Saturday, October 03, 2015

Daredevil hijacks Black and White Saturday

Like always I totally blanked on the fact that Today is the Day of German Unity so all the shops are closed and my plans of buying some ice cream are nixed. Last year I reviewed a german comic in homage to this special holiday but because I have nothing prepared about german comics I won´t be doing that. I still wanted to do something special and since it has been a while since I did a BLACK AND WHITE post here are some special gems.

I have written a lot about Ann Nocenti´s and John Romita Jr´s DAREDEVIL run but the Frank Miller run on the title is still considered by many comic readers, critics and afficionados as the gold standard and if you see the beautiful splash page from DAREDEVIL issue 182 it´s easy to see why.

Only in black and white can you see the brilliant ink work by Klaus Janson, who I don´t like on all books he did but who is pure magic here. He and Frank Miller just clicked and it is in great part thanks to the work of Klaus Janson that the comic was such a success. As somebody who has dabbled in art and inking myself I know that you can learn more from a page of original art than from hours of lecture and even if I don´t have the money to buy expensive originals I try to get as many Marvel ESSENTIALS as I can get. I know it´s not as good as an ARTIST`S EDITION or the recently released ARTIFACT EDITION of Frank Miller´s DAREDEVIL by IDW - while we are on the subject of Daredevil art - but it´s better than nothing.

Recently I ordered a dozen ESSENTIALS from amazon´s " new and used books " section, which in the end was not as big as a bargain as I hoped. Getting a 20 dollar book for 10 bucks plus 3 for shipping and handling is a good deal, especially when you get some for 8 or 5 bucks but if you think ordering a bundle of books from the same dealer will lower the collective price for shipping and handling - well, let me just say that you are sadly mistaken my friend. If you order 6 books from the same dealer that´s still 3 bucks for shipping and handling each which means 18 bucks total. Now knowing the prices of the Deutsche Post you know a package would have to weigh more than 2 kilos to get anywhere near that postage but on the other side it´s probably one of the reasons why they sell 20 buck books for 10 or 9 bucks. But I don´t want to complain, I made a good deal.

And while the ESSENTIAL DAREDEVIL were canceled before reaching Frank Miller there is still some great art in them like this cover by Wally Wood.

DAREDEVIL is a great series to read in the ESSENTIAL format because to be honest not all the comics in the ESSENTIALS are the best of the best.

In my last post about the ESSENTIALS and the DC SHOWCASE PRESENTS I clearly favored the ESSENTIALS but I have to state for the record : yes, there is some great art but for every George Perez, John Buscema - or Gene Colan in the case of Daredevil - you have a Bob Brown, George Tuska or Don Heck. Who in their own right are great comic artists and I have already planned to do a post on one of the unsung heroes of my comic collecting youth : Rich Buckler. But you wouldn´t buy a MARVEL MASTERWORKS because of them. Also those artists sometimes don´t have the greatest stories to illustrate which means that while I want to read those issues and have them in my collection I don´t want to spend much money which makes them perfect for the black and white format.

And since we are on the subject of Daredevil and Gene Colan I wanted to mention that I recently acquired DAREDEVIL 363 because of the artwork.

I may have picked it up at the " comics per kilo " section and it´s an issue I was missing in my comic collection because I stopped with issue 362.

As usual I had perfect timing. By the end of Ann Nocenti and John Romita Jr´s run DAREDEVIL was on my pull list and back then if a new creative team came aboard I waited a few issues until making a judgement. So after a fill - in issue by Mark Bagley Lee Weeks became the new penciler with Ann Nocenti staying on board until issue 291 ( Kieron Dwyer did the art on issues 289 and 290 ) handing the reigns over to D. G. Chichester.

Lee Weeks stayed until DAREDEVIL issue 300 ( Ron Garney did the art on issue 296 ) although he provided covers for the consecutive two issues.

I remember that it was a pretty decent run, especially the LAST RITES finale, and I know that I bought all the issues but I can´t for the life of me remember whatever happened to them. Maybe I sold them, maybe they are in some dark corner and only surface when I have gone and bought all those issues again - who knows ? I know where all the following issues are. Which of course are the ugly ones. Because from here on it´s a bumpy road following DAREDEVIL. D. G. Chichester stays as writer and we have two issues by W. C. Wyman ( man, there were a lot of initials in comics in the 90s ), one issue by Ron Garney until Scott McDaniel - under the name Scott Alan McDaniel - takes over as regular artist starting with DAREDEVIL issue 305 ( again, guest art by Kevin Kobasic on issue 316 ). 

