Friday, February 27, 2015


Basically he's roughing it up with all kinds of weirdos.
Speedball already bears the ignominy of being the world's first superhero to be named after a toxic cocktail of powerful drugs (or, more likely, after the popular manufacturers of artists' ink and nibs, since I have a hard time picturing Steve Ditko partying with John Belushi), but one of his bizarre rogues gallery upped the ate by being named for the primary output of the Lisa Frank empire. No, not puffy glittered unicorns - that's next issue - but rather, THE STICKER!

For god's sake, man,
wash your hands.
Debuting in Speedball vol.1 No.2 (October 1988), the Sticker was a patent thief named Foxworth. Adding to his small, purloined arsenal of scientific goodies a concoction known as "magnetic glue mixture," Foxworth donned a suit of "Magno-Armor" which allowed him to both produce the sticky, viscous liquid in tremendous quantities and to pass for a giant-sized jizz-soaked oven mitt.

I'm sure Speedball wasn't the only teenager to ever struggle with a grotesque mass of sticky gunk stuck to his clothes, but at least none of our gym socks ever tried to murder us. Stumbling across the document-thieving murderer moments after he'd snuffed the super-stickum's legitimate inventor, Dr.Haven, Speedball becomes the gluey no-goodnik's intended second victim. This is also almost exactly what happened between Alexander Graham Bell and Elisha Gray over the patent for the telephone.

During their battle, Speedball deftly twists the helmet in such a manner that the goopy substance begins to flow uncontrollably, which is exactly what they told us would happen in Health Class. With his helmet removed, Foxworth could no longer protect himself from the unrestrained flow of the magnetic glue mixture, and seemingly suffocated under its colloidal mass. Yup, fatally self-bukkaked (although he returns later as part of a Speedball Revenge Squad. I guess he just needed a few minutes to recover).

This is a lot of jizz jokes about on super-villain, but lest you think it's entirely arbitrary, I'll add that he was repeatedly drawn in such a way as to appear to have an enormous Play-Doh dick hanging off his crotch, so only so much of the blame can really rest with me.

And pants.

Thursday, February 26, 2015


Naturally, Atlas-Seaboard would dip its feet in the kung-fu craze of the 1970s, particularly as primary competitor Marvel was enjoying some success with both its color and black-and-white kung-fu artist publications. Unlike Marvel’s Iron Fist or Sons of the Tiger, though, who were homegrown American fellas bringing the flying fists of fury back to the good ol’ USA, Atlas-Seaboard’s The Dragon (whose Hands hold top billing on his sole issue) would be seeped in actual Eastern origins – as understood by Atlas, that is.

Take, for instance, the opening scene of the story which sees an elderly Chinese man trekking across Mt.Fuji with his infant grandsons in tow, intent of walking back to his sweet Chinese homeland. Never minding that you’d have to get a pretty good running start to make it across the Sea of Japan, there’s also the problem that Mt.Fuji is on the opposite side of the island facing China in the first place. This guy got turned around.

Navigation is the least of granddad’s problems, though, as an overlooked American nuclear bomb also happens to be resting in the snowy peak of Fuji. Set to go off when anything heavier than, say, an old man with ONE infant grandson happens by, the bomb explodes! Being a good forty feet away, the old man and his kin easily survive, except that one of the babies develops HORRIBLE FACIAL SCARS that consistently fail to be drawn on the guy even though they mention it repeatedly.

It also turns out to be one of those good nukes, as it gives the old man the strength of youth and apparently imbues his grandkids with equally above-human energy. Why, in many ways, we did Japan a FAVOR by dropping the bomb! You’re welcome.

Finally reaching China, pee-paw’s luck continues to roll downhill as he encounters one of those dangerous Chinese polar bears you read so much about it the news these days. Saved by nearby monks, the trio are taken into the monastery where the dumb bullshit dies down for like a minute while the twins are raised in the discipline of kung-fu!

Zapping ahead a coupla decades, the twins have relocated to America where one of them becomes a popular big city television news anchor (“This is Wu Teh, aka The Dragon, for Action 5 News and the Action 5 News Troubleshooters”) while the HORRIBLY SCARRED ONE becomes the servant of the evil tattoo enthusiast Dr.Nhu, a world-conquering criminal intent on murdering the Japanese Prime Minister during a visit to New York. Luckily for all, our good twin is also The Dragon, a kung-fu mystic armed with some sort of life-saving disco medallion. This comes in handy when he turns out to be such a poor martial artist that he allows the Prime Minister to get assassinated after all. Things aren’t really working out for the Dragon.

Where exactly the eventual conflict between the Dragon and his evil HORRIBLY SCARRED twin brother might have ended is anyone’s guess, primarily as the two of them are overshadowed in their only appearance by a shaggy grey-haired hippie med student who shouts confusing slogans from the floor of the Prime Minister’s address. That’s not a great sign in terms of any lasting appeal our hero may have had, even if Atlas hadn’t collapsed before they could find a recurring home for him and his title-grabbing hands.

