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Category Archives: Jason Shayer

#Kirby100 – Kirby’s The Mighty Thor

No one contributed more to the Thor mythos and the world of Asgard than Jack Kirby. Outside of some help early on in Journey Into Mystery, Jack Kirby spent over 8 years of his career on The Mighty Thor (Journey Into Mystery #83, 1962 to Thor #179, 1970). Kirby was the driving creative force, bringing these myths and legends to life for a new generation.

Thor Epic Collection - The God Of Thunder-328

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#Kirby100: Kirby’s 1970s Captain America

By the time I was seriously collecting comic books in the mid-1980s, Jack Kirby’s return to Marvel was already history. Kirby had earlier defected from Marvel Comics to rival DC Comics where he created the New Gods Universe. The Powers That Be at DC Comics weren’t supportive of Kirby’s direction and he decided to return to Marvel. Sadly, his return was generally viewed as an unsuccessful one. One of the highlights of this return to Marvel was his run on Captain America, a title he and Stan Lee had taken to epic heights.

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While attending French grade school, I had access to a library of French-language reprints of Marvel Comics of the 1970s. One of them was the treasury edition of Kirby’s Captain America Bicentennial Battles. These over-sized pages were the perfect way to display Kirby’s power-packed and dynamic art.01

The mysterious Mr. Buda (later to be revealed to be the Elder of the Universe known as the Contemplator) sent Captain America on a time-traveling adventure through American history as part of their Bicentennial celebration. Yes, the dialogue is awkward and corny in places, but the visuals from Kirby are impressive. You can see that it’s the work of an artist in his declining years, but there’s still so much energy and passion in those panels. The scenes explode from the pages and sweep you up into the action. Barry Windsor-Smith, Herb Trimpe, and John Romita all embellished Kirby’s art for this stand-alone issue.

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This treasury issue kicked off to Kirby’s run on Captain America, and continued into issue #193, entitled “The Mad-Bomb!”. Look at that cover, inked by the legendary John Romita.

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Captain America 193-000

And the interiors are no less dramatic with explosions, literally and figuratively, on every page. Each panel bursts with Kirby dots and the heavy, solid inks by Frank Giacoia. Even the quiet moments have an impactful presence. This issue was one of the comic books I had amassed during my pre-collecting days, and was very memorable for the Kirby art and style as well as the cliffhanger ending that I wouldn’t see resolved for another 10 years!

Captain America 193-008

This storyline, which run until issue #200, pit Cap and the Falcon against an order of extremely wealthy Americans trying to establish a new aristocracy and crush the freedoms of the lower social order. Cap and Falcon’s adventures continued for another year as they encountered colourful characters like Texas Jack, Brother Inquisitor, Primus, and threats like Argon the Unburied One, Doughboy, and Hector Santiago “The Swine”. Kirby’s run also introduced Arnim Zola, the mad Nazi scientist, who heralded the return of his master, the Red Skull.

Captain America 213-000

The only other issue of Kirby’s Captain America run that I had in my pre-collecting days was #213. This two-part story (concluding in #214) was an amazing bookend to Kirby’s run. #213’s cliffhanger ending drove me as crazy as the one in #193 did. Take a moment to really take in the cover copy of #213. “Only Marvel would dare it! Blinded, Hospitalized, Cap fights his deadliest battle!” “He strikes! He kills! He can’t be stopped! The Night Flyer!”

Dan Green, famous for his work inking John Romita Jr’s Uncanny X-Men in the 1980s, inked Kirby’s pencils for #213 and you can really see the difference. Mike Royer’s inks flattered those thick, bold pencils, while Green’s work was more subtle and almost muted Kirby’s work.

Look at page #12 that introduced the Night Flyer. The stoic figure is holding a sophisticated Kirby communication device, but his presence exudes a confidence and an authority. The heavy inks across his face, his mask, all contribute to that awe-inspiring feeling. “I can’t be stopped! I am the perfect man!”.

Captain America 213-012

The Night Flyer spent the next 4 pages fighting his way through S.H.I.E.L.D. agents and the Falcon to assassinate his target. Turned out he was tricked, and despite being out-manned and out-gunned, the Night Flyer wasn’t ready to admit defeat: “I must find and eliminate my target! No one here can prevent it!!!” You’ve gotta love the captions that wrap up the issue. “Can he really do it??? Can one man defy and armed camp — and take it???” How many triple exclamation points and question marks can Kirby get away with using!

