Friday, July 31, 2009

STOP THE PRESSES: Marvel Comics Owns Marvelman!

That's right. You don't have to call Mike Moran "Miracleman" anymore! Here's the press release from Marvel Comics:
The biggest news of Comic Con International in San Diego was revealed moments ago and jaws are still on the floor-the world-renowned super hero MARVELMAN is now part of the Marvel Comics family! Marvel Comics has purchased the rights to MARVELMAN from creator Mick Anglo and his representatives, finding a home for one of the most sought after heroes in graphic fiction!

"It is an honor to work with Mick Anglo to bring his creation to a larger audience than ever before," said Dan Buckley, CEO & Publisher, Print, Animation & Digital Media, Marvel Entertainment Inc. "Fans are in for something special as they discover just what makes Marvelman such an important character in comic book history."

Originally created in 1954 by Mick Anglo and appearing in some of the most celebrated comic stories of all time, MARVELMAN is Micky Moran, a young reporter gifted with the power to save the world by simply uttering the word "kimota!"

"I did not think it would ever happen," said Mick Anglo. "It's a wonderful thing to see my creation finally back."

MARVELMAN is back and he's found a new home at Marvel Comics! What's next for Mick Anglo's legendary creation? Stay tuned to for all the news on Marvelman and this exciting new addition to the Marvel family!

Here's a link to Marvel's Marvelman page, which includes the full scoop plus your first look at Marvelman merchandise, including tee-shirts and posters.

Why is this such a big deal? Are you wondering, to quote Bugs Bunny, "What's all the hubbub...bub?" Perhaps you need a bit of background, grasshopper. There's a very good summary of the whole Marvelman/Miracleman history at the and another at sequart. I'll wait for ya while you read all that (it's really interesting, check it out!)


Okay, are ya back? So the upshot is that British publisher Quality's Warrior Magazine brought 1940s British Captain Marvel clone Marvelman back in the early 1980s under the talents of Alan Moore, Garry Leach, and Alan Davis. In 1985, when U.S. publisher Eclipse got the rights to publish Marvelman here in the states, Marvel Comics threatened a lawsuit if they used the Marvelman name, so Eclipse published Marvelman under the name Miracleman. Moore, Leach, and Davis eventually left the strip and other creators, most notably Neil Gaiman, picked up the ball and carried on with the strip until it finally folded in the early 1990s when Eclipse went under.

Since that time, the rights have languished in legal limbo. Image's Todd McFarlane claimed that he had bought the rights; Gaiman had a claim to the rights; creator Mick Anglo felt he'd never been fairly recompensed for the rights and thus still had claim.

Looks like Mick was right, according to the press release.

OR, one has to wonder, does Marvel really have the rights to Marvelman/Miracleman, or does Marvel have the rights to Mick Anglo's Marvelman? Is Marvel going to create a new Marvelman from the whole cloth? Are they going to update him Marvel style and ignore the Warrior/Eclipse years? Or do they have the rights to the whole Marvelman/Miracleman library (the "pixie dust" effect in Joe Quesada's poster give us hope)? And what does Alan Moore have to say about all of this?

Only time will tell! I'll do my best to keep you updated as news is made available.

We'll return to our regularly scheduled Frank Miller/Cover Me feature next week--unless I learn that Marvel has gotten the rights to Garfield or some other "Internet breaking" news.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Cover Me: Frank Miller at DC

When most folks think of Frank Miller in the 1980s, they more than likely think of Daredevil, Wolverine, Ronin, The Dark Knight Returns, Batman: Year One, or Elektra. How many of you remember what Frank did to pass the time while he was working on those ground-breaking masterpieces, though? One thing he did was draw covers for a handful of DC mags. Remember any of these?

No? Yes? What about the hoopla surrounding the fact that Miller was the cover artist for DC's Superman: The Secret Years mini-series?

What other comicbook work did the talented Mr. Miller do during the 80s? Come back next week for the answer!

