Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Halloween Countdown Day 7 - The Fairy Faith (2001)

Theo: You're pretty hard-boiled, Tinkerbell.
Applecore: Call me that name again and you'll be wondering how your bollocks wound up lodged in your windpipe — from below. Just because we don't get to your side of things much anymore doesn't mean we don't know anything. 'If you believe in fairies, clap your hands!' If you believe in fairies, kiss my rosy pink arse is more like it. Now are you going to shut your gob or not?

Greetings my creepy cadre. This film is a unique one.

What is its place in the greater Halloween countdown scheme you ask? It is the only documentary on the list and it isn't necessarily scary nor horrific. What is interesting to me however, is that it is the only documentary that I know of that addresses the phenomena of Fairy belief as it exists today in areas such as Cape Breton, Ireland, and Scotland.

Director John Walker interviews people who believe in Fairies and while he does touch on the subject from a historical and folkloric perspective, the bulk of this film has to do with a modern perspective in the belief in and encounters with Fairies. The Fairy Faith is excellent overview of what role traditional beliefs play in a increasingly homogenous world. If you'd like some Halloween viewing that isn't going to turn your stomach, look no further.

                                   


Halloween Countdown Day 8 - The Horribly Slow Murderer with the Extremely Inefficient Weapon (2009)





I was digging through the recesses of the backlog when I rediscovered this lovely short. Filmed in California over the course of 22 days with a budget of a mere $600 dollars, this is one of the most entertaining and well produced fake trailers I have ever seen. Bilingual bonus for the character names Jack Cucchiaio and his arch nemesis, the Ginosaji.

But don't take my word for it. Why not check it out for yourself?

                                     

Until next time!

Halloween Countdown Day 9 - Walk Among Us (1982)

There must be some bugs running around my little old head. How could I have a Halloween series without at least once mentioning the Misfits?

The granddaddies of horror punk first got together in 1977 in Lodi, New Jersey. Their first album Walk Among Us was released a mere year before they broke up when lead vocalist and founder Glenn Danzig left to form his own group named (surprise) Danzig.

Y'see, what you've got here is 13 songs in a mere 25 minutes. Listening to this album is like watching every late night B-movie ever produced all at the same time while they're being fast forwarded through your ancient VCR.

Death, mayhem, Martians, zombies, werewolves and vampires. Glenn croons and groans his way through tunes that are catchy, fun, and timeless. The first time you get to hear his 'woaah woaah woaahs' being played over brutally sped up 1950's guitar riffs and the pounding drum work indeed. With a day from Halloween, this record deserves a spin. 

What is that you say? Don't own a copy. Well, good fortune for you! The whole thing is on Youtube.



Until next time.

The Colonel's Picks for October 30th, 2013


This week is what's known as a "fifth" week in the comic book world, so I expected a pretty short list. As it turns out, both the Big Two and a few other publishers made some big news this week, perhaps to attract some All Hollow’s Eve business..? But enough postulating, this Colonel is a reader, not a retailer!

The Fox #1 (Archie)

This was a last second addition to my stack this week, after hearing Dean Haspiel on Word Balloon just yesterday. His take on the photojournalist turned superhero sounded like a breath of fresh air and some much needed levity in a week that see planets exploding and dead Robins returning. Scripting the series with Mr. Haspiel is none other than Mark Waid! Waid's Daredevil is coming to an end soon, but this looks like a neat replacement. The Fox is also an MLJ hero from 1940, so bonus points for keeping a golden age character relevant.

Sandman Overture #1 (DC)

Neil Gaiman returns to the character that made him a household name to sooo many comic book fans. This is a prologue to the Sandman series, explaining how a two-bit warlock was able to imprison Dream in the first place. J.H. Williams II provides the art for this series, and fans of his work on Batwoman already know what a great fit he would be for the world of the Endless.

Damien: Son of Batman #1 (DC)

Damien Wayne quickly turned from message board fodder to a beloved addition to the Batman mythos in Grant Morrison's Batman run. Despite his death in Batman Inc., he appears to be all grown up here. Just how exactly DC plans on bringing him back to star in this miniseries by his co-creator Andy Kubert is beyond me. A parallel Earth? A tale from the Old 52? Who knows?

Saga #15 (Image)

It's been a while since I've checked in with Brian K. Vaughn and Fiona Staples's series. Despite not mentioning every issue in this here column, Saga is always a must-buy. One of the best comics on the racks from two of the best in the business, no doubt. This issue sees our parental protagonists looking a little more lustful than usual.

Cataclysm #0.1 (Marvel)

If an Ultimate Universe fell in the woods and no one was around to hear it, does anybody care? I guess you could say I'm morbidly curious about how Brian Bendis is going to wrap things up for Marvel's once mighty Ultimate line.

Not a bad haul for a fifth week! As always, check this space daily for new rambling about comic book history and be on the lookout for new episode of the CoH Podcast! Also, check out Real Men in This Town, a new podcast by Adam Lopez and Seth Pasahow, allies of the Club of Heroes!

Cheers.

 

Friday, October 25, 2013

Halloween Countdown Day 10 - Death Jr






Greetings ghouls, this particular Halloween post concerns a comic book that I just don't hear enough about these days, a series by Gary Whitta and illustrated by Ted Naifeh called Death Jr. It is rare that a comic for children can mesh so well with adults too. In fact, this is the very thing that made Pixar so popular in the past, getting in that niche of honesty that appeals to adults and their parents. Without hesitation, I can say that this series is every bit as good as any Pixar movie.



Hysterically funny with sharp observations concerning suburban life comes this tale about DJ (or Death Junior.) making his way through the world as he tries to win his dad's approval and survive middle school. But DJ isn't the kind of kid to let things get him down, even if houseplants and cats have a tendency to die in his wake. Needless to say, bad stuff ensues as DJ finds himself and his buddies opening a mysterious box at a museum exhibit with unusual consequences as DJ and his friends have to save the day.



Gary Whitta handles this story masterfully. As it was produced for the Death Jr video game, this could have been a tossaway rag, but he carefully constructs a modern fable enjoyable to adults and children alike. Ted Niafeh's art compliments Whitta's pose in a manner that reminds me a bit of the visual stylings of early Tim Burton films like Edward Scissorhands particularly in the way it handles real life lessons about difficult subjects while retaining a sense of kooky fun and optimism.

It's the most fun you'll have reliving your middle school years, so why not give it a try? As always, until next time.




Halloween Countdown Day 11 - Halloween Wars


Greetings kiddies, your ol' pal Eerie Evan is back once again. I've got a guilty pleasure this Halloween season, and it's name is the Food Network's Halloween Wars. A bunch of teams consisting of pumpkin carvers, candy pullers and other assorted confectionists duke it out to impress judges with their scariest work. As if this wasn't enough fun, you've got people like Rob Zombie, Tony Todd and Charlaine Harris as guest judges!  

                                       

So far, I've looked forward to every episode (compared to most of the stuff on basic cable, this is gold) but there isn't much run time left if you want to check it out. October 27th is the final air time, at 8 central. Trust me, (and why wouldn't you?) if you have any interest in cooking at all you should check it out. I've included a Youtube video below with a few choice cuts, should you be so inclined.

Until next time.

                                  

Halloween Countdown Day 12 - Opus Eponymous (2010)


Eerie Evan here with yet another Halloween countdown post. From the frost-bitten lands of Sweden, comes Ghost with their debut album Opus Eponymous. When I first encountered Ghost, it was entirely by chance. They were the opening act of a Mastodon/Opeth double header, and I was more excited about seeing the them rather than Ghost. In fact, I'd never heard of them. I didn't expect much, but boy, was I wrong.

Fog machines basked the stage as dim green lights gave an eerie glow to the set. Papa Emeritus I, dressed like an unholy cardinal swung a thurible as he came onto stage. His nameless flock of ghouls shuffled behind him, heads bowed in piety as organ music piped through the speakers. Silently, without saying a word, they took to their instruments, as Emeritus I approached the microphone stand. "Greetings to the Body of Christ...we are Ghost." Emeritus spoke with a voice that sounded like if Vincent Price and the Cryptkeeper had a love child. The yells of the crowd were silenced as Emeritus raised his hands. A nameless ghoul strummed a power chord off of a guitar, another snapped the snare drum twice.

                                                                                 
                              

Emeritus leaned in, addressing the audience. We were hooked. "Let us begin our Ritual." Before I left that evening, I purchased both a Ghost shirt and their album. To make a point, I almost never spend money at concerts beyond buying tickets.


                                                                        

                                        

Opus Eponymous
was my first album purchase in years, and it has a solid place in my collection. Visuals aside, they resemble something like Blue Oyster Occult or Mercyful Fate as far as musical comparisons, but that in itself would be limiting. Instead, I'll just say that they resemble the metal of the late 70s or early 80s during the "Satanic Panic" with driving riffs, catchy choruses and even keyboard work. The vocals have an aetheric, unearthly quality to them (appropriate, given their name!), which is a nice change of pace given the either Death Growly or Screamy kinds of vocals that metal tends to pin itself today with the desire for louder and harsher music.

The production is just right as well, as it's not too quite, but neither is it loud. Instead, it is at a happy medium. I was pleasantly surprised in particular when I could hear the bass. Lyrically, the music displays a songwriter's obsession with Satan, which is something that would annoy me if they weren't self-aware of their image. This is what gives Ghost it's undeniable charm. It knows that it is the music that your mom worried about you listening too when you were growing up. This tongue and cheek wink and a nod to that goat footed horned guy is honestly too funny to take with any seriousness.

What would this LP go perfectly with? Well, if you feel like popping in a copy of Castlevania for the NES, this is your soundtrack to slaying Dracula. If you'd like a change of pace from the current metal trends, Ghost is your ticket. An album link lies below. Until next time kiddies.



                                          


The Club of Heroes Episode 53: Chris Talks Comics


Chris flies solo in this episode and talks about some comics and books about comics that he's read recently. He's going to talk to himself anyway, so why not record it! Supergods, Strangers in Paradise, Claremont's X-Men, Starlin's Warlock, and more! Evan will be back next episode for more Marvel history.

You can download or listen to the episode HERE!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

The Colonel's Picks for October 23rd, 2013


Another great week for comics, folks! There are two huge debuts from Image today and some very interesting stuff coming from the Big Two. Plus, a cartoon icon of the last decade finally makes the leap into comics.

Justice League #24 (DC)

"The Justice League is DEAD!" Geoff Johns and his pals in the Crime Syndicate have done the unthinkable. Along with his artistic partner in crime Ivan Reis, this issue focuses on the Syndicate as they divvy up the world and begin phase two of their hostile takeover. This issue promises a confrontation between Shazam baddie Black Adam and the evil Super dude of Earth-3 Ultraman. While the Trinity War and the first issue of Forever Evil left me cold so far, I'm interested to see what Johns and Reis do with the CSA.

Samurai Jack #1 (IDW)

Once a staple of my Saturday morning cartoon diet, Samurai Jack now stars in a brand new series by Skullkicker's Jim Zub and artist Andy Suriano. The series creator, Gennedy Tartakovsky is involved in the comic as well, and should be a proper successor to the cartoon with his oversight. How does one of the most visually stimulating cartoons of the modern era translate to comics books? I'm eager to find out.

Pretty Deadly #1 (Image)

Kelly Sue DeConnick and Emma Rios present a Western story that combines Marquez's magical realism with True Grit. This series follows Death's daughter on a mission of retribution. DeConnick's work on Captain Marvel and her previous collaboration with Rios on the Osborn miniseries are solid works and without the restraints of working for merry Marvel, this comic could be something really special.

Velvet #1 (Image)

Ed Brubaker and Steve Epting brought Captain America back to the forefront of the Marvel Universe by injecting the book with lots of wartime and espionage elements. This new series should be right up your alley if their run on Cap captured your imagination. Actually, I'd go out on a limb and say this is going to be a very big deal, so you might be kicking yourself later if you don't get onboard with issue one.

Superior Spider-Man Team Up #5 (Marvel)

As you've probably heard by now, your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man isn't quite as friendly these days since having his brain switched with the deadly Doctor Octopus. Doc Ock/Spidey seems to be on the side of the angels for now, but this issue finds our hero assembling a new Sinister Six. That sound you hear may just be the other shoe dropping. Chris Yost writes it, Marco Checchetto draws it, and Paolo Rivera wraps it in a beautiful cover.

Young Avengers #11 (Marvel)

Even if you haven't been following this fantastic series by Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie, this is a can't-miss issue. I heard on the spoiler grapevine that something very interesting will be happening with a certain Young Loki. Loki is set to star in a new series next year and this should be setting the stage for that, not to mention all the other crazy good stuff that happens in just about every issue of Young Avengers.

