Sifting for Gold #10

Have you noticed that a lot of these goofy books I find are old Marvel books? I'm not crap talking Marvel, I quite enjoy them. Just an observation. Anyway, let's bring a toy franchise from the 80's back from beyond with:

Madballs #1 (1986)
Star Comics

The amount of balls on this cover is ridiculous! Monster balls, gross balls, eyeballs, baseballs... you name it, it's here! Thirteen year old humor aside, we've got Gargamel of the Smurfs creating spherical monsters (that sounds like it could be an actual episode). What's really impressive is how well the scientist speaks with that one tooth he has. I can't tell if his assistant is looking at the ball that is being made or the balls outside the window.


One dark night (as most are) a toy delivery truck spills it's cargo of balls out onto the road and 8 of them land in radioactive waste creating the bouncing, talking, Madballs. Their names are as follows: Horn Head, Oculus Orbus, Screamin' Meemie, Crack-head, Aargh, Dust Brain, Skull-face, and Slobulus. I'll let you figure out which is which. So the Madballs start playing ball with some kids and the sound of their laughter drifts to the lab of Dr. Frankenbeans and his assistant Snivelitch. The good doctor decides that the inanimate balls with newly gained sentience can earn him a Nobel Prize so he sends Snivelitch to catch them, which he fails to do. Then the doctor makes a hiccup potion that will render the Madballs defenseless and it works on Skull-face until Slobulus pukes on the ground which makes the captors slip. A girl puts a mirror in front of Skull-face and he is so scared by his reflection that his hiccups go away. Oh yeah and the throw up that the doctor slipped on sent him into a pond of hazardous waste. End of story one.


In the second story of the issue, some kids are playing in a cornfield where they get captured by corn people and the Madballs must save them from the evil Colonel Corn! Colonel Corn uses puns as his weapon of choice which forces the Madballs to flee. This struck me as odd, considering the first 5 pages are the Madballs spurting out puns. They come back for a second try and Screamin' Meemie has a Madball meltdown which makes the whole building heat up causing the corn people and Colonel Corn to become popcorn. OVER!


The art looks like a Saturday morning cartoon and that is because those were primary the comic serials of Star Comics. The balls look relatively gross (especially the puking one) I guess. I remember having some of these as a boy and from what I can remember they all look accurate. Kids look like generic cartoon kids and the backgrounds are all green, yellow, and purple/gray. There isn't much to say about it. Comparing it to the art in a Heathcliff cartoon would probably be the easiest way to explain it.


This book was clearly just a promotional plug and not to continue as regular property so I guess it worked in that way. The toys sold one way or another. This is issue one in a 3 issue mini but the series continued to 10 issues for whatever reason. The story must have really fleshed out. I just wish I knew how the eyeball was able to talk...

I'm not going to pick a panel for this here comic. Instead, here is the trailer for the actual toy:


A Primordial Haunted House

I've noticed that I have been posting a lot about creepy series or horror series. This blog isn't supposed to be exclusive to that genre, it's just the way things have worked out. Point is, I'll work on it. Anyway, let's talk about a pretty crazy series from Dark Horse Comics;

Ragemoor (2012)
Dark Horse Comics
Writer: Jan Strnad
Artist: Richard Corben
Letters: Nate Piekos

Ragemoor is an interesting four issue mini series that is drawn in black and white. The story centers primarily around the "master" of the house, Herbert and his butler, Bodrick. Together, the duo must confront the house's new female tenant, her supposed lover, 6 foot tall cockroach people, skeletal baboons and mysterious maggot-like denizens of the earth, all the while slowly discovering the mysterious building's origin and capabilities.


