Category Archives: Comic Books/Graphic Novels

Love the art, part deux…

Yesterday I wrote about Joss Whedon -among others- who are well known creative individuals who are reckoning with some pretty negative stories regarding how they are as individuals. (You can read that post here)

With regard to Mr. Whedon, the negative stories, rumors of which were around for years but the flood of stories seem to have been breached in the last couple of years, may make fans of his work, including Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Angel, The Avengers, etc., rethink their feelings for the artist, if not the art they produced.

Over on, there is an excerpt from the novel True Believer: The Rise and Fall of Stan Lee by Abraham Reisman.

Before I offer a link to the excerpt, let me say the following: Most people today view Mr. Stan Lee in very glowing terms.

Image result for stan lee

In recent years and before his passing in 2018 and thanks to a series of cameos in the Marvel movies, among others, he became the genial grandfather, the kindly face of the Marvel Age of Comics, of which he was one of the big movers and shakers of the company since its first big successes in 1961 with the release of The Fantastic Four and in 1962 with the release of Spider-Man.

In both cases, Stan Lee was listed as the writer of these -and a lot of other!- Marvel books.

In reality, there has existed for many years curiosity as to how much Stan Lee actually did with the individual comic books he was reported to have written.

Image result for jack kirby

The above individual is Jack Kirby. His name may not be as well known as Stan Lee, at least among those not as familiar with the comic books which became the basis for the spectacularly successful Marvel films, but it should be.

Jack Kirby (1914-1994) was the artist and, at the very least, co-plotter/co-creator of The Fantastic Four and had a hand in virtually all of the Marvel books created in the 1960’s. Black Panther? Jack Kirby. Captain America? Jack Kirby and Joe Simon (another name which should be better known today). Sgt. Fury? Thor? Hulk? Iron Man? The X-Men? Kirby, Kirby, Kirby, and Kirby. If he didn’t outright create these characters, he had a hand in their creation.

Further, he produced literally thousands of pages of comic books for Marvel until he left the company in the later 1960’s. And not on very good terms.

The other very big character to come out of Marvel in the early 1960’s, which I mentioned before and which was arguably Marvel’s most successful property is Spider-Man.

While Jack Kirby created an early version of the character, it was not used. Instead, Spider-Man was co-plotted and drawn by one Steve Ditko, who also created or co-created Dr. Strange…

Image result for steve ditko

And her we come to the excerpt from the novel I mentioned above.

Read it here:

The Stan Lee Story That Tore Apart Marvel Comics

While you’re at it, check out this article by Jillian Steinhauer which also explores Stan Lee, the person and the myth…

The Unheroic Life of Stan Lee

The bottom line of both articles is this: Stan Lee was a showman. He was a man who loved to promote Marvel Comics as well as himself.

He did this incredibly well and deserves a great deal of credit for the success of Marvel Comics.

He worked well with many creative people. He also wound up alienating and losing the two people who should be, like Stan Lee, the face of Marvel Comics. Yup, Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko.

Without getting too far into the weeds of comic book writing, Marvel had a method to the “writing” of their books which was different than the standard full script writing method. Basically, in the Marvel method, the writer would not write a full script but rather a general, perhaps even very general, plot idea. Theoretically this would be enough for the artist to then draw out a full issue, pacing the pages and panels as the artist sees fit. After the artist was done, the writer would get the pencilled pages and write captions and dialogue for the book. Rinse, lather, repeat.


Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko were incredibly imaginative people. While there’s no doubt Stan Lee wrote some really great dialogue/captions in the various books he was listed as the “writer” (his style is quite unique and one can see the difference in books he had a hand in versus those which were completely done by either Jack Kirby or Steve Ditko), there is a great deal of argument as to just how much of the plot of the various stories -and the character creations- he actually had a hand in.

Jack Kirby, in particular, created character after character after character while working for Marvel. The story goes that one day when he dropped off a batch of pages of the latest issue of Fantastic Four, Stan Lee asked him who this one character flying on a surf board was.

“The Silver Surfer,” Kirby reportedly told him, indicating it was solely a Jack Kirby creation… yet one that Stan Lee would later on take from Kirby’s hands and control his stories over the objections of Jack Kirby. Reportedly, this was yet another of the many issues which infuriated Jack Kirby and eventually led to his leaving Marvel Comics.

On the other side, Steve Ditko was known to have clashes with Stan Lee as well regarding the direction of Spider-Man. Ditko, a man who was almost the very opposite of Stan Lee in terms of how he carried himself (introvert versus a very extroverted Stan Lee!) reportedly left Spider-Man and Marvel when he could no longer take Stan Lee’s attempts to put his fingerprints on Spider-Man’s stories.

In the end, we’re talking about things that happened in the 1960’s, now fifty plus years ago. We don’t know the whole of the ins and outs of their situation but do know this: Marvel Comics was blessed with three very talented individuals: Stan Lee, the fun loving carnival barker who drew in fans to the fledgling company. Jack Kirby, the titan of ideas who could release a mind-bogglingly large number of quality pages/stories each month. And Steve Ditko, another titan of ideas who, while not as quick as Kirby, arguably created/co-created Marvel’s seminal character in Spider-Man.

And also not arguable is the fact that of this trifecta of people, both Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko left this company and in doing so shared very much the same complaints regarding Stan Lee.

