Posted Friday, June 21st, 2019 by Barry

Franklin Richards: Summer Smackdown! (2008)

Today is the first day of summer. Not a Hallmark holiday – though there probably is a card you can buy – but, a true holiday on my calendar.

Today marks the triumph over another winter. Today is a reaffirmation of what we suffered under layers of clothing in the early days of this year. Today we can sing hosannas in the highest while bathed in the warming rays of another summer.

Franklin Richards: Summer Smackdown! (2008)

Franklin Richards: Summer Smackdown! (2008)

And, what better way to enjoy this day than with the first born of Marvel’s First family, the Fantastic Four?

Granted, this incarnation of Franklin Richards if out-of-continuity. This is not the Franklin born in FF annual six. But, a funner version. This Franklin, paired with the ever-faithful H.E.R.B.I.E., have a Calvin and Hobbes vibe as they adventure through the Marvel U.

This Franklin debuted in his first special, The Fantastic Four Presents Franklin Richards in November of 2005. His next appearance was April of 2006 in Everybody Loves Franklin, more of a Valentine’s Day tribute. From there Franklin became Marvel’s emcee of holidays with his first Super Summer Spectacular and Happy Franksgiving both the same year. Other holiday classics included Monster Mash in 2007, Spring Break and this Summer Smackdown for 2008 and April Fools in 2009.

Franklin hosted the unofficial March Madness holiday in 2007 and Fall Football Fiasco, a prelude to Super Sunday, in 2008. School’s Out is the last of the specials, released in 2009.

Other one-shots include World Be Warned in 2007 and the across-the-Marvel-Universe tie ins:  Not-So-Secret Invasion in July 2008 and It’s Dark Reigning Cats and Dogs in April of 2009.

Each special was broken down into four-to-five-page shorts. Mom, Dad, Uncle Johnny and Ben would make guest appearances as would other members of the Marvel Universe. Marc Steven Sumerak and Chris Eliopoulos handled scripting chores while Eliopoulos also took care of the penciling, inking, coloring and lettering.

Okay, now that you’ve fulfilled your commitment to us at Four Color Holidays, go enjoy this, the longest day of the year. When the sun finally dips below the horizon, maybe break out some Franklin Richards specials and remember what it is to be a kid again.

Posted Sunday, June 16th, 2019 by Barry

Lobo: Infanticide

Happy Father’s Day.

Not everyone is appreciative of raising a child. Lobo for example. DC’s Main Man has fathered an army of illegitimate children over the years. Due to his reputation the bastard babies have grown to become despised by the other denizens of the universe.

One is fighting back. Daughter Su has inherited her sire’s stones and enlisted a legion of step-brothers and sisters – over 200 – to avenge their shameful situation.

The four-part play is conducted as follows:  a plan is formed, executed and foiled as Lobo shows he’s DC’s best-at-what-he-does.

And, like his mimeographed Marvel mate, what he does isn’t nice.

Father’s Day is purported to have begun as a memorial service for a group of West Virginia miners who died in 1907. Father’s Day is a complement to Mother’s Day, celebrated the third Sunday in June.

Posted Wednesday, June 12th, 2019 by Barry

Action Comics (1938) 1

Today is Superman Day. A day to pay homage to the last son of Krypton and the first super hero.

Superman, aka Kal-El/Clark Kent, was born in the minds of Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster. When the two failed to crack the newspaper strip field they sold their creation to Detective Comics, Inc.

Action Comics (1938) 1

Action Comics (1938) 1

The first Superman story appeared in Action Comics issue one April 18, 1938. Superman proved popular enough he was given his own self-titled book a year later. That was the same year the Man of Steel finally broke into newspapers with a daily strip.

Superman branched out into other media as well. That included radio with The Adventures of Superman running for 2,088 episodes from 1940 to 1950. In movie theaters the man of tomorrow first appeared in animated form. Fleischer Studios brought Superman to life in nine cartoon shorts while Famous Studios drew another eight.

Superman and the Mole Men was the first live-action film released in 1951. Christopher Reeve would rekindle the romance between fanboy and film in 1978 with the first of four big-budget films.

Superman Returns was released in 2006 with the franchise resurrected most recently in 2013 with Man of Steel. Henry Cavill recreated his Superman for Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice in 2016 and Justice League in 2017.

George Reeves made Superman a household name when he portrayed him on Adventures of Superman airing from 1952-58. Superman would also be played by Dean Cain in Lois & Clark and Tom Welling in Smallville.