Enh, he's got some valid points.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015


Adolf Hitler made for such a frequent foe of assorted four-color characters that he was practically a comic book character first and a genocidal tyrant second (Note: I do not actually believe that, but it sounds nice). Herr Shickelgruber’s heyday, though, was pretty firmly in the 1940’s – it certainly had pretty much run its course by 1966, which is when he popped up in an unlikely story in the pages of Hot Stuff vol.1 No.70, “The Apple Sauce Caper.”

Hot Stuff, Harvey’s netherworldly ne’er-do-well, was generally portrayed as one of the line’s few genuinely malicious characters. As faras goes the kid-friendly publisher’s title-starring characters, only he and Spooky the Tuff Little Ghost – both supernatural incarnations of what I assume were dead (and damned) babies – had the agency to actively harass and even harm the fellow denizens of their worlds.

New from KFC.
So it’s playing against general type that Hot Stuff is more the victim of this odd story. Sleeping in the branches of an apple tree in his private orchard, Hot Stuff’s nap is interrupted by the machinations of a trio of would-be world conquerors intent on cornering the world economy through one commodity: Applesauce! Of course! “The vay ve get control of the money” explains the sauce-happy bandit in a thick stage German accent, “Is to get control of all the apple sauce mit our apple sauce machine!”

By the way, did I mention that the leader of the trio is Hitler? He’s Hitler, and his two teutonic sidekicks are flat-out sieg heiling the old boy. So. Here’s Hitler in an old Hot Stuff comic from the mid-1960s, figure it out on your own.

The Apple Sauce Machine produces a ray which instantly turns apples into applesauce, and Apple-Hitler is so enthusiastic about the possibilities of the product that he’s got a freaking truckful of ‘em. Turning them directly on the trees, he melts the apples right off the boughs, dousing Hot Stuff and delighting fans of apple sauce that’s been poured on the ground prior to being canned.

This is my new catchphrase.
With his flame-firing pitchfork at the ready, Hot Stuff makes short work of the trio, casting them into the deepest pit of Hell where devils cut circles in their flesh with nailclippers and pull their guts through the holes, stretching them over their extruded spines in order to make infernal living harps. Haha, no, he scares them and they drive off in their van. Dang, is that all we ever needed to do? World War II was a real strategic misstep, apparently

Not to be excluded from the fun, later in the same issue Richie Rich foils Yahya Khan’s plot to break into the Rich family vault, Little Dot overthrows Idi Amin’s reign, and Little Lotta sits on Enver Pasha until he agrees to behave.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015


Are we not men?

One of Wonder Woman’s longest running foes, Giganta, has been depicted as a size-changing criminal since the days of the Super Friends. Her origins – and the origin of that attractive leopardskin leotard she’s been wearing since the good ol’ days -  however, date all the way back to Wonder Woman vol. 1 No. 9 (Summer 1944) when she was a baddie of an entirely different stripe.

Not in those heels, honey.
The story begins – as stories from this era often do – with love interest Steve Trevor producing a niece out of thin air solely for the purpose of getting the troublesome tyke into the maws of danger. While Uncle Steve and “Dotsie” visit the gorilla enclosure at the zoo, Dotsie wanders through a gaping wide steel rail which otherwise separated the crowd from the powerful, brooding ape inside. May as well have strung yarn across the enclosure door, in my opinion.

Whatever the case, Dotsie is snatched up by the lady ape, who was herself recently bereft of her own baby, which precipitates a jailbreak. The gorilla busts the bars of her cage like they were licorice, so all around we’re gonna give the Washington DC zoo a failing grade for “keeping the gorillas from murdering children.”

Luckily Diana Prince is nearby to effect a change into her star-spangled alter-ego and chase the grieving, deadly simian all-ll-ll the way to Holliday College, home of Etta Candy, her spank-happy Holliday Girls and the evolution-machine of Professor Zool.

After a struggle wherein the ape is finally subdued, the professor suggests an alternative to destroying the powerful beast – he’ll use his evolution ray to turn her into a totally stacked broad! Weirdly, no one has any objections or, for that matter, questions, so the experiment is underway and in moments Giganta the gorilla becomes Giganta the Russ Meyer pinup.

Buck-nakers, flame-tressed and built like a brick privy, Giganta still has the hateful mind of an angry gorilla, which seems like at least a minor setback but then again Tyra Banks was evolved from a monitor lizard, according to her Wikipedia entry, so maybe she has a fashion career ahead of her.

And yet, this is only where the story BEGINS! Once again choosing to battle Wonder Woman, the now-human Giganta smashes the evolution machine, subjecting Steve, Dr.Zool, the Holliday Girls, Dotsie and Wonder Woman to rays which threaten to turn them into apes! I thought it worked the other way around. Anyway, the amazing Amazon hucks the malfunctioning machine out a window, thankfully stalling their devolution at the caveman stage.

