Tuesday, 31 July 2007


Let's take a break from talking about great comic-books and great comic-book moments shall we. For a change let's talk about cheese - 100% pure, unadulterated cheese.

Let's talk about Thundercats/Superman #1.

This idea was obviously conceived by some suit in the marketing department in the throes of some fevered wet dream. Next thing you know the powers that be are hiring Judd Winnick to slap together some half-baked story to float this madness and the rest is history.

The half-baked wackiness begins with a half-naked bald chick dropping in on Mumm-Ra's pyramid. Now you'd think being a wizened old mummy with only ugly mutant dudes for company he'd be glad of some female company but the choking and threats of neck-snapping that ensue suggests otherwise:
Damn you ancient spirits of evil! I wanted a blonde!

Anyway, to avoid being throttled Baldy tells Mumm-Ra that she can take him to a second 'Eye of Thundera' jewel in another dimension (Thundercats aficionados know that the 'Eye of Thundera' is the jewel set in Lion-O's sword - the rest of us frankly don't give a monkeys).

So Baldy whips up a dimensional portal and Mummsy and his mutant pals head off into the unknown. What they don't know is that Lion-O and his Thundercat clan have hitched a ride through the dimensional gate with them for some vague reason- they fancied a vacation or something I guess.

*Gasp* shock horror they wind up in downtown Metropolis!

The second Eye of Thundera is on display in the Metropolis museum, and who just happens to be there covering it for the Daily Planet? None other than Jimmy Olsen, Lois Lane and Clark Kent! Convenient huh?

At this point Mr. Winnick just gives up on any pretense of a storyline and just gives the geeks in the cheap seats what they want. Superman on Thundercat action:Once the standard 'misunderstanding that becomes a brawl' has been cleared up Big Blue and his new cat buddies all turn their attention to the gem thieving mutants.

This of course leads us to our second geekgasm moment of the proceedings. Mumm-Ra ditches his funky bandages for his snazzy helmet and skirt ensemble to give us - Superman versus Mumm-Ra the Ever-Living:I know that pulse-pounding Clash Of The Fandoms has set your hearts a flutter so lets' just slow things down for a moment and talk about the one moment of this book that I enjoyed. At the end the bald, half-naked chick that started it all reveals herself to be classic Supes villain Mister Mxyzptlk in drag. The whole Metropolis trip was a diversion so Mxy could steal Mumm-Ra's orbs of power (which isn't as kinky as it sounds, honest). Mumm-Ra is left feeling angry, dejected and a little concerned that he was turned on by a leprechaun in a bowler hat pretending to be a chick:

This post is dedicated to my lovely wife. While not a comics fan she has a love for all things Superman that is only surpassed by her odd affection for that wizened old crusty Mumm-Ra.

I saw this book and thought of you.

It's just a shame it sucks so bad.

Tuesday, 24 July 2007

I had no idea that DC had let Grant Morrison & Mark Millar unleash their patented madness on the Flash title until I recently stumbled on Flash #131. This issue is part two of 'Emergency Stop' the team's first story-arc on the book.

Morrison & Millar are nothing if not idea men (and usually the stranger the idea the more likely that these two will spew it out onto the page). Take for example the villain of the piece in this issue - the Suit!

Hmmm The Suit eh? What kind of character might he be? Some crazy man in a radioactive tuxedo perhaps? Of course not - that's not nearly weird enough for those two freaks!

The suit is in fact an empty super-villain costume possessed by the spirit of a murderer who fried in the electric chair after being apprehended by the Flash.

No really, I'm not kidding, look:
Does my bum look big in this?

Now that might seem like the dumbest idea you've ever heard in your life - and it kind of is I guess - but Millar and Morrison can make anything fly.

I mean who would've thought an empty suit versus Jay Garrick (the Golden Age Flash), Impulse (speedy teeny-bopper from the future) and Max Mercury (zen speedster jackass) would be awesome? Not me, I'll tell you that - but lo and behold:
There's the pitch...

