Author Archives: Mars Will Send No More

About Mars Will Send No More


sketchbook sundays

pastel puma framed (4)

Instead of sketching this week, we devoted our sketch time to framing and listing several of our favorite pieces from the past year. It turns out to be quite a process: selecting and ordering frames, photographing each piece, and coming up with something compelling to say about them for the listing. Add to that unpacking, assembling, packing, and uploading, and you’ve suddenly got a pretty big project on your hands.

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But, at the end, the final framed piece of art gives you a major feeling of satisfaction. You’ve taken an idea and made it real. In today’s world of goods and services performed virtually and delivered by email, we sometimes lose an important reward: that day you can step back, take a look at what you accomplished, and know it as a tangible thing.

sleepy kitty framed (5)

Big cats and comic book themes in pastels, along with ink drawings of abstracts and animals, have now joined our art listings on eBay. If you see something there that you like, know that it is already packed up and ready to ship Priority Mail the same or next day. That goes for our readers outside the USA, too, if your country is covered by eBay’s Global Shipping program. If not, we can still do International Priority Mail to many more countries, for an additional shipping charge.

pastel tiger framed (1)

A few people had their eyes on Behold the Awesomizer! That painting, a tribute to jack Kirby, sold. We would really like the chance to create a couple more on larger canvas.

We have a 24×36 inch version of a similar “cosmic hand” on unframed canvas which has been waiting for a frame. If you’re interested in owning it and framing it yourself, send us an email and we will work out a shipping solution for you. For now, we have a 9×12 treatment in pastel, framed.

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A couple more photos of framed ink drawings and that’s it for this Sketchbook Sunday. Happy sketching!

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A Look inside Bruce Jones’ Run on the Incredible Hulk

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Even after repeated readings of Bruce Jones’ run on The Incredible Hulk, we get a visceral thrill from turning the page to find this portrait of Hulk grimacing, with a bullet firmly gripped in his teeth. Our judgment of Jones’ run as the finest treatment of Hulk may remain a minority opinion, much like our appreciation of Chuck Austen’s X-men work. As authors of the dissenting opinion in the Supreme Court of Geek, we ask your indulgence for but a few pages.

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Marvel gave Hulk a new #1 issue in 1999, the first renumbering of his series since Tales to Astonish became the Hulk’s own series at #102 back in 1968. John Romita, Jr., jumped on board with issue #24 of this series for an Abomination story, left, and came back with #34 to team up with Jones for Return of the Monster. The Jones/Romita collaboration gives us a brilliantly-executed silent story, where Banner’s meditation practices and an autistic child make a deep connection.

We also get something often attempted but rarely achieved: Banner Hulks out at the most dramatic moment for maximum effect.

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Jones implicates Hulk in the murder of a young boy, which steers the plot towards crime or spy fiction interspersed with ‘day in the life’ stories where Hulk confronts normal people in troubled times. Lee Weeks joins in the artistic foray as the insidious plot thickens – and let’s not forget the stunning covers by Kaare Andrews!

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Mike Deodato draws the next Abomination story. One can scarcely imagine a better choice of artist for what follows: the dark underground recesses where a captured Abomination seethes, the stark desert landscapes where Banner finds love that threatens to destroy him, the savagery of rage and passion consuming the minds of monsters in combat.

We are fans of the Abomination from way back in the 1970s – probably thanks to reading his sick origin from 1967′s Tales to Astonish #90 as reprinted in 1976′s Bring on the Bad Guys – but this story beats them all. The role of the Abomination’s wife in all this is a brilliant way to inject new life into the old monster!

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With all the grim teeth-gritting monster muscle-flexing freakouts, Jones and Deodato take a quiet two-page sequence that more subtly captures the evil of the Abomination. What kind of sick, twisted bastard does what happened to the Hulk to himself, on purpose, just so he can be bigger and meaner to everyone else on the planet? Emil Blonsky, scumbag scientist – that’s what kind! Let’s join him for this brief journey of malevolence across the plains.

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Deodato doesn’t finish the entire run with Jones, but he does stick around to draw hordes of nasty little beasties in the Split Decisions chapter, and continues to provide stellar covers for most of the run.

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Crusher Creel, the Absorbing Man: He can absorb the properties of anything he touches. Since it’s a divine power, he can still function rather than turn into, for example, a brainless carrot or a lump of steel. Instead he gets their properties like strength, resistance to damage, and… lots of Vitamin A.

