Saturday, September 18, 2021

Batman's Strangest Cases

What better way to celebrate Batman Day than by looking at some of Batman's Strangest Cases, which happens to be the title of the Limited Collectors' Edition #C-59 of July, 1978....with this stunning cover by Neal Adams and Bernie Wrightson!

The stories reprinted inside this oversized issue from the past, feature art by both those gentlemen, and a few more!

Red Water Crimson Death

First up, Brave and the Bold #93 (December-January, 1970/1971) by Denny O'Neil and Neal Adams, a team-up (of sorts), as House of Mystery horror host, Cain, narrates this tale.

Here, an overtired Batman nearly is shot by a criminal, but the gun misfires.  Commissioner Gordon suggests Batman take a vacation.  Bruce Wayne heads out to Ireland via ship.  During the voyage, Bruce saves a young boy who fell overboard.  In Ireland, the boy's uncle gives him a place to stay.  Bruce learns the boys parents were killed during a red tide which also killed the fish in the area.  Investigating as Batman, he finds the culprit behind the poisoned water to be Aloysius Cabot, a local fishery owner, using a haunted castle to scare away locals.  Cabot is able to poison Batman, but is aided by the spirit of King Hugh, who also prevents Cabot from getting away with it by causing King Hugh's portrait to fall off the wall, killing Cabot.

Night of the Bat

Next up, a rate appearance (at the time) of Batman outside his titles, with the first meeting of Batman and Swamp Thing from Swamp Thing #7 (November-December, 1973) by Len Wein and Bernie Wrightson.  

Swamp Thing (Alec Holland) follows Abigail Arcane and Matt Cable to Gotham, where he is spotted by the police,  Gordon calls on Batman, who goes searching for Swamp Thing.  Abby and Matt are found by Swamp Thing, who is then found by Batman.  Batman starts a fight, but, Swamp Thing flees, as he is unable to communicate to Batman his good intentions.  Swamp Thing is able to track down Nathan Ellery, the head of the Conclave (who murdered Alec's wife, Linda), but stops short of killing him.  Ellery falls, with Batman arriving too late to save him, with Swamp Thing taking the time to get away.

The Batman Nobody Knows!

Batman #250 (July, 1973) gives an odd little tale around the campfire by Frank Robbins and Dick Giordano.

Bruce Wayne takes a group of kids out camping, who regale each other with fantastic (if incredible and untrue) tales of the Batman.  Bruce decides to give the kids a thrill, showing up as Batman, but the kids are unimpressed, as they don't think Batman can just be a guy in a suit, proving that while Batman might strike fear in the hearts of criminals...

...the innocent have nothing to fear from the Darknight Detective.

The Demon Of Gothos Mansion!

Neal Adams is echoing a cover from Batman's golden age, Batman #227 (December, 1970) by Denny O'Neil, Irv Novick and Dick Giordano.

Here, Alfred's niece, Daphne, writes to Alfred about two children she has the job of teaching. Trouble is a foot, so Batman goes to investigate, finding Daphne's boss, Clifton Heathrow, is a warlock, planning to sacrifice her to raise a demon.  In trying to rescue, Batman is captured, but he is rescued by the ghost of a girl who was previously sacrificed.  This allows Batman to save Daphne, foiling the resurrection ritual.

A Vow From The Grave!

Last but not least, a little tale from Detective Comics #410 (April, 1971) by Denny O'Neil, Neal Adams and Dick Giordano.

Here, Batman chases Kano Wiggins, an escaped convict.  Along the way, Batman encounters four ex-sideshow workers, one of whom is later killed.  The remaining members think Wiggins did it, but Batman investigates and finds it was Goliath, the strongman who did it, because he wanted to eliminate Charley Bones (the thin man) because Maud, the fat lady, loved Bones and not Goliath.  

Just an incredible collection!

Friday, September 17, 2021

Happy Birthday Elvira


Technically, it may or may or may not be Elvira's birthday, but it is the birthday of Cassandra Peterson, who plays Elvira...

...and what better way to celebrate than by learning something, like when Elvira was teaching school kids for this cover of the 10th issue of the 11 issue series of Elvira's House of Mystery (that was cover dated December, 1986, and drawn by Joe Orlando and Dick Giordano!).

Monday, September 13, 2021

Warlord Two By Two: The Second

Time works strangely in the savage world of Skartaris, with its eternal sunshine, but that does not hide the dangers that are there.

Travis Morgan, the Warlord, is beginning his travels in this land, and is finding danger aplenty, but, along with the peril, he is also gaining skills and finding allies!

Arena Of Death

Warlord #2 (March-April, 1976) by Mike Grell begins where the first issue left off, with Travis waiting to die...

...and now, about to be dinner for two sabretooth tigers, eager for what they think is easy prey.

