Asbury Park Comic Con

Captain America Dog Cosplay @Asbury Park Comicon 3

Photo courtesy Flickr user DanCentury

Yes, that is a dog dressed up as Captain America. Last month was the Asbury Park Comic Con rolled into my neck of the woods and I was treated to a fun Saturday of comic book goodness at the Jersey Shore. And it was the first (and only) time I’ve ever seen a pet dressed up as their favorite comic book character.

It was a fun show and a perfect way to spend the Saturday before Easter. I still have a few picks of my haul that I was going to post but we’ll get to that later. This show moved across the street from their previous home, the punk rock bowling alley/bar Asbury Lanes to the Asbury Park Convention Center. For next year, the show is expanding to a whole weekend at the Berkeley Hotel, right on the beach. Perhaps I might now be motivated to finish one of my projects so i can get a table there…

 

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Checking Out Pro Wrestling Syndicate

Me with Jushin LigerI know I’m almost a month late on this but one of the best things of Wrestlemania being in my home state of New Jersey this year was that the area was filled with all kinds of professional wrestling goodness for about a week. A busy schedule made it really hard to participate in the festivities, but I was able to check out one of the Pro Wrestling Syndicate shows on April 4 in Metuchen, New Jersey.

I was on the fence about going to anything that week, but the fact that Japanese wrestling legend Jushin “Thunder” Liger was added to the card made it a can’t miss event. Which lead to me getting the picture above.DSC_0202

Liger was put in a match with Davey Richards of ROH and Anthony Nese who has been appearing in TNA and Dragon Gate USA. The match was really fun with Liger busting out all his trademark moves and such. I still remember the first time I saw Liger on WCW television probably sometime during 1990 and to this day I’m still just as amazed by him.

Kevin Steen

Local PWS guys aside, there were so many random wrestlers on the show, like Kevin Steen, the Hurricane, Simon Dean, Elijah Burke, Shelly Martinez, Tommy Dreamer and even New Jack! It was like playing Fire Pro Returns on random.

Robert Gibson and Ricky Morton of the Rock N Roll Express

That said, the most random match of the night was the Rock N Roll Express vs.the Briscoe Brothers. It was amazing; Robert Gibson and Ricky Morton have probably wrestled the same match since the early 1980s and it still works.

You can view all of the pictures here.

Moon Knight #2-5

moon-knight-2Let’s look at some of the early issues of the original Moon Knight series! Issues two through five are a lot of fun. So why should you give this a chance?

Writer Doug Moench really makes Moon Knight a complicated and interesting character, much more like a Don Draper then I ever expected. I was always under the assumption that the character was former mercenary Marc Spector having had some sort of near death experience that made him moonlight as the Egyptian themed hero.

That is a big part of the character, but there’s more to it. Spector is publicly living as the fictitious millionaire Steven Grant in order to use his ill begotten fortune as a soldier of war. But he also uses another alias, that of the taxi driver Jake Lockley as well. Basically you start to wonder which of these is the real personality of this character.

Spector’s complexities are only balanced by how great his supporting cast is, all of whom support him and assist his mission. He has a girlfriend, Marlene Alraune, who is almost as adept a combatant as he is.  There is also his longtime pilot/sidekick Frenchie. More privately in the Lockley persona, the old bum Crawler, a diner waitress named Gena and her two sons always go out of their way to help inform him of the latest street crime gossip.

The resulting stories have Moon Knight stopping various different criminals, including a psychopathic murderer, an antiquities thief and the criminal organization the Committee who armed Spector previously.

Covers and art in these issues was by Bill Sienkiewicz, who is such a great artist. I’ve always loved his more stylized work, but I never knew he used a more mainstream super hero comics style in his earlier projects.

Magik #1-4

magik-4The Magik mini-series has a simple purpose: it’s to flesh out what happened to poor Illyana Rasputin when she was pulled into the other dimension known as limbo.

In story-line, Illyana was missing for only seconds. But while in Limbo, she experienced the events of several years of her life. She was a small child at the beginning of the story but returned as a teenager. What had happened was the evil  sorcerer Belasco pulled her into his dimension in an attempt to make her his dark apprentice. Fortunately for Illyana, that dimension’s version of Storm (who is an elderly sorceress in this reality) and Kitty Pryde attempt to keep her safe from Belasco. The villain’s plan is to use her teleportation powers so he can leave limbo and conquer the Marvel Universe.

And as much as Storm and Kitty want to save Illyana from Belasco, it is up to the young girl to save herself. There is an extra element of difficulty, as if Belasco dies, his soul will wind up possessing Illyana’s body.

Magik is a lot of fun. The story is filled with swords and sorcery, and it makes it pretty different from a lot of the Marvel comics at the time. It’s kind of like the X-Men are hanging out in the He-Man or Thundercats universes. While this isn’t “required reading”, it’s worth reading.

It was written by Chris Claremont, who pretty much did most everything involving any X-Men related character during that time. The art is fine; it’s by John Buscema and Ron Frenz, but what makes it sticks out is all the detailing that inker Tom Palmer put into it. There are all kinds of Easter eggs hidden in the pages that don’t affect the plot, but add nice touches.

Jack Of Hearts #1-4

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The most important thing that Jack Of Hearts did of note to me in maybe the last fifteen years was his explosion that was a catalyst for the events of Avengers: Disassembled. It turns out there is much more to this character as I found out in Jack Of Hearts #1-4.

You feel really bad for Jack; the miniseries reveals that everything in his life is a complete lie. He may of wound up with his energy powers through an accident in his father’s lab, but it turns out that his mother was an alien from the planet Contraxia. She was only on the planet to steal his father’s research on alternate energy sources in order to save her home world.

Fast forward to the current day, and Jack is a super hero whose super powers have grown wildly out of control. It also turns out that his longtime friend/girlfriend Marcy is a Contraxian herself and convinces him to follow her to the planet.

Jack enjoys this, feeling like he finally fits in and is accepted. Things get awkward as they learn the true reason the Contraxians were so interested in tracking him, as they wanted to detonate him in an effort to reignite their dying sun. And you thought you had problems! Jack is able to figure out how to rekindle the sun without sacrificing his life and decides that he should spend the rest of his days away from any other living things, as they will only choose to use him against his will or he will eventually hurt them, as his powers keep increasing beyond his control.

On the whole, this miniseries was a lot of fun. It worked because it was a self-contained story with a character that I wasn’t all that familiar with. There is a definite beginning, middle and end, all of which I enjoyed. It was written by Bill Mantlo, and I’ve really been enjoying his work of late.

New Mutants Annual #7

new-mutants-annual-7Who misses Marvel’s summer annuals? I’ll give you a hint: this guy does. New Mutants Annual #7 bridges the gap of the team’s transition from being the New Mutants to X-Force. And it sports this cool Mike Mignola cover.

The main feature sets up a crossover with the New Warriors, and there is another serialized story about the evil mutants turned government operatives in Freedom Force.

But the best part of this is the last short story by writer Judy Bogdanove and artist Jon Bogdanove (I’m assuming they are married).

It features the young mutants Artie, Leech and Wiz from the X-Terminators going on an adventure of their own and unintentionally causing a ruckus as they fly around town in a flying saucer. It ends with them finding a new friend in a grandmotherly old woman. The whole scene is really touching with Leech mistaking her for his deceased mother. That said, the story is a lot of fun and really is the highlight of the annual. It reminds me of something out of Spielberg’s Amazing Stories television series.

Since it is an annual, there is also the obligatory pin up pages (by Rob Liefeld and Art Thibert) and a pretty cool organizational chart of the team which you can view here.

Marvel Presents: Bloodstone #1

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Bloodstone was a character that I didn’t even know existed until I got into the Avengers 1959 books. It turns out that he’s actually a pretty cool character from the 1970s.

Bloodstone debuts in this character and he’s an interesting take on the whole monster character. He’s gained immortality and Captain America level physical abilities.

I also love on this cover, and well this issue, Bloodstone is fighting what appears to be the spiritual inspiration if not the great-grandfather of Erik Larsen’s Savage Dragon!

Howard The Duck #1

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This is one of the comics in my collection that I was so happy to add. Growing up in the 1980s, Howard the Duck was all over the place, but got relegated to second-tier status, mostly because of the less than amazing film that he starred in. But that didn’t stop me from having a fondness to the waterfowl.

Howard the Duck #1 isn’t the first appearance of the character, but his popularity lead to him getting his own series. Howard comes across odd, even for someone living in the Marvel Universe. The story told here pretty much sets up the direction the series would take.

Howard just goes around the country solving mysteries and having adventures. He meets nude model Beverly Switzler who becomes his friend/travel companion and spends the rest of the issue trying to save her from the evil wizard/accountant Pro-Rata. The diminutive duck does get some assistance from Spider-Man along the way.

It’s a fun issue and I really want to read more of the character. Steve Gerber writes this character so well; there’s a certain absurdity and seriousness to it that reminds me of Dave Sim’s Cerebus the Aardvark.

Transformers #1

transformers-1Isn’t it kind of crazy to think that the Transformers have been a part of our culture for just about thirty years now? Transformers #1 brings the world’s most famous robots into the realm of comic books.

This issue does exactly what you would expect it to do. It’s a quick adaptation of the Transformers back story, with the Cybertronian civil war between the heroic Autobots and the evil Decepticons spilling over to our planet, with them laying comatose under a volcano in Oregon since the dinosaur era. One day an eruption reawakens the robots (who have now adapted to their new surrounding), rekindling their ages old feud. It also introduces the comics version of the Witwicky family, the humans who wind up interacting the most with the Autobots.

It’s a great beginning to the run of the Marvel era of Transformers comics, and hard to believe that this almost wound up being just a four issue mini series. The book sold like hotcakes and went on to have an eighty issue run.

There’s a lot of talent on the creative side of this book, whether it be the awesome Bill Sienkiewicz cover to Bill Mantlo’s credit as a co-writer on this book. That is something that I was never aware of till this last re-reading.

The one very impressive thing about the creative team on this is that colorist Nel Yomtov did the colors on all eighty issues of the series, plus all the various specials and related mini series that were off shoots of this. That’s one heck of a streak right there!

New Mutants #87

New Mutants #87

New Mutants #87

New Mutants #87 introduces Cable to the Marvel Universe. It’s not every month a character who is going to have this big an impact on the series debuts every month.

Not only did Cable debut in this issue but his primary nemesis Stryfe does as well. Stryfe is part of a group of terrorist mutants called the Mutant Liberation Front. They’re attempting to rescue the incarcerated New Mutants Rusty and Skids. And by rescue, I mean wind up brainwashing them into joining their ranks.

As this is going on, Cable shows up in an attempt to stop Stryfe from abducting the duo. The book ends with the MLF escaping and Cable being locked up by the government, as he was blamed for the attack.

What this issue did was set up the last year of the series, as well as it’s relaunch/metamorphosis into X-Force. In the issue, it wasn’t very clear why Cable needed to protect Rusty, Skids or the rest of the New Mutants, but it was established that there was some reason he would not accept them joining Stryfe’s forces. There’s a lot of mystery about what is going on and it does get explained in later issues.

New Mutants #87 is also pretty cool in my book, as it’s a collaboration between writer Louise Simonson and artist Rob Liefeld, both of whom I am a pretty big fan of

500th Post Extravaganza!

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And this makes my 500th post to the blog! It’s been a lot of fun the last two years (well almost two years) doing this. It’s given me an opportunity to be more critical about the comics, toys and cartoons that I love and connecting me with several like-minded people on the inter-webs.

