Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Sticker Shock

Christmas has come and gone and now we are left with the usual duties of taking down the decorations and playing with the toys Santa brought the kids.  While rooting through various stocking stuffers I came across this pack of seemingly normal Superman stickers:

So apparently it was part of the promotion of the 2006 film "Superman Returns" starring Christopher Reeve doppelganger Brandon Routh.  So, ok, that's not too weird.  You sometimes see older stuff pop up in Dollar Stores and whatnot.  But upon closer inspection (and speaking of Reeve), you start to notice this guy:

Remember him?  (Hint: He wasn't in "Superman Returns")

It's always nice to see the guy but it does seem odd for him to pop up here.  But that's not the weirdest thing.  A few stickers below is this guy:

If you don't immediately recognize him, here's the pic that the sticker was taken from:

That's Tom Welling who spent 10 years playing Clark Kent and about 90 seconds playing Superman in Smallville.  The image itself seems to be a fan art Photoshop that would be found if, say, a bootleg sticker company did an image search for "Superman."

So there you have it.  I prefer to think that these represent a Crisis-type of "Superman of Multiple Earths" sticker set rather than just a lazy bootleg set.  And thus, fantasy become reality. 

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Best of 2016

Yeah, yeah...2016 has been officially declared awful but maybe we can focus on the bright side by looking back at some of the best comics of the year.  I've compiled a list of completely arbitrary categories to highlight what I feel are the best comics of 2016.  Let's get started! (WARNING: SPOILERS START NOW!!!!)

Bets Inter-Company Cross-Over: Batman/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (IDW & DC)

Everything gets thrown against the wall in this team-up of legends and a lot of it sticks.   The Turtles do a little universe hopping and pay Gotham City a visit.  When the Shredder and Ra's al Ghul decide to become BFFs to use the residents of Arkham Asylum as a grotesquely mutated army, Batman and Robin must team up with the boys in green to stop them.

There's a lot of fan service and even more goofy fun in the six issue mini-series.  And its success has even spawned a spin-off of sorts.  Now if we could only get an animated version.

Best Updated Version of a Classic Character: Klaus (BOOM! Studios)

Revamping Santa Claus with a new bad-ass origin story could have gone terribly wrong in a hundred different ways.  But Grant Morrison pulled in off in this mini-series that was first released around the holidays last year and wrapped up around midyear.

In what has been described as "Santa: Year One", Santa learns how to become Santa by kicking ass, experimenting with magic, and taking down a tyrannical despot and his evil demon master all while getting the girl and delivering toys to the good little boys and girls.

Best Solo Avenger Title: The Vision (Marvel)

The Vision is a well meaning guy whose life always seems to go horribly wrong.  So he decides to decrease the drama in his life by settling down, starting a family and moving to the suburbs.  And then it all goes horribly wrong.

The series is a mix of faux suburban creepiness and the slow disintegration of the American Dreams of artificial people who can't seem to get away from their very real problems.

Best Team Up: The Lone Ranger/Green Hornet (Dynamite)

Familial bonds are used instead of inter-dimensional shenanigans to bring together two legendary heroes.  The story is densely packed with both real historical figures and various pulp characters and brings an elderly, retired Lone Ranger in contact with his nephew, The Green Hornet in 1936 for an epic adventure with roots in the old west and potential worldwide consequences.

Elliot Ness, Bat Masterson, Jesse Owens, the Cavendish Gang, Al Capone, Teddy Roosevelt and many others get mixed up in the adventure.  There are tons of details and Easter Eggs in the story which are outlined in each issue by writer Michael Uslan.

Best All Ages Title: Scooby-Doo Team-Up (DC)

Imagine if, each month, the Scooby Gang teamed up with various DC Comics heroes to solve mysteries and save the day.  Well, I don't know why I phrased that sentence that way because obviously my next pick involves just such a scenario.

Whether it's Shaggy & Velma getting the powers of Captain Marvel or Scooby and the gang working with other mutts like Krypto, Ace the Bathound and G'Nort, the series always has a fun angle on DC Comics concepts.

Best Indie Title: The Wendy Project (Emet Comics)

A contemporary version of young Wendy Darling grapples with processing her feelings after one of her brothers disappears after a car accident.  While he is presumed dead she uses the journal prescribed by her therapist to help her struggle to separate fantasy from reality.

This is a melancholy version of Peter Pan and an observance of death and life, survival and sanity.  It's a great mini-series targeted at teenage readers.

So those are my picks for 2016.  There were tons of others I could have picked but these are the ones that stood out to me.  What did I miss? What did I get right?  What did I get wrong? 

