Monday, January 31, 2011

Action Comics #393

TITLE: Action Comics #393


COVER DATE: October 1970


22 pages


Its actually been a long time since I've read this issue, so I can't tell you too much about it from just my memory. Looking at the cover, I'm sure there's some horribly contrived situation involving Superman and the parachuting Houdini that involves some overly complicated switcheroo that was commonplace during this time period. We'll get to the nuts and bolts of the story in a bit, but there's actually something else about this issue that makes it stand out (at least to me).

This very issue of Action Comics is the one that was on the stands when I was born! Now I'm no fool, and I'm sure that bit of information is entertaining for one or two people tops (and I don't even know if my mom reads my blog), but what is fun is checking out the books from your own birthday. Thanks to Mike's Amazing World of DC and his Time Machine, it's as easy as clicking a couple of links.

So while you go check that out, I'm going to get on with seeing whether or not Superman can save that little boy's father. Just promise to come back here after checking out your own birthday.

Superman Meets Super-Houdini!
  • Writer: Leo Dorfman
  • Penciller: Curt Swan
  • Inker: Murphy Anderson
High up in the sky, the citizens of Metropolis are being treated by a show of super-human proportions. No, it's not Superman...been there, done that. This time it's Hairbreadth Holahan doing a promotional stunt for his upcoming performance.

With his son working the crowd down below, Holahan struggles to break free from his chains so he can pull his chute before he hits the ground. But seriously, this is Metropolis and Superman is bound to show up to make sure that no one goes splat.

Fortunately for Superman, the only thing going splat is his sense of being needed as old Hairbreadth has made good his escape at the last instant. Back on terra firma the Holahans finish their promotional pitch, managing to get an invite from Superman himself to appear at the Metropolis Museum Fundraiser that he's hosting next week.

So was Superman really in awe of their abilities? Did they really manage to pull one over on him? Naaahhh, as a quick look with the old x-ray vision revealed their secrets.

Hey! Watch where you're pointing those x-rays, Superman!

Little does Holahan know, however, that his performance also caught the attention of the local crime syndicate in Metropolis. These guys are nothing if not thorough with their bureaucratic paperwork. Something looks familiar about this Holahan guy and a quick check of their files reveals that he's actually Mace Larkin, an escaped con who forged a new identity as an escape artist in an attempt to turn over a new leaf. They soon pay him a visit backstage at the fund raiser and coerce him into helping them break their boss out of prison, or else they tell Superman the truth about his past life.

Holahan reluctantly agrees, and the show continues with Superman using his heat vision to seal him inside a medieval suit of armor. No one could ever possibly defeat Superman's heat vision, right?

Wrong! It's only moments later that Holahan emerges from behind a curtain, free of the armor. The celebrations are short lived, as an alarm rings out through the museum as someone has stolen the Star of Asia Diamond that is also on display. Superman theorizes that it must have been Holahan who swiped it during his escape, and he soon finds out the truth...Hairbreadth Holahan is none other than escaped convict Mace Larkin!

Now inside a prison cell, Larkin is soon up to his old tricks as he's already working on way to bust out. Pulling a fake tooth from his mouth, he reveals it's actually a capsule containing a cyrogenic hyper-chemical which he uses to freeze the bars and make them brittle enough to shatter.

Taking Stoney Croy with him, the mob boss he's here to break out, they take to the sewers and are soon on their way to the old mob hideout.

I love the fact that Metropolis gangsters are a bunch of sentimental fools at heart!

Unfortunately for the assembled gangsters, the celebration is short lived as Superman reveals that Mace Larkin is actually Superman in a rubber mask!

Yes, that's right! It's all been an elaborate scheme of cross and double-cross as Larkin went right to Superman after being found out by the gangsters originally. They then worked up this plan to catch the gangsters at their own hideout! For his part in helping catch some of Metropolis' most wanted, Larkin is granted a full pardon for his past crimes, ready to resume his life as a reformed criminal.


Aside from the obvious lesson about redemption, we also got treated to a look at exactly how the switcheroo went down earlier in the issue. The experienced Silver Age readers out there probably caught this, but here's a peek behind the scenes for the sake of everyone else.