So how will I celebrate?

This post is going to look at comic book covers that celebrate a title passing that milestone! Here are some of my favorite 500th issue covers.

This one is from Action Comics and I love how the image repeats over and over again. The one thing that’s kind of odd about this is Supergirl’s costume. You can so tell this was from the late 1970s, as she’s wearing a long-sleeved v-neck shirt with booty shorts. I think she’s been taking her fashion cues from Three’s A Company-era Suzanne Somers.

adventures-of-superman-and-These two covers are so indicative of comics in the 1990s, when killing lead characters and having replacements take over was all the rage. Adventures of Superman #500 debuted the four new Supermen after Clark Kent’s apparent death. There were two versions of this; the one pictured and a polybagged one with a Colorform sort of peel off. Again, because it was the early 1990s and I was an impressionable twelve-year-old, I had to have both.To the right is Batman #500, where the Jean Paul Valley Batman avenges Bruce Wayne’s defeat.

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This cover from Detective Comics #500 I vaguely remember from my childhood. I think I might have gotten it at a flea market or thrift sale when I was really young.

Uncanny-X-Men-500-Ross

Uncanny X-Men #500 had two different covers to celebrate, but I really love this one by Alex Ross. Then again, everything Alex Ross does is awesome. Ross does a great job of getting all generations and eras of the X-Men represented on this cover. I would love a print of this.

amazing-spider-man-and-avenThe cover of Amazing Spider-Man #500 by J. Scott Campbell is really cool, but in the context of the issue it didn’t make much sense. The art is by probably my favorite father and son duo in comics, John Romita Sr. and Jr., so why didn’t they get the cover nod?

Avengers #500 doesn’t have the most exciting cover in the world, but the issue is pretty important for historical purposes. The “Avengers Disassembled  storyline not only began the more modern and prominent role of the characters in the Marvel Universe, but really pushed Brian Michael Bendis and David Finch into the top writers and illustrators in mainstream comics at that time.

So what’s my favorite issue #500?

Thor-500That would be Thor #500 by Warren Ellis and Mike Deodato. I so loved this era of the character. Ellis’ writing was top-notch and Deodato’s artwork was so bombastic during the period. It’s amazing how much he’s changed over the years. Another personally interesting note about this is that I remember when and where I bought this! It was in May 1995 and I was in Red Bank, New Jersey at the comic book store that was there before Kevin Smith’s Jay and Silent Bob’s Secret Stash opened.

Kid Colt #1

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Cowboy comics are one subgenre that has disappeared. Cowboys in general have fallen off the popular culture landscape since the late 1960s. The Kid Colt one-shot by Tom DeFalco and Rick Burchett is an adventure featuring Kid Colt, one of the premier cowboys from Marvel’s history.

The story is very straight forward; it’s a retelling of Kid Colt’s origin and early days through the narration of a man named Everett (I wonder if that was a conscious nod to longtime Marvel creator Bill Everett). The sheriffs are out to find the young cowboy, who has been erroneously charged with the murder of a farmer. Everett is helping Kid Colt clear his name, and along the way there is all the action that you would expect in a cowboy comic book.

This was a fine read; Burchett’s art worked well with the story. This is worth checking out, especially if you’ve never read a cowboy story before. Who knows; you might even like it!

Cyber Force #3

cyber-force-3You all should be reading this. It’s a fun story about robots, a dystopian future with a looming apocalypse. And it’s free. Head over to Comixology right now and catch up with the series so we can talk about it.

So here we go. Everything starts coming together in this issue. Carinn and the rest of the Cyber Force characters are on the run from CDI’s forces. Through a bunch of dialogue and flashbacks, writer Marc Silvestri finally explains why Carinn and her cyber-dog Ninja are so important: the evil company pretty much wants to obliterate everything on Earth for a chance to start over again, with CDI genetically and technologically altered living things in some sort of new corporate run planet. It reminds me of a more sinister Buy N Large from the Wall-E movie. CDI is aware of Carinn knowing the full nature of their plan and she must be terminated. That’s why she was trying to find Matt Stryker and what’s left of Cyber Force in order to stop CDI. The book also ends with a bit of a bombshell, as it’s revealed that Stryker is most likely Carinn’s father.

