Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Is Captain America still dead or just not feeling very well?

I promised a new entry in May, but I was off by... let's see... 12 weeks.Well, I can't blame the delay on long hours reading the latest comic releases. My interest in contemporary comics began to waver long before the new century began.

I guessing my purchases started to slack off in 1992, when DC pumped the much ballyhooed death of Superman at the hands of a monster with crystalized zits. By the time Marvel was cranking out its fourth spin-off of the Uncanny X-Men, my monthly purchases were down to two or less.

And I somehow completely missed the second tragic death of Jean Grey. Third, if you count the Madelyne Pryor clone.

Rather than squeezing the maximum drama (and cover price) out of an iconic do-gooder's demise, publishers should just admit that superhero death certificates are always issued with an expiration date.

You won't find such histrionic contrivances here. Just a seething ambivalence about the hero's life and death, though not necessarily in that order.

This story is maladapted from Super Magician Volume 2 Number 10, but does not feature the comic's headline act: real-life conjurer Blackstone. Instead, we get a freckle-faced boy prestidigitator with the improbable stage name of Tao Anwar, seemingly derived from a Chinese word for 'Truth' and an Arabic name meaning 'Luminescent'.

Truth be known, the kid doesn't come off as especially bright.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Panning For Gold

Even the most ardent comic book collector has to take the term Golden Age with a grain of salt. An mind-numbing majority of the comic stories pulped out during the Forties and Fifties were stupendously bad. Given the lowly status of the comic book artist, slaving away for a pubescent readership, it's remarkable that so many genuine talents emerged.

My initial indifference to the Golden Age was the result of lop-sided education in the history of comics. During the Silver Age, when I began polybagging in earnest, the only Golden reprints readily available were Batman and Superman. Neither hero was rendered in a manner that justified my 25 cents worth of patronage. Not when the Dark Knight had dainty feet and an rectangular jaw sharp enough to slice bread. And the Man Of Steel sported a barrel chest that reached down to the groin.

The passage of time, combined with long sessions in dedicated comic book shops and conventions, has given me a much more balanced perspective of that comic era. And the Digital Age has provided me with a virtual avalanche of mid-century comics to examine.

Most of which are still stupendously bad.

In the spirit of John Lustig's Last Kiss Comics, Keith Giffen's What Were They Thinking?, and Marvel's Romance Redux, I've made a hobby of re-working lackluster Golden Age tales to create stories that are fresh and stimulating, though every bit as pointless and inane.

This first makeover was culled from a story in Cat-Man 3, July 1941 . The original cape-wearer was christened Dr. Diamond, because his super-strength was derived from a black diamond he kept on his person. I prefer not to dwell on possible hiding places for the gem in his minimalist costume, clearly styled for long sessions in a tanning salon.

And now a word from my sponsor...

I'll be back in May with a new post, assuming I haven't incurred the vengeful wrath of the pagan god of Overstreet.