Category Archives: superhero

Titans Together: 24 George Perez Splash Pages

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Though thirty-four years have passed since Marv Wolfman and George Perez began their run on the Teen Titans for DC Comics, time has done nothing to diminish our affection for their work. Our gallery below presents a collection of splash pages and two-page spreads from the first twenty issues of The New Teen Titans, showcasing Perez’s knack for detail, action, and creative layouts. Romeo Tanghal’s ink work made him an integral part of the team. Nothing displays this better than the two pages (included in our gallery) penciled by legendary Superman artist Curt Swan in issue #5. Under Tanghal’s pen they seamlessly maintain the look and feel Perez established for the title.

 
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The New Teen Titans embraced the absurdities of superhero comics while taking them to a higher level with rich characterizations and finely-crafted emotional lives for its adolescent stars. It managed to be a grown-up book without being an “adult” title, and to handle many serious stories without veering off into the “grim and gritty” deconstructionism of more famous works from the 1980s. The New Teen Titans deserved better than the cheap paper and printing processes of the average comic book of its time. It thus became one of the first mainstream superhero books to change to a higher-quality printing process, though unfortunately this came near the end of Perez’s stint on the title.

 
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Readers would have to wait many years to see Perez’s outstanding art printed in a high-quality format it deserved. This began with The New Teen Titans DC Archive Edition in 1999, a four-volume hardcover reprinting #1-27, the first Annual, the first appearance in DC Comics Presents #26, and the Tales of the New Teen Titans limited series. Sadly, that printing only covered less than half of the incredible Wolfman/Perez run. Readers would have to wait even longer for a complete reprint of the masterpiece.

 
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More recently, from 2011 to 2013, DC Comics unleashed The New Teen Titans Omnibus. This three-volume hardcover series spans 1,720 pages, at last giving the outstanding series the treatment it deserved.

As a result, the demand for original printings of all but the earliest issues has significantly declined. So, if you enjoy collecting classics on a budget, you will find the original issues of New Teen Titans incredibly affordable. The upside of having the original issues is that you can truly enjoy the two-page spreads in a format where they open up completely and don’t lose any artwork in the ‘gutter’ between pages. We love omnibus formats, but sometimes a floppy old comic book that opens flat allows you to really take in the artwork as originally intended. The choice is yours!

 


Ten More Top Ten Favorite Single Issues

Since we posted Our Top Ten Favorite Single Issues in October, 2011, our fan-blogging obsessions brought many more printed treasures to our attention. One by one, we added them to Mars Will Send No More until today’s post can link you to every one of them for in-depth exploration.

Well, nine out of ten at least. Close enough for this summer! Qualifications for inclusion on this list are simple: The issue cannot be from a series already covered in our original Top Ten, and it must be brain-stunningly awesome. Six of them are black and white books, and we had only read three of them before we started this site in 2011. Allow us to present, in no particular order, Ten More of Our All-Time Favorite Single Issues. Click their titles to learn more about each one!

 
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Armadillo Comics #2 by Jim Franklin; 1971, Rip Off Press

 
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Man from Utopia #0 by Rick Griffin; 1972

 
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Lone Wolf & Cub #28; First Publishing

 
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Devil Dinosaur #1 by Jack Kirby; Marvel, 1978

 
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Cartoon History of the Universe #1 by Larry Gonick; 1978, Rip Off Press

 
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Anarchy Comics #1; 1978, Last Gasp

 
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Silver Surfer #1; Marvel, 1968

 
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Super Villain Classics #1; Marvel, 1983

 
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World Around Us #15: Prehistoric Animals; Gilberton, 1959

 

 

Psychotic Adventures #2. Last Gasp, 1974.
No page yet available.
This is the one we need to scan for the archives. You can sometimes find it in stock at MyComicShop, but Last Gasp seems to have run out of copies of both this and the first issue. That’s a shame, because it is one of the most intense, over-the-top comic book stories ever put on paper. Until we get it updated, you can see some short stories from issues one and three.

 

 
Runner up: Spectacular Spider-man #21; Marvel, 2003.
Our original Top Ten had a runner up, so let’s sneak one in here, too!

We don’t have scans of it but you can buy it cheap. The current plot description in MyComicShop is totally wrong, so let us set the record straight. This issue came at the end of Paul Jenkins’ enjoyable run on Spider-man. In this issue, Jenkins gives us a warm and personal evening with some of Marvel’s flagship superheroes playing a game of poker. The Kingpin of Crime shows up with a massive pile of cash asking to get dealt in, and tensions escalate. Rich with humor and lacking a single fist fight, this issue exemplifies the depth of character Jenkins brought to his Spidey stories.

But what about…?
Several noteworthy series have not made it into our Top 20 single issues. This includes works like DMZ, Clan Apis, Frank, 100 Bullets, and Sin City, where the entire series as a work of art outweighs any single issue. We will rectify this with future lists!


The Original Mutant Massacre!

The Mutant Massacre storyline from Chris Claremont’s legendary run on Uncanny X-Men remains fondly remembered by X-fans of the mid-1980s. Marvel collected it recently in a 320-page The Mutant Massacre. But before the X-men, Captain America faced the original mutant massacre in Jack Kirby’s Captain America Annual #4.

 
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Magneto plays the villain here, with the fate of a horrifying but sympathetic mutant driving Kirby’s plot. Conceptually and visually, Annual #4 has much to offer. Just look at these splash pages! On the other hand, Kirby’s Captain America run in the 70s did little with Cap as a character. In this and other Kirby Captain America stories, Cap functions as a pretty generic action hero. The interest lies in Kirby’s penchant for exploring mind-blowing science fiction concepts, and rendering them as no one else can.

 
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Not nearly as far-reaching in scope and consequence as Claremont’s mutant massacre, Kirby’s The Great Mutant Massacre nonetheless planted the seed. Perhaps it even laid the foundation for Claremont’s development of widespread societal hatred of mutants in his stories. Would we have Days of Future Past without Kirby’s oft-forgotten Captain America Annual? Pick up a copy and judge for yourself!

 
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Astonishing X-Men by Warren Ellis: Series Review

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After 24 issues plus a Giant Size final issue, fan-favorites Joss Whedon and John Cassaday left some big shoes to fill on Marvel’s Astonishing X-men. This wasn’t the first time Marvel published an Astonishing X-men title, but it was much more artistically and critically successful than the one in 1995 or the one in 1999. To keep the momentum going after Whedon and Cassaday, Warren Ellis stepped up to bat, along with Simone Bianchi. Bianchi’s artwork on Wolverine’s solo title provided some glorious visual moments, including an eye-popping drama in Wakanda with the Black Panther, Storm, and Sabertooth. Ellis and Bianchi’s collaboration on X-men gives us some stunning wraparound covers and a convoluted but visually interesting story.

 
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In a move that made sense to perhaps no one outside the marketing department, the first storyline spins off right in the middle to a two-issue title called Ghost Boxes. These boxes play an important role in the main title, and if you only read the main title it feels like you missed part of the story. Basically, they take the X-men on some ‘alternate reality’ adventures which give Ellis a chance to tell “What If?” stories with the characters. Also, each vignette features a different artist, including a return to the X-men by Alan Davis. Despite the fumbling and fussing with a separate title, they do make for an engaging and sometimes chilling read.

Back in the main title, Bianchi keeps hitting home runs with creative layouts and gorgeous renditions of our favorite mutants.

 
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After the first storyline concludes, Phil Jimenez returns to the X-men. And wow, what a return it is! Jimenez worked with Grant Morrison for a while on the series simply titled “X-men,” when it was being published as “New X-men.” While we didn’t care for Morrison’s characterization of Magneto as a cruel, utterly immoral jerkwad, the Jimenez artwork is worth the price of admission. On Astonishing, Jimenez makes his previous work look like a simple warm-up. Just look at what he does with the Brood and the Sentinels, among other things.

 
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If these stories suffer anywhere, it’s in the rushed tone of the dialogue and plots. The X-men’s dialogue suffers as Ellis fills their mouths with uncharacteristically snappy patter. Their adventures, while admirably action-packed and fast-paced, also lose a little something, as if driven more by Ellis’ latest sci-fi concept than a gripping plot. In other words, they give the artist plenty of room to draw amazing things, but don’t give the reader much incentive to care. Having read about a million Ellis stories, this feels more like one of several limited series he pounded out in a hurry than it does an X-title. But hey, even an Ellis “popcorn movie” script makes for entertaining reading.

 
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A complete collection of this run will also include two free “sketchbooks” Marvel published – one for the Bianchi run and one for the Jimenez run. The interview with Jimenez and the black and white artwork are real treats, the latter calling attention to just how large a role the colorist played in creating the look of the second storyline. Color credits belong to the amazing Frank D’Armata, who also played a huge role in the splendor of Ed Brubaker’s Rise and Fall of the Shi’ar Empire, another one of our favorite recent X-epics.

 
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The final Ellis story takes place again outside the normal title, as Astonishing X-men: Xenogenesis. Kaare Andrews rocks this story out on the artistic front.

 
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All in all, it’s a good read combining action with moral tension and futuristic concepts. The entire opus could have been improved by giving Ellis time to simply write these stories for the regular title, instead of squeezing blood from a stone by putting out as many X-titles as possible each month. But that is not exactly a new problem at the House of Ideas, is it?

 
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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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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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Marvel Treasury Edition: Thor by Kirby

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Marvel Treasury Edition #10 features the mighty Thor in a four-issue saga by Stan Lee & Jack Kirby. The original issues reprinted in this gloriously oversized edition are Thor #154, #155, #156, and #157. Considering any one of these original issues will run you from $15 in a VG condition to $200 in a CGC-graded 8.0 VF condition, a $15-$30 copy of this treasury edition will leave some cash in your pocket and deliver the goods in a superior format.

 
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And it truly is superior. Just look at these gorgeously reproduced pages and that mind-stunning back cover! Jack Kirby’s artwork at this size never fails to crank the awesome-meter into the red.

 
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The story itself starts off well, with a big bad monster foolishly released by some power-mad moron. Guess what? It presages the end of the universe! Oops!

The monster – called the Mangog – begins an unstoppable march towards Thor’s home in Asgard. Its ineluctable progress drives just about all the action in this story, as hero after Asgardian hero fails to stop Mangog’s tenacious travels. It’s very dramatic, true, but essentially you get one long fight scene bathed in delicious Kirby Krackle.

 
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Normally we would hate spoiling the ending, but this story spoils it on its own. After all this cosmic-level struggle, the pay-off kind of sucks. Odin steps in at the end, waves his hand, and puts a stop to the whole thing in deus ex machina fashion. This cheapens the epic struggle that comes before it by suggesting that, well, we had nothing to really worry about the whole time.

 
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Despite this let-down of an ending, one can have some great fun with Thor and his friends along the way, valiantly struggling to overcome their implacable foe. Readers who may have looked forward to Ragnarok (end of the universe, basically) would have to wait until Thor #200, some pages of which we have in our archives.

 
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Whether you collect Jack Kirby art or classic Thor issues, Marvel Treasury Edition #10 probably deserves a place on your shelf. We recently sold ours on eBay, but you can usually find it in stock. It’s big, it’s bold, and the lame ending does little to detract from Kirby’s masterful visual approach leading up to it.

Readers who don’t mind black and white reprints will find this story in the Essential Thor paperback #3. Let’s have a look at some more interior pages from this titanic tome!

 
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