Monday, August 31, 2009

The Monday Fly: Two seconds of immortality

While everything you'd want to know about the Human Fly as a comic book character can be found in the 19 published issues, finding out anything reliable about the man it was based on is much harder.

Much harder.

About the only thing most people agree on is that the real-life Human Fly was a Canadian stuntman named Rick Rojatt, someone who tried to pull off increasingly spectacular stunts, was never seen without his mask, was rumored to have some sort of ties to organized crime, and — according to one anonymous commenter — was sometimes Cyndi Lauper's boyfriend.

With stories like that, I almost don't want to know the truth anymore. Either that, or there should be a movie 'cause I'm telling you, SOLID GOLD. (Of course, if anyone has any kind of leads, I'd love to hear about them — send me an e-mail, Rojatt!)

And while the Fly undoubtedly got some coverage from the media at the time (stuntmen were a hot trend thanks to Evel Knievel), there isn't much of an actual record left behind. Except for the odd reference here and there, reports either haven't made it online yet, or may just be gone for good. It's a shame really, and I'd like to think that, in some dusty archive somewhere, the exploits of the Human Fly are preserved for posterity.

But for now, all I've been able to find is a couple of first person accounts, an article in People magazine and this — two seconds of footage from a Milwaukee TV promo for "That's Incredible!" featuring the Fly riding on top of a low-flying DC-8 (one of his most famous stunts).

The brief look at the stunt begins at the six-second mark; if you even begin to blink, you'll miss it. Like the Human Fly himself, it comes and goes in a flash.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Adventures in Sound — Part 8

Panel from Not Brand Echh #1
Letterer: Artie Simek

Today is the King's birthday!

Before we get into it, let me make a confession: I wasn't always a fan of comic book legend Jack Kirby.

Yes, I was a moron.

OK, maybe "moron" is a bit harsh. I can see where Kirby's distinct drawing style and tendency for sudsy, overblown dialogue wouldn't be everyone's thing. It certainly wasn't mine for a while. "What's with these blocky heads?" I'd ask myself. "Why does everyone have square fingers, and why is everyone's mouth open like that?!" I'd complain. "And why won't these people shut up?!?"

Of course I was too young and too shallow a comic book reader to understand Kirby was a trailblazer. I didn't get it when he drew panels that somehow translated the cinematic energy of film into four colors. I completely overlooked the new ways he laid things out, and his use of collage went right over my head. And of course I didn't know enough then to realize this was all new. No one had done it before. Not like Jack Kirby.

Now I devour Kirby stories like a starving man at a Las Vegas buffet. Now I realize that the melodrama Kirby employed was a distinct decision on his part, guiding it beyond what could have been empty bombast to something that has the weight of opera. Really, it's that good.

On top of all that, it's just plain fun. Monsters, superheroes, romance and things that defy easy definition — Kirby did it all. And for that, I'm grateful. Today would have been Jack Kirby's 92nd birthday, but whenever I read one of his stories I think it's his readers who received the real gift.

In honor of the mind-bending imagination that was the trademark of the man called "King," take a couple of aspirin and head over to Zaius Nation, where you can read an early Kirby story called:

Oh, hell, I can't resist; here's one of my favorite Darkseid panels while I'm at it:

And finally, something from Gavin Jasper over at 4th Letter; I think Jack Kirby would approve.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Sick day

As if 100-plus degree weather and a distinct pizza-deficiency weren't enough, now I've been mugged by a dirty, no-good summer cold (whose mother was obviously a prostitute). I'm trying to cure it with a mix of cough drops, plenty of fluids and the healing balm of daytime television, so (hopefully) I'll be back tomorrow!

