Happy 80th Birthday, Superman!

Action Comics #1 was published 80 years ago today.

Action Comics #1000 is now on the stands.

Wow.

Happy Birthday, Man of Steel. I’ve loved and hated the changes you’ve been put through. You were always my favorite, especially when helping the downtrodden and oppressed – THAT is the real truth, justice and the American way!!

MC

 

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Metal Men #48. November 1976

Behold, the Bronze Age!

bronze-age

“Who is Bruce Gordon and Why is He Doing All Those Terrible Things to Himself?”

Cover: Walt Simonson; Editor/Plotter: Gerry Conway

Writer: Martin Pasko; Penciler/Inker/Plotter: Walt Simonson

Colorist: Carl Gafford; Letterer: Gaspar Saladino

Assistant Editors: Paul Levitz and Jack C Harris

Robert Kanigher is given a creator credit.

Doc Magnus and the Metal Men meet Mona Bennett, Bruce Gordon’s fiancé. She needs their help: Bruce Gordon is really the evil Eclipso! He was scratched by a black diamond and anytime he is in the presense of any sclipsed sphere of light he turns into the evil spirit! While trying to destroy his alter-ego, Bruce accidentally releases him instead!

Eclipso finds a letter from Gordon’s father saying the data he seeks can be found in a library in West Germany. Mona tells the Metal Men the “data” is ancient Incan parchment saved from destruction by a Spanish monk. The Metal Men fly to the German library to find Eclipso already there! Eclipse fights off the Metal Men and leaves with the parchment.

A dying librarian points to a Peruvian map. The Metal Men deduce this must be where Eclipso is headed and they go back across the Atlantic.

The apparently beat Eclipso to an ancient abandoned Peruvian city, but not by much… Before they can make a plan Eclipso attacks!

Tin counters with the bright light of a welding torch. Eclipso screams and turns back into Bruce Gordon.

Another clue leads our heroes to Diablo Island – where Gordon first became Eclipso. They find Mophir’s cave (Mophir was the sun-god priest who fought Bruce causing his black diamond scratch …). They find an ancient tablet.

Unfortunately, retrieving the hovercraft causes an “eclipse” as it flies past the sun releasing Eclipso! He snatches the tablet and heads to a cliff overlooking the sea. Before the Metal Men can stop him, Eclipso reads from the tablet and releases the ancient god Umbra from his undersea prison!

***

The letter column explains that Gerry Conway has moved on, leaving Walt Simonson and Martin Pasko to finish the story and printed two positive letters.

***

One writer praised Simonson’s art and said it was an unusual style for the Metal Men. I agree. Although his usual excellent workman-like effort fits Eclipso and this grittier-style of story (it would not work with a lighter style of story). He captures the possibility of a grim apocalypse!

Gerry Conway (with help from Martin Pasko) advance the story of one of DC’s most interesting characters in Eclipso – he makes an unusual villain for the Metal Men which makes the story interesting and exciting. I can’t wait to see what happens next issue! Can you?

***

About the author: Michael Curry is the author of the Brave & Bold: From Silent Knight to Dark Knight, The Day John F Kennedy Met the Beatles and the award-winning Abby’s Road, the Long and Winding Road to Adoption and How Facebook, Aquaman and Theodore Roosevelt Helped.  Check his website for more releases! Thanks for reading!

With Great Power Comes Great … Debt. Marvel Comics’ 1996 Bankruptcy.

I have a blog where I discuss various legal issues. Sometimes the issues cross over with this more … nerdy-culturally-aimed blog …

Thought you might get a kick out of it …

Celebrity Spotlight: Marvel Comics

Bankruptcy affects people of every age, creed, sex or ethnicity from every part of the country. Even celebrities both loved and disliked have their financial problems and depend on the bankruptcy laws to get out from under crippling debt.

Sometimes even superheroes…

marvel-case-presentation-26-638

From Den of Geek: my thanks for aloowing me to reprint their wonderful article…

Marvel Comics had grown in stature throughout the ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s thanks to the often stunning art and storytelling in such comics as Fantastic Four and The Amazing Spider-Man, Marvel’s financial success had reached a peak by the early ’90s. But then a series of bursting financial bubbles and questionable business deals saw Marvel’s stock value collapse; shares once worth $35.75 each in 1993 had sunk to $2.375 three years later. An ugly fight between a group of very rich investors followed, and for a while, the company’s future seemed uncertain.

