Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Blackhawk Wingsdays 12: Seven Fearless Men Are We!

On this eve of Thanksgiving, I wanted to share something that I'm thankful for. I'm certainly thankful that I live in a world where I can spend much of my time talking about Gil Kane punches and the world's greatest team of adventuring aviators. But I'm also thankful that, in Military Comics 8, writer Dick French saw fit to create a fight song for the Blackhawks:

I especially like that the music drops down real low for "remember our name." I also like to imagine that there are times when Olaf gets really drunk and won't stop singing this song, to everyone's annoyance.

So, instead of running the story where Chop-Chop forgets to make Thanksgiving dinner for the men and accidentally cooks the team's hawk mascot, Blackie,* I will just let you ponder the fantastic existence of "The Song of the Blackhawks."

*To my knowledge, no such story exists. But then, I haven't read every Blackhawk story ever made, either, and crazier shit happens.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The Gil Kane Punch of the Week 24: I Wouldn't Bet on It!

I'm dipping into the well of Sword of the Atom once again, this time taking a couple of panels from 1985's Sword of the Atom Special 2, again by Jan Strnad and Gil Kane.

It's a bit unclear here whether Atom has delivered two devastating left-hand blows to Torbul here, or if the panels depict one awesome punch with a long follow-through.

As an added bonus, let's see how Torbul buys it in the end:

Ooh, an arrow to the cake hole! That is some nasty stuff right there.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Blackhawk Wingsdays 11: Nip/Tuck

When last we left the Blackhawks, the team had rescued the famous plastic surgeon, Doctor Von Rath, from a Nazi concentration camp so he could fix the horribly damaged face of team member Andre. Little did they know, however, that the good doctor had been driven mad in his incarceration and may no longer be the great surgeon he once was.

So, that brings us to the beginning of the next Blackhawk story, from Military Comics 10 (June 1942), written by Dick French, and drawn by Chuck Cuidera.

I love this splash page. First, I don't think crazy people tend to admit they are crazy, as the good doctor does here. It's almost like he's making excuses to head off a potential malpractice suit. Second, of course, is Chop-Chop, whose broken English involves randomly pronouncing L's that don't correspond to any R's in English, as in "mlask" and "blogy-man," while pronouncing the R's just fine in "Andre," "iron," and "operate." Also, Chop-Chop straight up threatens the doctor with a meat cleaver.

The doctor manages to perform the operation on Andre, but it will be two weeks before the Frenchman's bandages can be removed. Meanwhile, at a Libyan oasis known as "The Devil's Oven," brave British soldiers are holding off an attack by Nazi-loving Arabs (a phrase for which I do not want to see a single Google hit). The Tommies fight to the last man in a pretty awesome sequence:

I'm just saying, I would totally machine-gun a dude for Iggy Pop.

The Arabs, led by Abul El Hadoun, return all the dead British soldiers on horseback to their fort, with a message letting the British know that they are surrounded by Nazi-loving Arabs.

At some point, two weeks have passed, and Andre is ready for the big reveal. The bandages are removed, and we get to see the French lover's new face:

This is also what happens if you get your plastic surgeon off of Craig's List.

Just after the big reveal, a distress call comes in from Libya comes in, announcing that Abul El Hadoud and the Nazi Baron Von Zeifh have the British fort surrounded. Suddenly, a memory is triggered in Doctor Von Rath: Von Zeifh is the Nazi who tortured the doctor and threw him into the concentration camp, though only after the Baron forced the doctor's daughter to marry him. Von Rath's obsession with the Baron led him to make Andre's face in his worst enemy's image.

That being explained, the Blackhawks head to Libya. There, they provide badly needed reinforce for the depleted Tommies. Also, Andre comes up with a brilliant plan: he can infiltrate the Nazi camp and impersonate Von Zeifh. It's amazing to me that Andre is just coming up with this plan now--you'd think someone would have thought of it on the flight over, at the very least.

As Andre sneaks out of the fort, we enter Von Zeifh's tent, where, just to make sure you understand that this Nazi is a bad guy, he's beating up his wife. Andre then cold cocks him:

Andre then announces to the Nazis that they have been betrayed by the Arabs, which causes them to fight amongst themselves while also providing an opening for the good guys.

So, with a "Tally Ho!" and a "Hawkaaa!" the Blackhawks start filling the Nazis full of lead.

Back at the tent, Andre gloats over his success, while Barbara Von Rath Von Zeifh sneaks up to kill the man she thinks is her abusive husband.

Blackhawk quickly stops her from making a terrible mistake, and then he and Andre stuff her in a laundry bag and fly her to Blackhawk Island.

With his daughter safe and Von Zeifh in custody, Doctor Von Rath suddenly recovers his sanity and his surgical skills, giving Andre his face back.

Andre also gets to nail the woman that he stuffed in a sack, which indicates that he got his groove back along with his face. Also, it appears that "Hawkaa!" not only serves as a battle cry, but also as an annoucement that one of the team is getting some.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The Gil Kane Punch of the Week 23: You Are Fighting--The Hulk!

Digging through some comic boxes this week, I happened to find my old, beat-up copy of Marvel Comics' Captain Marvel 21 (Aug. 1970), written by Roy Thomas, with art by Gil Kane and Dan Adkins. My copy has a cover that's barely attached, and half the back cover is missing, but it's still got some punching going on in it, as Mar-Vell takes on The Hulk!

Mar-Vell gives Hulk everything he's got, but, in typical fashion, Hulk takes the white-haired Kree warrior down with one backhanded slap.

Also, if you're a fan of things that are awesome, and you want to hear the sound of my voice, then check out the latest War Rocket Ajax podcast. Chris and Euge do a great interview with Chris Roberson, writer on the Fables spin-off, Cinderella: From Fabletown with Love. I come in at the end to share some more details about the trip to South of the Border that Chris Sims and I took about 10 days ago (though it seems like a lifetime). We also talk about the earth-shattering news regarding Fake AP Stylebook's mention in Entertainment Weekly, and I give some bad pedagogical tips and lay a deft, sick burn on Mr. Sims. So, check it out!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Fake AP Stylebook Makes EW's Must List

I was excited to find out this afternoon that Fake AP Stylebook, a project I've been contributing to on Twitter, was listed at #4 on Entertainment Weekly's "The Must List," which is subtitled, "The Top 10 Things We Love This Week." It appears in the November 20th issue, the one with the dreamy Twilight kids on the cover.

The Other Dr. K and I usually turn right to "The Must List" whenever we get our subscription copy of Entertainment Weekly to see just how current we are with the most recent pop culture trends, so it's tremendously cool to be a part of something that made the list.

And it's been a good week for Fake AP Stylebook, with several popular tweets on the feed.

Working with a bunch of really talented people on the Fake AP Stylebook for the last few weeks has been a daily blast, and I hope that we'll have more awesome announcements in the coming weeks.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Blackhawk Wingsdays 10: Veterans Day Special

In honor of Veterans Day, though this post is coming in pretty late, I wanted to go back to a wartime Blackhawk story to see just how the Black Knights handled themselves against the dirty Ratzis. So, we're going back to Military Comics 9 (Apr. 1942), where the Blackhawks find a mysterious ally in "The Man in the Iron Mask" (written by Dick French, drawn by Chuck Cuidera).

As you can see just from the cover, Blackhawk is tied up and shirtless in this story. In fact, if you took the Blackhawk Archives, from which I read this story, and opened it to any random page, the odds are very likely that you will find Blackhawk tied up and shirtless. It was a common condition for him in the Golden Age.

Also, as you can see from this cover, Chop-Chop is about to use his meat cleaver to whack off the nose of a Nazi.

The story opens with the Blackhawks meeting to pay tribute to Andre, who, according to the captions, has recently given his life by hurling "his body down a mountainside, causing a landslide which crushed an entire Nazi division, saving the lives of the Blackhawks..." Now, I may just be a very poor reader, but the previous Blackhawk stories in this collection don't actually show Andre's sacrifice, despite the fact that the caption states, "Most of you will remember..." and several previous stories do feature avalanches. So, unless Andre's heroic sacrifice appeared elsewhere, this story is already a bit confusing.

The team is about to leave their little memorial service when they realize the rain has picked up to the point that they cannot fly safely, so they decide to take shelter in a nearby castle. Blackhawk and Olaf go off to scout the place out while the rest of the team cools their heels waiting.

On their search, Blackhawk and Olaf are met by the mysterious Man in the Iron Mask, who appears from a secret passage to warn them that they are not alone in the castle.

The warning, however, comes too late, and the two heroes are captured by the Nazis after putting up a good fight. That is, however, a kick ass helmet.

Blackhawk and Olaf are then taken to the commanding officer, General Von Ezel, and, in typical fashion, Blackhawk procedes to mouth off to the Ratzi bastard, revealing that he was warned by the Man in the Iron Mask. To prove what a badass he is, the general shoots one of his own men who failed to kill this mysterious threat.
Seeing an in, Blackhawk starts teasing the general in a pretty cool panel layout by Cuidera, and then the general declares that Blackhawk will now get a whipping, which, again, happens in almost every story in this book.

Meanwhile, the other Blackhawks are waiting around for their leader and teammate to return from their recon, when they are dropped into a pit by a rather elaborate Nazi trap.

And, while that's going on, Blackhawk takes his whipping like a man.

Blackhawk seems pretty immune to torture, since he must really be used to it by now, and so the general decides to go ahead and execute him. The firing squad, however, is interrupted when "Iron Face," as he is now known, cuts down a chandelier and knocks out the Nazis. Then, in a pretty cool panel sequence, Blackhawk and Olaf free their teammates from a pit of deadly water snakes that is slowly filling with water.

I love how Chuck's just chilling on Hendrickson's stomach here.

With the team reunited, the Blackhawks and Iron Face part company, but not before Iron Face says some French shit that let's everyone know who he is.

The Blackhawks, however, are a bit slow on the uptake, and they don't realize right away that Iron Face is really their lost comrade, Andre. So, when they go back for him, he has already been captured by the Nazis, who have devised a special torture for him.

I know they're Nazis and all, but this is a particularly douchy kind of torture, holding a dude down and banging his iron face helmet with a hammer. This gets shirtless Blackhawk to start punching.

Also, Chop-Chop gets to start chopping up Nazis, and we really can't get enough of that.

Andre gets himself together enough to charge General Von Ezel, who then falls into his own snake pit. Next, Andre reveals the reason why he wears the mask: he was horribly disfigured in the avalanche.

Cuidera does another great job here, only revealing a tiny portion of Andre's face, leaving the rest to our imagination.

With only one and a half pages left in the story, Blackhawk decides on a daring plan: to rescue Dr. Fritz Von Rath, the world's greatest plastic surgeon, from a Nazi concentration camp.

However, in a completely fucked up turn, the doctor is in no shape to help Andre.

The story ends here, but it's continued in the next issue, and I have to say, things get even more fucked up when Blackhawk goes ahead and lets the batshit crazy doctor operate on Andre. But for that, you'll have to wait until next week, readers.

I do have to say, though, that these Golden Age Blackhawk stories are a blast. They are high adventure stories, and there's a clear sense of continuity from story to story. Also, Chuck Cuidera's art, out of the Will Eisner Shop, is pretty inventive, with some unique panel layouts, as you can see from some of the scans here. The influence of Eisner is obvious. Cuidera worked on the series from the first story in 1940 all the way to 1968, switching to inker over Dick Dillin's pencils when the series switched from Quality to DC, and it's one of those iron horse accomplishments that doesn't get much notice in the annals of comics history. There is also some fantastic art by the great Reed Crandall in the Blackhawk Archives, and I'll be covering some of those stories later as well.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Gil Kane Punch of the Week 22

Here's another punch from the 1983 Sword of the Atom series by Jan Strnad and Gil Kane, this time from issue 2. Due to Kane's wacky page layout, I had to scan the entire page, but it's worth it to see all this dynamic Gil Kane art.

However, this page does come at the end of the issue, so we're left with a cliffhanger as the Atom is about to get stabbed with an arrow.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

The Heights and Depths of Dr. K

Want to know how I went from this:

to this?

You'll have to find out about it here, but be warned, it isn't pretty.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Remember that Time Grant Morrison Wrote Swing with Scooter?

From "Look Out! It's the Witches Cook-Out!" starring Malibu and Sylvester, from Swing with Scooter 36 (Oct.-Nov. 1972)

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Blackhawk Wingsdays 9: Dr. K Reviews The Brave and the Bold 28

I mentioned a few weeks ago that DC had announced several new projects that involve the Blackhawks, and last month, The Brave and the Bold 28 came out, which teams the Blackhawks with the Flash (Barry Allen version) in a story written by J. Michael Straczynski and drawn by Jesus Saiz. (I should note since this is a new comic that spoilers will be occuring.) As much as I was looking forward to this issue, it was a bit of a letdown, only partially because it broke one of my cardinal rules about Blackhawk stories:

Despite what the cover shows, the Blackhawks never once fly their planes in this story.

Now, that's not a huge problem, as there are dozens, if not hundreds, of Blackhawk stories where they don't go near a plane, and I have already shown a few of those in this series. But the paucity of planes in this story leads to what is probably the biggest problem I have with this issue: there is no compelling reason for the Blackhawks to be here. They are so little used, and most of the members aren't even named in the story, that JMS could easily, and more effectively, inserted Easy Company or the Losers instead, especially considering the story's setting.

The story opens with the Flash helping some scientist test a "multi-spectrum laser" in the fields of Ardennes, Belgium. The Flash is supposed to run alongside the laser beam and measure certain fluctuations, but the experiment goes horribly wrong, and Flash is sent back in time to World War II--specifically, the Battle of the Bulge. To make matters worse, the Flash has broken his leg in the journey and can't run forward to his own time.

While hopping around and escaping the Nazis, Flash ends up captured by the Blackhawks, who think he's a Nazi spy trying to impersonate the real, Golden Age Flash.

Flash tries to explain his story to them, but they don't buy it. Blackhawk, however, gives Flash one chance to prove his story's true. The team has recently smuggled some German scientists to New Mexico for work on a top-secret weapons project. Though this project is classified now, Blackhawk assumes it will be in the future's historical record, so he asks Flash to provide the name. Flash gives the correct answer--The Manhattan Project--so the Blackhawks don't kill him.

You know what I'd like to read? A story where the Blackhawks smuggle German scientists to New Mexico in order for them to develop the Manhattan Project. Unfortunately, that's not this story. In fact, there are a lot of moments like this, where JMS has characters tell about awesome events, instead of showing them. Like during a flashback, when the story stops just as the Blackhawks are getting ambushed by Germans, and Blackhawk then goes on to say that they escaped the ambush. Really? Would have liked to have seen that. And the whole Battle of Bastogne? Reduced to a one-page montage where Flash explains how the Blackhawks helped drive the Germans out of the town. That also would have been nice to see.

Anyway, the Blackhawks just happen to be in the Ardennes because they were supposed to be taking some R & R there, when the Battle of the Bulge suddenly broke out. So, we're meant to believe that, during a particularly terrible winter, the Blackhawks chose to take their vacation in this very section of Belgium.

When Flash is first captured by the Blackhawks, he's not really introduced to the team, and neither are we. Some characters are named, but few are actually identified.
Here, for example, I assume we see Olaf in the middle. But on the right side of the panel, we have a character that looks kind of like Chop-Chop, but talks about barbecue and Texas like Chuck. However, this character is never named, so I can only assume it's Chuck, now with dark hair instead of red. In fact, as far as I can tell, only 6 Blackhawks appear in this comic, with Chop-Chop being the absent one. That certainly gets JMS out of a jam by leaving out the most racially problematic character, but I do feel kind of bad that Chop-Chop wasn't allowed to go with on this team vacation.

While holed-up in a bombed-out barn, the Blackhawks and Flash are ambushed once again by Nazis. Chuck gives Flash a gun, but the Scarlet Speedster is not comfortable with the weapon, so he decides instead to chuck a bunch of bricks at the Germans. This knocks them out, but it also pisses off Blackhawk, leading to the most interesting part of the story:

I really like this debate that Blackhawk and Flash have about using lethal force. It highlights the fact that Flash, in his normal adventures, has the luxury to make certain choices that soldiers in wartime don't have. Flash's actions simply stopped the ambush, but they really did nothing to further the goals of the war, which was to kill as many German soldiers as possible. This moment really got my hopes up that this story would turn around.

However, that was not the case. Flash ends up donning an American military uniform and spends the next few weeks fighting alongside the Blackhawks at Bastogne. This exciting, potentially action-packed part of the story is, as mentioned earlier, limited to a one-page montage. Once his leg heals, Flash gets ready to return to his own time. Before he goes, though, he's asked some questions by Blackhawk:

Of course, anyone who has ever read a time-travel story will know what Flash's answer has to be, right? I mean, he couldn't possibly give Blackhawk information about the outcome of events that haven't happened yet, and by doing so, potentially change history, right?

Oh man, WTF JMS?

Flash goes on to reveal that war, in fact, keeps on happening well into the future, which really seems to boost Blackhawk's morale. Flash also explains that the planet of the apes is really Earth, that Kristin shot J.R., that Darth Vader is really Luke Skywalker's father, and that Dumbledore dies. Then Flash runs back to the present, where he has only been gone for a few seconds.

This issue was disappointing, to say the least, and I have to wonder, for how many readers is this their first Blackhawk story? While I had read a lot of Blackhawk comics when I was a kid, the first one that really clicked for me, where I thought the Blackhawks were really cool, was The Brave and the Bold 167, where the Golden Age Batman teams up with the Black Knights during WWII. I'll be covering that issue later, but that's the comic that made me want to read more Blackhawk comics, and so it would have been nice if The Brave and the Bold 28 could have that same potential.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

The Gil Kane Punch of the Week 21: Sword of the Atom!

To launch us back into the regular, post-Halloween Countdown rotation on this blog, here's a Gil Kane punchstravaganza from Sword of the Atom 1 (Sept. 1983), script by Jan Strnad. I have a fondness for this series because it takes one of Gil Kane's signature characters and puts him in a sword-and-sorcery mileau perfectly suited to Kane's style. My one complaint about the series, though, is that it's not wall-to-wall punching. In fact, this is one of the rare pages in the series where some solid Gil Kane punching occurs.
Despite the fact that Atom can take out three dudes with one two-fisted blow (without the benefit of his size and weight controls), he's quickly outnumbered by the yellow guys, who then throw him in a cell with some giant rats.

In other news, I've been outed this week as a contributor or "Bureau Chief" for this, along with a bunch of very funny people that I'm proud to know. This is one of the coolest experiences that I've ever been involved in, and it just seems to get cooler on a daily basis.