Monday, February 18, 2019

Swamp Thing 100 Page Giant #1 (Walmart 2019)

Swamp Thing #1
100 Page Comic Giant! (Walmart Exclusive)
DC Comics
February 2019
$4.99 USD

So what's the hubbub about the Walmart 100 Page Giants from DC Comics? Well, if you spend a few minutes on Twitter you're bound to find fairly mixed reactions. Some folks like myself appreciate the nod to the past. Namely, providing nostalgia nuzzlers a product similar to the Super Spectaculars of the 1970s. Affordable reprints to get superheroes into the hands of the masses. Detractors will say, and rightfully so, they are poorly displayed in stores and easily damaged hiding in the hobby/novelty sections young kids tend to frequent. One of the issues came under fire for the adult nature of its content considering children can easily pick it up and give it a gander. There's also the fact international Walmart consumers are ignored. The specials are only available in the United States so, enjoy that nifty health care system Canada. We got comics!

I was truly excited to hear Swamp Thing got the green light for a Walmart ongoing. While there was a Halloween Horror Giant, he hasn't had a solo book since the miniseries from Len Wein and Kelley Jones in 2016. Sure, the originals are only twelve pages long, but as anyone who has picked up a 100 Page Giant can attest to, they are a really nice package for the price. Plus, you can snag a copy while you're out for milk and eggs.
As to avoid getting too far into the weeds here, I'm only giving my opinions on the original material and then the reprints as a whole. 

"Desert of Ash"
Tim Seeley- Writer
Mike Perkins- Artist
Jordan Boyd- Colors
Dave Sharpe- Letters
Chris Conroy- Editor

For those who've been following the muck-encrusted mockery of a man post Rebirth, you already know it's been a mixed bag. There's been the good, most notably in the current volume of  Justice League Dark and short stories featured in anthology titles. Then there's the downright ugly, avoid Damage and the Terrifics at all cost. The characterization is just too damn loose. I've come to grips with continuity being dead and buried, but Swampy has been handled poorly. There's just zero consistency from his motivation to back story. 
Tim Seeley was the writer of one of the aforementioned good ones. He dabbled with Swampy during his Hellblazer run and wrote a fine little ditty called "The Spread" featured in Cursed Comics Cavalcade from October 2018. A seasoned pro and Swamp Thing fan, Seeley appears to be a natural choice to handle writing chores on this project.
Here, he pairs Swamp Thing with an interesting partner named Briar we met in the previous special. Briar's a witch with a colorful past who has unique abilities perfectly suited for the partnership. She exhibits a snarky attitude that provides a nice dose of humor to the narrative as well.
The pacing exhibited in this short story is smooth. Readers are treated to a nice dose of action right off the bat, as the duo take on a villain referred to as 'The Char Man". A rather gruesome looking chap with an affinity for flames. What's his deal? Let's just say fans of elemental powers in Mark Millar's run and Avatars from the New 52 are going to be very pleased. Was that a spoiler? If so, apologies. Go ahead and unread that.
All that being said, there were a couple headscratchers that tied into some limitations Swamp Thing exhibited at the onset of the tale. All seemed to be resolved during the obligatory origin retelling, yet why was that the case at all?  Still, Seeley's version looks to be in tune with what we see in Justice League Dark and pays tribute to Alan Moore's vision of the character. Hopefully clarity is around the corner.
The art was moody and dark. Mike Perkins handled a nice balance between fine lines and chaotic fervor. As someone not overly familiar with his work going in, any concerns I may have had were put to rest.
I'm intrigued. Not only does this tie into the Halloween Horror Giant but if my theories are correct, sets the table for some hefty stuff. The entire creative team did a nice job putting this bad boy together. While it's only a small sample, it carried a big punch.

Now it's time for the reprints. They are: Animal Man Vol. 2 #1,  Swamp Thing Vol. 5 #1, and  ShadowPact Vol. 1 #1. That's all fine and dandy. I understand why DC included them and it's pretty cool they intend to continue them sequentially in ish #2. My big beef is this, if you want to showcase some more Swamp Thing, the Snyder run is wasteful.
Admittedly, it's pretty darn good and is full of homages to the past, but it's fairly recent and there's so much more material that could benefit from the spotlight. Sure, there's a bunch of classics throughout Swamp Thing history that would easily fit the bill, but I have my mind on something in particular...
In the early nineties, Nancy Collins came on the title starting with Vol. 2 #110. Her run has never been given the trade treatment. It was a deep and profound take on Swamp Thing lore. Many of the themes she tackled then carry weight today. Those stories deserve an opportunity to be discovered by a new audience. 
Want to read the works of Wein, Moore, Veitch, Brian K. Vaughan and so on? They are just a keystroke and "add to your cart" away. Collins however, requires some serious bin diving if you're interested in physical copies. There is one bubble of joy in the bayou as the Nancy Collins content is available on Comixology, but DC really dropped the ball here.
One last thing before I step off the soap box. It's impossible to find the stats on these books, no print runs nor sales numbers. Tried dancing with Google and came up empty. I also attempted reaching out to a couple of people associated with this book for answers to no avail. Other publications are easily tracked and reported on monthly, yet the Walmart exclusives are shrouded in mystery. I hope to get more information on this soon. In the meantime, I'm keeping my fingers crossed the returns are healthy on the 100 Page Giants.
Despite dining on sour grapes to close out this column, I do highly recommend picking this up. An accessible comic at an affordable price point. Serious bang for your buck. Now drop what you're doing and grab a mop. Clean up in aisle seven...I'm in love!

