their Epic imprint.
I found most of these in quarter bins, but I suspect these are far to old for them to still show up so cheap. It’s part of Epic’s Shadowline Saga, but can stand fairly well on its own. Grab it if you’re a fan of Vertigo types of storytelling.
This is one of those little indie black and white titles you’d run into from time to time in the 80’s. They kept showing up in bargain bins and I decided to start picking them up when I would see them.
I was hoping for a dystopian anthology, but it’s really just a jumble of stories with different characters, most notably their Batman knock-off Nightwolf. He’s got a nice costume and it makes for a nice enough read though and I always enjoyed them.
This is a title to grab if you just happen to see it in a dump bin and are in the mood for something different. It makes me wish there were more of it so I could see an expanded universe, but it is what it is. If you see it cheap grab it, but no need to go out of your way to hunt these down.
As far as obscure titles go, this one is a little more mainstream. Badger has been floating around the comics world for a few decades now, every once in a while popping on to the shelves.
Norbert Sykes is a multiple personality disorder, with the main persona being the superhero Badger (who draws his mark on all of Norberts cloths). Badgers not alone in that head of his though, he has 7 multiple personalities, each with their own distinct personalities: Max Swell – a cultured gay man Emily – a nine year old girl Leroy – Norbert’s dog that was shot by Larry when he was ten Pierre – a french psychotic serial killer Alice – a poet Gastineau Grover DePaul – a black man from the southside of Chicago
Badger also talks to the ghost of celebrities such as Warren Oates, Bruce Lee, and John Wayne….to name a few.
He lives with Ham the weather Wizard (an ancient Druid) and his Psychiatrist Daisy and hilarity ensues.
That’s really it. It’s usually madcap superhero action with badger frequently trying to right injustices concerning animals – an old lady who feeds ducks being harassed, or a chef who makes snake bile soup, an cross country race….
The series ended with #70, but several publishers have tried revivals of it;
Dark Horse actually published two miniseries featuring different versions of the Badger’s origin: the four-issue Badger: Shattered Mirror, a “serious” take on the Badger’s origin, and the two-issue Badger: Zen Pop Funny-Animal Version. I love Jill Thomson’s art in Shattered Mirror, but really, badger was never meant to be a comic this serious. Zen pop on the other hand….it’s funny but it just never seems like they respected the character.
In 1997, Image Comics gave it a try running 11 issues of a black and white series. It failed to attract much of an audience. The art seemed to cramped and the stark black and white just didn’t suit the character. Finally, in November 2007,IDW reprinted a series of trade paperbacks of old issues, as well two new Badger stories: a one shot, Badger: Bull, followed by a new mini-series, Badger Saves the World which started in December 2007. Saves the world did nothing for me – it just didn’t feel like Badger, and I never found an issue of Bull.
It’s a shame because this character deserves better, but the old First Comics runs till pop up in discount bins regularly and the reprints are great, and nicely recolored. Try out some of the individual issues first and see if it’s for you, but I highly recommend those trades!
Maybe it’s just because I’m a product of the period that this was written in, but I find Punk to be absolutely hilarious. He’s a cyborg (but hides it well) whit an attitude who likes hitting the bars, getting into fights and does merc work for money. It’s ultra violent humor with a very 90’s flavor to it – Skater cut, flannel, shorts and combat boots, ministry and NIN T-Shirts, mosh pits. A great example of the humor here is Punk going and taking down a cyber-jacked Ogre who has been bullying a group of hermits and accepts a pair of bunny slippers as payment.
I’ve only ever seen this thing ONCE. It was an indie comic with a low run, but it’s available for purchase online. You can also find the creators Sean Campos and Mark Finn on Facebook.
The DC Wiki describes this as a four-issue limited series published under DC’s Vertigo imprint from July to October of 1993. The series focuses on small-time convict John Oakes, who becomes the protégé to Abel Tarrant, the original Tattooed Man.
It’s a shame they didn’t try to take this farther, because Oake’s story is far more interesting. Thrown in jail, he meats Tarrant – now an old and decrepit man. This makes sense seeing as at the time, Green Lantern had been aged as well. Oakes is not only Tarrent’s protégée, but his greatest work as well, tattooing tribal images all over Oakes body.
It’s a different kind of power Oakes finds he has, channeling lines of energy through the tattoos instead of creating constructs the way the Tattooed man did – but when Oakes is released….the tattoo isn’t done yet – something that displeases Tarrant.
This is an EXCELLET book. Don’t expect to find this in the dollar bins, and as far as I know it’s never been collected. You’ll have to pay full price for back issues, but it’s a story you HAVE to read if you’re a fan of Silver Age GL. The depth and fresh take on the Tattooed man is the best presentation of him I’ve seen anywhere since the end of the silver age.
I’m a sucker for a good teen or college age drama. Not Dawson’s creek, I said GOOD.
BoHoS is a simple concept, Cathrine kinda trying to find herself…it’s that type of crossroads of life and on top of that she’s dealing with the death of her mother.
