Monday, June 30, 2014

The Alphabet Game: Comic Book Edition

Hello, and welcome to The Alphabet Game, where I take a look at 26 different things in one common category. This inaugural edition is all about that wonderful thing once known as the motion picture. Have fun...

A is for Action Comics #1 - Sure, there were comic strips and comic books around well before 1938, but it was in June of that year, that the superhero comic book was born, with the publication of Action Comics #1, and the first appearance of a guy known as Superman. You might have heard of the guy. Anyway, this first appearance of the Man of Steel, created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, ushered in the dawn of the superhero. Yeah, Siegel and Shuster had created Dr. Occult, three years earlier, but that guy never caught on. Within the next few years, the world would see the debuts of such characters as Batman, Wonder Woman, Flash, Captain America, The Human Torch, Captain Marvel, The Sandman (not to be confused with Neil Gaiman's more recent incarnation), The Spectre, Dr Fate, Aquaman, The Whizzer,  Plastic Man, Red Tornado, Green Arrow, Catwoman, The Sub-Mariner, and The Justice Society of America (among many others). So there! A perfect way to begin this edition of The Alphabet Game. Now let's move on.

B is for Brain Tumor Comix - Back in the Fall of 1989 (not nearly as long ago as Action Comics #1), a new comic book appeared. It was called Adventures in Smiley-Face Land. Okay, technically, the comic never actually appeared, so much as was created and had its outline and story scribbled down into the first of many composition books that would collect the complete works of Smiley-Face Land Adventures. These notebooks currently adorn a shelf in my closet. These superheroes (actual smiley-faces, with arms, and no legs) were blatant rip-offs of already established comic book characters. There was Cap'n Smiley-Face, Dr. Oddball, Flash-Fire, Ajax: God of War, Hair-Weave, Mega Man, Superstar Woman, The Porcupine, and The Incredible Behemoth. These, of course, were blatant rip-offs of Captain America, Dr. Strange, The Human Torch, Thor: God of Thunder, Medusa of The Inhumans, Superman, Wonder Woman, Wolverine, and The Incredible Hulk. The Smiley-Face Universe is actually quite deep, and quite all-encompassing. There were even lost issues from the Golden Age. There were great supervillains as well. Characters such as King Trident, Dr. Viktor Von Arkam, Blechh: God of Bad Things, and the Mysterious Shadow. Oh, and what does this have to do with the letter B, and Brain Tumor Comix, you ask? It is because the comic company under which these adventures are "published" is Brain Tumor Comix. My company. Also under this banner, one can find the renowned black and white comic strip, La-La & Lu-Lu. All these strips (also my creation) can be seen by clicking on the appropriate link in the tabs bar at the top of this blog. There are a few other assorted comics, such as Naked Batman and Famous People Attend A Cocktail Party, that have been published through BTC. More on all of these (and especially, Smiley-Face Land Adventures) will be coming to this very blog, very very soon. Keep a look out in the index section of All Things Kevyn. Who knows, they may be there already. But enough self-promotional babbling, let's move onto the next letter already.

C is for Calvin and Hobbes - Okay, technically Calvin and Hobbes is a comic strip, and not a comic book, per se, but it is the greatest comic strip ever made (sorry Zippy) and an integral part of the history of sequential art, so on the list it goes. Created by Bill Watterson, the groundbreaking strip ran for 3,150 strips, from 1985 to 1995, before Watterson called it quits, due to his feeling he had gone as far as he could with the strip. But before he left the funny pages, Watterson changed the way comic strips were seen in newspapers. Many papers will edit strips in the Sunday pages, in order to fit more strips in. Doing this at theirs, not the artist's discretion. Needless to say, this pissed off Watterson, so the guy took a stand, and said they publish his comics the way he makes them, or they do not get to publish them at all. Watterson having one of the most critically acclaimed, and one of the most popular strips running at the time, the papers relented, and gave in to his demands. Howzabout that!? Recently, Watterson secretly came back to the funny pages, co-drawing three strips of Pearls Before Swine. And now, according to many sources, the guy is itching to get back in the so-called water. Who knows what will happen next?

