Thursday, July 26, 2012

Guardians of the Galaxy : my secret origin

I know this was supposed to be the second part of my long awaited Erlangen comic convention travellog of which I wrote the first part at the beginning of last month. And if I want to get more than one post finished this month I should really get a move on.

But before we get to my - far too short - adventures in Erlangen there´s a bit of old business from my last Erlangen entry to tie up. I mentioned it in the comments but I´m not sure if everybody reads those so here is a small correction I have to make.

I wrote that the original Guardians of the Galaxy ( or OG for short ) made their first appearance in the KORVAC SAGA which is not true. Esteemed blogger Terry Hooper - Scharf, who writes the really brilliant COMICBITS ONLINE blog which you should follow with near religious devotion, reminded me that the Korvac Saga was not the first appearance of the Guardians of the Galaxy. That was in 1969 in issue 18 of MARVEL SUPER - HEROES, an anthology series that offered reprinted stories as well as new content and the story was drawn by none other than Gene Colan who also did the cover. Since I don´t have the issue I can´t tell you more about it but for those who are interested in it Jason Sacks at Comics Bulletin has written an in - depth article about the Origin of the Guardians of the Galaxy that pretty much covers it all.

What I really meant was that the first time I encountered the Guardians of the Galaxy was the KORVAC SAGA. Although I´m not talking about issue 167 of AVENGERS but rather issue 3 of LOS VENGADORES, published in April 1983 and which boldly exclaimed ¡ LLEGAN ..... LOS GUARDIANES DE LAS GALAXIAS !

That´s just so typically spanish, always one - upping those malditos gringos. Instead of the Guardians of the Galaxy it´s Guardians of the Galaxies - plural. Because we don´t start with just one little galaxy, we guard them all. And for 95 measly Pesetas. Ah, the good old days when you were comparing exchange rates for your Deutschmarks to see where you could get the most Pesetas out of it. I wonder if the people in Spain right now are happy they gave up the Peseta in favor of the Euro.

But let´s not open up that particular can of worms. Back them the summer days just seemed endless, as the days never seem to end when you´re young, and I grabbed as many comics I could get. Which wasn´t that hard at first since there was so much stuff out there I didn´t know but later on it got more difficult as I read more and more comics in the original version. Although I´m not complaining since I probably wouldn´t have tried ANIMAL MAN on one of my holiday trips without this.

Issue 3 of LOS VENGADORES had beautiful George Perez art in it and back in those days I got all the good Marvel and DC comics from Spain.

German issues were waaay behind and most of the cool series weren´t even published. So every year I couldn´t wait to get to Spain for a few weeks of good food, uncut movies, good tv shows and the best of comics.

I also made lots of tapes from spanish tv shows that had hot singers like Sabrina Salerno, Thalia, Marlene Mourreau, Carmen Russo or Mar Saura´s unforgettably sexy live wardrobe malfunction on VERANO NOCHE.

In fact there were a few of those on spanish tv like the one that shot Sabrina Salerno into superstardom all over Europe except Germany. It was on New Year´s of 1988 where she performed " Hot Girl " and couldn´t control her boobs - they popped out of her top showing a lot of nipplage.

Normally I only was in Spain during the summer, but for some strange reason in 1988 I managed to spend Christmas and New Year´s Eve at home. Maybe it was fate. In any case, I always tried to get as much loot as I could - so to speak - and the rest of the year I lived of everything I brought over from Spain. Which really hasn´t changed that much in the years that have passed since. I mean the number of good comics that are published in Germany have increased drastically and thanks to comic conventions and the availibility of reasonably priced hardcovers via amazon or other internet outlets my comic library of non - spanish comics has grown quite a bit.

But comparing the range of different genres, the variety of titles, the quality of national comics and the value for money ratio Spain clearly wins. In Germany comic prices are just way too high and the market caters almost exclusively to collectors with an absolute lack of cheap, affordable good comics for the average reader like the DC SHOWCASE, MARVEL ESSENTIALS, BIBLIOTECA MARVEL or CLASSICOS DC lines. I mean, every time I´m on vacation you can read all about the superior spanish editions on this very blog and apart from that Spain is also at least 10 years ahead.

