Bits and bobs from the bargain bin

So, a comic shop not too far from my part of town was advertising its going-out-of-business sale on Craig's List. I had a little bit of time to kill yesterday, their last day open ever, so I stopped by to see what I could snag. I was a bit disappointed; it was really a speculator shop, and had as much sports card stuff as it did not-much-later than nineties, variant-cover, new-number-one, mostly boring comics. I dug through some of the bins anyway, and came up with nine books that I took away for the princely sum of three bucks or so.

The prize of the pile was a still-in-the-plastic Captain Glory #1, complete with its SuperDeluxe KirbyChrome Trading Card!

Of course, I had to rip it open to take that picture of the card - Oh noes! I must have devalued it from the $.25 NM-VG sticker price!


Anyway, there was some goodness inside, too. This Kirby-created saga, as senses-shattering as it was, was not so complex that it couldn't be described in a fairly simple flow chart on the inside front cover:

I'd like to see them do that with IC or Civil War, eh?

But the best bit of all was the surprise (to me, anyway) that all the interior art was done by Steve Ditko! Now this is clearly some of Ditko's later work, and shows his growing disenchantment with the field -- many of the backgrounds are minimal or nonexistent, and some pages have a rushed feel -- but there was no way that his enormous talent could be completely disengaged:

Among the rest of the stack was a four-issue miniseries by John Byrne, The World of Metropolis:

This mini, a companion to Byrne's Man of Steel reboot, is significant only in the sheer number of back-up characters that I am sure have since been completely retconned out of existence: Perry White's criminal friend, Ling; grad student Clark Kent's waitress girlfriend, Ruby; and Jimmy Olsen's suicidal girlfriend, Chrissie, just to name a few.

Other than that, the whole thing seems lame and ill-conceived. Byrne's writing is pedestrian; the art looks like Win Mortimer, Dick Giordano, and Sal Trapani collaborated on it while riding the LIRR into the city each morning from Suffolk County; and even the episode sequence makes no intuitive sense: Perry White - Lois Lane - Clark Kent - Jimmy Olsen.

One sequence is noteworthy: here's Lex Luthor dismissing a pre-Planet Lois, whom he had discovered spying in his headquarters:

So, what's with Byrne and the villains-watching-videos-of-the-heroine-naked-for-jollies bit? Didn't he use that in the She-Hulk GN, too? And to make it even creepier, the story makes very clear that Lois is fifteen years old at the time of this strip-search! Ewww.

My haul also included issue #2 of DC's 1988 relaunch of Flash Gordon; it was dated and mediocre, except for this bit:

Forty-one?! Is there a non-rejuvenated mainstream hero who's that old in continuity? Bravo, Dan Jurgens!

I also got the first part of the Busiek-Perez JLAvengers: the art was pretty, it was cool to see the Marvel and DC guys together with high production values, and I liked the artifacts of power shtick, but there was nothing here to convince me to buy the $75 version. Maybe if a TPB comes out. Or I can find the other parts for thirty cents each, too.

The rest of the stuff isn't worth mentioning, but I guess I got my money's worth.

So, R.I.P., Bigfoot's Comics and Cards; bon chance, Mr. Bigfoot (he seemed a nice guy).

Journal of Heritage Tourism - new issue

Fulltext articles, past and present plus book reviews are available at the Multilingual Matters website. Latest issue includes:

* Framing Urban Heritage and the International Tourist
* Volunteer-Employed Photography in Planning and Managing Heritage Tourism
* Wartime Heritage as a Visitor Attraction
* Balancing Values...3 UK Cultural World Heritage Sites

ps. Multilingual Matters also contains other journals that may be of interest including Current Issues in Tourism, Journal of Ecotourism and Journal of Sustainable Tourism, with articles available in fulltext.

Double feature: Who Watches the Crusaders -and- The Scarlet Avenger

Since Mikester hosted a long discussion about it on Progressive Ruin, it seems that everybody knows, or should know, or won't admit to not knowing, that Alan Moore's seminal / ground-breaking / classic / post-modern /critically-acclaimed (pick any three) graphic novel, Watchmen:

was originally intended to feature DC's then-newest property, the recently-acquired Charlton heroes:

This plan was eventually vetoed by TPTB at DC, and Moore invented a whole new slew of mystery men for the story (some say to the benefit of the narrative).