D is for Don't Touch the Silver Surfer - One of my favourite places to visit is my LCS (local comic shop, for those not hip to the lingo), a place known as Comix Connection. In the back of said Comix Connection, sits a life size Silver Surfer, complete with shining space board. A sign attached to this Sentinel of the Spaceways reads: "Don't touch the Silver Surfer." Needless to say, I have touched the Silver Surfer. I think most visitors to Comix Connection have touched the ole Norrin Radd. Sneaked a slight diddle, if you will. Hopefully, this tiny indiscretion won't get me banned from my LCS. Perhaps if I mention how I wish to use the title "Don't Touch the Silver Surfer" as the name of a comic book related column, will help the fine folks over at Comix Connection, take it easy on me. Now I am still not sure exactly where I am going to start posting said comics column. Maybe at one of the myriad of places I have pitched the idea. Who knows? Someday (hopefully soon) you wil be reading said column somewhere on the old intrawebs.

E is for EC Comics - The infamous EC Comics label began back in 1944. It was founded by Max Gaines and was a place to publish educational and religious comic books. Gaines had started out in the comics biz a decade earlier with Dell Publishing, creating Famous Funnies, considered by many to be the first true comic book. Anyhoo, cut to 1947 and the sudden death (by boat) of Max Gaines. His son, William inherited the company, and almost immediately turned it into a place for horror and science fiction and pulp fiction kind of stuff. And he was a smash hit. As the 1950's are now known as the golden age of horror comics, it is also known as a time of comic book witch hunts. Just like what had happened in Hollywood, people (including congress) started sticking their collective noses into the comic book world, and started decrying EC's horror comics as evil things that we must keep away from our children. Rabble rouser Fredric Wertham's Seduction of the Innocent was published and a backlash against horror, crime, and sci-fi comics was set into motion. The Comics Code was born, and suddenly publishers had to get approval from this censoring organization, in order to publish their comics. One incident, in 1956, had EC Comics coming up against the censors because they "dared" to portray a black man as an astronaut and representative of Earth. EC won, and the comic story appeared unaltered, but this would pretty much spell the end for EC, and would be the last comic book the company ever published. Eventually, Gaines would garner even more success with a little magazine called Mad. Today though, EC is even more popular than ever, and can be found in a myriad of collected editions.

F is for Fraction! - That's right my peeps, it's Fraction Time! It sort of like Hammer Time, but without the parachute pants. Actually, F is for Fraction, Matt Fraction. To those who do not yet know (and shame on you for not yet knowing!), Mat Fraction is the best damn comic book writer working today. Responsible for such great books as Casanova, Last of the Independents, Marvel's Hawkeye, FF, and The Immortal Iron Fist, and Image Comics' Satellite Sam and the phenomenal Sex Criminals (my personal favourite title out right now), Fraction is one of the go to guys in comics today. And he's married to Kelly Sue DeConnick, writer of such titles as Captain Marvel, Pretty Deadly, and Ghost. Together they are THE power couple of the current comic book world. It's Fraction (and Kelly Sue) time!!

G is for The Great Lakes Avengers - We all know The Avengers. Thanks to the movie, even those unacquainted with Marvel Comics, know The Avengers. And we (at least the comic book savvy amongst us) all know The West Coast Avengers as well. Then there are newer teams such as The New Avengers and The Mighty Avengers (both with several incarnations), as well as The Young Avengers and even The Dark Avengers. But there is one Avengers team that may not be all that well known, even to the casual comic book readers. That team is The Great Lakes Avengers. Born in 1989, the team has had members such as Mr. Immortal, Flatman, Big Bertha, Doorman, Monkey Joe, The Grasshopper, and (my favourite, and one of the sexiest superheroes to ever grace the pages of comic books) Squirrel Girl. Even Deadpool was added as a reserve member at one point...but then, Deadpool is everywhere, so it should not come as a surprise. Anyhoo, this team is mainly a big joke in the good ole MU, but a fun joke. Hey, the Nerd Rock duo, Kirby Krackle even recorded a song about these guys. Did I mention how hot Squirrel Girl is? Yeah? Okay, good. Let's move on.