UNfortunately, now that the machine’s outside, it starts devolving all KINDSA shit! Pretty soon, the world has been jetted back to the prehistoric age of man, with the local zoo animals turning into mastodons and dinosaurs just for the hell of it! I didn’t realize it was a straight line like that, but there you go.

More than that, all of humanity is reduced to stone age tribes comprised of ape-like humans, and all technology and modern advancement vanish, Whoops. Thanks for coming to Man’s World, Wonder Woman, we were hoping someone would Planet of the Apes us in reverse.

Naturally, the Evolution Machine seems the way to wriggle out of this little problem, so rigging a Ben Franklin kite-to-USB adapter, the Amazon and her pals fire up the recently repaired gizmo. Which is when – and I realize what I’m saying here –things get weird.
"I've mostly done this to screw with Kirk Cameron."

It turns out that the world wasn’t merely devolved, it was launched back into prehistory, and turning the Evolution Machine on “blend” launches all of reality forward to a mythical golden age “when the world was perfect!” Not only do the monsters from the age of dinosaurs disappear, replaced with birds and butterflies, but a whole benevolent monarchy develops instantly! Steve even meets them somehow, introducing King Aros and Queen Darla to his tribe of survivors.

"Up yours, Steve!"
Giganta meanwhile has soured everything by finding the only evil people in the golden age of mankind and turning them into an army. While Aros’ and Darla’s kingdom thrives on equally shared labors and rewards, the greedy peasant Jon and his followers are led to war by Giganta. It ends in good triumphing over evil, but as Darla explains it The Golden Age is over – people know, now, that they can be wicked if they choose!” That’s why we don’t teach abstinence in school, folks.

Darla leads the good-hearted survivors of the battle to a distant island, where their prisoner Giganta manages to uncover a heretofore unknown electrical property of the golden lasso, activating the evolution machine again. Pzow, we jump ahead a few “hundreds of thousands of years” and we’re on Paradise Island at the peak of Amazon civilization! Wonder Woman’s mom Hippolyta is there and everything. What the hell? Did she evolve from something? This is all very confusing.

Wonder Woman and her friends help the early Amazons rout a Greek invasion before launching back to the modern day, by which point clearly the evolution machine is proven to be a time machine, right? I don’t know. All I can say for sure is that IF the machine merely evolved and devolved the world without changing the passage of time in anyway, then they basically just destroyed pretty much every kind of science we have relating to the age of the Earth. Congratulations Wonder Woman, you’ve ended up proving the Creationism Museum factually correct! Now go put your woman-monkey away before everyone wants one.

"Have you seen my Instagram?"

Monday, February 23, 2015


The 21st century is going to be a real motherfucking shock for Bobby.

Friday, February 20, 2015


Top this title card, I dare you.
Few comic book properties boast the coterie of colorful criminals which Captain Marvel managed to assemble over the course of his litigation-truncated career, but even among the Sivanas, King Kulls and Mister Minds, there was never quite a baddie like the Chattanooga Ghost. He wasn’t really bad, he just liked to crush evil midgets!

I think he might just be a psychopath, Cap.
Appearing in the pages of Captain Marvel Adventures during a period where the adventures tended to be set in prominent locations around America, Cap’s entire battle with the Chattanooga Ghost happens exclusively on Tennessee’s Lookout Mountain, where the white-garbed, ghoul-faced creep spent his time popping up behind people and accidentally scaring them off cliffs.

See, it turns out the Chattanooga Ghost wasn’t a bad guy, exactly – he was just a would-be crimefighter named Buddy who donned a creepy outfit and pursued evil as the self-appointed Captain Ghost! The problem is he seemed to be looking for criminals entirely on high plateaus and also he might have been a sociopath or something. With a fixation on “crushing” evil as literally as possible, the Ghost goes so far as to try to smoosh Billy under a 1,000-ton rock. Why?

“That boy looks mighty suspicious” he says to no one in particular from the vantage point of a rocky outcropping, before jumping to the logical conclusion: “He’s probably a dangerous escaped midget! He should be crushed!” Wait, escaped from where - midget jail?

Anyway, the Chattanooga Ghost drops a giant boulder on top of Billy Batson, who manages to eke out a rushed “SHAZAM” just before wetting himself in terror, leaving his other self free to confront the rock-dropping goon. Upon meeting his hero, the misguided menace spills his whole life’s story. “Captain Ghost will be a big hero like you, Captain Marvel,” he explains proudly, “I’ll crush evil just the way I crushed that midget!” Haven’t we all said that at some point in our lives?

Cap lets the Ghost go after a promise to give up crimefighting, but there’s a good chance that Captain Ghost is completely insane and has probably just been quietly smashing “evil midgets” under rocks for the last seventy years. “Just one more midget” he promises himself, “and then I’ll stop.” Sure you will, Captain Ghost, but not while this kindergarten class is having a play day next to this big pile of giant boulders!

