Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Brute barbarians, Banners and Batarangs

Today would have been 76th birthday so I wanted to dedicate a post to one of the artists whose work in comic books I have enjoyed the most.

I´m talking of course about Ernie Chan - often credited as Ernie Chua at the beginning of his career - who for me is THE definite inker of John Buscema on CONAN. Big John has had many talented inkers during the course of his career and while I think Tom Palmer was the best on his AVENGERS issues on CONAN the two fisted combo of John Buscema´s pencils and Ernie Chan´s inks is just the best without competition.

I blame my uncle. When I was still a young teenager going to Realschule ( class of 1984 ) I had an uncle who was a G. I. And on one of his visits he brought a big stack of US comic books. Longtime readers have possibly heard that story before and in this stack was the first AVENGERS comic I saw with the Vision ( issue 81 by John Buscema and Tom Palmer ) but the bulk of it were issues of CONAN by John Buscema and Ernie Chan.

Now if those would have been just some scattered issues of CONAN who knows what might have happened ? I may as well just read them to go to other comic stuff. But luckily - or not depending of how you stand on the subject of reading comics - most of the issues were in chronological order and so I was thrown smackdab into one of the most sweeping sagas in which Conan hooks up with Belit, the fearless Pirate Queen of the Black Coast and Zula, the nubian magician warrior to go up against the evil wizard Toth Amon. Somewhere along the lines he also tangles with the Tarzan analogue Amra and takes up his mantle after Amra´s death.

Some people didn´t like the inclusion of Zula, the last of the Zamballahs who apprenticed in the Kheshatta, the fabled city of magicians but he and Conan made a good team. It reminded me a bit of another favorite story of the CONAN comic book, the two parter in which Conan teams up with Michael Moorcock´s Elric of Melnibode which was beautiful drawn by Barry Windsor Smith. There are also those who think Roy Thomas took too long to tell the story of Belit but I was just happy to be along for the ride since this story had it all : evil wizards, snake monsters with human heads, crocodiles, black lions and other jungle beasts, beautiful women, pirates and even giant birds like in J. R. R. Tolkien´s LORD OF THE RINGS books.

Plus with Conan and Belit as a semi stable couple you had almost a steady cast which was what I preferred instead of the succession of rotating female companions Conan had before this who seldom made it to the end of the adventure, in some cases not even to the final pages of the issue.

Like I said before, those issues ruined me for CONAN and it´s one of the reasons why I never could enjoy the new CONAN series from Dark Horse. Because once you see Conan by John Buscema and Ernie Chan that´s it.

That´s the gold standard. And very few come even close. I bought most of these issues when they were re - printed in Spain by Planeta DeAgostini because I wanted to read them in some form and currently there is no paperback available where you get this material with good coloring. Dark Horse started out strong re - coloring the old issues and I bought the first trades with John Buscema´s issues but after the first few volumes they somehow lost interest or didn´t want to put as much work into it or the guy who did this had an accident and his drunk assistant had to make them - I don´t know what happened - put suddenly all the trades looked like crap. Muddy coloring, bad reproduction and overall such poor quality that the color in the old issues is ten times better. Maybe there will be an Epic Collection of these Conan issues in the future as there are no Marvel Masterworks but for the moment I´ll have to stick to my spanish issues. 

Ernie Chan has really been a mainstay on CONAN for literally decades as he started on the book when it was still in double digits and I just recently bought two chronicle editions from Dark Horse at an online comic shop at a bargain price - number 22 and 23 - which collect issues 168 to 181 and there are still issues where he does the inks or pencils. He also was a big contributor to THE SAVAGE SWORD OF CONAN magazine which is coming out now in the ESSENTIAL format and the KING CONAN spin off series.

Now although you won´t find much about it on wikipedia ( in fact it is not even included in the bibliography ) one of his best runs as an inker was another Marvel title, THE INCREDIBLE HULK where he inked Sal Buscema from issue 210 and 212 and 214 to 220 with issue 213 being inked by Tom Palmer. He also worked on the covers for issues 222 to 224 and 226 .

This is one of my all time favorite periods from the title and keeping in mind for how many decades I have followed the title that is saying quite much. For longtime readers this is nothing new as I have already written about it in various posts where I speculated which issues I would put into a hardcover collection ( I mean they put the Heart Of The Atom story into a premiere edition, why not do the same with one of their best Hulk sagas ? ), paid Tribute to Bronze Age giant Sal Buscema or analyzed in detail which pages were cut or changed in my french issues of GAMMA .

Now unlike CONAN the INCREDIBLE HULK is coming out in the MARVEL MASTERWORK format but when you look at the speed at which Marvel is putting them out I don´t know if I will live long enough to see them ever collected. Let´s face it, volume 9 came out in Mai 2015 and we have to wait for the next volume until the end of August this year. Okay, volume 9 includes issues 157 to 170 and volume 10 issues 171 to 183. If you project this ratio of about 13 issues per volume forward volume 11 which would come out at the end of 2017 would include issues 184 to 196 which would collect the first three issues of Sal Buscema´s run of the book and volume 12 which would come out somewhen early 2019 would have issues 197 to 209. Then we have volume 13 which would finally collect issues 210 to 222 provided there are no specials, annuals or issues from other series in it because the story warrants it. And with that we would be in 2020. IF Marvel continues putting them out at the same pace and doesn´t stop like with other titles where up to ten years elapsed before the next volume. 

And the chance of finding all the INCREDIBLE HULK issues by Ernie Chan in one volume of MARVEL MASTERWORK is highly unlikely as Marvel has a history of breaking great runs into at least two parts so they can sell more books. The only line where they have now repeatedly gone against that policy is in their Epic Collection line where they have collected entire runs into single volumes occasionally breaking it up into three or more trades if the runs were too long to include it into a single volume. But even there the selection of issues has sometimes been strange keeping in mind how they have skipped around trade collections that are no longer in print like the HULK VISIONARIES - PETER DAVID. On the other hand you have John Romita Jr´s DAREDEVIL and Alan Davis´ EXCALIBUR where big chunks of those series are made available to the larger public for the first time.

So I´m not holding my breath waiting on that hardcover and until Disney finally wises up - how come such a money grubbing company still lets it´s best material rot in reprint limbo ? - I have to also read those issues in the spanish reprints which came out in the BIBLIOTECA MARVEL series. Oh, and of course volume 6 of the HULK ESSENTIALS which is the best.

Now before we come to the usual selection of original cover artwork from various Marvel and DC titles Ernie Chan worked on during the course of his long career there is one corner of the DC universe worth mentioning.

Long before I ever laid eyes on an issue of CONAN THE BARBARIAN Ernie Chan´s worked graced the covers and interiors of many issues of BATMAN or DETECTIVE COMICS which I read in the german issues of BATMAN SONDERHEFT, BATMAN TASCHENBUCH or BATMAN SUPERBAND by Ehapa.

He drew one of the most memorable Batman who was build like a raging bull. You could believe that he could wipe out crime just by wrestling it to the ground. He looked like he could easily beat up the Hulk. And speaking of memorable Batman he drew the final issue to one of the greatest Batman sagas of all time - Aparo´s Bat Murder - DETECTIVE COMICS 448. 

So once again it is time to wrap things up but not before adding a few more pieces of great artwork by Ernie Chan. Thanks for the memories.

Since I haven´t posted since Sunday ( I´m still trying to finish the Kelley Jones posts ) there are all the celebrity birthdays of this week to cover which from Monday, July the 25th is just one important one, the 40th birthday of Penthouse Pet Of The Month in February 2000 Tera Patrick.

You may recall me mentioning her as I erroneously thought her birthday to be on the 20th of April. I then promised to do a proper post on her real birthday or at least mention her since I had all necessary things lined up. I wanted to write about casting her as Psylocke which a lot of people agree to as the 36E sexbomb is an exotic mix of Thai, English, Irish and Dutch.

Well, as usual thing didn´t work out. Maybe I can do a post next year.  

Now we have much more candidates for Yesterday, Tuesday the July 26th like Kate Beckinsale who turns 43. I have to say I´m on the fence with her as she starred in some of the worst movies ever like the Underworld series ( which was done much better in the Chastity comics from Chaos Comics, and really a war between vampires and werewolves is so cliche I guess people just wanted to see Kate in skintight leather ) or the new version of Total Recall but also one of my favorite ones : Van Helsing.

Jason Statham has been in everything from the Crank movies to the Transporter series, the Expendable movies to Fast And The Furious so I won´t even try to list all the high points of his career. In the Expendables hot Charisma Carpenter also plays a part but since I have just mentioned her on the blog - and since she will be in at least one of my prewritten posts - I just want to wish Jason a happy 49th anniversary. Sandra Bullock turned 52 and I actually bookmarked a video with her and Tom Hanks.

Kevin Spacey celebrated his 57th birthday and I still haven´t got around to watch his show House of Cards. He has quite the range as an actor from playing Lex Luthor in one of the worst Superman movies ever Superman Returns to such great movies like The Life Of David Gale, The Shipping News or American Beauty. My tip for overlooked gem is K - PAX and if you want to see him in one of his earliest roles check out See No Evil Hear No Evil. Joan Severance´s shower scene is worth the price of admission.

Danny Bilson turned 60 and the name might sound familiar - to people from my generation - since he was one of the writers on The Sentinel and other comic related tv shows like Viper and the 90s Human Target and The Flash. I did a bit of research and while the pilot episode I posted in a previous post was never aired there was indeed a 90s Human Target.

I totally forgot that I had this video bookmarked when Brian May had his birthday because I was only thinking about the Flash tribute video by Queen which I´m holding onto until I can post it in one of my FLASH FRIDAY posts but Roger Taylor´s 67th birthday is the right opportunity to rectify this oversight. Maybe he and Brian May can share this serenade.

Now I knew that Helen Mirren who celebrated her 71st birthday still looks good for her age as I had seen her in the Red movies and Calendar Girls where she goes topless but when I was looking for pics of her and kept finding ones from Jennifer Lawrence I was stumped. Even more so when I found out that this was not Jennifer Lawrence at all but Helen Mirren in her first movie Herostratus. Is she Jennifer Lawrence´s secret mother ?

I guess Mick Jagger never expected to turn 73 with the lifestyle he had but I´m glad he did for all the great music - and music videos - he did on his own or as part of the Rolling Stones. Since it´s impossible to pick just one video here´s a GIF of ravishing Anita Morris from She Was Hot. She was a real life Jessica Rabbit before there even was a Jessica Rabbit !

We start our dearly departed section from Yesterday with Stanley Kubrick, a real cineastic visionary who gave us many cult movies like Stephen King´s The Shining, including 2001 which was adapted by none other than the great Jack Kirby. I don´t think the material has ever been reprinted which is a shame, not only because of Jack Kirby´s artwork but because it is within these pages that Machine Man a.k.a. X - 51 first appeared.

Our next In Memoriam birthday also is from the science fiction genre as Aldous Huxley´s Brave New World is one of the classic you have to read in school. At least in Germany. Last but not least I have to mention another famous writer, George Bernard Shaw alone for the fact that he wrote a play called Man And Superman which was not about a strange visitor from Krypton. Shaw has written more than sixty plays among them Pygmalion best known under the name of the musical adaption My Fair Lady. I had the celebrity birthdays of Today following but because those included Monique Sluyter that part got too long and I gave it a post of its own

I must have at least one video that relates to the comic content of the post and since Ernie Chan worked on The Incredible Hulk here is another video from NerdSync about the real origin of the Hulk´s real name.

Despite having so many birthdays in this post I have been holding back with the videos so I can include one about comics for my german readers.

As a another callback to an earlier post here is the animated Animal Farm movie which I could fit into the post on George Orwell´s birthday.

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