Thursday, July 31, 2014

Guardians of the Galaxy Movie Review

"I'm hooked on a feeling....I'm high on believing..."

These lines from a Blue Swede song is likely where you first heard of the Guardians of the Galaxy in the overpowering marketing blitz by Marvel and Disney for the movie release of their sci-fi epic with Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper, Michael Rooker and Karen Gillan....

...but, what do you know about the history of this super-group and the Guardians of the Galaxy movie?

Early Comics

The earliest bits of the Guardians of the Galaxy came in the 1960s...with Tales To Astonish #13 (November, 1960) in a story by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, about an alien invader Groot who was going to take over the Earth, but his plant form was bested by termites....and in Marvel Super-Heroes #18 (January, 1969) by Arnold Drake and Gene Colan, that dealt with astronaut Major Vance Astro from the 20th Century ending up traveling to Alpha Centauri in suspended animation, and gathering together misfits chrystalline Martinex from Pluto, massive Charlie-27 from Jupiter, and archer Yondu from Alpha Centauri to make a prison break and fight the alien Badoon.

The team then returned in Marvel Two-In-One #4 and 5 (July-September, 1974 by Steve Gerber and Sal Buscema), getting help from the Thing and Captain America against the Badoon in the 31st Century, and returned again in a run of the Defenders (#26-29 in 1975, also by Gerber and Buscema), adding cosmic mystery Starhawk and his wife Aleta to their ranks, and even getting a short run in Marvel Presents (where Mercurian Nikki joined the group...).  After this run, the team popped up again in Thor Annual #6, Avengers #167-177, #181, Ms. Marvel #23, Marvel Team-Up #86 (with Spider-Man) and back to Marvel Two-In-One #61-63, #69, and later, even had their own title for a time (62 issues and 4 annuals in the early 1990s).

But What About Now?

It all started with Annihilation, a 2006 crossover, featuring Galactus herald Silver Surfer, Fantastic Four mimic Super-Skrull, human guardian of Xandar Nova, alien villainess Nebula, alien assassin Gamora and Kree Ronan the Accuser (as well as Drax the Destroyer and Thanos)....all cosmic heroes and villains with odd pasts from various parts of the modern Marvel Universe versus Annihilus, all under the writing of Keith Giffen and Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning, the later two who gathered interstellar heroes again, including Quasar, Star-Lord, the Wraith, Moondragon, Mantis and Rocket Raccoon in Annihilation Conquest, which let to Star-Lord founding the 21st century Guardians of the Galaxy!

For those keeping track, the main movie characters first appearances were in:

Drax the Destroyer and Thanos - Iron Man #55 (February, 1973, created by Jim Starlin)
Star-Lord - Marvel Preview #4 (January, 1976, created by Steve Englehart and Steve Gan)
Rocket Raccoon - Marvel Preview #7 (Summer, 1976, created by Bill Mantlo and Keith Giffen)
Gamora - Strange Tales #180 (June, 1975, created by Jim Starlin)
Nebula - Avengers #257 (July, 1985, created by Roger Stern and John Buscema)
Ronan the Accuser - Fantastic Four #65 (August, 1967, created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby)

Note that most of the characters didn't appear on their premiere covers!

It's all connected...

Well, the Guardians of the Galaxy movie is a story about a group of misfits and outcasts who gather together and find the better parts of themselves when confronted with the ultimate evil...and end up saving the day (and, well...the galaxy).  This is a constant theme in movies and TV (from the Magnificent Seven and Star Wars to Firefly and Farscape...even Footloose and Raiders of the Lost Ark)  and oh so many more!

It is also the story of comic creation (as you can see by all the people who gathered together over the decades to create the comics....which lead to the movie)...and, a basic plot common to many stories (especially those of Guardians of the Galaxy co-creator, Arnold Drake), that everyone has something to contribute, and we can all be heroes, if given the chance, and have a darn good time doing will you if you go to see the movie! 

More on Marvel’s Showcase on Super-Heroes

Spinning out of the 11 issue reprint book Fantasy Masterpieces was Marvel Super-Heroes.  Already covered was Marvel Super-Heroes #12-16, but here we go onward!  But first, what reprints were in those issues?  Mostly, it was old sci-fi stories, golden age Captain America stories, golden age Human Torch stories, golden age Sub-Mariner stories…and even stories from the 1950s…that of the medieval Black Knight!