Maintaining that all-important work/life balance.

Thursday, February 19, 2015


In the grander scheme of little-known Bronze Age one-shotters, Warhund doesn't particularly have all that much to offer. A barbarian tale in the well-trod phony baloney "world of magic and science" trope which was so common in the era, the one thing which the sword-swinging protagonist of this long-ago issue of Charlton Bullseye vol.2 No.5 (January 1982) has going for him is that he might be the only Charlton character to appear in DC Comics without having been bought by the company.

Taking place in a "forgotten world," Warhund - who's clearly an Asian character modeled on what appears to be a very comic booky interpretation of Mongolian dress, but who has a semi-German name so I dunno - spends the vast majority of his adventure failing to live up to his name. Whoring, drinking, and then riding across the plains, Warhund doesn't have a lot invested in war so far. He doesn't even own a dog. Who do I talk to about this?

Despite a fearsome reputation, Warhund - the only son of an elderly local warlord - shows deep roots of compassion. When he's informed that his father is dying, he takes off at breakneck pace across the inhospitable desert of his homeworld. Despite the urgency of his ride, however, he pauses for several days to nurse back to health the young messenger who accompanies him, after the youngster succumbs to fatigue. Later on, he gets killed by wolves, but still Warhund seems like a nice guy.

Arriving at his father's bedside, Warhund is informed that the villain behind his pop's untimely death is named Assassin, a cloaked baddie on the outskirts of the absence of civilization. Armed with explosive Starburst candies (lime!), Warhund and a few soldiers take on the robots and domed headquarters of Assassin, only to discover a terrible secret: Warhund's dad is a war criminal from space! The whole planet turns out to be an Earth colony, Poppa Warhund admits to being a dick on the futuristic equivalent of a videotaped will, and Warhund is left to somehow carve a better kingdom out of a web of lies. Shakespeare's lost folio, this.

Warhund almost disappears forever following this one appearance, except for a sneaky cameo in an issue of Animal Man further down the road, drawn by Warhund's co-creator Chas Truog. While several of Charlton's Action Heroes - Captain Atom, Blue Beetle, the Question and so on - were purchased by DC, the creator-owned heroes of the Bullseye books, among others, weren't part of the deal. Still, Warhund manages to sneak into a group shot of heroes from lost alternate universes. Basically, he's sort of Charlton's stowaway in the DC Universe, although we're pretty unlikely to see him pop up again any time soon.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015


Roads to Regrettability : Homegrown International Heroes
The League of Regrettable Heroes – soon to be published by Quirk Books and written by yours truly – features write-ups on 100 of comicdom’s weirdest, most unfortunate, most misunderstood and flat-out strangest  superheroes. The book debuts June 2, 2015, so in the meantime let’s discuss the many paths a character can take on the road to regrettability. There’s an old joke that war is how God teaches geography to Americans, and the fact is that our colossus of a nation sometimes makes us a little ignorant of the heroes of other lands, which is why sometimes they come out a little stereotypey …

One of the things which the limited series Marvel Super Heroes Contest of Champions brought to the world of superherodom was a heretofore unheard-of number of international heroes. Slipping the boundaries which seemed to keep superheroes exclusively in Manhattan (or, at least, America), superheroes from around the planet were introduced in one swell foop. The problem- no one seemed to know enough about other nations to create much in the way of nuanced regional heroes, meaning we had a green-clad Irish “Shamrock,” a generically Arabic “Arabian Night,” an aboriginal “Talisman” parading around the Dreamtime, and a West German superhero named, of all things, Blitzkrieg. Who were his sidekicks, Kristalnacht and Zyklon?

Knockin' down haters.
Not to be left out in the cold, DC had their own international super-heroes. On television, the Japanese “Samurai” and Native American “Apach Chief” rubbed shoulders with a glitter-tastic Mexican El Dorado, all of whom possessed powers that had nothing to do with their names (which were there just to be ethnic, frankly). Meanwhile, in the pages of the Super Friends comics – and elsewhere in the DC Universe – an international “Global Guardians” was developed to provide some around-the-world flavor, but again was based largely on landmarks and cultural traditions. Ireland was this time represented by Jack O Lantern, Greece by The Olympian, Denmark by The Little Mermaid, Japan by The Rising Sun, and so on.

DC repeated this technique when appointing its unusual New Guardians, supposedly the next generation of super-humanity representing all the people of the world, but once again the aboriginal Australian wandered the Dreamtime, plus there was a Japanese guy who was really good with computers and a totally racist white South African. At least that last one was a bit of a twist.

