Monday, September 30, 2013

Comic Book Review: LOBO # 55 (September, 1998).

Comic Book Review:  LOBO # 55 (September, 1998).

As we used to say in the old APA and Fanzine days… 

THE ISSUE AT HAND IS:  LOBO # 55 (Cover Date: September, 1998)
Published by DC Comics. 

 Summary:  Lobo doesn't lead "lambs to the slaughter"  -- he brings the slaughter to the lambs!  

Bonus Summary Pun:  "Double or Mutton"! 

Let’s begin with an abbreviated version of my “stock introduction” to Lobo, for the few who may be unfamiliar with him:

Lobo is the most feared bounty hunter in all of Space. Armed with a massive hook and chain, and riding a souped-up “space bike”, he is the scourge of wanted men (or beasts) throughout the cosmos.  He is the self-proclaimed “Main Man”! 

He’s even given Superman his share of trouble.  And, as Lobo told us in his animated debut:  I can do trouble!” 
With a cursory resemblance to the members of the rock band KISS and the fashion sense of the WWE, he possesses the requisite measure of strength and invulnerability, is ruthless in the pursuit of his quarry or his goals, yet lives by an unusually strong, but quirky, “code of honor”.

…And, no one “frags a bastich” quite like Lobo! 

Now, on with the fraggin’ show! 

What I Did on My Holiday”.  22 pages.   
Click to enlarge on all comic pages!
On some far-off world, a class of alien high school students has just returned from their summer vacation.  Note the student population:

A “Charlie Brown Shirt-Wearer” is cut off at the extreme left.  Middle / right is a “Betty Boop-like kid” and to the far upper right is a “Bazooka Joe-kinda kid” sans eye patch. 

But our main focus, sitting right up front as you’d expect him to, is “Cecil B. Geecky”, looking for all the world like a purple alien version of “Cleveland Brown, Jr.”, from the THE CLEVELAND SHOW.  This is all the more odd, because FAMILY GUY had not yet made its debut.  Sometimes, coincidences just happen! 


Cecil tells the story of his purple alien family’s vacation trip to “…The exciting new theme park --Sheepworld”, where loose sheep abound, and all the attractions are based on (You guessed it!) sheep, including the park’s main draw; “The Hall of Sheep Fame”! 

How did they ever fail to put a smaller sign under “Hall of Sheep Fame” that says “Fame is Bleating”?! 

Oh, well… I didn’t write (or dialogue) it, though I’d LOVE a shot at LOBO someday.  It’s the only DC comic I feel I could really do well with!  But, I digress…

Meanwhile, Lobo, partnered with an attractive female bounty hunter, is on the trail of the four members of “The Shapeshifter Gang”.  The gang has eluded their pursuers, and fled to (You guessed it, again!) Sheepworld. 

"The Shapeshifter Gang" -- Looks like The Ghostly Trio, Plus One! 

As expected, Lobo frags a number of sheep while trying to “out” the shapeshifters, which he eventually does, but not without raining much carnage upon the park and its visitors, leaving young Cecil B. Geecky with one heck of a vacation story to tell his class!  

A tale to tell the class! 
Also, as expected in a Lobo story, events do not end there for poor Master Cecil… Oh, but we try not to “spoil” in these reviews! 
Lobo sez: "NO SPOILERS, ya Bastich!

Ah, but one thing we DO in these reviews, is break things into CONS and PROS. 


The Story Title:  Ever since my brief turn at professionally scripting Disney comic books, I can’t help but look at certain things in comics and imagine how *I’d* do ‘em!  One of my favorite things to do was to create TITLES for the stories I scripted – and, instead of the Way-Too-Generic-for-LOBO “What I Did on My Holiday”, I’d have called this one:  Baa-Baa Frag Sheep!” 

…And I still like “Fame is Bleating”, too!  So sue (or frag) me! 

Comics DC Wants Us to Buy (Advertised in This Issue):  Anyone remember this?  If not, consider yourselves lucky to have avoided this cheap stunt… I wish *I* had! 

 You Know the Names.  But You Don’t Know the Secrets of – TANGENT COMICS.  The biggest names in comics in nine world-shaking specials.  Raising the stakes this July.” 

Yep!  It’s all of the classic DC character NAMES, with new meaningless one-shot characters created around them.  Superman”, “The Batman”, “Wonder Woman”, etc.  Unfortunately, in the nineties and if they were from DC, I bought ‘em all… when there were some things I shoulda skipped. 

No 'Bo!  Leave the REAL Superman alone!

Go after this POSER, instead!

 The PROS:

It’s LOBO:  Lobo might have been my most favorite DC title of the nineties – and, given DC’s great quality with the Superman and Batman lines of the time, that’s really saying something!  Lobo was FUNNY (albeit in a violent, sometimes sick sorta way) – and “FUNNY” is something that is missing from today’s DC Comics, and comic books in general. 

It’s LOBO written by Alan Grant:  Alan Grant came out of the wonderful British comics publication 2000 AD, where he wrote the humorous-but-violent feature JUDGE DREDD, first partnered with DREDD’s regular writer John Wagner and then on his own. 

 Grant moved to the States, and to DC Comics, where he was a mainstay on Batman titles (notably, DETECTIVE COMICS and BATMAN: SHADOW OF THE BAT) and supplanted Lobo’s creator Keith Giffen as my personal favorite of Lobo’s writers. 

Detective Comics # 604 written by Alan Grant
Alan Grant brought with him from 2000 AD a sense of superbly cinematic, over-the-top, explosive violence, and a bizarrely humorous vision that fit perfectly with Lobo.  Grant wrote pretty much the entire nineties LOBO regular series, which remains one of my best comic-book memories of the nineties. 
LOBO # 25 written by Alan Grant

It’s DC Comics, of the Nineties:  In the nineties, as opposed to today, DC Comics could do no wrong.  (Okay, maybe not useless gimmicks like “Tangent” – but MOSTLY “no wrong”!)  I’d extend this streak back into the eighties.  Even their seventies comics were “okay”, if less distinguished, but that was a lesser period for most publishers. 

Never mind DC’s landmark accomplishments of the Silver Age, which pretty much BECAME the cornerstone for mainstream comic books ever since.  

DC Comics Silver Age Logo.

Such a pity, DC lost its way (and lost ME) in the 21st Century.  With the departure of President and Editor-in-Chief Jenette Khan and Executive VP and Publisher Paul Levitz, DC Comics was never the same.  But, they sure were great BACK THEN, and for most of their long and illustrious history!  
DC Comics Logo - when they were best!

Comics DC Wants Us to Buy (Also Advertised in This Issue):  DC One Million”:  Witness the ultimate vision of the DC Universe.  From the minds of Grant Morrison and Val Semeiks.”

Unlike “Tangent”, this actually WAS worth buying!  Imagine if all then-present DC Comics series reached their “One Millionth Issue” – in the same month (!), and all in one good interconnecting story set in the far future of the DC Universe!  

Um, we’ll just ignore the fact that ACTION and DETECTIVE COMICS would reach that impossible milestone well over a half-century before LOBO would – and just enjoy the story.  Grant Morrison was DC’s most innovative writer of the decade, and virtually anything he touched turned to gold.  “DC One Million” was no exception. 

Oh, and with DC restarting all their titles in 2011, as part of their “New 52” stunt, I suppose the timetable for “One-Millionth-numbered” DC titles has been pushed-back further than ever!  Though it DOES markedly increase the possibility of the titles reaching “Issue Number One Million” all at the SAME TIME, so maybe Grant Morrison was more prophetic than I ever imagined! 
Maybe they REALLY DID come out on the same day, after all!

 Gag Creator Credits:  A hallmark of the LOBO title were “Gag Creator Credits” that were, in some way tied into the subject matter of the story – much as the credits on each year’s SIMPSONS “Treehouse of Horror” jokingly tie into Halloween.  As our story was “sheep-themed”, we were treated to such credits as:  Script: “F. Ewe Grant” (Alan Grant), Pencils: “Aries Jorgensen” (Arnie Jorgensen), Assoc. Ed: “Tony Baadaard” (Tony Bedard – GOTTA love THAT one!), and Editor: “Bad Dan Ramsbottom” (Bad Dan Raspler). 

Bonus Bottom-Tier Comic Strip:  Later in its run, LOBO developed yet another stylistic quirk that was never seen in another comic book title – a “Bonus Bottom-Tier Comic Strip”.  Like the gag credits, the subject matter of the strip, running at the bottom of various story pages, hooked into an aspect of the subject of our story.  Here, we had examples of taken from the aforementioned “Hall of Sheep Fame”, strewn across the lower tier of several story pages.  Here’s an example or two…

Letter Columns:  Once upon a time, comic books had Letter Columns, in which readers who were able to express themselves with writing skills in excess of the minimum requirements necessary for a “text” or a “tweet”, would partake in an exchange with the book’s editor (or one of his or her assistants).  Published comments were almost always both intelligent and fun. 

LOBO had a rather unique letter column, in that it was conducted by Lobo himself.  You addressed Lobo and, in his inimitable way, he would wise-off back at you.  I was once a regular in the LOBO Letter Column and at least one of those exchanges (in response to a particular “Bonus Bottom-Tier Comic Strip”) is worthy of a Blog post of its own.  I’ll put it up someday. 
Delivering letters to LOBO? 
Oddly, the only other two comic book letter columns that were conducted by their “host characters” (of which I am aware) were DC’s GUY GARDNER, and (believe it or not) Disney Comics’ GOOFY ADVENTURES.  So, yes… Over the years I’ve exchanged written words with Lobo, Guy Gardner, and Goofy!  …Funny, how they never leave comments on my Blog. 


The Word “Bastich”:  A sort of pseudo-curse word, which sounds like a more well-known actual one, was Lobo’s term for anyone he didn’t like.  Bastich”, along with “frag”, became catchphrases (okay, more catch-WORDS, than “phrases”) for Lobo to the point where their use became almost smile-inducing to Lobo’s readers.  Indeed, in Lobo’s letter columns, it was somewhat of an honor to be called a “Bastich”.

Lobo, as a character, and as a comic book series, is not for everyone.  No one will ever confuse LOBO with (oh, say…) “My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic” – though Frag-ship is Magic does have some potential!  Not to mention The Mane Man!”  (I’ve got one very close friend out there whom I know will appreciate this pony bitApologies to the rest of you!) 

LOBO # 55 is a “middling” issue, as they go, and close to the (alas) end of the run of 66 issues.  But it is great fun. 

Rapid-Fire Sheep Pun Closing Alert: This is no “sheep” trick.  You “wool” trust me on this, won’t “ewe”?  For the “shear” delight of it all, grab a copy of LOBO # 55 before somebody “bleats” you to it – and all you can say is “Baaa!  Humbug!” 

Friday, September 27, 2013

Main Man Monday – Coming Up!

Thanks to DAFFY DUCK, we’re on a real roll with Comic Book Reviews here at TIAH BLOG! 

Merrily I (and my comics) roll along!  Woo-Woo!

And, with New York Comic Con, “coming to an Island of Manhattan near you” in little more than a week and an half, why not continue the comic reviews!  

In fact, I don’t think we’ve ever had two consecutive comic reviews since we began this Blog… and if we count “Teaser Posts” like this one we still won’t. 

Is Lobo "teasing you" with a song?

Be that as it may, let’s mark the week running up to New York Comic Con week with a review of a totally random issue of LOBO that I pulled out of the stack!  They’re ALL great so, no matter which one I review, we’ll have a good time. 

Could it be this one?

See you in three days for Main Man Monday!  ...Or, just click on the link in the paragraph above.   


Monday, September 23, 2013

Comic Book Review: DAFFY DUCK # 36 (February, 1964).

Comic Book Review:  DAFFY DUCK # 36 (February, 1964).

As we used to say in the old APA and Fanzine days… 

THE ISSUE AT HAND IS:  DAFFY DUCK # 36.  (Cover Date: February, 1964)
Published by Gold Key Comics. 

 Summary:  Daffy Duck, Michael Maltese, Phil DeLara, and an All Star Cast!  

Though actually released in November, 1963, DAFFY DUCK # 36 is still considered to be at the very start of the amazing “Prime Period” for Gold Key Comics, which ran from 1964 thru 1966.  More about that – and Gold Key Comics as a whole – can be found in THIS POST. 

 The DAFFY DUCK comic book series, from both Dell Comics as well as Gold Key, was most often written by the great Warner Bros. (and later Hanna-Barbera) cartoon writer Michael Maltese and drawn by Warner Bros. animator Phil DeLara. 

Too "late" for the "early" Daffy!
The comic book Daffy Duck came along a bit too late to reflect the truly “daffy” (lower case “d”) duck of the early Tex Avery and Bob Clampett cartoons, yet never adopted the transition to the “egotistical greedy coward” of the later Chuck Jones and Friz Freleng years.   Nor was he the fast-talking huckster of Robert McKimson’s shorts.   
I may be a "fast-talking huckster", but I'm a GREEEEDY "fast-talking huckster"!

 Instead, the comics Daffy remained squarely within the middle ground between zany and villainous, serving more as a pesky moocher and irritant, or all-purpose quarry, than anything else. 
Not too HOT, not too COLD... but JUUUST RIGHT!  Woo-Woo!
The formula was successful, insofar as he (and we readers) enjoyed many mooching misadventures with Elmer Fudd and Yosemite Sam and, for a while, was pursued by an unnamed fox (reflecting the Arthur Davis directed cartoon “What Makes Daffy Duck”, 1948) and later by the Tasmanian Devil. 

Say... What DOES make Daffy "duck"? 

...Perhaps, Arthur Davis knows! 
...Me not know!
Unlike most Dell and Gold Key comics, DAFFY DUCK did not begin with a long “adventure lead” story, as did similar comics like THIS ISSUE of PORKY PIG, and also THIS ONE.  Shorter gag stories made up the book for the entirety of the Dell and Gold Key runs. 

If you're lookin' for SHORT GAGS, you GOT 'EM, Fat-stuff!
 And, one thing I failed to mention in my lengthy Gold Key Comics post was that the DAFFY DUCK title – and ONLY the DAFFY DUCK title – exhibited a particular stylistic quirk:  Gaggy titles (presumably courtesy of writer Maltese) in large lettering, that would take up THREE FOURTHS of the left side of the opening splash panel of each story! 

No other Gold Key title did this, making DAFFY DUCK a most distinctive title, among an entire line of high-quality titles!   This practice began with the first Gold Key issue of the DAFFY DUCK title (# 31, 1962) and ran thru # 40 (released in December, 1964). 


After that, DAFFY DUCK ran mostly Dell reprints until issue # 72, cover dated November, 1971, when new stories would resume (more or less) until the end of the Gold Key / Whitman Comics period in 1984.  
Dell DAFFY (no "DUCK"?) # 14

Gold Key Reprint: DAFFY DUCK # 41.

New stories resume in DAFFY DUCK # 72...
...Until "The Bitter End" DAFFY DUCK # 145.

DAFFY DUCK # 34, cover dated September, 1963, highlighted this unusual graphic design aspect like no other issue.  It pictured Daffy posting billboards that were, in actuality, the splash pages of each Daffy Duck story in the issue!  Meta times five, I’d say! 

Click to enlarge for greater detail! 

But, there’s one additional facet to DAFFY DUCK # 36 in particular that makes it perhaps my most favorite issue of the run.  It’s that each of the five comic stories contained herein features one or more GUEST STARS from other Warner Bros. cartoons.  

So many GUEST STARS, it's like watching a DVD box set!

In the order presented, we have Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd, the Tasmanian Devil (not yet popularly known as “Taz), Yosemite Sam, and Foghorn Leghorn!  Tweety and Sylvester starred in a four-page “guest” story of their own, making this comic a singular Warner Bros. Bonanza! 
No, not THIS!
More like THIS!

I’ll never know if this star-studded line-up was assembled by editorial design or if the stories just happened to fall that way by chance, but such was not the norm for the DAFFY DUCK title. 
Elmer (especially) and Sam were fixtures of the title since the 1950s, and the Tasmanian Devil staked-out a regular corner of the book, once his popularly took off as a result of his appearances on the ABC prime-time BUGS BUNNY SHOW (1960-1962). 
On with the show, This is it!
…And Taz did appear in one classic-era cartoon with Daffy: “Ducking the Devil” (1957, directed by Robert McKimson) setting the precedent for his string of early-to-mid-sixties appearances in DAFFY DUCK. 