H is for Howard the Duck - That's right kids, Howard the Freakin' Duck. Now let's just forget that 1986 George Lucas produced movie version of our favourite Marvel Universe Fowl from Another Dimension, and talk about the actual comic book upon which said film is based. First appearing in the anthology series, Adventure Into Fear, popping into the swampy home of Man-Thing in issue #19. Howard would get his own series a few years later, written by Steve Gerber (Howard's creator) and drawn (starting with #4) by the late great Gene Colan. Now Howard gets a really bad rap, mostly due to that damnable 1986 motion picture, but in his comic book form, this duck has always been a smartly written satiric motherfucker.

I is for Image Comics - So, I grew up a die hard Marvel kid. X-Men, Avengers, Defenders, Man-Thing, The Amazing & Spectacular Spider-Man, and all that kinda jazz. My only real youthful knowledge of DC came from Super Friends and the Batman TV show. Since then, I have grown to love and respect many a DC title (especially those taking place in Gotham) but I still tend to prefer Marvel over DC. But then you have a little publisher known as Image Comics. A haven for creators who wish to retain the rights to their characters (a thing unable to be done when working for the big two), Image Comics opened for business back in 1992. Founded by a gaggle of eight disgruntled artists (Todd McFarlane, Rob Liefeld, Jim Lee, Whilce Portacio, Marc Silvestri, Erik Larsen, Jim Valentino, Chris Claremont), Image Comics is one of the most creative, most interesting publishers around. Several of my favourite series (Saga, Fatale, Manhattan Projects, Sex Criminals, East of West, Morning Glories, Invincible, Rat Queens, Pretty Deadly, The Walking Dead) come out of Image. Great stuff, indeed!

J is for Joker - There have been one hell of a lot of supervillains throughout the comic book world of the last seventy-five years or so since Action Comics #1 ushered in the superhero age (see A is for Action Comics #1) but none of them can compare to the man known as The Joker. None of them! End of freakin' story! This guy is so batshitcrazy that Batman, a superhero who refuses to kill, should have beaten this mother to death years ago. Yeah, back in the day, Joker was just kind of a...um, joke. But eventually, he became a homicidal maniac. A crazy psycho who shot Batgirl in the spine, and then raped her while her father was forced to watch. Seriously Bats, perhaps it's time to lift that no-kill policy of yours. But then again, if he did that, we would not have the greatest supervillain of all-time. And then there's the J-Man's gal pal, Harley. Ooh la la.

K is for Kirby Krackle - Anyone who knows anything about the comic book world, surely knows the name Jack Kirby. They should also know that King Kirby is indeed one of, if not THE greatest comic book artist of all time. And what makes this cigar chompin' artistic genius just so great? His classic portrayal of action heroes? His co-creation of such iconic characters as the Fantastic Four, the X-Men, and the Incredible Hulk? His groundbreaking works like the Eternals and the New Gods (and Devil Dinosaur!)? Well yeah, it's all of these things, but more than anything else, it's his Kirby Krackle. But what the hell is this so-called Kirby Krackle!? It is Jack Kirby's style of drawing the negative space in his comics. You see, he would draw these pseudo-fractal dots around what he was drawing, be it explosions or outer space, and this drawing of the negative space would actually create something great in between all this fractal-izing dots. It's pretty awesome looking, if ya ask me. And hey, Seattle musicians Kyle Stevens and Jim Demonakos even named their nerd rock duo after this, and have released several albums under the name of Kirby Krackle. To tie this in with another part of this alphabetized list, one of their albums (which mostly consist of geek culture stuff) includes a song called Great Lakes Avengers. So there!

