The 300th issue of … everything!

This is my 300th blog. Not a big deal to people who blog everyday – they would hit 300 in their first year, but for me? A big deal.

The 300th issue (or any anniversary issue) is a big deal in comic books, too. It’s a chance to celebrate an anniversary with a special issue (and increased sales) featuring the end of an epic story arc – or the beginning of one. It could be the final issue – or debut – or a new creative team or character.

It only really became a big deal in the Bronze Age. The few Silver Age 300th issues were ignored, at least on the cover. Probably because sales were not yet sluggish enough that there was a NEED to celebrate.

It takes time. Published monthly, a comic book would reach its 300th issue in 25 years.

I honestly believed I found all of them – American comics only of course … let me know if I missed any. Enjoy!

4 Color Nov 50

4 Color from November 1950

The only #300 from the Golden Age I could find! 4 Color printed several comics per month, sometimes weekly and at times even six per month! No wonder it only took a bit over ten years to reach the milestone!

Most Disney comics were published by multiple companies over the years. Fortunately they kept the numbering intact. Scroll over the comics to see issue name and date.

People forget about one of the longest running comics ever!

Big Boy June 1986

Big Boy June 1996

Oddly, I checked Popeye and other popular cartoon figures and the only one whose comic made it to #300 was …

Tom & jerry Nov 77

November 1977

Dave Sim said from the beginning that Cerebus would only go to issue #300. How I loved the comic in the early to mid-1980s. A shame the run ended with little fanfare. It is the only independant I could find…

Cerebus March 2004

March 2004

No Harvey comics made it to #300. Timely, Quality & Fawcett didn’t last long enough for their comics to reach #300.

But the big two had plenty, so did Archie. Primarily because both DC and Archie (MJL) published comics steadily since the 1940s.

Scroll over the comics to see the title and date. Note that Laugh and Pep were published first and got to #300 4 years or so before the character-titled comics.

DC’s #300s holds no real surprises… the Legion of Superheroes was formerly called Superboy and Adventure also once hosted their … er … adventures as well (making Superman-themed comics account for 1/3rd of the DC comics listed) . Our Army at War and House of Mystery were the pinnacle of their genre. Hellblazer may be a surprise to some, but only because of its late date.

Note that the Silver Age comics (Adventure, Action, Detective), made very little tadoo about their 300th issue.

Several Marvel comics made it to #300 due to their sheer popularity! These comics were raised to monthly status much quicker than their DC bretheren.  The dates vary widely, too, helped by the fact that Captain America, Hulk, & Thor had different titles during the Silver and Bronze Age (Tales of Suspense, Tales to Astonish and Journey into Mystery respectively) but kept their numbering when named for their stars…

Will we ever see #300s again? I don’t know. In this day and age of reboots and “Special Collector’s first issues” we may never see comics reaching #100! Time will tell.

What were my favorites? Frankly, the ones I bought from the stands: Superman 300, Batman 300 and Wonder Woman 300.

What were your favorites?

See you at 400!

Special thanks to Lone Star Comics for searching their data base and using their photos!

Michael Curry

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The DC-CW line-up: Our story so far…

Our Story So Far

We are at the mid-season cliffhangers of the four DC-CW Television shows. Here are some thoughts:

SUPERGIRL

Supergirl is DC-CW’s touchy-feely show. I don’t mean this in a bad way – but the show deals with the emotional health of the characters much more so than the other shows.

But that doesn’t mean it lacks fun and plenty of comic-booky action.

This season we meet Samantha Arias, a co-worker of Kara (Supergirl) and who slowly discovers she has super powers. She IS from Krypton and turned into Reign by Krypton’s version of the devil. Now Reign is killing off National City gang members and other bad guys to the delight of Morgan Edge, who is blaming Supergirl.

Also, Mon-El is back. He was thrust into the future and formed the Legion (of Superheroes). Now some of them are in the present, although we’ve only met Saturn Girl so far…

The mid-season ends with Reign defeating Supergirl in a brutal battle over National City. Supergirl is in critical condition and Reign/Arias confronts her young daughter …

FLASH

The Flash is halfway through its best season since its first. We’ve slogged through almost every evil speedster in the DC Universe as the season-long Big Bad and fortunately Flash is NOT repeating itself, again. The joy that imbued the first season is back in this one. Mostly thanks to two events: the upcoming marriage of Barry and Iris and the introduction of Ralph Dibny. The joy from the former is obvious (we’ve been rooting for these two since the premier episode) and the latter reminds us of what fun this show can be. Ralph can be likeable and unlikeable, and he is played to perfection by Hartley Sawyer – he even LOOKS like the Elongated Man from the comics!

