IDW has always had a bad habit of taking their dirty franchise-licensing thumbs and jamming it into my pie of childhood nostalgia (terrible metaphor, but go with it). Every time I hear that there’s going to be a new comic based on something from my youth, I get super-excited until I see that it’s coming out on IDW. I don’t know if it’s because most of it seems a bit rushed (why does everybody in Jurassic Park look like a PS1 character?) or if it’s fear of the realization that, inevitably, they will shove zombies into it, but I seem to be constantly let down. This is why I had a sort of “aw, goddammit” moment when I learned that IDW had secured the rights to publish a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comic (in partnership with current owners, Nickelodeon Studios/Viacom International). Even the promise of Kevin Eastman’s involvement wasn’t a guarantee (I think I’m one of the five people who read his TMNT: Bodycount).
First off, contrary to what every initial article about the series stated, this is not a continuation of the Mirage Comics stories (probably because, towards the end, Peter Laird had the turtles in their early-30s), but a reboot of the franchise. As with the first story arch of every other comic/TV show/movie incarnation of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, this deals with the origin of the heroes. Unlike every other incarnation, however, this one seems a little different. April O’Neill is back in a lab assistant position (and a yellow jumpsuit!) working for Baxter Stockman (not a cyborg!), doing some sort of psychotropic drug testing on four turtles and a rat under the watchful eyes of the mysterious General Krang. The issue cuts back and forth between this story and the main one, involving Leonardo, Michelangelo, and Donatello fighting Old Hob, a mutant alley cat, and his gang while Raphael broods elsewhere.
Kevin Eastman (o.g. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles) and Tom Waltz (Silent Hill: Sinner’s Reward) do a wonderful job of making this feel like the old first volume issues. The dialogue is spot-on, straight down to the constant barrage of crappy one-liners which seamlessly segue in to more dramatic scenes. This series also blends the mythos of both the original Mirage run and the Archie Comics Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventures, utilizing characters from and multiple references to each. The newcomer artist Dan Duncan does a great job of calling back to the style of the Eastman/Laird days (unlike the anime-look that most Ninja Turtles publications seem to use nowadays).
For the first time since 8-year-old me was let down by the abomination known as Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III, I am genuinely psyched to follow my favorite childhood heroes again and, if you are a child of the 80′s, you should jump on this book immediately.
Look, baby, we know we’ve been distant lately. It’s just that, well, things looked like they were starting to get a bit stale. You know how we are! We had to go out! “Sow our wild oats” or whatever the expression is! But we realized that, after all that, the only place we really wanted to be was with you. So, internet, will you take us back? Will you forgive us for our… Ah, jeez, what do you call it… Wanderlust?
You DO? Aw, internet, you’ve made us the happiest blog in the world!
So, what exactly have we been up to since whenever the hell we last posted? Aside from constantly watching Spider-Man: The ’67 Collection and suffering from Flashpoint and Fear Itself-induced not-giving-a-shit, not a whole hell of a lot. Seriously, we didn’t even end up making it to SDCC this year or anything (I’m gonna go ahead and blame the cast of Glee and Hall H, which seems like the internet’s excuse du jour).
Basically, expect semi-regular posts picking back up within the next couple days or so… If I feel like it.
As a little kid, most of my favorite movies were either super-saccharine 90′s Disney flicks or the grisliest horror the 1980′s had to offer. Therefore, it is with great honor that I was able to secure a preview for BOOM! Studios’ Hellraiser #1, written by one of the masters of horror (and the series’ creator), Clive Barker.
While preparing for this review, I took the liberty of re-watching Hellraiser, Hellbound: Hellraiser II, Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth, and that totally insane video where Pinhead plays poker with Lemmy Kilmister. Then I tried watching Hellraiser: Bloodline. After being bored out of my skull after only a few minutes, I realized that without the guidance of Barker, this franchise seriously disinterested me.