You can scroll back up and scope out the original panel of "Superman" sealing "Larkin" inside the armor to see how it played out at the time. Here's a free tip for you, it's always a good idea to pay close attention to the perspective of the action when you know something fishy is going on.

Now if that wasn't enough Superman action for you, we're treated to another story in this issue. It's a short little morality play concerning social justice and disparity, and it's so over the top and melodramatic that it needs its own post to truly do it justice. Come back tomorrow for "The Day Superboy Became Superman!"

All characters and artwork reproduced are (c) DC Comics

Related links for your surfing pleasure...
  • If you're into this whole podcasting thing, give Superman in the Bronze Age a listen. It's a relatively new podcast, but the first episode featured an in depth look at this very issue.
  • Be sure to click over here for the second tale from this issue featuring Superboy.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Man (on the street) and Superman

So it's been a crazy couple of days for big comic book news. While none of these may be "cracking the internet in half" big, put 'em all together and it's been a heck of busy time for the old refresh button. To get a better handle on the big picture, let's check in with the man on the street and get his reaction.

Sitting in for the average man on the street tonight is none other than yours truly, so let's get to analyzing...

First up is an item reported on Bleeding Cool, and while it's still a rumor I haven't seen much denial from the Marvel camp. According to the report, Marvel is going to be embracing the $2.99/20 page format for at least some of their books. Now I knew that with DC holding the line at $2.99 that that was far from the last word on the topic of pricing. My prediction was backwards, however, as I just figured that DC would lose patience waiting for the sales figures to justify the new price/page count and their prices would go back up to $3.99 before the end of the year.

So color me pleasantly surprised, but Marvel has a long way to go to win me and my comic book dollars back. As always, the devil's in the details as to how many and how prevalent the move is going to be remains to be seen, and I don't trust them as far as I can throw my Uncanny X-Men Omnibus. I can't imagine them going line-wide with this, so my default position will be to leave their titles on the shelves. I like a line-wide continuity in my super-hero books, and if I have to pick and choose what i read based on the whims of how much they think they can get away with, I'd just rather not be bothered. But if they did move just one book to the lower price/page count, let it be Ultimate Spider-Man, as I sure do miss that book.

Next up on the news ticker is an item that comes from a more reliable source, DC themselves. On their company blog, they announced that accompanying the Flashpoint mini-series will be fifteen (count 'em 15) mini-series running concurrently with the main one. This looks to be a bit of an Age of Apocalypse type set-up, with altered histories and timelines being explored in three issue mini-series. What remains to be seen is whether these are fifteen new titles, or if they are taking the place of existing titles for three months, or a combination of the two.

Now me? I'm a hardcore DCU enthusiast, so I'm on board for most (if not all) of these, but one definitely made the Superman fan in me gasp in excitement.

Flashpoint: Lois Lane And The Resistance #1-3

Hell yeah, I'm all over that title.

Finally, and while we're on the topic of Superman, there was a bit of late-breaking news on Sunday that the role of Clark Kent/Superman for the new 2012 reboot was cast. The lucky actor is none other than Henry Cavill. Now I have no idea who he is, but I guess he looks the part.

While being a die-hard Superman comic-book fan, I have a bit of love/hate (mostly hate) relationship with movie and t.v. adaptations of the man of steel. So far, however, I've not seen anything official announced concerning the latest movie that has yet to make me groan.

And with that, let's get to the job at hand and get the next random book to review picked from the longboxes. Take it away, Randomizer...

...and that book is Action Comics #393 from October 1970, published by DC Comics!

Wow, everything's coming up Superman today! In fact, if you could see behind the scenes here at RL headquarters, it's even moreso.

And on that cryptic note I'll take my leave, promising to see you in a day or two the review.

(But seriously, if you're a Superman fan make sure you check back here on Tuesday!)

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Doctor Strange #2

TITLE: Doctor Strange #2

PUBLISHER: Marvel Comics

COVER DATE: August 1974


18 pages


I love me some good Doctor Strange. Unfortunately, for as long as he's been around there's been a lot more chaff than wheat. Luckily for us, that Randomizer gave us a heaping helping of the good stuff. This was Doctor Strange's first self-titled series, and the first couple of dozen issues are some of my favorites.

The icing on the cake? The first half a dozen of those featured some truly epic art by Frank Brunner. There are three people that tackled the good doctor, that in my opinion are the holy trinity of Doctor Strange artists. Steve Ditko set the stage for Doc and his world in the Silver Age. Frank Brunner then came on and amped things up for the Bronze Age. And for the Modern Age, it doesn't get any better than Jackson Guice. That right there is about all you need as far as Doctor Strange is concerned.

The best of the crop from the 70's run are the issues that verged on the trippy. This issue falls squarely in that category as Doc is trapped in the Orb of Agamotto, fighting for his astral life while his body lies mortally wounded in the real world. The main protagonist for this particular story is the less than threatening Silver Dagger, but he's sidelined for the most part, as Strange desperately searches for a way out of the Orb.

Let's not waste any more time talking about it, and read it already...

A Separate Reality
  • Co-Plotters: Steve Englehart and Frank Brunner
  • Author: Steve Englehart
  • Artist: Frank Brunner
  • Inker: Dick Giordano
  • Colorist: Frank Brunner
  • Lettering: John Costanza
  • Editor: Roy Thomas
And for those of you coming in late to the party, here's a recap of what happened last issue, right on page one.

So maybe the Silver Dagger stabbed him in the back instead of beheading him, but the dramatization is for the benefit of Clea who was taken prisoner by Silver Dagger last issue. It's his hope that seeing her beloved mistreated in this fashion, will break her spirit. Clea may be new to the realm of sorcery, but she's no dummy. She knows that if anyone can defeat the Silver Dagger, it's Doctor Strange.

Speaking of Doctor Strange, let's check in with him within the realm of the Orb of Agamotto.

Yikes...a winged, soul sucking space worm! Good thing Clea can't see this, as her confidence in Stephen would be sorely tested as his soul gets sucked up and swallowed whole.

What she doesn't know, is that Doc is about to get some help from some unlikely allies. First among them? The Silver Surfer.

So while the Surfer thinks he has arrived too late to save another victim of the Soul-Eater, what he doesn't realize is that the victim was Doctor Strange. Even without a mortal body, he is far from defenseless. Attacking the central nervous system of the creature, he manages to get himself vomited back to what passes for reality inside the orb.

Curiously, the Surfer does not recognize Doctor Strange. Since they've been team mates for the last two years, that can only mean that the Orb is pulling images from Doc's mind and making them manifest in its realm to interact with him. Their first task? Find his body, which has decided to go on a bit of a walkabout after having the soul sucked from it by the Soul Eater.

Following it's rambling footprints, they trail the mortal shell to a strange castle. What's even stranger is what they find inside the castle.

All right all you heroes, it's time to get crazy drunk on some off the Hulk's tea. And you don't turn down a cup of Hulk's tea, as that would make him angry...and you wouldn't like him very much when he's angry.

Reunited with his body, Doctor Strange is willing to throw caution to the wind and not only refuse Hulk's tea, but decides to leave the party early as well. Bad move, Doc.

Doctor Strange manages a spell or two of obfuscation that has the Defenders attacking phantom versions of himself. That leaves them wide open for a whammy of a spell that knocks 'em all unconscious, right as the Soul-Eater returns.

Luckily for Doctor Strange, not all of orb-created manifestations were quite as reactionary. With the help of the Silver Surfer and Valkyrie, they deduce that the Soul-Eater will keep on coming as Doc is the only one in the orb with an actual soul. To save himself, he must confront death itself at the center of the orb. Only then will he be able to free himself and return to the mortal world to save his beloved Clea.

With Valkyrie's winged horse as his guide, Doctor Strange closes out the issue heading right for the center of the Orb of Agamotto...sure of himself, and his actions, for the first time in a long time.