That leads us back to the new stories in Marvel Super-Heroes, and the next issue in line…

A Knight In Time

Marvel Super-Heroes #17 (November, 1968 by Roy Thomas and Howard Purcell) features Dane Whitman, the nephew of Nathan Garrett (a foe of Giant-Man’s and member of the original Masters of Evil), but Nathan died, passing along the mantle of Black Knight to Dane (and Dane first became the Black Knight in Avengers #48).  In MSH #17, Dane meets the spirit of Sir Percy (the original Black Knight) and gets the Ebony Blade and defeats Le Sabre (Paul Richarde) who was chosen to oppose the Black Knight.  The Black Knight was an on-again, off-again Avenger for many years, but it took until 1990 for him to have a four issue limited series (by Roy and Dann Thomas and Tony DeZuniga).  Marvel Super-Heroes #17 was reprinted in Marvel Masterworks Volume 84: Avengers #7 (along with Avengers #59-68, Black Knight’s earlier appearances were in the previous 2 Avengers Marvel Masterworks) and all 5 issues of Sir Percy’s Black Knight were reprinted in Marvel Masterworks Volume 123 : Atlas Era Black Knight/Yellow Claw.

Defenders of the Future

Marvel Super-Heroes #18 (January, 1969) has writer Arnold Drake and artist Gene Colan taking the reader to the future of the Marvel Universe… 3007, to be exact.  That’s when astronaut Major Vance Astro arrived at Alpha Centauri from Earth (of 1988, at the time…the future!) after over 1000 in suspended animation and forced to wear that suit or he’d age away!  While there, he met Charlie-27, an extra dense soldier from Jupiter; Martinex (a crystalline being from Pluto); and Yondu, an archer who was native to the fourth world of Alpha Centauri.  These men united to fight the Badoon…to free Earth!  The team didn’t appear again until Marvel Two-In-One #4-5 (July-September 1974) and then in Giant-Size Defenders #2 and Defenders #26-29 (in 1975) fighting along side modern heroes like the Thing, Captain America and the Defenders.  The team added Starhawk to their membership while fighting alongside the Defenders, then were featured in Marvel Presents #3-12 (where they added Mercurian female Nikki to the line up) in the 1970s…and encountered the Avengers during their war with Korvac and met Spider-Man in Marvel Team-Up, as well as Ms. Marvel in the last issue of her book (and Vance Astro met his Marvel world counterpart, Vance Astrovik, who would later be known as Justice of the New Warriors when working with the Thing in Marvel Two-In-One).  While not having a Masterwork, Marvel Super-Heroes #18 is reprinted in Guardians of the Galaxy: Earth Shall Overcome and in Guardians of the Galaxy: Tomorrow’s Avengers (along with their earliest appearances in other books).

Welcome to the Jungle

Ka-Zar, Marvel’s jungle hero,  swings into Marvel Super-Heroes #19 (March, 1969) in a story by Arnold Drake and Steve Parkhouse with art by George Tuska (and a cover by Barry Smith, before he became Barry Windsor-Smith).  The lord of the Savage Land and his pet sabretooth tiger Zabu faced off against Kevin’s brother, the Plunderer in this series that pulled together the history of a character (Ka-Zar/Kevin Plunder first appeared in X-Men #10 in March, 1965 by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, and Lord Parnival Plunder/the Plunderer was first in Daredevil #12, in January, 1966 by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby and John Romita) who bounced around the Marvel Universe…and led to his own title (which oddly reprinted earlier Ka-Zar appearances in Daredevil and Amazing Spider-Man, yet had new stories of Hercules and the Angel), but had new stories in Astonishing Tales (which he shared with someone….well, for the first 8 issues anyway).  Ka-Zar spent his time in the 20 issues of Astonishing Tales fighting A.I.M., Spider-Man foe Kraven the Hunter, the Man-Thing, member of the Zodiac Gemini, the Plunderer and Victorius (a scientist trying to re-invent Captain America’s super-soldier serum) as well as working with S.H.I.E.L.D. agent, Bobbi Morse (who eventually became Mockingbird)!  Marvel Super-Heroes #19, along with the first 16 issues of Astonishing Tales were presented in Marvel Masterworks Volume 190: Ka-Zar #1.