We had DRAGON BALL 20 years before the first comic or tv episode even made it´s way to Germany. And even then they had to censor certain scenes from the tv series to make it adequate for german tv audiences.

One of the censored scenes of the german version, which plays a big part in the following relationship between Yamcha and Bulma. And yes, the whole episode didn´t make any sense without it.

Spain is always ahead of Germany in trends and comics that are translated from foreign countries. Which was one of the reasons why I never paid any mind to all the people in the german comic market who first said the Manga explosion would destroy the german comic market and then panicked that the sudden oversaturation with Mangas would do the same. Because this happened in Spain ten years earlier and it was not the end of the comic industry. It was just a new branch that grew quick because people were all excited and had to have all and which later shrank due to the usual survival of the fittest.

And as one last aside of this survival of the fittest does not mean that the best comic series survive. It is a common misconception that in times of downsizing and readers losing interest only the best comics are left. Or that only the best comics are published in other countries. That is wrong. The comics that survive are mostly the ones that are the most compatible with the masses and are pushed the most by advertising. Or do you really think BEYBLADE, POKEMON or BAKUGAN are the best Mangas out there ?

Back to LOS VENGADORES, this is where I first saw the art of George Perez, Pablo Marcos or John Byrne. Reading spanish comics was like a trip in the Tardis because you always felt you had been thrown forward in time several decades. There were issues to crossovers you never heard of like this SECRET WARS II X - MEN tie - in drawn by John Romita Jr which I think I bought a few times in the meantime. But it is one of the best single issue stories I ever read.

I had never read about this new X - Men team before and the first SECRET WARS series hadn´t even come out in Germany !

And some series were only published in those dreadful Condor poketbooks like ALPHA FLIGHT and to this day the two spanish volumes that collect the first 12 issues of that series are one of my prized possessions. I know that they have been reprinted by Marvel a few years back, but unless there is a high quality hardcover edition released someday I don´t feel the need to substitute my spanish volumes. You can still read it without problems and to tell the truth ...... doesn´t RONDADOR NOCTURNO or LOBEZNO sound way cooler than NIGHTCRAWLER and WOLVERINE ?

Speaking about the spanish comics from that time period I DID just recently order the new IN SEARCH FOR GALACTUS hardcover from amazon although I DO have some of the issues in the spanish version.

I might get rid of them after reading the original but one of the reasons for ordering the hardcover was that the issues I have are only part of the story and I´d like to read it from beginning to end. The issues I have are - probably - the first issues John Byrne did on the title before he started his most famous run and they all have inks by the great Joe Sinnott. The more I read of the FF title the more I appreciate his inks that can give even the most varied artists a kind of " house look " something many modern comic series are lacking.

The hardcover contains 11 issues which is a pretty big chunk ( Fantastic Four 204 - 214 ) and since I bought it from one of the sellers at amazon I´m getting it at a really low price. So far I have had luck by the books I ordered this way from amazon so let´s see if the streak continues. I have to say I have gotten quite a few of Marvel´s premiere hardcover editions and so far all have been great. Even THE OVERTHROW OF DOOM about which I wasn´t sure about is now one of my favorites because I hadn´t previously read most of the issues. So apart from the outcome of the story and the first issue everything in this collection was brandnew to me.

But coming back to the Guardians of the Galaxy - you know, the whole post started with them - as most comic readers at that time I didn´t get to read their exploits in chronological order. The Korvac Saga was Marvel´s final big push to integrate characters like the Guardians and Two Gun Kid into the proper Marvel universe but it was the first story I read which was in 1983.

Before that the Guardians had already appeared in The Mighty Thor Annual 6 which had been published in Germany in issue 9 of MARVEL COMIC - STARS in 1982 and either I completely blanked on it, or I bought it after reading the Korvac Saga. Or I only read the spanish edition years later. I´m not sure if I ever got my hands on the german edition.