And that's a wrap. Six great books to look for plus new issues of Daredevil and Sex Criminals (which have been featured previously in this very column). Stop slacking and run, don't walk, to your LCS of choice and tell 'em the Colonel sent ya! Also, I recommend checking this space daily for Evan Arnold's Halloween Countdown, new episodes of the CoH Podcast, and Chris's irreverent ramblings!

Cheers.

 

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

All-Winners and Not-Quites


In 1939, Marvel Comics #1 introduced The Human Torch and Namor the Sub-Mariner, marking the beginning of the Timely era of comics. With the creation of Captain America a short while later, there formed a trifecta of three mighty super heroes who would storm Nazi-occupied Europe and take the fight to the Axis. The trio of Cap, Torch, and Namor would remain the most popular Timely heroes for the rest of the decade, rivaled only by the mystery men in other publishers' titles. I've talked a little about those three, as well as Joe Simon's Fiery Mask character, in my previous columns. Today, the spotlight falls on some of the lesser characters who co-starred in books like Marvel Mystery Comics, Mystic Comics, and Daring. These characters all had fan bases of their own however, and some would even be revived in the silver age, although sometimes in name only.

Also appearing in the fateful publication of Marvel Comics #1 was the Angel, a powerless and maskless costumed defender of the home front. Created by Paul Gustavon in 1939 and originally envisioned as a pulp character, the Angel was born Thomas Halloway, the son of a prison warden who learns various tricks and trades from the inmates in his father's stead. Angel waged a one man campaign against the foreign saboteur known as the Cat's Paw. He is sometimes aided in his fight by the Mystic Cape of Mercury, that allows him flight, but he would more often ride into battle on his signature motorcycle. Gustavon's Angel is the link between the coming age of super-powered heroes and the mystery men of the past. The Angel is a pulp character at heart and filled that niche quite nicely, remaining Timely's most popular character outside of the the Big Three (Cap, Torch, Namor).
A lesser known heroine of Marvel/Timely's Golden Age is Claire Voyant, the original Black Widow. Her tie to the silver age iteration of the character, Natasha Romanov is in name alone. This Black Widow was a "spiritual medium" who would communicate with the dead and even encounter Satan himself in her adventures. She made a whopping five appearances in the Golden Age, all written and drawn by George Kapitan and Harry Sahle. The first of which was in 1940's Mystic Comics #4, where the narration warns the reader of "the strangest, most terrifying character in action picture magazines!" She is Timely's ultimate femme fatale, and her appearance that of the classic "bad girl" archetype. In her first appearance, she puts a curse on an unsuspecting family at the Devil's request, and is gunned down by the family's sole survivor. After her subsequent journey into Hell and back, she is granted a spider themed costume and an even more frightening set of supernatural gifts. Another leftover from the pulp and horror mags that Martin Goodman loved so much in his early years as a publisher, she never made as big an impact on the Timely readership as her bombastic opening narration promised.

Prior to the Fantastic Four, Stan Lee's most popular superhero creation is The Destroyer, whose adventures he penned with artist Jack Binder. I may be erroneously giving Binder the art credit here, as he and several others including Alex Schomberg all have a claim to the character's earliest episodes. The Destroyer is Keen Marlowe, a journalist trapped behind enemy lines in Nazi Germany. He is placed in a concentration camp and given a mysterious formula by a fellow prisoner that, like Captain America, gives him peak human physical prowess. This story appeared in 1941's Mystic Comics #6, at a time when concentration camps were known of but the scope of the Holocaust had yet to be revealed in full. Nonetheless, it's an interesting origin story in retrospect, as his time in the camp, along with the ghoulish skull-themed costume he would later don, makes him out to be a grittier version of the sparkling and shining Captain America. Also like Cap, The Destroyer fought the Nazis on their own turf from the beginning, reinforcing the Timely heroes’ status as freedom fighters on the front line. Like The Angel, he's one of the more popular characters outside of the trifecta, starring in over one hundred of his own adventures throughout the forties.

Not to be confused with the Quality Comics character of the same name, Miss America was one of the most prominent female superheroes since William Marston's Wonder Woman had struck a vein in 1940. Created by Otto Binder and Al Gabrielle, and featuring a cover by female artist Pauline Loth, she first appeared in 1943's Marvel Mystery Comics #49. By this time, the Timely universe of characters was rolling along quite well, but most of the female characters like Blonde Phantom and Venus had faded in favor of career woman characters like Millie the Model. As a matter of fact, not long after this the entire superhero bubble would burst. Miss America would star in her own spin off series entitled Miss America Comics the very next year (1944), but the superhero strips within were soon relegated to back-up features in favor of romance stories and other genres. Madeline Joyce was a socially aware teenage girl who wanted to help the Allies in any way possible and received an array of super powers from an experimental device that belonged to her wealthy father's scientist friend. Armed with super strength and a patriotically themed costume, she would fight alongside heroes like The Whizzer and Captain America in the All-Winners Squad, a team book akin to the Invaders, but with a larger roster and a wider variety of threats to face.
Last but not least, we have Marvel Boy, a character who would exist in several iterations even within the Golden Age and be revived in the Atlas era. The original Marvel Boy debuted in Daring Mystery Comics #6 in 1940. A lad with the powers of Hercules who dons a costume and joins the fight against tyranny. He was a Simon and Kirby creation, but never really took off, only appearing in two stories. Bob Oksner took a crack at revising the characters origin and playing up his role as a demigod of sorts, but again the strip never exploded onto the scene the way Torch and Namor did. I mention him here because I feel Marvel Boy is a sort of predecessor to Lee and Kirby's Thor in the Silver Age. The Golden Age Marvel Boy represents the ever-present link between superheroes and mythology. The character and named would later has cosmic connotations, as his powers and adventures would later be more science fiction and space-travel based. Despite his namesake, Marvel Boy was never the poster child for Timely, but more likely an attempt to cash in on the good name of Fawcett Comic's Captain Marvel and make a side buck off of confused potential readers.

These are just a few examples, and in the cases of Miss America and The Destroyer, the more popular ones. Next time, I plan to reveal some more obscure characters from the Golden Age, including my favorite oddball hero Marvex the Super Robot, and get into some Timely Bullpen politics. Bet you thought making comic books was all fun and games?

