Comic Books

Quarterbin Follies #24: Mars Needs Women or Luke Skywalker’s Grand-Pappy

Image1Next Monday -- hoo-doggie. Next Monday is May The Fourth, and I have got a treat for all of you in seven days: a tasty, Star-Wars-y surprise. I figured, however, I would use this week before to crack open one of the oldest books I have: John Carter of Mars #2 from 1965 (Reprinted from 1953)! I am not even certain where I got this book (though I might blame Andrew Grant), and it is in pretty rough shape. Definitely a 'reading' copy, and that is just what I did!

In an unplanned bit of synchronicity, like TUROK from last week, John Carter had a home at Western Publishing's Gold Key imprint. (In a planned bit of synchronicity, it is something of an open secret that John Carter was one of the prime inspirations for George Lucas and Star Wars. That's right, breathe deep and taste the rarefied air!) Sprung from the mind of Tarzan creator Edgar Rice Borroughs, John Carter was based on the most "with-it" and the most "out-there" ideas about space travel, solar power, anthropology, cosmology, and, of course, Mars. The setup goes like this: Civil War veteran JOHN CARTER awakes on Mars (or Barsoom to the locals), having been astrally projected there. Being an earth man, and raised in our heavier gravity, Carter is stronger and faster than the average Martian, and he has soon played the hero and won the heart and the hand of DEJAH THORIS, princess of the Martian city-state Helium.

This is all background for us today, as we pick up in the midst of a titular graphic serialization of Borroughs's second John Carter novel Gods of Mars which was itself originally serialized in All-Story magazine in 1913 (collected in 1918). I say "titular" because the events in this particular comic seem more drawn from Warlord of Mars, The third John Carter novel. Regardless, we begin with a chase, as Cater and crew (DEJAH, TARS TARKAS, and the rescued THUVIA) flee the Black Pirate THURID and PHIADOR, another Martian Princess of the Thern, or White Martian peoples. (Really, Borroughs laid his racial context very thick in these tales. So thick with races and peoples, it would be hard to address in a blog. So, I probably won't.)

Image2As I said, it begins with a chase, but during this chase, an event happens that I almost never spot in modern comics — expositional dialog. Now, allow me to clarify a skoche. Lots and lots of comics use dialogue to forward the narrative, but that is not what I mean. I am talking about the way comics used to be written before the direct sales system. You never knew for sure what issues you were going to get where, and so monthlies had to fill-in the kids that missed out last month. With this story, I more than got the gist of the first issue (mainly that John had killed Issus, the false goddess of the Martian ruling classes) from the first three pages of this one, and all while NEW stuff was happening! Thurid, having a faster ship, overtakes the Carter's and sends them from the sky. In a ploy involving carnivorous plants and nerve gas, John and Tars Tarkas are left for dead, while the ladies are kidnapped into the mountains. One rescue later, and John Carter hunts down his wife on his lonesome, only to see her taken by Thurid again! This time Thuvia is left behind to tell Carter that the pirate has escaped to the far North! The two friends must venture into a place where legend has it know one returns from!

Meanwhile, Thurid stands captured before Salensus Oll, the Jeddak (king) of the forgotten and hidden Yellow Martians of the North Pole, whose Pole connected super magnet has kept all flyers from returning southward for some time. This king has decided to take Dejah Thoris as his Queen, and the only thing in his way is John Cater!

Image3There is more political intrigue and plotting to be had, plus characters and monsters; but you wouldn't want me to ruin it all, right? All in all, it was a right fun read that packed a lot of content into it. Unlike many newer books, I actually had to read this one! No writer's artist info were given, and while not the best of either I've read, it was still pretty good. I did not grow up with John Carter. In fact, my first exposure to the character was in the back of Allan Moore's League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. That and the afore mentioned Disney movie. Well, I really love the world Burroughs built for Carter. It is rich and textured, and I cannot wait to read a bit more. This comic was a little like Burroughs-lite, but it was a great primer for the Sci-fi engine as we taxi toward Monday next!

