Thursday, 28 June 2012

Super-Copycats. When imitation may not be flattering but it can at least be flattening

Rogue from the X-Men flies towards us
Being a well-known Sophisticate, you're probably aware I have an incredible gift for mimicry.

For instance, people gasp when they hear my impression of John Shuttleworth.  “How can it be?” they demand, “How can it be you so effortlessly pass yourself off as a middle-aged man from Sheffield?”

“It isn't easy,” I tell them. It takes decades of practise - and a willingness to live in Sheffield for forty-odd years.”

But I'm sometimes reminded I'm not alone in this talent. For, numerous are the super-beings who can copy the powers of others. There's the Absorbing Man, the Super-Adaptoid, the Mimic, Rogue from the X-Men, and no doubt a whole bucketful more that I've either forgotten about or never knew existed in the first place.

Thanks to the nature of their ability, I've always been vexed by the issue of just who'd win a fight between such characters. And so, today's question is this; “Which character with the ability to copy the powers of others is your favourite? And, if they all had a scrap between them, just who'd come out on top?”

Personally, I've always had a soft spot for the Absorbing Man. Then again, I've always had a soft spot for Rogue. To be honest, I've never had a soft spot for the Super-Adaptoid or the Mimic. As for who'd win a punch-up between them all, I have yet to make up my mind.

You, though, may have another viewpoint - and this is where you can share it with the world.

Sunday, 24 June 2012

It's make-your-mind-up time! Marvel or DC?

Marvel Comics #1, the original Human Torch melts his way through a wall to confront a man who is firing a gun at him
Action Comics #1, in his debut origin tale Superman holds a car above his head and destroys itMany have been the great rivalries in human history - Britain vs France, Coe vs Ovett, Earth vs the Flying Saucers - but, for Bronze and Silver Age comic lovers, one rivalry stands out above all others.

That rivalry is Marvel vs DC.

DC came along first but, once the 1960s were under-way, Marvel rapidly caught up with and then overtook their former superiors to become America's biggest-selling comics producer. Since then the pair have merrily slugged it out for the title of that nation's most iconic comics company.

I can't hide it. Although, thanks to Batman and Superman, my very earliest exposure to the world of US super-herodom was dominated by DC, once the Marvel UK reprints came along, it was a no-contest. Each week I could thrill, as people with strange powers smashed up the forces of evil and still had time to fall out with each other at every possible opportunity. With its brawling, confused and not always socially responsible protagonists, Marvel seemed so much livelier, more with-it and surprising than DC ever did.

That's not to say I didn't enjoy DC's output but Marvel gave me warm, fuzzy feelings in a way DC simply never did.

I am aware however that not everyone feels this way. So, Steve Does Comics needs to know, on which side of the Marvel/DC divide do you land?

Friday, 22 June 2012

Marvel Premiere #1. The Power of Warlock

Marvel Premiere #1, Adam Warlock stands looking dramatic as Thor and the Hulk look on, cover by Gil Kane
Despite what everyone might think, I couldn't claim I have a lot in common with Adam Warlock. For a start - my local tanning centre having shut down - I don't have gold skin. I can't fly. And, to my knowledge, I wasn't born from within a maggot-like cocoon.

I do of course have a gem embedded in my forehead, with which I can drain the souls from all living beings but I so rarely get to use it these days and fear it may be driving me mad.

More importantly, unlike Adam Warlock, I don't have a Jesus complex.

As far as I can recall, I first came across the character in the pages of Marvel UK's Planet of the Apes comic and was instantly impressed. In his rather stylish outfit, I knew at once he was my kind of hero.

Marvel Premiere #1, the High Evolutionary and Sir Raam discover the cocoon of Adam Warlock, Gil Kane
Not my kind of hero is the High Evolutionary who really is the biggest pillock this side of Odin. Showing a remarkable inability to learn from his previous mistakes, he's back and he's decided it's not enough to repeat his earlier error of creating a race of new men by super-evolving animals.

