Saturday, September 9, 2017

Review: Squirrel Girl and the Great Lakes Avengers

I recently picked up the Squirrel Girl and the Great Lakes Avengers collection. I'll be honest, I only bought it for one reason: It feature the Great Lakes Avengers. Also, it was on sale. And, of course, Steve Ditko! If you're counting, that isn't really one reason. But this is Squirrel  Girl we're talking about, do you think I'm going to even try to be serious here?

But let me start being a little serious about Ditko. Steve Ditko helped launch the Marvel age of comics, specifically with his creation Spider-Man and Dr. Strange. Ditko even plotted most of the stories that were scripted by Stan Lee, and the combo was fantastic. Ditko is the "other artist" who launched the Marvel age, due to the unequalled brilliance of Jack Kirby, the King of comics. Some people even like Ditko better than Kirby, though even if you don't, being second to Kirby is no insult!

So, anyway, when I was deciding whether or not to buy the collection, the inclusion of the Ditko plotted and drawn origin story was the decider for me. The origin story establishes Squirrel Girl as a determined though goofy character, who manages to defeat Dr. Doom and save Iron Man! It just takes guts, some luck, and a bunch of squirrels.

The Great Lakes Avengers were created by my favorite comic artist, John Byrne during his run on the West Coast Avengers. (JB's WCA is okay, but not his best work. Some really good ideas, but it always seemed off.) The Great Lakes Avengers were created as a team of heroes with goofy names and powers that would eventually become straight-up super heroes. But JB's run on the title was cut short and the idea never finished. So they've stayed a goofy group since. But I like them. Despite the incorrect naming. You see, they say they couldn't be the "North Coast Avengers" because the USA doesn't have a north coast. However, anyone living on the Great Lakes knows that the lakes ARE the north coast. Anyway, the name is just to sound like the JLA. At least I think so.

The ongoing theme is that the GLA don't do much because nothing in the Marvel universe ever happens in the mid-west. Galactus always attacks New York for some reason. And Squirrel Girl makes a good addition to the GLA because she's extremely respected and successful at the heroing thing, whereas the GLA just kind of show up and try but never do much. Most of the stories in the collection are written by Dan Slott, who is a very good writer, and I like his stuff the best. He writes some modern Marvel books, and I don't read too much of those, but I do need to seek out more of his work. The weakest stories in the collection, in my humble opinion, involve Deadpool. I don't know why, probably because just don't like Deadpool. He does nothing at all for me. Yeah, I know he's popular and all, but I just don't get him. I did love the appearances of Speedball, another Ditko creation. I have almost all issues of Speedball's original series. It's quite fun, I think!

I ordered the next Squirrel Girl collection, so if I like it I'll post more later!

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Live Entertainment Review- Including Lights, Camera, Action!

I wasn't going to post about this, but it's going through my head and I might as well get it out. I've written a few things in the past about live entertainment, and how much I think it is enjoyable to watch people on stage. It isn't that I don;t like movies or internet videos or such, but there is definitely something special about live entertainment, whether it is in the form of nationally acclaimed acts, local bands, or even grade-school musicals!

Anyway, I was reflecting on the entertainment at the local amusement park, Cedar Point, and I realized how fortunate I we locals are. Not only do I get to see the acts many times over the summer and fall, but I get to see some really talented performers! (Yes, I also love roller-coasters, but I don;t limit my enjoyment to JUST roller-coasters!) And it's really amazing to me that we get such talented young people at Cedar Point. I mean, yes it is s pretty big deal in the amusement park world, with rides people come from all over the world to see. But when it comes to singing and dancing, isn't New York or L.A. after all. It's middle-of-Lake-Erie Ohio.

Let me squeeze in one example from this year, and this isn't to denigrate any of the other fine acts, it's just the show I got to see the most. Last year I commented on how much I enjoyed the watching the cast of Bandstand, USA, the show at the Jack Aldrich theater at the front of the park. So this year the theater had an all-new show with an all-new cast. Did I enjoy it as much? Well....I don't think the new show was better...or worse. It was just different. I think this year's show, Lights, Camera, Action, was technically more difficult (and maybe the most complex of these musical review shows I've seen at C.P.) especially some of the complex vocal numbers. The performers really sounded great! And I really looked forward to seeing everyone each time I visited the theater.

So big kudos to all the live entertainers out there, and special thumbs up to the cast of Lights, Camera, Action as they go on to other projects! I anxiously await the next round of shows this fall. (As well as some high school band performances!)

Monday, August 14, 2017

Painted Avengers!

Some more examples of my acrylic paintings.

When I get around to it, I may do Hank and Janet next!

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Marvel Team-Up

I'm going to talk a bit about a comic series I have been reading lately. That is, the classic Marvel Team-Up comic, mostly featuring Spider-Man. I picked up the Essential Team-Up Vol. 1 & 2, and am just about finished reading Vol. 2, and I had some thoughts.

First, this is a hard series to recommend unless you are a real completist for the adventures of Spider-Man or the Human Torch. There's much potential in a team-up style comic, but it takes a while before Marvel Team-Up gets its legs.  The original concept of the book was just a Spider-Man/Human Torch buddy book, but that was scrapped early on in favor of Spider-Man and a different guest-star every month, with the occasional issue featuring the Human Torch and a guest. Still, the stories were pretty pedestrian and the really reads at first like the 2nd or 3rd tier Spider-Man book that it was at the time. (Spectacular Spider-Man premiered in 1976.)