It all makes a refreshing change from the previous season: the constant losing to the Big Bad, the plans made that were thwarted forty minutes later episode after episode … add to that the characters’ gnashing teeth and rending garments over the unstoppable foretold death of Iris … episode after episode. By the time it was done, we sighed in relief. Not because of the “happy” ending, but just because it was over.

I see signs of the “episode after episode” problem with this year’s Big Bad – the Thinker. The cliffhanger ends with Flash framed for the Thinker’s murder. I hope they can continue the upbeat tone until the end of the season.

LEGENDS OF TOMORROW

The unloved step-child of the DC-CW is still going at season three. This season is probably its best season so far. But compared to the prior two, that is not saying much.

Now the Legends are fixing anachronisms in time. Somehow this led to the resurrection of Damian Darkh. Darkh’s Big Bad villainy was the low point of Arrow and was misused in last season’s Legends. I rolled my eyes when I saw this overused and overpowered character revealed as the Big Bad this season (there is a Bigger Bad lurking but we don’t really know much at this point). I roll my eyes in every episode in which Darkh thwarts the Legend’s plans. Episode after episode …

Still, I like the show. It’s fun, pure and simple. Everyone seems to be having a great time and you can feel that through the screen. I wish they had more to work with as far as decent stories and effective bad guys instead of the same old same old.

The cliffhanger ends with John Constantine recruiting the Legends … I applauded. I knew the character was coming to the show for at least one episode, but it was still a pleasure.

Rumors abound that a character from Arrow will join Legends, replacing Firestorm. It could be anybody – I’m hoping for Ragman!

ARROW

Arrow is also coming off an awful season, which itself followed a bad season (with the aforementioned Darkh). Both suffered from the problem that plagued Flash last season: constant losing to the Big Bad … episode after episode. Big Bad gets captured at one point but only to escape. No progress, no satisfaction for the viewers.

This season is better, although the same problems remain – repeated failure against this season’s Big Bad (which the cliffhanger shows us to be a TEAM of Big Bads). Also, Team Arrow has broken up …  again. Oh, and Oliver Queen is on trial accused of being the Green Arrow … again.

This season is better, but I wish it were better still.

***

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Oh, and the line-wide crossover Crisis on Earth X? Superb (although not without its flaws, but they are minor)! And it did something the comics rarely did during cross-over Crises – make permanent changes that will affect the second halves of this season. By why drag out Eobard Thawn again? How many villains has DC created in its 82 years of publishing? Use different ones. Please?

BLACK LIGHTNING is coming in January!

Copyright 2017 Michael Curry

A disjointed review of Justice League …

Only in America can a movie that has made over 200 billion dollars in profit be considered a box-office bomb.

I liked Justice League.

I didn’t love it with giddy glee nor did I hate it so much I demanded of God my 2+ hours back. But I liked it. I might even get the DVD when it comes out.

I saw it over this past weekend (as usual several weeks since it was released) after most of the professional and fanboy reviews were in.

I struggled for some days with this review – I just couldn’t put my finger on what I liked and disliked about it. I think that is because the movie couldn’t decide what it was either.

Justice League suffered from bearing the burden of being both a capstone and a touchstone.

A capstone: the finale of the first phase of the DC Cinematic Universe (DCCU) – giving us a conclusion to all that came before it. On that level, it worked: it reconciled the cliffhangers from Batman vs Superman: Superman’s death, Wonder Woman’s place in the DCCU, etc.

And to compare Justice League with the original Avengers movie is an unfair as it is inevitable: Avengers was the capstone of Marvel’s cinematic universe, but did so in a thrilling way – fans (and even non-fans – therein lies the key) were excited by a fun plot with fun characters.

The DCCU has hardly been fun.

Expectations were low for the movie – most assuming it would be the usual fest of ultra-violence and brooding sociopaths with no redemption or hope. A typical Zach Snyder film. (He left the movie after the suicide of his daughter – something that is unimaginable and my deepest sympathies and condolences go to him and his family. I can’t imagine his sadness and am very sorry for his loss. But his movies are still shit.).