What many perhaps do not know is that Moore originally played with another set of heroes in developing the notion that eventually became Watchmen: the MLJ/Archie characters:

As the comments to Mike's post will attest, I did not know this factoid, or I perhaps had known it but forgot: it was also covered in the Comics Urban Legends feature of Comics Should be Good over a year ago.

At any rate, once the idea was put into my head, I couldn't get it out. I wish I could draw so I could do a pastiche of some of Dave Gibbons's panels, substituting the Archie heroes in place of Moore's characters. The difference in intent, tone, and context between the two sets of characters couldn't be greater; their juxtaposition is crying out to be realized somehow.

In lieu of creating anything artistic, all I can do is speculate on the correspondences.

I know that injecting yourself with super-helium is not really the equivalent of becoming one with the quantum universe, but I think the Comet has to take Dr. Manhattan's role, for want of any other candidate.

I like The Fly for Nite Owl, even though he lacks the legacy aspect; unfortunately, Fly Girl is the only female character with enough stature to stand in for Silk Spectre. Perhaps we could add some estrangement to the mix to make that work.

Jaguar has the traveling-to-foreign-lands part of Ozymandias's background; we could dress up the rest.

For the doomed Comedian, perhaps The Shield or a grim 'n' gritty Captain Flag.

Finally, I think the only character that could even begin to stand the weight of filling in for Rorschach would be The Hangman (not pictured in the pin-up).

This is only a first draft; do y'all have any more insightful interpretations? I turn this over to the power of the internets.


Here's the text of an email I received today, from a fellow who obviously checked out the interblogwebosphere for likeminded folks:

Hi, there.

I see that you're a big 'Spy Smasher' fan and thought you might be interested in checking out my short student film, 'The Scarlet Avenger', on Google Video. It's a rip-roaring adventure, based on all the 1940s matinee serials that inspired movies like 'Raiders of the Lost Ark', 'The Rocketeer', 'The Shadow', 'The Phantom' and 'Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow'. You can catch it here:

Movie link

Note: You can watch it in real time, but it looks way better when you download it (after downloading the free Google Video player). Doesn't take long at all.

It's my dream to turn the short into a feature-length motion picture. I will be chronicling this great adventure on my blog:

Blog link

On the site you'll find links to a high quality podcast version of the short, rare behind-the-scenes footage, outtakes, fan reviews and artwork, and much more. Hope you enjoy it and look forward to hearing from you.


Scott C. Clements
Toronto, Canada
Well, I took a look at the film, and while I don't know if there's a feature film in there, it was competently made and professional enough for me to share it. I'm not sure about the hero's costume, but the movie seems to hit all the right notes. Who knows? This guy could be the next Spielberg, and we can say we were there when it all started.

** Destination World News - E-newsletter **

This free e-newsletter has been designed for destination professionals - people working for or with tourism destination organisations. Destination World News is a useful resource, providing information on best practice, expert knowledge on issues of common concern, the latest research reports and special events. Recent articles have discussed health tourism, food tourism, online travel stats and tourism in Africa; I really like the wealth of information hidden behind the links in each newsletter, full online reports and articles as well as further resources and websites; archive of previous issues available.

Innovating E-Learning Online Conference 07

This Jisc conference is taking place 11-14 June and it'll all be happening online - 'way out'! More importantly, Karen Pinney and Jane Edwards will be presenting a paper, 'Using ePortfolios to support the personal and academic development of HE students'. Further details on booking/abstracts excuse me a minute while I go to track down Karen and Jane - I just have to know how papers are presented in cyberspace...

TravelAgent - online journal

On the subject of online resources, here's another one; TravelAgent includes industry events, careers, daily news alert, archives and careers sections - fab!

e-Review of Tourism Research - New Issue

e-Review of Tourism Research (eRTR) is a web-based, bimonthly international research network for tourism professionals. It provides research reports and scheduled e-mails notifying subscribers of research highlights, through alliances between TTRA, CTC and Department of Recreation, Park, and Tourism Sciences at Texas A&M University.
Current full-text articles are entitled:

* A Memorial as Virtual Traumascape: Darkest Tourism in 3D and Cyber-Space to the Gas Chambers of Auschwitz
* The Accessibility Requiring Market in Europe: Socially and Economically
* Trends in Tourism in North Cyprus: A historical Perspective

More Glam than Amazon

Another dip into the Last Shortbox brings forth an unabashedly pseudo-intellectual (it says so on page one) comic which might have been an inspiration of sorts for the previously discussed Metacops.

Portia Prinz of the Glamazons #1
Eclipse Comics: December 1986
By Richard Howell

As the cover indicates, this was a revival by Eclipse of a small-press indie from the late seventies; I don't know how much of a "cult classic" it actually was, but I can easily see it following in the footsteps of Kurtzman's Little Annie Fanny, O'Donahue & Springer's Phoebe Zeitgeist, and strips of that ilk.

The Glamazons are immortal(-ish) men and women who hang out on an island they inherited from the "real" Amazons.
Like some idyllic planet in the original Star Trek, they seem to do a lot of lolling about; each resident is distinct and individual to the point of idiosyncrasy (a gossamer-gowned nymph, cowgirl, and cigar-chomping lady soldier mix and mingle) and making bad puns seems to be the common pastime.

Portia is the daughter of the current queen and an Atlantean scientist; she is smug, snarky, and the closest thing in the book to a superhero, since she thinks (perhaps rightly) that she is smarter and more competent than everyone else. Here is she with what passes for an uncharacteristic display of modesty:

The story in this first concerns several Glamzons being mystically abducted and dropped, respectively, into Dante's, Sartre's, and Milton's versions of hell. Portia, of course, goes on a rescue mission, travelling by astral projection:

(That kind of breaking-the-fourth-wall schtick happens all the time.)

Portia travels by turns to each literary hell, first visiting The Inferno with Beatrice and then dropping in on the trio of would-be lovers in No Exit:

In each case, Portia rescues the missing Glamazon, gets to show off her knowledge of letters, makes bad puns, and is pretty insufferable the whole time. While not as unlikeable as the new Ant-Man, she's definitely not a warm and fuzzy heroine. Besides actually being competent, her redeeming qualities include her grad school intellectualism, which in this case shows at least as much familiarity with the canon of Western Lit as the Metacops did with history. Her confrontation with Satan in Paradise Lost includes this exchange over the often-attractive-to-freshmen notion that he is the actual hero of the poem:

I'd love it if my students engaged with texts to that degree.

Anyway, Portia rescues the abductees and wraps everything up until the next adventure, the title of which is announced in the story's final pun: Seven Years before the Past.

I guess the title didn't catch my fancy enough to continue collecting it; the internets don't have much information on it but they tell me it went to at least five issues. Looking back on it now, it seems a little to cute for its own good, but still provides an entertaining read.

And quite a read it is: I don't know if it shows so much in the clips, but this comic has a lot of words in it. I mean a lot of words. Between exposition, plot, literary explication, and bad puns, this book probably contains as much text as a whole year's worth of any current mainstream monthly. If nothing else, you sure get your money's worth in reading time alone. As a capper, there's a text page "Secret Origin of the Glamazons" that seems to be printed in about six-point type!

Creator Richard Howell is currently editor of Claypool Comics and is producing a "vampire soap opera" called Deadbeats; he has done a significant amount of work for the major publishers and looks to have built a pretty nice career for himself. I don't know if there are ever going to be Glamazons for the new millennium, but I'd probably check them out if there were. In the meantime, this one stays in the Shortbox.

They can't all be gems, I guess

Part of the intent for the inventory of The Last Shortbox that inspired this blog was to gain some understanding into my relationship with comics. I reckoned that looking at what from my once-extensive collection I had felt was worth keeping would give me some insight. With this title, all I got is "What was I thinking?"

Dino Island, 1 and 2 (of two), Feb-Mar 1993
by Jim Lawson; Mirage Publishing

I think I originally picked this up as part of my interest in non-superhero genre comics that were being published in the nineties with some frequency (things like Topps's Zorro series and Rascals in Paradise also come to mind).

The story begins in what I presume is some alternate 1942; our plucky heroine, Amelia (no last name given) is "attempting a trans-Atlantic speed record" in her P51-D Allison (a Mustang fighter) when she flies into the Bermuda Triangle.

In short order, she lands safely on an island, finds dinosaurs, stampedes a herd of triceratops to save them from some velociraptors, adopts one of the triceratopses as a kind of horse, and finds a community of other lost travellers based around the battleship Sturgis, which is moored on the coast. Along the way, she encounters a heart-of-gold resident (who acts as bartender), the hard-as-nails battleship captain (who runs the community), and the requisite professor-who-explains-stuff (who is, of course, short and bespectacled).

The comic does have some neat Dinotopia-style visuals of tame dinosaurs, like this scene of the community salvaging Amelia's plane:

In the second issue, Amelia and the professor investigate a massive monolith in the desert and an alien is captured near town. Amelia enters the monolith in a Heavy Metal-esque sequence illustrated by this (partially cropped) two-page sequence:

Amelia discovers another alien, who reveals that they are on an artificial planet (explained as a competing technology to terraforming) which is generated and maintained by the monolith as a kind of "model home" for prospective buyers. When Amelia returns to town with this news, she finds the alien has been accidentally killed and a flying saucer is attacking. She downs the saucer with her Mustang (although why she took a fully-armed plane on a speed-record flight is beyond me) but the community is practically destroyed. She checks out the monolith; it is sort of melting and not working anymore, and it is starting to get hot on the island.

The end.

That's it: the story doesn't conclude; it just stops. I had to check the issues themselves to see it was a mini-series and that I hadn't just stopped buying it. Maybe it was set-up for a project that never happened.

I don't know why this is in the Shortbox, actually. Unless it's here to show that the spirit of Bob Kanigher was passed on to some indy projects, there's really not a whole lot to recommend it. The art is pretty cool, with a cartoony funk to it, and some of the dinosaur scenes are engaging, but the story is ragged and desultory while the characters are unoriginal (even the aliens are uninspired).

It was probably just that the heroine is an aviator named Amelia.

No April's Fools

So I was in a different LCS than usual the other day (I am lucky to have at least three comic shops within walking distance and another not too much further) and my eye fell on a graphic novel that I had never seen before:

Jar of Fools: A Picture Story
by Jason Lutes; Drawn & Quarterly, 2003

I picked it up and flipped though the pages; I liked the art and had an impulse to buy it.

Then I glanced at the prose introduction and saw the first sentence: "Okay, so five or six years ago, I impulsively picked up Jason Lutes' Jar of Fools in a local Seattle comic book store, flipped though the pages, liked the art, bought it for a few bucks, and took it home." That synchronicity was enough to persuade me; any shadows of hesitation were dispelled when I saw that the introduction had been written by Sherman Alexie.

I did buy it and take it home (for more than a few bucks, though). I occasionally like to read a book or see a movie about which I know almost nothing; I had gotten lucky with my last "blind" graphic novel, Daisy Kutter, and the serendipity came though again. Jar of Fools is an excellent book that tells a complex story in a compelling manner.

Lutes chronicles a brief period in which several lives intersect: an alcoholic stage magician, his estranged girlfriend, his rapidly-becoming-senile mentor, and a small-time con-man and his daughter; in addition, there are "appearances" by the magician's dead, escape-artist brother. All of the characters have to come to grips with the gap that exists between what they want and what they can get and learn to do the best with what they have.

A story such as this one, concerned with desperation, depression, and struggle, could easily descend into bathos, but Lutes fills his characters with so much humanity and his plot with so much wit, humor, and detail that we are engaged, captivated, and, in the end, just a little bit hopeful.

What impressed me the most was Lutes's command of graphic storytelling. Working in a ligne claire style (or close enough to it to make no nevermind), Lutes masterfully uses all the techniques and elements particular to comics to bring his story to life: the page layouts and panel transitions build the narrative as effectively as the expressions and body language, and Lutes is not afraid to use emanata and graphic balloons. In short, Lutes knows that he's creating a comic, not an illustrated story or a static movie, and that's the understanding that moves a creator into Eisner territory. That he has fashioned what would be a wonderful tale in any medium makes it so much better.


Jar of Fools is simply a great book. I've read it twice now already, and I'm sure there are plenty more reads left in it.