Universal Pictures: An Exploration Of Cosmic Comics!

Because You Demanded It! Brad Goes Cosmic!

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“I spent some time in your system monitoring your television transmissions. I learned all about Earth’s culture from watching sitcoms” – Sphinxor.

“You have teleported me here to talk,” the being known as the High Evolutionary protested. “To discuss why my planet has been stolen. I await your answer.”

“My Ring-Shippers and I were contracted to move your planet by a race of beings called the Beyonders,” replied Sphinxor, Captain of the Ringship 1, Command Vessel of the Prime Movers of Tarkus. 

“They became aware of your experimental world while you were collecting the extra-dimensional mass to build it… This Warlock fellow looked to be a problem…” 

Yes! That’s Adam Warlock, the golden-skinned cosmic hero, and the primary reason for picking up what has turned out to be a quite scintillating ish of Marvel 2-In-1 (#63, May 1980). The Thing, Moon-Dragon and Starhawk team up to help save Counter-Earth. 

Mark Gruenwald (writer), Jerry Bingham (artist) and Gene day (inker) “join forces to concoct the wildest cosmic adventure ever!”

In this Summer’s voracious surge for Bronze Age delights, the overwhelming theme has been: cosmic. So what is it about cosmic comics that make them so enthralling?

Apart from tapping into that lifelong fascination with outer space (with which most of you would concur, right?), the joys of galactic adventures, bedecked with multitudes of weird and wonderful extraterrestrials, with supercool blasters and gleaming star cruisers is veritably the fuel on which traditional SF runs.

There are numerous reasons for why cosmic comics will forever be the best in my book (or blog).

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^ Page 10 of Marvel 2-In-1 #63 shows plenty of stellar action to satisfy anybody’s cosmic cravings.

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“From what we’ve been told, the Beyonders may be more powerful than any beings yet encountered by man – greater than Galactus, the Watcher, Thanos… any of them. As a scientist, I am curious” –  The High Evolutionary. 

The cosmic brand of story-line holds greater appeal,  primarily as the imagination is allowed the freedom to run a tad wilder. Moreover, this scintillating subgenre features some of the coolest and most powerful characters in the known Marvel Universe.

Not to mention the biggest – take (on) Galactus (if you dare!).

Asked who the most powerful character in the Marvel Universe could be, Stan Lee did not hesitate to answer: “Galactus, without a doubt.”

Undoubtedly, the cream of the cosmos has to be “The Coming of Galactus” which appeared in Fantastic Four # 48-50. 

But what are the chances of acquiring this series and NOT breaking the bank…?

Our old friend John Byrne contributed exceptionally to the cause of cosmic awesomeness by creating “The Trial of Galactus” which sprawls across Fantastic Four # 242-44; 252-55; and 257-62. Have already set my sights on them, regardless of my indifference to Reed Richards…

As a huge fan of Rom The Spaceknight – keen to pick up some of his classic cosmic escapades – Galactus actually appears in ish no. 26(!)

By Jove, the Bradmonitor lit up spectacularly when that news filtered through!

Minions! To the Bradmobile!

You’ll be pleased to know that they have already been dispatched forthwith across the quadrant to track THAT ONE down.

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“Fascinating. I’m in outer space, yet my costume automatically creates an energy field that not only protects me from the deadly cold and radiation… but provides me with a breatheable atmosphere as well” – Ms. Marvel. 

One of the classic cosmic stories – essential to anyone’s collection – would have to be The Magus Saga.

Featured in Strange Tales #s 178-81 and Warlock – yes! him again – # 9-11, it’s the reason why Adam Warlock is one of Marvel’s most intriguing protagonists. (If you don’t believe me, check the heaving prices of individual ishs charged by some of yer leading local Awemongers…)

Have already picked up some back ishs of Future Tense, a weekly comic produced by Marvel UK back in 1980; they include some reprints of early Adam Warlock stories. Fabulous stuff, but they only make me crave more of the Warlock

My mission to find more Ms. Marvel continues apace, and has turned up some surprisingly cosmic results.

#3: “The Lady’s Not For Killing” featured the Kree-powered superwoman flying into space on an intercept vector to prevent a missile from diving into the Kennedy Space Center. Upon finding an access hatch, what should spring out but the Doomsday Man!

Bingo – the same robot supposedly destroyed by the Silver Surfer way back when. Cue a bout of feisty female fisticuffs (in orbit). 

Written faultlessly as always by Chris Claremont, and amazingly imagineered by the invincible John Buscema it’s another great addition to the collection.

Groovy.

And there’s been no opp here to squeal about the Mighty Thor’s cosmic scrapes. Particularly that epic in which Galactus must call for Thor’s help in tackling a galactic foe which even he cannot smite…(!)

More mouthwatering delights yet to materialise here on Bradscribe!

Stay tuned: same Brad time! Same Brad channel!  

Meanwhile, back on that orbiting planetoid… 

“…We simply set up our stasis-rings and took off with Counter-Earth in tow…” Sphinxor droned on bureaucratically. “We kindly refer you to the Beyonders for any questions pertaining to what they intend to do with your world, okay?” 

“Then…” frowned the High Evolutionary. “You do not even know why they want my world?”

“That’s not my job, man.”

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“It just gives me the willies, bein’ taken apart atom by atom and bein’ put back together somewhere else” – The Thing. 

From All-Star To Dawnstar: Recent Vintage Acquisitions Read And Reviewed

The Quest For Classic Comics Continues…

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“Silence, please, everyone! I’ve been a little worried about how to tell you this … but, in my identity as Carter Hall, I’m going to enlist in the US Army!” – Hawkman.

And with this bombshell, so begins “Never Step On A Feathered Serpent!” the fifth issue of All-Star Squadron, a title whose debut ish (in September 1981) – with its mix of of superheroes and World War II history developed into an unputdownable phenomenon in the Bradhouse. 

My only regret is that (apart from #10, ten years later), no further ishs could be found.

Staying in the UK on extended leave, belaboured over the bonce by the Mace of Nostalgia, yours truly set aside this Summer to finally track down those comic classics from the so-called “Bronze Age” that eluded me all those moons ago, as well as checking out previously unseen titles. 

Three months ago, perusing the back ish departments of some handy awemongers’ emporiums in London, the ball started rolling with the purchases of All-Star Squadron, #s 5 & 7.

Was it a good start?

  • Squadron scrambled, or brain scrambled?

Amazingly imagineered by the invincible creative team of Roy Thomas and Rich Buckler, its reserved status in my collection is well-assured! But equally astounded at how this ish could have slipped past my Radar of Ninth Metal back in the day…

#7 is equally compelling, with the introduction of the Nazi costumed super-villain: Baron Blitzkrieg! 

Already looking forward to snapping up further ishs of this great title!

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“I’ll have to hit-and-run – use my speed and Kree-training to counter his brute strength – and try to wear him down!” –  Ms. Marvel.

Ms. Marvel #15 (March 1978)

“Carol Danvers a woman who had it made – until the day radiation from an exploding alien machine gave her the skills and powers of a Kree Warrior, plus an uncanny Seventh Sense – transforming a human woman into… a heroine!”

With a proposed Ms. Marvel movie in the works, now would be a good time to catch up and get to know her – if anything, isn’t everyone curious to find out what radiation from an exploding alien machine does to you? Moreover, this Seventh Sense – it sounds groovy! – could we have some?

The woman with the Kree powers must battle Tiger Shark. This villain looks supercool on that dynamic cover (see above) and makes for a mighty antagonist inside.

The script is provided by Chris Claremont – always a big plus in my book! 

But when you consider the premise: woman in leotard is punched and has cars hurled at her by lunatic dressed as a shark… 

  • Marvelous, or Ms. Fire? 

Despite this dodgy premise, this ish is fab; the art by Mooney & DeZuniga is great, and there is a craving for more of this title.