The Importance of Bobby Drake

xmen40 I don't normally start out my column with a spoiler alert, but since the nature of today's column is from this week's issue of New X-Men, I thought I would state one here, especially if you've lived under a rock and haven't been on like Facebook or anything. Of course, now, I'm just typing enough text so that I know the little textual preview on Facebook won't spoil the first official line of the column, which is coming... ... ... Now. Continue reading

QuarterBin Follies #23: Turok Tuesday

Image1bI guess with a title like that, the metaphorical cat is out of the imagined bag, here. Today, we are going to discuss and review Turok, specifically, Turok: Dinosaur Hunter #1, the opener for the 1993 Valiant Comics series. Turok has long been on my 'B-team' of comic fandom. I ought to explain, because the B-Squad is NOT the not-ready-for-prime-timers, au contraire. My B-team is populated by the characters I like enough to say I dig 'em, but not so much I have spent so much money on them. Folks like Zorro, Daredevil, Hellboy, The-Big-Red-Cheese Captain Marvel, and even Supes himself. Time-tossed Turok is among these noble warriors, and I am glad to have him there! Continue reading

QuarterBin Follies #22: Nebraska

Happy Friday, and before you ask, I am not Chris Lawton. I know, I know, 'it's Friday!' 'You're supposed to do Mondays!' 'What did you do to Chris? Chris is fine. Trust me. Life just happened, as it does, and he asked if I could fill in. Well, as it happens, I missed my column on Monday, so I had material to work from! If you have ever read my column before, you are likely familiar with my formula. With 'QuarterBin Follies', I mostly use my time to yammer-on about my love of old comics, and the weird-and/or-wonderful places I find them. 'The Hunt' I like to call it. Well, this is a little different. See, Last week, I took a trip. This is about that trip. Mostly. Continue reading

Quarterbin Follies #21: Batman in a Kilt (Happy Tartan Day)

Image1 You might have noticed this by now, but I am something of am enthusiast for all things "Celtic," be it art, music, story or history. Truth be told, what started as an interest in my own family history has grown into something akin to fanaticism. Well, guess what, faithful: today, April sixth, is Tartan Day, a celebration of all things Scottish in America (or wherever you happen to live). Unlike St Paddy's or St David's days to the Irish and Welsh, respectively, which both began as religious observances and grew to become cultural celebrations; Tartan Day is a purely secular affair. (Tartan, in case you are not "in-the-know," is the distinct weaving pattern of Scotland, and the fabric woven after that method.) Now, hang on, folks, I know that lengthy discussions of weaving technologies and history are thrilling reading, but I have something better in mind today. On this day The-Powers-That-Be have declared it fitting to toss a "thumbs-up" to Scotland, and we here at Ideal Comics are more than ready to comply. (Well, I am, anyway.) Continue reading

Down the Wire (Volume 1)

The-WireWhen I sat down to do my column this week, I was a bit torn. See, normally, I spend the better part of two or three days just trying to find something to write about. This week, though, I was struck with a bunch of different topics, all of which I thought would be super fun to discuss, and about each of which I thought I would have more than enough to say. How do you choose? I briefly considered going to the race track and randomly assigning each column topic to a separate horse and just let the racing gods decide my fate. Ultimately, though, I determined that was a less than ideal road, since horses scare me, as do people who frequent race tracks in the middle of the week, or on the weekends for that matter. Instead, I decided I would combine my topics into one giant, super, Voltron-like column, in which I would simply move from one topic to another, laying out some brief and quick responses on a variety of issues. So, without further ado, let's begin our journey down the wire in the magical land of television, a vast wasteland, as Newton Minnow once called it. Continue reading

