Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Why you no post, Dave Campbell?

Wow, sorry I have been so scarce of late. Nothing like frittering away one's readership by going AWOL for a week.

I hope to get back into a regular posting schedule soon, but I am dealing with some generic Personal Shit right now and the world of comic books and blogging has to take a back seat to real life. Sometimes I wish I could solve all my problems with violence like my favorite superheroes...
You know, wait a second. Maybe I can solve my problems with violence and acrobatics! I'm going to try that.

So anyway, thanks for visiting and sorry about the lack of updates. I hope to get back in the saddle again this week and start kicking ass once again.

Oh, and to the two assholes who emailed me with their passive-agressive complaints about my lack of updates - I will send you a refund check for your costly subscription to my blog ASAP, you big turds, you.
Some day soon I will write a lengthy post about my perverse love for the 70's live-action kids' show Jason of Star Command (pictured below). Look at those guys. How can you not want to be part of that? That's what the phones of the future will look like. And the belt buckles of the future.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

How I want Civil War to end:

Reed Richards and Iron Man: keep them
away from the podium!

(Original art by Ron Lim from The Infinity War #2, which turned out to be an apt title, no?)

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Batman on acid!

Increase the tempo! Ignore the target! Attack the other someplaces!
Batman is freaking out.
This is a Joker-induced hallucination from Batman #294 (1977), so don't worry. Batman doesn't really do drugs, kids. I just want to be the #1 search result for "Batman on acid." Goals are important, kids.

Monday, January 15, 2007

DRAKE HOGESTYN, Living Comic Book Character

Recently CBR columnist Augie DeBlieck wrote an interesting post about the similarities and differences between monthly comic books and TV soap operas. Augie (who just wrote his 500th Pipeline column, congrats BTW) examines some of the things soap operas do right and what comic book companies could learn from them, and shares a little love for my favorite soap opera actor ever --
-- motherfuckin’ Drake Hogestyn.

I thought I was the only geek who even knew who Drake “John Black” Hogestyn was. In case you don’t know, Drake is a true superstar in the world of daytime dramas. A former baseball player, he’s been acting on NBC’s Days of Our Lives for over twenty years and is the male half of the “supercouple” John/Marlena (the other half is played by Deirdre Hall of ElectroWoman and DynaGirl fame).

Hogestyn is the William Shatner of soap operas. The undisputed master of the cocked eyebrow and the “I smell a fart” school of acting, there is no scene on Days that cannot be improved with the inclusion of Drake Hogestyn. Even the little character moments are painted in such broad strokes by Hogestyn that you cannot help but watching. He is truly mesmerizing.

Behold Brilliance:

Drake's character, John Black, has a more convoluted back story than Wolverine, and is every bit as bad ass. John Black has been possessed, hunted a serial rapist, escaped from dungeons, been presumed dead multiple times, and has kicked more ass than any soap opera character this side of General Hospital’s Robert Scorpio. And just like Wolverine, John Black has a poet’s soul and hides his pain behind a macho fa├žade. We know you're hurting, John. We know.

Sure, he’s on a soap opera, but this cat could easily make the jump to the four color world. I would pay money to see a John Black: Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. mini-series. I would PAY to write that. And why not? Recently The Guiding Light had a Marvel comics "crossover" where one of the actresses becomes a superhero - why not the other way around? A comic book about the World's #1 Bad Ass Soap Opera Star?

It would go something like this:

John Black (into phone): “MODOK, you scumbag. You better pray Marlena isn’t hurt or no force on Earth will save you from me. You read me, freak?”

MODOK: “Brave words, Agent John Black, but soon the city of Salem will belong to MODOK! If only Marlena had loved me when I was human, when I was a fragile psychiatric patient with no memory. Now it is too late for you both. Ha ha ha ha ha!”

John Black (trembling with rage): “MO-DAAAWK!”

John puts phone down, stares off at some point in middle background, frowning as if he's trying to remember where he parked his Jeep.

John Black (quiet): “I’m coming for you Marlene, and that’s a fact. Just hang on for me… Hang on…”


God, yes. Why can't this be real?