Thank God he’s back in charge of the Cenobites. Barker’s twist on the happenings of the amoral servants of Hell remains as creepy and as imaginative as ever. Pinhead still goes on being extremely articulate and frighteningly intelligent, all the while manipulating those into helping him achieve his goals. Everything about the character will seem familiar to fans of the original film, which is welcome when compared to some of the downright goofy things he said in the later films (“Welcome to the worst nightmare of all… REALITY!”). The issue still explores the line between pain and pleasure prevalent in the films, with the first issue featuring both the most violent and sensual panels I’ve seen in a comic produced by BOOM! Both of these mental states are skillfully drawn by Leonardo Manco (Hellblazer, Hellstorm, every other comic that ever had the word “hell” in the title), which ultimately leads to one emotional and frightening comic.
My only real complaint (which might be my own fault) is that I’m a little confused as to where in continuity the story actually takes place. Pinhead appears to be flanked by the Female and the Chatterer, both of whom were killed in Hellbound: Hellraiser II and never seen again, yet a reference is made to Kirsty Cotton’s marriage in Hellraiser VI: Hellseeker. Perhaps somebody who has seen more of the later sequels can clear this up. Either way, enjoy the (totally for mature audiences) preview to Clive Barker’s Hellraiser #1.
BUT WAIT! THERE’S MORE!
BOOM! Studios has given me permission to present to you a downloadable PDF for “At the Tolling of a Bell,” an original, self-contained eight-page Hellraiser story by Clive Barker and Leonardo Manco not slated for public release until the trade paperback collection in, like, forever from now! Basically, we’re giving you some free comic book goodness from an industry legend! Enjoy!
In 1977, Marvel came up with a pretty fantastical (and most likely drug-induced) idea. Comic books are always talking about their multiverses, where somebody at some point did something drastically different and changed that universe’s reality forever. Essentially, the writers wanted to nerd out and ask the big, cringe-worthy-fan-fiction-inducing question: “What if?”
With Uatu the Watcher playing narrator, the writers told tales of what might have been which, considering the breadth of what could be asked with this concept, had a tone that ranged anywhere from goddamn ridiculous to downright grim. Even so, it seems like a huge chunk of issues were dedicated to what would happen if Character X had/had not killed Character Y. Over the years there have been two regular volumes (followed by many, many series of one-shots, most being event tie-ins), a parody series titled What the–?!, and (although they’d probably deny it outright) inspired the DC Comics Elseworlds imprint.
Considering the almost 200 issues of the series, most of which are pretty terrible (I think there’s a reason nobody who wrote any of the 90′s What If? issues were ever heard from again), it’s hard to figure out what’s actually decent. Man, good thing you got me here to force my opinion on you. TOP FIVE TIME, Y’ALL.
7. What If? Vol 1 #10 (…Jane Foster Had Found the Hammer of Thor?) – Originally, in Journey Into Mystery #83 Donald Blake went on vacation to Norway by himself. Here, he instead takes Jane Foster and she’s with him when he gets attacked by those weird aliens from Saturn. She beats him to finding Mjolnir and transforms into Thordis (which, considering that who Donald Blake is has no bearing on who Thor is, makes no sense). She goes around fighting Loki and more aliens in typical Thor fashion. While Thordis is off creating the Avengers, Blake saves the drowning Sif and falls in love with her. Odin realizes that this is all wrong and gives Mjolnir it to Donald, turning him into Thor. And then this gets all daytime soap opera on us. Poor Jane is now crazy-bummed, losing both the powers of Mjolnir and the man she loves to the Asgardians. Odin decides to fix this by granting Jane goddess status and marrying her, making Jane Foster the stepmother to the man she used to love (seriously, that’s like Lois Lane ending up boning Pa Kent). Yeah, gross.
6. What If? Vol 1 #13 (…Conan the Barbarian Walked the Earth Today?) – Okay, I’ll admit that the only stuff I know about Robert E. Howard’s Conan franchise I learned from that movie where he punches a camel in the face (in other words, I don’t know jack shit). There are three things that make this issue of What If? great to me. First, Roy Thomas and John Buscema, the regular writer and artist on the more mature Savage Sword of Conan title, handle this issue. Second, everybody in the present either mistakes Conan for Sylvester Stallone or Arnold Schwarzenegger (a full four years before the movie, mind you). And lastly, Conan spends his one day in the present beating the shit out of a lady cab driver’s car with his sword, immediately going back to her apartment and fucking her, and foiling an art heist at the Guggenheim. That’s one hell of a day, Conan.
5. What If? Vol 2 #24 (…Wolverine Was Lord of the Vampires?) – Most of the second volume of What If? is just so terribly, terribly 90′s. Every issue seems to either deal with Wolverine or the Punisher and, well, this issue is pretty much about both of ‘em. During the fight with Count Dracula from Uncanny X-Men #159, Dracula ends up biting Wolverine, Nightcrawler, Storm, and Colossus who go out and start turning all of the heroes and villains into vampires. Realizing that Doctor Strange is the only one who has the power to stop his horde, Wolverine sets out to kill him and succeeds. Apparently death doesn’t really stall Strange, whose spirit launches Plan B: possessing Frank Castle, giving him the Eye of Agamotto and Cloak of Levitation, and going crazy with garlic grenades and a Super Soaker full of Holy Water. To top off the ridiculousness, this issue got it’s own What If? treatment 13 issues later in the story “…Wolverine Was Lord of the Vampires During Inferno?”
4. What If? Vol 1 #26 (…Captain America Had Been Elected President?) – In Captain America #250, the New Populist Party offered Cap the chance to run for president as a third party candidate and he declined. But what if he’d have run against Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan in the 1980 election and won? After Cap reveals his secret identity to the world, President Rogers spearheads a massive movement to replace America’s dependency on foreign oil with solar power. He then supplies solar powered weapons to the some revolutionaries in the South American country of San Pedro, hoping to free them from some oppression or whatever. After accepting an invitation by the revolutionaries, it is revealed that their leader is actually Red Skull, who has hacked into the solar energy collecting satellites and turned them into giant laser beams. Cap manages to smash the Red Skull’s controls causing the laser beams to blow them both to bits. Okay, yeah, Captain America’s dead, but look on the bright side! In this reality there was never a President Reagan!
3. What If Jessica Jones Had Joined the Avengers? #1 – Now, this one is just terribly depressing. With Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Gaydos, the men behind ALIAS, handling this issue you know it’s gonna be good. Following her horrific eight months as a slave to the Purple Man, Jessica Jones is asked to join the Avengers, to which she agrees. Rather than working for The Daily Bugle and having a child out of wedlock with Luke Cage, Jessica winds up marrying Captain America and bringing Wanda’s mental breakdown to light before House of M can ever happen. However, what really makes this story great is that instead of being narrated by Uatu, those duties are given to Bendis himself, drawn conversing with a random patron at a diner in New York City while a forlorn looking Jessica Jones dines behind them.
2. What If? Vol 1 #14 (…Sgt. Fury Fought World War Two in Outer Space?) – In this dimension, it turns out that Leonardo DaVinci’s flying machine actually worked and, therefore, humans were waaay more advanced in the field of flight by the time 1941 rolled around. December 7, 1941, Space Station Pearl is attacked by a bunch of kamikaze lizard men. Later on, Nick Fury and Dum Dum Dugan host a conference in the Space Station Midway where it turns out that Baron Strucker has been the admiral of the fleet of space stations the whole time, trying to promote Space Nazism while working with the lizard men. It’s cool though, because Sgt. Fury gets rid of Strucker the same way every badguy in any fight on a spaceship has died: getting flushed out of an airlock. The best part of the story has to be the tagline on the cover: “First Star Wars– Then Battlestar Galactica– And now!!!”
1. What If? Vol 1 #11 (…The Original Marvel Bullpen Had Become the Fantastic Four?) – This is by far one of the goofiest issues of any comic I’ve ever seen, made even stranger considering it was written and drawn by Jack Kirby. A mysterious box shows up at the door of Marvel HQ and is opened by Stan Lee, believing it to be a box of cigars. Instead, it’s a small gamma bomb that douses the whole of the staff with radiation, giving Stan super-stretchy powers, Kirby the rocky skin of the Thing, Sol Brodsky the ability to control fire and fly, and Flo Steinberg (at the time Stan Lee’s secretary, later publisher of Big Apple Comix) the powers of invisiblity. After finding another of the boxes, the foursome meets Namor and discover that the boxes were planted by the Skrulls who plan to take over the world from their new undersea base. Kirby and Namor punch a hole in the base’s hull, defeat the Skrulls, and THE END. So, I guess the big question is how the hell did Jack Kirby draw this with those new big, orange sausage-fingers of his?
One of my New Year’s Resolutions this year was to buy a comic every Wednesday that I know nothing about. Considering how much I enjoyed last week’s Who Is Jake Ellis?, this has actually been a pretty good plan. On this week’s Wednesday pilgrimage, I came across Infinite Vacation by Nick Spencer, a guy whose previous efforts (Forgetless, Morning Glories) have been pretty great and is slated to have some pretty big superhero titles coming up (taking over Supergirl, Iron Man 2.0). So what the hell is this Infinite Vacation thing?
The concept of a multiverse in comics is nothing new, but what about capitalizing on it? A company has created a smart phone application which taps into a parallel dimension and allows a person to buy their way in to another version of themselves (or, if they don’t wanna do that, hang out with them). With every decision made by the user, no matter how mundane, they can go in and see exactly what would have happened if they’d done something else. And Mark has kinda become addicted to the whole thing. Averaging about 10 changes per day, Mark is clearly not happy with himself (himselves? Is that a word?). To make matters worse, his parallel selves start to die at an alarming rate (and before you ask, yes, they point out that if there’s an infinite number or yous, you’re always dying somewhere). Also, he’s suddenly fallen head over heels for a Deadener, a person who finds it morally repugnant to jump into another universe’s you.
Nick Spencer’s writing here is damn good, and only a tad bit confusing (but what story involving hopping universes isn’t?). For a book starring an infinite number of the same dude, it’s a cinch to figure out which Mark you’re rooting for. Plus, he does a great job of making sure that any skeptical questions are answered immediately by Mark’s narration, giving the reader no room to go, “Wait a minute, that doesn’t make sense.” While not being particularly fast-paced, he whole issue had me engaged (with the exception of a four-page live-action parody which only lost me because it was missing Cameron Ward’s fantastic art).
Speaking of Ward, where the hell has this guy been? With a style this similar to Alex Maleev’s, you’d think this guy would be everywhere. All I can find is that he lives in London and took part in the Totoro Forest Project. His art in Infinite Vacation is fucking beautiful to look at, though. There are a pair of two-page spreads throughout the book that I spent way too long staring at (and I normally hate two-page spreads). Here’s hoping we see more from Ward, and soon. [Edit: Upon doing, like, a minute's more research, I discovered he had another Image series called Olympus. I'm a dumbass.]
Anyways, this book is definitely worth picking up. Hell, I’d even go so far as saying it’s the best single issue out this week. I eagerly await picking up the rest of this five-issue miniseries.
So, we all know how much I love the old Silver Age Fantastic Four books (or, well, anything Silver Age, really). It’s no surprise, then, that I got ridiculously excited when I discovered that in the mid-70s there was a short lived radio serial based on several of the Lee/Kirby issues of Fantastic Four.
The brainchild of Ann Robinson (yes, the same one who wrote that Spider-Man/Planned Parenthood PSA comic) and Richard Clorfene and Peter B. Lewis, a couple of New York City radio DJs,the Fantastic Four Radio Show came about after the two DJs realized that a Silver Surfer radio show would kinda suck. Ann talked to Stan Lee and got the rights to about a dozen characters while Lewis turned 13 issues of comics into 600+ pages of script (most of which copied the dialogue from the comic verbatim).
He managed to get Stan Lee to do all of the narrating for the series and got together a team of voice actors for the series including Bob Maxwell as Reed Richards, Cynthia Adler as Sue Storm, Jim Pappas as Ben Grimm, and Bill Murray as Johnny Storm (which is goddamn surreal to listen to). Unfortunately, Lewis decided to cancel the series after the thirteenth episode was produced, citing the fact that the only funding they got was $25,000 from Ann’s husband’s production company (and that Marvel had kinda stopped answering his phone calls).
Although never commercially released, bootleg copies of Fantastic Four Radio Show are out there. What the hel, I’ll save you a couple eBay bucks and just upload the damn thing for you. Enjoy!
1. “Fantastic Four Meets the Moleman” (Fantastic Four #1)
2. “Menace of the Miracle Man”(Fantastic Four #3)
3.”Coming of the Submariner” (Fantastic Four #4)
4. “Fantastic Four Meet Doctor Doom” (Fantastic Four #5)
5. “Prisoners of the Puppet-Master” (Fantastic Four #8)
6. “Fantastic Four Meet the Incredible Hulk” (Fantastic Four #13)
7. “Spell of the Hate Monger” (Fantastic Four #21)
8. “Return of Doctor Doom” (Fantastic Four #16)
9. “Fantastic Four in the Clutches of Doctor Doom” (Fantastic Four #17)
10. “A Super-Skrull Walks Among Us” (Fantastic Four #18)
11. “At the Mercy of Rama-Tut” (Fantastic Four #19)
12. “The Menace of the Red Ghost” (Fantastic Four #13)
13. “The Submariner Strikes” (Fantastic Four #14)
It’s December, and we all know what that means. STUPID OVERPRICED CHRISTMAS COMICS! And with the random holiday specials comes the totally awkward stories where Santa rolls around with your favorite superheroes. They’re generally throwaway stories that nobody buys and, well, really hold no bearing on continuity. So what’s the point? Well, occasionally, you strike gold. SO MUCH GOLD. Here are my top five Santa Claus comic cameos. And, um, apologies to your childhood.
(5) Bloom County: In 1981, PATCO (Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization) went on strike demanding better wages and a shorter work week, prompting Ronald Reagan to fire and/or imprison over half of them. Apparently, Santa’s elves were inspired. In newspaper comic Bloom County (dated 12/15/81 – 12/24/81), after Santa rejects the demands of PETCO (Professional Elves Toy-Making and Craft Organization) for higher wages, a hot tub in the locker room, and “short broads,” the elves go on strike. Once again, Reagan steps in, fires all of Santa’s helpers, and replaces them with out-of-work air traffic controllers. Yeah, it’s dated political humor, but it’s still pretty fucking funny.
(4) The Special Edition Warrior Winter Wonderland Pin-Up Book: After getting fired from the WWF in mid-1996, the Ultimate Warrior didn’t have much. How the hell was he supposed to make money as a ranting, painted idiot if he wasn’t on TV? Enter his company, Ultimate Creations, and its terrible pseudo-philosophical 4-issue comic series, Warrior, written by the Warrior himself. After it’s cancellation, Ultimate Creations decided to release one last book, The Special Edition Warrior Winter Wonderland Pin-Up Book. Good lord, is this thing bizarre. Essentially, it’s two pages of Warrior-style rambling (“nobody fucks with a Santa savior”) followed by page after page of your least favorite 90′s artists drawing the Ultimate Warrior in Santa garb (including a Joe Quesada/Jimmy Palmiotti cover). This book is most infamous for it’s final pin-up by Jim Callahan of the Ultimate Warrior putting on Santa’s pants while a half-naked Saint Nick lies passed out next to a bottle of whiskey with… Wait. Holy shit, what is that splattered across Santa’s chest?
(3) Sandman #7 (er, sort of): To be fair, this story almost never even was. Originally slated to be Sandman #7, the series got cancelled just after the release of #6. Then, this story was supposed to end up as the second half of Kamandi #61, except that series got cancelled after the release of issue #59. Finally, this story was released in 1978′s legendary black-and-white photocopied Cancelled Comics Cavalcade #2, a full two years after the last Sandman story was published.
Anyways, yeah. The Silver Age Sandman’s best pal, Jed Walker (the Earth-1 counterpart of Kamandi), has been challenged to prove to Titus Gotrox, an old millionaire, that Santa is real. If he succeeds, the man will donate $1,000,000 to charity in Jed’s name. With the help of Sandman, Jed is whisked away to the Dream Stream to meet Santa. Unfortunately, the old man’s nephew, Rodney, doesn’t want to get screwed out of a million busks worth of inheritance and follows. Upon arrival, Sandman discovers that Santa has been kidnapped by the Seal-Men, a race of half-seal/half-human creatures, who are pissed off that Santa gave them gloves for Christmas the previous year, even though their race has flippers. Santa says “sorry” and everything is fixed (that was easy). They get back to Santa’s workshop to discover Rodney pointing a gun at Mrs. Claus. Sandman hits him with some sleep dust (that was also easy) and everybody goes home.
(2) Hellblazer #247: I know that John Constantine isn’t one to shy away from trying a new drug, but this is just fucking weird. In October 2008′s Hellblazer #247, while attempting to prevent a cannibalistic mystic named Mako from obtaining some super-evil artifact called the Hell Mirror, Constantine travels to Bari, Italy, breaks into the Basilica di San Nichola, digs up the skeletal remains of ol’ Saint Nick, and has it ground into bone meal. After using the ground up icon in some weird thaumaturgical incantation ritual, he decides to hang onto it for a bit. And when he gets back to his apartment, what does he decide to do with the Santa dust? Same thing you or I would do, obviously. Roll up a Coca-Cola advertisement, snort Saint Nick like cocaine, and make the obligatory “white Christmas” joke! Classy, Andy Diggle. Classy.
(1) The Lobo Paramilitary Christmas Special: As much as I love Keith Giffen, I can’t stand the Lobo character. Even so, when I discovered he had a Christmas-themed one-shot in 1991, my morbid curiosity got the better of me and I had to check it out. Good god. Lobo is hired by the Easter Bunny to assassinate Kris “Crusher” Kringle after all of the holiday mascots decide that Christmas is overshadowing their respective holidays. Lobo takes the job and books it to the North Pole, only to be attacked by the elves. After they are all massacred by “The Naughtiest One,” he faces Santa (armed with a pair of razor sharp shivs) and his gorilla sidekick, Kong. Lobo ends up decapitating Santa, shooting Rudolph (who is apparently a mutant now), and is about to leave when he discovers Santa’s list. The comic then ends with Lobo dropping atomic bombs down the chimneys of everybody labeled “nice.”
Normally I wouldn’t give a number one spot to something that’s just so, well, 90s. But this gets better. In 2002, some guy named Scott Leberecht, a student working on a project for his American Film Institute director’s studies program, decided to do a $2,400 live-action adaptation of this comic starring Butterfinger from Hudson Hawk and the guy who voices Shikamaru on Naruto. And, fuck, it is horrible. How horrible you ask?
BEHOLD! THE LIVE-ACTION LOBO CHRISTMAS SPECIAL STUDENT FILM!
If you were born in the mid-8os like me, you have fond memories of watching the Disney Afternoon line-up of cartoons. Nothing beat coming home from first grade, plunking down in front of the TV, and binging on Darkwing Duck, DuckTales, TaleSpin, and Chip ‘n Dale Rescue Rangers all in a row. BOOM! Studios has already released their surprisingly popular Darkwing Duck book so the next logical step would be to tap into another property that we’re all nostalgic for.
With Darkwing Duck writer Ian Brill taking on scripting duties, BOOM! is taking a crack at the Chip ‘n Dale franchise by not only giving the beloved series its own title but immediately making it an ongoing. Add Marvel Super Hero Squad artist Leonel Castellani, and this book seems like it’d be perfect fare for the kids, not to mention the grown ups who still ong for the feel-good nineties.
Thing is, this book seems to be geared more for people who grew up watching the show rather than those unfamiliar with the characters. While the team tries to recover something called the super-key and fight a bunch of crazed animals who are all surrounded by a weird red aura (none of which is explained at all yet), the book gives us little peeks into the pasts of Gadget, Monterey Jack, and even Zipper which help explain why the characters are the way they are. As a former fan of the show, Brill does an amazing job of keeping the characters just as they were. Chip is still the same unlikeable douchebag he was on the cartoon, Dale is still cracking jokes left and right, and Zipper still wants to be the most heroic housefly that’s ever lived (two week life span be damned).
If you’ve enjoyed Brill’s work on Darkwing Duck or were a fan of the old series, chances are that you’ll get a kick out of this book, out Thursday.
Now I guess we just gotta hold out for BOOM’s inevitable TaleSpin comic (half-joke?).
Much like the old characters from Charlton, Fawcett, Milestone, and MLJ Comics, DC has recently acquired the full rights to the T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents team and is folding them into the DCU in their own title. Before I get into a review of T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents #1, however, I should probably tell you a bit about their extremely convoluted history.
Created by artist Wally Wood, the team originally appeared in November 1965′s T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents #1 published by Tower Comics. For a while the T.H.U.N.D.E.R. (acronym for The Higher United Nations Defense Enforcement Reserves) Agents consisted of NoMan, Dynamo, Lightning, and Menthor, four heroes who were given powers by an invisibility cloak, a strength-enhancing belt, a speedster suit, and a telepathy helmet respectively. Only problem was that the power-granting items also slowly killed their users. Other heroes came and went (like Sea Devils rip-off sister team, U.N.D.E.R.S.E.A. Agents) before the series ended at issue #20 and Tower Comics folded.
For years, the team remained dormant (aside from a British publisher, L. Miller & Son, Ltd., reprinting the original issues in black and white sometime during the mid-70s) until John Carbonaro bought the rights in 1983 and planned on rebooting the series (with the aid of David Singer) on his own JC Comics. Unfortunately, he and Singer had a serious falling out and Carbonaro only got as far as two issues before JC Comics fell through. That same year, Texas Comics released Justice Machine Annual #1, the only issue they ever produced, which featured a team-up story between the T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents and their in-house superhero team, the Justice Machine.
In 1984, Singer and Deluxe Comics claimed that the T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents were now in public domain (bullshit!) and began releasing a series under the name Wally Wood’s T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents with a fantastic line-up of artists including George Pérez, Steve Ditko, Keith Giffen, and Jerry Ordway. Unfortunately for him, Carbonaro still owned the rights and sued the shit out of Singer and Deluxe Comics, ultimately winning the suit and putting them out of business in 1986.
In 1987, Gary Brodsky, son of Marvel legend Sol Brodsky, attempted to release a four-issue black-and-white limited series through his own Solson (Sol’s Son, get it?!) Publications. One issue was released before the company went belly-up (probably because most of their books were either right-wing propaganda or anti-feminist screeds). FUN FACT: Following the demise of Solson Publications, Gary decided to make a series of videos teaching guys how to pick up women with titles like “Alpha Up and Rock Her World” and “How to Be a Prick Women Love.” Seriously. Look at his fucking website.
Rumor has it that in the 1990′s Rob Liefeld claimed the rights to the T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents and wanted Dave Cockrum to release a series on Liefeld’s Extreme Studios before it fell through. If that’s true, it’s a bit strange considering that Carbonaro still owned the rights to the superhero team, going so far as releasing a final story in 1995 in Penthouse Comix’s (yup, that Penthouse) OMNI Comics #3.
Finally, some time during the early 2000′s, Carbonaro and DC Comics struck a deal and a DCU T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents book was in the works. Well, it would have been, except Carbonaro shot down every idea DC presented to him. See, DC really wanted to shake things up for the team while Carbonaro decided that nobody from the original team should die (despite the fact that the whole point of the T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents was that their powers would ultimately kill them). Aside from a few DC Archive hardcovers and a couple of statues, nothing really came of it.
On February 25, 2009, John Carbonaro died. July 2009, DC Comics announced at SDCC that they were moving forward with a T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents book. Yesterday, it came out.
So, how is it?
Written by Nick Spencer (Shuddertown, Existence 2.0), T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents #1 tells the story of the United Nations scrambling to replace the recently deceased Lightning and Dynamo following a trap set by S.P.I.D.E.R. (the villains from the original Tower Comics run). Without explaining too much about the original team, it sets up the premise that the original NoMan and the new replacement members must save Raven (another Tower Comics character) from S.P.I.D.E.R. It’s surprisingly engaging, considering that the team hasn’t had a proper canon story since the 80′s outside of Penthouse (man, how I wish I were joking). As odd as it sounds, the book does a good job establishing the team without giving the its members a proper introduction, instead focusing on the staff behind the T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents (so, I guess whatever “The Higher United Nations” is). Plus, the art by the single-named duo of CAFU (Vixen: Return of the Lion) and BIT (Batman and the Outsiders) is pretty damned good (if you can overlook the fact that everybody looks like they’re wearing crazy amounts of eyeliner).
Here’s hoping that where the Red Circle books kind of petered out, the T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents can take a seat next to the rest of the DC Comics greats.
Ever since the Superman panel at SDCC 2010, my interest about Jeff Lemire’s Superboy had been piqued. After all, he’s proven with Essex County, The Nobody, and Sweet Tooth that he’s best writing about what happens in small-town America and, well, it doesn’t get more small-town America than Smallville.
Directly following his stint as the headline act of Adventure Comics, Superboy has finally come to terms with the fact that he’s a composite of both Superman and Lex Luthor’s DNA. For right now, all he wants to do is get back to his roots, figure out what it is that makes Superman great, and support the widow Kent. Unfortunately, where there’s a superhero there’s bound to be supervillains popping up from time to time. With a little help from the Phantom Stranger (yesss) and Krypto, it’s up to Superboy to protect this small town from whatever it is the DCU decides to throw at it.
This is only Jeff Lemire’s second foray into the superhero genre (the first being his Atom back-up in Adventure Comics) but, in a familiar setting, it seems to work well for him. His teenagers actually talk like teenagers and, more impressively, his Phantom Stranger speaks just like he did in his 1969 John Broome series. And, as weird as it sounds, his own excitement for this title is at kid-on-Christmas levels (seriously, when Jon and I ran into him on the SDCC floor and asked about it, he immediately turned into the happiest guy in the convention hall).
Pier Gallo’s (Batman Confidential, Dark Reign: Hawkeye) art is gorgeous as well. Not only are the characters able to convey emotions well, but his backgrounds are amazing. While reading the story I actually felt like I was back in the Midwest, looking out over miles and miles of lush nothingness. Plus, as with the above panel, he manages to make lots of small actions take place in each panel without making it look ridiculously busy.
This book is definitely worth checking out, if not for the superb art, then for the what-the-hell worthy twist ending. Needless to say, so adding this title to my pull.