Yet somehow, Marvel fought through all the corporate intrigue which dogged the company in late 1996 and for many long months afterwards, and emerged from the rubble a decade later as a film industry behemoth.

In 1993, while Marvel and the comics industry as a whole seemed to be in rude health, Sandman writer Neil Gaiman stood before about 3,000 retailers and gave a speech which few in attendance wanted to hear.

In it, he argued that the success of the comic book market was a bubble – one brought on by encouraging collectors to buy multiple editions and hoard them up in the hope that they’ll one day be worth a fortune. This, Gaiman said, was akin to tulip mania – a strange period in the 17th century when the value of tulip bulbs suddenly exploded, only for the market to collapse again.

“You can sell lots of comics to the same person, especially if you tell them that you are investing money for high guaranteed returns,” Gaiman  said. “But you’re selling bubbles and tulips, and one day the bubble will burst, and the tulips will rot in the warehouse.”

The bubble Gaiman described had begun several years earlier, when comic books, once considered disposable items by parents, were becoming prized items by collectors who’d grown up with their favorite superheroes as kids. By the 1980s, comic book collecting had gained the interest of the mainstream media, which latched onto stories about Golden Age comics selling for thousands of dollars.

Publishers were themselves courting the collector market by introducing variant covers, sometimes with foil embossing or other eye-catching, fancy printing techniques. These were snapped up hungrily by readers, but also by speculators assuming that they’d stumbled on a sure-fire means of making money by storing copies up and selling them for a profit in the future.

While the comics were flying off the shelves, Marvel attracted the interest of a man named Ron Perelman. Often pictured with a broad grin and a huge cigar in his hand, Perelman was a millionaire businessman with a variety of interests: in 1985, he’d made a huge deal for cosmetic firm, Revlon through his holding company, MacAndrews & Forbes. In early 1989, Perelman spent $82.5 million on purchasing the Marvel Entertainment Group, then owned by New World Pictures.

Within two years, Marvel was on the stock market, and Perelman went on a spending spree: he bought shares in a company called ToyBiz, snapped up a couple of trading card companies, Panini stickers, and a distribution outfit, Heroes World. All told, those acquisitions cost Marvel a reported $700m.

Through the early ’90s, Marvel was buoyed by the success of Spider-Man and X-Men, which were selling in huge numbers. Sales of a new comic, X-Force, were similarly huge, thanks in part to a cunning sales gimmick: the first issue came in a poly bag with one of five different trading cards inside it. If collectors wanted to get hold of all five cards, they – you guessed it – had to buy multiple copies of the same comic. With the boom still in full swing, that’s exactly what collectors did – as former Comics International news editor Phil Hall recalls, fans were buying five copies to keep pristine and unopened, and a sixth to tear into and read.

Then, just as Gaiman predicted, the bubble burst. Between 1993 and 1996, revenues from comics and trading cards began to collapse. Suddenly, Marvel, which at one point seemed invincible as it grew in size, now looked vulnerable.

“When the business turned,” observed then-chariman and CEO of Marvel Scott Sassa, “it was like everything that could go wrong did go wrong.”

Some in the industry went further, and argued that Perelman’s tactics had endangered the entire industry:

“[Perelman] reasoned, quite correctly, that if he raised prices and output, that hardcore Marvel fans would devote a larger and larger portion of their disposable income toward buying comics,” Chuck Rozanski, wrote CEO of Mile High Comics. “Once he had enough sales numbers in place to prove this hypothesis, he then took Marvel public, selling 40% of its stock for vastly more than he paid for the entire company. The flaw in his plan, however, was that he promised investors in Marvel even further brand extensions, and more price increases. That this plan was clearly impossible became evident to most comics retailers early in 1993, as more and more fans simply quit collecting due to the high cost, and amid a widespread perception of declining quality in Marvel comics.”

Whether Perelman was directly to blame or not, the consequences for the industry as a whole were painful in the extreme. Hundreds of comic book retailers went bust as sales tumbled by 70 percent. Suddenly, the boom had turned to bust, and even Perelman admitted that he hadn’t anticipated the dark future Gaiman had warned about in his speech.

”We couldn’t get a handle on how much of the market was driven by speculators,” Perelman said; “the people buying 20 copies and reading one and keeping 19 for their nest egg…”

By 1995, Marvel Entertainment was heavily in debt. In the face of mounting losses, Perelman decided to press on into new territory: he set up Marvel Studios, a venture which he hoped would finally get the company’s most famous characters on the big screen after years of legal disputes. To do this, he planned to buy the remaining shares in ToyBiz and merge it with Marvel, creating a single, stronger entity.