He Shall Be Your Doom

Marvel Super-Heroes #20 (May, 1969, in an issue written by Larry Lieber and Roy Thomas and drawn by Larry Lieber and Frank Giacoia) was the last issue to feature new stories in the 1960s…and it didn’t even really feature a hero!  Instead, it featured Victor von Doom, the foe of the Fantastic Four (since Fantastic Four #5 by Lee and Kirby in July, 1962)…Doctor Doom!  With “This Man…This Demon!”, we saw the softer side of the monarch of Latveria…as he battled el Diablo (another foe of the Fantastic Four) and met the love of his live…Valeria.  Still, this wasn’t the only attempt to portray Doom as a hero, as he joined Ka-Zar as half the feature of Astonishing Tales for its first 8 issues (from August, 1970 to October, 1971) where he fought the Doomsman, Red Skull, the Black Panther…and even Satan at the end, for the soul of his mother).  Doom even had another crack at a title, with Super-Villain Team-Up (where he worked with Sub-Mariner for two Giant-Size issues and 13 regular issues, then against Magneto in #14, before a reprinting the Astonishing Tales vs. the Red Skull in #15, who finished out the last two issues with MODOK and the Hate-Monger but not Doom).  Still, you won’t have to be without Dr. Doom as Marvel plans to reprint Marvel Super-Heroes #20 along with the first 8 Doom Astonishing Tales in Marvel Masterworks Volume 209: Dr. Doom #1!

The title then went to all reprints, being X-Men and the Avengers to start, then Iron Man and Daredevil, before settling on the Incredible Hulk until its end with issue #105 (facing the Rhino, no less)!  But, for a while, there were new tales in Marvel Super-Heroes!

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Arrow Artist: More on Mike Grell

Mike Grell was quite the busy artist for a time...after his last work on Green Arrow (the cover of Green Lantern #112), working on his own creation, the Warlord, at DC, and then creating his own character, Jon Sable, Freelance, for First Comics....could this busy man find time for the Emerald Archer?

Back to Basics

That's what Mike Grell did for Oliver Queen...

...continuing an idea from DC Super-Stars #17  (cover date of Nov/December, 1977),  wherein Denny O'Neil and Grell redid the Arrow origin, basing it on a little more reality (though keeping the basic idea from the origin as retold by writer Ed Herron and artist Jack Kirby in Adventure Comics #256, in January, 1959, wherein rich man Queen gets trapped on Starfish Island and learns archery to survive).

With the 3-issue mini-series Green Arrow: The Longbow Hunters (1987) writer/artist Mike Grell took Green Arrow back to being an urban hunter, getting rid of the trick arrows, the super-villains and almost everything else around Ollie (even injuring Black Canary to take her away from him for a bit).

But, Ollie didn't just lose things in this series.

This series also introduced female archer Shado, as well as mercenary Eddie Fyers...

...both of whom became very important in the life of Oliver Queen as time went on....

...and Ollie had quite a time in his own ongoing title!

A Long Run

For eighty issues (from February, 1988 to November, 1993), Mike Grell guided Green Arrow through his new city (Seattle, instead of the fictional Star City), having the hooded vigilante deal with criminals, government agents and some of the worst of his own problems...

...and though Iron Mike didn't provide all the art for this series, he did draw more than a few covers...

...lots of covers, not always featuring Green Arrow...

...celebrating Green Arrow's 50th Anniversary...

...slowly returning to the DC Universe, at least by bringing Black Canary back... well as teaming up with the Butcher and the Question...

...and meeting Shado again...

...seeing Roy Harper (now Arsenal instead of Speedy), and having too many women...

...until the last of Grell's work on the title (though the title continued on)...

Still, Iron Mike was busy, just before leaving the series going back to cover Green Arrow's early years in Green Arrow: the Wonder Year...

...and creating Shaman's Tears for Image Comics, the archer called back to Mike Grell...

....and he listened, (after brief stops back with the Warlord and Iron Man as well)...

...not to mention a Green Arrow variant cover for Blackest Night...

...this time thanks to the Arrow TV show on CW!

It's appropriate for Mike Grell to work on that series...having provided the sketch of "the Hood"...and being referred to on the series ("Judge Grell").

The Arrow CW show has mentioned a few other artists and writers over time, and we'll cover more of them here!  

Remember to check out Mike's website as well for info on how to meet him!

Friday, July 25, 2014

Superman Retro Action Figures Series 1

Look...up in the sky!

It's not a bird, nor a's a line of Superman Action Figures from Figures Toy Company!