First and foremost, never turn down tea with the Hulk. If he doesn't get his regular dose of caffeine, look out!

Do you think he favors green tea or gray? I guess it depends on what his skin color at the time is. Do they have red tea?

Steve Englehart and Frank Brunner craft a well done tale, putting Doctor Strange through a series of challenges where he must use his mind in a world where the reality is a warped version of his memories. It allows just the right amount of trippyness, while giving him plenty of foes to battle, both familiar and bizarre.

I always love a good Doctor Strange story where he's essentially fighting himself, or manifestations pulled from his consciousness or powers, and this one doesn't disappoint. The use of the Defenders as visualizations of the superhero world as seen through the twisted lens of the Orb is the perfect meta-commentary on the team itself. Strange, bizarre, and seemingly thrown together at random with nothing but a vague sense of camaraderie (or Hulk's tea) holding them together.

Frank Brunner's artwork is just as good as I remember, truly shining when he gets to let loose with dimensions and perspective inside the surreal world of the Orb. It's a shame that we only got five or six issues with him on the art, but it's a testament to his talent that they loom so large in my memory.

All in all, this was a heckuva book and definitely one of the highlights of the Bronze Age. I only wish that they could capture this sense of what makes a good Doctor Strange story and apply it to today's Doctor Strange.

All characters and artwork reproduced are (c) Marvel Comics

Related links for your surfing pleasure...
  • As always, there's only one place to go for all your other Doctor Strange internet ramblings...Neilalien
  • Or if The Defender's are your-- ahem --cup of tea, you need to go to The Defender's Fansite.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Mrs. Random Longbox meets the King of Atlantis

A while back Mrs. Random Longbox, who happens to be a fine art photographer in her secret identity, was commissioned to take some photos. One of her specialties is taking pictures of old (and sometimes forgotten) toys, imbuing them with character and giving them a chance to come to life again.

So during the recent hectic summer festival season, my wife was approached by a fan who wondered if she could do the same for a favorite toy of hers, one filled with sentimental meaning. Never one to let a good challenge go to waste, she agreed and anxiously awaited the toy's arrival in the mail.

So what was that toy, and why does it warrant a blog posting all its own here? Take a look...

I don't know what's cooler...the fact that my wife was commissioned out of the blue to take pictures of an Aquaman action figure, or that she got such awesome pictures out of it.

Here was my favorite of the bunch...

While the wife liked this one...

Not to be outdone, here was my four year old son's contribution...

If you enjoyed this peek into my wife's portfolio and are curious to see more, or are looking to add some fine art into your life, click here and be sure to tell her that some crazy comic book blogger sent you.

And speaking of said blogger, it's been a week so let's get to picking the next random book to review. Take it away Randomizer...

...and that book is Doctor Strange #2 from August 1974, published by Marvel Comics!

It's actually been almost a year and a half since we last go to read an issue from Doc's first series. It also has an appearance from one of my new favorite super teams, The Defenders. I haven't re-read this issue since I've discovered my fascination with the Defenders, so I'm looking forward to reading it again.

Plus, it's got some glorious Frank Brunner art. It's been over thirty years, but his rendition of Doctor Strange definitely ranks in the top three.

See you in a day or two for the review.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Wolverine #125

TITLE: Wolverine #125

PUBLISHER: Marvel Comics

COVER DATE: June 1998


40 pages


So here's a first for me (and it's also something I completely forgot about until earlier today). This post will actually be the second time that I've written an on-line review for this very issue. The sharper readers among you are all ready to point out that this is the first issue of Wolverine that we've reviewed here...and didn't I just mention that very same fact a post or two ago?

Well you're right, and to find that first review we're going to have to go way back to ye olden days of the internet. Back when we used to have to walk uphill in three feet of snow to access our dial-up modems in all of their 56 kbit/s glory. The year was 1998 and my isp was AOL. I can't quite remember too clearly, but they used to offer some sort of limited, five-page website/myspace like thing. Being the vanguard of the internet frontier that I was, I thought I could use it to throw up a review or two.