Art on the book is by Khoi Pham. I love the way he’s able to add a heavy Silvestri influence into his own style. I never was that big of a fan of the characters during its original runs, but I’m really digging this take on Cyber Force. The one complaint I had on this issue was the dialogue. I know it’s sent in the future, but will people really making sex slang jokes from the late nineties?

Adventure Comics #467-469: Starman, Plastic Man and Ditko

adventure-comics-467Adventure Comics was a long running anthology series from DC. Issues #467-469 caught my attention due one of the features being the debut of the Prince Gavyn incarnation of Starman. I was drawn to this not because of the character, but more because it was Steve Ditko work from the 1980s.

After reading the Steve Ditko book, I’ve had a lot of interest in this period of his career which is very hit or miss. But in these issues, Ditko was on fire. The script is by Paul Levitz, who wrote a lot of DC’s more cosmic stories during this period.

Gavyn is a prince from the intergalactic empire of Throneworld, and after developing powers he was exiled into deep space while his evil and corrupt sister ascends to the throne. As Starman, he comes back to try to liberate his people. It’s what you would expect from a science fiction/fantasy/super hero comic book from this time. One cool thing about the story is that Starman’s origin isn’t explained till the third appearance of the character. I liked that because you already had a sense about him before that was all explained.

And, I guess another reason why I really wanted to pick these up was because of the Gavyn figure I have from the Justice League Unlimited line that Mattel put out during the mid 2000s. I felt obligated to learn a little more about a character that I wasn’t familiar with.

The other stories in these issues feature Plastic Man, which are pretty silly and kid friendly. I think that’s because this would be the time that the character was horrifying a generation of children on a Saturday morning cartoon show.

Don’t believe me?

This might be a conversation for another day.

Torch #1

 

torch-1This is another “tales from the quarter bin” comic. The Torch #1 came out in the fall of 2009, but what makes it odd that the series seems to have been published through a partnership between Marvel and Dynamite. The mini-series  is about the original Human Torch Jim Hammond.

Hammond–an android who can burst into flames–is one of the most underused of Marvel’s original “big three” characters. Captain America and Namor been fixtures of the Marvel Universe, but he seems to get the short end of the stick mostly due to Johnny Storm flying around with his name.

Any who, Hammond isn’t featured too much in the first issue. Toro–his didekick–has been resurrected and hates his life. He’s largely forgotten, his girlfriend moved on, and he’s finding it hard getting used to being alive after being a corpse since the end of World War II. Toro decides to avenge his death by killing his murderer, the villainous Mad Tinkerer. Conveniently as this is going on, Tinkerer is working for Norman Osbron to replicate the science that created both Toro and Jim Hammond. The issue ends with Toro captured and Hammond’s remains being exhumed.

This seems like it could be a fun series to me, especially knowing my love of second tier characters. The mini-series also has awesome covers from Alex Ross. The good thing is that this whole mini-series is featured on Marvel Unlimited which I subscribe to, so expect some more discussion about this in the near future.

 

S.W.O.R.D. #4

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This was a random quarter been pickup. S.W.O.R.D. #4 is part of the short series that chronicles of Abigail Brand and S.W.O.R.D., a branch of S.H.I.E.L.D. that deals with extra-terrestrial affairs kinda of like Men In Black.

This issue is a little complex for someone jumping into it cold like I did, but you can get the general storyline. S.W.O.R.D. has come under the control of Henry Gyrich and Norman Osborn during the “Dark Reign” era and is about to trigger some sort of cataclysmic alien invasion. It’s up to Abigail, her boyfriend the Beast (there must be something about a blue hairy lion/monkey/man who the ladies love), Lockheed and the little used Marvel UK character Death’s head to stop them. I’m still a little shocked that Death’s Head appears in this story, but I bet that has to do a little something with British writer Kieron Gillen being involved.