It’s a fascinating story, and one wonders if, had they been able to work together better, would they have created even more spectacular works into the 1970’s?

That’s something we’ll never know.

The Trouble With Comic Books…

It’s an interesting paradox -of sorts- these days: Until COVID-19 came and disrupted our lives, some of the biggest box-office hits were movies based on comic books.

I’m referring, of course, to the Marvel Comics films and the DC Universe films. Each release seemed to bring out audiences (some, granted, more than others) and bring their studios, Disney and Warner Brothers, huge returns on their investments…

…and yet…

Comic books themselves -or graphic novels, if you prefer that term- seem to be floundering. Sales have been falling for decades now. Hell, I recall interviews with artists/writers from the 1980’s where they talked about how in the 1970’s they were certain the comic book field would die out.

It didn’t, of course, but the scariest thing to realize is that sales of books back in the 1970’s, again, a decade where many thought the industry was on the verge of elimination, was incredible considering sales of books nowadays.

Back then, comic books were present in many places, from drug stores to supermarkets to large stores like Woolworth or K-Mart.

The first comic books I bought way back then were indeed in these places. In fact, Swamp Thing #10, still my all around favorite comic book and the one that made me realize comic books could be art, I found in a local drugstore one day in 1974 (its cover date release is June of that year).

During that time, comic books that sold less than 100,000 copies were considered failures and cancelled. Nowadays, its not unheard of that a relatively popular book sells no more than 20,000 copies and some struggle to sell even 10,000.

Compare this, by the way, to sales figures of comic books in the 1940’s, where some comics boasted sales approaching one million copies!

So, yes, there has been a downward spiral here of sales of comic books over the many years and, nowadays, that number is becoming downright scary and, considering how popular many of these characters seem to be on the big screen, its rather perplexing, no?

There is no lack of opinion as to what’s wrong with the comic book industry and what can be done to aid it.

Writer/creator Gerry Conway, perhaps best known for creating The Punisher and writing the Gwen Stacy storyline in Spider-Man, offers his perspective on what can be done to help the comic book industry:

His plan isn’t new. Artist/writer John Byrne has expressed similar sentiments for quite some time now.

But what gets me is that people like Gerry Conway and John Byrne are somewhat responsible for the predicament comics are in today, even if they correctly point out how things could be made better.

John Bryne, for those unaware, is probably one of the bigger influences on film. He worked on X-Men when they started to go nuclear, making Wolverine (who, it should be noted, he didn’t create) into the character we’re familiar with on the screen. He also had well received runs on both The Fantastic Four and Superman, among others.

Mr. Byrne, as Mr. Conway does in this statement, has noted that one of the biggest problems with comic books occurred when the fans became the creators. Before, up to perhaps the late 1960’s, comic book work was considered a proper job and many of the people involved in them worked them like a 9 to 5 affair, showing up, doing their work, then clocking out when done. They may not have had any special affinity to any of the characters or stories, doing their best each time they were assigned a job and finishing it in its proper deadline.

Books back then also were simpler: A story would be told usually in one issue (rarely more than one) and when the next issue came out, just about anyone could pick it up and get enjoyment out of it.

Not so for more recent books. There has been soap opera levels of backstory ingrained into just about every book nowadays to the point where you are expected to know far more about a character, side-characters, villains, etc. etc. to get enjoyment out of books.

Frankly, even as a fan of many characters and someone who picks up the odd book here and there, its not easy nowadays to just pick some random comic book and get your money’s worth.

Often, the book will be but a part/chapter of a bigger story. This is the result of trade paperbacks (TPBs) which are increasingly popular nowadays but have rendered the individual comic less and less necessary.

Why would I pay for a single comic book issue, say a part of a 4-part story, rather than simply wait for the book to be collected into a TPB?

One of the better comic books runs of the 1970’s, IMHO, was the Michael Fleischer written Jonah Hex. For some 12 years, Mr. Fleischer wrote issue after issue of Jonah Hex, a western book, and each issue was essentially a self-contained story. Anyone could pick up any issue of his run and get a complete story presented, with a clear beginning, middle, and ending and get their money’s worth.

The stories, by the way, weren’t simplistic. They were often quite adult. There was a longish storyline snaking through the books for maybe a year or so, but as a reader you were never confused or left wondering what the hell was going on. Recaps were clearly presented and you were rarely, if ever, left with a “to be continued” blurb at the end of any one particular issue.

Not so with comic nowadays.

Mr. Conway -and Mr. Byrne before him- laments this fact, that you can’t just pick up a comic book and get enjoyment out of an individual issue, that you somehow have to get up to date with so many storylines and concepts that turn off any first time reader.

I think they’re not wrong but, again, it seems to me some of the books they worked on in the past were guilty of this as well.

Mr. Conway, and again Mr. Byrne beforehand, also feel comics should cater to younger audiences. Mr. Conway notes that when visiting the offices of DC comics in the 1960’s and before he became a pro, he talked to editor Julius Schwartz about some story idea and when asked his age -and telling Mr. Schwartz he was 14- was told he was “too old” for the comic book audience of the time.

So Mr. Conway and Byrne feel that comics need to cater to younger audiences, that they cater to people who are older.

To which I say: They should cater to younger audiences and its a shame they currently do cater to older readers, it seems, almost exclusively.

And yet again, Mr. Conway and Byrne, I feel were participants in the way comics were molded in the 1970’s and 80’s to cater to older readers. Their stories (not all, granted) tended to be more “mature” in their perspective. Certainly Mr. Conway’s best known story, that involving Gwen Stacy -and her fate- was a hard-hitting story involving loss and grief. Mr. Byrne, for his part, molded what was arguably one of the first of the bloodthirsty anti-heroes with his portrayal of Wolverine.

Still, even if they had a hand in the way things have shaped up today, they’re not wrong.

Comics should cater to younger audiences and they should once again be available in all the venues possible rather than simply in specialty comic book stores.

They should remove the barnacles of continuity and become less complicated/complex and more new-reader friendly.

Thing is: There’s nothing to say we can’t do both and in this I also agree with Mr. Conway: Have TPBs released which cater to older readers and have regular books which target the younger reader who is curious about the character but finds themselves overwhelmed and unable to just “dive in” to any book without becoming overwhelmed by backstory.

It’s a way forward, certainly, but can it bring back the comic book industry?

Until and unless its implemented, we won’t know.

Denny O’Neil (1939-2020)

The name may not be that familiar to most people out there, but it can be argued Denny O’Neil -along with artist Neal Adams- were instrumental in making Batman what he is today.

See, back in the 1960’s DC comics were having a somewhat rough time with their superhero books. There were some really good ones out there, don’t get me wrong, but Marvel was commanding readers’ attentions with the iconic work of Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, and Stan Lee. Among their most famous comics you have the building blocks of what we see today in the very successful Marvel movie franchise.

DC, on the other hand, released their most iconic material at the beginning of the age of comics, when they published the first Superman story in Action Comics #1, 1938 (the first actual superhero comic book) and followed that up with Batman’s first appearance in Detective Comics #27 (1939).

Superman and Batman -and a little later Robin- dominated the superhero market, though they unleashed a flood of other characters, some of which did spectacularly (Captain Marvel, today known as Shazam!), while others didn’t do as well.

By the 1950’s, however, the books developed a certain pattern and when you got to the 1960’s, Batman in particular seemed something of a lost character. He passed through some weird phases (including more science fictional stories) but he -and his world- were simply not as fresh as they were a generation before.

The success -and then cancellation- of the purposely campy Batman TV show didn’t do the comics many favors afterwards and the character continued to float along, selling issues but never really seeming to do better than tread water.

Then along came Denny O’Neil and Neal Adams and the iconic issue #395 (1970) of Detective Comics, featuring the story The Secret of the Waiting Graves.

Detective Comics (1937-2011) #395 - DC Entertainment

In one fell swoop, Mr. O’Neil and Adams returned Batman to his darker roots in a story that also had more than a hint of the supernatural. It was a sober, serious story.

It was absolutely fantastic.

Mr. O’Neil -often with Mr. Adams- would continue writing Batman in his own unique -excellent!- style, bringing him into the then present as a force to be reckoned, a dark, mysterious being who scared the crap out of villains yet was very much human and decent at his core. The two would come together again to take on the Joker and also bring him to his roots as a homicidal psychopath in the absolute classic Batman #251 (1973)…

Batman (1940-2011) #251 - Comics by comiXology

But not only did Mr. O’Neil revive Batman, his cohorts, and his villains, he would also go on to create an incredible new nemesis in Ra’s Al Gul and his lovely -and deadly- daughter Talia… characters who would be prominently featured in two of Christopher Nolan’s trio of Batman films…

Batman (1940-2011) #232: Facsimile Edition (2019) - Comics by ...

Had his work on Batman been the only thing Denny O’Neil did as a writer, his iconic status within the field would have been assured.

But he did so much more. Again with artist Neal Adams, Denny O’Neil would write the incredible Green Arrow/Green Lantern series, which dealt with social ills in an adult manner and pushed the envelope of what comic books could focus on. Their run featured what is arguably one of the most famous sequences in comic book history, where the character of Green Lantern runs into the notion of racism …

Green Lantern No. 76 Was the Moment Superheroes Got Woke

While their run, unfortunately, wasn’t a big seller, the issues have become legendary for not only dealing with issues of racism but also political corruption, cultural fraying, and drug use…

Green Lantern Green Arrow #85 Facsimile Edition |

Indeed, it could be argued these books were the first “serious” comic books, and one imagines they must have been a big influence on the likes of Alan Moore (Watchmen) years later.

Mr. O’Neil continued working within comics and expanded into TV, scripting TV shows featuring Batman, as well as others.

He would move to Marvel Comics after his stint at DC and is credited, during that time, with being the person who named the Transformer’s Optimus Prime. He also wrote and edited many books during that time, from Daredevil to Iron Man.

In the late 1980’s he would return to DC and edit various Batman titles and began, in 1987, a lengthy run on The Question, another high water mark in his writing career…

Question TPB (2007-2010 DC) By Denny O'Neil comic books

He continued to work in comics and, sadly, yesterday the news came out that at the age of 81 Mr. O’Neil passed away.

He led a long, incredibly productive life and is one of the authors, along with the recently passed Len Wein and Bernie Wrightson, I recognized by name when I was very young and really getting into comic books.

A part of me is obviously very sad at his passing, yet another part of me celebrates the fact that he was around as long as he was and that he was able to do as many great works as he did.

2020 has been a hell of a year -mostly bad- and the loss of Mr. O’Neil certainly doesn’t make things any better.

On the other hand, its given people the opportunity to look back at one of the icons of the so-called “Bronze Age” of comics, a man who left an indelible mark on the comic book world.

Rest in Peace, Mr. O’Neil.

You did more than good.

Swamp Thing: The Bronze Age Volume 2, a (Very Mildly) belated Review

Unknown to me and back on January 14th of 2020 DC Comics released Swamp Thing: The Bronze Age Volume 2.

Those who have read my entries here for a while may know this so forgive my repetition.

All the way back in 1974 and when I was no older than eight, I went into a drug store and found this comic on the newstand:

Swamp Thing Vol 1 10 | DC Database | Fandom

I read comic books before finding this issue, but Swamp Thing #10 was a watershed comic book for me. Why? Because it was the first time I realized comic books could be art.

Written by Len Wein and featuring the incredible art of Bernie Wrightson, what I didn’t know way back then was that this would be the last issue of Swamp Thing these two would make. Mr. Wein would write the following three issues, up to #13, then bow out of the series as well. Nestor Redondo, another incredible but not as well lauded artist, had the enviable task of following up on Mr. Wrightson. He did a great job, but when you follow a legendary run, odds aren’t great you’ll distinguish yourself quite as well.

Regardless, those 13 issues of the original series plus the very first Swamp Thing short story presented in House of Secrets #92…

House of Secrets Vol 1 92 | DC Database | Fandom

…were reprinted in Swamp Thing: The Bronze Age Volume 1. It’s a terrific reprint volume and I highly recommend it except for one issue that’s been bugging me for years. When the beloved (by me) issues #2 (the first appearance of Arcane and his Un-Men) and #10 of the series was reprinted many years ago, they re-colored Arcane’s un-men into all these (beware a very technical professional term) idiotic colors. You had red un-men, you had orange-un-men, you had purple un-men.

The original issue #10 had all the un-men flesh colored which, to my eyes, made the horror of what they are all the greater. These were human beings converted to weird freaky monsters…

Swamp Thing Volume 01 Issue 10 by Bernie Wrightson | Bernie ...
The original coloring for the grand reveal of Arcane and his Un-Men

When they re-colored the book, we had this…

Reprint coloring. Note how Arcane’s Un-Men have all kinds of different colors, but other than Arcane, none of the colors are “flesh”.

To me, this re-coloring was, IMHO, a very bad idea.

Its far more horrifying -and creepy- that they all be flesh colored rather than looking like they came in from Mars.

Regardless, back in 1974 I was so blown away by issue #10 of Swamp Thing I wound up spending the next ten years (at least!) going to various comic shops looking for comics that came before -and after!- featuring the character of Swamp Thing.

In time I collected the entire original run of Swamp Thing, issues 1-24, along with some of the character’s subsequent appearances in Challengers of the Unknown (following the cancellation of the original Swamp Thing series, there were a few plot threads that needed to be closed and the Challengers issues did this), Brave and the Bold, and DC Comics Presents.

I managed to grab most of the stuff, missing out only on a few of the later Challengers issues, but now, with Swamp Thing: The Bronze Age Vol. 2 I have the whole thing beautifully wrapped up in one volume.

For that alone, I highly recommend the book -and the first volume, of course- to anyone that’s a fan of the original run of Swamp Thing.

However, this volume includes one more thing that moves it -for me- from a must have to an absolutely must have: The inclusion of all materials from the unpublished 25th issue of the original series…!

That’s right, kids: DC has gone out of their way to reprint what they have of what would have been the 25th issue of the original Swamp Thing, an issue I always suspected was out there somewhere, filed away and never used… until it found its way into this volume.

So let me take you back to issue #24 of the original Swamp Thing, an issue written by David Anthony Kraft who was coming in after Gerry Conway’s short run…

Swamp Thing Vol 1 24 | DC Database | Fandom

I’m going to come out and say it: By the time Swamp Thing reached its final issues, it was clear the folks working on the book were trying to find new types of stories to write. With this issue, Swamp Thing was becoming more of a “superhero” type character, complete with a sorta/kinda Hulk type attacker.

At the end of issue #24, we had this intriguing posting:

So, issue #25 of Swamp Thing, following the superheroish motif they were doing, was to feature our favorite muck monster dealing with Hawkman. It would have been the second time Swamp Thing would feature a DC hero (issue #7 of the series had Batman)…

Swamp Thing (1972-1976) #7 - DC Entertainment

Though issue #25 of Swamp Thing and the confrontation between him and Hawkman never came out, I always suspected the issue had been written, at the very least, and perhaps even drawn before ultimately being filed away.

Why? Because back then the book was bi-monthly, meaning it would come out every second month, and the amount of time they had to get an issue ready before printing it didn’t allow them to sit around wasting time. They had to have that issue somewhat close to being “done” before the book was cancelled…

…and for quite literally decades I wondered what the issue must have looked like.

Welp, Swamp Thing: The Bronze Age Vol. 2 finally gives closure to my curiosity.

Not only do they include all the art they could find of the issue (which amounts to the whole thing minus one page), but they also include the scripts. The first script was a rough outline of what happens on each page and was meant to allow the artist to create the book uninhibited by the placement of captions and dialogue. The second script was the one that was likely written after the artwork was sent in and features the dialogue and captions for the letterer to put into the issue.

Then we get the artwork… Oh man…

There it was, after so much time: The cover to what would have been the 25th issue of Swamp Thing. Finally decades of curiosity and wonder (on my part) were fulfilled and I finally got to see the Swamp Thing/Hawkman meeting.

The first 8 pages of the issue, however, were never “completed” beyond rough pencils and look like this:

The next 8 pages of the issue, minus page 15 (which appears to be lost, perhaps forever) were completed with inks and lettering before word came down that the book was cancelled. They look like this:

So there it was, finally… Issue 25 of Swamp Thing.

If you’re at all like me, buying Swamp Thing: The Bronze Age Vol 2 was already a no-brainer.

But now, with the addition of this “lost” issue, its a must have for fans of the series.

Needless to say, I highly, highly recommend it.

The dangers of buying digital things…

First, I have to be honest: I LOVE buying things “digitally”.

I LOVE not having the clutter of so many books and movies and the ease by which I can enjoy both through either my cellphone, tablet, or through my “smart” TV.



Stories like these make me mighty uncomfortable. From Matt Novak and presented on

Ebooks purchased from Microsoft will be deleted this month because you don’t really own anything anymore

The title is self-explanatory: Microsoft sold eBooks starting in/around 2017. The service appears to have not done very well and the company decided they were going to stop selling books and, further, delete those that people bought.

Money will be returned by Microsoft to the people who bought these eBooks, just to be clear, and the service seems to have been a flop pretty much from the beginning so not that many people were affected.

However, this does present a sobering thought: What if this should happen with Apple or Amazon? How about VUDU? All my books/graphic novels -and I have a BUNCH of them- are on Amazon. Pretty much all my film purchases are currently being done through VUDU.

What if these services have a problem? What if suddenly all these many thousands of dollars I’ve spent will *poof!* be gone?

Again, I love the digital services. I love the fact that my home isn’t getting filled up with more books and movie boxes.

I love this!

But, seriously, there needs to be some kind of permanence created for these bought items yet I wonder if such a thing could be accomplished, other than downloading your stuff and saving it to increasingly full Hard Drives.

William Gibson’s Alien 3

A while back I mentioned the sorrow I felt when the comic shop I frequented for the past (*gasp*) 20 some years or so -likely more!- had shuttered.

Even so, I felt that it was a matter of time. Just as bookstores in this digital age seem to mostly be a thing of the past so too I felt comic book shops were facing an increasingly stiff digital tide against them.

What I didn’t realize with the shutting of the shop was the access I’d have to so many different comic books, both of recent and past vintage. I’ve been on a tear buying digital copies of series I never finished reading, such as Nexus, or books I was curious about but wouldn’t pay the very stiff amounts for the physical books (there are so many to mention, but I have pretty much the complete runs of Spider-Man, Fantastic Four, and Captain America up to the turn of the century. I also recently found Detective Comics on sale and picked up the late Silver Age/Early Bronze age issues and intend to give them a look see when I can).

One of the interesting things I’ve discovered is that there are several comic book adaptations of interesting unused screenplays. For example, after the success of the original Robocop movie, comic book writer/artist Frank Miller was hired to write screenplays to Robocop 2 and 3. My understanding was that both films bore little comparison to Mr. Miller’s screenplays, but I was always curious to read them. To my delight, I found that there were adaptations of Miller’s Robocop screenplays and I eagerly bought and read them. An improvement over the films, I felt, but perhaps too unfocused for their own good.

Similarly, I found the original/early drafts of The Star Wars by George Lucas and The Bionic Man by Kevin Smith were produced in comic book form as was a more faithful adaptation of the classic Star Trek episode The City on The Edge of Forever by Harlan Ellison.

Reading these works has proven to date a fascinating bit of literary archeology. In all cases I’ve wondered how these scripts were and “reading” them in a graphic novel format is perhaps the closest I’ll get at this point to “seeing” them as a film or TV show.

But it is proving to be a double edged sword.

As I mentioned, the Frank Miller Robocop proved ambitious in scope and scale but unfocused. I fear a faithful film adaptation of what I read would have been a mess. The City on the Edge of Forever, in my opinion, benefited from the changes made to Mr. Ellison’s script. Likewise, The Star Wars presented an interesting early view of George Lucas’ thought process but the eventually released film was far better.

Recently, William (Neuromancer) Gibson’s Alien 3 script was unearthed and adapted into a graphic novel by Johnnie Christmas (writing/art) and Tamara Bonvillain (colorist). For those unaware, after the success of Alien and Aliens, Mr. Gibson was hired to write the script for the third Alien film and did so. The studios passed on his script and it was filed away. The movie which was eventually made had absolutely nothing to do with Mr. Gibson’s screenplay.

Being a fan of Mr. Gibson’s writing, I was intrigued about this screenplay and, given my negative feelings with the theatrically released Alien 3, longed to read his vision of the Alien universe. Was this, finally, a story that deserved to be made into a film?