Marvel’s shareholders resisted, arguing that the financial damage to Marvel’s share prices would be too great. Perelman’s response was to file for bankruptcy, thus giving him the power to reorganize Marvel without the stockholder’s consent.

Marvel filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy on December 27, 1996. Coincidentally, its highest debt of $1.7 million was owed to Disney. Over one-third of Marvel employees were laid off.

There followed a bewildering power struggle which raged for almost two years. A stockholder named Carl Icahn tried to oppose Perelman, and the financial press eagerly reported on the very public spat which ensued. Perelman, Icahn argued, “Was like a plumber you loan money to get him started in business; then he comes in, wrecks your house, then tells you he wants the house for nothing.”

The battle, when it finally ended in December 1998, had a strange outcome which few could have predicted: after a lengthy court case, ToyBiz and Marvel Entertainment Group were finally merged, but Perelman and his nemesis Icahn were both ousted in the process. Other executives with ties with Perlmutter were also severed, including CEO Scott Sassa, whose tenure had, all told, lasted just eight months.

They’d been pushed out by two ToyBiz executives who’d been on Marvel’s board since 1993: Isaac Perlmutter and Avi Arad. With Scott Sassa gone, they installed the 55-year-old Joseph Calamari, who’d been at the helm of Marvel in the 80s, as its new CEO.

With the financial intrigue in the boardroom settling down, Marvel began to turn its attention to a target it had been trying to hit since the 1980s: the movie business. The rest, as they say …

MArvel money

***

Please check my legal blog for other famous bankruptcies!

***

Cap money

***

About the author: Michael Curry is the author of the Brave & Bold: From Silent Knight to Dark Knight, The Day John F Kennedy Met the Beatles and the award-winning Abby’s Road, the Long and Winding Road to Adoption and How Facebook, Aquaman and Theodore Roosevelt Helped.  Check his website for more releases! Thanks for reading!

 

Jonn Jonzz Martian Manhunter; Mission: Catch a Killer story arc (part two)

The Back Pages: back-up features of the Bronze Age of comic books:

J’onn J’onzz The Martian Manhunter; Mission: Catch a Killer atory arc (read part one here)

***

 

Adventure Comics #451, June 1977

Adventure 451

“Return to Destiny”

Writer: Denny O’Neil

Penciler: Michael Nasser, Inker: Terry Austin

Colorist: Liz Berube, Editor: Paul Levitz

From DC Wikia:

J’onn J’onzz, having eliminated Superman and Green Lantern from his list of suspects, confronts and attacks Hawkman and Hawkgirl in their Thanagarian spaceship and accuses them of R’es Eda’s murder. Hawkgirl rescues her husband and J’onzz from dying in airless space, and they prove their innocence to J’onzz, who apologizes. But N’or Cott has equipped a Superman robot with a bomb and sent it towards Hawkman’s ship, and it is admitted inside.

***

The reader discovers this story line concludes in the pages of World’s Finest Comic #245.

Frankly, even after all these years, this has to be the strangest dialogue to ever create a cliffhanger in comics…

Adventure 451 final panel

Very strange …

Very …

***

 

World’s Finest #245

July, 1977

Writer: Bob Haney

Penciler: Curt Swan, Inker: Murphy Anderson

Colorist: Jerry Serpe, Letterer: Debra Schulman

Editor: Dennis O’Neil, Executive Editor: Joe Orlando

From DC Wikia:

After a mysterious Superman Robot attempts to murder J’onn J’onnz, Superman and Batman lend a hand on the investigation and return to Mars II with J’onn J’onzz after they learned that some Martians are trying to conquer a city, unaware that its atmosphere will prove deadly to them.

J’onn and Superman are unable to convince the Martians to stop their efforts, as they all believe J’onn is a traitor and they shouldn’t heed his words. Meanwhile, Batman finds a Martian who has been affected by the city’s deadly atmosphere and takes him to the rest of the Martians, who are finally convinced of the truth and decide to follow J’onn’s leadership.

***

Going from Nasser/Austin’s uber-gritty and realistic art to the legendary work of Swanderson is a jolt. A pleasant jolt, true, but still a jolt. The Nasser/Austin team was present in the Green Arrow/Black Canary tales in this same comic!

Also, O’Neil edited the story but handed the writing chore to WF regular Bob Haney.

