Friday, March 09, 2012

When you least expect it - comic news

Yes, I know I have been a bit sporadic in posting these over the last few months but most of the stuff I came across was DC news and that was just too depressing. Oh, how the mighty have fallen.

But there are also some positive news that I wanted to comment on in the world of comics. The last few days I´ve had the flu, in fact all of us here at home have it. But my brother who works for the post is the only one who can afford to get a sick note. Not that I think it would help me much since I´m feeling better on the days I have to work than on the days I can stay at home.

I have been trying to finish my last post for the last days but it seems that every time I put my mind to it something else comes up. Well, Today I was putting the finishing touches on it and looking for some final things to add when I came across a few comic news that I finally decided to put in this post.


When I was still entertaining the notion of ever finishing my last post I was thinking about doing a post called WHATEVER HAPPENED TO THE MEN OF TOMORROW ? in the near future. And I still might. The thing is, whenever I order new comics I usually get them in nice comic bags and I use them to bag other comics.

But I don´t put one comic into a bag, put a bord in and then close it. No, the way I do things is I put three, five, six or how many comics I can fit into the bag and try to do this with whole series. At the moment I have most of the comics in my reading box and most of the other important comics in my room bagged so that when about two dozens of comic bags had piled up on my table I had to go back to my old longboxes. And the one I picked was the one that contained the issues of ACTION COMICS, ADVENTURE COMICS, MAN OF STEEL and SUPERMAN starting with John Byrne´s relaunch of the character.

I don´t know about you, but whenever I bag a series ( at least if it´s a good series ) I can´t help it but I start to flip through the pages, look at the art and then I´m reading an issue here and there.

Which lead me to the realisation that I started reading the SUPERMAN books in their Golden Age. Somehow DC managed to put out three ( and later four ) monthly SUPERMAN books that you could read on their own but also worked if you read all of them. There was a little Superman logo on each one with a number that told you in which order to read them and the artists list was really impressive : John Byrne, Jerry Ordway, George Perez, Mike Mignola, Lee Weeks etc. Well, being the nostalgic fool I am I wanted to do a post about those artists that were among the regulars and who don´t get much work Today like Kerry Gamill, Bob McLeod or Jon Bogdanove. And possibly find out what they are doing now.

One of the names on the list was Tom Grummet who became one of my personal favorites because he was the artist on NEW TITANS when I started reading the book which was just before the WILDBEEST HUNT saga, one of the best Titans storylines ever. Which - not surprising - hasn´t been traded yet.

Well, Tom Grummet has done tons of books after his heydays on SUPERMAN / SUPERBOY like NEW EXILES or X - MEN FOREVER and is now working on AVENGERS ACADEMY ( I think I mentioned this last month ) so I was not sure about including him but it seems I have another reason to write about him. In the comic industry there are always the comics that become a success, those that never had the potential to succeed and those that were destined to greatness but for whatever reason failed to take their place in the comic pantheon. Tom Grummet has worked on two such books ( at least that I can think of ) and while the really brilliant POWER COMPANY that was cut short way before its prime still languishes in comic limbo SECTION ZERO is making a triumphant return.

If you have never heard of SECTION ZERO, in 2000 a few prolific artists gathered under the Gorilla banner of Image to do their creator owned series. There were some really great books like TELLOS that was cut short by the death of Mike Wieringo

and it seems the whole Gorilla imprint of iMAGE was cursed as most of the other titles suffered a similar fate. George Perez´ CRIMSON TIDE managed to finally get the second issue in the can but stopped after that, SCHOCKROCKETS never made it to the second season, I think the only one that was really finished was Mark Waid and Barry Kitson´s EMPIRE series. A really great series about what happens if the villain finally DOES triumph over the hero.

Another series with great potential that ended after only three issues was SECTION ZERO and the Hollywood pitch would be a cross between X - FILES and WAREHOUSE 13 although this came out before there even was a WAREHOUSE 13. A really original series with great art by Tom Grummett and a brilliant story by Karl Kesel. Reading each issue you just couldn´t wait to find out what happens next - until the book ended.

Well, now the series is back although only as a webcomic so far
courtesy of the original creative team of Karl Kesel and Tom Grummet. And the best twist is that they are playing the story so that in the book also 12 years have passed. I for one can´t wait to find out what happened to my favorite freaks in the meantime and who knows, if the series has enough success in it´s second try there might even be a printed edition somewhere down the line.


This may not be as unexpected for my longtime readers as I already reported in June 2011 that while the DC universe was flushed down the toilet Valiant Entertaining was planning on bringing back the properties published by Valiant / Acclaim Comics.

Well, finally the publishing schedule has ben confirmed and they are giving the starting shot with X - O MANOWAR on May 2nd followed by HARBINGER on June the 6th . Then BLOODSHOT in July and ARCHER & ARMSTRONG in August ( interview with writer Fred Van Lente ) .

Now this may be finally some good news after the whole DC fiasko. I mean, I heard that one sign of the Apokalypse is when AQUAMAN is the best DC book and it currently is. Which in theory could mean that either the new AQUAMAN book is sooo good or that all other books suck. I think at the moment both statements are true. But Back to Valiant.

" I think there was a reason why Valiant had such a tremendous impact in the industry, initially, " Valiant Executive Editor Warren Simons told CBR in January. " I think the characters they have really are exceptional. When I was thinking of coming onboard the company, the first thing that I did was research the IP. The thing that I found, time and time again, whether it was X - O or Harbinger or Bloodshot, the core concepts driving the characters really are fantastic. When you have that, you have the foundation for a really incredible universe. The thing about Valiant is that it's not just about a single comic; it's about the tapestry of the larger universe and how these characters play a role in it. "

Yes, the concepts of the series were really great in some cases ( I haven´t read all the books so I can´t be sure ) but where most books lacked was in the art departement. I´m not saying that it was really bad but it was just too old school in some cases, with which I mean there was good layout, exposition and solid storytelling but it lacked in dramatic art, action sequences and sheer " blow your face off " graphics. Now don´t get me wrong, I read a good amount of the series but in the graphic departement they didn´t give the big ones competition. At least in the beginning. Later on they managed to get people like Bart Sears, Andy Smith, Joe Quesada ( yes, at that time he was a regular artist ) or Brian Hitch and that´s when they really took off.

Since some of my readers might not be familiar with the idea behind the series I thought it would be good to write a bit about them, first the books that are going to be relaunched and then about the rest of the books I read. As usual this will all be drenched in off topic remarks and funny anecdotes that my readers seem to enjoy. So let´s start right away.


The first. The best. The gold standard.

Okay, I´m not sure if X - O MANOWAR really was the first series Valiant published, it might as well have been HARBINGER or HARDC.O.R.P.S. But for me X - O MANOWAR was their big book.

The idea of the series was as simple as it was brilliant and after you heard it you wondered why nobody thought of something like this before. It´s Conan the Barbarian in Iron Man´s armor.

Aric of Dacia is a Visigoth from the 5th century who gets abducted by spider aliens but manages to escape with one of their battle armors. Because he travels at light speed it´s the 20th century as he finally arrives on earth and he has the usual problems adjusting to 15 centuries of technological progress until he becomes the head of a multinational corporation. And I´m really a sucker for timetravel stories which means this was right up my alley.

So you got the Rip Van Winkle timelost aspect, you got the Conan with Iron Man´s armor aspect, you got the corporate espionage and intrigue aspect and you even had some rather brilliant remarks on modern society.

And the thing was that the armor was more sophisticated than Iron Man´s armor at that time. It had a camouflage mode long before Tony Stark incorporated his cloaking device, it could morph to incorporate new tech and every few issues it would look different.

Because it kept adapting to its human host who was evolving as the series went along. And you weren´t confined to one main character. Unlike Marvel or DC Valiant took risk like somebody else wearing the armor - a woman to be exact.

For a certain time they shared the armor or took turns or something like that and I think she even took over for a bit when he was busy with his corporation. They even had storylines in which Aric was eviscarated by a robot dinosaur and was trapped in the armor for ten years or one in which the armor was destroyed.

While the series started out strong and had great storyarcs it really kicked it into overdrive with issue 44 when Ron Marz took over writing duties and Bart Sears became the new artist. As Bart´s level of quality would have endangered a monthly schedule Andy Smith did the art on alternating issues and since he drew very similar to Bart Sears at that time it gave the book a unified look.

Those were really the best times of the series until they decided to go with the old " Oh, it was all just a bad dream. " trope when they had to wrap the book up.

When Acclaim later tried a relaunch the whole book crashed and burned because someone had the brilliant idea of replacing Conan the Barbarian ( or Aric the Visigoth in this case ) with the ultimate computer geek. Which may make sense but it´s not very entertaining. Someone like Aric was interesting because he would use the armor in unexpected ways and he was used to fighting on the battlefield. But stick some science kid into the driver seat and you got - well, what every kid does when he´s playing MEDAL OF HONOR or HALO. And do I really need to read a comic for that ?

So, the original X - O MANOWAR series was a really good read and it´s one of the books I´m going to keep forever in my collection. I don´t know if I have all the issues but if not it´s ALMOST complete.


Okay, I have to admit I didn´t read many issues of this one. I probably have the issues that were part of the big UNITY crossover that all had covers by Frank Miller and Walter Simonson. I bought the trade with the first issues along with two other Valiant trades on the last Comicbörse in Stuttgart because they were selling them at one table for an Euro each. At that price there isn´t much you can do wrong.

Of course the first thing I noticed was the art which was a bit unspectacular but the story was their kind of take of the X - Men. When it came out I wasn´t really interested in some cheap X - Men knockoff but I have to say after reading the trade they played it much more real world style. I´m not sure how much Jim Shooter had with the series but I´m sensing hints of his NEW UNIVERSE in here. Not really a bad series and I might be interested in reading more.


There´s only one issue I have of this series, issue 30 which was drawn by Norm Breyfogle and I ordered from blackdog comics for 1 EURO or less.

I think the story was about a guy turned into the perfect soldier by nanotechnology but at the time it came out I just wasn´t interested in another gun toting musclehead.


Now this was a series I most definitely read and that was in greatest part because of the art of Barry Windsor Smith who did a lot of covers for the Valiant books.

Archer & Armstrong has been called " The best buddy team book of all time. " by Ain't It Cool News, and " Superhero buddy book of the decade " by Wizard Magazine. Ain't It Cool News also said that " Not since Batman & Robin has a more important duo hit the comic world. "

Archer is the world´s greatest hand - to - hand fighter, an expert marksman, a cross between Bruce Lee and Ghandi who was raised in a monastery. Armstron is a desilusioned, overweight and really strong immortal who would rather have a nice drink or tell a tale of his inceredible adventures than fight for justice or honor. He´s like a pissed off Hulk with Wolverine´s longevity but on a grander scale. He´s what Highlander would have been if he had been cool.

Of course those two totally opposite characters have to band together and the main point of the series was the interaction between those two. As I am a big fan of Michael Moorcock´s Eternal Hero epos I was especially interested in Armstrong and his brother who also got his own book.

Armstron also has a mysterious satchel that contains a variety of mysterious and interesting artifacts that he has accumulated throughout history, and like the satchel of Shaman from Alpha Flight it´s depths are said to be endless. Now as somebody who also has a satchel that he takes to work I can relate to Armstrong and I know that you can´t possibly know everything you packed into your satchel. Why, just Today I found a CARAMAC bar in it that I had totally forgotten.

Or sometimes I think I have something in it only to find out later that I must have taken it out at some point. It´s crazy which kind of things you can find in your satchel.

So I totally believe that he remembers certain things he put in while he draws a blank on other things especially when he put them in while he was drunk or without really looking. And another thing we seems to have in common is the look. I may not wear the barret and my pants are rather blue than pink but aside from that we could have been separated at birth.


This is the one you probably know in videogame form. If X - O MANOWAR was my number 1 Valiant series SHADOWMAN was a close second. I really liked the setting of the story and the simple design of the costume. The whole look and feel of the series reminded me a bit of the NIGHTMASK series although I´m pretty sure they are completely different. The book is about jazz musician Jack Boniface who barely survives being attacked one night and from then on feels the urge to find criminals and punish them when night falls. Which could be problematic if that was all there is to it. But after the attack he has changed and he becomes stronger, wilder, more resilient but also more violent.

The whole New Orleans setting with the vodoo stuff and the morbid cemetary scenes and the jazz music was something I found really intriguing as well as the fact that they never clearly defined Shadowman´s powers. They kept it a bit vague so that it may be connected to vodoo or the darkness or maybe just Jack going crazy but too many comics fall into the trap of overexplaining the main character´s powers and end up being boring. SHADOWMAN was anything but and lastest the longest which was around 80 issues. This was the second trade I bought at the last Comicbörse in Stuttgart and even though I already had most of the issues ( the first ten issues are hard to find ) I didn´t regret buying it.