I'm "ducking - OUT!"
 But, despite being one of the best comedy duos in perhaps the history of animation (…and, if not all-time, CERTAINLY during the 1950s), Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck rarely, if ever, appeared together in the Dell and Gold Key comic books. 
And, anything made after the classic Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies notwithstanding, Daffy and Foghorn Leghorn shared the screen only once in “The High and the Flighty”(1955, also directed by Robert McKimson). 
There's that "fast-talking huckster" again!  "Pipe Full of Fun Kit # 7" is on special today!

 But, the gang’s all here and ready for action in DAFFY DUCK # 36!  

As is our custom in these reviews, we’ll break things into CONS and PROS -- and some other aspects. 


Can’t think of a single one!   It’s from Gold Key’s Prime Period, after all!  ...Be proud, Daffy!  be proud! 


 Michael Maltese and Phil DeLara:  You can’t have a more authentic “Warner Bros. Pedigree” than that, save editorial input by Chuck Jones, Friz Freleng, or Robert McKimson! 
Not even if Leon Schlesinger was publisher!

 32 Pages, All Comics:  No interior advertising!  You couldn’t ask more for your TWELVE CENTS!  The interior and back covers had ads, but why quibble over that.  Pay special attention to the inside front cover ad, illustrated later in this post. 

The Unusual Array of Guest Stars:  Almost all the Big WB names you could ask for! 
This 2003 vintage comic was great...

...but THIS 1963 comic did it first!
Ironically, given their incessant pair-ups to come at the end of the Looney Tunes and Merrie Meoldies era, Speedy Gonzales is absent from the book. 
So, tell me again why someone thought it was a good idea for you two to team up?
 So are the Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote, but they visited Daffy’s book very often during the seventies.   Even Merlin the Magic Mouse had his comic book debut in the DAFFY DUCK title, starting in 1968. 
DAFFY DUCK # 73 (Meep-Meep!) 

Just what Daffy needs after Speedy - more mice!

If memory serves, Pepe LePew may have had only one “guest story” in DAFFY DUCK over the years.  I suppose it’s a good thing that Elmer Fudd never shot Daffy’s beak off, while some incredible confluence of events resulted in a WHITE STRIPE being painted down Daffy’s back, setting up the typical “Pepe pursuit”! 
Um, don't look now, but that MIGHT be Daffy!

 Seriously, and on the other hand, for all the times they paired-up on screen, Porky Pig rarely found himself in the DAFFY DUCK title.  Yet, he was a fixture in BUGS BUNNY and, of course, his own title.  Go fig…   
"I'm a f-f-fixture here!"

"...And h-h-here!"

The Unusual Graphic Style of This Title:  As someone who loved creating my own titles for the Disney comic book stories I scripted (“Now Museum, Now You Don’t”, “Uncle Scrooge Meets the Synthezoid from the Deepest Void”, etc.), I really enjoyed what this book tended to do with story titles.  
Not only was each one a gag of its own, but highlighted as NO other comic book ever did!   I’d sure like to see a title of MINE, such as A Game of One-Cupmanship, given such a treatment! 
Imagine it BIG and down the side!

...Like THIS!

And, the ultimate “PRO” for any comic book…

The Stories:  All are Daffy Duck by Michael Maltese and Phil DeLara, unless otherwise specified.

Click on any of the comic page scans to enlarge.

“The Day Daffy and Bugs Bugged Elmer” (8 pg.):  Daffy and Bugs hold a “mooching contest” to see who can best “get the best” of Elmer Fudd.  Daffy falls behind early, filching some food, as Bugs makes off with the entire fridge!  The Duck cons Elmer out of his car, only to find that his Rabbit rival has already conned him out of his garage, etc.  The contest proceeds apace, until someone takes that proverbial “one-step-too-far”, resulting in disaster for all involved!  

 Oddly, Maltese appears to have written a similar contest tale for Yogi Bear and Snagglepuss (the latter being a character he wrote exclusively in animation) in Gold Key’s YOGI BEAR # 18.  The ending was different and both were great takes on all the characters involved. 
(…Though Hokey Wolf was many times the moocher Snagglepuss was, and would have been a natural for such a story, I’ll assume Maltese merely felt a greater preference for Ol’ Snag.)

Pardon me... I'm looking for the contest between the Rabbit and the Duck!

What's the big idea?  You don't look like Elmer Fudd... Or, do you?
You mean a Rabbit and a Duck did it first?   Guess it's back to H-B, for me!  Hey-hey-hee!

GOOD BIT:  Daffy challenges Bugs to their “mooching duel” by soundly slapping Bugs across the face with a glove – with his HAND still INSIDE!   “WHAP!”

BUGS: “Oww!  You’re supposed to take the glove OFF when you start a duel!

DAFFY:  Well, I can’t remember ALL the fine points!  I duel so seldom these days! 

“The Duck Who Came to Dinner” (5 pg.):  The Tasmanian Devil breaks zoo captivity and pursues Daffy.  For me, “Taz-Boy’s” appearances were always a true highlight of the DAFFY DUCK title!

GOOD BIT:  Taz grabs Daffy by one leg, as the duck takes to the air, in an attempt to escape.  They rise this way a fair distance off the ground. 

DAFFY:  Let go!  Let go!  (pauses, until next panel)  Simon says, ‘Let go’!

TAZ (Complies):  Grrrr!  That better!  Urk!  (Falls to the ground with a THUD!) 

DAFFY (Amazed that worked):  I guess they play that game in Tasmania, too! 

“A Duck Out of Water Can Get Dry” (7 pg.):  Unable to pay his “dock charges”, because the pirating business has been slow “…ever since they started hauling gold in TRAINS!”, Yosemite Sam is forced to move his pirate ship to Daffy’s home-swamp.  Don’t expect Daffy to take this lying down… or might that be “floating-face-down”? 

 GOOD BIT:  Daffy and Sam …er, “discuss” the matter. 

DAFFY:  This is MY SWAMP, and you CAN’T DOCK HERE!


DAFFY:  You and WHO ELSE says so?”

SAM (Draws his cutlass):  Me and MY FRIEND, here!

DAFFY (Retreating):  He’s got some PRETTY CONVINCING friends! 

 Tweety and Sylvester:  “A Bird Can Fly, but Can a Fly Bird?” (4 pg.):  Sylvester abandons bird-chasing to become a motorcycle hobbyist!   However, Tweety, feeling ignored (!), gets the notion in his “widdle head” to do some “cycle sabotage”. 

“An Alarm Clock is a Rooster’s Best Friend” (6 pg.):  Daffy covets Foghorn Leghorn’s “cushy” job as a barnyard rooster – and schemes to get the position for himself.  This is as close as the Dell and Gold Key Comics Daffy comes to the “greedy underhanded persona” of his later animated cartoons. 
Oh, Daffy, you greedy and underhanded rascal!

GOOD BIT:  Daffy encounters some unexpected first-day difficulties on the “roostering” job.

CAPTION: “But Daffy doesn’t do so well with the hens…”

HENS (Crying):  Boo Hoo!  We miss Foghorn!”

DAFFY (Awkward, yet simultaneously smarmy):  Why?  I’m much nicer!  Just ASK ME! 
A one page “text story” story of Little Pancho Vanilla (adding one more WB animated character – albeit an esoteric one – to the mix) and a one page Daffy and Elmer “hunting gag” round out the issue. 


 The Inside Front Cover Ad:  Check out the “Special Gold Key Comics Christmas Offer”!  Wow!  Even if I didn’t celebrate Christmas, I’d want most, if not all, of these!  Click to Enlarge!

OVERALL:  DAFFY DUCK # 36 is a special issue – even among a run of special issues! 

The creators, barely removed from the legendary “Termite Terrace” animation factory, and the guest stars that sprang from said factory, come together to assemble one of the very best Warner Bros. comic books – if not of all time, certainly of the Silver Age and beyond! 

 When actual Warner Bros. animation talent is involved, a closer adherence to the Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies we love is expected – and delivered!    
Duck Season!  Rabbit Season!  ...No, it's COMIC BOOK SEASON!

You can’t go wrong with DAFFY DUCK # 36.  It’s one of those rare comic books about which I can say:  If you read only ONE ISSUE of this title, THIS is the one to read!” 
I can only do my daredevil act "ONCE", by you can read this comic LOTSA times!

…Or, when you have a copy of DAFFY DUCK # 36, it’s ALWAYS “Duck Season” – without that “You’re despicable – beak shooting-off” part, that is!