***

Jonn Jonzz was, unfortunately, a third-tier (if that) character in the Bronze Age, appearing in a few issues of Justice League of America and in this back-up feature. His fortunes would change in the modern age with his stint in Keith Giffen’s Justice League and his own long-lasting series in the 80s and 90s. He is now also a regular character in the CW/TV series Supergirl.

***

About the author: Michael Curry is the author of the Brave & Bold: From Silent Knight to Dark Knight, The Day John F Kennedy Met the Beatles and the award-winning Abby’s Road, the Long and Winding Road to Adoption and How Facebook, Aquaman and Theodore Roosevelt Helped.  Check his website for more releases! Thanks for reading!

 

J’onn J’onzz Martian Manhunter; Mission: Catch a Killer (part one)

The Back Pages: back-up features of the Bronze Age of comic books:

J’onn J’onzz The Martian Manhunter; Mission: Catch a Killer atory arc (part one)

Adventure 449 cover

Adventure Comics #449, February 1977

“Mission: Catch a Killer”

Writer: Denny O’Neil

Penciler: Michael Nasser, Inker: Terry Austin

Colorist: Carl Gafford

Editor: Paul Levitz

From DC Wikia:

Just as J’onn J’onzz is awarded leadership of Mars II for a second term as popular vote, his friend R’es Eda is cut down and apparently killed by a sniper. Eda’s last words were “was from…was…sol…”, which J’onzz interprets as meaning the killer was from Earth, a world circling Sol (Earth’s sun). Since no one there except the members of the Justice League knew where Mars II was located, J’onzz suspects that, like it or not, one of them may be involved in the murder. Though N’or Cott and other Martians try to stop him from leaving Mars, J’onzz steals one of Mars’s two spacecraft and heads for Earth, with N’or Cott in pursuit.

***

This is the first Martian Manhunter solo story since House of Mystery #173 (April 1968) and his first solo story of the Bronze Age.

***

 

Adventure 450 cover

Adventure Comics #450, April 1977

“Return to Destiny”

Writer: Denny O’Neil

Penciler/Colorist: Michael Nasser, Inker: Terry Austin

Editor: Paul Levitz

From DC Wikia:

Just after J’onn J’onzz breaches Earth’s atmosphere, his ship is blasted by N’or Cott, destroying it, dazing him, and drawing the attention of Supergirl. The Girl of Steel is mistakenly drawn into battle against the Martian Manhunter until she brings him back to his senses. When N’or Cott releases two more torpedoes, Supergirl intercepts and destroys them. J’onn stops her from pursuing Cott, saying that their attacker “is merely doing his duty.” But he tells her that somewhere on Earth is R’es Eda’s murderer, and he is bound to bring him to justice.

***

The 450th issue of Adventure comes and goes with no mention – anniversary issues such as this are celebrated and hyped throughout the Bronze (and later) age.

Also with no cover blurb or any hype, this is the first appearance of Supergirl in Adventure since her own series in #424, 4-1/2 years earlier. At the least that could have been hyped as an anniversary “gift” to the readers.

Adventure 450 splash

To be continued!

***

Nowadays, J’onn J’onnz is an integral part of Supergirl’s life in the current television series on the CW…

***

About the author: Michael Curry is the author of the Brave & Bold: From Silent Knight to Dark Knight, The Day John F Kennedy Met the Beatles and the award-winning Abby’s Road, the Long and Winding Road to Adoption and How Facebook, Aquaman and Theodore Roosevelt Helped.  Check his website for more releases! Thanks for reading!

 

 

 

 

 

 

DC Super-Stars Vol 1 #15, August, 1977

Behold, the Bronze Age!

bronze-age

Cover: Tatjana Wood

“Heap the Corpses High!”

Writer: Robert Kanigher, Penciler: Lee Elias,

Inker: Romeo Tanghal, Colorist: Tatjana Wood, Editor: Paul Levitz

The Nazis developed ICBM missiles that can strike at America. The Unknown Soldier is ordered to find the location of the missiles and eliminate the man in charge.

In Paris, Mlle. Marie believes she executes Hitler! It ended up being a decoy. Chased throughout the city, she is rescued by the Unknown Soldier and both barely escape the city with their lives!

Sgt. Rock and Easy Company are trapped and pummeled by a Nazi unit. Rock saves his men but at great physical cost. Recuperating in a battalion aid field hospital, he is visited by the Unknown Soldier who assures him that Rock will lead Easy Company soon.