Chris’s Comic Picks: The New Deadwardians

Deadwardians-1I love libraries. Having grown up an avid reader, many of my best memories are wandering among the stacks, picking out a sweet science-fiction book to take home and read over the course of a night. It's not a far stretch to assume that a lot of these early experiences helped shape much of my life path, from a desire to write to my eventual decision to go back to school for my Master's degree in English (with a sub-focus on Realism and Naturalism, but that's neither here nor there). And, considering that such a passion for reading blesses (or curses, depending on your perspective) its owner with the eternal titles of "nerd" and "geek," it's not hard to see how one such as myself might grow accustomed to other hobbies whose users share such titles, like the aforementioned science-fiction and the comic books we're talking about today. I'm sure, among comic book fans, I'm not unique in this experience. In fact, most of my comic book loving friends are also avid readers, even to this day. Where I might be unique in this experience is that my love for libraries often finds its way into my personal life, specifically during vacations. I often find myself taking at least a little time out of one of my days to make my way to the local library and just check things out. What is the library's layout? What does the library emphasize? Fiction? Non-fiction? How are all of the books organized? I don't necessarily learn anything from my visits to these libraries, but I enjoy them anyway. A good library is like a good friend's house. When you visit, you immediately feel at home. Continue reading

Quarterbin Follies #18: The Red, White, and the Deep Blue Sea!

Cap75-1Now, I don't want to get to maudlin or sappy, but if there are two things I love, they are history and America. And my wife. And food. And – well, let's just say I have a lot of love and leave it at that. But, yeah, I love history and America – the good, bad, and ugly of both. And when those two come together with comics, Hootnanny, yer speaking my language! And when it comes to writing speculative history, there is nobody – and i mean nobody – better than the original fanboy himself, Roy Thomas.

Born in 1940, the title “original” might be a bit of hyperbole, but Thomas, an avid comic reader in his childhood, grew from the fandom of the Alter Ego fanzine to a staff editor position at Marvel Comics after a dinner with Stan “the Man” Lee! Excelsior!

Ahem. Continue reading


Quarterbin Follies #17: Wildstorm-Tossed (Part 2)

Wildstorm1So, when I left you all last, it was in 1997, and Wildstorm was but one part of the multifaceted Image Comics cannon. We discussed the hit-and-miss crossover with Marvel's Generation X, and we discussed “next time.” Well, it is next time, and I am here to continue. But, not just yet.

As anyone who has read more than a few of my columns will know, I am passionate about comics and collecting. But, it is not just about the comics or the stories; it is also about OUR stories – our experiences. Granted, not every one of our lives is a story that deserves the telling, but this is my column.

I bought the last installment's comic when it was new-on-the-shelf from a local collectibles shop called Homestake Coins, Cards, and Comics. This was riding in the wake of the dying comic-boom, and Homestake, well, was almost like having a real comic shop. Continue reading


Digital Comics: Revisiting the "Future"

first-internetI love digital comics. Anyone who knows me knows that's no secret. Truthfully, I am the perfect customer for digital comics. Unlike my partner-in-crime, I am not a comic book collector. I don't buy comics and bag them and store them in boxes, in dark closets, never to read again. I don't keep a spreadsheet of issues I own, cross-referenced by title, characters, and creators. I don't have a pull list, and I don't anxiously await Wednesdays. I read comics solely for the stories, and when I'm done with the stories, the comics often go into a stack in my closet, where I sometimes pull them out again months down the road and reread them, gaining new perspectives on the stories within. While I have great memories of brick and mortar stores, right now, in my life, at the moment, I am a horrible comic shop customer. But, digital comics. Digital comics are made for me. They always have been. Four years ago, I wrote an entire essay on a different site arguing in favor of what I perceived to be the future of comic books: digital comics. In that piece, I wrote about the access that digital comics could offer, and the potential for savings for the consumer. I painted digital comics as a perfect utopia, the wonderful and glorious future we are destined for. You can read the whole piece over here. I'm not super pleased with it. I was young and shortsighted and not very good. Continue reading