The awesome doesn't stop with the Suit possessing Max Mercury and throwing that annoying little bastard Impulse at a brick wall though. You see the wall in question is in fact connected to a prison which houses a veritable candy store of cheeseball third-rate super-criminals. Now thanks the Suit these losers are loose and only one man stands between them and the destruction of Keystone City -

- Oldest swinger in town, Jay Garrick!

Being that he's like 80 years old and hopelessly outnumbered we could forgive Jay for getting the hell out of there - but oh no he was already a hero back when most of these clowns were all about mommy's boobies.A hero doesn't turn tail and run. A hero stands his ground and acts 'ard:
I'll knock all of yer ballixes in

That's just kick ass isn't it. You gotta love Jay Garrick. You can keep your precious Barry Allen - Jay is without a doubt my all-time favorite scarlet speedster.

Being a Flash book you'd think this issue would suffer from the fact that Wally spends the whole thing out of action in a wheelchair with broken legs - but it doesn't at all. The other speedsters more than make up for his absence.

Hold up! The Flash has broken legs?

Oh yeah, he broke 'em last issue running into a wall. Don't worry he comes back as Golden Flash with a costume made out of Speed Force in this one.

Whaaa? Golden Flash? Speed Force costumes? You're shitting me!

I certainly am not! Go read it for yourself if you don't believe me. It's buck mad I'm telling you!!

Friday, 20 July 2007

It's A Jealousy Thing...

I can't believe I spent a whole post rattling on about Fantastic Four #60 and completely forgot about this killer issue which came out a scant five months earlier .

Okay, so it's nothing more than a super-hero slugfest from cover to cover. Since when is that not a good thing? Besides it's a classic Stan & Jack slugfest built on a great premise.

What 'great premise' you say? Why the classic 'jealous super-hero boyfriend finds other super-hero hitting on his chick' premise of course. When the super-hero boyfriend and second super-hero suitor in question are none other than lump lady-killer Benjamin J. Grimm aka The Thing and cosmic-powered Casanova the Silver Surfer you know glorious super-hero hijinks are in store.

Our story begins with the slinky Surfer getting bored with exploring the Earth and deciding to pay a visit the girl who convinced him to save Earth from Galactus - blind sculptress Alicia Masters.

Now as any true believer knows Alicia is the main squeeze of the ever-loving, blue-eyed Thing himself. In true soap opera fashion Ben arrives at Alicia's place just in time to catch her cozying up to the sexy Surfer!

Ben thinks this is highly inappropriate behaviour and challenges his rival to a gentlemanly duel:Okay okay, he gets pissed and punches him through a wall. Pardon me for trying to add some sophistication to the proceedings.

Anyway, with the gauntlet thrown, we're treated to a fabulous, Kirby rendered, issue-long Thing/Silver Surfer throwdown. It shouldn't be much of a fight really though - I mean the Surfer has unimaginable cosmic power and could turn Benjy into a smoking pile of sizzling orange pebbles as easy as pie.

Course Stan being the devilish rascal that he is made the Surfer kind of a pacifist. He doesn't once take the offensive against the enraged Thing, he keeps on the defensive trying not to hurt anyone. Sure it's a noble and admirable attitude but it's hardly a wise one. Especially when you're fighting with a guy who can punt giant freaking boulders at your head:He doesn't draw the line at giant boulder punting though. You hit on Ben's girl and you can expect to have your shiny cosmic surfboard snapped over his knee and a building dropped on your head.

In the end Reed arrives to find Ben searching through the rubble trying to find the Surfer so the clobbering can continue. Reed puts an end to all the nonsense by getting his jerk on - which he loves to do. He threatens his best friend Ben with physical violence, questions his maturity and points out his grotesque appearance:Geez, why does anybody still hang out with that guy?

FF issues just don't get more fun than this. Stan and Jack were at the top of their game with this one. Irascible and rowdy is the way like our Thing - that's what makes him the idol of millions baby.

Just don't hit on his chick - dude'll drop a building on you!

Thursday, 19 July 2007

A Moment of Sensitivity With The Beast....

X-Factor #26 - a great book with a fantastic cover. Check that out - that's Walt Simonson at his best baby!

This issue occurs during a pretty bad time for X-Factor. Over the last bunch of issues they've had their world turned upside down by one disaster after another:
- Their former colleague Cameron Hodge has been revealed as the mutant hating leader of the Right. A nasty terrorist organisation whose smiley-faced, armoured goons have been committing massacres in the name of mutant kind.
- The team have had their mutant-hunter cover blown and have been revealed to the world as mutants with a habit of wrecking the place.
- The Angel shows up alive after his apparent suicide and in the employ of the evil Apocalypse
- Beast having been touched by Pestilence is slowly losing his intelligence with every exertion of his growing strength
- As if all that wasn't bad enough Apocalypse, his enormous spaceship and his four horsemen have decided now is a good time to tear New York City a new asshole.

Issue #26 deals with the aftermath of the team's big battle with Apocalypse. In order to stop him Iceman and the Beast disabled his spaceship headquarters. Unfortunately as a result the damn thing fell out of the sky and decimated half of Manhattan.

Beast and his team-mates have been busting their ass all over the island rescuing people who have been hurt or trapped by the damage caused by the falling ship. Unfortunately no amount of good deeds seem to convince some people that not all mutants are bad:Every man has his breaking point and sometimes the sharp tongue of one over-worked, underpaid New York nurse is all it takes to reach it.

When snoopy, anti-X-Factor reporter Trish Trilby tracks down the Beast in a hospital corridor to thank him for heroically saving her life earlier in the day she finds him broken, huddled in a corner weeping like a little kid.

He cries because of guilt he feels for all the hurt his actions caused his fellow New Yorkers. He cries because he's helpless to stop his slow transformation from witty professor into mindless brute. He cries because every time he tries to help he only succeeds in making things worse for mutants and humans alike:It's a pretty emotional moment. I remember feeling really sorry for Beast the first time I read this. Kudos to the Simonsons, this scene is beautifully written and gorgeously drawn.

This issue has another great moment I have to mention. Ever since he joined X-Factor Scott has been back and forth about his relationship to the newly resurrected Jean Grey. He's still beating himself up about the death of Phoenix and his wife Maddie. But after a night of fighting for the lives and saving the city Jean can't take Scott's indecisiveness any longer:That's beautiful man. It's one of the few moments in post-Phoenix X-history where I actually liked Jean Grey.

Re-inventing the original X-Men as X-Factor was a great way to revitalise the characters after they had been so successfully replaced by younger and edgier characters like Nightcrawler and Collosus in the actual X-Men book. The stories the Simonsons wrote in the those early X-Factor days are the reason characters like Cyclops, Angel and god help us even Iceman are still kicking around in the X-books today.

Okay - that's my sensitivity quota filled today. Now I'm off to sit on the couch, scratching myself, drinking a beer while hogging the remote.

Wednesday, 18 July 2007

Doom Loves To Surf...

Stan Lee and Jack Kirby's run on the Fantastic Four is legendary and with good reason. It is a run full of high points from the Galactus Trilogy to the introduction of the Inhumans it's packed wall to wall with greatness. One of the highest of those high points in my opinion is Fantastic Four #60.

Straight out the gate we know this issue will be good before we even open it. Why? Two words - Doctor.Doom. This issue jumps the border from good into great in the first few pages though because it doesn't just have Doctor Doom. It's got a Doctor Doom who's brimming with cosmic power (he suckered the Silver Surfer and stole his powers a few issues earlier). As if you're not already drooling let me also point out, this is not just any old cosmically powered Doctor Doom - it's a cosmically powered Doctor Doom gloriously drawn by Jack Kirby. Doom + cosmic power + Jack Kirby = awesome!

Hail to the king baby:
Everybody's going surfing....

My favorite part of this issue is the resolution. Throughout the two FF powerhouses the Human Torch and the Thing have been taking turns trying to take Doom out. When the Thing isn't pounding the shit out him the Torch is trying to turn him into a crispy critter. Every time Doom shrugs them off with his pilfered cosmic power.

With their two heavy hitters out of the game it all comes down to Reed 'the rubber ball' Richards and Sue 'invisible wife' Richards alone against a Doom who can level mountains with a raise of his eyebrow. Things do not look good.

Don't underestimate those sneaky Richards's though. Those two are full of surprises.

They take out Doom with one of the most fiendish and enjoyable double teams in comic book history. Reed needs time for his Doom-beating gadget to arrive so Sue runs interference. Of course Sue's interference involves pelting Doom with little invisible ping pong balls. Unsurprisingly Doom laughs off the ping-pong offensive and thunders down out of the sky to destroy her.

He's laughing on the other side of his face when he hits the invisible mountain she was hiding from him:Hitting a mountain doesn't slow him down for long. Luckily Reed's funky, flying, Cosmic-Doom zapping gadget arrives and well..zaps Cosmic-Doom I guess. We're all a little let down when the fancy-smancy thing he's been building for the last few issues does bugger all.

Getting zapped by Reed Richards gadgets is bound to be annoying. You can't really blame ol' Doomy for losing his temper and chasing after the little doohickie when it zaps him and runs away.

Little did we know that this what sneaky Pete Reed wanted him to do. He chases up into the stratosphere then...That's a Mr. Fantastic I can get on board with. Outwitting the villains using his superior brain not his stretchy long-johns.

Like I said people - awesome. Nobody could ever write a Doom/FF battle quite like Stan and Jack could.

Tuesday, 17 July 2007

Brace yourselves people. Strap in tight, put on your nostalgia hat and your rose-coloured glasses - I'm gonna talk Turtles. I was just about young enough to join in the fun when the big Turtles craze swept across the UK. Suddenly everywhere you looked there were Turtles on everything from soap to lampshades to lunchboxes.

Like many others my age I was completely sucked in by the idea of four man-sized mutant turtles who took their orders from a big rat who did karate. It didn't take long for me to get tired of the constant re-runs of the cartoon though, so I turned to comics to get my Turtle fix. There was a big over sized book over here called 'Teenage Mutant Hero* Turtle Adventures' that reprinted stories from the fantastic Turtles series that Archie comics used to put out.

It was a great series and it's hard to single out one issue as better than the rest but a personal favorite of mine was #5. The issue that introduces the awesomeness that is Man-Ray.

This Turtles series had a thing about the environment. It's villains were always polluting rivers and chopping down rain forests while the hero's always had some kind of 'Captain Planetesque', environmentalist angle. Man-Ray was one of the best to come out of this mold.

We first meet him when he's just an ordinary guy. By day he's a mild-mannered Aquarium manager with a deep love for fishies. By night he's a tape-recorder packing hardcore environmentalist exposing the heinous deeds of evil polluters and other non-planet-hugging jerks. Unfortunately his planet-saving career is cut short when he is doused in a familiar slimy green ooze:The ooze mutates him into a big, blue manta-ray looking dude complete with a set of '24 inch pythons' that Hulk Hogan would kill for. As is so often is the case after you've been showered with chemicals and your body has been mutated beyond recognition he decides to dedicate his life to saving the planet.

This of course brings him into conflict with the Turtles arch-enemy The Shredder who for some reason in this issue has decided he wants to blow up the Statue of Liberty on the Fourth of July. Shredder's not normally known for wanton acts of terrorism but maybe he was just really pissed off that day. Luckily Man-Ray and the Turtles are both feeling patriotic and team up to stop him.

The highlight of the issue comes when Man Ray and Shredder finally come to underwater blows. You would imagine being a master of ninjitsu and all Shredder would turn the battle into a savage ballet full of skill and grace. As it turns out he's not at all adverse to a good, old fashioned groin punch:Just when you think the battle is turning Man Ray's way he falls for the oldest trick in the book. Being a buff mutated fish-man does not make him any less succeptible to the classic 'bully on the beach' maneuver. Where's Charles Atlas when you need him?Shredder escapes but the Statue is saved. Man Ray swims off into the sunset - only to show up in later issues as a fully fledged humpback-whale-riding, polluter stomping environmental terrorist.

I loved this series when I was a kid. I have many a fond memory of reading and re-reading it. The stories were lightweight, fun and at times really, really goofy. It never tried to be realistic or take itself too seriously. A comic I'd happily let my kids read - if they could wrestle it out of my greasy mitts that is.

*Over in the UK we're much too sensitive to be exposed to the word 'Ninja' so the powers that be had it changed to 'Hero'. Thank God they did. I mean if anyone says 'Ninja' to me I can't help but break their jaw with a flying jump kick before hacking them up with my katana!

Tuesday, 10 July 2007

Reed Richards Was Always A Jerk...

There has been a lot of talk recently about the portrayal of Reed Richards in the recent Marvel mega-crossover Civil War. They've got him hunting down his super-hero buddies, confiscating their capes and locking them up in his crazy inter-dimensional prison.

Reed fans are up in arms. They cry 'Our beloved Reed wouldn't act that way, he's a kind, loving, generous mad scientist - not like that Tony Stark jerk! Evil Marvel is raping our childhoods again - let's boycott!'.

Sorry to break it to you Reed fans but a quick peruse of Reed's early FF days proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that Reed Richards...was ALWAYS a jerk!

Check it out:
Stupid wife! Don't make me take the back of my hand to you!

Monday, 9 July 2007

Back when I was a kid Marvel Team-Up was my go-to book. Whenever you needed a break from sprawling multi-part story lines, meandering sub-plots and pointless crossovers you could always depend on MTU for some good old-fashioned done-in-one super-hero shenanigans.

While MTU always delivered a generous helping of rich, chocolatey, super-hero goodness every so often they would pull something special out of the bag. Like they did in Marvel Team-Up #67. Not only did it have Spidey-Kraven action which instantly gets it the YouAreComic seal of approval, it was also written by Chris Claremont with art by John Byrne. The team who would soon turn the X-Men into the world-devouring franchise we know and love today.

This issue is positively packed to bursting with quality. Claremont and Bryne know that they've only got 22 pages to do their magic in so they don't fool around. Three pages in and boom - we're already knee-deep in Spidey/Kraven fisticuffs:Next thing you know Spidey's off in La-La land reliving old Megadeth videos thanks to Kraven's nifty chemical tipped darts. He comes to in old Kravy's bamboo love nest and finds himself face to face with a fighting mad Tigra dressed in a rather fetching black, leather swimsuit and dog-collar ensemble.

Unfortunately for Spidey the crazy cat-lady has been brain-washed and is under Kraven's command. I think we can all guess what that command might be - I'll give you a hint, starts with 'K', ends with 'L' and rhymes with 'Phil':It's through nothing more than blind luck that mid-way through the kinky, fire-rolling, chain-whipping action Spidey rips off Tigra's snazzy collar. Sure it ruins the magic of the ensemble but it also frees the cat lady from Kraven's control.

While the super-heroes have a chinwag about how they both let a dude in a lion-mane waistcoat and stretchy leopard skin pants sneak up on them and take them out, Kraven decides since it's now two against one he should find himself a weapon to even the odds a little.

Remember folks this is Kraven the Hunter we're talking about here. He doesn't think like you and me. When he scampers off to get a weapon he's not heading for the knife block in the kitchen or daddy's priceless revolutionary war musket that hangs over the fireplace. Oh No - Kravey baby needs his weapon to have that special huntery feel:I've got to find something to help me take out those pesky heroes! Gun? No. Machete? No. Purple death ray? No. Ahhhh, crazed stampeding zoo animals - that's the ticket!

Bask in that crazy Kraven glory folks. That moment is worth the price of this book all by itself. I mean why would anyone want to watch Jonh McClane being all bald and unfunny, driving his car into a helicopter when you could read about a dude who lives in an abandoned zoo and takes out his enemies with horns full of black mamba venom?

It's too bad that after all that effort Kraven gets taken out by a web-ball in the end. You would expect a man who who wears a tiger tooth belt to go out with a little more dignity wouldn't you?

Wednesday, 4 July 2007

Make Mine Mandrill...

In case you haven't noticed already I'm a sucker for monkeys in comics. As such I've always had a soft spot for the Mandrill. For those who don't know the Mandrill is a mutant super-villain who is basically a giant baboon but with the power to make chicks do whatever he wants - he doesn't even need to put on a Barry White record or nothing. God only knows what Steve Gerber, Ross Andru & co were on when they came up with that.

