Thursday, January 16, 2014

Marvel Comics April 2014 highlights!

Highlights from Marvel's April offerings. Click the links to order discounted items from Amazon.


MARVEL MASTERWORKS: THE AVENGERS VOL. 14 HC
Written by STEVE ENGLEHART with ROY THOMAS
Penciled by SAL BUSCEMA & DAVE COCKRUM with GEORGE TUSKA & DON HECK
Cover by RON WILSON
Prepare yourself for one of the greatest sagas in Avengers history: the Celestial Madonna! Throughout his AVENGERS run, writer Steve Englehart slowly built the mysterious Mantis into one of the ’70s most intriguing characters. Here, her tale reaches its cosmic climax in a series of adventures spanning space and time! The action begins when Kang the Conqueror arrives on the scene — and before it’s over Hawkeye will return; an Avenger will die; the Legion of the Unliving shall rise; and Kang, Rama-Tut and Immortus will have time-twisted you in two! And that’s just for starters, as this volume presents the origin of the Vision and the android Avenger’s wedding to the Scarlet Witch! They’re Marvel Masterworks, one and all! Collecting AVENGERS (1963) #129-135, GIANT-SIZE AVENGERS #2-4 and FOOM #12.

MARVEL MASTERWORKS: CAPTAIN AMERICA VOL. 3 TPB
Written by STAN LEE
Penciled by JACK KIRBY & JIM STERANKO
Cover by JIM STERANKO & RICHARD ISANOVE
The MARVEL MASTERWORKS proudly unfurl one of the greatest runs in Marvel history: Stan Lee, Jack Kirby and Jim Steranko’s CAPTAIN AMERICA! We begin with the Red Skull in a plot that forces Cap to do his nemesis’ bidding or risk America’s nuclear annihilation! Its Kirby action at its best with Batroc the Leaper and the Trapster, and Lee drama at its deepest as Cap relives his first meeting with — and the death of — Bucky Barnes. Last, but most certainly not least, comes Jim Steranko! The master of the medium will take you on a ride like none other with Cap vs. the Hulk, the return of Bucky and…the death of Captain America! Collecting CAPTAIN AMERICA (1968) #101-113.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN EPIC COLLECTION: GHOSTS OF THE PAST TPB
Volume 15 in the Spider-Man Epic Collection
Written by TOM DEFALCO, BOB LAYTON, CRAIG ANDERSON, PETER DAVID, STAN LEE, LOUISE SIMONSON & DANNY FINGEROTH
Penciled by RON FRENZ, BOB LAYTON, PATY COCKRUM, SAL BUSCEMA, BOB MCLEOD, MARY WILSHIRE,
GREG LAROCQUE & MIKE HARRIS
Cover by RON FRENZ
The Hobgoblin is back! The high-flying villain is after Norman Osborn’s journals — and he’s targeted Mary Jane and the pregnant Liz Osborn! Plus: Mary Jane reveals the secrets of her childhood! The Scorpion attacks as J. Jonah Jameson ties the knot! Spidey battles the symbiotic alien costume in a senses-shattering showdown! The Kingpin strikes after the Beyonder turns a skyscraper to gold! Spidey faces the cosmic power of Firelord! The new Spider-Slayer attacks the person he believes to be Spider-Man: Mary Jane! And things get downright silly when Spidey must deal with Spider-Kid, Frog-Man and the Toad, and track a thief to…the suburbs! Featuring the return of Black Fox and Crusher Hogan, and the debuts of Silver Sable and Slyde! Collecting AMAZING SPIDER-MAN (1963) #259-272 and ANNUAL #18-19, and WEB OF SPIDER-MAN (1985) #1 and #6.

Video finds: David Bowie promo video for "Space Oddity," 1969




"New" picture of Steve Ditko surfaces!

Via Ditko Cultist: Only a couple of pictures of media-shy-shy Spider-man co-creator Steve Ditko have been published. Now a new one, likely from the 1970s, has appeared. Here it is:




New Amazing Spider-man 2 pics!

Total Film shares some new images from the next Amazing Spider-man film, which opens
May 2.










It was 50 years ago today: The Beatles begin a three-week stand at the Paris Olympia, Jan. 16, 1964



Today's best picture ever: Bob Dylan


Pop stuff: All is Lost; Asterix and the Picts!

What I'm watching, reading, hearing, etc. ...


All Is Lost. Apart from a few lines of dialogue at the very beginning and a well-justified expletive a little more than halfway through, there is no speech in this remarkable, riveting film.

The lead character, played by a haggard-but-still-handsome Robert Redford, isn't identified by name.