Please note: his captive (who turns out to be the cousin of Namor – y’know: The Sub-Mariner!) is actually fully-clothed during the few panels in which she appears, so no fish-scale bikinis or strategically-placed hubcaps herein…

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“The thing is: that’s my Mom up there! What’s come over her since she won the Earth election?” – Colossal Boy. 

Legion of Super-Heroes was a title hugely enjoyed as a nipper. Now, an irresistible curiosity to find out what other ishs looked like spurred me on. #273 was the ish selected. 

Such characters as Wildfire and Tyroc were as cool as fudge, while others such as Bouncing Boy and Matter-Eater Lad(!) made the title unintentionally hilarious. 

One member of the Legion of Super-Heroes stood apart from the others: a graceful figure with a stunning pair of wings, her name was Dawnstar – or as her co-Legionnaire: the blond, green-skinned Brainiac 5 called her “Dawny.”

Hey, just be thankful this Post was not entitled Finding Dawny jeez, that sounds as corny as heck…!

  • So, Legend, or just leggo…?

What a swiz – she’s not in it! 

Undoubtedly, this is a compelling epic, bristling with drama!; intrigue!; the craziest super-cozzies you will ever see! And the story-line involving a revered Legionnaire framed for murder, wasn’t bad, but considering the immensity of the issue, and a high turn-out, where was the yellow, tassled one?

By the Black Nebula! It feels like your correspondent has been stood up…  

That other strong fave, Wildfire, barely got a look-in either.

Its been great to look at art not seen for 35 years – one or two other ishs will certainly be tracked down…

Even if it is just to see her again…

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“I am Gaius Tiberius Augustus Agrippa! I am power! – What kind of beings are you? Is all the world now the domain of monsters?” – 

During online research for comic art a few years back, my trail led to pages for an ish of Fantastic Four. Although not a fan of this so-called “World’s Greatest Comic,” both pen an’ pencilling duties for #241 (April 1982) belonged to the legendary John Byrne.

In “Render Unto Caesar,” S.H.I.E.L.D. has detected a mysterious power source emanating from the interior of Africa. With the aid of the Black Panther, the Fantastic Four go to investigate and discover – “Jupiter!” – a being, once a soldier in a distant outpost of Emperor Caligula. Almost two millennia ago, he stumbled upon alien technology to create a fabulous city, more splendid than the Roman Empire at its height.

He even neutralises the Fantastic Four’s superpowers. Irate at being selected to be his “Empress,” Sue Storm removes his golden helmet, only to find that- ha! Well, don’t let me spoil it for you! 

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  • Really Fantastic, or just a 4-letter word?

When this Summer of nostalgic comic-collecting set forth, a mental note was taken to look out especially for this one.

That priority was well-rewarded. 

Yes! Fantastic by name – undeniably fantastic by nature. With terrific guest-star appearances by Nick Fury and the Black Panther – two characters high on my Wanted list, this story: “Render Unto Caesar” is an absolute classic.  

Particularly enjoyed the amusing nod to Raiders (above), a light moment that presents its creator perfectly at the height of his enchanting powers.  

Feel the Byrne!

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“The X-Men would have trained me to use my mutant abilities more efficiently… If only I had joined them when I had the chance!” –  Dazzler.

Dr. Doom happened to be one of those characters sought after 30+ years ego, but never got him – could not find the relevant ish of the Fantastic Four that featured him.

Dazzler was a cult figure – “gifted” with the ability to convert sound into dazzling light – who got her own solo series.

The Monarch of Latveria guest-stars in #s 3 & 4. Ended up picking up the latter (it has a slightly more thrilling cover).

  • So, truly dazzling, or just dazzled off? 

Nah, this is not one of my better purchases.

The art by Frank Springer is good enough, but the prospect of a cutie mutie (…on frickin’ roller skates, fer cryin’ aht lowd!) never excited me even way back when yours truly was cute an’ supple enough to arse about with frickin’ roller skates. 

White flares are no match for a yellow, tassled cozzie. Any day… 

Good Grud, this is precisely the sort of infantile mag a chap of my age should not be bothering with – so will sell this on asap!

