Saturday, October 26, 2013

Moore & Sprouse's...Tom Strong

One of the most enjoyable heroes to come along in the last few years was by Alan Moore and Chris Sprouse with their retro superman, Tom Strong, which made his first appearance in 1999 with America's Best Comics. Moore's homage to adventure, fiction, and pulp characters, developed a Doc Savage inspired hero with a 1940s comic book feel. Strong is a large muscular man whose strength and intelligence lies in the rare Goloka root his scientist parents gave him in their experiments to make the ultimate human being. Over one hundred years old, with just a touch of grey at his temples and a simple costume, Tom grew up in an alternate world similar to earth, in the wild jungle land of Terra Obscura. Upon the death of his parents in a freak accident, his father's manservant, a dapper robot named Pneuman, helped raise Tom until he chose his mate, the lovely Dahlia. With the help of their daughter, Tesla, they set up the Stronghold in Millennium City to help fight for truth, justice, and the oppressed. Rounding out the cast is the snappily dress ape called King Solomon and a wonderful cast of evil villains including the scientist/magician Paul Saveen. To complement Moore's imaginative adventure stories was the handsome sleek line of Chris Sprouse which capitalized on his love for drawing gadgets, so the tales have lots of planes, spaceships, and other complex machinery. But with only thirty-two issues of his own title and six books from a spin-off series, Tom Strong vanished from the comic racks as many of the heroes before him only to return recently in some new mini-series! 

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Foreign Favorites: Valerian

In November of 1967, Valerian, Spatio-Temporal Agent debuted in the popular French magazine Pilote #420 written by Pierre Christin and drawn by the delightful Jean-Claude Mezieres. In the year 2720 A.D. the people of Earth have extended their reign over the entire galaxy in which spaceman Valerian and his lovely female assistant, Laureline, are special Agents of the Terran Empire. An instant fan-favorite across France, Christin and Mezieres space-opera was full of cliff hanger thrills, rocket chases, numerous narrow escapes, and many bombastic battle scenes. Readers anxiously came back every issue to sample the snappy dialogue of the superior written scripts as well as the stellar scenery and lovely costumes of the beautiful secondary character. Even though no real super villains ever come to mind when remembering this inspiring and  inventive Valerian comic, it was still a beloved fast-paced feature that have been nicely reprinted by France's Editions Darguad.


Sunday, October 13, 2013

Atlas/Seaboard Comics: Planet of Vampires

Another science fiction effort that lasted three issues with Atlas Comics was Planet of Vampires, under the creative team of writer Larry Hama, artist Pat Broderick, and inker Frank McLaughlin. A manned mission to Mars return to Earth after its five-year journey only to find they can't reach Mission Control so they land outside a devastated New York City. The team is instantly attacked by a savage gang of bikers who kill one of their crew before being rescued by one of the "dome" people on his floating aircraft. Taken back to meet the Protector at their dome headquarters, the astronauts soon learn that a nuclear war has destroyed the planet and society is now split in two factions, the technological "domies" and the savage hordes who now live outside. Grateful for the offer of protection from the barbarians, Captain Galland and his crew let down their guard, only to find out something is terribly wrong. The savages outside have developed an immunity to a plague that ravaged the land, and the only way for the dome people to survive is to extract a serum from drinking the blood of these outsiders. Fortunately, before our team is processed for the mutated "vampires", a captured biker helps them escape to lead the war against these advanced ghouls. As Russ Heath's superior art was added to help with the series, Neal Adams also did a fantastic cover to the second issue. However, over the next three tales the astronauts and their wives are killed off until only Captain Galland is left to fight alone on this planet of vampires.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Unpublished Gems: The Avengers

Who knows why this action-packed Don Heck cover was not used for The Avengers #37 for February of 1967, since he did a colossal job on the interiors for this fan favorite Marvel title. Heck's professional career began in 1949 when he started working in the production department of Harvey Comics and studying art by mail order correspondence courses and junior college classes. Soon he graduated to penciling, and after a stint freelancing with Quality Comics, Hillman Comics and Toby Press. Heck then started at Atlas (Marvel) Comics on the recommendation of fellow artist Pete Morisi, becoming a mainstay, illustrating superhero, mystery, western, romance science fiction, fantasy, and war stories. When the House of Ideas began its Silver Age revolution, the artist's first major success was the legendary Iron Man origin story in Tales of Suspense #39 for March of 1963. He then drew a handful of early stories featuring the Mighty Thor, Giant Man and other heroes, but for most comic fans, it's Don's long run on The Avengers for which he is most fondly remembered. For some reason Gil Kane's exciting cover was chosen instead to grace this colossal issue, but it doesn't really matter, its just as terrific as the unpublished version in my opinion.