Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Watchmen? THE Watchmen?

Watchmen again.

When I read some months ago that HBO would present a Watchmen series I (naturally?) assumed that the new series would be a retelling of the 1980s comic book classic by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons, just like the 2009 Watchmen film was. Watchmen is Watchmen, right?

But not this time.

It turns out that this new Watchmen series is a sequel to the original series. But I have a problem with the naming then. After all, Watchmen is Watchmen. Couldn't the title of the new series have been New Watchmen or Watchmen II or even The Watchmen? (In my youth I was confused for years before I realized that Invisible Man and The Invisible Man were entirely different literary works. That The makes a world of difference!)

Anyway, I haven't see any episodes of the new series yet because I don't have access to HBO. I hear good things though and I will definitely catch it when there is a DVD release and I'll let you know my impression then. To be continued!

More about AFTA

AFTA was a comics fanzine with a lot of heart. And that heart was editor/publisher Bill-Dale Marcinko. Bill-Dale's wry sense of humor was infused in every page and reading his work was always a bit of an adventure.

Really though, AFTA was more than a comics fanzine. It was a pop-culture zine. Comics were well represented by reviews (like the one that I wrote and which was published in AFTA #2) and the lengthy George Perez interview that was the cover feature of AFTA #1. But also there were television reviews (Bill-Dale liked Fernwood Tonight as much as I did) and record reviews and long articles about The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

1978's AFTA #1 was 96 digest-sized pages most of which had two columns of small type, and it had a print run of 200 and a paid circulation (99 cents per copy) of 65 (and "Embarrassing, isn't it?" was Bill-Dale's self-commentary on those numbers). It was predicted in #1 that AFTA #2 would be 52 pages but in fact that issue turned out to be a double-digest totaling 208 pages! Bill-Dale put so much effort into this project of his!

I do need to mention that AFTA was an acronym for Ascension from the Ashes. Sadly, Bill-Dale Marcinko is no longer on this planet but I (and many others) think of him often, so is he really gone?

Hooray for Bill-Dale Marcinko!

Over on ebay I will be selling one copy of
AFTA #1 in an auction that ends on 12/10/2019 and one copy of AFTA #2 in an auction that ends on 12/17/2019.
Good luck to all bidders!

Saturday, November 16, 2019

1978 AFTA Article by Brian Hayes

In the late 1970s I was devouring just about every comics fanzine I could find. In 1977 I came across the very unusual AFTA #1 as edited and produced by the very idiosyncratic Bill-Dale Marcinko. That issue's cover by George Perez featured Captain America and Iron Man, and the tagline at the bottom of that cover speaks for itself: "Reporting on Comics, Fanzines, Films, and Nay, I Say, Life... Itself"

I was impressed with and enjoyed that premier issue of AFTA and I wrote to Bill-Dale asking if I could contribute to the second issue. He wrote back and said yes. It's too long ago and I don't remember if he assigned me to review a specific comic book or it was my own choice, but I wrote about The Beatles.

AFTA #2 featured a cover by Jack Kirby and my article appeared on page 52. The photo below came out amazingly blurry so I will transcribe my review for you:

Marvel Super Special 
The Beatles

It often amazes me how much Marvel can get away with. Marvel Super Special 4, featuring "The Beatles Story,"  is a prime example of the sheer commercialistic pap they can peddle to young , unsuspecting comics readers who are stuck on "Spider-Man" and "Stan Lee Presents." Yet they can get away with it.

In the first place, the very idea of putting the life story of The Beatles in a thirty-nine page (I counted) is presumptuous beyond even Stan the Man's boundaries of presumptuousness. Or so I would have thought.

Another prime gripe-point is the flat color. I liked the color in the Conan Super Special, but then the Close Encounters issue reverted to the flat color in the Kiss issue, and here we have it again. Leave it to Marvel to keep cutting corners for as long as they can; I figure that the Beatles book (as well as Kiss and Close Encounters) were aimed at non-comics people who would buy the magazine for the subject matter and not care very much about the color. But can Marvel get away with it? You bet they can; they've got "Spider-Man" and "Stan Lee Presents," haven't they?