Superman Retro Figures Series 1


Superman and Supergirl are exact replicas of the original action figures that were released by Mego.

Mr. Mxyzptlk is also a replica, but is on the 6 inch teen he's lost some weight!

Bizarro No. 1 is a Figures Toy Company original, all for the Superman Retro 8 Inch Action Figures.

The estimated release date for these is late November, 2014...but, as always, subject to change!

More exciting is what is to come in series 2...Superboy!  Lois Lane!  Clark Kent!  Jimmy Olsen!

Great Krypton and Great Caesar's Ghost!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

DC Heroes Series 1 Featuring Wonder Woman

Great Hera!

Wonder Woman, series one is scheduled for September, 2014!

Cooler still, she comes in two packages, one of which shows future plans for Shazam! (aka the original Captain Marvel) and Supergirl!

Of course, Figures Toy Company has many future Ra's Al Ghul, Scarecrow, Commissioner Gordon, and so many more like Flash, Green Lantern, Hawkman, Jimmy Olsen, Sivana, Shazam Jr. (aka Captain Marvel Jr.), Mary Marvel, Starfire, Cyborg, Raven, Nightwing, Poison Ivy and more!

More Destroyer, More Thor

Picking up where we left off last week…the Destroyer was destroyed.  Melted by the Celestials.  Appears this invincible armor with the disintegrator visor wasn’t so invincible, was it?  Well, yes and no.  Nothing ever goes away forever, and that includes Odin-powered constructs.

The Destroyer had remained inert until Loki tricks Frost Giant Siggoth into stepping on the slag, reforming and reanimating the armor.  And, as always, the armor goes looking for Thor.

Thor himself had undergone some massive changes, being cursed to be unable to die, yet not as invincible as he once was, and was held together only by his magical armor at this point.

The Destroyer, realizing that Thor would be an ideal host, kills Siggoth and tries to absorb Thor’s spirit.

The Destroyer armor takes Thor’s belt, cape and hammer, Mjolnir (as you can see by the cover of Thor #381, drawn by Walt Simonson, who also wrote the story, and was the penciller for Thor #264-266, and writes and draws the conclusion to this story in Thor #382, and art on the interior of #381 is by Sal Buscema, brother of John Buscema, who drew Thor #224-225), and goes to Hel to confront Hela (the Asgardian Angel of Death).

The Destroyer does such damage to Hel, that Hela heals Thor’s body, and he leaves the armor to back to his own body (Thor, faking the idea of “you really got me”, had been in control of the armor the whole time to get Hela to heal his body!).

The Destroyer Returns

Hela kept the Destroyer, encased in crystal, until it was possessed by the spirit of Lorelei.

Hela then stopped the Destroyer with the help of Balder and Sif, casting the Destroyer (with Lorelei’s spirit) into the realm of the Great Beasts.

(This all occurs in a “Tales of Asgard” backup feature, from Thor #437-441, written by Tom DeFalco and penciled by Pat Olliffe in 1991.)

Later, Hela casts Lorelei out of the Destroyer armor and uses her guard dog, Garm, to animate the armor to attack Thor.

Thor and his friend Thunderstrike (mortal Eric Masterson, who has Thor like powers) defeat the Destroyer (this in the issues Thor #476-477 in 1994, written by Roy Thomas, and an issue each penciled by McWyman and Stewart Johnson).

The Destroyer took on two Thors to get pretty sore this time...

Switching Foes

The next spirit to inhabit the Destroyer is the Maestro (an evil,  future version of the Hulk from Hulk: Future Imperfect...) who uses the armor to try to kill his earlier self, but the armor knows the Hulk and Maestro have the same spirit, and the Hulk was able to use the armor to force the Maestro out of its armor.

This all happens in Incredible Hulk #461, written by Peter David penciled by Adam Kubert in February, 1998.

(Though the Destroyer didn't make the cover....usually the Hulk is a better host than that...and you'd think he'd show a little sympathy to someone grey...)

Back to Basics

The United States military ended up with the armor (around the time of the new Thor #1, with new writer, Dan Jurgens and new artist, John Romita Jr.), and Colonel Preston Case animated the armor, and used it to attack the Avengers.  Thor banished the armor to another dimension, but returned it to help free the Asgardians who were being held by Dark Gods (and this whole battle against the Dark Gods lasted through Thor #12, mostly without the Destroyer, but Hercules had signed on to help as well).

