Due to the Covid-19 pandemic all of the major comic book conventions are cancelled. It’s unfortunate, but certainly understandable. “Con crud” is a real thing at the best of times, and any huge comic con would be a major health hazard.
I enjoy going to comic cons for the opportunity to meet creators and get their autographs on books that they worked on. Obviously that is NOT happening this year. So this summer I contacted a few creators via social media and asked if I could mail them books to get signed.
One of these creators was longtime artist Joe Giella. I reached out to him via his son Frank Giella, who I’ve known for a couple of decades. I’ve gotten a couple of things signed by Joe in the past, but I had a few others I was hoping to have him autograph, so I asked Frank if I could mail them to him to pass along to his father, and he very kindly agreed.
I sent Joe Giella a few Bronze Age comic books. I don’t have any of the really classic issues he worked on for DC Comics in the 1950s and 60s since the majority of those are out of my budget. Whatever the case, I’m happy I had the opportunity to get these books signed.
All-Star Comics #73 (July 1978) has Giella inking the pencils of Joe Staton, another artist whose work I love. The writing is by Paul Levitz. I only got into the 1970s revival of the Justice Society of America in recent years when I picked up the trade paperbacks, but I immediately became a fan. I guess I’ve always liked the JSA a bit more than the Justice League because the JSA members don’t have their own solo titles, which enables more character development to take place in their series. Also, the Earth-2 setting allowed the original JSA members to age, and to mentor a new generation of heroes, which I enjoyed.
Joe Giella began working for DC Comics in 1949, and some of the earliest characters he ever drew for them were the members of the JSA. Then in the early 1960s Giella was one of the artists on the stories that introduced the Earth-2 concept and which brought the JSA back into print for the first time in a decade. Given his historic connection to these characters, I was glad to have him autograph All-Star Comics #73.
Captain America #182 (Feb 1975) was a rare Marvel Comics job by Giella. He inked a few odd issues for Marvel during the 1970s, as well as doing full artwork on various one-off projects such as a few t-shirts and The Mighty Marvel Superheroes’ Cookbook, which was an actual thing. Here Giella is inking Frank Robbins. This was during the period following the classic “Secret Empire” storyline by Steve Englehart when a disillusioned Steve Rogers abandoned the Cap identity and became Nomad.
I know that my experience with Robbins’ work parallels a number of other readers, in that initially I disliked it, over time I gradually learned to appreciate it, and now I now really enjoy his art. I feel Robbins’ work was more suited to war and mystery and horror stories than superheroes, but even on the later genre I find there’s quite a bit to appreciate. I think Giella did a very nice job inking Robbins on this issue, and I wish they had worked together more often.
Superman Family #200 (March 1980) was a really fun “imaginary story” written by Gerry Conway. Set 20 years in the future (late 1999 to be specific) it featured Clark Kent and Lois Lane married with a teenage daughter named Laura.
There were several art teams on Superman Family #200. The portions of this issue that Giella inked were penciled by Bob Oksner, another great artist whose work I have grown to appreciate in recent years. Oksner & Giella made an effective art team. That’s another collaboration I wish we had seen occur more frequently.
Finally, here is the variant cover that Giella drew for the sixth issue of the Archie Meets Batman ‘66 miniseries published by DC and Archie Comics (March 2019). Giella is apparently the oldest living Batman artist, so I really wanted to have him sign something featuring the Dark Knight of Gotham City. This cover is a nice piece which demonstrates that Giella, now in his early 90s, is still going strong as an artist.
Thanks again to Joe Giella for autographing these books, and to his son Frank for arranging everything.
Welcome to the 13th edition of Comic Book Coffee. I previously posted these daily in the Comic Book Historians group on Facebook. The challenge was to see how many different pencilers I could find artwork by featuring coffee.
(I has nasal surgery a couple of days ago, so if any typos creep into this I apologize. My head is pretty stuffed up right now!)
61) Gene Colan & Tom Palmer
Daredevil #90, penciled by Gene Colan, inked by Tom Palmer, written by Gerry Conway and lettered by Sam Rosen, published by Marvel Comics with an August 1972 cover date.
It’s not all that surprising that during his career Daredevil has encountered four different criminals who assumed the costumed identity of Mister Fear. What would be more natural that for the self-proclaimed “Man Without Fear” to cross swords with a villain whose modus operandi was the creation of fear?
Here we see Daredevil, hit by Mister Fear’s powers, has crashed through the window of an office building, and is now cowering in terror at the little old lady who cleans the building. The next panel finds DD a guest of the local precinct, with the cops offering the still-unsteady crimefighter a cup of coffee.
Gene Colan had a style that was generally not an especially good fit for superheroes, yet he is regarded as one of the all-time great Daredevil artists. Perhaps that is because DD is a non-powered acrobatic character, as well as the fact that, no matter how weird and jokey the series sometimes got, it usually still had one foot planted in gritty noir. Both these elements made Daredevil an ideal fit for Colan’s unconventional layouts and shadowy penciling.
Colan was reportedly a somewhat-challenging artist to ink. Tom Palmer is usually classed as one of the best inkers of Colan’s pencils. They definitely worked extremely well together on Daredevil, Doctor Strange and Tomb of Dracula.
62) John Rosenberger
“What’s Ambition, Anyway?” drawn by John Rosenberger, written by Richard Hughes, and lettered by Ed Hamilton, from Confessions of the Lovelorn #81, published by ACG in May 1957.
Beautiful, talented Jill Sanders dreams of becoming an actress. She auditions with famed producer-director Carl Rogers, who agrees to see how she works out in rehearsals for his upcoming musical. While having coffee with Rogers and the rest of the cast, Jill thinks to herself “He’s a real professional — and a swell guy!” Unfortunately for Jill, her high school rival Marion Major has also joined the cast, and pretty soon the ambitious, arrogant blonde is sinking her claws into Rogers himself. Due to budget cuts Jill is squeezed out of the chorus and finds herself back waiting tables, and the despairing young woman believes she has lost out on both show business and Carl Rogers. However, when Carl’s investors back out on him, Jill convinces her restaurateur boss to help finance the show. It’s a success, and Carl has fallen in love with Jill.
Artist John Rosenberger’s career stretched over 30 years, from 1946 to 1975. He worked for several different companies, drawing stories in various genres. His style was definitely well-suited for romance, as he had an aptitude for rendering beautiful, fashionable women. Towards the end of his career he penciled Superman’s Girlfriend Lois Lane for DC Comics, where once again his knack for drawing lovely ladies was a definite asset. Rosenberger became the regular artist on Wonder Woman in 1975, but sadly only completed two issues before taking ill. He passed away in January 1977 at the age of 58.
The entire story “What’s Ambition, Anyway?” can be read on the Comic Book Plus website.
63) Ron Lim & Chris Ivy
Sovereign Seven #36, penciled by Ron Lim, inked by Chris Ivy, and written by Chris Claremont, published by DC Comics with a July 1998 cover date.
As the final issue of Chris Claremont’s Sovereign Seven comes to a close, the Sovereigns, after a long, hard-fought conflict, have finally emerged triumphant against the insidious Rapture.
And then we see that, apparently, the entire story of S7 has been nothing more than a comic book series created by Casey and Morgan, two young women who are customers at the Crossroads Coffee Bar that appeared so often throughout the series.
Sovereign Seven was a creator-owned series that nevertheless took place in the DC universe, with appearances by Darkseid, Superman, Power Girl and other mainstays. Presumably this ending was conceived by Claremont to allow the series to end with a clean break, so that in the future he could have his characters return in an entirely different venue. It’s certainly a metatextual scene, with Casey and Morgan standing in for Claremont himself to reflect on the series’ cancellation.
Of course, as Alan Moore once famously observed, “This is an Imaginary Story… Aren’t they all?” And so I like to think that in some corner or another of the multiverse the events of Sovereign Seven “really” did happen. Ah, well, real or not, it was a fun series.
Ron Lim was the second regular penciler on S7. I have been a fan of Lim since he drew Captain America way back in the early 1990s. I definitely regard him as underrated. On most of his S7 issues Lim was inked by Chris Ivy. They made a great art team, wonderfully illustrating Claremont’s stories.
So, anyone know where I can snag one of those big S7 coffee cups?
64) Frank Bolle
Golden and Silver Age artist Frank Bolle passed away on May 12th at the age of 95. “Outlaw Gold” was penciled & inked by Bolle. It appeared in Tim Holt #29, published by Magazine Enterprises with an April-May 1952 cover date.
Tim Holt was a Western movie star during the 1940s and early 50s. The comic book Tim Holt featured a fictionalized version of the actor who assumes the guise of the costumed vigilante Red Mask in the post-Civil War “Old West.” Tim Holt ran for 54 issues, being re-titled Red Mask with issue #42. Frank Bolle’s artwork appeared in every single issue of Tim Holt / Red Mask. Bolle really excelled at drawing Westerns, and his work on this series was definitely impressive.
“Outlaw Gold” sees beautiful dancehall girl Della Martin enlisting the help of Red Mask to locate a treasure which she says her father hid out in the desert, west of Bald Rock. Pursuing Della are members of Butch Cassidy’s “Wild Bunch” gang, who are all too ready to murder the lovely singer so that they may claim the buried fortune.
On this page, en route to Bald Rock, Red Mask and Della are pursued by a trio of Wild Bunch thugs. Red Mask makes short work of them, knocking all three out. He and Della then bunk down for the night, brewing up some hot coffee to keep warm.
Bolle does nice work on this page. The action flows well. I like how Bolle has Red Mask’s fist swinging out of that third panel, really highlighting the punch. Della is beautifully drawn. And since this is a Western, of course we have horses. I guess this is another crossover with Jim Thompson’s 1000 Horses series!
Here is a double dose of Da Ordster! First up is Adventures of Superman #428, penciled & inked by Jerry Ordway, written by Marv Wolfman, lettered by John Costanza, and colored by Tom Ziuko, published by DC Comics in May 1987.
Here we see Clark Kent and Cat Grant at the offices of the Daily Planet, discussing Perry White’s ongoing investigation of organized crime in Metropolis. Clark is having his morning coffee, and as we can see from his choice of mug he’s a fan of The Far Side.
This page is a good example of both Ordway’s storytelling and inking. He does a good job laying out the conversation between Clark and Cat, presenting it from different angles, making it interesting. I like how Ordway inks Cat on this page. Panel four is especially beautiful.
I know that it’s undoubtedly a function of my having gotten into DC Comics in the late 1980s, but I definitely regard Ordway as one of the definitive Superman artists.
Jumping forward a dozen years we have Avengers volume 3 #18, written & penciled by Jerry Ordway, inked by George Perez, lettered by Richard Starkings, and colored by Tom Smith, published by Marvel Comics in July 1999.
Ordway wrote & drew a really fun three issue story arc on Avengers to give Kurt Busiek & George Perez a chance to catch their breaths. This is the final page of Ordway’s last issue.
Hank Pym is in his lab late at night, studying the technology of the cyborg Doomsday Man, one of the threats the Avengers faced during Ordway’s storyline. Hank has obviously been working for a while, because he disgustedly thinks to himself “*GAH* Coffee’s bitter! ‘Course that pot’s only been on all night…”
Before Hank has a chance to brew some fresh java he is interrupted by the violent arrival of several leering metal monstrosities, servants of his mechanical “son” Ultron. And so Ordway segues back into Busiek & Perez’s own ongoing storylines, with Perez himself inking this last page as part of the transition. Ordway must have been working closely with Busiek, Perez and editor Tom Brevoort to get everything to line up so smoothly.
Jerry Ordway is one of my favorite comic book creators, and I enjoyed his short stint on Avengers. As much as I liked Busiek & Perez, I really wish Ordway could have done more work on this title. He latter penciled the Domination Factor: Avengers and Maximum Security miniseries, on both of these once again doing excellent jobs depicting Earth’s Mightiest Heroes.
I don’t think Ordway’s had any ongoing assignments in the last two decades, instead bouncing around between various short guest runs, fill-ins, miniseries and specials. That’s a shame, because he’s a very talented artist.
The challenge: Pick a subject and find a different artist every day for that subject. I chose “coffee.” From the work of how many comic book artists can I find examples of people drinking coffee? I post these daily on Facebook, and collect them together here.
31) Rich Buckler & Joe Sinnott
“The Mind of the Monster” from Giant-Size Super-Stars #1, penciled by Rich Buckler, inked by Joe Sinnott, written by Gerry Conway, lettered by Artie Simek, and colored by Petra Goldberg, published by Marvel Comics with a May 1974 cover date.
The Incredible Hulk leaps into Manhattan and passes out in a deserted alley. Transforming back into Bruce Banner, the cursed scientist heads over to the Fantastic Four’s Baxter Building headquarters, hoping Reed Richards can find a cure for his condition. Only Ben Grimm, the Thing, is home, but he welcomes Bruce, telling him “Guy’s like us’ve gotta stick together.”
The Thing asks the frazzled Banner “Ya want some java?” A grateful Banner accepts, and the Thing brews him a cup of coffee using some weird-looking Kirby-tech. “Don’t look at me, Banner — it’s one’a Stretcho’s dohickeys.” Yeah, leave it to Reed Richards to take something as simple as a coffee maker and transform it into a ridiculously complicated device!
The Think lets slip that Reed was recently working on a “psi-amplifier” to restore his lost humanity. An eager Banner decides that with a few modifications the device can cure both of them in one shot. Unfortunately they don’t wait for Reed to return before proceeding with the experiment, and of course something goes wrong. Next thing you know, we have another epic battle between the Hulk and the Thing, but with a twist: the Thing’s mind is in the body of the Hulk, and vise versa. Hilarity ensues… hilarity and several million dollars worth of property damage.
As explained by editor Roy Thomas in a text piece, Giant-Size Super-Stars was a monthly oversized title that would rotate through three features: the Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, and Conan the Barbarian. After this issue was released Marvel changed their plans. Spider-Man and Conan both received their own quarterly Giant-Size series, and Giant-Size Super-Stars also became quarterly, renamed Giant-Size Fantastic Four with issue #2.
The creators behind “The Mind of the Monster” were the regular Fantastic Four team: writer Gerry Conway, penciler Rich Buckler, and inker Joe Sinnott. They all do good work on this entertaining tale of swapped identities and smashed buildings. Buckler does a fine job showing via facial expressions and body language that the Thing and the Hulk have switched bodies. Longtime FF inker Sinnott does his usual great work finishing the art.
32) Rick Burchett
Presenting a double dose of caffeinated cliffhangers starring those two-fisted aviators the Blackhawks! Action Comics Weekly #632 is cover-dated December 1987, and Blackhawk #2 is cover-dated April 1989. Both stories are by the creative team of artist Rick Burchett, writer Martin Pasko, letterer Steve Haynie, and colorist Tom Ziuko, published by DC Comics.
I was sad to hear that longtime comic book writer Martin Pasko had passed away on May 10th at the age of 65. Among the numerous characters Pasko worked on was the revamp of the Blackhawks conceived by Howard Chaykin. Pasko chronicled the aviation adventures of Janos Prohaska and Co in serials published in Action Comics Weekly, and then in an all-too-short lived Blackhawk ongoing series.
Pasko was paired with the great, underrated artist Rick Burchett. I’ve always enjoyed Burchett’s art. His style is simultaneously cartoony yet possessed of a sort of gritty verisimilitude (I hope I’m articulating that in an accurate manner). Pasko & Burchett chronicled the Blackhawk’s post World War II adventures which saw the ace pilots becoming embroiled in the Cold War anti-Communist activities of the newly-formed CIA.
