Sunday, August 25, 2013

Bring On The Bad Guys: Dr. Doom

What makes a good super hero? I would say an equally fascinating super villain, so lets start out with one of Marvels best. With his debut appearance in Fantastic Four #5, the evil genius Victor Von Doom was the first major new villain of the Marvel Age as well as a truly new kind of enemy.  As villainous as he was brilliant, Doctor Doom was as strategic as he was maniacal. Being a former classmate of the Fantastic Four leader, Reed Richards, the bad doctor could match his wits with their team-leader in scientific skill and his connection to the team's past gave Victor great insight in his many battles with the super team. Psychologically and physically twisted by a lab accident in college, Doom's villainy was unquestionable, but there was always something sympathetic about his plight, as shown below in this Jack Kirby page from the Fantastic Four Annual #2. This dichotomy made him different from most comic book villains that came before as Doom served as a template for many that came after. It should come as no surprise that writer Stan Lee has said on many occasions that Doom is his favorite villain. Lee once stated that "[Doom] could come to the United States and he could do almost anything, and we could not arrest him because he has diplomatic immunity. Also, he wants to rule the world and if you think about it, wanting to rule the world is not a crime."

Monday, August 19, 2013

National Cartoonist Society Profile: Brant Parker

Artist Brant Parker co-created and drew The Wizard of Id comic strip  until passing the job on to his son, Jeff Parker, in 1997. Cartoonist Johnny Hart, his co-creator, continued writing the strip until his own death on April 7, 2007. Parker passed away in April of 2007, here is his short bio he did for the NCS.  Born in Los Angeles, California once upon a time long, long ago. Mother was an artist and three years later I was drawing weird, distorted doodles on the walls, floors and furniture, etc. It took another thirty-five years, however, to find my "NICHE". Los Angeles Daily News as a staff artist, trainee and in-B-tweener at Walt Disney Productions, Inc. An editorial cartoonist for Gannett Newspapers' Binghamton Press, freelanced magazine gags, advertising and promotion with IBM. Greeting cards for American Greetings and finally, "The Wizard of Id" comic strip in 1964, not to mention what seemed like a lifetime in the U.S. Navy, somewhere in there. Winning the Reuben was my greatest moment!

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Atlas/Seaboard Comics: The Grim Ghost

In January 1975, The Grim Ghost debuted written by Michael Fleisher and illustrated by Ernie Colon. Set in Colonial America, dashing Matthew Dunsinane was a successful silversmith by day and masked highwayman by night, feared by all as the Grim Ghost. Betrayed by a woman in 1743, he was captured and executed, but the quick thinking rogue struck up a bargain in hell with Satan, becoming his agent delivering evil souls to Hell or suffering there in eternity for his crimes. Now the avenger travels nightly on a flying jet black steed firing his spectral pistols transporting the still-living thieves and murders down to the flames of Perdition. While posing as a living descendant of himself, still in his original baronial New England mansion, two centuries later, he also carries  on his greatest mission, capturing the demon Brimstone, who is trying to overthrow Satan himself to rule the underworld. Dunsinane even has to team up with Lady Sarah Braddock, the woman who betrayed him to accomplish his goals in this moody horror/adventure title. This Earth-bound specter was an interesting addition to Seaboards stable of titles, drawing the best elements from other characters like The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, Ghost Rider, Zorrro, and The Scarecrow of Romney Marsh. Tony Isabella was called in to script the third issue with a more mellow spectral hero, but unfortunately the series ended in January of 1976 when the company folded with issue #3 and a Russ Heath cover as shown below.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Buried Treasure: Nero Wolfe

With a daily and Sunday strip that debuted at the end of November 1956, Nero Wolfe only managed to last for less that a year and a half before its cancellation. Created by mystery writer Rex Stout in 1934, the overweight armchair detective and his wise cracking legman, Archie Goodwin, were featured in a series of thirty nine novels and thirty nine short stories. Wolfe, an eccentric beer drinking food connoisseur who grew orchids, solved crimes with the help of his savvy assistant all from behind a desk in his historic Brownstone. A small syndicate known mainly for licencing popular characters, Columbia Features, produced the strip ghostwritten by John Broome and illustrated by Mike Roy. Despite being well drawn and good scripts, the strip never caught on with an audience. Other creators that worked on the feature included Pete Hoffman, Fran Matera, Mike Peppe, Ed Herron, and Jim Christiansen. Even thought the series died quickly, Columbia continued to offer the feature for years hoping for another chance until ending its ad in Editor and Publisher until 1972.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Direct Currents: Angel and the Ape

Another in the series of wacky titles National tried in the 1960s was the amusing kid book, Angel and the Ape which first appeared in the anthology title Showcase #77 in September of 1968. Created by writer E. Nelson Bridwell and artist Bob Oksner, this fun loving title revolved around two unusual private eyes. Angel O'Day was a investigator who managed the O'Day and Simeon Detective Agency with her ape partner in a suit, Sam Simeon. With Sam not being your usual partner, since he was both a comic book artist and a talking gorilla, you can imaging the wild story lines over its initial short-lived run of seven issues after the first Showcase try-out tale. Oksner's charming "good girl" art approach for the lovely Angel, coupled with some delicious Wally Wood inks made the feature an attractive sell with some very energetic scripts. After its cancellation the series was revived two times, once in the 1990s by funny man artist Phil Folio and in 2001 by writers Howard Chaykin, David Tischman and artwork by Philip Bond. Other guest appearances followed over the year in DC titles and brief references making inside jokes to the characters in others, but none ever had the charm of the original series which gave many a fond memory to later baby boomers.