But, this modern man proves to not be such easy prey, killing one of the big cats, and being rescued by a wandering party from its mate.  Drogar the Terrible, leader of this army, offers Morgan passage to the city of Shamballah in his ship, which Morgan accepts.  At the ship, Morgan finds himself struck into unconsciousness, waking up in the hold of the ship, chained to the oars which power it with many others.  There, Morgan meets Machiste, another slave, with whom he starts an unsuccessful revolt.  As Drogar prepares to put the pair to death, a pirate ship interrupts his plans, where the duo help defend the ship.  Dorgar then decides to sell them as gladiators to Shebel, who trains gladiators.

There, after much training, Prince Eris and his consorts bid the two to battle to the death, which they must do....with Travis about to kill Machiste....until Travis sees that the Prince is wearing a watch....the watch he gave to Tara!  Emboldened and enraged, Morgan instead frees the other gladiators.  The gladiators war on their captors, with Travis cornering the prince, finding out Tara was captured and sold to Deimos, who is now king of Thera.  Morgan then enlists the now freed slaves, asking them to become his army, promising to aid them by building advanced weapons, allowing to take the treasures of the conquerors they face, and the chance to die as free men!

Thus ends the saga of the Warlord....wait, what??

War Gods Of Skartaris

After a considerable wait (as sales proved to be better than expected, resurrecting the title from what seemed to be a cancellation), Warlord #3 (October-November, 1976) by Mike Grell comes to the comic racks, continuing the saga of modern man Travis Morgan, as he hunts for Tara, the woman he loves, in the savage land of Skartaris.

Travis and his army defeat a group of Theran soldiers, promising they come as liberators, not conquerors, still enlist more people into his army, the army of the Warlord (as he is beginning to be known as).  Travis confesses to Machiste that he enjoys the battles. Heading out on a scouting mission, Travis is excited to see a unicorn, and follows it, only to be set upon by lizard men.  They take him back and bind him as a sacrifice to their new god, which Travis his SR-71 Blackbird! 

His plane crashed over the temple to their old god, yet, just as they are about to do him in, their old god, a giant snake, returns, making a meal of the lizard men.  Travis just avoids being eaten as Machiste arrives, with Travis finding his .44 Magnum in his plane, then using the plane's ejector seat as a weapon to kill the creature.  Afterward, Travis and Machiste ponder the advanced ruins around the lizardmen's temple, knowing the lizards couldn't have created this.  Morgan doesn't see the advanced technology inside, but does promise to return after they finish off Deimos.

Over the lengthy time highlighted in these two issues, Morgan and Machiste had become friends united by their training and warring together, and these bonds will be tested over the years in the harsh climates of the unending sun of Skartaris!

Wednesday, September 8, 2021

Star Trek 55th Anniversary

Celebrating 55 years of Star Trek, as its first episode aired on September 8, 1966.

Here, with a painted cover (and a sLight error), Spock and Scotty faced off in the Gold Key Star Trek 55th issue from September, 1978, while an older Spock was the feature for the IDW Star Trek 55th issue from March, 2016.

DC had 2 Star Trek series, the first with Kirk, Spock and McCoy beaming down from the Enterprise-A in the 55th issue from October, 1988, the second, with Sulu and Kirk fighting Klingons disguised as Klingons from December, 1993.

More info on Spock here, some special Star Trek issues here, Next Generation and Deep Space Nine here, and on all the Star Trek comics from a 50th Anniversary article here!

Friday, September 3, 2021

Deadly Hands Of Nick Cardy

Nick Cardy was an artist known mostly for his work on Teen Titans, Aquaman, and Bat Lash, as well as all over DC Comics covers of the 1970s.

But, did you know he did a few covers for Marvel back in those days?

Here are the two painted covers he did featuring Shang-Chi for Marvel's Deadly Hands Of Kung Fu magazine!

Deadly Hands Of Kung Fu 15

As a "Super Annual Issue", this Summer of 1975 magazine issue featured reprints of Shang-Chi's second and fifth appearances (from Special Marvel Edition #16 and Master Of Kung Fu #19), Iron Fist's second appearance (Marvel Premiere #16), and a feature on Bruce Lee's life...

...but no team up of the characters as the cover suggests.

Deadly Hands Of Kung Fu 18

This November 1975 issue had two stories, with the first featuring Shang-Chi fighting the Shadow-Thief (no relation to the DC character), and ending his Golden Dragon Saga by Doug Moench and Rudy Nebres...

...while the second story, by Bill Mantlo, Pat Broderick and Terry Austin, featured a team up of Iron Fist and the Sons of the Tiger, fighting a villain called Snake-Eyes (no relation to the G.I. Joe character....), as well as a little feature on the Yakusa.

Makes you wish DC had jumped into the magazine market to get some painted covers of DC characters from Nick Cardy!