Then Joss Whedon “took over” and word spread the tone was lightened and (gasp) bits of humor were injected. By this time Batman vs Superman made only the darkest basement-dwellers look forward to Justice League; while Wonder Woman gave the rest of us comic book fans cautious optimism.

DC’s capstone was satisfying, but only just. There is no avoiding the feeling that DC is struggling in Marvel’s shadow and is constantly in a state of catching up (which it has with rare exception since the 1960s).

Familiar and “new” heroes get together and fight off an alien menace. Sound familiar?

“Yes, but it’s Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman! People will flock to see it!”

Fans will, to be sure. But the rest of us? Are you willing to risk $300 million on that?

It had its great moments: the only shining point of the big battle amongst our heroes was watching Superman’s eye follow the Flash as he approached and the ensuing superspeed slugfest. You just have to see it to understand what that is going on, I won’t spoil it. We know exactly what is going through Flash’s mind at that moment. “Oh shit” was left unspoken and hardly touches how Flash must have felt.

And kudos to the secondary cast – particular Amy Adams as Lois Lane, Diane Lane as Martha Kent, JK Simmons as Commissioner Gordon and Jeremy Irons (stealing ever scene) as Alfred.

***

Justice League is also the touchstone of the future DCCU. From here would spring an Aquaman movie, a Flash movie, and a more-in-tune-DCCU-Batman and Superman franchise reboot.

Herein lies the problem – DC is again copying Marvel with Avengers Age of Ulton. It was also a lynchpin, but it spent too much time being a lynchpin and forgot it was supposed to be an enjoyable movie.

Admirably, Justice League avoided some of the problems with Age of Ultron. Time and background was given to the newbies: Aquaman, Flash and Cyborg. But was it enough to make us anticipate their movies? With the large scope of the movie, it may have gotten lost. As with the comics, the stories of the smaller characters are lost compared to the big three. Still, Justice League showed us as much of Aquaman and Flash as Civil War did of Spider-Man, which lead to Homecoming; a success

Another problem with the Flash is the parallel with the excellent handling of the CW Flash. My very first thought when I saw the trailer introducing the Speedster was, “Why not Grant Gustin?” Leave it to DC: not only are they plagued by their failures, but also their successes.

(and by the way, the DCCU is the Spock-with-a-beard universe compared to DC-CW. Gustin’s Flash – even another actor with a comparable personality – would have been an ill-fit. To his credit, Ezra Miller did a great job – he’d have made a great Peter Parker.)

Justice League had other good moments. Batman giving Flash advice: save one person at a time. I wish the movie would have continued with the theme: Flash’s rescue of the Russian family should have reminded us of that.

There’s more: some of the humor was well-placed and in character (a problem that notably plagued Thor: Ragnarok). The only real awkward/ill-placed bit of funny was in the aforesaid rescue of the Russian family. Anyone who knows the name Dostoyevsky probably knows it is not Russian for “Goodbye”.

But DC is not really known for their comedy.  Over the past few decades, they’re not really known for their comic books either…

A disjointed and mixed review for a disjointed and mixed movie. I’d like to discuss it further, would you?

Copyright 2017 Michael Curry

A Late review of Ragnarok: Uncle Thor’s Goofy House of Wacky Fun!

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Thor: Ragnarok has been out for weeks and I am only just NOW going to talk about it?! Yep, I saw it this weekend – I very rarely go see a movie on its opening weekend, remember? I mention that in almost all my movie reviews…

I was worried when I read the initial stories about this third Thor movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The press described it as a Hope & Crosby-esque Road Movie with Hulk and Thor. As the premier weekend arrived, the movie’s humor was the focus.

I was leery. Humor has its place in the Marvel Universe (cinematic or otherwise): Spider-Man revels in it. Robert Downey Jr imbues his personality into the Iron Man franchise. Guardians of the Galaxy had lots of laugh-out-loud-moments. Two words: Deadpool. Okay, that’s only one word.

The Thor franchise is the weakest of all the MCU films, with the exception of the two Hulk movies. Perhaps the powers-that-be thought to shake up their weakest link. The more successful movies are peppered with humor (Guardians, Deadpool), perhaps piling on the snark can revive this branch of the franchise and give it a blockbuster that will stand with the first Iron Man, the first Captain America and the first Avengers movie.