No.

Now he wants to create an entirely new planet, one where everyone's nice to each other.

So, on the far side of the sun, he does just that. And, just like all his other experiments, it all goes disastrously wrong, as his creations all start to kill each other.

Marvel Premiere #1, the Man-Wolf corrupts counter-Earth, Gil Kane
Granted, they don't do this off their own bat, they do it at the prompting of his earlier creation the evil Man-Wolf.

Not liking the look of any of this, and for no good reason at all, Warlock volunteers to go to this new Earth and sort out both it and the Man-Wolf.

Those with a keen eye for sledgehammer metaphor'll have noticed certain Biblical overtones to all this and, for this reason, writer Roy Thomas' religious connotations are way too heavy-handed for some of us. It's like being bashed over the head with a bible.

But who cares about writing? Words are for wimps. What matters in life are pictures. And the important thing about this tale is it's a perfect vehicle for the work of Gil Kane.

Marvel Premiere #1, Adam Warlock breaks free of his cocoon and reveals his new costume, Gil KaneMarvel Premiere #1, Thor vs Adam Warlock, Gil KaneIt's no secret that I'm a Gil Kane fan. I could look up his characters' noses - and at their clawed fingers - all day long. But even I can see that, with his strange ideas on human anatomy, he was better suited to some strips than others - and Warlock is a strip he seemed born to draw, giving free rein to his beautiful combination of action and elegance.

Whether drawing animals with men's head, near-gods in armour, gold-skinned men from cocoons, almighty great punch-ups or Kirbyesque machinery, Kane seems in his element here and I'd go so far as to say it's easily my favourite work I've ever seen by him.

We also get to see Warlock being given his infamous soul-gem by the High Evolutionary. Yep, there he is, making yet another blunder. The High Evolutionary just wasn't safe to be allowed out on his own.

And so, as Adam Warlock heads to Earth to deliver it from the forces of sinfulness, I think we can safely say that, when it came to the subject of drawing men with biblical overtones, Kane proved more than able.

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Batman #255. Neal Adams - Moon of the Wolf.

Batman #255, Moon of the Wolf, a werewolf leaps at Batman who is chained in a building site, Neal Adams art
Penicillin, Nuclear fission and space flight are all bums. When it comes to innovation, they may think they're Billy Big-Potatoes but we all know that the greatest invention of the 20th Century was the DC 100-page comic.

And the first 100 page comic I ever had was Batman #255.

As it turned out, it was no ordinary 100 page comic, for it contained both a werewolf and the work of the man Stan Lee once notoriously failed to dub, “Nefarious Neal Adams.”

Admittedly, the presence of a werewolf made a bigger impact on me as a child than did the presence of Adams. The truth is, as a youngster, I tended to see Batman artists of the era as interchangeable, with me somehow lacking any ability to distinguish between the likes of Neal Adams, Dick Giordano, Dick Dillin, Irv Novick or anyone else who got to draw the cowled crusader. In fact, the only Batman artist who stood out as distinctive for me at the time was Jim Aparo.

Batman #255, Batman chained on a building site as a werewolf prepares to attack, art by Neal Adams
That was my problem but, in this tale, Batman has an even bigger one.

Why?

Because there's a werewolf loose on the streets of Gotham.

Not being one to hang around, Bats soon leaps into action by getting witlessly knocked out before waking to find himself chained to a building site.

And he's not alone - because the werewolf's there.

And he's after blood.

Batman #255, Milo lurks evilly as Anthony Lupus enters his lab, art by Neal Adams
This is all because Bruce Wayne's friend Anthony Lupus has been turned into a man-beast by the diabolical potions of a mad scientist called Milo who's out for revenge on Batman for past indiscretions.

Happily, Milo gets his comeuppance.

Not so happily, Batman almost gets his - until he's saved by the sort of luck that those of us who live in the real world never experience.