The Man of Steel would be represented in animation several more times over the decades. The New Adventures of Superman from 1966 to 1970 and Superman the Animated Series from 1996 to 2000. And, in other DCU-animated series such as Justice League.

Not bad for humble beginnings.

Superman comic books have never been out of publication since he first appeared in 1938. Action Comics 1,000 was published in June of 2018. Superman stood tall and proud for the occasion.

Posted Sunday, June 9th, 2019 by Barry

Not forgotten, Ol’ Chum

Today is the first anniversary of the passing of Adam West. He will forever be typecast as Batman.

For many he was their first Batman. Their only Batman.

For me he was a Batman. Not my first. That would be Denny O’Neil with either Neal Adams or Irv Novick.

Then reruns of the 1960s The Adventures of Batman and my Mego’s Greatest Super Heroes eight-inch likeness. That and some imagination.

Mr. West and his interpretation would be my third Batman. The one I watched after school on a black-and-white, rabbit-eared television in my bedroom. With two episodes back-to-back. None of this waiting a coupla days to tune to the same Bat-channel at the same Bat-time for a conclusion.

This was during the mid-1970s on UHF channel 20 outta Washington D.C.

In those days camp was what you did in the woods. In those days Batman 1966 was high entertainment. It was bif, bam pow – all with exclamation points.

As time passed and innocence was washed from my eyes I learned another definition for camp. The series became somewhat of an embarrassment. To me. To the industry. To Batman.

By 1989 a Robin had died, Frank Miller christened him the Dark Knight and Tim Burton was taking Batman back to the big screen. This time in a serious manner.

It came and went. As did Batman Returns and the inevitable sequels chasing after fanboys’ money.

These became the embarrassments. The big-budget, effects-laden movies that were to lay the 1966 series to rest.

What happened is many of us grew to appreciate the old again. Accept it for what was and will always be:  fun entertainment. It represented – and still does – a simpler time for most of us. For me it was afternoons with my Mego super heroes and villains. Playing in my bedroom, waiting for the call to supper.

It was – and still is – a piece of our childhood we should cherish.

Watching it now with my son in HD on a huge television screen is different than how I experienced it to begin with. But, Dylan’s different. The times are different.

But, Batman is still Batman. He has as many masks to charm us with as gadgets in his utility belt. Each one is as meaningful as the one before and the one that follows.

Thank you, Mr. West, for wearing one of those masks. One we can enjoy over and over again.

 

Posted Friday, June 7th, 2019 by Barry

Jingle Belle (2004) 1

Jingle Belle (2004) 1

Jingle Belle (2004) 1

Jingle Belle attacks the skeptics who say she doesn’t exist.

To do so, she decides on a Christmas special. In the style of the Rankin/Bass stop-motion puppet spectaculars of old. The network likes the idea of a special; just not her vision.

Paul Dini destroys demographics with his version of a seasonal special. He raids the Rankin/Bass treasure trope for the villains while giving George Lucas a sly nod.

“A Very Special Jingle Belle Special” is worth the price of the book alone, but Dini tosses in a follow up that teaches the greedy a lesson.

“Nibble, Nibble” introduces Polly Green, a self-styled suburban witch. Jingle Belle makes a guest appearance to help the youthful witch with family trouble.

Stephanie Gladden takes a page from Phil Folio with her illustrations.

Posted Tuesday, June 4th, 2019 by Barry

Punisher Holiday Special (1993) 3

Punisher Holiday Special (1993) 3

Punisher Holiday Special (1993) 3

Frank Castle’s third and final holiday special hit comic book shops just in time for the 1994 Christmas season.

“Cold Land” and “X-Mas Stalkings” are buffeted by the “Punisher’s Arsenal” and “Punisher War Journal Equipment” pages. Charles Dixon and Dale Eaglesham relate the first story while Mike Lackey and Phil Gosier bat cleanup.

“Cold Land” takes no prisoners as the Punisher attempts to save a boy from the sins of his father.

“X-Mas Stalkings” shows a more psychological thriller side to the book. Charles Quinn has found a fixation at random. His fetish has led to a fantasy life that ruins everyone else’s. When the confrontation comes, Quinn dies for a misunderstanding he created.

Of the three holiday specials, this is the best. A strong finish to 1990s vigilantism.

Posted Saturday, June 1st, 2019 by Barry

Giant Days Where Women Glow and Men Plunder

A holiday in Australia for the holidays.