Every month or so the writers of Days of Our Lives gives John Black somebody to beat up in an awkward, live-televison way. For example, here's how Marlena and John Black meet, back in The Day:

Is that Doogie Howser, M.D. robbing that restaurant? Whoever the unnamed headbanded bandit is, he looks like a rough customer. Maybe he was on his way to a gig as a background dancer in a Michael Jackson video and decided to stop in for a quick robbery.

Not only is Drake Hogestyn a macho hombre on the small screen, but he cracks skulls in real life, too. Recently a deranged male fan got into Drake's Malibu mansion hoping to exorcise The Devil out of the actor. Crazy stalker pushed Drake's wife down... and it was ON.

Drake went into full Kill/Destroy mode and subdued the attacker. In the police report, Drake writes that he "grabbed [crazy man] by the hair, spun him around, delivered a right cross to the chin that sent him down the stairs." That's doin' it John Black style. Then Drake and his son duct-taped the guy's hands and feet together and waited for the cops to arrive.

THAT is what you get for fucking with Drake Hogestyn, the Toughest Sumbitch in Soap Operas. Join us, Drake. Join us in our comic book dreamworld and become the pulp culture superstar you were destined to be.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Lame-ass villain #16 - Orka

I hesitate to put Orka on the Lame-ass Villain list for reasons that are difficult to articulate. Here, I will describe this undersea supervillain to you and let you be the judge.
Orka is a 24-foot tall water-breathing freak from Atlantis who posseses the power of his misspelled namesake, the Orka wayuhl.
First appearing in Prince Namor the Sub-Mariner in 1970, Orka was an Atlantean soldier who was given a belt with a "psionic amplifier" that gave him Whale Power. Who gave him the belt? None other than Lame-Ass Villain #14, Dr. Dorcas. No relation. Orka should also not be confused with Lame-Ass Villain #10, Orca. Hmm, I sense a trend. Or perhaps it's an unconscious bias on my part towards orca-sounding names due to my pathological hatred of the 1977 Richard Harris film Orca.
A little background: Orka was created by comics wunderkind Roy Thomas as a foe for Namor, but the blue brute has since appeared in a number of other comics. Orka's err, distinctive look was designed by legendary artist Marie Severin.
And what a look it is. Orka was also given a truly unfortunate outfit by Dr. Dorcas, one presumes. Look at that thing. I don't know what they were wearing down in Atlantis during the 70's, but that is some wacky shit by any standards. What the hell are those things ringing his face? Teeth? Giant discolored teeth? Is his costume supposed to look like a blue guy getting eaten by an orca? I'll admit that his flipper feet do look like they would be practical underwater, but how does Orka ski? Or skate?
Later in his career Orka developed his own natural Whale Power and didn't need his special belt anymore to get busy. From what I understand, Orka liked the look of the belt so much that he had a duplicate belt made to carry his stuff. For the first time ever, here is a look at the contents of Orka's utility belt:

There you have it: Orka. Hot or not? You make the call.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

ELEMENTALS #5 Comico, 1985

Elementals was an independent superhero comic published by Comico during the go-go Eighties. Created by writer/artist Bill Willingham, Elementals is about four people who die and then are resurrected and infused with mystical powers and eternal youth by these cosmic elemental beings. Work with me here.

The four dead people become Fathom (water), Morningstar (fire), Jeff (air), and Monolith (earth). Jeff's hero name is Vortex, but everybody just calls him Jeff.
Man, that would piss me off. You get a perfectly good superhero code name and everybody still just calls you Jeff. I would feel the same way if I was Batman and everybody kept calling me Bruce. I’d be all, “Listen, I know you’re Superman and all but cut that Bruce shit out. If I’m on the clock you call me fuckin’ Batman, a’ight?”

Anyway, the thing that made Elementals interesting to me was all the sex and violence. Keep in mind that I was fifteen at the time. Elementals looked like a regular DC or Marvel superhero comic book, but it distinguished itself with graphic super-carnage and "adult" storylines. It was like watching a Cinemax: After Dark movie, but in comic book format. Hmm, that’s probably not a compliment… I dug The Elementals because it struck just the right subversive note for young hormonal Dave.
"You get a perfectly good superhero code name and everybody still just calls you Jeff."
Plus I was curious to see what kind of comic Bill Willingham would produce. I'm an old school RPG geek, so I was very familiar with Willingham's illustrations for TSR games. Didn't he draw some Villains & Vigilantes stuff as well, or am I confusing him with Jeff Dee?
Anyway, Elementals #5 is the culmination of the "Lord Saker" saga, which would be considered the definitive Elementals storyline. If they were going to make an Elementals movie, this would be the basis for the script. Our heroes get captured by the sorcerous Saker after defeating his squad of resurrected villains, cleverly named The Destroyers. The issue preceding this chronicles the year The Elementals spend incarcerated on Nacht Island, Saker's private kingdom (complete with all-female armed forces). That alone blew Young Dave: they're prisoners for an entire year? In most comics the heroes count the amount of time they spend captured in minutes, not months.
At the end of last issue, the water-wielding Fathom escapes through a toilet. In this issue, she comes back to Nacht Island and she's bringing a big fucking tsunami with her. The wave sweeps over the island, killing mass people and shorting out the electrical systems. The rest of The Elementals escape.

These guys have spent an entire year as Saker's involuntary guests, and now they want to vent their frustrations, and violently. The resurrected Destroyers get in the way. Here's Electrocutioner vs Fathom:

As you can probably guess, Electrocutioner was given his code name for a reason - he uses his electro-whammy powers on the flooded room, intending to, well, electrocute Fathom. He doesn't, but he does kill all the she-soldiers who are standing knee-deep in water. Oops.
The evil purple lady Shapeshifter catches up with Morningstar, the object of her sadistic attentions for the past year. Here's a neat little sequence where Shapeshifter changes into a big-ass snake with the swing of a lightbulb:

Is she dry humping the pipe in that panel? What the hell?
Morningstar is not happy to see Shapeshifter no matter what she looks like. Observe:

Shapeshifter and Morningstar meet again. If memory serves, in a later storyline Morningstar discovers that her fiance Eric is actually Shapeshifter, who is literally and psychologically screwing with her. That's pretty messed up if you think about it.
Jeff (aka Vortex) finally goes up against Lord Saker, the undying sorceror who runs this crazy island. In the previous issue we learn that Saker is a Lazarus-like figure who was resurrected by a false prophet during Biblical times. Over the centuries he has developed into a wicked powerful magician. Saker has built this huge magic contraption called the Shadowspear, with which he intends to harness all the magic energy in the world. He doesn't - because Jeff is there to stop him! Go Jeff!

Stupid sorceror - he could make Jeff's head explode or turn him into fart, but no, Saker has to take the Primate Challenge and meet Jeff on his own terms. With some smooth Jeff Fu, our hero basically casts Saker into Hell. The Shadowspear is released into the world and becomes this big spooky plot device storm cloud that goes around resurrecting people and creating monsters and shit like that.
I wish Willingham was still writing and drawing The Elementals. It's probably for the best, because Willingham has moved on and now writes the excellent Fables comic for Vertigo. From what I understand he sold the property to Comico in the Nineties and the last we saw of the characters was in 1997's Elementals Sex Special, an undignified ending to a comic series that had such a promising start. I don't have the Elementals Sex Special, mind you - I looked it up on the Internet. No, seriously.
Fine, think what you want.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

WAR STORIES Vol 2. Vertigo (DC) Comics, 2006

War Stories Vol 2. collects four issues of writer Garth Ennis’s tough-as-leather war comic book. A quasi-anthology, War Stories featured a different artist illustrating an Ennis script.

Ennis, best known for writing the acclaimed series Preacher and his work on Marvel’s Punisher and The Boys, is no stranger to glib humor paired with brutal violence. I find some of Ennis’s stuff a little off-putting – he takes the “violence is funny” maxim to an extreme – but I think most of his work has a sentimental core and a devotion to individualism, qualities that War Stories possesses. Garth Ennis war comics are like Aaron Copland music drifting across a bloody, stinking battlefield. No, not Copland’s “Rodeo.” That would be funny, but inappropriate.

Most of the four tales collected in the thick War Stories trade paperback take place during WWII, and all of them feature brutal violence, heartfelt profanity, and the evocative snarky dialogue the writer is known for.

