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Monday, December 31, 2018

Discussion Point - DC's Black and White Magazines

Ha! Tricked you - DC never published any black and white magazines (with a notable exception being Jack Kirby's In the Days of the Mob.). Surprisingly, given the success of the Marvel and Warren mags, DC chose not to enter that market. Several weeks ago I posed this question on Twitter from the @bronzeagebabies account: If DC had chosen to fight for a share of the magazine market, which of their properties would have been great candidates for the B&W presentation? And I'll ask you the same question now - what do you think?

Please have a Happy (and SAFE) New Year!  -Doug

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns Gallery Edition - a Review

I hope the holidays find you well. Today I'm reblogging a review I wrote close to 2 1/2 years ago on the Bronze Age Babies blog. I'm running this as is - you'll notice near the end I reference a Jack Kirby Artist Edition. You can bet your bottom dollar I'll get to that at some point in the near future. But for now, enjoy the incredible original art of Frank Miller and Klaus Janson from the landmark Dark Knight mini-series.


Frank Miller's Batman: The Dark Knight Returns Gallery Edition
Graphitti Designs, May 2016

Doug: Hey, I'm not one to toss about texting lingo, but


Is this a cool book, or what? (Yes, it's a very cool book, as I think you'll see.)

First off, the nuts and bolts of the book, courtesy of the folks at Comic Book Daily --
Batman: The Dark Knight Returns – Frank Miller Gallery Edition
Includes artwork from Dark Knight Returns 1-4, covers, related art and previously unpublished pieces. Though Graphitti Designs was unable to locate every original from this story, they are pleased to present to fans everywhere the best presentation of the artwork from this historic series ever seen.
Some may see the price and think "no way", and I'd most likely be in that camp as well had I not been earning revenue from the sale of my collection. I pre-ordered this book from Westfield Comics in Wisconsin; I'd done business with them as a subscriber during my college years and was pleased to make their acquaintance once again. They sold me the book in October for $148 (which included S&H), and I waited patiently through two publication delays before getting my mitts on the book on June 9. As you can see from the tale of the tape above, it is big -- way bigger than the average Artist Edition from IDW (though not as large as the twice up John Romita's Amazing Spider-Man or my pre-ordered Jack Kirby's Thor (already delayed and now due to arrive this week)) and weighing in at close to 10 pounds. Not exactly the sort of book one would rest on the lap.

Here are a few of shots of the packaging -- the book's transit appeared to have been smooth. The cardboard "case" is standard for these types of books, as IDW uses the same product. I keep all of my Artist Editions nestled in this original packaging. Note: All images henceforth are photographs -- I'd have gotten a hernia attempting to scan from this monster.

I've also included an image of the inner spine of the book to show the stitching. The craftsmanship is solid, and what's especially nice is that although it's not a "lay flat" book it does not want to close once opened. I could look at it or read from it without having to hold down pages on either side.

Below are shots of the title page, as well as the back cover (just ignore my reflection in that pic). The image of Batman towering over the Gotham City skyline was the cover of the first Warner Books trade paperback (which I owned at one time before a colleague to whom I'd loaned it lost it); it was also a 16"x20" poster, which I also own.

And here, kids, is where the awesomeness begins. Below you'll find a vellum (not sure if that's the exact nature of the material, so I'm going with it anyway) overlay with Frank Miller's original pencils to the cover of The Dark Knight Returns and the finished graphic design that saw publication. You can see how the color version shows through the top sheet. I'll have several more examples of this feature of the book.

I sent all of these images to Karen shortly after I received the book. One of the things she remarked about was her love of the margin notes. Those of you who have read Miller's collaboration with Bill Sienkiewicz, Elektra: Assassin, know that Sienkiewicz repeated certain images, and often. Note below that Miller's bottom left panel is marked for "stat" and is repeated two panels to the right.

As you saw from the product description above, Graphitti Designs could not locate all of the pages. They do, however, include scans of the published pages for the purpose of completion. Below is a common example; however, when a page in question is paired with a vellum overlay the scanned page is full-size to match the size of the overlay. The coordination of the printing and bindery process in this book was meticulously carried forth.

The two pages below are here to show you the creative process of Miller and Klaus Janson. Lots of white-out, stats, etc. The second of these two pages is my favorite vignette in the entire graphic novel. When I first read this page, I knew this wasn't any Batman I'd known. I had a "heck yeah!" moment during that first reading.

