Tag Archives: Comic Book

Off the Spinner Rack: March 1982

This month I’m taking another trip back to my prime comic collecting years thanks to The Newsstand Time Machine at Mike’s Amazing World of Comics.  I’m hoping to make this a monthly trip on Fante’s Inferno because it allows me to look back on some of the issues and storylines that I enjoyed way back when and to give me a new “want list” of missed issues to pick up at this year’s local comic cons.

Daredevil #184

Daredevil 184
“Good Guys Wear Red”
Written and penciled by Frank Miller, inked and colored by Klaus Janson

Dazzler #17

Dazzler 17
“The Angel and the Octopus”
Written by Danny Fingeroth, penciled by Frank Springer, inked by Vince Colletta

Fantastic Four #243

Fantastic Four 243
“Shall Earth Endure?”
Written and drawn by John Byrne

G.I. Joe #1

GI Joe 1
“Operation:Lady Doomsday”
Written by Larry Hama, penciled by Herbe Trimpe, inked by Bob McLeod
“…Hot Potato”
Written by Larry Hama, penciled by Don Perlin, inked by Jack Abel

Iron Man #159

Iron Man 159
“When Strikes Diablo”
Written by Roger McKenzie, penciled by Paul Smith, inked by Terry Austin

Marvel Super Hero Contest of Champions #1

Contest of Champions 1
“A Gathering of Heroes”
Written by Bill Mantlo, penciled by John Romita Jr., inked by Pablo Marcos

Power Man & Iron Fist #82

Power Man and Iron Fist 82
“Secret of the Black Tiger”
Written by Mary Jo Duffy, penciled by Denys Cowan, inked by Carl Potts

Star Wars #60

Star Wars 60
“Shira’s Story”
Written by David Michelinie, penciled by Walt Simonson, inked by Tom Palmer

The Uncanny X-Men #158

Uncanny X-Men 158
“The Life That Late I Led…”
Written by Chris Claremont, penciled by Dave Cockrum, inked by Bob Wiacek

What If? #33

What If 33
“What If the Dazzler Had Become the Herald of Galactus”
Written by Danny Fingeroth, penciled by Mike Vosburg, inked by Jon D’Agostino
“What If Iron Man Had Been Trapped in King Arthur’s Time”
Written by Steven Grant, penciled by Don Perlin, inked by Bob Layton

Ten comic books bought in March 1982 for a whopping $7.30 ($17.94 today adjusted for inflation).  I can’t remember a single month in which we bought ten new issues, and I couldn’t imagine buying that many current books today considering how cost prohibitive it would be.  Many of those titles were consistent purchases for us, namely Uncanny X-Men, Star Wars, Fantastic Four (the cover for FF #243 is still one of my favorites), Daredevil and Iron Man (IM #159 was my introduction to the art of the amazing Paul Smith).  Dazzler was most likely purchased because the X-Men’s Angel was on the cover, and there’s no doubt we picked up What If? #33 for the Iron Man trapped in King Arthur’s time story (the storyline originally told in issues #149 and #150 was simply amazing).  G.I. Joe was a chance for me to own a #1 (my first speculative purchase) though I did continue to buy that title for the next year.  Power Man and Iron Fist was new on our monthly buy list, and the back issues of Mary Jo Duffy’s run on that title are now on my “must buy” list at the next comic con I attend.  Contest of Champions #1 was also a favorite of mine that month, though our local comic shop didn’t have the subsequent two issues.  After 34 years I finally have a chance to read them now that I bought the hardcover collection.

Missed Opportunities:

Moon Knight #20 & #21

Moon Knight 20 Moon Knight 21

Doctor Strange #53

Doctor Strange 53

To miss an issue of Moon Knight back then was a rarity for us, but to miss two in one month?  That’s unbelievable.  The covers alone would have been enough for me to plunk down $1.20 for Moon Knight #20 and #21.  It wasn’t until many years after their initial publication that I discovered Marshall Rogers and Terry Austin’s run on Doctor Strange with Roger Stern, and issue #53 is still missing from my collection.  Three more issues I’ll have to pick up at my next convention!