Also at this time, Claremont was making his first return to the X-Verse after his rather abrupt departure after relaunching X-Men back in 1991. What better issue to kick off my new review site with than this one?

Obviously, nothing ever amounted to that first foray into internet stardom, as I think I may have written three reviews before moving on. Who knows how different the internet would be today if I had stuck with it, eh? If I get some time this week, I'm going to do some digging to see if I can unearth a copy of that review. It's got to be on an old floppy disk somewhere, but the hard part is going to be able to find a computer that still has a floppy drive in this USB flash drive world.

So what did I think of the issue back then? I remember really liking it, and you know what? It still holds up pretty well upon rereading.

Logan's Run!
  • Writer: Chris Claremont
  • Penciller: Leinil Francis Yu
  • Inker: Edgar Tadeo & Gerry Alanguilan
  • Colors: Jason Wright
  • Letters: Richard Starkings & Comicraft/EM
  • Editor: Mark Powers
  • Editor in Chief: Bob Harras
Here's the thing...I've been pondering over how to approach this review for over a week. As I said earlier, it's a pretty good issue that still holds up, but for some reason I'm having a hard time getting a handle on making this an entertaining review.

I could do a straight summary but this issue is forty pages, and these are forty pages written in Chris Claremont's wonderfully wordy style. To make matters worse, the first ten pages are a dream sequence! Nothing makes me lose interest more quickly than having to read or watch somebody else's dream.

On top of that, Wolverine doesn't even show up until over halfway through the issue. What we have instead is sort of a This Is Your Life-like trip through the ladies of Logan's love life, with Jubilee as our guide.

Haunted by dreams of Logan in trouble, it's up to Jubilee to keep him safe from his pursuers. Who are the people chasing him? None other than all of the ladies that Logan has been close to over the years...Jean Gray, Rogue, Yukio, Psylocke, Tyger Tiger, Jessica Drew, and Shadowcat.

They're all decked out in Viper green, which makes you think that maybe she has something to do with all of this. Spoiler alert...she does, and it's up to Jubilee and Shadowcat to find out what it is and keep Wolverine safe at the same time.

So why does this issue work so well?

Let's find out, but here's the thing, I don't think I'm going to convert anyone over to being an X-Fan with this review. I completely understand why some people aren't and have no interest in being one. Hell, it's been six or seven years since I've considered myself one. But I cut my teeth on Claremont in the mid-80's, so I've always allowed Claremont (and his excesses) a rather long leash.

Instead, I'm just gonna take a rather stream of consciousness trip through this issue and point out what I did enjoy.


This man is responsible for some of the most enjoyable comics in my collection. The 80's was a glorious time to be an X-Fan, and a big part of that can be laid of the feet of this man. Unfortunately, his track record since leaving the X-Men for the first time has been rather lackluster at best.

The Randomizer did us a favor and actually picked one of the highlights from this period for us to read. There's something about Wolverine that just seems right in the hands of Chris Claremont. I've never been that big of a Wolverine fan, but there's something about a Claremont Wolverine story that appeals to me.

That dialogue just shouldn't work when being read with a straight-face. There's a fine line between corny and bad-ass, but somehow he manages to straddle it with no problem.

It also makes his eventual reveal in this issue send chills up my spine.

You see, you read that dialogue in a vacuum and it's just gonna fall falt. But if you put it in a dialogue box with the arrow pointing at's game, set and match! It also doesn't hurt to have the image drawn by Leinil Francis Yu. And speaking of...


I remember this guy starting out on Wolverine about a year before this issue came out, and he really had a style that stood out and made me a fan right away. Following Adam Kubert and Marc Silvestri on Wolverine is no easy feat, but Yu's style was very complimentary to what had come before, while at the same time being a little slicker and less aggressive.

From the opening shot of Jubilee on the run--

--to the debut of a couple of deadly ladies--

--to the Jubilee and Shadowcat fashion show--

--to the big throwdown between Viper and Logan--

--he gets it right every time.


The Dick Grayson and Tim Drake to Wolverine's Bruce Wayne.

