Wednesday, March 31, 2010

In Which We Realize It May Never End Wednesday!

I think it's over. I went through all five issues of Nature Boy and got all the ha-ha's out of it I could find. Except this one:

That's right! Of course there was a Nature Girl! Why wouldn't there be? And, just like Miss Muscles, we have no idea what her origin is or how she relates (if at all) to Nature Boy.

But we do know this:

She has a pet elephant. And she travels by being flung through the trees, by the trees themselves. I have no idea what that entails, and I'll admit I'm a bit underwhelmed at the detail of the artwork. Then again, if I were the artist and I read that I had to draw someone travelling by being "flung from one tree to another," I would probably have just blown that off as well.

Here's some deep characterization of the bad guy:

Lazlo hates elephants. What the heck more do you need to know? It's not like there's ever going to be a Lazlo mini-series! He hates elephants! Pay attention and quit asking stupid questions!

And Nature Girl, for reasons we don't know, apparently controls gravity:

Of course, I'm not sure that by putting the rifle at even zero gravity would be enough to wrest it out of Lazlo's grip. He'd be more likely to say, "Wow, my rifle sure doesn't seem that heavy right now! I could shoot elephants all day!"

But anyway, here's a little jungle justice:

You and I both know there's no way he can run ten miles. Lazlo is about to have the back of his skull sprayed all over the landscape.

See? What they didn't have space to put in was Lazlo's dialogue:

"*huff* *puff* Mercy! *huff* I can't *huff* *puff* go any further *huff* AIIIEEEEE!"


Followed by the sound of various jungle carnivores taking turns at Lazlo's remains.

See? Now, that's entertainment.

Some day, I'll get my own series. You just watch.

See you Thursday!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

I'm Starting to Realize I May Have a Problem Tuesday!

Before we begin today's post, let's remember the great contributions of Dick Giordano, who recently passed away but left behind some great contributions to this hobby of ours we love so much.

So okay, I agree this is getting out of hand, but I can't seem to make myself stop.

As with many panels, I did "re-color" this cover a bit digitally. But I promise you, I did nothing to our hero's costume. As we all know by now (and isn't it delightful that we're all becoming such experts on the forgotten stars of Charlton Comics? Yet another public service I have provided. And you're welcome.), Nature Boy wears some sort of yellow unitard. So, what we appear to have here is Nature Boy in his underpants straddling a lightning bolt. Move along, folks! Nothing to see here!

Seriously, as if someone finding a copy of Nature Boy in your collection wouldn't be enough humiliation, they had to go and do that? Why must you test my devotion to you, oh Comic Book Publishers?

But believe it or don't, we have a new induction into the Character Hall of Fame! (tm!):

The "jiver" in question is Ikzip, and as you can see, he's awesome. Granted, like all of Nature Boy's foes, he was defeated in about five panels, but I liked his little attitude:

You tell 'em, Ikzip! Fight the Power!

And, sooner or later, Nature Boy had to introduce himself to the world at large. It is as uncomfortable as you might imagine:

Words cannot describe what I would have endured had my father found this in my collection, but it's a comic from 1956! What can you do?

I wish I could promise you it was over. But it isn't. Not yet, my pretties!

See you tomorrow!

Monday, March 29, 2010

More Nature Boy Monday!

You say you can't stand Nature Boy? Well, this isn't exactly a blog showcasing the best in comics, is it? If you only want the good stuff.... well, hoo boy, are you in the wrong place! More Nature Boy it is!

Like I mentioned on Friday, the whole gimmick of Nature Boy's powers was rather unremarkable because he never did anything himself. He was just kind of like a middle manager with a union contract. By Nature Boy #4, I think the "Kings of Weather" were getting a little tired of him:

Can't you just hear it? "What's your effin' problem now?"

And Nature Boy does nothing to discourage this. Not a "please" or a "thank you" comes out of his mouth, ever. No wonder the Kings of Weather got sick of the little turd. He's not exactly one to talk about another person's selfishness, is he?

Now almost everyone knows Spider-Man's mantra, "With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility." That's a pretty good lesson to live by.

Unless, of course, you're Nature Boy:

Yes, I suppose being with one's friends is a lot more enjoyable than taking on responsibilities and living up to our potential. I imagine Nature Boy would have done even less with his career had he access to a Playstation 3 and a bag of "Cheetos."

But we do have our occasional Moment of Comic Book Greatness (tm!) with Nature Boy:

That was, far and away, the worst  slap I think I've ever seen. If you can't make Nature Boy's teeth rattle, you really aren't putting your shoulder into it.

Stop your grumbling! Stop it, I say! No one ever said life at CMNS was going to be all sunshine and sausages!

See you tomorrow!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Even in the Eighties, DC Comics had Standards Friday!

I'm almost wondering if I'm just being lazy, but can you really have a comics blog and not talk about..... Nature Boy???

Behold the power of.... Nature Boy!:

I wish I could say that was just an unfortunate one-time utterance, but he said "Let 'er rip!" more than once, so I presume he thought that was some kind of battle cry. Yes, I know. Let's just try to move on.

Nature Boy had powers that were extremely passive in that he didn't actually do anything himself. Like Johnny Thunder and Kid Eternity, he just kind of wished for things to happen:

Yes, he was calling on "King Gusto." I'm beginning to see why DC didn't revive Nature Boy in the 1980's, even though they were willing to take a shot with Peacemaker. Maybe Nature Boy was disemboweled in the Crisis on Infinite Earths and I've just forgotten about it.

The obvious problem with having to ask for stuff to happen from King Gusto and his pals is that he tended to telegraph his moves. Thusly:

Now, it seems to me that if you know what you're doing, you can either (a) simply punch Nature Boy in the clavicle and render him unable to speak or (b) pay close attention to what he is saying and react accordingly. Either way, I don't see him taking down Dr. Doom anytime soon.

Near as I can tell, Nature Boy didn't have any super-powered opponents, which was probably for the best, as I think the only villain he might actually beat would be Kite-Man from Batman. King Gusto, blow Kite-Man into a tree as if he were being flown by Charlie Brown!

But, just as you think you've wasted your life reading comics, you find a Moment of Comic Book Greatness! (tm!):


See you Monday!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Be Careful What You Ask For Thursday!

Well, I was going to launch into another equally lame character, but you just had to see Miss Muscles, didn't you?

No one was ever clear, at least in the comic themselves, as to the origins of Kid Muscles or Miss Muscles. Then again, how much do you need to know about someone whose big power is putting one unarmed man in an arm lock? :

And, like every good sidekick.... heck, every good woman, she would always drop what she was doing to support her man:

Despite their shared surname, I'm not at all convinced that Mr. Muscles and Miss Muscles had any kind of relationship. I mean, she wasn't Mrs. Muscles. And in the previous issue, she didn't appear in Mr. Muscles own stories at all - instead, she beat up two women in the gym who were jealous of her because she was dating a guy named "Twelve-Toes." It makes your head hurt just thinking about it, doesn't it?

So, who were the parents of Kid Muscles? I don't know, because this title would bite the big one with this, the second issue (or, according to Charlton Comics math, the twenty-third issue). I don't know how anyone related to anyone else. Maybe they all just belonged to the same gym. I don't know. I suppose there's an online resource that might answer that question, but if I can't tell by reading the comic, I certainly don't see why I should put forth that kind of effort.

I did find it funny, in a perverse way, to speculate as to what the names of the animals would be if Mr. Muscles, Kid Muscles, and Miss Muscles lived on a farm. The rooster and the barn cat alone would be enough for you to click that "Report Inappropriate Content" button up there.

Fare thee well, Muscle Family. We barely knew ye.

Although we might have gotten to know ye a little bit better had we not been cheated out of the last Muscles story in favor of Steeplejack:

So, the premise is that the guy works up high? I'm supposed to be spending my allowance on this instead of Batman? Normally, I'm all in favor of B-characters, but what next? Troy Dinglekamp: Toll Booth Attendant?

Charlton Comics, I love you, yet I must slay you. I take no joy in this.

Well, not an excessive amount of joy.

See you tomorrow!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Splendid Physique of Wednesday!