- David Schultz

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Just A Pilgrim (2001)

It's Super Blog Team-Up season! Not familiar? It's a great community of comic book bloggers that get together annually and write about a shared topic. This year is all about: REDEMPTION.  I'll get back to that in a bit and the roll call of my fellow Super Bloggers will be listed at the end of this column but before I dig in on my subject matter, big thanks to @CharltonHero for starting the project and having me aboard.
Luckily, it wasn't difficult to select a story I wanted to discuss as part of this event. Fond memories flooded my mind of a series based around a no-good louse, looking to make good to pay for sins of the past. Plus, with the creative team of Garth Ennis and Carlos Ezquerra, this must be a sign from the heavens to clear the cobwebs and give Just A Pilgrim a long overdue re-read.
In the early 2000's, I wasn't immune to Ennis fever. He had just wrapped up one of the greatest comic runs to ever see print with Preacher and in my eyes could do no wrong. Engaging scripts filled with raunchy yet compelling ideas. Who could ask for more? After a lifetime of capes, Ennis provided a different perspective. It didn't hurt I was also in my formative years of  adulthood, so the humor was right up my alley. Give me more gore, gross gags and gobsmackery! Not sure if that last one there is really a word but damn, that era of material sure got me jazzed up.

Before I dive into the book itself, I'd like to take a moment to focus on the publisher. There's rarely a fan in my age range that doesn't have nostalgic fueled goosebumps when remembering Wizard Magazine. I specifically note "age range" as some of us old stumps collected in a time pre-internet. Way back, when one would have to look to friends or a publishers checklist to gauge what was worthy of  redistributing your lunch money for. So to have a magazine with interviews, humor, price guides and everything related to the love of comics...wowza!
There had been plenty of fanzines over the years with historical significance but for my generation Wizard was a game changer. Now, I don't want to come off as elderly. We did have message boards and such by the time this series came out, but getting that copy of Wizard with your pull was something special. Alright, alright...I'll get a room.
Wizard was so popular in fact, they broadened their horizons with other enterprises. One of which, Black Bull Entertainment, sought to bring in major talent and make some hay. There was a fair amount of hype at the onset but unlike, for example, Image Comics, it couldn't maintain the momentum and crawled into the shadows. Now, in no way would I normally compare the two publishers as sales charts would make me look foolish but for my buck, Garth Ennis was a bigger draw than the star-studded artists that created Image. New publisher, new series with Ennis at the helm, where do I sign?
It was also a great physical product. The paper stock was gloss while also being sturdy and they saved all of the ads until the end of the book. Albeit those ads were nothing more than Wizard propaganda anyway. There were also pin-ups to close the stories out along with letter pages and creator bios. Nice package for $2.99 USD.

So what was it about? To be perfectly honest, you may want to calibrate your groan sensors. Post-apocalyptic warfare people! A trope more tired than a damsel tied to train tracks. Still, Ennis has shown a strong affection for westerns and war tales, so they were bound to be intertwined here as well, perhaps providing more depth.
The narrative is told by a little boy named Billy Shepard via the pages torn from his diary. They tell of how the Earth suffered a cataclysm called "The Burn" that has destroyed most of the surface areas and led the oceans to dry up. Billy along with his family and a wandering caravan found themselves under assault by pirates when a righteous stranger arrived in time to save them. When asked who he is, surrounded by fire and death, the mystery man raises his head revealing the shape of a cross seared into his face and responds "Just A Pilgrim."

I mean, c''s obvious this dude's gonna be a serious badass. Unfortunately for anyone who's read Preacher, the Pilgrim seems like a blatant Saint of Killers knockoff.  In many aspects there's a solid argument there. One that I will make later. As for now, what you need to know is he's a reluctant hero and a zealot. All of his actions are deemed to be God's will and Pilgrim views every creature as a puzzle piece to serve that purpose. Even if that means fatal facial reconstruction.

Par the course for Ennis, all of the oddballs are on full display. The main villain, Castenado, is a blind amputee with a gift for gruesome gab. A member of Pilgrim's party named Dirk gets impregnated by a pit monster, rendering him less than a personable pustule. Nearly two decades ago I'm sure all of this gave me a good chuckle. I was 21 years old and heavily into Bukowski and booze. Now, however I kind of meh at it. Not that all of the gags aren't funny or could only be considered such, especially by an adolescent. I bet this will rib-tickle a bunch of folks but it just not as clever as I thought it was. Have I matured? Are dad jokes my new bread and butter? Probably.