Within the pages of the Action Comics Weekly #632, the Blackhawks have been tasked with transporting chemist Constance Darabont to West Berlin to pick up an experimental batch of LSD. Unfortunately for Prosahka and his team Constance is murdered in Berlin and replaced by Nazi war criminal Gretchen Koblenz. On the flight back the diabolical Gretchen spikes the Blackhawks’ coffee with the LSD, pulling a gun on Olaf Friedriksen when her deadly ruse is discovered!
Blackhawk #2 ends on a much less life-threatening note, but certainly one that is just as dramatic. Over morning coffee Janos and the Blackhawks’ assistant director Mairzey ponder the current whereabouts of the missing Natalie Reed, as well as wondering what will become of Natalie’s infant son. Mairzey tells Janos that she has been considering adopting the baby. Suddenly an unidentified figure enters the room and announces “I was always afraid to tell you this before… but I’m the father of Natalie’s baby…”
The Blackhawk serials written by Grell & Pasko and drawn by Burchett were among the best material to run in Action Comics Weekly. I’m happy they’ve finally been collected together with the excellent Blackhawk miniseries by Chaykin. Hopefully a second collected edition will reprint the ongoing series by Pasko & Burchett.
33) Jack Davis
Today’s art comes from “Dig That Cat… He’s Real Gone” in The Haunt of Fear #21, drawn by Jack Davis, written by Al Feldstein & Bill Gaines, lettered by Jim Wroten, and colored by Marie Severin, published by EC Comics with a Sept-Oct 1953 cover date.
When I was a kid I preferred the sci-fi stories from Weird Science and Weird Fantasy, but as I got older I developed a taste for EC’s horror titles. I guess my dry, offbeat sense of humor came to align more closely with EC’s macabre pun-cracking horror hosts.
“Dig That Cat… He’s Real Gone” is the story of Ulric the Undying, who makes his fortune staging very public, very violent deaths from which he miraculously recovers each time. In a flashback, we see that Ulric was previously a nameless bum on skid row who was approached by Dr. Emil Manfred. Over a cup of coffee, Manfred claimed that he had discovered the secret of a cat’s nine lives, and offered to surgically transplant that ability into the bum, with the end goal of gaining wealth & fame. Manfred is successful and “Ulric the Undying” is created, but this being an EC horror story, of course things eventually take a very nasty turn for all involved.
Jack Davis was a frequent contributor to EC’s horror anthologies, illustrating many of their most famous, or perhaps infamous, stories. Davis was certainly adept at creating moody atmospheres perfectly suited to Al Feldstein’s scripts. His artwork was also appeared regularly in EC’s satirical comic books Mad and Panic. Following the demise of EC’s comic book line he drew trading cards for Topps. From the 1960s onward David, who was renowned for his caricatures, did a great deal of advertising work, movie posters and magazine covers. He passed away in 2016 at the age of 91.
34) Ross Andru & Frank Giacoia
Amazing Spider-Man #184, penciled by Ross Andru, inked by Frank Giacoia, written & edited by Marv Wolfman, lettered by John Costanza, and colored by Glynis Wein, published by Marvel Comics with a September 1978 cover date.
I recently learned of this storyline thanks to Brian Cronin of Comic Book Resources. In the previous issue Peter Parker had asked Mary Jane Watson to marry him, but she turned him down. A despondent Peter returned home, only to discover someone was waiting for him in his apartment! On the splash page of this issue, we discover who: Betty Brant, secretary to Daily Bugle publisher J. Jonah Jameson, and Peter’s girlfriend from way back when. Betty, who is all glammed up, has let herself into Peter’s apartment and made herself a cup of coffee to await his return. Now that he’s home, Betty greets him with a very warm welcome.
There’s just one itsy-bitsy problem here: Betty married Ned Leeds a few weeks earlier, and she is supposed to be in Europe with him on their honeymoon.
Yeah, that’s the old Parker luck at work, all right. You propose to the woman you love but she turns you down, and when you return home you find your recently-married ex-girlfriend has broken into your place, raided your supply of coffee, and is looking to have a fling with you. Oy vey!
The subplot of Betty attempting to hook up with Peter, and Peter being very tempted in spite of that whole “just married” thing, went on for nearly a year. I’m sure it comes as no surprise that it all ends badly for poor Peter.
Penciling this tale of torrid emotions and pilfered caffeine is veteran comic book artist Ross Andru. After two decades of working for DC Comics on such titles as Wonder Woman, G.I. Combat, The Flash and Metal Men (the last which he co-created with writer Robert Kanigher), Andru came to Marvel in 1971. He penciled Amazing Spider-Man for five years, from 1973 to 1978; this was one of his last issues. Andru is paired here with well-regarded inker Frank Giacoia, who had previously embellished ASM during the early part of Andru’s half-decade run.
35) Alex Saviuk & Al Wlliamson
Web of Spider-Man #91, penciled by Alex Saviuk, inked by Al Williamson, written by Howard Mackie, lettered by Rick Parker, and colored by Bob Sharen, published by Marvel Comics with an August 1992 cover date.
Following up on our last entry, it’s another Spider-Man page featuring Peter Parker, Betty Brant, coffee and… oh no, Betty’s throwing herself at Peter again, isn’t she?
