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The ’80s Revisited: The Untold Legend of the Batman #1

untold_legend_of_the_batman_0001In the Beginning

Writer: Len Wein
Artists: John Byrne & Jim Aparo
Colorist: Glynis Wein
Letterer: John Costanza
Cover by: Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez
Editor: Paul Levitz
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: July 1980
Cover Price: 40 cents

This is a comic that I clearly recall coming across in Grandpa’s collection all those years ago–after he’d loaned me a stack to read, and we visited and I found it in his comics cupboard. It stood out to me immediately for the cover being taken up itself by a giant book, with three very recognizable villains (Joker, Penguin, Riddler) apparently teamed up, utilizing the book to learn more about the Batman. The Joker proclaiming "This book will tell us everything we need to know to defeat the Batman!" To this day, this particular issue is rather "iconic" to me, one of the more "singular" stand-out covers IN comics (though a bit behind the third issue of this very series, which I’ll touch on when I get to that issue).

Presently in 2017 (some 37 years after this issue originally saw print!) the issue is definitely a bit "dated" in that it’s clearly from its time…but for me, it’s rather timeless. And it’s easy to see as I read just how much this very issue originally (and still) informs my FOUNDATION with the Batman character and mythos–from Thomas Wayne’s costume, to Leslie Thompkins and Joe Chill and Lew Moxon, the notion of Bruce as the first Robin, and so on.

The issue opens with Batman having a pleasant moment with Alfred, going through mail…only to discover a package with the shredded remains of the most valuable item in the Batcave–the costume once worn by Bruce’s father, which inspired his own look as Batman! This kicks off some nostalgia/reminiscing between Bruce and Alfred, which gives us as readers the background on the costume, the "base" origin with the death of the Waynes and Bruce’s childhood vow and self-training, to some specifics of the training and such, the origin of both his costume and the Robin outfit, and a glimpse in montage of many of the villains faced over the years. We also get the "expanded" origin details of young Bruce having been taken in by his Uncle Philip, and being "raised" by the man’s housekeeper, Mrs. Chilton (unknowingly mother of the man who murdered the Waynes), as well as Batman and Robin’s discovery of Joe Chill and eventually Lew Moxon, and how the Wayne murder case was finally, completely closed. Despite 18+ pages of additional story (the issue has 21), there’s no resolution regarding the destruction of Thomas Wayne’s costume nor the perpetrator.

What we ultimately have here is basically a framing device to give thin "reason" to characters reminiscing in that classic comics way–think all that hard on it, and it’s like–what? These characters have known each other too long, been through too much, to have this sort of stuff in this sort of detail coming up. There’s also the issue of the thought balloons seeming–by 2017 standards to me–being very in-your-face and blatantly stating stuff that would be left to be hinted at or given only as a subtlety.

While I’ve probably known this issue’s art was John Byrne and Jim Aparo, I feel like it’s "consciously" new information to me in the sense that it feels so revelatory. This series being one of THE early introductions for me to Batman, and the character’s background and generally a compact, definitive source on all things Batman…it would seem to clearly explain why I particularly dig Aparo‘s Batman, and any Batman that looks close to how he appears here!

I also wasn’t aware–until rather recently (a couple years or so back)–that this was written by Len Wein. This series is one that, as a kid, simply WAS Batman. I didn’t know the artists, I didn’t know the writer, I just knew that this was Batman, this was his origin and the showing of everything that made up the character and associated characters, and that was that.

So framing device or not, ludicrously blatant detailing of stuff or not…this was a very key comic for me in my youth, and I love it to this day for what it was, and remains, to me, though this is a much different Batman than the one I’ve known for most of the time I’ve been into "current comics," and could functionally be a whole different character (and in a sense, is–this is from a half-decade PRIOR TO Crisis on Infinite Earths!).

I have a definite soft spot for this mini-series, which is also why it hardly phased me to buy a new-to-me copy of all three issues just for the convenience of re-reading the single issues AND seeing the original ads and such, rather than simply grabbing my Tales of the Batman: Len Wein volume off the shelf to re-read it or such.

I’m certainly biased on the issue, but I think if you’re a fan like me and enjoy the different "eras" of Batman, this is an issue well worth reading in some form.

And while I’ll get into it more for the third issue, it should definitely be noted here: there is an audio-drama of sorts out there for this issue…this entire mini-series was made into a "comics on tape" thing with a voice cast, music, and so on, and packaged with reprint editions of each issue.