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Did issue #214 live up to the hype?Yes, and no. It was Kirby’s last Cap issue and Mike Royer returned to ink it. While the Night Flyer battled the Falcon and a horde of S.H.I.E.L.D. agents, the injured Steve Rogers dramatically donned his familiar red, white, and blue costume and grabbed his shield to face off against the Night Flyer. In an odd turn of events, it’s a few S.H.I.E.L.D. agents who connect the dots and destroy the Night Flyer’s hang glider which was the source of his power. That dramatic build up is released without any real satisfaction as the Night Flyer is defeated.

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Unfortunately, I felt that in many ways this story symbolically summarized Kirby’s run. Visually a treat, but the execution failed, and not for the lack of trying. He threw in all the right ingredients, the heroes, the threats, the situation, but couldn’t put it together in the right way. It’s an amazing run that captured the 70s Kirby energy and his wacky-ahead-of-his-time-ideas. The raw energy of Kirby’s work was spectacular, but it lacked the finish that his former partner, Stan Lee, often provided. Kirby’s storytelling was ambitious and had an unrelenting pace and action. His tales were filled with social and political commentary, featuring larger-than-life drama and characters, combined with quiet retrospective and introspective moments of real character building and growth.

The Biff Bam Popcast! on Avengers: Age of Ultron

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The Biff Bam Popcast! is back, and this time, J.P. Fallavollita, Jason Shayer, James Knipp, and Glenn Walker take a look at the movie of the year – Avengers: Age of Ultron.

We talk about what we liked and didn’t like, what worked and what didn’t work, the history of Ultron, both in the comics and in the films, and what really blew us away about the flick. We also discuss how the TV series “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” connects up to this film and the rest of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and then what we’re looking forward to in Phase Three of this mighty Marvel film franchise.

Check it out here:

Enjoy!

Tales from the Longbox – Star Wars #38 (1980)

In Tales from the Longbox, Jason Shayer highlights 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.

 

1980 - Michael Golden Star Wars 38BStar Wars #38 – “Riders in the Void!”
Marvel Comics, 1980
Writers – Archie Goodwin/Michael Golden
Artists – Michael Golden/Terry Austin

A few months ago, Disney announced that Marvel Comics would take over the Star Wars licensing rights in 2015. I thought I’d look back at Marvel Comics’ first go at the series in the late 1970s. Star Wars #38 is seen by fans as one of the best stand-alone comic stories of that series. This fill-in issue was published just before Star Wars #39-44 adapted Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back.

Editor Archie Goodwin does double-duty as writer in this issue with a plot assist from artist Michael Golden. In an interview with TheForce.Net, Golden recalled:

“I told Archie this story that I wanted to do and he loved it, so I sat down and drew it and Terry Austin inked it. After I had sat down to the drawing it, Archie actually called me and said they were actually going to use the story right away, so I finished up the pencils and it went off to Terry Austin to ink. I was originally supposed to write it as well, but because they needed it right away, Archie sat down and wrote it based on my notes.”

“Riders in the Void” kicks off with one hell of a splash page:
1980 - Michael Golden Star Wars 38p1

A desperate hyperspace jump strands Luke and Leia somewhere far beyond their galaxy. In the darkness of the void, they encounter a strange organic ship that rescues them, but then suddenly attacks them, trying to assess who and what they are. While they prove up to the challenges, the consciousness within the ship seems mad, and as they make their way deeper into the ship, they find the pilot. He turns out to be the last survivor of two long dead races that mutually destroyed themselves and has merged his consciousness with the ship’s controls.

It returns them to their galaxy where it engages an Imperial Star Destroyer, believing it to be part of a constructed reality the computer is creating for its amusement. When the Star Destroyer fights back and hurts it, the organic ship makes quick work of it and realizes that it isn’t much fun anymore. Dropping off Luke and Leia, the mad ship retreats into the void where it belongs and resumes playing its computer-generated games.

As a stand alone issue, it does what it’s meant to do. For a comic book series that’s constantly struggling with making any kind of changes to their cast, this issue turns the point of view around and giving this living ship some character moments. Unfortunately, it doesn’t change despite the climax of the story, the ship realizes it wants nothing to do with this reality and fades back into the void and the comfort of its artificial reality.

1980 - Michael Golden Star Wars 38p2A

1980 - Michael Golden Star Wars 38p2B

 

However, Michael Golden’s art is simply lovely and stands out as a high watermark in the world of licensed comic books. The detailed inks by Terry Austin add another layer of beauty, providing very clean, very crisp lines. Golden’s art never looked so good.

 

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 blog at: marvel1980s.blogspot.com.

Tales From The Longbox – Jason Shayer’s Favourite 10 Thor Covers from the 1980s

I could have easily picked 10 Thor covers by Walt Simonson alone, but I wanted to insert a bit of diversity and spotlight a few of the wonderful artists that created some amazing covers during the 1980s.


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The Mighty Thor #337 – The cover that changed everything. As a 12 year-old kid, this cover blew my mind. I remember picking it up from a spinner rack. Never had I seen a comic book logo destroyed. And who was that on the cover of The Mighty Thor. By Odin, an amazing cover for probably the greatest single issue of the 1980s!

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Tales from the Longbox – Alpha Flight #9-10 (1984)

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.

Alpha Flight #10Alpha Flight #9-10
April-May 1984
Writer/Penciler/Inker: John Byrne

This story takes place in the later half of Byrne’s first year on Alpha Flight, where he was trying to do something different with the team super hero dynamics. After their initial team outing in issue #1, Byrne split the team up and over the next 10 issues, he would dedicated the series to individual story arcs, all working towards regrouping the team for the big climax in Alpha Flight #11-12.
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Tales from the Longbox – The Mighty Thor #345-348 (1985)

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.

Thor_345-00The Mighty Thor #345-348
Jul.-Oct. 1985
Writer/Artist – Walt Simonson

With Thor – The Dark World hitting theatres across North America, I thought it would be fun to look back at the origins of the movie’s antagonist, Malekith the Accursed. Malekith was created by Walt Simonson and made his first appearance in The Mighty Thor #344 (Jun. 1985). He is the ruler of the dark elves who inhabit Svartalfheim, one of the Nine Realms of Asgardian mythology, and wielder of Dark Faerie magic.

Malekith’s tale is often overshadowed by the climax of Simonson’s epic storyline, The Surtur Saga. Malekith was the key plot point as he and his dark elves recovered the Casket of Ancient Winters, which was the elemental weapon used to free Surtur from his fiery realm and kicked off his invasion of Earth. Malekith allied himself with Surtur in revenge against Odin, who had banished him because he had created the Casket of Ancient Winters. Surtur then freed Malekith and set him about on his quest to recover the Casket.
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31 Days of Horror 2013: Tales from the Longbox – The Demon #1-4 (1986)

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.

demon1The Demon #1-4
1986
Writer – Matt Wagner
Artists – Matt Wagner/Art Nichols

A tip of the hat to JP Fallavollita who covered issue #1 back in July 2012 – https://biffbampop.com/2012/07/30/tales-from-the-long-box-the-demon-1-1987/

Back in 1986, Etrigan the Demon had last enjoyed a regular series 15 years earlier by his legendary creator, Jack Kirby. Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing was rekindling the darker corners of the DC universe and a memorable guest appearance by Etrigan in that title was enough to convince DC to give their rhyming demon another chance.

The Powers-That-Be called upon the services of Matt Wagner who was one of the more prominent Indy creators in the 1980s with his creator-owned series, Mage and Grendel. It’s not difficult to see how the themes that Wagner explored with his own anti-hero Grendel and his own dark world were exactly what DC was looking for.

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Tales from the Longbox – Batman – Gotham by Gaslight (1989)

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.

Batman - Gotham by Gaslight-000Batman – Gotham by Gaslight
February 1989
48 page one-shot
Writer – Brian Augustyn
Artists – Mike Mignola/P. Craig Russell

“Wrong. Dead wrong. I fooled all London. And I could fool them anywhere, even in Gotham City, if that’s where I chose to appear.
Batman?
Yes, I know the name. And perhaps he’ll soon have reason to remember yours truly,
JACK THE RIPPER”

This clever preface, written by horror writer Robert Bloch who penned several Jack the Ripper tales, was the perfect introduction to Batman: Gotham by Gaslight .Gotham by Gaslight was the first Elseworlds’ story, basically DC’s take on What If? In this case, it was: What if Batman faced off against Jack the Ripper? Read the rest of this entry

Fan Expo 2013 Report – Spotlight on the Simonsons

This weekend at Fan Expo, Marvel Comics historian Jason Shayer was able to sit in on a panel featuring comics legends Walt and Louis Simonson. Here’s Jason’s report!

Spotlight on the Simon sons
Fan Expo 2013
Friday, Aug 23 – 12:30pm

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Unfortunately, for some unknown reason, this panel was scheduled for only half an hour. The moderator wisely skipped any introduction or spotlight material and immediately opened the floor to questions.

The first question was about Beta Ray Bill (first appearance in Thor #337, Nov. 1983) which was punctuated by a cosplayer donning an impressive homemade Bill costume. Walt explained that he had carte blanche with the title and wanted to create a new hero who was worthy of the inscription on Mjolnir, Thor’s hammer. Read the rest of this entry

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