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Tuesday, April 2, 2024

Bring on the Back ups: When John Buscema drew Batman......and Superman

A big fantasy of my early fanboy teen years (mid-late 1970s) was the thought of some of US comics greatest artists working for both Marvel and DC on some of their top characters. Of course, it wasn't the case that this never happened back in the 1970’s as artists like Neal Adams, Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, Gil Kane, and others successfully worked to some extent for both companies. However, artists like John Buscema (who I imagine Marvel had under contract) didn’t make the move to try their hand at working on characters like Batman, Superman. Green Lantern etc. Well, that wasn’t until 2000 when Big John eventually took the opportunity (as did many others ) to work for DC. Although he did work on Superman (of sorts ) in the “Just Imagine Stan Lee creating….” series and provided (very) rough pencils for Gil Kane on the posthumously published “Superman: Blood of My Ancestors” book, he did provide full art on a one shot Batman black and white back up tale that appeared in "Batman: Gotham Knights" #7 (2000) -the the result as you would expect were pretty impressive. Sadly Big John passed away in 2002 only a couple of years after this was publsihed. Enjoy some of the last work of a comic book genius:
Above:The cover to "Batman Gotham Knights" #7 (2000) -Cover by Brian Bolland.
Above: The cover and splash page to "Just Imagine Stan Lee with John Buscema creating Superman" (2001) - Cover byJohn Buscema.
Above:The cover to " Superman - Blood of my Ancestors" - Cover image taken from the Grand Comics Database.

Monday, March 25, 2024

Favourite Comics: Avengers - #96 - The most expensive comic (I ) ever purchased - Neal Adams

As I mentioned in my last post the Avengers "Skrull - Kree wars" storyline (Avengers #89-97) is one of my all-time favourite story arcs. Although I read most of these strips in the mid 1970's when it was reprinted in the UK's "Mighty World of Marvel and Avengers" comic I always wanted to pick up the original US comics, especially the Neal Adams issues. I managed part of this quest when I picked up #94 in 1979, however it wouldn't be until 1982 until I tracked down my second Avengers US comic (#96) in Glasgow’s (legendary) AKA Books and Comics. Despite finally finding this issue (never an easy task in early 1980s Glasgow) it took me a few hours to eventually decide on purchasing the comic as at £15 (around $19 today) it was (and still is) the most expensive comic I have ever bought. Below are some of my favourite pages from this comic which was the first issue to feature the modern Avengers logo, enjoy.
Above: The only picture I can find of the (rough) location of the original AKA Books and Comics (ground floor) in the now demolished Virginia Galleries in Glasgow. AKA was the place that future comic book giants like Grant Morrison, Mark Miller and Frank Quitely (Vincient Deighan) would meet. ( Picture from "Glasgow Live")

Sunday, March 17, 2024

Favourite comics: Avengers #94 - Neal Adams, John Buscema, Tom Palmer & Roy Thomas

Without doubt one of my all-time favourite comic series is Marvels “Kree–Skrull War" which was published over 9 issues of the Avengers (#89-97) from June 1971 to March 1972. However, it would not be until June 1976 when I first became aware of this comic classic when I purchased the UK “Avengers” weekly comic #148 which reprinted the first part of “Avengers” # 93 ("This Beachhead Earth"). Sadly, I had missed the the first part of the Kree-Skrull War series as I had cancelled my UK Avengers subscription some months earlier. The US "Avengers" #94 (cover above by Neal Adams) is not the best issue in this excellent series (it’s still a belter) but it was the first US issue of this story arc (and the first US Avenger back issue) that I purchased in 1979 from Glasgow’s “Listen” record store for around £1.25p. The story arc, which was written by Roy Thomas, featured art from some of comics’ all-time greats including Sal Buscema, Tom Palmer, John Buscema, and Neal Adams. This issue alone features the triple talents of Tom Palmer (inks) John Buscema and Neal Adams - Enjoy.
Above: UK Avengers # 148 – this was the last issue of the comic which then merged with the Mighty World of Marvel from #199 and continued the Avenger series .
Next up: Avengers #96 where Neal Adams ramps up the art to a ridiculous degree. This was the first back-issue I felt I had to save up to purchase (from AKA comics in Glasgow around 1982) .I am ignoring #95 (for now) as I have not yet managed to purchase this issue (but it’s on my radar)!

Monday, March 4, 2024

Bring on the back ups. Ramona Fradon RIP

I was sad to read that Ramona Fradon passed away on 24 February. For todays comic book fans Ramona’s name may not be that well-known, but she was a pretty big deal in the 1950’s /1960’s where she worked for many years on DC’s Aquaman (in “Adventure” and Worlds Finest comics) before co-creating one of DCs strangest (and coolest) characters Metamorpho with Bob Haney. In 1965, Ramona left comics to raise her family before returning to the field again in the 1970’s working on DC titles including “Plastic Man”, “Super Friends” and “Freedom Fighters”, she even drew a fill in issue of Marvels “Fantastic Four” (#133). However, it was her work on DC’s mystery/horror titles like “House of Mystery “ where her clear uncluttered animation style art was really appealing on these types of stories. Among the many comic strips she drew for these titles my favourites was “The Spawn of the Devil” from “House of Mystery” #235. The story may lend from Rosemary's Baby and The Exorcist but it was as close to a genuinely scary story as DC's "House of Mystery" ever got. Enjoy:
Above: Cover to House of Mystery #235 by Luis Dominguez.
My first memory of Ramona’s work was in the Super DC Giant featuring Aquaman (S-26) special from 1971. I later became aware of her work when she returned to comics in the mid 1970’s where she provided some fun art and excellent covers for Plastic Man.

Friday, February 23, 2024

Top Tens: Frank Brunner

Frank Brunners first venture into comics was as an artist and writer for “Web of Horror” (Major Publications) before moving to Warren where he worked on their “Creepy”, “Eerie” and “Vampirella” titles. However, it was at Marvel where I first came across Brunners work in the 4th issue of the re-launched “Doctor Strange , Master of the Mystic Arts" title in 1974. Although that would be the last US issue of this comic that I would see for a few years, I was fortunate enough to read his excellent Dr Strange strips when it was reprinted a few years later in UK Marvels weekly titles “Avengers” & “Super Spider-Man” starting from his first Dr Strange work in Marvel Premiere. Although Brunners comic strip career was relatively short he worked on some of Marvel’s best comics and produced some of their most striking covers of the 1970s - some of my favourites are shown below.
"Howard the Duck" - #2 - March 1976 - Along with his work on Dr Strange, Howard the Duck contains my favourite Brunner art. Although he only drew two issues of Howards own comic along with a couple of strips in "Giant Sized Man-Thing" his artwork is fun, adventurous and exciting without ever becoming overly cartoony. You can see some of Franks art from "Howard the Duck" #1 here.
Red Sonja #12 - Cover art only - November 1978
Ka-Zar #4 - Cover art only - July 1974 - This is a pretty poor issue of Ka-Zar that featured some of Don Hecks poorest art.
Supernatural Thrillers # 11 - February 1975 - Cover art only - My most recent back-issue purchase from last week based only on Brunners amazing cover (and perhaps the cover price of only £3).
Journey into Fear #17 - October 1973 - Cover art only.
Unknown Worlds of Science Fiction #6 - December 1975 - Cover art only - Brunner painted a few covers for Marvel's monthly titles including "Savage Sword of Conan"
Giant Sized Man-Thing #4 - May 1974 - Cover art by Brunner.This issue also featured the first solo tale of "Howard the Duck" by Brunner and Stever Gerber.
Marvel Premiere # 12 -August 1973 - Cover by Brunner with internal art by Brunner/Crusty Bunkers. Marvel Premiere # 9 at header - July 1973 - with internal art by Brunner and Ernie Chua. As noted above my first (and favourite) Frank Brunner comic was "Dr Strange Master of the Mystic Arts" #4 - you can see some pages here.
Super-Team Family # 3 - February 1976 - Cover art only - I think this may have been Brunners only DC cover.
Cover from Grand Comic database.
Brunner has for the most part now left the world of comics and now focuses on producing commissions, the occassional comic book cover for companies like Dynamite, and fine print portfolios - the above painting is taken from Heritage Auctions.

Bring on the Back ups: When John Buscema drew Batman......and Superman

A big fantasy of my early fanboy teen years (mid-late 1970s) was the thought of some of US comics greatest artists working for both Marvel...