Thursday, October 12, 2017

Comics Lust 10/14/2017

Welcome back, Donist World Denizens! For those of you new to our site, I’m Donist, and I am joined by Donist World CFO the Reverse Obie* (my friends’ Boston terrier whose fur recently swapped colors) and by our marketing director/administrative assistant/party planner/wounded weekend warrior Tulip (my dog, Reverse Obie’s sister). A couple of weeks ago, I was sick and my puppy executive team did a marvelous job of nursing me back to health. This week, it’s Tulip’s turn to receive a little TLC when she started limping Wednesday afternoon. After a quick trip to the vet, and thankfully no broken bones, she’s on anti-inflammation medication and taking it easy watching the latest episode of FOX’s television show Gifted. Anyhow, Reverse Obie is here with some snacks, so grab yourself a pumpkin ale or a strong ginger ale, tune in to Gifted, and after that check out some great comics. Thank you for reading!

*Obie, through his dabbling in arcane magiks mixed with ancient corrupt business practices, has had not just the colors of his fur switched, but a complete overhaul of his work ethic as well…I think I’m kinda okay with the mishap.

Not sure what “Comics Lust” is about? Take a look at the Introduction to “Comics Lust” post or take a look at the static “Comics Lust Table of Contents” page to jump to a topic.

Comics Lust

Modern Times, Modern Monsters (Part 1)

Way back in the first chapter, I took a look at some comic book takes on the Universal Monsters: Dracula, Frankenstein’s Monster, The Mummy, The Werewolf. This time, we’re looking at some of the monsters from the ’70s to now, so long as they aren’t wrapped in bandages, stitched together by a mad scientist, able to turn into a bat, or inflicted with lycanthropy. We’re looking at something new.

I already know I’m going to be mentioning Swamp Thing quite often throughout the course of Comics Lust, but that’s because of the monumental impact the character has had on my life. The first incarnation of Swamp Thing appeared in a standalone tale in the pages of House of Secrets #92 (written by Len Wein and illustrated by Bernie Wrightson for DC Comics in 1971), where the character Alex Olsen was betrayed by his friend, Damian Ridge, and seemingly died in a lab explosion, leaving Alex’s wife, Linda, at Damian’s mercy. But Alec does not die and is instead transformed into a swamp monster. Fans loved this story so much, DC decided to have Wein and Wrightson bring the character into the present with his own series in 1972’s Swamp Thing #1.

In this series, our forlorn hero is now botanist Alec Holland whose lab is sabotaged with a bomb that douses him in his secret plant formula which ignites and sends the burning Holland plummetting into the nearby swamp. He later crawls from the muck to seek vengeance on those who tried to kill him, but more importantly, to try to restore his lost humanity. The series is again steeped in horror with the occasional superhero run-in, but it’s issue #10, where the Swamp Thing meets the misshapen monstrosity Anton Arcane and his Un-Men, that I was first introduced to Wrightson’s oh-so-gorgeous art. This is also the day that I learned that not all artists are the same. The series ran for 24 issues before being canceled.

Almost a decade later, The Saga of the Swamp Thing saw the return of my beloved character only this time written by Martin Pasko and illustrated by Tom Yeates. The book progressed as a series of predominately standalone issues focusing more on the horror elements, some of which I still absolutely adore, but it was the introduction of writer Alan Moore to the series in issue #20, and artists Stephen Bissette and John Totleben that turned a very-good horror title into a must-read comic that is still one of my top-five comic book series of all time. I will not spoil the immediate twist that Moore introduces into Alec’s world, but it is something that forever changed the character, and completely blew my mind at the time. Moore left the series with issue #64, but not before introducing the mysterious John Constantine to the world in issue #37—Constantine would go on to star in his own book, Hellblazer, in 1988 for an impressive 300 issues.

The Saga of the Swamp Thing—eventually shortened to Swamp Thing–ran for 171 issues before being canceled and during that time included such talents as Rick Veitch, Nancy Collins, Grant Morrison, and Mark Millar, among others on writing duties. A third volume by Brian K. Vaughan came out in 2000, a fourth in 2004 by Andy Diggle, and fifth volume that I very much enjoyed written by Scott Snyder and artist Yanick Paquette when DC started their ”New 52“ initiative. Finally, a six-issue mini-series from creator Len Wein and illustrated by Kelley Jones came out in 2016, that I have not yet read that I desperately need to get my hands on.

Now, DC was not the only one with a swamp monster in their comic book stable, Marvel had one of their own: Man-Thing. He also predated Swamp Thing by almost two years. Man-Thing, created by Roy Thomas and Gerry Conway, was once Ted Sallis, a biochemist who creates a special serum that he hopes will mimic the Super-Soldier Serum that created Captain America, and who injects himself with the serum because of evil forces, crashes his car in the swamp, and is reborn as the crimson-eyed, root-faced Man-Thing. Sound kinda familiar? Just remember that Man-Thing came first…oh, and that Conway and Wein just so happened to be roommates at the time of publication. Thankfully, no one was sued.

I had a few Man-Thing comics lying around and it seemed as if he was popping up in plenty of the comics I had in my growing comics pile, but it was the Power Records Man-Thing: Night of the Laughing Dead reprint of Man-Thing #5 that I regularly listened to and read to freak myself out on a regular basis. For those not familiar with the deep catalogue of Power Records, the company took popular comics from Marvel, DC, and other publishers that they reprinted on heavier stock paper and that included a 45 rpm record that had voice actors, sound effects, and a score so you could read the comic as you listened along. My brother and I LOVED these things and had a ton of them, but Man-Thing: Night of the Laughing Dead was probably a bit more than we should have been listening to. The story concerned a clown at the end of his ropes who commits suicide by a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head and comes back as a ghost who haunts the swamp. There’re some bad guys causing grief to some not so bad guys, creepy carnival folk, and of course, a hulking muck-monster whose touch burns those who know fear. I can still hear that spooky carnival music in my mind, but more than anything, the Mike Ploog art completely blew me away as did his lovely swamp backdrops. Man-Thing was the perfect complement to my love of Swamp Thing and I often imagined what would happen if the two ever met.

The Steve Gerber written issues are leaps and bounds my favorite Man-Thing stories, and the best way to get a heaping dose of his take on ol’ Ted Sallis is through the recently released Man-Thing by Steve Gerber Complete Collection: Vol. 1 and Vol. 2. But for those who want to get an even deeper exposure to this tragic character, the following books will keep you busy for a good long while:

Just remember, “He who knows fear, burns at the touch of the Man-Thing!”

Continuing with my very early years, I fell completely in love with Jack Kirby’s The Demon (1972) before I ever read any of the 16 issues in the run. At the time, DC frequently placed ads within their own comics, and it was there that I saw the glorious first issue of the yellow-skinned, tiny-horned, crimson-eyed, webbed-earred Etrigan the Demon. I desperately wanted this comic, but I would have to wait until my early teens before I stumbled across a battered collection of the issues at a nearby yard sale. Etrigan is a literal demon who was magically linked to a human, Jason Blood, centuries prior by none other than Merlin the Magician. Man and demon switch places when necessary with Blood only calling on his demonic counterpart in the direst of situations. To my great excitement in 1987, my hero Matt Wagner wrote and illustrated a dark, mysterious four-issue mini-series that I still reread on a regular basis. Action Comics Weekly #636–641 had an Etrigan feature that I have not read, and the demonic rhymer also had his own series for 60 issues and two annuals that, for a time, featured Garth Ennis on writing duties. There was even a short-lived ensemble of characters with Etrigan at the center titled Demon Knights, which ran for 24 issues before being canceled (written by Paul Cornell, illustrated by Diogenes Neves, 2011). More than anything, Etrigan and Jason Blood continue to live on as occasional supporting characters in a multitude of books, with one of my absolute favorites being in Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing #25–27 and also in a few early issues of Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman.

Given that DC created a swamp monster character (Swamp Thing) after Marvel created a swamp monster (Man-Thing)—which came after yet another swamp monster known as The Heap in 1942’s Air Fighters Comics #3 (written by Harry Stein, illustrated by Mort Leav, published by Hillman), it stands to reason that Marvel would see The Demon and come up with a demon of their own, or rather, they would bring to life The Gargoyle. The Gargoyle is an orange-skinned, tiny-horned, crimson-eyed, webbed-earred, tiny winged gargoyle. When the elderly Isaac Christians sells his soul to a demonic collective known as the Six-Fingered Hand in return for their help in saving his dying town, the result is Christians being transferred into the body of a gargoyle meant to do the Six-Fingered Hand’s bidding. The Gargoyle joins The Defenders to defeat the demons and Christians becomes a member of the superhero team. The Gargoyle was created by J.M DeMatteis and even had his own four-issue mini-series, The Gargoyle (written by DeMatteis, illustrated by Mark Badger, 1985) that I still very much enjoy.

We haven’t even touched on any of the indie comics monsters, but that will be for next time when we look at a certain hero with a massive red right hand, a supernatural group of monsters that I will have finally been able to read before we return back to Marvel to check under the hood of a certain flame-headed stuntman.

This Week’s Reading List

The Dying & the Dead #6 (Written by Jonathan Hickman, illustrated by Ryan Bodenheim, colored by Michael Garland, lettered by Rus Wooton, published by Image Comics) After some fairly substantial delays, The Dying & the Dead appears to mostly be back on track. Thank goodness for that. Last issue was mostly a flashback war issue that had almost no link to the supernatural elements that initially drew me in with the prior four books. I still have zero clue as to who these stark-white, immortal beings are, but for a comic of this caliber, I’m happy to wait and see. Oh, and I still love love love Bodenheim and Garland’s stunning art. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Mister Miracle #3 (Written by Tom King, illustrated by Mitch Gerads, lettered by no idea as there is no credits page in this issue, published by DC Comics) Yup. Still no clue what the heck is going on other than Scott Free (Mister Miracle) seems to be descending further into depression/madness with each passing moment, but dang if this book is not gorgeously written and illustrated. I can’t wait for issue four. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Black Science #32 (Written by Rick Remender, illustrated by Matteo Scalera, colored by Moreno Dinisio, lettered by Rus Wooton, edited by Sebastian Girner, published by Image Comics) All Grant McCay wants is to bring his family and his life back together, but given Kadir’s treachery and Grant’s past arrogance, that might not be possible…not to mention the millipede death cult or the interdimensional space ghosts that are fighting for dominance of Earth because of the scientists’ actions. Still great. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Paper Girls #16 (Written by Brian K. Vaughan, illustrated by Cliff Chiang, colored by Matt Wilson, lettered and designed by Jared K. Fletcher, flats by Dee Cunniffe, published by Image Comics) The girls are separated once again, but at least they’re no longer in the Stone Age. Unfortunately, the year 2000 might not be that big of an improvement. Thankfully, it looks like their biggest fan might be able to Help them out. Yup, this is still great, too. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Royal City #6 (Everythinged by Jeff Lemire, lettered by Steve Wands, published by Image Comics) I have not read this issue yet, but given how much I have enjoyed reading the first arc, and my trust in Jeff Lemire, it’s a safe bet I’m going to like this issue a whole heck of a lot.


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