Marvel's "New Universe" of
the mid-80s was hardly the most memorable undertaking in comic books.
However, one good series did come out of that venture. Nearly forgotten today, Star
Brand had a very simple premise.
One day, unsuspecting human Ken
Connell happens upon an alien who grants him an object of great power, the Star
Brand. The alien dies (or so it seems), and Connell must decide how best to use
The setting was not an alternate
"Marvel" Universe, but a universe more, like ours, where
"superheroes" are works of comic book fiction.
Making Ken Connell's world a more
realistic one results in a well-thought out comic. From the complications of
attempting the rescue of a child from an old well, to deciding whether to reveal
himself to the U.S. President, Connell's attempts to use his power wisely often
results in intriguing, and very entertaining, situational reasoning.
Great characterization is a hallmark
of this series. Ken, while the series lead and hero, is no bastion of morality,
and will occasionally annoy many readers with womanizing and whining about how
to live up to his responsibility to use the Star Brand Power correctly.
One of the most pleasing aspects of
this comic is how much takes place in each issue. For those accustomed to many
of today's first issues that do little more that introduce a main character,
and, if the reader is fortunate, establish some motivation, the first issue of Star
Brand my leave them thinking they have read material for two or three
Talent for the book is topnotch. Jim
Shooter does what my be some of his best writing in issues 1-7, which are
dramatically rendered by John Romita, Jr. Issues 8-10 lead into writer John
Byrne's and artists Tom Palmer's run in which the story takes a vastly different
For my money, those first seven issues
of Star Brand are some very entertaining reading, and well worth
Review by Michael Vance
Legend Don Martin
"Skwako," and another great
master cartoonist is gone.
Don Martin, Mad
magazine's "maddest" artist, was born in Patterson, New Jersey in
1931. He initially sold humorous cartoons to magazines including Galaxy,
and art for the covers of jazz record albums. His first national success came in
1956 when Al Feldstein, editor of Mad, made Martin's work an integral
part of the counter-culture of the 1960s.
For more than thirty years, Martin
would create a horde of idiot misfits with multiple chins, feet hinged at the
toes, and ape-like arms who stumbled through life on the hard end of the
His work was also known for its own
unique vocabulary of sound effects. It was a rare page in which Yarg,
"Shklip, Flot or some wild, oddball and generally disgusting noise
did not accompany someone being flattened, buzz-sawed or somehow mangled.
Regrettably, in 1987, Martin left Mad
over a dispute over the rights to his manic work. He continued his whacked humor
in Cracked, an early imitation of Mad that had found its own style
Despite his outlandish and influential
art, Martin was personally shy and suffered from a degenerative eye disease from
much of his life. He died this year at age 68.
Among Martin's thirteen paper and
trade paperback collections and comic books were: Mad's Maddest Artist Don
Martin Bounces Back. Don Martin's Droll Book (Dark Horse Comics), Mad's
Don Martin Forges Ahead, Mad's Don Martin Drops 13 Stories, Mad's Don Martin
Steps Out, The Mad Adventures of Capt. Klutz, Mad's Don Martin Carries On,
Completely Mad Don Martin (1974).
His work also included extensive
contributions to Mad and Cracked, and his own Don Martin
Martin's brilliant and unique work is
highly recommended for all ages.
Review by Michael Vance
Some older comics 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. Questions? Comments?
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24955 Denver CO 80224-0955 Ph 303.777.6800 Fx 303.200.9009