Note Miller's signature on the bottom of the page above (enlarged detail below).

The scene below was pretty tense -- love the splash page of Batman with the chest logo blown open to reveal a bullet-proof vest. Note the creative process in the enlarged detail.

In another example of the overlay, you'll find Miller's pencils to the cover of The Dark Knight Triumphant on the left, and Janson's inks on the right.

Another example of white-out, as well as Miller laying out a grid system for the building heights and the lettering. Note the margin call-out to the punctuation in the word balloon. Note also that Janson signed and dated this page -- lucky for whoever owns it!

Two more examples of editing and mark-ups.

Great image on the left, below. Given that Janson signed here, and the page above, both in June of 1986 has me wondering if the same collector owned both pages.

Miller and Janson both signed this page. Memorable panel from The Dark Knight Triumphant.

The cover of Hunt the Dark Knight was just plain white, except for the image of Carrie Kelly in the bottom right corner. A graphic designer must have done the Bat logo.

Detail of a single panel, when Bruce and Clark were riding horses and discussing the coming storm. Miller did not care for Janson's inks, so re-inked the image himself. The overlay at right is Miller's version.

I thought this was interesting -- several panels redrawn by Miller. It seemed that as the story wore on he became fussier about the work. For those of us who bought the book as it was released, this might explain the longer and longer delays as the series progressed.

Awesome splash...

Again, enjoy the process. And Miller's tinkering. I'll tell you, looking through this book it struck me how much Miller must feel the same way about this work as George Lucas feels about his original trilogy of Star Wars films. Perfection is an unattainable thing.

Detail. White-out and redrawing. I love seeing stuff like this!

One of the iconic images of the entire series. I thought it would be cooler than it is, but for the most part it looks like Miller and Janson were satisfied the first time. Or, perhaps it's because of the tardiness of the series that there was no reworking here.

Near the end of the book there are several extras. As you may know, all of these original art collections are color scans of the art. That's why you feel as if you're looking at the actual bristol board and it's also why all of the white-out, blue line pencil, and even eraser marks are visible. Near the top you saw that there's no shortage of color images. I was surprised to see this huge fold-out at the back of the book. If you were buying this back in the day, you may recall a large counter display when The Dark Knight Triumphant was released. This is a reproduction of the artwork for that display. Nice touch, Graphitti!

Lastly, here are a couple of other promotionals. On the left is Miller's design for a Dark Knight statue, while on the right is his portion of the cover to 'Mazing Man #12 (June 1986).

I hope you enjoyed the tour. I've been through the entire book three times and just love it. Of the original art reproductions that I own, this is one of the best. Of course, all this may change when the Kirby one arrives in a couple of months. You know I'll keep you informed...

Monday, December 24, 2018

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas! Enjoy today's ready-for-press cover for Batman #239, by Neal Adams and Dick Giordano (courtesy of Heritage Auctions), and the second Giant Superhero Holiday Grab Bag, featuring pencils and inks by John Romita, Sr. All the best of the season to you and yours!  -Doug

Found at

Thursday, December 20, 2018

KISS, by John Romita, Jr. and Tony DeZuniga

Were you a card-carrying member of the KISS Army back in the Bronze Age? This guy sure was! I couldn't get enough of them for about a 3-year period. All the records, posters, issues of Creem and Hit Parader, et al. But perhaps the highlight of that era was the entrance of KISS to the realm of my true love - comics! Marvel Super Special #1 and #5 featured the band, and below is a nice two-page spread from their second appearance. John Romita, Jr. and Tony DeZuniga were tabbed as the penciler and inker, and I'd say they did just fine. The image is provided by Heritage Auctions, as noted, and seems to be one of a very few pages laying around the Internet (shoot - it was the only one I found). Enjoy!

*Next week, join in on Monday for some original art, Christmas cover-style, and then Thursday you'll see several samples from the Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns Gallery Edition. Happy Holidays!

