by Michael Vance & Jon Suter
September 4, 1998
Reviews in this issue:
Comic Book Amalgams
Otis Goes Hollywood
Comics Legend - Mort Walker
Mad About the Fifties, Sixties and Seventies
Drakuun: Rise of the Dragon Princess
Comic Book Amalgams
In 1996, the crossover series Marvel vs. DC spawned twelve issues of Amalgam Comics in which the superheroes and villains of two publishers merged. Now a new group of twelve very different issues has appeared. Their quality is uneven and there are contradictions with the first 1996 series.
The two best issues are Challengers of the Fantastic and Thorion of the New Asgods. All original sources stem from the work of artist Jack Kirby (DC's Challengers of the Unknown and Marvel's Fantastic Four titles form the first hybrid; DC's "Orion of the New Gods" character merges with Marvel's Thor titles.). There is a fundamental strength in Kirby's concepts regardless of the publisher.
The "Challengers" story involves a confrontation with "Galactiac" (villains "Galactacus" and "Brainiac") and ends with an impending attack from villain "Dr. Doomsday". The outcome of such a battle would be interesting. The most interesting variation in this story is Ben "Rocky" Grimm whose conversion into the superhero Thing is significantly different from Kirby's original version.
The "Thorion" story suffers from an unfortunate name as its only major flaw. This new story seems very faithful to Kirby and embraces his race of Celestials from Marvel's Eternals title.
Little can be said in defense of Lobo the Duck or Generation Hex. Even avid fans of the original characters will find this hard to accept.
The other eight titles have several good points. DC's "Sgt. Rock" soldier now leads Marvel's "Howling Commandos" in support of Amalgam's "Super Soldier" (Superman/Captain America). Iron Man merges with Green Lantern to become Iron Lantern. Marvel's Brood and DC's Brother Blood merge to fight the X-Patrol ("X- Men" plus "Doom Patrol").
If there are future Amalgams, tighter editorial control in needed. There is potential for some good storytelling.
Yah! Another gross, post-underground comic! Otis, being stupid, reacts to our degenerate, vile, amoral world by ripping off people's heads, arms and torsos. If life has no value, why do these nihilist cartoonists bother drawing? [Dark Horse] MV
Comics Legend - Mort Walker
Mort Walker is the most popular and prolific cartoonist in history, although no single comic strip earned him that amazing honor.
Born in El Dorado, Kansas in 1923 and raised in Kansas City, Walker received only a handful of art lessons before finding work as an editor for Dell Publications. But it was his service in the infantry during WW II that would ignite his creative juices.
That's when that lazy, no-good goof-off Beetle Bailey enlisted in Walker's army of bumbling officers and sexy secretaries. Walker had already established himself as a gag cartoonist for magazines when, in 1950, Beetle became the first of his many successful comic strips.
In fact, Beetle originally debuted as "Spider" in The Saturday Evening Post magazine.
It wasn't long before others would join the ranks.
Walker also wrote Hi and Lois (1954-- ), a gentle family strip that often reverses the nuances and cliches of earlier strips.
Mort's and Jerry Dumas' Sam's Strip (1961-'63) lovingly poked fun at the history, icons and characters in other comic strips.
Walker also wrote Mrs. Fitz's Flats, and wrote and drew the funny animals of Boner's Ark starting in 1968.
He won the Reuben award for Beetle in 1953, wrote several children's books, was an editor for Hallmark greeting cards and produced advertising art. He also founded the Museum of Cartoon Art in Greenwich, Connecticut.
Walker's work has appeared in: Comics Reading Library (King, #s 2, 3, 11, 13, 1973-'79); Giant Comic Album (King, 1972); Beetle Bailey (Western & various publishers, 1952-'80); Beetle Bailey (Harvey Comics 1992-- ); Hi & Lois (Deli 4- Color #s 683, 775, 955; Charlton, 1969-'71) and Sarge Snorkel (Charlton, 1976).
Many anthology collections of Hi & Lois, Beetle Bailev and Sam's Strip have been published.
Mort Walker's work is highly recommended.
Some older titles are expensive and difficult to locate. Price guides or comics dealers help. Comics shops, conventions, mail order companies and trade journals are best sources. Prices vary; shop around for the best values. MV
Mad magazine has been recycled more often than most washing machines, yet it has been remarkably durable. Three major anthologies are now available, Mad About the Fifties (Quality Paperback Book Club), Mad About the Sixties and Mad About the Seventies (Little, Brown). There is important material in all three, but the 1950s volume is my favorite.
Those of us who were following the famous (and infamous) EC honor comics in 1951 and 1952 began to see advertisements for some new project which turned out to be Mad.
It was no different in format from other comic books, but the contents were unlike anything we had ever seen.
The comic book Mad quickly hit its stride when they began parodies of well-known movies and comic books. Only those intensely familiar with DC's "Superman" and "Batman" would savor to the fullest Mad's "Superduperman" and "Batboy." The humor is as fresh and biting today as it was in the early Eisenhower years.
After I read "Starchie" I never had quite the same fondness for "Archie." This is rather ironic since Bob Montana, the major Archie artist, was then at the height of his powers. Many were upset over Archie publisher John Coldwater's almost successful attempt to destroy the EC line. (It was alleged that Goldwater never forgave EC for the "Starchie" parody.)
Anyone who has never seen "Starchie" or "Ping Pong" (a King Kong parody) reprinted in color should pick up this book.
When EC changed Mad to a black and white magazine, there was an emphasis on prose that has almost been forgotten. Even so, Mad had its greatest impact visually, and artists Wally Wood, Harvey Kurtzman and Bill Elder are all here.
For $19.95, any of the volumes is a good buy, but be sure to get the 1950s volume. DJS
Rise of the Dragon Princess
This Japanese Star Wars knock-off with talking animals replacing humans also uses tons of buggy aliens.
Lots of sword play, language and some nudity. [Dark Horse] MV
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