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Who Were the Original Guardians of the Galaxy?

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Star-Lord, Gamora, Drax the Destroyer, Rocket Raccoon, Groot, these are the names and characters we associate as the Guardians of the Galaxy – but the truth is that for decades there were other heroes who answered to that name. And some of them even appear in the new movie Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 out this weekend. Meet me after the jump and I’ll introduce you to the original Guardians of the Galaxy.

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Biff Bam Pop’s It’s All Connected – Just a Kid from Brooklyn: Captain America, American Memories of World War II, and the MCU, Part II

 

Splash page from The Ultimates #1, 2002. Script by Mark Millar, art by Bryan Hitch.

Splash page from The Ultimates #1, 2002. Script by Mark Millar, art by Bryan Hitch.

In the first part of this essay, I briefly sketched the construction of American memories of World War II that began slightly before the war and continue into the 21st century. In many ways the war has become a defining part of American identity, and the dominant, triumphal memory narrative we have created about it serves to elevate American participation in the war almost to the level of the sacred, and certainly to the realm of the simple black and white, good v. evil duality that is much more comforting than any messy and contradictory reality might be. The character of Steve Rogers/Captain America is one of the more perfect cultural artifacts to illustrate this process of memory construction, and the ways in which counter-memories, which challenge the dominant narrative, inevitably influence the national mythology.

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Ensley F. Guffey On… War Comics

Cover of Blazing Combat #3, art by Frank Frazetta

Cover of Blazing Combat #3, art by Frank Frazetta

Each week, one of Biff Bam Pop’s illustrious writers will delve into one of their favorite things.  Perhaps it’s a movie or album they’ve carried with them for years.  Maybe it’s something new that moved them and they think might move you too.  Each week, a new subject, a new voice writing on… something they love.

This week we once again have the pleasure of having Ensley F. Guffey share his love of War Comics, but this time focusing on the Blazing Combat series…

Hello and welcome to another installment of “Ensley F. Guffey on War Comics.” Last time, I used this space to gush about one of my favorite British contributions to the genre, but today I’ll be hopping back across the pond to examine a series that regularly places in the top five of every “Best War Comics” list I’ve ever seen: Blazing Combat. Unlike the other books I’ve written about here, Blazing Combat didn’t come into my life until I was an adult, and beginning to seriously study the genre, but when I discovered it, but it was worth the wait.

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Howard The Duck #1 Will Quack You Up On The Wednesday Run

Howard the Duck 1 coverYou know what they say.

If it walks like a duck…and, uh, has an acerbic wit, solves weird cases as the Marvel Universe’s only white-feathered Private Eye, and has the unenviable reputation of starring in one of the worst films in cinematic history…it’s got to be Howard the Duck.

Yeah, you probably better know him as the snappy, martini-sipping, duck-billed alien during the end credit scene of last year’s blockbuster film, Guardians of the Galaxy.

Well, after a long spell away, Howard’s finally back in the pages of his own monthly comic book, appropriately titled, Howard the Duck #1.

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The Guardians of the Galaxy – Animated

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The film, Guardians of the Galaxy, is less than a month away, and the promotion engines at Marvel are going full blast. First there’s the amazing faux travel site, Galaxy Getaways, which if you haven’t seen it, go now. And earlier this week, Marvel released three major new comics featuring characters from the film, and now this morning, Disney XD broadcast a triple shot of the animated Guardians of the Galaxy. Check out my thoughts after the jump.

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31 Days Of Horror 2013: Tales From The Long Box – Night Force (1982)

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.

Night Force 01-00fcNight Force #1-8
Aug. 1982 – Mar. 1983
Writer – Marv Wolfman
Artists – Gene Colan/Bob Smith

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.

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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.

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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.

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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 

Avengers Assemble S01 E05: Blood Feud

HAWKEYE, FALCOLN, IRON MAN, CAPTAIN AMERICA, HULK, THORDracula. Yeah, Dracula. The king of the vampires is not the sort of ‘villain’ one would expect to cross swords with Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, is it? Odd choice, but not out of the realm, really, because the fact is Count Dracula has been a Marvel Comics character since the classic Tomb of Dracula stories of the 1970s by Marv Wolfman and Gene Colan. And in the second episode of “Avengers Assemble,” he was invited to join the villainous Cabal. I’ll see you after the jump to find out what happens when the prince of darkness meets the Avengers!

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Tales from the Longbox – Tomb of Dracula (1970s)

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 Tomb of Dracula
Writer: Marv Wolfman
Artists: Gene Colan/Tom Palmer

In the early 1970s, Marvel Comics was in a bit of a rut after Jack Kirby had defected to DC Comics and Stan Lee had stepped down as Editor-In-Chief. The Comic Code Authority, which had driven a stake through EC comics two decades earlier, had been diluted and The-Powers-That-Be at Marvel decided to take advantage of it. The company tried to single-handedly revive horror comics by flooding the market with supernatural titles, such as Werewolf by Night, Ghost Rider, Man-Thing, Son of Satan, and The Tomb of Dracula.

The Tomb of Dracula was the most successful Bronze Age horror title, running for over seven years and compiling over 70 issues (including Giant-Size specials). The first few issues were written by Archie Goodwin, Gerry Conway, and Gardiner Fox and were serviceable enough, but didn’t really seem to get any traction. These early issues did set the stage for new ongoing writer Marv Wolfman who came on board with issue #7.

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31 Days of Horror – The Tomb of Dracula

Marvel Comics’ The Tomb of Dracula, by writer Marv Wolfman, artist Gene Colan and inker Tom Palmer, was one of the more underrated, but still perhaps one of the best comic book series of the 1970s. Its mark in comics history goes far beyond an adaptation of everyone’s favorite king of the vampires, as it may have been a turning point for the industry itself when comes to horror, paving the way for the horror comics of today like The Walking Dead. Find out more after the jump.

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The Night Is A Force To Be Reckoned With On The Wednesday Run – March 7, 2012

We’ve been here before, haven’t we?

You remember.

The night. An evil force needing banishment. A summoning of heroes. And, in the spirit of my favourite television show these days (Game of Thrones, ‘natch), winter is coming.

Uh, Baron Winters, that is.

Last October, in this very column, I recommended the hardcover compilation of the early 1980’s mystery/suspense/horror series Night Force. Created, written and illustrated by industry legends Marv Wolfman and Gene Colan, Night Force revolved around supernatural agent Baron Winters and his team of mystics fighting all manner of otherworldly unpleasantness. Thank your lucky hoodoo because today – they’re back!

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