So this book was all about mysteries, the dark things and - of course - playing jazz on your saxophone with your bike in a graveyard.

And he met Aerosmith.


Now this was the aforementioned brother of Armstrong Gilad and as it also was an immortal in the ETERNAL WARRIOR vein ( it´s even in the title, dude ) I just had to read the book.

Where Armstrong was desillusioned and wary of the ways of the world Gilad was much more of an action hero going out and kicking butt. And while ARCHER & ARMSTRONG had clear hints of what Highlander might have been ETERNAL WARRIOR definitely showed it. The art was rough in some cases but all things considered an enjoyable read.


I was young and needed the money. No, wait. That was Joe Quesada, not me. All joking aside it was of course the great art by Joe Quesada who at that time was just starting to be known.

I mostly have the issues with his art in it and I think I stopped buying when he left the book. No idea what the book was all about, but I guess it was something with - ninjas ? Not that it really mattered.


Another book I bought solely for the art. You see ? I told you later Valiant comics had some exceptional art on them. Brian Hitch drew this when he was still very much Alan Davising his style although you could start to see hints of individuality.

Two issues that came out and had lush art by Brian Hitch and in the story this Visitor guy alien ( I think ) went up against the whole Valiant universe, as the title says.

And isn´t it just the best when a dozen of heroes fight or pile on some well deserving alien ?


This is the third trade I bought at the Comicfair in Stuttgart last year and in this case I didn´t have any of the issues since I never read the series. Which is kind of strange since I´m very into things like asian culture, their views on duty, obligations, legacies and family. I guess the whole deal with RAI turning into RAI AND THE FUTURE FORCE deal got me confused so I never tried this one.

As far as I can remember this Rai thing is like a hereditary thing and the mantle of protector of Japan. There´s this new guy who is Rai in some kind of futuristic version of Japan who has to take the role of protector of a nation but not everybody´s happy with that. Large parts of hte population are against him and there´s also the whole deal with his predecessor as Rai - Daddy dearest.

A series I would have enjoyed if I had tried it, I´m sure.


Not to be confused with this guy, who is called Solar Man.

SOLAR, MAN OF THE ATOM is another book I should have read as I heard it involves time travel, weird science and a normal human gaining almost godlike powers. Together with MAGNUS, ROBOT FIGTHER and TUROK, SON OF STONE this was one of the three characters which was originally published by Gold Key comics and which are currently written by Jim Shooter for Dark Horse.

MAGNUS was the one series my brother was reading and I was kind of jealous because it had really good art. I´m not sure where I had read some MAGNUS stories before ( maybe in some issue of MV Comix ) but I remember some pages done by Russ Manning that I really liked.

Russ Manning was my favorite artist on TARZAN but I have very few comics from him. I think I might have one issue of an obscure comic that reprinted old newspaper comic strips and that had pages from Russ Manning´s TARZAN and Will Eisner´s SPIRIT in it.


I know that it´s not really a Valiant series. After all the Valiant comics had been canceled Acclaim tried another go by relaunching a few series in an all - different way but they all weren´t as good as the previous incarnation. Except QUANTUM & WOODY which is one of the funniest books I have read in my whole life bar none.

The team of Priest and Bright really kicks it out of the ballpark with this one and if you ever wondered where I got my mannerisms and vocabular from, this is the true origin of s - word, f - word or n - word. This was truly the best superhero buddy comic. And it even had a goat in it. With a mask and a cape if I remember correctly. This book gets my unconditional recommendation and if you ever see one of the trades somewhere and you haven´t already read it go and buy it. You will bust a gut laughing.

And with that I think I have covered the most important parts of the Valiant comics published. There are a few things I could add as well as some stories but it´s once again time to wrap things up as it´s again very late. And it´s been more than a week since I started this post.

Since I mentioned MAGNUS ROBOT FIGHTER and Russ Manning Today´s video shows some Magnus art by the master himself. Now on one side I have no idea why this hasn´t been turned into a major feature film by now. On the other hand I´m afraid it will be turned into something like Disney´s new JOHN CARTER OF MARS movie.

New to the blog ? Everything you need to know about TALES FROM THE KRYPTONIAN : top ten posts / more posts of interest

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