Jones and Stuart Immonen take us on a ride with this big mean creep, and it does have its moments, but not quite as grand as what came before.

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Towards the end of Jones’ run, the series seems to exhaust its awesomeness. Iron Man and Hulk stories usually turn out well, but the crime/spy feeling of the book gives way to more “superhero” style stories. Perhaps Hulk got smashed by editorial decisions as Marvel rolled out their Marvel Knights imprint in 2004, or perhaps Jones merely paved the way for Peter David to return to scripting Hulk. We don’t know! We do however, get a resolution to how the Hulk became a fugitive at the beginning, and Jones nicely wraps up all the plot threads.

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The occasionally lackluster end of the series doesn’t really diminish the highlights of the first half. It took us a while to collect the whole thing, and some parts we read more than others over the years. We recently sold our collection of this run on Ebay, but we’d happily read it again someday! Collectors can find it as issues #34-76 of The Incredible Hulk (1999 Series) or as the eight-volume Incredible Hulk trade paperbacks (2002-2004).

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Samurai Executioner paperback: Volume One

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Our enthusiasm for Lone Wolf & Cub knows no bounds, so of course we grabbed a copy of Samurai Executioner the first time we saw it. This little paperback from Darkhorse looks and feels like one of their Lone Wolf books, also by Kazuo Koike and Goseki Kojima. In some panels, our protagonist even looks just like Itto Ogami from Lone Wolf, and he pretty much has the same job. But, without young Daigoro and the evil Yagyu clan defining this book, the creators can indulge their love for a good samurai tale with different kinds of plot lines.

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This creative team’s productions draw on Japanese history and culture from before the time Tokyo was established. At the time of these stories, that city was Edo.

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This paperback collects five sequential “issues” of Samurai Executioner in more than 330 pages.

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Koike and Gojima seem to delight in wringing the maximum emotional drama from each scene. No one in these stories merely has a rough day. One can easily see how these manga classics affected Frank Miller’s approach to comics with their over-the-top intensity, excessive violence, and no-holds-barred confrontations with total trauma. Take the opening sequence, for example.

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Our main character begins the tale in a sexual interlude with a prostitute. They share a tender moment, and we learn he has to execute someone the next day as a kind of job interview. Well, guess who they bring in to get the old slice-and-dice? That’s right… the woman our samurai was just mating with the night before. Ugh.

See, we told you nobody here just has a rough day.
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Our samurai mans up and chops her head off, but he whispers to her that the execution has been cancelled. She breathes a sigh of relief, free from any more worry or suffering. And then CHOP! This moment of mercy irritates the guys at the job interview, who remind him that suffering is part of the punishment he should mete out for them. What dicks!

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Compared to that job interview, the samurai executioner’s first day on the job doesn’t seem so bad. He gets dispatched to deal with some raving lunatic who has taken a nice young girl hostage. Koike and Gojima take us inside the madness in rather disturbing scenes where the captor forces his hostage to sustain him with her urine. They also gave us horrifying urinations in Lone Wolf, when the poisoner routinely drank the urine of the drug-addicted whores in his employ.

Now, we’re not really big fans of drinking pee, but a human could reasonably chug a shot of it without much emotional trauma. But in Samurai Executioner, it’s pretty much your worst nightmare in hell, an act performed at the hostile mercy of some psychotic sicko. …Maybe they need to consider adding a chaser!

So, between the decapitated hookers and the pee-guzzling antagonists, between the merciless mayhem and mandatory mutilations, Samurai Executioner managed to completely blow our minds. Even knowing the story doesn’t prevent us from some amount of shock every time we re-read it.

If you want some light-hearted family-friendly entertainment, this is not the book for you. If you get your kicks from action movies with hardcore heroes and utterly twisted villains, buy Samurai Executioner in paperback! Or, see if you can grab the new Samurai Executioner Omnibus in May 2014 from Dark Horse! The first omnibus will collect the first three paperback volumes!

Rick Veitch’s Swamp Thing: We Could Be Diving for Pearls

swamp thing 65-001

When Rick Veitch began writing Swamp Thing, he’d already drawn many issues of it. In his first issue as writer, he continued several of Alan Moore’s themes, like the Parliament of Trees and the psychedelic effects of eating Swampy’s tubers. While Swamp Thing descends into the green realm of the Parliament, Abby takes a weird hallucinogenic trip in issue #65. The events here kick off the main theme of Veitch’s run: Swamp Thing and Abby’s attempts to have a baby, and the unusual role John Constantine plays in that endeavor.

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Collector’s Guide:
- from Swamp Thing #65; DC Comics, 1987.
- Reprinted in Swamp Thing TPB Vol. 7: Regenesis.

Queen & Country by Greg Rucka

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We discovered Queen & Country on the Totally Top Secret Fifty Cent Rack last year. Someone blessed us by leaving about 2/3 of the series there, and it was easy enough to fill in the rest with VF/NM copies at about a buck a piece.

We have read many of Greg Rucka’s crime and detective stories before, but this is our favorite. Rucka made his mark at DC with his work on Batman in Detective Comics, among others. We prefer his indie short stories like Felon for Image/Top Cow, and Oni Press titles Whiteout and Stumptown. Queen & Country, also from Oni Press, proved as enjoyable as any of these, if not more.

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It takes a while to get into the series if you read it like a novel, due to Rucka’s insistence on action above introspection. We get right into the thick of things with the characters without much context as to who they are. Only as they begin to deal with the consequences of their spy operations do we begin to bond with them and see what they are made of.

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Told in chapters over five or six issues at a time, Queen & Country brings in a different art team for each chapter. Each dynamically different style gives us a new sense of the characters, too. We see them conceptualized anew with each new story arc. You might expect that to throw off the flow of the title, but it only deepened our enjoyment. Rucka’s scripts show us his characters more than tell us about them in exposition. Each art team shows in a unique way.

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We sold a nice collection of the series in single issues on eBay recently. You can find most of the series in stock as single issues and trade paperbacks. The Definitive Edition also collects these plus all the Queen & Country: Declassified spin-offs that delve into our secret agents’ past. It’s a great action/spy/adventure series we hope to read again!

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Puma Blues: The Dreaming!

puma blues 13 dream michael zulli art

Puma Blues #13 brings together many of our favorite themes here at Mars Will Send No More, from wildlife art to dreams and silent issues. If Michael Zulli’s art appeals to you, we have more samples of Zulli’s wildlife art in our archives. Let us also recommend to you, again from our archives, John Totleben’s wonderful fish-filled issue of the Vertigo series The Dreaming.

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Collector’s Guide:
- from The Puma Blues; Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1986
- Reprinted in The Puma Blues Book One and Book Two; Mirage Studios, 1988.

1978 Hot Wheels Spider-Car

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Although we posted about the Spider-car back in 2011, we took some more photos of this awesome little toy to sell it on eBay. Mattel did a great job with these back in 1978, and many of them have held up well through the years. You can usually find one for about $20 in excellent condition.

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Of the handful of our childhood toys we re-collected in the last few years, the Spider-car stands out in one amazing way. It was the only one that was still as much fun to play with as when we were little! As kids, we could get lost in epic storylines created for our toys. For example, plastic dinosaurs and Star Wars figures could have a war that lasted all day, only to team up when Godzilla showed up on their battlefield. Better call in GI Joe for back-up!

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But despite a nostalgia for those immersive days of playing pretend, we just couldn’t get there again with our old toys. They seemed to lack the same magic. Spider-car, however, turned out to be just as much fun to “drive” all over the house, do spectacular aerial stunts, and generally forget for a few minutes this dreadfully serious business of being an adult.

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This made us wonder if perhaps all the utterly ridiculous toys scattered around the houses of our child-rearing friends are not really there for the kids! How many fathers have bought the latest toy for their sons just so they could play with it too? Most working adults seem to have the means to buy most of the toys they could ever want. But, by the time you can do that, you may have also lost much of the child’s ability to get completely absorbed in play.

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While we don’t plan on raising little Martians of our own anytime this century, the Spider-car did help us reconnect with that state of mind. These days, we simply find it takes different kinds of toys and activities to get there. We can get caught up in sketching, painting, doodling, and jamming on a guitar for hours where time just melts away. Instead of creating worlds with plastic dinosaurs, we can create universes on paper. Now, the Spider-car can’t take credit for all of that directly, but it did serve as a reminder: a reminder that as adults, we have the power to create a safe place for that inner kid that is still with us, and set him free to play at his leisure for a few hours.

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