Sunday, July 31, 2011

'Epic Illustrated', Summer 1980

The second issue of Marvel’s ‘Epic Illustrated’ is the Summer 1980 issue and features a cover illustration by Richard Corben. 

This issue provides a Letters column; not surprisingly, many writers reference ‘Heavy Metal’ magazine, and Archie Goodwin exhibits some testiness in his responses to these letters, arguing that he and Stan Lee “…have our own distinct editorial tastes and points of view”, and that “I don’t believe the two magazines will ever be so similar that one will cancel the other out….If you want to feel that Epic is better (than Heavy Metal), we’re not about to talk you out of it.” 

This issue features a lengthy first installment of R.E. Howard’s ‘Almuric’, written by Roy Thomas and illustrated by Tim Conrad. It’s not a bad strip. ‘Monkey See’, by Steve Bisette and Rick Veitch, deals with trigger-happy teens on an otherworldy fishing trip. 

Mimicking Heavy Metal’s use of topical columns during the Ted White editorial years, there is an interesting text feature on ‘Fantasy and the fantastic in European comics’ by Maurice Horn.

Jim Starlin’s self-indulgent ‘Metamorphosis Odyssey’ continues. ‘Killraven’ artist P. Craig Russell provides ‘Siegfried and the Dragon’, with some distinctive colors and skillfull penciling.

There is an interview with TV producer Glan A. Larson about the ‘Buck Rogers’ show, and a black and white strip titled ‘Tarn’s World’ by Robert Wakelin; good artwork, but an underwhelming script by Archie Goodwin.

One of the better pieces in this issue is the low-key ‘Seven Moon’s Light (Casts Complex Shadows)’, an adaptation of the Samuel Delany story by Howard Chaykin. I’ve posted it below.

Friday, July 29, 2011

'Gamma Point 3' by Sergio Macedo
from the compilation 'Psychorock'

During the  first few years of Heavy Metal magazine's existence (1977 - 1979), some of the best artwork was that done by the Brazilian artist Sergio Macedo (b. 1951). His initial pieces were primarily black and white strips, but in 1979 he produced the serial feature 'Telefield' (aka 'Telechamp').

Whether in black and white or color, Macedo's meticulous artwork has a distinctive style that incorporates the visual imagery associated with Buddhism and TM, along with that of bikers and punk culture. It's an offbeat mix, but when you throw in lots of nudity, it becomes something the stoner readership of HM eagerly embraced.

The large-format paperback 'Psychorock' was released by Heavy Metal Books in 1977; this is a compilation of  5 of Macedo's b & w Metal Hurlant strips from the late 70s.

Posted below is 'Gamma Point 3'

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Richard Corben interview Part II
from the July 1981 issue of Heavy Metal

After unsuccessfully trying to establish that Corben's artwork somehow is a reflection of a unique state of deviancy or neurosis, Heavy Metal interviewer Brad Balfour drops the amateur psychoanalysis, and focuses the interview (as he should have done from the start) on Corben's life as an artist. 

There are some interesting observations concerning Corben's reception by the underground comix practitioners of the late 60s and early 70s..... 

Monday, July 25, 2011

'The Experiment' by Justo Jimeno
from the Spring 1986 issue of Heavy Metal magazine

Heavy Metal magazine ran into difficulties in 1986. 

The magazine adopted a quarterly publication schedule, with Editor-in-Chief Julie Lynch declaring the change was expressly designed to provide readers with a longer-length magazine with 3 - 4 complete stories in each issue, as opposed to the previous philosophy of running stories in monthly installments. 

This may have been true, or it may simply have been a way of putting a brave face on the reality of decreasing circulation.

By 1986 mainstream color comics were exploding in terms of titles and circulation, a phenomenon aided and abetted by the arival of dedicated comic shops. 

These shops served as comic book-centered brick-and-mortar retail outlets, replacing the five-and-dime and drugstore outlets that, up until the 80s, were the primary retail outlets for comic books. 

Significantly, the existence of these shops also meant that non-Code approved books had a ready sales outlet perfectly timed to exploit the advent of a large demographic of comic book purchasers over 21. 

Soon, the more 'adult' or 'mature' material that had been the sole playground of the Warren magazines, Heavy Metal, and Epic Illustrated, was flowing from myriad color comic books issued not only from the major publishers, but from an ever-expanding list of indie publishers. Stoners and emerging blocs of fanboys no longer had to spend 3 to 5 dollars for an issue of Heavy Metal or Creepy for their T&A; they could get it for $1.25 or less from a non-Code approved comic book.

