Category Archives: Comic Book Moment of Zen

Happy Birthday Joe Simon!

MARVEL COMICS first ever editor-in-chief is 97 years old today, and looking damn fine.

The man c0-created Captain America, the Sandman, Newsboy Legion and a host of other characters, and managed to do it in an era when a black soul singer could not have had an easy time of it in the New York publishing industry.

Oh wait, that might be the wrong Joe Simon.  Wait a second…

That’s better.  Joe Simon, co-creator of Captain America and a host of other titles.

He’s known primarily for his work with Jack Kirby, Timely, and DC, in the Golden Age of comics, introducing the world to the BOY’S RANCH, THE BOY COMMANDOS, FIGHTING AMERICAN, THE FLY, SANDMAN AND SANDY, and romance and horror comics in general.  Simon, along with Kirby, were the original “IMAGE” comics, as they formed their own creator-based company, called MAINLINE COMICS, in the fifties, long before disgruntled Marvel employees of the nineties were a gleam in their disgruntled parents’ eyes!

So much of this was before my time, I only know about it through reprints and history books. …HOWEVER, I am old enough to recall the Joe Simon comics of the late 60s and early 70s, and they were so F***ING WEIRD that they remain amongst my favorite comics of all time.

Who but Joe Simon would have given us BROTHER POWER:  THE GEEK?

 

No biting the heads off of chickens in here...it's actually far weirder.

 

Crazy bikers, hippies galore and midgets in turbans is the standard for this title, only two issues of which were ever published.  In the late sixties, if you wanted a writer to talk to the new generations of peace and love, turn to a man in his fifties and let ‘im loose.  This wasn’t Joe’s only foray into talking to the young…just a few years later, Joe Simon would create the BEST comic DC would ever publish about teenage politics.

 

See what happens when you let 18 year olds vote?

 

The loons in the car with Prez are his cabinet, I kid you not.  The Native American fellow was Secretary of State, and he never wore a shirt, even to peace talks with Israel.  Go daddy, go!   When I was 14, this comic spoke to me, but mostly it told me to go kill the neighbor’s dog.

 

Because money solves everything.

 

Another of the Joe Simon lunatic-masterpieces of the 70s.   It’s Richie Rich meets the Newsboy Legion, and it lasted three issues, only ONE of which was actually published.  My favorite part of this comic was the subtle racism that the white kids either inherited or earned their millions…but the black kid got his money through a glitch in the bank that accidentally credited a shoe-shine boy’s account with a million dollars, because, you know…well…he was black.

My all time favorite of the wacky 70s Joe Simon creations was his last pairing with his original partner Jack Kirby for another run at the character name “SANDMAN”.

It was a precursor to the Vertigo series.  The main character lived in the “Dream Dome” and was able to enter the dreams of living people, and fight their nightmares.  And it was drawn by Kirby and inked by WALLY WOOD!  Talk about a Dream Team!  Unfortunately for DC and the rest of us, Simon, Kirby and Wood weren’t available for an issue #2, and they handed it off to lesser teams until the book was canceled 5 issues later. (Kirby did a couple more art jobs, but without Simon and Wood…meh).

So HAPPY BIRTHDAY JOE SIMON!  Marvel Comics, and the industry in general, would be nothing like it is today without you.  Thanks for helping Kirby find his style, and this youthful comic fan his joy in Oddball Comics.  You continue to be the legend you are.  Many more to come.

TY THE GUY OUT!

Here now, your comic book moment of zen.

Joan Hilty might have a reason to be Bitter Girl.

Ah , the restructuring at DC continues, and it’s hit at a couple of my peeps , downsizing DC mainstay Joan Hilty this week (creator of the comic strip BITTER GIRL, if you didn’t get the reference in the title).

Editor Joan becomes freelancer Joan!

Joan and I worked together a few times, and made some great comics while we did, so I’d like to give her a proper send -off with a quick Top Seven list.  Here now, the Top Seven books Joan Hilty edited while at the home of the Bat and the Cape.

7.  Flash

Waid is back. Acuna is off and running!

- Everything about this run of the Flash was delightful. The creative team, the covers, the plots, the whole feel of it all.  When it ALL feels right, you know there’s a hand on the wheel, steering.

6.  Flinch

Beautiful and creepy. The comic equivilant of a peanut butter cup.

- a daring, fun run of creativity.  Joan does the thankless job of editing an anthology with lovely results every damn time.  The line up of talent was stunning.  Go find ‘em and read em.

4. Steve Gerber’s Hard Time

Brilliant, and no ducks, whatsoever.

- unquestionably the best of the DC FOCUS books, and Gerber’s last GREAT series.  I thank the lucky stars that we all got a chance to join in.