Okay, what’s actually going on here is that Betty has been working undercover on a story for the Daily Bugle. She’s investigating the organization belonging to the international assassin the Foreigner, the man behind the murder of her husband Ned Leeds. When Betty happens to run into Peter in the street she locks lips with him and drags him into a nearby diner so that she can give him the information she’s been collecting to pass on to Daily Bugle publisher J. Jonah Jameson. Unfortunately the people who are following Betty see through her ruse and attack the coffee shop. What follows is Spider-Man spending the rest of the issue trading blows with a pair of the Foreigner’s armored goons in the java joint, which of course gets demolished. I hope the owners had their insurance premiums paid up!
Betty had spent a long time after her husband’s death traumatized & vulnerable. This was the beginning of a new direction for her, as she quit being Jonah’s secretary, became more assertive, and began a career as an investigative journalist for the Bugle.
The pencils are by Alex Saviuk, a really good artist who had a long run on Web of Spider-Man, from 1988 to 1994. I think Saviuk’s seven year stint on often gets overlooked because this was at the same time McFarlane, Larsen and Bagley were also drawing the character, and with their more dynamic, flashy styles they consequently receiving more attention. That is a shame, because Saviuk turned in solid, quality work on Web of Spider-Man. I enjoyed his depiction of the character.
As we can see from this page, Saviuk was also really good at rendering the soap opera and non-costumed sequences that are part-and-parcel of Peter Parker’s tumultuous personal life.
The challenge by Comic Book Historians group moderator Jim Thompson: Pick a subject and find a different artist every day for that subject.
I chose “coffee” for my subject. From the work of how many different artists can I find examples of people drinking coffee? I guess we will just have to see. I posted these daily on Facebook, and now I’m collecting them together here. (Please click on the “coffee” tag to read the previous parts of the series.)
April 26th was the birthday of artist Kerry Gammill. On that day I showcased two pages Gammill penciled from his well-regarded run on Power Man and Iron Fist for Marvel Comics in the early 1980s, where he was paired with writer Jo Duffy.
The first page is from Power Man and Iron Fist #63, cover-dated June 1980. Gammill is inked here by Ricardo Villamonte. Gammill and Villamonte made a great art team, and did an excellent job rendering Duffy’s stories. Here we see Luke Cage, woken up by renovations at the Gem Theater, a second-run movie house in pre-gentrification Times Square, gratefully accepting a cup of coffee from the Gem’s manager, film student D.W. Griffith.
The second page is from Power Man and Iron Fist #71, cover-dated July 1981. The inking credits for this issue are “D.Hands” which is short for Diverse Hands. Presumably this issue fell victim to the Dreaded Deadline Doom, and several different people inked it. The Grand Comics Database credits Vince Colletta for several pages, including this one. It certainly looks like his work.
Following a disastrous date with Harmony Young, a brooding Luke Cage finds himself having an early morning cup of joe at Eddy’s, “an all-night diner, where the service is poor and the coffee more bitter than his own angry thoughts.” A scowling Cage considers his coffee and thinks “Man, no one should have to pay for anything this bad.” Reminds me of all the times I got coffee at some local bodega where the pot must have been sitting on the burner for at least a couple of hours!
Gammill does excellent work on both these pages. He effectively renders Cage going through very mundane tasks: drinking coffee, shaving, getting dressed, paying a bill. Gammill’s layouts, as well as the body language he gives to Cage, provide valuable elements of characterization that work effectively in conjunction with Duffy’s script.
Seeing these two pages side-by-side is an excellent illustration of the important role the inker plays in the look of the finished artwork. Villamonte gives Gammill’s pencils a rich, illustrative look that is very different from what Colletta’s feathery ink-line brings to it.
I was too young to read these issues when they first came out. I sort of regret that, because it must have been a real pleasure to get these comic books in real time, and each month read the latest adventure of Luke Cage, Danny Rand, Misty Knight & Colleen Wing, which Duffy, Gammill, Villamonte and friends chronicled with a wonderful mixture of action and humor. Having said that, I do appreciate that I’ve been able to pick up some of these as back issues, and that most of the run has been collected into trade paperbacks.
17) Erik Larsen
Today’s tale of crossed continuums and caffeine is from Savage Dragon #101, written & drawn by Erik Larsen, lettered by Chris Eliopoulos, and colored by Reuben Rude, published by Image Comics, cover-dated July 2002.
Savage Dragon is a labor of love on the part of Erik Larsen. The Dragon was originally created by Larsen in his teenage years, and was the star of his earliest self-published comic books in 1982. A decade later when Larsen co-founded Image Comics the Dragon was his flagship character. Savage Dragon made its debut as a three issue miniseries, followed by an ongoing title in 1993.
Larsen has Savage Dragon take place in real time, meaning all the characters age. He has also regularly changed the status quo. Dragon started out as a Chicago police officer. He then became a government agent, and following that was a bounty hunter. A huge change took place in #75. Dragon attempted to alter history by killing his time traveling adversary Darklord. As a result Dragon was shunted onto a parallel world, one where his enemies had taken over the world. Twenty-five issues later Dragon finally defeated them, and located this reality’s version of his wife Jennifer Murphy and her young daughter Angel.
“Shattered Planets, Shattered Lives” sees Dragon, Jennifer and Angel at the diner, with attempting to explain exactly what has transpired:
“I’m the real guy! I’m really Dragon — I’m just not the SAME Dragon. YOUR Dragon was killed by a villain named Darklord and our minds were swapped. I’m from a different dimension.”