Hang on… 

If a character as lame as this could get her own series… and a popular fave such as Dr. Doom – or Dawnstar, for that matter! -couldn’t, well… 

Undeterred, my quest – delving further into the dense jungle of back issues – continues… 

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“This is one time… all the words in the Universe aren’t enough…” – Dazzler.

“No Hard Feelings, Point Break” Or: How Brad Learned To Stop Worrying And Love Comics

About those works that changed my perception of what comics could be… 

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“Of course… You always have to have surprises. You always have to make the reader say: ‘Wow! I never expected this.’ It’s become… tradition” – Stan Lee. 

Rather than bang on about those Avengers for the umpteenth time, and the torrents of comicbook movies we can expect over the next few years – but still keen to write anything comics-related – permit me to break away from the Marvel/DC fold for the moment and gush about some of the best specimens in my collection which – for sentimental reasons, obviously – could not, and never will, be discarded.  

Yes, having had to sift through boxes and piles of my stuff recently, it was only a question of time before these ancient gems were uncovered again…

For the sake of time, space and convenience, just six titles have been selected. In no particular order, away we go! Oh, and you know what? Each one of this not-so-dirty half-dozen would make a great movie…

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Flash Gordon began his exploits on the four-color pages of the Sunday funnies… Not only did Raymond draw the best rayguns, rocketships, and alien creatures, he drew the sexiest women” – Richard Siegel and Jean-Claude Suares. 

What better way to begin than with the Godfather of Sci-Fi Strips? The original Flash Gordon, created in 1934 by Alex Raymond have retained their lustre as sci-fi gold. His art is stupendous; despite becoming an SF artist of some considerable dexterity myself, it was always frustrating (during my formative years) trying (and failing!) to copy some of Raymond’s more dynamic or intricate panels!

It has to be said that, admittedly, the style is unmistakably indicative of the 1930s. That is, by no means, a hindrance; on the contrary, to this eager lil seven-year old, it was more fascinating for that.

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“You may speak to me now. My purple light is on” – General Ironicus.

In 1979, my joyous – albeit short-lived – fascination with Doctor Who began. Having enjoyed each instalment on TV every Saturday teatime, you can well imagine my gob-smacked rapture upon discovering the “Fantastic First Issue” of the Dr Who Weekly, an amazing addition to the immensely impressive wing of Marvel UK. 

The very first story instantly won me over. Doctor Who and The Iron Legion offers an intriguing scenario: where the Roman Empire never fell, but instead expanded its dominion across the galaxy. Simultaneously slaking my thirst for sci-fi and history, it splendidly evokes the charm of the Tom Baker era.

Artist Dave Gibbons may be revered the most for Watchmen, but it is The Iron Legion which – to me – made the greatest impact. Moreover, there’s never been anything quite like the witty and wonderful script by Pat Mills (a personal fave writer) and John Wagner.

And that panel depicting the robot centurion bursting through the shop window is still as sharp and special as when my wide excited eyes first caught it thirty-six years ago!

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“I’m glad that hurt, Jaffar. I pray my kick made you an eunuch!” – Marada The She-Wolf.

Marada, The She-Wolf was an awesome fantasy saga about a mercenary of Rome and her travails against the Mabdhara – a triad of Demon-Lords. She starred in the February and April 1982 issues of Epic Illustrated, then “the Marvel Magazine of Fantasy and Science-Fiction”; she reappeared in Wizard’s Masque in the February and April 1984 issues.

1988 turned out to be a fantastic year: catching up with Classic X-Men, featuring the scripts by Chris Claremont, featuring stunning artwork by John Byrne (republished stories from 1978) and John Bolton (added features of individual X-Men); then, quite unexpectedly, this came into my life.  

Had never heard of “Marada. It didn’t matter. Anything adorned with the talents of Claremont and Bolton was sure to be good. Those issues of Epic Illustrated became essential purchases. The material is so different from the more usual mutant superheroes fare. Claremont writes enthralling dialogue, but through Bolton’s stupendous art, Marada really comes across as a beautiful and feisty protagonist; she deserves mass appeal.