Friday, July 17, 2009

John Ostrander Needs You!

One of the absolute best writers to come out of the 1980s is none other than John Ostrander. A former Chicago actor who had thought of becoming a Catholic priest, Ostrander showed a facility for writing stories that went a bit deeper than your run-of-the-mill comicbook fare. His insightful characterization, excellent plotting, and naturalistic dialogue kept his comics on my "must read" list for many years.

He co-created and wrote well-remembered characters like Grimjack and Dynamo Joe for First. For DC he plotted Legends (essentially re-booting the entire DC universe after the original Crisis on Infinite Earths), wrote Firestorm, contributed to Wasteland (which helped pave the way for the types of comics DC would produce in its Vertigo line), helped revamp the Suicide Squad and Manhunter, and created such memorable and important characters as Amanda Waller and (along with his late wife, Kim Yale) Barbara Gordon's Oracle persona.

If you didn't read Ostrander comics in the 80s, you just didn't know your comics, dude! Not only did Ostrander write awesome comics, but he stuck with them. He didn't do an "arc" here and there and move on to "put his mark" on every character a company published. He wrote every Grimjack and Dynamo Joe story. He stayed on Firestorm for nearly 50 consecutive issues. Suicide Squad was his baby for its entire 66 issue run. A true talent and a real pro, through and through.

From the 90s on, Ostrander has continued to be an influential and popular comicbook author. His 90s run on The Spectre is legendary and would be enough to keep him in the comicbook hall of fame, but he ain't stoppin', still going on mags like Star Wars: Legacy from Dark Horse (nearing 50 issues on that awesome mag).

John Ostrander has given comics fans tons of enjoyment, it goes without saying. But right now, John really needs our help. John has been battling glaucoma and has undergone very expensive treatments in order to keep his sight. His insurance (no surprise) won't cover all of the costs he's incurring, so fandom is coming to his aid through a group called Comix4Sight. Comix4Sight is holding auctions at various comic-cons and has set up a website with info on how to donate items for auction--along with a link to where you can just plain ol' send money. Please visit the Comix4Sight page and do what you can to help John in his time of need.

Friday, July 10, 2009

The British Invasion! Gaze Into the Art of Brian Bolland

In the mid-to-late 1970s, Brian Bolland was wowing 'em in the UK. By virtue of his meticulously detailed line work, his mastery of black/white/positive/negative space, his facility for caricature, and his realistic-yet-grand style. He had come into 2000A.D., now one of Great Britain's premiere comicbooks, then a struggling new venture, to help in deadline crunches and had become the definitive Judge Dredd artist. Bolland's work on Cursed Earth and Judge Death is some of the most beautiful, haunting, and just flat-out cool art in (dare I say it?) the history of the medium.

You'd think American publishers would have gotten wind and snapped Bolland up, but Marvel, DC, and the newly forming independent publishers didn't seem to be interested in what was going on "across the pond". It took fate stepping in for the British Invasion to begin.

I have many reasons to admire Joe Staton. His art on E-Man, Mike Mauser, JSA, and Green Lantern, just to name a few*. However great his artistic accomplishments, I'm even more thankful for his need to have a roof over his head when drawing Green Lantern. The story goes that when Staton attended the UK's 1979 Comicon, the Bollands were kind enough to put Joe up. Brian mentioned to Joe that he'd love to do a cover for Green Lantern, since he was a huge GL/DC comics fan. Joe, having seen Brian's art and being no fool, called GL editor Jack C. Harris and told him of Brian's desire to do a GL cover. Harris was no fool either. He assigned Bolland the cover to Green Lantern #127 (January 1980). That led to the covers of GL issues 130 and 131. Then Adventure Comics editor Len Wein got into the act and handed Bolland the cover assignment to Adventure #475 (June 1980). In October 1980, Bolland's first interior work for the U.S. showed up in Mystery In Space #115, a seven page sci-fi short titled "Certified Safe". Wein then assigned Bolland the covers of Justice League of America #'s 189-190 (January-February 1981). Those Starro covers, with little Starros attached to the faces of the JLA-ers really got Bolland noticed, capturing the imaginations of fans who had recently seen the movie Alien. Bolland was quickly becoming a superstar. 1981 started off right with the January appearance of another Bolland-illustrated seven pager, "Falling Down to Heaven..." in Madame Xanadu #1.Next Bolland did the covers to the three-issue mini-series Tales of the Green Lantern Corps (February-April 1981), then the cover of DC Comics Presents #43 (December 1981). Bet you'd like to see that legendary run of DC covers, wouldn't you? Give the fans what they want, I say!