I know require the most epic of drum rolls as it's...redemption time! Or maybe more appropriately, what could be vaguely considered redemption for a man such as Pilgrim. A recurring theme throughout the first two issues had been Billy's Mom getting a strange sense of generalization when  Pilgrim was around. Oh, there's definitely a reason for that. If you had a sneaking suspicion his origin had anything to do with happiness or joy, lay off the grass. The cover image should provide enough of a hint that it's about to get weird up in here.

Who was this nut job before he met the lord? A different sort of crazy. He was a special forces soldier and as he tells it, a sinner. He lived for murder, drinking and dames. After a mission went awry, Pilgrim and his men were stranded at sea on a lifeboat. With time turning to weeks and no rescue to be had, desperate men always turn to desperate measures. In this case, cannibalism. After over 100 days on that raft, he was finally found by a passing ship as the lone survivor. Barely clinging to life, his diet didn't do his demeanor any favors.

The military gave him a psych discharge, considering no other members of his regiment would work with him. The Army was the only home he had ever known. Without it, Pilgrim decided it best to drink his life away. One night, after getting sloshed at a bar, he hit a hobo with his car. Pilgrim gazed upon the man he had just killed and rather than feeling remorse, he thought of a recipe. He discovered he still had cravings for flesh and human stew was on the menu. The authorities caught wind of people disappearing and Pilgrim got himself locked up.

While in the clink, he would get frequent visits from the prison chaplain. Pilgrim had no interest in buying what he was selling. Bible verses, the Lord's guiding hand and all, wasn't very appealing to a man who believed he could never be redeemed. Still, the priest persisted. He would visit his cell each and every week, speaking of religion while Pilgrim sat unimpressed. This continued for years. When finally it appeared Pilgrim had softened to the idea of accepting a larger power, that pesky Burn happened. The sun scorched the earth, killing everyone within its reach. The priest tried to free the prisoners but much like his experience on the raft, Pilgrim was the only one still alive. In a foolhardy attempt to reach a vehicle, the clergyman got himself cooked. We've already established Pilgrim is an unbalanced fella so of course, he would take a cross, melt his damned face and finally accept God.

I'm not here to spoil the remainder of this five issue series. Wanna read the rest? Up to you my friend. But wait there's more! If you do dig it, there's also a sequel named Just A Pilgrim: Garden Of Eden. Trying new comics is never a bad thing. Right now, I'd prefer to focus on that whole "carbon copy" bit I brought up earlier. For fans of  Preacher not only does Pilgrim have a similar look. The attitude also carries over. Pilgrim is more of a talker as he spouts out scripture in the middle of a massacre yet the strong but silent, movie westerns archetype is applicable to both. They're also bad dudes who didn't want redemption and would rather rot away, accepting that to be the fate of the wicked.

Aside from those two, there are even more glaring similarities at play here. Most notably, the villains.
I can imagine Garth Ennis looking over his shoulder while cashing his checks at the bank, in fear of getting caught for draining the well. I can't blame him. His admirers, myself included, gobbled it up. Arguably, the most popular baddies he's created, Herr Starr (Preacher) and Ma Gnucci (Punisher) had something very unique in common with the antagonist featured in this series. They were all dismembered. While Starr and Gnucci were put through the wringer for shock value and laughs, a distinct difference this time out was that Castenado lacked eyes, hands, and feet from the get-go. For some reason, Ennis didn't devote the time to torture him as he did the others. Why did he decide losing limbs was a lovely way to depict the degenerates? That I can't say. His garden must look terrible though.

You may have gathered I wouldn't consider Just A Pilgrim to be Ennis's finest hour. Even with excellent pacing, this yarn provides its fair share of yawns. However, it does have some noteworthy strengths that will appeal to many readers. The art by Carlos Ezquerra is outstanding and Paul Mounts kills it on colors. There's also a TON of action to be had here which gives it a summer blockbuster quality. I could see this being adapted to other forms of media with success for that very reason. It's no masterpiece like Preacher but if Garth's gimmicks haven't grown stale to you, give it a try.
Just A Pilgrim isn't a sought out book making it easy to pick up on the cheap physically and it's available for digital purchase in trade form.

See that? In the end, little Billy Shepard just wanted the same thing all bloggers do. So don't wait! Check out all of these amazing Super Blog Team Up pages. Just click on the site name and away you go to truly incredible content!

