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Thursday, August 22, 2019

Reed Crandall - Master Draftsman

You're in for a treat in about a month. Not that there won't be good things happening in this space until then, of course. But a month from now we'll get a look at my first review featuring the work of Reed Crandall. Crandall's an artist with whose name I've long been familiar, but my lack of experience with comics from the 1950s-'60s that lay outside the Marvel and DC Universes hampered my full appreciation for the man and his work. That was all somewhat rectified back in July when I purchased a copy of Fantagraphics Books phenomenal reprint of the Blazing Combat series. To say my eyes about bugged out of my head would be an understatement.

What it really did was spur me to dig a little deeper into Crandall's career. The guy was all over cool characters, from Flash Gordon to John Carter to Blackhawk. Mix in some work at EC and Warren Publishing, and the amount of content one could attempt to obtain seems like a mountain. Nice problem to have, and I hope the images I've chosen today truly celebrate the man's work. As always, my gratitude to the folks around the World Wide Web who retain ownership of these images, yet share them with the masses.

Monday, August 19, 2019

"Rattle of Bones" - a Solomon Kane Review

Savage Sword of Conan #18 (April 1977)
"Rattle of Bones"
Roy Thomas-Howard Chaykin

You know what I like? A solid recommendation from a trusted source that turns out just the way said source intended. That's what we have here today, kids. On Twitter, I was remarking a few weeks ago that one of my summer "projects" was to reread some Robert E. Howard Conan tales in prose. My friend Pete Doree, he of The Bronze Age of Blogs fame, recommended reading two of Howard's other famous characters, King Kull and Solomon Kane. But it was Kane Pete enthusiastically pushed. So I set about downloading some REH material to my Kindle, and then prowling around used book sources on the Web to see what I could scare up. Well, what if I told you I came across a copy of the out-of-print The Saga of Solomon Kane reprint volume from Dark Horse? And that due to a mail snafu that delayed delivery almost a month I got it for free? For. Free. That's right...

I've read 2-3 Solomon Kane tales and have enjoyed them. Kane's certainly different from Conan, and the more modern settings - and multiple settings - increase the sense of adventure. But one thing those two REH heroes (and Kull, too, for that matter) share is a sullenness that lives right alongside their sense of justice. All three heroes mete out that justice quickly and decisively. Howard was adept, too, and making the reader think the story was about over and then Waitaminnit! More story. I love it - keeps me on my toes.

As is typical around here, let me give you a brief plot summary and then we'll dive into some analysis of "Rattle of Bones" - one of the Solomon Kane stories I read first in its written form.


100-Word Review:
Solomon Kane arrived with a traveling companion to a tavern nestled deep in the Black Forest. An ominous-looking caretaker greeted them, and Kane seemed justified in his feelings of uneasiness. After dining, Kane and his “friend” were shown to a room, where they found security lacking. Spying about for a beam with which to seal their door, they discovered the bones of a body in an adjacent chamber. At that point, Kane’s companion attacked him, but was immediately done in by another. Kane now stood face-to-face with the proprietor, whose paranoia and ill-intent now took center stage.
The Good: I liked this in both forms - comic and prose. It's funny in a way, because Solomon Kane doesn't really do anything in this story. He shows up, has some suspicions, gets attacked, saved, threatened, and then is witness to the end of the story. In no way does he affect the outcome of the story. But what a story! The plot is exciting, with a few twists and turns to keep the tension high. I enjoyed the setting as well - deep in a forest, not many people around, the tavern... good stuff.

Howard Chaykin's art is perfect for this story. I'm not the biggest fan of Chaykin's work, although I do like it. He just generally does not make any list in my head of favorite creators. To my eye, and pleasure, he's sort of like the Hippocratic Oath - do no harm. But his storytelling here is imaginative - see above: the panel with the reveal of the skeleton is a nice camera angle, and the slight tipping of center adds to the shock of the characters.

I've had a nice enough time reading today's story, as well as the aforementioned short stories, that I'll return to the character at some point.


The Bad:
Solomon Kane is a bad man, that's what's bad. I like the character - sort of a riddle wrapped up in an enigma. I've yet to discover his origin story, but he's a fun sort of dark antihero. He's definitely a character whose way you'd like to stay out of - especially if you are of the unsavory variety. Kane holds many of the same characteristics as Conan, but lust is not one of them. Hence, Howard (and Roy Thomas) leave that element from the stories and create tension in other ways. 

The Ugly: Apparently this story was created using the Marvel method and either Roy or Howard didn't read the plot synopsis. Check out the first text box on the splash page, and then Chaykin's rendering of the tavern in the succeeding panels. Oops!

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Wally Wood - Top-Shelf in any Genre

Wally Wood - humor, heroes, hussies... You name it, he could draw it. Parody, science fiction, mainstream superheroes. Wally Wood seemed at home in any genre.

I've included what I hope is a wide selection of images that will pay tribute to his talents. I did not include some of the bawdier images I found while sifting through images available on the Internet - hey, trying to keep this a family-friendly space! But know that it's out there, and pretty accessible.

My encounters with Wally Wood were mainly at Marvel, in reprints I've read of his stint on Daredevil, as well as various assignments inking over others's pencils. I've always liked what I saw, and his style fits my preferences for straightforward superhero fare.

How about you? Where have you enjoyed Wally Wood's work? Were you a reader of his T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents? How about his Sally Forth strip (careful...)? Drop a comment at the bottom, and in the meantime enjoy some pictures (and of course a hearty "thank you!" to those who own these images and retain all rights)!




Monday, August 12, 2019

Batman Black and White's "The Hunt" - a Review

Batman Black and White #1 (June 1996)
"The Hunt"
Joe Kubert

Joe Kubert is a master. He's a master in color, black & white, crayons, whatever medium you want to view him in. But I'll skip the funnies for a second and make this statement - which I don't think is a stretch: Joe Kubert is an artist who looks better without color. You can add Gene Colan to that list. around a month ago we took our first look inside the hardcover collection of the 1996 Batman Black and White series, focusing on the Bruce Timm story. Today's art is quite different, but I'm certain you'll find it no less pleasing to your eyeballs. Enough of my prattle - let's get to the good stuff!

100-Word Review:
It is a supernatural story presented to us, as the Batman flies with his namesake, a colony of bats. While the bats hunt for insects and even fruit, the Batman hunts the darker elements of humanity. He soon finds it in a penthouse apartment, where the residents have been tied up. A gang of thieves holds the couple inches from death as they seek a most-valuable pearl. While the master of the house resists, the thugs’ pleas turn violent. At that point the Batman enters the scene and metes out his form of justice. But… was it real?

The Good: Well, the art, of course. It's moody, even creepy. Kubert's moody-and-creepy is different from Colan's. Colan relied on blacks to create mood; Kubert relies on figures and facial expressions. Although this is obviously a superhero story, I found that it looked and felt like Kubert's Enemy Ace, or Tarzan. That's in no way a knock, but rather speaks to my sense of familiarity and comfort with the artist. Kubert is especially adept at using the distance of camera to eye to create tension. Once we're inside the condo, the scenes with the crooks and the residents quickened my pulse. I could almost feel (or at least see motion as if it were a film) the slash of the girl's knife as she wounded the pearl's owner.

Kubert is an artist adept at drawing shady-looking men - almost rat-faced at times. Yet he equally excels at depicting pretty women. When we first see the female assailant, she's drawn as quite comely. That beauty belies her black heart, it seems.


The Bad: I was glad to see that the story had been a dream, because the Batman's behavior - and powers - were way off. My initial reaction was "What the...?!" But it didn't take me long to figure out that something was amiss. Even the Batman's speech patterns were off, and I know Joe Kubert's an accomplished writer. I was pretty sure it was headed that way, and the bullet holes solidified it for me. Unless there was some Bat-healing factor of which I was unaware. That scene, by the way, did take me back to the 1989 Batman film when slugs bounced off the Dark Knight, and the thugs then discovered that Batman was covered in body armor.

The Ugly: I mentioned it earlier, but the tension surrounding the potential for some painful physical violence was well-executed. Honestly, if the girl had never actually slashed the man it might have played even better. My mind was doing all the work - there was pay-off in the pictures, but my in-head visuals had already taken me there.


I'll be back into this collection, which I am thoroughly enjoying. When next we meet, I'll show you a futuristic Batman story, delivered by Walter Simonson. It's pretty nifty-looking, and checks a lot of boxes for what we have valued during Simonson's career. Stay tuned!

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