Tag Archives: Planetary

THE TOP SEVEN WILDSTORM COMICS

So, DC announces their imprint, WILDSTORM COMICS, is pulling up stakes and going quietly into that good night.  That’s too bad.  We’re told it’s part of a streamlining of DC’s business machine as it moves into the west coast movie industry, but it’s still a failure if the books ain’t selling enough to keep ‘em going.

“So long, Wildstorm“.  We can’t say we hardly knew ye, as you were here for quite a while, and you left an impression.  Sure, you stole every character you had, some of it bordering on criminal, but happily quite a bit of what Wildstorm did was quite good.  And since I’m in a good mood, we’ll leave the mistakes behind for today and focus on…

THE TOP SEVEN WILDSTORM COMIC BOOKS OF ALL TIME

7. WildC.A.T.S.

Trust us, this is nothing like the X-Men. For instance, the dwarf is smoking, and the guy with claw hands is taller.

This is not on the list for the characters or the premise, certainly, as that all sucked.  And it’s not for the entire run, obviously, because most of it sucked, and that’s primarily because the characters and the premise sucked.  But there were moments in that series where the craft of its creators was so high, that you had to sit back and marvel at how GOOD and fun comics could be when done right.  During the Alan Moore run (illustrated by Travis Charest, amongst others), or during the Travis Charest run, (written by Alan Moore, amongst others), WildC.A.T.S. was big and sexy and delightful and the PERFECT little pocket of escape from the world.

I'll bet these comics are pretty good. Kind of like the X-Men, only with better writing.

Okay, it WAS the X-MEN with a dwarf where the bald cripple was supposed to be, but it had NONE of that eighty-five year back-story to remember while the leaping and punching went on.   And let’s never take it away from the Jim Lee-illustrated issues – consistently the best Jim Lee ever looked. I usually like Jim Lee art, but I LOVE Jim Lee WildCATS art.

All so pretty. And that's not the Hulk back there. Or Superman in a white cape.

-

6. Danger Girl

If you’re a boy, and you like naked chicks with guns, or if you’re a girl, and you like other girls to be naked, and carry guns, than this was your comic.  To be fair, there were times that the characters would hang-glide in a bikini with guns, or sneak into a museum wearing a leather cat-suit, while carrying guns, but I think you get the idea.

I imagine you can see the appeal of this title, no?

It was the comic book version of Charlie’s Angels, only with more naked girls, and probably more guns.  J. Scott Campbell’s delightful sequel to Gen13, and more innocently fun, somehow, even with all the bums and guns.  It’s says it’s for adults, but it’s really for the trapped teenager in all of us.

5.  Midnighter

Come on, you love him too! And he's nothing like Batman.

Without question, Wildstorm’s single best character.  He’s gay Dark Claw, and as I’ve mentioned elsewhere, I couldn’t get enough of him.  Apparently, I’ve gotten all I’m gonna get.  He’d be on this list  just for his starring role in The Authority, but his solo series started strong, stayed strong, and even petered out strong.  I don’t want to give away the punch line to the time travel story arc that starts it, but it may be my favorite time travel comic story of the last twenty years.   Created by Warren Ellis and Brian Hitch in their stellar run on the otherwise not stellar Stormwatch, Midnighter is too good a character to lose.

4.  Ex Machina

In every way, shape and form, comics for adults, and by that I don’t mean that it was another parade of tits and swords like Danger Girl was.  Instead it was a mixture between a super-hero potboiler and a complex soap opera about municipal politics.  Something that only an adult would get, or be interested in, no matter how many jet packs or talking evil robots show up on the cover, it was just for us aging fanboys.  Indescribably odd, but entertaining as hell.
Written by Brian K. Vaughn, and drawn by the lovely Tony Harris.

3.Planetary

NOTE: Doc Savage is not on this cover. Nowhere on this cover.

The three step formula for this series was quite simple:  Every issue Warren Ellis and John Cassaday would
a)  Re-imagine a beloved old character (such as Doc Savage, Godzilla, The JLA, etc) and then…

b)   Beat them to death.

c)  Then the three weirdest “investigators” in the world would show up and do astoundingly weird things, and they would find out what happened.

