Saturday, February 27, 2021

Comics on the Shelf -- Marvel-7

On my Marvel-7 shelf I have Marvel Two-In-One #50 and 54, Marvel Two-In-One Annual #2, Peter Parker – The Spectacular Spider-Man #1, 3-5, 9-11, and 41, Peter Parker Annual #1, and ROM Space Knight #1.
I already have an extensive post dedicated to Marvel Two-In-One #50. Number 54 features Deathlok and brings his story arc to an end. His story began in Astonishing Tales #25 (from my Marvel-1 shelf.) The art is by Byrne and Sinnott and looks amazing! Marvel Two-In-One Annual #2 is written and illustrated by Jim Starlin and brings the Thanos story to an Epic conclusion! This one is one of the best comics in my collection! Spectacular Spider-Man number one features the Tarantula on the cover. It’s a pretty good issue. Better was just the fact that I was able to get in on a new Spider-Man title from the first issue! Spectacular Spider-Man Annual #1 completes the story that began in Spider-Man Annual #13. It’s Spidey vs. Doctor Octopus and it’s really cool! ROM #1 began one of the longest continuous runs that I was able to maintain in my original comic collection as a kid. I loved ROM! I still do!

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Comics on the Shelf -- DC-7

On my DC 7 shelf is Superboy and the Legion of Superheroes #232, and Superman #300-379. 
The cover of Superboy #232 is by Superboy artist legend, Mike Grell. 

The interior work is by Ric Estrada and Jack Abel.
I really love the art in this one. All the figures and panels are big and bold.
It's a great looking issue.

I have a soft spot for Bizarro Superman stories.

They are zany, ridiculous fun!

So, I’m going to show off covers for Superman #306, #333 and Superman #379!

Thursday, February 18, 2021

Comics on the Shelf -- Marvel-6

On the Marvel-6 shelf are Iron Man #114-117, 130, 134, 152 and 153, Marvel Feature #1-7, Marvel Spotlight #33, Marvel Team-Up #53-55, 58-65, 67 and 79, Marvel Team-Up Annual #1 and Marvel Two-In-One #33.

When selecting the Iron Man comics that I wanted in my collection, that choice centered around the artwork of Bob Layton. Sadly, as a youngster, Iron Man comics weren’t available to me. I can only remember having one issue in particular, and that issue is #130. It’s a great issue. It contains a complete story of Iron Man facing a computer virus given mystical life, and is set in Japan. Layton does the art, and it is beautiful. Marvel Feature vol. 2, #1 introduced Red Sonja to the world of four-color comics. The series ran 7 issues, then turned into Red Sonja’s own title. Published in 1975-1976, I would have been 10 or 11 years old when I first saw these comics. For me, at the time, a red-headed warrior woman in a chain mail bikini was the height of glamour. Issue 5 sees Sonja battle the Bear God!
Given that a bear is the mascot at my dear wife Julie's place of employment, it seems right to show that issue off. All of these but the first are drawn by Frank Thorne. Thorne’s art is perfect for this character and he gets better with every issue. Marvel Spotlight #33 begins the conclusion of the Deathlok story arc that was started in Astonishing Tales. The story finishes in the pages of Marvel Two-In-One. Marvel Team-Up is a long time favorite, especially the Claremont and Byrne issues. I’ve featured issue #59, which is the creative team’s first pairing on the title. So, this time, I’ll show off issue #79, which is their last. This issue just so happens to team Spidey up with Red Sonja! Bonus! Marvel Team-Up annual #1 features Spider-Man and the X-Men. It’s an early appearance of the team that was at the time called, “the new” X-Men. It’s the same group that everyone thinks of as the X-Men today. Marvel Two-In-One #33 teams the Thing with Modred the Mystic, but more importantly it has an early appearance of Spider-Woman and lays some of the ground work for that character’s own title in the coming months. As a side note, Ron Wilson’s artwork is exquisite, especially on the character of the Thing.








Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Comics on the Shelf -- DC-6

On my DC-6 shelf, there’s Justice League of America #160-200, Showcase #94-103, Super Team Family #8-15, and Superboy and the Legion of Superheroes #213.  
For Justice League of America, I pick issue #183. Two things stand out in my mind when I think about the Justice League of America during the period that I read the title (known as the “bronze age.”) First is the annual JLA/JSA team-ups, and second is the art of illustrator Dick Dillin.
The JLA/JSA team-ups are an interesting thing. In 1956, Showcase #4, reintroduced the superhero character known as the Flash after a 5 year absence. This Flash is a revamp and recreation of the character. Really, only the character’s name and powers are the same as his counterpart.
This leads to the return and rebirth of other characters like Green Lantern and Hawkman. By the time I started reading comics, the period prior to the superhero resurgence that began with Showcase #4 was named the Golden Age of Comics, and the period that followed with it’s newly reinmagined heroes was named the Silver Age of Comics.
The Justice League of America was a creation from the Silver Age of Comics and featured the new versions of heroes like the Flash and Green Lantern, but readers wanted to know what had happened to the earlier versions of the characters. Flash #123 (1961) featured the story, “The Flash of Two Worlds,” written by Gardner Fox and drawn by Carmine Infantino, which answered this question.
To explain how other versions of their heroes could exist, or how Superman who was originally introduced in 1938 hadn’t aged a day in over 20 years, “The Flash of Two Worlds” introduces the concept of a parallel earth: Earth 2. This Earth was older than “our” earth. The Superman of Earth 2 had come to earth in 1938, and was turning gray. To differentiate the older Earth 2 team of heroes from the modern Justice League, their team was the Justice Society of America.
By the time I started reading their adventures, team-ups between the Justice League of America of Earth 1, and the Justice Society of America of Earth 2 had become annual events. And, “Events” they were! I looked forward to these team-up issues with as much anticipation as my own birthday!
As for that second thing, the art of Dick Dillin. Dick Dillin’s artwork is fantastic, and he drew every issue of the Justice League that I read as a kid, including issue #183. Dick Dillin’s art is synonymous with the Justice League of America for me. He drew 115 issues from 1968 until his death in 1980. Issue #183 was the last issue that he drew. It is also the first part of a JLA/JSA team-up story: "Crisis on New Genesis" or "Where Have All the New Gods Gone?"
I couldn’t pick any other issue but #183 from this set.  
Showcase, which was the title that reintroduced the Flash, had been out of publication since mid 1970. It came back in September of 1977 as part of the DC Explosion. The short run featured three mini-series, each three issues long, a special one-shot issue #100, and then was canceled with issue #104, which was a one-shot war stories issue. Showcase #101 begins a three part mini-series staring: Hawkman, Hawkgirl, and Adam Strange. This is a favorite!  
Super-Team Family #11 stars the Flash, Supergirl, and just a tiny bit of the Atom. The issue has beautiful art by Alan Lee Weiss.  
Superboy and the Legion of Superheroes #213 is written by Jim Shooter and drawn by Mike Grell. Jim goes on to be a big wig at Marvel comics and Mike Grell becomes more well known for his character the Warlord and for drawing and writing Green Arrow, but I will always associate both these guys with these early issues of the Legion of Superheroes.

Saturday, February 13, 2021

In Memory of my friend, Robert Briggs – January 4, 1961 ~ February 13, 2011

Ten years ago today my good friend Robert Briggs passed away. He was a young 50 years old (5 years younger than I am now.) His passing was a shock and a tragedy, and hit me harder than any single event that I can remember in my adult life. Yet, for myself at least, something good did come from it. For this I am thankful and I am sure Robert would have been happy.

Five years ago, I had become so ensconced in my private little world and my personal problems that I had lost all contact with some of the best friends that I had ever made. Robert Briggs was one of those friends. It is sad that it took something as tragic as Robert's passing to wake me up and shake me out of my funk, but it did.

In the years following to today, I have reconnected with past friends and mended friendships that mean more to me than anything in the world. I have Robert to thank for doing that for me. He introduced me to this family in life and brought me back home to them in death. His impact on my life is beyond measure. His is a truly magical spirit.

I wrote some thoughts about Robert upon his death and posted them originally 5 years ago. I thought it would be fitting to share them with everyone again today.

<< Originally posted on Sunday, February 20, 2011 >>

I want to take a moment to speak out on behalf of one of the lowest ranked tiers on the modern world's tree of social hierarchy: the gamer geek.

I am a gamer geek. On the ladder of social acceptability, I fall pretty close to the bottom. It's not a place I necessarily chose to be. But I reside there happily now, and with some pride.

It happens like this:

From the moment a child enters school they learn to cluster into small social groups. The athletic, strong, and bold children tend to tower over the intelligent introspective children at an early age. On the playground which is a school age child's greatest venue for social interaction, it is he who runs fastest, climbs highest, and kicks the ball the hardest who earns accolades and respect.

The value of things like books and reading has not yet really been recognized. It is not part of the playground social experience and so if a child wants to fit in and grow strong socially, he abandons such things in pursuit of the more physical activities and the social acceptance that goes along with them.
I didn't make that transition. It was never in me to be an athlete. The sad thing is, patterns learned early in life, are hard to unlearn, and once delegated the role of social misfit, that role and the stigmas associated with it tend to stick with a person. And so, I became a social outcast. I had very few friends and grew accustomed to the idea, that for me, this is the way my life would remain.

