Thursday, July 30, 2015

Green Mansions of Rima The Jungle Girl

In 1959, the movie Green Mansions debuted, directed by Mel Ferrer, with Audrey Hepburn playing the lead role of Rima, a "Bird Woman" who lives in the local forest, and falls for Abel (Anthony Perkins), and Abel struggles to prove his love for Rima to her grandfather, Nufflo (Lee J. Cobb) and the tribe of natives including Kua-Ko (Henry Silva), who tries to kill Rima and burn the sacred tree where she lived.

But, what does this have to do with comics?

Green Mansions Novel and Adaptation

Green Mansions: A Romance of the Tropical Forest was a 1904 novel by William Henry Hudson, about a man (Abel), who ended up in the Venezuelan jungle in the 1840s, meeting Rima, a young woman who was raised alone in the jungle.  Originally found by natives with her mother, who spoke a strange bird-like language, and was thought to possess mystical powers after Rima grew to 7 years old, with the natives trying to kill Rima, but luck keeping her alive and spreading rumors of her magical powers.

Rima lived in peace until the coming of Abel, who stirred strange feelings in now 17 year old girl.  Rima and Abel found her mother's home, burned down by the natives who took advantage of Rima's people and killed them.  Kua-Ko and the natives then followed Rima to her sacred tree and burned it and Rima, killing the girl.  Abel killed Kua-Ko, and collected Rima's ashes, looking for forgiveness for bringing ruin to Rima.  This story found it's way into Classics Illustrated #90 (December, 1951), with the adaptation being written by George Lipscomb, and art by Alex A. Blum.

Rima The Jungle Girl

All this eventually led to DC adapting the Green Mansions story (very loosely), and making the hero more of a Tarzan or Sheena-type of character, with their 7 issue Rima the Jungle Girl series, that starting in April-May, 1974.

With covers and interior layouts by Joe Kubert, and stories by Robert Kanigher and finished art by Nestor Redondo, Rima the Jungle Girl #1 tells the story of how Rima found Abel, with Rima the Jungle Girl #2 (June-July, 1974), has Rima telling Abel the story of how she is accepted by the animals and can communicate with them via sounds, and how the jungle accepts her.  Abel returns to the village, and one of the Indians, Runi, is surprised that he returned, as Rima usually captures the souls of those who venture into the forest (which, because Abel has decided he loves Rima, and returns to her, Rima has captured Abel).

Rima's adventures protecting the Venezuelan jungle and dealing with Abel continue on (loosely adapting the novel through issue #4 and then going beyond), until Rima the Jungle Girl #7 (April-May, 1975, in an issue drawn by Abe Ocampo, the only variation in the series) and showcase encounters with the natives and animals, as well a hunters who want to destroy the jungle.

Rima's A Super Friend

Oddly, this series led to Rima making three appearances on the cartoon Super Friends, working with Wonder Woman, Batman and Robin...and taking on a more Tarzan like role of tracking, hunting and communicating with animals, instead of being the protector of the forest and preserver of the animals as she had been previous portrayed.

Rima appeared in Super Friends Season 2 episodes "Fire" premiering October 1, 1977, with Batman and Robin and fighting juvenile criminals and a forest fire, and searching for scientists on October 22, 1977 with the "River of Doom" with Wonder Woman, and in the 1980 short on October 25th, the "Return of Atlantis" (with Wonder Woman, rescuing Aquaman, as this wasn't his Atlantis!).  Rima even got a design sheet by noted artist, Alex Toth (who had done design work for the entire show!).

The Jungle Girl Disappears

Sadly, Rima has pretty much disappeared, getting only a mention in Alan Moore's League of Extraordinary Gentleman #3 (from the second run in 2002), and then being revamped (with only one cover appearance in First Wave #4 of November, 2010 by J.G. Jones) in DC's First Wave, a union of pulp heroes including Doc Savage and the Spirit (along with an early Batman).

Still, since Rima began her existence by dying, one should be forgiven for hoping to see her again!

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Remembering Dave Stevens' Rocketeer

"The Rocke-who?"

A line from the Rocketeer movie of 1991, spoken by Jenny (played by Jennifer Connelly, but she was really Betty) to Cliff (the Rocketeer...played by Billy Campbell).

But, before the movie, the Rocketeer appeared in comics, created by writer/artist Dave Stevens (July 29, 1955 to March 11, 2008).

The Rocketeer begins

The Rocketeer first appeared in Starslayer #2 (April, 1982) with chapter 1 of his first 1938 adventure, where we met down on his luck pilot Cliff Secord and his buddy, Peev (and they found a portable jet-pack, which allowed Cliff to adopt the identity of the hero, the Rocketeer).