 

Monday, October 21, 2013

The Club of Heroes Episode 52: Pep & Prehistory


The next phase begins! Evan and Chris explore the history of Marvel, starting in 1939 with the debut of a little publisher called Timely. A collection of rogue writers and artists unlike any the primitive comics world had ever seen lay the foundation for the Marvel universe decades in the future. It's yet another journey into the past with your favorite budding armchair historians!

You can download or listen to the episode right HERE!

Sunday, October 20, 2013

The Grand Old Flag has fists



The year was 1939. Timely Comics publisher Martin Goodman had a hit on his hands with Carl Burgos' Human Torch character. The blazing android had found a leyline of intersecting pulp and science fiction themes that resonated with fans. Goodman urged Lloyd Jaquet, who at this time was the head of Funnies Inc., a comic book "packager" that supplied original content to publishers who were just dipping their toes in the medium, to create another fire-based hero and hopefully emulate and duplicate the success of the Torch. The talented and always dapper Joe Simon (his father was a tailor after all) was tasked with creating such a character.

Simon was a freelance artist whose illustrations could be found on the Paramount Theatre's production photos and in the pages of True Story magazine. Like many artists of the day, Simon even worked under various pseudonyms like "Gregory Sykes" to diversify his workload without alienating a potential employer. The creators were mystery men themselves, rushing from studio to studio handing off samples and completed works. Never wanting to be pigeon-holed in a single genre, the talented Mr. Simon would drop off a jungle-lord story here and western story there, all the while aspiring to make it big with a syndicated strip like the peerless Milton Caniff had done with Terry and the Pirates.

Jaquet asked and Simon delivered with his first heroic creation, the Fiery Mask. History shows the Fiery Mask would never attain the same popularity and longevity that the Torch had, but it certainly could've. The strip featured the same combination of bombastic heroics and science fiction that gave the Torch series legs, but with an even more tangible element of horror. Somehow, the Fiery Mask's world was bleaker and his adventures quite macabre. The first story follows scientist Jack Castle as he aids the police in investigating a disturbing trend among the city’s homeless; they are being repurposed as brainwashed zombies by a twenty foot tall madman called the Zombie Master. The Master is defeated by Castle's cunning and his own exploding ray device, which in turn gives Jack Castle a seemingly random set of superpowers. Castle dons a literal Fiery Mask and uses his Superman-like abilities and deadly pyrokenesis to fight crime and Nazi Saboteurs in the Golden Age. His control over fire is similar to DC's Green Lantern. The Fiery Mask could've been a contender, but it was not to be in the long run. Much of Simon's early work is in the shadow of Burgos's Human Torch; his Red Raven series faltered as well and was replaced by a Human Torch- dedicated title.

Simon's skill set grew, as did his reputation in the comic book field. Transitioning into 1940, Timely is no longer just a publisher outsourcing to freelance offices like Funnies Inc. for original content. Timely is a comic book entity unto itself now, and Joe Simon becomes their very first editor. Simon's specialty was speaking the artists' language, and along with Goodman's money, they lured away a young prospect who was building a reputation of his own at Fox comics: Jacob Kurtzberg. Kurtzberg is probably better known by his handle, Jack Kirby. The Simon and Kirby collaboration produced something bigger than either man could achieve on his own. Similar to the Fiery Mask and Human Torch, Simon and Kirby would try and re-create the success of another emerging hero type: the star-spangled patriot. Captain America, the ultimate super-soldier, would be the result.

Something about a superhero that is practically wearing a nation's flag has always interested me. Nearly all of the masked heroes and mystery men were American patriots, but none as literal as the Captain. Would-be army Private Steve Rogers was deemed 4F and rejected from basic training. Eager to serve his country by any means possible, he is blasted with vita-rays by the enigmatic Professor Reinstein (later retconned to Erskine) and unleashed on the battlefield with a peak human physique and the brain of a master tactician. Dr. Reinstein's Vita-Rays were a heavenly boon and Steve Rogers was an avenging angel against the tyranny of the emerging Third Reich. Comic book heroes would take up the fight against the Axis even before America herself, and for an industry almost entirely made up of Jewish immigrants and second generation immigrants, it should come as no surprise.

Captain America Comics hit the stands in December 1940, a year before the bombing of Pearl Harbor and was a smash hit, selling nearly a million copies. The very first issue features the good Captain punching Adolf Hitler right in the jaw. Comic books, as usual, were ahead of the curve. Fighting monster and "Zombie Masters" on the home front was getting stale, especially with the biggest super villain in the world rampaging through real life Europe. As I mentioned in my posts about the Human Torch and Sub-Mariner, Captain America would eventually team up with these other heroes on the battlefield. Cap's faithful sidekick Bucky would even lead a team of child soldiers called the Young Allies. Between this coalition and the Justice Society of America over at National (who were prevented from joining the fight overseas due to Hitler arming himself with the Spear of Destiny, but that's a story for another time), the concept of the superhero team was gaining traction and Marvel's shared universe was tighter than ever. It began with a clash between the Torch and Namor, and now the heroes were co-starring in each other’s mags more and more often. This would be the Marvel universe.

There are many other Golden Age heroes and creators who deserve a spotlight like this, and I'll cover a few more before I move on. The Timely era was the heyday of the superhero at this proto-Marvel Comics, but it would run out of steam in the post-war years. Other genres would get their turn in the limelight and a new generation of artists would emerge. The superhero (at least on the Timely/Atlas side) would remain dormant for a spell, until Jack Kirby and Stan Lee would blow the roof off the joint with the Fantastic Four. 

There's also more to say about the Simon and Kirby duo; their clashes with Goodman over royalties, and the clash they would have with each other over who did what on those early issues. Conflicts raged not only on the page, but in the bullpen as well.

 

Saturday, October 19, 2013

The History of War Comics Playlist

On the next episode of the Club of Heroes podcast, Chris and Evan begin the next phase of their historical exploration of the comic book industry. In the meantime check out their war comics retrospective, spanning the entire spectrum of conflict throughout history. Enjoy!

Part 1: Ground Zero

Part 2: Johnny Got His Gun

Part 3: Only The Dead Have Seen The End

Part 4: Super Green Beret Summer Vacation

Part 5: Too Hot To Handle, Too Cold To Hold

Part 6: A Real Murican Hero

Part 7: The One That Almost Wasn't

Part 8: Fight Terror

Friday, October 18, 2013

Halloween Countdown Day 13 - Tucker & Dale VS Evil (2011)

"It's true Chad, you're half hillbilly."
Allison
Welcome to yet another Halloween Countdown post, I'm your host and purveyor of the putrid, Eerie Evan. While this isn't exactly what you'd call a scary movie, it is certainly among the more unique offerings in recent years, and for those of you looking for a healthy dose of gallows humor with your autumnal film watching this season, look no more than this film directed by Eli Craig, appropriated titled Tucker & Dale VS Evil.