***

Humor has its place. Unfortunately, not in Thor; at least not this kind of humor.

It is mostly man-child dialogue enjoyed mostly by men-children. Goofy Wacky Fun. There is some physical/slapstick moments in the movie (as in the scene with Doctor Strange), but it is appropriate (it fits the scene) and does not smack of Stoogania…

(Oh, to have seen more of Benedict Cumberbatch and Tom Hiddleston together. Only one long shot of the two splendid actors together. Someone needs to develop a vehicle for the two actors. Please!)

Anyway, let’s get back to more Goofy Wacky Fun …

Chris Hemsworth may be excellent in comedic roles … in the future it may be what he is best known for …

But Thor is not a comedic role.   Having other characters around him being the focus of humor, perhaps, may have worked better. But not Thor. He doesn’t need to be funny – Jack Benny and Bob Newhart made their careers allowing others around them to be funny. Thor could be serious – and more in character – and still have scenes with many laughs.

Remember the first two Thor movies had their comic relief with Darcy Lewis and Dr. Erik Selvig. So it CAN be done. I only wish in the prior movies it were done better.

Hiddleston’s Loki is ideal for this kind of humor – the character has shown it since his inception.

But not Thor. Seeing him shout “Oh my god” or “What the hell” or whine about his hair in the best frat-boy manner is out of character and takes us out of the immersion; reminding us we are watching a movie. A movie filled with Goofy Wacky Fun (hereinafter “GWF” for brevity’s sake).

And it seemed everyone had to have their day in the snarky sun, whether it fit the character or not.

Not even Cate Blanchette as Hela the Goddess of Death was immune. Her GWF (snarky comments) aimed at Karl Urban’s Executioner were also out of character.

Even Anthony Hopkins gets in the act – although only when he is Loki in disguise – otherwise his character is the typical (read: unknowable and unpredictable) All-Father.

It worked better with Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner – the befuddled scientist lost inside the Hulk for over two years. Banner is normally played as the pitiable victim or the super-scientist. The whiny wise-cracker here fit, considering his situation.

However, the dialogue between Hulk and Thor is mostly infantile posturing. Eight-year-olds on a playground. GWF.

The eye-rollingly bad acting of Jeff Goldblum as the secondary bad guy the Grandmaster is a waste of celluloid, but fits in perfectly with Director’s Taika Waititi’s vision of GWF.

While we are on this subject, the ending clip after the credits is not worth the wait.  The middle clip after the cast credits apparently sets up Thor’s appearance in Infinity War.

The only character immune from GWF Syndrome was Heimdall, excellently and nobly played again by Idris Elba.

In sum, the GWF turned Thor into Downey’s Iron Man or Deadpool. We don’t need another snarky quipster.

It was humor at the expense of characterization and continuity; and that’s not worth the cost.

Plus, much of it wasn’t all that funny…

***

But I LIKED the movie! The good points vastly out-weigh the bad:

Tessa Thompson shines as Valkyrie. She will make a fine addition to the Marvel Universe – and note that except for Nighthawk we have most of the late-1970s Defenders in this movie!

The battle scenes are inspiring, helped by Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song” as a soundtrack – a canny but good choice with its lyrics based on Norse and Tolkien (itself the son-of-Norse) mythology.  (as with Wonder Woman‘s No-Man’s Land battle, the initial battle with Surtur is more effective and exciting than the big battle in the conclusion). Obvious, but it works. By the second airing, though, the song loses some of its thunder.  Pun intended.

Cate Blanchette’s Hela was as evil as she was incredibly sexy!

And wasn’t it fun watching her and Karl Urban together? Two Lord of the Rings vets together again for the very first time…

Heroes acted heroically.  Characters redeem themselves and we cheer.  Characters and situations irrevocably change and we mourn. That’s all I can say without spoilers.

***

Some basic questions:

Why was the identity of the “Champion” so coyly secretive when the audience knew exactly who it was since the first preview aired?

Will we ever see Asgard (or at least Asgardians) again? It is hinted that after Infinity War II our original superheroes and the actors portraying them will be gone. Will Valkyrie take over Thor’s role in future films?

***

Another good-but-not-great Thor movie. A pity … the god of thunder still deserves better.

 

Copyright 2017 Michael Curry