So last year in 2018 Dark Horse comics published the five issue adaptation of Mr. Gibson’s screenplay. In August 5th of this year, the work will be collected into a single edition and I was waiting to buy it. However, over the weekend I found the individual five issues of the series were on sale, digitally, through ComiXology for 0.99 each. The total price for the five issues is $4.95. A bargain considering the upcoming digital collected edition is set to retail for $11.99. Seeing the bargain and no longer able to contain my curiosity, I purchased the five issues and, yesterday, read them.

William Gibson's Alien 3 #1 by [Christmas, Johnnie, Gibson, William]

So, my thoughts:

To begin, the story isn’t a total disaster. There are interesting elements here and there. For example, unlike the screen version of Alien 3, we have the return of Newt, Hicks and Bishop, the trio of which were (SPOILERS FOR A VERY OLD FILM) killed right off the bat at the beginning of the theatrical film version of Alien 3.

I’ll be getting into SPOILERS in a moment but before I do, let me offer this short review:

William Gibson’s Alien 3 is a competently done work with decent art and colors but with a story that is simply not very good. It drags at the beginning then devolves into a typical Alien bloodbath but, truly, offers little new or interesting to the Alien universe other than trying to flesh out political systems.

If this adaptation is true to Mr. Gibson’s screenplay, one can see why the Producers took a pass despite his well regarded reputation in the science fiction field.

Now then, a deeper dive into the story, but to do so we have…


Still with me?

Don’t say I didn’t warn you!

William Gibson’s Alien 3 presents the Sulaco, fresh off its adventures in Aliens, derelict. A group of people intercept her and discover that in the sleeping module of Bishop, the android, is an alien growth. They foolishly take the android and one of their men is infected and runs away and gets lost in the Sulaco. The others, realizing their time is short, take the 1/2 of Bishop with them and, in time, all hell breaks loose for them.

But before all that happens, the Sulaco is released so that it can complete its journey. There are politics involved and threats among the people who were behind the boarding of the ship and those expecting its arrival but this doesn’t really amount to much, IMHO, nor does it make for terribly interesting reading.

The bottom line is the ship makes it to a major space station and it is there that Ripley, Hicks, and Newt are revived. Ripley freaks out upon discovering Bishop is gone and the Alien threat may be happening and is quickly tranquilized.

And that’s it for Ripley’s participation in this story.

That’s right, kids, Ripley has one “scene”, is knocked out, and that’s pretty much all for her participation here.

Meanwhile, Hicks and Newt re-unite and Newt is sent on a shuttle to her grandparents.

Two characters down.

Bishop is returned to the station repaired (he was, as I already mentioned, torn in half in Aliens) and we find out the people who got to the Sulaco first are facing annihilation from the aliens they unknowingly brought with them. The people who have the Sulaco, meanwhile, are about to get into the same trouble as a “company” woman has them work on the alien DNA. They discover a way the alien DNA can essentially glom onto and over-write human DNA.

Guess what happens?

Anyway, as things are starting to go sideways, Hicks sends the still tranquilized Ripley out on a shuttle craft and to safety. Even in the comic book adaptation we don’t “see” her character or have her say any parting words because she’s in a pod before being sent away. I can’t help but think at the time Mr. Gibson was writing the screenplay the producers told him Sigourney Weaver may not be involved in the film.

Afterwards there’s bloodshed, there’s death, and ultimately we have a station that has to be cleansed by being destroyed.

In the last pages of the story, Hicks and Bishop consider what’s going on and realize that all out war between humanity and the aliens is just around the corner.

Dark times are a comin’.



When I saw it, I came away really hating the Alien 3 movie. Having said that, I’m put in the uncomfortable position of saying… for all its faults, and it has many, the film was still a better overall work, in my opinion, versus Mr. Gibson’s screenplay.

Now, before I bust on an author idol, I will give Mr. Gibson the benefit of the doubt: He was not involved, I’m assuming, in this comic book adaptation. He didn’t rewrite his screenplay so that it would “work” in a comic book format. Still, assuming what I read was a faithful adaptation of Mr. Gibson’s work, then I can safely say this screenplay would have made for a pretty bad film.

We’ll never know, of course, and for all we know Mr. Gibson produced this screenplay with the intention of then working it out and improving it with time. Perhaps he knew there were many things up in the air, including whether Sigourney Weaver would eventually participate in the film, and he simply wrote out a treatment and knew it would be at best a rough outline for some more fully formed work.

Maybe, maybe not.

At the very least my curiosity is sated.

However, I can’t say that what I read was some lost William Gibson masterpiece.

Do heroes kill…?

In what is sure to create further controversy, director Zack Snyder, when asked about the fact that he had Batman kill in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, made some rather strong statements concerning this topic.

As written by Charles Pullman-Moore and presented on, the article’s title will give you an idea of Mr. Snyder’s thoughts on that subject:

Zack Snyder wants you to “Wake the fuck up” and accept that Batman kills people

Part of what made BvS so controversial was its generally grim tone and, yes, the fact that Batman sure does seem to murder a bunch of bad guys in the film.

To be fair, he does so because they are very actively trying to murder him, so its not like he’s simply shooting them in the back when they’re, say, loading up some questionable merchandise inside a van or something.