                                       
This may be the most fun you'll have for Halloween movies, as it takes the convention of the killer rural dwellers that we've seen established in previous movies (Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Hills Have Eyes, Friday the 13th)and turns the trope on its head. Tucker (Tudyk) and Dale (Labine) are headed up to hang out a fixer-upper-cabin that Tucker purchased for the weekend, while at the same time a bunch of very kill-able (I swear that they're just like ketchup packets) college students head up to vacation at a nearby lake, yadda yadda, some people aren't going to be back for midterms. You've heard this set-up a million times before I'm sure, this is where the movie starts to shine.

When the two groups initially meet, the college students think Tucker and Dale are stereotypical tabaccky spitting woods dwellers, when we've have a previous established scene where it shows that Tucker and Dale are just ordinary people who will soon be unwittingly caught up in a crazy web of accidental deaths, misunderstandings, and bees. BEEEEEES.

One unfortunate visit to the lake with both parties present is enough to convince the college kids that Tucker and Dale are hillbilly psychos who have kidnapped one of their own...of course this is totally, completely, wrong. Our college students take on Tucker and Dale, and in the resulting wackiness ended up killing themselves. Whether they're accidentally tossing themselves into Wood chippers, running into tree limbs, or setting themselves on fire Tucker and Dale are utterly flummoxed by these 20 something year olds killing themselves all over their property.

                                                                                         

And when you aren't laughing your head off at the satire of the conventions of the genre or the unfortunate ends of our would-be heroes also works as a demonstration of why we shouldn't be quick to judge people. Mostly because you might end up running into a wood chipper. 

Usually I'd toss in the trailer here, because it ruins the movie I'm not going too. Instead, you'll be able to watch this one on Netflix and I do urge you to check it out, this one is way up there with Army of Darkness as far as horror comedies go. Don't miss it!     

Halloween Countdown Day 14 - Hell No (2013)

Greetings and salutations my fellow fiends, Eerie Evan bringing you yet another Halloween countdown post. Now, I've seen a lot of horror films in my days, but I've never seen something quite like this. I can't describe Hell No and do it justice, so I'll just let the trailer speak for itself.




I can't wait for this one to come out!

Halloween Countdown Day 15 - The Changeling (1980)


"That house is not fit to live in. No one's been able to live in it. It doesn't want people."
Minnie Huxley

You know my fellow fiends, there is nothing quite as unnerving as a good haunted house story. Perhaps because there is such an unsettling quality about a home being violated so blatantly by supernatural elements. We would like to think of our homes as places of rest and retreat from the world, beyond the reproach of spirits or salesman for that matter. This, coupled with themes of loss and despondency is what makes The Changeling one of the most frightening movies I've ever seen.

Make no mistake however, this flick does have its flaws. In particular it suffers from being a relic of the time (70's style pacing, a cheesy line or two, being a little longer than what a modern audience would find palatable) despite all this, I still think it is vastly underrated. The opening is utterly devastating. John Russell (George C. Scott) watches from a phonebooth as his wife and daughter are crushed underneath the wheels of a car after it loses control. Although this scene isn't terribly graphic, it doesn't need to be. It is very clear that this character has lost everything in a freak accident that could happen to anybody.

                                    

Unable to cope with the loss of his wife and child, he packs up his bags and moves to a mansion in Seattle. As he slowly starts to put his life back together, teaching music at a nearby college (Seattle U. perhaps?), odd things begin happening. Russell funnels his grief into uncovering what is going on in his new home. He finds a false wall and opens it to find a room within...this film is obscure enough that I won't spoil the rest, but I will say that the twists and turns that this film takes will keep even seasoned horror film goers guessing.

                                    

Speaking of grief and despondency, Russell is largely alone throughout this movie. The creaking mansion that he rents out looms over his sense of loss and hopelessness. The atmosphere of the house is thick with an air of melancholy that is only made worse by Russell's despair which is movingly tied together with the film's score. The tragic underpinnings of the music played throughout the film are filled with the undertow of a quiet, unsettling menace.

Don't expect any kind of Poltergeist over-the-top style  hauntings here, but what you can expect is a bunch of really unnerving, unexpected scenes. Like the one where a ball that Russell keeps as a momento of his dead daughter rolls down the stairs.

                                        

As per usual, I've included the trailer below. Until next time.

                                     

Thursday, October 17, 2013

The Club of Heroes Podcast Episode 51: Fight Terror


Special guest Matt joins Chris and Evan as they wrap up their discussion on war comics and the impact 9/11 had on the comic book industry. The works of Art Spiegelman, Joe Sacco, Jason Aaron, and Garth Ennis all get a mention. And fasten your seatbelts as Evan recounts the story of Drummer Driver!

You can download or listen to the episode HERE!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The Colonel's Picks for October 16th, 2013

The 2013 New York Comic-Con has come and gone, leaving exciting announcments and surprise reveals in its wake for the fan community to chew on heading into next year. Whether it's Neil Gaiman and Mark Buckingham returning to Marvelman or the upcoming Jim Steranko and Jack Kirby Artist Edition volumes, 2014 is gonna be a kick-ass year for everyone but my wallet. Luckily, the pile this week is pretty thin so maybe I can start saving now. Here's what I'll be checking out today at my LCS of choice!

Imagine Agents #1 (Boom!)

The concept alone makes this new series by Brian Joines and Bachan sound like a winner: one part Men in Black, one part Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends, this comic stars the Agents of I.M.A.G.I.N.E. as they try to wrangle out of control imaginary friends from their equally combustable young creators. Boom! has a great track record with kids comics that transcend their intended age group, so if you just want a fun comic, give this one a try.

Bloodhound: Crowbar Medicine #1 (Dark Horse)

Dan Jolley and Leonard Kirk revive reformed convict Travis Clevenger for a new action packed romp. The rights to Jolley's creation Bloodhound finally reverted to Jolley from DC last year and now the story can commence without any of that pesky editorial interference or mandatory tie-in issues starring Firestorm. If you like films like Walking Tall, this series is right up your alley. Kirk is a hell of an artist by the way, and was really strutting his stuff on Peter David's X-Factor run until recently.

