mike sterling's progressive ruin

Saturday, May 22, 2004

Friday, May 21, 2004

Thursday, May 20, 2004

"More action than ever!" 

Swamp Thing #24 (September 1976)

When we last left Swamp Thing, Alec Holland has regained his humanity with the help of his scientist brother Edward Holland, and Edward's beautiful companion Ruth. This issue (by the entirely new creative team of David Anthony Kraft, Ernie Chua, and Fred Carrillo) kicks off with the newly-human Alec having a nightmare about his firey origins as that muck-encrusted mockery of a man. Ruth comes into his room and wakes him, and Alec relates to her his doubts about being able to adjusting to a renewed life as a human being. "Where do I start?" asks Alec. "Start with me, Alec -- start with me." Oh dear.

In the meantime, a gentleman by name of Soloman Smith collects Sabre from the local pokey:

...which raises some questions. See, Sabre was in an awful state at the end of the previous issue, "his body burned beyond recognition" -- which apparently only needed a few bandages and a sling to help him heal. And, "shortly thereafter" according to the captions, Sabre is up and around with this group of winners:

Anyway, these representatives of the the super-criminal group COLOSSUS want Swamp Thing in order to learn about Alec Holland's secret project, the bio-restorative formula, and create an army of unstoppable swamp-thing soldiers. However, another of COLOSSUS's agents, Thrudvang the Earth-Master, is apparently running loose in Oregon:

So Thrudvang is super-strong, not very bright, and apparently has the telekinetic power to move earth...you know, create giant divots, open up chasms, etc. Anyway, we get a brief sequence of Thrudvang demolishing some loggers and their bigrig, followed by a short flashback to the Earth-Master's origin (created by the COLOSSUS labs).

Back to our heroes...Alec and Ruth are heading out to the grocery store, after saying goodbye to Alec's brother Edward. As they drive off, the romantic triangle subplot begins in earnest as Edward thinks to himself: "Alec and I have always been rivals. While he won all the research grants, government chemistry contracts and recognition, I went completely ignored. Now, he's back from the 'dead' and already the pattern starts anew -- with Ruth! Well, it's not going to happen again, Alec...not again!"

After shopping, Alec and Ruth are putting groceries in the car when Alec starts experiencing sudden sharp pains:

Alec refuses to see a doctor (probably a good idea, since he is legally dead and all), and thinks to himself about how those pains felt like the discomfort he had when, as the Swamp Thing, he had to regenerate a lost arm.

We then get a quick scene change to the remarkably-recovered Sabre talking with Solomon Smith, letting him know what the rest of COLOSSUS did not...that the Swamp Thing has now reverted to human form, and that Alec Holland had better be captured before Thrudvang finds him.

Unfortunately, as Alec and Ruth drive home, Thrudvang does find them, homing in on the homing transmitter still lodged in Alec's shoulder (as mentioned last issue). Using his earth-moving powers, Thrudvang demolishes the car, and Alec and Ruth are thrown from the wreckage.

And here is the closest scene in the issue to what we see on the cover:

...except for the whole Thrudvang-talking thing, since inside the comic itself he doesn't say a word. By the way...what kind of name is Thrudvang, anyway?

So Alec recovers the unconcious Ruth and hightails it, with the slow-moving Thrudvang in pursuit. Jumping over a chasm suddenly created by the big yellow guy, Alec depends on his speed and his enemy's own apparent lack of cognitive abilities to elude him...unaware of the homing device embedded in his body.

While in hiding, Ruth wakes, and Edward's fear suddenly comes true as Alec and Ruth completely ignore the immediate danger and start gettin' it on, only to have a not-so-surprise guest:

So then there's a bunch more running around and goings-on, ending with Alec leading Thrudvang over a rope bridge, pulling out a previously-unmentioned pocket knife, cutting said rope bridge, and sending Thrudvang to his doom.

The story ends with Alec and Ruth in an embrace, as Alec ponders his uncertain future and the troubles he has seemingly brought onto his loved ones following his cure.