And this is where it really get ugly. The two part story in issues 305 and 306 with the brilliant villainess - wait for it - the Surgeon General ( oh, the humanity ! ) may be one of THE worst Daredevil stories ever and after the less than stellar DEATH MAN`S HAND crossover with PUNISHER WAR JOURNAL and NOMAD in issues 307 to 309 I was out for good.

So I can´t say much about what happened between issues 310 and 318 but judging from the cluster - f - word that was FALL FROM GRACE ( issues 319 to 326 ) I would say that missing those issues is one of the reasons why I managed to maintain my sanity. I remember there was a lot of hype about the story at that time and that it was pimped by all kinds of people not the least my comic dealer at that time but I didn´t let them pull the wool over my eyes on that one. Years later I got the german trade of FALL FROM GRACE out of sheer curiosity how bad of a train wreck it really is and let me tell you it is incredible. And for anybody who doesn´t believe me I´m offering the trade as a no prize. I certainly don´t need it here.

Anyway, out of FALL FROM GRACE - where Scott McDaniel did his best Frank Miller SIN CITY impression - came one of the ugliest Daredevil costumes ever which Matt Murdock would wear beyond D. G. Chichester´s and Scott McDaniel´s exit in Daredevil 332 ( Sergio Cariello does the art on issue 328 ). Or so it seems. Gregory Wright takes over as writer for the FATHOMS OF HUMANITY five parter with Tom Grindberg on the art before D. G. Chichester returns with issue 338 credited as Alan Smithee.

Now if you have a bit of movie knowledge - and let´s face it : in Today´s day and age it´s more probable than any comic book knowledge - you may know that Alan Smithee was a secret pseudonym film directors used when they wanted to disown a movie. It´s pretty much common knowledge.

Anyway, if a writer is credited as Alan Smithee you know that there was some kind of trouble and in the case of D. G. Chichester he insisted that he would be credited as such on the last five issues he was contractually obligated to write after he had learned that he was going to be replaced as writer on DAREDEVIL by group editor Bobbie Chase. Yup, even without help from Disney the guys at Marvel knew how to screw with each other.

You learn something new every day and I´m just grateful that Alan Moore doesn´t know about this whole Alan Smithee thing or he would probably demand that DC changes all his credits on new editions of WATCHMEN to Alan Smithee. I mean he is already credited as " The original writer " in all the MIRACLEMAN reprints by Disney. I just wonder how long it will take until he is credited as " The writer formerly known as Alan Moore " ?

But coming back from one of the best limited series in comics ever ( I´m explicitly not calling it a graphic novel because it is not a graphic novel despite how many people call it the greatest graphic novel ever ) like WATCHMEN to the crap fest that was DAREDEVIL from issues 343 on.

Which may be total speculation on my part since I haven´t read those issues. Maybe DAREDEVIL 343 by Warren Ellis and Keith Pollard is a really intricate examination of the human condition. Maybe issue 344 by the new creative team of Bwa - ha - ha Justice League writer J. M. DeMatteis ( more credit initials from the 90s ) and artist Ron Wagner was so totally Airwolf they just had to make DAREDEVIL part of the MARVEL EDGE line.

Remember those ? When Marvel had the brilliant marketing idea to publish all of their " edgy " books under the MARVEL EDGE banner ?

At the least it was one surefire way to avoid all these books. Not that it managed to keep me away from the book longer than issue 346. Which was not good. Like I said maybe the issues before this were better than fried bananas covered in chocolate on a stick. Issue 346 was something else. It was also poked through with a stick but the brown substance covering it all was surely no chocolate. I don´t remember much about the story - it is too painful - but it was a crossdressing, genderbending, amnesiac doubleganger, multiple Daredevil costumes at once stolen identity crisis kind of thing. And not in a good Grant Morrison way.

I mean, I tried to stay with the title because of the artists they brought in like Gary Nord, Shawn McManus or Cully Hammner at the very end of this volume ( of course I got those - grrrrr ) but something was just missing.

They brought back Daredevil´s red costume, they brought back Foggy Nelson, they even brought back Karen Page but even the best efforts of writer Karl Kesel seemed unable to bring the much needed critical and financial success back to DAREDEVIL needed to save it from the chopping block. So DAREDEVIL issue 362 by Karl Kesel and Gary Nord was my last.

Enter Gene Colan.

Yup, sometimes my timing sucks. And when I say " sometimes " I mean almost all the time. So the DAREDEVIL book was closing up shop and for whatever reasons Marvel decided to go out with a big bang and managed recruiting the artists who had made the book into one of their " must read " books decades before Frank Miller put pencil to paper : THE Gene Colan.

Gene Colan does six issues towards the end, issues 363, the Minus 1 issue Marvel did with most books in the summer of 1997, issues 366 to 368 and issue 370. Apart from issue 363 I don´t think I have seen any of the other issues during one of my many visits to the comic shop but on the other side I haven´t really looked for them. And if you really need to check them out they are all part of the new Daredevil Epic Collection WIDOW`S KISS. Here comes my usual complaint about the gutter loss which according to the reviews at amazon a lot of people have problems with as well as with the low quality of the material in this collection.

Remember this is towards the not so great end of the title and besides die hard Daredevil fans most people won´t be fooled by the Gene Colan namedrop. Man, this post got totally sideways from where it started.

Since this already morphed from a " Best of black and white art " into a Daredevil post I wanted to add that while David Mazuchelli´s collaboration with Frank Miller on BORN AGAIN is also part of the Daredevil Olympus nobody ever talks much about all his other issues he did on DAREDEVIL.

Besides issues 227 to 233 he provided art for issues 206, 208 to 217, 220 to 223, 225 and 226. I´m curious if there were any memorable stories.

Even though this was more of an impromptu post there are always some Daredevil links I haven´t posted yet. First is MICHEL FIFFE with a post about his love for the Ann Nocenti / John Romita Jr Daredevil run and RIP JAGGER`S DOJO has many posts on Gene Colan which I probably haven´t posted yet : Gene Colan RIP , Marvel´s Space - Born Artist ! , Out of the Holocaust ..... A Hue ! , The Mask Of Strange ! and Strange Looks ! .

BIG GLEE has a view pieces of original Gene Colan art, BLAH BLAH BLAH has a three part Batman story : Jungle Jeopardy by Doug Moench and Don Newton from BATMAN 365, Laugh Killer Laugh by Doug Moench and Gene Colan from DETECTIVE COMICS 532 and The Joker is Wild by Doug Moench and Don Newton from BATMAN 366, you can find the Gene Colan interview Roy Thomas did for ALTER EGO issue 6 on TWOMORROWS PUBLISHING and there is always THE INVINCIBLE GENE COLAN BLOG if you want more.

And since this post started out as a " Best of black and white art " post in honor of Today´s holiday Day of The German Union or Unification - I´m not quite sure - here´s a gorgeous black and white piece by Toni Greis. 

Because of the holiday I chose to post videos about Germany and what better way than to start with another episode of LIFE IN GERMANY that is all about what germans like to do during the Tag der Deutschen Einheit.

The next video from GERMANY VS USA is about awesome german products you might want to purchase before your return home.

Another typical german thing is - you might not believe this - comedy or like german stand up comedy was called back when I was young : kabarett or nonsens. Famous group Insterburg & Company is one of the bedrocks of german kabarett and I think I already posted another video with them.

Now I thought about what else is typical german and what could be more typical than Germany´s most famous MILF ? Don´t forget the german Fräulein ! Sonya Kraus is on german tv every time, all the time and if it´s not as host of her various tv shows which are constantly on reruns or as a guest on another show she´s on a special. You can bet your bottom dollar that if there is a special about the Day of German Unity she will be in it.

Sonya Kraus became famous for her skimpy outfits and her stunning body which she is not afraid to use to her advantage. Her most famous quote is :  " Your breasts can open doors for you. " . And other things too ....

As a former model Sonya did many shootings but while she confessed to read the PLAYBOY and look at other naked women in the pictures she has only done shootings for MAXIM and FHM. I think she did a nude shooting for a calendar or charity but so far she hasn´t done PLAYBOY pictures.

The clip I have chosen is from Sonya´s appearance on the game show DIE PERFEKTE MINUTE ( The perfect Minute ) and at that time there was a big brouhaha because she had very big breasts after being pregnant and the press was having a field day because the show was advertised as being " family friendly ". Now I don´t know what could be more family friendly that a pair of big breasts but then I also had not ignored all the promos where you could see Sonya´s new " porn boobs " as the press called them.

What do you know, it really IS like staring directly into the sun.

Anyway, Sonya appeared on the show wearing just jeans and a tight t - shirt and an ample cleavage and when she was handling these balls with great care - no pun intended - ( I never quite got what she was supposed to do but I didn´t care either ) and leaned forward for once in the history of german television the camera guy did what he was supposed to do and filmed it. At least SOMEBODY at Sat1 knew why people buy a High Def tv.

Despite all the hype - or maybe because of it - the show got the highest viewer rating that day and even doubled it in subsequent reruns.

Usually I include a cartoon video but since most of the ones I watched as a kid are made in Japan I picked MÄNNER OHNE NERVEN ( men without nerves ) a show that presented classic slapstick comedians like Laurel Hardy when he was still a solo act, Buster Keaton, Harold Lloyd and so on. The show was narrated by the late great Hans Dieter Hüsch who also made all the sound effects and spoke all the actors - even the women.

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