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NYCC 2014: From Albuquerque to Artist Alley in Record Time

NYCC 2014 2

Since the first show in 2006, the New York Comic Con is the comic book related event that I look forward to the most each year.   I still can’t believe that only eight years ago it started as a one room event that took up a fraction of the Jacob Javits Center.  And while I tend to complain about the crowds in the exhibit hall each year, I am very happy that the show has grown in popularity into one of the premiere comic book conventions with an attendance (over 151,000 attendees) that has now surpassed the San Diego Comic Con.

I’ll admit I don’t take as full advantage of the show as most of the attendees do.  I don’t cosplay (though I am tempted to break out the stormtrooper armor each year), and I avoid the larger panels for the less crowded sessions, but that’s because I choose to maximize my time in Artist Alley to meet the creators that have written and drawn my favorite stories of the last four decades.  This year was no different but that was because I had less time at NYCC than previous years.  My faithful sidekick and I had set up a two week vacation in Arizona and New Mexico that overlapped the first three days of NYCC and I didn’t think I would be able to attend this year.  But when I found out we were flying the red eye from Albuquerque to JFK I knew that I could make the last day of the show.

While I may have missed New York Super Week and the first three days of NYCC, I made up for it by buying some comic related merchandise during our stop in Albuquerque.  First stop was the amazing Astro-Zombies comic shop where I got a great deal on copies of X-Men #90 and Fantastic Four #92.  I also found Days of Future Past HeroClix that sold out at my New York comic and game shops (Storm, Blob, Pyro and a Sentinel!).  If you’re ever in Albuquerque, I highly recommend a visit to Astro-Zombies.  They have a great selection of new and back issues and a friendly staff.  I also picked up a few Marvel Comics themed wall decorations at a local art store on sale.  Buying these items that I would have picked up at NYCC softened the blow of not attending the first three days (and probably saved me a few bucks!).  Heck, even the Albuquerque Hot Air Balloon Fiesta had a con feel with a huge crowd and members of the local chapter of the 501st Legion in attendance as the Darth Vader and Yoda hot air balloons ascended!

The 501st Legion at the 2014 Albuquerque Hot Air Balloon Fiesta (image copyright 2014 Fante's Inferno)

The 501st Legion at the 2014 Albuquerque Hot Air Balloon Fiesta (image copyright 2014 Fante’s Inferno)

ABQ 2

Stormtroopers prepare the crowd for Yoda at the 2014 Albuquerque Hot Air Balloon Fiesta

Yoda prepares for liftoff at the 2014 Albuquerque Hot Air Balloon Fiesta

Yoda prepares for liftoff at the 2014 Albuquerque Hot Air Balloon Fiesta

ABQ 3

Darth Vader gets ready for the mass ascension at the 2014 Albuquerque Hot Air Balloon Fiesta (image copyright 2014 Fante’s Inferno)

But no sooner than I had gotten home from JFK Sunday morning, I was pulling together every book I wanted autographed, my sketch book for commissions, and of course The Captain America Project to (hopefully) complete.  I arrived at the Javits Center around 9:15 that morning, and I was surprised to not see a crowd gathered in front.  But reality soon set in when I realized the thousands of attendees were lined up in the lower level of the convention center prior to the 10:00 start time.  Overall it was a good system, and even though I was towards the back of the line I made it into Artist Alley by about 10:15.  Thankfully most of the attendees were heading to the exhibit hall and Artist Alley was practically empty when I walked in.

My top priority at NYCC was completing the Captain America Project: a jam page of 20 drawings of Captain America by 20 different artists.  After four years, 17 of the 20 spots on my Captain America jam page had been filled by artists like Jim Lee, David Finch, Herb Trimpe and even Golden Age artist Allen Bellman.  I had put a lot of thought into which artists I wanted to finish the page, and even though there were more artists to choose from than spots available on the page, I decided they would be filled by three of my favorite artists of the last 30 years.  My first two stops were Lee Weeks’ and Bob McLeod’s tables.