Obviously the first thing anyone's going to talk about with an issue like this is Neal Adams' art and it's ironic that it made no impression on me at the time because - his blink-and-you'll-miss-it stint on Killraven aside - it's now probably my favourite art-job I've seen by him.

Batman #255, Batman smashes in through the apartment window of a young woman, and boots a werewolf in the face, art by Neal Adams
While never having had any doubts about Adams' technical ability, my main problem with him at times has been his tendency to distort human figures as though they're made of purest rubber. Here, there's a noticeable lack of such rubberyness and it's all the better for it.

If Adams' artwork's redoubtable, you do fear you can't say the same about our hero's detective skills. He's on the lookout for a werewolf but doesn't seem to draw a connection when he's invited to the home of a man called Lupus.

Batman #255, Batman watches in horror as a werewolf is hit by lightning, Neal Adams art
The tale's not exactly thick on characterisation but it's compelling and has a nice epilogue. Plus it's always good to see Batman up against vaguely supernatural menaces, even if they've been created by science.

Another thing that strikes me is it's a full-length tale. One of the quirks of the 100 page comics is that their greater length meant the new tales at the beginning of each issue always felt shorter than they actually were, meaning you didn't necessarily appreciate them as much as you would've done if they'd been in a normal-length comic.

Then again, I didn't necessarily appreciate Neal Adams as much as I should've done either, so maybe I'm just naturally under-appreciative.

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Steve Fights Crime! Putting the boot in.

X-Men #103, a flying Storm dodges a shot fired from an Irish battlement as the Juggernaut returns
Those of us of a certain age still recall the celebrations when the Berlin Wall came down, and I suspect tonight'll see similar scenes of joy as probably the worst feature even this blog has ever come up with grinds to a halt. I finally complete my quest to assemble the ultimate costume in which I can battle with darkness.

Over the last few days, I've covered the rest of me in the finest attire a crime-fighter could want. Picking and choosing my favourite elements from the costumes of established heroes, I've covered my head, I've covered my chest, I've covered my torsal antipodes. But now for the most important item of them all.

I've never made it a secret that, as far as I'm concerned, the most important part of a super-hero's costume is the footwear. Just as Waye Rooney'll no doubt be bereft tonight if he's left his boots at home, so I cannot fight crime without the finest cobblery this land can produce.

Well, that's easily said, but what to wear?

I've always had a soft spot for calf-length boots that turn down at the top in the style of Captain America and Conan the Barbarian. Then again, I was the only person who liked Supergirl's short-lived 1970s carpet slippers. The Flash had little wings on his boots. The Green Goblin had boots that turned up at the toes.

These are all, no doubt, fine footwear. But I can't get round it; there's one pair of boots that stand out above all others for me.

And those are the boots of Storm. Her original ones. The thigh-high leather ones with the holes in them.

Who can forget the sense of leggy dignity they lent her - as opposed to her unlikely punk phase that made no sense at all and arrived about ten years too late to be topical?

So, there you have it. I now have my costume - composed of Ant-Man's helmet, Batman's cape, Captain America's shirt, Conan the Barbarian's loin cloth and Storm's boots. I think we can all agree it's the finest costume imaginable to mankind and guaranteed to impress passers-by as I stride through the streets of Sheffield.

Or maybe we can't. Maybe you think an altogether different combination would work the sartorial magic every crime-fighter needs. If so, you're perfectly free to outline what elements would, for you, make up your dream super-hero costume.

Monday, 18 June 2012

Steve Fights Crime! Danger down under!

Conan the Barbarian #35, the hell-spawn of Kara-Shera, Conan fights a giant bat monster with his sword, as a helpless wench looks on
Over the last few days, the world's thrilled to my exploits as I've set about acquiring the parts needed to create the ultimate super-hero costume.

I'm already fully catered for up-top - but now comes the most important item of them all.

What to wear to cover my lower-half modesty?