A personal favorite among the American-created international jet set was Captain Britain, created by Chris Claremont and Herb Trimpe in order to give Marvel UK a British hero in the Marvel tradition, without all that pesky familiarity with the culture. Powered by Merlyn, a member of aristocracy and intended to be a sort of stiff-upper-lip Captain America, the British Cap’s costume was a lorry wreck of apparent Englishisms shoved haphazardly on a single piece of fabric. With tiny flags on the corner of his mask, a lion rampant on his chest, Union Jack bracelets and a ding-dang scepter, all that was missing was a belt made of five-pound notes and fish fingers. Maybe he could also have a double-decker bus he parks in a red telephone booth, just to make sure all our bets are covered.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015


1978 was a tumultuous year for Jack Kirby, the unparalleled King of comics. Right on the cusp of leaving Marvel for a second time following a previous departure to the disappointing shores of DC Comics,  he was not only about to start a career in animation, but he got a chance to don the disguise of one of his most famous creations in the interim!

The premise of the assorted What If series has generally been to document how Marvel’s then-singular continuity would drastically altered by seemingly insignificant edits to the accepted canon; someone else gains Spider-Man’s super-powers, the Avengers lose such-and-such battle they had previously won, someone lived who had died – almost always with fatal consequences.

What If…? vol.1 No.11 (Oct 1978) however, operated on its own principle. Giving the readers a peek into a semi-alternate parallel universe which mashed up a little of our world with a little of Marvel’s mainstream continuity, what resulted was a cosmic-powered, blue-suited, do-gooding quartet comprised of Marvel’s original on-site staffers.

The man knows his classics.
Stan Lee, Sol Brodsky, Flo Steinberg and – of course – writer/artist of this tale Jack Kirby are caught in Stan’s office when an admirer’s gift explodes, dousing the room with bizarre yet familiar radiation. In short order, Stan Lee possess the powers and sobriquet of Mister Fantastic, Sol Brodsky can now burst into flame (which we could all do if we really put our minds to it, only he can do it and survive), Flo Steinberg necessarily becomes the Invisible Girl and Jack Kirby inevitably becomes the character most commonly associated with himself as a possible on-page alter ego, the ever-loving blue-eyed Thing.

The box turns out to be the work of “The S People,” who accompany their radioactive geegaw with a note proclaiming “Greetings! Open this box and live the ultimate fantasy!”

The S People turn out to be the alien, shape-changing Skrulls (whom younger readers may know from absolutely nothing nowhere because of the complicated rights issues between the film studios handling all the Marvel superheroes these days). While the Marvel Bullpenners stand in for the original FF, the Skrulls and Prince Namor the Sub-Mariner are apparently native to this universe, which raises questions everyone was in too much of a rush to address.

What’s genuinely interesting about this story is that it feels very much like an affectionate farewell to the publisher which had once been Kirby’s home and which had ultimately let him down so badly. While the comic focuses on the origins of the new FF, it takes the time to present an abbreviated, first-hand perspective of the rise of Marvel Comics; the surge of popularity of the books, particularly in colleges, and the landslides of fan mail get a nod, as do the second wave of Bullpenners – including Marie Severin, John Romita and even “this new kid named Thomas” (now editing this very book). Lord knows where Ditko was throughout all of this. Cutting up original art in his apartment most likely.

This issue ends up being one of the most-written-about issues of What If across the internet, and why wouldn’t it – the premise is ultimately absurd. It’s also somewhat sweet and sad, given the timing of the story.  Plus, it’s rewarding that – despite having mended fences for the most part around this time – he still chose to portray Stan Lee’s Mister Fantastic as kind of an officious blowhard.

The Man, keeping you down.

The story ends on a tremendous note; Having upset the plans of the S People, the Bullpen Four are left victorious, but still trapped in the super-powered bodies they'd hoped alien science could free them from. Now, bereft of their alien expertise, Kirby comments that they'll have to "help themselves to their best-kept secret: Mastery of the Cosmic Ray" as their adventures continue. Somewhere, in some continuity untouched by reboots, revamps, cosmic events and plain old vanilla human mortality, there's a world where Jack Kirby is bounding into adventure with his friends at his side,  which is possibly the happiest ending in any comic I've ever read.

The best.

Friday, February 13, 2015


Get Firestorm or Die Trying, that's what they always say.
It speaks volumes about the young men who wrote superhero comics back in the 1970s and 1980s that they often resorted to making villains and world-consuming menaces out of disco, Distasteful to fans of “real music,” there was also inherent in disco a sense of excess and physical immediacy – not mention plain ol’ sex – which continues to repulse a whole branch of society who considers themselves “above” things like “having fun.”

Don’t buy it? Dig this introductory paragraph to this disco and glamour based villainess’ first appearance:

tl;dr Gerry Conway's really got it in for disco.

It also speaks volumes that any woman who was in possession of any sort of sexual agency was typically depicted as a man-luring baddie. Put those two together and you get The Satin Satan, a voracious vixen who hassled the World’s Greatest Superheroes in Justice League of America vol.1 Nos.179 and 180 (June/July 1980).

The majority of these books celebrate the introduction to the League of its newest member – and last new member, before the whole shmear was wiped out for the arrival of the much-maligned “Justice League Detroit” a few years later – of Firestorm, the matter-transforming superhero whose head was on fire and who dressed like an accident at a hot dog cart. Standards were evidently dropping at the satellite headquarters of the world’s premiere superhero team, and this was after they admitted the Elongated Man.