Not surprisingly, both Jennifer and Angel have no idea what to make of this crazy story. Given how headache-inducing this whole conversation must be, it’s no wonder Dragon is having coffee which, as we see here, he takes with cream “and enough sugar to fill a bathtub.”
I’ve been a HUGE fan of Savage Dragon since the first issue of the miniseries came out in 1992, and I’ve been following in regularly for 28 years. Larsen has written & drawn some really exciting, weird, and funny stories in his series.
In 1996 Dragon’s son Malcolm was born. Over the next 24 years Malcolm grew into a child, a teenager, and finally an adult. Three years ago the original Dragon was killed off permanently by Larsen, and Malcolm Dragon became the new series’ star going forward.
18) Morris (Maurice de Bevere)
Two thumbs up to Jim “1000 Horses” Thompson for suggesting this one. “Des barbelés sur la prairie” drawn by Morris, real name Maurice de Bevere, and written by René Goscinny, originally saw print in Spirou, a weekly comic book anthology published in Belgium. This is from the first chapter of the serial, which ran in Spirou #1411, cover-dated 29 April 1965.
The serial was collected in Lucky Luke #29: Des barbelés sur la prairie, published in 1967 by Dupuis. It finally appeared in English in 2007, released by British publisher Cinebook as A Lucky Luke Adventure #7: Barbed Wire on the Prairie.
This is where I acknowledge my appalling lack of knowledge about non-English language comic books. I had not previously heard of Lucky Luke. After it was pointed out to me by Jim, an online search revealed it to be a long-running comedic Western starring gunslinger Lucky Luke and his horse Jolly Jumper, the smartest horse in the world. Barbed Wire on the Prairie sees Lucky Luke aiding a group of farmers against ruthless rancher Cass Casey, who tries to steal their land for his cattle herds.
On this opening page Goscinny and Morris discuss the lifestyle of the cowboys, including their dining habits:
Narrator: The cowboys fed themselves along the trail thanks to mobile kitchens called “chuck wagons” whose chefs had a strange understanding of gastronomy…
Chef: To make good coffee, you put a pound of wet coffee in the coffeepot and boil it for half an hour. Then you throw in a horseshoe. If the horseshoe doesn’t float, you add some more coffee.
I enjoy the Comic Book Historians group because it can be incredibly informative. I’ve definitely learned about quite a few creators and series here, such as Morris and his creation Lucky Luke.
That and I also learned a new way to prepare coffee! Anyone here got a horseshoe I can borrow?
19) Dave Gibbons
Watchmen #6 illustrated & lettered by Dave Gibbons, written by Alan Moore, and colored by John Higgins, published by DC Comics, cover-dated February 1987.
A great many words have been written over the past three decades concerning Watchmen, the 12 issue deconstruction of the superhero genre by Alan Moore & Dave Gibbons. It is indeed an incredibly rich text. Watchmen is, for better or worse, one of the most influential comic books ever created.
So instead of reiterating what has been said before, I’m going to focus solely on this page, which features Dr. Malcolm Long, the psychiatrist who has been assigned to the incarcerated Rorschach. At first Long is enthusiastic about the case, believing that he has an opportunity to make his name by successfully treating the notorious vigilante. Long soon comes to realize just how disturbed and intractable Rorschach genuinely is, and the psychiatrist finds himself being pulled into the abyss of insanity and darkness that has transformed Walter Kovaks into a faceless fanatic.
Here we see an already-consumed Long burning the midnight oil, fueled by caffeine, futilely attempting to solve the mad, jumbled puzzle that is Rorschach’s psyche. This is nine panels of a man sitting at a desk drinking coffee, writing in his journal and arguing with his wife, and Dave Gibbons draws the heck out of it. Via his layouts, the angles and positioning of the compositions within the nine panel grid, Gibbons renders what could be an otherwise-mundane scene with genuine mood and drama.
I have found in re-reading Watchmen I have discovered not just previously-unnoticed layers to Moore’s writing, but a much greater appreciation for Gibbons’ superb artwork & storytelling.
20) Jim Aparo
The work of Bronze Age legend Jim Aparo is showcased in today’s entry. “Scars” is drawn by Aparo, written by Gerry Conway, colored by Adrienne Roy, and edited by Al Milgrom, from The Batman Family #17, published by DC Comics with an April-May 1978 cover date.
Jim Aparo is considered by many to be one of the all-time great Batman artists. So it was entirely appropriate for Aparo to draw this first meeting between the Batman of Earth-One and the Huntress, who is the daughter of the Batman and Catwoman of Earth-Two.
Helena Wayne has crossed the dimensional barrier to meet this counterpart Dark Knight. Over coffee with Batman and Robin she explains that she is seeking advice on pursuing a career as a costumed crimefighter. She does not feel she can confide in her father, so she has come to the Bruce Wayne of Earth-One, who is literally the next best thing.
This story and the second one in this issue, a team-up of Batgirl and the Huntress against Poison Ivy and Catwoman written by Bob Rozakis and drawn by Don Heck, make use of the idea that it really would be weird and unnerving to find out there was a parallel world that was almost the same as yours. Imagine meeting the counterparts of your loved ones, identical in some respects, yet very different in others. Conway and Rozakis both do a good job with the concept. That’s especially the case when Helena, the memories of her mother’s recent tragic death still fresh, encounters the Catwoman of Earth-One.