Sadly, when it comes to such areas, super-heroes have a terrible reputation, being ridiculed as they often are for wearing their underpants over their trousers.

As though that weren't bad enough, there're also such lapses in taste as Wonder Woman's star-spangled abominations and Supergirl's bright red hot pants.

Therefore, given such a paucity of items to choose from, I'm going to have to go for one thing, and one thing alone.

Conan the Barbarian's loin cloth.

Not the furry one, obviously. If ever I've seen a garment asking to be overrun by fleas, it has to be the furry one.

No. I shall go for the proper loin cloth, as seen to the top-left of this very post. With Conan's loin cloth, I shall look like a man capable of rescuing any maiden from any wizard and defeating every man-ape this side of Zingara, by Crom.

So, that task now sorted, I have Ant-Man's helmet, Batman's cape, Captain America's shirt and Conan's loin cloth. Already I can sense super-villains trembling at the thought of me approaching them in a darkened alleyway.

But that's not enough. After all, roaming the night-time streets as I shall be, I may stand on a nail and - as Superman often told us in those 1970s public information ads - even a non-rusty nail can cause a nasty infection. Therefore I'm going to need footwear.

Long-standing readers'll know that nothing excites me more when it comes to super-hero costumes than the subject of footwear. I am sure therefore that the topic of my next post shall thrill me greatly.

In the meantime, feel free to discuss your own personal favourite examples of clothing designed to cover a super-hero's loinal extremities.

Saturday, 16 June 2012

Steve Fights Crime! Getting it off your chest.

Captain America #109, Cap burst out of a newspaper front page, in readiness for the retelling of his origin, Jack Kirby cover
If there's one thing in life a Bronze-Age super-hero needs, it's a shirt.

Why?

To hide the fact he has no nipples.

It's not just the male Bronze and Silver-Agers who have this affliction. When Mary Jane Watson saunters into Peter Parker's living room in Amazing Spider-Man #55, she's clearly wearing a see-through dress and yet there's not a nipple in sight.

From this we can conclude that comic book people are not mammals at all and must reproduce by means of laying eggs.

But, if one's constructing one's ideal super-hero costume, just what shirt should one wear? My quest to assemble such an outfit has already seen me plump for Ant-Man's helmet and Batman's cape but what shirt could possibly do them justice?

Iron Man has a metal, bullet-proof chest-plate. I think we can all agree that bullet-proof chest-plates are a good thing in the fight against crime - unless the bullets ricochet off your chest-plate and shoot up your nose.

The Valkyrie has metal hubcaps to hide her boobal appendages of Valhalla. Sadly while such a feature might be eye-catching, I fear such adornments might prove uncomfortably cold in winter.

Killraven has that strange chain-mail thing that only covers one side of his chest; and Spider-Man has a large spider on his shirt, which is rarely the best way to make friends and influence people.

No, wonderful as all these items are, I can't get round it. If I'm to have a shirt, there can be only one choice.

And that's Captain America's.

Captain America's shirt might be corny and not at all appropriate, bearing in mind I'm not American, but I still remember how striking his outfit seemed to me when I first clapped eyes on it as an eight-year-old. When it comes to dealing with wrong-doers, you simply can't beat a combination of red, white and blue.

But that's not enough.

If I'm not to be arrested for indecent exposure before I've even punched my first super-villain in the hooter, I'm going to have to acquire something to cover my heroic nether-regions.

And that's the problem my next post'll be tackling.

In the meantime, feel free to discuss your favourite super-hero shirts of all time.

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Steve Fights Crime! The cape of good hope!

Batman runs across a crepuscular beach, by Neal Adams
Is it normal to feel sorry for a cape?

I like to think it is, as I always felt sorry for Dr Strange's original item of that description.

There it was, merrily doing its duty of enabling Strangey to fly - or whatever it was it did - when he dumped it and got himself a fancy new one with bendy, pointy bits. There's gratitude for you.

