Sunday, June 26, 2011

Remembering Gene Colan

This past Thursday saw the death of comic artist Gene Colan. WGTB would like to add to the chorus of appreciation and thanks we have heard since his passing, and briefly reflect on the career of this great artist.

Gene Colan was born in Brooklyn in 1926. His first job in comics was in 1944 and after briefly serving in the US Army, he returned to the business and Timely Comics in 1946. During the slower years of the early 1950s, he worked as a freelancer, but would go on to become a key figure in the comic book resurgence of the 1960s. Indeed, it would be in Silver and early Bronze Ages where Colan would leave his greatest mark. Not only did he create African-American characters like Falcon and Blade, helping keep Marvel on the forefront of important social issues in the United States, he and long-time collaborator Marv Wolfman, also created the definitive Horror comic of the Bronze Age, Tomb of Dracula. This title would run for 70 issues and become a very successful Horror outpost in a world of superheroes.

In the late 70s Gene Colan moved back to DC where he had impressive runs with Batman and Detective Comics in the early to mid 1980s. At this time he would also flex his creative muscle with such non-superhero titles such as Nathaniel Dusk: Private Investigator and Night Force. Moving back to Marvel towards the end of his career, Gene was inducted into the Will Eisner Hall of Fame in 2005 and won an Eisner Award in 2010 with Captain America #601 (Best Single Issue).

Gene Colan passed away from complications of an injury and liver disease on June 23, 2011 at the age of 82.

WGTB would like to offer our condolences to Colan’s family and friends. Comics has lost one of its all time greats and in tribute, we have surveyed our humble library and decided to post some Gene Colan drawings we have enjoyed over the years. This is not an exhaustive list, and unfortunately does not include any of his great Silver Age works, but it does showcase the significant talent of a great creative mind. We hope you enjoy our selection and ask that you support the Hero Initiative, a charity that works to ensure the greatest of our medium retire in dignity.

We begin with Tomb of Dracula #50 (Marvel Comics - November 1976) where the Dracula storyline was visited by the Silver Surfer. This book gave us some of amazing art and captured the essence both the Surfer and Dracula remarkably well.

Moving to DC, let's look at Detective Comics #535 (DC - February 1984) foreshadowing events to come:

or Detective Comics #535 (DC - Janurary 1984) with Poison Ivy.

From Nathaniel Dusk: Private Investigator (DC -- February 1984) where Gene’s artistic flair gives us some very cool images.

And finally Wolverine #35 (Marvel - 1990) where Patch helps some street kids.

We hope you enjoyed this short tribute and thank you for visiting.

Gene Colan 1926 - 2011

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

From Showcase to Showtime: A Review of Green Lantern

Director: Martin Campbell

Starring: Ryan Reynolds, Blake Lively, Peter Sarsgaard, Mark Strong

The year of the comic book movie continued this weekend with Green Lantern, the third major comic book film to debut and the first from the DC Comics/Warner Brothers stable. Green Lantern tells the story of test pilot Hal Jordan, who is chosen by a dying alien to take his power ring and become the guardian of Sector 2814 for the Green Lantern Corps, a group of green-clad intergalactic peacekeepers who defend the universe from fear, manifested by the colour yellow.

Green Lantern has a fascinating history. Rebooted and re-envisioned as a modern comic book in Showcase #22 (Oct 1959) the first Green Lantern existed between 1940 and 1949 as a mystical wizard-like crime fighter. This Lantern, did not survive the near death of the superhero genre, and unlike the DC triumvirate of Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman was eventually cancelled.

A decade later things would change as the popular comic genres of horror and crime began invoking of ire of politicians, while simultaneously, the earliest baby-boomers started to earn disposable incomes with paper routes. The success of Showcase #4 (Oct 1956) which rebooted Flash sealed the deal, and in late 1959 the new Green Lantern was born.

And what a Lantern it was! Hal Jordan was the perfect superhero for the dawning space age. As bold and courageous as he was charming with the ladies, he was exactly what every Cold-War era American boy wanted to be. His comics were always popular, and this helped ensure not only the dominance of the superhero genre, but its merger with science-fiction. Green Lantern would get his own magazine in summer 1960, and while never reaching the stratospheric heights of Batman or Superman, a loyal readership would ensure Green Lantern stayed in the highest echelon of DC’s second tier.

(Hal Jordan meets Abin Sur in Showcase #22 - October 1959 - reprinted 1992)

(Hal Jordan and Carol Ferris in Showcase #22 - October 1959 - reprinted 1992)

Because of this, it is no surprise that Green Lantern is the third superhero DC film after Superman and Batman.* Improvements in movie-making technology, along with an extensive and sequel-ready back story, also makes Green Lantern a franchise-ready prospect if the current film is successful.