Aparo was a very talented artist, and this page showcases his diversity of skill. The top third is a dramatic image of the Huntress with the rest of the Justice Society charging into action. The rest of the page has Helena conversing with Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson, a good demonstration of Aparo’s sequential storytelling, as well as his ability to depict the human, vulnerable sides of these colorful costumed figures.
Comic book artist Rich Buckler passed away on May 19th at the age of 68. I knew that Buckler had not been well for a while now, but I was still very sad to hear the news. Buckler was an incredibly prolific artist. He is probably best known for creating the groundbreaking cyborg anti-hero Deathlok, but at one time or another he drew pretty much nearly every major Marvel and DC character, as well as doing work for a number of other publishers. Buckler lived in the NYC area and was a frequent guest at conventions. I had the opportunity to meet him on several occasions. He always seemed like a nice guy.
I’ve already blogged about Rich Buckler’s great work on several occasions in the past (please check out my write-up on his Deathlok stories) so I wasn’t certain exactly how I could pay tribute to him now without repeating myself. It then occurred to me that I could feature the various convention sketches that I obtained from Buckler at comic cons. Each of these was done in one of my theme sketchbooks.
1) DOCTOR DOOM
This great drawing of Doctor Doom from June 2009 is the first piece in my “villains and bad guys” theme sketchbook. When it came to deciding who to have kick off the book, Buckler quickly came to mind. Buckler penciled Fantastic Four for Marvel Comics in the mid-1970s, paired with inker Joe Sinnott and writers Gerry Conway and Roy Thomas. Doctor Doom is one of Marvel’s all-time classic super-villains, and Buckler did a great rendition of the character during his run on FF.
I’m extremely happy with this piece. Buckler did an amazing job sketching the iron-fisted monarch of Latveria, starting off this sketchbook with genuine class & style. This sketch was subsequently published in Back Issue #74, edited by Michael Eury, from TwoMorrows Publishing. The theme of that issue was the Fantastic Four in the Bronze Age.
2) The Vision
Bucker only worked on a handful of issues of Avengers over the years, but he did very nice work on the series. One of the stories that Buckler penciled, in issue #106, contained an incredibly dramatic depiction of the Vision on the splash page, inked by the amazing Dave Cockrum… what a wonderful collaboration! Buckler & Cockrum really brought to life the synthezoid’s somber brooding and contemplation of life.
After I started my Avengers Assemble theme sketchbook, the question of who to have draw the Vision inevitably came up. Well, that splash page from #106 almost immediately leaped to mind, and I knew I had to ask Buckler to sketch the character. It definitely came out very well. I wish Buckler could have worked on more Avengers stories; he had a real affinity for the characters.
3) HAN SOLO
You might have previously seen this great sketch of Han Solo from the Star Wars movies on my entry for Super Blog Team-Up 7. I still think it’s an astonishing oversight that, outside of a single trading card for Topps, Buckler was never given the opportunity to contribute artwork to any Star Wars related projects. His work would have been such a wonderful fit for the series. He certainly did an amazing job on this sketch, capturing both the likeness and the personality of the character.
Years later, when Buckler was on Facebook, he shared numerous images of a great deal of his work, both published and unpublished. One of the pieces he posted was this sketch. Unfortunately he only had a small, blurry pic of it. When Buckler found out I was on FB, he asked me to send him a larger scan, a request I was more than happy to fulfill.
Yes, I do have a Mantis sketchbook. She is, quite obviously, one of my favorite characters.I thought it would be nice to have the first piece in the book drawn by an artist who had worked on some of the character’s published appearances. Rich Buckler previous drew Mantis in Giant-Size Avengers #1 and Fantastic Four #325. He used that FF issue for reference, creating a beautiful portrait of the character.
This sketch, which was drawn in December 2015 at Winter Con in Queens NY, nearly didn’t happen. I approached Buckler early on Saturday morning about doing a sketch. Less then half an hour later, though, Buckler was feeling ill, and he had to be rushed to the hospital. Amazingly, though, in the afternoon he was back at the show. I thought he was crazy, and that he ought to be resting at home. However, since he was there, I asked him if he felt well enough to draw a sketch. Buckler said he was, and he did this great piece. That was the last time I got to see him before he passed away, so I’m grateful I had that opportunity.
I highly recommend reading the eight part essay series “From the Desk of Rich Buckler” that Daniel Best presented in 2010 on his blog 20th Century Danny Boy. These essays by Buckler offer an in-depth look at his career, his creative process, and his thoughts on the comic book industry.
Yep, it’s time to celebrate another comic book birthday. Today is the 65th birthday of prolific Bronze Age legend Rich Buckler, who was born on February 6, 1949.
Buckler, a native of Detroit, first broke into the biz in the late 1960s. By 1971, he was already doing work for both DC and Marvel. One of his earliest assignments at Marvel was a short stint penciling Avengers in 1972. Paired with writer Roy Thomas, Buckler illustrated a memorable three part tale featuring the mutant-hunting Sentinels. His cover art for issue #103 is definitely an iconic image.