That is until something special happened to me in high school. I was 15 years old and I was introduced to a game called, Dungeons and Dragons. I joined forces with a few other kids … kids like me, who had been outcasts, who weren't the fastest, strongest, boldest, children on the playground. And if it weren't for this game, we might have remained strangers. Even if we weren't the popular kids on the playground, society had taught us to want to become that, and that meant staying away from the other geeks in hopes of drawing the mercy and attention of the popular kids.

But, this game … it gave us a reason to be together, and the playground … it existed too, in our imaginations. In this game, we could be strong and fast and bold. We created a playground in our minds and we were its heroes. And for the first time in my life, I made friends … real friends. Friendships that survive to this day, 30 years later.

I mention all of this for a reason. I link posts to my gaming blog (this blog) to my Facebook page. So, it's quite possible that someone reading this may be unfamiliar with how a person might come to be a gamer geek. Those of us who lived it, know it's no mystery. It's just a small group of friends united by their uncommon imaginations and the joy found in using their minds to participate in the sports that other “physical” athletes practice with their bodies. Perhaps if more people perceived gamers for what they really are, athletes of mental prowess, the societal preconceptions regarding our ilk might become a bit more friendly.

Anyway … before I forget why I started this post, let me continue. My first and best social interactions began at the gaming table. As an adult when I moved to Tulsa (where I still live twenty five years later) I didn't know anyone and I needed to find some friends. I looked to the one community where I had felt welcome before. The gamer community.

It started in a comic book store, “World of Comics” (Gamer geeks and comic book collector geeks share a lot of crossover. It's all about exercising the imagination to become the best mental athletes that we can. I want to enter “Doctor Who Trivia” in the Olympics.) The owner of the store and I had chatted about gaming a bit (as I was prone to spending my pay checks on gaming books) and one day he approached me about “running” a game at his store. (In role-playing games, one player serves as a sort of auteur /director sort of like the way Charlie Chaplin made films. He presents a scene and allows the other players of the game to react to it, contributing the way the character they have chosen to represent might react or respond within the scene. It's a sort of storytellers brainstorming session lead by a single director.) When Doug (the owner of the comic shop) asked me to run a game, he was asking me to be that “director.”

I agreed, and actually found myself in the back room of Doug's store the rest of that afternoon jotting down notes and forming ideas for some possible scenes and scenarios with which to challenge some players that very evening. And we played that night. The game wasn't Dungeons and Dragons but another of its ilk called Champions. Where Dungeons and Dragons is a game of telling stories about Knights and Wizards in days of yore, Champions was about the heroic battles of superheroes in a modern day metropolis (we were playing in a comic book store after all.)

That first game consisted of myself and Douglas Goodsell who owns World of Comics along with a few of Doug's customers, none of whom I had met before. They were Robert Briggs, Robert Ohlde, and Roland Vogt. So, it was me, the director/referee (called a GM or Game Master) and the four players, Robert, Robert, Roland, and Doug. It was a nice little group and we had a great time. We had such a great time in fact, that each player invited a friend to play the next time, and our little group doubled in size. That's when I met Robert Brigg's best friend, David Crockett. (Yes his name's Davy Crockett … don't make fun, he doesn't like it, and I will hurt you.)

We played in the back of the comic store with 8 or so players for awhile, and it was a great beginning to a new chapter of gamer geekdom social climbing in my life. Doug as a responsible store owner really couldn't in good conscience deny any of his customers who inquired, the opportunity to play. In short order, the group had grown to 25 players and I had to slam on the breaks. There were just too many people to play the game, but despite this, everyone seemed to have a good time hanging around and chatting. Still the game degraded and collapsed under its own weight.

Some of the first and best friends I made in Tulsa, came from that group. In fact, desperate to keep playing, Doug and Robert and David and myself concocted a scheme to play and keep our group smaller and more manageable. Doug really couldn't tell the folks at his store that they couldn't play in his game … but we knew from our past experience that once you said yes, it opened the flood gates to gaming oblivion. So we conspired to meet secretly to game, in a top secret, undisclosed location, the game that no one could know about.

We drove to Broken Arrow, a suburb of Tulsa, and gamed in the back room of my sister's house. No one knew where we were, or what we were doing. We had dropped off the geek radar. We were Ninja Gamer Geeks. And the small group of Doug, Robert, Dave, and Jeff had great fun. Unfortunately, Robert, bless his generous outgoing boisterous little heart just could not keep a secret. And word of the Ninja gamers got out pretty quickly. 