We don't know his background. All we know he's making a voyage on a sailboat when things go
terribly wrong. The boat strikes an abandoned shipping container floating in the sea and is badly damaged. The boat starts taking on water, but "our man," (as he's listed in the credits) manages to patch the hole and pump out the water. Then the storm hits, and it's one thing after another.

The use of music is very subtle. Mainly what we hear is wind and water and, as we watch Redford in action -- discouraged, but never stopping in his efforts to stay afloat and alive -- we're left to  consider our own efforts to overcome challenges and survive.

Thematically, the film is nearly identical to the excellent "Gravity" from earlier this year, where Sandra Bullock, also essentially carrying a film solo, fights for survival in outer space. But the quietness, and the primal challenges presented in "All is Lost" prove less-distracting than all the space hardware and mind-boggling special effects of the other film, allowing us a little more room to do our own thinking about what the film means, and how the character's struggles mirror our own.

Near the end, things don't look so good for Our Man. We're left wondering if those opening words at the start of the film will be his last. He's left having done everything he possibly could, but isn't sure if it's enough.

It's a place where any of us get to in our daily efforts just to survive, to stay positive and to keep trying. What can we do when we can do nothing more?


Asterix and the Picts. This is the 35th Asterix book (or "album," as the French like to say) and the first billed to a new creative team: writer Jean-Yves Ferri and artist Didier Conrad.

Original artist Alberto Uderzo, who created the feisty Gaul with writer Rene Goscinny in the late 1950s had stated in the past that he didn't want the Asterix series to continue after his death, but had a change of heart, selling the rights to the characters in 2006 and paving the way for a new team to take over (Goscinny died in 1977).

Ferri and Conrad follow in some daunting footsteps, to be sure. Asterix, his hefty pal Obelix, and the rest of the cast of irreverent, super-powered, Roman-baiting Gauls are beloved the world over. The U.S. seems to be one of the few nations where people just didn't "get" the characters, though the books are now finally widely available here. Back in the 70s, when I was growing up, you couldn't find an Asterix book outside of big city bookstores that carried the imports. I was introduced to the series by overseas relatives and relied on them for my supply.

Along with many fans, I have great affection and nostalgia for the characters and no real issue with seeing the series continue -- though that doesn't mean I won't complain about the new guys and make perhaps unreasonable comparisons to the series' glory years.

This isn't a bad book, by any means. I'll say right off the bat that it looks great.

Conrad is up to the challenge of following Uderzo, who is one of the greatest comics artists of all time. His comic pacing is strong and he brings warmth and expression to characters' expressions.

Without sitting down with older volumes and making direct comparisons, it's tough to distinguish his art from Uderzo's. To me, his line if a bit sharper, maybe, but it's very difficult to tell. I suppose, given time, Conrad eventually will make his own mark on the series, gently inserting more of his own style.

Ferri also has a tough job, as Uderzo knew when he himself took on the job of writing Asterix scripts following Goscinny's death. At their best, the Asterix tales were fast-paced and antic in their humor and action. Goscinny would build up a head of steam, and humor would boil over in a mad chaos of activity on the page, providing Uderzo opportunity to go wild with characters' expressions and actions. At times, things could reach Looney Tunes levels of zaniness.

But "Asterix and the Picts" never comes close to reaching that level. Instead, it strolls merrily along with some fun scenes here and there and the expected puns and the gentle poking-of-fun at national foibles (in this story, it's the Scots who get sent up). A runnning joke involving a census taker who visits the Gaul's village falls flat.

The new team's challenge is so great, and my love of Asterix is so strong, I wanted to like this book much more than I actually did.

Not by any stretch did the team fail, or "ruin" Asterix, but  they needed a stronger entry out of the gate. I was hoping for a splash, something that would highlight the beginning of a new era.

This book is much quieter than that -- the new team sheepishly knocks at the door instead of kicking it open. But, now that they've got the first one out of the way, let's hope they loosen up and go wild next time around.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

At last: 1960s Batman TV show coming to DVD!

I wondered if I'd ever see the day... Details are still on the way, but USA Today has confirmed -- tipped off by Tweet by Conan O'Brien -- that all three seasons of the Batman TV series starring Adam West are finally coming to DVD and, I presume, Blu-ray (I may need to buy a Blu-ray player...) later this year.

Stay tuned!


New trailer for Mr. Peabody and Sherman




Check out Donald Duck: Trail of the Unicorn

See a preview of Fantagraphics' next installment in the Carl Barks Library here.

This series of hardcovers presenting the complete Donald Duck and Uncle Scooge stories by master cartoonist Barks is top notch, with excellent production, background notes and presentation. The volumes are reasonably priced, too. Genuine fun for the whole family.



Video find: James Brown on "The Hollywood Palace" 1968




Today's best picture ever: Mickey Dolenz and Sgt. Pepper