I seem to recall he got rid of the original after being given a new, more powerful model by the Ancient One, following his first fight with Dormammu.

Of course, some may argue the Ancient One would've been showing a lot more gumption if he'd given Dr Strange a more powerful cape before his fight with Dormammu.

That aside; as we witnessed in my last post, in my quest to assemble a costume in which I can fight crime, I've decided to don Ant-Man's helmet.

But a man can't fight crime in just a hat. He needs so much more.

Hence my concerns about capes.

Of course, it's not compulsory to wear one - many fine super-heroes have done without - but, given that fighting crime is the one time in life you can get away with wearing a cape in public, I feel I should take advantage of this rare opportunity.

But which cape to wear?

Superman's cape I never liked. It always looked suspiciously like an old blanket he'd just painted an S on. At one point in the 1970s, Supergirl took to tying her cape around her neck, which seemed a recipe for a good strangling. The Original Captain Marvel's cape was so small it suggested his funds were limited. Adam Warlock gained a certain gravitas after adopting his cape, and the Son of Satan's cape had a certain something.

But, in the end, there's only one cape I can go for.

And that's Batman's. The sheer bat-shapiness of it, with all its Gothic arches and the tantalising suspicion he could use it to fly with if he wanted, means I can't resist it.

So, I now have Ant-Man's helmet and Batman's cape. Already I can sense I'm going to be sending fear into the hearts of wrong-doers who are a cowardly and superstitious lot.

But I can't just wear a helmet and cape. If I'm to defeat evil, I'm going to need a shirt.

And that shall be the subject of my next post.

In the meantime, feel free to share your thoughts of what have been your favourite super-hero capes of the comic book world.

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Steve Fights Crime! The journey begins!

Tales to Astonish #35, Ant Man points as a much larger foe aims a gun at him
From the moment I first started reading super-hero comics, I knew that one day a fateful moment would arrive.

Reader, that moment is upon us, as I at last face up to the fact that I can delay no more. I must take to the streets and fight crime wherever I find it.

"But, Steve, you great steaming fool!" I hear you cry. "Have you learned nothing from the first two issues of The Fantastic Four? You can't fight crime without a costume!"

And that's why, over the next few posts, I  shall be assembling a uniform that shall strike fear and dread into the hearts of evil-doers.

Needless to say, I shall take inspiration from the super-doers who've inspired me all my life.

And where else would one begin than with head-wear?

There've been many fine examples of head-wear in comics. Who could neglect the Phantom Stranger's trilby or the Shadow's slouch hat? There's Dr Doom's iron mask. And who could forget Mysterio's goldfish bowl of menace?

But, for me, when it comes to super-hero headgear, there's only one winner.

And that's Ant-Man's cybernetic helmet.

Now, as a child, I didn't have a clue what "cybernetic" meant - and I still don't. I only know it sounds cool.

More than that, it looks cool. Ant-Man might be a feeble, neurotic weakling who poses no threat to any serious wrong-doer but that helmet at least made him look like a pro while he was posing no threat. Not only that but it gave Ant-Man the power to control ants.

Being a cut above Ant-Man, I  of course shan't use it to control ants.

I shall use it to control the wallabies that so famously live wild in the Derbyshire countryside that lies so close to my own dear home. "Attack, my wallabies of justice!" I shall cry. And attack they shall, for even wallabies must bend before the power of cybernetics.

Thus is the first part of my costume assembled. But ahead of me lies an even greater challenge - and the subject of my next post.

A cape - and whether to wear one.

Reader, feel free to share with me your thoughts on your own favourite item of comic book head-wear.

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

The terrifying monsters of Journey Into Mystery!

In recent days, Steve Does Comics' readers have gasped, thrilled and trembled at the nightmare creatures Tales to Astonish and Strange Tales have thrown at us - but just what terrors can a pre-Thor Journey into Mystery unleash?