We then get this promise:

...which never happened, since this was the last issue of the series. Rats. Though, as an aside, 20 or so years ago the Overstreet Price Guide did include the nonexistent issue #25 in their listings for at least a couple editions. Anyway, Alec Holland's story picks up again in Challengers of the Unknown #82 (1977), which I'll probably look at here in the near future.

Now, the combination of Alec's body pains with the new more superhero-y direction of the series had made me believe that a possible eventual goal was to have Alec gain the ability to switch back and forth between human and Swamp Thing form. And a cape and some nice boots. Well, okay, maybe not with the costume.

As I mentioned here, these stories involving Swamp Thing regaining his humanity are officially ignored in the character's continuity, as per an editorial reply in the letters column of Saga of the Swamp Thing #6. However (and I must warn you, this will officially be the Geekiest Thing Ever) I always figured there was a way to keep these stories in continuity, given what new things we learn about Swamp Thing in Alan Moore's run.

Okay (spoilers ahead), we learn in that run that Swampy was never Alec Holland, but rather an Earth Elemental that used Alec Holland's mind as a template for itself. So, therefore, in the issues I discussed, clearly the Swamp Thing couldn't be cured of his condition and turned back to human form, since he was never human to begin with. We also learn that the Swamp Thing has the ability to generate human-like forms out of plants (introduced in Swamp Thing 2nd series #56, elaborated much later in Mark Millar's run). Given that, perhaps we can assume, in the process of the "cure" in #23 of the original series, the Swamp Thing, still believing himself to be Alec Holland at his core, subconsciously constructed a human body for himself.

So there, a 30-year-old bit of Swamp Thing continuity is resolved. Who says I'm not cutting-edge?

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

The winners of the Demo giveaway
have been announced...they're all top-notch, but my favorite is the Special Prize Winner at the very end.

New comics this week:

  • Seaguy #1 is just as absolutely mad as I was hoping. We're plopped right down in the middle of an established superhero "universe" -- it all seems completely insane, but it's no more nutty than the stuff we accept with regularity in X-Men or Superman. This is probably as close as a long-time comic reader like me (or most of you, for that matter) will come to sharing the experience of someone who has never before read a comic book perusing an issue of, say JSA.

  • Justice League: Another Nail #1 (speaking of crazy continuity) picks up where Justice League: The Nail left off...or rather, glossed over, as the Green Lantern Corps/New Gods war that happened off-stage in the last series is detailed at the beginning of this new series. The art of Alan Davis (with Mark Farmer) is as great as it always is. Makes one wish he'd draw a good comic series on a regular basis.

  • I think the new Invincible (#12) took me all of about two minutes to read, but that's okay, because the emotional impact of this story more than made up for its apparent brevity. I want #13 in my hands by next week, Kirkman!

  • Also picked up the new Demo (#6) -- darn you, Larry Young, for getting me hooked on yet another comic series! (That sound you hear is the evil laughter of Big Larry.) Yes, it's good. Do I need to tell you that?

Geek talk alert: so I'm chatting with pal Corey, pal Ian, and pal Dorian about the Spectre today. I'm still pushing for the quite-possibly-soon-to-be-late Sue Dibny to be the new Spectre. Pal Corey suggested Arthur Curry, Jr. (yes, that's right, the deceased Aquababy - "I'm the Spiwit of Vengeance!"). Pal Dorian wants a fresh start...a brand new character as the Spectre. I believe pal Ian suggested former Robin Jason Todd, but I think we're all holding out the possibility that he may come back (re: events at the end of Hush). Pal Corey also said, joking aside, that it could be Adrian Chase, AKA Vigilante...pal Dorian believes that might involve a little too much back story, but I think a page of flashback might be enough to get folks up to speed.

Yes, I know that's extremely geeky. Whaddaya want from a comics weblog?

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

Monday, May 17, 2004

Kid Colt Outlaw #117 (July 1964)

Greg over at Viper Comics recently
posted a great Kid Colt Outlaw cover, so I thought maybe he'd like to see another one. Hmmm...Kid Colt got a little off-topic every once in a while, didn't it?

