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Thursday, June 27, 2019

Mike Grell Lives in my 1970s Memories

I recall digging Mike Grell's work the moment I laid eyes on it. I'm certain it was in a Legion of Super-Heroes mag, most likely Superboy/Legion #210. But I was also aware of his art on Aquaman and the Green Lantern/Green Arrow mag. Much later, I perused his creator-owned Shaman's Tears. I was never - and don't ask why, because I don't have a valid excuse - a reader of Warlord.

Some have called Grell a Neal Adams knock-off. I'm not sure that's an insult, because let's face it - mimicking Adams wouldn't be the worst thing a person could do. But I think we can all agree that Grell's figurework bears some uniqueness. You may say "stock poses"... I'll say "distinctly Grell".

Have a feast for the eyes today, kids. And don't hesitate to use that comment feature down at the end of the post. Thanks in advance to you, and to all the fine folks across the World Wide Web who claim ownership of the images I've included in today's retrospective.



Monday, June 24, 2019

Dave Cockrum's Nightcrawler, in Bizarre Adventures 27 - a Review

Remember a week ago when I mentioned that posting might be irregular moving forward? Today's one of those days... except to avoid a big fat nothing, I'm going to subject you to a summer rerun. My sister and her kids are concluding a 10-day visit today - they live in eastern Washington, near the Canadian border. They've stayed with us for the duration and have had a great time - a couple of day trips to Chicago, lots of family meals, and she's had the chance to show her family around the places she grew up. Solid family times.

But I'm not leaving you without something good. This post originally ran on August 16 2013. It garnered 8 comments back then - we'll see if it's worthy of further conversation today. So thanks for putting up with my "dreaded deadline doom". If you came here to see my review of the final chapter of Maus, volume 1, I hope to have that up either Thursday or next Monday. For now - enjoy some Dave Cockrum art on the character he loved!

Bizarre Adventures #27 (July 1981)
"Show Me the Way to Go Home..."
Jo Duffy/Bob Layton-Dave Cockrum/Ricardo Villamonte

Doug:  How about this for a splash page?  That's some good Dave Cockrum X-art, isn't it?  And did you notice that Dave placed himself on the cover of the TV Guide?  Funny guy...  Today concludes our trip through this magazine.  We've previously toured the Phoenix and Iceman entries and today we'll finish the excursion with a look at the fuzzy elf, Nightcrawler.  You'll notice that Jo Duffy is responsible for the script, as she was on the Iceman tale.  I felt that that story was not terrible, but mediocre.  We'll see how this one goes.

Doug:  As the team watches an old Zorro flick an alarm suddenly goes off in the mansion.  The team recognizes it as emitting from Cerebro, but at a pitch they've not previously heard.  Nightcrawler, on Cyke's orders, "bamfs" ahead to check it out.  As the team arrives to the control room, Kurt Wagner has a wry smile on his face -- Cerebro has detected half a mutant!  So, it's into a cruiser and off to Poughkeepsie to check it out.  Upon arrival, they find the Vanisher, last seen in battle against the Champions and frozen in the Darkforce of Darkstar.  And there he stands -- half a mutant!  Cyclops warns Kurt not to touch the Vanisher, but you know how that goes -- Nightcrawler reaches out and then there's a huge "BAMF!"

Doug:  Yeah, he really shouldn't have touched the Vanisher in the middle of that Darkforce.  That loud "BAMF!" sent the two teleporters through time, space, and dimension to lord-knows-where.  As they finally slipped back into reality, there was a separation and Nightcrawler landed on a planet full of shapely females -- offering him to be their god or king!  Nightcrawler's flattered, but takes the high road and tries to teleport away.  But instead of "bamf!", we hear "poot!"  Now, in the presence of fine-looking women that's not exactly the best noise to make!  It sets in pretty quickly that ol' Kurt Wagner isn't going anywhere soon.  Some unknown distance away the Vanisher has landed and is having a similar experience.  However, being an egomaniacal villain, he's trying the high-and-mighty approach, even as he too is offered godhood and/or a kingship.  The women find him humorous, and despite his failed attempts at manipulating the Darkforce, the ladies decide to keep him.  So they literally drag him off to places yet unknown to us.

