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Posts Tagged ‘Keith Giffen

It’s December, and we all know what that means. STUPID OVERPRICED CHRISTMAS COMICS! And with the random holiday specials comes the totally awkward stories where Santa rolls around with your favorite superheroes. They’re generally throwaway stories that nobody buys and, well, really hold no bearing on continuity. So what’s the point? Well, occasionally, you strike gold. SO MUCH GOLD. Here are my top five Santa Claus comic cameos. And, um, apologies to your childhood.

(5) Bloom County: In 1981, PATCO (Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization) went on strike demanding better wages and a shorter work week, prompting Ronald Reagan to fire and/or imprison over half of them. Apparently, Santa’s elves were inspired. In newspaper comic Bloom County (dated 12/15/81 – 12/24/81), after Santa rejects the demands of PETCO (Professional Elves Toy-Making and Craft Organization) for higher wages, a hot tub in the locker room, and “short broads,” the elves go on strike. Once again, Reagan steps in, fires all of Santa’s helpers, and replaces them with out-of-work air traffic controllers. Yeah, it’s dated political humor, but it’s still pretty fucking funny.

(4) The Special Edition Warrior Winter Wonderland Pin-Up Book: After getting fired from the WWF in mid-1996, the Ultimate Warrior didn’t have much. How the hell was he supposed to make money as a ranting, painted idiot if he wasn’t on TV? Enter his company, Ultimate Creations, and its terrible pseudo-philosophical 4-issue comic series, Warrior, written by the Warrior himself. After it’s cancellation, Ultimate Creations decided to release one last book, The Special Edition Warrior Winter Wonderland Pin-Up Book. Good lord, is this thing bizarre. Essentially, it’s two pages of Warrior-style rambling (“nobody fucks with a Santa savior”) followed by page after page of your least favorite 90’s artists drawing the Ultimate Warrior in Santa garb (including a Joe Quesada/Jimmy Palmiotti cover). This book is most infamous for it’s final pin-up by Jim Callahan of the Ultimate Warrior putting on Santa’s pants while a half-naked Saint Nick lies passed out next to a bottle of whiskey with… Wait. Holy shit, what is that splattered across Santa’s chest?

(3) Sandman #7 (er, sort of): To be fair, this story almost never even was. Originally slated to be Sandman #7, the series got cancelled just after the release of #6. Then, this story was supposed to end up as the second half of Kamandi #61, except that series got cancelled after the release of issue #59. Finally, this story was released in 1978’s legendary black-and-white photocopied Cancelled Comics Cavalcade #2, a full two years after the last Sandman story was published.

Anyways, yeah. The Silver Age Sandman’s best pal, Jed Walker (the Earth-1 counterpart of Kamandi), has been challenged to prove to Titus Gotrox, an old millionaire, that Santa is real. If he succeeds, the man will donate $1,000,000 to charity in Jed’s name. With the help of Sandman, Jed is whisked away to the Dream Stream to meet Santa. Unfortunately, the old man’s nephew, Rodney, doesn’t want to get screwed out of a million busks worth of inheritance and follows. Upon arrival, Sandman discovers that Santa has been kidnapped by the Seal-Men, a race of half-seal/half-human creatures, who are pissed off that Santa gave them gloves for Christmas the previous year, even though their race has flippers. Santa says “sorry” and everything is fixed (that was easy). They get back to Santa’s workshop to discover Rodney pointing a gun at Mrs. Claus. Sandman hits him with some sleep dust (that was also easy) and everybody goes home.

(2) Hellblazer #247: I know that John Constantine isn’t one to shy away from trying a new drug, but this is just fucking weird. In October 2008’s Hellblazer #247, while attempting to prevent a cannibalistic mystic named Mako from obtaining some super-evil artifact called the Hell Mirror, Constantine travels to Bari, Italy, breaks into the Basilica di San Nichola, digs up the skeletal remains of ol’ Saint Nick, and has it ground into bone meal. After using the ground up icon in some weird thaumaturgical incantation ritual, he decides to hang onto it for a bit. And when he gets back to his apartment, what does he decide to do with the Santa dust? Same thing you or I would do, obviously. Roll up a Coca-Cola advertisement, snort Saint Nick like cocaine, and make the obligatory “white Christmas” joke! Classy, Andy Diggle. Classy.

(1) The Lobo Paramilitary Christmas Special: As much as I love Keith Giffen, I can’t stand the Lobo character. Even so, when I discovered he had a Christmas-themed one-shot in 1991, my morbid curiosity got the better of me and I had to check it out. Good god. Lobo is hired by the Easter Bunny to assassinate Kris “Crusher” Kringle after all of the holiday mascots decide that Christmas is overshadowing their respective holidays. Lobo takes the job and books it to the North Pole, only to be attacked by the elves. After they are all massacred by “The Naughtiest One,” he faces Santa (armed with a pair of razor sharp shivs) and his gorilla sidekick, Kong. Lobo ends up decapitating Santa, shooting Rudolph (who is apparently a mutant now), and is about to leave when he discovers Santa’s list. The comic then ends with Lobo dropping atomic bombs down the chimneys of everybody labeled “nice.”

Normally I wouldn’t give a number one spot to something that’s just so, well, 90s. But this gets better. In 2002, some guy named Scott Leberecht, a student working on a project for his American Film Institute director’s studies program, decided to do a $2,400 live-action adaptation of this comic starring Butterfinger from Hudson Hawk and the guy who voices Shikamaru on Naruto. And, fuck, it is horrible. How horrible you ask?

BEHOLD! THE LIVE-ACTION LOBO CHRISTMAS SPECIAL STUDENT FILM!

Much like the old characters from Charlton, Fawcett, Milestone, and MLJ Comics, DC has recently acquired the full rights to the T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents team and is folding them into the DCU in their own title. Before I get into a review of T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents #1, however, I should probably tell you a bit about their extremely convoluted history.

Created by artist Wally Wood, the team originally appeared in November 1965’s T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents #1 published by Tower Comics. For a while the T.H.U.N.D.E.R. (acronym for The Higher United Nations Defense Enforcement Reserves) Agents consisted of NoMan, Dynamo, Lightning, and Menthor, four heroes who were given powers by an invisibility cloak, a strength-enhancing belt, a speedster suit, and a telepathy helmet respectively. Only problem was that the power-granting items also slowly killed their users. Other heroes came and went (like Sea Devils rip-off sister team, U.N.D.E.R.S.E.A. Agents) before the series ended at issue #20 and Tower Comics folded.

For years, the team remained dormant (aside from a British publisher, L. Miller & Son, Ltd., reprinting the original issues in black and white sometime during the mid-70s) until John Carbonaro bought the rights in 1983 and planned on rebooting the series (with the aid of David Singer) on his own JC Comics. Unfortunately, he and Singer had a serious falling out and Carbonaro only got as far as two issues before JC Comics fell through. That same year, Texas Comics released Justice Machine Annual #1, the only issue they ever produced, which featured a team-up story between the T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents and their in-house superhero team, the Justice Machine.

In 1984, Singer and Deluxe Comics claimed that the T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents were now in public domain (bullshit!) and began releasing a series under the name Wally Wood’s T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents with a fantastic line-up of artists including George Pérez, Steve Ditko, Keith Giffen, and Jerry Ordway. Unfortunately for him, Carbonaro still owned the rights and sued the shit out of Singer and Deluxe Comics, ultimately winning the suit and putting them out of business in 1986.

In 1987, Gary Brodsky, son of Marvel legend Sol Brodsky, attempted to release a four-issue black-and-white limited series through his own Solson (Sol’s Son, get it?!) Publications. One issue was released before the company went belly-up (probably because most of their books were either right-wing propaganda or anti-feminist screeds). FUN FACT: Following the demise of Solson Publications, Gary decided to make a series of videos teaching guys how to pick up women with titles like “Alpha Up and Rock Her World” and “How to Be a Prick Women Love.” Seriously. Look at his fucking website.

Rumor has it that in the 1990’s Rob Liefeld claimed the rights to the T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents and wanted Dave Cockrum to release a series on Liefeld’s Extreme Studios before it fell through. If that’s true, it’s a bit strange considering that Carbonaro still owned the rights to the superhero team, going so far as releasing a final story in 1995 in Penthouse Comix’s (yup, that Penthouse) OMNI Comics #3.

Finally, some time during the early 2000’s, Carbonaro and DC Comics struck a deal and a DCU T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents book was in the works. Well, it would have been, except Carbonaro shot down every idea DC presented to him. See, DC really wanted to shake things up for the team while Carbonaro decided that nobody from the original team should die (despite the fact that the whole point of the T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents was that their powers would ultimately kill them). Aside from a few DC Archive hardcovers and a couple of statues, nothing really came of it.

On February 25, 2009, John Carbonaro died. July 2009, DC Comics announced at SDCC that they were moving forward with a T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents book. Yesterday, it came out.

So, how is it?

Written by Nick Spencer (Shuddertown, Existence 2.0), T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents #1 tells the story of the United Nations scrambling to replace the recently deceased Lightning and Dynamo following a trap set by S.P.I.D.E.R. (the villains from the original Tower Comics run). Without explaining too much about the original team, it sets up the premise that the original NoMan and the new replacement members must save Raven (another Tower Comics character) from S.P.I.D.E.R. It’s surprisingly engaging, considering that the team hasn’t had a proper canon story since the 80’s outside of Penthouse (man, how I wish I were joking). As odd as it sounds, the book does a good job establishing the team without giving the its members a proper introduction, instead focusing on the staff behind the T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents (so, I guess whatever “The Higher United Nations” is). Plus, the art by the single-named duo of CAFU (Vixen: Return of the Lion) and BIT (Batman and the Outsiders)  is pretty damned good (if you can overlook the fact that everybody looks like they’re wearing crazy amounts of eyeliner).