“J for Jenny” is the grim story of a British bomber crew flying missions over Germany in 1943. Each crew member takes a turn in the caption boxes, narrating the story from their point of view. David “V for Vendetta” Lloyd’s noir art has deep shadows and grainy textures – the night bombing scenes are particularly well executed. The veteran Lloyd’s art is a perfect match to Ennis’s stark script.

Check it out:

“I know what human fat smells like.” I love that shit! The dialogue, not the smell of human fat.

Next up is "The Rievers," a story set at the dawn of modern special forces about the daredevil commandos of the Long Range Desert Group. They tear around North Africa blowing up German air bases and just generally having a good time. This story explores the fine line between an adventurous spirit and the ultimately self-destructive lust of those “lovers of war.” An officer’s ambitious warrior spirit pulls him and his men into a deadly situation where daring may not be enough. Things don’t end well.

I can’t think of a better person to illustrate this than Cam Kennedy, who draws stylized figures that feel heavy and real. Kennedy’s commandos are slightly exaggerated but completely convincing and utterly bad-ass.

The coloring really makes this book. From the headlight glare of the commando jeeps to the pale desert sky, the coloring job on this story really enhances the mood and compliments the line art.

"The Condors," with art by Spanish artist Carlos Ezquerra, is a merciless story set during The Spanish Civil War with two fascist and two rebel soldiers sharing the same foxhole during a night of hellish bombing. Each soldier tells their story, and they are not happy stories. This story was well-crafted and relentlessly grim.

The book ends with "Archangel," the story of a British fighter pilot who swears a lot.

As you can see by studying the full-page panel above, this is a POV shot from our main character’s plane during a wicked dogfight. He’s just managed to stitch a line of bullet holes across the wing of his commanding officer’s plane. This mistake does not endear himself to his CO, who banishes him to the camship program. It may as well be a death sentence.
The program was designed to provide aerial protection for Allied convoys from long-range German bombers. A modified fighter plane is launched via rocket-rail from the back of a merchant ship to fend off the enemy planes. The pilots were expected to ditch in the freezing North Atlantic or fly to land – if they had enough fuel. It was a crazy-ass idea.

Our hero thinks so, too.

"Archangel" strikes a decidedly lighter tone than the other three stories, but it is no less effective. The aerial sequences are beautifully rendered by Gary Erskine. The sequence where the RAF pilot defends the convoy from attack while his gas tank empties is brilliant and stirring.

Plus, there is a lot of swearing and explosions and planes blowing up.

If you ever enjoyed a Sgt. Rock or G.I. Combat or Haunted Tank story, do yourself a favor and check out both volumes of Garth Ennis’s War Stories. 9 times out of 10 he strikes a perfect tone, balanced somewhere between awe and cynicism, blood and glory. Go check that shit out and thank me later.

Monday, January 01, 2007

2007 - It is ON

Well, that was an interesting year.

2006 was the Year of No Sleep here at Dave's Long Box. Maybe the Year of No Posts would be a better title. We welcomed a new addition to the Campbell Clan, baby Mira, who is now walking and climbing and eating and pointing/grunting and occasionally screaming bloody murder. Mira is a handful on her own, but when you combine her with my 4-year old daughter Ava Justice, you have a perfect storm of cuteness. Often this year I was forced to make a decision between blogging and kids or between blogging and sleep. Blogging often lost.

2006 also brought massive upheaval and an increased workload at The Day Job, which sucked, and lots of writing gigs on the side, including The Invincible Handbook of the Invincible Universe from Image Comics. The second issue of the Handbook should be on sale this week and it is rad so go buy it.

What else? I won't bother recapping the trends and events in the Comics Universe this year; that's no what we're all about here and besides, other people do it much better than I. I also won't bother recapping the highlights of the blog this year; I'll wait until my 2nd Blogiversary in March to revisit Sentinel Bras and french-kissing bears and the like.

Do you like my fancy new banner? It's red. Motherfuckin' Kevin Church designed that bad boy.

You know what the best part about 2006 was for me? Aside from the birth of my daughter. The best part about the whole blog thingy? I liked seeing my fellow bloggers and geeks experiencing some success and producing some great stuff. I feel like I'm on the 2nd floor of an elevator ride to Radness, and I have a lot of company in the car.

Except for Chris Sims. I will bury you this year, Sims.