What I did buy ( and I know this because I have it in front of me right now ) is MARVEL - COMIC - SONDERHEFT issue 28 which reprints MARVEL TWO IN ONE 4 and 5 in which Ben Grimm teams up with Captain America and the Guardians.

Wundarr is also in this issue but I´m not sure if I knew who he was since only part of the PROJECT PEGASUS storyline had been published in Germany. The cover is a real mixed up mess because while the rest of the Fantastic Four appear in the issue they are not part of the big fight and Susan Storm who is featured has been replaced on the team by Medusa. And Spider - Man doesn´t appear at all but back then they slapped him on as many covers as they could because that sold comics.

According to my internet sources Marvel - COMIC - Sonderheft 28 ( the comic part of the title is really printed in capital letters ) was published in Oktober 1986 more than 3 years after LOS VENGADORES issue 3 came out and I probably read it around that time.

And that is why for me the first appearance of The Guardians of the Galaxy was in the Korvac Saga. I could have written a lot more about those spanish George Perez Avengers issues but once again time has run out fot Today and I have to wrap things up. And we didn´t get to talk about Erlangen at all. Again.

As usual here are the internet resources I used and without whom making this post would have been impossible. Or it would all be be just lots of speculation without any facts or pictures. Tanks mates, couldn´t have done it without you.

Condor Marvel Comic Sonderheft publishing dates / issue list with covers

Condor Marvel Comic Stars publishing dates / issue list with covers

LOS VENGADORES cover gallery from Grand Comic Database

My last two end - of - the - post videos were from comic cartoon shows but right now I have started watching THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD since they had all the DVDs at 5 EUROS each at amazon which is at least half of what they usually go for.

The only bummer is that there is on collection box and you have to get 6 single volumes. But at least you get the spanish dubbing beginning with volume 4 and while his original voice is very grim and gritty his spanish voice is much more suave and rogue - ish, if that´s a word.

I have finished watching the second season of JUSTICE LEAGUE after I realized it hadn´t been shown in Germany so far and I still haven´t found a place where I could buy them. There are also all episodes of the new GREEN LANTERN ANIMATED series waiting for me but now that I have started with THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD I will finish it before starting anything new. So all these are good cartoon show but I already featured them and there is nothing new I could add at the moment.

And since this blog has been sorely lacking in Doctor Who related content since my - still unfinished - post about things to do while waiting for the next season to start here´s something new to help you through the Who - less period.

It´s the almost one hour long 40th anniversary documentary THE STORY OF DOCTOR WHO which my brother found on YouTube and he told me about it. It was first broadcast in 2003 and you can probably download it somewhere easily if you don´t like to watch things on the computer.

New to the blog ? Everything you need to know about TALES FROM THE KRYPTONIAN : top ten posts / more posts of interest

Now these killings seem to be starting up again, and Wolverine might be our primary suspect.

Thursday, July 05, 2012

Twilight of the Super Heroes

Now this post is not about DC´s recent campaign to destroy everything they have created the last 75 years or so with the NEW 52. It´s depressing enough to what lengths a publisher can go just to not pay royalties to the heirs of the creator of a certain man of steel.

That´s not to say that all new DC books are bad, which would be very hypocritical since I´m enjoying AQUAMAN, WONDER WOMAN, ACTION COMICS and to a lesser extent RESURRECTION MAN and JUSTICE LEAGUE INTERNATIONAL, the latter because they really didn´t benefit from the relaunch and would have worked better as a continuation of their previous incarnation.

Especially with JUSTICE LEAGUE INTERNATIONAL they were comin from a kick - ass story in which the whole team had gone trough the fire and really came together as a team. Almost every member, no matter how boring or uninteresting they were written before gained big points in the character departement and even Captain Atom had some depth. And to throw all that away really hasn´t helped. I mean I´m not surprised the series is cancelled with issue 12. It´s true, I would have liked to read it longer even being the mishappen abomination this book turned into but the whole reason for this reboot seems to be the Benjamins so DC cut its losses. But like I said, that´s not what I´m writing about Today.

It also isn´t about Alan Moore´s nixed DC project that was supposed to be a follow - up to WATCHMEN, Deborah Eisenberg´s short story collection of the same name ( which I´m not sure if it has to do anything with superheroes at all ) or the superhero version of that awful vampire saga that will not be mentioned. No this post is about RETURN OF THE GODS - TWILIGHT OF THE SUPER HEROES from Black Tower Comics, written, drawn and inked by Terry Hooper Scharf. I know you expected the next part of my Erlangen convention diary or - finally - the next chapter of my Moebius series since I promised to add at least one more post covering the INCAL series and I have already re - read all the INCAL books by Moebius I have or at least could find.

So far I couldn´t read the continuation but maybe that will be a seperate post. Well, most definitely a separate post. So as usual there are a lot of other things I could write about but Today´s topic is a bit more urgent since it also has a special offer with a time limit. So the sooner this is posted the better, but more about that later.


Now I thought I had already written something about RETURN OF THE GODS - TWILIGHT OF THE SUPER HEROES when I did the post about D - GRUPPE but it seems I only mentioned it. My bad.

What I do remember is that I said it´s good I didn´t review the BLACK TOWER ADVENTURES issues 1 and 2 before doing the post on D - GRUPPE ZEIT GEIST. You see, RETURN OF THE GODS ( it is shorter than TWILIGHT OF THE SUPER HEROES although that motif pops up even more in modern pop culture, well in cultures in general ) was first published in six parts in the BLACK TOWER ADVENTURES series, but it takes place after the events of D - GRUPPE ZEIT GEIST. So now we are kind of in the chronological order.

RETURN OF THE GODS ( I just love the logo font on page 4 ) is a new 197 page paperback reprinting the complete saga that combines several storylines into one big event. If this was published by DC, Marvel or any other of the bigger comic companies it would be one of those big summer crossovers with a gazillion spin off books to rack in the comicbuyers hard earned samolians. ( Yes, I´m watching the third season of THE DUKES OF HAZZARD right now and it´s starting to rub off, so sue me. ) Instead you have the complete story in one paperback with 5 new pages all for the price of less than 11 EUROS. Which is a real steal for an albumsized black and white comic with almost 200 pages.

Now the question is, after ZEIT GEIST which was the big Infinite Crisis of Parallel Earths of the Black Tower universe - how can one possibly top that ? We had heroes from all german parallel universes uniting against a common threat and you really have to up the ante to go one step further.

In come the gods.

Now this idea is not the most original because everybody does that from DC with the WAR OF THE GODS crossover or the NEW GODS comics to Marvel´s various Greek, Norse, Celtic or Egyptian phanteons fighting with / against the superheroes who themselves are seen by some of new versions of the gods. There is even the current storyline MAYAN RULE in the HULK books written by Jeff Parker and drawn by Dale Eaglesham in which El Toro Rojo ( or Red Hulk as the gringos call him ) teams up with everyone´s favorite Canadian unkillable ( at least in the long term ) superhero team Alpha Flight against the returning old Mayan gods.

Everybody loves a good superhero vs gods / new gods vs old gods / good gods vs evil gods slobberknocker. Since some scholars say that Todays superhero comics are the sagas of the gods of the modern age it´s only natural to have the modern gods fight against the older gods. Especially when you have so many of the more popular gods like Odin, Thor, Herkules, Zeus, Pluto or Aphrodite in the pages of the comics anyway. Throughout pop culture and also practically in every culture there are stories of gods battling each other and one or two endtimes of the gods no matter if it´s called Armageddon or Götterdämmerung. It´s also one of the oldest genres of horror books, novels or comics, the old dark gods returning which was forever made immortal by horror icon Howard Phillip Lovecraft and his stories about the Necronomicon and Chtulu.


In our story heroes around the world disappear after being chased by glowing orange spheres - the world believes them dead but they have actually been transported to a huge walled city on a dimensional plane. The home of the gods.

Unknown to the heroes, they are pawns in a game by the gods to use them to fight of the return of the Ancient Old Gods. Of course it´s not as easy or else it wouldn´t be a Black Tower Comic so, just to add another wrinkle to it, while a big part of Earth´s heroes have been transported away an alien invasion is taking place and the remaining heroes have to fight this off. The hero community as well as world governments find their resources stretched on several fronts. Join BTCGs Indian, Pakistani, Chinese, Singaporean, British and other international heroes where heroes DO die and death is final.

And oh boy, is it ever. Like SAVAGE DRAGON on steroids heroes are killed off left and right and I think the final bodycount is a few times that of the original SQUADRON SUPREME miniseries.

Which shocked me a bit because in this story you know they are not coming back and you wish you had gotten to know those heroes a bit better. Here death means something and will not be retconned in a few months or is just used to streamline continuity before the next reboot, here it all works together to tell one heck of a story and there´s no parachute under the seat. I mean on one side it is hard to see this many heroes kick the bucket and you wish there was a way to bring some of them back. On the other side I have to applaud the guts to not take the easy way out and make it a dream or have some allmighty entity bring everything back to the old Status Quo. And I think it´s a better story because in the end a lot of the heroes pay the ultimate price.

Of course there are also some funny parts in this and one of the things that has always been a mainstay of such big crossover events from CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS to SECRET WARS is the sheer number of heroes especially heroes you don´t know. I mean, the exciting parts were not to see the heroes you were familiar with but those heroes with the cool costume, the freaky superpowers and the weird backstory you just wanted to find out more about. And in that departement Terry Hooper surely delivers since you´re probably unfamiliar with most of the characters to which he adds his usual cosmopolitical input.

If it was a joy to read so many German superheroes in ZEIT GEIST here Terry Hooper has heroes from India, China, Russia, America, England, Afrika, heck, every part of the world. And he seems to create them effortlessly, which for me has always been the sign of true genius. Like we would say in Spain : Chupate esto, NEW 52.

Like I said in my review of D - GRUPPE ZEIT GEIST, the art may not be to everyones liking ( one of my brothers was very surprised to find me reading it ) but Terry Hooper manages to evoke the feeling of Silver Age heroes whose roots lie more in the pulp genre like the great classics without resorting to silly stereotypes or parody. If there´s one thing I wanted to critique is that on some pages Terry should be a bit bolder using blacks. Otherwise the art reminds me of the comics from the Golden Age which sometimes were drawn a bit crude ( you have to remember that a lot of the professional artists were drafted ) but still had a lot of energy and excitement. Which is one of the reasons why I´m recommending this book : excitement. When was the last time you read a comic that was exciting and all over the place and pure fun ?

I´m going out on a limb here but I think Terry just put everything he liked reading about in comics into this story. Otherwise I can´t explain the Tohuwabohu of comic characters and concepts in this one. You have the old gods, which are kind of Chtululike monsters with the necessary number of tentacle appendixes, you have the " regular " gods which include gods from every pantheon, Mayan, Egyptian, Greek, heck even Monkey King is in it. And then - on top of that - you have all the heroes which are all kind of pulp heroes, super heroes and teen heroes you could think of. Some reminded me of the heroes I read about in KOBRA like Mr. Arachnia who looks a lot like The Spider or Mark 13 who could be the next model of Archie, others seemed to be inspired by american heroes but all were kind of familiar yet different.

There are also different cultures fighting against each other for the amusement of the gods, so you have Romans fighting Mayans, Christians fighting Indians, Babylonians against Sumerers etc. Not to mention robots, cavemen, aliens, cowboys, goblins, vampires, zombies, talking apes, walking skeletons, Sasquatch, Gilgamesh, Merlin and even the monster of Frankenstein.

And of course there´s a second encounter with german heroes like Rotkäppchen ( Little Red Riding Hood never looked so hot in the Fairy Tale books I read as a kid ), Deutscher Michel, Kopfmann and Goldener Soldat from D - Gruppe. I still get a kick out of seeing german superheroes in a comic, since they killed off german X - Man Kurt Wagner. By the way, best clobbering of a god goes to The Hornet in the garden with a lead pipe.