Why, it seems it can unleash some oddly familiar names and faces...

Journey into Mystery, Shagg

If ever you needed proof Britain and America really are two countries separated by a common language, it has to be the terror of Shagg.

Somehow I don't think the unstoppable Shagg would've been approved by the Comics Code in this country.
Journey into Mystery, Giant Space Vikings

Rather appropriately, the comic that was to give us Thor gives us giant Vikings from space.
Journey into Mystery, Orogo

Orogo, the thing from beyond!

Beyond what, I have no idea.

Journey into Mystery, Gomdulla

The Awesome might of Gomdulla.

Am I the only one who suspects Howard the Duck is beneath those bandages?
Journey into Mystery, Goliath

Goliath, the monster that - like Frankie Valli - walks like a man.
Journey into Mystery, Gruto

Gruto, the creature from nowhere!
Journey into Mystery, Korilla

Kaptured by Korilla!

I do wonder just how many monster names Stan Lee could come up with that were variations of the word, "Gorilla."
Journey into Mystery, Ruler of the Earth

I don't have a clue what that thing is but it's easily the coolest-looking monster in this post.
Journey into Mystery, Zog

Zog! What more needs to be said?
Journey into Mystery, Rro

Rro! Stan wasn't really trying with that name, was he?
Journey into Mystery, Bombu

Bombu!
Journey into Mystery, Hulk

A strangely familiar name and a strangely familiar face.
Journey into Mystery, Rorgg

Rorgg!
Journey into Mystery, Monstro

Monstro!
Journey into Mystery, Spragg

Spragg!

That's that thing where you film your chin upside down and stick false eyes on it, isn't it?
Journey into Mystery, the Glob

We've had the Hulk. We might as well finish off with his old foe the Glob.

Monday, 4 June 2012

The Class system exposed!

Gadzooks! It seems it's a time for celebration! Not only has Cerebus 660's redoubtable Glass Walking Stick just crashed through the 150,000 page-views mark but this very day should send Steve Does Comics' own all-time page-view total smashing through the 200,000 barrier, poised as it currently is on 199,616.

Of course, with my winning modesty, I thought such a thing would go unnoticed.

But what's this?

I wake this morning to see bunting strewn across the pathways of this fair land, street parties underway and a bank holiday in full progress?

Bonfires are being lit on every hilltop in the land?

And only yesterday, a thousand boats floated up the Thames in celebration?

Needless to say, this touching tribute by an entire nation has moved me deeply and I shall be celebrating this afternoon by sailing up the River Sheaf, on my barge, before ending the day in the pouring rain, stood on the kerbside of my nearest main road and watching traffic go past for seven hours. Hopefully the BBC will do the right thing and ignore the protests of those who want me abolished.

Anyway, inspired by Pete Doree's recent comment on the Bronze Age Babies blog, here are the covers of some of the Alan Class comics I once possessed. I would have posted all the covers of all the Alan Class comics I once had but, as we all know, finding Alan Class covers on-line is like to trying to grab hold of the Human Top.

Alan Class, Astounding Stories, Giant Man, Wasp, Human Top
Alan Class, Secrets of the Unknown
Alan Class, Secrets of the Unknown

Alan Class, Secrets of the Unknown

Alan Class, Uncanny Tales

Alan Class, Secrets of the Unknown

Alan Class, Secrets of the Unknown

Alan Class, Sinister Tales, Captain Atom

Alan Class, Secrets of the Unknown, Captain Atom

Alan Class, Sinister Tales

Alan Class, Amazing Stories of Suspense

Alan Class, Sinister Tales, Metal Masters

Alan Class, Creepy Worlds

Alan Class, Creepy Worlds

Alan Class, Creepy Worlds

Alan Class, Sinister Tales, Gorgilla

Alan Class, Creepy Worlds

Alan Class, Uncanny Tales

Alan Class, Uncanny Tales, two headed monster

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