 The Superhero Satellite: The Walking Dead: “Redeeming Negan”
Chris is on Infinite Earths: The Pied-Piper Reforms!  Flash (vol.2) #31
Longbox Review: Redemption of Nightwing
Coffee and Comics: Green Lantern #100
Comic Reviews by Walt: Redemption/Coming Home: Shredder
The Unspoken Decade: What If V2 #46 and 47
The Daily Rios: Thanos: Samaritan (Issues 7-12 2004)
The Retroist Via Vic Sage: The Redemption Of Magneto
Crapbox Son Of Cthulu: Iron Man: Demon In A Bottle
Between the Pages Blog: The Secret Origin Of Spider-Man
Black, White and Bronze: The Redemption of Red Sonja, Savage Sword of Conan #1
The Source Material Comics Podcast: Penance - The Redemption of Speedball
Comics Comics Blog: Elfquest Cutters Redemption 
 ★In My Not So Humble Opinion: The Other Side of the Wind: The Redemption of Orson Welles

Special thanks to my pal Chris Sheehan for giving me a swift kick in the keister, propelling me back into the blogosphere. I would like to say this was a case of saving the best for last, but it was actually just an attempt to get him to read the whole thing. Excelsior! 

*All external links for Just A Pilgrim are intended for informational purposes.

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Swamp Thing (Vol.2) #38

This Christmas, I want to give my fellow fans the gift that keeps on giving. If you were expecting a Jelly of the Month Club subscription, apologies in advance but this year I've arranged for Santa to bring Swamp Thing in his sleigh!
Much like good ol' Saint Nick, I'm double checking my list. Hmm, seems like there are three types of people on here.
1) Love Alan Moore's Swamp Thing.
2) Haven't read Moore's Swamp Thing in a long time.
3) Never checked it out.
Whatever camp you find yourself in hopefully, I can please all of you. While the story I'm about to recap wouldn't be confused as a yuletide yarn, it's one I consider a classic. Curl up next to a warm fire and cover your chestnuts folks. It's time to take a look at Swamp Thing Vol.2 #38 "Still Waters" cover dated July 1985 by Alan Moore, Stan Woch and John Totleben.

This story occurs at an interesting time in Swamp Thing lore. Readers today know of him as the Avatar of the Green but he came from humble beginnings. Since his creation in 1971 by Len Wein and Bernie Wrightson and up to this point, he was more of a homogeneous muck monster. Swamp Thing #37 introduced John Constantine, who proved to be the catalyst for some intriguing changes.
Alan Moore had already flexed his muscles and shocked fans in the pages of  Saga of the Swamp Thing #21, but the American Gothic arc is when the true potential of his powers are revealed. The issue we are about to discuss is the first leg of his jaunt across the states in search of self-discovery.

Something that separates Swampy from similar creations is his relationship with Abby. It's deeply rooted love affair that's withstood the most unusual of circumstances. We get a taste of that in a beautifully scripted goodbye weaved into the origin of a doomed event. The flow at play here is akin to a delicate, touching lyric. There are moments where Moore so accurately describes the feeling of heartache it could crack the narration box.

To the uninitiated, a sign for Rosewood, Illinois is of little significance but it's actually a brilliant tie-in. Previously in Saga of the Swamp Thing #3 by Martin Pasko and Tom Yeates, the town was flooded in an effort to destroy some pesky punk rock vampires. Revisiting history provides fertile ground for Moore. While I'm glad he chose to utilize it, nearby citizens of Rosewood would disagree. The deluged vampires have become quite accustomed to their new environment. Free from the punishment inflicted by direct sunlight, they take advantage and nibble on teenage swimmers.

Leeches force the boys out of the water, all except one that is. While he floats looking frozen, the others see shadows under the water and bolt. Promises to return for him echo out as they flee into the forest. The vampires now full after feeding on the forgotten friend, swim away. Their home is the corroded skeleton of the town once known as Rosewood. This will prove to be the breeding place for something sinister.
Meanwhile, Swamp Thing endures an early trip into the Green. While tumbling through what seems like an endless void, he recalls Constantine had instructed to meet him at Rosewood. The mysterious mandate fills his mind with the memories of his first experience with the town as he goes from seed to sprout and eventually stem.

Like her lover, Abby has become lost in a realm of reverie. Her co-worker has confused her daydreaming as concern for her comatose and estranged husband  Matt Cable. Constantine, making his way to meet Swampy is sidetracked by a bumpkin in a bar. The boys argue on what to do about their pal they abandoned at the lake. That particular swimming spot had been forbidden by their parents and only one of them is brave enough to go back.

The vampires are in the process of performing a ritual. If you weren't already creeped out by these parasites distorted by the depths, get a load of this gal. Like a queen bee serviced by the members of the hive, they have mimicked that method to meet their own need. A bloated woman is decorated with a bridal veil. They refer to her as the "Mother" but what is she capable of giving birth to? Here's another example of a page that reads like poetry. Moore gives just a hint of who she was while implying her horrific purpose.