L is for Lois Lane #106 - Of all the comic books I would like to make part of my collection (at least of all the ones I could reasonably afford) my most desired one right now is Lois Lane #106. For those who do not already know, Lois Lane, Clark Kent's faithful(esque) gal pal and probably the worst investigative journalist to ever exist (seriously Lois? A pair of glasses is not a disguise!) actually had her own comic back in the 1960's and 1970's. Often times it was actually better than what was passing as Superman comics at the time. Anyway, Lois Lane's most infamous issue was #106 (dated Nov. 1970), titled "I Am Curious (Black)." The storyline is that Lois is transformed into a black woman to see how the so-called other half live. Pretty risky for the time period. I plan on procuring a decent looking copy at the Baltimore Comic Con in September.

M is for The Marvel Method - As I stated earlier, I grew up a die hard Marvel Kid, and having done so, I was a big ole fan of what was called the Marvel Method. Basically it's just the way things were done in the Marvel bullpen back in the day when Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, and Steve Ditko were running the madhouse. This style of doing things, where a full script is not needed, instead the writer plots the story and the artist draws it up while they come up with dialogue and such, has its good and bad sides, but it seemed to work for Marvel's House of Ideas during their hey day of the 1960's and 1970's. Make mine Marvel!

N is for No-Prize - And speaking of Marvel Comics, there is always the once oh so coveted No-Prize. Basically it is a prize given to a fan who wrote into Marvel (long before the instant gratification of e-mail, messaging, and tweeting 'n' such) and told them of a mistake in their comics and (most importantly) could give a reasonable explanation as to why this mistake really wasn't a mistake at all. Yeah. Basically it was a way to explain away continuity errors. There, of course, was no actual prize at first, hence the term No-Prize. Eventually Stan Lee would begin sending an empty envelope with a "Congratulations! You've won a No-Prize" kind of thing on said envelope. Many idiot fans would write back, stating that their prize must have fallen out in the mail. Yeah.

O is for Orrin C. Evans - Orrin C. Evans was born in Steelton Pa (a few miles from where I currently call my home) back in 1902, and would eventually become the very first black writer to cover general assignments for a mainstream white newspaper in the US. A few years after his paper closed down, Evans would create a comic book called, All-Negro Comics. This comic was written, drawn, inked, edited, and published by African-Americans, and was about all black characters (the only white characters in the first issue were a pair of sneaky villains). The first issue came out in 1947. Sadly, there was never a second issue, and today this is a very very rare comic book, and even rarer to find in good or better condition. Lucky for us, the comic is in public domain, so it can be read online (Comic Book Plus) for free. It is a  well done quality comic and you should really check it out.

P is for Paste Pot Pete - Eventually this silly supervillain would change his name to The Trapster, but he was originally called Past Pot Pete. Essentially he was a guy with a pot of paste attached to a gun, and he would shoot people and things with this paste gun. Seriously, he would hold the pot in one hand and the gun in the other. There had to be a better way to do this. There just had to be! Anyway, Paste Pot Pete, even after switching identities to The Trapster, was nothing more than a big joke...and not just to the readers. Often, when a superhero was battling Paste Po...er, I mean Trapster, he or she would make sure to mock the poor hapless schmuck by reminding him that he used to be known as Paste Pot Pete. Poor Paste Pot Pete.

Q is for Planet Q - Here comes some more self-promotion. As was explained back at B is for Brain Tumor Comix, I have created a vast comic book universe known as Smiley-Face Land. One of the many characters in these Smiley-Face Land Adventures, is a being known as Quantum. This space-faring smiley-face superhero was one of the founding members of the Smiley-Face Guardians, and with his cosmic powers, is one of the most powerful beings in all of Smiley-Face Land. Originally, Quantum is from another world - Planet Q. Quantum's home world is a great and powerful world. A technological marvel actually. Everything and everyone on Planet Q has a name that happens to begin with the letter Q. Quantum's evil brother is Quarterflash, while his parents Quesada and Quaa, King and Queen of all of Planet Q. In case you hadn't noticed, King Quesada is named after Joe Quesada, former Editor-in-Chief and current Chief Creative Officer of Marvel Entertainment of Marvel Comics. Yeah, I could've put the Charlton/DC Comics character, The Question, in this spot, but I couldn't help talking about my own creations again. I'll try not to do that again. That may be a lie. Anyhoo, let's keep going.

R is for R. Crumb - Any discussion on comics and comic books could not be complete without the inclusion of that mad underground genius know simply as Crumb, or R, Crumb, or Robert Crumb, if you insist. The king (of sorts) of the underground comix movement of the 1950's and 1960's, Crumb is the man responsible for Fritz the Cat and Mr. Natural, as well as the famed Keep on Truckin' strip of the 1970's. A remarkable and quite intriguing character (you should really check out the Terry Zwigoff documentary about Crumb), the writer/artist is a brilliant cartoonist. Yeah, I may gush a bit about someone like Crumb, but I just can't help it. The guy is fascinating. And it's not just because of his iconic underground work. His later autobiographical comics, along with his unique style of crosshatching and 19th Century influences, and the way he draws women (he did like his women big, didn't he?) all make for one of the finest comic book artists we've ever known. Yeah yeah, I'm still gushing. What's it to ya!?

S is for Superdupont - This satirical French superhero was created back in 1972 as both a parody of Superman and a jab at French Nationalist attitudes. Armed with his rooster and baguette, and donning his red beret and stereo-typically striped belt, Superdupont is the son of the Unknown Soldier, and the protector of everything French. He smokes Gauloises cigarettes and eats only French cheese, and fights the terrorist organization known as Anti-France. As far as I know, there are no plans to make a Superdupont movie, but I would love to see Jean Dujardin play this guy on the big screen Can we make this happen? Anyone?

T is for Timely Comics - Founded in 1939 by publisher Martin Goodman, Timely Comics would make a splash onto the still burgeoning comic book market with a little thing titled Marvel Comics #1. That's right kids, this would be the issue that introduced the Human Torch to the world. No, not that Human Torch. Johnny Storm and his three teammates were still 22 years away. This was the original Human Torch. The android one. The one who would team up with Captain America and the Sub Mariner a few years later, and form The Invaders. Timely Comics would also be the place where we first all saw Ka-Zar, The Whizzer, and of course, the aforementioned Captain America and Sub Mariner. Goodman would also hire a couple of comics creators Joe Simon and Jack Kirby. They would kind of make it big one day. Eventually Timely would become Marvel Comics, and the rest is, as they say (whomever they are), history. Yup, make mine Marvel.

U is for Unus the Untouchable - To go along with Paste Pot Pete and the Great Lakes Avengers (sans the always wonderful, and always sexy, Squirrel Girl)here is another ridiculous Marvel Comics character. Unus the Untouchable was just that - untouchable. He could project a force field that stopped anyone form touching him. I really have nothing to say about this loser, but I really needed something or someone for the letter U, so there ya go. Now let's move on to the letter V.

V is for V For Vendetta - Alan Moore is one of those comic book writers who are either loved or hated, with not much in between. I happen to be in the love category. Yeah, the guy is batshitcrazy as batshitcrazy comes, but that probably only helps his writing. Being the man responsible for what is possibly THE greatest comic book ever written, Watchmen, as well as other great modern classics such as Promethea, From Hell, Fashion Beast, Saga of the Swamp Thing, Batman: The Killing Joke, the infamous Lost Girls, and the reason we are here at the letter V, V for Vendetta, anyone who sits in the hate category, are just know-nothing ass hats. That's right. Ass hats. Moore, as much of a jackass as he is (and he is a giant jackass, an ass hat even), has written some of the best stories in comic book history. And one of those best stories is V for Vendetta, the story of a post-apocalyptic Dystopian UK world, and a mysterious revolutionary anarchist who hides behind a Guy Fawkes mask. This look is used these days by several different anarchist groups, including the revolutionary Anonymous gang of world changers. Yeah, he may be an ass hat, but damn can he write a good story.