And WGTB hopes it is. It’s a good film and a very entertaining two hours. Ryan Reynolds, plays a near-perfect Hal Jordan for 2011, superficially confident yet driven by demons of familial failure. Having not seen Reynolds in many previous roles, and knowing a lot were in goofy romantic comedies or as secondary characters, WGTB was sceptical at the casting. Happily, he does the role justice and the occasional annoying line (“I know, eh?!?”) is overshadowed by well executed emotion in demanding situations. (“Green Lantern’s MIGHT!!!”). Hal Jordan becomes Green Lantern not because he is perfect, but because he has the potential to be a great hero and Reynolds demonstrates this well.

The villains of this film are good too. Parallax is menacing, in the way Galatcus should have been in Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer. Peter Saarsgard was good although, more could have been done with the Hector Hammond character and it was difficult knowing exactly who the main baddy was at times. Some of the back story involving Saarsgard’s, Reynolds’ and Blake Lively’s character seemed a little contrived, but that happens when you need to invent entire myths in less than two hours. Blake Lively was good as Carol Ferris although she didn’t exactly capture the girl-next-door thing the director was obviously going for. WGTB does not understand the casting of Tim Robbins as Senator Hammond and thinks having such an ironically cast superstar was distracting.

The special effects were extensive and very well done. The alien life forms looked as authentic as fictional aliens can and the Oa landscapes and aloof Guardians were remarkable. Temuera Morrison made a much better Abin Sur than he did a Boba Fett, and Michael Clarke Duncan was fun and effective as Kilowog. Geoffrey Rush, voicing Tomar-Re, was a great guide through the Green Lantern mythos, but the best cast character has to be Mark Strong as Sinestro. He was awesome and WGTB looks forward to seeing him as the principal villain in the sequel. Oh, and like Marvel films, WGTB advises you to stay in your seat until the credits stop rolling!

This film has a decidedly different tone than Christopher Nolan’s Batman series and isn’t afraid to have some old fashioned comic book fun. That said, it is serious enough to satisfy the regular movie goer, and has an uplifting end message for everyone. Obvious plot holes, such as missile-laden jets in hangers, can be overlooked because of a strong overall story, and the effects and acting brings it together in a fitting tribute to such an important comic.

4/5 Stars

* Wonder Woman is proving very difficult to translate to a live action medium.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

SuperSoundtracks #3: Siouxsie and the Banshees and Lady Deathstrike

WGTB has been working on this entry for a while. Usually, writing a SuperSoundtrack begins with a comic book character and then a search for a good song. This time we started with the album and had to narrow things down to a great song; only afterwards finding a matching comic book character.

The album is Siouxsie and the Banshees' 1979 debut The Scream and our eventual track is Metal Postcard. The search for the ideal comic book character was tough until it hit like a bolt of lightning: LADY DEATHSTRIKE!

Siouxsie and the Banshees were formed in 1976 by Siouxsie Sioux (Susan Janet Ballion) and bassist Steven Severin. They met at a Roxy Music show, and would eventually become part of the “Bromley Contingent” a group of fellow misfits and music fans who travelled the UK attending Sex Pistol gigs.

The Scream captures the angst of the punk movement perfectly, but also serves as a pioneering bridge into the Post-Punk movement. Post-Punk is a more introspective and experimental type of indie music that captured the energy of Punk while being more accessible to mainstream fans. The movement would also lead to a number of spin-off genres including Goth, Industrial and Synthpop.

Metal Postcard is a masterpiece. Its lyrics match the ferocity of our comic book character and, while WGTB is loath to use singles as SuperSoundtracks, ultimately we had to choose this GREAT song. That said, it wasn’t an easy decision. The album includes a brilliant cover of the Beatles' Helter Skelter and another great track, Nicotine Stain, which may yet appear in SuperSoundtracks.

So how does this SuperSoundtrack capture Lady Deathstrike so perfectly? Start by looking a sample of the lyrics. Of course, you'll be even more convinced when you hear the screaming guitars and haunting bass.

Metal is tough, metal will sheen
Metal won’t rust when oiled and cleaned
Metal is tough, metal will sheen
Metal will rule in my masterscheme

Lady Deathstrike is in so many ways a perfect foil for Wolverine, her principal antagonist. Born in Osaka to the inventor of the adamantium lacing process, she would later become a cyborg with the one motivation: to avenge the dishonourable death of her father and avenge the theft of his intellectual achievement.

She has a similar healing factor to Wolverine and her adamantium laced skeleton and razor-like fingernails are a near match for Canada’s fiercest superhero. Lady Deathstrike was invented by Denny O'Neil and Larry Hama and first appeared as Yuriko Oyama in Daredevil #197. Blog favourite Bill Mantlo and Chris Claremont would later refine her story in Alpha Flight #33 but WGTB will always remember her for her prominence in Wolverine (V.2) numbers 35, 36, 45 and 46 when we saw her in ACTION!

