Thursday, October 31, 2013

1987 - Anatomy of a Cover - The Man of Steel #1

Here's the Special Collector's Edition that was exclusive to the direct market.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Monday, October 28, 2013

1986 - Matt Wagner's The Demon

The Demon #1-4
Writer – Matt Wagner
Artists – Matt Wagner/Art Nichols
Back in 1986, Etrigan the Demon had last enjoyed a regular series 15 years earlier by his legendary creator, Jack Kirby. Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing was rekindling the darker corners of the DC universe and a memorable guest appearance by Etrigan in that title was enough to convince DC to give their rhyming demon another chance.  

The Powers-That-Be called upon the services of Matt Wagner who was one of the more prominent Indy creators in the 1980s with his creator-owned series, Mage and Grendel. It’s not difficult to see how the themes that Wagner explored with his own anti-hero Grendel and his own dark world were exactly what DC was looking for.

The first thing that struck me upon re-read was the sheer amount of narration in the first few pages, in particular title/credit splash page. The first issue was a bit slow as Wagner really dug deep into the characters of the Demon’s alter-ego, Jason Blood, and his girlfriend, Glenda. A brooding Jason Blood is wrapped up in a blanket of self-pity because he’s eternally bound to a demon and has all but given up on a way to escape from the curse.

Wagner has fun with the relationship between Blood and Glenda and she fights through his best defensive tactics, as Blood is trying to keep a safe distance between Etrigan and Glenda, to convince him to keeping trying to find a way to break the demonic curse. Her persistence and determination pays off and Jason relents, agreeing to let her help him. She then summons up her lover’s demonic form, Etrigan, and confronts him. It turns out that Etrigan is also eager to free himself of Jason Blood and Merlin’s curse.

Along this quest, Glenda is captured and Blood takes the forefront. Wagner taps into the Demon’s supporting cast and has Harry Matthews help Blood summon Etrigan’s father, the demon lord Belial. Unfortunately things go horribly wrong and Blood gets Glenda back, but at a terrible cost. They aren’t deterred from their quest as Etrigan gives them a crucial clue on how to defeat Merlin.

The story, in its fourth and final issue, does a full circle with Blood returning to Merlin’s sanctuary in England. Blood asks Merlin to release him from the spell, but Merlin refuses. That refusal forces Blood to put Merlin in a trance and make him leave his sanctuary. Blood leads Merlin into a Hawthorn bush which proves to be an effective magical bane. As Merlin fades from existence, Blood and Etrigan are split apart as their curse is finally lifted.

The series ends with a significant cliffhanger with Etrigan roaming free and a glimpse at Merlin being held as a prisoner. Unfortunately, a regular series wouldn’t be published until mid-1990 with a new creative team. I can’t help but feel that Wagner had prepped this series as a launch pad for a new ongoing series, but for whatever reason, it never happened. While I really enjoyed what Wagner did and the pieces he put in place, this miniseries was just the tip of the iceberg in terms of he was trying to and not seeing that come to fruition saps a bit of the energy from this story.

In January 2014, DC will finally reprint this series as well as The Demon (1990) #22 also by Wagner, in a trade paperback called The Demon: From The Darkness.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

1989 - The Sandman Revisited by Gaiman and McKean

Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean recall the Sandman's 1989 origins:

"They said: make it your own. So I started thinking more mythic – let's have someone who's been around since the beginning of time, because that lets me play around with the whole of time and space. I inherited from mythology the idea that he was Morpheus, king of dreams: it's a story about stories, and why we need them, all of them revolving in some way around Morpheus..."
"Years later, Karen said: "Of course, Dream is you." I said: "No, I've got a sense of humour." I suppose he looks like me, though. But that's one of those peculiar things where you gradually start to look like your dog."

Darkseid by Matt Wagner

Thursday, October 17, 2013

1988 - What The -- ?! #2 by John Byrne

Superbman Vs. The Fantastical Four by John Byrne. Byrne has a bit of fun with this cross-company mashup and parody.

1987 - Anatomy of a cover - The Demon #1

"1st issue art team was Wagner & Rankin of Mage fame, DC then had Alfredo Alcala re-ink overlays for the 2nd version of issue #1. The 3rd, published version of issue #1 was re-inked by Nicols. As described by Alfredo Alcala"

Monday, October 14, 2013

1987 - Twilight of the Superheroes by Alan Moore

Alan Moore pitched this idea to DC Comics in 1987. "Twilight of the Superheroes" had Hellblazer, John Constantine, going back in time to prevent a future ruled by warring super hero factions. These factions included the House of Thunder (the Marvel family), the House of Steel (Superman and Wonder Woman), the House of Titans, a Batman underground rebel group, and a collection of aliens (Martian Manhunter, Adam Strange, and the Green Lantern Corps).