Swamp Thing now fully formed has no patience for the ambiguous information fed to him by Constantine. They stand at an edge of the lake together engaged in hostile conversation. It's actually a running theme throughout the arc. Swampy is desperate to discover why he exists but has the misfortune of having a chain-smoking shyster as his guide along the way. Constantine continues to crack wise resulting in Swamp Thing taking him by the trench coat in a fit of anger.

As for that kid with the courage to return to the lake? Yeah, A+ in ethics but a massive fail in execution. Actually, scratch that. An execution goes great, just not in his favor. His buddy now turned undead, leads him to the water where a  group of soggy bloodsuckers quickly turn him into fish food. 

While Constantine is soiling his knickers, the submerged vampires hail their succubus. She ceremonially spawns a set of eggs. Swampy decides it's time to mop up his mess, releasing a relieved John Constantine. What new species of evil is about to hatch in the dark? You'll have to come back next month to find out!

The talent involved here is top notch. I've gone on about Moore's writing but the artistic talents are also superb. It's hard to tell Stan Woch is a fill-in because John Totleben's inks maintain the consistency a reader would receive from regular series penciller Stephen Bissette.  (Not to mention Totleben is one hell of an all around illustrator, who rightfully took center stage on key issues and covers.)

I highly recommend to not only pick up this two-parter but as many issues of this run you can get your grubby fingers on. They are inexpensive and easy to collect. Permit me to be a cranky old bastard for a second here; it boggles my mind that fans put so much value on first appearances, variants and allow speculation to affect sales. What about content? Tales such as these are priceless and should truly be sought after. 
It's probably not a surprise that Swamp Thing is my favorite DC character and I consider this the greatest turn taken on a comic. Hands down and without hesitation, these are mags I would want buried with. Feel free to check my will!
When discussing it within the community, I often hear it described as a great horror title. Sure, I know it's scary on the surface although if  I'm inclined to apply any tag, I would choose to call it a love story. Possibly one of the finest ever told.
Skip the sweets this year and stuff your loved one's stockings with Swamp Thing. This epoch is available digitally on Comixology and in trade form. Or better yet, hit those bins and remember...never leave a good book behind.

Happy Holidays you filthy animals,
David Schultz

*all links are intended for informational purposes only*

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Namor The Sub-Mariner #1 (1990)

I'm a wee bit afraid of the ocean. There is no official phobia involved, just my sense of logic. You see, there are too many critters that can get you. Simple as that. I'm not keen on stepping foot into the world's largest death trap just for fun. I'll let others get their jollies mingling with jellyfish.

That being said, one may think it's odd I have so much affection for Namor #1. But it's the call of nostalgia rather than Neptune that draws me to the briny depths today. I was twelve years old when this comic was released in 1990. The golden age of my fandom. Some of you may be in the same boat despite the decade. Can you pick up a comic from your youth and memories crash over you like a tidal wave of sweet sentimentality? By the look on your face, I can tell that's a resounding yes. See that, we're not so different you and I. So sit back, get your galoshes on and join me as we revisit Namor The Sub-Mariner #1 (cover date April 1990) from Marvel Comics.

Namor stepped on a Lego.

The creators:
I've got a name for you, John Lindley Byrne. Ever heard of him?  The artistry is something to admire but his career is not without controversy. I'm not going to focus on any of that, so feel free and google to your heart's content if you enjoy digging in the dirt. I will say, with some terrific turns on classic characters, only a select few could draw finer than Byrne in his prime. 

Bob Wiacek is one of the all-time greats. With a resume longer than a CVS receipt, it's a good bet he's worked on some of your favorite books and deserves a tip of the cap.

Now for the story...

We are introduced to Caleb Alexander and his daughter Carrie. A pair of Marine Biologists studying secret testing grounds in the south Pacific aboard their boat, the Oracle. Noticing an aggressive blip on the radar, Carrie prepares to investigate but ends up shocked to witness what erupts from the water.

Don't let the ankle wings fool you, it's not Chicken of the Sea.

Believed to be dead by the world at large after the events of the Atlantis Attacks, it turns out Namor is alive and well. Scratch that, alive and crazier than a crab with bad credit! So much so, when Caleb and Carrie track him to a nearby island, the Sub-Mariner has taken out his scorn for false idols on the locals.

 Dude, it's Tinder not TIMBER! Next time just swipe left, okay?

Amid a haze of hallucination, Caleb and Carrie manage to calm Namor down. He follows them back to the Oracle where Caleb claims to have a cure for his bouts of bonkers. Speaking of nutty, the device Caleb has looks more like a fancy coffee machine rather than a solution for insanity. As comic fans though, we should all know to never judge a book by its cover or a doohickey for utter lack of sensible design. 

There was one side effect to the treatment. You no longer have nipples.

