Monthly Archives September 2019

The Puppet Master Annual 1 (2015)

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What began as an independent horror film became a franchise birthing 12 films after the original in 1989.

Malibu, under the Eternity Comics imprint, picked up the first comic book license running four issues. A two-issue mini followed in 1991.

The Puppet Master Annual 1 (2015)

The Puppet Master Annual 1 (2015)

The four-color franchise sat idle until 2015 when Action Lab Entertainment, under the Danger Zone imprint, resurrected the title. From March of that year through November 2016, 20 issues were published. Including The Puppet Master annual one or Halloween Special.

The annual itself focuses on younger, scantily clad women – are there any other kind in horror movies? – and a visit from Neil Gallagher.

Mr. Gallagher delivers a bag of puppets that come to life and kill all but their benefactor. His ultimate plan is to discover the secret of immortality the puppets possess. Somehow the killing spree is supposed to revel that.
Whatever.

A quick and decent read to bring in Halloween 2019.

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Hellblazer (1988) 42

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Do you really need an excuse to have a beer? If so, today is your day. Today is National Drink Beer Day.

Not a Hallmark holiday by any stretch of the imagination, National Drink Beer Day, needless to say, is unofficial. Beer’s origins are murky as well. There is some proof beer was first crafted in what is now Iran in the fifth century B.C.

Later it spread throughout Europe by Roman soldiers and later still through its production in monasteries.

Hellblazer (1988) 42

Hellblazer (1988) 42

To celebrate National Drink Beer Day, Four Color Holidays presents Hellblazer 42. Spoiler: if you’ve never read the title, at least Garth Ennis’ run, stop reading this now. Drop your beer and get the hardcovers, trades or floppies. Then you can crack your cold one.

Ennis steered John Constantine through issues 41 to 83. All are good, but the first story arc is the best.

In it Constantine discovers he has lung cancer. He sets about seeking a cure through sorcery. In the second chapter of the tale he finds himself in Ireland sharing a very special drink with an old friend. I won’t spoil the rest.

Wikipedia describes Hellblazer as a “contemporary horror comic book series.” A simple answer that falls short of properly appreciating how Ennis handled his chronicling chores. The book has shown sparks of brilliance before and since, but never shone as brightly as it did during those brief years.

Cheers.

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Classics Illustrated Junior (1953) 515

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Today is Johnny Appleseed Day. Yes, it’s a legitimate holiday. One that commemorates the birth of John Chapman, aka Johnny Appleseed.

Chapman is credited with seeding parts of Illinois, Indiana, Ohio and Pennsylvania with apple trees. His day is normally celebrated on his birth date, but is also recognized as March 11, prime apple planting season.

Chapman/Appleseed planted orchards that he would revisit from time-to-time and care for. When the orchards were developed, he would sell them at a profit.

With no specific area that celebrates the holiday, this day is for those who either plant apple trees or enjoy apple or apple-based products in Chapman’s memory.

Classics Illustrated Junior was published by The Gilberton Miller Company from 1953 to 1962. The 77-issue run featured stories of legends, myths and fairy tales.

 

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Action Comics (1938) 454

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National Cheeseburger Day is certainly not one of the Federal or State holidays. It is perennially celebrated Sept. 18, offering an excuse to chow down on a greasy burger topped with cheese and favorite condiments.

Action Comics (1938) 454

Action Comics (1938) 454

German immigrants brought the hamburger to America. Hamburg steak was a popular dish among lower-class Germans. Later it was placed between two slices of bread becoming a sandwich. It was properly introduced to the American public at the 1904 World’s Fair and became the darling of the nation.

Cheese was added sometime later, possibly between the 1920s and 1930s to Americanize the sandwich. No one has legitimately laid claim to creating the cheeseburger, but the bacon cheeseburger can be credited to Dale Mulder in his A&W Restaurant in 1963.

While Action Comics issue 454 does not celebrate National Cheeseburger Day, the cover does commemorate the holiday well enough. Though a bit over represented, the scene does appear inside the book.

Superman’s fast food gobble is a bid to maintain his metabolism after Toyman finds a way to deprive the Action Ace of the power-giving sun light. The man of steel finally figures out a solution and “Superman’s Energy-Crisis” is wrapped up with enough room for the Atom to close out the book in “The Campus That Swallowed Itself.” The title is longer than the actual story.

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Detective Comics (1937) 27

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It’s hard for those outside the fold to understand the kinship we fans feel toward these two-dimensional, fictional creations.

But, it exists.

At times it’s almost tangible.

Especially for one who predates many of us. Who has survived – and thrived – after a congressional castigation, network neutering and public pandering. Who is an American institution.

This is why we have National Batman Day.

I can’t remember the first Batman story I read. There have been so many. So many adventures and years since that first one.

Detective Comics (1937) 27

Detective Comics (1937) 27

All I know is I was introduced to a character draped in the dark of night, eyes veiled behind white slits hiding windows to hell. That was the Batman Denny O’Neil and Neal Adams/Irv Novick were resurrecting in the early 1970s.

It was a good time to be a Batman fan. He was allowed to return to the shadows, but readers weren’t too removed from the day and twilight that came before.

Reruns of the 1966 psychedelic series were still airing in the afternoons. Adam West and Burt Ward were live-action heroes for half an hour.

Then the fad faded.

It was time to go back to Batman’s roots. As mentioned above, this about when I came into the picture.

The 1970s settled and the ‘80s dawned. A relative newcomer to the field not only redefined Batman, but knighted him in ebon. Frank Miller created two seminal works that examined both ends of the spectrum. The Dark Knight Returns came first. It looked at the end of days for the Caped Crusader.

Batman:  Year One stepped back to look at his beginnings.

As the decade ended so did Jason Todd’s career as Robin. Tim Burton took Batman to Hollywood.

The 1990s were not as adventurous. Instead the franchise was mined for the fanboys’ dollars. Gimmicky covers and story arcs designed to have readers buying multiple issues were the norm.

Where Batman shown again was on the small screen. Bruce Timm crafted a new look out of the old with a timeless backdrop in Batman the Animated Series. It would spin off The New Batman Adventures and Batman Beyond along with two feature films. The first was given a theater release in Mask of the Phantasm. The second was direct-to-video, Batman & Mr. Freeze:  Subzero.

The comic book industry rebounded from the 1990s speculators and continues to thrive both on and off the page.

The Batman legacy is strong as ever. His celluloid career continues and Detective Comics just celebrated its 1,000 issue. A fine compliment to the Caped Crusader’s 80th birthday.

Batman has evolved and revolved with the times. His image has been tweaked and tarnished at times, but overall it remains as timeless as his mission to avenge his parents’ deaths.

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Marvel Two-in-One (1974) 98

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As if video gamers needed an excuse to play games all day, here is another. While not a legitimate holiday, National Video Game Day does make the list of odd observances.

National Video Game Day is recognized on Sept. 12. This is not to be confused with the previous Video Game Day celebrated July 8.

For those ready to play, we’ll observe today with Marvel Two-in-One issue 98 from April of 1983. For those old enough to remember, that year was a high-water mark for the video game industry. In 1981 video games consumed more money than concerts, theater tickets and record sales. And, it only kept growing over the next few years.

Marvel Two-in-One (1974) 98

Marvel Two-in-One (1974) 98

David Micheleinie commemorated the video game movement with “Vid Wars!” Ron Wilson penciled the project and Frank Giacoia inked the tale that co-stared Franklin Richards.

For those who may not remember, Marvel Two-in-One was a vanity vehicle for Ben Grimm, the ever-lovin’ blue-eyed Thing.  Aunt Petuna’s favorite nephew would team with a fellow Marvel U resident each month. At least for 100 issues and seven annuals.

In this team up Ben is tired of his nephew thumping him in the arcades. As luck – and Michelinie – would have it Dr. Niles Given is seeking an audience with Reed Richards at the Baxter Building when the two return home. The good doctor has created a video game and he wants the endorsement of Dr. Richards. The story takes a darker turn when all involved are transported into a real game of life and death.

Much like Marvel Team-Up, Marvel Two-in-One was ended to allow the Thing a solo series. It only lasted 36 issues while Spider-Man’s off-shoot following his team up book, Web of Spider-Man, proved much more popular lasting to issue 129.

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Doom Patrol (1987) 45

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Grant Morrison hit most of the comic book industry’s sensitive spots during his run as Doom Patrol scribe. Each issue of his tenure, issues 19 through 64, was a satirical statement.

“The Beard Hunter” is a tale Arnold Drake, Bob Haney and Bruno Premiani could never have envisioned when they first created “The World’s Strangest Heroes.” The story does meet the criteria for observing today’s National Beard Lover’s Day.

Doom Patrol (1987) 45

Doom Patrol (1987) 45

Doom Patrol (1987) 45 isn’t exactly a love letter to those with facial hair, but more of a statement against the facially follically challenged. “The Beard Hunter” treads a dark trail of comedic fare. As with the series itself, this issue is a fresh, kaleidoscopic look at a team no one knew what to do with.

When Doom Patrol first appeared in the pages of My Greatest Adventure issue 80, the characters were an off-beat bunch often likened to Marvel Comics’ The X-Men.

The team was revised and revived in post-crisis DC by Paul Kupperberg and Steve Lightle. Morrison was part of the late 1980s British Invasion that revamped the comic book market.

Doom Patrol limped through several incarnations over the years after Morrison’s departure. Most recently they were featured in a live-action series on DC Universe’s streaming service.

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Wonder Woman (1942) 222

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Finally, the last labor of Wonder Woman’s 12 labors.

I say finally, but issue 222 is based on enough urban myth to make it interesting.

Wonder Woman finishes her labors in a sinister Disney World clone. The villain this issue is a thinly veiled version of Walt Disney called Wade Dazzle.

Wonder Woman (1942) 222

Wonder Woman (1942) 222

Dazzle is ensconced in a bunker below Dazzleland. From there he engineers his nefarious plan to kidnap people and steal their life force. This is all done without detection due to a miracle contraption that allows Dazzle make duplicates of people.

That includes himself.

Dazzle is dead, body and soul, except for brainwaves he can use to manipulate his clone. His corpse is frozen in a huge chunk of ice hung on a wall Han-in-carbonite style.

Wonder Woman inadvertently destroys the Dazzle doppelganger as well as her own to save the day. By unanimous vote, she is reinstated as a member of the Justice League of America with the promise, “Next: The first chapter of Wonder Woman’s NEW life begins with a saga so shocking we dare not reveal its title!”

Thanks to the comicbookdb.com we see it was called “Welcome Back to Life…Steve Trevor!”

Happy Labor Day.

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Wonder Woman (1942) 221

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If you’ve been along for the ride this long, we’re almost done. Just this and one more to finish Wonder Woman’s 12 labors as Four Color Holidays celebrates Labor Day.

Wonder Woman (1942) 221

Wonder Woman (1942) 221

Thus far we’ve sat through plots to enslave the world, enslave time and enslave women. In this issue we read about how women enslave themselves.

A foreign dignitary is lured to a retreat with the promise of a youth formula. In return for turning back time, the princess will relinquish a “psycho-chemical formula.” With it, the user holds control of another’s personality.

Vanity proves to be the real villain in the story. It is also the cause of death bringing the book to a close.

In the epilogue Hawkman, who has observed the adventure, speaks for Wonder Woman and her reinstatement to the JLA.

The book ends on a cliffhanger with Batman entering and promising a conclusion to the labors and the story arc.

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