You thought Sinistro, Boy Fiend was the cat's pajamas? Well, of course you did. But let's not overlook Mr. Muscles!

So, how does one go about creating a comic character as bitchin' as Mr. Muscles? Believe it or don't, the character came from Superman co-creator Jerry Siegel in 1956, which just goes to show no one bats a thousand.

Jim Norman is not only a he-man, but he narrates his own dialogue. "You can get away with that if you are manly enough," says Adam Barnett on his insanely awesome blog.

Although you might have noticed from yesterday's post that there was a Mr. Muscles #22 and #23, this is because of more Charlton Comics wacky numbering system. In this case, they just took over the numbering from the canceled (sob!) Blue Beetle series and tried to give the title some instant cred. It didn't work, of course, and the title was canceled after the next issue.

The origin of the character was that he contracted polio, and through sheer dedication and force of will, became a perfect physical specimen. Because people can do that. That's why only weak-willed and morally flawed people ever get sick and die.

And if you didn't like him....

.... that's right, you were just jealous of his splendid physique.

This guy isn't the same character that appeared in the hilarious Hero Hotline decades later, by the way. But he did have perhaps the most disturbing sidekick ever:

That's right... make way for Kid Muscles!

I suppose he was meant to be a role model for you flabby kids, but we all know that comic book geeks prefer to bypass years of sweaty workouts in favor of magic lightning and powerful rings given to us by dying space aliens.

Anyway, people also had some sort of weird awe of Kid Muscles' physique (excuse me... splendid physique) as well:

I'm not going to lie to you. Reading this was disturbing on many levels. Captain America is low-key compared to this thing.

Seriously, is this a character description, or a personals ad on Craigslist?:

The scary thing is, I just know I have to read the next issue to see how all this turns out. See you tomorrow!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Smiling Skull Tuesday!

A hero is only as interesting as his villain. Superman is boring because there are simply no decent foes for him to fight. Batman is awesome because even the Mad Hatter has his moments. Spider-Man and the Flash? Great roster of bad guys. Iron Man and Green Lantern? Not so much. You get the idea.

So never discount the importance of a bad guy. Keep that in mind when considering The Smiling Skull:

You see? We just take Captain America's foe Red Skull and draw him kind of like the Red Skull would look like if the Joker got a hold of him. Of course, if Marvel or DC's lawyers wrote a nasty letter, we would swear this is a totally original character and we're Charlton Comics and we're not making any money anyway so go ahead and sue us, you bastards! We're judgment-proof!

And don't all skulls smile? I'm just saying....

I presume this woman had a head, but you'd never know it:

Comic Books: Teaching Boys how to Unsuccessfully Relate to Women Since 1939.

We're not finished with Judomaster. Oh, no. You're not that lucky and neither am I. But when you find something like this in the pile, you put everything on hold and jump straight to it:

Yes, my lovelies. You may sleep well tonight, knowing that when you wake up, I'm going to give you the awesomeness of Mr. Muscles.

I know. I can't wait, either.

See you tomorrow!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Disclaimer-Laden Butt-Kicking Monday!

Hey, kids! Let's pretend you're going to put the comic books down some day (in this case, Judomaster #89) and actually venture into the outdoors where you may encounter another human being!

There's kind of a mixed message here, Judomaster. You're telling me how to kick ass, so aren't you doing the supervising? Full speed ahead!

Hmmmmm.... so, you're telling me that none of this will work without years of someone teaching me how to do it right? I'm getting the impression we might just be filling in pages here.

So, if you're attacked, make sure your attacker assumes the proper stance, or this may not work. At all. Not even a little bit. But walk down the street with confidence, knowing that if you are attacked by someone who doesn't mind moving his feet to the proper position, you may be able to get him an inch or two off the ground before you are pistol-whipped to the point where your dental records may be necessary for identification of your corpse.

Anyway, when practicing this with your partner (who we all know is your unsuspecting little brother), make sure you don't throw him too hard. You know, hard enough to make him cry is okay, as long as it isn't so hard he narcs to your parents, or actually breaks the coffee table you accidentally heave him into. Remember: Bouncy, not breaky.