The story, which was set 20 years in the future, was built up around a climactic battle that would settle which faction would dominate the Earth. It was pitched as a stand-alone maxi-series, similar to Wolfman/Perez's Crisis on Infinite Earths.

Moore's Central Plot:
This is the main central plot of Twilight, being the story that [Rip] Hunter tells Constantine and that Constantine passes on to the other parties involved, and it deals with the world of the Twilight. I don't have it broken down issue by issue or anything, but the rough shape is something like this: In the middle 1995 or earlier, when society was starting to break down, many of the villains on Earth tried to take advantage of this situation by exploiting the uncertainty and disaster. Incensed by this, the current Justice League decide to go on the offensive for the first time and plan a careful campaign that will remove all the super-villains forever. They enlist the aid of a lot of other superheroes in this, and they are mostly very effective. So effective, in fact, that they begin to be seen as the only effective force for reason and order in a fast crumbling world.
This goes to the assembled heroes' heads a little, and in an attempt to secure their new power base they pass a majority motion outlawing aliens from Earth. While this is passed and is rigorously enforced, it is one of the decisions that causes the first serious rift in the ranks of the assembled super-doers, with some small groups like the Titans starting to drift away from the main group. This process continues until the state of the ruling Houses is pretty much as described above, with the House of Secrets containing the only super-villains to survive the purge other than those who reformed, and the House of Lanterns demolished upon Earth and temporarily relocated upon Mars pending the planned secret invasion.
At the start of our story proper, there is quite a lot of different activity going on in the various camps. The Houses of Steel and Thunder, each suffering their own internal stresses, are preparing for the marriage of the delinquent Superboy with Mary Marvel Jr., daughter of the Captain and Mary Sr. This is a development that causes considerable anxiety all over the place: previously, even the two most powerful Houses could not attempt to exert any pressure upon the others for fear that the other Houses would unite against them. Both Houses knew that individually they couldn't hope to take on the assembled might of the Titans, Justice League and others. This preserved a status quo of sorts.
However, with the prospect of an alliance in the offing, it seems quite possible that the assembled forces of three people with the power of Superman, four people with the power of Captain Marvel and Wonder Woman into the bargain could easily smash the most firm resistance. This prospect worries both the Houses of Titans and Justice tremendously. It also worries the villains remaining at the House of Secrets who remember back to the purges of the nineties and shudder. It certainly alarms the people living in the barrio, who, though downtrodden, still have a certain amount of liberty, impoverished though it be, and are not actually living under the absolute dictatorship that could result from a marriage between the Houses of Steel and Thunder.
The other major party alarmed by the prospect are the assembled alien forces that are conspiring out on the moon of Mars. They don't like the thought of a planet ruled by an unstoppable superhuman elite purely because it might very quickly pose a threat to the aliens' own well-being. Their plan is cryptic, but we learn a bit of it at a time. The main thrust of their plan is that they intend to use Adam Strange's place as their agent on Earth to set up a Zeta Beam link through which an inviting army of Hawkpeople, super-powered green Martians and members of the Green Lantern Corps could materialize in the center of Times Square or somewhere, this plan being linked to a Thanagarian Plan that has to be abandoned in the current issues of Swamp Thing, resurrected here to much more spectacular purpose. 

Alan Moore ends his pitch with the following comment:
"I hope you can see how it's meant to fulfill all the requirements mentioned earlier. There are opportunities for new characters to get a springboard, old characters to get a shot in the arm and all the merchandising you can handle in terms of games and stuff, at least as I see it. The warring Houses idea sounds ideal for role-playing games, or maybe even a video game. The overall continuity is hopefully enhanced without being damaged in any irreversible way, and I think we might get a damn good yarn out of it in the bargain. Anyway, I seem to have gone on far longer than I intended, so I better wrap this up. I'll be looking forward with interest to hearing what any of you have to say about all this when you've had a chance to read it. If any sections are incomprehensible and need clarifying then please give me a call."
You can find the full text of the proposal here:


75 years of Superman in a 2 minute video

Sadly they completely skip over Byrne's relaunch of Superman from the mid-1980s, but it's still pretty cool to see.

1986 - Anatomy of a cover - Tales of the Teen Titans #68

By Barry Windsor-Smith

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