Weeks’ art has been a favorite of mine over the last ten years, most recently his work on Daredevil: Dark Nights #1-3, and I’ve been a huge fan of Bob McLeod’s work since the early 80’s, particularly his run on The New Mutants.  So as long time fans of their work, they were “must haves” on The Captain America Project.  I had originally planned on posting scans of their Cap sketches in this post, but then I realized they would be major spoilers of their individual posts for The Captain America Project, so I decided to hold off.  But in the meantime, here are a couple of pictures of them sketching on the page:

NYCC 2014 4

Bob McLeod adds a Captain America sketch to the Captain America Project

NYCC 2014 3

Artist Lee Weeks adds a Captain America sketch to the Captain America Project.

Unfortunately, the third artist that I was hoping would cap off the page (pun intended) wasn’t able to attend Sunday, so I’ll keep that one a surprise until I’m able to get that sketch at a future show.

After collecting autographs from artists Rob Liefeld, Allen Bellman, Howard Chaykin and former Marvel writer/artist/editor Al Milgrom for my copy of Marvel: Five Fabulous Decades of the World’s Greatest Comics, my last stop of the afternoon was The Artists’ Choice table for a sketch from artist Jerry Ordway (Superman).  Going into the show, one of the items on my wish list was a full sized sketch of Superman from Ordway, and he didn’t disappoint with this gem:

IMG_3072

Superman by Jerry Ordway

IMG_3071

Artist Jerry Ordway and his Superman sketch.

I had every intention of staying until the end of the show to hit the exhibit hall and get a few more sketches, but by 3:00 I realized that I hadn’t slept in over 30 hours (maybe that’s a con endurance record?) and it was time to head home before I passed out and the attendees swiped my sketches.  But this year’s NYCC was definitely worth the red eye flight and sleep deprivation.  Looking forward to next year!

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What If Phoenix Had Not Died? (1981)

What If 27 Cover

The early 80’s were my prime years of comic book collecting, and Marvel’s What If? was one of my favorite titles.  Each issue introduced by The Watcher would present an alternate history of Marvel characters based on one twist of fate in a previously established storyline.  There were some fantastic issues of What If? from 1981-1982, particularly What If Daredevil Became an Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.? (#28, August 1981), What If Wolverine Had Killed the Hulk? (#31, February 1982), What If Elektra Had Lived? (#35, October 1982), and What If The Fantastic Four Had Not Gained Their Powers? (#36, December 1982).  I recently reached into the old box o’ comics and found one that stood out as one of my favorite issues of What If’s early 80’s run, and a story that truly stood out for me that entire decade: What If Phoenix Had Not Died? (#27, July 1981) written by Mary Jo Duffy with art by penciller Jerry Bingham and inker John Stuart.

We bought our copy of What If? #27 new off of the spinner rack at our comic shop back in 1981.  Frank Miller’s dynamic cover stood out among most other comics released that month, with his bold line work and the intense colors capturing Phoenix’s power while flanked by the helpless X-Men.

One of the reasons this story resonated with me was  because less than a year earlier Jean Grey/Phoenix was killed off in Chris Claremont, John Byrne and Terry Austin’s classic X-Men #137 (Vol. 1, Sept. 1980).  As I read that issue for the first time back in 1980, I held up hope that the X-Men would prevail in their battle with the Imperial Guard.  But as their epic battle ended with each member of the X-Men taken down in defeat, Jean’s death was even more shocking.  At that young of an age, I couldn’t understand how the folks at Marvel could have ended the story with the X-Men losing and a main character actually dying.  The only other comic book story to have that big of an impact on me was the death of Elektra in Daredevil #181 (April 1982), but unfortunately as I got older I became more jaded and skeptical with every Marvel character’s death and subsequent return.  That story in X-Men #137 got me more emotionally involved as a reader and fan of the X-Men, as Cyclops and the rest of the team came to terms with Jean’s death and dealt with their own issues as the decade went on.  To this day, I consider the Death of Phoenix one of my favorite comic book stories of all time and one of the greatest in Marvel’s history.  So when What If Phoenix Had Not Died? was published the following year in 1981, it was one of the stories I had to read.  X-Men was my favorite title and I was eager to find out what would have happened to them in this alternate history.