Star Trek: Khan #1 (IDW)

It's the shocking origin of Khan Noonien Singh presented in the form of a lovely comic book by Mike Johnson, Claudia Balboni, and Paul Shipper. This isn't your daddy's Khan either, this is the sexy new version based visually on actor Benedict Cumberbatch. It's Khan, so I'm sure there will be some Eugenics Wars and some rising to power and all that good stuff.

Letter 44 #1 (Oni Press)

Charles Soule (there's that name again) and Alberto Albequerque blends history, space travel, and West Wing-style intrigue in a new series from Oni Press. President Elect Stephen Blades walks into the oval office on his first day on the job and discovers a letter left by his predecessor revealing the truth behind the U.S.A.'s forays into space travel. Mums the word on extraplanetary affairs like this one, but can President Blades keep a lid on the coming threat from beyond the stars?

And before you return to your regularly scheduled web browsing and forum chattery, be sure to check out Mr. Arnold's Halloween Countdown and Mr. Bearden's Missives on Marvel History. And if audio stimulation is more your bag, then check out the latest CoH Podcast, Episode #51, where the gang takes a look at war comics in the modern era!

"Excelsior!" oops. . . .I meant "Cheers."

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Halloween Countdown Day 16 - Hellraiser (1987)

"We have such sights to show you."Pinhead.
  Hello hello, your ol' pal eerie Evan again. This time, we're going to take a little trip down memory lane to revisit a film that I hold quite dear. Hellraiser, by Clive Barker. I hold this film in very high esteem, as it's on the same level of Phantasm for me. This film is about as dark as mainstream horror flicks get, and the first two films in the series are brilliant movies. It erodes quickly after that, but hey, they can't all be zingers.

The plot, while simple enough isn't padded and doesn't pander to you. There is a puzzle box that looks simple enough, but when opened causes an experience in which pain and pleasure is indivisible. Nihilist and overall jerkass Frank Cotton finds the puzzle box and opens it... where he goes straight to pieces.

When Cotton's relatives move into his place, all is well and good until someone cuts their hand on the third floor, leaving just enough blood behind to bring a little bit of Frank back from the realm of the Cenobites. Naturally, they don't like this.

I always found Pinhead, even before he was called that to be the most unsettling of the Cenobites. Something about the 'fearful symmetry' of the perfect spacing of cuts and pins on his head just stood out too me to be utterly unnerving. The Cenobites are some of the most unusual and compelling horror creatures I've seen in a movie. Explorers on the edge of pain and pleasure, they attract people who are hopelessly addicted to the extremes of sensation.

This is vastly different than say, a masked madman hacking up normal people. The Cenobites only show up because you asked them too. They only take you because you asked them too. They aren't evil, hell, they don't even have a conventional morality. They are effectively the High Priests and Priestesses of an S&M religion too extreme for humans to even begin to understand. This is the kind of complexity I like to see in a horror flick!

The film is dark and grainy, with a sort of raw grittiness that resembles things like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Barker has a way of making the grotesque and grim appealing, beautiful even and that matches the tone of the movie just so. In fact, there are a lot of German Expressionism/Noir overtones with the grainy, dark look of the film which emphasizes shadows and impossible geometry (particularly in the hell-dimension scene). Even daytime scenes have washed out, dirty, grainy colors.

While the Cenobites are great, the human actors aren't any less marvelous. There is a real depth to the portrayal the actors bring that makes the whole thing seem real. When Frank uses his former affair with his brother's wife to pressure her to bring him more bodies so that he can walk again, it is chilling. The real evil here isn't the Cenobites at all. It is in Frank's desire to become human again, and Julia's willingness to destroy innocent lives so that he might live once more. In fact, you take away the Cenobites and the puzzle box, and you'd have a domestic horror story on your hands.

The score by Christopher Young? Powerful stuff. Reminds me of Danny Elfman's Batman score. So in short, if you've never read anything by Clive Barker or watched his films, I'd heartily recommend Hellraiser.



 

A freak in the service of chaos


What I find most remarkable about the Golden Age of Marvel Comics, or Timely as it was known back then, is the violent, anti-social nature of the heroes. I think readers in the modern era have these notions about the Golden Age heroes being friendly and good-natured and the relative simplicity of the artwork and storytelling seems to support that in some strange way. In fact, the earliest Marvel heroes were monsters and outcasts, with the exception of the Angel, who was really more of a stock, pulp-inspired character meant to fill some imaginary quota of crime stories in a magazine full of science fiction weirdos.

Yesterday I took a look at Carl Burgos' Human Torch, a flaming man-monster whose earliest adventures read like Shelley's Frankenstein, albeit without any real subtext. The character itself preyed on some very prominent fears of the time. While a great portion of the population looked to science as salvation for the brutal daily life of the working man, the unexplored frontiers in scientific discovery also created a mild hysteria in the minds of some. The comic book greats of the time were almost notorious for latching onto those cultural insecurities and crafting a story or character to exploit them in the most extreme fashion. Today, I'm looking at Bill Everett and Namor, The Sub-Mariner. Everett's undersea conqueror seemed to spring from another set of fears. The fear of a foreign superpower.

Unlike the Torch, Namor didn't appear to be American, and his adventures often didn't take place on American soil. He was a distant threat, lashing out at man on the high seas and biding his time until he would strike Manhattan with a massive tidal wave. He was already on a collision course with the other Timely characters. Namor was a powerful character though, not just a two-fisted crime buster or a wild man of the jungle. No sir, only one other Timely character of the time was even close to a match for the Sub-Mariner's power and ferocity: The Human Torch. Their clash was inevitable.

Before diving into (see what I did there) what is possibly the first comic book crossover, if not the first really action-packed one, let's look at Bill Everett for a moment. Everett was as rich a character as any of his creations, and with just a quick glance at his personal life and adolescence, it's easy to see that Namor's rage against the world comes from a very real place. As a child, Everett was stricken with tuberculosis at least twice and moved back and forth between his father's estate in Maine and Arizona to recuperate. Young and sickly, Everett's transition into his teen years led to a menagerie of bad habits including alcoholism and a hefty smoking habit. By his late teens, Everett was an accomplished drinker and a three pack a day smoker who wouldn't allow his body to properly bounce back until decades later.

But young men were simply made of different stuff back in those days, and Everett's health issues and various dependencies didn't hinder his entrance into the world of comic books one bit. Like Burgos, Everett dropped out of art school, in this case the Vesper George School of Art. As a reckless teen who lashed out against his proper upbringing, Everett was a handful, bouncing from school to school and burning those all-important bridges of a young socialite. Maybe his father envisioned he would take over the family trucking business or seek a professional career in the fine arts, but it was not meant to be. Everett himself claims his father wanted him to be a cartoonist, but died of appendicitis when Bill was only 16 and never lived to see his son break into the world of cartooning.

Everett's early forays into professional art fit the profile of a young man who was raging and restless, and he was once let go of his position as art editor of Radio News publications for being "too cocky". Already, in the first twenty-some years of Everett's life, the character of Namor is forming in his psyche. I'd imagine the chronic drinking didn't help either. He made his bread and butter producing a strip called Skyrocket Steele for Centaur Comics. Not long after this, Everett went to work for Lloyd Jaquet's studio and crossed paths with Burgos and other emerging comic book makers of the Golden Age. Marvel Comics #1, and the official debut of the Sub-Mariner came immediately after (Everett produced a prototype story for what was going to be a giveaway mag at movie theatres, but it never went into production). The character was derivative of Everett's favorite stories, Coleridge's Rime of the Ancient Mariner and Mercury by Giambologna.

Unique to the Sub-Mariner and his future rival the Human Torch is the fact that they were presented as enemies of society. Prince Namor even looked at America with disdain, far from the jingoistic pinings of other mystery men of the time. His appearance was foreign and his head had an odd shape. He wasn't the least bit dashing. Namor's early adventures saw him terrorizing anyone who dared sail into his territory, and his ruthlessness and power were rivaled only by a few other comic book characters of the time. Only Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster's Superman may have been a match for the angry Prince of the Seas at this point but alas, fans even then knew a National character would never meet a Timely character.

Not long after his debut, Namor is seen by readers sinking German U-boats and his slow transition into a reluctant ally of the other Timely heroes has begun. The enemy of my enemy is my friend was clearly the mentality, and Namor would set aside his grudges to join in the Allied effort, at least temporarily. Like the Torch, Namor would later team with Captain America on the battlefield, and their collective Nazi-stomping strike force would come to be known as The Invaders. Namor would even develop sidekick types in the form of Atlantean cousins Namora and Dorma. While Namor never stopped being a destructive force, attaching these superhero tropes to the character did seem to soften the edges a bit.

Let's get back to the really pure, angry Sub-Mariner that I like so much. Before the U.S. would enter World War II, Namor was simply a menace to society and the character arc would culminate in Human Torch's own title, issue number five. "The Human Torch battles the Sub-Mariner as the World faces DESTRUCTION" cried the title page. It was a sixty page rampage, an epic of an issue even in the days of jumbo quarterly comics. Manhattan was leveled in the battle, and Namor rode in atop a flying horse, poised with ghoulish figures of Hitler, Mussolini, and Death herself at his sides. The Torch, who had so far been transitioning from a monstrous mistake of science into a defender of the underdog, was the nation's last real hope. And thus, the shared universe aspect of Marvel and the idea of a crossover was born in one massive issue.

In classic crossover fashion, the battle ended in a draw of sorts. The two characters were both gaining steam with readers and there was more value in teasing another battle between the two (or perhaps a team-up?) than in having one slay the other or even win in any decipherable fashion. This was a watershed moment however, as comic books were becoming more complicated in their approach. The precedent had been set for stories to intersect and characters from separate strips to meet. The books were from Timely publications, but these advances would come to be known as Marvel's. The Marvel universe was a thing before it had a name.

Namor retreated to the seas at the end of the story, vowing revenge and some such. Unbeknownst to them and possibly even Everett and Burgos, the next time they met it would be as allies. For that brief moment though, still stinging with defeat, Namor the Sub-Mariner would remain angry at the world, with all of Bill Everett's self-destructive, alcoholic rage pent up inside him.

 

Monday, October 14, 2013

Halloween Countdown Day 17 - Hells Bells

Greetings kiddies. Sorry I've been so inconsistent as of late. I've been working graveyard shifts the last couples of days. I've been hoblin like a goblin, there really isn't any rest for the wicked y'know. But I haven't forgotten about you. In fact, you liked my last Silly Symphonies post so much, I'm going to do another.

This one is a little ditty entitled Hells Bells. Ever think you'd see a demon cow get milked when you're sober? Me neither!

The Torch is passed


A staple of Marvel comics that has long set them apart from other publishers is the idea of a shared universe. Continuity is a dirty word to some, a hindrance for creators and an impenetrable wall of obscura for new readers who are just dipping their toes in comic books. Continuity has always fascinated me. The notion that these heroes occupy the same city (in Marvel's case, New York) made every story seem like a piece of a large puzzle. Each issue of any given title is a chapter in a long form superstory. Like Greek mythology, the heroes and villains intersect and the ripples from their battles effect everyone.

One could also look at the Marvel universe as a living organism. As time passes and the contributions of the individual are lost to the corporate entity called Marvel, the ever-expanding mass of characters and events has functions that resemble those in our human bodies. A character like the Scourge of the Underworld (from Mark Gruenwald's Captain America run) for example, whose purpose both editorially and within the context of the story was to seek out and murder redundant super villains, is like an antibody.

Before the Marvel universe was such a massive organism, before it was even a multicellular body, it was comprised of a few simple master cells. 1939's Marvel Comics #1 contained five features, two of which starred new characters. Al Ander's western hero The Masked Raider, Paul Gustavon's mystery man The Angel, and Ben Thompson's jungle lord Ka-Zar had all existed before in one form or another. The Masked Raider had starred in strips elsewhere and Ka-Zar was originally a character featured in pulp magazine prose stories. While these characters would be dusted off for later use in the Silver Age, it's the remaining two features that kickstarted the Marvel universe, whether publisher Martin Goodman and Funnies Inc. planned it or not. Bill Everett's Sub-Mariner and Carl Burgos' Human Torch would be the alpha and the omega in this burgeoning new stable of two-fisted adventurers and they could not be a more polar pair of opposites.

Everett's fighting-mad undersea king is a topic for another day, for I have the blazing android Human Torch on my mind this morning! As a young reader and collector, I think it was Wizard magazine or Comic Buyer's Guide where I first got a look at the cover to Marvel Comics #1. Veteran pulp illustrator Frank R. Paul produced the cover; a blazing humanoid figure emerging from a vault or container of some type. A second figure, a frightened mortal man, fires a pistol at the creature. The bullets appear to be as useless against him as the melted metal construct he's springing from. Like the previous years' Action Comics #1, which featured a raging circus strong-man with an 'S' on his chest destroying a car while normal people fled in terror, this defied my expectations of what a heroic debut could look like. The Human Torch looked more like the monster of the week than a new hero to follow and collect.

Furthermore, I already knew of a Marvel character called the Human Torch. His name was Johnny Storm and he hung out with the Fantastic Four, right? But just like Barry Allen and Jay Garrick across the pond at DC, the Torch I knew and loved was a Silver Age reproduction of the classic Golden Age character. As a naive young man, the idea of two Human Torches and just the fact that new characters could adopt an old name and take up the fight in their honor was unbearably "cool". Little did I realize the sinister reasoning behind the changes to the Torch or the ramifications of what Stan Lee and Jack Kirby had done in resurrecting the character in name alone. I'll come back to this in a minute. . . .

So what about Carl Burgos and his original Human Torch? Imagine Shelley's Frankenstein with a pulpy, sci-fi twist. A monster created by man becomes our protagonist, and what begins as the story of a rampaging android would transform over subsequent issues into that of a flag-waving synthetic defender of democracy. This was the fate of nearly all Golden Age character heading into the 1940's: mystery men and monsters alike would aid in the fight, at home and abroad, and defend America's interests against the Axis forces. In that respect, Adolf Hitler and his empire were a boon to comic book creators. There was no need for imaginative antagonists when the greatest villain modern civilization had ever seen was ransacking Europe in real life. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

The story in Marvel Comics #1 features the brilliant but arrogant scientist Professor Phineas T. Horton, who has created a synthetic human android inside a giant test tube. Horton classically counts his eggs before they hatch, determining that "I found I had surpassed anything any scientist had ever done!" There is a tragic flaw in the android's creation however; the Torch burst into flame whenever he is released from his tube and exposed to oxygen. "Horton, destroy that man, before some madman can grasp its principles and hurl it against our civilization!" one member of the assembly tries to warn Horton as he showcases his creation. Like any good mad scientist, Horton doesn't heed their advice and soon the flaming android is rampaging through the city destroying friend and foe alike.

In Marvel Comics: The Untold Story, author Sean Howe describes Burgos's primitive comic story with real attention to detail, "Burgos' low budget, primitivist style only increased the sense that the buildings, cars, and people the Torch encountered were hastily constructed only to be destroyed in short measure." Burgos' line work and page layouts are quite simple by today's overproduced standards for what makes a comic book "work", but the foundation is laid for a character that would, at least for a few years, have some staying power. The importance of Burgos' work here lies in the fact that the Torch is such a striking figure that it would have been a waste for him to be slain in the first story. The Human Torch goes on to many more adventures after this and even starts to gravitate toward all of the usual superhero tropes. By the time the Torch is involved in World War II, he's seen teaming up with Captain America and the aforementioned Sub-Mariner on the battlefield, and even recruits a young sidekick named Toro. The Golden Age Human Torch is a sight to behold, but let's shift our focus now to the man who brought the flaming avenger to life.

Burgos was an art school dropout. Frustrated with the speed at which he was being exposed to new concepts and techniques, he left the National Academy of Design after his first year and went to work with the Franklin Engraving Company, where printing plates for comic book production were designed and stamped. From there, he began drawing backgrounds, laying out panel borders, and inking over other pencilier's work. His growing reputation as a utility player, as well as his own blossoming talent, led to some early original work including pirate stories for Centaur Comics and creating a Human Torch prototype character called the Iron Skull. Lloyd Jaquet, the art director at Centaur, gathered Burgos, Bill Everett, and a few other freelancers to form a comic studio that would sell original content to other publishers who were looking to outsource rather than build their own studio. The Human Torch was crafted under these conditions and was considered work for hire under the Copyright clauses of 1908, a career move that would return to haunt Burgos late in his career.

So Burgos made paycheck after paycheck producing Human Torch stories for Jaquet and later Martin Goodman as the heroes in the stories themselves took the fight right to Ol' Adolf. The post-war years saw the decline of super heroes and even mainstays like Captain America were hit hard. Even returning to the Torch's roots as a horror/suspense feature couldn't keep things from drying up. Over a decade later, the Human Torch name and likeness would be borrowed by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby to flesh out the roster for the Fantastic Four. But the name and likeness were all Stan and Jack really had a use for in their "hip" new cross-breeding of the monster and superhero genres. This torch was now the high-flying, trash talking Johnny Storm and Burgos's original version would fade into obscurity, only remembered by Golden Age fans and later given new life by fan-turned-pro Roy Thomas in the pages of The Invaders.

Without credit given for their new creation's stolen identity and no financial compensation coming his way, Burgos left comics in a bitter huff. His daughter recalled the night he threw his collection out on the lawn. Even her attempts to recover as much of her father's work as possible were in vain, as Burgos stormed into her room afterward and demanded they be gotten rid of. While a potential court case may have been open-and-shut, Burgos' claim never made it that far. Destroying his comic collection wasn't merely a tantrum about his rights as a creator, it was a response to a particular issue of Fantastic Four. As Marvel was about to lose its claim to the Human Torch name, they needed only publish a story with the original Human Torch to maintain the copyright. To defend one of their precious IPs, Marvel released Fantastic Four Annual #4, with a story that must've read like a knife in the back to Burgos and his contemporaries.

In the story, the Golden Age Human Torch and the Johnny Storm Torch met in battle. It must've been a whiz-bang clash for comic readers and a neat easter egg for longtime collectors. The original was destroyed in battle and Marvel, through Stan and Jack, had both extended their right to use the Human Torch name and taken shots at Burgos' comic book legacy in one story.

With the release of The Avengers film in 2012, the subject of creators' rights and what guys like Kirby or Don Heck were owed for their contributions to these now billion-dollar franchises came up. Some militant comic purists even boycotted the movie and message boards and discussion groups were ablaze with debate over work for hire laws. This isn't anything new. Comics have always been a cannibalistic venture on the business side of things, even going as far back the Silver Age. While the universes these characters inhabit grow into amazing celestial bodies full of thousands of fictional (but entirely functional) moving parts, they leave very real broken hearts in their wake. Inside the Marvel continuum it's a "shared universe", but outside that continuum we aren't sharing shit.