Here’s hoping that where the Red Circle books kind of petered out, the T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents can take a seat next to the rest of the DC Comics greats.

Confession time: I’m kind of going into this blind. When Justice League International broke up in 1994 in a Zero Hour tie-in, I was seven and turning my nose up at anything that wasn’t a back issue of West Coast Avengers (don’t judge me!). Before today, my knowledge of JLI was limited to the group shot on the cover of Justice League International #1 and a couple of flashbacks around the time of OMAC Project and Infinite Crisis.

Following his resurrection during Blackest Night #8, Maxwell Lord has kind of gotten the same treatment as Captain Boomerang and Professor Zoom: a collective “oh, fuck naw” and immediate pursuit from the heroes. Basically, this issue is a set-up for the 26-issue bi-weekly run of Generation Lost: Booster Gold, Captain Atom, Fire, and Ice pursue Maxwell Lord while he hops around the globe using the transporters in the JLI embassies trying to complete some as-of-yet morally ambiguous task.

The great thing about this book is Judd Winick (Green Arrow, Trials of Shazam) is writing this alongside Keith Giffen, who created the JLI way back in 1987. Considering how long Giffen actually wrote for the JLI, he’s a godsend. This paired with the excellent art of Aaron Lopresti and Matt Ryan, and this book looks pretty flawless. In just one issue, the team has made damn sure you know exactly how betrayed the ex-members of the JLI feel by Max Lord’s douchebaggery. Plus, the plot twist at the end of the issue is definitely a mindfuck (pun totally intended).

However, I do have one issue with the book . As with every other time Booster Gold has shown an ounce of clairvoyance in regards to a situation, everybody just tells him to shut the hell up and writes him off as an egotistical showboating asshole. Granted, when Giffen handled Booster in the late 80’s Justice League books, the character had only been in the DCU a little less than two years and still showed signs of actually being a bit of a dick. Considering how much he appears to have matured since the death of Ted Kord and redeemed himself following that Mister Mind/Skeets thing in 52, it seems like some of the characters would at least listen to what the guy has to say. Well, guess not.

By page two I was reminded as to why I love to hate Maxwell Lord. Really, the main reason I plan on following this book is that I want nothing more than to see Booster and the rest of the JLI gang wipe the floor with him and his stupid perpetual smirk. Add the fact that Jamie Reyes is plastered all over the preview covers for upcoming issues and, dammit, I’m sold. Congratulations, DC, you’ve got more of my money.

How have I never seen this before? DC Challenge seems like it’d be so far up High Five’s alley, I’m pretty sure it has to buy us breakfast in the morning. Check it.

According to legend (or the back pages of issue one, whichever), Len Wein, Gerry Conway, Marv Wolfman, Mark Evanier, Bill Rotsler, and Bill Warren all ended up piss-drunk at some Marvel party at the Executive Hotel during 1983’s San Diego Comic Con. Describing it as a “sauna,” they all retreated to the roof to air out a bit. While up there, Evanier suddenly came up with the idea for a year long round-robin style maxiseries between eleven DC writers and twelve DC artists, announced it, and got the ball rolling. By the time security showed up and kicked them off the roof, Dick Giordano had approved the project and the order of collaborators was set: Evanier, Wein, Doug Moench, Paul Levitz, Mike Barr, Elliot Maggin, Paul Kupperberg, Conway, Roy Thomas, Dan Mishkin, and Marv Wolfman (with Cary Bates) would write while such DC greats as Carmine Infantino, Gil Kane, Dave Gibbons, Giordano, Don Heck, Curt Swan, Keith Giffen, George Perez and others (goddamn!) would tackle the art.

Finally, the rules were established. Each issue would end in a near impossible cliffhanger (or five) that the next author would have to figure out how to fix. The previous author would also get to name the next issue, which would have to tie in at some point. Meanwhile, the two writers couldn’t talk to each other about the project at all. Considering that this book was pretty much a gigantic experimental exercise in comic writing, the authors started getting just plain sadistic trying to fuck each other over with titles such as “If This is Love, Then Why Do My Teeth Hurt?” and “If There’s a Hole in Reality, Is Life a Cosmic Donut?”

Writers could use any characters from the DCU with the exception of any they were writing for at the time. This led to a ton of awesome rarely-used Golden and Silver Age characters popping up such as the Space Cabby, Darwin Jones, Son of Vulcan, and Woozy Winks. Considering that between it’s conception in 1983 and it’s actual release starting in November 1985, that whole Crisis on Infinite Earths thing started making this so non-canon. As a matter of fact, this really kind of helped make DC Challenge a send off to the multiverse.

So, what’s it all about? Well, that’s a bit of a clusterfuck. A race of aliens known as the Moltanians discover that when they die their souls inhabit the bodies of demons in the netherworld. A Moltanian named Bork started the Black Counsel, whose intention was to transport the demons to both Rann and Earth, where the “fabric of reality is much thinner” (thanks to a half-melted Darkseid, apparently). The Guardians of the Universe try their damnedest to prevent it and end up hiring another Moltanian named Kaz to fix everything. Easy enough, right?

Yeah, not really. They try to fix shit by sending a bunch of the heroes to different periods in time where they think they’ll do better. Instead, the Nazis find a spaceship sent back with the Blackhawks and win World War II. Uh, hooray?

As a whole, this book suffers from that old adage “too many cooks in the kitchen.” In theory, yeah, having all these well known writers and artists on one project would be totally awesome! In practice, you get “We Are the World.” In the back of the last issue, DC Challenge‘s Robert Greenberger summed it up when he muses about how “Amazing Heroes says we’re exploitive and Comic’s Journal complains we don’t make any sense.” No shit, it doesn’t make any sense! I mean, how does Aquaman hydrate himself after getting trapped in the middle of the Sahara Desert?

Delicious, delicious vulture juice.

Granted, this book is an interesting (albeit accidental) bookend to the pre-Crisis DCU. Unfortunately, it didn’t seem like the finished product was as glorious as intended by those drunken rooftop comic writers. It does raise the question, though: What would happen if DiDio went ahead and gave the okay to a DC Challenge 2?

Oh, right. “We Are the World 25 for Haiti.”

dc1I know I promised this article like, a month ago in that post about the apes, but bear with me, I’ve been busy. Also, I forgot. Also, shut up.

I freaking love Detective Chimp. Wait, why do I love Detective Chimp? Is it the fact he’s a raging alcoholic? That he is a member of the Shadowpact, a sort of supernatural police force? That he’s been around since August, 1952? That he was once Doctor Fate? That he can speak and write in every language ever (no exaggeration)? Or maybe it’s that he’s a freaking detective chimpanzee (and occasionally helps freaking Batman via instant message)? Oh, it’s totally yes to all of these.

dc2In every version of Detective Chimp’s (aka Bobo T. Chimpanzee aka Magnificent Finder of Tasty Grubs) origin, he started out as a regular old chimp. He was part of a circus sideshow where he’d wear a Holmes-style hat and solved little crimes by hitting “yes” or “no” buttons. His handler, Fred Thorpe, was good to him and so Bobo loved him back. Now, there are two ways this can go. There’s the pre-Crisis version where Thorpe dies, Bobo helps the sheriff solve the murder, and Bobo ends up becoming the sidekick of Rex the Wonder Dog. Then there’s the post-Crisis Day of Vengeance version where Bobo just kinda slips away in Florida and meets up with Rex. Either way, they end up sipping from the Fountain of Youth and Bobo becomes Detective Chimp! Unfortunately, chimps don’t have the same legal benefits as people, so when none of the clients from Bobo’s detective agency paid their bills, he got closed down and took up drinking. Tough break.

When Rex the Wonder Dog was canceled in 1959, Detective Chimp pretty much got buried with it. He didn’t return again until a co-feature in 1981’s DC Comics Presents#35 entitled “Whatever Happened to Rex the Wonder Dog?” After this, he was quietly snuck into one panel in 1985’s Crisis on Infinite Earths #11 and from then on occasionally popped up in other books as comic relief.

dc3Finally, in 2005 Bill Willingham (yeah, the Fables guy) did an Infinite Crisis tie-in called Day of Vengeance which put the good detective back in the spotlight. He formed the Shadowpact to combat the newly host-less Spectre, who was going batshit crazy after being tricked by Eclipso into thinking that all magic was evil. They stop the Spectre, but end up losing Hammond Hall, the current Doctor Fate in the process. Captain Marvel chucked the helmet into space so it could seek out whoever was worthy, and it ended up landing back down and conking Bobo in the dome. For the duration of the Helmet of Fate: Detective Chimp (man, I have no idea why I don’t own this), he was Doctor Fate. In the end, he realizes he isn’t worthy, throws it on to the next guy, and keeps rolling with the Shadowpact. He was most recently spotted (along with the rest of the Shadowpact team) in Keith Giffen’s Reign in Hell limited series.

Anywho, I pretty much love this character because of how fucking absurd he is. I mean, he runs around drinking from a flask, saving the world from demi-gods, in a shirt that says “everybody sucks but me.” Long ways to go, for a guy who played second banana to the puppy dog equivalent to Captain America. My only question, why can’t I find any evidence of there ever being a Detective Chimp action figure?


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