In Memoriam

 

 

“I was leaping off the rope, and Yukon Eric, who had a cauliflower ear, moved at the last second,” Kowalski told The Chicago Tribune in 1989. “I thought I missed, but all of a sudden, something went rolling across the ring. It was his ear.”

Yukon Eric was taken to a hospital, and the promoter asked Kowalski to visit him and apologize for severing his ear. Reporters were listening to their chat from a corridor.

“There was this 6-foot-5, 280-pound guy, his head wrapped like a mummy, dwarfing his bed,” Kowalski said. “I looked at him and grinned. He grinned back. I laughed, and he laughed back. Then I laughed harder and left.

“The next day the headlines read, ‘Kowalski Visits Yukon in the Hospital and Laughs.’ And when I climbed into the ring that night, the crowd called out, ‘You animal, you killer.’ And the name stuck.”

Kowalski came to incur the wrath of the fans. As he told Esquire magazine in 2007: “Someone once threw a pig’s ear at me. A woman once came up to me after a match and said, ‘I’m glad you didn’t get hurt.’ Then she stabbed me in the back with a knife.

–NYTimes.com

The Week In Ink: August 27, 2008

Well, folks… we lost a good one this week.

 

 

But really, a panel where you kick Batman’s head out of the panel so hard that you get blood-red speed lines and an explosion? Now that’s a way to go out.

And it’s also a pretty good way to introduce another round of the Internet’s Most Procrastinatorial Comics Reviews! Here’s what I picked up this week…

 

 

…and here’s what I thought about ‘em!

 

Comics

 

Avengers: The Initiative #16: I could waste everyone’s time with a proper review for this one, but here’s the only fact you need to know to inform your purchase: This issue features the mind-blowing cannibalistic return of the Skrull Kill Krew.

For those of you who aren’t familiar, allow me to explain: The Krew–not to be confused with the Crew, the Crewe or the Crüe–is easily one of the craziest ideas Grant Morrison or Mark Millar have ever come up with. Their origin, handily recapped in this issue, goes like this: When Reed Richards gets the bright idea to hypnotize some shape-shifting Skrulls into thinking that they’re cows in the pages of #2, there were two things that he didn’t forsee: a) That said cow Skrulls would later shoot down the Vision, a move of which the ISB wholeheartedly approves, and b) that said Skrull-cows would mistakenly get lumped in with regular cows, be ground into hamburger, and served at McDonald’s, giving a few of the people who ate them–including a fashion model, a punk rock girl and a Neo-Nazi with a claw hammer–a bad case of terminal super-powers.

Even for 1995, that concept was a little out there, and as you might expect, it was quietly turned into a mini-series with the second issue and ended at #5. Still, it’s almost the definition of a rip-snortin’ fun comic, and I’m honestly surprised that it’s taken them this long to show up again, since the only character more well-suited to Secret Invasion is a certain Greatest of the Spaceknights who has a machine that can detect shape-shifters and spent the past two centuries fighting not just Skrulls, but Skrull Witches. For serious.

 

Blue Beetle #30: Back at HeroesCon, one of the bright spots in the otherwise dismal DC Nation panel was getting to hear Matt Sturges talk about his upcoming run on Blue Beetle, which included him telling the crowd how he was planning on doing a scene set at a miniature golf course based around super-heroes that never bothered to update their displays. Well, here we are a few months later, and said scene has finally arrived. Admittedly, it’s not played off quite the way I’d imagined it–you don’t have to shoot around Aquaman’s hook hand–and if I didn’t know what to look for, I might’ve missed the gag, but man. Seeing a cardboard cutout of the late-80s Marv Wolfman Vigilante and his motorcycle blocking a hole had me almost dying.

And here’s the thing: That’s not even the best part of this issue, an honor that clearly goes to Jaime’s post-fight “I did it–with science!” I’ll admit that while I like Sturges and his work on titles like Jack of Fables a heck of a lot, I wasn’t sure about having him on Blue Beetle–mostly because I just loved John Rogers’ run so damn much–but an issue that can bring me both of those… That’s well worth it.

