Category Archives: JP/Japer
Every other week, Jason Shayer will highlight an issue or a run of issues pulled from the horde of comic book long boxes that occupy more room in his house than his wife can tolerate. Each of these reviews will delve into what made that issue or run significant as well as discuss the creative personalities behind the work. “Long Box” refers to the lengthy, white cardboard boxes most comics find themselves stored within – bagged, alphabetized and numerically ordered.
The creative team of Marv Wolfman and Gene Colan were no strangers to a “weird world of terror” as they had collaborated on their successful 70-issue run on Marvel Comics’ The Tomb of Dracula, which was the longest running comic book horror series of all time (although I believe that honour now falls on Robert Kirkman’s The Walking Dead).
I’ll admit from the start that I never read this series when it came out. My 11-year-old comic book budget didn’t allow me to push beyond my staples of the Amazing Spider-Man, the Uncanny X-Men, and the New Teen Titans.
What impressed me from a writing point-of-a-view was how Marv Wolfman, who was also writing the New Teen Titans book, could change gears and write a very different book that was not only a completely different genre, but a radically different cast of characters. What was also refreshing was that it was a clear shift from the superhero world. The cast of characters were everyday people who have had brushes with the supernatural or were gifted with paranormal abilities.
The story centered around the mysterious Baron Winters and his attempts to stave off an even more mysterious threat. From Wintergate Manor, Baron Winters would manipulate events and even use the time travelling powers of the manor to affect current events.
The cast of characters for their first outing was tabloid news reporter Jack Gold, granddaughter of Dracula’s nemesis Vanessa Van Helsing, and parapsychologist Donavan Cain. Cain worked for the United States government, trying to find a way to harness satanic forces for their own purposes which was a supernatural arms race with the Soviet Union. Vanessa turned out to a psychic focal point for these satanic forces and Donavan’s research quickly moved from helping the government to helping Vanessa and keeping her alive and sane. The stakes dramatically increase as Vanessa is abducted by the Soviets with their own designs of using her and kicks her teammates into motion to rescue her.
The idea behind the Night Force was that it would be rotating cast of characters the Baron would put together to deal with a supernatural threat. Unfortunately, the first story arc lasted 7.5 issues and was a bit too long as it didn’t allow the readers to see the concept they had in mind in action. Another significant problem was the lack of any kind of sympathy for Baron Winters. I felt his mysterious nature and master manipulator role worked against him. On the other hand, I did enjoy his side trips into the past as well as the hints at his immortality and the suggestion that there were other incarnations of the Night Force.
Night Force was cancelled due to falling sales with issue #14. In that issue’s letter column, Wolfman advertized that the series would continue as a four issue mini-series, published on a yearly basis. Unfortunately, Night Force wouldn’t get another chance until 1996 and despite that incarnation and one in 2012, the series just hasn’t been able to gain the foothold it needed to be successful. I can’t help but wonder if the title had started as a series of four issue story arcs, it would have fared better.
Jason Shayer has been trying his best not to grow up for that last 30 years and comics books are one of the best ways to keep him young at heart. He’s also known as the Marvel 1980s guy and has probably forgotten more than you’d ever want to know about that wonderfully creative era. Check out his blogs at: marvel1980s.blogspot.com and dc1980s.blogspot.com
Is it still Wednesday somewhere on this planet? No? Damn.
You know, there are those weeks where you’ve forgotten to pick up some new, hot comic book on your weekly Wednesday run. It happens once in a while.
Sometimes you forget to buy an item, sometimes the shop forgets to stock the shelves with a particular item, sometimes they even forget to order it entirely and you’re left running to another local shop to pick it up.
This past Wednesday, it was the former.
This past Wednesday, the long-awaited Avengers: Endless Wartime was released. And if you didn’t pick it up, well, today will have to do!
Remember last Tuesday evening when you poured yourself that 7:59 PM cup of coffee and eagerly sat yourself down on the couch to watch the Joss Whedon created, produced, and directed pilot episode of the new Marvel Television series, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D series on the ABC Network?
Sure you do. We all do. Everyone’s been waiting to see the continuing adventures of post-Avengers Agent Coulson, alive and in the flesh since, well, since he died in that very flick last year.
But just as you were sitting down, wide-eyed in front of the television screen, excitedly hoping on a brand new Tuesday night ritual, plans and machinations were afoot from rivals Warner Bros. TV and the Fox.
Follow me after the jump, Detective, and we’ll piece together the excitement surrounding one particular word: Gotham.
What do you get when you cross a visionary particle physicist with a brilliant neurosurgeon, a philosopher for the ages, a fearless race car test pilot, a comic book hero and the world’s greatest rock musician?
The truth is, you only get one thing. More precisely, you only get one man. And that man is Buckaroo Banzai!
Regular readers of Biff Bam Pop! would (should) recognize that name. Especially readers of a certain age. Were you born in the 1970’s? Did you spend your out-of-school summers riding your gooseneck, banana-seat bike to the local video rental store? Did you gather in basements with your pals, watching all manner of obscure VHS movie tapes simply because they had cool titles? Yeah? Then you were probably a Blue Blaze Irregular. And you probably still are, in some shape or form.
‘Cos nothing was cooler than the 1984 cult film, The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai: Across the Eighth Dimension.
There are comic book creators and there are comic book creators. And then there’s Howard Chaykin.
Perhaps most famous as an uncompromising and often controversial writer and artist in the medium, Chaykin is notable for his award-winning works comic book works American Flagg, Black Kiss and American Century. He famously reinvigorated the pulp character, The Shadow for DC Comics in the mid 1980’s, bringing the man “who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men” into the twentieth century. His oeuvre of work spans five decades that includes every genre you can think of including science-fiction, fantasy, crime noir, superheroes and westerns.
And that’s where today release of Chaykin’s Century West comes into focus.
It’s no secret that I’ve been a fan of Marvel Comics’ current event series, Infinity. A big fan. Jonathan Hickman’s giant-sized sci-fi opera, cock full of characters, good and bad, new and old? Yeah, I love it!
If you haven’t been reading it thus far, Glenn Walker has been regularly writing a review column on the mini-series, the latest of which can be found right here. It’s required reading.
But like all tent-pole event series fro the big two publishers, Marvel and DC, Infinity has some spin-off and tie-in titles. Today’s release of Infinity: The Hunt is one of them. And it, too, should be a great read. Here’s why:
“A longer time ago, in a galaxy even further away…”
That’s the tag line for the most recent Star Wars inspired mini-series From Dark Horse Comics, the publisher who’s been releasing Star Wars inspired comic books for…well, for a long time. Now that Disney has swallowed Lucasfilm, it’ll be interesting to see what happens with this hot property and who ends up publishing it in this form. Marvel Comics, another Disney entity, is a good bet.
But that’s the future. We’re talking about a story that was “a longer time ago”.
How long ago, you ask? Follow me after the jump and I’ll tell you, padawan learner.
Grim and gritty.
That’s comic books these days, isn’t it? And, while I’m on a bit of a soapbox, the business we love seems to be all multiple covers, crossover titles, sweeping story arcs, limited edition print runs, character deaths – and a heaping spoonful of that grim and gritty. Blame the 1980’s. We invited those years into our homes and the latter half of that decade never left. But there are great comics being published today that demand reading; fantastic genre fiction that can’t be put down!
Remember those early days when you, as a kid, opened the cover to your first comic book – when the magic of sequential art, pictures and words, took you over and never let you go?
With Nova, those days have returned!