As I said, there is some potential in a Team-Up book. I think the best team-up stories involve characters that are B and C listers that could never maintain their own titles, but are interesting to visit. The team-up book is never going to have the most important events in the main character's life, and doesn't involve the key villains either.  For instance, Peter Parker won't get a new job or a new girlfriend or have a showdown with the Green Goblin, but it CAN have important events in the guest-star's life.  Personally, I think Marvel Team-Up really takes off when Bill Mantlo comes aboard as writer. He takes Spider-Man to some starnge places and times, and teams him with the likes of the Scarlet Witch and Moondragon, instead of Iron Man or Thor. Plus you get great art by Sal Buscema, who could always draw any character in any story and had impeccable storytelling skills!

There are some classic runs of Team-Up including early Chris Claremont/John Byrne and a great run written by J.M. DeMatteis. This is the first I've read the early issues, and though it hasn't been as much fun as other Essentials, its interesting seeing the evolution of the comic as it found its way and became a true classic. I did read the end of the original run, which lasted 150 issues, and I was sorry to see the title end.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Announcement: Writer wanted

I have decided to search for a collaborator. Specifically, I am looking for someone interested in having some fun writing one of my comics. Let me explain.

I have been producing the post-apocalyptic tale "Mutant Animals vs Zombies vs Machines vs Humans" now since January of 2016. I have been publishing a page every other week (alternating with my other webcomic, Mutant Elf). I am just wrapping up the first storyline, separated into two 20-page chapters. I have a vague idea where to go from here, but I'm not really sure. Mostly, I find coming up with dialogue and making the plot sensible to be the biggest challenge. I've decided that the only way I can continue is to find someone willing to write the story. Specifically, I need someone who can write and letter pages I have drawn. This is (so far) just a fun project, and does not include any financial gain.

My current plan is to put MAvZvMvH on hiatus after the current storyline, then publish an 8-page Mutant Elf story, then get back to publishing MAvZvMvH again if things have worked out.

By the way, I plan to remain as the only creative force on Mutant Elf. It's been much easier to write and draw. Maybe because of the lighter tone (though I did plan on  MAvZvMvH being a bit lighter than it ended up...) or maybe I just have all the Mutant Elf characters down pat.

Anyway, if interested, e-mail me please! I'd love to hear from you!

Thursday, July 6, 2017

RIP Joan Lee

I just had to say some words about the passing of Joan Lee, wife of Stan Lee.
Stan Lee is more than just a writer and creator of comic book characters. He's an American legend. A true National Hero. He was married to the love of his life in 1947, just short of 70 years ago. That's one heck of a number!
I'm sure Stan would never have been as great without the support of Joan all these years. I wish him the best in the coming days.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Alien in residence

I've been reading through my stack and just finished the most recent Resident Alien mini-series, The Man With No Name. I've been saying for the past years that Resident Alien is my favorite current comic series. I'll try to explain why as I discuss the latest chapter in the life of our stranded alien.

Writer Peter Hogan and artist Steve Parkhouse have produced 4 Resident Alien stories since 2012. Each story consists of a 4-part tale furthering the story of Harry (who's real name is Hah-re) while also revealing more about his origins. Also, each tale involves some mystery that Harry must help solve. In this way, the series is really a mash-up of a Science Fiction and a Mystery book. The combination works great, because each chapter so far has moved the story along enough to keep things interesting.

The most recent mini, The Man With No Name, for example, continues the subplot of the government agents that are tracking down Harry. We know they have a lead, and they are closer than they realize. But the Feds are still unaware of how close they have come. In Patience, Harry is faced with the death of a drifter, and his cryptic last words to Harry. Harry must, of course, find out the secret of this man.  Most importantly for the advancement of the story, is Harry meeting Asta's father, Dan Twelvetrees. Despite Harry's initial misgivings, the two become friends and confidants despite Dan being able to see past harry's telepathic deceptions. The only strange thing to me is the impression some have of a romance between Asta and Harry. This is strange because Harry is supposed to be an elderly doctor. Quite older than Asta from my interpretation. In reality I think he's really old, since he spent some time in suspended animation. But that could also make him not so old. There's also some police action in this one! And then there's Honey's picture. She's the little girl from last series who can also see Harry as he really looks. But Harry doesn't know that...yet!

Again, I love the way the series keeps things moving. This isn't a story that sits still. Things change and evolve. Yet, there's still the same plot of a mystery for Harry  to solve, and the reader trying to figure it out before he does so.

Everyone should be reading Resident Alien!! It really is that good!

This is my rendition of Harry, in and out of his Alien gear.

In other Alien notes, I've been re-reading my Alien Legion comics this summer. Alien Legion was created by Carl Potts with Alan Zelenetz and Frank Cirocco for Marvel's old Epic line back in the 80's. It's a thoroughly enjoyable read. A war comic set in another galaxy, with lots of cool characters and events. Several other writers and artists have worked on the title, and I've enjoyed each one's take on the group. The comics have been reprinted as trades, notably from Dark Horse and Titan publishing so you can get them even if you can't find all the old comics!

Aliens are cool no matter how you get them, but I recommend the above to start!