That's also not Doc Savage in the logo, upper left.

Eventually it turned out, it was all part of one big weird plot featuring the “fourth man” and the “secret history” of the world, and it was all cool as hell while it was going on, especially Elijah Snow.

The series itself died and was resurrected years later, more alive than before.  And though it wasn’t his very first gig, it was the gig that gave the world a semi-regular visit with John Cassaday, for which we all owe Wildstorm a thank-you.

2. Authority

This is where All-Star Superman grew its balls. And that's not Batman, or Superman or anyone like the Justice League anywhere in this image.

An exploration of the theme of the benign, but fascist super-hero, first played with in Alan Moore’s Marvelman – I mean Miracleman – no, I mean Marvelman.  But rather than feeling like a re-hash, AUTHORITY featured such a line-up of top flight creators for so much of its run (Warren Ellis, Brian Hitch, Grant Morrison, Frank Quitely, Glen Fabry, Gene Ha, Mark Millar and more) that it had no choice but to be interesting.  My favorite characters were Midnighter and Apollo, but Hawksmoor, Jenny Sparks, The Doctor, maybe even Kev…all running a tight, close second…..  I understand the series started welcoming members of the WildCATS and GEN13 on board as sales lagged, but the first decade of the AUTHORITY was, as we said back then…da bomb!

1.  Astro City

That's not Superman on the sign, and he's not talking to Wonder Woman. What IS it with you people, seeing things that aren't there?

Kurt Busiek’s and Brent Anderson’s love letter to everything we live and breathe about comic book heroes.  I think this is the series that started the trend of “sampling” characters from other companies with a boldness that bordered on plagiarism.

The Thing, Spider-Man, Wonder Woman, Superman...none of those characters are in this drawing, seriously. You'll never find them.

It wasn’t hard to figure out the disguises that Kurt and Brent, and cover artist Alex Ross, put on Superman, Batman, Spider-Man and The Fantastic Four, but that was entirely the point of the fun.  This was ALL one crazy What-if-Elsworlds-Imaginary story that we got to play in, and it was always, always, always a treat to visit.

ASTRO CITY started as an Image Comic, then it became part of the Homage Comics line, which was absorbed into the Wildstorm line, which is now being cancelled.  Astro City will survive this.   There will always be a place for this book with fans, no matter how many publishers it leaves in a smoking ruin.

Honorable mentions:

Sleeper: Too tied into Wildstorm Universe continuity to be truly compelling, but Ed Brubaker’s scripts and Sean Phillips’ art were too good to dismiss.  I read them in spite of myself.

Arrowsmith: World War One fought with Harry Potter magic, with doughboys riding dragons, fighting goblins, and getting covered in mud in a trench.  Like Fables with way more explosions.  By Kurt Busiek and Carlos Pacheco.

GEN 13: The Horny X-Men.  J. Scott Campbell, Adam Hughes…all so pretty and meaningless, but fun and silly when you just want a snack.

TY THE GUY OUT!

Here now, your comic book moment of zen:

Top Ten Dead Characters in Comics

It’s Memorial Day weekend, now coming to a close.   So we memorialize, just a wee bit.

We’ve lost a few recently.  Dennis Hopper, who was alternately too f-ing cool for god, and too f-ing messed up for reality, or the safety of his wives…  Gary Coleman, who was kidney-punched by fate too many times to make fun of, and Art Linkletter, who once killed a grizzly with his bare hands, just to feel the warm blood against his skin.  And oh, we’ve also lost the Gulf of Mexico, probably because the locals thought it was an illegal immigrant, and got a little trigger-happy.

And the grim reaper scores another three to nothing shut-out!

But I say, let’s focus on death in the more “zombie and ghost” way this Memorial Day weekend.  It’s irreverent, cost-free, and harmlessly offensive!

It’s the TOP TEN DEAD CHARACTERS IN COMICS.

Not the ones that death took from us, but the ones that death made entertaining!

#10:  DARK HORSE’S GHOST


pretty. all so pretty.