The first issue quickly introduces Herbert as a man who is cursed by his current dwelling, having seen it do horrible things and mysteriously building on itself everyday. When two unwanted visitors, Herbert's uncle and a woman named Anoria, come to the house, one gets quickly disposed of while the other sees horrors that slowly turn her mad. This sets the tone for the rest of the series as Herbert tries to make Anoria fall in love with him and Bodrick becomes obsessed with the history of the house (seemingly endless), which is told throughout the story in bits and pieces. Herbert's father, also residing in the home, has gone insane through his constant need to care for the baboons on the premises. only to pass the doomed task onto Herbert. Why are there baboons on the premises? Why, to fight back the evil maggot-creatures trying to escape from the bottom of the house of course! Why do the baboons have skeletal faces? I don't know, but they look really cool. The story builds on these peculiar ideas while the characters also deal with the strange disappearance of their cockroach-humanoid chefs/groundskeepers and an outsider named Tristano who is trying to woo Anoria. The writing in this story builds on these characters in a short time while also giving a history of the demented house they must tend to. Each issue kicks the intensity up a notch as you can start to feel that something awful is going to happen and you never quite known who is good or evil. Though the story isn't happy, it definitely captivates readers by adding a few new ideas to the horror genre.


The art in this series isn't exactly my cup of tea. That being said, I can understand why the style was used and it is used well. Humans are drawn as if they are continuously losing their sanity throughout the series and I appreciate the use of dramatic lighting in the panels to pull focus to only certain features of a characters face. The shading consists of black and some stippling, and the backgrounds show you what you need to see, but the architecture of the house adds to the menacing feeling that Ragemoor is it's own entity. All that aside, it is in the creatures that Corben really succeeds. Every species of creature seems numerous, threatening, and right around every corner. Corben's covers (especially for issue #2) are particularly impressive, and are what immediately convinced me to check this series out.


Strnad's Ragemoor is an eerily fun look at people trying to stay sane in a clearly insane environment. With new horror tropes and twisted versions of creatures which every knows (and is usually made uncomfortable by) the story and art are certain to give the readers a sense of terror and curiosity. Ragemoor in hardcover is $18 brand new but often less depending on where you look. You can also pick up the individual issues online for a pretty good price. Thanks for reading everyone!


Time for Celebration!

The holidays are upon us and we are approaching the eye of the storm! I will be taking a week long break but will return on Monday the 29th with a strange tale about an eerie house. For now however, let's talk about some books that will give you the reason for the season.



The Last Christmas is a tale with such big names attached to it as Brian Posehn, Gerry Dugan (both of which recently worked on Deadpool) and Rick Remender (Fear Agent, Uncanny Avengers). The story revolves around Santa Claus and his endeavors after a zombie apocalypse has overtaken the world (and all of the Christmas spirit)! He kicks a lot of ass and turns out to be quite capable with fire arms. The series is silly, violent and just straight up fun, and that's exactly what you should expect. The artistic interpretation of Santa Claus makes him look badass and the action sequences are gory and awesome! Cover price for this book is $14.99.



Batman: Noel is basically the retelling of a Christmas Carol written and illustrated by Lee Bermejo. The story centers around a civilian who is not sure if he should continue his life of crime and of course, Batman as he meets up with familiar faces that represent the ghosts of Christmas past, present, and future. The story uses characters we already know and adds a storyline we are all somewhat familiar with to create a really charming and heartfelt holiday tale. Bermejo's depictions of the classic Batman characters is worth a mention as they all look incredible (especially a certain flying man who truly glows). Cover price for this book is $22.99. It is in a well structured hardcover and is usually on sale around the holidays.



Blankets, written and illustrated by Craig Thompson, isn't exactly a Christmas story, but it is a semi-autobiographical journey through the life of a young man who questions his heart when it comes to relationships, faith, and his future. It is a story that is familiar in some way to pretty much everyone who reads it.  The book takes place almost entirely in a winter drawn to feel cold. Thompson uses the white of the pages to make the snow seem like an endless landscape for the characters to explore. The retail for the paperback is $29.95 and the gorgeous hardcover is $39.95, both are well worth it for this intimate story spanning over 500 pages. I will absolutely go into this book more during a podcast in the future (possibly January).

There are always more stories to read, but those will have to wait till next year. So have a great holiday (whichever it may be) and I will talk to you all on the 29th. Thanks for reading!