 

ISB BEST OF THE WEEK

 

 

Catwoman #82: Speaking of the DC Nation panel from HeroesCon–and I swear this’ll be the last time I talk about it for a while–that was the one where I got to see Rachelle stand up to ask Dan DiDio what the chances were that we’d get to see any more Will Pfeifer/David Lopez Catwoman, to which the big D responded by (a) seriously flipping out and telling her that books with low sales get canceled (a fact refuted every month by the continued publication of Simon Dark, and (b) telling her that if she wanted more Catwoman, she should pick up Detective Comics, where Catwoman was teaming up with Batman to fight Hush.

There are, as you might imagine, a number of problems with this scenario, and around 80% of them revolve around anyone ever thinking a story that involved fucking Hush would be any good whatsoever. Spoiler Warning! They’re not.

Anyway, DiDio’s point-missing aside, there’s a darn good reason why Rachelle wants more of Pfeifer and Lopez on Catwoman, and that’s because for the past few years, they’ve put out what is consistently and easily one of the best books on the stands, even if me, her and Dr. K are apparently the only three people on the continent who know that. Still, that doesn’t change the fact that it’s true: They’ve had an incredible run, and the only thing I don’t like about it is that there isn’t any more of it.

As for the issue itself, well, getting to end a book in exactly the way you want to is a luxury that’s pretty much reserved just for Garth Ennis and James Robinson, but Pfeifer–who makes an appearance in the issue getting his XBox 360 on alongside Lopez–makes the best of the apparent plans to resettle Catwoman on the side of the fence for antagonistic anti-heroes by having her essentially mug Batman, have a profound personal revelation, and then carjack the fucking Batmobile in the span of about six pages.

And that is awesome.

 

Final Crisis: Superman Beyond #1: All right, let’s get this out of the way up front: Ultramenstruum.

There. Now maybe I can focus on aspects of the book that didn’t make me do a spit-take at work yesterday, but to be honest, there’s just not a lot to talk about. For the first issue, anyway, this is exactly what they said it was: A story where Superman tears ass through a bunch of other dimensions with interdimensional versions of himself–including the suspiciously Dr. Manhattanesque Captain Atom of Earth-4–to learn the Secret Origin of the both the Universe and himself, and even with the fact that it’s dressed up in slightly cryptic prophecies, it’s pretty straightforward, and pretty awesome in its simplicity: Superman exists to protect the world of imaginary stories. Space Cabbie guest-stars.

As to the art, I’ve mentioned before that outside of stories where Frankenstein fights people on mars, I’m not a huge fan of Doug Mahnke’s art, but man, he does a darn good job here. Maybe it’s just the inks by… Hold up, there’s five inkers on this book? Wow. Well, it certainly ended up looking pretty good, which, considering the usual look of books that go through five inkers before they hit the stands, is no mean feat in itself. As to the 3D, well, as much as it’s an imperfect gimmick that gets in the way of the story more often than it enhances it, I’ll admit to having a soft spot for it that probably dates back to a Rocketeer book and tape set that I had when I was a kid. To be honest, though, it would’ve been nice if there was some kind of indication in the book as to when we were supposed to put on the glasses; aside from the scene where Superman “activates his 4-D vision,” there’s no clues like there were in Black Dossier, and since the book actually starts with a 3D sequence that you have to flip past before you even get to where the glasses are bound in, it turns out to be pretty annoying.

Still, though: The very concept of Superman as the protector of fiction itself. That’s rad enough to deal with a little eyestrain.

 

Nova #16: Just a quick note here: In this issue, Nova not only fights Skrulls who have disguised themselves as children, but Skrulls who have disguised themselves as children who are also adorable kitties.

You know, just in case you were wondering why I freakin’ love Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning.

 

Wolverine #68: Okay, folks, confession time: I’ve been reading “Old Man Logan.”

