Friday, August 31, 2012

1986 - Thor Print by Walt Simonson

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Fan Expo 2012 post-mortem

I attended this year's Fan Expo on Thursday and Friday, choosing to avoid the madness of the Saturday mob, which turned out to be a good idea based on the many reports of lengthy lines, overcrowding, and over selling tickets.

We lucked out on Thursday getting "Golden Tickets" at the Marvel Booth, which got us autographs from Stan "The Man" Lee at the 50th anniversary celebrations for Spider-Man.

The Lego booth was impressive with a lot of great Lego sculptures, but I do have to give a tip of the hat to the Mega Blocks booth. As my kids were building their creations, the attendant told them that they could keep whatever they built!

Another tip of the hat goes to all the wonderful costume players that were generous with their time and always happy to have a picture taken with you.

Neal Adams was a bit of a let down as he was charging $5 an autograph. If it was to raise money for a charity, I could understand, but felt a bit cheated, especially when I wanted to get a $60 Marvel Masterworks signed. 

Getting behind the wheel of Back To The Future's Delorian, for a $20 donation to charity, was a lot of fun!

And DC Comics did a great job with this comic book immersive photo-shopping.

My Hercules commission by Bob Layton

I had emailed Bob about doing a convention sketch of Hercules wielding Thor's hammer, but was so busy during the week of the Fan Expo here in Toronto, that I didn't have time to reply. Last Friday, I went to his table and overheard that his sketch list had several people on it and he wasn't going to get to them until the afternoon. I had the kids with me and had to leave, so I was disappointed. However, I got an email yesterday from Bob who was wondering why I hadn't come by to pick up my sketch! ARGH! Fortunately, he's mailing it off to me!

1981 - Captain America: War & Remembrance - extra material from the Marvel Premiere edition

Here's the full 6 pages of the never-completed tenth issue of the Roger Stern and John Byrne run on Captain America grabbed from the Marvel Premiere Edition. These pencils were never inked.

Monday, August 27, 2012

1983 - Spider-Woman #50

From the Marvel Comics: The Untold Story Facebook page, Mike Carlin states:
"... maybe photographer Eliot R Brown can correct me where I'm wrong-- or where my memory is off: The Scarecrow was Mark Gruenwald. I was in front of him as The Needle (the guy with the needle). Werewolf By Night was colorist Bob Sharen. The guy hanging off the fire-escape is Spongebob animator Vincent Waller. The Moth Lady was Mark G's wife Belinda. Tigra was Annie Nocenti her own bad self. Brian Postman is the Hangman-- though ya can barely see him. Not sure who played The Shroud-- Ralph Macchio? White haired guy in white is letterer Jack Morelli. And Green Hoody guy MIGHT be Ren & Stimpy animator Bob Camp. For the life of me I can't remember Spider-Woman's name-- but she was a secretary from the business-side of Marvel-- and she looked awesome in the suit! In fact she's the only character painter Bob Larkin didn't have to "enhance" with costume-lines and such! Lotsa fun here!"

1989 - Anatomy of a cover - Iron Man #250

Here's an unpublished version of the cover for Iron Man #250:

Friday, August 24, 2012

1985 - Marvel Universe poster by Ed Hannigan

Here's the ad:

And here's the full-colour version:

And a bit larger, but black and white version: 

Monday, August 20, 2012

1982 - The Amazing Spider-Man Annual #16

Amazing Spider-Man Annual #16
“Who’s That Lady?”
Writer: Roger Stern
Penciler: John Romita Jr.
Inking: John Romita Sr.

This annual turned out to be more of a team-up story with co-star Captain Marvel stealing most of the spotlight. Captain Marvel’s 17-page origin was a textbook example of how to concisely craft and introduce a new superhero. Stern leveraged her point-of-view as a rookie superhero with access to almost unlimited powers, but was still trying to understand and control them.

In an interview for Back Issue magazine #54, Roger Stern admited: “With Captain Marvel, I did my best to create a character in the Lee/Kirby/Ditko tradition, a down-to-Earth person who suddenly acquired extraordinary power. And I wanted her to be a straightforward, likable superhero.”

The story is segwayed by the origin telling, but Stern gets the main storyline going again and has Captain Marvel stumble and blusters her way into the Avengers headquarters. This encounter of course sets up her relationship with the Avengers. Stern had the idea of her becoming an Avenger in mind from this beginning and this annual was the first step on that road.

The annual’s art is another amazing son-father team-up by the Romitas. Their work is classic Spidey with a modern flare owing to Romita Jr.’s influence. Captain Marvel had one of the more interesting costume origins as she finds her way inside of a Mardi Gras costume warehouse! She next appeared in Mighty Avengers #227.

Best quote: [from Iron Man sitting on Monitor Duty] “That’s the F.F.’s priority signal. I wonder what they want? It better not be Galactus again! I warned them that –”

Friday, August 17, 2012

1984 - Doctor Strange #65

Doctor Strange #65 
June 1984
Writer: Roger Stern
Artist: Paul Smith

By Jef Willemsen

Roger Stern has enjoyed a long, rightfully celebrated career as a writer for both Marvel and DC. The secret to his success lies in his encyclopedic knowledge of and fierce love for the genre, combined with a respectfully rebellious attitude towards it that prevents getting tied down by it. This results in stories that feature recognisable characters (re)acting in familiar ways without feeling stale and predictable.