W is for Wolfman, Marv Wolfman - Once upon a time, back in the day when the Comics Code (remember those fuckers?) would not allow certain horror images in comic books, there was a guy named Marv Wolfman. Meanwhile, over at DC Comics, writer Gerry Conway was writing introductory blurbs for an anthology series. One of these stories was written by Marv Wolfman, so Conway wrote that the story was told by a "wondering Wolfman." At this point, those bastards at the Comics Code Authority said no no no. You were not allowed to mention werewolves or wolfmen. When DC explained that Wolfman was actually the writer's last name, they relented but only if the writer was given credit in the comic, in order to "prove" he was a real person. How this proves that I do not know, but hey, that's the story, and we're sticking with it. Anyhoo, with Wolfman getting a writer's credit in a comic book, a place where very very very few creators were given credit at the time, other writers and artists insisted on such, and hence giving credit where credit was due became a thing in the comic book world. And it's all because of a wandering Wolfman, Marv Wolfman.

X is (not) for X-Men - Ya know, I racked my brain to come up with something non X-Men related for this entry. Nothing against the X-Men, They were my first comic book love. The first issue of any comic book I ever bought was X-Men #97. I grew up with these guys, and today, even as over-saturated as they have become, I still love them (though out of the approximately 167 X-titles out each month I read only Uncanny and All-New X-Men). But, as over-exposed as they are, I did not want to add to that by making them my X spot. Likewise for any X-related team such as X-Factor or X-Force or even X-Statix, the great Peter Milligan/Mike Allred series that spawned from the dying pages of X-Force, or even Charles Xavier himself. So, I racked my brain for another comic book X-title. There was X-O Manowar, but I've never read him, and he sounds kinda silly anyway. There's also the Dark Horse character X, but again, I really know nothing about him. Is it even a him? I don't know, and I don't really care enough to find out. So, in my inability to find a suitable replacement for the X-Men (and I am sure some know-it-all reader will tell me of an X-comic I should have known about when they comment in the ole comments section below) this entry is simply a non X-thing. X is not for X-Men. And we are moving on...

Y is for The Yellow Kid - Now this one goes back a ways. All the way back to 1895 actually. The Yellow Kid was a character in the comic strip Hogan's Alley (the first regular Sunday newspaper comic in America) and appeared in both Joseph Pulitzer's New York World and William Randolph Hearst's New York Journal. The colour of the Yellow Kid's frock, along with the rather shady practices of Pulitzer and Hearst's newspapers, brought about the term Yellow Journalism. Yup, this guy started it all.

Z is for Zippy the Pinhead - The Zipster knows all. The Zipmeister is the quintessential clown prince of the comic strip world. Zippy is the zippiest of all the pinheads. King of the crackpots. This long running underground(esque) comic strip may not be "gotten" by everyone (in fact most people have trouble understanding cartoonist Bill Griffith's surreal and absurdest storylines) but for those who do "get" it, really GET it. As was explained way back in letter B, I do my own comic strip called La-La & Lu-Lu. One of these strips was an homage to Zippy. With that in mind, I e-mailed this one particular strip to one Mr. Bill Griffith, aka Griffy, to see what the creator of the great Pinhead thought about the whole shebang. Honestly, I expected to be totally ignored, or maybe told to stop doing what I was doing. Instead, Bill e-mailed me back and told me how much he enjoyed my homage. Howzabout that!?


So there ya have the latest edition of The Alphabet Game in all its comic book goodness. The third edition of The Alphabet Game will be here in just a few weeks, and it is going to be quite the beastly edition. Stay tuned. For now...That's it gang. See ya 'round the web.

6 comments:

  1. I learned quite a bit about comic book land. I do know Superman was invented by Canadians! Superdupont looks like it would be fun to read and see if they ever make a film. I did not know that The Joker was that Bat shit crazy-he should die!

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  2. Great job. Loved K and X, especially.

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  3. Thanx guys. These Alphabet Games are quickly becoming my favourite posts to write.

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  4. This post is very interesting to someone who barley knows a thing about comic books in general and I love the idea of the alphabet game because they sound fun to write about.

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