Sunday 28 April 2013

Vince Colletta - YOU decide!

Galactus by Jack Kirby and Vince Colletta
Quiver, mere mortals, as yet again Steve Does Comics smashes its foot into the face of Controversy.

Inspired by comments about my last post, even I can sense it's time to address that always vexed issue of Vince Colletta.

When I was a kid, I always had mixed feelings about Colletta's inking. His work seemed perfect for Jack Kirby's Thor, softening that artist's stiff angularity and giving it a suitably archaic look that meant each issue almost seemed to have been printed from some ancient parchment. Each page looked so dry you almost expected it to crumble in your hands as you turned it.

It also seemed to me that his soft style was perfect for the likes of Supergirl and the multitude of Romance comics he seemed to work on over the years. One thing that struck me about Colletta was that his handling of female eyes and lips made him ideal for breathless tales of young ladies' angst.

But there was a downside to all this. To my eyes, his work was far less suited to Kirby's more technological Fantastic Four. I also hated to see him inking John Buscema whose work, unlike Kirby's, needed no softening at all.

Little did I realise back then that, thanks to his urge to obliterate any chunks of artwork he saw as unnecessary, he was viewed as the Anti-Christ by certain pencillers. This tendency to excise details, figures and buildings may have been done because he liked, "improving," work he'd been handed or because he was the inker publishers went to whenever they wanted a job done fast.

I also have mixed feelings about that subject. Having seen examples online of his corrections to artists' work, I can see why they'd be annoyed at having things they'd put hard graft into drawing simply disappear without trace from the finished comic.

On the other hand, to some of us, the erasures, blackings-out and simplifications did often (but not always) improve the composition of the panels in question. There's an old saying in writing about the need to improve your work by, "Killing your darlings," and - perhaps appropriately for a man with supposed Mob connections - Vince Colletta certainly wasn't scared of killing other people's darlings.

But that's enough about me. The whole point of this post is to find out what you The Reader thinks. And, right at the bottom of this missive is where you can do it.

Friday 26 April 2013

Thor# 209. The Demon Druid.

Thor #209, the Druid
Well, what an exciting week it's been. Not only did the temperature actually manage to rise above zero for the first time in what seems like years but we've seen not one but two big occasions - both on the same day.

It's been St George's Day and the latest Thor trailer's been unveiled.

I should explain to our overseas readers that St George's Day is the most important day of the year in England. It's a time when we celebrate our national identity by dancing round the Maypole, bursting into tears of pride as we run the flag up the pole we've erected in our garden, and we give three cheers for such epoch-making titans as Shakespeare, Isaac Newton and One Direction.

Granted, none of what I've just said may be true but I've always felt that the fact that most people totally ignore our national day should be a greater source of pride than the fact that we have a national day in the first place. In my book, apathy and cynicism are supremely underrated qualities.

"But, Steve," I hear you ask, "Thor? St George's Day? What possible link can there be between the two?"

None whatsoever but it does give me an excuse to look back on one of my bitterest childhood memories - Thor's visit to England.

I must warn you that I hated this story when I first read it in the pages of Marvel UK's weekly  Spider-Man comic. Its depiction of England was so far wide of the mark that I wanted to personally punch writer Gerry Conway in the mouth every time any of the characters in the tale opened their mouths. Will a second reading, as an adult, prove to be more agreeable? Or will it just stir up personal demons I thought long-since buried?

Sulking over Odin acting like a complete tool again, and the disappearance of Sif, Thor lands in a London backstreet. We can tell at once that it's London because all the streets are cobbled, there's a fog in the air and the city seems to be lit by the hi-tech wonder they know as gas.

Unfortunately, the power of Thor's transformation back to Don Blake awakens a long-buried giant called the Demon Druid who proceeds to stomp all over the English countryside in between bouts of repeatedly knocking Thor unconscious.

Fortunately, there are brighter people than Thor around, and a local police inspector ultimately tells him to butt-out so the Demon Druid can use Stonehenge as a launchpad to return to the alien planet from whence he originally came.

So, did I enjoy the tale more on second reading?

Not really. The portrayal of England seems even more bizarre than it did when I was a kid, with people talking in a manner that suggests they learned to speak English by watching Crocodile Dundee. But the truth is that, nowadays, such inaccuracy amuses rather than annoys me and I suppose it's better than the horror that German readers had to put up with, with all members of their nation routinely depicted by old-style Marvel as obsessive wearers of lederhosen.