Continue reading

The Weekly Haul – Week of May 17, 2017 (Part Two)

Along with the closer-to-current-home shops that I’m able to get to pretty easily and "casually" I still maintain a pull list at the shop that’s been my "main" shop for nearly a decade now, prior to being laid off last summer.

I had a bigger haul there at Kenmore Komics & Games over the weekend, with the store’s 30th Anniversary Sale!

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I’ve maintained Spawn as a pull for over a year now, close to a year and a half–and at this point figure it’ll remain at least until McFarlane and/or Image bump it up to $3.99. I’ll be ok with a bump to say, $3.50, but if they go straight for the 33% hike straight past $3.25, $3.50, and $3.75 straight to $3.99, I’ll surely balk at it!

However, as a "special occasion," I’m ok with the $4.99 for the Spawn 25th Anniversary Director’s Cut of #1–I’m entertained at the cover (an homage to Ultimate Spider-Man #1, incidentally from 2000 or so–barely 8 years into Spawn‘s existence, where USM is itself some 16 1/2 years in the past!

Then there’s The Sovereigns, which I was NOT going to go for–it’s like Dynamite has no idea what to do with these characters! There was a year-long (year and a half with delays?) run of several of the former Gold Key books, then there was some other mini-series last year "teaming them up," and now there’s this–which seems to be yet another take on the properties (as a shared universe at that). Still, with my ill-will toward Valiant (coming up on 2 years since I dropped their entire brand cold-turkey over their crap stunt with Legends of the Geomancer), I’ll support a crappily-run situation like these in protest…at least Dynamite just has the generic/general/standard CRAP with variant covers, and isn’t actively trying to screw over fans for CONTENT.

And I’d requested the standard cover for Flash #22…I still want to get a standard Batman #21 to "frame" along with this for my wall.

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As part of the 20th anniversary sale, I hit the back-issue bins and found The Untold Legend of the Batman mini-series. I’m quite certain I have these issues in my collection already…but darned if I’d be able to locate them without digging through several dozen shortboxes and a few dozen longboxes…with the sale, I got all three issues for less than the cost of two contemporary Marvel comics. So three issues’ content that I want to read sooner than later cheaper than two issues that I’d have no interest in? Definitely a worthwhile price, and well within my notion that I’ll gladly (relatively) pay up to $4ish in general for back issues as that’s balanced against what I’m paying anyway for a new/contemporary comic.

weeklyhaul_05172017d

I also finally remembered to check for the AvX: Consequences #5 issue, hoping I’m actually remembering the correct issue that I’m missing. I’d managed to get 4 of the 5 issues as single issues, but somehow either flat-out missed the fifth, or misplaced it and never came across it consciously when going through my boxes. So though I have the two hardcover Omnibus volumes, this gives me a complete set, I believe, of the core AvX 0-12 and Consequences 1-5.

I also snagged the Supergirl volume from a 50%-off bin, figuring for the savings, well worth getting for now, even though the first volume wasn’t there. Fortunately, it turned out I already had the first volume–it’s the Supergirl by Peter David volumes I never wound up acquiring…so this goes with the first volume and thus was all the more a great purchase!

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Along with the purchases, got two free Castle volumes in hardcover–apparently with chain bookstore returns, the shop got quite a large volume of these for free as part of a blowout, so they were additional notes of "thanks" to customers for coming by.

kenmore_30th_anniversary_dice

Finally, as with the 25th anniversary half a decade ago, John had commemorative dice made, and told me to go ahead and take a couple sets. Along with a couple Gen Con D6s, the 25th anniversary one has been a favorite, and these’ll be going into the dice bag as well!

All in all, quite the haul for not a bad price, and some sweet bonuses. There’s also a Riverdale print that I’ll likely be adding to my wall o’ art.

Hard to believe that I’ve been around long enough to see comic shops celebrating 20+ year anniversaries; given timing, I’d just missed the 20th anniversary when I discovered Kenmore, but have been around for nearly 1/3 of the shop’s existence.

And closer to this house, Comic Heaven  recently celebrated an anniversary–I know I have been going there for nearly 24 years now! And even Comics & Friends at the Great Lakes Mall I believe has been around nearly a decade now–their Lake Effect Comic Con is coming up in a couple weeks for its eighth year!

On My History With Aliens

alien3_novelizationThe Aliens franchise is a strange one for me. I’ve realized in recent years that it is honestly one of my absolute favorites, for whatever reason(s)–going back to the novels that so grabbed me as a kid, despite the horror elements–or perhaps because of them.

As my memory currently stands, I’d found a copy of Alien3–the novelization by Alan Dean Foster. After reading that and knowing it was based on a movie, I wanted to see the movie. Long story short, despite misgivings, I was allowed to rent and watch it–I credit it as my first "allowed" R-rated film.

Of course, this was the THIRD film, and there were two others. And being the reader that I was, I got into the other novelizations and films. I distinctly recall the sense of deja-vu in reading the novelization of Alien…I’m pretty certain to this day that I had actually read that some time before, never having a clue that it had anything at all to do with some movie. Of course I read it again having context of it being a movie…though I think at the time I thought the movie was based on the book rather than the other way around.

aliens_bantam_spectra_runI eventually got into the Aliens novels, then published by Bantam Spectra, based on the Dark Horse comics. These were where the non-film stories most stand out to me: the original "trilogy," or first three series from Dark Horse. In these, the Alien gets to Earth, where predictably it escapes confinement and the Earth is ultimately lost. Two survivors (based on Hicks and Newt) wind up on a couple adventures, eventually team up with Ripley (explained as an android with the original’s memories, accounting for the events of Alien 3) and left on a hopeful if ambiguous note.

avp_deadliest_heroillustratedThen further stories picked up some two decades after this, and seemed to maintain a certain sort of loose continuity–at least in the novels; though regardless, the stories were entertaining enough to read, even though none of them stood up against the immensity of the first three-parter. There were also several crossing the Aliens with Predator, which also led me to the Predator films.

By then, I’d been aware of both franchises and their crossing thanks to Hero Illustrated and such with hype over Aliens vs. Predator: Deadliest of the Species. avp_three_world_war_0002But it was the novels that I preferred, having little interest at the time in the actual comics, given it was years before "anything and everything" could be relatively simply located–and for bargain prices–online, and further before everything was collected and at least available to be READ if not owned in original single issues.

In the last several years, I’ve "gotten back into" Aliens, with Titan Books now having the license, and putting out some new editions and original stories and such, along with newer editions of the packaging for the films on home media, and new (but too-expensive) toys.

And of course, there have been the comics. There was AVP: Three World War, I believe standing as its own story with not much to do with the films, but utilizing the logo/branding from the AVP films. There was another Aliens series that I’m sure I at least had the first issue, but not sure if I followed through with the series in general.

lifeanddeath_predatorIn 2014, there was the mega-arc Fire and Stone, with 4-issue mini-series each for Prometheus, Aliens, Predator, and AVP that tied together into the larger overall story.

Last year we had the start of a new major Aliens series in Defiance–offhand, I think the longest singular Aliens series (Aliens vs. Predator: Deadliest of the Species was 12 issues, I believe, but that wasn’t a singular-property series).

Last year also saw the start of a new mega-arc Life and Death, which was "in the tradition of Fire and Stone" with 4-issue minis for each of the four brands, collectively telling one larger overall arc.

Despite both Defiance and Life and Death starting last year, I got behind on READING, so it was only in April–right after the final chapter of Life and Death hit–that I carved out several hours and read that story cycle straight through–lifeanddeath_aliensall 17 chapters–in one day. I also re-read the Defiance issues I’d read, and continued on, though those had a slight delay with real-life issues going on, and I finished catching up a week or so ago.

There’s a new Predator mini that’s started that looks like it builds on continuity established over the years in the Dark Horse series, which makes it all the more appealing to me, as I can go back and read (finally) older stories for enhanced understanding/context.

I posted photos of my Aliens "bookshelf" collection several weeks ago and more recently found a couple figures from the 1990s toy line. A new book anthology Aliens: Bug Hunt was recently released and has been my current "reading project" on lunches at work.

lifeanddeath_predatorWhich all sorta converges this weekend with the release of the new Ridley Scott-helmed film Alien: Covenant. To my understanding, this is a "sequel" of sorts to 2012’s Prometheus which was itself a quasi-prequel to Alien (in that it’s in the same universe and took place prior to the events of the original Alien film). Given the use of Alien back in the title itself, I’m definitely expecting to see the eponymous creature in this one. I’m also looking forward to the film in general as (expectationally) my first theatrical Scott Alien film (though I’ve seen Alien Resurrection, AVP, AVP Requiem, and Prometheus during their theatrical runs).

Perhaps–for me–one of the great things with the Aliens (and Predator) stuff (whether as novels or comics) is that there are so many stories to tell, as well as so many iterations ofsuperman_aliens_ad a formula. The basic elements are there, one can generally have accurate expectations going into a story–but there doesn’t even HAVE TO BE a singular, linear "continuity." The creatures work in stories on their own, or even interacting with other franchises. To me, one of the best of those is the Superman/Aliens crossover, as that drew directly from and even had lasting repercussions within the Superman titles. (And on the matter of lasting repercussions, I believe the Aliens crossover with WildC.A.T.s was the finale of that series and a sort of inciting incident that moved us from Stormwatch to The Authority).

But while a larger story can be found, it seems like if you know the "basics" of the property, you can pretty much read whatever, whenever, without missing out. And the model for the comics lifeanddeath_prometheushas apparently always been the "limited series"–I don’t believe there’s ever been an "ongoing" series with any intention or expectation of exceeding 12 issues; with a number of shorter serialized stories, a "prestige format" 2-issue series, or 4 to 6 issues for a series. And these are finite and collected–largely–in Dark Horse‘s Omnibus line.

It’s also far more achievable to pursue a "complete" collection of Aliens comics than characters that have been around longer, and in ongoing series and crossovers and minis and such all around.

For now–the new Alien film. With plenty of new material to read, and loads to re-read, and old material to read for the first time. It seems like a great time to be "into" the franchise(s) and such with so much content readily available–new and old–to go through!

alien_covenant_poster

The Weekly Haul – Week of May 17, 2017

This week was another smallish, simple-ish week…at least for the "Wednesday Person" in me. I had the presence of mind to message Comic Heaven at lunchtime to request the Superman, Flash,and Teen Titans issues be pulled for me, anticipating the Flash issue in particular selling out, and with my luck, the Teen Titans issue would also have been a surprise sell-out. And Since I was requesting issues anyway, no sense risking Superman.

weeklyhaul_05172017a

And then, because they had issue 4 in stock, I also bought the new issue #5 of God Country, which I think catches me up…in ownership, at least, though I don’t remember if I’d actually read issue 2 or only the first issue. As a mini-series (apparently like Reborn and also Surgeon X), I’m sorta annoyed–I’d prefer a singular graphic novel–but already having several of the single issues, cheaper to catch up than pay for a whole graphic novel (especially if the single issues will be harder to come by later).

I’ve got several issues on hold at Kenmore that I hope to pick up this week…but it’s amazing how sparse Time can be when it seems at other points to drag.

We have two more Wednesdays this month…with The Button now concluded (and apparently the next big thing being The Doomsday Clock in November) I think the next couple weeks will primarily be seeing stuff continue to unfold in the Superman titles, and the back half of The Lazarus Contract in Deathstroke next week and the Teen Titans Annual (I believe) the following week.

Hopefully small-ish weeks here, given other stuff I’ve put money into lately.

The Rocksteady Three – TMNT Toys

Last year, I showed off all 3 versions of Bebop in action figure format. Now it’s time to show off Rocksteady the same way!

rocksteady_80s

Here’s the original figure, from the 1980s line. This is a genuine, vintage Rocksteady…though unfortunately, I’ve been unable to locate my original original figure, so this is one I was able to get for a very reasonable price online not too long ago.

rocksteady_2012

Then we have the newer version, as seen in the current animated series. I find this one to be a lot more angular and "rough" compared to the softer/"rounder" original. Like Bebop, this version of Rocksteady is Rocksteady in nickname, not the actual character–at least originally, prior to being dubbed "Rocksteady."

rocksteady_2016movie

And here’s the 2016 movie version, TMNT: Out of the Shadows. Like the movie Bebop, this one looks like some sort of biker or such, certainly a bruiser, and not at all like anyone I’d want to meet randomly…anywhere. Perhaps simply for having been a (CGI) character in a live-action movie, this version seems the most "believable" or "realistic" of the three, though each certainly has its place!

rocksteady_3

And here are all three versions side-by-side.

It’s rather interesting to me to consider that I’ve been around long enough, that I’ve been into TMNT long enough that there’ve been three entirely separate toy lines, such that I’ve found all three versions (originally) "on the pegs" at stores.

I’m not sure which version of these I’d prefer if I had to choose one…perhaps for nostalgia’s sake, I’d have to go with the original, even though I’m not a huge fan of the character, exactly.

Again as with Bebop, I’d much prefer to see a version based on the contemporary IDW comics series,where I feel like the characters have been handled the best of all the iterations.

I’m probably dreamin’, though!