Sifting for Gold #9

In a world where aliens are everywhere and the only outfit a woman can wear is a bikini, there is one pursuer of justice, one hero, one female named:

Tarah 2000 #1 (1992)


Tarah 2000 is a self published book that was made with the clear intent of continued story. However, that did not happen. At all. Enough of that though, onto the cover! We have a girl who clearly needs a sandwich and her alien/Dalek sidekick floating in front of Earth which is getting ingested by some sort of green 6-legged spider (that doesn't even make sense...). It is clear from this cover that the caption above the title will be accurate: "A babe gone bad on a world gone wild".


The story opens up in San Francisco during the year 2138. It turns out a human female and a little lizard guy have blown up one of the city's power generators. The (probably corrupt) power company is obviously pissed so they send some goons out to find these saboteurs. The saboteurs turn out to be Tarah (the human) and Ren (the lizard thing). After travelling to Las Vegas (which goes totally unexplained) they more or less get immediately pulled into a spaceship via tractor beam by the power company's Vegas connection, Mr. Bosco. It turns out Mr. Bosco wants to hire them instead of turn them over but Tarah won't have that so her and Ren beat the snot out of everyone in the ship and kidnap Mr. Bosco. As they are making their escape one of the power company's employees who is on the ship for some reason hits Tarah over the head with his gun which leaves Ren to fight their way off the ship. ISSUE OVER!


The art is alright. The characters are only ever drawn with angry faces. Human figures are almost completely replaced with aliens with the exception of Tarah and Mr. Bosco. A lot of the aliens are very similar in design (possibly intentionally, we will never know) with differences ranging between antennae length and number of face wrinkles. Mr. Bosco just looks like an oil tycoon but Tarah has ribs protruding almost all of the time and her breasts are drawn at a variety of different sizes. Backgrounds and shading are mostly non existent minus some black spots and a couple extra lines.


You know, all in all this was a pretty cool attempt to break into what was (at the time) a much more exclusive industry. One man wrote and drew this book directly for distribution through local comic book stores without even having a publication imprint. That's neat! There are a couple plot holes and some illustrative inconsistencies and a few other goofy features, but still an admirable attempt. I can't wait until Tarah 2000 shows up in the next Guardians of the Galaxy movie.

If I were to pick two panels to sum up this issue, they'd have to be:


Witches Get Stitches

Ohhhh man. I've been wanting to talk about this one for quite a well. Possibly my favorite single issue of the year, and definitely my favorite #1:

Chilling Adventures of Sabrina #1 (2014)
Archie Comics
Story/Writer: Roberto Aquirre-Sacasa
Art/Colors: Robert Hack
Letters: Jack Morelli
Publisher: Jon Goldwater

The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina is a dark story that (to my knowledge) takes place in the Afterlife with Archie universe. Much like that series, this book takes the normally fun adventures of a childhood character and warps them into a more menacing tale. The issue is divided into 2 parts, Sabrina's childhood, and her teen years (featuring a short cameo with some familiar characters). The book also contains a letters page, some of Hack's sketches, a note to the reader from Aquirre-Sacasa, and a reprinting of an old Sabrina story. Each issue is going to have a reprinted tale in the back, which is a nice touch and will help keep the books dark tones a littler lighter.


The story begins with Sabrina's father, Edward, speaking to the local coven about the plans for his daughter to be part of a ritual. However, upon going to get his daughter, he finds that his wife has run off with her. There is a short chase, but Sabrina is recovered and her mom is dealt with in a disturbing way. The story then goes through time as Sabrina gets older and her powers grow. It strongly builds the sense of family between her aunts, Hilda and Zelda, as they all grow attached and handle whatever life throws their way such as local bullies, public school, etc etc (but usually with a twist). Sabrina also gets a relatively friendly talking cat named Salem, who immediately feels like a friend and guardian to her. That whooooole description is very PG, as the story has some messed up things that happen but I don't want to spoil all of it! Anyway, the story ends as Sabrina enters her teen years and the house gets a new tenant of sorts. Aquirre-Sacasa does an excelent job of revealing to the reader only what needs to be revealed at the moment, while hinting to mysteries that will shape the characters' lives in future issues.