Monday, December 17, 2018

The Origin of the Sons of the Tiger - a Review from DHoKF 1

Deadly Hands of Kung fu #1 (April 1974)
"Sons of the Tiger!"
Gerry Conway-Dick Giordano

My first exposure to the Sons of the Tiger was in Marvel Team-Up #40 (December 1975 cover date), which was actually the 16th appearance of the team. But as I've mentioned, the Marvel (and other publishers') B&W mags were at the same time forbidden fruit and an economic barrier to me. C'mon... 75c for no color? What dope would do that when he could get three full-color comics? Yeah, this all falls into the "If I had a time machine, I'd..." conversation. Anyway, I liked what I'd seen in that MTU, but really had no other color outlet for these guys. I wasn't a Master of Kung fu or Iron Fist reader, so I wasn't going to bump into them there. Thus it was around 40+ years until I got the Deadly Hands of Kung fu Omnibus, volume 1, for Christmas 2016. Better late than never, I say!

What would you think about launching this with a 100-Word Review of the 15-page story? I thought so.

We open on the streets of San Francisco, where a young Chinese-American named Lin Sun is attacked by ninjas near his martial arts school. Dispatching them quickly, Lin goes inside the school to find it ransacked and his sensei, Master Kee, near death. But before the old man passes, he gives Lin a talisman shaped like a jade tiger. Lin seeks out his friends Abe Brown and Bob Diamond. Both men were also attacked, and evidence leads to the ninja school of Sui Ti Kama. A battle ensues, with the newly-christened Sons of the Tiger victorious. But drugs deepen the plot…
As is typical of my reviews, I'd like to organize my assessment of the story in a 3-tiered format.

The Good: If I actually had a category called "Best", I'd give it to Dick Giordano for his art in this story. Wow! Really, really nice, as I think you can see from the page and panel samples I've included. As most of you know, Giordano was closely tied to Neal Adams as the Silver Age turned to Bronze and it really shows here. Panel shapes, camera angles, the human form, the depiction of motion (the fight choreography is exciting) -- all of this is just top shelf. Emotion is conveyed, tension is built, backgrounds are present on every page... Giordano really treated his readers here.

And a tip of the hat to Dick G., too, for his illustration of our three protagonists. I've read criticisms of various artists through the years in regard to characters of various ethnicities generally looking Caucasian with the only differentiation coming from the color palette. Not so here. It seems great care was taken to differentiate not only the White, Chinese, and African-American protagonists, but the background players as well. Giordano has told a story with many individuals, every character looking unique and honoring those characters' backgrounds - no caricatures or stereotypes.

Gerry Conway's script is a revenge tale, with Lin Sun leading his classmates from Master Kee's dojo on a mission to bring some semblance of justice and retribution for the teacher's demise. In that regard, it might be considered a bit formulaic, but overall I felt that the effort to establish specific personalities for the characters won out. With only 15 pages to work with, as a reader I left feeling that I had a handle on these Sons of the Tiger, that the plot was indeed thickening, and that I wanted to read the next chapter. That all of this transpired alongside the kung fu action - the magazine's purpose - was a credit to both Conway and Giordano.

The Bad: Whenever I get to these last two sections, I am really hard-pressed to come up with anything if I've even generally liked the story. That's definitely my predicament here. So I guess if I have one complaint, I'll offer it toward the oath that was crafted by Master Kee. As he lay dying, he pointed Lin Sun to a a box across the room. Inside Lin found a 3-part talisman in the shape of a tiger's head and two paws. An inscription was written beneath the jade ornaments:

"When three are called
and stand as one,
as one they'll fight,
their will be done...
For each is born anew,
the Tiger's son."
It's not a bad little poem - certainly reminiscent of the oath of the Green Lanterns. My problem with it (and really, it's a minor quibble in the whole scheme of this solid origin story) comes on page 13. In the midst of battle against Sui Ti Kama and seven of his ninjas-in-training, our three young kung fu fighters pause to recite the verse. There's payoff, certainly - we're told that after a crackle of electricity, each hero fights with the strength and skill of three men. But man... sometimes it's just going to be tough to get everyone together and on the same page with that incantation in the midst of flying fists and feet.

The Ugly: Sui Ti Kama was pretty ugly, but that's about it. Fun story!

For those in the market for the Deadly Hands of Kung fu Omnibus (and there's a volume 2 out now, featuring Iron Fist and the White Tiger), you may be happy to know that the magazines are reprinted in their entirety. If you yearn for the articles that accompanied the comics stories, then you're in luck. They're all here. This is not true of other high quality reprints of the Marvel mags, notably Boom Studios's Planet of the Apes Archives (four volumes), and Dynamite Entertainment's Doc Savage Archives. The print quality from each of those companies is outstanding - don't get me wrong. But if you want the magazines complete as originally sold, you won't find that in those sources.

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