Doug:  Scene-shift back to Nightcrawler, who has been set up like a shiek or sultan with the ladies as his harem.  It's definitely a wine/women/song setting.  It gets pretty cryptic in a hurry, as Nightcrawler enjoys himself but with lots of questions.  The ladies (by the way, check out the various costumes in the story -- seems like some Legion wear might be sneaking in here and there) tell him that males are not native to their planet, so when one arrives they make him their god or king -- to further the population.  But, they also tell, the gods and kings never seem to last too long.  An oracle is mentioned, and Nightcrawler says he'd really like to see that.  So it's up from the table and off on a short field trip.  Inside the cave of the oracle, Nightcrawler is stunned to see a television!  Once turned on, a little old lady, looking like Granny from the Looney Tunes, greets him.  She tells Kurt that all he needs to do to get home is to go to the Well at the Center of Time.  It's a crater only a few miles away that can transport him right back home.  However, she cautions that if he takes anything from there, or leaves anything behind, she can make no guarantees -- he has to leave exactly as he came in.  And then as he and the escorts turn to leave, the oracle tells him to watch his tail while he's there.  Huh?

Doug:  We cut to another part of the world where the Vanisher has set himself up as a god.  The locals are waiting on him hand and foot, but the Vanisher is stuck in his old ways.  He looks at each piece of treasure bestowed upon him and wonders how he could fence it!  Suddenly Nightcrawler steps forward from the shadows, spooking the Vanisher.  Nightcrawler tells him what he's learned about leaving, but the Vanisher rebukes him -- he ain't going!  So the X-Man says if the Vanisher won't come along peacefully, he'll have to go by force!  The Vanisher throws a vase at his would-be abductor, and then appropriates a sword.  "Swashbuckling?" says Nightcrawler, who then grabs a cutlass of his own.  The two men duel, with Nightcrawler getting the better end of it all.  He finally subdues his foe, and bodily removes him from his harem.  As the two Earthlings march out, the women tell them to be careful -- they seem not at all bothered that the "gods" are leaving.

Doug:  Nightcrawler hustles the Vanisher to the Well at the Center of Time.  Upon seeing it, the Vanisher emphatically declares that he's not jumping into that crater.  He then uses the Darkforce to craft a huge hand, pick up Nightcrawler, and drop him.  Nightcrawler is losing his patience quickly, when the Vanisher pulls a "sheet" of Darkforce from his body and hurls it at Nightcrawler.  Kurt's engulfed in the stuff, and disappears!  As it's like one big shadow, Nightcrawler did a fade-out.  However, upon returning he encourages the Vanisher to restore the Darkforce to his outer covering -- it's apparently wearing a little thin.  At that moment huge beasts rush the two mutants, forcing them to their only recourse -- jumping into the crater.  They do, and fall back through the inter-dimensional abyss.  Back in Poughkeepsie, Nightcrawler and the Vanisher reappear right where they'd "BAMF!"ed out only seconds before.  The Vanisher tries to go all Mr. Threatening on the X-Men, but his steam is lost when he notices he's... naked!  His teleporation powers restored, he gets outta Dodge pretty quickly!  Storm asks Kurt for an explanation and all he tells her is that he's been to paradise... and someday he's going back!

Doug:  This story, of the three in the book, would have looked the best in color (although it is striking in the format you see).  I imagine it would have looked something like the Thing/Hulk graphic novel The Big Change.  I thought this story was a nice way to end the magazine -- pretty light and breezy fare.  Cockrum just had a passion for Nightcrawler, and that spirit shines through the art.  It's fun.  Overall, I'm not sorry I own this magazine -- if I hadn't said it before, this was the first time I'd read any of these three stories.  They're all OK -- if I had to rank them, I'd probably go Nightcrawler, Phoenix, and Iceman.  However, the Iceman story far and away looked the best -- it was just beautiful!  Bronze Age X-Men -- that's just never going to be a horrible experience, is it?  Nope -- like golden days of yore.  Thanks for sticking with me over these past three months!

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Happy Birthday to Me - Please Allow the Indulgence!

The big 5-3 today (if that's a commemorative birthday, which I think it is not).

I thought today I'd just give myself the present of some art by some of my favorite artists - black & white or otherwise. So I hope you'll allow me to entertain you with some stuff that entertains me. Enjoy!

Neal Adams draws the best of two worlds (for the background on the nifty piece, check out Dan Greenfield's blog, 13th Dimension):

John Buscema Conan sketch. Funny thing is, I used to own this and sold it a few years ago. I found this image laying around the Web! Guess someone else liked it, too!

John Byrne does the Avengers - nuff said!

John Romita's Spider-Man cast - absolutely nothing NOT to love here.

Curt Swan's Superman - the way I "see" the Man of Steel in my mind's eye.

Dave Cockrum drew the X-Men and the Legion of Super-Heroes, launching them to renewed stardom and immediately preceding memorable runs by John Byrne and Mike Grell, respectively.

And to round things out today, how about a little Gene Colan Daredevil - with some assorted nasties, no less?

Monday, June 17, 2019

Sgt. Pepper Taught the Band to Play... 10 Years Ago Today

To be honest, it was 10 years ago yesterday, but hey - it's my blog.