I get the real feeling that ther’s more to this series and that I’m missing something, but I don’t know where to look for it. I’ve tried the publisher’s site and it really didn’t tell me anything except that there are three issues (bTW, the publisher isn’t really Image. For creator owned properties not developed in-house, Image acts as a publishing house of sorts. It’s expensive, but you get the prestige of having one of the big three’s logo stamped on your book.)
For the longest time I only had the third issue which takes our characters to a concert feature a double bill of Hanson and Marylin Manson. The bands kind of date it firmly in the late 90’s but that’s okay. it’s about the right age for me to relate to. More than anything it’s a study in pop culture and the kind of jaded feelings you get in generation Y.
VERY recently I found issue three and boy, stuff has progressed, we see a whole bunch of development between Cathrine and the boy she met at the concert, as well as with her guy friend who wants to start a band.
Yeah…it sounds like I’m meandering. I am…but that’s just what this seires does. It wanders around, and I really love it for that. These are hard to find, I’ve only seen issues of this series twice – and bought them both times. You’ll probably have to find them online, but definitely worth it.
This month we’re taking a look at an old favorite of mine, a title called Nightmask.
You may have seen a newer version of Nightmask floating around a few years ago as part of a series Marvel was referring to as “New Universal”. This was a re-imagining of it’s old “New Universe” where the superheros weren’t quite as super….
The New Universe was separate from the Marvel 616 universe. Technically it’s universe 555, but then again, back in the 80’s when this was being published, Marvel hadn’t really come up with the concept of a multiverse yet. Powers in the New universe were usually PSI based, grounded more in reality (or at least our current understanding of the paranormal as opposed to the fantastic nature of Spider-Man or Thor)
Of the New Universe titles, I always found Nightmask the most compelling. Keith Remsen and his sister survived an explosion which killed their parents and put Theodora in a wheelchair, but also helped unleash their telepathic powers to enter other people’s dreams. They spend the eleven issues helping people through dreams (where Keith appears as a superhero – Teddy is more an anchor – like Professor Stein in Firestorm) and occasionally unraveling mysteries.
This was during Jim Shooters era where most stories had to be resolved in one issue so it’s easy to pick up one of these and get a good feel for the character. I can see why it didn’t last, but it still intrigues me. I was disappointed that the reboot completely left these characters behind, I’d like to see more of them, especially now, grown up in the 21st century.
I found almost all of these in the fifty cent bin at Astonish! comics back in the 90’s. They may be harder to track down these days, but I almost guarantee you they’ll be bargain priced. The next time you do some online shopping at a comic site like Mile High, check a few of these out and ad them to the order. They’re great light reading and a really interesting comic alternative.
Young Cynics Club
The Young Cynics club is a fascinating examination of that weird time right after High School, and maybe before College. It’s a time when things that were SO important to us in High School change, and priorities begin to shift. A time when we find out who is going to drift away and who will stay with us. Diane Cary once wrote that you change more between nineteen and twenty two than any other time in your life and this plunges us right into the middle of that .
It’s a weird thing, because what strikes me most about this story isn’t the characters, as much as the atmosphere, the attitude and really, that time-of-life. It’s a feeling we tend to forget about because it’s a traumatic shift, and we want to look back at our twenties through rose colored glasses – almost as much as we do our high school years (perhaps not so much in this post-modern age, but nevertheless). It reminded me of a lot of things I was going through at the time, particularly with my writing and art.
There’s only one issue of this so I don’t really want to get into plot points. You can generally find it for cover price or less. Give it a try, this is a great example of what comics can be if they break free of the bonds of superheros and become truly indie.
The first time I saw Wordsmith, I was struck by the imagry…the whole “Pulp” look. It reminded me of soem kind of cross between The Shadow and the Green Hornet (we’ve covered my affection for these characters way back in Top Five Favorite Superheros) so I was intrested right away. It didn’t hurt hat teh publisher was “renegade” which happened to be the same as a game shop I went too. I don’t remember if I found this in a discount bin or not. I probably did, but it was alone. The single issue.
When I opened it up, it wasn’t what I had expected. The story wasn’t about the masked hero on the cover….not exactly. It was about the person writing the story, a pulp writer back in the golden age of pulp novels.
It took a few years for me to track down all twelve issues of the series, and I paid a good price for a few of them, but it’s really one of the most movie series I’ve ever read. We follow the main character through the heights of the pulps to the genesis of comic books. Along the way we watch his relationship fall apart, then see him meet and marry the woman of his dreams. We see the beginnings of World War two in the background….it’s just magnificent.
One of the great strengths of this series is knowing when to quit. We meet the main character in his twenties, in a bad relationship, but still doing what he loves for a living. I could feel like I was there, looking over his shoulder as he typed up westerns, mystery men and romance pulps. Seeing him successfully transition into married life, fatherhood and comic books, you feel a sense of closure – you know the story has been told. It’s one of the reasons Violent Blue will be coming to an end next year.
You’re going to have to hunt for this one. Individual issues are good, but to really be satisfied, you need to read this entire run.