And, if you happen to knock out any permanent teeth whilst you practice these moves without supervision or any other regards to your own safety or that of others, you can always use Liquid Paper WYTEN to cover up the extensive dental work:

I seriously want to see photographic evidence of any child successfully using this product to hide braces.

See you Monday!

Friday, March 19, 2010

A Tribute to Sinistro, Boy Fiend! Friday!

I like this comic simply because it has stones:

It's worth noting that this was published in January, 1968, a good six years after the Green Lantern villain Sinestro made his debut in the summer of 1961. And it's not worth noting that if the Green Lantern movie is ever made with Ryan Reynolds, Sinestro reportedly won't be the bad guy. Instead, we're getting stuck with Hector Hammond. What's up with that? Was the Javelin too busy?

Anyway, the Sinistro, Boy Fiend comic was bitchin' because someone, somewhere, got the permission of the Charlton bigwigs (such as they were) to not only use their some of their most popular characters, but to have them lose.

Normally, I'm very protective of the Silver Age Blue Beetle, but that rules your world. Don't even pretend it doesn't.

It's even better when a crappy character like Peacemaker just falls in a hole:

Yeah! That's the stuff!

For some reason, the Question and Captain Atom were absent. I'm prepared to guess that not everyone was in the mood to watch the hero of their respective publication get smacked around by a one-shot character no one was supposed to take seriously. So, they made up a few more guys to take a dive, like Superguy and the Green Spider:

Any resemblances to the angst-ridden Spider-Man over at Marvel Comics was purely a coincidence. At least, that's what they would have said in court.

So, welcome to the Character Hall of Fame, Sinistro, Boy Fiend. You have me in such a good mood, I'll even ignore E-Man's costume:

Normally, that would be in the Costume Hall of Shame because math is never cool. Never, I say! But I enjoyed Sinistro, Boy Fiend so much that I'm giving him a pass.

See you Monday!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Only Tony Isabella Should Write Black Lightning Stories Thursday!

It's no secret that, unless you are only using the character for a few panels in Justice League of America, Black Lightning just isn't very good unless he's written by his co-creator, Tony Isabella. But that rarely happens because the comic book business, like every other business, has a way of ruining the finished product when management and the artists don't see eye-to-eye.

Black Lightning is kind of notorious because, while he's always been a rather well-liked character, most comic geeks are well aware that in the past, DC Comics would do almost anything to avoid using him. The most hilarious example of this was when they created an African-American hero with electrical powers but renamed him "Black Vulcan" for the dreadful Super-Friends Saturday morning TV series. Even as a youngster, the first thing I asked when I saw the character was, "Why didn't they just use Black Lightning?" Little did I know how loaded a question that was.

Not once, but twice (once in the 70's and once in the 90's) was Tony Isabella given the writing chores of a Black Lightning solo series. And not once, but twice was Isabella taken off and replaced by someone who not only didn't seem to "get" the Black Lightning character, but seemed to have a hard time writing about an African-American's perspective at all.

Picture J.K. Rowling not writing the last couple of Harry Potter books. It's that bad.

I give you... World's Finest #256:

Now, have you ever heard an African-American refer to him or herself with that term? Never use that term. Never. It's like using the word "retarded" as an insult. Just. Don't.

Also, even if you know someone named "Black Lightning," don't give them this nickname:

You know, I don't see racism in everything. But I just don't think calling anyone that is a good idea. Denny O'Neil is a great writer, but you just get the feeling he probably should have had a friend proofread this before he sent it in.

And, as an aside, you might remember Sinbad's portrayal of Black Lightning on Saturday Night Live. He wasn't recognized by the other super-heroes at a party and took all the free shrimp from the buffet table before he left in a huff. I wish I could show you that clip, but NBC doesn't have it online. It's a shame, because that was genius.

On the plus side, the next story had this:

Admit it. You laughed a little. Because it's funny.

It was almost as funny as this Moment of Comic Book Greatness! (tm!):

Wouldn't you like to see the original script here? "Hawkwoman grabs the bird lady by her feathered tail. The bird lady is really angry ("SKAWKK!") but just kind of flutters around in frustration."