In late 1973, Buckler was given the chance to draw Fantastic Four. A huge fan of Jack Kirby’s work, Buckler jumped at the opportunity. He became only the third regular penciler on the series, following in the footsteps of Kirby and John Buscema. I know that subsequently certain readers were critical of Buckler of emulating Kirby too closely. Yes, there is a tremendous amount of Kirby’s influence on display in Buckler’s work on the title. However it is important to keep the historical backdrop in mind. Kirby had been penciling Fantastic Four for a full decade. He was followed by Buscema, another artist who helped to define the Marvel “house style” of the 1960s and 70s. At the time, Fantastic Four was one of Marvel’s flagship titles. So we can regard Buckler as following their lead in maintaining the visual constisency of the series. In any case, Buckler has stated that his work on Fantastic Four was an affectionate homage to Kirby.
It is also crucial to recognize that Buckler was paired up with longtime series inker Joe Sinnott. I think that some people underestimate the key role Sinnott had in contributing to the final look of the artwork on many of the classic Kirby-penciled stories. So it is not all too surprising that when Buckler was subsequently inked by Sinnott on Fantastic Four, there were certain similarities.
One needs only look at Giant-Size Fantastic Four #3, published in November 1973, to see Buckler’s skill as an artist. “Where Lurks Death, Rides the Four Horsemen” was co-written by Marv Wolfman & Gerry Conway. Buckler’s pencils for this tale are magnificent and awe-inspiring. His richly detailed opening double-page spread of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse galloping through outer space is stunning and dynamic.
In 1974, Buckler created the groundbreaking cyborg anti-hero Deathlok in the pages of Astonishing Tales, collaborating with scripter Doug Moench (I did an in-depth blog post about that series last year, so click on this link to check it out). Buckler’s versatility as an artist was certainly on display in these stories, featuring some of the first examples of surrealism in his work.
After working primarily at Marvel for most of the decade, in late 1976 Buckler shifted over to DC. He contributed to a diverse selection of titles over the next several years, including Justice League of America and World’s Finest, as well as numerous covers. In 1981 Buckler penciled the first several issues of Roy Thomas’ World War II superhero saga All-Star Squadron, with then-newcomer Jerry Ordway contributing inks. A few years ago Buckler and Ordway re-teamed to render a magnificent cover illustration for the 100th issue of Roy Thomas’ superb magazine Alter Ego published by TwoMorrows.
In 1983, Buckler served as the Managing Editor of Archie Comics’ superhero imprint Red Circle. He was instrumental in bringing onboard such talented creators as Steve Ditko, Dick Ayers, Rudy Nebres, Alex Toth and Jim Steranko. Buckler himself worked on Mighty Crusaders, The Shield, The Fly and various other books. Although the 1980s Red Circle books only lasted a couple of years, they had some good writing and stories.
Buckler’s time at Archie actually provided him with his one and only opportunity to collaborate with his idol, Jack Kirby. Buckler has observed that when he was at Marvel in the early 1970s, Kirby was at DC. Then, when Buckler moved over the DC in the mid-1970s, Kirby returned to Marvel. Somehow they kept missing each other. Buckler at last had the chance to ink Kirby’s work when the King penciled the cover for Blue Ribbon Comics #5 featuring the Shield.
During the second half of the 1980s, Buckler was back at Marvel, once again working on a variety of projects. He penciled Spectacular Spider-Man for a year, during which time one of Peter David’s earliest stories, “The Death of Jean DeWolff,” appeared. Buckler also worked on Iron Man, a Havok serial in Marvel Comics Presents, and had a brief return to the pages of Fantastic Four.
Buckler also once again collaborated with Roy Thomas on a pair of miniseries chronicling the histories of Marvel’s two earliest characters. Roy Thomas and his wife Dann co-wrote the twelve-issue Saga of the Sub-Mariner, a detailed examination of the moody, tempestuous Prince Namor of Atlantis. A year later, in 1990, Thomas penned the four part Saga of the Original Human Torch, a history of Jim Hammond, the android crimefighter from the 1940s and 50s who had recently been revived in the pages of Avengers West Coast. These two miniseries provided Buckler with an opportunity to pencil decades of Marvel’s historical events and a variety of heroes & villains.
(Thomas skipped out on recounting the Torch’s battle with the grotesque, multi-headed Un-Human, which originally saw print in the pages of Marvel Super-Heroes #16. Too bad, I would have enjoyed seeing Buckler render that peculiar monstrosity!)
Most of Bucker’s work in the 1990s was on independent and small press titles. I think that, as with a number of other Bronze Age creators, his art style was unfortunately being regarded by short-sighted editors as “old fashioned.” Which is a real shame, because if you look at Buckler’s current work, you will see that he is as good an artist as ever.
In the absence of new comic book projects, Buckler focused on his work as a painter. He has created a number of very beautiful surrealist pieces. This has brought him acclaim in Europe, where he has exhibited his paintings.
I’ve met Rich Buckler several times at comic conventions over the years. He is definitely a very nice guy, as well as a talented artist. I’ve obtained a few really lovely convention sketches from him. He’s spoken of his continued interest in creating comic books, incorporating his love of surrealism. I’d certainly like to see that happen, and I hope he has the opportunity to work on that project.
(A big “thank you” to Buckler for his e-mail response to this post, in which he corrected a few factual mistakes and incorrect assumptions on my part. I’ve attempted to revise this piece accordingly for more accuracy.)