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Hulk 1 Night-Raven by Lloyd 980

“A half-Mohawk boy born in 1900… Night Raven had no powers but was a highly trained fighter and marksman… exposed to a chemical toxin which made him nearly indestructible” – Marvel Database. 

One of the more striking heroes of in my earliest comic-devouring years was undoubtedly the Night-Raven – “Britain’s very own man of mystery.” Apparently, this masked vigilante of the 1930s made his debut in Hulk Comic #1 (March 1979), of which quite a few issues made their way into my collection, but it is in Savage Action – yet another Marvel UK godsend – where my enjoyment of this “faceless, enigmatic nemesis” ensued.  

Its creator: David Lloyd would much later become best known for V for Vendetta. Although my recollections are a little hazy, Night-Raven was always depicted in fedora and trenchcoat, with revolvers in both hands.

One of the few characters created exclusively for Marvel UK, he doesn’t appear to have made much impression on the other side of the Pond, which is a pity. In 1990, Night-Raven: The Collected Stories appeared, but it has never, alas, come into my clutches. Again, last year enquiring at Forbidden Planet – London’s Temple of Geekdom – the “expert” had never heard of this character. Shocking…

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I’ll take you dead or alive. They’re going to kill you anyway – may as well try your luck” – Johnny Alpha.

Johnny Alpha – the mutant bounty hunter with the light eyes and the variable cartridge blaster and electroknux, the most recognised member of the Search/Destroy Agency, whose members are widely known as “Strontium Dogs” – made his debut in Starlord comic in 1978. When that title went defunct, he made a successful switch to the then-burgeoning 2000AD, a British weekly publishing legend throughout the 1980s.

Following the nuclear war of 2150, the society of New Britain had to contend with the spiralling number of mutants (caused by the showers of Strontium-90) in what remained of the population. Forbidden to take normal jobs, “mutoes” had to take on bounty hunting as their only means of survival. In an intriguing plot development, Johnny turned out to to be the son of Nelson Bunker Kreelman, the despised “norm” politician responsible for instigating the anti-mutant laws. 

At first, the gruff style of Carlos Ezquerra’s art did not appeal, but it gradually won me over.

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With The No-Go Job starting in Prog 580 (1988), art duties would be taken over by Simon Harrison (above), who brought a radical new look to the strip.

Johnny Alpha was killed off in 1990, one heckuva bold move considering that he had become the second most iconic character of 2000AD after Judge Dredd.

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“This was it. The night my Uncle Elias and I were going after the Beast. A creature of magic. It could only be destroyed by magic” – Luke Kirby. 

Back to the pages of 2000AD again, and with good reason. Between Progs 571-77 (April-June 1988) something well wicked my way came. Summer Magic was a delightful little seven-part serial about a boy staying with his relations in a traditional English country village during the Summer of 1962. But look beyond Mrs. Birmingham’s homemade dinners and bowls on the green, for an unutterable horror lurks in the forest yonder…  

By rights, it should not have sat alongside the more familiar sci-fi likes of the tech-war of Rogue Trooper, the chaotic chrome capers of the A.B.C. Warriors (a band of Ultrons if you will!), nor the futuristic law enforcement of Judge Dredd, but gladly it did, and made its own marvelous impression.

Just months previously, John Ridgway had come to my startled awareness through the blistering first eight issues of DC’s Hellblazer – John Constantine’s own title. Now here he was working on something equally English and unnerving!

Young Luke must learn the arts of the arcane path before confronting the Beast. And this tale of a boy wizard appeared years before Harry Potter was a glint in JK Rowling’s eye…

This Post will finish with that classic last page from the penultimate episode. At this point, there was barely a hint of the gob-smacking twist that would transpire that following week…

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Thank you, Sherise, for my Second Nomination!

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Cheers!

Make Mine Marvel!

 

Posted: 11 April 2014

Captain America: The Winter Soldier: everything a movie blockbuster should be
Captain America: The Winter Soldier: everything a movie blockbuster should be

“Marvel was pioneering new methods of comics storytelling and characterization, addressing more serious issues and in the process keeping and attracting readers in their teens and beyond” – Peter Sanderson.