This got all Chick Tract-y at the end.
The Satin Satan was secretly Sabrina Sultress, a world-famous fashion model possessed by a demonic  baddie named Sataroth, daughter of Satani (i.e. the Great Satani, played by Robert Duvall). So, to summarize: Satin Satan, secretly Sabrina Sultress, storing supernatural Satani’s sprout Sataroth in her soul. Stellar!

The skunk-haired succubus pulled the old routine of stacking hypnotized man-servants like cordwood in every inch of her luxuriously appointed secret lair, which was bad news for Firestorm being as he;s actually two men trapped in the same body. He’s TWICE as hypnotizable, maybe, or half as much. Math was never my strong suit.

While the timely assistance of the League’s few female members – immune as they were to Satin Satan’s power, despite the fact that I’m informed by Tumblr that gender is a fictional construct – Sabrina Sultress is liberated from the worrisome sway of Sataroth. OR IS SHE? Yes she is, actually, although I think the world would benefit greatly from the reappearance of a modern Satin Satan … although maybe she’d be into dubstep this time around.

Thursday, February 12, 2015


Him and his gnomes, hammer-dancing this giant to justice.

Your Humble Editor is currently shopping around for a new home, so I’ve been giving a lot of thought to exactly what I’d like to have in a house; A guest room, a sizable back yard, plenty of natural light, closets and storage space, a good-sized kitchen, and – of course – a secret subterranean temple buried under the basement where I can house the living statue of a wrathful Far Eastern god of justice.
"And I'm losing my pants - it's a party!"

Sure it seems like a long shot, but that’s exactly what Harry “A-for-Anything” Chesler’s Mr.E had in his urban sanctum. Having discovered the vengeful deity’s larger-than-life icon while excavating the site of a prehistoric civilization, the otherwise-unnamed Mr.E cozies up to the big guy’s primary teaching – the violent destruction of all evil! Hauling the likeness back to the States, Mr.E sets him up in a temple he either conveniently already had set up beneath his home or had custom-built by some surely perplexed contractors.

When evil threatens to overcome good, the god-statue of King Kolah – renowned for his delicious flavor and zero calories! – passes the warning on to Mr.E, mentally, sending the eager avenger out into the streets in his striking crimson pantsuit.

Kolah doesn’t send Mr.E out into the world completely unarmed – just mostly unarmed. While E doesn’t boast any super-powers of his own, he is typically accompanied by Kolah’s servants, the “dwarf” sized “messengers.” Standing at about six inches tall, the messengers came in a variety of styles, much like Smurfs. Plucky, mischievous and ready for a pint-sized fight, the imps showed up decked out in contemporary street clothes , or decked out for a specific job – when a fire threatens to overcome Mr.E, the messengers show up as tiny firefighters , as a for instance. Sometimes they showed up as birds. That’s pretty much the extent of it – birds or tiny firefighters, pick one and run with it.

How big is this guy's basement?
Outside of being able to handily appear and disappear when needed, and the aforementioned ability to transform themselves into birds, the messengers didn’t really have any notable powers. That means that Mr.E’s arsenal against evil consisted entirely of being a normal guy aided by like six very small normal guys. I’m shocked he didn’t bite it the first night out.

The Messengers also ate up the names in this book, which is probably why we never learn Mr.E’s pre-psuedonymous alternate identity. Despite being the spirits of an ancient god, Kolah’s sprites were identified by names like Chuck, Butch, Spike, Pepper, Sassy and Bunko. I made up at least three of those, but they’re about right. This is also why Mr.E’s girlfriend and assistant was known only as Miss Terry. Hm.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015


This is the only cover I could guarantee was safe for work.
It’ll be Valentine’s Day later this week, so what better opportunity will there be to examine the most romantic comic book known to the medium – The Elementals Sex Special, one of the few places you’ll ever see a were-dolphin fuck a green version of Sigourney Weaver’s character from Working Girl.

This is the best panel
in the whole shmear.
The Elementals is already an unusual artifact of the comics scene. A product of the mid-Eighties post-black-and-white boom and helmed by the highly opinionated Bill Willingham, the book bridged that gap between genuine independent comics and traditional superhero work. The method to this madness was the usual stuff – gore, sex, “realistic” powers, sex, real-world consequences, a rape storyline or two, sex, government bad guys, scripture-quoting bad guys, and in lieu of overdoing the sex, tits.

The eventually sprawling superhero saga apparently got tired of all the teasing, which is why there was ultimately released a four issue all sex series of specials featuring the book’s four core characters and a couple tagalongs in assorted clinches. “Haven’t you ever wondered about the sex life of your local superhero?” asked the introductory text piece inside the front cover. “How long might a love session last? A week, a month, perhaps even a millennium? Wouldn’t you like to know what sexually motivates a man (or woman) of steel? How does a caped crusader satiate an uncaped sexual appetite?”