Robert Hack's art is realistic and sketchy (good sketchy) with human figures that make sense and magic that is drawn more practically then over the top. Human expressions (my favorite thing to discuss) are detailed and consistent, especially in the drawing of the eyes. There is never a moment when you will be confused about a character's feelings. The backgrounds aren't extremely detailed but they are colored with a specific hue that gives you the detail you need while making sure you don't get distracted from the characters. Even with a different title you would be able to tell Sabrina is the main character with the way her hair is always colored in a vibrant yellow that always attracts the eye. As the story progresses the color fades but by that time your eye is already trained to look at this character. It's a really cool effect.


This book is freakin' great! The atmosphere is perfect, the cliffhanger makes you want to read more, and the characters are compelling. Not only that but it is fun to compare the new frightening stories with the old vibrant ones. This first issue sold out quick and a second printing came out recently so you should still be able to find it. Jump on to this series quick because it is the start of a hit!


Sifting for Gold #8

Woah no way! Another animal based superhero team?! Tubular!

Street Sharks #2 (1996)
Archie Comics

Alright so I see that the book is by Archie Comics but he is not on the cover so I am going to assume they ate him. This cover teaches us many things. It teaches us that sharks can kick but on land or in the sea, they often do BMX stunts, and they all look quite fetching in a nice pair of slacks. Yes, these smiling, monster fighting creatures sure can be majestic... But what's their story?


Alright so we have four handsome sharks that all have real names buuuuut I'm going to stick with their code names. We've got the dark blue Ripster, the hammerheaded Jab, ol' purple striped Streex, and the brown with white spots powerhouse: Slammu. They fight a dude named Paradigm who has two lackeys: a crazed lobster man named Slobster and a... well I guess it's a swordfish man... simply named Slash.

This issue starts with the Street Sharks imprisoned by Paradigm, who wants to perform gene splicing experiments on them, but there is a traitor in his midst who frees them! The sharks find Paradigm and fight his human croneys while the doctor himself gets spun around by Slammu and Jab (sure why not). Then their friend Bends, who is waiting with a getaway car, hails them and they drive into a tunnel leading to their secret base. Later on, Bends is just hanging out when Slobster and Slash show up out of no where and kidnap him! Paradigm wants to try splicing his DNA with a piranhas (mostly for kicks) to make him the perfect killing machine. The Street Sharks allow themselves to be captured so that Slobster and Slash will bring them to the evil base, and then they break out of their handcuffs and chew on a power line until it falls and electrocutes the two goons. The sharks go in and rescue Bends, but Paradigm gets accidentally spliced with the piranha DNA which has somehow made him stronger and he kicks the collective ass of the sharks. They run away and Paradigm swears he will catch them. LE FIN! (because there are sharks involved)


You know what this art remind me of? Almost every other 90s comic. All animal-human hybrids are super jacked, and there are so many unnecessary machines all over the place. In this book, stuff is either mostly colorful and in your face, or just black. Not much of an in between. Later on Paradigm wears a power suit, which is drawn with a caution light, claw, harpoon, gun, knee pads, and a zipper from the top of his gut to the bottom. The 90's were silly. I do think the human characters have fun/cartoony expressions on their faces though.


Well it's a goofy book about a goofy team who fight goofy villains. Case closed. Street Sharks had a cartoon series as well as an action figure line (that was pretty cool). I tell ya, shows love to try to use the TMNT fame. What this series successfully did was bring to light some awesome catch phrases, specifically "JAWESOME!" and "SHARK ATTACK!" (that's their battle cry).

If I were to pick one panel to sum up this issue, it'd have to be:

The Heat is On!

There is a dark underbelly to Hell's Kitchen, and when those who made it dark disappear, who will pick up the slack?

The Kitchen #1 (2014)
Vertigo
Writer: Ollie Masters
Artist: Ming Doyle
Colors: Jordie Bellaire
Cover: Becky Cloonan (left), Ming Doyle (right)

This 26 issue contemporary cooking drama is about 3 women and 3 men competing to be on Too Many Cooks in the Kitchen, a cooking show centered around making superhero themed cakes. I kid I kid, that would be dumb. The Kitchen is an 8 issue mini series by Vertigo (the edgy DC imprint). 