She was a murdered reporter named Elisa and I think her sister did something she didn’t approve of, and her parents drank…and she  had guns and a real low cut top under her cape/hoodie thing and she was very attractive, especially for the issues drawn by Adam Hughes.

pretty

But OH, those issues by Adam Hughes, and those covers, and those collected graphic novels with the all new covers, and those special edition posters, and all those amazing images of this character “GHOST” were just EVERYWHERE for a while.  It sucked us all in.  We all liked her.  I wish I could remember a thing about what happened in any of the stories.  I know I read some.  I know it’s my fault for not remembering a thing but those Adam Hughes posters.

#9:  DEADMAN

Not the one you’re thinking of.  This is the Deadman co-created by Neal Adams and Henry Beard for the National Lampoon.  It featured the adventures of Hamster Tollhousecookie La Brea, the IV – Eurotrash heir to La Brea fortune, who dies in a car accident (after purposely swerving into a tourist family to cushion his impact).  Hamster’s body is stolen by a passing scientist, curious to see what he can do with this curiously unscathed corpse, and through a series of curious events, the impervious cadaver becomes a weapon in the fight against crime.

“Deadman” is hurled from rooftops, left in the road as a speed bump, and shoved against doorways, righting wrongs and bringing the city to justice.  A Weekend at Bernie’s super-hero, only created years before, when it was a still funny idea.

I laughed til I peed when I was twelve years old.  It was drawn by NEAL ADAMS and DICK GIORDANO furshlugginer’s sake!  Easily as  funny as TARZAN OF THE COWS, only with more dead bodies.

#8:  The Haunted Tank

This was a twisted favorite with me.  The Haunted Tank is about a little Sherman Tank in WWII, and the squad who runs it, and the bickering ghost of some Confederate General who haunts the tank, because he’s related to the squadron’s leader.   It’s SORT of a spooky/comedy/action book, where the ghost gets the tank out of scrapes by saying “Lookie over thar” a lot, or sometimes it wakes them up by shouting at them, or it says encouraging things like “I nevah gave up when I was fighting to keep slavery legal, now was I?”, or did I just imagine that?   Anyway the ghost didn’t participate so much as nag and act sort of holier than thou and stuff while Nazis shot at them.  And the still-living members of the team usually figured a way out of a death trap by answering some riddle the sadistic ghost would make them solve.

I don't think the Germans can see me, bwah...so you're on your own again!

It was drawn by the legendary Russ Heath, possibly the best illustrator of war and/or  western titles the industry ever had.  So I had no choice but to collect as many of these as I could.

#7:  CASPER and L’IL HOT STUFF.

It's the silly kind of morbid!

This beloved spokesperson for the “fun” aspects of Early Onset Death, was everywhere when I was a kid, but some dreadfully unfunny big budget films, finally killed Casper the Friendly Ghost off about ten years ago.

The thing about Casper, was that he was a GHOST.  And that meant that every time I read a Casper comic, I had to envision THIS…

The sky is blue. The sun is warm. My foot is stuck. I hear a train.

EVERY TIME, I saw this image of living Casper, mere moments before his death.  What was he like?  Who were his parents?  Did anyone ever solve his obviously grisly murder (or else why is there a ghost left chained to this earth, huh?)?!?   I was waiting for this mystery to be solved, and for the idiot girl in the red outfit to go the hell home!  “Screw you, Wendy.”  After all these years, yeah, I said it.  “GO HOME! We don’t LIKE YOU!”

It also took me no time to decipher that Casper is clearly the same cursed soul that separated out to form the demon-sprite Hot Stuff, Casper’s Demonic Evil twin in the Harvey Comics Mythos.  Sadly,  HOT STUFF is  remembered primarily as a tattoo hiding somewhere on the dried-up body of Baby Boomers who recall being tough at some point.

Trust us, if someone your grandmother’s age saw someone with some manly HOT STUFF ink fading into the yellowing haze of his arm skin, she’d think he was “Hard-Core”.

I promise you nothing but a world of hurt, baby.

#6:  DEAD GIRL


Shwinggg. Yeah, baby! My references are as dead as her skin!