Also of note during this period was Bolland's contribution to Kitchen Sink's "Spirit Jam" (The Spirit #30, cover dated July 1981). Bolland's work can be seen on the bottom three panels. The top half of the page, by the way is drawn by Bill Sienkiewicz. The tier above Bolland's is by John Byrne and Joe Rubenstein. The whole page was written by Chris Claremont. That's right, DC's main cover-man shared the same page with Marvel's hottest writer and artists. (A special tip of the hat to my pal Pete Doree for posting the Spirit Jam scans on his awesome Bronze Age of Blogs.)

By this time, fans were dying to see how Bolland would handle DC superheroes. Well, in Justice League of America #200**, we finally got our chance. Not only did writer Gerry Conway and editor Len Wein tap Bolland for a chapter of that giant JLA anniversary spectacular, but they gave him the chapter with the coolest characters: Batman, Green Arrow, and Black Canary (you'd have to have lived back then to know how hot GL and BC were back then, trust me!). In the overall scheme of the issue, I have to think that this chapter was written with Neal Adams in mind ( it did star three of his signature characters, after all***), but for whatever reason, Bolland got the gig and man, did he ever deliver!

Up until this point, you'll notice that Bolland stuck to mostly covers with the occasional short story, When he worked in the British comics, he did mostly five to seven page stories. But in 1982, Wein gave Bolland a shot at penciling his first full-length "maxi-series", Camelot 3000, written by Mike W. Barr. Created for the "direct only" market, the 12 issue series was an immediate hit, giving Bolland that last bit of energy he needed to catapult him through the stratosphere. The proof of how rabid--and loyal--his fans had become was put to the test during this series. Bolland's meticulous style could not be rushed, so the lag between issues kept getting longer and longer. Two months skipped between issues 5 and 6. Three months between numbers 9 and 10 and then between 10 and 11. Then a whopping nine months between issues 11 and 12. But it was worth it. Bolland wasn't "growing roses", he was working. He was producing one of the most beautifully drawn comics ever, and fans ate it up and asked for more.

Bolland, being a wise man, would stick pretty much to covers, pin-ups, short stories, and one-shots for the rest of his career. He'd rather "leave us wanting more" than leave us hanging by committing to assignments he wouldn't be able to carry out in a timely manner, and you have to admire his integrity. In 1988, Bolland would produce what many call his magnum opus with his work on the Alan Moore written The Killing Joke, starring Batman and the Joker. His art was far more than magnificent on this story. While many debate the merits of Moore's story (this is, after all, the story in which the Joker shoots and cripples Barbara [Batgirl/Oracle] Gordon, after all), none can deny the beauty of Bolland's art.

Still going strong and still a fan favorite, Brian Bolland opened the floodgates for the comicbook's British Invasion of the 1980s. Those who would follow in his wake might have produced more in quantity, but few can touch him in quality.

* For more Joe Staton love, check out Diversions of the Groovy Kind! **JLA #200 will be covered here in the not-too-distant future. ***JLA #200 was written by Gerry Conway with the framing sequence penciled by George Perez. The rest of the issue was filled with team-ups of the JLA characters drawn mostly by the artists most closely associated with them, like Gil Kane on the Green Lantern/Atom segment, Carmine Infantino on the Flash/Elongated segment, Jim Aparo on the Aquaman/Phantom Stranger segment, and so on.

Friday, July 3, 2009

80s Essentials: Captain America #250

Since this is the Fourth of July weekend, I thought of doing an overview of Roger Stern and John Byrne's run on Captain America. The more I read those classic issues, the more I thought they deserved more than one post. Although their stint as the writer/artist team on Cap was a short one (issues 247-255, April-December 1980), it was incredible in its scope, execution, and influence. Needless to say, I'll be doing several more posts regarding the Stern/Byrne Cap.

With that in mind, I decided to zero in on Captain America #250, which came out (I can't believe this, but it's true!) 29 years ago this month! This mag is truly one of the Essential comicbooks of the 1980s. Here's why...

In July of 1980, the United States was still reeling over the Watergate scandal. Trust in the government (along with Big Corporations) was low-to-zero (sound familiar?), yet election season was in full force. President Jimmy Carter and California Governor Ronald Reagan were about to battle it out for the White House, but there was a feeling going around that the citizens of the U.S. would have loved to had an alternative candidate--one, preferably, who was not a politician. None stepped forward, and Reagan would go on to defeat Carter. Roger Stern and John Byrne captured this feeling of wanting more and turned it into a though-provoking, heart-tugging comicbook classic.

Before I go on, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention that the whole "Cap for Prez" idea was sparked by Roger McKenzie and Don Perlin, the writer and inker, respectively, on Captain America during Roger Stern's tenure as that title's editor. Sterno, being one classy guy, wasn't about to let that fact go unnoticed, so he named McKenzie and Perlin in the credits, and then told the whole "behind the scenes" story on the letters page:

"Cap for President" begins with our hero rescuing a congressman and his hostess from a hostage situation, which, besides providing the only real action in this issue allowed Byrne and inker Joe Rubinstein to really strut their stuff. The scene also allows Cap to meet Samuel T. Underwood, the New Populist Party's convention chairman. Underwood quickly goes from thankful bystander, to Cap-fan to hatching the idea of Cap running for President. Cap good-naturedly laughs off the idea, "Ha-hah! Thanks for the offer, Sam--but I'm afraid I'm not much of a politician!" Underwood quickly replies, "The people don't want a politician...they want a leader!" The following page sums up the national mood and this issue's plot quite well...

Cap returns home to his Brooklyn digs, where, as Steve Rogers, he and his neighbors are helping the lovely Bernie Rosenthal move into her apartment. It's there that one of Steve's friends shows him that morning's edition of the Daily Globe...

I love the way Byrne drew Steve's reaction to the news. Naturally, Steve's friends love the idea of Cap running for President.

The next day Captain America heads to the Avengers' mansion to find a mob of Cap supporters and media waiting to bombard him with congratulations and questions regarding his upcoming White House bid.He politely brushes them off to find his fellow Avengers...

Iron Man's attitude is especially interesting in light of the recent goings on in the modern Marvel Universe, is it not?

Cap, as always, searching his soul to find the right thing to do, finds his way back to his old school. It is the memories of what he was taught here that help him cement his decision.

Hours later, Cap appears at the NPP rally, ready to tell the world of his decision...

It's not the decision anyone wanted to hear, but it's the only one Cap could really have made. Stern's use of the JFK quote makes the ending especially poignant.

Captain America #250 was an immediate hit, so popular that Marvel quickly produced an issue of What If...? (#26, January 1981) detailing what would have happened if Cap had, indeed, run for President.
Note to "The Man": All images are presumed copyright by the respective copyright holders and are presented here as fair use under applicable laws, man! If you hold the copyright to a work I've posted and would like me to remove it, just drop me an e-mail and it's gone, baby, gone.

All other commentary and insanity copyright GroovyAge, Ltd.

As for the rest of ya, the purpose of this blog is to (re)introduce you to the great comics of the 1980s. If you like what you see, do what I do--go to a comics shop, bookstore, e-Bay or whatever and BUY YOUR OWN!