My favorite Mandrill appearance of all-time was in Defenders #91. I read that book to death when I was a kid. Back then I didn't quite grasp the sinister sexual overtones of Mandy's powers or why a nuclear meltdown was a such a big deal. All I knew was that there was a giant baboon packing heat dressed in spandex trying to shoot the Hulk and I loved it.

In a nutshell - you've got a team of Defenders including Nighthawk, Daredevil, Hellcat and the Hulk facing off with Mandy and his Fem-force in a nuclear power station creeping inexorably toward meltdown.

What's that? What's a Fem-Force you say? Well the Fem-Force is all the ladies that have fallen under the control of Mandy's powers. They'll do anything he says whether it's peeling grapes to stabbing super-heroes. Check them out all decked out in their snazzy purple leotards:In a surprise twist the Mandrill's nuclear power station take-over turns out to be less than strictly business. The power station he and his Fem-force invade is also the workplace of his estranged mother and father!

This is the mother and father who took one look at their newborn baby son's mutant monkey-face and decided to dump him in the desert to die! As you can imagine they're pretty surprised to see their beloved sonny boy alive, well and sticking a semi-automatic in their face:Now Mandy could just take the both of them on Jerry Springer and hash the whole thing out, but he decides he'd rather do things the old-fashioned way. Total mental domination for mommy and slow death by radiation poisoning for daddy.

Of course the Defenders show up and screw it all up. Hellcat takes out the bulk of the Fem-Force, freeing Mandrill-mommy's mind along the way. Hulk and the others ruin Mandy's meltdown fun in the reactor core.

Just as Mandy is getting ready to cut his losses, blow daddy's head off and scarper a shot rings out:This was such a good story, it made me a Mandrill fan for life. Despite all his chick-controlling, gun-waving and general megalomania it really paints the Mandrill as quite a sad, tragic figure. I remember as a kid feeling kinda bad for him and blaming the mean rifle-packing mother for the whole thing. I was totally pissed when she crept up and shot him in the back at the end.

Luckily the Mandrill didn't stay dead (Hooray!), but he's been criminally under-used since (Boooo!). I don't know what Marvel could be thinking they've got the Don Johnson of monkey villains and nobody wants to use him.

C'mon you Marvel writers, what are you waiting for? Make Mine Mandrill!

Tuesday, 3 July 2007

A Slice Of Pure Unadulterated Comics Greatness...

He's a detective....who is also a chimp!

Nuff Said.

The Iceman Cometh..Saweth..and Kicketh Asseth

I've been re-reading the first bunch of issues of Noble Causes recently. That first story-arc had it all - it was a masterclass on how to start up a successful new super-hero series.

It had the typical set-up elements that all first arcs have, like introducing us to the incredibly annoying Race and the rest of the wacky Noble clan. We get a taster of the relationships between the cast like skanky Celeste and her familial love triangle. Once we're done with the set-up though Jay Faerber jumps straight into the fun and games with no delay. He barbecues Race (yayy!). Zephyr gets pregnant then gets a whupping! It's got everything you could want from a new super-hero series...

...and it's got FrostHe is the man. He's the bastard son with the bastard attitude but a secret heart of gold. He's here to prove that goatees aren't just for chubby little English comedians who can't dance and that ice powers aren't just for dorky losers with no imagination.

He's the only member of the Noble Family who is actually any use when Doc's 'eldest son' Icarus, the obsessive robot who thinks he's people, decides to turn his immediate family into robots like him in Noble Causes #4.

All us Frost fanboys shrieked in horror when Icarus sprung his surprise minion on our boy:
Not Robo-Race!!

Our horror wasn't because we were worried that Frost was gonna get killed or anything, it was because that annoying bastard Race was back - just when we thought we'd got rid of him for good!

Luckily for us all our horror was short-lived, Frost was there for us just when we needed him:
Is that ice in your colon or are you just happy to see me?

Ouch! That, my friends is how you use ice powers!

Bobby Drake I hope you were paying attention and we'll have no more of your ice slide nonsense - your not on Spider-man & his Amazing Friends now you know.