So for reading a single issue in the middle of the storyline, S.W.O.R.D. looks like it has some potential. Abigail is an interesting character, and I like the randomness of the rest of the cast. They had Lockheed in it! I think I’ll have to see if I can track down the rest of this.

FF #1-2

FF-1I know it’s really too late to announce something like this, but FF is really the best new series of 2012. It’s Matt Fraction’s take on a back-up Fantastic Four and it has amazing art by Mike Allred. Really, why aren’t you reading this?

The premise is pretty straight forward; in the recently relaunched Fantastic Four is going on a short-term journey into another dimension and they need someone to look after the Future Foundation (Marvel Universe’s brightest bunch of genius youngsters) and any other fantastic problems in the interim.

Each of the members is picked by a member of the real Fantastic Four, and most powerful scenes are the ones where Mister Fantastic is trying to recruit the recently returned to the living Scott “Ant-Man” Lang to be his substitute, hitting on the fact that Lang is really unsure if he is up to the task. This is in comparison to She-Hulk and Medusa, who have previously helped out.

The new member of the team is Darla Deering, a pink haired woman who Johnny Storm had hooked up with and coerced into helping out. Although she has no powers, she is wearing the Thing’s robotic armor from when he lost his powers.

In the second issue, the team has its first public outing as they fight a large monster under the control of Mole Man, a sort of tribute to the first issue of the original Fantastic Four. It ends with the new team saving the day and dealing with various Human Torches from other realities appearing.

It’s a lot of fun and well written, like most of Fraction’s books. But what I really love is that Allred (and his wife Laura who is a super colorist) has created a dynamic and bright world. Really, this is something that has been missing from super hero comics and it works especially well on this. I would love to see the Allreds on Daredevil.

But yes, this is highly recommendeded  It’s one of the most fun Fantastic Four stories I’ve read in some time, and it doesn’t even feature the proper characters! How cool is that?

Justice League International #7-12: Booster Has A Breakdown

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We are back! I finally got around to looking at the last six issues of Justice League International. This was the second series from the New 52 that I was really excited about that happened to get cancelled. So what happens to the Booster Gold lead group on their final mission?

This final story arc starts with a bang, as the group gets attacked during a public event by a new villain named Breakdown. This guy–along with his squad of villains–wants the world to descend into chaos and anarchy, and what better way to start that campaign by taking out one of the premier super groups while the world watches. There are countless casualties; Rocket Red and some of the JLI’s support staffers were killed. Ice, Fire and Vixen have all been seriously injured.

The rest is a pretty by the numbers super hero story. Booster recruits some new members to the team, including OMAC and Batwing (well, more so Batman brought him to the fold since they’re besties). JLI has to put aside all their fears and what has just happened to them in order to save the world, which they do. The final issue ties up all the loose ends of the series, with the team on the verge of disbandment until Batman is able to secure them a new headquarters and financial support from Bruce Wayne. It’s also stressed that they feel they have to carry on so Rocket Red will not have died in vain. 

The biggest problem that I had with this–and one of my biggest complaints about the whole New 52–is that for some reason, it seems really hard to take any of the villains seriously. They’re all new, for the most part, and seem really generic. Not to mention, not all that threatening. Breakdown’s crew just seemed lacking and it was hard to believe that they were really that much of a threat.

That said, the ending was really weird, especially since it was the last issue of the series. It sets up a pretty firm new status quo and that the story would be continuing as opposed to stopping cold. I don’t think you can blame Dan Jurgens writing for that; perhaps he wasn’t told that the twelfth issue would be the last. 

I still think that Justice League International still has a lot of life in it as a concept, as the lesser super hero team in the DC Universe. I hope that we get to see the members of the team make more appearances in stories to come.