As for the art, hey, it was no bargain either, nor was the wall-to-wall lettering. All in all, "The Beatles Story" is a dollar and a half's worth of disappointment. Will Marvel get away with it, though?


Friday, November 08, 2019

A Steve Ditko Photo You Never Saw Before!

Here is a mid-1970s photograph of Steve Ditko posing with his nephews and niece. To put the time frame into perspective, this was roughly when Mr. Ditko was penciling Stalker for DC Comics and The Destructor for Atlas Comics (both of which which would be wonderfully inked by Wally Wood).

Hooray for Steve Ditko!

Friday, September 27, 2019

Triple Cover!

Isn't it a great feeling when you come across a comic book with a double cover? Funny how an innocuous printing error can make a comic book fan giddy! It wasn't that long ago that I wrote over here about the joy of double covers, and I'll mention that I have owned fewer than a dozen double-covered comics in my many decades of collecting.

So how would you feel about coming across a TRIPLE cover? I think I never even heard of such a happenstance previously, yet there is one of these utmost-rarities up for bid on ebay right now. The comic worth about $11 in its water-damaged condition has been bid up to $131 with one or two days yet to go in the auction. You can see for yourself over here and good luck if you decide to place a bid!

Dave Sim Drew Jack Kirby

One day I'll show what it looks like when I draw Jack Kirby, but up above you can examine the result when Dave Sim does the deed. (Circling clockwise from upper right, Mr. Kirby is surrounded by Stan Lee and Sheldon Mayer and Will Eisner and Bob Kane and Joe Simon.)

The above drawing is printed facing page 1 in the book shown below. I have not yet finished reading the book but I didn't want to make you wait to see the Kirby!

Friday, September 20, 2019

Hulk Smash! Boris Smash!

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson appears to be a fan of comics!

In an interview regarding obstacles he has been finding in trying to remove Britain from the European Union, Mr. Johnson recently stated that "The madder Hulk gets, the stronger Hulk gets."

I like it when political leaders liken themselves to superheroes!

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Some Nice Shazam!

1952's Whiz Comics #148 was the first Golden Age comic I ever owned, so (The Original) Captain Marvel is very important to me. I was trepidatious when I learned there would be a Shazam movie and even more so when I saw that the poster for the movie featured a bubble gum bubble-blowing Captain Marvel.

This weekend I finally got around to watching the movie on DVD and I needn't have worried. Although there are a few things about the movie I did not like, there were a number of things that I liked quite a bit. No spoilers here but, if you've ever been a fan of The Big Red Cheese, you should definitely see the film.

I do want to share with you the barebones-animated end credits. They crackle with a fun energy and you'll see that Batman and Superman and Wonder Woman and even Aquaman make cameo appearances (and that does NOT count as a spoiler!).

Saturday, September 07, 2019

The Best Sandman of Them All?

There have been several different characters in comic books that have shared the name Sandman. The earliest on the scene was Wesley Dodds, first appearing in July 1939's Adventure Comics #40. Dressed in a suit and tie with a cape and gas mask, this Sandman fought crime by gassing bad guys for a little over two years.

Then in 1941 Mr. Dodds ditched the gas mask motif and put on a more standard superhero costume. The run of stories by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby were far more fun than those gassy stories had been.

The Golden Age ended and for some years there was no Sandman to be found in comics. But 1963 saw Stan Lee and Steve Ditko create a villain that claimed the name.

Joe Simon and Jack Kirby (yes, them again!) created a whole new Sandman character in 1974.

Arguably the most popular version of a Sandman debuted in 1989, as re-imagined by Neil Gaiman.

Sandman Mystery Theater in the 1990s was a retro-return to Wesley Dodds wearing the gas mask.

In last week's daily newspapers, Patrick McDonnell stripped away the artifice to present the most basic Sandman of them all. Think about it: if a snowman is made by piling one gob of snow upon another, shouldn't a sandman be made by piling one gob of sand upon another? Bravo, Patrick McDonnell! And congratulations on TWENTY-FIVE YEARS of Mutts!