A seeming lifetime ago, on June 16 2009, my writing partner and I started a little venture called Bronze Age Babies. Karen Walker and I had blogged before for a brief period with a third partner. But what we wrought in the 7 1/2 years we wrote together has always been a source of pride for me. Even now, 31 months later, we often share the same brain in conversations we have via email or Twitter direct messages. Swell times.

It's been close to seven months that this space has been called home. Back in the autumn of 2018, I became aware that the boys at Back in the Bronze Age were thinking of scaling back on original content, moving their focus instead to once-a-week open forums. Martinex1 and Redartz had been key contributors to the BAB during the last few years of its existence. As the boys zeroed in on their last date, I contacted the two of them as well as Karen and expressed that I had the blogging itch again. With each of their blessings, the Black & White and Bronze Comics blog went live on November 26. While the BAB was a daily for much of its publishing history, and BitBA was prolifically produced for the better part of its two years, I wanted to try to keep the BWBC manageable in terms of the pace of publication. Two days each week seemed doable, and for the most part it has been. I'll freely admit that when I began, I was able to get way ahead on polished posts. But the past couple of months I've been working on more of a week-to-week basis.

And that brings me to the conclusion of today's post, and a quasi-announcement - this space isn't going anywhere, but I must inform my readers that the two-posts/week pace may become a bit erratic moving forward; may not. I just want to be up front that there may come a Monday or a Thursday when you happen by this place and there is stale content. Although most of you know I'm a school teacher, and thus benefit from extended time away from work throughout the year, life does still happen and believe it or not - sometimes finding an hour here and there just doesn't happen. I love reviewing comics and/or stories, and I've found the artist appreciations fun to cobble together. So I don't want to end either of those things, but I do want to be fair to everyone involved. I'll still use Twitter to publicize new posts, and any of our readers can continue to email me at bronzeagebabies AT yahoo DOT com. Have a guest-post idea? You go right ahead and suggest it - my eyes and ears are open!

I appreciate the feedback on the various posts and on Twitter. It's always nice to have a conversation with true believers of black & white art - so I want that to continue. And thanks for humoring me during the past decade - you have been my buds on Wednesdays at the LCS!

Behave yourselves...

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Gene Colan - Born for Black & White

An artist for whom my appreciation has grown throughout my comics reading life is Gene Colan. It's tough to recall where I first encountered Gentleman Gene's work - it was most likely in Daredevil, though we all know he had lengthy tenures on Iron Man and Captain America (Tales of Suspense, as well as their solo titles), and of course Tomb of Dracula. I am less familiar with his time at the Distinguished Competition, though DC fans I'm sure have fond memories of his Batman and Wonder Woman output.

If ever there was a penciler who could look better in black & white, it's Gene Colan. His mastery of both motion and shadow make his work really pop without colors. Hopefully the samples I've provided today show this. And if I ever find a little extra cash laying around, I'd love to be able to purchase a copy of the IDW Artist Edition that showcases Colan's Dracula series.

Many thanks to all the wonderful people around the World Wide Web who have posted their Gene Colan treasures - they retain all ownership of these resources.


Monday, June 10, 2019

"Child of Sorcery" - a Review from Savage Sword of Conan 29

Savage Sword of Conan #29 (May 1978)
"Child of Sorcery"
Roy Thomas-Ernie Chan

Sometimes when you're a so-called blogger, you read a story and just know you're going to review it. This is one of those stories. I recently read this for the first time, from the Dark Horse collected edition Savage Sword of Conan, volume 3. Those are wonderful books, and I'm happy to own the first four volumes. Long out of print, I should pick up whichever copies in the series on which I can lay hands. Just like Marvel's Essentials and DC's Showcase Presents lines, they are a super-affordable way to get a ton of material as reprints.

This story was of course written by uber-Conan scribe Roy Thomas, based on a story originally conceived by Christy Marx. I did some minor digging to find out about Marx (I'm certain I'd not heard of her before or since), and here's what I discovered:
Christy Marx (born c. 1952) is an American screenwriter, author, and game designer, best known for her work on various TV series including Jem, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Conan the Adventurer, G.I. Joe, Hypernauts, and Captain Power. She is also known for her original comic book series Sisterhood of Steel as well as work on Conan, Red Sonja, and Elfquest. Marx has also authored several biographies and history books (

Further, from an interview on the Things From Another World site, back in 2012: How did you break into the comics industry?

Marx: It was a combination of luck and preparation, as these things usually are. I lived in L.A. at the time and Roy Thomas had just moved to L.A. while still working for Marvel. I found out that he’d be speaking to a group of fans in a small setting (not a convention), so I showed up with a Conan story I’d written, listened carefully to the questions being asked, and then at the end asked him the question nobody else had the bothered to ask. While I still had his attention, I asked him if he would read the story. He did and he bought it and that was my first sale.
So there you have it. Who knew? Not me - that's why I looked her up!