Not much here Christmas wise. A decked out tree and some other imagery, but the main thrust of the book is a young man visiting his girlfriend and (barely) surviving a week with her family.

Giant Days Where Women Glow and Men Plunder

Giant Days Where Women Glow and Men Plunder

Ed Gemmel is the victim in this story. A victim of his own hormones and the wilds of Australia. Nina Archer is the object of his affections. Those intentions are tested by her father, brother and rival boys from the next town over.

During his stay Ed must prove his manhood to impress the cast. He finally does as intelligence triumphs over sheer muscle.

I thought long and hard about including this. As mentioned earlier the holidays are just an excuse for the vacation.

The meat of the story is in the interaction with the supporting cast.

Still, I read the book and rather than waste the time spent with an Englishman in a strange land, I thought I’d include it anyway. Take what you want from the review, such as it is, but pick the book up and read it to decide for yourself.

Posted Thursday, May 30th, 2019 by Barry

Grimm Tales of Terror 2016 Holiday Special

“Dinner Party” gift wraps the four terror tales it encompasses in a neat bow with a horror hostess to map the way.

Billy still believes in “Mall Santa.” His sister doesn’t. Not in Santa at least. Her belief proves prophetic when a psycho Santa tries to steel more than Christmas from Billy’s family.

The Pennsylvanian tradition of “Pollyanna” has all the women wanting “new office guy” Ken’s gift. Scary Gary is the real Secret Santa and the giver of a more precious present.

Playing sick to avoid school is common practice. When Kevin does it to jumpstart the holiday vacation, “Sick Day” becomes more than a way to sneak a peek at presents. What Kevin finds is his future.

Finally, “Mr. Mendelsohn” is a modern day Scrooge. However he’s stingiest with his affections – normally. When an object of his unwanted attention becomes the ghost of Christmas Past, the season is over.

Tales of Terror closes 2016 with a seasonal salutations.

 

Posted Monday, May 27th, 2019 by Barry

Justice Society of America (2007) 50

Timing publication for Memorial Day 2011, Justice Society of America issue 50 is a two-fold celebration.

Beginning with the June cover date, the issue remembers those who have fallen in service to their country. Secondly, it pays homage to All-Star Comics (1940) issue 27.

Hitting newsstands for Winter 1945, All-Star’s “A Place in This World” is prophetic in its title. Having just closed the book on World War II, America was ready to take its place among the world powers.

Sixty-six years later the former National Periodicals has become DC Comics, America has taken a spot on the world stage and the heroes who made both publisher and nation great still exist.

In the first story, “Cornerstone,” Modern Age heroes reveal how their Golden Age forefathers influenced them. “Infinitum” showcases Robin and Huntress. Story three, “Truth & Justice,” harkens back to McCarthy-era America and the trials a nation faced in fear.

Finally, “Inaugural” focuses on the first family of speed with Jay Garrick and Jesse Quick.

Also included in the over-sized edition is a “special sneak preview” of Batman: Arkham City.

Memorial Day is observed the last Monday of May to remember those who died while serving in the United States Armed Forces. The federal holiday was previously observed on May 30 from 1868 to 1970.

Decorating soldier’s graves was first recorded in 1861 in Warrenton, VA. The following year it was noted Confederate soldiers were honored in the same way by the women of Savannah, GA. A cemetery dedication was held in 1863 in Gettysburg, PA.

In 1868 the southern tradition was adopted as a nationwide observance called Dedication Day. The inaugural northern Memorial Day was held May 30 that same year.

 

Posted Saturday, May 25th, 2019 by Barry

Jingle Belle (1999) 2

Jingle Belle (1999) 2

Jingle Belle (1999) 2

Paul Dini and Stephen DeStefano wrap up the two-issue mini with “Santa’s Little Hellion.”

When we left Jingle Belle at the end of issue one, she had released the wrath of the Blizzard Wizard after disobeying her father, Santa Claus. The good intentions of faux elf and newfound friend, Andy, allow Jingle to return to North Pole headquarters, but the damage is done.

To thwart the Bliz Wiz again, Jingle retreads old ground seeking aid from those who helped Santa before. Between a contest to prove herself and unexpected help from a suicidal source Christmas is saved.

Jingle raises her will in defiance one last time to help Andy. The good deed does go unpunished, but not unnoticed.

She is allowed a place by her father’s side on the most generous of all nights.

Another homerun from Dini and Destafano. Y2K could never have dampened the spirit released from the two issues as the duo close out the old millennium with fun and flare.