You have also factor in that RETURN OF THE GODS started out as " The Cosmic Fulcrum " in about 1992, had various artists, stopped, started and the finished item was drawn in 2002 by Terry himself. So the art reflects that. Which is not to say there is not some very elaborate sideway splashpage depictions of the various armies from different timeperiods going at it or any of the superhero teams charging. Or, one of my favorite splash gages, the magician ( I can´t find his name right now ) floating upside down in his sanctum sanctorum / shop with shelf upon shelf of stuff behind him. You can see case files, books about other Earths, Dr. Mabuse, Alice´s adventures in Wonderland and on parallel Earths, a book about Adam Eterno by a certain Terry Hooper, Big Jugs ( probably a book about drinking vessels ) various occult books, maps, tapes and magazines. There are even various bottles with ingidients for magic rituals labeled " eye of Newt ", " horse testicles ", " tongue of toad ", " wings of Beetle " and " Not sure ! ".

Now RETURN OF THE GODS - TWILIGHT OF THE SUPER HEROES will be available for the special price of 10.79 EUROS for readers of TALES FROM THE KRYPTONIAN until the end of July which is Mr. Hooper´s special discount for german readers - at least until he finds a german publisher. Naturally we´re talking about a bottom line profit margin here, so if you can DO order more than one copy. I know how that sounds but I do this myself for some books like HARTMUT where I know I´m going to give at least one copy away as a present. And to this day I´m still p - worded that I got none of the german FLASH print on demand copies I ordered. That would have been some cool gift you can´t get anywhere else.

As a special offer and additional enticement for buying the book Terry Hooper will do a signed A4 illo ( german readers know what size this is ) of your favorite character from the book, you just have to send a picture of yourself with the book or a copy of the order invoice. Also don´t forget to send the name of the character you want, you wouldn´t believe how many people forget that at the last minute.

You can see some of the original pages here but remember, the pages have been redrawn for the paperback and look much better in print than in this version. And here are the links to order RETURN OF THE GODS from Lulu and of course order other books by Terry Hooper from Lulu .

I´m also including the following links which, to tell the truth, were not essential to make the post but I think they might interest some of my readers. At least the ones who want to know what those other TWILIGHT OF THE SUPER HEROES stuff was I mentioned at the beginning.

Deborah Eisenberg´s TWILIGHT OF THE SUPERHEROES review

Alan Moore´s unproduced TWILIGHT OF THE SUPERHEROES project

another really long post about Alan Moore´s story

And after so much about gloom, doom, superheroes and gods it´s back to us mere mortals in our next post which will hopefully be the next installment of my Erlangen convention diary.

Since the video in my last post was for Marvel´s AVENGERS - EARTH`S MIGHTIEST HEROES cartoon I thought I should give equal opportunity to their Distinguished Competition.

A few weeks ago I started re - watching my episodes of YOUNG JUSTICE which I then followed with the new episodes and I have since then caught up with the new season YOUNG JUSTICE - INVASION. It takes place 5 years after the finale of the first season and there are a lot of changes on the team roster like Robin finally becoming Nightwing. The story is about what happened in the 16 hours that the Justice Leaguers were under Vandal Savage´s control at the end of the first season. As usual, it´s all very well done and one of the things I really like about the series is that it brings such often unused characters like Wotan, Atomic Skull and Jack Kirby´s Forever People into the story.

I already posted the clip for the pilot episode so here´s the trailer for the new season. By the way, if you wonder why it´s called YOUNG JUSTICE instead of TEENM TITANS when it´s so obvious that it´s Teen Titans : you would also try to avoid people mistaking it for that godawful TEEN TITANS cartoon. You would probably go as far as calling it SUPER FRIENDS RELOADED if YOUNG JUSTICE would have been already taken.

New to the blog ? Everything you need to know about TALES FROM THE KRYPTONIAN : top ten posts / more posts of interest

I understand that, but Frank Sinatra gave me that shirt !