From the Archives: Superman #650

superman0650Up, Up, and Away! (part 1)

Writers: Kurt Busiek & Geoff Johns
Artist: Pete Woods
Colorist: Brad Anderson
Letterer: Rob Leigh
Associate Editor: Nachie Castro
Editor: Matt Idelson
Cover Artists: Terry & Rachel Dodson
Cover Colorist: Alex Sinclair
Publisher: DC Comics

[ This review originally written for and published at comiXtreme/cxPulp some time back while the issue was new–within the first days to a week that the issue was available for sale. ]

It’s been a year since Superman apparently disappeared, and the fine folks of Metropolis have moved on, though many take an evening to revisit the past, watching a retrospective on the life and times of their favorite son. Among the spectators are Lois Lane and Clark Kent, who discuss the authenticity of the retrospective with a couple different viewpoints. Shortly after, other familiar elements of the Superman story are reintroduced–Jimmy Olsen, Lex Luthor, Perry White. A familiar "villain" is introduced here as well–one that may be familiar to older readers, but I’m not sure this character has appeared in the Superman comics since the mid-80s reboot. As this villain is attended to, we as readers are clued into at least part of why Superman has been absent for a year.

I wasn’t sure what to expect going into this issue. I’ve been concerned at the idea of "my" Superman–that is, the character (re)introduced in Byrne‘s Man of Steel mini-series–being shuffled off to the side in favor of yet another/different reimagining of the character. While this is only the first of an 8-parter that re-establishes the character post-Infinite Crisis, the writing team of Busiek & Johns has assuaged some of my concerns as several aspects that have defined the character and supporting cast for the last 18+ years are re-established here. However, there seem to be a number of minor or subtle shifts that distance things from the past, settling the characters very much in a sort of "timeless" present.

Busiek wrote my favorite Superman story in 2004’s Superman: Secret Identity. Johns on the other hand has written some other very compelling stories that I have really enjoyed over the past several years (including pulling me into following The Flash for 30 issues after never previously caring for the character). That said, both writers have a lot to live up to in my eyes, and for the moment, I’ll cautiously advance the idea that yes, they have lived up to those high standards.

The writing here is clear and definitely gets across the idea first of the broad strokes of Superman’s history that just about anyone will be vaguely familiar with (whether you know the character solely from last month’s issues, the Christopher Reeve films, Smallville, Lois & Clark, a parent/grand-parent’s stack of older comics, or just picking up on elements from years of the character’s suffusion of popular culture. If this is the first-ever comic starring Superman that you’ve read, you’ve got yourself a good starting point. If you’ve been following these comics for 20 years, you’ve got a good read that revalidates the character for the present, showing that both the old and newer elements can come together in a single well-written manner that gives us a story of Superman.

Offhand, I am unfamiliar with Pete Woods‘ art, but this issue makes for a good introduction. Everything seems nice and clear/clean–reading along with the story, the art shows exactly what is going on and pretty much just does it’s job of enhancing the written word to contribute to the overall look and feel of the issue. The art’s not perfect–but very little is. The main quibble I have is the depiction of the S-shield; it comes across a bit too "shiney" or metallic for my own tastes.

However–whether in Woods‘ art itself or the coloring (or both)–this issue somehow has a "brighter" feel to it than a lot of recent DC issues–by design or not, this lends itself to this being an upbeat, bright start to a new "generation" of Superman.
I very much recommend this issue, whether you are a new, old, or an on-the-fence reader.

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Impulse Buying and Price: Guardians 2 Hot Wheels

It seems almost amazing at times how much impact price has on impulse purchases. And what a difference that 97 cents makes compared to, say, $3.99 per unit.

Case in point: a wave of Hot Wheels, with various vehicles done up in honor of the main characters in Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 2 and related stuff.

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For a little under the price of a mere 2 regular Marvel comics (or 1 1/2 #1 issues), I snagged all 8 of these. Walmart had a big bin of them, and I poked through, initially curious after the Drax one caught my eye…then decided that ok, if they had all 8 shown on the back of the cards, I’d go ahead and get them…but if they only had 7, or 6, or such, I’d put ’em back and buy none.

But they had all 8, so…I bought ’em.

These’ll go with the Captain America: Civil War wave I picked up the same way last year.

I’m not much of a car guy, but occasional things like this, with snazzy packaging that really grabs the attention (moreso than the vehicles themselves), are fun…and really don’t take up that much space, thankfully. And since I’m not buying up the action figures and other stuff that cost a lot more…I allow myself the indulgence.

All the more with zero interest in other movie toys for stuff like Spider-Man or Wonder Woman, and not even seeing any product for Alien: Covenant and such.

C’est la vie!

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