Sure enough, Rock walks up to his recuperating Company and moves them out to retake the mountain retreat that nearly slaughtered them. They are again pinned down but saved by a mysterious masked skier who attacks the Nazis from the rear. It is Mlle. Marie!

Rock and Mlle. Marie work their way into a crevasse in the mountain to find the ICBMs aimed at America. Rock and Marie are trapped and saved by … Sgt. Rock of Easy Company?

Surprise! The Rock with Mlle. Marie was actually the Unknown Soldier in disguise! Unable to stop the countdown, the Soldier seemingly gives his life by dropping a string of grenades into the crevasse. Is the Soldier dead? No, Rock and Marie spot him skiing down the mountain.

***

This house ad explains it better than I can …

DCSS 15 house ad

***

While not the best war comic ever written, this issue is pretty good, if only because it is so long. Most war comics at the time had two or three stories per issue – here was over 30 pages of non-stop action! Kanigher is at his best here – giving us plenty of action but some characterization, too, although in a short-handed way. “B Company got slaughtered, Rock.” “I got eyes.” Rock is both cold and caring. The Unknown Soldier is too. Mlle. Marie seems to be the only passionate fighter in the pack.

The art is excellent. Lee Elias’ spanned the Golden, Silver and Bronze Ages – known mainly for his work on the Golden/Silver Age Green Arrow. That being said, every time I open up a DC war comic I am slightly disappointed when the artist is NOT Joe Kubert. But Elias’s style is clean and clear and fits the story – James Sherman and Jack Abel reflect this style.

Rock had met the Unknown Soldier before, and they make an odd team-up. Easy with his combat-happy Joes of Easy Company do not mesh with the espionage of the Unknown Soldier’s world. But Kanigher pulls it off.

This is not the first time Mille. Marie gets short shrift in a team-up book (and when I was a kid reading these stories I thought her name was pronounced “Millie Marie”).

The Brave and the Bold #53 touted three Battle Stars: Sgt. Rock, Johnny Cloud, & The Haunted Tank (its crew obviously counted as one star…) also had Mlle. Marie. Four stars …

What do you expect in a man’s world?

***

About the author: Michael Curry is the author of the Brave & Bold: From Silent Knight to Dark Knight, The Day John F Kennedy Met the Beatles and the award-winning Abby’s Road, the Long and Winding Road to Adoption and How Facebook, Aquaman and Theodore Roosevelt Helped.  Check his website for more releases! Thanks for reading!

Hercules Unbound #2

Behold! The Bronze Age!

bronze-age

Hercules Unbound #2, January 1976

“And Unleash the Hounds of Hell”

Cover: José Luis García-López, Editor: Joe Orlando

Writer: Gerry Conway; Penciler: José Luis García-López; Inker: Wally Wood

Hercules and Kevin are once again assaulted by humans-turned-demons in the streets of Paris. The meet a group of normal humans (including a beautiful blonde named Jennifer Morgan) who invite our heroes to their hidden living quarters.

Ares watches the exchange and summons Cerebus, a Nubian in charge of two-headed hounds, to kill Hercules. With the Son of Zeus dead, Ares explains, he can continue his war among the humans and burn the world to a crisp.

The Hounds of Hell attack Hercules and Cerebus runs off with Jennifer. Hercules defeats the Hounds and joins battle with the Nubian. Cerebus buries Herc in rubble and takes Jennifer as his prize.

Kevin revives Hercules and they track Cerebus to his lair in the remains of the Louvre. Inside Hercules and Kevin find a portal to hell. To save Jennifer, they must enter the Pit!

***

The letter page gives a synopsis of the previous issue and tells us of other comics written or drawn by the creative team.

***

Now we get to see some of Hercules’ fabled strength in battle, as well as some of his personality. Rather than the boastful Marvel hero, DC’s version is a little quieter but still boastful, grinning as he enters into battle and just as confident in his abilities.

Excellent sophomore entry. Lopez’s art is starting to seep through the heavy Wood inks to excellent effect. Kevin is still a mystery, but we do not question which side he is on. Good guys fighting the good fight.

***

About the author: Michael Curry is the author of the Brave & Bold: From Silent Knight to Dark Knight, The Day John F Kennedy Met the Beatles and the award-winning Abby’s Road, the Long and Winding Road to Adoption and How Facebook, Aquaman and Theodore Roosevelt Helped.  Check his website for more releases! Thanks for reading!