(From Wolverine Vol. 2 # 35 "Blood and Claws")

(From Wolverine Vol. 2 #45 "Claws Over Times Square")

SuperSoundtracks is proud to present the theme song for Lady Deathstrike: Metal Postcard by Siouxsie and the Banshees!

Monday, June 13, 2011

A New Superhero?

Have you ever wanted to dress up as a comic book character on a day that wasn't Halloween? Well, thanks to the brilliant artist over at Living Canvas, last week your humble blogger did exactly that.

But as you will see, its wasn't as any comic book character you know. In this case WGTB asked the artist to be creative and
simply paint a "comic-book-style design" on the face. The only conditions were that he needed to be someone who doesn't wear a spandex suit and is someone who carries or walks with a cane WITH possibly even has a long-term mobility impairment. Disabled comic book heroes have a dubious history and WGTB believes the time has come for a first-rate ACTION-based disabled hero.

WGTB hasn't quite settled on the name of the character. We're thinking "Dr. Abstract" but if you have any suggestions, please let us know. He seems like a cross between the Green Hornet, the Question and Professor X. Although he's a hero, we also see a physical resemblance to Mr. Sinister, Harvey Dent and even a little of the Joker.

Dr. Abstract

Skills: Intelligence, Leadership, Martial Arts, Organization. We figure he's a Crown Prosecutor or District Attorney in his 'spare time'.

Weapons: His Mind, A Sword Cane, Advanced Tools and Weapons, and Peak Physical Conditioning

Justice, Duty, Rorschach-style Vengeance

LET US KNOW WHAT YOU THINK! Oh, and here's his Super-Soundtrack: an amazing song called "Kathy's Song" by the Norwegian future-pop band Apoptygma Berzerk.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Random Reviews: The Incredible Hulk #269 & The Incredible Hulk #270 “The Mouth Monster Saga”*

The thing about having (one time) comic-collecting brothers, is that every family residence WGTB frequents has a long standing prohibition against the destruction or discarding of any comic book. So, while WGTB has never been much of an Incredible Hulk fan, we recently came across in our parent’s basement (insert geek/internet joke here) a copy of The Incredible Hulk #269. We promptly claimed salvager’s rights,** and remembering that The Incredible Hulk #270, was one of the few Hulk books in our possession, thought it would be cool to read and review them.

The Incredible Hulk #269

WGTB has said this before – Bill Mantlo was an outstanding writer – and these two issues are further evidence of that. Incredible Hulk #269 (March 1982) is titled “Hulk Hunters” and prologues with an account of an artist on the distant world of Krylor contemplating an attempt to recapture past artistic glory by going back to the well-spring of success: the Hulk. And while we never learn if her sequel is a “Godfather II” OR “Godfather III,” your humble blogger soon discovered that the whole point of this continuum sidebar was to connect this tissue to the Rampaging Hulk magazine produced by Marvel in the late 70s and early 80s.

About seven pages into #269, the prologue ends and we are given a new splash with Bruce Banner and Betty Ross in conversation about the Hulk, the madness and what it means to be Bruce Banner. As the two contemplate the troubles of being both man and monster, three spaceships arrive bringing the “Hulk Hunters” – ugly and aggressive beings from distant space.

Then, as is prone to happen when monsters arrive at the Hulk’s door, the four quickly spark up a mêlée with the Hulk quickly getting the better of the three. Of course, no sooner does this happen, than it is made clear that Hulk is actually needed as an ally of the Hulk Hunters. See, Mantlo was using the word in the "House Hunter" sense rather than the "Dear Hunter" sense. Clever twist, eh?

The Incredible Hulk #270

Which brings us to The Incredible Hulk #270 (April 1982) and the mission Hulk and his new friends undertake. Suffice it to say, it’s dangerous and involves an old Hulk foe, this time going by the name “The Ravager of Worlds,” in a support of another, junior Galactus-type baddy. Naturally, WGTB would not be the GREAT comic blog it is, if we gave away stories completely – but trust us when we say it resolves well but makes you wonder what the Hulk will do next issue! How do they do it?!?

All kidding aside, this is one of those stories that makes us wish Bill was still writing. It’s fast paced and has enough heavy sci-fi to keep the sophisticated reader interested. Sal Buscema’s artwork is typical of the early 1980s, and has stood the test of time. While this blogger has not always been willing to give The Incredible Hulk a flip-through/pick-out, we'll certainly start flipping through the Mantlo numbers next time WGTB visits the shop. Think about it next time you're at your store -- you’re certain to enjoy them.

*"The Mouth Monster Sega" is a WGTB-ism and does not have official Marvel sanction.

**The rightful owner of The Incredible Hulk #269 SAYS he’s a frequent reader of WGTB. Let’s test him – if he asks for it in the comment section, WGTB will return it. Until then, it will be safely housed in Marvel Box #2!