Looks aside, it's quite a handy dandy little gadget and Caleb's one clever cat. He's dedicated his life to studying Namor. Why? We'll get to that in a minute but first, the diagnosis. Namor has a blood problem and I'm not talking about the gang. He's a man of two worlds and needs a proper balance of both to function properly. Out of the water too long, cue the cuckoo clock. Log a little too much time on land, off to the loony bin. Caleb has formulated a way to please his plasma by keeping those pesky oxygen levels stable. This is a pretty neat plot point worth exploring...oh wait, obligatory origin time!

Roman. I'll name him Roman. No?

 The flashbacks aren't over folks. So why is Caleb so enamored with Namor? Gotta go back to WW2 when Caleb was just a lad living in Harlem. Following a ceremony honoring the Invaders at City Hall, he chased after Namor on his bike. With his eye to the sky, Caleb lost track of his surroundings and plummeted off a pier. Luckily, much like breaking your leg in a hospital, his hero was overhead. After the save that day, he dedicated his life to marine biology and studying the Sub-Mariner. He even named his own ship after the vessel Namor's father once commanded. Stalker skills are strong on this guy.

Did Grandma tell you about the restraining order?

It's also revealed that Caleb's got a bad ticker and is unable to dive, hence the reason for teaming up with his daughter. Namor claims he has much to consider and takes off. Personally, I think after all that blood work he should've at least had a cookie or some juice. One page and two weeks later he returns with a gift.

 For the love of God, don't open it!

The chest is chock full of treasure. Namor has hatched a plan to reclaim all the riches lost at sea and invest the fortune in various business ventures.  Not to be accused of having barnacles as brains, he realizes the only way to influence surface dwellers is by flashing them with some green. Money that is, not his skivvies. But just when you thought it was safe to go into Wall Street, we meet Phoebe and her twin brother Desmond Marrs.

 Most twins share clothes, these two share a barber.

In typical Byrne fashion, a ton of story is crammed in here. There's also no real action to be had unless you count the trouncing of the tribe people. Yet, this is not a bad thing. Can you believe readers were treated to the "all-new direction" advertised on the cover? Gasp! It's true! A fresh, interesting take had arrived and if you were new to the character of Namor, you wouldn't miss a beat. I'll buy that for a dollar. Psst...I recently paid fifty cents for a copy. Imperius Rex!

What I would criticize are the off-panel details. While it only happened once in this issue when the Prince of Atlantis went off to ponder, this occurs again during Byrne's run and proves to be annoying. I'll consider it a give and take scenario, however as I was also wowed by his use of duo-shade starting with issue four. But that conversation is reserved for a future edition of Two Staple Gold.

I can see why I loved this at the age of twelve and better still, it stands up today. If you come across Namor The Sub-Mariner #1 on the shores of back issue beach, be sure to snag it.

 I brood better in blue.

-David Schultz

Want to see Namor battle a booger in the bronze age? CLICK HERE

* all external links used for informational purposes only.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Brave and the Bold #148

Originally published December 22nd 2017


If anyone else is hungover from last night’s company Christmas party, please raise your hand. Only me? Ah well, it’s all good. I may have landed myself on the naughty list for my ill advised shenanigans with the xerox machine but I’m still chock full of holiday cheer!

Jolly would be a good word to describe my mood in all honesty. Here I am with you, the fine reader, and a copy of the Brave and the Bold #148 ( DC Comics, March ’79). By cover alone, this has the look of a Christmas classic. Batman and Plastic Man take on the mob in a yuletide yarn, what’s not to like? Grab yourself a glass of eggnog and join me for a review of “The Night the Mob Stole X-Mas” by Bob Haney, Joe Staton and Jim Aparo.


Dirty, rotten, no good, stinkin’ buttleggers. You may be asking yourself “What the hell is that? A new brand of yoga pants?” Sounds right but no. Back in the day, everyone was wacky for tobacky. That may be a stretch but it was still a socially acceptable vice of sorts. So stealing smokes was a profitable racket. This Navidad narrative begins with Batman on the trail of group of hijackers that robbed a cigarette truck. Don’t worry, this doesn’t mean Bats is promoting puffing. He’s just not down with murder…or Gotham getting goosed on taxes.

“The judges gave him a 10 for executing the landing and lambasting lecture maneuver.”

Batman is known for having cool gadgets and per the norm, they will be on full display in this issue. Still, for every Batarang or can of Shark Repellent, The Batmobile will always be the coolest. Everyone has a favorite and there are plenty of versions to choose from but boy, this panel makes me wonder if the Dark Knight has taken too may hits on the noggin.

“Know what else is real bad? Driving in a snow storm with no roof.”

As Bats cruises around with the top down, presumably so everyone can hear his kicking sound system, he notices a child run into the street. A taxi comes within inches of the boy when he is saved by a street Santa with elastic limbs. Batman is shocked to discover it’s Plastic Man in a merry mask and he angrily grabs the garb. Two things here Ebenezer Wayne. First, you of all people should know maintaining one’s secret identity is paramount and two, think about the kids man. Would you tear off Mickey Mouse’s head at Disneyland? Dreams and sense of wonder are now deader than your parents. Nice job.