5.  Blue Beetle

Say goodbye to the goofy super-hero.

-The Silver Age Blue Beetle was beloved by JUST enough people to ensure he’d never succeed in his own series.  This series proved you can re-invent for the modern reader and make it work.  Hilty goes stepping into the shoes of Julie Schwartz quite well.  (For other fun re-launch Joan comics, see OMAC PROJECT and MANHUNTER)

3. Birds of Prey

word balloons on a cover! Be still my heart.

-one of the best runs of the series since Dixon and Land started it all.  Joan presided over its re-birth as one of DC’s most fun books after a bit of a lull.  Simone and Benes certainly helped.  Great team, all around.

2.  Batman Adventures, (and related series).

Batman-less Batman at its best.

-People seemed to like this world of stories, so I include them.  I can’t gush too much about the whole enterprise without seeming like a ego-maniac as I wrote about a quarter of ‘em, but let’s point out how wonderful ALL the issues were, not just the ones I grubbed my hands all over.  Dig those crazy Gotham Girls!  And how beautiful were those BATMAN STRIKES covers?

1. LOONEY TUNES

Chuck Jones would be proud

- For years, this was my hands down favorite DC comic, I kid you not.  It was funny, witty, beautifully on-model and in the spirit of the original Termite Terrace, no matter who the writer or artist was.  One of the unsung GREAT DC series that no one read, and making it this consistently good when it was that far under the radar is the proof that Ms. Hilty knew how to do her job.

Honorable mentions:

Along with Looney Tunes, Joan did fantastic work keeping other “toon books” the best they could possibly be for years.  Anyone with an appreciation for this almost lost craft should check out Joan’s high water runs on Krypto the Superdog, Scooby Doo, and Powerpuff Girls.

-On the Road To Perdition

This unexpectedly terrific sequel to the original masterpiece deserves a special mention just for Joan coaxing the legendary Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez into a graphic novel’s worth of new artwork.  Anyone who hires the bizarrely-underused greatest storyteller of a generation gets my thanks.

Way to go, Joan.  You have much to be proud of for your years at DC, and your contribution to comics and art is assured.  See you ’round the funny books.

Ty the Guy OUT!

Here now, your comic book moment of zen

The farcical and the fleeting

More Canadian Superheroes!

Okay, I’ll admit I’m a Canadian.  It’s something I was born with, I’m not bragging or anything…

And as a result of all that Canadian blood in my veins, and stuff, y’all know that I’m the writer for a new mini-series from Moonstone Books featuring Johnny Canuck and the heroes of the NORTHERN GUARD, all based on the Canadian Golden Age comic book heroes….

Ty Templeton, David Cutler, KT Smith, covers Jason Edmiston

but did y’all know that my wife, the lovely and talented KT SMITH, is the letterer  for ANOTHER Canadian superhero series, an online extravaganza called HEROES OF THE NORTH? And they JUST put up the latest issue of the online comic and the latest episode of the online live-action series.

written by Michel Brouillette & Yann Brouillette/ art by Marcus MASMan Smith/ letters by KT Smith

You heard me right, snow-heroes…HOTN has downloadable comics, live action webisodes, and more, and it’s great fun.  Click here to bathe in the rich, bacony goodness of heroism amidst the tundra fur trappers. (Click HERE to join their Facebook Fan Page)

Ty the Guy OUT!

Here now, your comic book moment of zen:

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:

THE COUNTDOWN BEGINS…3….

Just three days before we launch Holmes Incorporated out into an eager world.  Three days before FanExpo, and three days before all my soon-to-be-published and soon-to-be-big-shot friends see their hard work come to fruition.

Today’s this-can’t-really-be-their-first-published-work entry comes from Magnificent Madeleine Beaupré (script),  Ravishing Rachael Wells (pencils), and Popular Pierce Desrochers-O’Sullivan (inks).  Besides being another fabulous and fun story, I believe this entry has the advantage of being created by the three most wonderful creators’ names in the biz.  They all sound like stars, now they get to shine like ‘em.

I know I’m biased, but I love that shot of Trey Holmes leaping for joy at the end of page one.

Going undercover at an all-girl’s school…?  Where do I volunteer?

To finish this pulse pounding tale of terrificness, show up at FanExpo and pick up your own amazingly inexpensive copy of HOLMES INCORPORATED No. #1, and prove you’re just that savvy.

Go HERE for yesterday’s Bobby Bomber pages.  Go HERE for the cover!  Here for more pages!  Here for even MORE pages! and HERE for more pages.   The TCW age of Comics has arrived, or at least it will in a mere three days.  Tomorrow, check back for even MORE exciting work from tomorrow’s superstars of comics.

TY THE GUY OUT!

Here now, your  comic book moment of zen