I suppose that, on reflection, the main problem with the story isn't cultural inaccuracy. It's that, while perfectly competent, it all feels a bit pointless. Basically, it's just a spiritually empty fight between two god-type beings, with nothing noticeably at stake. By this stage in the strip's history, we'd got used to the grand cosmic soap opera of Asgard and its neighbours and, with its total lack of relevance to the bigger picture, this tale feels somewhat throwaway in comparison to such grand intrigue.

Saturday 13 April 2013

The nightmare creatures of Tales of Suspense - Part Two!

I have to say this, the monsters in Part One of this feature were all fine and dandy but I can't help feeling Stan and Jack excelled themselves when they came up with today's selection.

So, without further ado, let's take a look at the nightmare creatures of Tales of Suspense!

Tales of Suspense #17, Googam, son of Goom

Only the other day, we experienced the terror of Goom! Now it turns out there's a son of Goom.

Presumably that means there's a Mrs Goom.

What a lovely picture of domestic bliss that knowledge conjures up.
Tales of Suspense #18, Kraa the unhuman

I think I read this in one of Marvel's 1970s monster reprint mags. Possibly Where Monsters Dwell or some such. If I remember right, Kraa was on the cover, fighting a giant python.
Tales of Suspense #19, The Green Thing

The Green Thing? I do fear Stan wasn't quite putting the effort in when he came up with that name. He could have at least honoured Marvel monster naming etiquette and called it The Ggreen Thingg!

Still, it is at least a timely reminder to not inflict substance abuse upon your cauliflowers.
Tales of Suspense #21, Klagg

"This is Klagg!"

I'm saying nothing.
Tales of Suspense #22, Bruttu

Et tu, Bruttu?
Tales of Suspense #25, Monstrollo

Poor old Monstrollo. Not only does he die but he seems to be named after a packet of small, round chocolates.

Tales of Suspense #26, the thing that crawled by night

This is definitely my favourite-looking monster of today's batch.
Tales of Suspense #27, Oog

What an Oogie mess.

Oog, doing his impersonation of the ice warrior in tonight's Dr Who story.
Tales of Suspense #31 the monster in the iron mask

Help! Help! They've made a monkey out of Dr Doom!
Tales of Suspense #32, the man in the bee-hive

Hold on a moment. The Man in the Beehive? This all looks strangely familiar.

What he wants to do is get himself a cybernetic helmet, a rich girlfriend and call himself Bee-Man. He'll be a hero unlike any other.

Tuesday 9 April 2013

The nightmare creatures of Tales of Suspense - Part One!

Tales of Suspense might be best-known as the comic that launched Iron Man on the world but, before that, it was home to yet more of those monsters Stan Lee and company loved to inflict on us as though they were going out of fashion.

That can only mean one thing.

It's time to revive that ever-popular feature where I ramble on about the pre-super-hero monsters of Marvel. Will they be a match for the menaces of Strange Tales, Tales to Astonish and Journey Into Mystery?

There's only one way to find out.

Get ready to hide behind the sofa - as Steve Does Comics goes where wise men fear to tread.

Tales of Suspense #14, Colossus

Forget that big metal bloke in the X-Men. It's time for the real deal as Colossus busts loose.
Tales of Suspense #13, Elektro

Forget that weedy villain from Spider-Man. It's time for the real deal as Elektro busts loose.

Hmmn. Am I spotting a pattern here?
Tales of Suspense #15, Goom

Behold Goom!

Behold indeed. I seem to remember him returning to fight the Hulk later on.

Apparently he's from Planet X. Whether this means he's a friend of Kurrgo, I'm not sure.
Tales of Suspense #16, Metallo

Metallo. Does what it says on the tin.
Tales of Suspense #4, one of us is a Martian

I don't know who he is but I know he's up to no good.
Tales of Suspense #11, Sporr

Hooray! It's Sporr, the amoeba that walks like... ...erm... amoeba!

I remember reading this tale reprinted in one of Marvel's 1970s monster mags - and also one of Marvel UK's mags (possibly Star Wars but don't quote me on that).
Tales of Suspense #10, Cyclops

We've had Colossus. Now it's Cyclops' turn.

At this rate, we'll soon have all the X-Men in one place.
Tales of Suspense #12, Gor-Kill

It's another of those variations on the word, "gorilla," that Stan seemed so keen on.
Tales of Suspense #7, Molten Man-Thing

What do you get if you cross the Molten Man with the Man-Thing?