“A man dressed as a flying rat objects to my fake beard!”

The two heroes briefly chat with Plas explaining he quit his carnival gig to play Kris Kringle for the Salvation Army. Batman is fairly bummed he’s become a bell ringer and tosses him some spare change before resuming his search for the buttleggers. While distracted looking for the thieves, a new ghastly crime has occurred. The stogies are second fiddle to the theft of “Lacy’s” Department Store nativity display! Yes, Batman is also a defender of trademark law.


“Wait, the trucker’s murder didn’t get a Code Red. Never mess with another man’s manger!”

Hope you guys haven’t shipped off your wish lists to the North Pole yet. Especially if you didn’t ask for your very own Whirly-Bat! It conveniently fits in your trunk because you never know when you might need it.  Stuck in traffic? Whirly-Bat! Mother in Law coming over for dinner? Whirly-Bat outta dodge! Order now, Operators are standing by!


“Warning: Small parts and razor sharp helicopter blades. Not suitable for minors. Except Robin.”

With all my Whirly-Bat excitement I failed to mention Plas was kidnapped. How it all went down irritates me to no end. I should love the dickens out of it really. The elements I typically enjoy are there and It’s completely off the wall zany. But even being half conscious, I can’t get over the fact Plas decided to leave a clue in the snow rather than use that same arm to knock out the driver. Sure, thanks to that tidbit he was discovered by Batman but I’m positive an idling tractor trailer would’ve had the same effect.  I suppose it was an excuse to gift us with one of the more random and unnecessary panels in comic book history. A Reindeer grubbing on tobacco.


“On that fateful day, Prancer lost his innocence.”

Plastic Man reveals the Mob has behind all of the holiday hoodwinking and are high tailing it down to Florida in an effort to appease their dying boss. Odd request by the Godfather but what do you expect coming from this story. Time to visit some Blue Haired Betty’s and battle some baddies down in the Sunshine State. But first, Batman needs a bath…in a car wash. Don’t ask. Have some ribbon candy and enjoy the ride.


“Batman gets boisterous after a hard buffing.”

They arrive in time to bust the party and save Christmas in Gotham but it’s how they win the day that’s spectacular. The Mobsters had arranged for fake snow to be dropped overhead while celebrating. Plastic Man uses this to his advantage by turning his head into a funnel and blasting the mafia into submission. The good news is, following this adventure he quit his gig as Saint Nick and started smuggling coke. Poor guy still believes it’s only synthetic snowflakes but appreciates getting paid in cash.


“Tony Montana eat your heart out.”

Holly Jolly or Ho-Ho Horrible?

Sorry, can’t get my Grinch on this time. This issue was fantastic. Utterly ridiculous and a whole lot of fun. What else can you ask for from a Holiday themed issue? The artwork, while the pencilling credit is given to Staton, it was Jim Aparo’s star that shined the brightest and the pages looked phenomenal. I will admit, Bob Haney’s script is only amusing due to it’s seasonal nature. I’ve busted his hump in a review of his previous work so let’s consider this time around as my attempt at puckering up under the mistletoe.

Next time you’re ready to slap ten smackeroos down on one of the newer anthologies DC is serving up, don’t. Turn around, head to the bins and start digging for Brave and the Bold #148.

Now, If I could only find out what happened to that poor Reindeer from earlier. Sweet Mother Hubbard…NO!

“15 bucks little man.”

-David Schultz

*All images/video clips are rights of their respective owners. Links to external sites are used solely for informational purposes.

Superman #349

Originally published November 15th 2017


Superman, the world's greatest superhero. Without Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster's creation all of us may have lived crummy lives. Other powered beings have appeared in literature throughout the ages but Superman was a f'ing rock star. Creating the model which all our costumed heroes we love were formed, I will always tip my hat to the Man of Steel.

Even with the respect I have for the inspiration he's provided, my last crack at a Supes review was less than kind. But hey, in my humble opinion he wasn't portrayed in the best light. If you've read any of my previous work, you would know I'm a sucker for EVERY back issue I can get my grubby fingers on, so the Last Son of Krypton and I were bound to cross paths again here in Two Staple Gold.

This issue caught my eye for more than just the fact some guy dressed up like Wonder Woman looks to be giving Supes a terrible case of constipation. I also have a lot of admiration for the writer Marty Pasko and renowned artist Curt Swan. Apologies to both creators as I poke a little fun at Superman #349 "The Turnabout Trap" cover dated July, 1980 published by DC Comics.


Returning from an interstellar adventure that "took longer than expected" our hero is bent out of shape for potentially being late for work. No time for a shower or morning coffee when you fear Perry White will tear you a new one. After swooping through an open window at the Daily Planet and changing into his alter ego Clark Kent he prepares to face his angry boss. Instead of finding a perturbed Perry he discovers they decided to change the plumbing while he was away.