NOTE: Our friend Pete Doree gave some thoughts, as well as scans, of the complete story just a few months ago. You can check that out here. But since you came to this space today, you must also be curious of my thoughts. Well, away we go!

100-Word Review:
A priestess, nay - a goddess - sits staring at the northern mountains. Her solace is interrupted by the clamor of other priestesses bringing a teen before her. The teen is accused of being found in the embrace of a man, something that is apparently forbidden. After an argument the goddess wins, the priestesses depart, and the older woman spins a tale of her own youth to the girl at her feet. She tells of a wizard who once entered the nunnery, and who spirited her away via a winged demon. Able to send an astral form in search of a champion, she found... Conan the barbarian.

The plot is slightly thicker than that, but hey - I only give myself a measly hundred words to whet your appetite. Onward.

The Good: I really liked this story. It's not perfect, and seems to borrow from other sources - sources as disparate as the fairy tale about Rapunzel and Meat Loaf's Paradise by the Dashboard Light. But it ends in a twist that I suppose we should all have seen coming; to my admittedly limited knowledge on all things Conan, the man had no known offspring before becoming king of Aquilonia. Apparently, not so - he did! And I think that's what I liked best about this. It sort of blew the lid off an issue many of us probably suspected all along - let's face it, Hyborian birth control ain't the pill, IUD, or condom! So why wouldn't Conan have a daughter? Or 23?

Ernie Chan's art is as we'd expect - it's just vintage Ernie. It's his own, yet as you read through the 20 pages, you can see elements of Barry Smith, of George Perez, and of course of John Buscema. The final product ends up being a nice stew of all of the above, with Ernie's lush inking of his own pencils to ice the cake. I found the art very comfortable, as I do most work I see between the covers of Savage Sword. There is the occasional odd fit (Carmine Infantino's story in SSoC #34 was better than expected, but I think Alfredo Alcala had a hand in that), but overall the Filipino masters and of course Big John always gave us a treat.

I'll get to a few of the aforementioned plot elements in my next section, but here I'll flip a kudo Roy Thomas's way. The man consistently gave Conan the voice we'd expect, and also wrote the nasties wonderfully. The wizard in this story is no exception. Shoot, even the uppity priestesses near the beginning of the tale seem perfectly voiced. Roy's dialogue smooths some of those plot head-scratchers.


The Bad: OK, it's not bad, really. But the plot device where our protagonist animates a few strands of her hair such that they form a very long braid, strong enough for Conan to climb, seemed a bit of a rip-off. I also felt that the whole "the girl was seen in the embrace of a man!" was not sufficiently explained. Were these women like the Amazons of Paradise Island? Was the encounter with the wizard when our narrator was a young woman the catalyst for this man-hate? Sure, I could infer either of the two scenarios and feel good about it. But maybe the story's small length of 20 pages hindered the revelation of such details. But my imagination is good enough.

I'd actually have liked to witness a goddess/sorceress cat-fight somewhere in the narrative. That might have been cool.

I found Chan's wizard evil, but not Buscema-esque over the top evil. He fit the bad guy bill, if underwhelmingly. Conan, after many trials, gave the fellow his just desserts.

The Ugly: Ah, this isn't horrible, either... probably falls more into the "Really?" category. But I had to laugh when I read Roy's exchange between the goddess and Conan the morn following their post-coital bliss.

She: If -- if I come with you, will you stay with me forever? Will I turn to you... and always find you there?
Conan: No. I cannot promise that.

Paradise by the Dashboard Light was also released in 1977. Witness this:

Stop right there
I gotta know right now
Before we go any further
Do you love me?
Will you love me forever?
Do you need me?
Will you never leave me?
Will you make me so happy for the rest of my life?
Will you take me away and will you make me your wife?
Do you love me?
Will you love me forever?
Do you need me?
Will you never leave me?
Will you make me so happy for the rest of my life?
Will you take me away and will you make me your wife?
I gotta know right now
Before we go any further
Do you love me?
Will you love me forever?
Let me sleep on it
Baby, baby let me sleep on it
Let me sleep on it
And I'll give you an answer in the morning
Let me sleep on it
Baby, baby let me sleep on it
Let me sleep on it
And I'll give you an answer in the morning
Let me sleep on it
Baby, baby let me sleep on it
Let me sleep on it
I'll give you an answer in the morning
Now our Conan was a bit more emphatic than that, but the message was the same - "Nope". So it's not at all the worst part of this story, but it did make me smile.
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