He also did a few other covers for Marvel, one for Marvel Movie Premiere #1 (September, 1975) featuring an adaptation of The Land That Time Forgot, and Marvel Premiere #28 (February, 1976), featuring Marvel's horror based characters, including the Man-Thing, Ghost Rider, Morbius and the Werewolf by Night!

Saturday, August 28, 2021

OMAC Two By Two The First

Jack Kirby was a visionary, looking ahead to the future.  With his output at DC decreasing, Kirby had to come up with a new idea, and that was to look ahead to the world that's coming....

...with OMAC, the One Man Army Corps!

Brother Eye And Buddy Blank

Thus the saga began in OMAC #1 (September-October, 1974) written and penciled by Jack Kirby, with inks and letters by Mike Royer,  with the title character destroying the factory of Pseudo-People, Inc. at the behest of the Global Peace Agency.  

But, why, and who is OMAC?

The Global Peace Agency (the nameless, faceless people who seemed to run the world), approached Professor Myron Forest, creator of the orbiting satellite called Brother Eye, to create for them an agent who could fight the menaces of the future world.  They found a perfect candidate in average Buddy Blank, an employee of the questionable Pseudo-People, Inc.,  who could be turned into the man they needed.  

Poor Buddy was a minor employee, not liked by his co-workers, except for the pretty Lila, who was his only friend.  

Buddy followed her once, and discovered her secret, she was a prototype of a new weapon his company created, robotic life-like friends (that were bombs that would explode when assembled).  This horrified Buddy, but the company was planning to eliminate him, had not Brother Eye took this moment to begin his transformation into OMAC.  OMAC, then battled the traps in Section D with his newfound powers.  But, in discussion with Brother Eye, realized OMAC should meet his creator, then they had to take out the man behind the company...Mister Big!

Blood-Brother Eye

OMAC started his quest to meet Professor Forest in Electric City in OMAC #2 (November-December, 1974) written and drawn by Jack Kirby, inked by D. Bruce Berry and letters by Mike Royer, but found Electric City to be closed as it was rented out by one man (Mister Big, who figured not even a vineyard could contain the incredibly lawless party he wanted to throw for himself).

A couple of party goers helped take OMAC further into the city (though they were hired killers for Mr. Big), where OMAC found Professor Forest.  Forest helped OMAC understand that he was created to fight in a world where armies going to battle was too dangerous, so he was changed into OMAC (with little memory of his previous life), to be a powerhouse for peace.  

That's when the hit men attacked, only stunning OMAC, but killing the Professor.  OMAC realized he had to stop Mr. Big.  The party was a cover to end Project OMAC, though it only allowed OMAC, enhanced with power by Brother Eye, to track down Mr. Big, Major Domo and the rest of his criminal organization, no matter the damage to the city and its populace.  

OMAC did have a final battle with them...where he was killed?  That's when the Global Peace Agency popped in to arrest Mr. Big and Major Domo, who resisted, but were taken out by Brother Eye.  The GPA then revealed they only let them think OMAC was dead (as part of the reason they could arrest them), and revived OMAC, who would continue as the enforcer for the Global Peace Agency.

An oddly prophetic look at future times, with an agency beyond governments arranging the world to its whim, and criminals controlling cities to do their bidding at a causal thought, but these and more were part of the world of the future in Kirby's OMAC!

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

Remembering Artist Jim Aparo

Remembering artist Jim Aparo (August 24, 1932 - July 19, 2005) on his birthday.  

Jim Aparo was known for his work on Phantom Stranger, Aquaman and the Spectre, but one of his best known and beloved work was on Batman team-up in Brave and the Bold....

...but, one of the strangest guest stars in one of the team-ups. was Jim Aparo himself, as this cover he drew shows!!!

Small War Of The Super Rifles

In Brave and the Bold #124 (January, 1976) by Bob Haney and Jim Aparo,  Batman is nearly taken out by a hood with a "super gun"....which Batman learns is an experimental M-76, when he is saved by Sgt. Rock (World War II veteran, assigned to get the stolen guns back from the Thousand, the group that stole them).  While doing that, Batman opens a locker and dies....what?  That's what Jim Aparo says....until he realizes the writer's script has been changed, by the terrorists who broke into his Connecticut house!

Thinking fast, Aparo escapes the fiendish felons, finds a nearby lighthouse to keep drawing (where he has Rock save Batman), then calls Bob Haney and Murray Boltinoff to get tips to help Batman and Sgt. Rock track down the Thousand, and save him at the lighthouse the fiends were approaching!

Truly, one of the craziest tales Bob Haney ever gave us, but, a wonderful adventure for artist Jim Aparo!

Of course, Jim also drew (but didn't participate) in adventures of the Spectre and the Phantom Stranger teaming up with Batman (as well as Aquaman, Flash, Wonder Woman, Green Arrow, Black Canary and more, which you can check out on the link on their names!).