What If 27 Page 1

What If Phoenix Had Not Died? begins with The Watcher providing a recap of Jean Grey’s history in the original X-Men storyline (her transition from Marvel Girl to Phoenix, mind control under Mastermind and her time as the Black Queen of the Hellfire Club, the destruction of the star D’Bari leading to the deaths of 5 billion humanoids, and the X-Men’s fight with Lilandra’s Imperial Guard leading to her death).  Six pages in, the story takes an alternate turn when toward the end of their battle with the Imperial Guard Jean saves Cyclops from a blast and alters her destiny.  Jean and the defeated X-Men are taken to the Shi’Ar imperial flagship, and their psychic lobotomizer removes her telepathic powers.

What If 27 Page 6

What If 27 Page 7

Upon their return to Professor Xavier’s School, a now powerless Jean tries to adapt to her diminished role within the X-Men.  A distress call from Lilandra leads them to a showdown with Galactus and his herald Terrax.  The X-Men, led by Cyclops are on the verge of defeat against Terrax when the Phoenix force re-manifests itself in Jean and a blast of her power relegates Terrax to a powerless human form.  Galactus backs off and the old Phoenix is back.  But eventually the temptations of the Phoenix force get the best of Jean, and the story takes a darker turn.

What If 27 Page 28

No spoilers here.  Writer Mary Jo Duffy (Power Man and Iron Fist, Star Wars, Wolverine) and artist Jerry Bingham (Iron Man, Marvel Two In One) pack a lot of drama and action into What If Phoenix Had Not Died?: Jean’s emotional roller coaster as a result of her transition from mutant to human, the temptations of the Phoenix force when her powers return, and the ensuing consequences of the darkness that consumes her.  At a whopping 34 pages, this qualifies as an event and it doesn’t disappoint.  Even as a “done in one” single issue story, the shocking fate of the X-Men is darker than most other stories of that era and stays with the reader long after the last panel.

Nowadays our copy of What If? #27 has a worn cover and the middle pages are separating from the spine, which is a testament to how much we enjoyed this story.  Ten or twenty years ago I would have kicked myself for not bagging and boarding it, but the current condition brings out the nostalgia even more.  Turning through the pages the other night reminded me of quite a few lazy days at age 8 sitting on the living room floor reading and re-reading this issue, and brought back the same excitement and emotion as it did the first time I read it in 1981.

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Comic Book Review: World War Mob #1

World War Mob

Release Date 1/8/14

Written and Created by Vito Delsante; Art by Giancarlo Caracuzzo

Published by New Paradigm Studios

Currently available on Amazon; available on Comixology 1/29/14

When my brother and I started collecting comics back in the 70’s, our early collection included titles such as G.I. Combat, Sgt. Rock and Weird War Tales.  Those titles made up half of our comic book purchases each month, and we enjoyed them as much as any superhero comic back then.

It was around that time that we took our first family trip to Italy, which included a visit to the Abbey of Monte Cassino, one of the hard fought battlegrounds during the Italian campaign of World War II and a stone’s throw from our family’s hometown.  Over the years we’ve heard countless stories from our relatives who lived through the war in Italy during those years.

And so began our interest, if not obsession, with World War II.

In recent years I picked up as many war themed comics as I could find, but in my opinion there still weren’t enough.  Then I picked up a copy of Vito Delsante and Giancarlo Caracuzzo’s World War Mob #1 (of a four issue mini-series).  When I saw the cover  with Benito Mussolini in the crosshairs (by artist Mike Manomivibul), I was intrigued.  When I finished the first issue, I was hooked. 

World War Mob Page 1

World War Mob #1
Written by Vito Delsante; Art by Giancarlo Caracuzzo
Published by New Paradigm Studios

The story begins in New York City’s Lower East Side in 1932.  A teenage Vincenzo Di Greco works his way up from street gang leader  protecting his turf to footsoldier for mobster Lucky Luciano.  He’s got a heart of stone and isn’t afraid to shed blood when necessary, which makes him, in his own words, a good soldier.  Delsante’s words and dialogue bring out the fire in Di Greco’s heart, and artist Giancarlo Caracuzzo’s doesn’t hold back when representing Di Greco’s neighborhood and his bloody handywork in World War Mob’s beautifully drawn and watercolored pages.