First off, she was created by Peter Milligan and Mike Allred, so we’re two-thirds of all right before we begin.  Add to the fact that she’s named “Moonbeam” and can reanimate the recently dead, talk to spirits, take machine gun fire, hang out with Gwen Stacey, and look pretty hot doing it, all while being technically, and actually dead.  That’s a kick-ass zombie-girl you could take home to mom.

What the...? Is that who I think it is...?

Her crowning achievement was never published, however, for back in 2003, Dead Girl and the X-Statix gang were involved in a story in which they would revivify the corpse of Princess Diana and make England’s Rose into a zombie-X-Man mutant crime fighter.  I’m not making that up.   Dead Girl would be TOP of the dead heroes list if she’d pulled that one off.

Damn, that is so weird. How can I not have it?

But the world never saw it, as the stories were halted before war broke out between the allies, killing millions.  But for one brief, shining moment, X-Statix was sticking it to the man.  Or the Ma’am, in this case.  The ones on the money and the stamps.

#5:  Phantom Cop of Hong Kong, from PLANETARY #3. 1998

With their series PLANETARY, Warren Ellis and John Cassady had me at “Hello”. (Actually the first line of dialog is, “Your coffee tastes like a dog took a leak in it.” which is how we say hello in Canada.)

The comic was about these kooky “field” investigators who go looking for the paranormal, and constantly find it, in weird versions of trademarked characters the author didn’t want to actually pay for.  I was dug in for glory with issues #1 and #2, but  issue #3 cemented me as a fan for life, because of the Phantom Cop of Hong Kong.

The Twilight Zone/Hong Kong action/ Tarentino Phantom Cop takes over issue #3.  Murdered by a dirty partner, Phantom Cop spends his nights blowing holes in the heads of various bad guys, with his suspiciously un-spectral guns, and casually revealing the most basic secrets of the universe to anyone who will listen.  Life, death, god, he’ll tell you everything he knows, then he’ll shoot you in the temple.  I rolled around in this comic and made it my secret friend for about a year after it came out.  A decade later, I’m STILL waiting for more of my PHANTOM COP.  MORE PHANTOM COP!  YOU HEAR!

#4:  JUDGE DEATH

This character is so ripper top-gear it makes me want to fair dinkum up the apples and pears, cor, rightie matey-o, or whatever they say in the UK when they’re not drunkenly savaging their cousins with  bagpipes, one way or another.

I’ll just say it straight: Judge Death is the thrice re-animated zombie corpse of an inter-dimensional serial killer/evil twin of Judge Dredd, looking to execute everyone in its path as a preemptive strike against doing something illegal, as only the living can do.

If you couldn’t follow that, you shouldn’t be reading comics with the big boys.  Judge Death was created by Alan Grant and Brian Bolland, because they’re that nasty-schoolyard cool, or they were when it was the Eighties, and cool people pushed nails through their face.

Judge Death’s biggest claim to immortality comes from something he said a lot in his earliest adventures.  “Gaze into the face of Death!” he would hiss at you, all mean-mutha and stuff.  Not a bad catchphrase.  But it led to this:

When I saw this, I went just a little bit gay for Judge Dredd...just a little.

#3:  MARVEL ZOMBIES

Okay, like all slowly rotting corpses, the darlings of the double 00 decade have overstayed their welcome by now- but it’s hard to pretend we didn’t LOVE the Marvel Zombies when they first showed up.

After a delightfully evil debut in the Ultimate Fantastic Four, (by Mark Millar and Greg Land), the Marvel Zombies spun off into a miniseries by Kirkman and Phillips that changed the game.

Brains. Brains. Brains...

The miniseries played the story as such a punch-to-the-face satire of bloated, ignorant consumption culture, all the while disguising itself as a harmless, viscera-flinging romp, that fans ate it up like the sugary dessert topping it was.

My favorite recurring bit came in the second series, when Zombie Hank Pym lost the top half of his skull, including most of his brains, and continued to insist he was smarter than everyone else.

best FF team EVER.

EXTRA POINTS:  The Zombie FF eventually perform the single best escape-from-a-trap scenes in Fantastic Four history, IMHO, proving that Zombie Reed Richards is still going to outwit you, dumbass.