The women shown on the cover are the wives of successful made men in the 1970s, located in Manhattan's (at the time) crime ridden area, Hell's Kitchen. Everything is going pretty swell... until the husbands get sent to prison. With Jimmy Brennan in prison, it is up to his wife, Kath to take up some of his old duties, starting with collection. The other wives, Raven and Angie, have been shirking this "responsibility" thinking someone else has been taking care of it, but when Raven notices money has been coming in short, Kath decides it's time to tighten her grip.


Kath's intervening starts to transform her immediately much to the curiosity and shock of Raven and Angie. Before they know it, what started out being a matter of familial responsibility and loyalty becomes a powerful calling for Kath, who brings the other two ladies along for the ride that could make their organization even more powerful than before, or destroy it entirely. Ollie Masters does an exceptional job of setting up who these men were in a quick but powerful opening before jumping right into the ladies' story. The character build up in Kath is also quick, but makes the reader want to know what her next move is, and how a potential screw up will effect this crew and their families. I can only assume that Raven and Angie will also get some star treatment during the series, which I am stoked for. This isn't a story about women who are timidly taking over for their husbands or slowly learning the tricks of the trade, this is a story about women who demand a certain amount of respect and how they find out they must earn it.


Ming Doyle's human figures are fantastic! Each one is drawn in a realistic fashion and the amount of detail is very precise, including body type, hair styles, and even make-up. Doyle's facial expressions and posturing creates a whole other level for these characters, as you can feel the confidence, pain or insecurity emanting from them in each panel. The shading is all done using pure black which adds to the seedy nature of the business that Kath, Angie, and Raven are in as well as the bleakness of Hell's Kitchen. Each building that is shown has a distinct personality, giving the chance for more world building and the desire to explore that world. Jordie Bellaire also deserves mention for giving further atmosphere to the characters. She also provides a color scheme that makes the clothes, wallpapers, etc even more period.


All in all this is a strong start and a new take on mob stories. Masters and Doyle make you question how things will go for the characters, who their competitors in the Kitchen are, what their families are like, and what will happen when their husbands will get out of jail all in one issue! I get the feeling that this is going to be a very character driven tale, with plot twists, and events that will leave a lasting mark on all of the characters. The first issue is still very accessible online or at your LCS and the second issue come out on the 17th of this month, and at a $2.99 price point, it is well worth a gander. As always, thanks for reading.


Symbiote Alien Darkness Fighting Madness

Symbiotic battles, aliens, the forces of darkness and decay... all of these are common place in the unfortunately cancelled series:

NecroWar (2003)
Dreamwave Productions
Creator: Pat Lee
Writer: Simon Furman
Artist/Colors: Adi Granov
Letters: Ben Lee

NecroWar was a series developed by Dreamwave Productions that produced a 3 issue "season" in 2003. There is a letter to the readers in the back of the 3rd issue where the writer states that there is more story to tell. Sales apparently weren't as high as anticipated, so they were going to give the story a break and then revamp it with issue 4. Unfortunately, this never happened, and Dreamwave Productions went defunct in 2005. So where does that leave us? What kind of story do we get in these 3 issues? I'll tell you.


NecroWar centers around the death obsessed Damien Arnaz primarily. Damien is a Dragoon class recruit in "The Alliance" who has more or less been volunteered for an experiment that will hopefully protect individuals and produce an offense against a sinister presence known as the Progeny. Allied with the humans are 3 other races: the robotic Tal, the lion-like Boka, and the wrinkly faced Ul Ghural. These groups reluctantly formed a very uneasy alliance, as the power of the Progeny proved too great. What  is the Progeny? It is a monstrous force of dark matter and dragon-like creatures who wants to bring death to the entire universe. In charge of this force is the H. R. Giger-esque Lord Dracona, who wishes to spell doom for everyone by awakening the power of The Necrosis.


Alright so Damien, his pal (and only human female in the series) Ashley Colt, and a couple other recruits are using a symbiote armor which supposedly can fight back against the Progeny forces. A nearby planet called Archtu Ultima has recently gone dark, and these individuals have to go find out why. Upon landing and exploring the inky planet, they get ambushed, and every one of them dies... That's not the end though, and in the two issues following there is clearly the making of what could have been an awesome series. Furman and Lee were doing a great job of giving the information we needed to get by while still producing mythos that made this universe interesting. It isn't the best story I have every read, but it had incredible promise and in my opinion could have grown into quite the sci-fi epic.


Adi Granov is an artist who has done a toooon of work for Marvel (particularly some gorgeous covers) as well as some other publishers, so when I saw the name on here I was very intrigued. Each page has a realistic ALMOST photographic quality about it. The human figures are fit but make perfect sense and the forces of the Progeny are clearly sinister. When everyone has their armor on it is a little hard to tell who is who, but honestly that is dwarfed by the narrative/dialogue mainly used by Damien and the quality of the illustrations. Plus, this series came out in 2003 and was all illustrated digitally. That's crazy cool! The colors and brightness are both intentionally limited, giving the sense that even when the Progeny isn't an immediate threat, it is always present to the characters. There is also a lot to say about the other species, who are human in form but are each very clearly defined in their own unique way.


NecroWar was a cool series heading in an even cooler direction. If I were to compare the story to something a little more current I would say that it is a mix between Mass Effect and Neon Genesis Evangelion (...current is a relative term). The big issue is that this series came too early. It was definitely before it's time and I think that if it were to be published today it would have much more success. Who knows? Maybe that will happen eventually. For now, you can find these issues at www.comiccollectorlive.com. Seeya Monday!


Sifting for Gold #7

When you think of your childhood and think about your favorite super powered animal team with Asian based abilities who do you think of? Obviously it's:

Mildly Microwaved Pre-Pubescent Kung-Fu Hamsters #1 (1986)
Just Imagine Graphix, Ltd.

Holy crap that title is a mouthful! This cover has it all! Gophers of differing shades of brown, obesity, a shimmering sun, bones, stereotypes, and pictures of all the animals they could have been (amoeba is my favorite). Let's not forget to include a title that using four different fonts in four different colors. When you see this book your eyes widen, your jaw drops, and before you even open it you think to yourself "...What?"

                                 

The book opens up with the Gophers in a secret government installation doing gopher stuff with a whole mess of other gophers when all of a sudden an Elmer Fudd ripoff shows up to hunt them down and somehow triggers a microwave bomb, presumably with his shotgun. The bomb kills every single gopher instantly, but our heroes were underground so they were ok during the blast. When they surface they get a heaping helping of radiation rained on them and start to gain muscle mass. What do the gophers do next? Go on a directionless journey together! They stumble upon a dude (who might be named Kung... it's a little unclear) complaining about whatever and camping and he teaches them how to speak by imitation as well as one panel of kung-fu which makes them pros.
                                   
                                 

So the Gophers are just chilling at the camp doing humanoid gopher stuff when all of a sudden a biker gang of senior citizens appears! They quickly dispatch (probably permanently) the elderly threat while a movie exec is driving by. The movie exec is impressed by the camping man's "special effects" and hires him immediately, leaving the Gophers alone again. They are once again aimlessly journeying when a bearded man in a windowless van picks them up and takes them to a diner where they start a food fight. they hastily run away and wind up in the Vault of Obscure Phrases. Then the bearded man and some other guy are standing in front of an easel with the Gophers lying on top and everyone is eluding to a secret. Secret has an asterisk that leads to a box saying "See Gopher Broke". This is the biggest mystery in comics. THEN on the inside back cover there is a contest to guess the secret and appropriately name each of the Gophers. THE END!

                                      

The art on the cover is close to 100 times more detailed than the art on the inside. The inside art is black and white and very sketchy. The shading is almost non-existent and the characters look relatively non-descript. It gets a little easier when they have differing hairdos or glasses or masks. The humans are drawn in a style close to some of the older MAD Magazine comics (which was kind of nostalgic). The action sequence when they fight the senior citizens is pretty fun though.

                                  

So that was Mildly Microwaved Pre-Pubescent Kung-Fu Hamsters. I laughed, I cried, and then I read this comic book. If you like other lesser known animal hero quartets such as the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and want to see a strange nonsensical knock-off then check this out!

If I were to pick one panel to sum up this issue, it'd have to be: