Welcome to the 11th edition of Comic Book Coffee. I’ve been posting 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.
51) Wilson Tortosa
I know some of you are probably saying “Coffee? What coffee?!?” Look, it’s right there. Those two lingerie-clad ladies are having their morning coffee. See, I told you so.
Exposure, created by David Campiti and Al Rio, featured the adventures of Lisa Shannon and Shawna Diaz, who investigate cases involving demons, vampires, aliens and other weird phenomena. Of course Lisa and Shawna deal with all of these unusual menaces while wearing skimpy outfits and stiletto heels. And in their free time they occasionally work as pin-up models. I guess you can consider it “The XXX-Files” or something like that.
Exposure was originally published by Image Comics in 1999 as a four issue series. It returned a year later with the two issue Exposure: Second Coming released through Bad Girl comic book publisher Avatar Press.
This back-up story in Exposure: Second Coming #2 was the first published work of Filipino artist Wilson Tortosa. He went on to draw Battle of the Planets, City of Heroes and Tomb Raider for Top Cow / Image Comics.
52) Casey Jones & Tom Simmons
Excalibur #99, penciled by Casey Jones, inked by Tom Simmons, written by Warren Ellis, lettered by Richard Starkings, and colored by Ariane Lenshoek, published by Marvel Comics with a July 1996 cover date.
Okay, since the last entry was heavy on the T&A, here’s one for the ladies. We have the very buff Brian Braddock clad in his boxers drinking his morning coffee. He’s deep in contemplation, preparing himself for an upcoming encounter with the London Branch of the Hellfire Club. Brian has redesigned his Captain Britain armor in anticipation of the conflict, and has mixed feelings about assuming his costumed alter ego again.
I definitely felt the best issues of Excalibur were the ones by Chris Claremont & Alan Davis, and the ones where Davis both wrote & penciled the series. Following Davis’ departure the book took a definite dip in quality. Warren Ellis’ run was a post-Davis highpoint, and he wrote some stories that I enjoyed.
Casey Jones was brought in to alternate with Carlos Pacheco on penciling duties. Pachecho was ostensibly the series’ main artist, but in practice Jones ended up penciling twice as many issues. I really liked Jones’ work. He’s a talented artist. This page definitely demonstrates his storytelling abilities. Jones has also worked on Outsiders, Birds of Prey, Fantastic Four and New Warriors.
53) Jack Kamen & Johnny Craig
“Hear No Evil” is penciled by Jack Kamen, inked by Johnny Craig, written by Al Feldstein, and colored by Marie Severin, from Crime SuspenStories #13, published by EC Comics with an Oct-Nov 1952 cover date.
Beautiful, ambitious Rita has married Frank Reardon for one reason: he’s incredibly wealthy. Frank is also completely deaf, having lost his hearing in the military. While Rita acts the role of dutiful, loving wife she mockingly tells him things like “From here on in, your my meal ticket” and “If it wasn’t for your dough I’d walk out on you tonight” knowing he can’t hear a single word she says.
Rita begins an affair with Vance Tobin, a business associate of Frank. The lovers try to figure out a way be together without Rita losing Frank’s money. Then one day Frank stumbles into the house, dazed & disheveled, having nearly died in a car accident outside. Inspiration strikes Rita, and in front of the deaf Frank she suggests to Vance a plan to poison her husband and forge a suicide note.
Rita retrieves some potassium cyanide from the garden shed. Serving coffee to the two men, Rita tells Vance not to drink the cup on the right s it contains the poison. A few minutes later, though, it is not Frank but Vance who abruptly drops dead on the spot, much to Rita’s horror. Wrong coffee cup, Vance! You can probably guess the twist ending, but I won’t spoil it.
“Hear No Evil” is a EC rarity, one of the few stories not drawn solely by a single artist. Instead, we have two EC mainstays collaborating, Jack Kamen on pencils and Johnny Craig on inks. They work well together, effectively illustrating Feldstein’s tale of infidelity and homicide.