Still, some good, shorter-length material did continue to appear in Heavy Metal, albeit more sporadically. Among the more memorable pieces was this creepy proto-Steampunk story, featuring outstanding artwork from the talented Spanish artist Justo Jimeno Bazaga. 

Saturday, July 23, 2011

'The Bus' by Paul Kirchner

Friday, July 22, 2011

Book Review: A Spaceship for the King

Book Review: 'A Spaceship for the King' by Jerry Pournelle

4 / 5 Stars 

‘A Spaceship for the King’ is DAW Book No. 42 (157 pp.) and was first printed in February 1973; the cover artwork is by Kelly Freas.

After engaging in internecine warfare for centuries, the Galactic Empire emerges victorious but badly depleted. Re-establishing its hegemony over the various colony worlds scattered around the galaxy will have to be done on the cheap. Accordingly, individual destroyers are sent out to convince those planets unenthused about re-joining the Empire…. and paying taxes…of the error of their ways. Only those planets with starflight capability are immune from coercion, as the Empire has no desire to battle any forces with a technological capacity equal to its own.

On Prince Samual’s World, the arrival of an Imperial destroyer causes consternation. For centuries the citizens of Samual’s World, where the technology is at a level similar to that of Central Europe ca.1950, have occupied themselves with various Ruritanian wars and intrigues. At first they resist the Imperial force, but after several of their cities and armies are burned to cinders by the orbiting destroyer, they have no choice but to submit to the Empire.

King David the Ninth, the ruler of Samual’s World, is ill disposed to seeing his planet become a  vassal to the distant Empire. There is one loophole that he can exploit: any planet possessing spaceflight is granted a measure of independence from Imperial rule. But how can Samual’s World build a functioning starship when the Empire carefully restricts access to advanced technology ? 

The answer: on the planet Makassar, now descended into barbarity and anarchy, stands a Temple with a library filled with data records from Old Earth – including records on how to construct a starship.

Former colonel Nathan MacKinnie finds himself the lead agent on a desperate mission for King David: under the guise of a Trader, MacKinnie is to board an Imperial Trading Association starship heading to Makassar. Once on Makassar, MacKinnie is to locate the Temple and gain the library records that will lead to freedom for Prince Samual’s World.

But the mission will not be easy. The Empire has no interest in sending an escort to protect a group of traders and merchants on a backwater planet like Makassar. It will fall to MacKinnie to make his own way through pirate fleets and barbarian hordes to the Temple…and once there, he has to convince the ruling aristocracy to let him have access to the sacred records no off-worlder is allowed to see….

‘A Spaceship for the King’ is a well-written, solid SF adventure with a military bent. Author Pournelle has tended to be overlooked by the SF establishment at large, primarily because of his libertarian / conservative political attitudes and the decidedly commercial nature of much of his fiction (Pournelle, along with longtime co-author Larry Niven, never embraced the New Wave ethos or its creed of Art before Commerce).

There are passages of ‘Spaceship’ that get a little too self-indulgent; a description of a sea engagement comes across as an excerpt from a Patrick O’Brian ‘Aubrey’ novel, and a chapter dealing with a ground engagement goes a bit too deeply into the tactical aspects of sword and shield warfare.

Overall, however, ‘Spaceship’ is one of the better of the early releases by DAW Books, and is worth searching out.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Killraven Amazing Adventures No. 39

Killraven: 'Amazing Adventures' No. 39
(November 1976)

This is it ! 

It’s early Fall 1976 and the final issue of the 25-issue ‘War of the Worlds’ series, starring Killraven, is out and in the pages of ‘Amazing Adventures’ (November 1976).

The cover tells us it’s ‘The Final Glory’….is this the final battle, the ultimate showdown with the Martians ? Will Killraven and his crew engage in one last desperate struggle to overthrow Earth’s conquerors and make the planet free again ?


In fact, this last installment of the original Killraven saga is one of the lamest conclusions in the history of modern comics !

‘Mourning Prey’ has nothing to do with the Martian at all. Not only are there no Martians in this issue, but it’s pretty plain that Stan Lee and Archie Goodwin had no intention of commissioning a special concluding story arc. Killraven’s sales were bad, the series was being canceled, so they simply ran whatever story writer Don McGregor had in the queue.

‘Mourning Prey’ is McGregor’s writing at its worst: clumsy flashbacks, poetic, purple language, empty phrases designed to communicate Something Profound. Toss in the fact that the main adversary is a Butterfly Woman (?!) who’s mad at Killraven for slaughtering some purple caterpillars (?!), and you have the makings of a real underwhelming story………

As always, artist Craig Russell’s work is of good quality and struggles to express itself under McGregor’s verbiage.

So here it is in its entirety, the last issue of the ‘Killraven / War of the Worlds’ series from the mid-70s: