Happy Valentine’s Day everyone! There’s love in the air today so we’re going to have to go way back to the 1990’s, particularly 1997, which admittedly was an era where I wasn’t religiously reading comics books like I was in the 80’s and early 90’s. Here though is an actual Valentine’s Day special from Marvel that I thought was particularly interesting for the choice for one particular couple featured on the cover..,,Titania & The Absorbing Man!! They strangely feature poor Daredevil and Venus all by themselves, we of course get the obvious couples of Spidey and M.J. & Cyclops and Phoenix. But the inclusion of the powerhouse duo of Absorbing Man & Titania is pretty unexpected, even though they were (are still?) a true match made in heaven. They met all the way back in ’84’s classic ‘Secret Wars’, eventually ended up getting married and continued to kick ass all over the place together. I’ll admit I’ve never read this one, but my interest is peaked as I’m pretty curious if the two of them actually get a little story of their own!
The Thing was always one of my favorite superheroes, I just couldn’t get enough of this damn character. He was so freakin’ cool that besides being one of the mainstays in the Fantastic Four comics he also was the main character of ‘Marvel Two in One’ series (that started in the 70’s) and teamed up with pretty much every superhero to ever appear in the comics. There were some really really obscure team ups I’ve got to mention someday in another post. Well in 1983 I was beyond stoked as kid when John Byrne decided to give Ben Grim his very own solo series, it was one of my favorite things EVER (no pun intended)! Well issue #6 was always one of my favorite covers just ‘The Thing’ in all of his rocky glory in a simple black background. This issue itself utilized the blackness in quite an interesting way as well as he faced off against the Puppetmaster, this one drawn by the legend Ron Wilson and Brent Anderson is a true classic and shows that sometimes the best covers are sometimes the most simple!
Here’s the second installment of the all time greatest one shot comics, featuring small self contained stories that begin & end all within the span of one single issue! Today we’ve got an excellent story from 2001 in The Incredible Hulk #26 (vol. 2) written by Sean Mckeever and drawn by one of my personal favorites, the amazing Kyle Hotz. I immediately had a soft spot for this issue as it takes place in Wausau, Wisconsin (and even features ‘Eagle River’ on a highway sign, a place where my family’s had a cottage for ages) a state that we don’t normally see superhero adventures taking place. I had a feeling that Mckeever must’ve been a Wisconsin native to include such random small towns in this story and I was right as his Wiki page states he’s from Appleton (I used to live there!).
Anyway the story features The Hulk as he wanders aimlessly through the night on a lonely highway being drawn to a nearby city’s lights in the distance. The Hulk appears to be at peace in the quiet night, but hey we all know for the jade giant tranquility never lasts long. The cool thing about this particular issue is that Hulk kinda takes a back seat as the story really follows the exploits of b-lister down on his luck supervillain ‘The Killer Shrike’ and his wife Nadine who’re traveling the country aimlessly in his beat up van. I love what this one brings to the table as we’re able to see Simon Maddicks (The Killer Shrike) life as a real person. We witness the struggle of a woman who’s stuck by her mate as he’s chosen a life as a superhuman criminal constantly on the run from the law. She’s tired and ready to live a normal boring life. Shrike’s promising her soon he’ll be ready and willing to give up the life of crime and pulls into Wausau claiming that it could be the city for both of them to settle down in.
It doesn’t take long for her to realize Simon’s lying through his teeth as he eyes up a convenience store and tells her he’s got a new plan. Rather than looking for the big score like he has for years he’s gonna hit small towns hard where there’s no superhuman resistance. We get a real glimpse in to what life might really be like for a supervillain who at his core is just a regular small time crook. There haven’t been too many comics that have covered this topic so intimately and really given us a look at the starving supervillain’s daily life. It’s too bad The Killer Shrike doesn’t realize this small city’s also harboring the most powerful brute force on the planet-The Hulk. We get a compelling introspective into just what makes The Hulk tick and where his thoughts wander to when he’s in a state of peace with his surroundings. There’s a lot of great dialogue packed into this little story and Hotz’s unique artwork really brings this tale to life
The Killer Shrike suits up in his van and hit’s the convenience store with an easy small time score, or so he thinks. On his way out with the cash he nearly runs head on into you guessed it…good ol’ green jeans himself. The Shrike in sheer panic attacks The Hulk, who really just wants to be left alone. He’s doesn’t let up either as he’s convinced he can take down The Hulk himself, he keeps on striking until he levels an entire building upon the jade giant. The Killer Shrike however quickly realizes that very building also crushed his getaway van with his lover, Nadine inside. As things often go wrong when puny humans decide to pester the Hulk, this issue delivers a heartfelt punch to the gut as we witness one fateful night in the life of Simon Maddicks. I wish Marvel could capture this type of depth in their characters and villains more often as The Incredible Hulk #26 would be great issue to present to Marvel executives today as they ponder upon why their comic book sales have declined so much recently. Check this issue out next time you’re at the comic shop roaming through the back issue boxes, it’s a damn fine little slice of storytelling! P.S. here’s an old Marvel Universe profile for the Killer Shrike!
Have you noticed the overload of retro style throwback movies that have been coming out over the last ten years or so? You surely seen all those retro style movie posters that seem to to borrow so heavily from those cult flicks of yesteryear. Well here I’m going to start a weekly post where I’m going to give you some of my personal favorite VHS box covers of all time. Most of these are ones as a kid in the 80’s I’d see when visiting the video store, some of those incredible covers will oddly always bring back great memories of being a kid. So for the first installment I picked one of the coolest from a bizarre werewolf movie from 1984 called “A Company of Wolves”. Seeing this one at Bricco’s Video Vault (I think that’s what it was called) back in Neenah Wisconsin back in the 80’s kinda freaked the shit out of me! It makes me wanna revisit this movie as it’s been a long time since I’ve seen it. But here it is in all of it’s crazy glory….
I can’t begin to tell you just how much I love this particular comic book cover and how much as a child I loved this particular issue of ‘What If?’!! It really make sense as we get one of the greatest comic book artists ever responsible for this masterpiece, Bill Sienkiewicz doing an unforgettable rendition of the jade giant on issue #45. ‘What If?’ was an incredibly fun comic book back in the classic Marvel days and this issue from 1984 was one as a kid I carried with me everywhere. This one retells the classic origin story but in this reality Banner fails to save Rick Jones from the gamma blast and while Rick doesn’t die the Army ends up killing him-Sending the Hulk into a crazy rage. The Hulk freaks out and takes down the Fantastic Four and Iron Man killing several them in the process. It’s a great, surprisingly violent issue and in the end The Hulk’s rage costs him his own life. Anyway this cover will always remain one of my faves, Sienkiewicz never fails when doing comic book covers, with the pencil and ink in his hands you always knew you were going to get something truly special!
I had thoughts this morning for some reason about the 1979 Plastic Man cartoon! It made me wanna feature a cool old classic Plastic Man cover. This one from 1966 sees Plastic Man caught down in the sewers battling a creature created from meat by products and sludge?! Yep! Yuck! Plastic Man had some weird ass stories and villains back in the day and this cover is one of the coolest from that era wonderfully drawn by Ramona Fradon.
While we’re on topic lets take a peek back at that Plastic Man Cartoon!
And let’s not forget there was an elastic Plastic Man action figure too:
also here’s Robert Smith from The Cure as Plastic Man for the hell of it:
Also Plastic Man on the Superfriends! Whatta team up!
and some live action Plastic Man!
We’ve got some artists in the comic book industry who really were meant to draw certain characters and one who always needs mention when it comes to The Incredible Hulk is Dale Keown!! Yep it really doesn’t get much better than Keown’s version of the Hulk & from 1990 to ’92 when he took over the art on the title it was clear his version of the Hulk would go down in history as one of the best. He’s right up there with Sal Buscema and John Byrne in my book as all time best Hulksters. In fact back in 1990 his artwork on Hulk reminded me a lot of Byrne’s version of the character. Keown would go on to Image to introduce us all to his own “Hulk” type character, “Pitt”. Anyway Here’s a great Keown cover from 1990 that shows he’s one of the best Hulk artists of all time!!
Oh and if you still don’t think Keown was one of the best Hulk artists ever here’s a few more images to prove my point!