Now, before you get the wrong idea here, yes, I know it’s no good for me, and no, I assure you, I haven’t been trying to hide it by keeping it out of my weekly reviews from embarrassment. I mean, you guys know I get Tarot, and really, this is only slightly less worthwhile. The fact of the matter is that until this issue, I just hadn’t bothered to actually buy any of ‘em, because they had yet to get to the point where the story was so aggressively stupid that actually transcended itself to become entertaining.

And brother, is it ever. Originally billed as “the most important Wolverine story of all time” by habitual liar Mark Millar, I think I can sum it up a little better. Have you always wanted to read a gritty story of the future of the Marvel Universe like Days of Future Past or The Last Avengers Story or Future Imperfect or Here Comes Tomorrow or Earth X (and so on), but haven’t had the time? Well, just read Old Man Logan, because it’s everything you can see in those, except that it came out this month and reads like it was filtered through a copy of Con Air.

Which–and this is the shocking part–isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Sure, it’s goofy as all hell and you’d have to be a remedial third grader to think it had any depth whatsoever or fail to figure out where we’re going with the plot–Wolverine has, naturally, sworn himself to a life of nonviolence and keeping his claws sheathed, which means that the odds of him not only popping his claws but returning home as a total badass, beating up the inbred Hulks and becoming Super Badass King of California are a solid 1:1–but that doesn’t mean that it can’t be fun, and if there’s one thing Millar’s proven himself to be adept at over the past few years, it’s writing the comic book equivalent of Transporter 2.

And that’s what we’ve got here: A big, loud, monumentally stupid fight comic in which an actual story would only get in the way. But hey, it’ll kill five minutes in a pretty enjoyable manner, and really, what more do you want from something with Wolverine in it?

 

Trades

 

Fantastic Four Visionaries: Walt Simonson v.1: Okay, seriously, Marvel: What the hell.

Longtime ISB readers might recall that Walt Simonson’s Fantastic Four–which includes a scene where Mr. Fantastic hooks Thor’s hammer up to Iron Man’s armor and then patches it through his Time Sled so that they can team up with Galactus to fight the Black Celestial holy crap I love comic books–is one of my favorite runs of all time. That being the case, I fully support getting more of it in trade and available to new readers, but this… Man. This thing is just rough.

First of all, the damn thing’s only five issues, which wouldn’t be a huge problem since it’s at a relatively low price point of $14.99, but not only does this thing contain a fill-in issue that Walt Simonson had absolutely nothing to do with, it leads the book with it. That’s right, folks: You go to the store, pick up a book entitled Fantastic Four Visionaries: Walter Simonson, open it up to page one, and get a Danny Fingeroth story about the dangers of playing with fire that, as Bully the Little Stuffed Bull will attest, is just awful.

Under normal circumstances, I could understand including it just for the sake of not busting up the numbering, but seriously: When your book’s based around collecting the work of a particular creator, including an issue that he didn’t work on, that doesn’t tie in with the rest of the run and that’s not very good to begin with just boggles the mind. I mean, would it really have made less sense to cut this and #351 out, put a 24.99 price tag on it and then collect up through the Dr. Doom story, a whopping total of nine Simonson issues? Or am I just being too picky?

 

JLA: Deluxe Edition v.1 HC: Hey, remember that time that they relaunched the JLA and they didn’t sit around a table scrapbooking for five issues and it didn’t suck ass and was actually one of the best comics of the decade? Well, now you can buy it a third time, like I did.

 


 

And on that dubious purchasing habit, I’m done here. As always, feel free to bring up any questions you might have in the section below, unless you’re going to tell me that I’m wrong about the FF trade, because that’s seriously messed up. Instead, why not talk about the great recoloring job on The Origin of Danny Rand or the awesome last page of Superman or how Wolverine: First Class manages to have Wolverine in it and be fun without being stupid?

After all, that’s not an easy trick to pull off.

The World That’s Coming Revisited!

August 28th is Jack Kirby’s Birthday, and rather than go with my usual tribute post–because really, I said about all I can about the guy with last year’s–I thought I might take the opportunity to revisit one of my favorites because hey, it worked out pretty well last time.

