Thursday, November 18, 2010

It's Mushroom Time Again, Fellow Babies!

©Andy Warhol

As explained before -- in previous posts which I won't bother linking to -- the illustration above is in accordance with an internet tradition begun by Mark Evanier, author of two highly-recommended websites, POVonline and NewsFromME.

But anyway, the point of it all is just to say... My time is very limited lately, but I'm not dead.



Thanks for your time.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

"Iron Man, Iron Man, Just a Guy in a Big Tin Can."

(Uhhh... Before I begin my Iron Man post: In comic-related news, the word is out on some of the cast of the new Spider-Man movie. Martin Sheen will play Uncle Ben, and Sally Field will play Aunt May. In the original Spider-Man titles, Aunt May and Uncle Ben were, like, old people. Really old people. And since I'm old enough to remember Martin Sheen as a struggling young actor, and Sally Field as the teenaged "Gidget" in the TV series of the same name... Lord, do I feel old now!)

Last time, I told how I "discovered" the Marvel Comics Group as a child in the early to mid-1960s. This time, I'm focusing on one of my favorite characters from their cast of characters, the "invincible" Iron Man!

I could go on and on a great length about Iron Man -- come on, fellow babies, you know I could -- but I'm going to try my best to keep this post filled with more Iron Man cover-scans than my own ramblings. You're welcome.

Iron Man first appeared in issue #39 of a Marvel comic called Tales of Suspense, a title which up until then had been devoted to science fiction and supernatural stories. Tony Stark (based on billionaire Howard Hughes) became Iron Man in Vietnam, after his heart had been severely damaged by an explosive device. Briefly, the chest plate of what was to become his Iron Man suit was what kept him alive.

In Iron Man's second appearance, the story began with Stark lamenting to one of his many girlfriends that people seemed afraid of this new superhero, Iron Man. She suggested it was due to the depressing grey color of his armor, and further opined that if he were to change it to gold, like a "knight in shining armor," people would react more favorably. Tony replied to the effect of, "You know, I wouldn't be surprised if Iron Man himself came up with the same idea." (Wink, wink.)

The covers I'm showcasing here, by the way, are -- so far -- from comics which I did not buy when they first came out. As explained last time, I was still immersed in the Batman and Superman titles published by DC Comics.

As a child (and even as an adult), I always enjoyed storylines which pitted "ol' shell-head" against other armored villains... such as the Communist super-villain, the Crimson Dynamo!

One of Iron Man's little quirks was to constantly improve his armor. Eventually, he ended up with as many variations on his original suit as Imelda Marcos had shoes!

Tales of Suspense #49 featured one of the earliest Marvel superheroes crossovers... a guest appearance by the Angel, a member of the X-Men!

Tales of Suspense #53 was actually the very first Iron Man story I read, the one that got me hooked on the series.

One night in 1964, my mom was going out to the pharmacy, and she asked me if I wanted anything. I asked her casually to get me some comic books, and she got me every single Marvel comic issued that month, except for the "girl" titles like Millie the Model! In that very same pile was The Avengers #5, which not only had Iron Man in the team, but also introduced me to a hero I grew to love even more, Captain America!


Having said that, imagine my surprise when Captain America guest-starred in Tales of Suspense #58. In that story, Iron Man fought his Avengers teammate thanks to some subterfuge by Spider-Man's old foe, the Chameleon!

Imagine my further surprise -- and excitement -- when Captain America won the back-up feature in Tales of Suspense in the very next issue. 

Another recurring plotline I liked -- similar to the ones where Iron Man fought other armored villains -- were the occasional stories where Iron Man got to fight other variations of his own armored self. Sometimes the villain wore the older suits, and other times Stark himself had to don an old costume when his modern version was stolen by a villain!

Another Iron Man foe in his own suit of armor, the Titanium Man.

The conclusion of the Titanium Man encounter left Iron Man's chauffeur and bodyguard "Happy" Hogan on the brink of death... and this was back in the days when almost nobody died in comics!

Usually, Iron Man fought someone who had no suit of armor, of course, and in this case, his antagonist -- the Marvel anti-hero, Sub-Mariner -- wore no suit at all... except a swimsuit!

In 1968, Marvel ended their Tales of Suspense title and gave both Captain America and Iron Man their own books. By that point, I was growing frustrated with Marvel's habit of continuing storylines... and by that, I'm not talking about sub-plots, I mean storylines that went on and on and on from issue to issue. It was hard to keep up in those days of spotty newsstand distribution (Comic shops as we know them today didn't even exist then, believe it or not!). And who had the money to subscribe to titles by mail?

At that point, I stopped reading several Marvel Comics titles, and Iron Man was one of them. Only occasionally would I read an issue, and even then it was usually a so-called "back issue." I didn't buy Iron Man as it came out for a long, long time.

Another issue where the "new" Iron Man fights the "old." I had to read that one, although I read it some time after it was first published.

The same goes for this issue, where Iron Man fights streamlined, updated versions of both the Crimson Dynamo and the Titanium Man.

This was the critically-acclaimed denouement of a storyline where Tony Stark faced alcoholism. Quite a radical departure from Iron Man's early "Commie-of-the-month" battles, eh?

Yet another armored enemy: The one and only Doctor Doom!

And last but not least, here's one more fight between the old and the new!

Now, in the words of Austin Powers... "I'm spent."

Thanks for your time. 

P.S. ~~ Oh, and about today's title? Well, those of you who remember the theme song from the Spider-Man cartoon of the late 1960s may be interested to know that I "stole" that theme for a goofy Iron Man theme with my own lyrics. Maybe someday I'll share that with you, but... probably not.

Friday, November 5, 2010

My "Golden Age"

Warning: If you don't give a rat's patoot about comic books, you may want to skip today's little semi-autobiographical post, and its follow-up. I'll forgive you.

Among comic book aficionados, the term "the Golden Age of Comic Books" refers to -- dates vary according to the collector's personal preferences -- the period from 1938 (the debut of Superman) to 1954 (the year before the start of the so-called "Second Heroic Age").

On the other hand, there's an oft-quoted line saying that "the Golden Age of comics is eight," or "twelve," or whenever the comic book fan in question first started "overloading" on that particular hobby.

Keeping that second thought in mind, I'd have to say that my personal "Golden Age of Comic Books" was during the so-called Silver Age (roughly 1955-1968, to comic book collectors). My earliest attempts at reading were when I devoured comics from the DC Comics line, mostly Batman and Detective Comics (which featured Batman), and occasionally Superman and all of his off-shoot titles.

In 1963, however, I discovered the relatively-new Marvel Comics characters, as described in a long-ago Foxyblog post. I'll save you some time, and instead of linking to it and expecting you to read the whole damned thing, I'll reprint the following relevant passage, with a few edits.

*  *  *  *  *

I was too young to know one comic publisher from another. I'd only read one comic later identified as a Marvel Comic... Fantastic Four Annual #1. And I'd read about a new character named Spider-Man in that same issue, but didn't get to see a copy of Spidey's own title until #10.

It's interesting -- to me, anyway -- but I might have started reading Marvel Comics somewhat later if it hadn't been for DC!

In 1963, DC published an issue of Batman which featured a villain called Ant Man. Ant Man was a one-shot character. I wasn't aware of Marvel's Ant-Man, Henry Pym, in their Tales to Astonish title. A few months later, however, Tales to Astonish #49 cover-featured a story in which "Ant-Man Becomes GIANT MAN!"

Of course I bought it.

Then, when I got it home and started reading it, I found that there was no mention of Batman, and that this "Ant-Man" was not a dark-haired villain, but was, instead, a blonde-haired hero!

And the art was like nothing I'd ever seen before, either.

But I loved it! And if I recall correctly, house ads inside the book mentioned that Spider-Man guy I'd only heard about up until now (except for having read his brief appearance in Fantastic Four Annual #1). That meant that these "Marvel" guys did those Fantastic Four comics, too!

So this was an entirely different publishing company. Cool.

It wasn't until about four months later that I finally got hold of an issue of Amazing Spider-Man (#10), and started buying Marvel Comics in earnest. "End of story. Beginning of story."

"Beginning" of story? Well, yeah... This actually started out to be an image-heavy post about Marvel's Iron Man character, but it characteristically got out of hand. (Okay, okay, I characteristically got out of hand! Whatever!)

Next time around, no off-topic digressions, fellow babies. The whole durned article will feature the so-called "Golden Avenger," Tony Stark! And here's a friendly warning: The post won't discuss the Iron Man movie at all. It'll focus on the Iron Man comic books which I read as a child... and after. (And it's already done and scheduled to post on Sunday evening!)

Thanks for your time.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

How's YOUR Mood Lately?

So, as it says above in the title, how's your mood lately?

Mine kinda sucks.


Several reasons, actually, but none which I really want to talk about.

(Then, why the hell are you posting about it? Or... not posting about it, exactly? Or... or... or some damned thing?)

Just to f**k with your heads, I suppose. I'm still pretty good at that.

And I can prove it. The following images are pretty much guaranteed to confuse the hell out of you in terms of how they connect to today's post. Cuz you ain't me. 

And I flat-out guarantee that nobody
 is gonna get this one! Just sayin'.

Now, before I vanish for another several days -- post-wise, that is -- here's a little test:

If you are in a sucky mood, see if this song cheers you up with its joyous, unabashed rockishnessiosity. (It helps if you crank the volume enough to annoy pets, neighbors, and Glenn Beck.) It even cheered me up. For three minutes, anyway...

If it didn't cheer you up, not even a little bit, you probably need therapy. Or drugs. Or both.

And speaking of drugs, I was totally "straight" when I wrote this post. And completely sober. Maybe a little sleep-deprived, but otherwise lucid.

(Wow, he's really lost it this time!)

Maybe. Whatever.

Thanks for your time.
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