"Clark picked the wrong day to try Peyote."

Everyone's genders have been switched. On the plus side, Jimmy Olsen...err...I mean Jenny Olsen sure can rock a neckerchief like nobody's business. Utterly stunned, Clark needs some fresh air. On his way out of the building various theories enter his mind. A practical joke perhaps or maybe Red Kryptonite is to blame for what he's witnessing. As he exits, a window washer falls from her perch and is saved by...Superwoman?! Clark has a hunch and uses his super vision to look towards the Justice League Satellite. There his suspicions are confirmed, all of his friends have been affected by gender swapping.


"Black Condor? Nice try but on this world he goes by Captain Nair."

Now believing he is trapped in an alternate dimension, Superman attempts to fly into space and search for a gateway. Instead he's met by an impenetrable dome surrounding the Earth. He takes a crack at it to no avail and as history has proven, If Supes can't punch his way out of a problem, magic must be involved. With his smash tactics foiled he chooses to return to the bizarre world he's trapped in and investigate his doppelganger "Clara Kent" who must also be Superwoman.


"You better believe Human Resources is gonna hear about this one!"

But wait! Back at the Daily Planet, while stalking Clara from a windowsill, Superwoman flies by him. How can this be? He remarks how odd all of this is but what I find more disturbing are his Peeping Tom tactics. Whotta creep. Done with all this pondering rubbish, Supes wants the straight dope directly from the horse's mouth. Bad call Big Blue. Fearing he's a villain, Superwoman and Superboy ring his bell. Slapping a helmet filled with Kryptonite gas over his head, he's now their prisoner. Super sucky.


"Groovy! We finally found a use for our spare SUPER Bong!"

Fearing Superman would gain access to their secrets if kept in the Watchtower, The Turnabout Justice League stake him to the ground in the Mojave Desert. He is left under the watchful eye of Wonder Warrior. This leads to my favorite part of the book by far. In all of Supes old adventures, a myriad of  powers would emerge relevant to any predicament he found himself in. This is no exception but easily one I didn't expect. When talking about odd abilities of comic heroes with your friends, feel free to pull this one out of the arsenal...the dude can A Capella Lullaby your ass to sleep!

 "Wonder Warrior is a sucker for a set of smooth pipes."
Superman lures buzzards over and they break his helmet with their beaks. Now free, he has a quick scuffle with Wonder Warrior, pummels him and steals his Lasso of Truth. That time on the hot sand provided him just the clarity he needed. Certain of who has been the mastermind behind his misery but alas, the culprit isn't easily found. How to get the mystery miscreant's attention? Scrawl on a billboard with a giant crayon. Damn, and they say you learn nothing in Kindergarten.

"Ok, That's officially SUPER STUPID and I'm not entirely sure it's a crayon."

There's only one Imp in the DCU capable of creating that kind of itch in Superman's britches, Mr.Mxyzptlk! How did Supes put it all together? Super Intuition? Nah, Mr.Mxyzptlk doesn't know about his secret identity. With every other human experiencing the gender bending, Clara Kent and Superwoman were two different people. Fine deduction skills there Clarky boy. Those who consider Batman "The World's Greatest Detective" can bite my bippy. Only one question remains. Why is Mxyz out to crap on the Man of Steel's Wheaties?

"I'm pleased to know Catfishing didn't originate on our planet."

A year prior in Superman #335, Mxyz was exiled from his dimension and Supes helped him return in time to marry his fiancee Miss Bgbznz. But you see, Mr.Mxyzptlk is one shallow little hombre. When it's revealed his sweet gal is actually a gaaah, he takes it out on the Blue Boy Scout. Before he can make a mad dash with his crooked derby hat, Superman snares him with the Lasso of Truth he scooped up earlier. Forced to obey, Mr.Mxyzptlk says his name backwards and is returned to ZRFFF. Everything returns to normal...or does it?

"Silly Lois, Clark's only worried he was going to have to feign interest in Theatre."

The Verdict:
Silly, fun and whimsical. All these words can be used to describe what I've just read and quite frankly, I love that. It it the most memorable tale ever told? Hell no, but unlike my review it's  classic kid friendly entertainment.

Dark and gritty comics are cool. I enjoy them as much as the next fan but every once in a while a jovial romp is just what the Doctor ordered. Provides some chuckles and the nostalgia tank gets refilled. Punch your ticket to Happy Town and rescue a copy of Superman #349 from the bins. It's Two Staple Gold.

No molds broken nor minds blown, this is clean entertainment and deserves to be owned. That'll be $2 for the parting rhyme. I accept cash, credit or a pair of Black Condors shorts. Tell ya what, bring the skivvies and I'll throw in a Turnabout League fan casting for free.

                                                             BeFunky Collage.png

-David Schultz

*All images/video clips are rights of their respective owners. Links to external sites are used solely for informational purposes.