Man, that's good stuff. I guess cranking out 80 pages a month was a lot to ask from the makers of World's Finest back in the day.

See you tomorrow!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Aliens Know Good Hair Care Products Wednesday!

I'm not saying I could do any better, but check out the design of the communication devices Batman and Robin used in Detective #41:

Is it really necessary to design the thing so you have to shout towards your crotch to communicate? I'm no engineer, but it just seems like Bruce could have come up with something a little more dignified.

In 1981, Charleston got my hopes up by releasing Charleston Bullseye #1, which gave me the then-unheard of teaming of the Blue Beetle and the Question. I know! In the same story! What's more,

it gave us a robot shark. Robot sharks are almost as cool as giant gorillas, and are always a sure sign of awesomeness.

But the two wouldn't appear again in the same story until DC Comics bought out the Charleston characters shortly thereafter. Some of those characters were awesome until DC killed them off, like the Blue Beetle and the Question. Some were terrible and killed off as a public service, like Peacemaker. Some just kind of hang out on the fringes of relevancy, like Captain Atom, Nightshade, and Sarge Steel. But, for some reason, we have yet to see a revival of The Vanguards.

What's that? You never heard of The Vanguards? Well, check them out:

The Vanguards were created by Larry Houston, who we can safely assume didn't date much in high school. And, believe it or don't, Charleston Bullseye #4 is the only known appearance of the team.

I especially love how we sum everyone's origin up in those three panels. You don't really want to know these gals, do you? They look good in skin-tight clothing, and isn't that what matters?

Welcome to the Character Hall of Shame, girls. Let me get the door for you.

See you tomorrow!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Writers in the Golden Age Had Serious Issues Tuesday!

It's no secret that in the early days, Batman didn't think twice about killing people. And I'm not talking about Nazis at wartime. He'd pretty much kill anyone whose face he didn't like.

Check out this portrait from Detective Comics #35:

Yup. Batman packs heat, and likes to soften a room up with lead before he actually enters it. Hope he has the right apartment!

Would you see who's at the door, dear?

Sure! Why hello, Batman, what brings you (BLAM! BLAM!) AIEEEEEEEE!

A little detectivin' from Detective Comics #39:

There's only one kind of people who will kill with a hatchet!

Um... people with access to hatchets?

Of course, this was before Batman's bad guys would obligingly leave big grins on their victims faces, or perform robberies with cats, penguins, or in the Riddler's case, just come right out and send letters to Gotham City Police Headquarters.

Here's a little lighthearted Batman tale from Detective #41:

Holy. Jumpin'. Heck. Seriously, what is that? These stories are supposed to be for children, and I'm watching a scene out of Dexter!

Man, that is seriously messed up. I'm beginning to understand why they created the Comics Code.

Oh, well. More on that tomorrow!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Is There *Supposed* to be a Chandelier in That Dungeon? Monday!

Just to start the week off right, a Moment of Comic Book Greatness! (tm!)

I'm not sure what the test is going to be, but I'm a little nervous at this guy picking his nose. If it involves anything that comes out on his gnarled little finger, the jig is totally up. Good call, General!

And thank you, World's Finest #253, for that Moment of Comic Book Greatness! (tm!)

Another look at early Batman from Detective Comics #31:

You know, I realize there's a learning curve if you want to be a masked vigilante, but did Bruce really not foresee the slight possibility that he might need something with a sharp edge at some point in time? There's a lot of wasted effort going on here.

Yeah, you cut the net with a shard of broken glass. Whoopity-doo! Next time, consider employing the wisdom of any Cub Scout and keep a knife handy.

But there are giant gorillas, and that's always good:

Ah, a giant gorilla. You just can't lose with a giant gorilla. I think a lot of these modern cross-over events would be a lot better if, for no particular reason, a giant gorilla just showed up and started beating the thunder out of everyone. It would be so awesome. Secret Invasion certainly would have been more readable.

When I take over Marvel and/or DC, you will see a lot more giant gorillas. On that, my friend, you can rely.

See you tomorrow!