Wolverine needs a sidekick like Batman needs a Robin. He doesn't actually, but the fact that he has one humanizes him and brings him back down to earth. Some of my favorite Wolverine stories have also involved either Jubilee or Kitty Pryde. Throw 'em both together, and it's winner winner, chicken dinner!


I make no apologies here, but I don't think we've learned too much here except for the identity of a few of my biases towards what makes a good Wolverine story. Your mileage may very, and I'm pretty sure it probably does. I haven't read a new issue of a comic with Wolverine in it since Rucka's run, maybe? Somebody's enjoying them though, as he's about a dozen different books these days?

That right there makes me glad that I have issues like these in my longbox collection to fall back on.

Now that I think of it, I think there is one thing that I've learned while rereading this. Even with all of the books that Wolverine's in, I think there is actually room for one more that I would actually read. Give me a Wolverine/Shadowcat/Jubilee team book, similar to a Birds of Prey type thing, written by Chris Claremont and I just might be tempted to break my current Marvel embargo.

All characters and artwork reproduced are (c) Marvel Comics

Friday, January 7, 2011

The straight truth about Sweet Tooth

Here's a quick update on yesterday's post where I brought up the observation that the cover for January's Sweet Tooth #17 looked like a negative image of the DC Iconic cover treatment that the rest of the DCU is getting this month.

Well, Jeff Lemire has a healthy presence of the internet here and here, so I figured why not just ask him.

Here was his reply...
Ha! I actually never thought of that, but that's a great observation...but a total coincidence. I did that cover long before I ever heard of DC's icon month. Thanks for the email!
So there you have it. A coincidence.

Still, I love the way that the universe manages some small level of synchronicity in its randomness. It's one of the things that makes doing a random blog so much fun.

Thanks to Jeff for the super-quick reply and interaction.

And in more Sweet Tooth.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

One of these things is not like the others, one of these things just doesn't belong...or does it?

Well, Happy New Year everybody!

I figured I better tend to the blog before too much of the year got past us, so I hope everyone out there is invigorated and ready to go, chomping at the bit to take on whatever 2011 throws at us!

Speaking of new things for this year, today was the first comic book day of 2011. As I was buying my stack at my LCS, I noticed something strange about the covers. Yeah, it's the first week of DC's iconic cover treatment for the month of January, but there was something else weird. Take a look...

Those covers do look rather nice, all laid out together. It really makes Sweet Tooth stand out. If you look a little harder though, I think Jeff Lemire might be having a little fun with us. Do you see it?

For the month of January, all of the DCU books have a blank white cover with the main character(s) of the book in a rather heroic pose, front and center. Sweet Tooth, on the other hand, went in the opposite direction and has a brightly colored background with the main character as just a blank white figure!

Bravo, Jeff Lemire...Bravo! I don't know if you did it intentionally or not, but it sure made me chuckle nonetheless.

Now, on the business at hand as it's time to pick a new random book to review. Take it away Randomizer...

...and that book is Wolverine #125 from June 1998, published by Marvel Comics!

For someone who has a near complete collection of the one hundred and fifty or so issues of Wolverine's first series, it sure took the Randomizer a long enough time to stumble across one. He actually hasn't been that much of a stranger around here, having had a sleep-over at Dr. Strange's and escaping from Weapon X, but this is the first time he's shown up in his own title.

This issue is also the second in a row written by Chris Claremont that the Randomizer has pulled out of the longboxes. Coincidentally enough, I was actually just thinking about Claremont and Wolverine the other day. With Marvel pulling the plug on X-Men Forever 2, I was wondering if there was any title that Claremont could write that I'd still have an interest in reading. X-Men Forever has it's fans, but in all honesty it's a bit of a trainwreck. In fact, most of his team books have been rather scattershot in their approach to plot in the last decade. That got me thinking that I would actually be curious to see him tackle a single character book, and Claremont's style always seemed to suit Wolverine. Maybe it's the fact that they both think they're "the best at what they do" that connects them?

Be careful with what you wish for in the presence of the Randomizer, as you just might get it. See you in a day or two for the review.