World War Mob Panel

World War Mob #1
Written by Vito Delsante; Art by Giancarlo Caracuzzo
Published by New Paradigm Studios

Cut to December of 1944.  Di Greco, now a captain in the U.S. Army, leads a squad through the snow of the Ardennes against the German army.  He’s not afraid to “bring the fight to them” as his squad takes out a German gun post.  Two months later, while on leave for some R&R in Sicily, he’s handed a note that leads him to an empty bar and face to face with New York mobster Meyer Lansky flanked by two GI’s as his personal security detail.

World War Mob Panel B

World War Mob #1
Written by Vito Delsante; Art by Giancarlo Caracuzzo
Published by New Paradigm Studios

Lansky gets to the point: Lucky Luciano wants Benito Mussolini assassinated and he’s in Sicily to recruit Vincent.  As they speak, four other representatives of the Five Families have traveled to Europe to recruit the other soldiers that will take part in the mission, one from each family.  Vincent looks over the list of his fellow recruits and spots a name from his past: Victor Santi of the Mangano crime family.  They have a history, and now they’ll be forced to work together to assassinate il Duce against incredible odds.  They’ve been given their orders (kill Mussolini or don’t come home), but they have to figure out a plan on the fly.  Their first problem: they’ll need to go AWOL to carry out the mission.

Reviews of World War Mob will make their share of comparisons with mafia/war movie combinations like Goodfellas meets The Dirty Dozen or comparable movies of those genres, but those comparisons are unnecessary because World War Mob is a great comic book with a story that stands on its own.  My only disappointment is that World War Mob is a four issue mini-series and I wish it was ongoing.  Once I finished the last panel of the last page, I started counting the weeks to the next issue.  Can’t wait for issue #2.

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2013 New York Comic Con

2013 NYCC 2

The New York Comic Con was held October 10-13 at the Jacob Javitz Center in NYC.  To me, NYCC is an annual holiday that allows me to add to my growing collection of original comic book art.  When tickets went on sale over the summer, I had just missed out on purchasing my usual three day pass, but was fortunate to get individual tickets for Saturday and Sunday.  I had to make up for the lost day by tackling my wish list of artwork and the show, particularly Artist Alley, didn’t disappoint.

I arrived on Saturday about 30 minutes before the doors opened and was near the front of the crowd.  When the doors opened at 10 AM, I went directly toward Artist Alley, which for the second year in a row was located in its own section of the Javitz Center separate from the exhibit hall.

2013 NYCC Artist Alley 2

This year I decided to hold off on purchasing original art pages from published works in order to concentrate on obtaining sketches for the sketch book I started back in 2005 (some of them can be seen on my Comic Art Fans page).  This year’s NYCC boasted a great lineup of artists and I knew I would get some great additions to the sketch book.  I actually got an early start on Friday night when JHU Comics hosted a creator signing with New Paradigm for the new comics Watson & Holmes and World War Mob.  At the event, Rick Leonardi (Cloak & Dagger, Spider-Man 2099) added a great Spider-Man to my book.

Rick Leonardi - NYCC 2013

Spider-Man drawn by Rick Leonardi

I started Saturday by stopping by the The Artists Choice table to meet the great George Perez.  His work has been a favorite of mine since his work on The Avengers and The New Teen Titans in the early 80’s, and going into NYCC I had realized that although I’ve gotten sketches from George in the past, I didn’t have one in my sketch book.  George added this drawing of the Flash.

NYCC George Perez Flash

George Perez at the 2013 New York Comic Con

Saturday brought an unexpected surprise when Kevin Eastman (co-creator of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles) provided fans with autographs and free sketches throughout the day.  I waited on line for about an hour that morning, but had to leave to get John Romita Jr. to autograph both my copy of Marvel: Five Fabulous Decades of the World’s Greatest Comics and my Captain America jam page (both were must-haves on my list).  I thought I had missed out on the opportunity to meet Eastman, but later that afternoon I had heard that he would be back to sign and sketch.  That second time around I was about 10th on line and got a great sketch of Michelangelo in my book and Eastman’s autograph on my NYCC badge.