His second appearance, with chapter 2 in Starslayer #3 (June, 1982), introduced Cliff's girlfriend, Betty (modeled after famous pin-up, Bettie Page, quite an influence on artist Dave Stevens)...though neither character made the cover of these books by Pacific Comics.

Chapters 3 and 4 of the Rocketeer's premiere adventure premiered in Pacific Presents #1 and #2 (October, 1982 and April, 1983), continuing Cliff's battles against the Nazis (as well as to capture Betty's hand), and even guest-starred Doc Savage and his crew (though not named to prevent copyright troubles, but there was much fun to be had with this new hero in the pre-World War II days)...

...and this adventure ended with The Rocketeer Special Edition #1 in November, 1984 by Eclipse Comics!  This issue also contained pin-ups by artists such as Gray Morrow, Doug Wildey, Murphy Anderson, Russ Heath, Al Williamson and Bruce Jones.

These five original chapters of the Rocketeer were gathered in the Rocketeer, which came out in graphic novel form in September, 1985 by Eclipse Comics (and it even had an introduction by noted author, Harlan Ellison).

Rocketeer's New York Adventure

But, this didn't spell the end of Dave Stevens' adventures with the the hero and his cast headed to New York for the Rocketeer's New York Adventure....with Chapter 1 and 2 in Comico's Rocketeer Adventure Magazine #1 and #2 in July, 1988 and in July, 1989 (which also included cameos by Lamont Cranston a.k.a. the Shadow and his crew, also incognito)...

...finally concluding with Chapter 3 in Dark Horse's Rocketeer Adventure Magazine #3 in January, 1995...

...with Cliff's New York adventure was collected by Dark Horse in September, 1996); and during all this time, Dave Stevens renewed interest in pin-up queen, Bettie Page, and even helped her get royalties from publishers who used her image.

Rocketeer Movie Star

In between chapters 2 and 3 of Cliff's New York adventure is when Disney released the Rocketeer movie, and a couple of Rocketeer comics, which Dave Stevens did the cover for the regular movie adaptation in June, 1991 (with writer Peter David and artist Russ Heath providing the adaptation of the movie by Danny Bilson and Paul De Meo) and artist Neal Adams and his Continuity Studios making a different movie adaptation in June, 1991 as well for the Rocketeer 3-D Comic!  Sadly, the movie didn't do well enough for Disney to want to do a sequel (and you can see Dave Stevens in the movie briefly during the Nazi test flight sequence!), and Dave Stevens passed away from hairy cell leukemia in 2008.

Rocketeer Still Flies

This hasn't stopped the Rocketeer from flying, thanks to IDW!

With the Rocketeer: The Complete Adventures in October, 2009, as well as the Rocketeer Jetpack Treasury Edition #1 of November, 2011, you can thrill to the pulp stylings of Dave Stevens' rocketman inspired hero at your leisure, enjoying all of the good girl art Dave gave us in the 1980s about the 1930s! 

IDW is even giving us new adventures of the Rocketeer...

....and some of the variant covers for those Rocketeer Adventures books include Dave Stevens' art!

  You can even see how Dave Stevens influenced modern artists, like Alex Ross and Jim Silke....

...and you can also see how they were influenced by artists like Murphy Anderson and Russ Heath!

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Remembering Dick Sprang

Batman artist, Dick Sprang would have been 100 today!

So, today, we remember Dick Sprang!

Dick Sprang was one of many artists who ghosted for Bob Kane, starting with the cover for Batman #18 (August-September, 1943). 

Dick Sprang worked on and off over the years, doing work with Batman on the Batman book and on Detective Comics, as well as some work on Real Fact Comics as well.

Among some of the many things done in his career was drawing the first Riddler story in Detective Comics #140...

...and the second, and its cover, for Detective Comics #142.

Dick Sprang also got to redesign the Batmobile for 1950 (original version on Batman #20, newer from Detective Comics #156!).

Dick Sprang even got to do a few covers and interiors Superman and Batman battles in World's Finest Comics, including interiors for the introduction of the Moon Man in World's Finest Comics #98, the first Luthor/Joker team up in World's Finest Comics #88 and the origin of the Superman/Batman team from World's Finest Comics #94!

Dick Sprang even worked in the 1990s, on Detective Comics #622-624 (with story by John Ostrander, covers colored by Anthony Tolin, and interior art by Flint Henry and Mike McKone, and very stylized versions of Batman, the Joker, Catwoman, the Bathound and Batgirl), and we'll keep his dynamic art legacy alive!

Thursday, July 23, 2015

I Am Ant-Man!

Scott Lang started out as a technician, working to upgrade Avengers mansion (in Avengers #181  of March, 1979, even if he didn’t make the cover…but there were so many others there including original Ant-Man, Hank Pym, and his wife, the Wasp), but became so much more…he became a hero in his own right, in spite of himself.

But, we might be getting a little a head of ourselves here…let’s go back to Scott Lang’s first outing in a super-suit…which happened one month after the Avengers issue….

Birth of A Hero

With Marvel Premiere #47 and 48 (April and May 1979, written by David Michelinie and art by John Byrne and Bob Layton), this ex-con was trying to make good with his life, and save his daughter, Cassie, from dying…and to do that, he was falling back on his old ways, that of burglary.

Scott figured if he could take the suit and shrinking gas, he could find Dr. Erica Sondheim (a noted heart surgeon)…but she was being held captive by Darren Cross (the head of Cross Technological Enterprises, a company he founded).

Scott confronted Cross (who had mutated into a large, super-strong man)…

...and saved the doctor (well, she actually saved him…hey, you don't want too many spoilers, do you), and she, in turn, saved Cassie.

Yellowjacket (Hank Pym, the man formerly known as Ant-Man), decided to let Scott keep the Ant-Man suit (as Hank was comfortable in his new identity), figuring Scott could do some good with the Ant-Man identity!

Scott Lang did…

…helping Iron Man and the Avengers!

Starting with Iron Man #125 (August, 1979) and Avengers #195 (May, 1980).

But, there were more Iron Man and Avengers issues...

As well as assisting licensed Marvel properties like the Micronauts and Rom, in Micronauts #19 and #20 (July and August, 1980), and Rom #58 and #59 (September and October, 1984).

The new Ant-Man helped Spider-Man and the Thing as well, in Marvel Team-Up #103 (March, 1981) and Marvel Two-In-One #87 (May, 1982)!

Scott has worked with the Avengers when the Avengers dealt with the Masters of Evil (a couple of times!).

Ant-Man even worked with the Fantastic Four for a time (from Fantastic Four #384 to #416 in the 1990s, more or less).

Then, Ant-Man returned to the worked with the Heroes For Hire (with Luke Cage, Iron Fist, She-Hulk and more) and returned to the Avengers...

Scott even joined the Avengers (along with the Jack of Hearts for a time!).

Heck, everyone owes Ant-Man some thanks, as Scott Lang has been the little guy who has helped the Marvel Universe!

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

The First Super-Girl

Before Supergirl came to Earth, whether as Superman's Kryptonian cousin (like Kara Zor-El/Linda Lee Supergirl in Action Comics #252 in May, 1959) or via another dimension (like the Matrix Supergirl in Superman #16 in April, 1988, though she didn't make a cover until Superman #21)...

...there was another Super-Girl!

The First Super-Girl

In Superman #123 (August, 1958 by Otto Binder and Dick Sprang), Superman met "The Girl of Steel".  Jimmy Olsen found a mystic totem that allowed him three wishes, and his first wish was to get a perfect mate for Superman...a Super-Girl! 

(Wow, Jimmy really is Superman's best pal!). 

She didn't last, and Jimmy's other two wishes for Superman didn't turn out so well either....with crooks taking the totem and wishing away Superman's powers, and Superman getting a chance to meet (though Jimmy spelled it "mate") his parents (so Superman help Jor-El and Lara become a couple!).

Odder still, when this story was reprinted in Superman Annual #6 (Winter 1962-1963) and in Superman #217 (June-July, 1969)...they only used the first 10 pages of the story (leaving off the second two wishes), and Super-Girl was colored to look a little more like Lana Lang...(which, oddly, is whom the Matrix Supergirl post-Crisis on Infinite Earths was based on as well!).  Great Caesar's Ghost!

Monday, July 20, 2015

Blue Area of the Moon

On July 20, 1969, astronaut Neil Armstrong uttered the immortal worlds...

"That's one small step for [a] man, and one giant leap for mankind".

(This scene, from Stan Lee and Jack Kirby's Fantastic Four #98, May, 1970 entitled "Doomsday on the Moon!"...

....wherein three of the Fantastic Four were behind the scenes, fighting Kree Sentry #9168, while Sue was still back on Earth, recovering from the birth of her son, Franklin Richards!  The "a" was something Neil Armstrong said he had said, but static interfered with it in the transmission to Earth).

Quite a moving scene..

....but, the Fantastic Four had been to the moon before!

Feels Like The First Time

Back in Fantastic Four #13 (April, 1963, by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby), the Fantastic Four completed the mission that originally got them their powers, by getting to the moon...this time, in competition with the Red Ghost and his Super-Apes (Miklho, Peotor and Igor), and while the Fantastic Four had proper shielding this time, the Russians didn't, so they got super-powers on their way to the moon.  Both groups were headed toward the Blue Area of the Moon, which, they discovered had an abandoned city, as well as an Earth-like atmosphere...and one resident...the Watcher!

Watching You

Uatu the Watcher was part of an alien race that watched over beings in the universe, who had a strict noninterference code to not aid the races they watched (due to previous interference by other Watchers, that resulted in an immature race getting nuclear weapons and destroying themselves thanks to the Watchers interference, as told in Tales of Suspense #53, May, 1964).

But, Uatu seemed to like the Fantastic Four, interfering with the Molecule Man (Fantastic Four #20, November, 1963), the wedding of Reed and Sue (Fantastic Four Annual #3, 1965), and trying to hide Earth from planet-eater Galactus (Fantastic Four #48, March, 1966)!  Uatu was even placed on trial for these acts (but was sentenced to continue his job, with less interference in Captain Marvel #37 to #39 in 1975).  The Watcher even had his own back-up series in Tales of Suspense (starting in #49, January, 1964, and running to #58, October, 1964), as well as telling tales of alternate timelines of the Marvel Universe (Earth-616), starting with What If? #1 (February, 1977)...but, perhaps it's best not to open that can of worms just yet...

Love Is A Battlefield

The X-Men ended up on the Blue Area of the Moon, thanks to Professor X's love and head the Shi'ar, and the X-Men battled the Imperial Guard for the life of what they thought was Jean Grey (really, the Phoenix) all in X-Men #137 (September, 1980 by Chris Claremont and John Byrne).  Wolverine even has a brief encounter with the Watcher in his citadel (that does not go well for Wolverine).

The teams fight under the observation of Skrull and Kree agents (the Skrull and Kree are intergalactic races introduced on Earth in the Fantastic Four, and they have been warring for a long time... and the Kree were creators of the Blue City, left in ruins, on the moon, while the Skrulls had created the Blue Area of the Moon, to test the Kree and the Cotati, who created the atmosphere of the area...all a million years ago!).  This moment was also revisited by the Watcher a few times in What If?.

Moving On Up 

The Inhumans even became neighbors to the Watcher for a time...

...after the Earth had become too polluted for them to live their, even in their hidden city of Attilan (also called the Great Refuge).

 (The city of Attilan first appeared in Fantastic Four #47 by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, February, 1966 and the Inhumans as a whole first appeared in Fantastic Four #45, December, 1965, also by Lee and Kirby), with Attilan moving to the moon in Fantastic Four #240 (March, 1982, by John Byrne).

The moon proved a good home for the Inhumans...

...and a reawakening of their Kree genes, as the Inhumans were descendants of humans experimented on by the Kree.

Randac was a leader of the Inhumans, and he discovered the Terrigen Mist, which is what the Inhumans needed to be exposed to in order to gain their powers. 

These powers were often unpredictable....and changed the recipients in unexpected ways. 

Randac's story started in Thor #146 (November, 1967), with more tales of the early Inhumans (pre-Fantastic Four meeting) coming in Thor #147 (in December, 1967, with Sentry #459 being activated by Randac's work as Randac planned to expose all his people to the Terrigan Mist), and the youth of Inhumans leader Black Bolt, getting his time and powers with the mist, in Thor #148 (January, 1968) and Black Bolt, Medusa, Maximus and Triton history until Thor #152 (May, 1968).

The Inhumans knew they could move their home, as they had done it before from the North Atlantic Ocean to the Himalayas, with the help of the Eternals (another ancient super-powered race, hidden on Earth, and created by Jack Kirby), as revealed in What If? #29 and #30 (October and November, 1981), all before Black Bolt met the FF in Fantastic Four #45, and well before the Inhumans first stand alone series in the first ten issues of Amazing Adventures (from August, 1970 to August, 1972)...and the Inhumans getting involved in the Kree-Skrull War in Avengers #95 (January, 1972).

So, with all this, you can see how connected all of Lee and Kirby's creations are, and that the imagination to take us to the moon, also connected to our fantasies of how we see ourselves in the stars and how we are all connected in our dreams!