#2:  DEADMAN

AGH! I'm being shot by a TV Character!

Yes, THIS is the one you were thinking of earlier.  Created by Arnold Drake and Carmine Infantino but mostly made famous by Neal Adams, and I love it just because I do.  I don’t care that the ghost who solves his own murder had been done before.  I don’t care that the one armed man he’s hunting is stolen directly from THE FUGITIVE TV series.  I don’t care that the story ends up making no real sense… and god turned out to be a really hot chick who could turn into trees or something, and mostly the afterlife seemed to be a vacation spot in Tibet.  Who knows what any of that was about?

Do you care what it's about? It's pretty...like GHOST was!

It was mostly drawn by Neal Adams when I was a kid, and that was enough for me.  He teamed up with Batman a lot, too, and I can’t shake me my Deadman jones.  I will always show up for a Deadman comic, just to be disappointed, I’m sure, but I’m there like he’s my bestest friend.

#1:  The Spectre

The Beheaded store dummy trick!

This is the badass of undead super-characters.   The embodiment of god’s wrath.  The shaker of worlds.  The most powerful being in the DC universe.  If you get him angry, a cross-crisis miniseries breaks out and DC continuity is doomed.  KEEP HIM AWAY FROM ME!

AGGH! AGHHH! He took my THUMBS! My THUMBS!!

Created originally by Jerry (Superman) Siegel and Bernard (The Spectre) Bailey, in the 40s, the Golden Age Spectre was the ghost of murdered cop, Jim Corrigan, brought back to life to hunt down his killer.

But 1974 was when the Spectre found his spark, his bliss, and his power tools.  Under direction from the gooey, shocking brain pan of writer, Michael Fleisher, and the gorgeous pencil and ink work of Jim Aparo, the 70s Spectre didn’t just punish murderers, he turned them into pudding and sucked them through a straw, and then spread the pudding on hot coals, and then smashed the hot pudding with a shovel, and he did this with such casual sadism EVERY MONTH, that I’d have crawled through broken glass, and slept in a dog cage to see the next issue.  I’ve may have said too much, right there, but I don’t care who knows.

Seriously, what is WRONG with this guy?

This Spectre cut up the villains with spectral buzz saws and flying phantom axes.  He turned one into glass and broke him into shards.  Some he set on fire.  Some he melted into puddles of cheese.   These stories were so deliciously sick, that former  wunderkind Harlan Ellison once said Fleisher had to be “certifiably bug-fuck crazy” to write like that, and Harlan was sued for defamation by Fleisher because madman Mike couldn’t tell that was a compliment (see the Harlan Ellison wiki entry: look under “Controversies”.

Help me, I'll never play Jenga again!

This is the gold standard about how ghosts should treat the living.  Toss us around like rag-dolls.  Beat us and turn us into rubick’s cubs and ground beef.  I for one, welcome our ectoplasmic overlords.

You know, it occurs to me, this column was better suited to Halloween.

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NOW JUST TO AVOID THE LETTERS:  THE DEAD SUPERHEROES WHO DIDN’T MAKE THE LIST

THE CROW:

I hate this guy. So should you.

I’m sorry for what happened to James O’Barr, and I understand that he created The Crow as a form of therapy to get over the senseless death of his girlfriend – but too many douche bags at too many Halloween parties dressed like this character all through the 90s, in the theory that it would get them some from a goth/emo chick, that I cannot forgive The Crow for starting any of that up.

SPAWN:

These are words. Spawn fans will therefore, never read them.

Yes, I understand Spawn is undead.  I understand that Spawn was a very successful comic book/movie/cable cartoon series.  But I’m afraid I’ve read Spawn, and I’ve seen the movie, so I know that the whole thing is sub-literate nonsense that sometimes looks real purty.

KID ETERNITY:

Couldn’t care less.

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That’s all for today.  See you in the coming days with new pages for sale, and new cartoons every weekend.  Plus THE WINNER IN THE HOVERBOY “NAME YOUR FAVOURITE VILLAIN” CONTEST!

Breathe…it will be okay.  Just breathe.

Ty the Guy

for more of my lists, check HERE

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