Time Out for the Destroyer 

When freed, Odin released Col. Case from the Destroyer.  Later still, Loki and Karnilla manipulated Thor Girl (Tarene) into using the armor to battle Thor, but their plan was stopped, and this happened from Thor #36-38, also written by Dan Jurgens, with art an issue at a time by Walter TabordaJim Starlin and Stuart Immonen.

Odin releases Tarene from the Destroyer armor.  And, the Destroyer animates again in a story from Thor #78-79, also written by Dan Jurgens, with art by Scot Eaton,  that ended up not happening due to Thor eliminating the cause of the events from the timeline.

New Thor and Destroyer

Then, Loki used the Destroyer again to gather the newly mortal Asgardians (thanks to events in the recent Ragnarok, the end of the gods), with Balder in the armor (and this happened in Thor #5, written by J. Michael Straczynski and art by Olivier Coppel).

Thor drove Balder out of the armor and saved the Asgardians (and all this let to Thor #600, reinstating Thor's original numbering for a time).

Most recently, in the Iron Man/Thor four issue mini-series written by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning, with art by Scot Eaton, the High Evolutionary, with the help of Diablo (an alchemical foe of the Fantastic Four), used the Destroyer armor to try to gain the power of the various pantheons who helped create the armor.

They were stopped by Thor and his friend, Iron Man.

Interesting that the comics brought Thor and Iron Man together at this time, when Iron Man has his successful movie franchise, and Thor is starting his.  Makes you think…could they be planning on putting these celluloid heroes together on screen?  (Yes, true believers…the Thor movie was followed by Avengers movie, that also featured a not so little green man and a few others).

Now we just have to wait a few months, until a certain shield wielder can claim this is Captain America calling!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Arrow Artist: Mike Grell

If you've been watching the CW's Arrow, you might have seen this drawing of "the Hood" (especially in the first season...).

Knowing that the series is based on the comics, you might even know that artist...a fellow by the name of Mike Grell!

Early Green Arrow

Some of Mike Grell's earliest art was on the Green Arrow back-up feature for Action Comics, starting with Action Comics #440 (October, 1974)....wherein Ollie faces his foe, Professor Steelgraves (introduced here)...and he and Dinah also meet an odd dog in "Little Dog Lost!" written by Elliot S! Maggin (and the story concludes in Action Comics #441).   

"Iron" Mike also did Aquaman back ups in Adventure Comics, and did the ad for a run of Seven Soliders of Victory stories set to run in the back of Adventure Comics (from #438 to #443, doing the Crimson Avenger chapter in #440 as Lee Elias did Green Arrow & Speedy's in Adventure Comics #439).

Mike Grell also drew Green Arrow (usually with Black Canary) in Action Comics #442, 444-446, 450-452 and 456-458, using his wits a little more in these issues, and fighting against the establishment...and more.

DC Comics really needs to collect all these great back-up stories from Action Comics!

Mike Grell even got a rare shot at drawing Wonder Woman thanks to Green Arrow... least the cover... Wonder Woman #217 (April-May, 1975) as part of her twelve trials to rejoin the JLA...

...(though Dick Dillin provided the interior art on the story....Dick Dillin also provided art for many of Green Arrow's Action Comics back-ups not drawn by Mike Grell).

Hopefully, Black Canary didn't get a chance to ask Ollie any questions under a lie detector about his watching the amazing amazon!

A Bigger Target

Mike Grell also was working on fan favorite Legion of the Super-Heroes over in the Superboy title, while Green Lantern (who had lost his title) was getting more popular...

...and thus ended up working with Denny O'Neil as DC revived Green Lantern's title with #90 (August-September, 1976).

The O'Neil/Grell combination didn't last as long as the O'Neil/Adams (which covered Green Lantern #76-89), but still produced a few great issues....and some wonderful covers by Iron Mike!

So many wonderful covers of our Emerald Archer and friends though it wasn't always clear Green Arrow and Green Lantern were friends on these covers!

Mike Grell did the covers from Green Lantern #92-100, partial on #101, and #102-106 and #108-112, and interiors on Green Lantern #90-100, #106, and #108-110.

All in all, a great run!   

Mike's time was being taken up by his creation of the Warlord, a science and sorcery series for DC...
...but after that series, Mike Grell would return to Green Arrow (as you should return next week to read about it!).