Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Phantom Stranger review and drawing

I recently completed reading the Showcase Phantom Stranger vol. 1 from DC Comics. I haven't read much of the Phantom's exploits, but I always thought he was rather interesting. Here's what I think now:

The earliest tales of the Phantom Stranger, created during the 1950s, were much less mystical than what the character evolved into. The Stranger had the ability to appear and disappear, but other aspects of the adventures were not magical at all, and the presence of Doctor Thirteen, the Ghost Breaker, ensured they would stay so, as the good Doc was a great debunker of all things supernatural. The stories changed when DC brought the character back in 1969, revealing the true mystical nature of the Stranger, and poor Dr. Thirteen was pretty much relegated to comedy relief, claiming the very obvious magical goings-on were tricks. Eventually, the Doc was given a backup feature, which works better. Since I really enjoy real-life debunking, I think there's room in the DC universe for such a character. Just because there's real magic in DC, doesn't mean there isn't fake stuff, too!


As for the Phantom himself, he really is an interesting character. He's in a constant battle with evil, trying to help regular people resist bad tidings.
But what makes the character different and interesting is that his true identity and origin are never revealed. But in to what really inspired me to write about this topic: Jim Aparo!



Jim Aparo drew many Batman-related comics in the 80s and into the 90's. I read Batman and the Outsiders for a while, and Batman around the time of Death in the Family. I always liked Aparo's Batman. However, I never knew about his run on PS. Aparo's Phantom Stranger is absolutely beautiful! Magnificent storytelling, and awesome use of back and white. It sets a mood, and tells a tale! Just about perfect.

And I was also inspired to draw my own Phantom Stranger sketch:


Monday, August 27, 2018

Goblin Necromancer

This is a drawing I did to figure out the character that appeared in Mutant Elf chapter 15: Ghost Story. Thought I'd post it here because it wasn't used in the actual story.


Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Review: Apama vol.2

I recently finished reading volume 2 of the adventures of Cleveland's greatest new hero, Apama! Apama is the comic I called "the comic I’ve been waiting for for years"  after reading the first issues in the initial collection. The adventures continue in volume 2, and just get more offbeat and quirky, while keeping the Bronze-Age feel that worked so well in the first volume.

For the life of our main character,  Ilyia Zjarsky (secretly the super-powered Apama) Volume 2 is almost too brutal! Writers Ted Sikora and Milo Miller never give Apama much of a break. Our main character is trying hard to be a hero, but he's really having trouble living out his dreams. He's unable to stop the evil Regina, for example. In fact, Ilyia seems pretty scared of her, and I think I would be too! Also, Apama can't keep his love life together, and his super-persona is becoming the least liked hero in Cuyahoga County!


I was surprised with the twists in the love life of our protagonist. I really thought his pairing with Vica was something special. Now, not only does she flee from his affections, but we find out her attraction to him may be the result of the Apama spirit, and not Ilyia's great personality.

And I can't write this without mentioning "Ten Cent Beer Night", a hilarious story based on the all-to-real disastrous promotion the Cleveland Indians once attempted. The results of which in the Apama world are even worse!!

The art by Benito Gallego is as good in vol.2 as it was in the beginning, and I found myself often staring at the pictures and forgetting to read on in the story.


Finally, I must mention the Tap Dance Killer, the greatest creation since Apama perhaps. She's a great villain who isn't really a villain, and she's funny and scary at the same time. I also read the first issue of the Tap Dance Killer spin-off comic, and she's even better as the start of her own book, as it fleshes out the character even more. Nicolaus Harrison's art isn't the same as Benito's, and I honestly like Benito a lot more. Harrison could use more organic inks, with less of a scratchy look. Storytelling is very solid, though!

Now I'll try to write a conclusion. How's this: Apama continues to surprise me, with plot choices I don't expect. an almost too real journey of our main character trying to be a hero, and super art that melds perfectly with the writing style to create something the likes of which hasn't been seen since 70s Marvel. I hope this encourages others to do great super-hero comics also!

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Spider-Man and Steve Ditko

Steve Ditko, the artist who created the iconic look of Spider-Man, recently passed away. Though just about everyone has already written about Ditko's impact on comics, let me add my thoughts.

Ditko is often mention third in importance in creating Marvel Comics. That is, besides Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko was the most responsible for the look and feel of what became the Marvel Universe. I think putting him third is appropriate. Anyone who thinks it's an insult to be listed directly after Lee and Kirby is crazy. Ditko's supreme ability to write with his art, including plotting many issues of Spider-Man and Doctor Strange, helped Stan Lee get the Marvel Universe off the ground. Spider-Man was the character that needed Ditko, because Ditko could make him look like a gangly teen and not an adult athlete, and Ditko's web design has stood the test of time as a great look for a costumed crime fighter.

I would not put Ditko on my list of the top 10 best artists, and I do think I like John Romita's take on Spidey better overall, but that just shows that Ditko couldn't be best at everything. But he more important and influential than many people know.

Here's my take on Spidey. I tried to give him very Ditko-like eyes, which I don't normally do.



Monday, July 23, 2018

Movie Review: Please Stand By

There are two types of people in the world" Those who think "Please Stand By' is a Star Trek movie, and those who are wrong.

Well, I've never even actually heard anyone debate Please Stand By. But I think I make my point.

I wanted to talk about this movie because I think it makes such a great Star Trek movie, and because it hits the right notes concerning the lives of people who have autism. The film tells the story of Wendy (played by Dakota Fanning), a young woman with autism who lives in a group home. She has a job and a daily routine and is totally obsessed with Star Trek. The main focus of the movie is Wendy writing a screenplay for a Star Trek contest and delivering it on time to be considered for the judging.

But first let's talk about autism. I've been teaching over 20 years now, with many students on the spectrum. Most of my years were in Special Education, so I've had more training in the area than most people. The one thing I'll say about autism is that it's hard to define the characteristics of the condition. Every individual is, well, an individual, and there is no "typical" person with autism. However the depiction of Wendy in the movie is totally all hits in my opinion. Wendy's biggest challenge is socializing, including understanding other people's feelings and interacting with them. For example, she hates making eye contact with others, doesn't show interest in other's conversations (even when she is listening) and doesn't express her opinions very politely (she says "it sucks" a lot). But despite her limitations, Wendy does have people and things she cares about, and she definitely cares about one thing in particular.


Wendy loves Star Trek. Personally, I'm not a huge Trek person, but I do have things I obsess over (Harry Potter, Greek Mythology, Ms. Marvel, and Star Wars for example.) But I do know enough Star Trek to get the references in this movie. I also know plenty of people who geek out on Star Trek as much as Wendy. (Speaking Klingon is more common than one might think!) And Wendy's obsession with Star Trek fits perfectly, especially her identifying with Mr. Spock. Spock, probably the most recognized Trek character is half-Vulcan half-Human. Vulcan's are a humanoid race known for being very logical and non-emotional. Wendy is also very logical and unemotional.

Which is why this is a great Star Trek movie, without being a Star Trek movie. I won't go into details about the plot, but the plot wasn't my motivation to write this. Just watch the movie, and tell me if you agree! Okay?

Thanks for listening.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Black Panther

I haven't seen the movie yet, but I do love the character! Especially as drawn by Kirby, but there are a few Black Panther series that are very good. Priest's series and the multi-part in Marvel Comics Presents for example. 

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Black Lightning-- 3 stages of drawing

Recently finishing the excellent Black Lightning mini-series got me motivated to try my hand at the character's current look. I scanned it in all 3 stages (pencil, ink, color). Tough costume, but looks cool!