Why, you get the Molten Man-Thing, of course.

Here he is, doing his best to get the part of Mr Humphries in Are You Being Served?

Sadly, he failed the audition, and the rest was history.
Tales of Suspense #8, Monstro

The part of Miss Brahms was of course famously given to Monstro; the Menace from the Murky Depths who, disappointingly for a Marvel monster, can't even be bothered to misspell his name, like all the others can.
Tales of Suspense #9, Diablo

Is it that cheeky Alchemist of menace?


Like Goom, I seem to recall Diablo returning years later to fight the Hulk. Like Goom, he didn't get very far with it.

Thursday 4 April 2013

Forty years ago this month - April 1973.

A week might be a long time in politics but, judging by Marvel's output of April 1973, forty years isn't a long time in comics. Can it really be four decades since these tales first entered our lives?

And, if so, how come it feels like it was only yesterday?

Amazing Spider-Man #119, the Hulk in Canada, John Romita cover

It's a case of, "Rargh! Hulk smash puny spider!" And other such witty badinage, as Spidey's Canadian adventure begins.
Avengers #110, Magneto

Magneto shows up in a tale I've never found overly involving.
Captain America and the Falcon #160, Solarr

I had a copy of this up until a couple of years ago but don't recall anything that happened in it.
Conan the Barbarian #25, Gil Kane cover

John Buscema's first issue of Conan - but with a Gil Kane cover.

I remember once copying this cover with my trusty pencil and sketchpad.

Needless to say it was an artistic triumph worthy of the Louvre.
Daredevil and the Black Widow #98

Is this the one where everything goes all wibbly-wobbly in the park?
Iron Man #57, the Mandarin

The Mandarin seems to have no shirt on. Well, that doesn't seem very dignified.
Incredible Hulk #162, the Wendigo

Hooray! Spider-Man dealt with, the Hulk takes on a classic monster.
Fantastic Four #133, Thundra

Thundra shows up.
X-Men #81, the Juggernaut

My razor-sharp senses tell me the Juggernaut may be involved.

They also tell me that cover looks to be an unlikely combination of Gil Kane and Werner Roth.

Thor #210, Ulik

Is this the one where Ulik runs off and joins the circus?

Judging by the cover, I have a feeling it might not be but have no idea which story it is if it isn't.

Monday 1 April 2013

Fifty years ago today - April 1963.

The wisest of women once said, "Drip drip drop, little April showers," - just before Bambi's mother got shot.

Clearly she'd never spent an April in Britain or she'd have been singing, "Plunge plunge plunge from the rooftop edges, huge icicles of potential death." Shall this winter never end? Or am I doomed, like Mr Freeze, to spend eternity in permafrostial numbness?

And will Marvel's heroes be getting shot of their enemies in April 1963? Or will they be filled with the Christian spirit this Easter and instead be holding them deer to their harts?

Only the next few hundred words can tell us.

Fantastic Four #13, the Red Ghost, on the moon, Jack Kirby

This is what you call value for money. We don't only get the debut of the Red Ghost, we get the first appearance of his super-apes, the city on the moon and the first ever declaration by the Watcher that he's sworn never to interfere - just before interfering.
Journey into Mystery #91, Sandu, Thor in chains

I've not read this in forty years. Is this the one where pixies come down from Asgard and give Thor his belt of strength?

Pixies have never come down from Asgard and given me a belt of strength.

Not even when I've needed to open a jam jar.

I hate those pixies.
Tales of Suspense #40, Gargantus, Iron Man

Hooray! It's a story I've always loved, as Gargantus, the evil hypno-robo-Neanderthal, invites Iron Man to go clubbing with him.
Tales to Astonish #42, Ant-Man and the voice of doom

Ant-Man suffers his latest indignity - falling off a jetty because Isambard Kingdom Brunel tells him to.

Stand up to him, man. It doesn't matter how big a whizz he is with funicular railways, he's still just a man.

Call himself a master engineer? He can't even build a proper jetty. Look at that nail sticking up. He was no Frank Whittle. Frank Whittle would have made sure that nail was knocked in properly.

No wonder Henry Pym ended up going mad.
Strange Tales #107, The Human Torch vs the Sub-Mariner

It's the big one! It's Flamey vs Splashy!