Following the demise of EC Comics in 1955, Kamen went into the advertising field, where he had a successful career. He briefly returned to comic books in the early 1980s to draw the cover of the graphic novel adaptation of Stephen King’s EC Comics-inspired Creepshow, as well as the artwork featured in the actual movie. Kamen passed away in 2008.
Johnny Craig remained in comic books, but he found only limited success at both Marvel and DC, due to his style not aligning with the dynamics needed for superhero stories, as well as to his meticulous approach to drawing leading to difficulty in meeting deadlines. By the 1980s he had moved into a creative field where he was much more comfortable, drawing private commissions for fans of his now-classic EC Comics work. Craig passed away in 2001.
54) Sal Buscema & Jim Mooney
Defenders #62, penciled by Sal Buscema, inked by Jim Mooney, written by David Anthony Kraft, lettered by John Costanza, and colored by Bob Sharen, published by Marvel Comics with an August 1978 cover date.
Today’s entry is from the famous (infamous?) “Defenders for a Day” storyline. Would-be documentarian Aaron “Dollar Bill” English has put together a television special about the Defenders. In it, touting the Defenders’ “non-team” status, Dollar Bill enthusiastically states “Anyone with super-powers who wants to declare himself a Defender is automatically a member! It’s a snap… Don’t delay, join today!”
To the Defenders consternation, several dozen superheroes arrive on their doorstep ready to join the team. Valkyrie, attempting to be courteous, suggests they make coffee for all the guests, and attempts to enlist Hellcat’s aid, but Patsy Walker refuses, stating “No way, Val — this tabby’s through messing around with that cockamamie coffee pot!” Valkyrie is left with no one to assist her in making coffee but the Hulk… oh, gee, what could possibly go wrong?!?
Soon enough Val and the Hulk are serving up cups of what is apparently the strongest, most pungent black coffee ever brewed in the entire history of existence, leading Captain Marv-Vell to disgustedly exclaim “Not even Thanos could down this bitter beverage!”
Sal Buscema is one of my all-time favorite comic book artists. He is an accomplished storyteller, and as we see here he does an absolutely superb job illustrating David Kraft’s comedic story. Buscema’s pencils combined with Kraft’s script results in a laugh-out-loud issue.
Jim Mooney, another very talented artist, effective embellishes Buscema here. I love their scowling Hulk who orders the Paladin to “Drink it black!” The disgusted expression on Hercules’ face is also priceless.
55) John Byrne
John Byrne’s Next Men #30, written & drawn by John Byrne and colored by Matt Webb, published by Dark Horse with a December 1994 cover date.
Next Men was John Byrne’s first creator-owned series. A bleak sci-fi political suspense thriller, Next Men dealt with the survivors of a top secret genetic engineering project masterminded by Senator Aldus Hilltop.
By this point in the series the corrupt, ruthless Hilltop has ascended to the Presidency itself. Bethany, Nathan and Danny, three of the surviving Next Men, have learned that Hilltop is Danny’s biological father, and have traveled to Washington DC hoping to confront him. They are intercepted by Thomas Kirkland, a time traveler from the 22nd Century.
Over coffee at an all-night diner, Kirkland reveals to the Next Men that Hilltop is destined to become the vampiric cyborg despot Sathanas, who nearly conquered the world in the year 2112. Defeated, Sathanas traveled back in time to 1955 and met up with the young, ambitious Hilltop, advising him, giving him knowledge of the future, directing him to establish the Next Men project, all of this to ultimately insure his own creation. Kirkland has traveled back to the end of the 20th Century in an attempt to break this predestination paradox by assassinating Hilltop before he transforms into Sathanas.
Next Men was an intriguing and ambitious series. I consider it to be one of John Byrne’s best works from his lengthy career. The series went on hiatus with issue #30, ending on an explosive cliffhanger. Byrne initially planned to return to Next Men just a few months later, but the implosion of the comic book biz in 1995 delayed this indefinitely.
Byrne at long last concluded the Next Men saga in 2011 with a 14 issue series published by IDW. Hopefully I will have a chance to take a look at those issues in an upcoming blog post.