Thursday, June 30, 2011

Random Reads: "Horoscope Phenomenon or Witch Queen of Ancient Sumeria?" by Kirby and Royer w/Kaluta and Wrightson

Hey, hey, hey, Groove-ophiles! How 'bout some King Kirby? Did you ever grab a mag 'cause the cover looked cool and you could'a cared less about what was inside? Mike (The Shadow) Kaluta covers had a habit of making Young Groove do that very thing. After the cool and creepy Kaluta cover on Weird Mystery Tales #1 (April 1972) screamed my name from the spinner rack, I plunked down my twenty cents and headed for the car. I flipped open to the first page and there was some spooky guy named Destiny staring back at me--illoed by Bernie (Swamp Thing) Wrightson, no less. Next to him was a slightly smallish splash panel done up by, wonder of wonders, Jack Kirby (and inked by Mike Royer, natch), himself. It was strange to see a Kirby story in a mag without a Kirby cover, but it was the Groovy Age, baby! Expect the unexpected! As usual, The King blew me away. "Horoscope Phenomenon or Witch Queen of Ancient Sumeria?" might've had a goofy title, but it featured the Kool Kirby Karacter designs I'd come to love and expect, this time featuring various members of the Zodiac (not the Marvel bad-guy group, Gilligan--I mean the "What's your sign?" Zodiac). I didn't know it at the time (and actually could'a cared less back then) but this terror-tale was created for Jack's defunct black and white horror mag, Spirit World. A few more of those unpublished tales would find their way into early issues of Weird Mystery Tales--and once I knew Kirby'd be featured in WMT, Young Groove would be looking for 'em! Are you ready to enter the Spirit World, Groove-ophiles?

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Black and White Wednesday: "...The Birth of Death" and "The Origin of God!" by Jim Starlin

In 1974, Jim Starlin was at the peak of his creative powers and a sky-rocketing comicbook superstar. When fellow comicbook creator Mike Friedrich founded his "ground-level" (not quite mainstream, not quite underground) comicbook company Star*Reach--and it's flagship title, also called Star*Reach--Starlin was there contributing high-quality graphics and provocative stories the likes of which he couldn't possibly do in Captain Marvel or Warlock. 16 of the 52 pages of Star*Reach #1 (Spring 1974) were filled with Jim Starlin's opinions/flights of fancy concerning drugs, death, and religion. Here's a sampling of Starlin unleashed: "...The Birth of Death!" and "The Origin of God!"

Heavy, man. Hea-VY!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Groove's Faves: "Almuric, Part 1" by Thomas and Conrad

What it is, Groove-ophiles! Roy Thomas and Tim Conrad adapting Robert E. Howard was always magical. Thomas and Conrad's adaptation of REH's unfinished "sword and planet" epic, "Almuric", was originally intended for Marvel's color Marvel Premiere mag as "Warrior of the Lost Planet" (I remember reading about it in '76), but wound up running in issues 2-5 of Epic Illustrated (Marvel's answer to Heavy Metal, natch). So while this story was conceived and created during the height of the Groovy Age, it didn't see print until May 1980, tantalizingly near the end of the Groovy Age.

T'was most fortuitous that "Almuric" was snatched up by Epic editor Archie Goodwin, because Epic's high-scale printing allowed Conrad to paint the adventures of Esau Cairn, something we're used to now, but it was new and exciting in 1980. In Ol' Groove's opinion, Conrad's coloring takes a back-seat to none, so when Dark Horse gets around to reprinting this (again, they collected it in a graphic novel format back in 1991) in an upcoming issue of Robert E. Howard's Savage Sword (which I'm sure they will!), I hope they don't touch it and just present it as it was in Epic Illustrated. I'm not sure if it was Roy or Tim or both who decided to go the Wizard of Oz route with making Cairn's life on earth nearly black and white, saving the full-color for his time on "Almuric", but it was a master-stroke. Beyond the coloring, Conrad's art is gorgeous. I get a Max Fleischer Superman vibe from his depiction of Esau Cairn, and his overall style and command of detail puts him in the ranks of Barry (Windsor-) Smith, Bernie Wrightson, and other masters of fantasy art. And you'd better believe Roy Thomas was at his peak, channeling REH's prose with perfection, deftly picking up the best scenes and dialogue bits from the original prose. Roy could make us believe that these were comics that REH would have written had he been alive to do so. Dig it, baby!

Most people get off on the fact that "Almuric" is REH's answer to Edgar Rice Burrough's John Carter of Mars, but Ol' Groove can't help but feel that the savage Esau Cairn, himself, is closer to Tarzan when he cuts loose. Of course, REH and ERB were coming from completely different places, so in all reality, the only thing the two pulp giants shared was the "interplanetary romance" aspect. ERB saw savages and savage lands being tamed by noble men. REH just turned savages loose against more savages and let the blood fly.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Remembering Gene Colan: Jaws 2 by Marschall, Colan, and Palmer.

As you no doubt know, we lost the great Gene Colan late last week. I think about all the hours and years of joy he brought to so many with his unique and amazing art style. Daredevil. Sub-Mariner. Iron Man. Dr. Strange. Captain America. Tomb of Dracula. Howard the Duck. And that's just scratching the surface of his Groovy Age/Marvel work. In the 80s he took his super-powered pencils to DC to great acclaim. Throughout the 90s and up until just recently, Gene kept giving of his talent. The man was a true artist. Many claim he almost literally painted with his pencil, and anyone fortunate enough to have seen his original art would no doubt agree.

I wanted to pay him a tribute today. Many throughout the internet already have, and have done it much more eloquently or authoritatively than I'm able to do. I'm just a fan with a blog, but I know one thing: the Greatness of Gene Colan will be sorely missed, but his legacy will be remembered for at least as long as I live. For my humble part, I decided to pull out something that might be forgotten, and will probably never see print again. It's one of my all-time favorite comics, Jaws 2 from Marvel Super-Special #6 (Summer 1978). Gene's pencils are inked and painted by the one man who, in Ol'  Groove's opinion, totally "got" Gene's pencils and made a perfect partner, Tom Palmer. The adaptation of Jaws 2 is also significant in that it's Marvel's first attempt at "Super Marvel-Color", a painstaking and breathtaking "next step" in comicbook evolution that's forgotten today, buried under mountains of computer-colored slick comics. For Marvel it started right here, Groove-ophiles.

Usually if a story is over ten or so pages, Ol' Groove breaks it up into a big splash and tons of thumbnails in order to share it with ya. Today, in honor of Mr. Colan, every page in this 46 page adaptation is super-sized. It'll make for a lot of scrolling, but I think these pages are worth it. Don't you?

Godspeed, Mr. Colan.


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Special thanks to Mike's Amazing World of Comics and Grand Comics Database for being such fantastic resources for covers, dates, creator info, etc. Thou art treasures true!

Note to "The Man": All images are presumed copyright by the respective copyright holders and are presented here as fair use under applicable laws, man! If you hold the copyright to a work I've posted and would like me to remove it, just drop me an e-mail and it's gone, baby, gone.

All other commentary and insanity copyright GroovyAge, Ltd.

As for the rest of ya, the purpose of this blog is to (re)introduce you to the great comics of the 1970s. If you like what you see, do what I do--go to a comics shop, bookstore, e-Bay or whatever and BUY YOUR OWN!