Monday, August 24, 2009

The Monday Fly: He laughs beneath his mask --



Panel from The Human Fly #2
Bill Mantlo, writer; Carmine Infantino, artist; Dan Green, inker

Friday, August 21, 2009

Adventures in Sound — Part 7

Panel from Amazing Spider-Man #222

Letterer: Rick Parker

Thursday, August 20, 2009

And have a Lovecrafty day

It's probably come up here a few times (especially during Halloween), but I'm a huge fan of H.P. Lovecraft and the Cthulhu Mythos. So as far as I'm concerned today should be a national holiday because it's ol' Howie's 119th birthday! (He continues to celebrate them, even though he long became a hideous, undying man-beast lolling about under the gibbering sea. What, you didn't know?)

To mark the occasion, I'd recommend a little reading material, namely Cthulhu Tales Vol. 1. This collection of stories single-handedly rekindled my dormant interest in Lovecraft's work, and I've been devouring both the originals and BOOM! Studios' Cthulhu-inspired titles ever since. So why don't you raise a glass of ichor and give a try?

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Wedded miss: Skipping Archie and Veronica's wedding

During an e-mail exchange earlier today, my buddy Kyle asked as an aside, "Incidentally, no thoughts on Archie's proposal to Veronica? I know it's just a publicity stunt that won't actually go anywhere, but still, where's the outrage, Betty-lover?"

Besides pointing out the fact that we've been friends long enough for Kyle to know I'm an avowed Betty man, the question also made me realize that I've completely ignored the whole thing about Archie getting married to Veronica. (The storyline begins in Archie #600, released today.) With that in mind, I thought I'd share my response:

"Well, the thing about the Archie proposal is that it's a lot of hooey. The story takes place 'in the future,' after the kids have graduated college, and once the Archie-marries-Veronica thing is over (three issues, I think?) they're going to do it all over again with Betty. Seriously.

"I guess it's just hard to get worked up about it when you know that in six months the whole thing's going to be wiped out when the curtain's pulled back to reveal Archie's still alive and in the shower with Jughead."

Actually, THAT is a story I'd like to see.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Links! (or, how sausage is made)

It's been busy around the GCP-HQ today, so I'm being a weenie and taking the easy way out by giving you links to other peoples' content. (Seriously, though, it would be a shame to miss out on any of these, so make with the clicky-clicky.)

First up, something from the local paper about a graphic novel born out of a national tragedy. Struck by the disaster that was the response (or, some might argue, lack of response) to Hurricane Katrina in 2005, author Josh Neufeld volunteered to help with the clean-up in the storms' aftermath, keeping a blog of his experiences and conversations with the people of New Orleans. Eventually Neufeld merged the vignettes of seven survivors into the comic book stories that would make up "A.D.: New Orleans After the Deluge."

The Austin-American Statesman has a Q&A with Neufeld available online here, as well as some samples of art from the book. (If you're in town, you might also want to catch Neufeld's reading and signing tomorrow.)

Speaking of local news, if you do happen to find yourself in Austin you should also pencil in some time to spend with Paul Benjamin, Alan J. Porter and Jack Mitchell, who will be at Austin Books from 4:30 to 7 p.m. tomorrow (Wednesday, Aug. 19) to sign the latest issues of their BOOM! Studios titles. Porter will be signing copies of The World of Cars: The Rookie, Mitchell will be there with Poe, and Benjamin (who you might know from all the awesome Marvel Adventure stuff he's been cranking out, as well as his own Pantheon High) will be lovingly adding a personal touch to Monster's Inc: Laugh Factory.

The staff at Austin Books are always great, the place has recently been renovated to make the best use of all its cavernous space, and Paul Benjamin is a hell of a nice guy. I can't vouch for the other two but I'm assuming they're not jerks, so give it a whirl!

Speaking of jerks, Chris Sims of the mighty Invincible Super-Blog seems intent on pulling off some sort of nerdly hat-trick and recently finished up his second Web comic AND launched a new podcast.

Besides making it nearly impossible for anyone to ever complain about not having time to post ever again (ahem), he's raising the bar by churning out material that — dammit — is good. If you haven't already, I'd recommend heading for the Action Age and checking out the complete Woman of A.C.T.I.O.N. #1, a slightly more straight-forward than usual story from Sims (with art and letters by Chris Piers and colors by Steve Downer) about a British secret agent who finds herself up against her old enemy, Doktor Heinrich von Killswitch, and his casino of death. You can also download it if you'd like to hold it close to your computers' bosom (what?).