DC Follies. 

I know I'm Johnny DC-come-lately in linking to the new DC solicitaion information, but I had to comment on this:

"JSA: STRANGE ADVENTURES #1 ...Johnny Thunder decides to become a big-time pulp writer by chronicling the adventures of the JSA. Taken under the writing wing of legendary, real-life science-fiction Grand Master Jack Williamson, Johnny tries his best...." Well, that's pretty neat! What I wouldn't give to see Williamson on a cover fighting, oh, I don't know, the Fiddler or something.

And I'm with Fanboy Rampage...I'm excited about Weird Secret Origins 80-page Giant, too...it's the Book of the Month, as far as I'm concerned. This part of the solicitation worries me, however: "The final 80-page Giant has been rescued, bringing a close to a beloved era." Really? No more "lost" 80-pagers? That would be a shame.

Well, I was going to post a sprawling screed about "middle-ground" comics magazines (discussed
here, here, here, and here, and probably other places too), but then pal Dorian did it a heck of a lot more succinctly than I would have.

Basic gist of my post That Will Not Be...I want Amazing Heroes back. It covered both the superhero beat and the indies, and usually did so with intelligence and irreverence in the proper proportions. And most importantly...no price guide!

I also came to the realization as I was writing that post that I'd been reading The Comics Journal since I was 13...that means I've been buying an issue of TCJ every month (or so) for 22 years. Good gravy. And I don't know if I'd describe the mag as "elitist" -- I think if I were to be as bold as to sum up TCJ's publishing philosophy, it would be "entertainment doesn't have to be stupid." That's a dangerous attitude to have in a society that encourages this sort of behavior, but there you go.

In other news:

  • Once again, Milo George comes through with some nice flavor text for a cover I posted.

  • More Grimjack news can be found here and here. I'm very happy about this...Grimjack was one of my favorite titles, and I still remember a long-ago interview with John Ostrander about future plans for the character that, due to the fall of First Comics, never came to pass.

  • A new trailer for The Incredibles is up...turns out there's a character in this film called "Elasticgirl." Isn't that name taken? (Okay, so there's a hyphen missing.)

And, at long last, a review of another Ait/Planetlar book...it's Electric Girl Volume 1 by Michael Brennan. It's a fun and very charming book, focusing on a young lass named Virginia who has been given powers over electricity by...well, an invisible gremlin (named Oogleeoog) that only Virginia can see. Now, these aren't Lightning Lad-type hurling electrical bolts-type powers...these are more like kicking back on the couch and recharging batteries-type powers.

This is a superhero comic stripped down to its barest essence...yes, you have the standard "villains" (killer robot, zombie, mad inventor) but treated in a light fashion, and filtered through the matter-of-fact perspective of the protagonist. It's all great fun, and it feels more like you're just following the life of a normal girl (er...as normal as you can get with electric powers and an invisible gremlin) than like traditional super-adventures.

The supporting characters are a hoot, too...Oogleeoog functions as an annoyance in Virginia's life, but you get the feeling that, despite the fact that his job is to cause problems, he really does care for Virginia and her welfare (most evident in the story, which takes place when Virginia is much younger, where the gremlin tries to circumvent the rules under which he must operate in order to protect her from a possible kidnapper). And then there's Virginia's dog Blammo (whose name is the result of another of Oogleeoog's pranks)...this squat little fellow is quite a character himself, a nice visual gag whose interactions with Oogleeoog and his own solo adventures are always good for a laugh.

The art is very simple and cartoony, and very emotive...faces aren't much more than a couple dots and dashes, but Brennan squeezes a great deal of expression out of them.

This book is a lot of fun...I have volume 2 here as well, and I haven't had a chance to read it yet, but I expect it'll be just as good as the first one. Recommended for fans of Andi Watson's work...and it's an All Ages book, so I recommend it any comics-inclined kids as well.

Sunday, May 16, 2004

Word on the street (well, on
Johanna's weblog) is that Grimjack is finally, finally, coming back.

Read more about it on Grimjack co-creator John Ostrander's message board.

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