Monday, August 21, 2017

'Conan' comic magazines

'Conan' comic magazines

Every once in a while my comics shop gets a stack of old, dog-eared, barely-stapled comic books and comic magazines that have been stumbled upon by someone cleaning out Uncle Rick's or Grandpa Steve's garage or attic.

These go on sale for a couple of bucks each. Ninety-nine percent of the shop's patrons are indifferent to them........they want the latest issues in whatever bloated, over-produced Crossover series Marvel or DC is promoting to the fanboys.

So it was that I recently came across a stack of old Marvel / Curtis black and white magazines: Savage Sword of Conan and Conan Saga, on sale for a couple of bucks each. Copies of these old magazines in Very Good or Near Mint condition can go for over $10 each, depending on the year of publication.

You also can find these old comics from the 70s and 80s compiled in trade paperbacks from Dark Horse. But these trade paperback compilations are several inches smaller in dimension than the original Marvel / Curtis magazines, and the details of the artwork tend to be so compressed as to be difficult to see (at least for aging people like me).

So I was happy to get a set of six issues of these old magazines, mainly because despite their wear and tear, the cheap grade of paper they were printed on, and the low quality of the printing plates, the artwork they contain remains impressive even after the passage of 40 years.

Artists such as Barry Windsor-Smith, John Buscema, and Alfredo Alcala did outstanding work for these magazines. It's very rare to see equivalent artistry on display in most contemporary comics, including the Dark Horse reboot of the 'Conan' franchise.

I'm going to be posting 300 dpi scans of the content of these old SSOC and Conan Sage comics in the coming weeks and months here at the PorPor Blog.

Despite the warped and faded and sometimes discolored pages, the artwork looks good............but you can decide for yourself as the scans unfold..........?!

Friday, August 18, 2017

Massacre by Hermann Huppen

by Hermann Huppen
from Abominations (Catalan Communications 1990)

Brilliant artwork and a well-crafted plot combine with sharp little vignettes of violence to make every one of this comic's ten pages effective.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Elvis Presley January 8, 1935 - August 16, 1977

Elvis Presley
January 8, 1935 – August 16, 1977
Illustration by Guy Peellaert, text by Nik Cohn
from the book Rock Dreams,1974

Outside the pool hall, standing in the sun, I was minding my business and combing my hair, when along comes a carhop and called me dirty names.

First the length of my hair, then the cut of my clothes, and then the way that I curled my lip - he stared into my eyes, and spat on my blue suede shoes.

Right there on the pavement, with one foot in the gutter, I cut him all to pieces.

Monday, August 14, 2017

The Origin of Trashman

The Origin of Trashman
by Spain Rodriguez
from Subvert Comics, issue one, Rip Off Press, 1970

Manuel 'Spain' Rodriguez (1940 - 2012) created Trashman for a comic strip for the East Village Other, the seminal New York city underground newspaper, in 1968. In 1970 Spain arranged with the Rip Off Press to publish Trashman adventures in three issues of Subvert Comics.

Since his creation in 1968, Trashman became an underground comix icon; indeed, Trashman, along with S. Clay Wilson's Checkered Demon, was arguably underground comix first real 'superhero'.

The Trashman stories earned their share of criticism from the members of the New Left, mainly on the basis that Spain often utilized the character in stories that were misogynistic, objectified women, treated women as little more than sex objects, featured explicit sex and violence, etc., etc. Whether or not these criticisms are justified, there's no denying that the Trashman comix offered something new and imaginative when they first appeared.

Below, I've posted the origin story of Trashman..............additional episodes will be appearing here at the PorPor Blog, in the coming weeks.


Friday, August 11, 2017

Book Review: Plasmid

Book Review: 'Plasmid' by Jo Gannon

4 / 5 Stars

According to the information posted to the 'Vault of Evil' website, 'Plasmid' started life as an effort by Stanley Long, a UK exploitation film director, to cash in on the popularity of the movie Alien. When no studio would bite, the screenplay by Jo Gannon was converted into a paperback novel by Robert Knight (the pen name of UK sf author Christopher Evans).

Thus we have 'Plasmid' (191 pp), released in 1980 from UK publisher Star Books. The great cover illustration is, sadly, uncredited.

In the small British coastal town of Oakhaven, the Fairfield Institute of Genetic Research, led by the brilliant (but megalomaniacal) Professor Fraser, is doing secret experiments for the UK Ministry of Defence. Experiments that involve mutating strands of DNA, meshing this DNA into plasmids, and then injecting the plasmids into volunteers drawn from the local prison population.

Fraser hopes that his work will lead to the bio-adaptation of man to undersea, or outer space, environments. But with the Ministry of Defence wanting results, and soon, Fraser's experiments have become more and more speculative..........and more and more ill-advised.

When Paula Scott, the young and rising reporter for Oakhaven's 'Metropole Radio 199 News' learns of a disturbing happening at the Fairfield Institute, she senses a potential blockbuster story in the making. But Paula finds her inquiries into the incident stonewalled by the Fraser and the UK government.

As Paula and the town of Oakhaven are about to find out, the incident at the Institute can't be covered up forever......because a mutant life form has taken up residence in the town's extensive sewer network. And its designs on Oakhaven's population are the ingredients of nightmares...........

'Plasmid' is one of the more entertaining sci-fi / horror novels to emerge from the early 80s. Author Knight keeps the plot rolling along with frequent episodes of splatterpunk-level mayhem, as well as some sarcastic humor (for example, glam-rock star Big Willy's latest hit single is titled 'Pull It'......!).

The setting of a resort town in the off-season, with its deserted streets, cold winds carrying drizzle, and dank, dark alleys, gives 'Plasmid' an effective atmosphere. Throw in a last sentence that's among the more effective I'd yet read in a horror novel, and 'Plasmid' is a book well worth picking up.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Underground Comix August 2017

Underground Comix
August, 2017

Earlier this week I was fortunate to find a quiet little out-of-the-way used book and record store that was selling these for $3.00 each (the Freak Bros. comic was $4.00).

They include: 

Inner City Romance Comix No. 2 (1972) 
The Collected Adventures of the Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers (1971)
Subvert Comics No. 2 (1972)
Girl Fight Comics (1972) 
Skull Comics No. 3 (1971)
Young Lust No. 1 (1971)
Young Lust No. 5 (1977)
Skull Comics No. 6 (1972)
Binky Brown Meets the Holy Virgin Mary (1972)

Needless to say, there are some real gems here. In the coming weeks I will be posting selected scans from the contents of some of these books here at the PorPor Blog...........

Below is a 300 dpi scan of the wraparound cover for Inner City Romance Comix No. 2, by Guy Colwell. Despite the comparatively crude printing processes used for comix in the early 70s, it's pretty impressive to see what could be done by the underground artists with the limited technologies at their disposal.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Book Review: SuperManChu

Book Review: 'SuperManChu' by Sean Mei Sullivan

3 / 5 Stars

'SuperManChu' (139 pp) was published in April, 1974 by Ballantine Books.

[The novelization is based on the super low-budget 1973 Kung Fu film The Stormy Sun.] 

It's a measure of how popular the whole Kung Fu experience had become by the start of 1974, that a paperback novelization of the film would be issued to capitalize on the craze sweeping the popular culture in the US. 

(Later that year, for example, the song Kung Fu Fighting by Carl Douglas would top the charts in the US, and one of Marvel's best-selling comic books was The Hands of Shang-Chi: Master of Kung Fu. )

The plot of 'SuperManChu' is a standard revenge tale: Han Ching is a modest young man who works at a country inn owned by his parents. One day, while Ching is out getting water from a distant spring, a group of fast-living gangsters, led by the evil Lee Ta-yeh, decide to stop at the inn. After downing some wine, the thugs seek the favors of Yu-lan, Han Ching's sister; when she refuses their advances, mayhem ensues....... and Ching's parents and sister are brutally murdered.

Returning to the hotel from his excursion to the spring, Ching is horrified to see the carnage inflicted by Lee Ta-yeh and his thugs. Ching vows to travel to the city and revenge the deaths of his loved ones. 

Lee Ta-yeh and his gang at first dismiss Han Ching as a simpleminded country boy, easy fodder for elimination. But what Lee Ta-yeh and his fellow thugs don't know is that Han Ching has studied Kung Fu......and when it's time for battle, Han Ching becomes SuperManChu..........!

Super cool !

Super quick !

Super deadly !

I won't give away any spoilers, save to say that SuperManChu will have to take on an array of villains before he can exact any revenge on Lee Ta-yeh and his thugs.

Author Sullivan does a good job of keeping the narrative rolling along, staying true to the script of the film and avoiding any over-writing. It's about all one can ask from a novelization.

Along with a section of black-and-white stills from the film, interestingly, 'SuperManChu' has an Introduction, written by Sullivan along with Han Bing-soo (1933 - 2007), master of hapkido whose role in popularizing and promoting the discipline in the US made him the Korean analog of Bruce Lee. 

Han Bing-soo was responsible for supervising the fight scenes in the 1971 film Billy Jack.

In the introduction, Han Bing-soo and Sullivan review various Asian martial arts disciplines, stances (depicted using a series of line drawings), and philosophies. 

The verdict ? I can't call 'SuperManChu' a must-have, but if you see it on the used bookstore shelves, and you're a fan of 70s pop culture, then it's worth picking up.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

DC Showcase Presents Jonah Hex Volume 2

Showcase Presents: Jonah Hex Vol. 2

DC Showcase Presents: Jonah Hex Volume 2 (544 pp) was published in 2014. It compiles - in black and white - issues 34 - 38 of Weird Western Tales, and issues 1 - 22 of Jonah Hex, covering the collective interval from May-June 1976 to March, 1979

Most of the 27 issues in this compilation were written by Michael Fleisher, with David Michelinie providing plots for several issues in 1978. The majority of the artist chores are handled by the well-known Spanish artist Vincente Alcazar, with George Moliterni, Bill Draut, Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez, Rich Buckler, and Ernie Chan also filling in.

Some of the stories Fleisher wrote later were 'recycled' by Justin Grey and Jimmy Palmiotti in their revival of the Jonah Hex comic for DC's Vertigo imprint in 2006 - 2011.

Almost every issue in this collection is a standalone episode, which means that the plots often have a contrived note as the writer tries to wrap things up in the last page or so. That said, there are some decent episodes here, many with a gritty edge and acts of violence that are a bit surprising in light of the fact that all of these issues were subjected to the Comics Code.

As far as the artwork goes, Vincente Alcazar is certainly one of the most capable artists ever assigned to the Hex franchise. He had a talent for Western illustration, rendering gunfighters, saloons, landscapes, horses, trains, and Indians all with necessary authenticity and verve.

It's fair to say that Alcazar was to Jonah Hex as Moebius was to Blueberry.

Copies of DC Showcase Presents: Jonah Hex Volume 2 can be purchased from the usual online bookstores for reasonable prices. However, as with a lot of these 'Showcase' volumes, prices will shoot up with the passage of time, so if you are a fan of the Jonah Hex character or of Western comics in general, getting a copy sooner - rather than later - is recommended.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Gideon Faust: Warlock at Large

Gideon Faust: Warlock at Large
by Howard Chaykin (art) and Philip DeWalt (colors)
from Star*Reach Classics No. 5 (Eclipse Comics, July 1984)

This 12 page comic first appeared in Star*Reach No. 5 in July, 1976, as a black and white comic. When Eclipse Comics began reprinting selected Star*Reach strips in its 'Star*Reach Classics' comic, this was among those selected for reprinting in colored format.

Although nowadays the sub-genre of 'steam-fantasy' is well established and represented by many titles on the shelves of bookstores, back in '76, using it as a theme for a comic was 
imaginative for its time.