Doug at that point dropped out, because he just didn't feel right about running a store and denying access to the gaming group to the various customers that all counted him as a friend. David, Robert and I kept playing. And despite the tiny size of our group we remained exclusive. Not because we were “snooty” or anything, just because the experience at the comic store made us gun shy. At least at first, then after that, it was just habit.

Our little group met once a week for fifteen years, we added a member or two here or there, then I allowed my life to pull me away from the game and for the last five years I haven't played. Although Dave and Robert (with my brother Chris) continued to play.

On February 13 of this year, Robert Briggs passed away in his sleep. I am so incredibly shaken by the sadness of this event, that I can't begin to express it. All I can do, is tell you here about how we met, about the kindred spirit I found in a fellow gamer geek, and about the love and camaraderie two long time friends were able to form from across the gaming table.

I saw so much of myself in Robert. A gamer like me, not an athlete, not one of the popular kids, but a kid like me who dreamed and imagined and lived a world of grand adventure within the limitless confines of his imagination … a mental athlete of the highest degree. At the memorial service, they didn't ask people to come forward, and give testimony. I wish that they had. I feel that I need that. I am going to do that here.

I remember that Robert never walked into a room … he bounded, like Tigger on Winney the Pooh. He shared a lot in common with that lovable character, the exuberance and enthusiasm. I can almost hear him declairing, “That's what Robert's do best!”

He was a gamer geek and he loved to game. But, unlike the rest of us gamer geeks who were well aware of our lowly status as social outcasts, Robert had no such preconceptions. And in his case, this ignorance was truly bliss. We worked together in the same company. (He recommended me for my job there, and I work there to this day.) He would come to work on Monday morning after a weekend gaming session and bounce around the office telling everyone about the dragon we had slain (or as was more likely in a game in which Robert was playing, the dragon we befriended.)

And … I was … ashamed. I didn't feel comfortable telling everyone about gaming. Men were meant to talk about football, and pro-wrestling, and the stock-market, or some shit … I don't know … but, not gaming … not in public … at work! Didn't he know people would laugh at him?

But, I was wrong. I was very wrong … People didn't laugh at Robert, they embraced him. They embraced him because he was open and honest and genuine, more than any person they were ever likely to meet in their lifetimes. And they all loved him. Everyone who knew Robert loved him almost as much as I did. Because genuine people are rare and they must be cherished.

Robert lived his life as nobly as he played the characters in our games. He was as brave as any knight, and as magical as any wizard. If I believed in an afterlife and a place called heaven, then I think that each heaven would have to be custom made for the spirit who dwells within it, and if that's true, then I know that brave sir Robert is up there somewhere casting magical spells, and befriending dragons even as I write this.

Robert you are loved, and there will always be a place for you at my game table.


Friday, February 12, 2021

Comics on the Shelf -- Marvel-5

On the Marvel-5 shelf are: Fantastic Four #202-250, Fantastic Four Annuals #13-15, Incredible Hulk #221-237, Incredible Hulk Annuals #7, 8 & 10, and Iron Man #113.
Fantastic Four #236 – Terror In A Tiny Town has long been a favorite. It shows the FF living as normal people in a small town somewhere in mid-America, while their lives as superheroes haunt their nightmares. The revelation and resolution are both equally surprising. It’s a great story written and drawn by John Byrne. One of the best!
Fantastic Four Annual #14 features Agatha Harkness, Franklin Richards, and the Salem Seven and features some of the finest George Perez artwork ever to appear in a Marvel comic. It is beautiful! It was tempting to choose Hulk #222 which is plotted and illustrated by Jim Starlin, who is an amazing talent, but for me the definitive Hulk artist is Sal Buscema. I have to pick an issue drawn by Sal, and among these it’s going to be #226 which is written by Roger Stern.
The story has the Hulk “land” on the grounds of Bruce Banner's college campus. He is flooded by Banner’s memories, but mistakes them for his own. It’s a really well written crisis of identity story, and one of my favorites.
Hulk Annual #7 is written by Stern and drawn by John Byrne and Bob Layton. It’s beautiful to look at. The story features X-men: Ice Man and the Angel. They along with the Hulk do battle with a supreme Sentinel called the Master Mold. I am amused because each is captured and placed in a containment tube with a label showing their names. Ice Man for Ice Man, Angel for Angel, and Blob for the Hulk. This tiny miscalculation with cost the Master Mold dearly. 