During the 1980s, Stern proved his worth on popular books like Captain America, Spider-Man and the Avengers… But he also wrote a fair share of Doctor Strange solo stories, that showcased his understanding of the sorceror supreme.

Stern’s strengths are on full display in Doctor Strange # 65, a done in one tale that seems almost pedestrian compared to what the good doctor usually deals with. You won’t find an impending galaxy crunching in this issue, nor will the fate of time and space hang in the balance. Stern doesn’t need all of that to deliver 22 pages that distill the quintessential Doctor Strange.

The issue opens with Doctor Strange’s ladyfriend Morgana Blessing attending a seminar by one Kerwin Havelock… A self proclaimed mystic who offers enlightenment through magic.

Using his ‘magic’, Kerwin cures the sceptic audience member, burning away his doubts, insecurity and agression. The crowd goes wild and Havelock gets swarmed by people who are willing to pay good money to receive a similar cure. Unfortunately, it sounds a little too good to be true, as Havelock reveals after his performance.

“I gotta hand it to you, Kerwin, this is one cozy little racket!”

Quite true! After all, who would believe a failed actor like Havelock would actually wield any magic to speak of? As a flashback reveals, he picked up all his fancy incantations from an old woman everyone thought was mad. Thinking Havelock harmless as well, Morgana cheerfully relates her experience over lunch to Doctor Strange whose mood shifts from slightly bemused to rather concerned when he hears about Havelock’s magic spells.

Apparently, that little old lady wasn’t quite so mad after all, but an actual sorceress who called on mystical entities and places of power… Among them, the planes of Pohldak. By repeating her lines verbatum, Havelock had unknowingly been chanting a summoning spell for close to a decade. His efforts had  inadvertenly created an eldritch bridge linking Earth with the demon rich Pohldak plains.

Doctor Strange tried to warn Havelock, even attempting to prevent him from ever performing ‘magic’ again. But before he could complete his enchantments, Havelock’s men brutally assaulted him. Almost getting knocked out, a seriously injured Strange fled the scene… Time for plan B.

Yup, that’s Stephen Strange using his magic to infiltrate one of Havelock’s seminars for gullible rich people seeking enlightenment. He isn’t in the best of shape, after the earlier assault left him with a concussion that barely made him capable of performing this relatively simple illusion spell.

Concussion or no, Strange was still forced to action when Havelock invoked Pohldak during his seminar. Due to a rare stellar allignment, the outerdimensional demons finally managed to open a portal to Earth and answered Havelock’s call. Needless to say, all hell broke loose…

“Somebody… anybody…HELP!!!”

It goes without saying that Strange did help, using his mastery of the mystic arts to sever the creatures tentative connection to Earth and banishing them back from whence they came. All’s well that ends well, but there was still the little matter of Havelock…

Some might say forcing your enemy to suffer for the rest of his life isn’t very heroic. The least Strange could have done was wipe Havelock’s memory as well. Yet, its exactly this approach to the character that makes Stern such a great Strange writer.

You see, Doctor Strange creator Steve Ditko never envisioned the character to be your typical spandex clad superhero. In fact, his earliest appearances show Strange as a master of ‘black magic’… A pretty fair indication Strange’s notions of good and bad aren’t necessarily dictated by common human morality.

Sure, Strange had vowed to protect mankind, but he never fought conventional criminals. Most of his rogues galery consists of macabre, metaphysical menaces... Heck, he even fought a haunted house! That’s bound to give you a somewhat different outlook on the concept of justice.

Stern took this approach to heart,  but managed to keep Strange likeable and human despite all the otherworldy shenanigans he had to deal with. If you want to see how such a dichotomy is accomplished? Look no further than Doctor Strange #65.

# # #

An avid fan of Chris Claremont and Marvel comics in general, Jef Willemsen blogs about the many, many, many times Chris Claremont has resorted to mind control in his 40+ years in the business. Check out his reviews at:

Upcoming Wolverine movie (2013)

Grabbed this from Bleeding Cool:

Based on the celebrated comic book arc, The Wolverine finds Logan, the eternal warrior and outsider, in Japan. There, samurai steel will clash with adamantium claw as Logan confronts a mysterious figure from his past in an epic battle that will leave him forever changed.

The Wolverine is set for release on July 26 2013.

And in other Wolverine movie news, Yun Lee has been cast as the Silver Samurai and they're looking to cast Viper as well. Here's hoping they draw upon the source material in the Wolverine limited series and Uncanny X-Men #172-173.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Marvel Premiere Edition line cancelled with #106

From the Marvel Masterworks message board:

Okay, after three months of solicits with no Premiere Classic HCs in them, I should probably end the suspense and make this official: Marvel has ended the Premiere Classic hardcover line. 
They'll still be collecting modern series in Premiere-sized HCs, and the Omnibus, OHC and Masterworks programs are not in danger. But the Premiere Classic line is being put to bed with volume #106.
Sorry, guys. I know quite a few of you loved them.
Definitely disappointing news. I loved this line as it showcased a lot of great 1980s runs in wonderful hardcover collections.

Here's just a small sample of some of the 1980s classics this line has reprinted:


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