But it does bring up an issue I personally have wrestled with concerning heroes: Should they kill?

James Bond, famously, had a “license to kill”. As presented, one would think that he would have no qualms doing what I proposed above, ie killing a badguy no matter what they were currently up to. If they’re loading a van or taking a walk on the beach, if British Intelligence views the person as a major danger to England/the World, and he has a “license to kill”, one could theoretically understand that if it is imperative to kill the badguy, you do so, no questions asked.

Clint Eastwood’s many “heroes” were often darker as well. Starting with the so-called “spaghetti” westerns of the 1960’s and going on to Dirty Harry in the 1970’s and 80’s, you had a darker variation of the “good guy” who might well shoot a badguy, whether while confronting said individual or offing them when they weren’t necessarily a threat to you at that moment.

But what about superheroes? What about heroes that aren’t supposed to be so damn dark, character-wise? Batman, while indeed a “dark” character, has been portrayed very often as not wanting to use a gun, though in his very earliest comic book appearances did indeed do so, and did indeed kill badguys…

The above opening page of a story shows Batman with a weapon. Here, he uses it… albeit to kill a vampire:

Image result for batman with gun golden age

Here he uses not just a gun, but a machine gun, to off some badguys…

Note what Batman says in the above panel: “Much as I hate to take human life, I’m afraid this time its necessary!”

So, yeah, early, very early Batman could be as merciless in killing badguys just as his primary inspiration, the pulp hero The Shadow, did as well…

Image result for the shadow pulp covers

But very soon after Batman’s first appearance in Detective Comics #27 in 1939 and in issue #38 of Detective Comics, Batman was given a partner, the dashing Robin…

Image result for when did Robin first appear

I think its arguable that the introduction of this character put Batman over the top and sealed his transition from a superhero version of The Shadow into something new and exciting to audiences. Suddenly readers had an avatar, a young daredevil they could grasp and, vicariously, have their adventures through.

The tone of the Batman stories from that point on grew lighter and lighter, and Batman no longer mercilessly killed the badguys (though there were some “accidental” deaths still to come) until, soon enough, it was established that Batman DID NOT KILL, period.

In the late 1960’s and into the 1970’s, darkness crept back into the Batman character. The fine work of writer Dennis O’Neil and artist Neal Adams redefined the Batman character and brought us a version closer to what came early on, though the character still did not use weapons and still did not murder the badguys…

Image result for batman secret of the waiting graves

And so it was, roughly, a short time time later I first became familiar with these various characters.

In my very young mind, I felt that superheroes did NOT kill. If anyone perished in the course of a story, the hero tried their best to not kill anyone, even if they were despicable in their actions and very much deserved that fate. Heroes were, IMHO, people who found ways around such actions.

Then came Population Zero, the first episode of The Six Million Dollar Man’s regular series, first aired on January 18, 1974, and this terrific, and confusing to my very young mind, ending…

The plot of the episode, to be frank, was something of a rip off of Michael Crichton’s The Andromeda Strain. In that novel (and subsequent film adaptation), an entire small town is suddenly found dead with two exceptions, and it turns out some intergalactic virus is to blame… and this bug needs to be neutralized or it might spell the doom of the human race.

In Population Zero, the villain uses a sound machine (as you can see from the video) and it turns out the scientist behind it lost funds for his project because of the Bionic Man project. He obviously harbors deep anger and is determined to show that his weapon should have been given the proper funds. In the meantime, he tries to kill off the Bionic Man and then Oscar Goldman and the entire army base outside the town he initially attacked.

Steve Austin, the Bionic Man, gets away from his deathtrap and runs to where you see him. He realizes the mad scientist will kill a lot of innocent people and pulls up the metal fence post and, using it as a javelin, spears their truck, killing the scientist and his henchmen.

This really messed with my mind back then.

For it seemed to me Steve Austin could have run over to the truck and, I dunno, turned it over or something. He could have thrown the javelin at the electrical cables the bad guy was using to charge up his weapon and therefore rendered the sonic weapon inoperative.

No, he deliberately targeted the truck and by spearing it caused it to explode and kill everyone.

I’ve defended Batman v Superman more times than I care to and still believe this film will experience a re-evaluation in time and come to be viewed as far better than the early critics and fans felt it was.

And I have little problem accepting that Batman kills the bad guys both when he chases them in his Batmobile and later on when he’s trying to save Martha Kent.


Because if you truly, truly think through both scenarios, he’s quite literally fighting for his life. In the first scenario he’s being shot at with heavy weaponry. A lucky shot and his vehicle -and himself- is toast. It’s a high speed chase and very dangerous to not only Batman, but to anyone else who might be around that dock area.

Should Batman aim for the tires? Sure, but realistically, that a damn hard shot to make.

In the warehouse fight, the same applies. It’s one guy against a large number. In “real life” you need to take these dudes out and quick because if you don’t, you may die. So Batman can’t play nice while the bad guys here are using guns, knives, and whatever else they have to take him out. He has to fight back.


Still, the little boy I was does feel a certain apprehension about the idea of a good guy, especially a superhero, resorting to killing and, at least in my stories, I’ve tried to show the consequences of killing (particularly in Mechanic) while also trying not to have my characters depicted as favoring killing first to deal with bad guys.