Having watched Captain America: The Winter Soldier the other night which, in this case, thoroughly deserves the overused tag: “awesome,” the whole phenomenon of comicbook movies has proved its worth, and looks set to be the most bankable genre of all time. A tremendous amalgam of superhero action and the twists and intrigue of a political thriller, The Winter Soldier showcases all that should be big and spectacular about the modern blockbuster.  

It cannot go unmentioned that Marvel comicbooks greatly inpiring my own writing. The standard of scripts was engrossing. Even now, skip through a certain classic and the descriptions and dialogue still look superbly crafted.

The Avengers movie (2012) not only invigorated the Marvel franchise, it practically blew every other blockbuster out of the park. Having grossed $623.4 million in the US and $1.5 billion worldwide, it has become the third highest-grossing movie of all time. Only had one Avengers comic, and that was just to get scenes with The Vision (my personal fave Avenger) the “synthozoid” who can alter his own density to walk through walls, and spoke some of the more poignant dialogue of any comicbook.

Stan Lee: Creator of the best comics
Stan Lee: Creator of the best comics

“You know, I guess one person can make a difference. Enough said” – Stan Lee.

The one aspect which Bradscribe loves about the Marvel movies is the numerous cameos by Stan Lee, the mastermind behind Marvel Comics. His best appearance must surely be in Hulk (2003) in which he appears as a security guard talking with a colleague played by Lou Ferrigno, who played the green giant in the original TV series; if only the rest of this dull movie had been as good as this charming moment…

Back in 1980/1981, the heyday of my avid comic accumulation period, whenever given the opportunity to peruse the latest copies on the newsstands, there was a tendency to select a different title every time; if the cover carried the epithet: “Stan Lee Presents” it was sure to be a winner.

It is estimated that more than 8,000 characters exist within the Marvel Universe alone. Thus, there is an unlimited trove of possibilities for Marvel Studios to dominate the multiplexes for the foreseeable future. An enlightening prospect considering that Marvel had filed for bankruptcy in 1994! Moreover, when Disney snapped up Marvel Entertainment in 2010, the former’s stock price tumbled; Sony Pictures owned the film rights for Spider-Man while Fox controlled the X-Men. When a big-budget production of Captain America was mooted, it seemed nobody believed that the success of Iron Man could be repeated…

The original X-Men stories were reprinted from 1986 onwards: my best homework!
The original X-Men stories were reprinted from 1986 onwards: my best homework!

..Stan Lee had this huge breakthrough of two-dimensional characters. So, they dress up in costumes and do good, but they’ve got a bad heart. Or a bad leg. I actually did think for a long while that having a bad leg was an actual character trait” – Alan Moore.  

The comicbook which excited me the most was The Uncanny X-Men. During 1987/1988, a friend’s overflowing comic collection spurred the second wave of my comix-fix. Classic X-Men (which began in 1986)reprinted the hard-to-obtain earlier editions from the 70s. In addition to Chris Claremont’s writing, brilliantly realised by John Byrne’s artwork, it was amazing to learn the frustrations and complications suffered by mutantkind. X2 (2003) remains my personal favourite Marvel movie, perhaps coming closest to transferring the tight script and catchy characterization from comic pages to the big screen.

Like Iron Man and the Hulk, Thor was a co-creation of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. Just a few issues of The Mighty Thor comic inspired me to peruse Norse mythology, and expand the scope for creating my own historical fiction. Even at such a tender age, the “peculiar” way in which the Thunder God spoke enthralled me.

When news of a major movie production was finally confirmed, this fan became anxious. How would they treat the Thor-talk?! The result (2011) was agreeable; appreciated the choice of director and the presence of Anthony Hopkins as Odin, but as usual, any gravitas it could have achieved was submerged under a deluge of frenetic fights, CGI tomfoolery and… Thor just didn’t sound right.   

Never mind, Captain America is turning out to be a major franchise; who knows, it might be big and cool enough to entice kids off computer games and back to comicbooks!