Those aren’t real questions, here’s some real questions: The fuck is an “uncaped sexual appetite”? And what kind of weirdo calls it a ”love session?”

The sex in the Elementals sex specials failed to sizzle, being as it was definitely of the softcore variety and densely written – and also possibly because some of the relationship stuff was pretty weird? I write those words acknowledging that one of the two core threads which ran through the books was the team’s water-based hero Fathom fucking a dolphin.

Finally, a shirt nice enough to wear
when you marry your pillow wife!
It wasn’t the dolphin-fucking that was so strange, though, it was the endless emotional jockeying and constant conversation about feelings and boundaries. This is stuff you might welcome in an erotic work, but it was endless, and it also seemed to follow a pretty consistent theme – women were methodically patient and satisfied themselves sexually by providing emotional succor to screwed-up men.

Almost every story featured pretty much the same variation on this theme – the man makes some sort of gross, inappropriate physical gesture. The woman rebukes him but – rather than reacting to what was plainly some form of sexual assault - then informs him that she’ll now be educating him in the proper way to make love to a woman. Then she services him knowingly and all his problems are solved. It’s “mom as fuck fantasy,” and it’s messed up.

Never moreso, one supposes, than with the team’s “Monolith,” a character eternally trapped in the body of a teenager who’s seduced by a double agent. But don’t worry, she falls in love with him halfway through the seduction, which marks the exact moment he stops being a fumbling virgin and becomes an expert lothario. In a later story arc, he loses his human emotion but she’s nonetheless personally fulfilled because he still needs her around to rub his dick now and again. I dunno man, it didn’t make me feel good for anyone involved.

Anyway, here’s a complete rundown of the actual fucking in the book: Fathom fucks a dolphin, Vortex fucks a sexy septuagenarian, Monolith fucks his mom’s hot friend, Morningstar fucks an inflatable wizard, Vortex fucks a mindless sex slave, Ratman fucks a zipatone sheet, and a walrus in a yarmulke fucks a porcupine. I think that about covers it.

They'll get their heimlich maneuver perfected one of these days!

The editor of the book also included a questionnaire for the readers and a plea for letterhacks to send in their sexual fantasies involving the Elementals (Also you could order a t-shirt depicting Fathom fucking a dolphin. Get in, kids, we’re going to the Class Store!). A few responses came in, but none came so close to showing a touch of dignity as did this one, before it veered into a cliff at the last second.

Oh, so close Scott, so close...

Tuesday, February 10, 2015


StarmanNo fewer than three attempts to revive the semi-popular Golden Age hero had floundered woefully before someone at DC Comics asked the question everyone else was missing – what if the new Starman collected absurd vintage knickknacks and deeply resented his father?

Grounding Jack Knight, reluctant inheritor of the Starman mantle and son of the original fin-headed hero not only made him distinct from his predecessors, but also created touchstones with a maturing Gen-X audience who saw themselves reflected in the hero. Apartment crammed to the gills with toys? Check. Being dragged kicking and screaming into adulthood? Check. Complicated issues with father and brother? Check. Incipient cultural hipsterism? Check and double-check.

While the book frequently fell in love with its own mythology, under series creator writer James Robinson, its literate approach to shared-universe storytelling also created one of the most consistent voices in superhero comics, particularly from the blood-and-cookie-cutter era of the 90s.

Penthouse Comix
The 1990s certainly didn’t originate the porn comic – Tijuana Bibles were filling that particular void, as it were, well back in the Thirties – but they did see the debut of the glossiest, highest quality porn comic yet produced. Boasting the highest page rate the industry had ever seen (a whopping 800 clams per page, which also describes some of the content*), Penthouse was able to attract a veritable T-and-A-list of creators including Adam Hughes, Kevin Nowlan, Altuna, Corben, Manara and many more. Rapid over-expansion of the line and the increasingly erratic behavior of  the unfortunate George Caragonne led to Penthouse Comix’s decline in quality and eventual cancellation – in the US, anyway. The book’s popularity failed to flag overseas, and in the bizarre alternate reality of modern-day Spain, the magazine’s passed more than 100 issues.

*I’m very sorry

Jeph Loeb
Best known for assorted Batman arcs, a series of color-themed very serious limited series about assorted mainstream superheroes, and the script for Firestorm starring Howie Long (an American classic), Loeb emerged from the Nineties as the greatest enigma of the era; his stories are universally reviled bestsellers. They consistently top sales charts and are considered, both by critics and fans, as hot garbage on a wet bedpan.

How is this possible? Well, mainstream comics has a history of elevating its least-beloved writers to positions of financial celebration. Having been the scripter of Rob Liefeld’s Captain America run seemed to have cemented his reputation early on, but his work in film and television afforded him the liberty to pick high-profile assignments and he’s had a good run of luck working with fan-favorite artists. You can’t discount either association, and also that comic fans maybe don’t have the world’s most discriminating taste either.