There truly is no answer, I suppose, and your opinions on this matter will certainly be guided by the literature/stories/TV shows/movies you’ve grown up with.

Too big…?

Over at, Georg Szalai and Paul Bond have an article which notes:

Disney Closes Fox Deal, Creating Global Content Powerhouse

I’m not surprised by these developments. Disney has been on a roll of late, making buckets of money on their parks, their movies, and their TV shows. When Disney bought up Marvel Comics, they went on a further roll with the various Marvel Universe films featuring Iron Man, Captain America, and Thor.

Though Disney owned the characters published through Marvel Comics, it was Fox which had the rights to making movies featuring what were arguably the most prominent Marvel Comics characters: Spider-Man, X-Men, and The Fantastic Four.

Now, I’m not suggesting the only reason Disney targeted buying up Fox was to get all the Marvel characters’ movie rights under one umbrella, but given some of the loads o’ cash these films make, it had to be a consideration.

So, for those who long to see an Avengers vs. X-Men film, it looks like it could well be on the horizon.

On various boards, people who are fans of Disney’s Marvel films are happy for this possibility, but I’m rather disturbed by the whole thing.


Because we seem to be reaching a point these days where there exist one or two or three companies that control virtually all the entertainment being fed to us.

AT&T recently purchased Warner Brothers. Now Disney owns Fox.

I worry when we reach a point where there are so few companies responsible for so much. Will our entertainment get more and more bland?

I suppose.

I suppose its also possible that new, independent artists can catch fire, but given the size of the giants out there, how long before their concepts/ideas are bought out as well?

There is also this, found in the Disney/Fox article:

Disney has promised $2 billion in cost savings from the Fox takeover, with some in the industry expecting between 4,000-10,000 layoffs.


I’m hopeless…

…when it comes to nostalgia!

Way, waaaaaay back when I was very young, one of the things that thrilled me to death was DC comic’s 100 Page Super-Spectacular books.

Here are some of them, which I do not have:

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Image result for 100 page super spectacular
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Image result for 100 page super spectacular

These books, in general, had one or two “new” stories and a bunch of reprints from either the golden or silver age of comics. My understanding, well after the fact, was that the line of comics released were something of a dud, sales-wise, and this is the reason they were discontinued. Perhaps young people like myself had difficulty shelling out the 0.50-0.60 cents versus a “regular” comic which cost 0.20 cents at that time. Perhaps, unlike me, people weren’t as into getting all those extra pages of reprints.

Who knows.

Of the ones 100 page Super-Spectaculars released, my absolute favorites were the Detective Comics issues. They ran for a total of 8 issues from 438 through 445 and featured the bulk of the wonderful Archie Goodwin/Walt Simonson Manhunter stories (they started in the issue 437 and finished in issue 443). But also featured were such classic “new” Batman stories like issue 439’s The Night of the Stalker

Image result for detective 439

Or the wonderful Archie Goodwin/Alex Toth Death Flies the Haunted Sky in issue 442…

Image result for detective 442

And, of course, the wonderful conclusion to the Manhunter story-line, which featured Batman, in issue 443…

Image result for detective 443

Finally, the Detective Comic Super-Spectaculars ended with the first two chapters of the Len Wein written and, for the most part Jim Aparo drawn multi-part Bat-Murderer! storyline, issues 444 and 445…

Image result for detective 444
Image result for detective 445

As well as the Bat-Murderer story line began, it petered out in its last three or so issues and concluded in the regular sized Detective Comics #448…

Image result for detective 448

Why am I going into such details about these particular issues of this particular book?

Because Detective Comics is about to reach its 1000th issue and, over on individual Detective Comics issues are available, including the entire 100 page Super-Spectaculars, for sale. Please note, these are the DIGITAL editions of the books and they are currently going for a mere 0.99 cents each (normally each digital edition goes for $1.99, so you’re getting it for half-price).

So, yeah, I’m pitching something I’m not going to make a red-penny on but if you’re a fan of some of these books, or any Detective Comics available on the ComiXology website (they have issues going back to the first Batman appearance through the wonderful silver age works, the many Neal Adams-drawn issues, to the present) you may want to give it a look-see. Here’s the link:

ComiXology Detective Comics sale

The Dark Fringe…paperback!

The very first significant work I wrote, not counting a few short stories, was The Dark Fringe.

Originally released way back in the mid-1990’s as a 4 issue comic book series, it was collected into a trade paperback in 2003 and, a few years later and in 2013, as a Kindle/Digital edition.

I have finally updated the book and re-released it as a Trade Paperback. This edition is now available here for the very cheap price of $6.99: – The Dark Fringe paperback

This new edition, if I do say so myself, looks much nicer than the original 2003 version. The paper alone is much brighter and, as I mentioned in the previous post, you get to see the full images of each page, something which was mildly cut in the 2003 version.

However, if you’ve given up on print editions of books and are interested in the Kindle/Digital edition, that’s also been updated and is available here for the even cheaper price of $3.99: – The Dark Fringe for Kindle

The book remains a great source of pride to me and if you’ve enjoyed the Corrosive Knights books (which continue to do quite well in this new year!), I think you’ll find this work to be highly enjoyable as well!

Self-serving promotion is… over! 😉