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Next Fry Day

The time has come to tag along on another adventure with an American Icon.  But this time, not just one Colonel will do (although I guess, technically, there were two Colonels last time).  It's time for the Colonel Corps!

The next issue of the KFC/DC combo meal takes it to the next level with a tour of the DC Multiverse and a collection of Colonels that rival any previous Crisis on Various Earths.  Our story begins with the Colonel of Earth-3, Colonel Sunder, finger licking his wounds after his last confrontation with Colonel Sanders and the Flash (both from Earth-1) when he receives a mysterious visitor:

Meanwhile on Earth-1, our Colonel is also recovering from the previous confrontation.  Apparently many of his employees fell under the sweetly seductive spell of Sunder and are now not working up to the Colonel's standards.

You see, Colonel Sanders is all about doing things the hard way whereas Sunder is all about the shortcut.  So maybe the employees aren't cooking the chicken all the way through?  Salmonella is not your friend on any Earth (except maybe Bizarro World).

It's worth noting that the last issue was a team-up between the Colonel and the Flash (with a little assist from Green Lantern) but this adventure is definitely Colonel-centric.  So if you were yearning for more Colonel Sanders in your life, then this adventure is definitely for you.

While getting his house in order, Earth-1 Colonel is overcome by a mental attack from an unknown source.  He wakes up to the sight of the Colonel and the Flash from Earth-11:

After a little exposition we learn that all the Colonels have had their memories wiped.  They each only retain 1 of the 11 secret herbs and spices that make up the KFC recipe.  The solution was then obvious: hop on the Cosmic Treadmill and go from Earth to Earth collecting Colonels and therefore the herb and spice knowledge necessary to recreate the Secret Recipe!

The Earths/Colonels they found include (but are not limited to):

Hardcase Harlan from Earth-19 (the so-called "SteamPunk" Earth)

Koln-El from Earth-22 (the Kingdom Come Earth)

Kolonel from Earth 51 (the "Kamandi" Earth)...which seems to have some upsetting connotations since he is clearly a chicken that fries and serves other chickens for his patrons.  But that's a story for another time.

Several other Colonels from several other Earths (including one from the 31st Century who cooked for the Legion of Super Heroes and the Bizarro Colonel) hopped on board for the cause.  They eventually track down Colonel Sunder and his mysterious ally who turns out to be...Colonel Grodd!!

So now Sunder and Grodd must face the combined might of the Colonel Corps: an elite team of southern fried superheroes representing the 11 herbs and spices of justice!  (Also, don't forget, the Flash of Earth-11 is there too):

It doesn't take long for our heroes to take out the bad guys.  They even repel a psychic assault from Grodd who tempts them to take the easy way out...but the easy way doesn't get that chicken fried, does it?

So once again, evil is defeated and lunch is served.  We have to assume that all the Colonels were returned to their rightful Earths and Sunder and Grodd were incarcerated, never again to take away delicious meals from society.  The End...or is it?!?!?

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Flashback: Dogpatch U.S.A. 1984

Li'l Abner was an incredibly popular and successful comic strip that appeared in tons of newspapers for most of the 20th century.  The story followed the misadventures of a kooky cast of bumpkins in the fictional Appalachian town of Dogpatch.

The strip became so popular that in 1968 an 800 acre Li'l Abner themed amusement park opened in Arkansas.  It closed in the early 90's but for several decades it thrived and welcomed visitors from all over.  After going through some old photo albums I learned that apparently my grandparents (and great aunt & uncle) were among them.

Other than the old Alley Oop park in west Texas, it's hard to think of a comic strip that made the transition into the tourist destination genre.  Sure, Charlie Brown and the gang may show up at Knott's Berry Farm but other than some statues in a park in Minnesota they haven't gone "full theme park" yet.

Like any good theme park, Dogpatch had costumed characters for your enjoyment.  Characters from the strip came alive like the hero, dim-witted Abner:

And of course, his love interest (with whom he was ridiculously uninterested) Daisy Mae:

Thankfully, the gang picked up some postcards so we can get a better look at the place:

They were also able to snag some (what I assume are called) Dogpatch Dollars.  I don't know if they were meant to be used the same way as "Disney Dollars" or if they were just goofy souvenirs but here's a couple of bucks worth:

These days Dogpatch U.S.A. is in ruins with pretty much all of the interesting decor picked clean by souvenir seeking scavengers.  From time to time there is talk about a possible re-opening but I think the only way to visit will be through old photo albums.