The Nineties wouldn’t have been the Nineties without Chris Claremont’s last truly great x-creation, the Cajun dipshit Gambit. Cooler than cool in his leather trenchcoat and form-hugging padded lycra bodysuit, Gambit looked like he would have smelled like a fishing boat hauling open-air urine samples across a field of wet particle board. The bayou surely wouldn’t have been kind to that kind of outfit, but then again probably he mostly smells of Axe bodyspray.

Gambit was clearly invented to be the new cool X-Man, and in true Claremont style he couldn’t just be ONE cool thing; he had to be ALL the cool things. A Cajun cat burglar with energy powers who was also a martial artist who had a fighting staff and trademark playing cards he could charge with deadly energy and which he could throw with laser-like accuracy, he was also the chosen one of a highly superstitious cult of thieves, has a dark and mysteriously shameful past, has untapped psychic powers, is the only man for popular X-Man Rogue, just … just, you know, a lot of stuff all on one guy. And then he stuffs his hair into that mullet-maker of a mock turtleneck.

Heroes Reborn
In the mid-Nineties, Marvel Comics seemed eager to get out of the comics biz, having become the Gordon Gekko of dumb shit nobody needs. Picking up a toy manufacturer, movie studio and distribution company to add to their charm bracelet, they tested the waters of farming their books out-of-house … to guys who’d publicly walked out on them a coupla years earlier.

Revamped versions of the core Avengers and the Fantastic Four were introduced as part of an alternate universe under the pens of Jim Lee and Rob Liefeld, although the latter enjoyed a real short run – he either jumped or was pushed, the verdict is still out. Confusing, uninspired, kinda ugly and basically pointless, the experiment lasted a year before the heroes were reintroduced to the mainstream continuity and the entire adventure was officially declared to be – and I kid you not here – not an alternate universe at all but rather a sad baby’s dream. 

Monday, February 9, 2015


Surely that other guy's just going to get TWO Charles Atlas books and get TWICE as big. Where will it end?
The interior ads within the pages of our favorite comics have always been eager to turn every willow-thin wimp and tubby tyro into a muscular mass of meaty manhood - and yet look how we all ended up. Seriously, look at yourself. Tch.

It certainly wasn't for lack of trying or absence of densely packed proclamations and promises typeset in cramped quarters on full-page spreads that let us down. Muscles-by-mail programs were featured in literally hundreds of different comics over the course of several decades. Advertisers wanted one thing out of the comic-reading audience - they wanted us to get swole.

Charles Atlas wants to serve you a tiny, shiny muscleman on a silver platter.
The undisputed hero of this particular beach was always Charles Atlas, "The World's Most Perfectly Developed Man." Sure, they call him that, but could he survive without oxygen or fly unaided through space? Looks like we still have some development to go!

Atlas' most famous ad featured the extended comic book adventures of "Mac," the misfortunate 98-pound weakling whose beach-based humiliation entered the public consciousness so deeply that it ended up being the foundation of one of the kickier songs in the Rocky Horror Picture Show. That's something, right?

That's Charles Atlas' rogues gallery at the top of the page.
At the very least, terms like "dynamic tension" and "hero of the beach" managed to make it into at least the fringe of popular conversation, which is a pretty impressive feat back in the days when comics were exclusively intended for kids rather than grist for the grown-up movie mill - particularly given that he was never the star of a comic, only the backpage financier.

 "Bloodless, Pitiful Skinny Shrimp" is what they used to call me when I sang the blues.
Atlas wasn't the only recognizable figure hawking the girthful goods. Joe Weider's empire of muscle building equipment, supplements and publishing started with modest ads in comics and trade mags, seeking to sell the legendary bodybuilder's physique to the body-shamed and insecure. He also wasn't alone...

Has there ever been a wiser man than Ted Kluszewski? Let us drink from his fountain of knowledge.
One of the secrets to successful selling, of course, is to sell with fear - and comics had raised young men on a diet of constant physical conflict. It was one thing to fantasize that you had the strength and fisticuffical skills of a daring crimefighter like, say, The Red Bee, but once the comic was put away, the reality for most kids was vastly different. Even assuming that the kids weren't already experiencing a terrifying threat of physical violence from parents, bullies or just random strangers, their reading material had put it in their minds that all life was slugging and being slugged. Just like a modern-day diet of news cycles stuffed with hyper-violent rhetoric seems to transform your average viewer into an armchair Patton plotting a survival strategy for the upcoming race war, kids and young men flocked to the bodybuilding programs so they wouldn't get their ass kicked. Why risk being Mac when there were so many Men out there?

Toxic masculinity by mail.

With muscle-bound might only a coupon away, it's not surprising that America is now primarily known as a nation of buff, trim, muscular champions of athleticism. And if you don't like it, prepare to get shoved in the face the next time you go to the beach!

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