Kevin Eastman - NYCC 2013

Kevin Eastman at NYCC 2013

NYCC - Kevin Eastman Michelangelo

Michelangelo drawn by Kevin Eastman

Adam Hughes is always high on my list for a sketch and I stopped by his booth first thing Sunday morning.  Twice a day, he provides quick marker sketches in exchange for donations to his favorite charity.  I was third on line and got this Batgirl sketch for the book.

Batgirl drawn by Adam Hughes

Batgirl drawn by Adam Hughes

My final sketch of the day was from DC artist Ivan Reis (Green Lantern, Aquaman, Justice League).  In the past I had always been too late to get on his sketch list at NYCC, but he had time on Sunday for brush sketches and I was able to get this amazing drawing of Aquaman:

NYCC - Ivan Reis

Ivan Reis at the 2013 New York Comic COn

NYCC - Ivan Reis Aquaman

Aquaman drawn by Ivan Reis

Other highlights of the weekend were chatting with legendary artists Klaus Janson (Daredevil, The Dark Knight Returns) and Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez (Batman, Jonah Hex, Superman) and meeting fellow comic art fans.  Overall the show was a great success and I’m already counting the days to the 2014 New York Comic Con.  As I walked out of the Jacob Javitz Convention Center Saturday night, I thought about how much the show has grown since the first NYCC in 2006.  I looked up and noticed the Empire State Building was lit up with the blue and red colors of Spider-Man’s costume.  The first thought that came to my mind at that moment was “Excelsior!”

2013 NYCC Empire State Building

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Happy Birthday, Jack Kirby

Happy birthday to Jack “King” Kirby on what would have been his 96th birthday.

My first exposure to Jack Kirby’s work was back in the 70’s in the Italian language reprints of his Silver Age work on The Fantastic Four and the Eternals.  These reprints were published in Italy about 10 years after their initial U.S. publication, but they were new to me and I was hooked.  I’ve been a fan of his work ever since, and I’m truly grateful for the iconic characters he created and co-created over the course of his career.

Jack Kirby Portrait

Jack Kirby Galactus

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From My Collection: Uncanny X-Men #173 Cover Recreation by Bob Wiacek

One of the gems of my art collection is a full size recreation of a comic book cover that I commissioned from inker Bob Wiacek at the 2012 New York Comic Con.

Bob’s run on The Uncanny X-Men with penciller Paul Smith and writer Chris Claremont has always been a favorite of mine.  When I had met Bob at last year’s NYCC, I had originally intended to commission a pencil and ink sketch of Wolverine in the classic pose from the iconic cover of Uncanny X-Men #173, but Bob convinced me to go the distance and include Rogue in the background like the original cover.  As you can see, he did a fantastic job on this commission.

I had requested the upper and lower boxes to be drawn in and left blank so I can have other artists draw the head sketches of the other members of the X-Men, and a Spider-Man sketch in the lower UPC box.

All that’s missing is the title and masthead, but I’ll add them at a later date.  But in the meantime, here’s the current version of the commission!

X-Men-173-Wiacek Cover-Recreation

Uncanny X-Men #173 Cover Recreation by Bob Wiacek (After Paul Smith)

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The Captain America Project #16: Joe Sinnott

The Captain America Project: 20 artists, 20 drawings of Captain America on one page.

#16: Joe Sinnott (Fantastic Four, Journey Into Mystery, Strange Tales, The Amazing Spider-Man Sunday Comic Strip)

I’ve met Joe Sinnott on several occasions at the New York comic book conventions over the last several years.  Each meeting has always been a pleasure and honor to chat with one of the legends of Marvel Comics.  The highlights of his career are too numerous to list, as he’s inked every major artist for Marvel/Timely over the last 60 years.  Needless to say, a Captain America sketch from Joe was a must have!

Captain America drawn by Joe Sinnott

Captain America drawn by Joe Sinnott

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