Anyway, I’ll be honest with you: When I was a kid, I did not like Kirby. I remember picking up the first few issues of X-Men: The Early Years when I was around thirteen and thinking that the art and character designs were just awful. To be fair, those early X-Men issues aren’t Jack’s best work, and when you stack them up against other stuff he was doing at the time, you can tell that his heart’s not in it the way it was for stuff like Fantastic Four. Still, even before then, his work turned me off.

Or to be more accurate, it scared the hell out of me.

I must’ve been about six or seven when I got a copy of Captain America #195, from Jack’s mid-70s return to the title. It was the first Marvel Comic I’d ever read, and until I hit the seventh grade and was issued my mandatory copy of Amazing Spider-Man #33, it was the last one. I should probably explain here that when I was a kid, I took things way too seriously, and when I saw this…

 


(Click to enlarge)

 

…it FREAKED ME OUT.

The weird, distorted figures, the floating head with the hangman on the American flag, the mob of people driven to murderous frenzy and tearing the “Freedom Freak” effigy limb from limb… it blew young Chris’s mind to the point where even today, I’m always surprised when I grab the trade off the shelf and find out that they aren’t huge splash panels.

Of course, it didn’t scare me away for that long, and from what I’ve heard from friends of mine, it wasn’t an unusual experience. Not the part about being scared by an issue of Captain America–that one, it seems, was just me–but just not understanding what the big deal was with Kirby until the one magic summer where you all the sudden realize that holy crap Jack Kirby is awesome.

For me, it was the New Gods that won me over, but that wasn’t the book that made me the die-hard fan I am today. No… that was this guy:

 

OMAC!

 

For those of you unfamiliar with him–and if you’ve been reading the ISB for any considerable length of time, this cannot possibly apply to you–OMAC is the One-Man Army Corps, who polices The World That’s Coming with the help of an all-powerful satellite named Brother Eye that uses “electro-hormone surgery” to give him super-powers and the greatest mohawk in comics history.

That’s right, I said greatest. Suck it, Mr. T and the T-Force.

Anyway, with all that I talk about OMAC, it occurs to me that I rarely talk about anything past the third page of #2–because really, once you’ve seen those dudes try to keep OMAC out of that city even though he straight up told ‘em he was going in , what else is there?–so instead of going back to the City of the Super-Rich tonight, I’m going to focus on this one:

 

 

OMAC #4′s The Busting of a Conqueror, wherein OMAC follows up the previous issue’s act of fighting a literal One Hundred Thousand Foes by dragging a “little Hitler” called Kirovan Kafka downtown, which in this case is represented by a criminal court at the top of Mount Everest.

And that’s the thing: For all its huge Kirby concepts and bravura that go into it, the World That’s Coming is unique among comic book futures for the simple fact that it’s not the shiny paradise of Legion of Super-Heroes or the grim, terrible dystopia of… well, also of Legion of Super-Heroes. Instead, the setting Kirby gives us is a world that, once you get past the shock of his designs, is one that we can believe is coming because for the most part, it’s already here.

He takes everything that could go wrong with technology and all the fears that go along with a world where the ability to destroy every bit of life on the planet is at hand and just extrapolates it out to the fantastic–with stories of artificial water shortages and plastic surgery gone crazy as the rich pursue eternal youth–and gives us a hero who has to act alone because a full-scale war is just too dangerous. In essence, it’s the world we live in, but with giant green robo-tanks.

And that’s why we need a lawman like this:

 

 

So back to the story: OMAC brings in Kafka to face trial at the Top of the World, but when the would-be dictator keeps going on and on about an alleged “avenger” coming to rescue him from his court date, OMAC heads out in a jet and..

Well just check this radness out:

 

“Animal, mineral or vegetable? It could be all three!

 

But wait.

It gets better.

 

 

Yes: In order to bring a criminal to justice in the World That’s Coming, OMAC has to take out a giant purple fire-breathing nuclear insect monster.

And that is why I love Jack Kirby.