Somewhere in between writing a daily comic book blog and producing his own comics, Sims also went ahead and broke the laws of physics, somehow finding the time to join Eugene Ahn and unleash the podcast War Rocket Ajax on a grateful nation. The first episode is already up, with Matt Fraction — MATT FRACTION — as their first guest, so go give it a listen.

Monday, August 17, 2009

The Monday Fly: You're just killing yourself!


Panel from The Human Fly #5
Bill Mantlo, writer; Frank Robbins, artist; Rod Santiago, inker

Friday, August 14, 2009

Adventures in Sound — Part 6

Panel from Action Comics #560
Letterer: John Costanza

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

I would have killed for the Spidercopter

As a young Maxo, I was lucky enough to own this:

Click to radioactive spider-size

If you're thinking to yourself, "Wow! That is radically awesome!" you're absolutely right. Of course, being young I was also stupid and abused the hell out of this toy, and I'm not lucky enough to still own Energized Spider-Man today.

I do have fond memories, though. Energized Spidey ran on a big ol' C battery, heavy enough that Charles Bronson could have put it in a sock and cleaned up the neighborhood, no problem. As a result, the toy was heavy. Wait, I need more type styles to properly convey the weight: It was heavy. And, as you might guess by looking at it, articulation was not a big selling point. The arms went up and down (or not — that could be just wishful thinking), and the legs were rigidly frozen in place. And the whole thing was made of a hard, shiny plastic.

That motorized "Pull! Lift! Climb!" bit, by the way? It did work, in the way a string attached to a slowly grinding miniature motor works, glacially dragging an action figure across the floor or laboriously moving Spider-Man himself from floor to door knob.

As you might've guessed, batteries didn't last long.

But, oh, man, did I love this toy. It was a giant among puny Han Solos and Ben Kenobis, and it actually did something. The only thing missing was the highly coveted Green Goblin toy, which I would have put on the bookshelf right next to his heroic nemesis, where he, too, could have pitched forward into battle at the slightest bump thanks to that top-heavy battery.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The Pull List (8-11-09): That's! In! Credible!!

After hearing almost nothing but good things about this series, and after only casually flipping through the trades (hey, I'm way behind on trades — gimme a break), I may finally be jumping on the Incredible Hercules bandwagon.

I've always liked Marvel's version of Hercules, but never enough to want to read about him on a regular basis. Mostly he's come across to me as a lovable doofus who gets drunk, hits on women and likes to flex his pecs in between missions with the Champions. But somewhere in the middle of World War Hulk, Herc started getting interesting. And the deeper exploration of a long superficial character (not to mention some of the most creative sound effects in comic book history) was carried on into The Incredible Hercules, a move so audacious it began with kicking the Hulk out his own book.

Ever since then it's been a steady drumbeat of "Hercules good! Must buy Hercules!" and dammit, I'm only human. Add the fact The Incredible Hercules #132 is being touted as a good jumping on point, that it's written by Greg Pak and Fred Van Lente, and it apparently involves Hercules picking up the winged helmet and filling in for Thor ... well, I think I just talked myself into it. And this is despite the title going bi-monthly for the next three months, which really just seems like you're taking advantage of my flirtatious nature, Marvel!

What else is on the list

Action Comics #880

Blackest Night #2

Booster Gold #23

Grimjack: Manx Cat #1

And maybe ...

Adventure Comics #1

Dogs, Bullets & Carnage Vol. 1

Red Circle Inferno #1

Starstruck #1

Waiting for the trade

BPRD 1947 #2

Fables #87

Fables Vol. 12: The Dark Ages (trade paperback)

Unwritten #4

Waiting for the library

Charlatan Ball (TPB)

Battle of Genryu Origin Vol. 1

Old Man Winter and Other Sordid Tales (graphic novel)

X-Men First Class: Finals (TPB)

What are you getting this week? Share your picks in the comments!

Monday, August 10, 2009

The Monday Fly: I promise you'll awake to nicer accomodations ...



Panel from The Human Fly #16

Bill Mantlo, writer; Bob Lubbers, artist; Ricardo Villamonte, inker

Friday, August 7, 2009

Adventures in Sound — Part 5

Panel from Ghost in the Shell Vol. 1
Letterers: Tom Orzechowski and Susie Lee

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Reviews: Doom for a Wednesday

Even when a person has the best intentions, it can be hard not to slip into the "collector" mentality. I've always considered myself to be more of a reader than a collector, and I try to approach my weekly comic book purchases with that in mind.

Between that and the increasing number of titles that are hitting the $3.99 price point, I'm suddenly buying fewer comics than I had been and passing on titles I would have otherwise brought home to my little comic book love den. (Ew.) Who was the chopping block this week?

After some back-and-forth, I finally decided to pass on Wednesday Comics #5 (of 12) . It's not because I don't like it — hell, some of it I downright love. And I'm a fan of the format and the serial approach. Wednesday Comics is a lot of fun on a lot of levels. But as I've mentioned elsewhere, there isn't enough to justify picking it up every week when I'm really just digging about a third of the strips. I'll wait to see how DC collects it in the end and probably pick it up then.

The other casualty really killed me, 'cause I love me some Ed Brubaker Captain America. But trying to stick to a weekly budget means fewer of the higher-priced titles, so Captain America: Reborn #2 (of 5) is another one that will have to wait for a trade. Of course, I say that now — if it turns out I can squeeze it in on some other week, I'm totally picking it up.

Still, it's not like I went home empty-handed. Agents of Atlas #9 was another great issue from Jeff Parker, with entertaining art from Dan Panosian. Superman: World of New Krypton is another comic I've been enjoying — more than I expected to, honestly — and issue #6 (of 12) sees Greg Rucka continuing to use his chops for political intrigue to tell a different kind of Superman story. I'm not looking forward to watching it jump to other titles in the Superman line, but it was probably as inevitable as Taco Tuesday.

I also grabbed Doom Patrol #1, and I'm torn. It wasn't bad, really (not especially great, either), but I'm one of those assholes who's been so steeped in Grant Morrison's version of the gang that Keith Giffen's characterizations just sound ... weird. Which is kinda odd in itself since I'm basically arguing that the guy who is a mummified manifestation of negative energy doesn't come across like the floating hermaphrodite I'm used to. I do appreciate the nihilistic vibe of the first issue, so I'll be back for the next one. The Metal Men back-up (also by Giffen with J.M. DeMatteis, and wonderful artwork by Kevin Maguire) is almost worth picking up the book on its own; it's fun, surprisingly character driven and a worthy modernization of the notoriously wacky Robert Kanigher stories.

Oh! I almost forgot! My LCS is gearing up for its big annual sale by putting one trade paperback on sale every week. So for one measly buck I picked up Uncanny X-Men — The New Age: The End of History, written by none other than Chris "Body and Soul" Claremont.

It's pure Claremont, and it is AWESOME. At one point, swear to God, Wolverine and Nightcrawler are strapped back-to-back to each other and fighting — shit, I don't know, some robot-thing — while Bishop throws a connecting rod at some contraption on Wolverine's chest so he can REEL THEM BACK IN. And later, Viper wears the most impossible costume ever.

Again — AWESOME.

(I mean, I wouldn't have bought it if it wasn't on sale, but at $1 ... totally worth it.)

What did you pick up this week? Let me know in the comments!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009


Hey, look everybody — it's Wednesday Comics Superman!

Monday, August 3, 2009

The Monday Fly: Ain't nobody alive could scale this mountain!


Panel from The Human Fly #3
Bill Mantlo, writer; Lee Elias, artist; Don Perlin, inker