The only issue of Iron Man on this shelf, #113 features the art of Herb Trimpe and the villainy of the Unicorn. He’s called the Unicorn because he can shoot energy beams from his forehead. I think he turned to villainy because he wanted to be the Cyclops, but that name was already taken. (Just kidding.)
The art by Trimpe here is lovely, and if I had been born 10 years earlier and began collecting comics in the late 60's / early 70’s rather than the late 70’s / early 80's, then I would have been calling Herb Trimpe the definitive Hulk artist, because that’s what he was, before Sal Buscema came along. Trimpe’s Iron Man looks good, but not as good as his Hulk.

Monday, February 08, 2021

Comics on the Shelf -- DC-5

On the DC-5 Shelf, I have Green Lantern #109-121, 123-128, 132-135 and Justice League of America #115-159.
For Green Lantern, I’m going to show the cover to issue #113. First because it’s an awesome cover drawn by Jose Luis Garcia Lopez, and second because the story of the issue is a full length Christmas story!
For Justice League, I’m featuring #121 which has the wedding of Adam Strange and Alanna. I’ve always loved the idea of married superhero couples. I have other “wedding” issues in my collection, but this is one of the first that I remember reading when I was young. It was published in August of 1975. So, I would have been 10 years old.

Wednesday, February 03, 2021

Comics on the Shelf -- Marvel-4

On my Marvel-4 shelf, I have: Defenders #48, 50-52, and 55; Doctor Strange #33, 42, 46, 48-55, and Doctor Strange Annual #1. Finally, there’s Fantastic Four #150-152, 154, 157-159, 164-201.
Defenders #52 features a smack down between the Hulk and the Submariner that’s pretty awesome. The fight ends when Hellcat arrives on the scene and gives the naughty Hulk a stern talking to. “Hulk is sorry, he hit fish man.” Great stuff!
Doctor Strange #48 marks the beginning of a run illustrated by Detective Comics’ legends Marshal Rogers and Terry Austin. It’s a truly beautiful run and a great inaugural issue.
So many great issues of the Fantastic Four. The FF has long been one of my favorite titles. FF #171 features a giant sentient golden gorilla from space, and Ben Grimm back on the team in a “Thing” suit. (This was part of a brief period where Ben got to have the best of both worlds … a favorite of mine. I wish it could have gone on longer.) The art is by George Perez and is amazing!

Monday, February 01, 2021

Comics on the Shelf -- DC-4

On DC-4, there’s the remainder of my Detective Comics run #488-495. (495 is where the Dollar Comics issues end.) Firestorm #1-5, The Flash #235, 243, 267-280, 284-286, 288, 289, 296, and 303, and Green Lantern issues #90-102, and 108.

Choosing a favorite among the Dollar Comics format issues of Detective Comics that are in this run is difficult. Each has shining moments and all have a Batman lead story illustrated by Don Newton. 

I’ve decided to go with Detective Comics #493. The Batman story features the Riddler, and in addition the Batgirl and Robin stories, we have Red Tornado and the Human Target. The later is illustrated beautifully by Dick Giordano.

I have to choose the premier issue of Firestorm. This is a great comic that I remember reading over and over as a kid. 

The current state of my Flash comics is pretty disjointed. So, it’s difficult to know what to highlight. I’m going with issue #269 because, Kid Flash and dinosaurs. 

For Green Lantern, it seems appropriate to highlight a story that is set during Thanksgiving. (Thanksgiving issues are pretty rare.) That would be #93 which has art by Mike Grell and Terry Austin in a rare paring of the two that looks amazing.

This issue is also the first time that we see the character of “Itty” in Green Lantern’s own book. (Itty was first introduced in the Flash. Green Lantern ran as a back-up in the Flash prior to the return of his own comic with issue #90.)

Comics on the Shelf -- Marvel-3

On the Marvel-3 Shelf, I have Captain America Annuals #5-6, Conan the Barbarian #66, Daredevil #164, 166, 167, 173, 178-190, and the Defenders #42, 43, 45, and 46.

Captain America Annual #5 is beautifully illustrated by Gene Colon, Conan #66 is part of a cross-over with Red Sonja, Daredevil #164 reveals that Ben Urich knows Daredevils secret identity and retells Daredevils origin in the process. It’s beautifully illustrated by Frank Miller and Klaus Jansen.

Speaking of Klaus Jansen, his inks also grace the pages of the Defenders issues on this shelf. The pencils on these issues are by Keith Giffen and all four issues are gorgeous! I’m picking #45 to feature. 

In this issue, the female members of the Defenders: Valkyrie, Hellcat, and Red Guardian work together to rescue the male members of the team: Nighthawk, Power Man, and the Hulk!